Voters In Two States Nominate Marijuana Legalization Supporters for Governor

Voters In Two States Nominate Marijuana Legalization Supporters for Governor

Tuesday’s primary elections brought in a wave of Democratic gubernatorial candidates who’ve endorsed marijuana legalization—from Maryland to Colorado.

Here’s a breakdown of where the gubernatorial primary winners stand on cannabis.

Maryland

Democratic winner: Ben Jealous, former NAACP president

Jealous campaigned as a progressive, pro-legalization candidate for governor, earning him the endorsements of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), among others. He spoke to Marijuana Moment earlier this month about how comedian Dave Chappelle first put the idea of legalization in his head—and how his stance on cannabis reform further evolved after studying racial disparities in marijuana enforcement as well as the economic potential of full legalization. Jealous told Marijuana Moment that, if elected governor, he would use tax revenue from a legal cannabis retail system to fund universal pre-k education throughout Maryland.

“We know that we have to end mass incarceration—and yet go further,” he said. “We have to really get back to opening up the gates of opportunity for all of our children. And by legalizing cannabis, we get to make progress on both fronts.”

Every single Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Maryland backed legalization during the primary, The Baltimore Sun reported, but Jealous seemed to focus on it more than most other major contenders.

Republican winner: Larry Hogan, incumbent governor

Hogan hasn’t taken an official stance on full marijuana legalization and, notably, declined to respond to a question about whether he felt voters should be entrusted to make that decision as part of a state referendum last year.

Just ahead of the primary election this week, however, Hogan said that “[a]t this point, I think it’s worth taking a look at” in reference to full legalization.

“I was for medical cannabis. I want to make sure we’re off to the right start and we look at every aspect of the issue.”

The governor signed a bill last month that expanded Maryland’s medical marijuana program. The legislation called for increased licenses for cannabis processors and growers; it was also designed to resolve the lack of diversity among individuals and businesses that receive these licenses.

Colorado

Democratic winner: Jared Polis, U.S. representative

The sitting congressman has made a concerted effort to distinguish his support for marijuana reform from his competitors as well as the state’s incumbent Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper. He emphasized the need to protect the state’s recreational cannabis program from federal interference in an interview with Marijuana Moment, saying that, as governor, he “would make sure that we would not cooperate from the state-level and that state law enforcement resources were not used and information was not shared with any federal agent going after a legal, constitutionally protected Colorado activity.”

Polis, who has consistently championed cannabis bills and amendments in Congress, also vowed to approve legislation that would facilitate investments in the state’s marijuana program and expand the list of conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis to include those on the autism spectrum—measures that Hickenlooper recently vetoed, much to the chagrin of legalization advocates.

The nominee has argued that the state’s regulated marijuana program provides valuable economic resources and that cannabis may serve as a viable alternative to dangerous and addictive opioids for pain patients.

Pro-legalization advocacy group, NORML endorsed Polis in May.

“The results from the Democratic Gubernatorial Primary are not just a victory for Jared Polis and supporters of sensible marijuana policy, they are a victory for anyone who believes that our prohibition on marijuana was a failure and that states should be free to set their own policies when it comes to cannabis, free from federal incursion,” NORML PAC executive director Erik Altieri said in a press release on Tuesday.

“Jared Polis has been the preeminent champion for ending our nation’s failed federal prohibition on marijuana while in Congress and an unrelenting force in standing up for Colorado’s legalization and medical marijuana laws. Just as he has always stood and fought by our side against federal prohibition, we will continue to fight for Jared Polis until he takes his rightful place in the governor’s mansion.”

Republican winner: Walker Stapleton, Colorado treasurer

Stapleton hasn’t gone on the record fully embracing the state’s recreational marijuana program, but he stood out among his Republican gubernatorial competition by disagreeing with the notion of advancing an agenda to repeal Colorado’s legal marijuana law, Amendment 64. He’s also acknowledged marijuana’s medical benefits.

