Law Enforcement Officials, Medical Professionals, Clergy, and Cannabis Advocates Call for the Cease of Cannabis Arrests and Release of Incarcerated Cannabis Offenders in Light of COVID-19

Mar 26, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

Washington, D.C. — The Marijuana Policy Project and other organizations are urging law enforcement officials to dramatically curtail arrests for non-violent crimes, including ceasing arrests for cannabis offenses. In addition to curtailing arrests, the organizations are calling for officials to release or grant clemency to those incarcerated for cannabis offenses along with dramatically reducing the number of incarcerated non-violent prisoners, whether sentenced or un-sentenced.

The Marijuana Policy Project, Last Prisoner Project, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, National Cannabis Industry Association, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) have sent a letter calling for these actions to the National District Attorneys Association, National Governors Association, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Association of Chiefs of Police, National Correctional Industries Association, American Correctional Association, and AFSCME.

Public health experts have warned that the coronavirus poses an extreme threat not only to inmates, but also to the staff that serve them, as well as to their families and communities. The conditions in prisons and jails, such as sharing small cells, going into crowded day rooms, and sleeping just feet away from toilets, are known to cause disease and infection to run rampant. Jails are already seeing a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases. It has been reported that in New York City, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, 52 inmates have tested positive for coronavirus as well as 30 staffers. Inmates have also tested positive in California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, South Dakota, and Texas. Prison employees have tested positive in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Washington.  

Several localities — including Baltimore; Suffolk County, Massachusetts; Cuyahoga County, Ohio; New Jersey; Los Angeles; and New York City — and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have already begun to release inmates incarcerated for non-violent, drug-related offenses. 

Another cause of concern is that asymptomatic individuals can spread the virus. As a consequence, each law enforcement-civilian interaction includes a risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus to either party. According to New York’s Police Commissioner, more than 200 NYPD members have been infected with the coronavirus and nearly 3,000 officers are out sick.

In addition to New York, law enforcement officers have tested positive for the virus in at least 14 other states, including California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and several law enforcement agencies, including in Pennsylvania and Ohio, are already taking action to curtail arrests for non-violent offenses until the country is better able to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project:
“There is no justification for arresting and jailiing individuals for marijuana offenses during this crisis. It is in the best interest of law enforcement and the greater population to cease marijuana arrests and reduce arrests for non-violent crimes. It is also vital for individuals who are incarcerated for cannabis offenses to be released or granted clemency in order to prevent a potentially disastrous and deathly situation.” 

Statement from Police Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director at the Law Enforcement Action Partnership:
“COVID-19 is forcing us to seriously consider what constitutes a genuine public safety threat. Criminalizing people for marijuana has always been a waste of time and resources; now it's also unnecessarily endangering lives by exposing more people to the crowded and unsanitary conditions of our jails and prisons.”

Statement from Sarah Gersten, executive director and general counsel at the Last Prisoner Project:
“Our constituents, many of whom are over the age of 60 and have underlying health conditions, are imprisoned because of a plant that has now been deemed an ‘essential’ service by jurisdictions across the country during this time of crisis. Releasing cannabis prisoners now is not only the right thing to do from a justice perspective, but also from a public health perspective.” 

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Cannabis Advocates, Medical Professionals, and Law Enforcement Officials Release Open Letter to State Leaders in Light of COVID-19

Mar 20, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

Governors and legislative leaders urged to preserve and ensure cannabis access amid social distancing

Washington, D.C. — In response to escalating efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 by social distancing, the Marijuana Policy Project and other organizations have released an open letter urging governors and legislative leaders to take necessary actions to ensure continued safe access to cannabis in a way that is consistent with public health. 

In states with legal medical cannabis, the letter recommends state leaders declare medical cannabis businesses “essential,” allow medical cannabis delivery, online ordering, and curbside delivery, ensure individuals are allowed to consult with physicians by telemedicine, and extend the expiration date of medical cannabis cards until after the crisis has abated, among other recommended actions. The letter sent to leaders of states with medical cannabis or cannabidiol laws can be found here.

