public policy polling

California: One In 10 People Say Police Took Cash, Property Without A Conviction

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Two new surveys find overwhelming public opposition in California to laws allowing law enforcement to seize and keep a person’s cash and property without a conviction

California Legislature considers reform to rein in abuse

In a recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, a startling 10 percent of adults living in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties said that they had had their property taken by a police officer without being convicted of a crime. Nearly one in five (19 percent) of those living in these three counties also stated that they know someone who had experienced the same.

One of the ways in which law enforcement can legally take property or money from people in the absence of a conviction is through civil asset forfeiture, a highly controversial policy that allows law enforcement officers to seize cash or property that they suspect has been involved in criminal activity, such as drug sales.

While California law offers greater protections, federal forfeiture laws do not require that police arrest or charge a person with a crime, or convict them. If the owner does not file a claim in civil court and prevail in the case, the property is permanently lost, and the majority of the funds go to the same law enforcement agency that seized the cash or property in the first place.

Florida: Voters Support Constitutional Amendment For Medical Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A huge majority of Florida voters say they will vote 'yes' on proposed Amendment 2, which will permit physician-authorized use and distribution of medical marijuana.

Public Policy Polling data last week showed that 65 percent of voters endorse the medical cannabis legalization measure and only 28 percent oppose it.

Florida law requires that 60 percent of voters must approve a constitutional amendment to pass it and make it law. A similar amendment was nearly passed in 2014, but received only 58 percent of the vote.

The 2016 ballot measure, entitled the "Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Conditions" will appear on this November's ballot.

Ohio: 3 of 4 Voters Support Making Medical Marijuana Legal

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About three out of four Ohio voters support amending the state constitution to make medical marijuana legal for patients with terminal or debilitating conditions, according to a new poll by Public Policy Polling.

The survey of 672 randomly selected Ohio voters was conducted February 17-18, just as advocates are preparing to launch a campaign in support of a constitutional ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. It found 74 percent of voters in favor and only 22 percent opposed, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.

“It’s become pretty common knowledge that marijuana can be incredibly beneficial in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesperson for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana (OMM), a committee that has been formed to support the forthcoming initiative. “It’s not surprising that a vast majority of voters agree patients should be allowed to consume it if their doctors think it could be helpful.

"There are few laws still on the books that are as unpopular as those that prohibit sick and dying people from accessing medical marijuana,” Tvert said.

OMM is currently working with local advocates to draft the initiative and expects to initiate the petitioning process later this month. If the petition drive is successful, the measure will appear on the November ballot.

“Ohio’s current marijuana policy is antiquated and inhumane,” Tvert said. “We hope to give voters an opportunity to change that this November.

Maine: Voters Oppose Punitive Drug Policies, Support Decriminalization

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Findings Come as Legislature Considers Bills Increasing Penalties for Drug Possession

Results Similar to Poll in New Hampshire Which Also Fund Majority Support for Drug Decriminalization

A substantial majority of Maine voters support decriminalizing drug possession, according to a survey conducted over the weekend by Public Policy Polling (PPP) for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Sixty-four percent of voters in Maine think people caught with a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use should be evaluated for drug issues, offered treatment but not be arrested or face any jail time. Seventy-one percent say substantially reducing incarceration is somewhat or very important to them.

The poll results come as the legislature considers legislation backed by the Attorney General that could roll back groundbreaking reforms passed last session that reduced drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. The proposed legislation (LD 1554) would make possession of 30 milligrams (often less than one single pill) or more of prescription opioids and any amount of certain other drugs into felony offenses, continuing the criminalization of drug users and wasting scarce resources on incarceration instead of treatment and prevention.

D.C.: Residents Strongly Support Moving Forward With Marijuana Legalization

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Findings Come on the Cusp of Initiative 71 Implementation Anniversary and Amid Heated Council Debate on Prohibiting Social Consumption of Marijuana

Majority Oppose Congressional Interference with DC Law, View Marijuana Reform as a Statehood Issue, Believe Mayor Bowser Should Move to Tax & Regulate Marijuana, Support Regulated Venues for Social Consumption

A substantial majority of District of Columbia residents believe Mayor Muriel Bowser should move forward with taxation and regulation of marijuana despite Congressional prohibition, according to a survey conducted over the weekend by Public Policy Polling (PPP) for the Drug Policy Alliance, DC Vote, DC Working Families and the Washington City Paper.

