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  • August 23 2016

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    Top Legislative Victories of 2016

    Now that most state legislative sessions are over for the year, MPP’s Rob Kampia has published a list of the biggest victories in what is already the biggest year on record for marijuana policy reformers!Rating_Badge_JO

    On July 29, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill removing the threat of arrest for small amounts of marijuana, capping a record year of legislative and administrative marijuana policy reforms throughout the country.

    Two states, Pennsylvania and Ohio, enacted effective medical marijuana laws via their legislatures, making them the 24th and 25th states to do so, respectively. As a result, more than half of the U.S. population now lives in states that have opted to legalize medical marijuana.

    In addition to Illinois, a number of other states enacted laws to reduce marijuana possession penalties. Kansas lowered the maximum jail sentence for first-time possession and reduced second offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Louisiana and Maryland removed criminal penalties for possession of paraphernalia, with the Maryland Legislature overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto. Oklahoma cut the penalties for second marijuana possession offenses in half, and Tennessee reduced a third possession offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, making the maximum penalty less than a year in jail. At the local level, New Orleans and a number of Florida counties passed ordinances that give police the option to issue summons or citations instead of arresting people for low-level possession.

    You can read the full article in the Huffington Post.

     

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  • August 23 2016

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    Federal Court Ruling Gives Hope to Medical Marijuana Patients and Providers

    In a decision released on August 16, a federal court ruled that the Department of Justice cannot spend funds to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers who are in compliance with state law.2000px-US-CourtOfAppeals-9thCircuit-Seal.svg

    Time Magazine reports:

    The ruling comes after a 2014 Congressional law that prohibited the DOJ from interfering in state implementation of marijuana laws. That law led people being prosecuted by the federal government to seek the dismissal of their charges, arguing they were in compliance with state law. On Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, sending their cases back to lower courts to determine if they were in compliance with state laws. Some of the defendants ran Los Angeles based marijuana stores and faced charges for distributing 100 marijuana plants.

    Tuesday’s decision by a three-judge panel was unanimous. But in its opinion, the court warned Congress could change its mind and again allow federal funding for prosecution of state-sanctioned marijuana use. “DOJ is currently prohibited from spending funds from specific appropriations acts for prosecutions of those who complied with state law,” the Court wrote. “But Congress could appropriate funds for such prosecutions tomorrow.”

    John Hudak at the Brookings Institute agrees that this ruling is a positive development, but warns against celebrating too much. You can read his detailed analysis here.

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  • August 23 2016

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    DEA Fails to Reschedule Marijuana, but Opens Path for More Research

    The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has decided that marijuana will remain classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The decision to keep marijuana in the category reserved for drugs with no accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse was, according to the DEA, based on consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services. According to DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg, “If the scientific understanding about marijuana changes — and it could change — then the decision could change…. But we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands. It certainly would be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise.”2000px-US-DrugEnforcementAdministration-Seal.svg

    The fact that the DEA has maintained its position that marijuana has no accepted medical value may come as a surprise to many, especially given the thousands, if not millions, of seriously ill patients who currently use marijuana to treat a number of symptoms and conditions.

    In a more positive development, it was also announced that the federal government will be removing major obstacles to marijuana research. The only source of federally approved research-grade marijuana has been the University of Mississippi, and it has been so difficult for researchers to obtain that it has effectively created a research monopoly held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Now, universities may apply for federal approval to grown their own supply of marijuana, creating fewer roadblocks for researchers in the future.

    The post DEA Fails to Reschedule Marijuana, but Opens Path for More Research appeared first on MPP Blog.