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Legislative sessions around the country are moving quickly with several already coming to a close. It’s important to stay updated on pending measures in your state because NOW is the time to contact your elected officials using our #TakeAction Center urging their support for marijuana law reform. Keep reading to get this week’s latest legislative highlights!
Florida: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, House Bill 307, to permit medical marijuana access to people diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Florida law already permits for the production of strains of cannabis high in CBD to be dispensed to qualified patients with cancer, muscle spasms, and intractable seizures. However, to date, this program has yet to be operational. House Bill 307 seeks to expand state-licensed medical marijuana production to also include strains dominant in THC. The measure now awaits action from Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Maine: The Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a ballot initiative that is seeking to put the question of marijuana legalization before voters in the state this November, is suing the state of Maine for invalidating 26,779 signatures. The campaign had originally turned in 99,229 signatures from registered voters by the February 1st deadline in hopes of meeting the required number of 61,123 valid signatures to make the ballot. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap invalidated the signatures because the signature of the notary who signed the petitions allegedly did not match the signature on file with staff.
Nebraska: Legislation remains pending, LD 643: the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act, to permit qualified patients to legally possess and cultivate cannabis. The measure permits patients permits patients to grow up to 12 plants and/or to possess up to six ounces of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The bill also establishes licensed compassion centers to provide cannabis to qualified patients. #TakeAction
New York: Legislation has been introduced, A 9510, to expand the pool of medical professionals who can provide written recommendations for marijuana to qualifying patients. If passed, the legislation would allow physician assistants and nurse practitioners who are in good standing with the state to provide written certifications to qualifying patients. New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014, however the law is one of the most restrictive in the country. Patients may only use non-smokable forms of marijuana and many are struggling to find physicians who can certify them access to medical marijuana preparations. This pending legislation would increase the number of medical professionals eligible to participate in the program, thereby increasing access to those patients who so desperately need it. #TakeAction
Oklahoma: House lawmakers have approved legislation, House Bill 2835, to expand the pool of patients eligible to possess cannabidiol (CBD) under a physician’s authorization. If passed, those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, chronic pain, neuropathic pain, spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or due to paraplegia, intractable nausea and vomiting, appetite stimulation with chronic wasting diseases, and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or bipolar affective disorder would be allowed access to CBD. The bill now awaits Senate action. #TakeAction
Utah: Lawmakers have adjourned for 2016 without taking action to expand medical cannabis access to seriously ill patients. Members of the House Health and Human Services Committee voted 8-4 on Monday, March 7, against the passage of Senate Bill 73, the Medical Cannabis Act. A separate measure, SB 89, was approved by members of a House committee however, lawmakers ultimately failed to back the measure, alleging that the law would be too expensive to implement.
Vermont: Members of various House Committee are anticipated to begin taking testimony next week with regard to Senate Bill 241, to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. Members of the Senate previously voted 17 to 12 in favor of the legislation, which is backed by Gov. Shumlin. Now the measure faces a potentially uphill battle in the House, starting with the House Judiciary Committee. It is vital that House representatives hear from you in support of SB 241. #TakeAction
Virginia: Members of the House of Delegates and the Senate have decided in favor of Senate Bill 701, which permits for the in-state production of therapeutic oils high in cannabdiol and/or THC-A (THC acid). The Governor has untilApril 11 to act on the bill. #TakeAction
Washington: Governor Jay Inslee decided on Wednesday, March 9th, to veto legislation, Senate Bill 6206, which sought to establish licensed hemp production. House and Senate lawmakers had previously approved legislation, which would have authorized “The growing of industrial hemp as a legal agricultural activity” in accordance with federal legislation permitting such activity as part of a state-authorized program.
Connecticut: State regulators gave final approval this week to expand the state’s list of qualifying conditions for which a physician may recommend medical cannabis. The six new conditions are: ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), ulcerative colitis, sickle cell disease, severe psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis, complex regional pain syndrome, and post-laminectomy syndrome with chronic radiculopathy.
Florida: Members of Tampa City Council gave preliminary approval today in favor of a local ordinance decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses. Under the plan, municipal law would redefine marijuana possession of 20 grams or less as a civil matter, rather than a criminal offense. First-time violators will face a $75 for the first offense. Council members will hold a final vote on the measure onMarch 17th. You can contact your City Council members to urge their support for this measure here.
Volusia county joined nearby Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties this week by passing an ordinance providing police the discretion to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders. Those given citations will face a county court fine of $100. The new law applies only to people caught with marijuana on the beach and in unincorporated county areas. Cities will be allowed to adopt the same law.House members overwhelmingly voted on Thursday, March 3, in favor of legislation to permit medical marijuana access to people diagnosed with terminal illnesses. House Bill 307 permits the production and distribution of cannabis to terminally ill patients. Similar language is pending a Senate floor vote. Florida law already permits for the production of strains of cannabis high in CBD to be dispensed to qualified patients with cancer, muscle spasms, and intractable seizures. However, to date, this program has yet to be operational.
