NAACP

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California Democratic Party Endorses Adult Use of Marijuana Act

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November ballot measure becomes the first marijuana legalization initiative in state history to receive the official endorsement of a major political party

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The campaign in support of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which will appear on the November 2016 statewide ballot in California, on Monday announced that it has received the official endorsement of the California Democratic Party (CDP).

The largest statewide Democratic Party organization in the nation, the CDP joins the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the largest local Democratic Party organization in the nation, and the San Francisco Democratic Party in endorsing AUMA.

While the CDP has long had as part of its official platform putting an end to the failed and costly policy of marijuana prohibition in California, this is the first time in state history that a major political party has officially endorsed a specific cannabis legalization ballot measure.

“This landmark action by the California Democratic Party underscores the responsible and consensus approach of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act and strengthens what is already the largest, most enthusiastic and most diverse coalition ever assembled in support of a marijuana legalization effort,” said Brian Brokaw, AUMA campaign manager.

Rhode Island: House Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Bill

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The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and replace it with a system in which adults can purchase marijuana from licensed businesses, similarly to alcohol.

Shortly before the hearing, marijuana market researchers, business owners, and entrepreneurs joined Regulate Rhode Island for a news conference to discuss the legislation’s potential to foster new businesses and create thousands of jobs in Rhode Island.

“This bill would provide a tremendous economic boost for our state, which is one of several reasons why our state legislators should not delay voting on it,” said Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat. “This proposal would create dozens of new businesses and thousands of new jobs across Rhode Island. Our state’s unemployment rate is still significantly higher than our neighbors’, and this legislation will put many Rhode Islanders back to work.”

H 7752, known as the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, would make possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older, and it would establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores.

California: NAACP Endorses Adult Use of Marijuana Act

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Proponents of a California ballot measure to legalize, control, regulate and tax adult use of marijuana announced today that the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) has been formally endorsed by the state NAACP, comprised of 52 branches and more than 30 youth chapters statewide and part of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.

NAACP – which voted to endorse over the weekend -- joins a coalition which already includes physicians, environmental leaders, business owners, small farmers and social justice advocates.

“Creating a legal, responsible and regulated framework for marijuana is a predominant civil rights issue and it’s long overdue,” said Alice Huffman, longtime president of California State NAACP. “The current system is counterproductive, financially wasteful and racially biased, and the people of California have repeatedly called for it to be fixed.

“This measure will ensure that California is not unjustly criminalizing responsible adults while also ensuring that our children are protected while the State receives hundreds of millions of new dollars for vital government and community-based programs,” Huffman said.

Last week, the AUMA was cleared for circulation. The official title and summary are available at: http://oag.ca.gov/system/files/initiatives/pdfs/Title%20and%20Summary%20...?

U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 46; Will Push For Criminal Justice Reform

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Obama to Address Mass Incarceration at NAACP Convention Tuesday and Become First President to Visit a Prison on Thursday

"I believe at its heart, America is a land of second chances." ~ President Barack Obama

Drug Policy Alliance: We Can’t End Mass Incarceration Until We End Drug War

President Barack Obama on Monday commuted the sentences of 46 people incarcerated in federal prison. This follows the commutation of eight people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses in December of 2014, and 22 in March 2015. Fourteen of the people who received commutations on Monday were serving life in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued nearly 90 commutations, the vast majority of them to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug law violations under draconian sentencing laws. President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

"We can’t end mass incarceration until we end the drug war. The President's actions today are welcome, but we need much more action," said Michael Collins, policy manager at DPA's office of national affairs. "The public overwhelmingly supports ending the drug war and letting states decide their own drug policies. It's long past time to rectify the US's embarrassing record on mass incarceration."

Rhode Island: Lawmakers Fail To Act On Widely Supported Marijuana Legalization Bill

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The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act had bipartisan backing in both chambers, and an April poll found 57 percent of Rhode Island voters in favor of such a measure

Rhode Island state lawmakers late Thursday recessed the legislative session leaving hundreds of bills, including a widely supported proposal to make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol, pending action. Legislative leaders have indicated they may call a special session in the fall to finish their agenda.

“Lawmakers’ decision to recess without voting on this widely supported legislation is disappointing, to say the least,” said Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat. “We believe we have the votes needed to pass the measure this session, and we’re optimistic that we’ll still have the votes if and when they come back for a special session.

"We hope to work with leaders in both chambers over the summer to ensure lawmakers are given a chance to cast them,” Moffat said.

