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.

Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Considers Plan To Decriminalize Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Pennsylvania's capitol city should hear a proposal tonight (Wednesday) that would decriminalize marijuana.

Harrisburg council members are scheduled to discuss Mayor Eric Papenfuses's proposal which would lower the penalties for marijuana possession.

Marijuana possession is currently a misdemeanor that stays on an offender's criminal history. Papenfuse's proposal would reduce marijuana possession to the same level as a traffic ticket.

Under the plan, a third arrest for marijuana possession would be considered a misdemeanor. Fines are proposed to begin at $100 and increase incrementally.

The public will be able to talk to council members at the meeting Wednesday.

The proposal could be voted on as early as next week.

New Hampshire: House Committee Approves Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Tuesday voted 12-7 to approve a bill that would make possession of less than one-quarter ounce of marijuana a violation similar to a speeding ticket.

The proposal changes Senate Bill 498, which would allow prosecutors and judges to use discretion in charging and sentencing first-time offenders by reducing the penalty from a class A misdemeanor to an unspecified misdemeanor.

Last week the Senate voted down a House-passed bill that would have made possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana a violation.

SB 498 now resembles a compromise between the House and Senate that fell apart at the end of last session.

The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, said under the Senate bill possession of a small amount of marijuana remains a criminal offense, while his proposed change would bring New Hampshire in line with the other New England states.

Under the bill, only the first possession would be a violation with a fine of not more than $500. A second conviction within three years would be a misdemeanor.

Someone under 18 years old would have to perform 35 hours of community work and could be ordered to attend a treatment program.

Anyone under 21 years old could lose their driver’s license if convicted for a first-time offense.

Georgia: Clarkston Defies Opposition And Continues With Plan To Decriminalize Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The city of Clarkston is forging ahead with a vote as soon as next week to make it the first city in Georgia to decriminalize marijuana, despite warnings from law enforcement officials and Gov. Nathan Deal that it would violate state and federal law.

Mayor Ted Terry's plan to make possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a ticket-only offense was reviewed in a city hearing last week, and the full city council could vote on the policy at its next meeting on May 3.

Meanwhile, Terry said he'd tried to set up a meeting with Deal to sell him on the idea as part of a criminal justice overhaul that was the centerpiece of his first term in office.

“I think that if he stopped for a minute and looked at the evidence, and past the political rhetoric, he will see that this policy can only strengthen his criminal justice reform legacy,” said Terry.

Clarkston’s plan would implement a fee schedule that could charge as little as $5 in Municipal Court for the first offense. That’s down from a fine that generally ranges from $600 to $1,000.

Deal has made it clear that he would oppose any efforts to decriminalize the drug.

Mexico: President Proposes Raising Limit On Marijuana For Personal Use

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

On Thursday, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said he will ask Congress to raise the limit on decriminalized marijuana for personal use to 28 grams, or about one ounce.

Previously, only possession of five grams, or less than a fifth of an ounce, were exempted from prosecution.

"This means that consumption would no longer be criminalized," Pena Nieto said. Possession of larger amounts would be punishable under drug trafficking laws.

"We Mexicans know all too well the range and the defects of prohibitionist and punitive policies, and of the so-called war on drugs that has prevailed for 40 years," Pena Nieto said. "Our country has suffered, as few have, the ill effects of organized crime tied to drug trafficking."

"Fortunately, a new consensus is gradually emerging worldwide in favor of reforming drug policies," he said. "A growing number of countries are strenuously combating criminals, but instead of criminalizing consumers, they offer them alternatives and opportunities."

Pena Nieto's proposal would allow the use and importation of cannabis-based medications. It would also free people who are on trial or serving time for up to an ounce of marijuana.

The move places Mexico in the middle range of marijuana regulation policies in Latin America.

Illinois: Senate Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Illinois Senate voted Tuesday 40 to 14 in favor of a bill that would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana, replacing a punishment of jail time with a small fine.

“We need to replace Illinois’s current patchwork of marijuana possession laws with a consistent standard that will be applied fairly across the state,” Senator Heather Steans, the bill’s primary sponsor, told HIGH TIMES in an e-mailed statement. “People should not be sent to jail for an offense that would have been punishable by a small fine if it had occurred a few miles down the road. It’s irrational, it’s unpredictable, and it’s unjust.”

Senate Bill 2228 introduces legislation that will impose a fine of $100-$200 on anyone caught with 10 grams of marijuana or less.Currently, any person caught with 10 grams of pot can be arrested and charged with a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine.

In addition, the bill comes with a provision that eliminates the state's zero-tolerance policy for stoned driving. Under current law, a person is at risk of getting a DUI for any amount of THC in the blood, even if it is residual from use days before.

The new bill establishes a legal limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood or 10 nanograms of THC in saliva.

Canada: Legislation Coming To Legalize Marijuana In 2017

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

On Wednesday the Canadian government announced that it will introduce legislation next year to decriminalize and legalize the sale of marijuana, making it the first G7 country to permit widespread cannabis use.

