Tag: US News

Massachusetts: Marijuana Legalization Poised for 2016 Ballot

Massachusetts: Marijuana Legalization Poised for 2016 Ballot

On Tuesday, initiative backers submitted the last of 103,000+ petition signatures to the Secretary of the Commonwealth; 64,750 valid signatures are required to qualify for the ballot

BOSTON, MA — A proposed initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Massachusetts is poised for the November 2016 ballot after proponents submitted their final petition signatures to the Secretary of the Commonwealth on Tuesday.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted more than 103,000 total signatures, and 64,750 valid signatures of registered state voters are required to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

The Secretary of the Commonwealth is expected to validate the signatures by mid-December, at which time the petition will be transmitted to the Massachusetts Legislature. If the legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 additional signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

“This is direct democracy in action,” said campaign manager Will Luzier. “People can see that our current prohibition policy isn’t working, and they’re taking action to replace it with a more sensible system. Based on the level of support and enthusiasm we saw during the petition drive, voters are ready to end prohibition and start treating marijuana more like how our state treats alcohol.”

The proposed initiative would:

  • Allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes, similar to home-brewing;
  • Create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail outlets, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities, which will be overseen by a commission similar to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC);
  • Provide local governments with the authority to regulate and limit the number of marijuana establishments in their city or town; and
  • Create a 3.75% state excise tax on retail marijuana sales (in addition to the standard state sales tax) and allow local governments to establish an additional local sales tax of up to 2%. Medical marijuana will not be subject to these additional taxes.

“Most of the voters who signed the petition cited a desire to replace the underground marijuana market with a more controlled system in which marijuana is taxed and regulated,” Luzier said. “There’s a general consensus that we’d be better off if marijuana were produced and sold by licensed businesses instead of cartels and gangs. Also, most people agree that adults should not be punished simply for consuming a product that is less harmful than alcohol.”

The full text of the proposed initiative can be found here.


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.

Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Campaign to Submit Final Petition Signatures Tuesday

Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Campaign to Submit Final Petition Signatures Tuesday

BOSTON, MA — One of two competing campaigns hoping to place the issue of marijuana legalization before Massachusetts voters next year say they have collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, and will submit their final petition signatures today.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA), backed by the Washington, DC-based Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), will wrap up its petition drive Tuesday in support of their proposed ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts.

At 1 p.m. ET, campaign leaders will submit their final petition signatures to the Elections Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which is located in Room 1705 of the McCormack Building at One Ashburton Place in Boston.

According to Jim Borghesani, the campaign’s Communications Director, CRMLA  has collected more than 103,000 total signatures in support of their proposed initiative.

In order to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, they must submit 64,750 valid signatures from registered state voters.  Once the secretary of the commonwealth’s office counts and confirms the signatures, the petition will be sent to the Massachusetts Legislature, who under state law has until early May to pass the measure outright. If the legislature does not adopt the measure, petition supporters must collect an additional 10,792 signatures by early July to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

In summary, the proposed initiative would:

  • allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes, similar to home-brewing;
  • create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail outlets, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities, which will be overseen by a commission similar to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC);
  • provide local governments with the authority to regulate and limit the number of marijuana establishments in their city or town; and
  • create a 3.75% state excise tax on retail marijuana sales (in addition to the standard state sales tax) and allow local governments to establish an additional local sales tax of up to 2%. Medical marijuana will not be subject to these additional taxes.

The full text of the proposed initiative can be found here.

The proposal is one of two competing marijuana legalization campaigns currently underway in Massachusetts.  The other is a grassroots effort led by Bay State Repeal, which was recently endorsed in an editorial in the Boston Globe.

Among the primary differences between the two initiatives is the proposed tax rate on retail cannabis sales. Bay State Repeal has proposed marijuana sales be taxed at the 6.25%, the current rate of sales and meals taxes in Massachusetts, while MPP/CRMLA has proposed state-wide taxes of 10%, with cities and towns given the option to impose an additional 2% tax on sales, bringing the total tax to 12%, nearly double that of Bay State Repeal.BSRvsCRMLA

This comparison chart of the two proposals is provided by MassCann/NORML, the Massachusetts state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which has endorsed the Bay State Repeal initiative.


