Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried's lawsuit targets a federal requirement that prohibits medical marijuana users from purchasing firearms.
Florida’s lone statewide elected Democrat, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, plans to sue the Biden administration Wednesday to try to block a federal rule that prohibits medical marijuana users from buying guns or maintaining concealed-carry permits.
The lawsuit targets a federal form that asks whether the gun buyer is an unlawful user of drugs and specifies that marijuana is illegal under federal law. A person allowed by the state to use marijuana must then check “yes,” which results in denial of the purchase. Lying by checking “no” runs the risk of a five-year prison sentence for making a false statement.
Fried, whose office oversees concealed weapons permits and regulates some aspects of medical marijuana, argues in her lawsuit that the form violates the Second Amendment rights of lawful medical marijuana patients and runs afoul of a congressional budget prohibition on federal agents’ interfering with state-sanctioned cannabis laws.
The suit has ramifications beyond Florida: At least 37 states have legalized medical marijuana, and recreational use is legal in 18 states, as well as Guam and Washington, D.C.
The lawsuit is timed to land on April 20 — a nod to the slang reference of "420" for marijuana.
The suit is laden with political opportunity for Fried, who became the only Democrat elected statewide in 2018 when she ran on an unabashedly pro-cannabis platform. Two years before, 71 percent of Florida voters legalized medical marijuana, and polls show a majority favor legalization of recreational use.
Florida also has 2.5 million concealed weapons permit holders, according to Fried’s office.
“Medical marijuana is legal. Guns are legal. This is all about people’s rights,” Fried said in a statement to NBC News. “And I don’t care who I have to sue to fight for their freedom.”
In her official capacity as agriculture commissioner, Fried is bringing the suit with three citizens who have been affected by the federal rules. It names the acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Attorney General Merrick Garland as defendants.
While it’s rare for a Democrat to sue a Democratic administration during an election year, Fried said the issue can no longer wait because of the volume of complaints her office has received.
A spokesperson for ATF said the agency “can’t speculate on possible litigation or discuss any pending litigation” but implicitly blamed federal lawmakers for not changing the Controlled Substances Act and the Gun Control Act, which respectively regulate marijuana and firearms.
President Joe Biden’s refusal to act on federal marijuana regulations has been a sore point for Democrats, including supporters like John Morgan, a Florida trial lawyer and Biden fundraiser who financed the state’s successful medical marijuana initiative.
“I talked to Joe about this personally, and he just won’t do it. Joe Biden doesn’t understand marijuana,” Morgan said, attributing the president’s resistance to his age, 79, and the members of his family who suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse, including his son Hunter Biden.
“Joe has so much drug abuse in his own family that in his mind it’s a no-go. The older you get, the less people understand what marijuana is all about. To them, it’s all the same — marijuana, heroin, LSD,” Morgan said, dismissing the idea that such substances are so-called gateway drugs with a profanity. “We know the gateway drug is alcohol.”
Although he likes Fried’s marijuana policy, Morgan is backing her rival in the governor’s race, Rep. Charlie Crist, and he said he’s not sure how much political mileage she can get out of it.
When asked by NBC News about Fried's lawsuit, Crist didn't comment on the policy but instead said the filing of it was "Interesting timing."
"You know, the Biden Administration has a lot of things it has to deal with right now, and I think that marijuana should be legalized, recreationally," he continued. "I think it’s appropriate. I don’t know if this is the best timing for such a lawsuit. But everybody has to do what they feel is important, and I’m sure that that’s what she’s doing.”
Fried’s former pollster, Keith Frederick, said any risks for her by bucking the Biden administration are offset because she’s raising her profile by embracing a popular issue.
“You can have the best affordable housing plan possible, but once you get to point No. 2, people’s eyes glaze over, and they stop paying attention,” Frederick said. “People care about this.”
Support for medical marijuana and cannabis legalization cuts across party lines, as does opposition to the conflicting regulations in state and federal law. Gun rights are also generally popular in Florida.
Fried’s lawsuit notes that even conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas groused in an unrelated case about the “half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids use of marijuana.”
“This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary,” Thomas said.
