When MPP was founded in January 1995, medical marijuana was illegal in every state, and favorable legislation had not been introduced in Congress in a decade. Since then, Congress has approved budget riders to protect state-legal medical marijuana programs every year since late 2014; numerous bills have been introduced to remove federal penalties for state-legal conduct and to end federal marijuana prohibition entirely; recreational, adult-use marijuana is now legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia; medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia; and much more.
Major accomplishments include:
April 1995 — The U.S. Sentencing Commission voiced its unanimous approval of an amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines, which established shorter sentences for people convicted of cultivating marijuana. MPP was helpful in persuading the commission to vote 7-0 in favor of the penalty reduction, which took effect on November 1, 1995. A subsequent 7-0 vote on September 6 made the change retroactive, resulting in the early release of an estimated 950 federal marijuana prisoners.
November 1996 — California voters pass the first statewide ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in any state. MPP was too young to provide funding to this landmark campaign, but MPP provided legal advice during the drafting of the initiative, as well as a substantive analysis of how other states had already been moving forward with lesser medical-marijuana laws since the 1970s.
December 1997 — The American Medical Association’s House of Delegates voted to adopt a report that (1) recognized the existence of scientific research showing marijuana’s medical value, (2) recommended that doctors and patients should not be punished for discussing marijuana as a treatment option, and (3) urged the federal government to expedite medical marijuana research. MPP worked for months to persuade the AMA to adopt these improvements to a policy that had been fairly hostile to medical marijuana.
November 1998 — MPP worked with local AIDS activists to pass a medical marijuana initiative that the activists had placed on the local ballot in Washington, D.C. Though Congress blocked the city from counting the votes for 10 months, a lawsuit brought by the ACLU revealed that 69% of city voters approved the initiative.
March 1999 — The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued its landmark medical marijuana report, finding that “there are some limited circumstances in which we would recommend smoking marijuana for medical uses.” In early 1998, MPP coordinated the testimony of dozens of medical marijuana patients and researchers at IOM’s hearings.
June 2000 — Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano (D) signed MPP’s medical marijuana legislation into law, making Hawaii the first state to pass a medical marijuana law through its legislature, rather than through a ballot initiative.
April 2000 — President Bill Clinton (D) signed into law an asset forfeiture reform bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.). MPP generated grassroots lobbying pressure in support of the legislation, which makes it more difficult for the government to seize the property of marijuana users, as well as alleged and suspected marijuana users.
November 2002 — Despite being defeated by Nevada voters by a 61% to 39% margin, MPP’s high-profile ballot initiative to remove criminal penalties for adult possession of marijuana generated more public support, dues-paying members, and positive news coverage than any other project in MPP’s history. The coverage of the campaign culminated in a front-page story in the November 4 issue of Time magazine.
December 2003 — MPP funded, through its grants program, litigation that led to a precedent-setting decision by the largest federal appeals court in the country, which ruled that federal laws against marijuana do not apply to sick people who use medical marijuana with the approval of their physicians in states where medical marijuana is legal. This decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2005.
July 2003 — Fully 152 members of Congress voted for the “Hinchey Amendment” to the spending bill for the U.S. Justice Department. The legislation, co-written by MPP, would have prevented the DEA from spending any money to raid or arrest medical marijuana patients and caregivers in states that have medical marijuana laws.
May 2003 — Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) became the first Republican governor to sign medical marijuana legislation. MPP lobbied the Maryland Legislature for four years to pass the bill, which now protects medical marijuana patients from imprisonment.
April 2003 — MPP worked with members of the U.S. House of Representatives to write and introduce the “Truth in Trials Act” in response to the federal trial and conviction of medical marijuana provider Ed Rosenthal, who was not allowed to introduce evidence at trial that he acted in compliance with California state law.
November 2004 — MPP funded and ran the campaign that succeeded in passing a statewide medical marijuana initiative in Montana with 62% of the vote — the highest margin of victory for any of the medical marijuana initiatives that have passed in eight states since 1996. MPP also provided the majority of funding for an initiative to regulate marijuana in Alaska, which failed with 44% of the vote (but still set the record for the largest vote to end marijuana prohibition in any state).
November 2004 — The MPP grants program funded 13 of the 16 local marijuana-related initiatives that passed in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Missouri.
November 2004 — U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), with the assistance of MPP, drafted and introduced the first-ever medical marijuana bill in the U.S. Senate.
September 2004 — The Alaska Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling (issued one year before) that permits adults aged 21 and older to use and possess up to four ounces of marijuana in the privacy of the home — maintaining Alaska as the only state where the non-medical use of marijuana is legal in any context. The MPP grants program funded this litigation.
May 2004 — At the conclusion of MPP’s intensive, three-year lobbying campaign, Vermont became the ninth state to enact a medical marijuana law — and only the second state to do so through its legislature, rather than through a ballot initiative.
