Polls Funded By Marijuana Prohibitionist Group Show Big Support For Legalization Policies It Lobbies Against – Marijuana Moment

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A set of new national and state surveys funded by the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) found that a large majority of Americans think cannabis should be legal for either medical or recreational purposes.
That’s not how SAM is presenting the findings of the Emerson College polls, though. The group is attempting to argue that when people are presented with several marijuana reform options that only a minority support full adult-use legalization.
The survey found that, of the four separate options included, support for recreational legalization was highest, with 38 percent of U.S. voters backing it. That was followed by support for medical cannabis legalization (30 percent), decriminalization (19 percent) and prohibition (14 percent).
In other words, about 68 percent of Americans favor some form of legal, regulated marijuana—the types of systems that SAM regularly works to oppose when proposals go before lawmakers during legislative sessions or voters at the ballot box.
But the group is really leaning into the fact that recreational cannabis on its own only got a plurality of support. In one chart, they contrasted adult-use responses with all three other options to make it look like people prefer “Other Non-Legalization Marijuana Policies.”
Via SAM.
They included responses for prohibition, decriminalization and medical marijuana in that category, despite the fact that medical cannabis is a form of legalization that’s in effect in most states, and it was among the most popular options.
Via SAM.
“Big Pot, which is rapidly being taken over by the giants of Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol, and even Big Pharma, wants lawmakers to believe it enjoys widespread support among voters,” SAM President Kevin Sabet argued in a press release. “It pushes this false narrative with the public and uses decision-makers to expand its addiction-for-profit business model.”
The “false narrative” is also supported by numerous other polls, including from reputable sources like Gallup and Pew Research Center that ostensibly are not bought out by the tobacco and alcohol lobby. Most Americans have been saying in no uncertain terms for years now that cannabis should be legal.
This latest survey involved interviews with 1,000 Americans from January 7-9. SAM also commissioned surveys to specifically look at cannabis attitudes in Maryland and New Hampshire, where lawmakers and advocates are actively working to advance legalization this year.
BIG: New Emerson College polls find 62% of voters nationally, 55% in Maryland, and 53% in New Hampshire oppose recreational marijuana legalization when presented with other, non-legalization policy options (keep illegal, decriminalization, or medical legalization).
— SAM (@learnaboutsam) January 12, 2022

