For the first time in awhile, the fight to legalize marijuana in the United States comes with all positive news. Ballot measures in Arkansas and Massachusetts were cleared for the November ballot, while a proposal in North Dakota seems well on its way. Other highlights include the passing of a decriminalization measure in Pennsylvania’s capital and the likelihood that Denver voters will get to decide on at least one social use initiative this fall.
Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession
The Harrisburg City Council voted last week in favor of a measure that would eliminate the criminal penalties for minor pot possession. The ordinance, which took city officials several months to hash out, would make the offense punishable with a $75 fine — $150 if the offender is caught using the herb in public. However, three time offenders can still be charged with a misdemeanor under Mayor Papenfuse’s “three-strike” rule. Sadly, the measure still gives local police the option to charge people under state law – making even a first time offense a misdemeanor.
Colorado: Two Public Pot Consumption Initiatives Could Hit Ballot
It appears Denver voters could have the option over which social marijuana use initiative to support this November. One proposal, which is supported by the Denver chapter of NORML, would allow private cannabis clubs to be established throughout the city for recreational pot consumption, while the other, an undertaking overseen, in part, by the Marijuana Policy Project, would give any restaurant or bar the option of setting up a special section for marijuana users. Neither group is backing down from the mission to get on the ballot this fall. If both measures are approved, it will be entirely up to the voting community to determine which plan becomes a part of the city’s cannabis trade.
Massachusetts: Recreational Marijuana Initiative Can Appear on Ballot
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts handed down a verdict last week, giving a recreational ballot measure clearance to go before voters this November. However, before this can happen, the court ordered the ballot title be changed from “Marijuana Legalization,” to “Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana” as well as a few other changes. The new ballot language is as follows:
“A YES VOTE would allow persons 21 and older to possess, use, and transfer marijuana and products containing marijuana concentrate (including edible products) and to cultivate marijuana, all in limited amounts, and would provide for the regulation and taxation of commercial sale of marijuana and marijuana products.”
Last Friday, a group comprised of Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo announced the launch of a campaign against the initiative.
Arkansas: Medical Marijuana Initiative to Appear on Ballot
Voters in Arkansas will get the opportunity this November to decide whether the state should legalize medical marijuana for the severely sick and terminally ill. Last week, the Secretary of State’s office announced that a proposed ballot measure brought forth by Arkansans for Compassionate Care qualified enough signatures to go before the voting community in the upcoming election. However, organizers are worried that a competing initiative could sabotage the possibility of medical marijuana being legalized altogether. The group is calling for Little Rock attorney David Couch to suspend his campaign and form a unified front to put a single proposal in front of the voters this November. The question of medical marijuana failed in 2012.
North Dakota: Group Will Submit Petition to Put Medical Marijuana on Ballot
Voters in North Dakota could see the issue of medical marijuana on the ballot this November. The group behind the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act is expected to submit around 15,500 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office ahead of the deadline (today). A total of 13,452 signatures must be certified in order for the group to earn a spot on the ballot. An additional marijuana-related proposal will also likely be submitted on Monday for ballot consideration.