Sixty-six percent of respondents believe the Mayor should pursue a legal method (such as use of reserve funds) to implement taxation and regulation of marijuana in the District. In light of Congressional interference attempting to prevent such regulation, 63 percent of residents view marijuana legalization as a statehood issue for the District.

A majority of respondents also recognized that limiting consumption of marijuana to the home is problematic for many residents (especially renters who could face eviction) and 61 percent would support the creation of regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana.

South Carolina: Voters Want Next President To Respect State Marijuana Laws

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Voters in Three Early 2016 Primary States Want to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

New polling data has revealed that voters in the early presidential primary state of South Carolina overwhelmingly support ending federal prosecutions of people acting in accordance with state marijuana laws.

Among respondents, 65 percent agree that "states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference." Just 16 percent think that "the federal government should arrest and prosecute people who are following state marijuana laws."

The survey, commissioned by Marijuana Majority, is a follow-up to other recent polls from the organization that showed supermajority support for respecting local marijuana laws in Iowa and New Hampshire, which are also key early presidential primary states.

"Regardless of whether they personally support legalization, voters in these early primary states strongly support scaling back the war on marijuana so that local laws can be enacted without federal harassment," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "The Obama administration has made some helpful accommodations to let states start to move forward, but overarching federal prohibition laws still stand in the way of full and effective implementation.

"Presidential contenders in both parties would do well to make marijuana law reform a prominent issue in their campaigns, and they'd be better off doing it before other candidates realize just how much of a winning issue this is with voters," Angell said.

U.S.: Voters In Early 2016 Primary States Want Feds To Respect State Marijuana Laws

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Supermajority Support From Democrats & Republicans in Iowa & New Hampshire

New polling data reveals that voters in early presidential primary states overwhelmingly support ending federal prosecutions of people acting in accordance with state marijuana laws.

Among respondents, 71 percent in Iowa and 73 percent in New Hampshire agree that "states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference." Just 13 percent of Iowans and 15 percent of New Hampshirites think that "the federal government should arrest and prosecute people who are following state marijuana laws."

"Politicians running to become our next president should take note of just how uniformly voters in these key states want to end federal marijuana prohibition," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, which commissioned the poll. "Candidates who say they would send in the DEA to shut down legal, taxpaying marijuana businesses are effectively announcing that they're out of the mainstream and out of touch with the voters they need support from in order to get elected.

"That type of rhetoric is just not going to score any points in 2016," Angell said.

The new data shows that support for letting states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference is especially high among Democrats and independents in both states, although there is at least 60 percent support across all demographics, including Republicans, 2012 Mitt Romney voters, people older than 65 and those who identify as very conservative.

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.

Rhode Islanders Call On House Speaker, Senate President To Pass Marijuana Legalization Bill

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Representatives of Regulate Rhode Island will be joined by legislative supporters at a Wednesday news conference at 11 a.m. ET in front of the Rhode Island State House to call on House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (D-Cranston) and Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Newport) to support the bill to regulate marijuana like alcohol and allow House and Senate members to vote on it before the session ends this month.

Immediately following the news conference, the group will deliver nearly 500 postcards to Speaker Mattiello’s office. Each postcard is signed by one of his constituents and urges the speaker to support the bill.

“We hope the House Speaker and Senate President will agree with the majority of voters that it’s time to start regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol in Rhode Island,” said Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat. “At the very least, they should allow a vote on the bill before the session ends.”

A record-high 57 percent of Rhode Island voters support changing state law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, according to a survey conducted in April by Public Policy Polling. Only 35 percent were opposed. The full results are available at http://bit.ly/1IiFCNt.

Louisiana: Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Bill Reforming Marijuana Possession Law

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Measure Would Allow Second Chance for First-Time Offenders and Save Millions of Dollars

Bill Heads to Full Senate

Lawmakers in Louisiana on Wednesday took a major step forward when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to reform the state’s harsh marijuana possession law. If passed, Louisiana would join the growing number of states that have recently reduced penalties for small amounts of marijuana.

