Tag: Decriminalization

Texas House to Hold Hearing on Reducing Marijuana Penalties Today

AUSTIN, TX — A bill that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession in Texas is scheduled to receive a hearing Monday afternoon in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

“I’m proud to present HB 81 to the committee and build on the bipartisan support it’s had from the very beginning,” said Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chairman Joe Moody (D-El Paso). “This sort of reform crosses party lines because it’s a law enforcement issue, a business issue, a social justice issue, and a taxpayer issue we can be a lot smarter on. It’s time for Texas to take a nationwide lead on marijuana policy.”

House Bill 81, authored by Moody and Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) with 35 co-authors, would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250.

Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

There were 61,749 marijuana possession arrests in Texas in 2015, and there were more than 418,000 from 2010-2015, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. These arrests and subsequent prosecution have cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

“Passing HB 81 would free up police resources and relieve jails, courts, and taxpayers of substantial expense and time demands,” said retired Texas District Court Judge John Delaney. “Each marijuana arrest uses about 2.5 hours of police time. With 60,000-70,000 people arrested in Texas annually, this is a significant amount of police time that could be devoted to patrolling residential neighborhoods and business locations and responding to emergency calls.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a report in 2015, declaring it “strongly supports the decriminalization of marijuana use” and encouraging pediatricians to “advocate for laws that prevent harsh criminal penalties for possession or use of marijuana.”

Supporters of the bill who are expected to testify at the committee hearing include retired Texas District Judge John Delaney; retired Houston Police Department Lt. Jay Hall; Baker Institute fellow Dr. William Martin; Texans for Accountable Government Executive Director Michael Cargill; Texas Young Republican Federation President John Baucum; and Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

The measure is also supported by the League of Women Voters of Texas and the Texas Association of Business.

More than two-thirds of Texans (68%) support reducing the penalty for low-level marijuana possession to a citation and $250 fine, according to a June 2015 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Only 26% were opposed.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Israeli Cabinet Endorses Marijuana Decriminalization Plan

JERUSALEM — Israeli lawmakers have signed off on legislation decriminalizing offenses involving the possession of personal use quantities of marijuana.

Under the new policy, first and second time possession offenders will face a fine, but no criminal penalties.

“The Cabinet approval is an important step on the way to implementing the new policy that will put emphasis on explaining and treating rather than on criminal enforcement,” explained Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

The medical production and distribution of cannabis for medical purposes is already legally permitted in Israel as part of a program governed by the Ministry of Health. About 25,000 Israelis receive medical marijuana as part of this program.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

New Hampshire House Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

CONCORD, NH — The state House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve House Bill 640, bringing New Hampshire one step closer to becoming the final state in New England to decriminalize marijuana possession.

The bill, which was approved by a vote of 318-36 by the House, will now be considered by the Senate.

HB 640, sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) and a bipartisan group of 10 co-sponsors, would reduce the penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, which is currently punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000, to a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense within three years, and $350 for a third or subsequent offense within three years of two previous offenses.

“Most representatives agree it is time to stop wasting limited public resources on arrests for simple marijuana possession,” said Matt Simon, the Manchester-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We hope their colleagues in the Senate will agree that our tax dollars and law enforcement officials’ time would be better spent addressing serious crimes.”

HB 640 has faced much less opposition than similar bills that failed in recent years. Only one person testified against it at a public hearing on February 1, and the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which voted 7-6 last year to kill a similar measure (HB 1631), approved HB 640 14-2.

Additionally, Gov. Chris Sununu has consistently said he supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, whereas previous governors have been opposed.

“There is very little public support for continuing to criminalize marijuana consumers,” Simon said. “Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and a strong majority of Granite Staters want the Legislature to start treating it that way.”

More than seven out of 10 Granite Staters (72%) would like to see the Legislature decriminalize or legalize marijuana, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in July 2016.

