Poll Shows Three out of Four Vermonters Support Legal, Regulated Cannabis Sales

Feb 18, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

As the House of Representatives prepares to vote on S. 54, a new poll shows overwhelming public support

Montpelier, VT — 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. These results are significant as they come days before the Vermont House is expected to vote on S. 54, a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales in the state. The complete results are available here.

The poll was conducted on February 14-15 and surveyed 890 residents from across the state. Notably, the results show that legalizing and regulating cannabis sales is supported across all demographic groups, including Republicans (58%) and residents 65 and older (69%). Vermont’s most educated residents are overwhelmingly in favor (84%), and only a small minority of Vermonters (19%) remain opposed.

The poll also confirmed Vermonters’ strong support for the state’s existing laws relative to medical cannabis and adult-use possession and cultivation. Eighty-seven percent (87%) support continuing to allow medical cannabis, 78% support continuing to allow possession by adults, and 76% support continuing to allow home cultivation.

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

“Cannabis is legal for adults in Vermont, so it should come as no surprise that three out of four Vermonters believe there should be a safe, legal way to obtain it. Legalizing and regulating cannabis sales will protect consumers, and it will create jobs and economic opportunities for small businesses. It makes no sense for Vermonters to continue buying from the illicit market, or from retail stores in Massachusetts, when small businesses in Vermont are capable of producing high-quality craft cannabis. House members should consider this overwhelming public support when they cast their votes on S. 54.”

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Kentucky House Committee Approves Medical Cannabis Legislation

Feb 12, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

HB 136 will now proceed to the House floor for a vote

Frankfort, KY — On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor (17-1) of a bill that would legalize medical cannabis for patients with debilitating medical conditions in Kentucky. HB 136 will now head to the House of Representatives for a full vote. 

The sponsor of HB 136, Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville), filed similar legislation in 2019 that was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in a 16-1 vote, but the House adjourned without taking action. Fifty-one of the state’s 100 representatives are listed as sponsors of HB 136.

A 2019 Kentucky Health Issues Poll showed that nine out of 10 Kentucky residents support legalizing cannabis for medical use. If enacted into law, Kentucky will join the 33 states (and Washington, D.C.) that have passed medical cannabis laws. 

Gov. Andy Beshear was elected in November after supporting medical cannabis legislation on the campaign trail.

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

“Kentuckians have been waiting far too long for safe, legal access to cannabis for medical use. Patients and doctors in other states have learned through experience that cannabis is beneficial as an alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs. Passing HB 136 is a moral imperative for Kentuckians who are suffering with debilitating medical conditions. Patients are very grateful to Rep. Nemes for his leadership and to the committee for moving this important bill forward.”

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New Hampshire Senate Approves Medical Cannabis Home Cultivation Bill

Feb 06, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

The bill will now proceed to the House for consideration

Concord, N.H. — On Thursday, the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill in a voice vote that would allow patients and caregivers to grow a limited supply of cannabis. SB 420 will now proceed to the House of Representatives, which has passed similar legislation in the past with strong majority support. 

SB 420 would allow possession of three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings for each patient. Under current law, home cultivation is classified as a felony. There are now more than 8,000 Granite Staters that are enrolled in the state’s therapeutic cannabis program. This bill is critically important because many patients are unable to afford dispensary products, which are not covered by health insurance. For some patients, home cultivation is simply the best, most affordable option. 

Last year, the New Hampshire House and Senate passed a similar bill that would have allowed patients and caregivers to grow a limited supply of cannabis. Sadly, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed the bill. The House voted to override his veto, but the Senate fell three votes short of doing so.

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

“This bill presents Gov. Sununu with a great opportunity to continue his evolution on cannabis policy. Patients all over New Hampshire are benefitting from cannabis as an alternative to opioids, but many are unable to afford the expensive products that are available at dispensaries. Home cultivation is a cost-effective option that is available to patients and adults in all neighboring jurisdictions, and there is no good reason it should remain a crime for patients in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state.”