“This is a long-sought opportunity to take a more compassionate and commonsense approach to marijuana,” said Yolande Cadore, director of strategic partnerships at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Louisiana's overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step."

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world – and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S. Louisiana’s incarceration rate has doubled in the last 20 years and is nearly five times higher than Iran's, 13 times higher than China's and 20 times higher than Germany's.

One of the key drivers of Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate is the War On Drugs – 18,000 Louisiana residents are arrested for drug law violations each year.

Texas: House Committee Approves Bill To Make Marijuana Legal For Adults

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The Texas House of Representatives Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Wednesday approved a bill 5-1 that would end marijuana prohibition in the state.

HB 2165, introduced in March by Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), would strike references to marijuana offenses from Texas statutes, resulting in marijuana being treated similarly to other legal crops.

Nearly three out of five Texas voters (58 percent) support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol, according to a statewide survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in September 2013.

Four states have adopted laws that regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. Two of them, Colorado and Washington, have established regulated systems of marijuana cultivation and sales. Alaska and Oregon are in the process of implementing similar systems.

“Marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered in the Lone Star State," said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Texas voters recognize that punishing adults for consuming a substance that is safer than alcohol is a waste of law enforcement resources and an affront to individual liberty. It appears most of the committee members agree.

“State officials are increasingly becoming fed up with the failed federal government policy of marijuana prohibition, and they’re taking action," Fazio said. "Like most Americans, most Texans are ready for a more sensible, fiscally sound marijuana policy.”

Rhode Island: New Poll Finds Record High 57% Support Marijuana Legalization

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Clergy, Political, Environmental, and Women’s Organizations Join the Coalition Backing S 510/H 5777

A record-high 57 percent of Rhode Island voters support changing state law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, according to a survey conducted this month by Public Policy Polling. Only 35 percent were opposed.

S 510/H 5777, the “Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act,” would allow adults 21 and older to possess of up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space. It would create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities and direct the Department of Business Regulation to create rules regulating security, labeling, and health and safety requirements.

It would also establish wholesale excise taxes at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store, as well as a special sales tax on retail sales to consumers.

“From Cumberland to Narragansett, there is exceptionally strong support for ending marijuana prohibition in Rhode Island this year,” said Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat. “The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act creates a responsible alternative that proactively controls for public health concerns while allowing adults 21 and older the freedom to legally use marijuana if they choose.

Texas: Veterans To Gather At State Capitol To Support Medical Marijuana

Texas-RepDavidSimpsonQuotePeopleShouldMakeTheirOwnHealthDecisions[TexansForResponsibleMarijuanaPolicy]

Texas-based military veterans and their families will gather at the state capitol on Wednesday for a lobby day in support of legislation that would allow medical marijuana to be used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe pain, and other debilitating medical conditions.

The group will hold a news conference at 12 noon CT in Room 110 of the John H. Reagan State Office Building, at which it will urge House Public Health Committee Chair Myra Crownover (R-Denton) to hold a hearing on HB 3785, which would allow seriously ill Texas residents to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.

Advocates will also highlight a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling at the end of March that found two out of three voters in Rep. Crownover’s district (67 percent) support such legislation.

“There are about 1.67 million veterans living in Texas, and hundreds of thousands of them are believed to be suffering from service-connected disabilities,” said Tristan Tucker, a Denton-based Navy veteran. “Medical marijuana is effective in mitigating the symptoms of PTSD and severe pain, two of the most prevalent conditions afflicting veterans.

"Veterans who use medical marijuana to treat their service-related injuries should be treated like patients, not criminals,” Tucker said.

Texans For Responsible Marijuana Policy Hold Citizen Lobby Day On Wednesday

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Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy are holding a Citizen Lobby Day at the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, February 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT.

Attendees will be urging their elected officials to support HB 507, which would reduce penalties for marijuana possession, and asking them to support the establishment of a comprehensive medical marijuana program in Texas.

More than three out of five Texas voters (61 percent) 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. Nearly three out of five (58 percent) support changing state law to allow seriously ill people to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.

“Most Texas voters support reforming our state’s current marijuana policies,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Legislators need to hear from their constituents on this issue, and events like this will ensure that they do. Texans are fed up with failed prohibition policies, and they’re speaking out for a more a sensible approach.”

Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy

Delaware: Lawmakers To Consider Removing Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession

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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.”

Virginia: New Poll Shows Voters Strongly Support Marijuana Law Reform

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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.”

D.C.: Drug Policy Alliance Hires Medical Doctor To Advance Marijuana Legalization

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Duke University-Trained Medical Doctor To Build Community Support for Ballot Initiative 71 that Would Legalize Marijuana Possession

Organizing Focus Will Be on Racial Disparities and Societal Harms Not Resolved by Marijuana Decriminalization

Former surgeon Dr. Malik Burnett has joined Drug Policy Alliance as a full-time organizer in the District of Columbia. Burnett, a policy manager based in DPA’s Office of National Affairs in Washington, D.C., will prioritize building support for Initiative 71, the taxation and regulation of marijuana through the D.C. Council and other drug policy reform initiatives that will advance social and racial justice in the nation’s capital.

In addition to his work on Initiative 71, Burnett will work on developing policy to rehabilitate the damage which the War On Drugs has caused on communities of color, including eliminating criminal records for individuals convicted of drug possession, expanding access to health care services for the poor and formerly incarcerated, building support for the decriminalization of all drugs, and laying the ground work for broader drug policy reform in the nation’s capital.

“Marijuana policy reform is part of the emerging picture of civil rights reform in the 21st Century,” Burnett said. “The District of Columbia has historically been a leader in enacting progressive policies, and the legalization of marijuana will go a long way towards reframing drug policy around a public health framework.”

Louisiana: Man Given 13 Year Prison Sentence For Two Joints

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Amicus brief by Drug Policy Alliance Highlights Why Sentence is Cruel & Unusual and Urges Louisiana Supreme Court to Review Mr. Noble’s Sentence

The Drug Policy Alliance on Wednesday filed an amicus brief urging the Louisiana Supreme Court to review the egregious prison sentence of Bernard Noble, a 48-year old man who was sentenced to 13.3 years of hard labor in prison without the opportunity for parole for possessing the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes.

Two cops spotted Noble riding a bicycle down South Miro Street in New Orleans in 2010, reports Bruce Barcott at Rolling Stone. They ordered Noble to stop, and frisked him. They found a small bag containing less than three grams of marijuana.

Noble’s original sentencing judge considered the 13 and a third-year sentence egregious and imposed a sentence of five years of hard labor. But the Orleans Parish District Attorney wasn’t satisfied with this punishment and appealed the sentence. Ultimately, the district attorney sought and obtained a prison term of close to triple the sentence imposed by the original sentencing judge.

“Thirteen years in prison for two joints is obscene,” said Daniel Abrahamson, director of the Office of Legal Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and a lead author of the brief.

Maryland: Governor Will Sign Bill Removing Criminal Penalties For Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley said on Monday that he will sign a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, report Fredrick Kunkle and John Wagner at The Washington Post.

The Maryland Senate gave final approval Monday afternoon (34-8) to a bill that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana. It will now be sent to Gov. O'Malley.

"As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the public will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety," Gov. O'Malley said in a statement. "I know that that is an acknowledgment of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police and the vast majority of our citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health."

The Maryland House voted 78-55 on Saturday to approve the same measure approved on Monday by the Senate. The bill narrowly survived efforts by House Judiciary Committee Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's County) and others to kill it in committee, by "appointing a task force to study the issue."

Illinois: Poll Shows More Than 60% Support Removing Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Possession

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Supporters call on members of the House of Representatives to pass bills approved last week by the House Restorative Justice Committee that would replace criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois with a non-criminal fine

Panel discussion on collateral sanctions of marijuana arrests to take place Friday at Roosevelt University

Supporters of a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois on Thursday released the results of a statewide poll showing strong support for such legislation. The Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee approved the bill last week, and supporters are now calling on members of the House to approve the proposal.

The Public Policy Polling survey shows 63 percent of Illinois voters support making possession of an ounce of marijuana a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $100. Only 27 percent oppose the proposal.

The poll found majority support across all reported genders, races, and political party affiliations. The survey, which polled 769 Illinois voters from March 28-30, is available at http://www.mpp.org/ILpoll.

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