I am pleased to announce that today is the 17th anniversary of the founding of the Marijuana Policy Project!
When MPP was founded in January 1995, medical marijuana was illegal in every state, and favorable legislation had not been introduced in Congress in a decade. Since then, the federal penalties for marijuana cultivation have been changed to provide for the early release of hundreds of prisoners; positive medical marijuana bills have been introduced in six consecutive Congresses, with the U.S. House even debating and voting on our legislation in the summers of 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007; the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine declared that marijuana has medical value; medical marijuana is now legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia; and much more.
MPP’s major accomplishments include:
May 2011 – The Delaware Legislature passes and Gov. Markell signs SB 17, which will allow qualified registered patients to obtain three ounces of marijuana every 14 days from state-regulated compassion centers. Initially, one center will be allowed in each of Delaware’s three counties. MPP led the two-year grassroots and lobbying efforts to pass the bill, which is based on MPP’s model bill.
May 2011 – The Vermont Legislature approves S. 17, which will add four non-profit dispensaries to existing law. MPP played an instrumental role in passing this legislation, including by funding a two-year lobbying effort and helping elect a governor who supports sensible marijuana policies.
April and May 2011 – The Maryland General Assembly approves and Gov. O’Malley signs an affirmative defense bill, removing criminal penalties from qualifying patients who possess up to an ounce of marijuana and establishing a work group to study a more comprehensive law. The bill improves upon a sentencing mitigation bill the legislature enacted in 2003, following four years of lobbying by MPP. MPP also played a leading role in the 2011 victory, including in-person lobbying, working with patients, and testifying before legislative committees.
November 2010 – The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, a ballot initiative campaign backed by MPP, successfully passed a ballot initiative making the use and possession of medical marijuana legal and establishing approximately 120 non-profit dispensaries around the state. This made Arizona the 15th state (plus the District of Columbia) to adopt a medical marijuana law.
June 2010 – The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, a ballot initiative campaign backed by MPP, successfully completed a signature drive to place a medical marijuana initiative on the November 2010 ballot. The proposed law would make the use and possession of medical marijuana legal and would establish approximately 120 non-profit dispensaries around the state.
December 2009 – MPP successfully lobbies for the removal of the so-called “Barr Amendment” from the DC appropriations bill. MPP led the fight to end Congressional interference which, for over 10 years, blocked the District of Columbia from implementing a medical marijuana initiative which passed with nearly 70% of the vote. MPP even retained the amendment’s namesake, former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, to lobby for the amendments removal after he reversed his position in 2007. Following the removal of the amendment, MPP successfully lobbied the District Council to improve the language they were considering to implement the initiative and lobbied the executive branch for reasonable regulations. The regulations’ effective date is April 15, 2011.
November 2009 – The American Medical Association rescinded its previous support of classifying marijuana alongside LSD, PCP, and heroin under federal law. This was the result of nearly three years of behind-the-scenes work, whereby MPP worked with key advocates to persuade lower-level medical associations to bring the issue to the full AMA.
October 2009 – Following a vigorous campaign from MPP that started during the presidential primaries, the Obama administration announced it would stop raiding medical marijuana patients and providers who are in compliance with state law.
June 2009 – The Rhode Island Legislature overwhelmingly overrode the governor’s veto of MPP’s bill to create “compassion centers” to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients – making Rhode Island only the second state (after New Mexico) to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensing. Rhode Island is also the first state to expand an existing medical marijuana law to establish dispensaries.
November 2008 – MPP’s ballot initiative to remove the threat of arrest and jail for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana passed overwhelmingly in Massachusetts. The successful initiative – the first statewide decriminalization initiative ever – replaced the threat of arrest and jail with a $100 fine.
November 2008 – Michigan passed MPP’s ballot initiative to permit terminally and seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with their doctors’ approval, making Michigan the 13th medical marijuana state and the first in the Midwest.
January 2008 – In the months leading up to the New Hampshire Democratic primary election, MPP helped persuade all of the Democratic presidential candidates and two of the Republican candidates to pledge to end the arrest of patients in states with medical marijuana laws.
November 2007 – The MPP grants program funded a successful initiative to make marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority in Denver, Colorado.
July 2007 – Following an intensive MPP lobbying campaign, MPP helped to garner 165 votes in the U.S. House of Representatives to stop arresting medical marijuana patients – an all-time record of support for medical marijuana access.
November 2006 – MPP’s high-profile ballot initiative to tax and regulate marijuana in Nevada received 44% of the vote, tying with Alaska for the all-time largest vote ever to end marijuana prohibition in a state.
November 2006 – The MPP grants program funded successful initiatives to make marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority in three California cities (Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Monica) and in Missoula County, Montana.
January 2006 – The Rhode Island Legislature overwhelmingly overrode the governor’s veto of MPP’s bill to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest – making Rhode Island the 11th state where medical marijuana use, possession, and cultivation is legal. This was the first state medical marijuana law to be enacted over the veto of a governor.
November 2005 – The MPP grants program funded a successful initiative to make the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal under city ordinances in Denver, Colorado.
