This week we have an array of legislative updates ranging from more bills being introduced, other bills stalling, and everything in between. We have news out of Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia, Utah and Washington D.C.! Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform this week.
The Marijuana Advertising in Legal States (MAILS) Act was introduced this week by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici. This legislation would “reverse the outdated declaration by the U.S. Postal Service in December 2015 that prohibited the mailing of newspapers with ads offering to buy or sell marijuana, even if the marijuana-related ad complies with state law.” Senator Wyden says, “Our bill updates the federal approach to marijuana, ending the threat to news publications that choose to accept advertising from legal marijuana businesses in Oregon and other states where voters also have freely decided to legalize marijuana.”
Democrat Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made comments this week in response to a question at a town hall meeting from a medical marijuana patient who asked what she would do to decriminalize the drug. Clinton responded boldly saying, “She would do a lot.” She reiterated her support for states to decide the issue and reaffirmed that, if elected President, she would reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act to a Schedule II substance. She stated, “I have no doubt there are very real benefits to people.”
Democrat Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also made comments this week related to marijuana policy when he addressed the question, “If elected, how would your administration address the current tension between state and federal marijuana laws?” Sanders responded, “As President, I would direct HHS and DOJ to immediately review if marijuana should be rescheduled or descheduled under the Controlled Substances Act, and I would instruct DOJ not to interfere with states who have legalized or decriminalized marijuana.”
Arizona: House Bill 2007, was introduced to defelonize minor marijuana possession offenses.Under present law, marijuana possession is classified as a felony, punishable by up to two years in jail. House Bill 2007 reclassifies minor marijuana possession offenses from a felony to a civil offense, punishable by a fine only — no arrest, no criminal prosecution, and no criminal record. #TakeAction
California: Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that seeks to dissuade California cities and counties from enacting municipal restrictions on the cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana by amending a drafting error in the The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. It also removes objectionable language authorizing local governments to prohibit patients from cultivating, storing, donating, or processing marijuana for their own personal use, and by doing so, reaffirms that qualified patients have the right under state law to engage in personal cultivation absent a city or state license.
Florida: House legislation, House Bill 271, redefines industrial hemp as an agricultural crop and establishes licensing regulations to allow for the plant’s cultivation. A committee substitute version of the bill was unanimously approved by members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Tuesday, February 2nd. We’ll keep you updated as this legislation moves forward. #TakeAction
Hawaii: Objectionable legislation is pending in the House to eliminate patients’ longstanding rights to cultivate medical marijuana. House Bill 1680 repeals patients’ legal authority to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis. Criminalizing the personal cultivation of cannabis is an arbitrary prohibition that has absolutely no basis in public safety. For sixteen years, thousands of Hawaii patients have possessed the ability to cultivate personal use qualities of medicinal marijuana. There exists no evidence that this law has led to any sort of widespread abuse or public safety threat.. #TakeAction
Illinois: Legislation is pending in the Senate to expand Illinois’ hemp law to promote hemp-related commerce. The act seeks to establish regulations for the Department of Agriculture to license persons “desiring to grow, process, cultivate, harvest, process, possess, sell, or purchase industrial hemp or industrial hemp related products.” #TakeAction
In separate news, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner this week rejected a recommendation from the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to expand the state’s medical marijuana program by adding eight additional qualifying conditions. For more information on organizing patients’ efforts in Illinois, please contact Illinois NORML.
Kansas: Members of the Senate voted 38 to 1 on Wednesday, February 3, in favor of a Committee substitute version of HB 2049 to reduce 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). Second convictions will no longer be classified as a felony offense. The amended language now returns to the House for a concurrence vote. #TakeAction
Maine: Marijuana legalization advocates turned in more than 100,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office this week in hopes of meeting the 60,000 requirement to qualify for the 2016 ballot. Read more about this campaign here.
