New Mexico State Senator Joseph Cervantes, representing Dona Ana County, on Friday introduced Senate Bill 383 to reduce penalties for adults who possess small amounts of marijuana. The proposed legislation reduces the penalty structure for possession of up to four ounces to a civil penalty with increasing fines while taking away the potential for jail time for any amount up to eight ounces.
Currently, in New Mexico, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a petty misdemeanor crime with fines and possible jail time; over one ounce and up to eight ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor crime with large fines or possible jail time of up to one year. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in 2013 with bipartisan support.
“I am troubled by the millions of taxpayer dollars that are spent every year on processing thousands of low level marijuana misdemeanor offenders — dollars that might be better spent by hard-pressed law enforcement agencies on more pressing public safety needs,” said Emily Kaltenbach, the New Mexico state director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “If ever there was a bill that advanced the smart on crime agenda, this is it.”
Delaware State Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South) on Thursday introduced a bill that would remove criminal penalties and potential jail time for possession of a small amount of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket.
HB 39 would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail. Under current Delaware law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $575 fine and up to three months in jail.
“This is commonsense legislation that is long overdue in Delaware,” Rep. Keeley said. “People should not face jail time and other serious consequences of a criminal conviction just for possessing a small amount of marijuana.
"The punishment should fit the crime, not cause more harm than the crime,” Keeley said.
In Delaware, African Americans are three times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession despite using marijuana at similar rates, according to a 2013 report compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Our current marijuana possession law is unfair, and it is being unfairly applied,” Rep. Keeley said. “The vast majority of Delaware voters think it’s time for a more sensible policy. I hope my colleagues will agree.”
Bill introduced with bipartisan support would replace criminal penalties and potential jail time with a civil fine of up to $100 for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana
A bill has been introduced in the New Hampshire House of Representatives that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The House passed a nearly identical bill last year by a vote of 215-92, but the Senate refused to consider it.
HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of up to $100. It would also make cultivation of up to six marijuana plants a Class A misdemeanor instead of a felony.
Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000 in New Hampshire, which is the only state left in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
"Criminalizing someone for possessing a small amount of marijuana causes far more harm than marijuana itself,” said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which is supporting the bill. "A criminal record can prevent someone from accessing employment, an education, and even a home.”
Approximately three out of four voters think seriously ill people should have legal access to medical marijuana; more voters support regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol than oppose it
A strong majority of state voters support reforming Virginia marijuana laws, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released on Tuesday.
Three out of five (60 percent) of respondents support removing criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and designating it a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail time. Under current Virginia law, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
The Virginia Senate is expected to consider a proposal this year that would replace criminal penalties for personal possession of marijuana with a civil fine of $100.
“Most voters do not support laws that saddle people with criminal penalties just for possessing a small amount of marijuana,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “These antiquated prohibition laws are causing far more problems than they solve.”
By Steve Elliott
Could change be coming to the Lone Star State? A new bill which would decriminalize marijuana has just been introduced in the Texas Legislature, but the Texas Sheriff's Association has already publicly opposed the measure.
"The Sheriff's Association position is that we are going to oppose any effort to decriminalize marijuana, or legalize medical marijuana or any of the components of marijuana," Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk flatly stated, reports News Radio WOAI.
The proposed legislation, House Bill 507, would reduce impose civil fines rather than criminal penalties for marijuana possession. Texas law currently punishes possession with fines of up to $2,000 and jail terms of up to six months.
If passed, the new bill would fine users up to $100 for possession of amounts smaller than an ounce. It will be considered by the lawmakers when the holiday period ends on January 13.
"It's a good government measure that will save taxpayers lots of money and free up law enforcement resources for more serious offenses," said state Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), reports Haley Jennings at KBTX.
By Steve Elliott
Texas state Rep. Joe Moody introduced a bill Monday morning that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession in Texas. The bill would remove the threat of arrest, jail time and a criminal record for possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, reducing the penalty to a $100 civil fine.
Rep. Moody announced the details of the bill at a news conference hosted by Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy at 11:30 a.m. CT at the Texas State Capitol.
Rep. Moody was joined by retired Texas District Court Judge John Delaney, Matt Simpson of the ACLU of Texas, Ann Lee of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, Heather Fazio of the Marijuana Policy Project, and other representatives of the coalition, including the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.
“Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Rep. Moody said. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”
"The War on Marijuana is a failure and has needlessly ensnared hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system, at tremendous human and financial cost,” said strategist Matthew Simpson of the ACLU of Texas, reports Mark Reagan at the San Antonio Current.
By Steve Elliott
A bill that would decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana has been introduced by Virginia state Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) for the upcoming General Assembly session.
Ebbin said there have been unsuccessful decrim bills in the Virginia House of Delegates in the past, but that this is the first bill he's aware of which has originated in the Virginia Senate, reports Frank Green at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
"It would decriminalize simple possession of an ounce or less, but not decriminalize it to the extent recently done in Colorado and Washington state," Ebbin said of the legalization measures approved by voters in those states. (Oddly, he didn't mention Alaska and Oregon, where, along with the District of Columbia, voters also approved legalization last month.)
"I had requests to do it for a number of years, and I decided this year to go ahead," Ebbin said. "There's about 25 million Americans who smoked marijuana in the past year, and our public policy should start to reflect reality and not deny it."
By Steve Elliott
In yet another sign of the epochal changes in public perception towards marijuana, the mainstream Garden Media Group, headquartered in Pennsylvania, has identified "Smoke Your Garden" as the next big garden industry shift.
"With an increasing number of states decriminalizing marijuana, more people will begin growing their own and need seeds, plants and products," Samantha Arcieri of the Garden Media Group told Hemp News on Wednesday. "We’ve concluded that all products associated with the cultivation and growing of marijuana could be the next big ticket items for independent garden centers across the county."
"Garden Centers can capitalize on new laws by carrying products that help people cultivate these plants and can become leaders in the industry," the 2015 Garden Trends Report reads.
"New business opportunities range from tech companies that track seed-to-sale operations to real estate agents who find space for growers," according to the report. "Garden centers can capitalize on new laws by carrying grow lights and hydroponic supplies, plant nutrients and additives, potting soils and growing media, eco-renewable mulch, and eventually cannabis seeds and new cultivars."
"The legal marijuana market is growing at a rate poised to overtake even that of global smartphones!" according to the report.
Alaska and Oregon could make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it like alcohol; Washington, D.C. and two of Maine’s largest cities could make marijuana legal for adults; Florida could become 24th state to allow seriously ill people to access medical marijuana
States, cities, and the nation’s capital will vote on marijuana policy ballot measures on Tuesday.
“From Alaska to Maine, there is a whole lot of enthusiasm for ending marijuana prohibition,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “It’s not easy to overcome 80 years of prohibition and anti-marijuana propaganda. But public attitudes are clearly shifting on this issue, and it’s only a matter of time before that is reflected in laws nationwide.”
In Alaska and Oregon, voters are considering statewide ballot measures that would make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol. The initiatives — Ballot Measure 2 in Alaska and Measure 91 in Oregon — would remove all legal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older.
The measures would also establish a regulatory framework for licensed businesses to cultivate, process, test, and sell marijuana to adults. If the initiatives are approved, Alaska and Oregon would be the third and fourth states to end marijuana prohibition.
Citizens for a Safer Maine on Friday announced it will not appeal a judge’s decision to allow the York Board of Selectmen to prevent a vote on a ballot measure that would make marijuana legal for adults.
“We’re confident an appeal would be successful, but at this point we cannot afford to continue playing this game with the selectmen,” said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which supported the measure. “We know there is support for ending marijuana prohibition in York, and we’re going to focus our resources on giving them a chance to vote on it in 2016 with a statewide ballot initiative.
“It’s unfortunate that three out of the five selectmen have needlessly and very likely illegally prevented their constituents from voting on this measure,” Boyer said. “It’s a disservice to the voters who elected them, and they’ll have to live with that.”
Citizens for a Safer Maine initially submitted more than 200 signatures of registered York voters to place a measure in front of the York Board of Selectmen in July. The board voted 3-2 against putting the measure on the ballot and, based on local initiative rules, provided the group with 30 days to collect an additional 641 signatures.
Citizens for a Safer Maine submitted nearly 1,000 signatures in August 27, but the Board of Selectmen again voted 3-2 against placing the measure on the ballot. In September, Superior Court Judge Paul Fritzche did not grant an injunction requested by the group to place the initiative on the November ballot.
By Steve Elliott
Law enforcement officials in the most populous county in Texas on Monday started a new program giving nonviolent first time offenders caught with small amounts of marijuana a chance to avoid a criminal conviction.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office, Houston Police and the Harris County District Attorney's Office is offering a new initiative called the "First Chance Intervention Program," D.A. Devon Anderson announced on Wednesday, reports KFOR-TV.