In a separate letter, the Marijuana Policy Project and other organizations recommend that similar measures should be implemented in states that also have adult-use cannabis laws. The letter notes the importance of declaring all cannabis businesses “essential,” as most adult-use consumers are using cannabis for therapeutic purposes.This includes many veterans due to a Veterans Affairs policy against VA physicians providing medical cannabis certifications. The letter sent to leaders of states with both medical cannabis and adult-use laws can be found here.

In addition to the Marijuana Policy Project, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Veterans for Natural Rights, and Veterans Cannabis Project signed onto both letters. The Epilepsy Foundation signed onto the medical letter. 

States and jurisdictions have already taken some of these important actions. Coupled with  orders for all non-essential businesses to close, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco affirmed medical cannabis dispensaries are “essential” businesses and can remain open, while also practicing self-distancing. Other states, such as Illinois, Louisiana, and Michigan, have implemented measures that allow for curbside pick-up and/or expanded delivery options. The Marijuana Policy Project is tracking state measures to preserve access in light of COVID-19 here.

Statement from Steve Hawkins, Executive Director at the Marijuana Policy Project:
“Throughout the course of this pandemic, it remains vital for state leaders to ensure patients can safely access medical cannabis. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have adopted cannabis into their treatment regimens. Many of those same people have compromised immune systems or a serious medical condition. During this crisis, patients should not have to fear the prospect of losing access to a treatment option that is essential to their wellbeing.”

Statement from Laura Weidner, Esq., Vice President of Government Relations & Advocacy at the Epilepsy Foundation:
“For individuals living with epilepsy, timely and continued access to all treatment options, including medical cannabis, that work to control or reduce their seizures is critical. To change, limit, or deny access to a treatment option that works for an individual can be dangerous and lead to breakthrough seizures and related complications including accidents, injuries, and avoidable hospitalizations that further burden the health care system in this critical time.
 
“In some cases, a sudden loss of access to a successful treatment option could lead to an untimely death. While not everyone with epilepsy would or should consider medical cannabis as a treatment option, those who successfully do so in consultation with their healthcare providers must not lose access.”

Statement from Doug Distaso, Executive Director at the Veterans Cannabis Project:
“It’s critical that the men and women who bravely served their country can continue to count on receiving the life-saving medical treatments used for PTSD, chronic pain, and the other wounds of war. Like any patient who relies on widely available medical treatment options, veteran patients need assurance their access to cannabis is not unnecessarily and unfairly limited during this crisis.”

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U.S. House Committee Approves Medical Cannabis Bills

Mar 12, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

Washington, D.C. — Today, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved bipartisan bills that would increase access to state-legal medical cannabis for military veterans and expand research into the potential medical benefits of cannabis for conditions commonly diagnosed in veterans. 

The committee approved the Veterans Equal Access Act in a 15-11 vote and approved the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act in a voice vote with no opposition. 

The Veterans Equal Access Act (H.R. 1647), sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), would allow physicians and other healthcare workers employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical cannabis in compliance with state laws and fill out any forms necessary to certify patients for a state medical cannabis program. 

The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (H.R. 712), sponsored by Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct clinical trials researching the health outcomes of using medical cannabis to treat chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

A 2017 study by the American Legion found that veterans overwhelmingly support federally legalizing medical cannabis (83%) and support research into medical cannabis (92%). To date, 33 states and Washington, D.C. have effective medical marijuana programs. 

Statement from Don Murphy, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Today’s committee vote is an encouraging step forward for federal cannabis reform. Now that a majority of states have legalized cannabis for medical use, it is indefensible to restrict veterans’ ability to access medical cannabis through their VA providers while members of Congress can use their federally subsidized health insurance to obtain medical cannabis recommendations from their doctors. Federal law should not criminalize veterans for trying to find relief.

“Passing these bills should be the first order of business for a Congress that prides itself on supporting our veterans. Like every American, veterans should be granted the freedom to access cannabis to treat their medical conditions as an alternative to potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals.”

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Supporters of Cannabis Legalization Hold Press Conference in Connecticut

Mar 02, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

Lawmakers to Hold Public Hearing on Bill to End Marijuana Prohibition in Connecticut

Supporters of cannabis legalization hold a pre-hearing press conference

Hartford, CT — On Monday, the Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on legislation that would end prohibition and regulate marijuana for adult use in Connecticut. 

In early February, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D) and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D) introduced Governor’s Bill No. 16, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to one and a half ounces of cannabis from licensed retailers. A summary of the marijuana regulation bill can be found here.

Prior to the hearing, the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana joined together with prominent supporters for a press conference to rally support for legislation to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use in Connecticut. 

Veterans, civil rights activists, clergy, law enforcement, healthcare professionals, minority business advocates, economists, social workers, state leaders, and legislators came together to voice their support for action on the Governor’s Bill and stayed to testify at the public hearing. 

Organizations represented included the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana; the Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors; the New England Veterans Alliance; the Minority Cannabis Business Association; Clergy United for Marijuana Reform; the State Department of Consumer Protection; Doctors for Cannabis Regulation; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; ACLU CT; The Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut, School of Business; the Connecticut Progressive Caucus; the Working Families Party; and municipal and state representatives of Bloomfield, Bridgeport, East Hartford, Hamden, Hartford, New Haven, and Stamford.  

Speakers included the Rev. Charlie L. Stallworth of East End Baptist Tabernacle Church (Bridgeport); Commissioner Michelle Seagull, Department of Consumer Protection; Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin; Steven Hernandez, Esq., executive director of the Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors; Steve Kennedy, Connecticut team leader, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Jason Ortiz, board president, Minority Cannabis Business Association; Shaleen Title, Esq., commissioner, Cannabis Control Commission, Attorney DeVaughn Ward, co-director of the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana; the Rev. Tommie Jackson of Rehoboth Fellowship Church (Stamford); and Judiciary Committee Chairs, Sen. Gary Winfield (New Haven) and Rep. Steve Stafstrom (Bridgeport). 

Quotes from the event: 

“As mayor of Hartford, I have seen firsthand how prohibition is a failed policy. Ending the prohibition on marijuana will allow for regulation bringing public health and public safety standards. It will help address equity and bring social justice to those in impacted communities throughout our state such as the City of Hartford. It will grow jobs and the economy and bring much-needed new revenue into the state’s economy.” – Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin

“The time is now to legalize marijuana, expunge records for marijuana charges, and provide business opportunities for people in the hardest hit drug war communities. As a mental health professional for over 40 years, I believe it’s time to allocate any type of substance or behavioral abuse to the realm of public health, adequately funding community resources to support people regaining balance in their lives. I unequivocally support G.B. 16.” – Brian Ahern, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) 

“Connecticut can’t afford to wait any longer before addressing this urgent issue. It’s time to right the many wrongs associated with the prohibition of marijuana, and Connecticut can and should be a leader in this process. I urge our legislators to pass Governor’s Bill 16. The bill will regulate and tax cannabis for adults and end the harmful and failed policy of prohibition in our state.”  Bishop Robert L. Middleton, pastor of New Beginnings Ministry in Hamden

“Veterans who could benefit from cannabis — or simply want to use it to relax — should have that option. And they should have safe, regulated access. On the illicit market, cannabis can have dangerous heavy metals, additives, and pesticides. After fighting for this country, they should not have to creep around like criminals for using a substance that is safer than alcohol and many prescriptions.”  Steve Kennedy, Connecticut team leader, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America  

“Governor’s Bill #16 will create a dedicated equity commission to finally address the needs and stories of my community. Now we will not only have a seat at the table, we will have our own whole table to dig deep into what was done to our communities and build new economic opportunities as owners of a cutting-edge industry. This bill advances the cause of social justice and for that we applaud the governor and stand in support of the Governor’s Bill.”  Jason Ortiz, board president, Minority Cannabis Business Association 

“I want to thank Governor Lamont for his leadership on this bill and want to recognize everyone who has spent time to ensure that this legislation is put together thoughtfully. At Consumer Protection, we believe we have the experience and expertise to ensure that an adult-use cannabis program in Connecticut is regulated with public health and safety as a top priority. DCP’s Drug Control Division is looked to nationally for advice on a variety of topics, including our state’s medical marijuana program. I look forward to further discussion on this bill, and DCP remains ready, willing, and able to help in any way we can.” – Commissioner Michelle Seagull, Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection 