Maryland: House Bill 443 is pending in the General Assembly to permit the Department of Agriculture to authorize institutions of higher education to cultivate industrial hemp for academic research purposes.This legislation is scheduled to be heard Wednesday, February 10th by members of the Environment and Transportation Committee at 1:00PM. #TakeAction
Separate legislation, House Bill 665, seeks to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2016 ballot to regulate adult marijuana use. If approved by lawmakers, the bill would allow voters to decide if they wish to regulate the commercial cultivation, processing, and retail of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. You can read the full text of this proposal here. #TakeAction
New Jersey: Assembly Bill 2050, legislation to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses in New Jersey, is pending in the General Assembly. If approved, the legislation would remove criminal penalties for those who possess 15 grams of marijuana or less. New Jersey’s 24,765 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2013 was the state’s highest number in 20 years. #TakeAction
Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo has proposed that a new tax be imposed upon state qualified patients who choose to cultivate their own cannabis. The proposed taxes range from $150 per plant for an individual patient up to $350 per plant for growers with cultivator licenses. The proposed tax is rightfully drawing fire, from patients and other concerned citizens. For more information on efforts to oppose this change, please visit the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.
Utah: On Thursday, February 4th, members of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee moved SB 73, the Medical Cannabis Act, to the Senate floor. The legislation seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis, including strains with higher THC content, for the manufacturing of medicinal products and/or herbal preparations. We’ll keep you updated as this measure continues to move forward. #TakeAction
Virginia: House and Senate lawmakers set aside legislation that sought to eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses. On February 3rd, Senate Bill 104, was passed by indefinitely by the Courts of Justice Committee in an 11-4 vote. This action stalls any legislative progress for now, but allows for the committee to reconsider legislation at a later meeting. It is apparent by these actions that Virginia lawmakers need to hear from constituents that marijuana law reform ought to be a legislative priority. #TakeActionWashington D.C.: A bill aimed at permanently banning private marijuana clubs in the District was pulled on Tuesday and instead Council members passed an amendment to create a seven member taskforce to look into the issue more closely. The taskforce will be made up of two members from the D.C. Council, one from the Office of the D.C. Attorney General and five from city agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Health Department, who will be appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Exciting news from across the country with NEW legislation being introduced and promising legislation moving forward! This week we highlight Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, New
Mexico, New Orleans, and Vermont. Plus our lawmakers in Congress and lawmakers in Puerto Rico took action this week too! Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform.
Puerto Rico: Health Department officials have signed off on regulations overseeing the licensed production and distribution of medical cannabis within the US territory. The new program is anticipated to be operational by year’s end.
Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro J. Garcia Padilla signed an executive order in May calling on health officials to adopt regulations permitting medical cannabis production and access. Under the new plan, patients who possess a physician’s authorization will be able to obtain cannabis-infused products, such as oils and pills, from state-licensed facilities.
Patients will not be permitted to cultivate their own marijuana and herbal formulations of medical cannabis will not be permitted.
Federal: On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers signed on to a letter addressed to the Veteran’s Administration (VA) requesting a policy change be made to allow veterans to access medical marijuana.
Current law prevents VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana to patients, even in states where it is legal for qualified patients to possess it. Senators Gillibrand (D-NY), Daines (R-MT), Merkley (D-OR), and Reps. Blumenauer (D-OR), Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Titus (D-NV) are leading the efforts in reforming this nonsensical policy. If these Senators and Representatives are from your state, consider giving their office a call and thanking them for their work on medical marijuana! You can find your lawmakers contact info here.
Arizona: After a Republican lawmaker this week received hundreds of complaints, he withdrew his bill that aimed to restrict access to medical marijuana in the state.
The bill would have denied physicians practicing alternative medicine such as naturopathy and homeopathy the ability to recommend cannabis therapy.
California: Legislation that seeks to dissuade California cities and counties from enacting municipal restrictions on the cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana has been approved lawmakers and awaits the Governor’s signature. Once signed into law, the bill will take immediate effect.
Assembly Bill 21 amends a drafting error in the The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act by removing an apparent March 1, 2016 deadline for localities to establish their own cultivation regulations or else forfeit that authority to the state. It also removes objectionable language authorizing local governments to prohibit patients from cultivating, storing, donating or processing marijuana for their own personal use.
