Decriminalization

New Mexico: Marijuana Decriminalization Initiative Officially Certified In Santa Fe

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First Time in New Mexico History People will Vote on Marijuana Reform

The Santa Fe City Clerk on Monday announced the Reducing Marijuana Penalties Campaign submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for the city's citizen initiative process setting the stage to give voters in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a vote on reducing marijuana penalties.

The Reducing Marijuana Penalties Campaign, headed by Drug Policy Action and ProgressNow NM, submitted close to 11,000 signatures in 52 days, more than twice the number needed to qualify for the ballot. The initiative now goes before the City Council where the governing body has two options, vote for the ordinance change outright or send the initiative to the people for a vote.

Not only will this be the first time in history that New Mexico's voters will cast their ballots on reforming marijuana laws, it is the first time that the people of Santa Fe brought forth an issue via the City’s citizen initiative process. The Santa Fe city charter permits voters to petition their government for changes to city ordinances, including those relating to marijuana.

Maine: South Portland Council To Consider Marijuana Legalization Measure

DavidBoyerCitizensForASaferMaine

The South Portland City Council will consider a citizen-initiated measure at its meeting Monday night that would make private marijuana possession legal for adults. The council can enact the proposed law or place it on the ballot.

Citizens for a Safer Maine submitted more than 1,500 signatures to place the measure in front of the council. Just 959 valid signatures of registered city voters were required.

Citizens for a Safer Maine qualified a similar measure for the ballot in Lewiston, and it is in the process of collecting the final signatures needed to place one on the ballot in York.

The initiative would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It would remain illegal to consume or display marijuana in public.

The measure also includes a statement in support of regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at the state level.

“This is a common-sense proposal,” said Marijuana Policy Project Maine political director David Boyer. “Adults who are of legal age to use alcohol should not be punished simply for consuming a far less harmful substance.

"We hope the council members will agree law enforcement officials’ time and resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes,” Boyer said.

WHAT: South Portland City Council hearing on a citizen-initiated measure that would make private marijuana possession legal for adults

WHEN: Monday, August 18, 7 p.m. ET

WHERE: South Portland City Hall, 25 Cottage Rd., South Portland

Kansas: Wichita Marijuana Supporters Not Giving Up, Despite Falling 47 Signatures Short

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Despite falling 47 signatures short of getting a marijuana decriminalization petition on the ballot in Wichita, Kansas, supporters aren't giving up.

Interim City Attorney Sharon Dickgrafe on Tuesday told the Wichita City Council that it could not legally put the issue on the ballot as a ballot petition, but the council then voted for city staff to work with the marijuana petitioners to address the language of a ballot petition that could be carried for a signature election, probably for a vote next spring when city elections are held, reports Kelsey Ryan at The Wichita Eagle.

But supporters also plan to fight the Wichita elections office on the signature count done last week during the primaries, and still hold the goal to meet the county deadline later this month to get the issue on the November ballot.

Initiative leader Esau Freeman said there have been concerns over two missing pages of signatures that were turned over to the county, with 2,928 valid voter signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot.

At least one of the missing pages contained the signature of his wife, Freeman said. He said petition gatherers weren't allowed to observe the counting, which was done by the Sedgwick County elections office.

"[Kansas Secretary of State] Kris Kobach says we have open and fair elections, but I think the first case of voter fraud has been perpetrated by the Sedgwick County election office," Freeman said.

Kansas: Marijuana Decriminalization Petition Falls Short In Wichita

EsauFreeman(KansasForChange)TurnsInPetitionsInWichita

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Supporters of a petition to decriminalize marijuana in Wichita, Kansas, have come up just short of the number of signatures they needed to force the city to put the issue to a vote.

Organizers got word late Thursday that the Sedgwick County Election Board has ruled they were just 41 signatures short of the 2,928 needed to qualify, reports KAKE.com.

Around 3,500 signatures were disqualified by the office, although reasons weren't immediately given. One possibility is that the election office wouldn't accept signatures from people who were newly registered by the petition circulators, or that those registrations were delayed at the office by proof-of-citizenship requirements, according to petition drive leader Esau Freeman, reports Dion Lefler at The Wichita Eagle.

"This is exactly what I expected from the election office," Freeman said, adding that he was "terribly disappointed" but isn't giving up.

The signature count was supposed to have been completed a year ago, but was delayed by the need to recheck rejected signatures and to conduct Tuesday's primary election.

Petition supporters said they'll be at Tuesday's city council meeting to encourage the council to put the measure on the ballot. The drive had been organized towards getting the decrim question on the November 4 general election ballot.

U.S.: Senators Ask White House To Clarify Federal Marijuana Laws

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Senate delegations from Colorado and Washington are seeking clarification from the Obama Administration on the regulations which will impact the legal marijuana trade in those two states.

Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall of Colorado and Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington on Monday wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Attorney General Eric Holder, calling for "a clear, consistent and uniform interpretation and application" of federal marijuana laws in relation to their home states, reports Jonathan Topaz at Politico. The letter warns about the current uncertainty surrounding federal cannabis laws.

