Posts tagged ‘Massachusetts’

Obama’s ‘Change’ Not So Different from Bush Polices

Today, a federal judge sentenced Charles Lynch to one year and one day in prison (366 days).

Mr. Lynch legally distributed medical marijuana under state law in California. However, because he violated federal law, he was tried in a federal court. In court, he was barred from presenting the key evidence: distribution of medicinal marijuana in California is legal.

A few months ago, Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that the Obama administration would only target those who violate both federal and state law. Lynch’s trial began over a year ago, and Holder did not specify the fate of those whose sentences were still pending.

If the polices have shifted, what is the point of keeping Lynch in prison? In the future, people like Mr. Lynch will never even have to stand trial, let alone be sentenced (assuming the Obama administration honors this promise). Therefore, Obama should pardon Mr. Lynch,  just as Ford pardoned Nixon, relieving him from any criminal record or time in prison.

Call the White House Comment Line at (202) 456-1111 and tell Obama that you expect him to pardon Charles Lynch outright. Sample script below:

Hello. My name is ________ and I am calling because Attorney General Holder previously stated that the Obama administration would not punish individuals who distribute and use medical marijuana legally under state law. Charles Lynch was sentenced today to a year in prison for this very charge. While his arrest occured before Obama took office, I expect Obama to pardon Mr. Lynch to demonstrate his dedication to this change in policy.

(Note: While I respect NORML’s request that commuting the sentence would be acceptable, I disagree. Commuting just saves Lynch the prison time, but it does not acknowledge that conviction should never have happened in the first place. Therefore, I expect nothing less than a full pardon for Mr. Lynch).

June 11, 2009 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

What Gay Marriage in Vermont Means for Marijuana Legalization in Massachusetts

This is not the ‘liberalism is winning in one New England state so therefore it’ll win in the rest!!’ argument.

Rather, I am drawing this from the very end of a front-page New York Times article from Wednesday, the day after Vermont voted to override Governor Jim Douglas’s veto of a gay marriage bill.

The bill would have been a few votes shy of the required number for a veto, but three Democrats switched their positions and voted in favor of a veto. Representatives Jeff Young and Robert South were among the two who reversed their earlier votes.

Unfortunately, the online version of the article (linked above) leaves out the very last sentence from the print version, and I can’t seem to find an online copy of the printed version anywhere. (If anyone can search the NYTimes database more efficiently than I can and finds it, please let me know). This is the conclusion as printed on April 8:

Representative Robert South, a freshman Democrat from a conservative district, said he reversed his position after 228 of his constituents reached out and urged him to support the override, compared with 198 who urged him to oppose it.

“It was very difficult for me,” Mr. South said, “because the marraige equality bill, as far as I’m concerned, has split the state. I see how close my numbers are for and against same-sex marriage, and it’s divided my constituents, and that’s what upsets me.”

He added that he might well lose his seat over the vote, saying, “I probably sealed my fate.”

Emphasis is mine. What we have here is proof positive that, given enough pressure, legislators can willing to change their minds. Furthermore, we have proof that, for state legislators, the difference between a ‘yay’ and a ‘nay’ can be very, very small: in this case, a margin of 30 people. This is a great example of the multiplying effect of contacting your elected officials – when you place a phone call, your efforts do not just represent one person. Rather, they stand in for the opinions of several others as well.

‘Sobering Suzie’ may be right, as I pointed out, that the Massachusetts bills to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana may not stand a chance at the moment. (House Bill 2929 and Senate Bill 1801). But that does not mean that the probabilites are fixed – if all it takes is a margin of 30 people to swing a single legislator’s vote to override a veto that protects the civil liberties in an entire state, then the odds are in our favor. I am willing to bet that we have enough constituents in Massachusetts willing to pressure their legislators into sponsoring the bill. (Check your legislators’ names and contact information). The same applies to any other farfetched drug policy reform legislation in any other state. The odds are a challenge, not an obstacle, and, from the looks of it, a very feasible challenge at that.

April 9, 2009 at 11:40 am 1 comment

Does Marijuana Legalization Stand a Chance in Massachusetts?