“Legalization, by going beyond decriminalization, empowers regulators to implement commonsense measures to control the cannabis industry, educate the public and consumers about possible risks, and thus advance public health. Regulation is Connecticut’s best option to address the recent wave of vaping-related illnesses and fatalities around the country. We must reduce harm to cannabis consumers and prevent collateral harm to the public. The longer we wait, the more senseless damage will be done.” – Dr. Hugh Blumenfeld, MD, Ph.D. (Dr. Blumenfeld has worked as a family physician in Hartford since 2010. He is also a member of the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana and a spokesman for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation.)

"Responsible regulation, equitable access to opportunities in the industry, and erasure of past convictions are critical elements of this proposal. The onus is now on this legislature to take this bill to the finish line by ensuring that resources be directly reinvested in communities historically devastated by what we now know was a war waged on communities of color on two fronts, through laws that were disproportionately enforced on one side and soul crushing addiction on the other." – Steven Hernandez, Esq., executive director of the Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors
 

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Vermont House Advances Bill to Regulate and Tax Cannabis Sales

Feb 27, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

S. 54 returns to the Senate, which is expected to request a conference committee to work out differences with the House before sending the bill to Gov. Phil Scott

Montpelier, VT — On Thursday, the Vermont House of Representatives completed its work on a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales for adults 21 and older. S. 54, which initially passed the House in a 90-54 vote yesterday, was approved in a voice vote on third reading. The bill now returns to the Senate, which has already passed it in a 23-5 vote. The Senate is expected to request a conference committee to work out differences with the House before sending a final version of the bill to Governor Phil Scott’s desk.

This is the first time the Vermont House has passed a bill to legalize cannabis sales. A summary of the bill is available here.

Vermont legalized possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and over in 2018, marking the first time any state legislature legalized cannabis for adults’ use through the legislative process rather than through a voter initiative. However, Vermont remains one of only two U.S. jurisdictions where cannabis is legal but not regulated for adult use. If enacted, Vermont would join the 10 states that have laws regulating and taxing cannabis for adult use. 

An overwhelming 76% of Vermont residents support allowing adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses according to a recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project. The complete results are available here.

The Marijuana Policy Project has been advocating for cannabis policy reforms in Vermont for more than 15 years. The state legislature passed a limited medical cannabis law in 2004, decriminalized possession in 2013, and has gradually improved its cannabis policies in the years since.
 
Statement from Matt Simon, New England political director at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Vermonters have made it clear that they support the effort to regulate cannabis markets in their state, and the House has listened. The conference committee process will provide a great opportunity for Gov. Scott and legislative leaders to come together on a plan that will move the state forward. Policymakers should all understand that cannabis is already legal in Vermont, so it makes no sense that people should be expected to grow their own or buy from retail stores in Massachusetts. Vermont needs this bill in order to protect consumers, create jobs, and provide economic opportunities for small businesses.”

Statement from Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“We're encouraged that Vermont's legislature has heeded the will of three-quarters of voters and recognized that regulation, not prohibition, is the most sensible approach to cannabis. Keeping the cannabis market illicit is a half-measure that leaves workers, consumers, and communities at risk. Those who sell cannabis illegally are at risk of violence, arrest, and prosecution, and buyers are at risk of violence and untested, unsafe products. Only through a legal, regulated market can the state control where, when, and to whom cannabis is sold.”

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Vermont House of Representatives Passes Bill to Regulate and Tax Cannabis Sales

Feb 26, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

S. 54 will receive a final House vote tomorrow before it proceeds to the Senate  

Montpelier, VT — On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted in favor (90-54) of a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales for adults 21 and older. This is the first time the Vermont House has passed a bill to legalize cannabis sales.