The New Hampshire House approved decriminalization bills in each of the last five years, only to see those bills die in the Senate.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Israeli Cabinet Approves Proposal to Decriminalize Marijuana

On Sunday, Israel took a big step toward decriminalizing adult marijuana use. The Israeli Cabinet approved a proposal that would replace criminal penalties with fines for people who are caught using marijuana in public. The proposal from the Ministries of Justice and Public Security has received support from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but still requires approval of the Israeli Parliament before becoming law.

Some Israeli marijuana reform advocates worry that the plan may do more harm than good. Over the next two months, they will be working to improve the proposal before it becomes law.

The new plan stipulates that people caught using marijuana in public would be fined $270 for the first offense, $550 for the second offense, and probation for the third. However, after being caught a fourth time, people will be charged with criminal penalties, with the possibility of facing up to 3 years behind bars. Minors caught using marijuana in public would be criminally investigated if they refuse to join a treatment program. The proposal also does not expunge the criminal record of anyone previously convicted of marijuana possession.

“It’s a good step forward symbolically but the devil is in the details,” said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The last thing Israel needs is a reform that takes one step forward and two steps back.”

Tamar Zandberg, a Member of the Israeli Parliament and the chairwoman of the Knesset Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, said that “this is an important step, but not the end of the road. It sends a message that a million of Israelis who consume marijuana aren’t criminals. We will carry on following the details in the committee and ensure that the change is implemented.”

New York offers a cautionary lesson as to the harms of incomplete or partial decriminalization. New York State first decriminalized personal marijuana possession in 1977 yet tens of thousands of people continue to be arrested to this day because of a loophole in the law that allowed police to make arrests if marijuana was detected “in public view”.  Due to racially discriminatory policing practices, those arrested are disproportionately young, Black, and Latino.

“It’s good that the Israeli government is officially acknowledging that people shouldn’t be criminalized for their marijuana use – but this proposal can and should be improved upon,” said Hannah Hetzer, senior international policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The fines are excessive, prior records should be expunged, and minors shouldn’t be threatened with criminal penalties if they refuse to seek treatment. Examples from other countries – such as Portugal – show that effective decriminalization models remove criminal sanctions from the equation altogether.”

Oren Lebovich, the chairman of the Green Leaf party and the founder of an Israeli cannabis magazine, said, “This plan is far from decriminalization. It can still land people in jail; worse it allows the police to search and enter a house when they suspect someone is smoking a joint. Nor does it expunge the record of anyone previously convicted of this so-called ‘crime.’ Thankfully, this is only a first draft and we have two more months to change it before it becomes law.”

Israel has long been a world leader in medical marijuana research, medicine and technology, with over 25,000 Israelis licensed to use medical marijuana for cancer, epilepsy and other diseases. In the U.S., 20 states have decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use, eight of which have also approved legal regulation of the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Hold the Applause: Israel’s Decrim Law Ain’t All That

Decriminalization is a vague word; its meaning shifts depending on what country it’s applied in. Over the weekend, global media broadcast the news that the Israeli government had approved a cannabis decriminalization plan. The proposal must still be ratified by parliament. “Israel cannot shut its eyes to the changes being made across the world in respect to marijuana consumption and its effects,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said in a statement.

Advocates see it as a weak half-measure that still keeps personal use illegal.

But in Israel, many cannabists and legalization advocates see the plan as little more than a weak half-measure that still keeps personal use illegal and punishable by law.

“This plan is far from decriminalization,” Oren Lebovich told Leafly. Lebovich is chairman of the Green Leaf party and founder of the Israeli magazine Cannabis. “It can still land people in jail,” he said. “Worse, it allows the police to search and enter a house when they suspect someone is smoking a joint. Nor does it expunge the record of anyone previously convicted of this so-called ‘crime.’ Thankfully, this is only a first draft and we have two more months to change it before it becomes law.”

Israel is widely recognized as the global hub of medical cannabis research. Unlike the US, which bans most research into the medical and health benefits of the plant, the Israeli government has long encouraged scientific inquiry into cannabis. That’s led to significant advances in our understanding of the plant’s properties. Decades ago, Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam identified THC as the pychoactive ingredient in cannabis, and his lab at Tel Aviv University continues to produce breakthrough research.

