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Legalizing Marijuana Is One Of New Connecticut Governor’s ‘Priorities’

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The effort to legalize marijuana in Connecticut will get a boost in 2019 from the state’s incoming governor, who says that the policy change will be one of his priorities in the new year.

“It’s something I would support, and I don’t want the black market controlling marijuana distribution in our state,” Gov.-elect Ned Lamont (D) told reporters at a press conference on Monday. “I think that’s a lousy way to go.”

“We’re going to have a legislative session. It’s going to be one of the priorities.”

Lamont suggested that legalization in nearby jurisdictions provides extra incentive to legalize cannabis sooner rather that later.

“Canada, Massachusetts, others are doing it,” he said. “That’s going to lead to some enforcement things. In the meantime we enforce Connecticut laws.”

Watch Lamont’s new marijuana comments roughly 17 minutes into the video below:

During his gubernatorial campaign, Lamont said that legalizing marijuana is “an idea whose time has come” and suggested that cannabis is not a gateway drug.

Legal recreational cannabis sales are set to begin in neighboring Massachusetts on Tuesday.

A report to Lamont’s transition team from the state Office of Policy and Management last week said that Connecticut “could also access additional revenue from any newly authorized activities such as…recreational marijuana sales.”

Current Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the state’s marijuana decriminalization and medical cannabis policies into law but has opposed broader legalization.

A poll this summer found that 59 percent of Connecticut voters support legalizing marijuana.

Lamont is one of several new incoming Democratic governors across the country who campaigned on marijuana legalization.

Marijuana Won The Midterm Elections

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Politics

Legalizing Marijuana Has Majority Support In Kansas, Poll Finds

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A clear majority of Kansas residents say they support legalizing marijuana for adult use and allowing the state to tax it, according to a new survey.

The annual Kansas Speaks survey, conducted by Fort Hays State University, includes residents’ opinions on a variety of public policy issues such as Medicaid expansion and firearms control. Buried elsewhere within the report, released last week, is the fact that more than 63 percent of respondents either “strongly support” or “somewhat support” legalizing and taxing recreational cannabis.

By comparison, only about 26 percent of respondents either “somewhat oppose” or “strongly oppose” marijuana legalization efforts. Eleven percent said they were either neutral or unsure.

Via Kansas Speaks.

Despite the approval among a majority of the state’s electorate, cannabis in the state of Kansas remains illegal for all purposes, including medicinal use. Three of the state’s four neighbors—Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri—have already legalized marijuana in some form.

However, there’s reason to believe the narrative around cannabis in Kansas may change in the coming years, albeit in a fairly limited fashion as compared to most other states that allow legal use.

In October, lawmakers took the first steps in advancing reform. The Special Committee on Federal and State Affairs recommended that the legislature look to Ohio’s medical cannabis program, which limits patients to 90-day supplies and bans smoking, as a template. Also included in the panel’s recommendation is a proposed ban on vaping of medical marijuana.

“This thing is going to go-go-go eventually, and we all need to kind of be at the table and make it a good piece of legislation to help people,” Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D) said.

Gov. Laura Kelly (D) has also signaled her support for medicinal cannabis.

Marijuana reform is moving forward in Kansas on the local level as well. Earlier this year, the Lawrence City Commission moved to decrease the city’s fine for possessing small amount of cannabis to $1 fine and $63 in court costs. City leaders voted 4-1 in favor of the city ordinance, which only applies to first and second convictions. Under state law, third offenses are felonies and cannot be processed in municipal court.

The move on the part of Lawrence city leaders was part of an effort to keep unnecessary charges off constituents’ legal records, Lawrence Mayor Lisa Larsen said.

“What I want to do with this is to bring some reasonable and equitable justice to this,” she said. “That’s what this is about for me.”

The Kansas Speaks survey—which involved phone interviews with 352 residents from August 26, 2019 to October 14—is the state’s only annual study of Kansans’ opinions on issues relating to public affairs, a news release says. Its margin of error was 5.2 percent, with a 95 percent confidence level.

Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed In Virginia Ahead Of Attorney General’s Cannabis Summit

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Andrew Yang Contrasts Rampant Opioid Prescribing With Marijuana Criminalization

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Andrew Yang contrasted the widespread prescribing of opioids with the ongoing criminalization of marijuana on Wednesday.

In a tweet, the entrepreneur and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said there were “more opiate prescriptions in the state of Ohio than people in Ohio,” yet “marijuana is still classified as a schedule 1 drug” under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

He’s brought that point up before, at a presidential debate in October. Asked about his proposed to decriminalize possession of opioids to combat the drug overdose crisis, Yang brought up the statistic and criticized the government for failing to take action against pharmaceutic companies that aggressively marketed addictive painkillers.

