Nebraska Marijuana Policy Reform Advocates Establish Campaign Committee to Support 2020 Ballot Initiative

Dec 13, 2018 Kate Zawidzki

The group, Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, will prioritize a medical marijuana ballot initiative and is researching additional marijuana reform opportunities

Two Nebraska state senators, Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld, will lead a newly formed campaign committee, Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, for the purpose of running a 2020 ballot initiative to reform marijuana laws in Nebraska via constitutional amendment. The committee will file its initial paperwork with the Nebraska Secretary of State on Thursday morning.

Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws will prioritize the right for Nebraskans to use marijuana for medical purposes.

“Today is the first step towards establishing a compassionate medical marijuana law for sick and suffering Nebraskans,” said Sen. Wishart, who has been the lead sponsor of medical marijuana bills in the last several legislative sessions. “Thirty-two states have already adopted effective medical marijuana laws, and Nebraska will soon be joining their ranks.”

Medical marijuana initiatives were approved by voters this year in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Utah.

“Elected officials have had their opportunity to take action and failed," said Sen. Morfeld, who helped lead the successful 2018 Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative in Nebraska. "Patients cannot wait any longer, and it’s now time for Nebraska voters to decide this issue.”

In addition to Wishart and Morfeld serving as co-chairs, the politically diverse campaign committee includes:

  • Elizabeth Seacrest, campaign treasurer and registered Independent;
  • Dexter Schrodt, campaign committee member and registered Republican;
  • John Cartier, campaign committee member and registered Democrat; and
  • Matthew Schweich, deputy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a leading national marijuana reform organization. Schweich has helped lead five successful marijuana-related ballot initiatives over the past two election cycles in Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, and Utah.

“The Marijuana Policy Project is excited to work with Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws in pursuit of marijuana policies that truly serve the interests of the people,” Schweich said. “Medical marijuana is a bipartisan issue that enjoys strong support across the country, including in conservative states like Nebraska. We are confident this campaign will be successful at the ballot box in 2020.”

The immediate next steps for Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws include forming steering committees, initiative drafting, fundraising, and conducting public opinion research.

“We are assembling steering committees to represent important groups across Nebraska, including potential medical marijuana patients and their families, public safety and criminal justice reform advocates, business leaders, and others," Wishart said. "All will play a key role in guiding this campaign."

While medical marijuana is its top priority, Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws will also gather statewide input over the next several months on additional areas of marijuana policy reform.

“We will be conducting research to determine the level of support for additional reforms,” Morfeld said. “We are going to put forward an initiative that enjoys strong support from Nebraskans.”

Nebraskans who are interested in the campaign are encouraged to follow the group’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NebraskaMJ.

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Marijuana Becomes Legal for Adults in Michigan

Dec 06, 2018 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from the Marijuana Policy Project, which played a leading role in organizing the campaign in support of Proposal 1, the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol approved last month by 56 percent of Michigan voters

Marijuana became legal for adults in Michigan today when Proposal 1 officially took effect. The initiative was approved by 56 percent of voters in the November midterm election.

Proposal 1 allows adults 21 and older to possess and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, including up to 15 grams in the form of marijuana concentrate. It also allows them to grow up to 12 marijuana plants and possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their residence, as well as any marijuana that was grown on the premises. State officials are in the process of establishing a regulated system of commercial marijuana cultivation and sales, which is expected to commence in 2020.

Michigan will be the 10th state in which marijuana possession is legal for adults 21 and older. It is the ninth state to authorize a system for regulating commercial marijuana cultivation and sales for adult use. Marijuana possession is also legal for adults in the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands enacted a law in September to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use.

Statement from MPP Deputy Director Matthew Schweich, who served as campaign director for the Yes on 1 campaign:

"Michigan is the first state in the Midwest where adults will no longer be punished for possessing or growing small amounts of marijuana. This is a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society, and it's finally going to be treated that way. In addition to ending the needless arrest and prosecution of thousands of adult consumers, this will allow law enforcement officials to spend more of their time and attention on serious crimes.

"When it comes to marijuana policy in America, Michigan is ahead of the curve. It will serve as a strong example for the many other states that are currently considering similar reforms. State officials are in the process of creating the region's first regulated marijuana market for adults, which will be the nail in the coffin for marijuana prohibition."

