Marijuana Legalization

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Hearing Set for Bill Legalizing Marijuana in Maine

Location: 
ME
United States
At 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, supporters of legalized marijuana in Maine will crowd into a hearing room in Augusta to support a Portland legislator's bill to decriminalize pot. Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, sponsor of LD 1453, "An Act To Legalize and Tax Marijuana," said she was thrilled to learn about the hearing that has been scheduled before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
Publication/Source: 
The Portland Daily Sun (ME)
URL: 
http://portlanddailysun.me/news/story/hearing-set-bill-legalizing-marijuana

US Congressman to File Marijuana Legalization Bill This Year [FEATURE]

America is on the cusp of majority support for marijuana legalization, but legalization is not inevitable and it's up to activists and the multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry to start throwing their weight around to make it happen, US Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) told an overflow crowd during the keynote address at NORML's 40th annual conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Denver Saturday afternoon.

legalization legislation coming to the Capitol soon
"I am optimistic that we will reach a day when America has the smart, sensible marijuana policy that we deserve," Polis told an attentive audience. "But it could go either way. We could return to the dark ages of repression, or we could be on the eve of a new era of marijuana legalization. Your efforts will help determine which route this country takes and the legacy of this generation of activists on what marijuana policy looks like. Together we can accomplish this," he told the crowd.

Polis said that he would file a marijuana legalization bill this session in Congress. The language was still being developed, he added. He is also working on a bill that would address problems the medical marijuana industry is having with banks, he said.

"Marijuana policy is really coming of age," the businessman turned politician said. "Our Colorado model is very exciting," he added, touting the vibrant local medical marijuana industry on display for conference attendees from across the country. "In my last two elections, even my Republican opponents were for legalization. It's become a very mainstream value here."

That assertion is likely to be put to the test next year. Colorado and national drug reform groups have already announced they plan to put a legalization initiative on the ballot for 2012. A similar initiative in 2006 got 44% of the vote, but that was before the state's medical marijuana boom and its resulting economic impact. While the medical marijuana boom may have created a backlash, its economic benefits could counter that, Polis suggested.

"The marijuana industry here generated $1.7 billion last year and thousands of jobs," he pointed out. "It has created jobs, and jobs in ancillary businesses, it has filled storefronts and filled our alternative newspapers with ads, it has created work for lawyers and accountants, it has created tax revenues. There is a direct nexus to jobs and the economy and deficit reduction," he said.

"We are at a tipping point, on the unprecedented cusp of legalization," Polis told the audience. "The progress at the state level has led the way, but it won't come nationally until it happens in a critical mass of states. Then there comes much more pressure on Congress to legalize and regulate at the national level. Our streets will be safer and our economy stronger."

While no state with the partial exception of Alaska has legalized marijuana, that critical mass could come sooner rather than later. In the best case scenario, the entire West Coast and Colorado could legalize through the initiative process by the end of next year. Meanwhile, legislative efforts at legalization are advancing in New England and the Northeast.

Polis has emerged as one of a handful of US representatives who have publicly supported marijuana legalization or decriminalization. Others include Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Peter Stark (D-CA), and Ron Paul (R-TX). While the Obama administration has been arguably sympathetic to medical marijuana -- although recent raids and some US attorneys' statements have raised activists' hackles -- Polis wants a legalization bill to protect patients in medical marijuana states in the event of a less friendly future administration, but to go further as well.

Jared Polis
Polis has demonstrated before that he is not afraid to go public with his anti-prohibitionist views. At the end of last month, he appeared at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, standing alongside representatives of the newly-formed medical marijuana industry lobbying group, the National Cannabis Industry Association.

"Ending the failed policy of prohibition with regard to marijuana will strike a major blow against the criminal cartels that are terrorizing Americans and Mexicans on both sides of the border," he said at that time.

Polis wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last February asking him to ensure the feds complied with its October 19th memo on respecting state law. "Treating drug policy as primarily an issue of public health, as opposed to an issue of criminal justice, is both practical and compassionate and it has been and will continue to be supported by the voters of Colorado," he said then.

Polis is a Democratic progressive, and marijuana legalization fits squarely into a progressive agenda he has created with his Fearless Campaign, which also emphasizes education reform, immigration reform, food security, net neutrality, and gay, lesbian, and transgender issues.