For Maryland, SAM again argued that its data shows majority opposition to recreational legalization. But again, what the survey found was that the most popular of the four options was adult-use legalization (45 percent), followed by medical cannabis legalization (27 percent), decriminalization (13 percent) and prohibition (16 percent).
Seventy-two percent of respondents said they prefer some form of legalization.
Yet in another misleading chart, here’s how SAM portrayed the findings: 
Via SAM.
The spin on the results could be put to the test if the Maryland legislature approves a recent bill from Del. Luke Clippinger (D) to put legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot.
“Maryland lawmakers have routinely batted down Big Pot’s attempts to expand its addiction-for-profit model and this poll finds Maryland voters overwhelmingly support their continued resistance to implement a taxed commercial market,” Sabet said.
For its New Hampshire survey, there’s the same theme. Support for recreational was highest (47 percent), then medical (21 percent), then prohibition (18 percent) and then decriminalization (13 percent).
The SAM statement on the New Hampshire poll is a copy-and-paste of the Maryland statement, just swapping out the state names.
“New Hampshire lawmakers have routinely batted down Big Pot’s attempts to expand its addiction-for-profit model and this poll finds New Hampshire voters overwhelmingly support their continued resistance to implement a taxed commercial market,” Sabet said.
In that state, the GOP-controlled House approved a bill last week to legalize marijuana possession and personal cultivation for adults. It’s one of several legalization proposals that have been filed in the legislature for 2022, including some that would put the issue of ending cannabis prohibition to voters on the November ballot.
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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment’s Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.
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“I think those 10 people deserve a chance to come home.”
By Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury
Nearly a year after Virginia lawmakers voted to legalize possession of marijuana, they remain divided on what—if anything—to do about people currently imprisoned on marijuana charges.
The committee of House and Senate lawmakers tasked with making recommendations for the legislative session that begins Wednesday concluded its work this week with a proposal to begin recreational sales in 2023—a year earlier than initially planned.
But like last year—when resentencing provisions were left out of the original bill—lawmakers said they ran out of time to reach an agreement on how to handle the issue, leaving the debate for the legislative session.
The Virginia Department of Corrections says 10 people are currently serving sentences in which the most serious offense was marijuana. In all of the cases, the people were convicted of transporting five or more pounds of marijuana into the state.
All 10 are expected to be released in the next six years, according to the department, which presented the data Monday to the assembly’s Cannabis Oversight Commission.
Another 560 people are serving sentences partially related to a marijuana offense but have also been found guilty of more serious offenses.
Democrats on the committee said they supported allowing the 560 people in the latter category to petition for a resentencing hearing to allow a judge to decide whether they were giving a longer sentence than they might have otherwise faced as a result of the marijuana charge.
But they disagreed on how to handle the 10 people serving time solely for marijuana convictions.
Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, called for legislation that would provide for their immediate release.
Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, said he planned to propose legislation that would also require those 10 people to petition for a resentencing hearing and for a judge to decide whether and how their sentences should be altered. Ebbin reasoned that it remains a felony to transport five or more pounds of marijuana into the state under the revised law.
Scott responded that, “I just visited a medical provider last week and there were thousands of pounds in there, so yeah I think those 10 people deserve a chance to come home.”
The three Republicans on the committee, meanwhile, have not taken a stance. Unlike last year, when Democrats began the process of legalizing the drug on a series of party-line votes, the GOP now occupies the Executive Mansion and holds a narrow majority in the House of Delegates.
And so far, Republicans have said little about how they plan to approach the issue beyond offering broad assurances that they won’t seek to repeal the legislation.
“I think whether or not you support marijuana or don’t’ support marijuana, the reality is we already have laws on the books,” said Del. Will Morefield, R-Tazewell. “So I think it’s only responsible Virginia fall under a very well regulated market.”
After the meeting Morefield said the House GOP caucus has not arrived at a consensus on how to deal with people in prison for marijuana-related convictions. Likewise, Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, said Senate Republicans are also still discussing the issue.
Legislation introduced by individual Republican lawmakers so far would gut social equity provisions championed by Democrats and give cities and counties more discretion to block marijuana sales at the local level.
Incoming Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has made limited remarks on the subject, telling Virginia Business in an interview last month that “When it comes to commercialization, I think there is a lot of work to be done. I’m not against it, but there’s a lot of work to be done.”
This story was first published by Virginia Mercury.
New Mississippi Medical Marijuana Bill Defies Governor On Purchase Limits, Setting Up Showdown

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Italian officials certified on Wednesday that activists collected enough signatures to place a marijuana legalization referendum on the country’s ballot this spring—though there’s still one more procedural step before the measure will officially be on its way to voters.
About three months after advocates turned in about 630,000 signatures for the measure—which would also legalize personal cultivation of other psychoactive plants and fungi like psilocybin mushrooms—the Supreme Court of Cassation informed the campaign that it had validated them.
Now that the signatures are confirmed, the referendum will go to the separate Constitutional Court, which will determine the legality of the proposal’s provisions. That opinion will be issued on February 15, and if deemed legal, the government will set a date for the vote.
“While we wait for the final ok…we’re starting to organize a national mobilization to inform all citizens that cannabis is better legal,” the campaign said in a Facebook post about Wednesday’s court announcement on the signatures.
The Constitutional Court will now look into whether the measure would conflict with the Constitution, the country’s fiscal system or international treaties to which Italy is a party. Advocates are confident that they limited the scope of the proposed reform enough to meet the legal standard.
If the courts allow the referendum to move forward, voters are expected to be given the chance to decide on the policy change sometime between April 15 and June 15.
The referendum is fairly unique compared to U.S. ballot initiatives that have been enacted. The Italian proposal would fully end the criminalization of growing of cannabis but it would maintain a current decriminalized fine on possessing and using it.
Under the proposal, drug processing would also remain criminalized. And that means things like hashish would continue to be prohibited because it takes a degree of manufacturing to create the product. There would also be no system of legal and regulated cannabis sales.
Activists initially faced a September 30 deadline to turn in signatures to make next year’s referendum, but complications related to the processing of signatures at the local level led to an extension being granted.
Part of the reason activists were able to gather so many signatures so quickly is a policy change that allowed them to collect signatures online instead of in person only.
“We believe that the fact that we were able to collect over 500,000 signatures online in a week will be taken into consideration as a strong request to change an unreasonable set of prohibitions from our books,” Marco Perduca, president of the referendum committee, told Marijuana Moment.
He added that the Court of Cassation signature validation “marks a historic event” in Italian history.
Should the referendum make the ballot, a simple majority vote will be required to have it enacted.
Separately, Italy’s House Justice Committee advanced a separate reform last year that would decriminalize small-scale home cultivation of marijuana for personal use.
Italy missed out on being the first European country to legalize cannabis after the smallest EU member, Malta, enacted the reform last month.
The new coalition government of Germany has also recently unveiled some initial details about its marijuana legalization plan, even if the reform is taking a back seat to efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
In Luxembourg, the ministers of justice and homeland security last year unveiled a legalization proposal, which will still require a vote in the Parliament but is expected to pass. For now, the country is focusing on legalization within a home setting. Parliament is expected to vote on the proposal in early 2022, and the ruling parties are friendly to the reform.
Polls Funded By Marijuana Prohibitionist Group Show Big Support For Legalization Policies It Lobbies Against