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.

Judge Orders NH Health Dept. to Issue Medical Marijuana Card to Terminal Patient

Judge Orders NH Health Dept. to Issue Medical Marijuana Card to Terminal Patient

With an ID card, Linda Horan will be able to obtain medical marijuana legally in Maine and use it without fear of arrest in New Hampshire; Horan sued DHHS after it refused to issue ID cards until dispensaries open next year

CONCORD, NH — On Tuesday, a Merrimack County Superior Court Judge ordered the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to issue a medical marijuana ID card to a woman with terminal cancer in order to expedite her access to medical marijuana.

Linda Horan of Alstead filed a lawsuit against DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas earlier this month, asking the agency to immediately issue her a medical marijuana ID card so that she can begin obtaining medical marijuana legally in Maine and using it without fear of arrest in New Hampshire.

DHHS is responsible for administrating the state’s medical marijuana program, which has experienced several delays since Gov. Maggie Hassan signed it into law in July 2013. The agency began accepting applications from patients interested in participating in the program, but patients remain at risk of arrest and prosecution until they receive program ID cards. DHHS is refusing to issue ID cards until dispensaries open, which is not expected until 2016.

Horan, who suffers from stage IV lung cancer, filed an application with DHHS after receiving approval from all five of her physicians.

Statement from Horan’s attorney, Paul Twomey:

“We are extremely grateful to Judge McNamara for directing the state to follow the law and not deprive critically ill patients of medicine. The Department of Health and Human Services has been extremely helpful and compassionate throughout this process, and we fully expect them to process Linda’s application expeditiously so that she might travel to Maine to obtain her medicine. We hope that the rest of state government will benefit from this case and start to work to heal and not hinder patients.

“The current law does not provide anything like adequate access to medical care, especially in the North Country where extremely ill patients must travel for hours and hours to reach the nearest treatment center. There are simple solutions to access problems if the government can manage to deal with this as a health problem. We must let our doctors make decisions about health care.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the Marijuana Policy Project for its invaluable assistance that made it possible for Linda Horan to receive the medical treatment she needs and deserves. Quite simply, we would not have been able to bring this lawsuit without their help.

“Linda is a hero. Facing death, she has chosen to fight for the rights of all the critically ill patients in New Hampshire, who should not have to fear arrest because they are sick. She may be dying, but we all owe her our thanks for showing us how to live.”

The lawsuit is available at http://mpp.org/HoranLawsuit.


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 Yorkers, It’s Time to Talk to Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis Education

New Yorkers, It’s Time to Talk to Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis Education

Talking to your doctor is one of the most important parts of good health care. We know your health care is very important to you. Which is why we want to encourage you to talk to your physician about medical cannabis therapeutics and education.

Whether you are already a patient or looking to find more information about medical cannabis as a treatment option, it is imperative your physicians have all the information they need before making decisions regarding your care. While your physician has spent countless hours obtaining education, medical schools and residency programs do not offer education in the area of medical marijuana, and there are few unbiased quality educational resources on this topic.

You depend on your physician to direct you towards treatments and therapies that will be of benefit, and away from those that may cause you harm. Ask your physician to obtain comprehensive education by enrolling in the New York State Practitioner Education Medical Use of Marijuana Course offered by TheAnswerPage.

Physicians seeking to register with the NYSDOH to certify patients for medical marijuana must complete this course. Pharmacists working in dispensing facilities must take the four-hour course before they may counsel, or supervise another employee who may counsel, certified patients and designated caregivers on the use, administration, and risks associated with approved medical marijuana products.

The course provides 4.5 AMA PRA Category 1 CME Credits™ towards licensure and accreditation requirements, and the topics include:

  • The Endocannabinoid System and Phytocannabinoids
  • The Administration and Dosing of Cannabis Products
  • Physiological Effects and Adverse Effects of Cannabis

The population of medical cannabis patients is growing and your physician needs to know how cannabis affects your health and interacts with you your current and future medical regimes. Encourage your physician to enroll today, by sending this pre-written letter. Click here to download the letter.