Other plaintiffs have tried and failed to sue the federal government over gun purchases. Fried’s lawsuit singles out the most recent lawsuit for presenting “a thin and stale factual record” that improperly ignored a federal study concluding that “marijuana use does not induce violent crime.”
In addition, unlike the other unsuccessful federal case, Fried’s lawsuit argues that the form violates the so-called Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which prohibits ATF from enforcing anti-cannabis policies in states that have opted for legalization.
Fried’s office said that instead of accommodating states that have legalized marijuana, ATF changed its gun-buying form, known as a 4473, by specifically adding: “Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”
The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a bipartisan bill to expedite research into potential medical uses of cannabis and its derivatives, including CBD.
A previous version of the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act — sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii — passed the chamber during the lame-duck session in December 2020 on a voice vote.
"Current rules and regulations make it hard for researchers to study how marijuana and marijuana-derived medications can best be used to treat various conditions," Feinstein said in a statement. "This important legislation will cut the red tape around the research process, helping get FDA-approved, marijuana-derived medications safely to patients."
The bill would require the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to license additional cannabis growers and streamline the approval process that researchers must go through to work with the drug.
Grassley said in a statement that the bill "will empower the FDA to analyze CBD and medical marijuana products in a safe and responsible way so that the American public can decide whether to utilize them in the future based on sound scientific data."
Expanding opportunities to research cannabis represents one of the few areas in marijuana reform where there is broad consensus on both sides of the aisle — and both sides of the legalization question.
Marijuana's status as a Schedule I substance has been a significant obstacle to performing the research that both advocates and opponents of legalization say is required. The University of Mississippi's National Center for Natural Products Research has been the sole grower of research marijuana approved by the DEA since the early 1970s.
Lawmakers, scientists and advocates have frequently decried the bottleneck in Mississippi for severely limiting the quantity and diversity of cannabis strains available for trials — especially when compared with the variety of marijuana products available in the states where marijuana is legal.
The bill is also co-sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
A similar House bill that also passed swiftly during the 2020 lame-duck session — the Medical Marijuana Research Act — was reintroduced in October as H.R. 5657. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., a founding member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and Andy Harris, R-Md., who has opposed marijuana legalization in the past.
The House bill would require the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop guidelines on how researchers can use cannabis sold by state-licensed dispensaries.
It would also require the U.S. attorney general to review applications by researchers seeking approval to conduct studies using locally sold cannabis, and streamline a process whereby researchers who have already received approval can change the scope or nature of their studies.
A medical cannabis research lab has filed a new federal lawsuit accusing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of stonewalling its applications to import and study cannabis for potential uses in treating chronic illnesses for the past three years.
In a complaint filed Friday in Rhode Island federal court, affiliated companies MMJ International Holdings Corp. and MMJ BioPharma Cultivation Inc. said the DEA had delayed the process, tying the companies' hands, and recently have refused to give an update despite multiple prods.
"Countless patients who have been affected by multiple sclerosis and Huntington's disease and are waiting on the potentially life-restoring treatments associated with the development of these pharmaceuticals," the companies wrote in their complaint.
The companies claim they first petitioned the DEA in December 2018 for the green light to import the specific strains of marijuana needed to conduct MMJ's planned clinical trials, which had already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"MMJ's research and development requires painstakingly careful control of all plant genetics in order to maintain compliance with FDA requirements regarding the consistent reproducibility of the compounds found in the pharmaceutical," the company said.
What allegedly followed was a yearslong slog whereby MMJ attempted to secure approvals from DEA to import research marijuana and manufacture its formula. The agency allegedly completed its inspection of MMJ's facilities in October but has not moved on the applications.
The company claims that in recent months it reached out to the agency director, asked its congressman to intervene and called the DEA's general customer line — all to no avail.
"Despite numerous attempts to follow up and check the status of the registration approval determinations for manufacturing and importing, DEA personnel have expressed to MMJ Cultivation that they have not yet made final determinations and they have no idea when that determination will be made," the complaint said.
Marijuana's Schedule I status has been a significant obstacle to performing the research that both advocates and opponents of legalization say is required. The University of Mississippi's National Center for Natural Products Research has been the sole grower of research marijuana approved by the DEA since the early 1970s. The agency only began receiving applications for new growers in the last few years.