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Utah Legislature Passes Compromise Medical Marijuana Law

Dec 03, 2018 Kate Zawidzki

As part of an October compromise between advocates and opponents of the 2018 medical marijuana ballot initiative, Utah lawmakers replaced the voter-approved law with a more restrictive policy


SALT LAKE CITY — In a special session today, the Utah Legislature enacted a compromise medical marijuana law that will replace the ballot initiative approved by voters on Election Day.

The compromise bill is more restrictive than the law established by Proposition 2, which was supported by the Marijuana Policy Project and Utah advocates. In early October, supporters and opponents of Proposition 2 reached an agreement whereby both sides de-escalated their campaign operations and agreed on a compromise medical marijuana law that would be enacted regardless of the outcome of the ballot initiative vote.

The compromise bill makes a number of changes to Proposition 2, including no home cultivation for patients, a smaller number of dispensaries, and a requirement that dispensaries employ pharmacists who recommend dosages.

Statement below from MPP Deputy Director Matthew Schweich, who oversaw MPP’s Utah operations in 2017-2018:

“This bill is undoubtedly inferior to the law enacted by voters in November. However, Proposition 2 would very likely have been defeated without the compromise deal, which prevented an onslaught of opposition spending. Advocates made the responsible decision to negotiate with opponents and ensure that patients were not left without any access to medical cannabis.

“While this legislation is not ideal, it is a major step forward for Utah and it will help patients and families across the state. This law will enable patients to safely and legally access the medical cannabis treatments they need, and it can be improved upon in future legislative sessions. It’s now time to move forward, and we call on the state government to implement this new policy without delay.”

 

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Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances in New Jersey Legislature

Nov 26, 2018 Kate Zawidzki

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved S2703 and the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved A4497 on Monday

Statement below from the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization

TRENTON, N.J. — A proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older advanced in the New Jersey Legislature Monday. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved S2703, sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari, (7-2-4), and the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved A4497, sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, (6-1-2). The measures will now go to the full chambers for a vote. Gov. Phil Murphy has expressed strong support for legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use.

The amended version of the legislation:

  • allows adults 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana (one ounce), marijuana-infused products (16 ounces in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form), and marijuana extracts (seven grams), although, unlike most other states to have adopted legalization, the cultivation of any amount of cannabis by adults in their own home would remain a crime;
  • sets a tax rate of 12 percent of the retail price (including the sales tax), plus an optional local tax of up to 2 percent;
  • provides for five types of regulated marijuana businesses: growers, product manufacturers, wholesalers, testing facilities, and retailers, who can deliver marijuana and some of which may be permitted to include consumption areas;

  • allows local jurisdictions extensive control over the number and types of businesses in their borders, including the ability to impose local licensing requirements; and
  • establishes a five-member appointed Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which would serve as the regulatory agency overseeing both the new adult-use and the existing medical cannabis programs.

If the bill passes this year, New Jersey will be the first state to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis via the legislature. Such laws have been adopted by voters via ballot initiatives in nine states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Lawmakers in Vermont and voters in Washington, D.C. have adopted laws making marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, but they do not give non-patients anywhere to buy it.

Statement from Kate M. Bell, general counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“New Jersey is one step closer to replacing marijuana prohibition with sensible regulation. Arresting adult cannabis consumers is a massive waste of law enforcement officials’ time and resources, and it does nothing to improve public health or safety. Prohibition forces marijuana sales into the underground market, where it is impossible to control them. Under the proposed regulated system, businesses will be governed by strict rules, and authorities will be empowered to make sure those rules are being followed.”

“We are encouraged by the ongoing discussion about how best to address the history of racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws. By streamlining the expungement process, the state can help ensure people with criminal records for marijuana-related offenses get a clean slate. Nobody should be branded a criminal simply for using a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.”

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Legal Marijuana Sales to Begin in Massachusetts on Tuesday

Nov 19, 2018 Kate Zawidzki

Massachusetts will be the seventh state in which adults 21 and older can purchase marijuana from regulated, taxpaying businesses

Statements below from the Marijuana Policy Project, which spearheaded the successful Question 4 campaign

Legal adult marijuana sales will begin in Massachusetts Tuesday, with retailers in Northampton and Leicester reportedly set to be the first to open. The state is the seventh in the nation to establish a regulated marijuana market for adults.

