By Steve Elliott
Mayor Michael Nutter and City Councilman James Kenney have reached a compromise on a bill which will make Philadelphia the largest city in America to decriminalize marijuana.
People caught with fewer than 30 grams of marijuana, just over an ounce, would only be issued a citation and fined $25 under the plan, reports Chris Hepp at Philly.com. They would face no criminal charge or arrest.
The compromise calls for a separate offense and penalty for public use of cannabis. Those caught using marijuana in public would be charged with a noncriminal summary offense, and would face a $100 fine or up to nine hours of community service, according to Kenney.
The compromise ends a conflict between Councilman Kenney and Mayor Nutter which began following the Philadelphia City Council's 13-to-3 vote in June to pass Kenney's marijuana decrim bill.
Kenney argued that cannabis arrests are disproportionately affecting African Americans. Philly police arrested 4,336 people for marijuana possession last year, 83 percent of them black.
But Mayor Nutter called the legislation "simplistic" and declined to immediately sign it. This week, with the deadline for his signature approaching, Kenney and and mayor began meeting to work out a compromise.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy on Tuesday will release Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work, a new, groundbreaking report at a press conference in New York City.
The event will be live-streamed and speakers include former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Colombian President César Gaviria, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, Richard Branson and others.
The Commissioners will then meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson in the afternoon following the press conference.
The report reflects the evolution in the thinking of the Commissioners, who reiterate their demands for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches and now also call for permitting the legal regulation of psychoactive substances. The Commission is the most distinguished group of high-level leaders to ever call for such far-reaching changes.
In 2011, the Commission’s initial report broke new ground in both advancing and globalizing the debate over drug prohibition and its alternatives. Saying the time had come to “break the taboo,” it condemned the Drug War as a failure and recommended major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime.
By Steve Elliott
The mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico's biggest city, on Friday vetoed a measure that would have allowed voters to decide whether to decriminalize marijuana possession in much the same way that the Santa Fe City Council did in the state's capital city two days earlier.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said in a video message posted on YouTube that he vetoed the bill because marijuana is illegal, and decriminalizing it would pose conflicts with state and local laws, reports Russell Contreras of the Associated Press.
"The original form of this bill actually has several measures that I really want to see the voters of Albuquerque weigh in on," Mayor Berry claimed. "Unfortunately, at the last minute there were measures added that I, in good conscience, cannot sign, including flying in the face of federal and state law."
Berry claimed he didn't want to get Albuquerque into a legal fight. Decrim supporters criticized the mayor for his decision.
"We're disappointed to see the mayor turn away from the opportunity to let city voters have a [say in] how our city deals with crime and justice issues," said Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico, one of the organizations that sponsored the campaigns to reduce marijuana penalties in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
By Steve Elliott
The Santa Fe City Council, in a surprise move on Wednesday night, decriminalized marijuana possession. The city of about 70,000 residents became the first in New Mexico to decriminalize pot.
The resolution, passed on a 5-4 vote, changes the city's penalties for cannabis possession from a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a $50-$100 fine and up to 15 days in jail, to a civil infraction and a $25 fine, reports Joey Peters at the Santa Fe Reporter.
It also instructs Santa Fe's police force to treat possession of small amounts of marijuana as the lowest law enforcement priority. The decrim measure applies to possession cases involving one ounce or less, and also decriminalizes marijuana paraphernalia.
The vote came after pressure from Drug Policy Action and ProgressNow NM to get decriminalization on the November general election ballot.
"Obviously from a policy perspective, this is incredible," said Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico director of Drug Policy Action, affiliated with Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico. "The people have won tonight no matter what."
Kaltenbach added, though, that the Reducing Marijuana Penalties initiative was formed with the aim of getting decrim on the ballot so that voters could have a say on the issue. Petitioners submitted more than 11,000 signatures from residents to qualify for November's ballot.
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.
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
By Steve Elliott
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.
By Steve Elliott
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.
By Steve Elliott
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.
By Steve Elliott
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.
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.
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.
By Steve Elliott
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.
By Steve Elliott
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.
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
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.”