Legislation pending in Congress would allow scientists to perform studies on cannabis sold in regulated stores in states where it is legal, but critics say it does not do enough to fund or incentivize new cannabis research.
The company is seeking a declaration that the DEA violated the Controlled Substances Act and Administrative Procedure Act and an order requiring the agency to move on the applications within seven days.
Counsel for MMJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. A spokesperson for the DEA declined to comment on pending litigation.
MMJ is represented by Megan E. Sheehan of Sheehan & Associates Law.
Counsel information for the DEA and other government parties was not immediately available Wednesday.
The case is MMJ International Holdings Corp. et al. v. Merrick Garland et al., case number 1:22-cv-00152, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the U.S. Department of Justice to offer its opinion on whether federal drug policy should outweigh state laws requiring insurers and employers to compensate patients for medical cannabis costs.
The high court invited the U.S. solicitor general to file a brief expressing the executive branch's position as the justices mull whether to take up an appeal that could resolve the issue, which has divided the state courts. A petition for certiorari was circulated for conference on Friday.
In the underlying decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court in October said that federal drug policy preempted a workers' compensation court decision ordering Mendota Heights Dental Center and its insurer, Hartford Insurance Group, to pay for medicinal cannabis that Susan K. Musta was prescribed for an on-the-job neck injury
Musta filed her petition for review in November, urging the court to take up the issue. In a subsequent brief, filed Feb. 1, Musta said her case was an "ideal vehicle" to resolve a tension between state and federal policy that has reached a breaking point.
"By this point 26 state supreme court justices have considered this question, with 11 finding preemption and 16 finding no preemption," Musta wrote. "With two state supreme courts on each side of the split, there is no possibility the split will disappear until this court intervenes. Delaying review will simply increase uncertainty and confusion. The time for certiorari is now."
Hartford Casualty told the high court there was no need to revisit the Minnesota high court's decision, and that Musta's bid for a rehearing was "a poor vehicle for review,"
The company noted that Musta's employer, Mendota Heights Dental, had been dissolved; that the field of cannabis law was changing quickly; and that the state court split over the issue of medical marijuana reimbursements was too narrow and too recent a development.
Musta said in her reply brief that the insurer's arguments were specious and immaterial.
"Respondents identify no pending legislative proposals or rulemakings that could affect the legal analysis," Musta wrote. "They simply conjecture that in light of changing poll results, the law might change at some unspecified time in some unspecified way. That is no basis for denying review."
In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently declined to take up cases challenging marijuana's Schedule I status under federal law. However, in rejecting one such case, Justice Clarence Thomas said in June that the federal prohibition on cannabis might no longer be "necessary or proper" given how much latitude states have been allowed to enact their own legalization policies.
"Once comprehensive, the federal government's current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana," Justice Thomas wrote. "This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary."
In an amicus brief filed in December, Empire State NORML and other New York cannabis industry advocates urged the high court to take up Musta's case and find that marijuana's Schedule I status is no longer tenable thanks in part to the federal government's de facto policy of inaction when it comes to prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana activities.
David C. Holland, the executive and legal director of the Empire State chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told Law360 on Tuesday that the invitation to the Solicitor General's Office was a "most welcome development."
Holland referred to Justice Thomas' comments and said that "definitive guidance is needed from the court due to the number of legal and ethical conflicts that are caused by this continuing battle between federal preemption and state medical marijuana regulation."
Counsel for Musta declined to comment Tuesday. Counsel for Hartford did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musta is represented by Adam G. Unikowsky of Jenner & Block LLP and Thomas D. Mottaz and Cheri M. Sisk of Mottaz & Sisk Injury Law.
Mendota Heights Dental and Hartford Casualty Insurance are represented by Jonathan M. Freiman of Wiggin and Dana LLP.
The case is Susan K. Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental Center et al., case number 21-676, in the Supreme Court of the United States.
The war in Ukraine reminds us of how horrible war is and, for that matter, has been throughout the history of humankind. This modern war has exemplified how far one murderous dictator—Vladimir Putin—will go to satisfy his greed for land and thirst for power.
