Democrat Gov. Neil Abercrombie yesterday signed two separate measures into law to amend the state’s 13-year-old medical marijuana program.
House Bill 668 transfers the administration of the state’s medicinal cannabis program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Public Health. It also establishes a special fund for the program within the state treasury.
Senate Bill 642 increases the quantity of medical cannabis that may be possessed by qualified patients from three ounces to four ounces. The measure also increases the total number of mature plants that may be legally grown by qualified patients at any one time from three to seven.
A separate provision added to SB 642 in conference committee places potential limits on which physicians may be eligible to recommend cannabis, though this provision is expected to be further debated in the 2014 legislative session.
Stated Vanessa Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawaii, which was a primary advocate for the bills: “In 2000, Hawaii led the nation as the first state to legislatively establish our medical marijuana program. Now, a total of 18 states plus Washington, D.C. have programs. Finally, 13 years down the road, Hawaii is moving toward patient-focused policies and away from a law enforcement approach. These bills do not address every concern, but are the first real steps toward a more sensible public policy — we are encouraged and will redouble our efforts next legislative session.”
Advocates are expected to push in 2014 for the establishment of state-sponsored cannabis production and dispensing facilities, which are now operational in several other states, including Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont. According to a 2012 QMark Research poll, 78 percent of Hawaii voters support a dispensary system for medical marijuana.
The changes in law will become effective in January 2015.
Legislative Chambers Move Measures To Decriminalize Marijuana In Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and New JerseyMarch 22, 2013
Legislative chambers in four states — Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and New Jersey — have passed measures to reclassify minor marijuana offenses as non-criminal violations, punishable by a fine only — no arrest, no jail, and no criminal record.
In Hawaii, Senate lawmakers this month unanimously passed Senate Bill 472, which reclassifies marijuana possession offenses from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine) to an infraction. On Thursday, March 14, members of the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of a revised version of this proposal (SB 472, HD1). This revised version caps fine-only penalties at no more than $100 for violations by those age 18 or older involving 20 grams or less of cannabis. Senate Bill 472 now before the House Finance Committee, where it has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. If passed by the House Finance Committee, the measure would still need to be voted by the full House and then it would return to the Senate before going to the Governor’s desk. You can read NORML’s testimony in support of this measure here. Hawaii voters who wish to learn more about this effort can visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here or visit the ACLU of Hawaii here.
Maryland lawmakers this week passed Senate Bill 297 by a vote of 30 to 16. The bill now goes before House lawmakers for further consideration. This is the first time in recent memory that a chamber of the Maryland legislature has voted to significantly reduce penalties for the non-medical use of cannabis. Presently, the possession of ten grams of cannabis or less is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, publishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. Senate Bill 297 makes minor marijuana offenses a fine-only, non-criminal infraction, punishable by a maximum fine of $100. Members of the House Judiciary Committee will hear SB 297 on Thursday, March 28, at 1pm. NORML will be testifying at this hearing. Maryland residents are urged to get involved in supporting SB 297 by clicking here.
Yesterday, New Hampshire House members voted 214 to 115 in favor of amended legislation, House Bill 621, that decriminalizes minor marijuana possession offenses. Under present law, the possession of any amount of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor publishable by up to one-year in jail and a $2,000 fine. This proposal seeks to make minor marijuana offenses (up to one-quarter of one ounce) a fine-only, non-criminal infraction. The vote marks the fourth time in five years that House lawmakers have approved decriminalizing cannabis. More than 50 additional House lawmakers approved the measure this year as opposed to last year. Nevertheless, this measure is anticipated to face resistance in the Senate as well as from newly elected Gov. Maggie Hassan. If you reside in New Hampshire, you can take action in support of HB 621 here.
Assembly Bill 1465, which reduces penalties for the adult possession of up to 15 grams or less of marijuana to a fine-only, non-criminal violation was approved last year by the New Jersey Assembly and awaits action by the Senate. Separate Senate Legislation, Senate Bill 1977, to decriminalize up to 50 grams of marijuana also remains pending. Under present state law, the possessing of up to 50 grams marijuana is punishable by up to 6 months incarceration, a $1,000 fine, and a criminal record. According to survey data compiled in 2011 by Rutgers University, a majority of New Jersey voters support reforming the state’s criminal marijuana laws. Pollsters found that 6 out of 10 voters favored removing criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenders and replacing them with the imposition of a civil fine. Just over half thought there should be no penalties at all. More information about these measures is available here.
To date, fifteen states have reduced marijuana possession to a fine-only offense. In nine of these states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island (beginning April 1, 2013) — the law defines the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by adults 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 imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana, while Colorado and Washington recently imposed separate legislation legalizing the private possession of marijuana.