“There have been a lot of unintended consequences that have come with legalization of marijuana,” Stapleton told Westword. “I don’t think a repeal is a realistic option, so as governor, I will work with the industry and stakeholder groups to make this work.”

“We need to have better guardrails in place to keep it out of the hands of children and to address some of the unintended consequences we have seen develop,” he said.

Oklahoma

Democratic winner: Drew Edmondson, former Oklahoma attorney general

The former state attorney general said that he supported earlier legislation that reduced criminal penalties for marijuana possession and said he would also support State Question 788—an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma that passed on Tuesday.

However, Edmondson stopped short of embracing full legalization. He told Tulsa World that he believes “it is too early for full legalization in Oklahoma, but we do have the benefit of observing the long-term effects in Colorado and other states.”

Republican winner: Mick Cornett, Oklahoma City mayor

Cornett hasn’t said much about his personal views about marijuana reform on the record, but a spokesperson for the mayor told The Associated Press that “[o]ne of the strengths of Oklahomans is their willingness to help people,” in reference to a bill to legalize medical cannabis in the state, which passed on Tuesday.

“If this ballot measure can help Oklahomans, it is likely to pass.”

Cornett’s Republican competitor, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, was decidedly opposed to the legalization initiative, arguing that it was “poorly written and will create a host of societal problems.”

South Carolina

Republican winner: Henry McMaster, incumbent governor

Last year, McMaster, who won a runoff election on Tuesday night, said flatly that he believed it was “a bad idea to legalize marijuana” and that he doesn’t “think it’s healthy.”

It was unclear whether the governor was describing his stance on full, adult-use legalizationor if he considered medical cannabis reform an exception, however.

South Carolina Rep. James Smith (D), who became the Democratic gubernatorial primary nominee earlier this month, said he supported medical cannabis and co-sponsored a piece of legislation to legalize a medical program.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Voters In Two States Nominate Marijuana Legalization Supporters for Governor

Oklahoma Senator Claims Medical Marijuana Is Just For “Getting High”

Oklahoma Senator Claims Medical Marijuana Is Just For “Getting High”

A U.S. senator from a state where polls indicate his constituents will legalize medical marijuana this month is calling cannabis’s therapeutic value into question.

“Marijuana is not used for anyone on chronic pain other than just getting high and to escape from the pain,” Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said in a Friday interview.

“Marijuana’s not used for pain. It’s used for the high and it’s used for other purposes.”

Oklahoma voters will see a measure to make medical cannabis legal on this month’s June 26 primary ballot. A survey last month found that likely voters favor the initiative by a margin of 58 percent to 30 percent.

But Lankford isn’t on board. And recently he has become one of the only members of the U.S. Senate to consistently voice opposition to marijuana law reform.

Last week, for example, he tried to strip language from a Justice Department bill that protects state medical cannabis laws from federal interference.

But sensing that he did not have enough votes to pass his amendment, he withdrew it before asking colleagues to do on the record with yeas and nays.

Senators Approve Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans

At a separate hearing earlier last week, Lankford called marijuana a “gateway drug to opioid abuse.”

In the new interview with KOCO-TV, the anti-cannabis senator questioned whether the Oklahoma ballot measure is truly medically focused.

“It’s not just allowing people to smoke it for medicinal purposes,” he said. “They can have any purpose. They can say, ‘I have a headache.’ They can say, ‘my left toe hurts every other Thursday.’ They can go to a veterinarian, a doctor a chiropractor, any number of medical people of any type. A dentist, whatever it may be, and they can write a script.”

“We have all kinds of issues in Oklahoma right now. We have all kinds of struggles. I don’t see how any of them get better if more parents and more grandparents are smoking more marijuana.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dKJWpDSwjg

Lankford also recently appeared in the TV ad opposing the medical marijuana measure.

An opposition group, SQ 788 Is Not Medical, announced last week that it has raised nearly half a million dollars to support an advertising campaign against the measure.