Adults 21 and older with a valid ID will be able to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana from licensed marijuana retail stores, of which no more than five grams can be in concentrate form. It will remain illegal to consume marijuana in public. Marijuana products sold for adult use will be subject to a 6.25 percent state sales tax and a 10.75 percent state excise tax, and municipal officials have the option of levying additional local taxes of up to 3 percent. A study released in June by the Department of Public Health estimated adult marijuana sales would generate more than $200 million for the state and up to $3 million for local governments in the first two years alone.

“Marijuana prohibition is officially coming to an end in the Bay State,” said Marijuana Policy Project Deputy Director Matthew Schweich, who oversaw the successful Question 4 campaign in 2016. “It will not be missed. Voters in Massachusetts wanted a more sensible policy, new tax revenue, and safer communities, and that is what they are going to get.

“Finally, adults will be able to purchase marijuana safely and legally in regulated, taxpaying businesses instead of resorting to the underground market,” Schweich said. “Adults will simply stop at a licensed store, show their ID, pay, and be on their way. It won’t be long before the novelty wears off and it feels just like buying alcohol from a liquor store.”

Marijuana possession has been legal for adults 21 and older since Question 4 took effect on December 15, 2016. The initiative was approved by 53.7 percent of voters on November 8, 2016, and legislation to implement the initiative was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on July 28, 2017.

“Implementation took longer than expected, but the system is now up and running, and it appears to be on the right track,” Schweich said. “We applaud the many state and local officials who have taken part in the historic transition from prohibition to a regulated model. This is a living system that will grow and evolve over time, similarly to what we’ve seen with alcohol, and it can set an example for other states in the region and around the country. Massachusetts is firmly ahead of the curve on cannabis.”

Voters in nine states, including Massachusetts, have enacted laws to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use, and similar legislation was approved by lawmakers in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands and signed into law in September. Lawmakers in Vermont and voters in D.C. have adopted laws making marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, but not regulating commercial production or sales.

Regulated adult sales began in Colorado in January 2014; Washington in July 2014; Oregon in October 2015; Alaska in October 2016; Nevada in July 2017; and California in January 2018. In Maine, they are expected to begin in fall 2019. In Michigan, where the law was just adopted during the midterm election earlier this month, adult sales are expected to begin in 2020.

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Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative Projected to Pass

Nov 07, 2018 Kate Zawidzki

Utah will be the 32nd state to adopt an effective medical marijuana law; Missouri became the 31st earlier in the evening

Updated statements below from the Marijuana Policy Project, which helped organize and fund the Utah initiative effort and supported Amendment 2 in Missouri

The initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Utah is reportedly headed toward victory. Fox 13 News Utah projected Proposition 2 will pass, and the measure was leading 54-46 with 68 percent of precincts reporting.

Even if the lead does not hold, Utah is expected to soon become the 32nd state in the nation to enact an effective medical marijuana law. Last month, backers of Proposition 2 reached an agreement with opponent organizations, legislative leaders, and the governor to support an alternative medical cannabis law that will be enacted in an upcoming special session, regardless of the outcome of the election.

Earlier in the evening, voters in Missouri approved one medical marijuana measure, Amendment 2, and rejected two others, Amendment 3 and Proposition C.

Effective medical marijuana laws have been adopted in 32 states, including Utah and Missouri, as well as in D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Eighteen other states have adopted medical marijuana laws that are ineffective because they are either unworkable or exceptionally restrictive. Idaho is the only state without any form of medical marijuana law.

Statement from Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which helped organize and fund the Utah initiative effort:

“The passage of Proposition 2 illustrates just how broad support has grown for medical marijuana in the U.S. Even in socially conservative states like Utah, most voters recognize marijuana has significant medical value, and they believe it should be available to patients who could benefit from it.

“We supported the compromise legislation that was agreed to by the governor, legislative leaders, and some of our opponents because we wanted to ensure an effective medical cannabis law is enacted this year and doesn’t get delayed or torpedoed during the implementation process. Now that the election is over, it’s time for Utah’s political leaders to uphold their promise and implement a workable medical cannabis law as soon as possible.”

Statement from MPP Executive Director Steve Hawkins:

“At this point, medical marijuana may enjoy more public support — and more bipartisan support — than virtually any other policy issue still up for debate. All Americans should have safe, legal, and reliable access to medical cannabis if their doctors recommend it. Patients in Utah and Missouri will be able to exercise that right, but there are still many other states where they will continue to suffer. We can also expect more states to pass similar laws through ballot measures and in their legislatures in coming years.