Your healthcare is of the utmost importance. Talk with your physician today.


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.

Alaska Regulators to Allow Onsite Consumption in Some Marijuana Retail Stores

Alaska Regulators to Allow Onsite Consumption in Some Marijuana Retail Stores

The Alaska Marijuana Control Board voted on Friday to create a class of retail marijuana license that will allow onsite consumption. This is an important decision that benefits adult consumers, those who will be licensed to provide to them, and the communities that want to regulate use.

Despite clear language contained in Measure 2, some state staff members had advised the board that it could not authorize retail licenses to allow onsite consumption. Many of those who supported Measure 2 were concerned that the issue would be confused and needlessly delayed as the board deferred to lawmakers rather than exercise its own authority.

Public comments submitted to the board overwhelmingly supported this change, and we applaud the board for taking this important step.

While the definition of “public,” adopted by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in February, did improve with this change, it unfortunately still falls short of acknowledging the rights private business owners have under the law.

Nonetheless, this decision marks an important moment in the rule-making process and a victory for those who worked so hard to make Alaska’s regulations successful.


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.

Mounting Pressure on DEA Head to Resign for Calling Medical Marijuana “A Joke”

ARLINGTON, VA — Medical marijuana patients and supporters gathered Friday at DEA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, to hand in more than 100,000 petition signatures demanding the resignation or firing of DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg after he called medical marijuana “a joke.”

The petition, which was started only two weeks ago, has more than doubled the number of signatures on an earlier petition that helped prompt the ouster of Rosenberg’s predecessor, former DEA head Michele Leonhart.

After walking from the nearby site of the International Drug Reform Conference, the group held a brief press conference in front of the DEA building. It was led by petition organizer Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority, whose own mother is a patient.

“My mom uses medical marijuana to deal with the severe pain caused by multiple sclerosis,” he said. “This issue is no laughing matter for her and millions of other people who have seen the benefits of cannabis for themselves.”

Also addressing the press conference were medical marijuana patients and the parents of young medical marijuana patients.

“There is no doubt that my son Jagger is alive today because of medical cannabis,” said Sebastian Cotte, who helped carry the petitions. “Cannabis has tremendously decreased the pain and seizures caused by his mitochondrial disease, while improving his quality of life. For our family, this is no joke.”

“There’s nothing funny about suicidal thoughts, and those are something my family and I lived with day-to-day die to my military-related PTSD,” said Navy veteran T.J. Thompson. “Using medical marijuana not only helps with my condition, but it has also had the added effect of making me a better father and husband.”

Medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, and 17 more states have more limited laws allowing for the use of marijuana extracts, primarily for children suffering seizure disorders. According to Americans for Safe Access, which supported the petition, more than two million Americans now use medical marijuana in accordance with state laws.

An ever-increasing mountain of scientific studies have shown that medical marijuana is beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of serious conditions, including cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, and many others. With his remarks about medical marijuana as “a joke,” DEA head Rosenberg made clear that he was either ignorant of the science around medical marijuana or indifferent to it.

The petition delivery came one day after a bipartisan group of members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama calling for Rosenberg’s head, saying his comments “send a clear signal to the American people that the federal government isn’t listening to them. It erodes trust. Cavalier statements like these fly in the face of state policy and the experience of millions of patients.”

The letter blasted Rosenberg’s statements as relics of “a throwback ideology rooted in the failed war on drugs” and accused him of “trivializing” both the science and the experience of millions of American who have used medical marijuana.

“Mr. Rosenberg’s statements send a clear signal to the American people that the federal government isn’t listening to them…Through his statements, Mr. Rosenberg has demonstrated that he is not the right person to hold the job of head of the DEA, and we urge you to find new leadership that can work to develop the right tools to properly rationalize our treatment of marijuana,” the letter said.