January 2004 — In the months leading up to the New Hampshire Democratic primary election, MPP helped persuade a majority of the Democratic presidential candidates, including John Kerry, to pledge to end the arrest of patients in states with medical marijuana laws.
November 2005 — The MPP grants program funded a successful initiative to make the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal under city ordinances in Denver, Colorado.
November 2006 — MPP’s high-profile ballot initiative to tax and regulate marijuana in Nevada received 44% of the vote, tying with Alaska for the all-time largest vote ever to end marijuana prohibition in a state.
November 2006 — The MPP grants program funded successful initiatives to make marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority in three California cities (Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Monica) and in Missoula County, Montana.
January 2006 — The Rhode Island Legislature overwhelmingly overrode the governor’s veto of MPP’s bill to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest — making Rhode Island the 11th state where medical marijuana use, possession, and cultivation is legal. This was the first state medical marijuana law to be enacted over the veto of a governor.
November 2007 —The MPP grants program funded a successful initiative to make marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority in Denver, Colorado.
July 2007 — Following an intensive MPP lobbying campaign, MPP helped to garner 165 votes in the U.S. House of Representatives to stop arresting medical marijuana patients — an all-time record of support for medical marijuana access.
November 2008 — MPP’s ballot initiative to remove the threat of arrest and jail for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana passed overwhelmingly in Massachusetts. The successful initiative — the first statewide decriminalization initiative ever — replaced the threat of arrest and jail with a $100 fine.
November 2008 — Michigan passed MPP’s ballot initiative to permit terminally and seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with their doctors’ approval, making Michigan the 13th medical marijuana state and the first in the Midwest.
January 2008 —In the months leading up to the New Hampshire Democratic primary election, MPP helped persuade all of the Democratic presidential candidates and two of the Republican candidates to pledge to end the arrest of patients in states with medical marijuana laws.
December 2009 — MPP successfully lobbied for the removal of the so-called “Barr Amendment” from the DC appropriations bill. MPP led the fight to end Congressional interference which, for over 10 years, blocked the District of Columbia from implementing a medical marijuana initiative which passed with nearly 70% of the vote. MPP even retained the amendment’s namesake, former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, to lobby for the amendments removal after he reversed his position in 2007. Following the removal of the amendment, MPP successfully lobbied the District Council to improve the language they were considering to implement the initiative and lobbied the executive branch for reasonable regulations. The regulations’ effective date is April 15, 2011.
November 2009 — The American Medical Association rescinded its previous support of classifying marijuana alongside LSD, PCP, and heroin under federal law. This was the result of nearly three years of behind-the-scenes work, whereby MPP worked with key advocates to persuade lower-level medical associations to bring the issue to the full AMA.
November 2009 — Maine passed MPP’s ballot initiative to expand the state’s existing medical marijuana law by adding regulated dispensaries and additional medical conditions. This was the first initiative to include dispensaries. At the time, New Mexico was the only state with regulated dispensaries.
October 2009 — Following a vigorous campaign from MPP that started during the presidential primaries, the Obama administration announced it would stop raiding medical marijuana patients and providers who are in compliance with state law.
June 2009 — The Rhode Island Legislature overwhelmingly overrode the governor’s veto of MPP’s bill to create “compassion centers” to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients — making Rhode Island only the second state (after New Mexico) to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensing. Rhode Island is also the first state to expand an existing medical marijuana law to establish dispensaries.
November 2010 — The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, a ballot initiative campaign backed by MPP, successfully passed a ballot initiative making the use and possession of medical marijuana legal and establishing approximately 120 non-profit dispensaries around the state. This made Arizona the 15th state (plus the District of Columbia) to adopt a medical marijuana law.
June 2010 — The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, a ballot initiative campaign backed by MPP, successfully completed a signature drive to place a medical marijuana initiative on the November 2010 ballot. The proposed law would make the use and possession of medical marijuana legal and would establish approximately 120 non-profit dispensaries around the state.
June 2011 — The first bill to end federal marijuana prohibition was introduced by Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Ron Paul, and a handful of other courageous Members of Congress. The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2012” (H.R. 2306) would treat marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol under federal law and would allow states to determine their own marijuana policies. MPP was deeply involved in the drafting of this legislation and the lobbying effort to have it introduced. As of the end of 2011, the bill had 20 co-sponsors.
May 2011 — The Delaware Legislature passes and Gov. Markell signs SB 17, which will allow qualified registered patients to obtain three ounces of marijuana every 14 days from state-regulated compassion centers. Initially, one center will be allowed in each of Delaware’s three counties. MPP led the two-year grassroots and lobbying efforts to pass the bill, which is based on MPP’s model bill.
May 2011 — The Vermont Legislature approves S. 17, which will add four non-profit dispensaries to existing law. MPP played an instrumental role in passing this legislation, including by funding a two-year lobbying effort and helping elect a governor who supports sensible marijuana policies.
