Nearly 30 states, and the District of Columbia are considering marijuana law reform legislation this year, including bills that cover legalization for adults, decriminalization, medical marijuana and hemp. Some states have a variety of reform bills simultaneously pending such as Arizona which is considering legalization and decriminalization, and Pennsylvania which is considering legalization as well as medical marijuana legislation. Here’s a quick breakdown:
14 states are considering legalization: Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
12 states and the District of Columbia are considering decriminalization: Alabama, Arizona, DC, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wyoming.
11 states are considering legislation to establish effective medical marijuana programs: Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
3 states are considering allowing industrial hemp cultivation: Indiana, New York, and Tennessee.
Click here to access NORML’s Action Alerts and quickly and easily contact your elected officials to encourage their support of any pending reform bills. Be sure to keep checking NORML’s Take Action Center to see if your state has joined the list!
Alaska: Election Officials Affirm Legalization Measure Has Enough Signatures To Qualify For The 2014 BallotFebruary 5, 2014
State election officials have affirmed that a proposed initiative to regulate the production and retail sale of cannabis to adults has obtained the necessary number of signatures from registered voters to appear on 2014 ballot.
The initiative’s proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska, gathered more than 45,000 signatures from registered Alaska voters. On Tuesday, the director of the Alaska’s Division of Elections confirmed that of those signatures, 31,593 have been verified, thus qualifying the measure for a public vote. The lieutenant governor’s office is expected to certify the measure for the 2014 ballot in the coming days, once all of the remaining signatures have been counted and verified.
Once certified, the initiative will be placed on the August 19 primary election ballot, as is required by Alaska election law.
If approved by voters, the measure would legalize the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants (three flowering) for personal consumption. The measure would also allow for the establishment of licensed, commercial cannabis production and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products to those over the age of 21. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis would be subject to taxation, but no taxes would be imposed upon those who choose to engage in non-commercial activities (e.g., growing small quantities of marijuana for personal use and/or engaging in not-for-profit transfers of limited quantities of cannabis.) Public consumption of cannabis would be subject to a civil fine.
The measure neither amends the state’s existing medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 1998, nor does it diminish any privacy rights established by the state’s Supreme Court in its 1975 ruling Ravin v State.
Under present state law, the possession of marijuana not in one’s residence is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 90-days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
According to the results of a statewide Public Policy Polling survey, released today, 55 percent of registered voters “think (that) marijuana should be legally allowed for recreational use, that stores should be allowed to sell it, and that its sales should be taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol.” Only 39 percent of respondents oppose the idea. The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.
Additional information about the campaign is available here.
Today, members of the DC City Council voted in favor of the Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act, which removes criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and reclassifies it as a civil infraction under DC law, punishable by a $25 ticket and no criminal record. Councilwoman Yvette Alexander was the only member who voted in opposition to this measure.
A 2012 analysis published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland reported that DC possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.
However, prior to today’s vote, Council Chairman Phil Mendleson introduced an amendment to retain criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses that involve public consumption. Despite concerns voiced by Councilmen Wells and Grosso, the amendment was adopted. If the measure is ultimately approved as amended, the public consumption of marijuana would remain a criminal offense subject to arrest and punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
A final vote by the DC Council on this measure is expected to occur in early March. At that time, the council could also overturn Chairman Mendleson’s amendment. NORML and our allies are advocating for such change, as continuing to criminalize the public consumption of marijuana will only perpetuate the District’s record of racially disparate arrests.
Once approved by a second vote of the City Council, the legislation enters a 30-day review period by members of Congress.
DC RESIDENTS: Click here to contact the DC City Council and urge them to support this measure and to oppose the Mendleson amendment.
The language, included in the final version of the omnibus federal Farm Bill, was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The Senate is expected to sign off on the measure imminently.
The provisions allow for the cultivation industrial hemp in agricultural pilot programs in states that already permit the growth and cultivation of the plant. Ten states — California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia — have enacted legislation reclassifying hemp as an agricultural commodity under state law.
Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only minute (less than 1%) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Farmers worldwide grow hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food. However, US federal law makes no distinction between hemp and marijuana.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) — who advocated on behalf of the language to the 2014 Farm Bill conference, the group federal of lawmakers charged with finalizing the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill – called the bill’s expected passage “an important victory for … farmers.”
A 2013 white paper published by the Congressional Research Service concludes: “[T]he US market for hemp-based products has a highly dedicated and growing demand base, as indicated by recent US market and import data for hemp products and ingredients, as well as market trends for some natural foods and body care products. Given the existence of these small-scale, but profitable, niche markets for a wide array of industrial and consumer products, commercial hemp industry in the United States could provide opportunities as an economically viable alternative crop for some US growers.”
The agency notes that the United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop.
Also last week, the American Farm Bureau Federation at its annual meeting approved a new policy resolution urging for the repeal of the classification of industrial hemp as a controlled substance under federal law stating, “At a time when small farms are innovating and diversifying to remain competitive, we should provide every opportunity to increase farm incomes and allow the next generation the ability to continue living off the land as their families have for generations.”
Federal legislation to reclassify industrial hemp and to allow for its commercial cultivation remains pending in both the United States House and Senate.
Hawaii voters overwhelmingly support legalizing and regulating the adult use of cannabis, according to just-released statewide survey data by QMark Research and commissioned by the Hawaii Drug Policy Action Group.
Sixty-six percent of respondents said they endorsed legalizing cannabis, an increase of nine points since pollsters last posed the question in 2012.
Seventy-seven percent of respondents separately said that jail time is an inappropriate sanction for those found to be in violation of the state’s existing marijuana possession laws. Under present law, possessing any amount of cannabis for non-medical purposes in Hawaii is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Eight-five percent of those polled also backed the establishment of licensed medical cannabis dispensaries. Hawaii lawmakers legalized the possession and cultivation of medicinal cannabis by state-qualified patients in 2000, but did not provide for dispensaries.
Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, DC now have licensed medical cannabis dispensaries up and running. (California dispensaries are not licensed by the state.) Similar dispensary outlets are in the process of opening in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Oregon.
The QMark poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.
For those keeping score, recent statewide polls in Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Texas all show majority support for legalizing the adult consumption of cannabis.