California: Drug Policy Alliance Releases Videos of 3 Marijuana Symposia

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Top Experts in Policy, Science and Regulation Discuss the Public Health, Social Justice and Environmental Issues Related to Marijuana Legalization

In an effort to educate the public and discuss pressing issues related to the legalization of marijuana in California in 2016, the Drug Policy Alliance held three symposia, each focusing on a different aspect of marijuana regulation. Videos from those symposia are now available online to view for free.

The first symposia, held in Los Angeles, addressed issues related to marijuana use and public health. Speakers included Alison Holcomb from the ACLU, Tista Ghosh from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the environment, and Rep. Jonathan Singer from Colorado. The goal of this symposium was to address concerns related to how marijuana legalization might impact road safety, teen drug use and criminal activity. This symposium can be viewed in its entirety or by individual speaker here.

Colorado: New Report Gives More Good News As Legalization Gains Momentum

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Report Provides Comprehensive Data on Marijuana Arrests and Charges in Colorado After Legal Regulation for Adult Use

Marijuana Possession Charges Decrease From 30,000+ in 2010 to Less Than 2,000 in 2014

All eyes are on Colorado to gauge the impact of the country’s first-ever state law to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older. Since the first retail marijuana stores opened on January 1, 2014, the state has benefitted from a decrease in traffic fatalities, an increase in tax revenue and economic output from retail marijuana sales, and an increase in jobs, while Denver has experienced a decrease in crime rates.

Now, a new report from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) brings another jolt of good news by providing comprehensive data on marijuana arrests in Colorado before and after the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012. The report compiles and analyzes data from the county judicial districts, as well as various law enforcement agencies via the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

The report’s key findings include:

• Since 2010, marijuana possession charges are down by more than 90 percent, marijuana cultivation charges are down by 96 percent, and marijuana distribution charges are down by 99 percent.

• The number of marijuana possession charges in Colorado courts has decreased by more than 25,000 since 2010 – from 30,428 in 2010 to just 1,922 in 2014.

Arizona: Community To Rally Tuesday Against Secret Police Bill

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Petition with more than 2,400 signatures demanding veto to be delivered to Gov. Ducey

Community groups will be rallying outside Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s office Tuesday afternoon to speak out against SB 1445, a proposal that would require law enforcement agencies to conceal police officers’ identities for months following their involvement in violent or deadly incidents.

During the rally, a petition with more than 2,400 signatures will be delivered to Gov. Ducey’s office demanding he veto this legislation if it reaches his desk.

This bill is unnecessary, takes discretion away from local officials, promotes mistrust of the police and threatens Arizona’s proud tradition of open government, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. Furthermore, police officers’ extraordinary powers are much more likely to be abused when their use is concealed from the public.

WHAT: Speakers will encourage Gov. Ducey to veto this dangerous legislation if it reaches his desk and address the harm this law would inflict on communities of color, people with mental illness and their families, immigrants, and LGBT people, among others. A representative of the family of Michelle Cusseaux, who was killed by a Phoenix Police officer last summer, and representatives of the community group Justice for Rumain Brisbon, who was fatally shot by a Phoenix Police officer in December, are scheduled to speak.

U.S.: Broad Coalition Calls For Real Reform From Congress To End Mass Incarceration

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Letter Sent to Congressional Judiciary Leadership on Key Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

Legislation Should Address Prison Overcrowding, Unsustainable Costs, and Racial Disparities

Amidst a flurry of legislative activity on criminal justice reform, a broad coalition of groups, representing faith leaders, criminal justice reform and civil and human rights advocates, have united to release a statement of principles on what criminal justice reform legislation in the 114th Congress should include.

The organizations – including the United Methodist Church, NAACP, ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the Drug Policy Alliance, and dozens of other organizations – believe that for legislation to have any real impact, it should tackle the primary problems in our federal prison system, namely dangerous overcrowding, unsustainable costs, and unwarranted racial disparities.

In the letter, the groups urge House and Senate Judiciary Chairs Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to build on the current bipartisan momentum around criminal justice reform and embrace the following principles:

• Restore proportionality to drug sentencing
• Promote and adequately fund recidivism reduction and reentry programming
• Make sentencing reductions retroactive
• Expand BOP’s Compassionate Release Program
• Expand time credits for good behavior

New Jersey: Voters Reform Broken Bail System

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Advocates Hail Historic Reform and Look Forward to Work on Implementing New Law

New Jersey voters on Tuesday approved Public Question No. 1 to reform New Jersey’s bail system. The narrowly-worded question allows judges to deny bail to dangerous individuals, but it ushers in broader bail reform because it is linked to comprehensive legislation, already signed by the governor, that overhauls the state’s broken bail system.

The legislation implements wide-ranging reforms including non-monetary release options for low-risk individuals; a system under which pretrial release decisions are based on risk rather than resources; the use of risk assessments for suspects enabling courts to make individualized determinations of what conditions of release are appropriate; establishment of a pretrial services unit within the court system that will provide appropriate levels of monitoring and counseling for those awaiting trial.