Israel has a robust and expanding medical marijuana system. There are 28,000 patients currently licensed to use medical cannabis; that number is due to double in 2017. But the proposed decriminalization measure keeps “personal” (recreational) use illegal and can, in fact, land a consumer in jail for up to 3 years for possessing as little as a half ounce (15 grams).

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9 Reasons Israel Is the Capital of Cannabis Research

Still charges, prosecution, and jail time

Under the proposed decriminalization law, first-time offenders caught using cannabis for personal use will still be charged and prosecuted, unless they are willing to admit the offense and pay a $270 fine. Second offenders, same deal, but the fine doubles to $550—a steep price in a country where the average monthly pre-tax salary is $2500. A third offense results in the loss of your driver’s license and you’re sent to rehab. The fourth time you face up to 3 years in jail, depending on the judge’s discretion.

‘If cannabis isn’t a crime, why prosecute at all?’

Oren Lebovich, Israel’s Green Leaf Party

“Before this ‘decriminalization,’ first offenders weren’t prosecuted or fined,” says Lebovich, “so basically this measure makes things worse. If lawmakers agree that cannabis isn’t a crime why prosecute at all? This measure upholds repression as a policy and maintains the idea that this plant is an evil that can be eradicated and that people who use it can be forced into abstinence. We may lead the world in cannabis research but we have a lot to learn about decriminalization from other countries.”

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Houston is Getting a New Cannabis Decriminalization Policy

Some European countries have adopted a truer form of cannabis decriminalization and seen positive benefits—both to consumers and to society.

In a paper titled, “Israel led the world in cannabis research—but what could it learn from others about decriminalization?,” Ruth Dreifuss, the former President of Switzerland and Chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, noted that full decriminalization in several European countries has typically brought about unforeseen economic and health benefits. These include a notable increase in the number of people accessing treatment, a substantial decrease in injection-related HIV transmission, and less strain on the criminal justice system,” she wrote. “Drug offenders made up 44 per cent of the prison population in Portugal in 1999, but this fell to 21 per cent by 2008. Neither did people ‘flock’ to Portugal from other countries to take advantage of decriminalization laws. Finally, there have been proven financial savings and public health benefits since decriminalization in Portugal and the Czech Republic.”

Oren Lebovitch, Israel’s Green Leaf party chairman, sees his country’s latest reform as a disappointing half step. “If this were real decriminalization you wouldn’t be prosecuted for personal use and the old records would be expunged,” he said. “We still have a long way to go.”

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Nashville Decriminalized Cannabis. But Should It Have?


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

New Mexico Senate Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill By Wide, Bi-Partisan Margin

SANTA FE, NM — The New Mexico Senate on Thursday voted (33-9) to pass Senate Bill 258, sponsored by Senator Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, reducing penalties for adults who possess small amounts of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.  The final vote was bi-partisan with eight Republicans voting in support.

The proposed legislation makes 1/2 ounce or less of marijuana and possession of any drug paraphernalia a penalty assessment with a fine of $50; a penalty assessment is not considered a criminal conviction. It also makes drug paraphernalia a civil penalty with a $50 fine.

Currently, in New Mexico, possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana is a petty misdemeanor crime with fines and possible jail time; over 1 ounce and up to 8 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor crime with large fines or possible jail time of up to 1 year.

The bill was amended on the floor to reduce the amount that would be decriminalized from 1 ounce to ½ ounce. The amendment was introduced by Senator Moores, R-Abq.

Two years ago, a similar bill, also sponsored by Cervantes, narrowly passed the Senate on a 21-20 vote but didn’t have time to get through the House before the end of the 2015 session. Senate bill 258 now advances to the House.

“Adopting financial civil penalties for small amounts of marijuana for personal use would be a major step forward for criminal justice reform in our state,” stated Senator Joseph Cervantes. “This bill alone would free up dollars that are better spent by law enforcement agencies and courts on more pressing public safety needs.”