It was signed by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Ted Lieu (D-CA). Blumenauer himself took to the House floor to echo the call for Rosenberg’s resignation or firing.

“This is going to be a political problem for the Obama administration until they fix it,” warned Angell.


This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license from StopTheDrugWar.org and was first published here.


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.

The 8 States That Should Legalize Marijuana in 2016

The 8 States That Should Legalize Marijuana in 2016

Beginning in 2012, four states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize marijuana. By this time next year, that number could well double, and then some. National polls now consistently show majorities in favor legalization, with a recent Gallup poll having 58% support—tied for the highest level in the poll’s history.

That doesn’t mean legalization is inevitable in any given state, as the case of Ohio earlier this month demonstrated. There, an initiative led by non-movement investors who sought monopolistic control of commercial pot cultivation got trounced despite spending millions of dollars.

But the Ohio result was probably a fluke, a convergence of a number of factors, including tone-deaf initiative organizers, a flawed initiative, a widely criticized mascot, and the fact that it was an off-off-year election with low voter turnout. There is no reason to believe that legalization initiatives likely next year in other states will be defeated just because the Ohio effort went down in flames.

At this point, it looks like there are six states likely to legalize weed through the initiative process next year, with those efforts at varying stages, and a couple more that could do it through the legislative process.

Here they are:

INITIATIVE STATES

ALREADY ON THE BALLOT

Nevada 

The legalization initiative from the Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol qualified for the ballot last December. That means that by the time Election Day 2016 arrives, organizers will have had nearly two years to make their case to voters. Under state law, the legislature could have acted on the petitions and legalized weed, but it declined to do so, so now it goes direct to the voters. There are no recent state polls on legalization, but it had 54% support in 2013, and there is no reason to think it has declined since then.

PETITION DRIVES WELL ADVANCED

Arizona

The Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Legalize Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona announced last week that it had already collected 100,000 signatures for its legalization initiative. It needs to collect 150,000 valid signatures by next July to qualify for the ballot, appears well on the way to doing so, and says it is aiming for 230,000 raw signatures to have a healthy cushion. A June poll had support at 53%.

Maine

Once there were two competing initiative campaigns in the state, but now there is only one. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has quit signature gathering for its legalization initiative and joined forces with Legalize Maine in support of its slightly looser legalization initiative. Both campaigns had gathered about 40,000 raw signatures each before coalescing. The Legalize Maine campaign will need 61,000 valid voter signatures to qualify, and it has until February 1 to get them.  That seems eminently doable, and if it makes the ballot, it should win: A poll in April had support for legalization at a whopping 65%.

Massachusetts

Unlike Maine, the Marijuana Policy Project has so far been unable to form a united front with local activists, so there are two ongoing legalization campaigns. The MPP-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and its legalization initiative is vying with the homegrown Bay State Repeal and its legalization initiative. As in Maine, the local initiative is slightly looser. Earlier this month, the Campaign said it has already collected 100,000 signatures. It only needs 64,750 valid signatures to qualify, so it already has a nice cushion and the rest of this month to gather more. It’s not known how advanced the Bay State Repeal signature drive is, but it already looks like at least one legalization initiative will be on the ballot next year. Under state law, if an initiative has enough signatures, the legislature can then move to enact it. If the legislature doesn’t act, the campaign must then gather an additional 10,800 signatures to put it before the voters. One recent poll had support for legalization at only 41%, but it had a small sample size and large margin of error. Polls from 2014 had legalization winning by anywhere from six to 13 points, and the voters previously supported medical marijuana and decriminalization initiatives with a 63% vote.

Michigan

Another state with two competing campaigns, and the one that looks the iffiest in terms of qualifying for the ballot. Some 252,000 valid voter signatures are needed to qualify, and neither campaign is there yet. Backed by Republican business interests, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition said it had collected 200,000 signatures for its legalization initiative by the end of October before making a “strategic decision” to temporarily suspend petitioning. It has until the end of January to come up with more. Meanwhile, state activists have created the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee (MI Legalize) and are signature gathering around their own legalization initiative. Last week, they said they were 90,000 signatures short—although it that is just raw numbers, they will need substantially more to have a comfortable cushion—and they have until the end of December to get them. Both campaigns have money in the bank and are paying signature-gatherers.