The legislation also protects the rights of those denied bail by requiring prosecutors to prove the case for pretrial detention by clear and convincing evidence and mandating clear timelines for speedy trial.

Advocates and faith leaders across the state waged a hard-fought two-year campaign to pass the legislation and win approval of Public Question No. 1 by voters. They hailed the victory as a historic change to New Jersey’s criminal justice system.

D.C.: Council Holds Hearing On Marijuana Legalization In Nation's Capital

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Policy Experts and Advocates Testify in Favor of Directing Proceeds from Taxation to Communities Harmed by War on Drugs

Hearing Occurs Just Days Before Voters Decide on Marijuana Legalization at Ballot Box

D.C. Councilmembers Vincent Orange (D-At Large) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 3) on Thursday are holding a joint public hearing on legislation introduced in 2013 by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) that would establish a system which legalizes, taxes and regulates marijuana in the nation’s capital. Councilmember Orange chairs the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs and Councilmember Evans chairs the Committee on Finance and Revenue.

The hearing specifically examined sections six through nine of the “Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2013” (Council Bill #20-466), and took place Thursday at 11 a.m. in Room 500 of the D.C. Council Chambers located at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. in Washington, D.C. Advocates provided testimony in support of using the proceeds from legalization towards rebuilding the communities harmed by the war on drugs.

New Jersey: Voters Have Opportunity To Fix State's Broken Bail System

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Public Question No. 1 Would Usher in Comprehensive Bail Reform To Increase Public Safety and Improve Justice for All

Advocates across the New Jersey have launched a campaign to support Public Question No. 1 on November 4. Public Question No. 1 asks voters to change the New Jersey Constitution to give judges the ability to deny bail to dangerous suspects and will usher in comprehensive bail reform in New Jersey.

The proposed Constitutional Amendment also authorizes the Legislature to pass laws to operationalize the amendment — an important action that the Legislature has already accomplished. At the same time that the Legislature passed the resolution to put the bail reform question to the voters, it also passed, with bi-partisan support, groundbreaking legislation to comprehensively reform New Jersey’s broken bail system.

This legislation only goes into effect if the Constitutional amendment on the ballot wins a majority on November 4.

A report released early last year found that on any given day, nearly 75 percent of the 15,000 individuals in New Jersey jails are awaiting trial rather than serving a sentence. The average length of pretrial incarceration for these individuals is more than ten months.

D.C.: Marijuana Initiative Gets Major Endorsements From NAACP and NOW

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Endorsements Come on the Heels of Recent Support from Local Chapters of the SEIU, D.C. Working Families, and UFCW

Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Releases Report on Collateral Consequences of Arrest

The Washington, D.C. chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the D.C. Branch of the National Organization for Women on Thursday came out in support of marijuana legalization and endorsed D.C.’s Initiative 71.

Initiative 71, which is on the November 4 ballot, would legalize the possession of up to two ounces marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and allows individuals to grow up to six plants in their home. D.C. laws prevent the ballot initiative from addressing the taxation and sale of marijuana; however, the D.C. Council is currently considering a bill which would account for such provisions.

Additionally, the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on Wednesday released its groundbreaking report entitled "The Collateral Consequences of Arrests and Convictions under D.C., Maryland, and Virginia Law." The report is the first of its kind to examine the effect of the collateral consequences associated with arrests for residents in the DMV area.

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.

Maryland: Senate Committee Approves Bill to Impose a Civil Fine for Marijuana Possession

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The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Friday approved a bill 8-3 with bipartisan support that would replace criminal penalties with a civil fine for possession of limited amounts of marijuana. The measure will now receive a full vote in the Senate, which approved a similar measure last year with bipartisan support.

SB 364, co-sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore) and Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard), would replace criminal penalties for possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana with a $100 fine, similar to a parking ticket. It would also make penalties for minors the same as those for underage possession of alcohol. Under current Maryland law, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Maryland had the fourth highest arrest rate in the nation for marijuana possession, according to a report released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union. It also found that blacks accounted for 58 percent of marijuana possession arrests and were more than three times more likely to be arrested than whites despite using marijuana at comparable rates.

More than two-thirds of Maryland voters (68 percent) support changing state laws to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100, according to a survey conducted in September by Public Policy Polling. The full results are available at http://www.mpp.org/MDpoll.

D.C.: Mayoral Candidates to Address Issues of Race, Policing and Criminal Justice at Public Forum

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Forum Addresses Issues Pertinent to D.C. Residents Affected by Criminal Justice System

A coalition of civil rights and civil liberties’ organizations is hosting "Race, Policing and Criminal Justice," a D.C. mayoral forum on Thursday that will educate the public about candidate’s views on criminal and racial justice issues.

