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Minnesota

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 19, 2014

    Minnesota House and Senate lawmakers, along with Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton, agreed late last week to legislation that seeks to provide access to limited preparations of cannabis to qualified patients.

    The finalized language represents a compromise between dueling House (House File 1818) and Senate bills (Senate File 1641), both of which had passed their respective chambers. On Friday afternoon, House lawmakers approved the compromised bill by a vote of 89 to 40. Members of the Senate voted 46 to 16 for the amended measure, sending it to the Governor’s desk. 

    Under the plan, state regulators intend to license two producers of cannabis and up to eight distribution centers. To be eligible to participate in the state’s program, patients need to possess a physician’s recommendation and be diagnosed with one of eight qualifying conditions (cancer/cachexia, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Tourette’s Syndrome, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, seizures — including those characteristic of epilepsy, severe and persistent muscle spasms — including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis, and/or Crohn’s Disease) and/or a terminal illness, and be registered with the state Department of Health.

    Unlike other state medical cannabis programs, the Minnesota plan does not permit qualified patients to possess or obtain whole-plant cannabis. Instead, the forthcoming law mandates that state-licensed distribution centers provide oils, pills, and/or extracts prepared from the plant. Such products would be subject to laboratory testing for purity and potency. Patients’ health care provider must compile ongoing reports in regards to their patients’ progress.

    Cannabis-based preparations are expected to be available to qualified patients by no later than July 1, 2015. Additional details on the forthcoming program are available here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 21, 2014

    African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession offenses in Minnesota at a rate that is more than six-times higher than that of Caucasians, according to an analysis of 2011 FBI arrest data released today by the nonpartisan think-tank Minnesota 2020 and commissioned in part by Minnesota NORML.

    Although African Americans comprise less than six percent of the state’s population, they represented over 27 percent of those persons arrested for violating marijuana possession laws in 2011. By comparison, whites comprise some 87 percent of the state’s population and constituted 69 percent of those arrested for violating marijuana possession laws. “Thus, the black arrest rate for marijuana possession was 687 and the white arrest rate was 107, making blacks 6.4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites,” the study found.

    In 2010, blacks in Minnesota were arrested for cannabis possession at 7.8 times the rate of whites. Both African Americans and Caucasians consume cannabis at approximately similar rates.

    The racial disparity in Minnesota in marijuana possession arrests is significantly higher than the national average. According to a 2013 analysis of marijuana possession arrests by race in 945 counties nationwide, blacks are approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.

    “[This] kind of over-representation cannot be accounted for without racial bias,” Minnesota 2020 Executive Director Steve Fletcher said today at a press conference. “It means black Minnesotans are bearing a disproportionate share of the personal and collateral costs of our war on drugs.”

    A variety of factors contribute to the disparity in arrest rates, the study found. These include “over-policing in communities of color, cultural differences in where or how marijuana is used and purchased, and [the prevalence] of grants and seizure policies that incentivize volume over quality in drug arrests,” the think-tank acknowledged in a press release.

    The report estimated that the collateral costs of a low-level marijuana arrest may total as much as $76,000 over the course of a decade, including attorney fees, fines, costs associated with attending mandatory drug treatment, lost income and job prospects, and barriers to public assistance and federal aid.

    “In light of these human and financial costs, Minnesota lawmakers and law enforcement officials have a responsibility to consider whether marijuana possession laws in their current conception are actually contributing to public safety, or if they are instead producing undue hardship for individuals and growing inequities within society,” the study concludes.

    Full text of the study, entitled “Collateral Costs: Racial Disparities and Injustice in Minnesota’s Marijuana Laws,” is available online here.

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator March 3, 2010

    Author’s update: the graphics in the post below have been updated to correct some minor mistakes, such as dated information that left out Rhode Island and Maine’s dispensaries and Oregon’s recent acceptance of Alzheimer’s agitation as a qualifying condition. Also, I have outlined Oregon’s attempt at legalization through the OCTA petition as it could be reasonably said to be as far along or farther along than Washington’s I-1068. I regret my errors.

    Medipot States 2010 (March)

    Marijuana Law Reform in 2010 (March Update)

    With New Jersey recently becoming the 14th medical marijuana state, activists in marijuana law reform have been celebrating. After all, over 82 million Americans now live in states where medical use of marijuana is legal – that’s 27% of the US population! Last election, Massachusetts became the 13th decriminalization state, which means over 107 million Americans live in a state where possession of small personal amounts of marijuana no longer merit an arrest – that’s 35% of the US population.