Jane Philpott, Canada's health minister, made the announcement at a U.N. drug conference in New York. The legislation will fulfill Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promises made last fall during his successful election campaign.

Philpott said details of the legislation are being worked out, but she promised that the government “will keep marijuana out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals."

Unlike in the United States, where marijuana regulation is shared by the states and the federal government, in Canada the issue falls almost solely under federal jurisdiction. Marijuana use has been expanding since 2000, when a court ruling first allowed Canadians to possess and grow small amounts for medicinal reasons.

Full legalization will make pot available in a way similar to alcohol. That could encourage some Americans, particularly those in border areas, to make Canada a pot tourist destination.

Brendan Kennedy, president of Privateer Holdings of Seattle, welcomed the Canadian announcement.

Mexico: Medical Marijuana May Soon Be Legalized, Minor Possession May Be Decriminalized

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Mexico legislators are taking steps to legalize medical marijuana and to consider changes in the law to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto made the announcement at the U. N. Drug Policy Summit on Tuesday in New York.

"As president of Mexico, in this special session, I give voice to those [Mexican opinion leaders] who expressed the need to update, within the confines of the law, the use of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes," Pena Nieto said.

"The participants in the forums also spoke about the importance of increasing, in accordance with international standards, the amount of marijuana that can be considered for personal use with the goal of decriminalizing consumers," Nieto added.

Maria Teresa Parades, a criminal defense attorney in Mexico City, said the president is not promoting new ideas, merely adapting to reality on Mexican streets.

"This is nothing new. It's what we [defense attorneys] experience on everyday life. People just don't know it. Most police officers don't bother detaining someone high on marijuana because they consider it's not worth arresting a potentially violent person who the judge is going to let go on a misdemeanor charge anyway," Paredes said.

Florida: Orlando Becomes Latest City To Decriminalize Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

On Monday the Orlando City Council voted to approve an ordinance that would effectively decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The measure narrowly passed, with a vote of 4-3, making possession of 20 grams or less a violation of a city code with a $50 fine for first offenders.

Supporters, including dozens of residents, outnumbered opponents at the meeting on Monday.

One of the three council members voting no, Commissioner Samuel Ings said the measure would hurt Orlando's image as a family friendly tourist destination and represents a "slippery slope."

"We don't have to follow the trend that other cities have started just because it has become popular," said Ortiz, who argued not enough data is yet available to determine the impact of similar policies.

The four voting in favor were commissioners Regina Hill, Patty Sheehan, Robert Stuart and Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Orlando police chief John Mina and Mayor Dyer urged approval of the ordinance, similar to pot policies recently adopted in other municipalities, including Tampa and Volusia County.

Marijuana possession will remain a state crime. Mina said officers may still make arrests for even small amounts of marijuana, depending on circumstances including the offender's record.

Florida: Orlando Could Be Next City To Decriminalize Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Orlando city commissioners will vote on April 18 on a measure that would decriminalize the possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana.

Instead of making an arrest, police officers could issue fines beginning at $50, according to city of Orlando documents. Fines would increase for repeat offenders, and a possible court hearing would be mandated.

Marijuana would still be considered illegal, but the measure would lessen the criminal image that typically comes with marijuana.

This change in perception among Orlando leaders could help the passage of Amendment 2, the initiative on the November ballot that would legalize a wider use of medical marijuana in Florida.

Orlando attorney John Morgan, who has publicly and financially backed the Amendment 2 effort in Florida, voiced his approval of Orlando leaders considering the decriminalization of possessing marijuana, tweeting that Orlando could be the next city to decriminalize marijuana.

Florida: Despite Tampa Decriminalizing Marijuana, Cops Keep Throwing Users In Jail

Despite Tampa decriminalizing marijuana, cops keep throwing users in jail.

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Although the City of Tampa recently decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, some law enforcement agencies plan to continue throwing pot users in jail.

WFLA News Channel 8 released a report indicating that the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, which oversees the city of Tampa and its outlying areas, refuses to acknowledge the decriminalization ordinance that allows police to issue a citation and not arrest anyone found with 20 grams of pot or less. Instead the sheriff's office advised its deputies that marijuana is still against state law, and that means criminal charges for anyone caught possessing marijuana.

“If the sheriff’s office or the highway patrol or whatever agency, does issue a criminal charge on a marijuana within the city limits of Tampa and they refer it to us, we will treat it as a criminal charge just like we always have,” said Hillsborough State Attorney spokesman Mark Cox.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn signed the ordinance in March that gives police officers the flexibility to issue tickets for simple possession, instead of taking offenders to jail. The law went into effect on April 1.

“Incarcerating people, particularly young people, for a very small amount of marijuana absolutely alters their career path for the rest of their life,” Buckhorn said in a recent statement.

Georgia: Small Town Mayor Wants To Treat Marijuana Like Traffic Ticket

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Clarkston, GA city council may make their municipality the first in Georgia to decriminalize one ounce or less of marijuana.

Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry told WSB-TV that he wants simple possession to be treated like a traffic ticket. The proposal being considered would result in a $5 fine for simple possession.

“This is still a controversial issue. At some point it’s going to take a city council, county commission, mayor or elected officials to step up and do something,” he said. “It’s obvious the war on drugs has been a failure.”

The proposal is now being considered by the city's public safety committee.

Marijuana would still be legal, but the penalty would change, just requiring violators to pay the fine.

“We don’t want to ruin someone's life for something that is as harmless as being in possession of a very small amount,” Terry said. “I don’t want our police officers to spend their time worrying about low-level nonviolent drug offenses. I’m more concerned about stopping violent crime and burglaries in Clarkston.”

The full City Council is expected to vote on the proposal in May.

US: DEA Considers Dropping Marijuana From Category Of Most Dangerous Drugs Within Three Months

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Marijuana may soon be demoted on the Drug Enforcement Agency list of most dangerous drugs.

The DEA said it should decide in the first half of 2016 whether to reclassify marijuana in a category other than Schedule I, a group that is said to have no medical purpose but "potentially severe psychological or physical dependence." Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and peyote.

Polls consistently show that a majority of Americans want pot available for recreational use, but it's unlikely the DEA decision will change its status of being illegal according to federal law.

Reclassifying marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II would make it easier for researchers to earn about its effects, medicinal and otherwise.

Currently, all marijuana used for research is grown by the University of Mississippi.

Twenty-three states have legalized some form of medical marijuana, with Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia having legalized recreational use.

The head of the DEA, however, has voiced strong opposition to the idea that marijuana has medical benefits.

“What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it's not,” DEA head Chuck Rosenberg said in November.

Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh City Council Approves Lighter Penalties For Marijuana Possession

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Pittsburgh City Council decreed earlier today that possessing or smoking marijuana will be punishable by a summary offense, and not a misdemeanor as state law mandates.

The council voted 8 to 1 in favor of the move to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Mayor Bill Peduto is expected to sign the amended ordinance within 10 days.

The new rule would mean Pittsburgh police could issue a summary citation punishable by a fine of $100 for smoking or $25 for possession of a small amount of marijuana. It would appear on a criminal record as violating “certain defined conduct” rather than including words such as marijuana or controlled substance, making it harder to search for in a person’s criminal record.

“This is a small step — but an important step — in helping young men who may have a small amount of marijuana on them, not be entered into the criminal justice system,” Councilman Ricky Burgess said before the vote.

Simple marijuana possession is a misdemeanor in the state of Pennsylvania and is punishable by 30 days in jail or a $500 fine.

Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Takes Public Feedback On Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

Harrisburg, PA takes public feedback on decriminalizing marijuana

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Harrisburg may soon join the ever-growing list of US municipalities to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Dozens of people from several communities are urging city leaders to soften the penalties for simple possession.

One Harrisburg resident who only identified himself as Mark said his brother was arrested for a small amount of pot years ago.

He was “sentenced to two years in prison, brutalized while he was incarcerated and was unable to get a job because of his record and he thought and felt the only other option was to commit suicide and that's exactly what he did,” Mark said.

The new proposal would mean those found with a small amount of marijuana would face a fine of $100 the first time, $200 the second time, and a misdemeanor for any further offenses. Fines collected would go toward a drug treatment program.

“The city is not benefiting from that whatsoever,” Harrisburg police Chief Thomas Carter said. “We don't want to benefit from it, but we acknowledge the fact that we do have a problem with kids smoking and adults smoking.”

Opponents to the proposal are unconvinced and want tougher penalties.

"Do you know that every drug dealer on the city corners of Harrisburg is [sic] salivating at the mouth hoping that you'll pass this bill?” one resident asked. “Hello, are you sending the right message to the young people of the city of Harrisburg?"

If the proposal passes Harrisburg would join Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as the only cities in the state to decriminalize marijuana so far.

Florida: Tampa Mayor Approves Ordinance To Decriminalize Marijuana

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn signs ordinance to decriminalize marijuana.

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Tampa now officially has an ordinance that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Tampa City Council approved the ordinance last week on a 5-1 vote, said spokeswoman Ashley Bauman. Mayor Bob Buckhorn signed the ordinance Monday, making it official.

Buckhorn had previously voiced support for the measure. "There is almost a universal recognition that we need to do this better," he said earlier this year. "Doing this doesn't make us any less anti-drug, but it's a realization that the penalties that have been imposed have done more damage to the trajectories of young peoples' lives than the offenses have warranted."

Under Florida state law, possession of 20 grams of marijuana or less is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison or probation and a $1,000 file. Offenders can also lose their driving license for up to one year.

The new law would impose a fine of $75 for first time offenders. A second offense would mean a fine of $150, $300 for a third, and $450 for any following violations.

The city could implement the program as early as next month.

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