It’s Official: Vermont Becomes 17th State To End Criminal Sanctions For Marijuana Possession OffensesJune 6, 2013
Democrat Gov. (and NORML PAC recipient) Peter Shumlin today signed legislation into law eliminating criminal penalties for adults who possess personal use amounts of cannabis and/or hashish.
“This change just makes common sense,” said Shumlin. “Our limited resources should be focused on reducing abuse and addiction of opiates like heroin and meth rather than cracking down on people for having very small amounts of marijuana.”
The new law amends penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia by a person 21 years of age or older from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine) to a civil fine only — no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record. The law also decriminalizes possession of less than 5 grams of hashish.
Vermont’s proposed law is similar to existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island, where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.
Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense.
Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana. (The laws in Colorado and Washington were enacted via voter initiative while Alaska’s legal protections were imposed by the state Supreme Court.)
Vermont’s new law takes effect on July 1, 2013.
It is possible that, for the first time ever, the United States Senate will vote to approve industrial hemp cultivation in the coming days. Please take a moment of your time to encourage your Senator to support this measure. You can easily do so by clicking here.
Senator Ron Wyden has introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 954, the Senate version of this year’s federal farm bill, that requires the federal government to respect state laws allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp. Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only trace (less than one percent) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis.
The amendment language mimics the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013,” which remains pending as stand-alone legislation in both the House and Senate but has yet to receive a legislative hearing. Senator Wyden’s provision to the Senate’s Farm Bill amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. The measure grants state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity.
“For me, what’s important is that people see, particularly in our state, there’s someone buying it at Costco in Oregon,” Senator Wyden previously stated in support of this Act, “I adopted what I think is a modest position, which is if you can buy it at a store in Oregon, our farmers ought to be able to make some money growing it.”
Eight states – Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia – have enacted statutory changes defining industrial hemp as distinct agricultural product and allowing for its regulated commercial production. Passage of this amendment would remove existing federal barriers and allow these states and others the authority to do so without running afoul of federal anti-drug laws.
Senator Wyden’s amendment is co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has also expressed his support for this proposal.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, “The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.”
It is likely that the Senate will vote on the hemp amendment in the coming days, so it is imperative that you contact your Senator and urge them to stand with Senator Wyden and support this important proposal. You can click here to easily contact your Senator and urge him or her to stand with America’s farmers and legalize industrial hemp.
[6/7/13 UPDATE: UNFORTUNATELY, SENATORS ULTIMATELY REJECTED INCLUDING THIS LANGUAGE IN THE SENATE FARM BILL. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS HAS THE STORY HERE: http://www.courierpress.com/news/2013/jun/07/kentuckys-senators-blocked-effort-legalize-hemp/.]
Lawmakers gave final approval on Monday to legislation, Senate Bill 374, to allow for the establishment of licensed facilities to dispense cannabis to state-qualified patients. The measure passed with two-thirds majorities in both legislative chambers. It now awaits action from Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has previously acknowledged that he is open to the idea of regulating medical cannabis dispensaries.
If signed into law, SB 374 would establish rules and regulations for the establishment of up to 66 not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries.
Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, Maine, and New Mexico have state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries up and running. Similar dispensary outlets are in the process of opening in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, DC.
Nevada voters enacted legislation in 2000 to allow for physician authorized patients to consume and grow cannabis. However, the law does not explicitly provide for facilities where authorized patients may obtain medicinal cannabis.
Approximately 3,800 Nevadans are presently authorized to grow and/or consume cannabis under state law.
To track the progress of marijuana law reform legislation in other states, visit NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page here.
Last week, advocates turned in double the amount of signatures required to place a marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot in Portland, Maine this year, making certification seem very likely. If approved by voters, the initiative would allow adults aged 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana with city limits. Use of the drug in public spaces, such as schools and on public transportation, would still be prohibited. The result from the signature certification process is expected in the coming weeks.
Residents statewide may still get the opportunity to vote on marijuana legalization as well. We received word from Representative Diane Russell (D-Portland), sponsor of the LD 1229: An Act to Regulate and Tax Marijuana, that it is very likely the measure will receive a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives this week. The amended version of LD 1229 contains only a simple referenda component. If the amended bill is approved by the legislature, it would place the question of whether or not to legalize marijuana on the statewide ballot in Maine this fall.
MAINE RESIDENTS: It is absolutely crucial that your elected officials hear from you in support of this legislation over the next 24 to 36 hours. Please take a few minutes out of your day to call and email your elected officials and tell them to let the people of Maine decide if it is time to end marijuana prohibition. You can click here to easily find the name and phone number of your members of the State House and Senate. Call them and urge them to vote “YES” on LD 1229. You can also click here to quickly and easily send an email in support of this legislation to your elected representatives.
NORML will keep you updated as these two efforts move forward. You can track the progress of marijuana law reform legislation in other states via NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page here.
Legislation that allows for the therapeutic use of cannabis by qualified patients, Assembly Bill 6357, was approved today by members of the New York state Assembly in a 95-38 vote. The debate now moves to the Senate where members are expected to take up companion legislation, Senate Bill 4406, in the coming days.
These measures would allow for the therapeutic use of cannabis by qualified patients who possess a recommendation from their physician. They are being supported by a bi-partisan coalition of more than 50 lawmakers.
Under these measures, state-registered patients diagnosed with one of over a dozen serious medical conditions — including cancer, HIV, post-traumatic stress, arthritis, diabetes, or epilepsy — would be allowed to possess up to 2 and one-half ounces of cannabis. The measure also allows for the establishment of licensed not-for-profit and for-profit facilities to produce and distribute cannabis to qualified patients. Non-registered patients would be able to present an affirmative defense of medical necessity at trial.
New York voters strongly support allowing patients to have access to marijuana therapy. According to a 2013 Sienna Research Institute poll, 82 percent of New Yorkers — including 81 percent of Democrats and Republicans — endorse the use of marijuana when authorized by a physician. This is an increase in support of 21 percent since pollsters last asked the question in 2012.
Despite this widespread public support, Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County) has stated his opposition to the measure. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated he opposed the measure, but was keeping an “open mind” on the issue.
If you live in New York, it is imperative that your elected officials hear from you. Please take a minute and click here to quickly and easily contact your State Senator, Senate Co-Leader Skelos, and Governor Cuomo and tell them to stand with the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers by supporting this important legislation.
NORML will continue to update you in the coming weeks as this proposal moves forward. You can track the progress of marijuana law reform legislation in other states via NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page here.