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Connecticut

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 5, 2011

    Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy signed legislation into law on Thursday, June 30 ‘decriminalizing’ the possession of small, personal use amounts of marijuana by adults. The new law, Senate Bill 1014, took effect on Friday, July 1.

    Senate Bill 1014 reduces the penalties for the adult possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to a non-criminal infraction, punishable by a $150 fine, no arrest or jail time, and no criminal record. The new law similarly reduces penalties for the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

    Connecticut’s new law is similar to the existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Oregon 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. Alaska law imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults.

    Lawmakers in California and Kentucky previously enacted laws this year reducing penalties for marijuana possession.

    Additional information on this law will appear in this week’s NORML news update. To receive these e-mail updates free, please sign up here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 7, 2011

    Connecticut lawmakers moments ago voted 90 to 57 in favor of Senate Bill 1014, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use by adults. Senate lawmakers had narrowly approved an amended version of the measure on Saturday; House lawmakers concurred with the Senate today, sending the measure to Democrat Gov. Dannel Malloy — who will sign it into law.

    As amended, SB 1014 reduces the penalties for the adult possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to a non-criminal infraction, punishable by a fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. (This measure would similarly reduce penalties on the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.)

    Once signed into law, Connecticut will become the fourteenth state to replace criminal sanctions and arrest for minor marijuana possession with largely non-criminal sanctions. (Seven states pose no criminal sanctions for cannabis possession; six states have eliminated the potential for jail terms for first offenses, but still classify the offense as a misdemeanor or minor misdemeanor.)

    Connecticut is only the second state to enact decriminalization legislatively in the past decade. (Massachusetts enacted a similar law via ballot initiative in 2009.)

    NORML supporters, and Connecticut NORML’s regional organizer and state lobbyist Erik Williams, played a significant role in sheparding this legislation through the State House — generating thousands of phone calls and e-mails to lawmakers at a time when political experts were alleging that the measure lacked the political will for passage. Below is a message from Erik Williams:

    Dear CT NORML Friends and Supporters,

    We did it! Moments ago, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed SB 1014, Decriminalizing Small Amounts of Marijuana. The Governor has pledged to sign the bill into law.

    Thank you for all of your hard work in making this a reality. Connecticut has taken a first step in addressing the outdated and unworkable War on Drugs, which costs taxpayers $billions every year and ruins individual lives and devastates communities.

    While this is clearly a victory for CT NORML and the State of Connecticut, it is bittersweet as the Medical Marijuana bill has yet to be brought for a vote in the Senate. If it were to be brought for a vote, it would easily pass with both Republicans and Democrats supporting the measure. I pledge right now to all of you who have fought so hard with me for the legalization of medical marijuana that I will not give up until nobody stands in the way of you and your doctor making medical decisions. I will not give up until compassion is the main driver of public policy replacing political posturing, demagoguery and fear. I will not stop working until medical marijuana is legalized and I ask you to continue to fight by my side.

    Connecticut’s legislative session ends tomorrow, but there is still time to act in favor of medical cannabis. If you live in Connecticut, please contact the office of Sen. Don Williams, President Pro Tempore, and urge him to allow the 2011 medical marijuana bill to receive a floor vote. You can also contact your own individual Senator via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 6, 2011

    Connecticut: Immediate action is needed in the Nutmeg State. Members of the state Senate on Saturday narrowly approved legislation so that the adult possession of marijuana is reduced from a misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to an infraction, punishable by a fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. This measure would similarly reduce penalties on the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Your efforts have truly made a different in this battle, as the bill passed by a single vote — and only weeks earlier political pundits were calling the chances of this bill’s success to be slim and none.

    But we still have a tremendous amount of work before us. Senate Bill 1014 must still be approved by the House Floor by this coming Wednesday!  Whether the floor will take the time to act on it will be decided by House Speaker Chris Donovan (D-Meriden). Please take a moment to contact him directly, leaving a polite message for his staff urging him to schedule a floor vote for SB 1014. You can also contact your own individual House Representative via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    Separate legislation to approve the limited use of medical cannabis also awaits Senate floor action. Please contact the office of Sen. Don Williams, President Pro Tempore, and urge him to allow the 2011 medical marijuana bill to receive a floor vote. You can also contact your own individual Senator via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    Additional information regarding this effort is available by contacting: Erik A. Williams, Executive Director, CT NORML, ewilliams@campaignswon.com, 860.805.3243.

