#1 Colorado and Washington Vote To Legalize Marijuana
Voters in Colorado and Washington made history by approving ballot measures allowing for the personal possession and consumption of cannabis by adults. Washington’s law, which removes criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use (as well as the possession of up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form), took effect on December 6. Colorado’s law, which allows for the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants in private by those persons age 21 and over, took effect on December 10. Regulators in both states are now in the process of drafting rules to allow for state-licensed proprietors to commercially produce and sell cannabis.
#2 Most Americans Favor Legalization, Want The Feds To Butt Out
A majority of Americans support legalizing the use of cannabis by adults, according to national polls by Public Policy Polling, Angus Reid, Quinnipiac University, and others. A record high 83 percent of US citizens favor allowing doctors to authorize specified amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses. And nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose federal interference in state laws that allow for legal marijuana use by adults.
#3 Connecticut, Massachusetts Legalize Cannabis Therapy
Connecticut and Massachusetts became the 17th and 18th states to allow for the use of cannabis when recommended by a physician. Connecticut lawmakers in May approved Public Act 12-55, An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana. The new law took effect on October 1. On Election Day, 63 percent of Massachusetts voters approved Question 3, eliminating statewide criminal and civil penalties related to the possession and use of up to a 60-day supply of cannabis by qualified patients. The law takes effect on January 1, 2013.
#4 Schedule I Prohibitive Status For Pot “Untenable,” Scientists Say
The classification of cannabis and its organic compounds as Schedule I prohibited substances under federal law is scientifically indefensible, according to a review published online in May in The Open Neurology Journal. Investigators at the University of California at San Diego and the University of California, Davis reviewed the results of several recent clinical trials assessing the safety and efficacy of inhaled or vaporized cannabis. They concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”
#5 Marijuana Arrests Decline, But Still Total Half Of All Illicit Drug Violations
Police made 757,969 arrests in 2011 for marijuana-related offenses, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report. The total marked a decline from previous years. Of those charged in 2011 with marijuana law violations, 663,032 (86 percent) were arrested for marijuana offenses involving possession only. According to the report, approximately 43 percent of all drug violations in 2011 were for cannabis possession.
#6 Long-Term Cannabis Exposure Not Associated With Adverse Lung Function
Exposure to moderate levels of cannabis smoke, even over the long-term, is not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function, according to clinical trial data published in January in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Investigators at the University of California, San Francisco analyzed the association between marijuana exposure and pulmonary function over a 20-year period in a cohort of 5,115 men and women in four US cities. They concluded: “With up to 7 joint-years of lifetime exposure (e.g., 1 joint/d for 7 years or 1 joint/wk for 49 years), we found no evidence that increasing exposure to marijuana adversely affects pulmonary function. … Our findings suggest that occasional use of marijuana … may not be associated with adverse consequences on pulmonary function.”
#7 Cannabis Use Associated With Decreased Prevalence Of Diabetes
Adults with a history of marijuana use have a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and possess a lower risk of contracting the disease than do those with no history of cannabis consumption, according to clinical trial data published in the British Medical Journal. Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles assessed the association between diabetes mellitus (DM) and marijuana use among adults aged 20 to 59 in a nationally representative sample of the US population of 10,896 adults. Investigators concluded, “Our analysis of adults aged 20-59 years … Showed that participants who used marijuana had a lower prevalence of DM and lower odds of DM relative to non-marijuana users.”
#8 Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Not Associated With Neighborhood Crime
The establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries does not adversely impact local crime rates, according to a federally funded study published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Researchers reported: “There were no observed cross-sectional associations between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and either violent or property crime rates in this study.”
#9 Rhode Island Becomes The 15th State To Decriminalize Pot Possession Penalties
Governor Lincoln Chafee signed legislation into law in June amending marijuana possession penalties for those age 18 or older from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense — punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. The decriminalization law takes effect on April 1, 2013.
#10 Cannabis Reduces Symptoms In Patients With Treatment-Resistant MS
Cannabis inhalation mitigates spasticity and pain in patients with treatment-resistant multiple sclerosis (MS), according to clinical trial data published online in May in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association. Investigators at the University of California, San Diego assessed the use of inhaled cannabis versus placebo in 30 patients with MS who were unresponsive to conventional treatments. “Smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in symptom and pain reduction in patients with treatment-resistant spasticity,” authors concluded.
This morning Connecticut officially became the 17th state since 1996 to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis as a therapeutic option for qualified patients.
House Bill 5389 — the Palliative Use of Marijuana Act — which was signed into law on by Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy on June 1, took effect today. Online registration for qualifying patients and their physicians is now available from the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection here.
Applicable qualifying medical conditions under the law include: cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The Department of Consumer Protection has until July 1 to submit regulations to the General Assembly regarding the eventual state-licensed distribution of cannabis. In the interim, qualified patients will be allowed to lawfully to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis. However, “until state-approved sources of medical marijuana are established, transactions to obtain the drug will still be illegal,” according to today’s Norwich Bulletin. (Home cultivation is not explicitly addressed under the statute.)
Additional information for Connecticut patients and physicians regarding Public Act 12-55, An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana is available online from the state Department of Consumer Protection here.
Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy signed legislation into law on Friday, June 1, allowing for the state-sanctioned production, distribution, and use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The new law – Public Act 12-55, An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana – will take effect on October 1, 2012.
“For years, we’ve heard from so many patients with chronic diseases who undergo treatments like chemotherapy or radiation and are denied the palliative benefits that medical marijuana would provide,” Governor Malloy said in a prepared statement. (Read it here.) “With careful regulation and safeguards, this law will allow a doctor and a patient to decide what is in that patient’s best interest.”
Under the law, patients with a qualifying “debilitating medical condition” must receive “written certification” from a physician and register with the state’s Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). Qualifying patients and their primary caregivers will be allowed to possess a combined one-month supply of cannabis, the specific amount of which will be determined by a board consisting of eight physicians certified by appropriate medical boards and enforced through DCP regulations. Patients may obtain marijuana from certified pharmacists at licensed dispensaries, who will obtain it from licensed producers. The law allows for the licensing of at least three, but no more than ten, producers statewide.
Said Erik Williams, Executive Director of Connecticut NORML, who assisted in drafting the bill and generated over 36,000 phone calls and e-mails to lawmakers in support of the measure, “I am so happy for all the patients who will have another medicinal option to discuss with their doctor and for all of those currently suffering with debilitating conditions who will no longer suffer the indignity of being sick and a criminal.”
Connecticut is the 17th state since 1996 to allow for the limited legalization of medicinal cannabis. It is the fourth New England state to do so, joining Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont — each of which allow for qualified patients to possess and cultivate limited quantities of the plant.
Late last month, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed into law similar legislation allowing for the state-licensed production and limited distribution of medicinal cannabis. Vermont lawmakers in 2011 approved a similar measure; however, to date the state has yet to license any statewide dispensaries. Presently, a total of eight state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are operating in Maine.
Similar state-licensed dispensaries operate in Colorado and New Mexico. Additional licensing legislation awaits implementation in Arizona, Delaware, New Jersey, and Washington, DC.
On Tuesday, separate legislative committees in the Rhode Island House and Senate approved measures to significantly reduce the state’s criminal marijuana possession penalties.
House Bill 7092 and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 2253, amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 or older is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. You can read NORML’s testimony in favor of the measures here.
According to a recent statewide poll, commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project, 65 percent of Rhode Island’s residents are in favor of decriminalization. In recent years, neighboring Connecticut (in 2011) and Massachusetts (in 2009, via a voter-approved initiative) have enacted similar decriminalization laws.
Rhode Island lawmakers have a long history of supporting medical marijuana law reform legislation. However, yesterday’s vote marks one of the first times in recent memory that lawmakers have taken action to amend the state’s marijuana penalties for non-patients.
The decriminalization measures now await floor votes in their respective chambers. These votes could come as early as this week. Therefore, if you reside in the Ocean State, it is vital that your elected officials hear from you. You can contact your state elected officials directly via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
Presently, in eight states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Oregon — the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by an adult is defined under the law 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. Alaska law imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults.
In all other states, marijuana possession for personal use remains a criminal offense — punishable by an arrest, potential incarceration, and a criminal record.
[Update: The full Assembly is now scheduled to vote on A. 1465 this THURSDAY, MAY 24. For the first time in many years, there is now political momentum in New Jersey to mitigate marijuana possession penalties. If you reside in New Jersey, your member of the Assembly needs to hear from you NOW. Contact your state lawmakers via NORML's 'Take Action Center' here.]
Members of the state Assembly Judiciary Committee voted unanimously today in favor of Assembly Bill 1465, bi-partisan legislation which reduces criminal penalties for those who possess personal use quantities of marijuana.
Witnesses who testified at the hearing were almost uniformly in favor of the legislation, which is similar to the laws of 14 other states. You can read NORML’s written testimony to the Committee here.
Assembly Bill 1465 removes criminal penalties for the possession of up to 15 grams (approximately one-half ounce) of marijuana, replacing them with civil penalties punishable by no more than a $150 fine and no criminal record. Under present law, the possession of minor amounts of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to six-months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Last year, Connecticut NORML spearheaded a successful legislative effort in that state to pass a nearly identical marijuana decriminalization bill. Passage of that measure has since led to a dramatic decline in the total number of marijuana arrests.
In 2009 (the most recent year for which data is available), 22,439 New Jersey citizens were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Passage of A. 1465 measure would spare many of these citizens from criminal arrest, prosecution, and incarceration, as well as the emotional and financial hardships that follow — including the loss of certain jobs, students loans, federal and state subsidies, and child custody rights. Further, this change would provide immediate legal protections for some New Jersey patients, who presently benefit from the therapeutic use of cannabis, but remain at risk because the state’s two-and-a-half year-old medical marijuana law remains inactive.
A. 1465 is now pending before the full Assembly. Separate Senate legislation to decriminalize cannabis possession has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. For decriminalization to become reality in New Jersey, the measure must pass both the Assembly and the Senate. The measure would then await action from Gov. Chris Christie.
If you reside in the Garden State, you are urged to please contact your member of the state Assembly and urge them to vote ‘yes’ on A. 1465 by visiting NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.