Down to the Wire in Michigan Legislature

We are down to the final two days of the 2014 legislative session in Michigan, and this is the last opportunity to pass two critically important bills. HB 5104 would protect patients who consume non-smoked forms of marijuana, while HB 4271 would create clear legal protections for medical marijuana provisioning centers (dispensaries) to ensure patients have safe and regular access to medical marijuana.

Both bills must pass out of the Senate committee and receive a vote on the floor before time runs out on Thursday. Law enforcement has been lobbying hard against these compassionate measures, and it’s crucial your senator hears from you. If you are a Michigan resident, please ask your senator to support these bills and demand that the Senate take up both measures today.

Then, please ask the governor to support these critical measures for the good of all Michiganders!

Currently, non-smoked forms of marijuana are not considered “usable marijuana,” and therefore can’t be legally consumed by those who prefer not to smoke –- sometimes leading to tragic consequences. At the same time, provisioning centers do not have clear protections under Michigan law, which harms patients who should have safe, regulated access to medicine. These bills both make huge improvements for patients. Both passed by wide margins in the House, and now we are down to the final steps in the Senate.

Help spread the word by passing this message to friends, relatives and supporters in Michigan.


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Study Shows Decline In Teen Marijuana Use

A national survey released Tuesday found teen marijuana usage rates decreased from 2013 to 2014 — a period marked by heightened national debate regarding marijuana policy and implementation of the nation’s first marijuana legalization laws.

According to the annual sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), rates of annual, monthly, and daily marijuana use dropped among 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. More details are available in the researchers’ press release.

Teens’ perception of ‘great risk’ in marijuana use also decreased among students in all three grades, contradicting the often-heard claim that public dialogue about the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition — including discussion of the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol and other substances — will result in more teens using marijuana.

In August, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that rates of current and lifetime marijuana use among the state’s high school students has dropped since marijuana became legal for adults. More information is available here.

There has been more public dialogue about marijuana over the past year than any 12-month period in history. States around the country are making marijuana legal for adults, establishing medical marijuana programs, and decriminalizing marijuana possession, and the sky is not falling. The debate is not resulting in more marijuana use among young people, but it is resulting in more sensible marijuana laws.


Virginia to Consider Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

When the Virginia Legislature convenes in January, a bill to stop criminalizing those who simply possess marijuana will be awaiting consideration.

Today, an individual convicted of marijuana possession in Virginia can be thrown in jail for up to thirty days, fined up to $500, or both! This overly punitive approach can destroy dreams — a criminal conviction makes it harder to get a job, housing, and education. Criminalizing marijuana possession also wastes vast amounts of resources. In 2012, there were more than 20,000 arrests made in Virginia for marijuana possession. It takes time for police to book marijuana users, prosecutors to try cases, and labs to test marijuana. Meanwhile, more than half of all reported rapes and 80% of all burglaries went unsolved.

SB 686 takes a more sensible and humane approach by replacing the criminal penalties with a civil penalty of up to $100. Punishing marijuana possession with a civil citation recognizes that no one should be denied housing or a job because they possessed a substance safer than alcohol. It also allows Virginia’s law enforcement to quickly issue a ticket and move on to police more serious matters.

If you are a Virginia resident, please email your state delegate and senator today and ask them to support this sensible and long overdue reform — SB 686.

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Congress Passes Historic Medical Marijuana Amendment as Part of Federal Spending Bill

The bill includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice — which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration — from using funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. A similar amendment has been offered seven times in Congress, failing in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. The House finally approved it in May when it was offered by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.
The federal spending bill also prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from interfering with state-level hemp laws.
Unfortunately, the bill also contains a provision that is meant to interfere with the implementation of Washington, D.C.’s recently approved marijuana initiative, and effectively blocks the District from regulating marijuana.

Bill to Reduce Penalties for Possession Filed in Texas

Rep. Joe Moody

At a press conference held today and hosted by Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, State Representative Joe Moody announced the details of his new bill to stop branding Texans as criminals for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana.

Many members of our coalition, including Texas District Court Judge John Delaney, the ACLU of Texas, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, and the Marijuana Policy Project, joined him for the big announcement.

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.”