“We hope Congress will do its part to ensure these state laws continue to be respected by our federal government. Or, better yet, they could enact legislation at the federal level to ensure medical cannabis is a legal treatment option for all Americans.”

Earlier statement from Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, following the passage of Amendment 2 in Missouri:

“Thanks to the unflagging efforts of patients and advocates, Missourians who could benefit from medical marijuana will soon be able to use it without fear of being treated like criminals. We hope lawmakers will implement the measure efficiently and effectively to ensure qualified patients can gain access to their medicine as soon as possible.

“There is near-universal support in the U.S. for providing seriously ill patients with legal access to medical cannabis. Most voters, regardless of their age, geographic location, or political persuasion, recognize the medical benefits of marijuana and believe it should be available to those who can benefit from it. Now that more than 30 states have enacted comprehensive medical marijuana laws, it is time for Congress to step up and address the issue at the federal level.”

 

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Michigan Voters Approve Initiative to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana for Adult Use

Nov 06, 2018 Kate Zawidzki

Statements below from the Marijuana Policy Project, which played a leading role in organizing the campaign in support of Proposal 1

Voters in Michigan approved a ballot initiative Tuesday to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use. Proposal 1 was leading 58-42 with 54 percent of precincts reporting when CNN called the election.

Michigan is the 10th state to make marijuana possession legal for adults 21 and older, and it is the ninth state to establish a system for regulating commercial cultivation and sales for adult use. Marijuana possession is also legal for adults in the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands enacted a law in September to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. For more details about state marijuana laws, see https://www.mpp.org/states.

Gallup poll released October 22 shows support for making marijuana legal in the U.S. has reached a record high of 66 percent, with only 32 percent opposed. Approximately two out of three voters back legalization in each of the four major geographic regions of the country, and support spans the political spectrum, with majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents in favor.

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which played a leading role in organizing the Michigan initiative effort:

“This is yet another historic election for the movement to end marijuana prohibition. Voters have once again sent a message loud and clear that it is time to legalize and regulate marijuana. The victory in Michigan highlights just how widespread support is for marijuana policy reform. This issue does not only enjoy strong support on the coasts, but also in the Midwest and all throughout the country.

“Marijuana has now been legalized for adult use in one out of every five states, so I think it’s safe to say federal laws are in need of an update. We hope the results of this election will inspire Congress to finally start addressing the tension that exists between state and federal marijuana laws in our nation.”

Statement from MPP Deputy Director Matthew Schweich, who served as campaign director for the Yes on 1 campaign:

“The passage of Proposal 1 is a major milestone for marijuana policy reform in the U.S. Michigan will be the first state in the Midwest to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated for adult use. Adults will no longer be punished for consuming a substance less harmful than alcohol, and rather than having to resort to the illegal market, they will be able to access it safely and legally from licensed businesses. In addition to the public health and safety benefits associated with regulating marijuana, the state will have a significant new stream of tax revenue. Michigan is going to demonstrate that regulating marijuana works, and it will set a strong example for other states in the region and around the country.”

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Missouri Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Initiative

Nov 06, 2018 Kate Zawidzki

Statements below from leaders of the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization

Voters in Missouri approved Amendment 2 on Tuesday, making it the 31st state in the nation to adopt an effective medical marijuana law. The measure was leading 64-36 with 49 percent of precincts reporting when The New York Times called the election.

Effective medical marijuana laws have now been adopted in 31 states, including Missouri, as well as in D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Eighteen other states have adopted medical marijuana laws that are ineffective because they are either unworkable or exceptionally restrictive. Idaho is the only state without any form of medical marijuana law.

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

“Thanks to the unflagging efforts of patients and advocates, Missourians who could benefit from medical marijuana will soon be able to use it without fear of being treated like criminals. We hope lawmakers will implement the measure efficiently and effectively to ensure qualified patients can gain access to their medicine as soon as possible.

“There is near-universal support in the U.S. for providing seriously ill patients with legal access to medical cannabis. Most voters, regardless of their age, geographic location, or political persuasion, recognize the medical benefits of marijuana and believe it should be available to those who can benefit from it. Now that more than 30 states have enacted comprehensive medical marijuana laws, it is time for Congress to step up and address the issue at the federal level.”