April and May 2011 — The Maryland General Assembly approves and Gov. O’Malley signs an affirmative defense bill, removing criminal penalties from qualifying patients who possess up to an ounce of marijuana and establishing a work group to study a more comprehensive law. The bill improves upon a sentencing mitigation bill the legislature enacted in 2003, following four years of lobbying by MPP. MPP also played a leading role in the 2011 victory, including in-person lobbying, working with patients, and testifying before legislative committees.
November 2012 — The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a ballot initiative campaign backed by MPP, successfully passed Amendment 64, making Colorado the only place in the world to have legalized the possession, use, production, distribution, and personal cultivation of marijuana.
June 2012 — The Rhode Island Legislature passes and Gov. Lincoln Chafee signs twin bills to decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana. MPP led the three-year lobbying and grassroots effort for the bills, which reduce the penalty for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to a $150 civil fine for most offenses.
August 2013 — Gov. Patrick Quinn signs The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act into law, making Illinois the 20th medical marijuana state. MPP led the nearly 10-year advocacy effort for the legislation, which included paid lobbyists, grant-funded organizers, TV ads, coordinating testimony, and generating thousands of constituent calls and emails. The law creates a four-year pilot program to allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to purchase marijuana from one of 60 dispensaries, which in turn will obtain marijuana from up to 22 cultivation centers.
July 2013 — Gov. Maggie Hassan signs a bill approved by the New Hampshire Legislature to legalize medical marijuana, making New Hampshire the 19th medical marijuana state. MPP worked for several years to bring about this victory in the Granite State. The 2013 legislation will allow patients with serious illnesses to obtain marijuana from four nonprofit, state-licensed alternative treatment centers.
June 2013 — The Vermont Legislature passes and Gov. Peter Shumlin signs legislation to decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana. MPP led the nearly four-year lobbying effort for the law, which reduces the penalty for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to a civil fine for adults 21 and older. Minors will typically be required to complete diversion.
December 2014 — Congress passes a historic medical marijuana amendment as part of the federal spending bill, marking the first time in history that Congress has approved legislation rolling back the federal government’s war on medical marijuana patients and providers. The bill includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice — which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration — from using funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
November 2014 — The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, a ballot initiative campaign backed by MPP, successfully passes Ballot Measure 2, making Alaska the fourth state to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system in which marijuana is taxed and regulated like alcohol.
July 2014 — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation making New York the 23rd medical marijuana state. The law’s passage is the product of many years of work by legislative champions, patients, their loved ones, and advocacy organizations, including MPP, Compassionate Care NY, and the Drug Policy Alliance. The new law will protect certain seriously ill patients who use marijuana pursuant to their doctors’ advice from civil and criminal penalties. A number of modifications were made at the insistence of Gov. Cuomo. As a result, patients will not be allowed to smoke medical cannabis, the law will sunset after seven years, and there will be no more than five manufacturers — with a total of up to 20 locations — in the entire state. MPP will continue working to improve the law.
May 2014 — The U.S. House of Representatives votes to end the federal government’s war on medical marijuana! During a debate regarding a Justice Department funding bill, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a longtime MPP ally, offered an amendment intended to block DEA raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. It passed by a surprisingly wide margin — 219-189. The amendment will not become law until it is passed by the Senate and signed by the president. MPP played a key role in building support for this measure, meeting with Congressman Rohrabacher and former Congressman Maurice Hinchey on this amendment for more than a decade, and our lobbying presence in Congress has never been stronger. In 2014 alone, we met with staffers from more than 100 congressional offices, as well as dozens of members in person.
May 2014 — Gov. Mark Dayton signs legislation making Minnesota the 22nd medical marijuana state. MPP and our local affiliate worked for several years to bring about this victory. The law will allow qualifying patients to obtain preparations of marijuana from eight locations. It does not allow smoking. MPP will keep working to improve the law.
April 2014 — Gov. Martin O’Malley signs legislation making Maryland the 21st medical marijuana state. MPP lobbied in support of medical marijuana legislation in Maryland for more than a decade. The legislation will allow state residents suffering from certain qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. It will also permit registered cultivators to grow medical marijuana and up to 15 licensed dispensaries to distribute the medicine to patients. Possession limits and regulations governing cultivation and dispensary facilities will be determined by a state-sanctioned commission prior to implementation. The measure will officially go into effect on June 1.
April 2014 — Gov. Martin O’Malley signs legislation making Maryland the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The legislation makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program. The measure will officially go into effect on October 1. MPP is proud to be a member of the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, which led the charge for this sensible marijuana policy reform in Maryland.