"Close to half of Americans support legalization, yet progress is Congress is still far away," Polis said Saturday. "That's why I launched the Fearless Campaign. It's really about informing you about what's happening on Capitol Hill and empowering you to speak truth to power. We want the advocacy community tied in. These are transforming issues that are too hot to handle, but too important to ignore. Politicians need to know they're not alone, that you have their backs," he said.

"I think Americans are ready for a serious discussion about tough issues," Polis continued. "Reforming our failed drug policies is a prime example of that. Our policy of marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that doesn’t make our communities safer, while driving legitimate economic activity underground."

Efforts at legalization are growing close to fruition on both coasts, and with representatives like Jared Polis now holding forth in Congress, even that august institution is being infected with the legalization virus. The times, they are a-changing.

Denver, CO
United States

Marc Emery Denied Transfer to Canadian Prison

Canadian marijuana legalization activist Marc Emery, currently serving a five-year federal prison sentence in the US, has been denied in his request to finish serving his time in a Canadian prison. His Canadian attorney, Kirk Tousaw, said Friday that Emery received notice that US authorities had denied the request on the grounds of "the seriousness of the offense" and "law enforcement concerns."

Marc Emery leading a rally in Calgary during happier times (image via wikimedia.org)
Emery, the self-proclaimed "Prince of Pot," is serving time for selling marijuana seeds. Emery used the profits from those seed sales to fund legalization campaigns in Canada, the US, and elsewhere. His supporters have long charged that his prosecution was politically motivated.

Emery is currently at the federal holding facility in El Reno, Oklahoma, while awaiting transfer to a medium-security prison in Mississippi. He had previously been held in a minimum-security prison in Georgia. It is unclear why he is being transferred to a higher security prison.

Under a bilateral treaty, Canadian prisoners serving time in the US can apply to serve their sentence in their home country, and vice versa. The guidelines for evaluating prisoner transfer applications are available here.

"This refusal is a terrible affront to the sovereignty of Canada," said Tousaw. "Marc is a target of political persecution that appears to have transcended his conviction and now infects the treaty transfer process. He qualifies under every relevant factor and should have been allowed to serve out his jail term in Canada, close to his wife Jodie and in the country in which all of his activity took place. We call upon Prime Minister Harper and the leaders of the Liberal Party and NDP to stand up for this Canadian hero and demand his immediate repatriation."

Emery's wife, Jodie Emery, said she was "shocked and sickened" by the denial. "He has been punished for speaking out for the rights of tens of millions of cannabis consumers here and in the US and it's truly frightening," she said in a statement. "Canadians who feel Marc has been treated unfairly with an unjust five-year US prison sentence for seeds should punish the Conservatives in the federal election on May 2nd for extraditing Marc in the first place."

Tousaw said the notification of the denial came through unusual channels. Neither he nor Emery's US attorney were notified of the decision, as would usually be the case. Instead, someone in the US government notified the Canadian government, and Emery was notified via a letter from the Canadian consulate.

"This is very unusual and should not have happened," Tousaw said. "It makes me wonder whether the US and Canada are engaged in ongoing dialogue about Marc and lends support to the belief that politics are still influencing the process."

Emery can reapply for a transfer to his homeland in two years. If that doesn't occur, he will remain imprisoned in the US until he does 85% of his sentence.

El Reno, OK
United States

Marijuana Legalization Bill Dies in Washington State

A bill that would have legalized marijuana in Washington state has died. It failed to move out of committee by Friday, a legislative deadline for action.

Will voters take matters into their own hands now? (Image via Wikimedia)
The bill, House Bill 1550, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle), would have legalized the possession and sale of marijuana, with sales regulated by the state Liquor Control Board. The bill would have imposed a 15% per gram tax on marijuana sales, which supporters said would bring hundreds of millions of dollars into state coffers in coming years.

The bill had the support of the entire Seattle legislative delegation, as well as the Seattle Times editorial board. But that wasn't enough to move it out of committee.

The legislature's failure to act clears the way for an effort to take the issue directly to the voters. Sensible Washington is already gathering signatures for a legalization initiative to go before the voters in November.

They need 241,000 valid signatures by July 8, a target they missed by some 50,000 signatures last year after failing to win the support of some key players in Evergreen State pot politics.

Olympia, WA
United States

New England Swings... On Marijuana Law Reform [FEATURE]

Over, the past decade, New England has quietly emerged as a center of marijuana law reform. Outside of the West, no other region of the country has matched the advances of that historic corner of America bounded by New York, Canada, and the North Atlantic. Is there something in the maple syrup?

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/old-north-bridge-concord.jpg
Old North Bridge, Concord, MA (Jim Louzouski, nps.gov)
When New England comes to mind, people tend to think of the leaves turning in the fall, the wild and rocky Maine seacoast, Vermont's Green Mountains, or Boston and its historic role in the American Revolution. But given what the region has accomplished in terms of marijuana policy, perhaps it's better to think of it as an ongoing social experiment, and the question to ask is: Why New England?

New England consists of six states -- Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont -- with a combined population of 14.4 million. It is dominated by megalopolitan Boston, whose 7.4 million residents make up more than half the region's residents. But all six states combined still contain fewer people than Florida, New York, Texas, or California.

Of those six states, half have already passed medical marijuana laws (Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont) and a third have already decriminalized pot possession (Maine and Massachusetts). In both cases, New England scores well above the national average. In fact, outside of New England and the West, from the Dakotas to the Carolinas and from the Rio Grande to the Potomac, the landscape for pot law reform has been largely harsh and barren.

And New Englanders aren't resting on their laurels. The region is intent on remaining in the pot reform vanguard. Whether it's medical marijuana, decriminalization, or legalization, New Englanders are keeping the pressure on.

In Connecticut, where Republican Gov. Jodi Rell vetoed a medical marijuana bill in 2007, current Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy is pushing both medical marijuana and decriminalization bills, the latter as part of a broader corrections reform package. In Rhode Island, which already has a medical marijuana law, the licensing of dispensaries began this month. Legislators there are considering both decriminalization and legalization bills.

In Maine, where possession of up to 2.5 ounces is already decriminalized, there is a bill to double that to five ounces -- and to decriminalize the cultivation of up to six plants, as well. In Massachusetts, where voters decriminalized marijuana through the initiative process in 2008, activists continue to push the envelope. Both medical marijuana and legalization bills have been filed.

In New Hampshire, where a medical marijuana bill was vetoed by Gov. John Lynch (D) in 2009, a new medical marijuana bill passed the House earlier this month and awaits consideration by the Senate. In Vermont, which already has medical marijuana, a bill to allow two nonprofit dispensaries to open up is moving. So is a decriminalization bill endorsed by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin.

While the passage of these bills is by no means assured, the battles are being fought and advances are being made. Observers of the scene say that's only par for the course in a region that has been a crucible for progressive social movements since the days of John Adams and Paul Revere.

It's not only the Revolutionary War heritage, of course; New England has been the home of critical social thinkers such as Emerson and Thoreau, a hotbed of the abolitionist movement in the 19th Century, birthplace of the anti-nuclear movement in the 20th Century, and among the first areas to feel the impact of the Industrial Revolution.

It also the land of participatory democracy through its storied town meetings. And it is the most politically liberal region of the country. Four of its six state houses are controlled by Democrats, and even the region's Republicans are moderate compared to the rest of the country. It is also home to the nation's only socialist senator, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and only independent governor, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (formerly a moderate Republican).

Not least of all, it is also hosts one of the densest concentrations of college students in the land. New England is home to Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth (half of the Ivy League), as well as MIT, half of the historically liberal arts women's colleges known as the Seven Sisters, and the Five Colleges consortium in Western Massachusetts. The Boston area in particular is crawling with students.

"In New England, we have a rich history of standing up and speaking truth to power dating back to even before this country was founded," said Tom Angell, a New Englander born and bred, who rose through the ranks as an activist with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) at the University of Rhode Island and as staff in the national office SSDP in Washington, DC, before taking his current position as communications director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "This is really in our blood," he said.