“If the government turned a blind eye to this company, spreading a plague among its people, then the least we can do is put a resource into work in our communities so that people have a fighting chance to get well, even though this is not a money problem,” he said at the time.

NBC News confirmed that, in 2010, federal data shows there were 102.4 opioid prescriptions in Ohio for every 100 persons. That’s decreased since then, with 2017 data showing 63.5 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons in the state.

Yang, who supports comprehensive marijuana legalization, has also embraced other harm reduction policies. Beyond decriminalizing opioids, he said in an interview published last week that he’s in favor of providing federal funding for the establishment of safe injection facilities, where individuals can use illicit drugs under medical supervision and receive assistance getting into treatment.

Yang has not yet called for decriminalization of substances beyond opioids and cannabis, however. That policy is backed by rival contenders South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, also presidential candidates, have called for the establishment of safe injection sites.

Killer Mike Credits Bernie Sanders For Inspiring Marijuana Legalization Movement

Photo courtesy of ABC News.

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Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed In Virginia Ahead Of Attorney General’s Cannabis Summit

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The attorney general of Virginia held a cannabis summit on Wednesday, with representatives of states that have legalized marijuana sharing their insights as lawmakers in the Commonwealth prepare to push reform legislation in the coming session.

This event came one day after a lawmaker prefiled a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use and expand the state’s existing limited medical cannabis program.

The event featured panels on marijuana decriminalization, social equity, public health, hemp, CBD and creating a pathway for eventual legalization. The goal was to answer policy questions and inform legislation, which Attorney General Mark Herring (D) hopes will start with decriminalization and expungements and later adult-use legalization.

“I don’t believe that Virginia’s current approach of criminalizing cannabis is working,” Herring said in his opening remarks. “It is needlessly creating criminals and burdening Virginians with convictions.”

“The human and social costs are enormous, in addition to the millions of dollars it costs Virginia taxpayers. And the negative consequences of the current approach fall disproportionately on African Americans and people of color,” he said. “It’s clear to me that the time for cannabis reform has come. Justice demands it. Virginians are demanding it. And I’m going to help make sure we get this right.”

Watch video of the Virginia Cannabis Summit  below: 

Representatives from Colorado and Illinois discussed law enforcement and equity in regulated marijuana markets.

The prospects of passing reform measures greatly increased in Virginia after November’s election, which saw Democrats reclaim control of both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time in decades. Herring said the timing is right to “plot a course for a smarter, fairer, more just cannabis policy” in the state.

Sen. Dave Marsden (D), co-founder of the legislature’s recently established Cannabis Caucus, said at the summit that ensuring that the legal market is equitable is paramount.

“We can’t substitute a civil process for a criminal one and not expect it to lead to disparities,” he said.

“Following several years of forming consensus around medical cannabis products, we have to be ready to take action in the upcoming legislative session to further reform our laws in this arena,” he said in a press release. “This effort will include a more robust medical cannabis program and Attorney General Herring’s summit is a big step in ensuring we are knowledgeable on the issue and prepared to do this right.”

“Virginia is ready for evidence-based reform and that is what we will provide.”

Del. Stephen Heretick (D) said the summit “is a great opportunity for me and my fellow legislators to learn from the experiences of other states as we consider how to create more fair, just, equitable, and effective cannabis laws here in Virginia.”

Decriminalization is the first proposal on the agenda when the next session starts, the attorney general said. That would fulfill a campaign promise of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who ran on the issue in 2017 and talked about in his State of the Commonwealth address this year.

“It’s time for public policy to catch up with public opinion, and NORML applauds Attorney General Herring for his efforts to foster and advance evidence-based cannabis laws,” Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML said. “We look forward to supporting the attorney general and the Virginia Cannabis Caucus in their work reforming marijuana laws for a safer Commonwealth.”

While Northam hasn’t voiced support for recreational legalization, Herring said last week that Wednesday’s summit is one resource that will help the state move toward comprehensive reform.

“Based on my conversations, he supports decriminalization,” Herring, who is also running for governor in 2021, said. “Like a lot of people, I think they’d like to get more information about what legalization and what regulated, adult-use would look like.”

A bill to decriminalize marijuana and make possession of up to one ounce punishable by a maximum $50 civil penalty was prefiled in the legislature last month.

This latest legalization bill, introduced by Del. Lee Carter (D), will likely be a heavier lift. It would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers, and it would impose a 10 percent tax, revenue from which would go toward a veterans fund, transportation and local municipalities that allow marijuana businesses to operate.

“While a majority of Virginians agree with Attorney General Herring that marijuana should be legal for responsible use by adults, it may take a bit more work to convince the Virginia General Assembly to send such a bill to the governor’s desk,” Michelle Pedini told Marijuana Moment. “Todays summit is an important, and historic, step toward that goal, and NORML is proud to be a part of it.”

Vermont Should Legalize Marijuana Sales, Top Health Department Official Says

Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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