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GOVERNMENT

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director July 16, 2015

    Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, along with seven other Senators, has directed a letter tmj_researcho the Obama administration demanding regulators answer questions specific to the facilitation of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.

    Senators acknowledged the need for unbiased research. They wrote, “While the federal government has emphasized research on the potential harms associated with the use of marijuana, there is still very limited research on the potential health benefits of marijuana — despite the fact that millions of Americans are now eligible
    by state law to use the drug for medical purposes.”

    The Senators applauded a recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to eliminate the HHS Public Health Service review process. But they also acknowledged the drawbacks of NIDA’s monopoly on supply of marijuana for research purposes and the need for alternative providers.

    Senators also questioned marijuana’s current classification as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law and its classification under international treaties and if the FDA is prepared to call for the reclassification of cannabidiol.

    Addressed to the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the letter signals to many that medical marijuana is becoming an even more important issue in the political sphere not only to voters but also to their elected officials.

    Co-signing the letter with Senator Warren  were Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). The Senators are seeking a reply to their questions from the administration by August 31.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 15, 2015

    Hawaii: Measure To Provide Safe Access To Medical Cannabis Becomes Law Legislation to establish a system of medical dispensaries for the state’s nearly 14,000 medical marijuana patients has become law.

    Governor David Ige signed the measure, stating, “I support the establishment of dispensaries to ensure that qualified patients can legally and safely access medical marijuana. We know that our challenge going forward will be to adopt rules that are fair, cost effective and easy to monitor. The bill sets a timeline. We will make a good faith effort to create a fair process that will help the people most in need.”

    House Bill 321 permits the state “to issue eight dispensary licenses statewide; provided that three dispensary licenses shall be issued for the city and county of Honolulu, two dispensary licenses each shall be issued for the county of Hawaii and the county of Maui, and one dispensary license shall be issued for the county of Kauai. … Up to two production centers shall be allowed under each dispensary license, provided that each production center shall be limited to no more than three thousand marijuana plants. A dispensary licensee may establish up to two retail dispensing locations under the licensee’s dispensary license.”

    The state Department of Health has until January 4, 2016 to finalize rules governing the dispensary program. Licensed dispensaries are anticipated to be operational by July 15, 2016. Once operational, qualified patients will be able to obtain up to four ounces of cannabis or cannabis-infused products, such as oils, tinctures, or lozenges, from a licensed provider every 15 days.

    A separate provision included in HB 321 also adds post-traumatic stress as a qualifying condition under the state’s medical cannabis law.

    Legislation initially enacted by the legislature in 2000 provides qualified patients the legal right to possess and cultivate cannabis for therapeutic purposes, but did not allow for its production and distribution via dispensaries.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 2, 2015

    Police in Florida’s largest county will soon have the option to cite, rather than arrest, minor marijuana offenders.

    Commissioners for Miami-Dade county voted 10 to 3 this week in favor of a countywide ordinance to treat marijuana possession offenses involving 20 grams or less as a civil infraction, punishable by a $100 fine — no arrest, no criminal prosecution, no incarceration, and no criminal record. The new ordinance takes effect late next week.

    Under state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. According to an analysis by the ACLU, an estimated 60,000 Floridians are arrested for cannabis possession violations annually — the third highest statewide total in the nation.

    According to a countywide analysis by CBS, misdemeanor marijuana arrests accounted for 10 percent of all cases filed in the Miami-Dade criminal court system between the years 2010 and 2014. While African Americans comprise just 20 percent of the county’s population, they comprised over half of all of those arrested for marijuana possession offenses.

    Senior county officials have not yet provided details in regard to how police will implement the new law or what criteria they will use to determine whether to issue a citation or make an arrest.

    Several metropolitan areas, such as Milwaukee and Philadelphia, have previously decriminalized marijuana possession offenses citywide.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 30, 2015

    Oregon: Law Takes Effect Permitting Adults To Consume CannabisLegislation takes effect at midnight tonight permitting adults to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use.

    Fifty-six percent of state voters approved Measure 91 in November, which allows those over the age of 21 to legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis and/or to engage in the non-commercial cultivation of up to four marijuana plants (yielding up to eight ounces of marijuana). The law also permits adults to possess up to a pound of cannabis-infused edibles, 72 ounces of cannabis-infused liquids, and/or one ounce of marijuana concentrates.

    Separate regulations allowing for the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis have yet to be finalized by lawmakers. Legislation is under consideration to permit adults to temporarily purchase cannabis from state-licensed medical dispensaries as soon as the fall.

    State-licensed retailers are not anticipated to be operational until mid-to-late 2016.

    (In the interim, Portland NORML and others are engaging in seed giveaways tonight and tomorrow.)

    Oregon is the fourth state – joining Alaska, Colorado, and Washington – to permit adults to legally possess limited quantities of marijuana for their own personal use. The District of Columbia also allows adults to possess and grow marijuana legally.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    Louisiana: Marijuana Sentencing Reform Measure Signed Into LawRepublican Gov. Bobby Jindal signed legislation late yesterday significantly reducing criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses.

    House Bill 149, which took effect upon signing, amends the state’s toughest-in-the-nation repeat offender laws for marijuana possession offenses.

    Under the previous law, second-time possession offenders faced up to five years of hard labor in prison. Third-time offenders faced up to 20 years hard labor in prison.

    Under the revised law, two-time marijuana possession offenders face a maximum sentence of six-months in prison. Three-time offenders face a maximum sentence of two-years in prison. Those convicted of marijuana possession for a fourth time face up to eight years in prison.

    First-time offenders found in the possession of 14 grams of cannabis or less now face a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail (reduced from six-months). House Bill 149 allows offenders to apply to have their record expunged if they aren’t convicted of a marijuana violation within two years of the first offense.

    According to an analysis by the ACLU, Louisiana ranks #14 in the nation in per-capita marijuana possession arrests.

    Gov. Jindal also signed separate legislation, SB 143, amending the state’s dormant Therapeutic Research Act. Specifically, the measure asks the state to adopt rules and regulations “relating to the dispensing of prescribed marijuana for therapeutic use” for patients with glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia, or who are undergoing cancer chemotherapy. However, because this language directly conflicts with federal regulations prohibiting doctors from ‘prescribing’ schedule I controlled substances, it remains to be seen whether any licensed Louisiana physicians will agree to participate in the state’s proposed program.

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