November 2004 – MPP funded and ran the campaign that succeeded in passing a statewide medical marijuana initiative in Montana with 62% of the vote – the highest margin of victory for any of the medical marijuana initiatives that have passed in eight states since 1996. MPP also provided the majority of funding for an initiative to regulate marijuana in Alaska, which failed with 44% of the vote (but still set the record for the largest vote to end marijuana prohibition in any state).
November 2004 – The MPP grants program funded 13 of the 16 local marijuana-related initiatives that passed in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Missouri.
November 2004 – U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), with the assistance of MPP, drafted and introduced the first-ever medical marijuana bill in the U.S. Senate.
September 2004 – The Alaska Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling (issued one year before) that permits adults aged 21 and older to use and possess up to four ounces of marijuana in the privacy of the home – maintaining Alaska as the only state where the non-medical use of marijuana is legal in any context. The MPP grants program funded this litigation.
May 2004 – At the conclusion of MPP’s intensive, three-year lobbying campaign, Vermont became the ninth state to enact a medical marijuana law – and only the second state to do so through its legislature, rather than through a ballot initiative.
April 2004 – MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia testified before the U.S. House subcommittee on drug policy, attacking the federal government’s medical marijuana policies, as well as subcommittee Chairman Mark Souder (R-Ind.) – one of the House’s most vehement opponents of medical marijuana. Kampia was the only anti-prohibitionist to testify at the hearing.
January 2004 – In the months leading up to the New Hampshire Democratic primary election, MPP helped persuade a majority of the Democratic presidential candidates, including John Kerry, to pledge to end the arrest of patients in states with medical marijuana laws.
December 2003 – MPP funded, through its grants program, litigation that led to a precedent-setting decision by the largest federal appeals court in the country, which ruled that federal laws against marijuana do not apply to sick people who use medical marijuana with the approval of their physicians in states where medical marijuana is legal. This decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2005.
July 2003 – Fully 152 members of Congress voted for the “Hinchey Amendment” to the spending bill for the U.S. Justice Department. The legislation, co-written by MPP, would have prevented the DEA from spending any money to raid or arrest medical marijuana patients and caregivers in states that have medical marijuana laws.
May 2003 – Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) became the first Republican governor to sign medical marijuana legislation. MPP lobbied the Maryland Legislature for four years to pass the bill, which now protects medical marijuana patients from imprisonment.
April 2003 – MPP worked with members of the U.S. House of Representatives to write and introduce the “Truth in Trials Act” in response to the federal trial and conviction of medical marijuana provider Ed Rosenthal, who was not allowed to introduce evidence at trial that he acted in compliance with California state law.
November 2002 – Despite being defeated by Nevada voters by a 61% to 39% margin, MPP’s high-profile ballot initiative to remove criminal penalties for adult possession of marijuana generated more public support, dues-paying members, and positive news coverage than any other project in MPP’s history. The coverage of the campaign culminated in a front-page story in the November 4 issue of Time magazine.
March 2001 – MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia testified before the U.S. House subcommittee on drug policy, arguing that a medical marijuana case before the U.S. Supreme Court was limited in scope and did not affect the ability of states to determine their own medical marijuana laws. Hostile subcommittee members argued with Kampia, and one called him “an articulate advocate for an evil position.”
June 2000 – Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano (D) signed MPP’s medical marijuana legislation into law, making Hawaii the first state to pass a medical marijuana law through its legislature, rather than through a ballot initiative.
April 2000 – President Bill Clinton (D) signed into law an asset forfeiture reform bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.). MPP generated grassroots lobbying pressure in support of the legislation, which makes it more difficult for the government to seize the property of marijuana users, as well as alleged and suspected marijuana users.
March 1999 – The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued its landmark medical marijuana report, finding that “there are some limited circumstances in which we would recommend smoking marijuana for medical uses.” In early 1998, MPP coordinated the testimony of dozens of medical marijuana patients and researchers at IOM’s hearings.
November 1998 – MPP worked with local AIDS activists to pass a medical marijuana initiative that the activists had placed on the local ballot in Washington, D.C. Though Congress blocked the city from counting the votes for 10 months, a lawsuit brought by the ACLU revealed that 69% of city voters approved the initiative. Unfortunately, Congress continues to prevent the law from taking effect.
December 1997 – The American Medical Association’s House of Delegates voted to adopt a report that (1) recognized the existence of scientific research showing marijuana’s medical value, (2) recommended that doctors and patients should not be punished for discussing marijuana as a treatment option, and (3) urged the federal government to expedite medical marijuana research. MPP worked for months to persuade the AMA to adopt these improvements to a policy that had been fairly hostile to medical marijuana.
April 1995 – The U.S. Sentencing Commission voiced its unanimous approval of an amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines, which established shorter sentences for people convicted of cultivating marijuana. MPP was helpful in persuading the commission to vote 7-0 in favor of the penalty reduction, which took effect on November 1, 1995. A subsequent 7-0 vote on September 6 made the change retroactive, resulting in the early release of an estimated 950 federal marijuana prisoners.
These accomplishments and other MPP projects have been featured on the cover of Time magazine; in articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, the Associated Press, and Reuters; and in appearances on The O’Reilly Factor,Crossfire, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and CNN Headline News.