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A medical marijuana legalization bill cleared a Missouri Senate committee on Wednesday, just a day after it was introduced. If the long-awaited legislation becomes law this session, a medical cannabis program could be up and running in the state by later this year.
The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee approved the measure by a voice vote, and it is expected to be taken up on the floor as soon as Thursday.
Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R), the bill’s sponsor and a member of the committee, said that he tried to retain the spirit of a 2020 voter-passed initiative while making provisions more conservative to garner broad support in both chambers.
“There’s been a great deal of hours that have gone into this,” Blackwell said at Wednesday’s hearing, acknowledging that it’s “probably not a perfect bill.”
“We’ve tried to be conservative,” he added, pointing to track-and-trace rules and other restrictions that weren’t included in nearby Oklahoma’s medical marijuana law. “We tried to take…the intent of [Initiative] 65 and keep that within this framework.”
The bill’s route to passage remains precarious. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has already threatened to veto the measure over its proposed purchase limits, which he says are too high, and some other state officials remain wary. But supportive lawmakers have said they’re confident they’ll have the votes to override any veto and push the legislation through.
Medical marijuana remains a contentious topic in Mississippi despite voters there decisively approving a broad legalization initiative in November 2020. The state Supreme Court overturned the measure on procedural grounds last May—simultaneously doing away with the state’s entire initiative process—and lawmakers have spent the last several months navigating what comes next.

The new bill, SB 2095, draws heavily from provisions negotiated by lawmakers in the second half of last year, as legislative leaders prepared a bill for an anticipated special session that the governor never called. It would allow patients with about two dozen specific medical conditions to qualify for medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation, with further conditions able to be added later by regulators. State-issued registration cards would cost $25, though some patients could qualify for a lower price.
The proposed qualifying conditions include cancer, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, Alzheimer’s, sickle-cell anemia, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, neuropathy, spinal cord disease or severe injury as well as chronic medical conditions or treatments that produce severe nausea, cachexia or wasting, seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms or chronic pain.
Registered patients would be subject to purchase limits that would restrict them to no more than one “medical cannabis equivalency unit” per day, which the bill defines as 3.5 grams of cannabis flower, 1 gram of concentrate or up to 100 milligrams of THC in infused products. While those limits are significantly lower than in most states where cannabis is legal for medical patients, Reeves has said the program should allow only half those amounts.
Patients or caretakers would be forbidden from growing their own cannabis under the proposal. Products from state-licensed companies, meanwhile, would be limited to 30 percent THC for cannabis flower and 60 percent for concentrates.
Smoking and vaping cannabis would remain illegal in public and in motor vehicles, and patients would still be prohibited from driving while under the influence.

