Connect with us

Politics

Pennsylvania Rep Pushes Marijuana Legalization Study Amid Racial Arrest Disparity

Published

on

Coming on the heels of a report showing stark racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement in his state, a Pennsylvania representative is pushing his colleagues to launch an official study on legalizing or decriminalizing the drug.

Sponsored by Rep. Ed Gainey (D), the new House resolution would “establish an advisory committee to conduct an ongoing study on the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana and to report its findings and recommendations.”

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania released a report showing that African Americans in the state are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than are whites.

Gainey, who is black, expressed his concern about the new data in a press conference.

“When you look at a rate that says…African Americans get more arrested for the possession of marijuana than anybody else and we use the same amount of drug the same as every other ethic group,” he said, “the time is for us to come together and talk about how we decriminalize or legalize a product that’s been here since the beginning of time.”

The ACLU study also showed that overall marijuana arrests have risen in the state since 2010.

Gainey’s push for a marijuana study commission comes as other states, including New Hampshire, Delaware, Vermont and Rhode Island are also officially studying cannabis changes.

If the resolution is adopted, the commission would be comprised of representatives from state agencies, law enforcement officials, drug and alcohol service providers and professionals from the criminal justice system such as attorneys and judges, as well as other experts.

In a memo circulated to colleagues last month, Gainey wrote that the study would examine areas “such as tax revenue generated, the costs associated with drug and alcohol diagnosis and treatment, and the changes in expenditures associated with criminal investigations, prosecutions and incarceration” that could result from legalization or decriminalization.

The commission would also look at “the effects on drug and alcohol addiction rates, the effects on crime rates and incarceration rates, any changes in the relationship between law enforcement officials and members of the community, and the effects on law enforcement and criminal justice procedures.”

Pennsylvania regulators are currently in the process of implementing a medical cannabis law that legislators enacted last year.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has expressed support for decriminalizing marijuana but says that the state should wait before considering fully legalizing it.

This story was first published on Forbes.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

If you value staying updated on cannabis news, please start a monthly Patreon pledge to support Marijuana Moment!

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-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

People With Marijuana Convictions Should Know About National Expungement Week

Published

on

Marijuana legalization is a solid first step, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to resolve  socioeconomic and racial inequities brought about by the war on drugs.

Hence, we now have National Expungement Week. The first-of-its-kind campaign, supported by a coalition of cannabis and social justice organizations called the Equity First Alliance, is taking place from October 20-27.

The organizations will offer “expungement and other forms of legal relief to some of the 77 million Americans with convictions on their records,” according to the campaign website. “These convictions can restrict access to housing, employment, education, public assistance, and voting rights long after sentences have been served.”

In an open letter, the alliance also said it was “largely unsupported by the cannabis industry and by the traditional funders of equity work.” While a main argument in support of legalization is that it would help to repair drug war damages, which have disproportionately affected communities of color, the laws and markets created by the successful movement haven’t necessarily lived up to its name, the alliance wrote.

To that end, the campaign has organized events across the country—from Los Angeles to Boston—to provide legal services to those whose criminal records are able to be reduced or expunged. You can check out the full list of events here.

The alliance’s agenda touches on numerous reform policies, including using marijuana tax revenue to fund communities that have been impacted by prohibition, implementing social equity programs, ensuring corporate responsibility for businesses that profit off cannabis and providing affordable medical cannabis for low-income patients, among other policies.

“We believe that we have a short but vital window of opportunity to change the course of the cannabis industry—and by doing so, we can prevent further harms to the most impacted communities and create a model of reparative economic and criminal justice.”

Adam Vine, co-founder of Cafe-Free Cannabis and an organizer with the campaign, told Marijuana Moment that the campaign is necessary “because millions of Americans have been harmed by the war on drugs and continue to face collateral consequences for convictions that may have happened years ago.”

“These consequences restrict people’s access to employment, housing, education, and social services, so our coalition decided to do something about it,” he said. “We are coordinating these events to provide free legal relief and to say that as states move towards cannabis legalization, expungement needs to be the first priority.”

Marijuana Use Will No Longer Be Prosecuted In Manhattan

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

If you value staying updated on cannabis news, please start a monthly Patreon pledge to support Marijuana Moment!
Continue Reading

Politics

Chris Christie Finally Recognizes Marijuana Legalization As States’ Rights Issue

Published

on

Famously anti-marijuana former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) isn’t jumping on the pro-legalization train any time soon—but new comments suggest he might be softening his opposition a smidge, recognizing marijuana reform as a states’ rights issue.

Speaking at Politicon on Saturday, Christie took a question about his cannabis stance from YouTuber Kyle Kulinski, who asked him to weigh in on studies showing that states with legal marijuana programs experience lower rates of opioid addiction and overdoses compared to non-legal states. He was quick to dismiss the research, contending that other studies show the “exact opposite.”

“I just don’t believe when we’re in the midst of a drug addiction crisis that we need to legalize another drug,” Christie said, echoing comments he’s made as chair of President Donald Trump’s opioids committee.

Then he pivoted, acknowledging that some will push back on his anti-legalization position by pointing out that alcohol is legal. “I get that,” he said, “but I wasn’t here when we legalized alcohol.”

Kulinski seized on that point and asked the former governor if he’d vote to ban alcohol.

“No, I wouldn’t ban it. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and that’s a big, important argument about marijuana because once you legalize this, that toothpaste never goes back in the tube.”

Christie stood out among other Republican and Democratic contenders during his 2016 presidential run by maintaining that in addition to personally opposing legalization, he’d crack down on legal cannabis states and enforce federal laws nationwide if elected.

“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie said in 2015. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.

So it came as something of a surprise when the former governor went on to say in the Politicon appearance that “states have the right to do what they want to do on this,” signaling a modest shift in his anti-marijuana rhetoric. States should have that right even though, as Christie put it, “broad legalization of marijuana won’t, in my view, alleviate or even minimize the opioid crisis.”

It’s unclear what’s behind the apparent shift from hardline prohibitionist to wary federalist, but who knows… maybe Christie experienced an epiphany at a Melissa Etheridge concert he attended earlier this month.

Etheridge, who recently spoke with Marijuana Moment about her cannabis advocacy and use of the drug for medicinal purposes, reacted to a tweet showing Christie at one of her recent performances, where he reportedly knew every word of her songs and sang along.

Christie, for his part, replied that he “enjoyed every minute of a great performance and a truly wonderful group of fans.”

Hm…

GIF by #ActionAliens

Melissa Etheridge Talks Art, Culture and Marijuana Advocacy In The Legalization Era

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

If you value staying updated on cannabis news, please start a monthly Patreon pledge to support Marijuana Moment!
Continue Reading

Politics

Marijuana Support Grows: Two Out Of Three Americans Back Legalization, Gallup Says

Published

on

Two-thirds of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, the highest percentage ever in Gallup’s ongoing decades-long series of national polls on the topic.

The new survey released on Monday shows that U.S. adults back ending cannabis prohibition by a supermajority margin of 66 percent to 32 percent. That’s more than a two-to-one ratio.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo courtesy of Jurassic Blueberries.

If you value staying updated on cannabis news, please start a monthly Patreon pledge to support Marijuana Moment!
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Stay Up To The Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox