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GOVERNMENT

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director July 22, 2015

    legalizationToday a Blue Ribbon Commission led by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom released a report providing a total of 58 recommendations for advocates to consider as they move forward to place a legalization initiative on the statewide ballot in November 2016.

    California will be joined by a number of other states hoping to legalize marijuana in 2016.

    This report seeks to provide regulatory guidance for the state’s forthcoming legalization effort. The commission prefaced its report by stating: “Legalization of marijuana would not be an event that happens in one election. Rather, it would be a process that unfolds over many years requiring sustained attention to implementation.”

    The 93-page report addresses policy options on a myriad of subjects, ranging from commercial production to taxation and everything in between. Authors advocate that the four core goals of legalizing cannabis are: promoting the public interest, reducing the size of the illicit market, offering legal protection to responsible actors, and capturing and investing tax revenue. Another predominant theme throughout the report is youth safety. The Commissions states, “A Tax and Regulate policy legalizing marijuana use by adults has the potential to reserve sufficient revenue to provide universal access to programs such as Student Assistance Programs (SAPs) that emphasize learning skills, remediation of academic performance, improved school climate, school retention, peer group interventions, family engagement and more effective drug education, prevention and counseling programs. ”

    Notably, the report acknowledges that if California voters were to legalize in 2016, “state officials should engage the federal government, both to ensure compliance with these federal enforcement priorities and to help change other federal rules that may be obstacles to safe legalization at the state level,” signaling that lawmakers intend to bring immense pressure to federal authorities to accommodate state legalization efforts. Specific changes the report wishes to see on the federal level are amendments to banking regulations and IRS rules.

    While the report itself avoids explicitly endorsing or opposing marijuana legalization, Lieutenant Governor Newsom has been an outspoken critic of prohibition and is currently the highest office holder in California calling for the plant’s legalization.

    Six separate initiatives have been filed in California so far in hopes of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Voters rejected legalization previously in 2010 but a recent poll performed by the Public Policy Institute of California puts support among likely voters at 56%.

  • 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.

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