STILL IN A CONFUSED MUDDLE

California

California should have been an almost sure there next year, and probably still is, but it is getting late in the game, and the evident divisions among legalization proponents are starting to make for some worried wondering. There are no fewer than 18 legalization initiatives in play (some various versions of the same initiative), most of which have little to no chance of coming up with the 365,000 signatures needed to qualify. State activists organized as the California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (ReformCA) thought they had the support of national reform organizations and associated pots of money for their initiative, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case. Instead, groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance seem to be throwing their support to an initiative sponsored by tech billionaire Sean Parker. Neither the latest version of the ReformCA initiative nor the Sean Parker initiative has been cleared for signature gathering. Both initiatives now face a ticking clock. Campaigns have six months to get those necessary signatures, but the real hard deadline is June 30. Initiatives must have been cleared for the ballot by then in order to make the November ballot. The Parker initiative will likely have the financial support to do an expedited signature-gathering campaign; whether ReformCA will remains to be seen. While the state-level polling is good—a June poll had support at a record 54%–this late disarray doesn’t bode well.

LEGISLATIVE STATES

Rhode Island

This year, the legislature took up a legalization bill only to see it held for further study by the Judiciary Committees in both chambers. Next year, it could actually move, and it would if the legislature listens to the voters. In an April poll, 57% said they would support a bill to tax and regulate marijuana.

Vermont

This is probably the best bet for the first state to legalize pot through the legislative process. The groundwork has been being laid for years, it has the support of key state political figures, including Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) and House Speaker Shap Smith (D), and legislative hearings on how—not whether—to legalize next year are already underway. The legislature failed to move legalization bills this year, but the stage is set for 2016.


This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license from StopTheDrugWar.org and was first published here.


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.

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Bill Moves Out of Committee

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Bill Moves Out of Committee

HARRISBURG, PA — After months of delays, lawmakers in a key Pennsylvania committee voted to send a medical marijuana bill to the floor of the House for a vote.

In a roll-call vote of 25-8 Wednesday afternoon, Senate Bill 3 was passed by the House Rules Committee.  The bill, which was approved by the Senate in May, sending the bill to the floor of the House for full consideration by lawmakers.

All eight “no” votes came from Republican lawmakers, but ten Republicans voted yes, including committee chair Dave Reed, along with all 15 Democrats.

There is no word when — or if —  the full House will vote on the bill.

Senate Bill 3 was introduced by Senators Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County) and Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County).  In May, the Senate voted 40 to 7 to approve Senate Bill 3.

Governor Tom Wolf supports allowing access to medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, and is expected to sign the bill if it passes.

Medical marijuana has strong support among Pennsylvania residents, with polls consistently showing overwhelming support.  A Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released in April found 88% support for medical marijuana among likely Pennsylvania voters.

A more conservative poll released in March by Robert Morris University found 67.5% support, an increase from 56% last year.  An August 2014 poll recorded 69% support for medical marijuana, and a separate July 2014 poll found 84% support.

Two individual polls from March 2015, one conducted by the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics, and the other by Quinnipiac University, found 85% support.

The current version of the bill can be found here.


This is a developing story. We will continue to update this article as more details become available.


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.

Historic Sentencing Reform Bill Passes House Judiciary Committee

Historic Sentencing Reform Bill Passes House Judiciary Committee

Bipartisan Bill Reduces Mandatory Minimums, Returns Some Discretion to Judges, Makes Reductions Retroactive;Legislation Now Moves to the House Floor Amid Momentum to End the Drug War and Mass Incarceration

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to advance the Sentencing Reform Act. The bill, introduced by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and sponsored by thirty other Representatives, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand the federal “safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and make many of the sentencing reductions retroactive.

“This vote today is a significant step toward reducing the federal prison population,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We have a bill moving in the Senate, and now we have a companion bill moving in the House, so I’m optimistic we’ll have legislation on the President’s desk in a matter of months.”