The disturbing images of hospitals being bombed, scared mothers clinging to their children and devastated Ukranian cities have been horrific.
Native American leaders have weighed in on the Russian invasion. When First Lady Jill Biden visited the Tohono O’Odham Nation on March 8, Chairman Nate Norris, Jr., offered a blessing. He asked for guidance for President Joe Biden as he makes critical decisions about the Ukraine War. Norris asked for "a moment of silence for our families, our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings who are being displaced by that war in Ukraine."
In late February, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. said: “The Cherokee Nation stands with the people of Ukraine and condemn in the strongest possible terms the unlawful invasion by the Russian Federation. Our Nation knows well how vitally important the right to self-determination is because, in our history, we have at times been denied that right and the ability to chart our own destiny as a people.”
Chief Hoskin could have also mentioned the relocation of his Nation from America’s southeast to the Oklahoma territory on a long journey known as the “Trail of Tears.” Thousands of Cherokee died as they made the journey.
Native Americans often have different worldviews than our non-Native counterparts. We view current events and history through different lenses.
As the news coverage of the Russian invasion began to escalate into a full-fledged war against the people of Ukraine, I thought about our country’s past. As white aggressors moved westward, for example, what would have happened had there been television images of our ancestors being massacred at places such as Sand Creek, Wounded Knee and Bear River, where at least 350 Northwestern Shoshone Indians were killed.
Of course, there was no television back then. There was no technology that delivered instantaneous news in the 1800s, instead the news still relied on printed newspapers and magazines. Reporters had to rely on pony express couriers and telegraphs to get their written reports to newsrooms far from the Indian war zones. News accounts from those days typically justified the federal government’s aggression and left out the American Indian viewpoints completely.
Fast-forward back to today to the Ukraine War. The media has been rightfully criticized for what appears to be double standards when it comes to covering news along racial, ethnic and religious lines. Frankly, some comments made by correspondents sound racist in nature.
In one instance, CBS News senior correspondent Charlie D’Agata, reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine, said: “With all due respect, this is not a place like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European … city where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s not going to happen.”
The comment reminded me of how non-Natives felt it their task to “civilize” our ancestors.
In another instance, NBC correspondent Kelly Cobiella sounded very similar when she said: “These are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from Ukraine … they’re Christian, they’re white.”
The parallels of how missing white women get much more media coverage than do missing Indigenous women were quite apparent to me. The late PBS journalist Gwen Ifill, who was a Black woman, called it “Missing White Woman Syndrome.”
“If there is a missing white woman, we are going to cover that, every day,” Ifill said at the time.
In the case of Ukraine, the media has a whole lot of white women and children to cover in its reporting. One wonders where the media was when the Russians were killing thousands of civilian women and children in Syria.
Regardless, news coverage of the Ukraine War is necessary because of the sheer possibility that Putin may take the globe to the brink of the third World War, which in itself is significant and scary.
As I think about the horrific nature of war, I wish the world could live by the words of Sun Bear (White Earth Ojibwe), the father of Native American economist, environmentalist and author Winona LaDuke. Sun Bear wrote: "I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its buildings of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man."
The National Registry of Exonerations recorded 161 individuals who were exonerated last year, amounting to 1,849 years spent behind bars for crimes they never committed or wrongfully charged.
“There is no longer a debate about the prevalence of wrongful convictions,” said the registry’s annual report released Tuesday. “They are not unicorns. They happen, frequently, and the Registry’s research has the data to show precisely the events that lead to exonerations.”
In terms of key findings related to the crimes the exonerees were accused of, just under half of all exonerees (77) were charged with homicides they didn’t commit. Nine defendants were exonerated of sex crimes; 24 defendants were exonerated of other violent crimes; and 51 were exonerated for nonviolent offenses like drug crimes and weapons possession.
Three of the exonerees had been on death row.
A close examination of the cases reveals that “official misconduct” was a contributing factor in nearly 70 percent of the cases.
Forty-seven exonerations in 2021 were from convictions based at least in part on mistaken witness identifications, and 19 exonerations were based on proven false confessions.