    Vermont: Democrat Gov. Peter Shumlin last week signed legislation into law allowing state-licensed facilities to dispense marijuana to medically authorized patients. Each dispensary will be licensed by the state Department of Public Safety and would be permitted to serve up to 1,000 registered patients. The Department is in the process of developing rules to carry out the new law. To date, only the states of Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico have state-licensed medical marijuana facilities up and running. Regulators in New Jersey and Rhode Island have selected applicants to operate similar state-licensed dispensaries, but neither state has allowed those applicants to open their planned facilities. Additionally, permits for licensed medical marijuana businesses are expected to be issued soon Delaware and in the District of Columbia.

    California: Members of the state Assembly last week narrowly rejected AB 1017, which sought to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana cultivation from a felony to an alternative misdemeanor. “The state legislature has once again demonstrated its incompetence when it comes to dealing with prison crowding,” commented California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, which backed the bill. “With California under court order to reduce its prison population, it is irresponsible to maintain present penalties for non-violent drug offenses. It makes no sense to keep marijuana growing a felony, when assault, battery, and petty theft are all misdemeanors. Legislators have once again caved in to to the state’s law enforcement establishment, which has a vested professional interest in maximizing drug crime.”

    Separate legislation, SB 129, which seeks to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against qualified medical cannabis patients in the workplace, has been held over to 2012.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 12, 2011

    For a listing of all of the pending marijuana law reform proposals that NORML is tracking, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here. (For a map of pending legislation, please visit here.)

    Delaware: House and Senate lawmakers have given final approval to legislation, Senate Bill 17, which allows for the state-authorized use and distribution of medical cannabis. Senate Bill 17, The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act amends state law so that patients with an authorized “debilitating medical condition” can possess and consume cannabis (up to six ounces) obtained from state-licensed facilities. The measure provides for the establishment of at least one non-profit ‘compassion center’ per county that would be licensed by the state to produce and dispense medical cannabis. The measure now goes before Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, who is expected to sign it. If SB 17 becomes law, Delaware will become the sixteenth state since 1996 to allow for the physician-supervised use of marijuana.

    Maryland: On Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation, Senate Bill 308, into law expanding the state’s eight-year-old ‘affirmative defense’ law. Senate Bill 308 removes fines and criminal penalties for citizens who, at trial, successfully raise an ‘affirmative defense’ establishing that they possessed limited amounts of marijuana for medical purposes. As initially introduced, SB 308 and its House companion bill sought to establish a government-regulated program to provide qualified patients with legal access to state-licensed producers and distributors of medical cannabis. However, the measure was rewritten after Maryland’s Department of Health secretary testified against it. State lawmakers are expected to revisit the possibility of regulating the production and distribution of medical marijuana next year, after the issue is further examined by a legislative ‘work group’ of medical, legal, and law enforcement professionals.

    Vermont: House and Senate lawmakers last week gave final approval to Senate Bill 17, which allows state-licensed facilities to dispense marijuana to medically authorized patients. House lawmakers overwhelmingly backed the proposal despite last-minute warnings from the U.S. Justice Department alleging that SB 17 would conflict with federal anti-drug laws. As approved, each dispensary would be licensed by the state Department of Public Safety and would be permitted to serve up to 1,000 registered patients. Senate Bill 17 now goes to the desk of Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, who is on record in support of the measure.

    Connecticut: Members of the Joint Finance Committee this week voted 31 to 20 in favor of Senate Bill 1014, which amends state law so that the adult possession of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to a non-criminal infraction, punishable by a nominal fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. This measure would similarly reduce penalties on the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Members of the Joint Judiciary Committee had previously approved the bill in April. The measure, which is backed by Gov. Dan Malloy, now moves to the Senate, where it faces potential resistance from lawmakers. If you reside in Connecticut, you can support this campaign and/or contact your Senate member in favor of SB 1014 via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    California: The California Assembly is considering legislation, AB 1017, to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana cultivation. The bill seeks to downgrade cultivation from a mandatory felony to a “wobbler” or alternative misdemeanor. This would permit judges and DA’s to treat minor cultivation cases as misdemeanors, at considerable cost savings to both users and law enforcement. AB 1017 was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee by a 4-3 vote on May 3rd, and is now awaiting a vote by the full Assembly. You can urge your member of the Assembly to vote ‘yes’ on AB 1017 by clicking here.

