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
In an interview earlier this week with National Public Radio, US Attorney General Eric Holder publicly acknowledged the obvious:
-There are too many citizens in prison on low level drug charges
-The mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines employed by the federal government should be reformed
-The inherent outcome of the federal criminal justice system affirms serious racial disparities exist
Holder: “The war on drugs is now 30, 40 years old. There have been a lot of unintended consequences. There’s been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color.”
“[W]e can certainly change our enforcement priorities, and so we have some control in that way,” Holder said. “How we deploy our agents, what we tell our prosecutors to charge, but I think this would be best done if the executive branch and the legislative branch work together to look at this whole issue and come up with changes that are acceptable to both.”
Listen to interview here.
The Drug Policy Alliance has multiple suggestions on how President Obama and Attorney General Holder ‘can go big’ in their last three years in office to substantively reform the failed war on some drugs.
Update: Huffington Post article and C-Span video.
I’ve spoken to two reporters today inquiring about Colorado Congressman Jared Polis’ medical cannabis-related questions to Attorney General Holder at a congressional committee hearing that was otherwise a ‘bloodbath’ for Holder—getting grilled about the guns and Mexico fiasco—when Polis, who is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, was allowed to ask Holder two questions about medical cannabis enforcement.
Polis first wanted assurances that Colorado’s medical cannabis dispensaries/cultivation centers compliant with state laws—unlike California’s medical cannabis businesses that are not regulated by the state—are not a Department of Justice (DOJ) target. Holder affirmed the basic tenets of the previous Ogden and Cole memos, and wouldn’t provide assurances, but, re-iterated the DOJ stance that enforcing medical cannabis laws, notably in a state like Colorado with its rules and regulations, and with limited federal resources at hand, is a low law DOJ enforcement priority.
The second Polis question was about banking and medical cannabis businesses in Colorado, where he pushed Holder to acknowledge that the DOJ is not placing a priority on interfering with state compliant medical cannabis businesses and banking concerns.
I assume there will be news and industry coverage later today and tomorrow about this unexpected, but informative exchange between Representative Polis and Attorney General Holder.
Now For Some Good News: “Harris Holds Big Lead Over Cooley In Undecided California Attorney General Race”November 23, 2010
Officially, the California race between Steve Cooley and Kamala Harris for Attorney General remains ‘undecided.’ But the totals from the latest vote count appear to tell a different story.
Harris holds big lead over Cooley in undecided California attorney general race
via Southern California Public Radio
Kamala Harris picked up more than 9,000 votes yesterday in the still-undecided race for California attorney general. The San Francisco district attorney now leads L.A. County’s DA, Steve Cooley, by nearly 52,000 votes.
About eight-and-and-a-half million ballots have been counted; there’s a stack of 500,000 still to go.
Some political observers, like L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti, said last week that back-of-the-envelope calculations don’t give Cooley much hope of winning.
… We’ll know for sure when the secretary of state ratifies the results December 10.
As I’ve written previously, the California Attorney General’s race has significant implications for the distribution of medical cannabis in California, as Cooley had pledged to prosecute dispensaries that engage in over-the-counter cash sales of marijuana to authorized patients.
Present Attorney General guidelines, issued under former A.G. (now Governor-elect) Jerry Brown in 2008, authorize the distribution and non-profit sales of medical cannabis in California by qualified “collectives and cooperatives,” but warn that ’storefront’ business that engage in the for-profit sales of medical marijuana “are likely operating outside the protections” of state law. Cooley has long maintained that California dispensaries that engage in over-the-counter sales to customers do not meet a legal definition of ‘collectives’ or ‘not-for-profit’ entities.
By contrast, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris has previously voiced strong support for protecting the legal rights of patients who use cannabis medicinally, stating, “We will not prosecute people who use or sell marijuana for medicinal purposes.”
[UPDATED Monday] There is still hope for California’s medical marijuana dispensaries! As of Monday morning, the California Secretary of State shows that SF DA Kamala Harris has pulled ahead of LA DA Steve Cooley by 15,199 votes to be the next Attorney General:
Harris: 4,100,656 45.9%
Cooley: 4,085,457 45.7%
As Paul Armentano explained last Monday:
The race for California Attorney General has significant implications for the distribution of medical cannabis in California, as Cooley has previously pledged to prosecute dispensaries that engage in over-the-counter cash sales of marijuana to authorized patients. In October, while serving as Los Angeles District Attorney, Cooley declared that state law bars sales of medical marijuana, and opined: “The vast, vast, vast majority, about 100%, of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally, they are dealing marijuana illegally. … The time is right to deal with this problem.”
By contrast, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris has previously voiced strong support for protecting the legal rights of patients who use cannabis medicinally.