Maryland: On February 26th, HB 104, legislation to expand the pool of medical professionals who can provide written recommendations for marijuana to qualifying patients, was approved by the House in a 110-21 vote. The legislation would allow nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, among other medical professionals, who are in good standing with the state to provide written certifications to qualifying patients. The legislation will now be considered by members of the Senate. #TakeAction
New York: Next Tuesday, March 8th, members of the Buffalo Common Council will consider the Buffalo Cannabis Act, which decriminalizes the possession of up to two ounces and allows citizens to grow up to six plants in their homes.
Pennsylvania: After months of delay, House members are anticipated to finally begin debating medical marijuana legislation on the House floor later this month. It will mark the first time House members have taken any action since November when members of the House Rules Committee passed Senate Bill 3. If adopted by the House, Gov. Tom Wolf says he will sign the measure. #TakeAction
Washington: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, Senate Bill 6206, establishing regulations governing industrial hemp production. The measure “authorizes the growing of industrial hemp as a legal agricultural activity” in accordance with federal legislation permitting such activity as part of a state-authorized program. Presently, 25 states have enacted legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with this statute. The measure awaits action from Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign it into law.
Australia: Members of Australia’s House and Senate approved legislation this week to amend federal law to permit for the licensed production and distribution of cannabis to qualified patients. The move by Parliament follows recent efforts by several Australian territories to provide patients participating in clinical trials with access to the plant. Government officials will still need to develop and approve regulations for the new program before any production licenses can be issued.
Canada: A federal court in Canada ruled this week that government officials cannot prohibit physician-authorized patients from growing their own supply of medical cannabis. The decision strikes down regulations enacted in 2013 that sought to take away patients’ longstanding authority to grow personal use quantities of cannabis.
The judge’s ruling provides Parliament with six months to create new rules governing the regulation and distribution of medical cannabis in a manner that no longer requires patients to obtain medicine solely from federally-licensed, private third party providers. NORML Canada ‘s John Conroy served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, while NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano served as an expert witness and filed an affidavit in the case.
In an interview from last year but only recently made public, former US Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that marijuana should “certainly be rescheduled”. He said, “You know, we treat marijuana in the same way that we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate. So at a minimum, I think Congress needs to do that. Then I think we need to look at what happens in Colorado and what happens in Washington.”
While NORML agrees that marijuana’s current classification in the Controlled Substances Act is inappropriate, NORML believes in descheduling cannabis, not rescheduling the plant. In an article published this week on Alternet, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano outlines why rescheduling cannabis does not go far enough and advocates for why it should be removed from the CSA altogether.
Georgia: Legislation has been introduced, House Bill 1046, to amend state law so that minor marijuana offenders no longer face jail time. If approved, the legislation would make the first time possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a $250 fine. Subsequent offenses would result in a $500 fine for the second offense and $750 fine for the third offense. #TakeAction
Hawaii: Pending legislation, Senate Bill 2787, to further encourage the state Department of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp for “research and development purposes” was approved by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor this week. The committee approved an amended version of the legislation in a 4-0 vote. #TakeAction
Pennsylvania: Members of the Harrisburg City Council have scheduled two separate public meetings to discuss a proposal to redefine municipal marijuana possession offenses from a misdemeanor to a citation. The meetings will be Thursday March 10 at the Harrisburg Area Community College midtown campus, Midtown 2, Room 206, at 1500 North Third Street and Thursday March 24 at the city’s public works building at 1820 Paxton Street. Both meetings will start at 5:30 p.m.
Michigan: Newly introduced Senate legislation, SB 813, seeks to permit for the personal possession, cultivation, and retail sale of marijuana. Under the measure, adults would be permitted to possess and grow personal use quantities of the plant, and a system would be established for the retail production and sale of cannabis. Similar legislation introduced in the fall of 2015, HB 4877, remains pending in the Judiciary Committee. #TakeAction
Vermont: Members of the Senate voted 17 to 12 on Thursday in favor of legislation, Senate Bill 241, to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. The historic vote marks the first time that any legislative chamber in the state has ever approved legislation to permit the adult use and retail sale of cannabis.
