The Top 10 Cannabis Policy Victories of 2015

cannabudBy Rob Kampia, Marijuana Policy Project

In 2015, state legislators considered bills to legalize marijuana in 21 states, decriminalize marijuana possession in 17 states, and legalize medical marijuana in 19 states.

Most of the action in 2015 was aimed at achieving substantial victories in 2016, which is slated to be the most successful year in the history of the movement to end marijuana prohibition.

With this in mind, the Marijuana Policy Project is hereby releasing its top 10 list for 2015. I’m excluding international and scientific developments, instead focusing on policy developments in the United States.

Read moreThe Top 10 Cannabis Policy Victories of 2015

Minnesota Adds Intractable Pain As Qualifying Medical Cannabis Condition

painIntractable pain has been added to Minnesota’s list of conditions that qualify an individual to become a valid medical cannabis patient, according to an announcement made by Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. The new change officially goes into effect on July 1st.

“The relative scarcity of firm evidence made this a difficult decision,” said Ehlinger, who despite approving the change clearly doesn’t understand that numerous scientific studies have found cannabis to be beneficial for pain treatnment. “However, given the strong medical focus of Minnesota’s medical cannabis program and the compelling testimony of hundreds of Minnesotans, it became clear that the right and compassionate choice was to add intractable pain to the program’s list of qualifying conditions. This gives new options for clinicians and new hope for suffering patients.”

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Alaska Officials Vote to Allow On-Site Cannabis Consumption at Retail Outlets

By Associated Press

alaskaThe board tasked with writing rules for Alaska’s recreational marijuana industry voted Friday to allow for people to use pot at certain stores that will sell it, a first among the four states that have legalized the drug.

The 3-2 vote by the Marijuana Control Board also changed the definition of the term “in public” to allow for consumption at some pot shops, none of which are open yet. Colorado, Washington and Oregon have legalized recreational marijuana but ban its public use, including in pot stores.

“This would put, I think, Alaska in the forefront on this issue,” said Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project.

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Massachusetts: Enough Signatures Collected on Legalization Initiative to Put it to a Vote

bud2The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, backed by the Marijuana Policy Project, announced today it has collected more than 100,000 signatures in support of a ballot initiative to end cannabis prohibition in Massachusetts, well more than the 64,750 required to put the measure to a vote.

Now the signatures must be reviewed and certified by town and city clerks before being submitted to the secretary of the commonwealth by December 2. If enough of the signatures are valid (from registered Massachusetts voters) the issue will go before the state’s legislature. If the legislature decides not to pass the proposal into law, initiative backers must collect 10,792 additional signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 general election ballot.

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Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill in Senate to End Federal Cannabis Prohibition

bernie sandersSenator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), a Democratic presidential candidate, introduced a bill Wednesday that would repeal all federal penalties for growing and possessing cannabis, giving states the full freedom to decide their own cannabis laws.

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 would remove cannabis from the federal controlled substances list, while retaining penalties for those transporting cannabis from states or jurisdictions where it is legal to those where it is not (as cities and states would still have the ability to prohibit the plant on a local level). This is the first bill ever introduced in the U.S. Senate that would end cannabis prohibition on the federal level.

Read moreBernie Sanders Introduces Bill in Senate to End Federal Cannabis Prohibition

New Gallup Poll: 58% of Americans Support Legalizing Cannabis, Up 7% from Last Year

cannaamericaA newly released Gallup poll has found that 58% of adults in the U.S. believe that cannabis should be made legal, up from 51% the last time the question was asked by Gallup in October, 2014.

According to the poll of 10,015 people conducted between October 7-11 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4%, just 40% of adults in the U.S. oppose the legalization of recreational cannabis.

Read moreNew Gallup Poll: 58% of Americans Support Legalizing Cannabis, Up 7% from Last Year

Federal Court Tells DEA to Leave Dispensaries Alone

In a hugely important decision, a federal court in California has ruled that the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) interpretationcannabisplant of a federal medical cannabis provision which was included in last year’s national spending bill “defies language and logic”. The court stated that the DEA’s recent raids on dispensaries in California “tortures the plain meaning of the statute” and is “at odds with fundamental notions of the rule of law.”

Last year a federal spending bill – which was passed into law – included a Rohrabacher-Farr amendment that prohibits the Justice Department from using federal funds to “prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Read moreFederal Court Tells DEA to Leave Dispensaries Alone

Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Expresses Support for Legalizing Recreational Cannabis

debateDuring Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders expressed support for legalizing recreational cannabis. When asked if he would vote on an initiative to legalize cannabis which will appear on next year’s ballot in Nevada, Sanders responded “yes, I suspect I would”.

“This marks the first time a major-party presidential candidate has clearly expressed support for ending marijuana prohibition and regulating marijuana like alcohol”, says Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The people have typically led the politicians on this issue, and finally we’re seeing a presidential candidate who appears to have caught up with them.”

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Oregon: Legal Cannabis Sales Begin Tomorrow

Medical marijuana is shown in a jar at The Joint Cooperative in SeattleLegal cannabis sales are set to begin in Oregon tomorrow, October 1st, making it the third state in the nation to allow such sales.

Adults 21 years of age and older will be able to legally purchase up to a quarter-ounce of cannabis and up to four cannabis seedlings from certain medical cannabis dispensaries. This allowance, approved by the legislature in July and signed by Governor Kate Brown the same month, gives adults a legal means of purchasing cannabis while the state develops a regulatory structure that will eventually govern the recreational cannabis market. That system is expected to be implemented sometime next year and will be overseen by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

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Historic: State Generates More Annual Tax Revenue From Marijuana Than From Alcohol

cannabismoneyFor the first time in history, a state has generated more annual tax revenue from cannabis than from alcohol.

Between the period of July 1st, 2014 to June 30th, 2015, Colorado collected nearly $70 million ($69,898,059) in taxes from cannabis, and just under $42 million ($41,837,647) in taxes from alcohol. This is according to data released by the state’s Department of Revenue.

Read moreHistoric: State Generates More Annual Tax Revenue From Marijuana Than From Alcohol