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Marijuana Policy Project Hires Senior Legislative Counsel

Feb 05, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

Attorney DeVaughn Ward Joins MPP as Efforts to End Prohibition in Connecticut Ramp Up

Hartford, CT — The nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, the Marijuana Policy Project, announced Wednesday it has hired attorney DeVaughn Ward to serve as senior legislative counsel. Ward will play an integral role in legalizing marijuana in Connecticut, where he is a longtime resident. 

As Connecticut’s legislative session convenes today, Ward is prepared to work closely with state legislators, the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, and allies to push for an end to prohibition in 2020. Ward also will serve as the co-director of the coalition, along with Adam Wood.

Ward has been a champion of civil rights throughout his career. He has spent nearly the past decade gaining experience in law and public policy after receiving his J.D. in 2011 at the University of Connecticut School of Law. During his years spent practicing law at his firm based in Hartford, he routinely represented clients who had their constitutional rights violated. In 2019, Ward was recognized as one of the “New Leaders in The Law” by the Connecticut Law Tribune. Outside of his work, he serves as a board member for several non-profit organizations in the greater Hartford area. 

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

“We believe 2020 can and should be the year Connecticut ends the decades-old policy failure of marijuana prohibition. By bringing on DeVaughn and expanding our Connecticut organizing team, we are redoubling our efforts in the Constitution State to replace marijuana prohibition with thoughtful regulation. 

“DeVaughn’s extensive experience working to protect constitutional rights and build community make him the perfect choice to lead the charge to transform Connecticut’s destructive marijuana laws into policies centered on social equity, public health, and personal liberty.”

Statement from DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative counsel at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“I’m extremely excited to join the Marijuana Policy Project in their advocacy efforts to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use. For 25 years, MPP has been at the forefront of the marijuana policy reform movement, and I’m humbled to join their team to push for an end to prohibition here in Connecticut.”  

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New Hampshire Lawmakers Advance Cannabis Legalization Bill

Jan 28, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on HB 1648 in early February

CONCORD, N.H. — The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee approved a bill Tuesday (13-7) that would legalize possession and limited cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and older in New Hampshire. A full House vote on HB 1648 is expected to take place on Thursday, February 6. 

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 House of Representatives passed a similar bill in 2019, HB 481, that would have legalized cannabis in the state. That bill, which unlike HB 1648 would have created a regulated and taxed market, ultimately died in the Senate after being referred for “interim study” by the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Polls published by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in 2019 found that an overwhelming amount (68%) of Granite Staters are in favor of legalizing cannabis. Notably, support for legalization is more popular than any elected official in the state

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

“Like most Granite Staters, this committee understands that it’s time for New Hampshire to stop prohibiting cannabis. Adults in the “Live Free or Die” state should not be punished for their choice to use a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol. Now that New Hampshire is literally surrounded by jurisdictions where cannabis is legal for adults, our current policies can no longer be justified in any way. It’s time for the House, Senate, and Gov. Chris Sununu to work together and move cannabis policies into the 21st century.”

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Adult-Use Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for the 2020 Ballot in South Dakota

Jan 06, 2020 Kate Zawidzki

South Dakota will be the first state to vote on medical marijuana and adult-use legalization initiatives on the same ballot

PIERRE, S.D. — On Monday afternoon, South Dakota’s Secretary of State officially certified an adult-use legalization initiative for the 2020 ballot. Last month, a separate medical marijuana ballot initiative was also certified. South Dakota will now be the first state in American history to vote on medical marijuana and adult-use legalization initiatives on the same ballot.

The adult-use legalization initiative would legalize marijuana for adults aged 21 and over, establish a system for regulated sales of marijuana, and require the state legislature to enact a hemp cultivation law. 

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the campaign leading the constitutional adult-use legalization campaign, submitted over 50,000 signatures for its initiative in November. New Approach South Dakota, the campaign backing the medical marijuana effort, submitted over 30,000 signatures for its statutory initiative to enact a medical marijuana law for patients with debilitating medical conditions. The minimum number of signatures required for a constitutional initiative is 33,921. For a statutory initiative, 16,961 signatures are required.