The New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts have reported that in 2016 there were over 2,000 possession of marijuana one ounce or less cases filed in magistrate and metropolitan courts, which were not related to any DWI, domestic violence, or a felony charges.  There were 3,660 cases of use or possession of drug paraphernalia, which were not attached to DWI, domestic violence, or felony charges.

Senator Mark Moores, R-Abq., who introduced the amendment and voted in support of the measure said, “This bill garnered my support because it only reduces penalties for people using marijuana for their own personal use. Individuals selling and distributing marijuana would still face the same penalties they do today.  In no way does this bill lessen those penalties.”

New Mexicans agree it is time to change the way we are policing marijuana in the state. In November 2014, voters in Santa Fe County and Bernalillo County voiced overwhelming support for marijuana decriminalization; Bernalillo County voting 60% and Santa Fe County voting 73% in favor of statewide decriminalization. The state’s first vote on marijuana policy was not merely local; more than 40% of state voters weighed in and a clear majority of those casting ballots sent the message that voters are ready to end criminal penalties for marijuana possession. A 2013 poll by Sanderoff showed 57% of New Mexicans in favor of decriminalization.

“Although we would have preferred our legislators support statewide legalization of marijuana, this bill represents an important step forward by making sure we are not making criminals out of thousands of New Mexicans who do not belong in jail,” stated Emily Kaltenbach, the New Mexico State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “I am troubled by the millions of taxpayer dollars that are spent every year on processing thousands of low level marijuana misdemeanor offenders. Even more troubling is that young people and people of color are disproportionally arrested for marijuana in our state.”

To date, 21 states and the District of Columbia have reduced penalties for marijuana possession. As of today, over 120 million people, or 1/3 of the U.S. population, live in jurisdictions where marijuana has been essentially decriminalized – meaning there is no jail time associated with possession.

The city of Santa Fe decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2014.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

New York: Advocates Push Crucial Legislation to Seal Past Marijuana Possession Convictions

ALBANY, NY — Advocates and lawmakers came together for a press conference in Albany on Tuesday to demand reprieve for the harm that has been caused by arrests for low-level marijuana possession and mobilize for legislative solutions to keep New York families together.

New York’s marijuana arrest crusade began more than 20 years ago. Since then, police departments across the state have arrested more than 800,000 New Yorkers for low-level marijuana possession offenses. In 2016, more than 22,000 New Yorkers were arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana – 80% of whom were black or Latino. What’s worse, many of these arrests were the product of an unconstitutional stop. Once convicted, a permanent record can follow these mostly young people of color for the rest of their lives – a record easily found by banks, schools, employers, landlords, and licensing boards. Today, thousands of New Yorkers are still being burdened by these arrests even after the Governor and law enforcement officials admitted they were wrong.

Recently, the New York State Assembly passed a landmark piece of legislation to provide some reprieve for those who have been most criminalized in our state. The responsibility for pushing this bill forward now falls to the Senate and the Governor, who have an opportunity to right a wrong by sealing these arrests.

“I introduced the marijuana sealing bill because drug laws have created a permanent underclass of people unable to find jobs after a conviction,” said Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “One of the most damaging issues derived from the war on drugs is that the policies are inherently racist. Communities of color have been devastated by bad drug policies and hyper-criminalization for the last 40 years. It is an approach that has never worked and has caused significantly more harm than good to our communities and to our families. If today’s moment of increased attention to heroin encourages us to center public health in our drug policy, then we need to ensure that we are making amends to communities of color by alleviating the burden bad policies have had on their lives. Sealing low-level marijuana possession convictions is the first step to reintegrating thousands of New Yorkers who are inhibited daily from accessing employment, housing and an education all due to a conviction on their record for simple possession of marijuana.”

This sealing legislation has also taken on increased importance amid the Trump Administration’s rhetoric and actions targeting immigrant communities. Simple marijuana possession is the fourth most common cause of deportation at the national level, and sealing records will provide a measure of protection for noncitizens by making it difficult or impossible for immigration authorities to meet their legal burden of proof for a judge to find a lawful permanent resident deportable.