The vote comes a few weeks after Senate Judiciary Committee advanced its sentencing reform bill by a 15-5 vote. The Senate bill includes provisions around reentry and recidivism, which the House is expected to address in a separate bill.

The House vote comes a week after the Chuck Colson Task Force and Urban Institute released a report noting that many of the individuals currently incarcerated for drug crimes had low criminal history levels and thus a low rate of recidivism. Almost half of the nearly 100,000 individuals in federal prison for drug offenses were in the lowest two criminal history categories, and another quarter had no prior criminal history at all. Among these people convicted of drug law violations, three quarters had no serious history of violence and half had no violent history whatsoever.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, the U.S.’s second highest ranking prosecutor, recently echoed the fact that the majority of persons incarcerated for federal drug law violations are non-violent, low-level offenders. In recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee she stated that less than one percent of those in prison for federal drug offenses had used violence or had a threat of violence connected to their conviction, only 16 percent possessed weapons, and only seven percent were leaders of a criminal enterprise.

“Mandatory minimums and draconian sentences have had a devastating impact on families and communities,” said Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, who served 12 years on a first-time, nonviolent drug charge. “Congress can’t undo the damage of the past, but they can reform these laws to allow people to come home and minimize future injustices.”

The House bill now moves to the floor for a full vote.


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.

Pittsburgh City Council to Consider Ordinance Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

Pittsburgh City Council to Consider Ordinance Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

PITTSBURGH, PA — On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Councilman and Public Safety Chair Daniel Lavelle is expected to introduce an ordinance that will allow police in the city the option to cite individuals found in possession of a small amount of marijuana, instead of arresting them and charging them with a criminal offense.

Local advocates at Pittsburgh NORML, who have been working with Councilman Lavelle to craft the proposal, say the ordinance would create a civil fine of $25 for possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana or 8 grams of hashish.  The fine would increase to $100 if an individual is openly possessing marijuana, including smoking in public.

The proposal is modeled after a measure was successfully enacted last year in Philadelphia, where advocates from Philly NORML worked with then-councilman Jim Kenney — now the mayor-elect — to craft and pass the ordinance.

Instead of placing an offender under arrest, police would confiscate the offender’s marijuana and issue a civil violation, similar to a parking ticket, provided the offender is not engaged in any other criminal conduct.

 Under Pennsylvania state law, possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

According to Pittsburgh NORML, about 1,000 people are charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession in Pittsburgh each year. Almost all have the criminal charge reduced to a non-traffic summary citation at the first stage of criminal proceedings, says the organization.  Pittsburgh NORML’s executive director is a criminal defense attorney in the city.

Despite similar usage rates between races, blacks are much more likely to be arrested for minor marijuana possession offenses — at a rate of five to one compared to whites.

Last year, Philadelphia became the largest city in the United States to pass a local ordinance decriminalizing marijuana possession, which has resulted in an 80% reduction in custodial arrests for small amounts of marijuana.

With support from at least six of nine Pittsburgh city council members, the ordinance is expected to pass.

“We are very excited that Pittsburgh will follow in the footsteps of Philadelphia and others across the country and embrace cannabis reform,” says Patrick Nightingale, Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML.  “Through the leadership of Public Safety Chair Daniel Lavelle and the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation Pittsburgh will no longer prioritize cannabis prosecution. Recreational and medicinal consumers in our great City can at least know that their police are not interested in arresting them and potentially ruining their lives over the possession of a simple, non-toxic plant.”

Pittsburgh is the second largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, behind only to Philadelphia.  Combined, the two cities represent over ten percent of the state’s population.  Advocates hope state lawmakers in Harrisburg will take action to pass a similar measure statewide, but with conservative Republicans controlling both the House and Senate, such legislation is doubtful.

Nationally, Pittsburgh joins a growing trend of local cities enacting similar laws to reduce simple marijuana possession penalties, including Chicago, Detroit and Washington, DC.


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.