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Legalization advocates say the 445-page bill represents a middle ground between the more permissive plan approved by nearly three-quarters of state voters in 2020 and a far narrower approach preferred by the governor and some lawmakers.
Kevin Caldwell, Southeast legislative manager for Marijuana Policy Project, which published a summary of the bill on Wednesday, told Marijuana Moment that the measure represents a step forward from the status quo despite some weaknesses, such as a requirement that doctors take hours of extra educational courses about cannabis and a provision he says will encourage chronic pain patients to use opioids over medical cannabis.
“We commend Senator Blackwell for sponsoring this legislation that seeks to respect voters’ mandate,” he said in an email. “We are disappointed that SB 2095 includes onerous restrictions on physicians and that it drives pain patients to opiates, but we recognize the challenge of getting past a hostile legislature and governor.”
The legislation would task the Mississippi Department of Health to oversee the new industry, with help from the state Department of Revenue and the Department of Agriculture and Commerce. It would also establish a nine-member advisory committee to advise on issues such as patient access and industry safety.
Licensing of cannabis businesses other than dispensaries — including cultivators, processors, transporters, disposal entities, testing labs and research facilities — would begin 120 days after the bill’s passage, with the first licenses issued about a month after that. The dispensary licensing process would kick off 150 days after passage, with the first licenses coming a month later. That would mean the program could be up and running, at least in limited form, by the end of this year.
The bill as introduced would impose no numerical cap on licensed businesses. “We tried to keep this as open [and] free market as we could, so there’s no limitation,” Blackwell said at Wednesday’s hearing.
Cities, counties and other localities could impose zoning and other restrictions. Businesses may also have to get approval from local authorities to operate.
In general, local governments could not ban medical cannabis businesses outright or “make their operation impracticable,” the bill says, although a separate provision would allow local governments to opt out of the program altogether within 90 days of the bill’s passage. In such cases, citizens could then petition to put the question to a vote.
“We felt it appropriate that if a handful of folks decided to override the citizenry, the citizenry should have a chance to opt back in,” Blackwell said.
Sen. Barbara Blackmon (D) offered two amendments that the committee rejected on voice votes. One would have allowed cannabis cultivation to be done outdoors rather than merely in indoor facilities, as the current draft would allow. She pointed out that all the state’s other farmers in the state’s nearly $9 billion agricultural industry are allowed to grow crops outside.
Blackwell opposed the change. “Yes, we are a very agricultural state,” the sponsor said, “however for control purposes, this product is better grown indoors.”
Blackmon’s second amendment would’ve added an equity-focused provision expressing the state’s intent to advance the interests of historically underserved communities, including those “adversely affected by poverty and inequality.” Blackwell replied that under his bill, “everybody has an equal opportunity right now.”
Another amendment, from Sen. Chad McMahan (R), would have allowed local governments to exempt non-dispensary cannabis businesses from a restriction that would create a 1,000-foot buffer zone around schools, childcares and churches. Blackwell suggested McMahan submit the proposal as a separate bill, but McMahan let the amendment stand. Colleagues rejected it on a voice vote.
For much of last year, it appeared lawmakers were set to pass a medical marijuana bill during a special legislative session, but the governor ultimately decided against calling the special session after reaching an impasse with lawmakers. Lawmakers who supported legalization said at the time that responsibility for the failure rested with Reeves.
“We have worked long hours on this,” Rep. Lee Yancey (R), who has been working with Blackwell on the House side, said in October. “We are ready to have a special session. We have the votes to pass this. An overwhelming number in the House and Senate are ready to pass this, and we have a majority of people in Mississippi who voted for us to pass this.
“If there is any further delay, that will be squarely on the shoulders of the governor, rather than the Legislature.”
Later that month, Reeves dodged questions from patient advocates about why he’d failed to call the special session.
In late December, with this year’s regular session approaching, he said on social media that he had “repeatedly told the members of the Legislature that I am willing to sign a bill that is truly medical marijuana,” but stressed that there should be “reasonable restrictions.”
“There is one remaining point in question that is VERY important: how much marijuana any one individual can get in any given day,” he wrote, doing back-of-the-envelope math to argue that the system would lead to “1.2 billion legal joints.”
While Reeves said he would consider rejecting the bill over possession limits, Sen. Brice Wiggins (R), chairman of the Judiciary Committee Division A, said it wouldn’t surprise him if the legislature were to override the governor if he chooses to veto the bill.
“I would hate for Governor Reeves to have any veto overridden because, like I said, I’ve worked with him on many different things,” Wiggins said late last month. “But the reality is is that Initiative 65 passed with close to 70 percent of the vote. And the legislature spent all summer working on this and have listened to the people.”
Blackwell tried to make a point to the governor about purchase limits last week, when he brought hemp to Reeves’s office to give an idea of the amounts allowed under the bill. “I took samples to show him what an ounce actually looks like—what 3.5 grams actually looks like,” the senator said.
In an interview with the Mississippi Free Press, Blackwell described the meeting as cordial but acknowledged there was little willingness to compromise on key issues. “I thought it went well. [The governor] was receptive, appreciative of the meeting. Hopefully we moved the bar a little bit closer to an agreement,” Blackwell said. “He was non-committal, so they’re going to think about what we said and get back with us.”
A poll released in June found that a majority of Mississippi voters support legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use, with 63 percent saying they want the legislature to pass a bill that mirrors the ballot measure that was nullified by the Supreme Court.
“The patients who suffer daily have already had their will overturned by a technicality,” said Caldwell at Marijuana Policy Project. “If the legislature does not pass SB 2095, they are simply pushing patients to the illicit market.”
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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer


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