S. 54 will now be scheduled for a final House vote, which is expected tomorrow. If it passes there, it will return to the Senate, which has already approved a different version of the bill in a 23-5 vote. The House and Senate will have to agree on a final version of the bill before it can proceed to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk. 

A summary of the bill can be found here.

Vermont legalized possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and over in 2018, marking the first time any state legislature legalized cannabis for adults’ use through the legislative process rather than through a voter initiative. If the bill is enacted, Vermont would join the 10 states that have laws regulating and taxing cannabis for adult use.

An overwhelming 76% of Vermont residents support allowing adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses according to a recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project. The complete results are available here.

Statement from Matt Simon, New England political director at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Vermonters are overwhelmingly ready for regulated sales of cannabis to begin. The House should be applauded for advancing this important legislation, but the legislature’s work remains far from complete. The House and Senate will have to cooperate in the coming weeks to agree on a final bill to send to Gov. Phil Scott. This process presents a great opportunity for the governor and legislature to work together and move Vermont forward on cannabis policy.”

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Vermont Bill to Regulate and Tax Cannabis Sales Passes Final House Committee

Feb 24, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

Montpelier, VT — On Monday, Vermont’s House Appropriations Committee voted in favor (6-5) of a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales for adults 21 and older. S. 54 previously passed the House Government Operations Committee in a unanimous vote, the House Ways and Means Committee in an 8-3 vote, and the Senate in a 23-5 vote. 

The bill is now expected to proceed to the House floor for a vote later this week.

Laws regulating and taxing cannabis for adult use have been enacted in 10 states. Vermont and Washington, D.C. are the only two U.S. jurisdictions where cannabis is legal but not regulated for adult use.

A new poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project found that an overwhelming 76% of Vermont residents support allowing adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses. The complete results are available here.

Statement from Matt Simon, New England political director at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Vermonters should be proud of their elected officials for heeding the will of voters and advancing this important legislation. Cannabis regulation is necessary in order to protect consumers and address important public health and safety issues facing the state. It’s time for the House to join the Senate in recognizing that prohibition has failed, and that Vermonters are overwhelmingly ready for a more sensible approach to cannabis.”

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Kentucky House of Representatives Approves Medical Cannabis Legislation

Feb 20, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration

Frankfort, KY — On Thursday, Kentucky’s House of Representatives voted in favor (64-30) of a bill that would legalize medical cannabis for patients with debilitating medical conditions in the state.

HB 136, sponsored by Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville), passed the House Judiciary Committee in a 17-1 vote last week. This marks the first time a bill to legalize medical cannabis has received a full House vote in Kentucky. The bill now proceeds to the Senate for consideration. 

Support for medical cannabis has been growing for several years. A 2019 Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that nine out of 10 Kentucky residents support legalizing cannabis for medical use. Gov. Andy Beshear has indicated that he strongly supports medical cannabis. 

If enacted into law, Kentucky will join the 33 states (and Washington, D.C.) that have passed workable medical cannabis laws. 

Statement from Matt Simon, legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Patients in Kentucky shouldn’t have to continue waiting for safe, legal access to cannabis. This legislation is critical for Kentuckians who are desperate for alternatives to opioids and other potentially dangerous prescription drugs. The House should be applauded for passing this bill. Now it’s time for the Senate to do the right thing for patients and pass HB 136.”

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New Hampshire House of Representatives Passes Cannabis Legalization Bill

Feb 20, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

HB 1648 now heads to the Senate for consideration

Concord, NH — On Thursday, the House of Representatives approved a bill (236-112) that would legalize possession and limited cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and older in New Hampshire — similar to Vermont’s legalization law. HB 1648 now heads to the Senate for consideration. 

Sponsored by Rep. Carol McGuire (R-Epsom) and a bipartisan group of seven cosponsors, HB 1648 would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis, five grams of hashish, and up to 300 mg of cannabis-infused products (currently a violation punishable by a civil fine). It would also permit cultivation of up to six plants (including up to three mature ones) at home in a secure location that is not visible from other properties. A summary of HB 1648 is available here.