From Phishhook:

I hate to be all Sobering Suzie, buuut:

This bill has no chance of getting a favorable report from a committee, let alone passing both the House and the Senate. 

In Massachusetts, any citizen can file a bill through their local legislator. If the legislator agrees with the bill, they can file it as a normal bill, solicit cosponsors, write letters and provide testimony to committees, contact Leadership, etc. If the legislator does NOT agree with the bill, they can file it “By Request.” When a bill is filed by request, it means that they do not agree with the bill, and are solely filing it on behalf of their constituent. 

This bill was filed By Request — in the House and in the Senate (it’s the same bill in both, filed for the same, single community member). 

Neither bill has a single cosponsor, and neither the Representative nor the Senator who filed the respective House and Senate bills will do anything to advocate for them. The whole process of allowing citizens to file bills through their local electeds is largely a facade. Bills filed By Request NEVER even get out of committee. It will be burried in a study order next March, and will die with thousands of other bills.

Now, on the other hand, if there was ever an appetite for a bill like this in MA, it is right now. The state is overwhelmingly liberal (the republican party comprises a little bit more than 10% of the legislature), and needs badly new revenue. However, if this IS something that could happen in MA, it won’t be these bills that do it. 

But hey, at least it was decriminalized this past November with a ballot initiative (2-1 no less).

The anonymous poster who left this message has a point, but I’m not convinced that it’s a lost cause. Keep in mind that, just a few weeks before Question 2 passed, police officials were launching a smear campaign and the polled support had dropped by 30 points in some demographics. And in January 2008, who would even have predicted that Massachusetts would have enough signatures on the measure to put it on the ballot, let alone support it by 65%?

I look at Sobering Suzie’s post as challenge rather than a blockade. It’s clear to me that, if any two states can legalize marijuana, California and Massachusetts are certainly well-equipped. Both have very progressive laws regarding marijuana, both have decriminalized possession to some extent, and both have high rates of marijuana use. (It should be stated that this last point is probably a reason that Question 2 passed more than it is a result of it).

It is possible to pressure officials into taking action on a bill such as this. The key is to make them realize that their constituents’ support rests on it. In some sense, it is also pretty easy to get this point across to local officials. So, while I think that the fate of the bill is by no means certain, if we put pressure on legislators, it is still very much in the cards.

March 28, 2009 at 11:02 am 1 comment

California Hearing on Marijuana Legalization Approaches

One week from today, the Committee on Public Safety and Health will hear testimony surrounding Assembly Bill 390. The Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act (as it is known) would allow people over 21 to purchase legal marijuana in California. (The existing medical marijuana policy in California would not be affected, and medicinal marijuana would not be taxed).

Contact your representatives and urge them to support the measure. (This is especially important if he or she serves on the committee). A letter or phone call takes only a few minutes and could allow this bill the chance to be put to a vote – and even enacted. A sample letter is available through NORML’s automated feature, and an alternative sample letter/call script is below:

 

Dear Assemblyman/Assemblywoman _____________:

I am writing to ask for your support on Assembly Bill 390. The bill, also called the  Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, would regulate and tax marijuana while restricting its availablity to adults over the age of 21.

If passed, the taxes would raise over $1.3 billion dollars in revenue every year, according to reports by the State Board of Equilization. It would also limit access to those over 21, which would reduce use by children. Finally, it would allow law enforcement to focus on more serious and dangerous crimes, improving public safety.

Prohibition wastes taxpayer money at a huge cost to public safety, whereas a legal source of regulated, taxed marijuana would eliminate the illegal marijuana trade. For these reasons and the huge tax benefits in these economic times, I urge you to vote “yes” on Assembly Bill 390.

Sincerely, 

___________

 

The act is indeed seminal; Massachusetts has already introduced two similar bills (SB 1801 and HB 2929). If this passes, it would be a monumentous step forward in drug policy reform. Please help ensure that it passes by contacting  legislators.

March 24, 2009 at 8:13 pm 1 comment

Massachusetts Seeks to Legalize, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana

California’s got company. Not two months after Question 2 went into effect, decriminalizing marijuana, Massachusetts may legalize the marijuana industry – subject to a tax, of course. Senate Bill 1801 and House Bill 2929 have been introduced. 

65% of Massachusetts voters supported the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana in November. Depending on what measure you use, Massachusetts is one of the smokiest states (this chart measures marijuana use in the past year, placing Massachusetts at #5).

NORML has very clear letters that you can send to your elected officials. You can send the letters using NORML’s automated feature, but for your convenience, they are also reproduced below. (Remember to specify House Bill 2929 or Senate Bill 1801 in the letter, and remember that you can also contact your state legislators using the link at the top of the page).

 

I’m writing to urge your support for House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801. This measure seeks to tax and regulate the use of marijuana by adults age 21 and over. If approved this measure would: 1) Raise tens of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue for the state of Massachusetts; 2) Restrict access to marijuana to those under age 21; 3) Improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to focus on more serious crimes; and 4) Institute reasonable regulation consistent with the state and federal constitution. In November, 65 percent of voters in Massachusetts endorsed a statewide initiative reclassifying marijuana possession as a fine-only offense under state law. Passage of House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801 would bring greater control to this law by imposing proper state restrictions on the sale and use of marijuana by adults. House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801 is a fiscally conservative, common sense proposal that seeks to bring control to Massachusetts’ untaxed, unregulated marijuana market. I look forward to hearing from you that you will support House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801.

March 23, 2009 at 9:44 pm 2 comments

Help Connecticut Decriminalize Marijuana

Connecticut is ready. As reported earlier, a groundbreaking poll demonstrated that Connecticut voters support the decriminalization of marijuana – perhaps even more than Massachusetts voters did before Question 2 passed. (I say ‘perhaps’ because there is some room for polling error, and the comparison depends on whether you use the lukewarm polls three weeks before the election or the smashing, 65% support on election day).

But that’s all nitpicking. Connecticut is considering Senate Bill 349, which would create in Connecticut a mirror policy to the one newly implemented in Massachusetts. If you would like to see Connecticut decriminalize marijuana, contact your state senator and ask them to support the bill. NORML has a good form letter available. Here is an alternative:

Dear Senator ___________ (name of Senator)

A recent study published by Quinnipiac University demonstrated that 58% of Connecticut voters support using fines, rather than arrests, to enforce minor marijuana possession laws. Thirteen other states have enacted similar decriminalization laws without an increase in marijuana use.

The Connecticut Law Review Commission has published a report stating ‘The legislature should review and further consider as a strategy option establishing the offense of infraction for adults twenty-one years of age or older who possess one ounce or less of marijuana.’ Senate Bill 349 is an opportunity to enact appropriate penalties for marijuana possession while reducing state expenses. I urge you to adjust our marijuana policies to reflect more approriately the gravity of the offense by supporting Senate Bill 349.

Sincerely,

______________ (your name)

The bill was introduced by Senators Martin Looney and Toni Harp.

March 16, 2009 at 10:16 pm 1 comment

Clear the Road for Medical Marijuana Scientific Research

Poor Professor Lyle Craker. All he wants is a license from the DEA that will allow him to grow marijuana for scientific, research purposes. Guess what the DEA refuses to give him?

Craker, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, intends to use this marijuana for research – probably into one of its many medical uses, like the treatment of cancer, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, or Multiple Sclerosis. This isn’t news; he’s been asking for this permit for a few years.

Currently, all marijuana used for research purposes must be provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is a federally run organization. Recall what you may have learned Economics 101: if there is only one (legal) provider of a good/service, the situation is known as a monopoly. The NIDA claims that their supply is large enough, but people like Craker disagree.

The only way to advance the cause of medicinal marijuana is through scientific research (because  the 17,000+ existing studies apparently don’t count). And if research is blocked, then, well, we’re at a standstill – at least until something changes.

For this reason, the Drug Policy Alliance asks that you send a letter to ensure that Obama acts to protect scientific resarch. Full text of the letter after the jump.

(more…)

March 15, 2009 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

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