On any given day in the District, more than 16,000 people are under court-ordered supervision or incarcerated. Thousands more D.C. residents are affected by a loved one’s involvement in the criminal justice system and how law enforcement interacts with the community.

This forum provides an opportunity to educate the public about how candidates view criminal and racial justice issues pertinent to D.C. residents.

This free event is being co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital, Washington Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, D.C. National Lawyers Guild, Drug Policy Alliance, DC Branch of the NAACP, Howard University Chapter of the NAACP, Collective Power, Defending Dissent, DC Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, We Act Radio and Acqunetta Anderson ANC4A01.

All of the mayoral candidates have been invited to participate in this forum and an independent moderator will present prepared questions to the candidates who attend. Each candidate will have equal time and opportunity to respond to each question.

Maryland Lawmakers Launch Effort To Legalize Marijuana

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State and national organizations announce the formation of the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, which will support forthcoming legislation to establish a legal marijuana market for adults

State lawmakers on Thursday launched an effort to pass a bill in this year's legislative session that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Maryland. Sen. Jamie Raskin, Del. Curt Anderson, and Del. Sheila Hixson were joined at a news conference by leaders of several state and national organizations, who announced the formation of a broad coalition in support of the forthcoming legislation.

The Marijuana Control Act of 2014 would make the personal use, possession, and limited home-growing of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older; establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol; and allow for the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp. Click here for a detailed summary of the bill.

The new and expanding Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland includes the ACLU of Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, among others.

U.S.: NAACP Supports HR 1523, Respect State Marijuana Laws Act

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Marijuana Prohibition Discriminatorily Enforced, Wasteful, Responsible for Over-Incarceration, Says Influential Organization

Laws prohibiting marijuana have been unjustly enforced and are largely responsible for the current incarceration crisis, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), one of the nation’s foremost organizations concerned with ending race-based discrimination. The group has officially endorsed HR 1523, a bill introduced by California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher calling for the Controlled Substances Act to be amended so as not to apply to those in compliance with state marijuana laws.

The bill is necessary because a majority of Americans now live in states with marijuana laws that conflict with the federal government’s outright ban of the drug.

Communities of color have been among the most impacted by marijuana laws. A recent study revealed that despite comparable rates of use, black people are almost four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as white people. More than 700,000 people are arrested for marijuana every year.

Pennsylvania: Marijuana Legalization Bill Gets NAACP Support

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill that would legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania got the support of the NAACP on Tuesday.

Reintroduced in February by state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), the bill would allow the use, regulation, and taxation of cannabis in the Keystone State. But as long as the Republicans control both houses of the Pennsylvania Legislature, few expect the bill to pass, reports Anna Orso at Pennlive.com. And even if the bill somehow made it through the GOP-dominated Legislature, it's likely Republican Gov. Tom Corbett would sign it.

But the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People endorsed the measure, saying the War On Drugs unfairly focuses on minorities with a "staggeringly disproportionate" arrest rate compared with white users.

"The war on drugs is a catastrophic failure," said David Scott, chairman of the Legal Redress Committee for the Cheltenham Area Branch of the NAACP. Scott is a former deputy chief of police.

Scott pointed to a report recently released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which clearly highlights a racial bias in the War On Drugs.

Sen. Leach said he was thrilled to have the support of the NAACP. He called the legalization of marijuana in Pennsylvania "inevitable."

"This is decimating the minority community," Sen. Leach said. "This is a problem that is particularly acute."

U.S.: Superstars To President Obama: Let's Tackle Drug Policy and Mass Incarceration

(Photo: Kulture Kritic)Powerful Group Urges New Approaches to Failed Drug War, Move from Criminal Justice Toward Public Health Approach

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A coalition of over 175 artists, actors, athletes, elected officials and advocates, brought together by hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons and Dr. Boyce Watkins, on Tuesday presented an open letter to President Obama, urging him to double down on his efforts to change the United States’ criminal justice policy from that of a punitive, suppression-based model to one that favors evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation.

According to Department of Justice data, the U.S. leads the world in the incarceration of its own citizens, both on a per capita basis and in terms of total prison population. More than 500,000 of the 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S. are incarcerated for nothing more than a nonviolent drug offense.

“It is critical that we change both the way we think about drug laws in this country and how we generate positive solutions that leave a lasting impact on rebuilding our communities,” Russell Simmons said. “We need to break the school to prison pipeline, support and educate our younger generations and provide them with a path that doesn’t leave them disenfranchised with limited options.”

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