Angell pointed to the critical role of student activists in the region. "We have this enormous concentration of colleges and universities, and, at least from a Rhode Island perspective, many of the campaigns we've seen over the past few years were initiated by or happened with members of SSDP chapters," he said. "Students from the University of Rhode Island and Brown founded the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition and did all the legwork building coalitions" that led to passage of the medical marijuana bill there, he said.

A relatively small population in the region also plays a role, activists said. "The populations in New England are smaller, and it's easier to get public education done," said Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. "There is also a lot of public support for reform, as well as a tradition of independent thinking regarding any type of policy issues."

"There are fewer people here and less bullshit," said Cliff Thornton, a long-time Connecticut-based drug reformer. "California alone has almost three as many people as all New England. When you understand that, you understand why there are fewer voices for prohibition."

New England is fertile ground for reform, said Thornton, who was quick to add that he was not just talking about pot law reform and was in fact critical of reformers who concentrated solely on marijuana. "It seems like all of a sudden everyone just woke up," Thornton said. "Every damned week, there is some type of forum on marijuana or prohibition or prison. I think here in New England we've reached critical mass, and people feel safer now coming out against the drug war."

But critical mass doesn't just suddenly happen, and it is here that the region's more immediate history of drug reform activism plays a role. To take just one regional example, the Boston Freedom Rally, the nation's second-largest marijuana reform event (behind Seattle's Hempfest) has been going on since 1989, and the MassCann activists associated with it have spent the last decade running non-binding public policy questions on medical marijuana, decriminalization, and legalization. They have never lost, and that wins them some leverage at the state house.

"Here in Massachusetts, 20 years of activism has played a key role in getting us to where we are today," said MassCann's Bill Downing. "Massachusetts is so active because we have a history, a tradition of civil activity here, and many people in Massachusetts believe it's their patriotic duty; that's how democracy works."

"Activism has made a tremendous impact in New England," said Thornton. "I've been doing this for a long time, but now other organizations are springing up, and over the years, we've garnered a lot of credibility. We've got some good activists now and they have been able to turn a lot of people around."

MassCann's Downing also saluted young people and suggested that the region's marijuana reform movement has matured enough to allow for a changing of the guard. "We have so many young people in Boston," he said. "For years, we've been reaching out to them, and it's paying off. Our board of directors just had a sea change, with a lot of new people and a lot of women coming in. Last year, we didn't have any women on the board; now there are five."

For reasons historical and demographic, cultural and geographic, New England is clearly in the vanguard of marijuana law reform. And, as MassCann's Downing noted, the same spirit that animated the Founding Fathers animates reformers today.

"People forget that the major reason marijuana law reform is good is because we are more free," he said.

Pot Politics on Capitol Hill: Proponents Aim to Shift Industry's Image

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Supporters of decriminalizing marijuana are hoping to build momentum on Capitol Hill after a historic election that saw the politics of pot take center stage in four states. The marijuana industry's public relations campaign has so far been limited to states, especially California, where a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana almost passed in November. But today, the National Cannabis Industry Association, launched in December to represent the interests of legal marijuana growers and distributors, will hold the first congressional lobbying day in the nation's capital, hoping to shore up support for an industry they say could bring billions of dollars in revenue to the government.
Publication/Source: 
ABC News (US)
URL: 
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/pot-politics-capitol-hill-proponents-aim-shift-marijuana/story?id=13251446

Marijuana Legalization Advocates Organize to Put New Measure on California Ballot

Location: 
CA
United States
The campaign behind the initiative to legalize marijuana in California which lost narrowly announced it had formed a new committee to put another measure on the ballot. The Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform 2012 aims to build on the support that coalesced around Proposition 19, which would have allowed adults to grow and possess marijuana and authorized cities and counties to legalize and tax sales. Proposition 19 lost 46%-54% in November, but it drew worldwide media attention and stimulated a vigorous debate over the nation's drug policies. Polls have shown growing support for marijuana legalization nationwide, and a post-election poll in California suggested the measure might have passed if proponents had had the money for a campaign to reach swing voters.
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times (CA)
URL: 
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/03/new-medical-marijuana-initiative-in-california.html