Several additional states, including Missouri and Vermont, are considering similar decriminalization measures. Nearly a dozen states are also considering legislation to legalize the adult consumption of marijuana and regulate its retail production and sale. A summary of state-by-state pending marijuana law reform measures is available from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
Representative Joseph Souki, Chair of the Hawaiian House Committee on Transportation and House Speaker Emeritus, has introduced legislation that would make Hawaii the third state to legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana.
House Bill 150 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce or less of marijuana by adults over the age of 21, in addition to allowing for the licensing and regulation of marijuana retail stores, as well as cultivation and manufacturing centers.
Polling conducted this month by the ACLU of Hawaii found that 57% of Hawaiians support taxing and regulating marijuana and only 39% were opposed.
Hawaii now joins Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont on the list of states with pending legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana, with more expected to join them in the coming weeks. It is no longer a question of if these states will join Colorado and Washington in adopting new and sensible marijuana laws, but which one will do it first. Perhaps, in honor of the Choom Gang, President Obama’s birth state of Hawaii will lead the charge.
It is extremely important your elected officials hear from you in support of these measures. You can find out if your state is currently considering marijuana law reform legislation and easily send a pre-written letter of support to your elected officials by using NORML’s Take Action Center here. If you live in one of the five states (Hawaii, Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont) considering the legalization of marijuana for all adults, you can click on the appropriate link below and go directly to your state’s action alert.
Tell Your Elected Officials to Support Marijuana Legalization!
New polling data, released this past week by the ACLU of Hawaii, shows strong support for marijuana law reform on the islands.
57% of respondents stated that they believed marijuana should be “taxed, regulated, and legalized for adults” – only 39% were opposed. This is up a whopping 20 percentage points in support since they last polled the question in 2005.
The survey also asked about the state’s medical marijuana program. An astounding 81% of respondents said they support the current law and 78% were in favor of passing regulations to allow dispensaries that would provide safe access to cannabis for Hawaii’s patients.
You can view the full survey here.
From the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines
IACM-Bulletin of 8 April 2012
World: Increasing numbers of patients use cannabis for medicinal purposes
An increasing number of patients in the world are using cannabis for therapeutic reasons, with available data from countries, which have installed programs for their citizens. Good data are available for Israel, Canada, the Netherlands and many states of the US with medicinal cannabis laws and registries. In several more countries only a few patients are allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, including Germany, Norway, Finland and Italy. In many other countries such as Spain and some states of the US without a registry such as California the number of medicinal users is estimated to be high, but no detailed data are available.
The numbers in California with hundreds of cannabis dispensaries and clinics that issue medical cannabis recommendations are unclear, since the state does not require residents to register as patients (see below**)
Most of the 16 states that allow the medicinal use of cannabis require a registration. Recently the press agency Associated Press published data on registered patients in different states of the USA based on state agencies responsible for maintaining patient registries:
State: Number of registered patients (per 1,000 of the whole population) –
Colorado: 82,089 (16.3)
Oregon: 57,386 (15.0)
Montana: 14,364 (14.5)
Michigan: 131,483 (13.3)
Hawaii: 11,695 (8.6)
Rhode Island: 4,466 (4.2)
Arizona: 22,037 (3.5)
New Mexico: 4,310 (2.1)
Maine: 2,708 (2.0)
Nevada: 3,388 (1.3)
Vermont: 505 (0.8)
Alaska: 538 (0.8)
Patient registration is mandatory in Delaware, New Jersey and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.), but their registries are not yet up and running. Washington State has neither voluntary nor mandatory registration.
Data from Israel show that in August 2011 6,000 patients got medicinal cannabis (0.8 patients in 1,000). It is estimated that the number increases to 40,000 in 2016 (5.2 patients in 1,000 citizens).
In Canada 12,116 patients were allowed to use cannabis on 30 September 2011 (0.35 patients in 1,000 citizens).
Numbers of patients using cannabis from the pharmacies in the Netherlands were estimated to be 1,300 in 2010 (0.08 patients in 1,000 citizens). However, many patients in the Netherlands use cannabis from the coffee shops or grow their own.
In Germany about 60 patients are currently allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes.
(Sources: Associated Press of 24 March 2012, website of the Israeli Prime Minister of 7 August 2011, UPI of 31 October 2011, Pharmaceutisch Weekblad No. 20, 2011)
**[Editor's note: CA NORML published a white paper last May estimating that California has 750,000 - 1,125,000 citizens who possess a physician's recommendation to use cannabis medicinally.]