Despite significant support among a majority of voters, politicians in South Dakota have failed to reform the state’s broken marijuana laws. South Dakota’s current laws are some of the harshest in the country. Industrial hemp and all forms of CBD oil are illegal with the exception of the FDA-approved medication Epidiolex. Governor Noem previously vetoed a bill to legalize the cultivation of hemp. This past September, she reiterated her opposition by pledging to veto the issue again in 2020. 

Two of the leading national marijuana policy reform organizations, the Marijuana Policy Project and New Approach PAC, are supporting the South Dakota campaigns.

Eleven states have legalized marijuana for adults, and another 22 states have enacted medical marijuana laws.

Statement from Matthew Schweich, deputy director at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“South Dakota will become the first state in American history to vote on medical marijuana and adult-use legalization initiatives on the same ballot. The adult-use legalization initiative will greatly benefit the people of South Dakota by ending the injustice of arresting otherwise law-abiding adults for marijuana offenses. It will focus law enforcement resources on fighting serious crime, generate new tax revenue for the state, and create jobs. At this point, it appears increasingly unlikely that Congress will pass legislation this year to fix our nation's broken federal marijuana laws. Therefore, it is crucial that our movement win as many ballot initiative campaigns as possible this November and increase the pressure on Congress to take action. That is how we will ensure success at the federal level in 2021.” 

Visit the South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws website for more information about the ballot initiatives, including the complete initiative texts.

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New Jersey Voters Will Decide on Cannabis Legalization in 2020

Dec 16, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

State legislature approved voter referral referendum with supermajority support

TRENTON, New Jersey — On Monday, New Jersey lawmakers approved a resolution that will allow voters to decide whether to legalize cannabis for adults’ use in November 2020.

In early November 2019, Senate President Steve Sweeney proposed a voter referral after finding there was not enough support in the Senate for the legislature to directly legalize cannabis. The voter referral resolution passed in both legislative chambers with supermajority support, with the Senate voting 24-16 in favor and the Assembly voting 49-24-1 in favor of the resolution. 

If voters approve the referendum in November, New Jersey would join the 11 states and Washington, D.C. that have approved adult-use cannabis legalization. The decision to allow voters to decide on legalization comes as several other states along the East Coast are building strong momentum to pass adult-use cannabis legislation in 2020, including New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware. Several other states may consider ballot measures next November. 

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

“While we are disappointed the legislature did not directly legalize marijuana, we are optimistic that 2020 will be the year New Jersey replaces its eight-decade-long experiment with marijuana prohibition with a more thoughtful and humane approach. Marijuana prohibition has derailed thousands of lives in New Jersey, while driving marijuana production and sales to the sometimes dangerous illicit market. Only with adult-use legalization can the state regulate cannabis to protect workers, communities, and consumers.”

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana is the cannabis policy New Jersey deserves. It is unacceptable to accept the status quo of prohibition that continues to negatively impact countless lives and communities. I am hopeful that New Jerseyans will vote in favor of adult-use legalization in 2020.”

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House Committee to Vote on Bill to End Federal Cannabis Prohibition

Nov 20, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

The bill is expected to advance out of committee and onto the House floor

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Today at 10 a.m., the U.S. House Judiciary Committee will hold a vote on a comprehensive cannabis legalization bill, marking the first-ever vote to completely end federal prohibition. You can watch it here.

Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act is the most robust cannabis reform bill ever introduced in the U.S. Congress. In addition to federally decriminalizing and descheduling cannabis, the MORE Act contains strong social equity provisions with an emphasis on restorative justice for communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition. 

If signed into law, the MORE Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act; require federal courts to expunge prior cannabis-related convictions and provide for resentencing; provide grants and funding to communities most harmed by the war on cannabis; lift barriers to licensing and employment in the cannabis industry; block federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances due to cannabis use; protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis; and allow VA physicians to recommend medical cannabis to veterans.

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project:

“This vote is an encouraging indication that federal lawmakers are listening to the majority of Americans who support cannabis legalization. Prohibition brings devastating and unjustifiable human and economic costs, and it is time for Congress to take action. We are hopeful that the House of Representatives and the Senate will cooperate to pass legislation to finally end the failed policy of prohibition.”

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South Dakota Groups Submit Petitions to Qualify Marijuana Reform Ballot Initiatives for Next Year's Election

Nov 04, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

PIERRE, S.D. — Today, marijuana reform groups submitted petitions containing over 80,000 signatures to the South Dakota Secretary of State in order to qualify two separate marijuana reform ballot initiatives for next year’s election. One initiative would establish a medical marijuana program for qualified patients with debilitating health conditions, while the other would legalize marijuana for adults aged 21 and older and require the state legislature to enact a hemp cultivation law.

“We are proud to have submitted petitions on behalf of over 80,000 South Dakotans who believe that voters should decide our state’s marijuana and hemp laws,” said Brendan Johnson, a former United States Attorney who is the sponsor of the legalization ballot initiative.

New Approach South Dakota submitted over 30,000 signatures for a statutory ballot initiative that would enact a medical marijuana law for patients with debilitating medical conditions. 

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws submitted over 50,000 signatures for a constitutional ballot initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults aged 21 and older and would also require the legislature to enact laws regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp.

The minimum number of signatures required for ballot qualification is 16,961 for a statutory initiative and 33,921 for a constitutional initiative. Today was the deadline for submitting signatures, and the South Dakota Secretary of State will now begin verifying the validity of the signatures.

“For many years, we have asked the legislature to address the issue of medical marijuana,” said Melissa Mentele, director of New Approach South Dakota and sponsor of the medical marijuana ballot initiative. “Despite the fact that a strong majority of South Dakotans support allowing legal, regulated, and safe access to medical marijuana for patients with debilitating conditions, elected officials have failed to take action. Patients cannot afford to wait any longer, and this ballot initiative is our only recourse.”

Two of the leading national marijuana policy reform organizations, the Marijuana Policy Project and New Approach PAC, are supporting the South Dakota campaigns.

“Right now, there are South Dakotans with serious health conditions who are forced to break the law in order to access effective medical treatments that allow them to live healthier and more productive lives, and that is unacceptable,” said Marijuana Policy Project Deputy Director Matthew Schweich, who has worked on successful marijuana reform ballot initiative campaigns in Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Utah.

Eleven states have legalized marijuana for adults, and another 22 states have enacted medical marijuana laws. South Dakota would be the first state to enact both policies on a single ballot.

“Across the country, voters are recognizing that it makes no sense to waste law enforcement resources on arresting adults for marijuana possession, and that it also makes no sense to force marijuana sales into an unregulated illicit market,” said Schweich. “Simply put, legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana is the policy decision that best serves the interests of public health and public safety.”

Visit the South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws website for more information about the ballot initiatives, including the complete initiative texts

 

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Marijuana Policy Project Appoints New Member to Board of Directors

Oct 22, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Jeff Brown, Vice President of Public Policy for PAX Labs, joins MPP’s Board of Directors

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The nation’s largest cannabis policy reform group, the Marijuana Policy Project, announced on Tuesday the election of Jeff Brown to MPP’s board of directors. Brown is the Vice President of Public Policy for PAX Labs, an award-winning technology company with the goal of creating safe, predictable and enjoyable cannabis experiences. Brown joins MPP’s board of directors bringing years of public policy and public relations experience and a commitment to cannabis legalization, social justice, and corporate social responsibility. 

Prior to PAX, Jeff Brown held positions as Senior Vice President at GoPro, Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs at Electronic Arts, and Director of Global Public Relations for Pepsi-Cola. Brown serves on two charitable boards: Community Gatepath and The League to Save Lake Tahoe (Keep Tahoe Blue).

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project:

“We are excited for the addition of Jeff Brown to MPP’s board of directors. His commitment to the movement and social justice is commendable. I’m confident that Jeff will be a valuable resource to MPP and the ongoing efforts to achieve our mission — ending prohibition across the United States.”

Statement from Jeff Brown, newly appointed board member at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“I am pleased to join MPP's board of directors. It is a pivotal time for marijuana policy reform and unprecedented progress has been achieved through MPP’s dedication. I look forward to helping this team develop resources and to contributing to their advocacy for sensible and just cannabis policies.”

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