marijuana decriminalization

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New Hampshire: Legislature Takes One Step 'Sideways' On Marijuana Decriminalization

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Matt Simon, New England Political Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, released the following announcement regarding yesterday's failure to pass a bill to decriminalize marijuana in the state:

The prohibitionists in the New Hampshire Senate, led by gubernatorial candidate Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), succeeded yesterday in preventing any meaningful progress on decriminalization in 2016. The committee of conference on SB 498 removed House changes that would have decriminalized a quarter-ounce of marijuana. As was the case in the original Senate bill, the conference committee’s report would instead reclassify the penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana from a class A misdemeanor to an unspecified misdemeanor.

Union Leader reporter Garry Rayno accurately described this as a “sideways” step for marijuana policy reform. Police and courts will continue to waste time on low-level marijuana possession cases, and people who are caught with marijuana will continue being dragged through the criminal justice system. The small change made by SB 498 may end up having a small positive effect on marijuana policy, or it may have no practical effect at all.

West Virginia: Bill Being Introduced To Legalize Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

West Virginia Del. Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha) is introducing a bill to legalize marijuana at a special budget session at the State Capitol.

The bill would decriminalize and permit personal use of marijuana by persons over the age of 21.

“I’m not under the impression that (House) Speaker (Tim) Armstead is going to run this bill,” Pushkin said on “580 Live” with Charleston Mayor Danny Jones Wednesday. “I just thought it was a good time to at least start talking about it, because we are in a financial crisis in this state."

Dels. Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio), Bill Flanigan (R-Monongalia), Mike Folk (R-Berkeley) and Pat McGeehan (R-Hancock) all signed the bill.

“I don’t think it’s really that unrealistic considering other states have done it,” Pushkin said. “Pennsylvania I believe signed medical marijuana the other day, and Ohio is well on their way to doing the same thing.”

Pushkin said that although the bill has a lot of support on social media he didn’t have expectations that it would be discussed during the special session, which enters its ninth day on Thursday.

Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Washington, D.C. have recently legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Twelve states have both medical marijuana and decriminalization laws. Ten states, Guam, and Puerto Rico have only legalized medical marijuana.

Missouri: Survey Shows Decline In Adolescent Pot Problems And Use

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A survey of over 216,000 adolescents from all 50 states shows the number of teens with marijuana-related problems is declining. Despite the fact that more U.S. states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use and the number of adults using the drug has increased, rates of marijuana use by young people are falling.

Data on drug use was collected by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis over a 12-year span from young people ages 12 to 17. They found that the number of adolescents with marijuana-related problems declined by 24 percent from 2002 to 2013.

When kids were asked if they had used pot in the last 12 months the rate reported fell 10 percent over the same period.

Reduction in behavioral problems, such as fighting, property crimes, and selling drugs accompanied the drops reported.

The study's first author, Richard A. Grucza, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry, said that those problems are often signs of childhood psychiatric disorders.

Illinois: Governor Likely To OK Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said Thursday he would "probably be comfortable with" a proposed bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The bill was approved by the Illinois House on Wednesday in a 64-50 vote. It was passed by the Senate in April with a 40-14 vote. The bill would ensure that no one in Illinois could be criminally charged for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana.

Gov. Rauner vetoed a bill last year to make possession of up to 15 grams of weed a ticketable offense. He said the bill would allow people to carry too much pot and that fines should be more than $55 to $125.

Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, sponsored the new Senate version of the bill which would allow people caught with 10 grams of marijuana or less to face slightly larger fines of $100 to $200.

Tickets would be expunged automatically twice a year.

Possession of up to 2.5 grams is considered a class C misdemeanor under current law, and can be punished by up to 30 days in jail and a possible $1,500 fine. Possession of more than 2.5 grams is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,500 fine.

Illinois would become the 21st state to decriminalize marijuana possession if Rauner signs the bill.

Illinois: House Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Illinois House voted today, May 18, to make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a ticket-based penalty rather than a misdemeanor.

Previously, anyone caught with 10 grams of marijuana or less could have faced a fine up to $1,500 and a possible six month stay in jail. If the governor signs Senate Bill 2228, police will start issuing tickets ranging from $100 to $200 per offense instead of arresting offenders.

Moving simple marijuana possession to a civil penalty from a criminal penalty will help achieve Go. Bruce Rauner's goal of reducing the state's prison population by 25 percent by 2025.

Another positive outcome is that a civil penalty for possession will not burden people with a debilitating criminal record, which can prevent a person from getting a job, applying for student loans, or finding a place to live.

The change will also save the state money. Jailing people for low-level possession offenses is expensive, costing Illinois $38,000 a year per prisoner. Illinois prisons are currently operating at 150 percent capacity.

Reforming the way simple marijuana possession is punished will allow police to focus on serious crime, while ensuring that people caught with small amounts of pot don't get ensnared in a costly and ineffective system.

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