"We believe the federal government should support Colorado and Washington state's effort to establish a successful regulatory framework in a way that achieves greater certainty for local officials, citizens, and business owners" in the marijuana industry, the senators wrote.

The uncertainty regarding the implementation of federal cannabis laws "may undermine our states' ability to regulate the industry adequately," the senators said.

All four Democrats said they look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to ensure lawful and successful implementation of marijuana legalization in their states.

Kansas: Wichita Marijuana Advocates Turn In Petitions To Reduce Penalties

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana advocates in Wichita, Kansas on Thursday turned in petitions with nearly twice as many signatures as they need to put decriminalization on the November ballot.

City officials in Wichita said they may have questions and concerns about the wording of the measure, but they have no immediate plans to go to court to try to block the initiative, reports Dion Lefler at The Wichita Eagle.

Organizers Esau Freeman and Janice Bradley went to Wichita City Hall at 4:20 p.m. on Thursday and presented City Clerk Karen Sublette with a thick sheaf of papers. According to the advocates, those papers contain the names and signatures of more than 5,800 people in favor of decriminalizing possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.

They need 2,928 valid signatures of registered Wichita voters to put the issue on the ballot.

"We didn't verify every single one, but we're pretty confident with what we have," said Bradley, who added that an intern with the Peace and Justice Social Center had checked a large sample of the signatures.

The petition has garnered support from at least two state legislators and the Community Voice, a newspaper focused on Wichita's black community.

World Health Organization Calls for Drug Decriminalization and Broad Drug Policy Reforms

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In a report published earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a clear call for broad drug policy reforms, including decriminalization of drug use, harm reduction practices such as syringe exchange and opioid substitution therapy, and a ban on compulsory treatment for people who use drugs. This report by the United Nations’ leading health agency focuses on best practices to prevent, diagnose and treat HIV among key populations.

In a section titled “Good practice recommendations concerning decriminalization”, the WHO report makes the following recommendations:

• Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration.

• Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize the use of clean needles and syringes (and that permit NSPs [needle and syringe programs]) and that legalize OST [opioid substitution therapy] for people who are opioid-dependent.

• Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs.

D.C.: What You Need To Know About The New Marijuana Decrim Law

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A far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law took effect on Thursday in the District of Columbia that replaces jail time with a $25 fine for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. However, advocates emphasize that there is still more work to be done in the nation’s capital to reduce severe racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement by D.C. police officers.

The Drug Policy Alliance has published an online resource that explains what the public needs to know about D.C.’s new marijuana decriminalization law.

Here are a few highlighted facts from our new overview of D.C.’s new decriminalization law:

• Under the new law, a person found in possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is issued a notice of violation that imposes a $25 fine for marijuana possession as well as forfeiture of any visible marijuana and any paraphernalia.

• Police officers are prohibited from using the smell of marijuana as rationale for conducting criminal searches. D.C.’s decriminalization law is the first in the country to provide this protection in statute.

• The possession of marijuana remains unlawful in D.C., and possession of marijuana weighing more than one ounce is still a crime in the District.

• Smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana in a public space is still a crime.

D.C.: Marijuana Decriminalization Takes Effect In Nation's Capital

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A marijuana decriminalization law passed by the D.C. Council took effect at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday in Washington, D.C. The new law, like others around the United States, eases penalties for minor cannabis possession.

Unless someone is found to possess more than an ounce of marijuana in D.C., they will now simply be written a $25 ticket and the officer will confiscate the pot, reports Melanie Eversley at USA Today. Police can no longer detain someone simply because they smell marijuana, and they can no longer demand identification from anyone carrying under an ounce.

Civil violation notices that police already handed out for littering have been changed to also include possession of marijuana, and they now list the $25 fine for pot. Possession of less than an ounce of cannabis will cost less than the fine for throwing a roach on the ground -- that would get you fined $75 for littering.

"As of midnight Wednesday night, no member can make or approve an arrest for marijuana possession without having first taken this training," Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump told the the Washington Times.

U.S.: Black Police Leaders Say Marijuana Prohibition Damages Minority Communities

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) on Tuesday said that America's marijuana laws are total failures. John Dixon III, police chief in Petersburg, Virginia, speaking at the NOBLE's annual conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said law enforcement is too concerned with busting people for minor marijuana offenses.

"We, as law enforcement professionals, we need to really take a look at how we can decriminalize marijuana, especially user amounts," Dixon said, reports Ryan Smith at MPP. "We are locking people up for a dime bag, for a joint.

"They're put in the criminal justice system which pretty much ruins the rest of their lives," Dixon said, adding that medical professionals should be in charge of dealing with drug use. "Why do I have to lock you up for that? What benefit am I giving you, then? We have to get out of the businesses. That should be the focus of the medical field."

"Sometimes, we've got to say the things that most of law enforcement isn't going to say," Dixon said.