Rhode Island Looks at Legalizing Marijuana for Recreational Use

Location: 
RI
United States
Rhode Island would become the first U.S. state to legalize marijuana for recreational use under legislation that would replace criminal penalties for possession with alcohol-style regulation and taxes on America's most widely used illicit drug. Cash-strapped Rhode Island would stand to make tens of millions of dollars off the deal. The legislation would allow individuals to grow up to three marijuana plants, but only if they've paid $100 per plant. Wholesalers would have to pay a $50-per-ounce excise tax, retail licenses would cost $5,000 annually, and all retail marijuana sales would be subject to sales taxes.
Publication/Source: 
New England Cable News (MA)
URL: 
http://www.necn.com/03/16/11/RI-looks-at-legalizing-pot/landing_politics.html?&blockID=3&apID=a03f57af1fce445581110e37942b8c52

Former U.S. Attorney to Speak in Favor of Marijuana Legalization and Taxation Bill

Location: 
WA
United States
Former federal prosecutor John McKay will join Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson of Seattle in speaking in favor of a bill to legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana in Washington state.
Publication/Source: 
The Seattle Times (WA)
URL: 
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014506919_apwaxgrlegalizingmarijuana.html

Marijuana Reform Advocates Call for a Safer Alternative to Alcohol for St. Patrick's Day (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 11, 2011

CONTACTS: Rev. Jay Goldstein - Executive Director - Empire State NORML at (212) 473-2486 or jay@empirestatenorml.com; Doug Greene - Legislative Director - Empire State NORML at (516) 242-4666 or doug@empirestatenorml.com

MARIJUANA REFORM ADVOCATES CALL FOR A SAFER ALTERNATIVE TO ALCOHOL FOR ST. PATRICK’S DAY

WHEN: St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday, March 17th, 2011 at high noon
WHERE: City Hall Park - Broadway between Park Place and Barclay (east side)
WHO: Empire State NORML and numerous speakers (see list below):
WHAT: Rally and Press Conference

On March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day) at high noon, Empire State NORML (the New York State chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)) will remind New Yorkers that marijuana is a safer alternative to alcohol for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

“While scores of New Yorkers are out getting hammered, we want to remind the Big Apple that there is a safer, greener and cleaner choice for adults: marijuana,” said Doug Greene, Legislative Director of Empire State NORML, who organized the event for the first time in 2010.

“In an era of budget cuts and worsening public health, why is the Bloomberg administration driving New Yorkers to drink while spending tens of millions of dollars per year arresting peaceful, healthy cannabis consumers? New York City made over 50,000 marijuana possession arrests last year alone, and over 500,000 since 1996,” said Greene.

Marijuana arrests are 15% of all arrests in New York City. The NYPD is now jailing people for marijuana possession at the rate of nearly 1,000 arrests a week. With 2.7% of the U.S. population, New York City represents 6% of nationwide marijuana arrests.

Greene was first inspired to organize “Marijuana is SAFER” events after reading the book of the same name (subtitled “So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?), co-authored by Paul Armentano, the Deputy Director of NORML, by Mason Tvert, Executive Director of SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation) and by Steve Fox, Director of State Campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Speakers include:

· Dr. Julie Holland, a nationally recognized authority on drugs and drug safety, who has appeared multiple times on Today. She is the author of “Weekends at Bellevue” (which may be coming to TV on Fox this fall ) and editor of “The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis” and “Ecstasy: The Complete Guide.”

· Dr. Harry Levine, Professor of Sociology at CUNY Queens College, the co–author of the NYCLU report “Marijuana Arrest Crusade: Racial Bias and Police Policy in New York City, 1997-2007.” He is also the co–author of a new report on the costs of New York City’s marijuana arrests, which will be released on March 15 by the Drug Policy Alliance.

· Tony Newman, Director of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), the nation’s leading organization calling for alternatives to the drug war and policies based on science, compassion, health, and human rights.

· Daniel Jabbour, New York State Coordinator for Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society.

· Chris Goldstein, Board Member, NORML-NJ/Coalition for Medical Marijuana-NJ (CMM-NJ). Chris is a radio broadcaster and marijuana advocate. Chris is considered an expert on the topic of marijuana and can comment on New Jersey and national issues regarding cannabis.

###

Location: 
Broadway between Park Place and Barclay (east side) City Hall Park
New York, NY 10007
United States

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