“A marijuana conviction can lead to devastating consequences for immigrants, including detention and deportation,” said Alisa Wellek, Executive Director of the Immigrant Defense Project. “This bill will provide some important protections for green card holders and undocumented New Yorkers targeted by Trump’s aggressive deportation agenda.”

New York State first decriminalized personal marijuana possession in 1977, recognizing the harmful impact an arrest could have on young people. Although New York officials, including Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, have previously recognized these arrests as ineffective, unjust, and racially discriminatory, they still continue across the state because of a loophole in the law. In 2016 more than 22,000 New Yorkers were arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana – 80% of whom were black or Latino. Governor Cuomo proposed closing this loophole as part of his State of the State 2017, citing the damaging collateral consequences. As policymakers acknowledge that these arrests are unjust and should not take place in the future, they must simultaneously focus on repairing the harm for people burdened by a criminal record from such an arrest.

The discriminatory practices are statewide. For example, in the city of Buffalo in Erie County, African Americans represent 70% of the marijuana arrests – despite only being 38.6% of the population, and using marijuana at similar rates as other groups.

Once convicted, a permanent record can follow these mostly young people of color for the rest of their lives – a record easily found by banks, schools, employers, landlords, and licensing boards.

“New York must repair the harms of our racially biased marijuana laws and sealing low-level marijuana convictions is a step in the right direction. Thank you to the New York State Assembly for recognizing that a permanent criminal record is an out-sized burden for low-level marijuana possession and that allowing sealing for these convictions will allow New Yorkers to avoid job loss, eviction, and a host of unnecessary collateral consequences.” Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director, VOCAL-NY

Increasingly, jurisdictions and legislators across the country are realizing that marijuana prohibition has been ineffective, unjust, and racially discriminatory, and are working to implement regulatory systems that are fair and effective. In New York, Assembly members recognize that, at a minimum, people should not be saddled with a permanent criminal record simply for possession of small amount of marijuana.

Advocates now look to the Senate to quickly pass the Senate companion bill (S.3809) sponsored by Senator Jamaal Bailey before the session ends on June 21, and to begin to repair the harm done by marijuana prohibition to communities across the state. Governor Cuomo also has a unique opportunity to address the harms that these arrests have caused by enacting sealing for marijuana possession arrests as part of his decriminalization proposal in the state budget legislation. Such a move would show his commitment to communities that have borne the harshest brunt of racial profiling and those currently most vulnerable under Trump’s executive orders.

“In New York State 22,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2016. The misdemeanor charge for public view of marijuana possession gives those people convicted a criminal record that will follow them throughout their lives, potentially limiting their access to education, affecting their ability to obtain employment, leading to a potential inability to provide for  their families,” said Senator Jamaal Bailey.

“Furthermore, and even more problematic, there exist significant racial disparities in the manner that marijuana possession policy is enforced. Blacks and Latinos are arrested at higher rates despite the fact that white people use marijuana at higher rates than people of color. Responsible and fair policy is what we need here and this bill will do just that. I am proud to sponsor this legislation with Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes and commend her for taking initiative on this issue. We must act now, with proactive legislation, for the future of many young men and women of our State are at stake here.”

Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “Any one of the more than 22,000 arrests made in our state last year over misdemeanor marijuana possession could snowball into the nightmare of losing one’s job, losing a license used to make a living – to be a nurse, a home health aide, or a security guard – or for immigrants, losing the ability to remain in our country. All that stands alongside stigma and other consequences. This legislation is an important part of tackling that current, overly punitive approach. Steps like this one move us toward the wiser, more humane approach New Yorkers deserve.”

Assemblymember Luis Sepúlveda stated, “I find the current hypocritical situation in regard to possession of minor amounts of marijuana both wasteful and shameful. Wasteful because the cases only take police away from more important law enforcement and clog our court system, with most cases either thrown out or reduced. Shameful that too many young people, the overwhelming majority of them black and Hispanic arrested for the first time, find themselves branded with criminal records that can affect their ability to get a student loan, a job, or an apartment.

