High Times Legislative Roundup: Oct. 6

There is no denying that the November election has the potential to become a huge victory for the legalization of marijuana. Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia all stand to legalize weed for recreational purposes, while Florida could become the first southern medical marijuana state. The outcome of these voter initiatives will determine how pot proponents will push forward, not to mention give the cause ammunition to run a successful campaign in 2016.

Here is what your pot-friendly lawmakers were up to last week:

Ohio: Cincinnati to Erase Minor Pot Convictions

The Cincinnati City Council is working to pass an ordinance that would eliminate the criminal records of low-level pot offenders. Supporters of the measure believe that this will help thousands of resident find jobs as well as receive assistance for housing and education that is not offered to those with felonies on their record.

“Regardless of how you feel about marijuana, it is illegal in Ohio, but the people who have paid their debt to society should have an opportunity to get their records expunged,” Councilmember Charlie Winburn told FOX19 NOW.

If the measure is not approved, Winburn says he plans to file a lawsuit against the city.

Maryland: Pot Punishment Changed October 1

Maryland recent passed a measure to decriminalize minor pot possession in the state. On October 1, possession of anything less than 10 grams will be a civil infraction rather than a criminal offense — the lowest threshold in the United States for this type of legislation. However, the criminal penalties that go along with paraphernalia will remain unchanged.

“While it’s a civil offense to have marijuana, it’s a criminal offense to put it in a pipe. We need to make a move afoot to make these laws more sensible,” said Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger.

Anyone busted with less than 10 grams will receive a fine of $100 for a first offense, with penalties increasing for subsequent offenses.

Mississippi:  Petition Filed to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Mississippi for Cannabis has filed a petition aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. The group filed the paperwork for the initiative last Monday with the Secretary of State, and they are now waiting for final approval.

“Now we are waiting for official approval from the Mississippi Secretary of State, and the Attorney General which will include a ballot initiative number and the official format for the collection of signatures,” said Kelly Jacobs. “The Mississippi Legislature also has the option to adopt our ballot initiative, but that is unlikely.”

Once the initiative is given the green light, organizers will need to collect around 110,000 signatures over the course of the next year to earn a spot on the November 2016 ballot.

Texas: Houston Decriminalizes Pot Possession…Sort Of

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced last week that beginning October 6, the city would no longer pursue criminal charges against first time offenders caught in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. Instead, these people will be given the option of fulfilling eight hours of community service or attending drug awareness classes.

“We are targeting the people we believe are self-correcting and will be ‘scared straight’ by being handcuffed and transported. Our goal is to keep these individuals from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system,” Anderson said in a statement.

Both the Harris County Sheriff’s Department and the Houston police are in support of the pilot “decriminalization” program.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Officially Decriminalizes Marijuana

Residents of Philadelphia will be able to officially walk around with marijuana without fear of a police shakedown. Last week, Mayor Michael Nutter put his stamp of approval on an ordinance decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana — the offense now comes with a $25 fine for possession of more than 30 grams and $100 for offenders caught smoking in public. The new law becomes effective on October 20.

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