Moreover, 19 exonerations were based in whole or in part because of DNA evidence that established innocence. Sixty-one exonerations were because of the work of Conviction Integrity Units (CIUs) and 67 were because of the work from Innocent Organizations (IOs).
Influence of Race
African Americans comprise a disproportionate number of exonerees. The National Registry of Exonerations plans on releasing a new report this year on “Race and Wrongful Convictions” to fully highlight the concern, but their 2017 report concluded, based on 1,900 exonerations boiled down into a few words:
African Americans are only 13 percent of the American population but a majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated.
The National Registry of Exonerations explored “basic patterns” by looking at the exonerations by jurisdiction. Illinois had the most exonerations (38), followed by New York (18), Michigan (11), and California (11), the report details.
“Illinois’s ranking continues to be driven by cases (14) tainted by misconduct of corrupt police officers led by Sgt. Ronald Watts of the Chicago Police Department, who planted drugs on people after they refused to pay bribes,” the report details.
Further breaking down New York’s 18 exonerations, 11 of them were for wrongful murder convictions.
It’s also worth noting that there were seven federal exonerees — proving that this isn’t just an issue for states to take note of, but rather, something that needs to be addressed from all levels.
The People Behind the Numbers
The National Registry of Exonerations has a motto that’s the driving force behind its missions: “Every story counts.”
Take Emerson Stevens of Virginia, for example, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1986 due to false or misleading forensic evidence, false accusation, and official misconduct.
Local police officers in Lancaster, Va., settled on Stevens as a killer after a witness said Stevens had a pickup truck like the one seen near the victim’s house. He was originally convicted on circumstantial evidence, and testimony from a few ‘expert’ witnesses that either recanted or said their testimony was “eyewash.”
Another individual is Muhammad Aziz, who, at 83, was exonerated after spending decades in prison for murdering Black activist and civil rights advocate Malcolm X in 1965. He was exonerated following an extensive investigation, cooperation with the Innocence Project, and a Netflix documentary.
Aziz said the exoneration was welcome but insufficient:
“I do not need this court, these prosecutors or a piece of paper to tell me I am innocent,” he said “I am an 83-year-old who was victimized by the criminal justice system.”
The authors of the report said there are many more people like Stevens and Aziz — all of whom deserve a chance to have their truth told and to be exonerated.
“Will there come a day when wrongful convictions are truly rare? We hope so,” the report concludes.
“For now, we must continue to record these accounts of injustice. The work is vital. Each exoneration matters.”
The full report can be accessed here.
Getting information on what goes on inside of Connecticut's prisons is not easy. It often comes from families of those in prison calling reporters or the inmates themselves writing letters.
NBC Connecticut's Mike Hydeck talks to Kelan Lyons, a justice reporter from the CT Mirror who has been covering the state's prisons extensively. He is discussing a recent public hearing where letters from inmates were read out loud.
Mike Hydeck: "So recently, inmates presented their stories to the Judiciary Committee regarding solitary confinement, many with claims of abuse. When you were to see and hear these stories, how do you think lawmakers reacted to that?"
Kelan Lyons: "Well, the incarcerated submitted written testimony. So it wasn't as though they were they were testifying via video, but I certainly think it has an impact in advancing the dialogue on the subject. I mean, this is a group of people who rarely are able to have their voices directly heard by those in power. And so it really speaks to how they wanted to be taken seriously by submitting so many letters. I think they did last year, they did something similar where they, I think it was about nine people who submitted written testimony from prisons or jails. And this year was 27. So it appears there was at least a little bit more of an effort to submit more letters this year, and to make sure that those voices were heard."
Mike Hydeck: "And I read some of the letters printed in the [CT] Mirror and they were gripping to say the least. So a bill, as you know, limiting the use of solitary confinement actually made it through the legislature last year, but the governor vetoed it. Do you think this most recent bill has a better chance in your estimation?"