It has become increasingly evident, as a number of states across the nation legalize the possession of minor amounts of marijuana, that New York, supposedly one of the more enlightened states in the nation, remains the marijuana arrest capital of the world, despite decriminalization of private marijuana possession, with many of the arrests the result of illegal searches and false charges. It is time to end this farce, beginning with sealing the court records of thousands of individuals caught up in this hypocritical, racially biased situation. Let us apply some common sense here.”

“Criminal records based on unequally enforced statutes are a part of an unjust justice system,” said Senator Daniel Squadron. “Senator Bailey’s bill is an important part of increasing fairness in the justice system, along with my Fairness and Equity Act, which would also decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and better track bias in the law. Thank you to Senator Bailey, Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes, the Drug Policy Alliance, VOCAL-NY, Immigration Defense Project, advocates, and the community.”

Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance said, “Sealing past illegitimate marijuana convictions is not only right, it is most urgent as the country moves toward legalization and immigrant families are put at risk under our new federal administration. Comprehensive drug law reform must include legislative and programmatic measures that account for our wrongheaded policies and invest in building healthier and safer communities, from the Bronx to Buffalo, Muslim and Christian, US-born and green card-holding.”

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Houston is Getting a New Cannabis Decriminalization Policy

A new marijuana policy from Harris County could set the tone for Texas to pass more widespread decriminalization at a state level.

Newly elected District Attorney Kim Ogg ran on a campaign platform of reducing penalties for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses, and she is sticking to her word. She announced the new policy during a press conference Thursday with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Policer Chief Art Acevedo, and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

“Every time they arrest someone in possession of marijuana, police are off the streets for an average of four hours.”

Kim Ogg, Harris County district attorney

The Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program takes effect on March 1, 2017, and will mean that anyone caught with up to four ounces of cannabis will no longer face criminal or civil charges. Instead, offenders will be diverted from the court system if they agree to take a four-hour drug education class. Repeat offenders could continue to take the class, regardless of any past criminal history.

If the suspect does not agree to take the class, officials will file charges and issue an arrest warrant, which means an offender could face up to a $4,000 fine and up to one year in jail if convicted of the Class A misdemeanor.

Ogg has faced criticism for the new policy, most notably from Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon who accused the new DA of trying to legalize cannabis.

“Despite a rise in violent crime rates in Harris County, Ms. Ogg chooses to focus her attention on the issue of legalization of marijuana,” Ligon stated in a press release.

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It’s true that there has been a rise in violent crime in Houston over the past year, and, in fact, the violent crime rate over the last five years has consistently been more than twice the national average. Ogg acknowledged these statistics during her campaign as playing a large part in the reason for her newly revamped marijuana policy.

“Gangs and organized crime are running rampant in Harris County, and I want law enforcement to have the time and money necessary to dismantle those operations,” Ogg said in a statement on her campaign site. “Every time they arrest someone in possession of marijuana, police are off the streets for an average of four hours.”

Cannabis prosecution in Texas is costly, time-consuming, and offers almost no return on investment.

Harris County by the numbers

  • The county spent $13,187,000 incarcerating cannabis offenders
    • Offenders spent an average of six days in jail
  • $4,780,000 was spent by the district attorney’s office to prosecute these offenses
    • There were approximately 10,000 cannabis-related cases
  • $2,970,000 in total court costs
  • $2,552,00 was spent on defendant’s lawyer fees
  • $1,790,000 was spent by state crime labs testing cannabis
  • $1,384,000 was spent on law enforcement costs

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Two-Thirds of Police Say Cannabis Laws Should Be Relaxed, Survey Says

It’s not the first time a marijuana diversion program has been enacted in Harris County.

Former Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced the First Chance Intervention Program on October 1, 2014, but it had a rocky start. It was not until January 1, 2016 that it became mandatory for law enforcement to offer suspects the option of community service rather than jail time.

The two programs differ notably, but carry the same end-goal: lower cannabis arrests and law enforcement costs.

The First Chance program required that offenders have no criminal history, no outstanding warrants, or be out on bond or on probation, and they must complete eight hours of community service or attend an eight-hour class. Offenders must also stay out of trouble for the next 60 to 90 days and pay a $100 fee.