The “Live Free or Die” State is currently surrounded by jurisdictions where cannabis is legal for adult use. If HB 1648 passes, New Hampshire will join the 11 states (and Washington, D.C.) that have replaced the failed policy of prohibition with sensible and responsible legalization laws.

Public opinion has shifted strongly in favor of legalizing cannabis. Two consecutive polls published by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center found that 68% of Granite Staters support legalization, demonstrating that legalization is more popular than any elected official in the state

Statement from Matt Simon, New England political director at the Marijuana Policy Project: 

“Granite Staters overwhelmingly support making cannabis legal for adults’ use, and it’s encouraging to see that a strong majority of the House agrees. Now it’s time for Governor Chris Sununu and the Senate to recognize that New Hampshire should not be an island of prohibition. Cannabis is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and there is no good reason for the state to continue punishing adults who choose the safer substance.”  

 

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Connecticut Clergy Rallies in Support of Cannabis Legalization

Feb 18, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

Faith leaders from across the state joined together at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to end prohibition

Hartford, CT — Today, a coalition of clergy gathered at the State Capitol for a news conference in support of legislation to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis for adults 21 and older. 

Efforts to end cannabis prohibition in 2020 are picking up steam in Connecticut. In the first week of 2020’s legislative session, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D) and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D) introduced a cannabis legalization bill that is backed by Gov. Ned Lamont. A summary of the bill can be found here. Meanwhile, a January 2020 GQR poll found that a strong majority (65%) of Connecticut residents support legalizing cannabis.

Participants included Rev. Tommie Jackson of Rehoboth Fellowship Church (Stamford); Rev. Alexander Sharp of Clergy for a New Drug Policy; Rev. Stephen W. Camp of Faith Congregational Church (Hartford); Rev. Simon Castillo of Good Shepherd Christian Church (Bridgeport); Rev. Zoey Dominguez of Rehoboth Fellowship Church (Stamford); Rev. Dr. Lindsay E. Curtis of Grace Baptist Church (Norwalk); Rev. Lawrence Hunter of Grace Baptist (Waterbury); Bishop William Marshall, pastor of City of Life Worship and Deliverance Center (Bridgeport and Waterbury); Bishop Robert L. Middleton, Jr., senior pastor of New Beginnings Ministries, Inc. (Hamden); Rev. Edwin Pérez of United Church on the Green/Apostolic Fellowship International Revival Ministries (New Haven); and Rev. Charlie L. Stallworth of East End Baptist Tabernacle Church (Bridgeport).

In addition, the gospel choir "Brothers in Christ" of Cross Street AME Zion Church in Middletown also performed.

Statement from Rev. Alexander Sharp, executive director of Clergy for a New Drug Policy:
“Prohibition does not work. Legalization will regulate the market and bring sorely needed revenue to the state budget, reduce needless arrests, especially for people of color, and provide jobs in communities ravaged by the failed war on drugs.”

Statement from Bishop Robert L. Middleton, senior pastor of New Beginnings Ministry, Inc.:
“Connecticut can’t afford to wait any longer before addressing this urgent issue. It’s time to right the many wrongs associated with the prohibition of marijuana, and Connecticut can and should be a leader in this process. I urge our legislators to pass legislation to regulate and tax cannabis for adults and end the harmful and failed policy of prohibition in our state.” 
 
Statement from Rev. Charlie Stallworth of East End Baptist Church in Bridgeport:
“Much like alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, our efforts to deal with cannabis using law enforcement and the criminal justice system have been a total failure. Regulation will free up resources so that police can focus on more serious crimes and will also help improve police/ community relationships. And, instead of continuing to fuel organized crime, the money spent on cannabis in our state can and should be used to help revitalize communities that have been disproportionately harmed by enforcement of laws against cannabis.”

Statement from Rev. Tommie Jackson of Rehoboth Fellowship Church in Stamford:
“Our group represents more than 100 congregations across the state. There is a real need, and it is critically important to regulate cannabis in Connecticut during this legislative session. Connecticut needs to send a strong message that the public safety and public health of its residents is a top priority. Regulation will reduce prison sentences, fund much-needed services, and direct revenue to those communities most negatively impacted by the war on cannabis. It’s time to pass it.”

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