The ACLU has released a study showing that the marijuana laws are disproportionately enforced against minorities across the United States, despite the fact the blacks and whites use cannabis at similar rates.

D.C.: Far-Reaching Marijuana Decriminalization Law Takes Effect In Nation's Capital

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Persons Caught With Up to One Ounce of Marijuana Will Be Fined $25 by D.C. Police Officers

House Republicans Want to Overturn Law While White House Defends It

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law on Thursday takes effect in the District of Columbia, replacing jail time with a $25 fine for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as the result of a year-long effort in the nation’s capital to reduce severe racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement by D.C. police officers.

The “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014” takes effect despite an ongoing Republican-led effort in Congress to block D.C. officials from implementing the law. It was approved by the D.C. Council 10-1 in April and signed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray in March.

“We are hopeful that marijuana decriminalization will reduce excessive racial disparities in the enforcement of D.C.’s marijuana laws,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “While marijuana decriminalization is undeniable progress, the real solution is to join states like Colorado and Washington and legalize marijuana. Thankfully, D.C. voters are going to have that opportunity in November.”

U.S.: White House Opposes GOP Amendment Undermining DC Marijuana Law Reform

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In a Statement of Administration Policy on Monday, the White House expressed strong opposition to a Republican amendment by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) that is directed at blocking implementation of a recent law the District of Columbia passed replacing jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use with a small fine.

The statement calls marijuana reform a “states’ rights” issue, a groundbreaking policy position for the White House to take, according to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). The D.C. Council also on Monday passed a resolution condemning congressional interference.

“It is great to see the White House accepting that a majority of Americans want marijuana law reform and defending the right of D.C. and states to set their own marijuana policy,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the DPA. “The tide has clearly shifted against the failed war on drugs and it’s only a matter of time before federal law is changed."

The White House Statement of Administration Policy reads: “Similarly, the Administration strongly opposes the language in the bill preventing the District from using its own local funds to carry out locally- passed marijuana policies, which again undermines the principles of States' rights and of District home rule. Furthermore, the language poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department's enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District.”

D.C. Council Opposes Republican-Led Effort In Congress To Block Marijuana Law Reform

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D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Law Slated to Take Effect on Thursday

Marijuana Legalization Ballot Measure Expected to Go Before D.C. Voters in November

The Council of the District of Columbia on Monday morning is expected to pass two emergency resolutions opposing a recent effort led by U.S. House Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) to use congressional oversight to block the District of Columbia from spending any of its locally-raised revenues to enact marijuana reform.

The House Appropriations Committee on June 25 adopted an amendment by Rep. Harris that is directed at blocking implementation of a recent law the District of Columbia passed replacing jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use with a small fine. If included in the 2015 federal budget, the rider would block the District from carrying out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce criminal penalties for marijuana.

Advocates warn the rider would overrule the will of D.C. voters should they pass Initiative 71 this fall and block efforts to tax and regulate adult sales of marijuana in the District. District residents have begun organizing a boycott of Ocean City, part of Rep. Harris's congressional district, as a show of their disapproval of Rep. Harris's intervention in D.C. affairs.

New York: Brooklyn DA Won't Pursue Low-Level Marijuana Arrests

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Brooklyn district attorney's office on Tuesday announced that it will immediately stop prosecuting most low-level marijuana cases. The policy change comes after months of resistance from the New York Police Department.

"This new policy is a reasonable response to the thousands of low-level marijuana arrests that weigh down the criminal justice system, require significant resources that could be redirected to more serious crimes and take an unnecessary toll on offenders," DA Kenneth P. Thompson said in a release.

Those caught with under 25 grams of pot will have their cases dismissed prior to arraignment, which has been happening more and more often anyway, reports Christopher Robbins at Gothamist. "Given that these cases are ultimately—and predictably—dismissed, the burdens that they pose on the system and the individual are difficult to justify. We are pouring money into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit," Thompson said.

The change was proposed in a confidential memo in April, report Stephanie Clifford and Joseph Goldstein at The New York Times, but was delayed as police officials resisted the efforts of prosecutors to convince them to enter the 21st century.

Maryland: Montgomery Council Urges Assembly, Governor to Decriminalize Marijuana Paraphernalia

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Representatives of Maryland’s most populous county say possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia should be among its lowest law enforcement priorities

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Maryland General Assembly and Governor to decriminalize possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Montgomery is the state’s most populated county.

Specifically, the resolution urges them to “make adult paraphernalia possession a civil offense, no more serious than adult possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana.” In April, the General Assembly adopted a bill decriminalizing possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, and Gov. Martin O’Malley signed it into law.

The council resolution also expresses the opinion that “possession of small amounts of marijuana and paraphernalia by adults should be among the County’s lowest law enforcement priorities.”

"Good cops don't want to waste their time arresting adults for marijuana possession," said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and a 34-year veteran of the Maryland State Police. "They want to focus on serious threats to our community.

"Each marijuana arrest takes up time and resources that could be used to keep our neighborhoods safe,” Franklin said.

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