    Medical Marijuana Stats 1

    Population of States with Medical Marijuana Laws

    Medical Marijuana Stats 2

    Population of States that have Decriminalized Marijuana

    However, after watching fourteen years of marijuana activism focused solely on those who use cannabis for medicine, I must warn activists that medical marijuana is not getting any better and the time for re-legalization of cannabis for all adults – even the healthy ones – is now.

    Comparison of five core rights found in existing medical marijuana law


    Medical marijuana was a great 20th century strategy to get the sick and dying off the battlefield in the war on drugs. It was the perfect vehicle to enlighten the public, who for so long have been indoctrinated into the reefer madness that classifies cannabis like LSD and heroin. But in the 21st century the idea that marijuana is only a medicine is beginning to take hold and governments and voters are crafting ever-more-restrictive medical marijuana laws. For the vast majority of cannabis consumers this threatens to move us from the category of “illegal drug users” to “possessors of medicine without a prescription” – a step up, perhaps, but still left facing criminal prosecution.

    California legalized medical marijuana in 1996. That initiative, Prop-215, established what is clearly the most liberal medical marijuana statute to date:

    • A doctor can recommend for any condition;
    • You needn’t have a “bona fide” doctor/patient relationship;
    • Dispensaries are allowed;
    • Self cultivation is allowed;
    • Patients are protected from arrest.
    Medical Marijuana Stats 4

    Comparison of plant and possession limits and qualifying conditions in medical marijuana law

    If we consider these five attributes of the law the baseline, then in the past fourteen years, all thirteen medical marijuana states that have followed have failed to achieve all five. Eight states only offer three or four of those liberties and the rest offer two or only one. Most disturbingly, the right of patients to grow their own medicine (or have a caregiver do it for them), which has been a bedrock principle in medical marijuana law, was taken away from patients in the most recent medical marijuana state, New Jersey. Bills that were considered but vetoed in 2009 in Minnesota and New Hampshire, and those moving forward in New York, Pennsylvania, as well as an initiative in Arizona, all sacrifice this core right.

    No Garden State

    New Jersey - The (No Medical Marijuana) Garden State

    A comparison of plant and possession limits also shows the decline from the original starting point in California, where 12 plants and 8 ounces are allowed. Oregon and Washington passed their laws next and have the highest statutory limits: 24 plants and 24 ounces in Oregon and 15 plants and 24 ounces in Washington. (To be fair, all the West Coast states started with lower limits or more vague limits that were modified by the legislature.) But since then, only one state has allowed more than 3 ounces (New Mexico with 6 ounces) and average number of plants allowed is a little less than ten.

    Medical Marijuana Stats 5

    The "Big 8" Conditions for which marijuana is recommended in the states

    Another decline in medical marijuana freedom appears when we look at the conditions for which medical marijuana protection is afforded in the various states. There are eight conditions which could be considered the “standard” ones: cancer; HIV/AIDS; seizure disorders, like epilepsy; spastic disorders, like multiple sclerosis; glaucoma; chronic nausea; cachexia; and chronic pain. Most medical marijuana states recognize all eight conditions; a couple (Vermont and Rhode Island) recognize seven of eight.

    Medical Marijuana Stats 6

    Other conditions recognized in state medical marijuana laws (not a complete list)

    The latest law in New Jersey, however, eliminated chronic pain, chronic nausea, and cachexia, making it the most restrictive list in the nation. The bill proposed but vetoed in New Hampshire required one to try all other remedies for chronic pain before trying medical marijuana. The vetoed Minnesota bill wouldn’t even allow cancer and HIV/AIDS patients to use medical marijuana unless they could show they were terminal (about to die). The lists in the latest proposed bills continue to become more restricted.

    Until we do have legalization for all, every medical marijuana law is going to fail to adequately serve all medical users and subject them to increasing restriction and scrutiny. Additionally, medical marijuana laws make patients an attractive target for criminals because prohibition maintains huge profits for stolen medical cannabis, as well as becoming targets for overzealous anti-marijuana cops and prosecutors.

    (more…)

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director December 13, 2009

    Already Four States Have Marijuana Legalization Bills In Play; Californians To Vote On Legalization in 2010

    It can readily be said that 2009 was one of the busiest and most productive years in cannabis law reform since NORML’s founding in 1970. However, it appears as if 2010 is going to be an even busier year–notably marked by the increasing number of actual state legalization bills and a voter initiative in America’s most important state.