    New York: State Senate and Assembly lawmakers this week introduced bi-partisan legislation, Senate Bill 5187 and Assembly Bill 7620, seeking to reduce marijuana penalties and arrest violations involving cases where where marijuana was either consumed or allegedly possessed in public [NY State Penal Law 221.10]. Under present law, non-public possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is a non-criminal civil citation, punishable by a $100 fine. However, in recent years, police — particularly in New York City — have misused Penal Law 221.10 to arrest tens of thousands of defendants who would have otherwise faced no more than a civil citation. Passage of SB 5187 and AB 7620 will save taxpayer dollars, protect citizens against illegal searches, and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in arrests by clarifying the law and standardizing penalties for marijuana possession offenses. If you live in New York state you can urge your state Senator and member of the Assembly to support these measures by visiting NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 6, 2011

    Much has been made in the mainstream media in recent weeks regarding the federal government’s attempts to intimidate states into dropping their medical marijuana programs. But much less media attention has been paid to the reality that in several states, lawmakers are continuing to move forward with medical cannabis legalization efforts despite the Justice Department’s recent rhetorical smack-down.

    Here’s a run down of the latest statewide developments and what you can do to help.

    Connecticut: Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Public Health on Tuesday decided in favor of Governor’s Bill 1015, which amends state law to “authorize an individual to use marijuana for medical purposes as directed by a physician.” Members of the Judiciary had previously endorsed the bill, which is backed by Gov. Dan Malloy, in April. “States have a right to decide this for themselves,” Michael P. Lawlor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s senior criminal justice adviser told The Connecticut Mirror this week. If enacted, Connecticut will become the sixteenth state since 1996 to authorize the state-sanctioned use of cannabis when recommended by a physician. You can support this effort via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    Delaware: Lawmakers are in the final stages of making Delaware the sixteenth state to allow for the physician-authorized use of marijuana. On Thursday, May 5, House lawmakers approved an amended version of Senate Bill 17, The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act. Senate Bill 17 amends state law so that physician-supervised patients with an authorized “debilitating medical condition” can possess and use marijuana for medical purposes. The measure would also provide for the establishment of non-profit “compassion centers” that would be licensed by the state to produce and dispense medical cannabis. Because House lawmakers made amendments to the Senate version of the bill, the measure must return to the Senate for an additional vote. In March, members of the Delaware Senate voted 18 to 3 in favor of the measure. You can learn more about this measure and how to support it via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    Ohio: Legislation that seeks to legalize the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana was reintroduced this week in the Ohio Legislature. House Bill 214, the Ohio Medical Compassion Act, amends state law so that physician-supervised patients with an authorized “debilitating medical condition” can possess and grow marijuana for medical purposes. Full text of the measure can be read here. HB 214 would allow qualifying patients to possess up to two hundred grams of usable marijuana and twelve mature cannabis plants. Qualifying patients from other medical marijuana states would be provided legal protection under this measure. HB 214 has been referred to the House Committee on Health and Aging, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. You can contact your state lawmakers in support of this measure here.

    Vermont: Vermont lawmakers have cleared the way for the enactment of the state-licensed distribution of medical marijuana. On Thursday, May 5, House lawmakers voted 99-44 in favor of Senate Bill 17, which allows for the state-sanctioned sale of marijuana to qualified patients. Under the bill, four dispensaries may be established to serve up to 1,000 patients. House lawmakers overwhelmingly decided to pass the measure despite warnings from the US Department of Justice claiming that the operation of such facilities could place citizens and state officials in conflict with federal law. Senators previously passed a version of SB 17 in April and are expected to concur with the minor changes made by the House. State Gov. Peter Shumlin supports the measure. Vermont lawmakers legalized the use of marijuana as a medicine in 2004, but the law presently provides no legal source for cannabis aside from home cultivation.

    Currently, both Colorado and New Mexico authorize the state-sanctioned distribution of cannabis.

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