In recent months, numerous California cities and counties have hastily enacted provisional bans on medical marijuana-related activities out of fear that the state would become to sole authority on the issue following the March 1 deadline. Passage of AB 21 states that localities retain the ability to regulate medical marijuana production and commerce in the manner that they see best. The hope is that localities will halt efforts to impose restrictions, and will reconsider existing moratoriums, now that it is clear that local lawmakers will continue to possess the authority to legislate the issue beyond March 1, 2016.
Further information on both pending and enacted local ordinances, as well as talking points to best address them, is available from California NORML here.
Florida: Floridians will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment this November that seeks to permit the physician-authorized use and distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.
Passage of the amendment would permit qualified patients to possess and obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities.In November 2014, Floridians narrowly rejected a similar amendment, which received 58 percent of the vote.
Hawaii: Legalization, decriminalization, and hemp measures are all pending in the Hawaii state legislature.
Senate Bill 873 amends the criminal code to remove criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use by those age 21 or older. The measure is presently pending before the House Judiciary Committee.
Senate Bill 596 SD 1 reclassifies possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine to a civil violation, punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest and no criminal record.
Senate Bill 2787 encourages the state Department of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp for “research and development purposes.”
To find more information on all of these measures, check out our #TakeAction Center here.
Kansas: Members of the Senate will take a floor vote on legislation, HB 2049, to amend various penalties and regulations specific to marijuana possession and use.
House Bill 2049 seeks to a) establish a statewide research program to oversee the production of industrial hemp, b) authorize the limited use of cannabidiol for therapeutic purposes, and c) reduce 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). Second convictions will no longer be classified as a felony offense. Members of the House approved the measure last year.
Maryland: Legislation NORML opposes is pending in the Maryland General Assembly. House Bill 183 and House Bill 334 both seek 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, these measures are both unnecessary and overly punitive.
Under present law, it is not permissible to consume marijuana in public view. Those who do so are subject to a civil violation punishable by a fine of up to $500.00.
New Mexico: New Mexico has both legalization and hemp measures pending.
House Bill 75 regulates and controls the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. You can read the full text of this proposal here. Senate Joint Resolution 5 is pending action by the Senate Rules Committee.
For more information on these measures or to take action and contact your lawmakers urging their support for these measures click here.
Vermont: Members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary voted 4 to 1 on Friday, January 29, in favor of pending legislation to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. NORML wishes to thank those of you who contacted the Committee and urged their support for this important and historic legislation.
Senate Bill 241 makes it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and regulates its commercial production and retail sale.
New Orleans: City Councilwoman Susan Guidry has proposed an ordinance change to treat minor marijuana possession offenses the same as minor traffic infractions. Under the proposal, officers would have the option of issuing verbal and written warnings before any penalties kick in. Subsequent offenses would be dealt with through fines that would be capped at $100.
At this time of the year it’s hard to keep up with all of the newly introduced and pending marijuana related bills. Even this week, it was impossible to include every piece of legislation that moved so if you think there was action in your state, be sure to visit our #TakeAction Center to see an update.
Most Arizonans support permitting adults to legally possess marijuana for personal consumption, according to statewide polling data commissioned by the Behavioral Research Center.
Fifty-three percent of respondents favor legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. That is an increase of two percent compared to when pollsters asked a similar question last year.
Only 39 percent of respondents disapproved of the notion of legalizing cannabis.
Legalization supporters were more likely to be under the age of 35 (71 percent) and to vote Democrat (64 percent). Respondents age 55 or older (45 percent) and Republicans (33 percent) were least likely to support legalizing the plant for adult use.
Arizona is one of several states where voters will likely decide whether or not to legalize and regulate the use, production, and retail sale of the plant in 2016.
It is hardly a secret to any long observing advocate for cannabis law reform to recognize early on in their efforts to end cannabis prohibition that if it were not for government–federal, state and local governments–spending, there would be relatively few examples of private money being employed in the last forty-five years to try to maintain the status quo of cannabis prohibition.
The tens of billions spent annually to keep the Reefer Madness going in America largely is taxpayer-funded bureaucracies such as the so-called drug czar’s office, DEA, NIDA, SAMHSA, DARE, PDFA…blah–blah–blah.
Even in the face of this tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars annually, still, a majority of the US public rejects the policy of cannabis prohibition.
Unbelievably, the drug czar’s office actually mandates that the office must use tax funding to publicly oppose cannabis legalization efforts–even though such is no longer a popularly supported public policy.
Add one more prime example of cannabis prohibitionists in government not yielding to the will of voters, and worse, rather than pool their own private funding to advance their no-longer-popular-views, they want the taxpayers to pick up the bill of their anti-cannabis advocacy.
Arizona voters approved a medical cannabis initiative in 2010. Many in the law enforcement community in the state, including prosecutors, have consistently opposed implementing the change of policies and/or still harass medical cannabis producers or patients.
They’re sore losers.
Now, consistent with large swaths of the country, Arizona voters are organizing once again in the state to place a full cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot for 2016.
What is the reaction from some in the law enforcement community in Arizona to the prospects of citizens again instructing their workers what public policies they want them to enforce?
Sure, law enforcement personnel are citizens too, and their opinions are as meaningful as any other citizens’, however, law enforcement personnel who oppose the public’s will on changes of public policy should never employ taxpayer funding to try to sway the populace or propagandize–on matters ranging from police wearing body cameras, to forfeiture reform to cannabis legalization.
Well that is not at all happening currently in Yavapai County Arizona, where the local prosecutor Shelia Polk thinks it wise and prudent to steer forfeiture money derived from the criminal justice system (with most of the proceeds coming to law enforcement from currently illegal drug profits seized in previous criminal filings) to propagandize to voters that they should not vote to end cannabis prohibition in the state.
Ever hear law enforcement roll out the tired ol’ line of “we don’t make the laws, we only enforce them?”
It’s largely a lie (I mean…prevarication).
Police and prosecutors (aided and abetted by fellow pot prohibitionists wearing white coats at NIDA, for example) regularly, using taxpayers’ money, actively seek to influence the outcome of public policy legislation, court cases and voter initiatives that seek to reform cannabis laws.
It is pretty simple at this point in the now five-decade-old public effort to end cannabis prohibition, if police and prosecutors want to defend the status quo of a failed and unpopular public policy, then, if they really cared about the issue, they’d put their own skin in the game by organizing as private citizens.
If prosecutors, cops, narcs, sheriffs and chiefs of police want to pony up their own money to try to stave off cannabis prohibition ending in their lifetimes–go for it.
Reformers will more than match them dollar-for-dollar and are always spoiling for a good debate about wisdom for rationale continuing cannabis prohibition…and we’ve got the public on our side, they no longer do.
What can not and should not happen anymore in the modern public policy debate about whether America should or should not continue another nearly eighty-years with cannabis prohibition enforcement are government officials and law enforcement personnel using their power of the purse and bully pulpit to try to persuade voters on ANY matters of public policy–let alone on policies where conflicts of interest are as obvious as prosecutors using government money to oppose the will of local voters who’re seeking to reform unpopular laws.
Cannabis law reformers can and will win a fair fight on cannabis legalization, but, the impending political victory will be delayed if government officials are permitted to continue to use taxpayer funding to oppose the very will of the voters.
Government for and by the people? Not when government officials are sore losers and want to use government funding to try to tip the scales of public opinion.
When government stops spending taxpayer dollars to keep cannabis prohibition going, the unpopular policy will die an ignominious and swift death.
Editor’s note: Thankfully, late yesterday AZ’s Attorney General came to reconsider this blundering policy of allowing government funding to be used to campaign against cannabis legalization efforts in the state.
Recent nationwide polls have shown that a majority of all Americans support marijuana legalization. Survey data released this week by Behavior Research Center shows even stronger support at the state level in Arizona.
Behavior Research Center asked respondents whether or not they favored or opposed legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, 56% responded they favored the idea and only 37% were opposed. Marijuana legalization had support from all age groups, across all counties and with both Democrats and Independents.
Commenting on the results, Behavior Research Center stated: “It is perhaps ironic that as support for same-sex marriage and defelonization of marijuana have long been albatrosses which conservative candidates could hang around the necks of some of their moderate or liberal challengers, it now appears that hard opposition to gay marriage and perhaps even to marijuana liberalization could become issues moderates and liberals can use against their conservative opponents.”
You can view the full results of the poll here.