"Our goal is to keep these individuals from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system," Anderson said. "This program is not for everyone. We are targeting people we believe are self-correcting, those who will be scared straight."
"I think it, overall, will improve people's lives," Anderson said.
Under the new program, first-time marijuana offenders with no prior criminal history who are caught with up to two ounces of marijuana can avoid being charged if they successfully complete eight hours of community service or an eight-hour class.
"Better education, as to where it can lead them, is a whole lot better than putting them in the federal pen, prison systems, where they become hardened, repeat offenders," said Charlotte Farmer.
"Too often, we see young people, with the promise of an incredible future in front of them, make mistakes that then begin a spiral downwards," said Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.
By Steve Elliott
People caught with small amounts of marijuana in Dallas may soon be able to avoid going to jail.
County criminal justice officials will pilot a cite-and-release program early next year allowing those caught with less than two ounces of marijuana, a Class B misdmeanor, avoid a trip to jail, reports Matthew Watkins at The Dallas Morning News.
If applied countywide, the change in enforcement policy could result in hundreds fewer arrests each month. The goal, according to officials, is to reduce jail crowding and free up police resources.
"This is about not toying up officers and bringing them back out onto the street," said Ron Stretcher, director of criminal justice for Dallas County.
A Texas law enacted back in 2007 makes the ticket approach possible. The measure, which received little attention when it passed, has been largely ignored since.
The the idea has gained support in recent years, and not just from marijuana advocates. Some conservatives have touted it as a way to save law enforcement money. It costs about $63 a day to house an inmate in the Dallas County Jail.
But the measure is getting some predictable resistance from law enforcement. Dallas Police Association President Ron Pinkston said he'd rather see the Legislature address changes in marijuana laws at the state level; police officers should enforce the laws that are on the books, he said.
Measure replaces criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on Wednesday signed a bill into law that replaces criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket.
After stalling for much of the summer, the mayor agreed to sign a compromise bill approved on September 18 by the Philadelphia City Council. The new ordinance will take effect on October 20.
The initial version of the bill approved by the council on June 19 makes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a $25 fine. Following negotiations between Mayor Nutter and members of the council, the bill was amended to include a $100 fine for public consumption.
Current Philadelphia law requires police officers to make custodial arrests when they encounter people in possession of any amount of marijuana, and possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $200 fine, and compulsory participation in a drug treatment program. Under current 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.
Criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession will be replaced with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket
Legislation adopted this year to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession in Maryland will go into effect on Wednesday, October 1.
Maryland joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia that have decriminalized or legalized marijuana possession. In addition, Missouri passed a similar bill this year, which will make it the 19th state to do so when it goes into effect.
Senate Bill 364 makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program.
“Decriminalization will free up law enforcement officials’ time and allow them to focus on more pressing issues than 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.
"It will address some inequalities in our justice system, but, until we fully legalize and regulate marijuana, sales will continue to be conducted by criminals in an underground market," Franklin said. "Until that happens, we are not going to see the public safety benefits that are possible in a post-prohibition world.”
3 Points for Voters to Consider When Reviewing Proposed Marijuana Laws
Cannabis Industry Expert Looks at Pros & Cons
Voters in seven states, one U.S. territory, and at least 17 cities and counties across the nation will face a marijuana initiative when they go to the polls in November. For some, the question is easy: They’re either for some level of legalizing marijuana or against it.
But for others, the issue is not so cut and dried. Decriminalizing marijuana can be good for the country – and it can be potentially dangerous, says Wall Street commodities expert Steve Janjic, CEO of Amercanex (www.amercanex.com), an electronic marketplace exchange for the cannabis industry.
“I’m a part of the industry, but that doesn’t mean I’m in favor of every measure to legalize pot,” Janjic says. “We need to proceed with care and thoughtful consideration of possible consequences, intended and unintended, of the decisions we make.
“We have the opportunity to fix some problems through decriminalization, but we don’t want to end up with even bigger problems down the road,” Janjic said.
The November initiatives range from legalizing recreational marijuana sales and use for adults in Oregon and Alaska to permitting it for medical purposes in Florida and Guam, to decriminalizing possession of small amounts in cities and counties in Maine, Michigan and New Mexico. Californians will decide whether to downgrade possession to a misdemeanor.