    Currently, there is legalization legislation pending in California, Massachusetts, Vermont, and a legalization bill was just introduced this week in Washington. Frankly, most of these bills do not have a strong prospect in passing this time out, however the immense public discussion that is generated is crucial for overall reform efforts.

    The formula is simple: No public discussion or debate about legalization, obviously equates to no substantive law reforms. This is what regrettably happened in the United States, Canada and Europe from 1980-2000, buttressed by extreme federal anti-marijuanism in the form of the DARE program in the public school, the blitzkrieg of Partnership for a Drug-Free America ads polluting media airwaves and omnibus federal crime bills overloaded with severe and costly penalties (i.e., mandatory minimum sentencing, civil forfeiture, mass drug testing, etc…). However, since the turn of the century, there have been ever-increasing public discussions and debates about marijuana prohibition–principally driven by the creation and implementation of medical cannabis laws in thirteen states–which is leading to greater public support for reform.

    Breaking News: NORML has just learned that the TaxCannabis2010 initiative in California has gathered more than enough signatures to qualify for the 2010 ballot and the announcement of such is imminent (like, this week!).

    This coming year the following states will have numerous cannabis law reform legislation or initiatives:

    Medical Cannabis

    State legislation: MN, IL, MO, OH, TN, MD, NC, PA, DE, OH, WI, NY, CT, MA, NH and TX; NJ has a special legislative session going on right now until January 7, 2010 where a pro-reform medical cannabis bill is pending and the outgoing Governor assures a signature to passed legislation.

    Voter Initiatives: AZ

    Cannabis Legalization

    State legislation: VT, MA, WA; CA’s legalization bill (AB 390) will kickoff a smoking hot year in cannabis law reform with a series of planned subcommittee hearings and testimonies currently scheduled for the first week in January.

    Voter Initiatives: TaxCannabis 2010 appears ballot bound and this means that Californians will have the opportunity on November 9, 2010 to effectively end cannabis prohibition in the United States, and arguably most of the of the civil world. Also, Nevada and Oregon voters may also be voting on cannabis legalization initiatives in 2012.

    In a country where one out of eight citizens live in a particularly state, and that state’s citizens democratically vote to end cannabis prohibition and replace it with tax-and-control measures, it is only a matter of time before a number of other states follow suit, then the federal government must end it’s failed three-quarter of a century social experiment of cannabis prohibition.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 10, 2009

    In May I blogged under the headline “Want To Know Why Pot Is Illegal? Ask Your Governor” in response to Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty’s decision to veto legislation that would have granted terminally ill patients the legal option to possess and use (but not grow) medicinal cannabis. It wasn’t the first time I’d written such a post and it won’t be last.

    Earlier this week I criticized Hawaii Republican Governor Linda Lingle for her refusal to approve legislation that merely sought to study “issues relating to medical cannabis patients and current medical cannabis laws.” Today we can add New Hampshire Democrat (just in case any of you out there are under the illusion that marijuana intolerance is not bipartisan) Gov. John Lynch to the list of public officials who single-handedly stand in the way of cannabis law reform.

    Governor Lynch, as many expected, vetoed legislation that would have allowed qualified patients  who had not responded to prescribed medications to possess and use (but not grow) medicinal cannabis. Lawmakers added the controversial, last-minute restrictions to the bill in an effort to gain the Governor’s support. Yet despite their best efforts, Gov. Lynch insisted upon placing political ideology before the health and welfare of his constituents.

    For those keeping score at home, Governor Lynch’s veto (which state lawmakers will attempt to override) marks the fourth time this year that a state governor has rejected a marijuana law reform measure. And why did Gov. Lynch take the action he did? I’ll let him explain:

    “I recognize that the sponsors of this legislation, and the members of the conference committee, worked hard to attempt to address the concerns raised about this legislation. … However, after consulting with representatives of the appropriate state agencies and law enforcement officials, I believe this legislation still has too many defects to move forward.”

    To translate: Cops and my Attorney General hate the notion of anyone — even the terminally ill — possessing the option to use cannabis legally under state law, and I will continue to kowtow to these special interests even if it means my constituents will have to suffer because of my ignorant and callous decision.

    Like I said before: Want To Know Why Pot Is Illegal? Ask Your Governor.

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