Meanwhile, the state Republican Party in neighboring Texas endorsed marijuana decriminalization, expanding medical cannabis, legalizing industrial hemp and federally reclassifying marijuana at its convention this past weekend.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Oklahoma Senator Claims Medical Marijuana Is Just For “Getting High”

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Advocates Confident About This Month’s Ballot Vote

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Advocates Confident About This Month’s Ballot Vote

The fight to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma is shaping up, and reform advocates are confident that the state’s primary election on June 26 will turn out in their favor.

If approved, SQ 788 would provide access to medical cannabis for adults 18 and older. Licensed patients would be able to possess up to three ounces of cannabis on their person, keep eight ounces in their homes and grow up to six plants. It’s a statutory measure, which means the state legislature would be able to amend the law with a simple majority vote in the future.

But part of what’s unique about this battle to legalize medical marijuana in the traditionally red state is the apparently limited campaign funding on the part of opponents. According to financial disclosure statements published on the Oklahoma Ethics Commission website, there are at least four registered political action committees weighing in on the issue: two opposed to legalization and two in favor of reform.

The main opposition group, Oklahomans Against 788, received just over $1,000 in monetary and in-kind contributions during the first quarter of 2018. By contrast, the main pro-legalization group, Vote Yes On 788, earned over $30,000 during the same period. (Vote Yes On 788 also recently received a $100,000 contribution, the chair of the group told Marijuana Moment).

August Rivera, co-chair of Oklahomans Against 788, told Marijuana Moment that his organization was a “grassroots group,” which speaks “directly to the voters of Oklahoma through forums, town halls, etc.” Pressed about the reported financial disparity between Oklahoma groups that support and oppose legalization, Rivera said there was another super PAC, which he did not name, that has “the resources to counter the pro side.”

The politics behind Oklahoma’s legalization initiative

Oklahoma native and founder of the Colorado-based group American Medical Refugees (AMR) Amy Dawn Bourlon-Hilterbran told Marijuana Moment that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s (R) decision to put the measure before voters during a primary election—when turnout by young people, Democrats and other demographics that are more likely to support marijuana reform has been historically low compared to general elections—was a deliberate attempt to undermine the chances of the measure’s passage.

Frank Grove, chair of Vote Yes on 788 and president of the Drug Policy Reform Network of Oklahoma, told Marijuana Moment that, to an extent, he agreed. But from his perspective, the governor’s decision to prevent a November on legalization was also due to concerns about the overall electoral impact of increased Democratic turnout if marijuana was placed on the state ballot during the critical mid-term election.

According to Ballotpedia, “[a] governor had not selected a date different from the general election for an initiative since 2005.”

Where does support for marijuana reform stand in Oklahoma?

Polling has consistently placed support for medical marijuana legalization among Oklahoma voters around 60 percent. A SoonerPoll released last week, for example, found that 58 percent of voters favored legalization, compared to 30 percent of voters who opposed the initiative.

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The pro-legalization advocacy group NORML supports the initiative. Grove also said that Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) has cooperated with Vote Yes on 788 to get the initiative before voters.

Matthew Schweich, MPP executive director, told Marijuana Moment in an email that the group is “using its email list and social networks to mobilize our supporters and encourage Oklahomans to approve the initiative.” While most of the group’s monetary resources are currently going toward supporting cannabis initiatives on November ballots in Michigan and Utah, “we do support [Oklahoma’s SQ 788] effort and will do everything we can to help it pass this month,” he said.

Opponents of the legalization initiative include the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association and the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association, NewsOK reported.

On Thursday, U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) also threw his hat in the ring, joining a coalition of state faith leaders in opposition to the initiative. Here’s what Lankford said in a press release:

“This state question is being sold to Oklahomans as a compassionate medical marijuana bill by outside groups that actually want access to recreational marijuana. Most of us have seen first-hand the damage done to families and our communities from recreational marijuana use.”

Rivera, of Oklahomans Against 788, dismissed polling that showed majority support for the state’s medical marijuana legalization initiative in an email.

“Polls said Hillary Clinton was going to win. That is my answer to that.”

He went on to say that his group stood by its opposition out of concern over the impact of “drug abuse” on “children and their families.” He and his co-chair “care about the people of Oklahoma and believe that SQ 788 is written poorly and that could lead to harm,” Rivera said.

For many advocates, however, legalization in Oklahoma has been a long time coming.

“Oklahoma, as a state, would see its first win for its people in a long time,” Grove told Marijuana Moment, commenting on the prospect of 788’s passage. “We have unfortunately been at the bottom of a lot of lists in the United States—and just to be 30th or 31st [to legalize marijuana] would be a big win.”

“Not only that, but just the industry it’ll bring to Oklahoma, the health improvements for people in this state—we have a fairly unhealthy population—so there’s a lot of advantages obviously of the passage of 788. But from my perspective, I think the biggest one is that it will inspire people [nationwide].”

Several other states have marijuana measures on their November general election ballots this year.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Advocates Confident About This Month’s Ballot Vote

These 4 States Need To Reform Cannabis Laws Immediately

These 4 States Need To Reform Cannabis Laws Immediately

Thanks to the progressive steps taken by over half of the states in the US, cannabis is legal for medicinal or recreational use. However, a few states lag behind and individuals caught with cannabis face fines and prison sentences that highlight the divide between what’s legal and what’s not. Whether you live in one of the states with harsh cannabis laws or plan on visiting, think twice; you don’t want to get caught with cannabis in these 4 states.

 

WISCONSIN

With its neighbor states having all adopted some form of cannabis friendly policies, the cheese stands alone. In Wisconsin, there are no laws protecting individuals who use cannabis for medicinal purposes and certainly not for recreational use. If caught with cannabis, unless it’s a first offense (which is a misdemeanor and $1,000 fine), be aware that you’ll be charged with a felony, not to mention a hefty fine of anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000. While a bill to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use is on its third draft by Representative Melissa Sargent, it’s hard to say whether or not the third time will be a charm.

Paying the harsh price in Wisconsin is Rodney Hudson. An unfortunate victim of the racial disparity that impacts African-Americans (they are 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana crimes than others), Rodney is a convicted felon because he has more than one charge for possession of cannabis. He may be fortunate that he’s not behind bars, but bearing a record with a felony cuts deeply into his quality of life. There is no financial aid available to convicted felons who want to further their educations, their drivers licenses are suspended for six months (a significant hindrance in finding work), and they will have a harder time finding employment. What’s worse is that while more states are legalizing cannabis use, arrests for cannabis related crimes in Wisconsin continue to rise.

TENNESSEE

No ifs, ands, or buts about it…don’t get caught with cannabis in Tennessee. While the first couple of minor offenses warrant a misdemeanor charge, minimal fines of up to $500 and the possibility of one year behind bars, punishments increase depending on the charge. For amounts above one half ounce, felony charges apply with an exorbitant fine of up to $500,000 and depending on the charge, up to 60 years in prison.

Nashville and Memphis decriminalized cannabis over a year ago, giving police the ability to hand out citations as they saw fit. Unfortunately, the Tennessee House of Representatives recently passed a bill to nullify the laws that decriminalized it. This seems a regressive move, considering that both Nashville and Memphis are tourist hot spots.

OKLAHOMA

Another state that’s unfriendly towards cannabis is Oklahoma. Individuals with more than a couple of minor offenses will face felony charges, exorbitant fines up to $500,000 and a possible life sentence in prison. While the governor there recently modified laws to allow CBD oil, no changes were made to allow the medicinal or recreational use of cannabis.

Having faced the unpleasant tune of life without parole, William Dufries was charged with transporting over sixty pounds of marijuana in Oklahoma in 2003. For a non-violent offense, the life without parole price tag is a hefty price to pay when violent offenders face less time behind bars. Dufries is not the only one; however, after his appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case, he has some hope for freedom. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has commuted his sentence, among a few others, to life in prison, providing the possibility of parole. Still, it will be a long and hard fight for Dufries and others charged with non-violent drug crimes who sit in prison and wait.