Statement from MPP Executive Director Steve Hawkins:

“At this point, medical marijuana may enjoy more public support — and more bipartisan support — than virtually any other policy issue still up for debate. All Americans should have safe, legal, and reliable access to medical cannabis if their doctors recommend it. Patients will be able to exercise that right in Missouri, but there are still many other states where they will continue to suffer. We can also expect more states to pass similar laws through ballot measures and in their legislatures in coming years.

“We hope Congress will do its part to ensure these state laws continue to be respected by our federal government. Or, better yet, they could enact legislation at the federal level to ensure medical cannabis is a legal treatment option for all Americans.”

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Voters in Four States Could Pass Major State-level Marijuana Policy Reform Measures on Election Day

Nov 01, 2018 Kate Zawidzki

Representatives from the Marijuana Policy Project — which played a leading role in organizing two of the initiative efforts and a supporting role in the others — will be available for interviews leading up to Election Day, throughout election night, and in the days that follow

WASHINGTON — Voters in four states could pass major state-level marijuana policy reform measures on Tuesday. Local marijuana policy measures are also on ballots in two additional states.

  • In two states, voters will decide whether to make marijuana legal for adult use. In Michigan, Proposal 1 would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. In North Dakota, Measure 3 would legalize marijuana for adults and expunge past marijuana-related convictions.

  • In the other two states, Missouri and voters will decide whether to establish comprehensive medical marijuana programs. In Missouri, three competing medical marijuana measures appear on the ballot, with Amendment 2 recently emerging as the front-runner after receiving multiple key newspaper endorsements. In Utah, Proposition 2 will be decided by voters, but the measure’s backers reached an agreement last month with opponent organizations, legislative leaders, and the governor to support an alternative medical cannabis law that will be enacted in an upcoming special session, regardless of the outcome of the election.

  • At the local level, voters in six Ohio municipalities will consider marijuana decriminalization measures, and voters in more than a dozen Wisconsin localities will consider a variety of non-binding advisory measures regarding medical and adult use. Representatives from the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) will be available for interviews leading up to Election Day, throughout election night, and in the days that follow. MPP is the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, and it played a leading role in organizing the initiative efforts in Michigan and Utah.

 
Statement from MPP Deputy Director Matthew Schweich:

“Two out of three Americans now support making marijuana legal, and it’s not just on the coasts. Reform efforts have been advancing across the Midwest in recent years, and they are picking up steam this election cycle. The slate of marijuana-related measures on state ballots this year represents a big step forward for the marijuana policy reform movement, regardless of the outcome on Election Day. They have inspired a critical public dialogue about marijuana, the problems associated with the current prohibition model, and the benefits of replacing it with a more sensible approach. The more people hear and learn about this issue, the more support grows. The country is moving forward on marijuana policy — the only question is how big of a step it will take on Tuesday.”

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Gallup Finds Record-High 66% Support Marijuana Legalization in U.S.

Oct 22, 2018 Kate Zawidzki

Gallup Poll Finds Record-High Support for Marijuana Legalization; Two Out of Three Americans Now Support Ending Marijuana Prohibition

Statement below from the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's largest marijuana policy organization

WASHINGTON — A new Gallup poll released Monday shows support for making marijuana legal in the U.S. has reached a record high of 66 percent, up from 64 percent last year. Only 32 percent are opposed.

The poll found majority support spans the political spectrum, with majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents in favor. Support among Republicans grew to 53 percent, up from 51 percent last year, with opposition dropping to just 45 percent. Approximately two out of three voters support legalization in each of the four major geographic regions of the country.

The poll results come as voters in two states, Michigan and North Dakota, are considering ballot initiatives to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. Nine U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and one U.S. territory, the Northern Mariana Islands, have enacted laws making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. Eight of those states and the Northern Marianas have also established systems for regulating commercial cultivation and sales.

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

"There is a growing sense among the U.S. population that it is time to end our nation's failed experiment with marijuana prohibition. People are sick and tired of adults being treated like criminals simply for consuming a substance that is, by every objective measure, less harmful than alcohol. Americans are more informed about cannabis than ever before, and they can now see that regulation is a viable and effective alternative to prohibition.

"There are not many issues out there that enjoy majority support among both of the major political parties and in every region of the country. This support is consistently translating into wins at the ballot box, and it should further motivate elected officials to take action at the state and federal levels. Hopefully lawmakers are paying attention to this clear trend in public opinion. If they ignore these poll numbers, they do so at the risk of seeing a drop in their own."

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