The Misdemeanor Marijuana Program, on the other hand, allows repeat offenders the option of taking a four-hour class, but also requires that offenders not be out on bond or on probation. Offenders must pay a $150 fee for the class, but this fee may be waived if they are unable to afford it.

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The First Chance program was fairly successful, sparing 2,270 participants from potential jail time and the rate of reoffenders was low, between six and seven percent.

Under the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, the county could save millions of dollars and prevent up to 12,000 people from facing jail time. Ogg estimated that the county has spent an average of $25 million per year for the last decade prosecuting cannabis cases.

“We have spent in excess of $250 million, over a quarter-billion dollars, prosecuting a crime that has produced no tangible evidence of improved public safety,” said Ogg. “We have disqualified, unnecessarily, thousands of people from greater job, housing and educational opportunities by giving them a criminal record for what is, in effect, a minor law violation.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

New York State Assembly Passes Landmark Bill to Seal Past Marijuana Possession Convictions

ALBANY, NY — The New York State Assembly voted this week in support of a bill that will seal the criminal records of people who have been unjustly and unconstitutionally arrested for simple possession of marijuana in public view.

The vote on Assembly Bill 2142 was 95 in favor and 38 opposed.

Over the last 20 years, more than 800,000 New Yorkers have been arrested for simple possession of marijuana. Those convicted face significant barriers to accessing education, employment, housing opportunities, and other state services.

This bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes of Buffalo and members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus, who have vocally called for equity in our state’s drug policies, citing the impact the discriminatory enforcement of these policies have had on communities of color.

“I introduced the marijuana sealing bill because drug laws have created a permanent underclass of people unable to find jobs after a conviction,” said Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “One of the most damaging issues derived from the war on drugs is that the policies are inherently racist. Communities of color have been devastated by bad drug policies and hyper-criminalization for the last 40 years. It is an approach that has never worked and has caused significantly more harm than good to our communities and to our families.”

“If today’s moment of increased attention to heroin encourages us to center public health in our drug policy, then we need to ensure that we are making amends to communities of color by alleviating the burden bad policies have had on their lives. Sealing low-level marijuana possession convictions is the first step to reintegrating thousands of New Yorkers who are inhibited daily from accessing employment, housing and an education all due to a conviction on their record for simple possession of marijuana,” added Peoples-Stokes.

New York State first decriminalized personal marijuana possession in 1977, recognizing the harmful impact an arrest could have on young people.

Although New York officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, have previously recognized these arrests as ineffective, unjust, and racially discriminatory, they still continue across the state because of a loophole in the law.

In 2016 more than 22,000 New Yorkers were arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana – 80% of whom were black or Latino. Governor Cuomo proposed closing this loophole as part of his State of the State 2017, citing the damaging collateral consequences. As policymakers acknowledge that these arrests are unjust and should not take place in the future, they must simultaneously focus on repairing the harm for people burdened by a criminal record from such an arrest.

The discriminatory practices are statewide. For example, in the city of Buffalo in Erie County, African Americans represent 70% of the marijuana arrests – despite only being 38.6% of the population, and using marijuana at similar rates as other groups.

Once convicted, a permanent record can follow these mostly young people of color for the rest of their lives – a record easily found by banks, schools, employers, landlords, and licensing boards.

This sealing legislation has taken on increased importance amid the Trump Administration’s rhetoric and actions targeting immigrant communities. On the national level, simple marijuana possession is the fourth most common cause of deportation, according to the report “Secure Communities and ICE Deportations: A Failed Program?

Sealing records will provide a measure of protection for immigrants by making it difficult or impossible for immigration authorities to meet their legal burden of proof for a judge to find a lawful permanent resident deportable.

Additionally, sealing will guard against the Trump administration’s Executive Order targeting non-citizens with any criminal arrests and/or convictions for deportation. If the arrest is also sealed and the sealed information is not shared with the FBI, these individuals may be at lower risk of becoming an enforcement target.