The Senate’s action was praised by Gov. Shumlin, who is backing the measure. The measure now will be debated by members of the Vermont House. #TakeAction
West Virginia: House Bill 4712 was introduced this week to depenalize marijuana possession offenses. The legislation removes marijuana from West Virginia’s list of schedule I drugs and removes all state criminal and civil penalties associated with the substance. Additionally, the proposal allows adults 21 and older to cultivate up to six cannabis plants, and to transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another person age 21 or older without remuneration. #TakeAction
In addition, senate legislation is pending to permit qualified patients access to medical cannabis. Senate Bill 640 permits qualified patients to engage in marijuana therapy and to cultivate (up to 12 mature plants) and to possess (up to six ounces) personal use amounts of cannabis. The measure also seeks to establish a permitting process for “registered compassion centers”, which will be licensed to produce and dispense medicinal cannabis to qualified patients. The bill is before the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee. You can read the full text of this measure here. Companion legislation, House Bill 4680, has also been filed in the House of Representatives. #TakeAction
Legislation around the country continues to move forward and more measures are being introduced every day! We have updates from , Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, and Rhode Island. Keep reading below to see what the latest in marijuana law reform is this week.
Florida: On Thursday, Tampa City Council voted to draft a marijuana decriminalization ordinance. The ordinance would treat small marijuana infractions as a citation, fine-only offense, similar to a traffic ticket or an open container offense. Similar municipal measures have recently been enacted in Miami Dade county and in West Palm Beach county. Under state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1000 fine.You can contact Tampa City Council members and urge their support for this common sense policy, here.
Hawaii: House lawmakers took no action on legislation that sought to eliminate patients’ longstanding rights to cultivate medical marijuana. House Bill 1680 sought to repeal patients’ legal authority to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis. The legislation was not heard in time for the filing deadline and therefore will no longer be considered by lawmakers during this legislative session. NORML would like to thank everyone who contacted their lawmakers and urged them to reject HB 1680.
Kansas: After Members of the Senate voted 38 to 1 on Wednesday, February 3, in favor of a Committee substitute version of HB 2049, the amended language was sent to the House for a concurrence vote. Because the House did not concur with all of the Senate changes, the bill will now be sent to a Conference Committee to reconcile the differences. The amended language reduces criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine) to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by no more than six months in jail and a $1,000 fine). #TakeAction
Maine: Senator Thomas Saviello has introduced legislation (LD 726) to permit qualified patients to use medical marijuana in Maine hospitals. Members of the Health and Human Services Committee approved this legislation on Wednesday, February 10th. As this measure continues to move forward it’s important to contact your Senator and urge their support! #TakeAction
Maryland: A new bill has been introduced to to recriminalize offenses involving the public use of small amounts of marijuana. While NORML is generally supportive of efforts to dissuade the use of marijuana in public or in a vehicle, this new measure is unnecessary and overly punitive. House Bill 1304 is scheduled to be heard by members of the House Judiciary Committee, March 1st at 1PM. #TakeAction
A related measure, House Bill 183, was amended by the House so that all provisions seeking to criminalize public use were removed. As amended, the measure explicitly prohibits cannabis inhalation by a driver or passengers in a moving motor vehicle. Engaging in such behavior will be a citable offense, punishable by a fine only. Following these amendments, NORML has dropped our formal opposition to this bill, which will now be debated by members of the Senate.
Missouri: Legislation to permit qualified patients to consume cannabis with a physician’s written authorization is pending in the 2016 legislative session. House Bill 2213, the Missouri Compassionate Care Act, permits qualified patients to engage in cannabis therapy and establishes a licensed system for cannabis production and distribution. #TakeAction
New Mexico: Members of the Senate unfortunately voted down Senate Joint Resolution 5 which sought to put legalization before a public vote this November. Although 17 Senators stood in favor of the measure, 24 voted against it. However, the vote marks the first time that such a measure has ever been debated on the floor of either chamber of the New Mexico legislature.
After extremely compelling testimony from injured workers in earlier committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to schedule a hearing for House Bill 195, which sought to prohibit workers compensation insurers from reimbursing employees who qualify for medical cannabis access for injuries sustained on the job. This means that the measure, which had been narrowly approved by members of the House of Representatives, is now dead for 2016. NORML thanks those of you who took time to contact your elected officials and encouraged them to reject this legislation.
Rhode Island: A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers, including a majority of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have introduced legislation, Senate Bill 2420, to permit the personal cultivation and commercial retail sale of marijuana. The Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, would regulate the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to those over the age of 21. Adults would be permitted to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It also permits adults to cultivate up to two marijuana plants (no more than 1 mature) at home for non-commercial purposes. #TakeAction
Legislation, SB 2115 and HB 7142, is pending to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. The Senate version of the bill is pending before members of the Senate Health and Human Services committee. The House version of the bill is before members of the Judiciary Committee. #TakeAction
Vermont: Members of the Senate are anticipated to decide on legislation to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. The vote is expected to be a close one; therefore, we are urging supporters to contact their Senate members over the coming days and to urge them to vote ‘yes’ for Senate Bill 241. If approved by the Senate, the bill will face further debate in the House. #TakeAction
Don’t forget to take a look at our #TakeAction Center for up to date information on all pending marijuana law reform legislation.