The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) was founded in 1995 by former NORML employees seeking a more focused approach to decriminalization and expanding outreach to legislators as well as consumers. The organization has about 30 staffers, a board of directors headed by Peter Lewis, chairman of the Progressive Insurance Company, and an advisory board of key entertainment and political personalities. Its annual budget of about $6 million.
Operating on the principle that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is prison, the MPP focuses on removing criminal penalties for marijuana use, with additional emphasis on making marijuana medically available to seriously ill people who have the approval of their doctors.
MPP’s stated mission is to “change federal law to allow states to determine their own marijuana policies without federal interference, as well as to regulate marijuana like alcohol in all 50 states, D.C., and the five territories.” Its objectives are:
- Increase public support for non-punitive, non-coercive marijuana policies.
- Identify and activate supporters of non-punitive, non-coercive marijuana policies.
- Change state laws to reduce or eliminate penalties for the medical and non-medical use of marijuana.
- Gain influence in Congress.
MPP consists of three separate organizations — the main branch that deals with lobbying and ballot initiatives (MPP), a tax-deductible, educational branch (MPP Foundation), and a branch that donates to congressional candidates (MPP PAC). In addition, the organization has committees in the states where MPP is running current ballot initiatives. The three branches of MPP have a combined budget of about $600,000 annually, with the majority of its resources dedicated to lobbying initiatives.
MPP activities include:
- Lobbying for legislation and running ballot initiative campaigns to allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with their doctors’ recommendations
- Lobbying for legislation and sponsoring ballot initiatives to replace marijuana prohibition with a sensible system of regulation
- Garnering widespread media coverage of the need to change marijuana policies
- Lobbying Congress to reduce the White House drug czar’s budget for his deceptive ad campaigns
- Building coalitions of supportive individuals and organizations to advocate on behalf of marijuana policy reform
MPP’s focus in Washington, D.C. is to pass federal medical marijuana legislation, as well as to replace marijuana prohibition with a system of sensible regulation and control. The organization’s Federal Policy page provides contact information for legislators (by zip code); a mechanism to send personalized letters to those officials, and comprehensive overviews of active legislative initiatives.
In Your State
At the state level, MPP has launched successful grassroots and lobbying campaigns that have contributed to changing laws.. MPP provided the bulk of the funding, staff, and expertise to the 2012 Colorado initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older and the 2014 legalization and regulation campaign in Alaska. The organization has a goal of passing at least 12 more laws to regulate marijuana like alcohol by 2019.
Legislatively, MPP currently is focusing on Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont. MPP is also lobbying for medical marijuana-related bills in state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia and for decriminalization in Illinois, New Hampshire, and Texas.
MPP is managing and supporting ballot initiatives for marijuana legalization and regulation in 2016 in Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and Nevada, and its State Initiative page provides comprehensive overviews of all current initiatives.
For the upcoming presidential election, MPP provides an overview of candidates’ positions on marijuana policy.