“A marijuana conviction can lead to devastating consequences for immigrants, including detention and deportation,” said Alisa Wellek, Executive Director of the Immigrant Defense Project. “This bill will provide some important protections for green card holders and undocumented New Yorkers targeted by Trump’s aggressive deportation agenda.”

Increasingly, jurisdictions and legislators across the country are realizing that marijuana prohibition has been ineffective, unjust, and racially discriminatory, and are working to implement regulatory systems that are fair and effective. In New York, Assembly members recognize that, at a minimum, people should not be saddled with a permanent criminal record simply for possession of small amount of marijuana.

“New York must repair the harms of our racially biased marijuana laws and sealing low-level marijuana convictions is a step in the right direction. Thank you to the New York State Assembly for recognizing that a permanent criminal record is an out-sized burden for low-level marijuana possession and that allowing sealing for these convictions will allow New Yorkers to avoid job loss, eviction, and a host of unnecessary collateral consequences.” Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director, VOCAL-NY

Advocates now look to the Senate to quickly pass the Senate companion bill (S.3809) sponsored by Senator Jamaal Bailey before the session ends on June 21, and to begin to repair the harm done by marijuana prohibition to communities across the state.

Governor Cuomo also has a unique opportunity to address the harms that these arrests have caused by enacting sealing for marijuana possession arrests as part of his decriminalization proposal in the state budget legislation.

Such a move would show his commitment to communities that have borne the harshest brunt of racial profiling and those currently most vulnerable under Trump’s executive orders.

“In New York State 22,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2016. The misdemeanor charge for public view of marijuana possession gives those people convicted a criminal record that will follow them throughout their lives, potentially limiting their access to education, affecting their ability to obtain employment, leading to a potential inability to provide for  their families,” said Senator Jamaal Bailey.

“Furthermore, and even more problematic, there exist significant racial disparities in the manner that marijuana possession policy is enforced. Blacks and Latinos are arrested at higher rates despite the fact that white people use marijuana at higher rates than people of color. Responsible and fair policy is what we need here and this bill will do just that. I am proud to sponsor this legislation with Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes and commend her for taking initiative on this issue. We must act now, with proactive legislation, for the future of many young men and women of our State are at stake here.”

Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “Any one of the more than 22,000 arrests made in our state last year over misdemeanor marijuana possession could snowball into the nightmare of losing one’s job, losing a license used to make a living – to be a nurse, a home health aide, or a security guard – or for immigrants, losing the ability to remain in our country. All that stands alongside stigma and other consequences. This legislation is an important part of tackling that current, overly punitive approach. Steps like this one move us toward the wiser, more humane approach New Yorkers deserve.”

“We applaud the New York Assembly for their continued leadership on marijuana reform,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Sealing past illegitimate marijuana convictions is not only right, it is most urgent as the country moves toward legalization and immigrant families are put at risk under our new federal administration. Comprehensive drug law reform must include legislative and programmatic measures that account for our wrongheaded policies and invest in building healthier and safer communities, from the Bronx to Buffalo, Muslim and Christian, US-born and green card-holding.”

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New York City Marijuana Possession Arrests Spike in 2016

NEW YORK, NY — Criminal arrests for marijuana possession increased ten percent in 2016 despite former promises from Mayor Bill de Blasio to reduce the city’s total number of cannabis-related prosecutions.

New York City police made over 17,600 arrests last year for which the top charge was marijuana possession in the 5th degree – a class B misdemeanor. Of those charged, 85 percent were either Black or Hispanic. Ninety-six percent were arrested specifically for possessing marijuana in a manner that was open to public view.

Under state law, the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is a non-arrestable offense, except instances where the police contend that the substance was either being burned or was in public view.

In 2010 and 2011, New York City police made approximately 50,000 annual marijuana arrests, often following result of stop-and-frisk encounters. Annual arrests fell between the years 2012 and 2015 before rising again last year.

Legislation is pending in the New York state Senate and Assembly to eliminate the ‘public view’ loophole – a legislative fix that is endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.