ALABAMA

Unlike the song, Alabama isn’t so sweet when home is life behind bars because of cannabis related drug charges. Fines top out at $200,000 and for habitual offenders, even non-violent offenders, life in prison is a stark possibility.

Consider the cases of Richard Bolden and Carroll Brooker. Both non-violent offenders are serving life sentences in prison because they were busted with marijuana. Bolden, a father in his 40’s, and Brooker, in his 70’s, sit and wait. Neither feels their sentence is fair, especially considering how cannabis laws are changing all over the country. While they sit in prison until they die, others around the nation are free to use, transport, and sell cannabis without fear of such life-altering consequences.

For those living in states with relaxed cannabis laws, it’s hard to imaging paying such a heavy price as those who live in these 4 states do. While the wind of change is blowing, it’s hard to say how soon its message will reach the ears of those who pull the strings. With any luck, the progress that rest of the nation is making in regards to marijuana laws will rub off on them.

 

 

Oklahoma to Vote on Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma to Vote on Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma’s medical cannabis efforts have reached a major milestone after a thwarted attempt that had advocates starting from scratch.

State Question 788 will appear on Oklahoma’s 2018 ballot. If it should pass, patients will be allowed to possess medical cannabis legally once they receive a state-issued ID. The Oklahoma Secretary of State certified the language of the ballot last week.

The push for legalized medical cannabis was led by Oklahomans For Health, which gathered the signatures needed to make State Question 788 a reality. However, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt rewrote the question last fall, which significantly changed the details of the question. “Whether it’s the folks that signed this initiative petition or all of the voters who will ultimately have the chance to weigh in on whether or not Oklahoma will have medical marijuana, they should be able to do that without the attorney general injecting his personal political position into the ballot campaign by misrepresenting what the petitioners seek to accomplish,” said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma.

oklahoma-vote-medical-marijuana

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has twice rejected revised language to the question. After Scott Pruitt joined the Trump Administration to run the Environmental Protection Agency, his successor Mike Hunter was disappointed by the court’s decision. “The ballot title was reviewed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Court opted to substitute the original ballot title language,” said Hunter. “We disagree with that result, but respect the decision of the state’s highest court.”

What would legal medical marijuana look like in Oklahoma?

If State Question 788 passes, a state board would be established to license all aspects of a medical cannabis program, including cultivation, sales, and patient registration. Compared to other states with strictly-controlled programs, State Question 788 includes no qualifying conditions, and only requires the recommendation of a physician in order for patients to legally acquire medical cannabis. It also includes a brief but notable mandate that “no physician may be unduly stigmatized or harassed for signing a medical marijuana license application.”

oklahoma-vote-medical-marijuana

788 would also decriminalize the possession of 1.5 ounces of cannabis or less for “persons who can state a medical condition, but not in possession of a state issued medical marijuana license…” The penalty would be limited to a $400 fine and a misdemeanor charge.

Unlike state medical marijuana programs that limit the amount of growers, 788 would set forth a specific criteria for commercial growers. As long as they meet the criteria, which includes residency requirements, they will be awarded a license and are able to grow cannabis without any limit on the number of plants.

Should this measure pass as written, it would be one of the most accessible medical marijuana programs among conservative states. In the 2016 election, 65.3 percent of voters picked Donald Trump, and local elections were comprised of Republican victories. Historically, cannabis legalization has been driven by liberal activists. But support for legalizing cannabis has skyrocketed over the last two decades, having gone from roughly 30 percent in favor in 2000 to 60 percent in favor as of 2016. This change has not phased GOP leaders nor members of the Trump Administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been clear on his position regarding cannabis, and recently indicated in an op-ed piece that he plans to reignite the failed “war on drugs.”

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