More than 60% of Texas voters support limiting the punishment for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a fine of $100 with no possibility of jail time, according to a September 2013 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Now is the time to contact your state legislators. They cannot represent you if they don’t know about your support for this bill! If you are a Texas resident, click here to send an email now. Then, spread the news to your friends and family, so that they, too, can speak out to support more humane and sensible marijuana policies.

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DOJ Will Allow Marijuana On Native American Land

According to a memo released Thursday, the Department of Justice is instructing U.S. attorneys not to enforce marijuana prohibition on Native American land. This includes territory within states where marijuana is still illegal.

Timothy Purdon

The new guidance, released in a memorandum, will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues.

But the Justice Department will generally not attempt to enforce federal marijuana laws on federally recognized tribes that choose to allow it, as long as they meet eight federal guidelines, including that marijuana not be sold to minors and not be transported to areas that prohibit it.

“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” Purdon said.

There are 36 states with federally recognized tribal territories. Native American leaders across the country now have the opportunity to take the marijuana market out of the hands of criminals and reap serious financial gains by allowing their residents and neighbors to use a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol.

From USA Today:

“Regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol would ensure the product is controlled, and it would bring significant revenue and new jobs to these communities,” [MPP's Mason] Tvert says. “Studies have consistently found above-average rates of alcohol abuse and related problems among Native American communities, so it would be incredibly beneficial to provide adults with a safer recreational alternative.”


One Giant Leap: Congress Moves on Medical Marijuana

In a historic vote, the House passed an amendment to the 2015 appropriations bill that prevents the Justice Department from cracking down on businesses and patients in states where medical marijuana is legal.


Green Rush: Nevada First to Make 2016 Legalization Ballot

More than 140,00 Nevadans signed a petition to “regulate marijuana like alcohol,” which was plenty to get the measure on the 2016 ballot. The Silver State hopes to join Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska with their legalization measure.


Congress Poised to Pass Historic Medical Marijuana Amendment

After 11 years of MPP lobbying and attending receptions on Capitol Hill, Congress is finally poised to pass an amendment that would prohibit the U.S. Justice Department — which includes the DEA — from interfering with state-level medical marijuana laws.

The U.S. House rejected the amendment in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. Finally, in May of this year, the House passed the amendment, which was introduced by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA).

Last night, the amendment was included in the annual spending bill that Congress is expected to pass today or tomorrow. It will then be the law through September 30, at which time it would need to be renewed each fall.

Unfortunately, a bad amendment to block local legalization in D.C. was also included in the spending bill. The D.C. mayor and council had been planning to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in our nation’s capital, which they’ll no longer be allowed to do.

That said, the medical marijuana and decriminalization laws in D.C. will remain in effect.

And it is MPP’s opinion that the ballot initiative that 70% of D.C. voters passed on November 4 will be allowed to move forward. This initiative — which removes penalties for adult possession and home cultivation — would take effect in approximately March (unless Congress affirmatively blocks the initiative).

from interfering with state-level hemp laws.

Finally, marijuana has become a big issue on Capitol Hill, which is a precursor to ending federal prohibition.

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Two Thirds of Americans Want Congress to Exempt States from Federal Marijuana Enforcement

A new study shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans want the federal government to stay out of state-level affairs associated with changes in marijuana law.

According to The Washington Post, that is one of the conclusions of a survey on legal marijuana recently commissioned by Third Way:

The survey found Americans split on the question of full legalization, with 50 percent supporting versus 47 percent opposed. However, the poll did find that six in ten respondents said that states, not the federal government, should decide whether to make marijuana legal. Moreover, 67 percent of Americans said Congress should go further and specifically carve out an exemption to federal marijuana laws for states that legalize, so long as they have a strong regulatory system in place.

How this would work for marijuana is detailed in an exhaustive forthcoming study in the UCLA Law Review. In short, Congress could allow states to opt out of the Controlled Substances Act provisions relating to marijuana, provided they comply with regulatory guidelines issued by the Department of Justice.

This is already the de-facto federal policy toward Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, although it cannot become a formal policy without an act of Congress. Third Way heartily endorses this approach, as it represents a “third way” between the current policy of outright prohibition, and the full legalization route favored by marijuana reform activists.

It is time for Congress to get out of the way and let states determine what marijuana policies work best for them.