March 2014 — D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signs a bill removing all criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and replacing them with a civil fine of $25. Police will also no longer have grounds to search individuals simply based on the smell of marijuana. In other words, outside of Colorado and Washington, our nation’s capital will soon have the least punitive marijuana laws in the country. Before the bill can become law, however, it must undergo a 60-working-day review process in Congress, likely becoming law in July. MPP, along with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was instrumental in passing this legislation — by assisting with bill drafting, meeting with members of the D.C. Council, participating in working groups, testifying at hearings, and generating constituent advocacy in support of the bill.
February 2014 — The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, a ballot initiative campaign backed by MPP, receives certification for the August 19 primary ballot, giving Alaskans the chance to vote on a ballot initiative that will end the harmful and ineffective policy of marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system in which marijuana is taxed and regulated like alcohol. (At 11:59 p.m. on April 20, the state legislature failed to adjourn its session, meaning the initiative was automatically moved to the general ballot on November 4. The change of ballot was due to a constitutional provision requiring initiatives to be placed on the first statewide ballot 120 days following the end of a legislative session.)
June 2015 — The Delaware Legislature passes and Gov. Jack Markell signs a bill to reduce the penalty for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to a simple fine. MPP led the two-year lobbying effort for the law, which reduces the penalty for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to a civil fine for adults 21 and older. Minors under the age of 18 will be subject to a $100 criminal fine, while those between 18 and 21 will be subject to a $100 civil fine for a first offense and a $100 criminal fine for a second offense.
November 2016 — MPP-backed ballot initiatives to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada successfully pass. MPP was also part of a coalition of groups that coordinated a successful legalization campaign in California, making a total of eight states that have ended marijuana prohibition and replaced it with a system in which marijuana is taxed and regulated like alcohol.
July 2016 — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signs a bill to reduce the penalty for up to 10 grams of marijuana from a criminal offense carrying possible jail time to a violation punishable by a non-criminal fine. MPP’s lobbying team led the two-and-a-half-year advocacy effort, working closely with Clergy for a New Drug Policy and other allies.
June 2016 — Gov. John Kasich signs House Bill 523 into law on June 8, 2016, making Ohio the 25th state to adopt a workable medical marijuana law. The legislation, passed by the Ohio General Assembly the previous week, will allow seriously ill patients to use and purchase medical cannabis that will be cultivated and processed in-state. This legislation was a direct response to an initiative MPP funded and sought to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. Although the legislation isn’t as strong as the constitutional amendment we promoted, it shares many of the same critical principles, most especially by ensuring seriously ill patients will no longer be treated like criminals and will have reasonable access to medicine. In conjunction with Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, we plan to continue advocacy efforts to ensure that the State of Ohio lives up to the promises contained in HB 523, while also working to better the program using the ballot initiative proposal as a roadmap for these improvements.
April 2016 — Gov. Tom Wolf signs legislation making Pennsylvania the 24th medical marijuana state. Patients and their families led the effort for years, and MPP played a major supporting role beginning in mid-2015, bringing on a contract lobbyist and a staffer who devoted most of her time to Pennsylvania. MPP helped ensure the bill language was as strong as possible and worked on advocacy and communications, including creating videos of families from Campaign for Compassion. The new law is one of the stronger ones to pass through a legislature. Its broad list of qualifying conditions includes intractable pain and PTSD and up to 150 dispensaries will be allowed.
July 2017 — New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signs a decriminalization bill into law, reducing penalties for possessing three quarters of an ounce or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation punishable only by a fine. MPP advocated for decriminalization in New Hampshire for more than a decade.
November 2018 — MPP-backed initiatives to legalize adult-use marijuana in Michigan and medical marijuana in Utah pass. In Michigan, MPP played a central role in the campaign from start to finish. From coordinating the initiative drafting to overseeing the production of TV ads, MPP staffers worked alongside an excellent campaign team for two years to make Michigan the first state in the Midwest to adopt legalization. In Utah, MPP led the drafting process and played an important supporting role throughout the campaign. We congratulate the Utah Patients Coalition team on this historic win that will end the heartless policy of criminalizing patients.
January 2018 — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) signs H. 511 into law, making Vermont the first state to legalize marijuana legislatively, rather than by ballot initiative. Beginning on July 1, 2018, it will be legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana. MPP’s staff and lobbyists have led advocacy efforts for medical marijuana, decriminalization, and legalization in Vermont for more than 15 years and continue to work to regulate marijuana like alcohol for adults’ use.
June 2019 — On June 25, 2019, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA), which legalizes and regulates cannabis for adults’ use with an unprecedented focus on equity and criminal justice reform. MPP is proud to have played a crucial role in drafting and advancing the CRTA, working hand-in-hand with the dedicated sponsors and the governor’s office. Sales will begin on January 1, 2020.
These accomplishments and other MPP projects have been featured on the cover of Time magazine; in articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, the Associated Press, and Reuters; and in appearances on The O’Reilly Factor, Crossfire, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and CNN Headline News.