Pot politics
February 13, 2020

This week, 66,000 marijuana convictions in Los Angeles County — some dating back to 1961 — were dismissed.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced on Thursday that she filed a motion asking a Superior Court judge to erase 62,000 felony and 4,000 misdemeanor convictions, and the order was signed on Tuesday.

With this move, 22,000 people no longer have felonies on their record in California, while 15,000 now don't have a criminal record at all, the Los Angeles Times reports. This affects 53,000 people — 45 percent are Latino, 32 percent are black, and 20 percent are white. "What this does is correct that inequality of the past," Lacey told the Times. "It gives them a start, a new start."

In 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, which legalized possession and the purchase of up to an ounce of marijuana, plus lets people grow up to six plants for personal consumption. Catherine Garcia

January 4, 2017

Any adults in Washington, D.C., looking to get stoned on Inauguration Day should make their way to the west side of Dupont Circle by 8 a.m.

The D.C. Cannabis Coalition is pushing for federal legalization of pot, and the group plans on passing out free joints to the first 4,200 people they meet. Later, they will march to the National Mall, where 4 minutes and 20 seconds into Donald Trump's speech, they'll light up. "We are going to tell them that if they smoke on federal property, they are risking arrest," Adam Eidinger, founder of the group DCMJ, told WUSA-TV. "But, that's a form of civil disobedience. I think it's a good protest." DCMJ is a group of D.C. residents who helped push through Initiative 17, which makes it legal in the District to possess 2 ounces or less of marijuana, grow it, and give it away (selling pot is illegal).

Eidinger said the protest is not anti-Trump, nor is it an attempt to derail the inauguration, but his group is concerned about Trump's pick for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R), who "as recently as April said that they are going to enforce federal law on marijuana all over the country," Eidinger noted. While the goal is to change the law, Eidinger hopes the event also makes people glad they came to the inauguration. "If there are people from Texas, some Cowboys fan, who is walking down the street in a cowboy hat and a big fur coat and he walks up to our demonstration, I want him to feel welcome coming to D.C.," he said. Catherine Garcia

October 28, 2015

On Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared that he is in favor of removing marijuana from the list of illegal drugs deemed most dangerous by the federal government.

"Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use," Sanders said during a town hall at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. "That's wrong. That has got to change." Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is considered to have a high potential for abuse and not accepted for medical treatment. If marijuana is taken off the list, it wouldn't make pot legal across the country, but states would be able to regulate it the same way state and local laws govern alcohol and tobacco sales, The Washington Post reports. In states where marijuana is legal, users would also no longer run the risk of federal prosecution.

Sanders' fellow Democratic presidential candidates have different stances: Hillary Clinton has said she wants to see how legalization works in states like Colorado and Washington before enacting federal changes, and former governor of Maryland Martin O'Malley said he would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug. Last week, the Brookings Institute said that marijuana's scheduling status is "stifling medical research," and the American Medical Association has said the status needs to be "reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research." Catherine Garcia

September 1, 2015

In 1994, Jeff Mizanskey was convicted of attempting to buy several pounds of marijuana. It was his third conviction, after arrests in 1984 and 1991 for possessing more than 35 grams of marijuana, and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole as a "prior and persistent offender" under Missouri's three-strikes law. On Tuesday morning, after 21 years, Mizanskey will leave the Jefferson City Correctional Center a free man.

In 2014, the Missouri legislature repealed the three-strikes law, and Gov. Jay Nixon (D) commuted Mizanskey's sentence in May, making him eligible for parole. In early August, the parole board granted his release. Mizanskey's case was publicized by his family and a group called Show-Me Cannabis. In a Change.org petition that got 391,254 supporters, Jeff Mizanskey's son, Chris Mizanskey (pictured below, before his father's last conviction), said his father was "an easy fall guy" in the case.

"My dad was driving a friend to a deal that turned out to be a sting operation," he wrote. "All of the other convicted men involved were set free years ago, but my dad was given a virtual death sentence." Jeff Mittelhauser, a former prosecutor who helped convict Jeff Mizanskey, told KCTV5 he supports the clemency, but only "if he would stop misinterpreting his criminal history, and his involvement in the offense."

Either way, Mizanskey says he will probably never smoke pot again. "As long as it's illegal, either federally or state, I can't smoke it," Mizanskey told KCTV5. Before his mother died, he added to TV station KOMU, he promised that if he ever got out of prison "that I'd never do anything knowingly to break the law to get put back in." Peter Weber

May 19, 2015

Like many states, Texas is moving toward decriminalizing marijuana for medical use, specifically for epilepsy patients. So on Monday, the Texas State House overwhelmingly approved a bill that would legalize cannabis oil for use by the chronically ill.

There's just one problem: As Reason reports, the bill as it's currently written "requires doctors to 'prescribe' cannabis, which is forbidden by federal law, since the plant has not been approved as a medicine by the Food and Drug Administration." As it now stands, this law couldn't get the oil into any patients' hands.

To make the bill effective, Texas legislators would need to change its language to require that doctors "recommend" rather than "prescribe" the treatment. That's what other states have done, a move which was endorsed by the 9th Circuit Court. Bonnie Kristian

April 15, 2015

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Sacramento upheld the constitutionality of a 1970 federal law classifying marijuana as a dangerous drug on the same level as heroin, saying it is up to Congress to determine whether it should be reclassified.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller was the first judge in decades to examine marijuana's inclusion on the list, the Los Angeles Times reports. She held a five-day hearing on the matter last year, in response to a pretrial defense motion in a case pitting the federal government against alleged marijuana growers.

Mueller's decision cannot be appealed until the criminal case against the alleged growers is closed, but some pro-marijuana groups are just happy that the judge held the hearing at all. "We applaud Judge Mueller for having the courage to hear this issue and provide it the careful consideration it deserves,” Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told the Times. "While we are disappointed with this ruling, it changes little. We always felt this had to ultimately be decided by the 9th Circuit, and we have an unprecedented record for the court to consider." Catherine Garcia

April 15, 2015

If Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) makes it to the White House, he plans to disallow states from selling and profiting from legal marijuana, as he made very clear on "The Hugh Hewitt Show" on Tuesday.

While the firm stance on cannabis is nothing new from Christie, recent polling suggests it might be an out-of-date one. According to data from Pew Research Center, 53 percent of all Americans support legalization, and 54 percent think that the government should not interfere with states that have already legalized marijuana sales. It may be an unpopular opinion within the governor's own party too, as 63 percent of millennial Republicans are cool with legal pot.

Between this announcement and a past remark that a hypothetical President Christie would "probably not" treat states with legal marijuana very well, maybe he's forgetting that Colorado tends to be a pretty important state. Stephanie Talmadge

April 7, 2015

Presidential candidates looking for a popularity boost in swing states may want to consider an unconventional running mate: weed.

In Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, support for legalizing medical and recreational marijuana is far outpacing the support garnered by anyone running for president:

(Washington Post)

It's perhaps no coincidence that Sen. Rand Paul, who ranks as the most popular GOP candidate in two out of the three states, is also the Republican who has most vocally advocated decriminalization of recreational pot use and legalization of medical marijuana. Bonnie Kristian

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