Kelan Lyons: "I do. I do. The governor vetoed the last bill. It was sort of a soft veto of sorts in that he agreed, he said he agreed with the principles of the bill, but he didn't think it was good for public safety. So by vetoing that bill, he issued an executive order in its place, and that executive order made an attempt to cut back on the use of solitary confinement in the state's prisons and jails. This year, the Department of Correction or Commissioner Angel Quiros has reached an agreement with Stop Solitary Connecticut, a major advocacy group that's been pushing for this for years, to limit the use of solitary confinement. And with that agreement, the administration, the Lamont administration has told me that they are supportive of the work that the commissioner is doing, and that they could support a bill if it makes it through the legislature without serious significant changes depending on how the bill changes as it moves through."
Mike Hydeck: "Earlier in the show, we interviewed a woman from Stop Solitary CT. She was concerned about oversight. She said that's very necessary moving forward. Is oversight written into this legislation?"
Kelan Lyons: "It is and that's one of the biggest pieces of the legislation. And it appears to me to be one of the bigger pieces of concessions that were made in an agreement to get this bill across the finish line. I have not seen the substitute language for the bill that got out of committee. But I have heard that it is essentially codifying many of the elements of the governor's executive order while also including some opportunities for oversight. There's an Office of Ombudsman that would that would be opened, system support staff for that external watchdog. And there would also be a civilian oversight board, which is sort of like a like a consulting of sorts for the ombuds that they can hear from concerned members of the community as they're doing their work."
As part of a wider effort led by the White House to advance racial equity, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge has instructed the department to review programs and policies that may “pose barriers to housing for persons with criminal histories or their families” in order to make it easier for them to find a home, reports USA Today.
Staffers at HUD have six months to propose updates and amendments consistent with the directive to install policies that are as inclusive as possible, especially for people of color who have been historically overrepresented in the criminal justice system.
Changes would impact some of the agency’s most widespread programs, including federally funded public housing authorities and rental assistance voucher programs known as “Section 8.”
People with criminal records aren’t a protected class under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which made it illegal to discriminate against people from renting or buying a home, securing a mortgage or seeking housing assistance on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and familial status.
As a result, women, children, grandparents and siblings can be denied housing by private landlords if they live with a relative who has a criminal record.
Fudge said criminal records should be considered to the extent that applicants pose a current risk to people or property and these risks need to be weighed against other factors.
Nineteen states and the federal government have still not decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, and the legacy policies continue to have ramifications for millions of Americans, according to a new report released Tuesday by legalization advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project.
Despite cannabis being legal for medical use in the majority of states and legal for adult use in 18 states, there are still multiple jurisdictions where people can face arrest and detention for being caught with even small amounts of cannabis, according to the report, titled "Behind the Times."
"It is absolutely amazing that in 2022 we have a multibillion-dollar industry and an entire ecosystem around it, and at the same time we're still arresting almost 600,000 people a year for simple possession," Toi Hutchinson, president and CEO of the organization, said in a statement.
The Marijuana Policy Project defines a decriminalization law as one that imposes a civil penalty, such as a fine, rather than jail time for simple possession of small amounts of cannabis.
For nearly a decade, federal law enforcers have been barred from bringing cases against patients and suppliers in compliance with state medical marijuana laws, thanks to riders that Congress has added to U.S. Department of Justice appropriations bills. But the report found that federal prohibition can still cause collateral consequences for individuals, hindering employment opportunities, housing, immigration status and the right to bear firearms.
The report draws on data gathered from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, but notes that several agencies do not report their data to the federal agency and that local jurisdictions are likely to undercount the number of people arrested or jailed for cannabis possession.
Even some states with a medical marijuana program have not decriminalized, under the policy group's definition, since a person can be detained and arrested for possessing cannabis without a registered patient card, as in Florida, Oklahoma and Alabama, the report said.
The report's release was timed to coincide with the 50-year anniversary of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse report, also known as the Shafer Commission report, titled "Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding." It was released on this date in 1972 and urged Congress to change the laws so personal use and possession of marijuana would not be a criminal offense.
"Quite simply, we have no idea how many individuals are incarcerated for simple cannabis possession. But even a day or two in jail can cause a person to lose their job and lead to a spiral of life-altering, devastating consequences," the 2022 report said.
The states identified as not having decriminalized simple marijuana possession are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming