State legislators are pre-filing numerous marijuana reform bills in preparation for the start of the 2016 legislative season. Additionally, members of Congress are negotiating on federal funding measures that could have dramatic effects on national marijuana policy. Keep reading to below to find out what new legislative reforms are taking place in your state and what the federal budget could mean for you!
Federal: Congressional leadership is deciding on the inclusion of four marijuana-specific provisions in the FY 2016 spending bill. Passage of these measures will have an important effect on the role the federal government will play (or not) in 2016 federal marijuana policy. As previously reported on by Marijuana.com here they are:
*Prevent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.
-Similar language was enacted last year and is current law for Fiscal Year 2015. On June 3, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 242-186 and on June 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted the amendment by a vote of 21-9.
* Prevent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs.
-Similar language was enacted last year and is current law for Fiscal Year 2015. On June 3, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 289-132 and on June 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment by a voice vote.
* Allow doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans, and prevent the V.A. from denying services to veterans because they are medical marijuana patients in accordance with state law.
-On April 30, the House narrowly rejected the amendment by a vote of 210-213 but on May 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment by a vote of 18-12, and its language was included in a bill passed by the full Senate on November 10.
* Prevent the federal government from punishing banks for doing business with state-legal marijuana providers.
Additionally, Congress will be weighing whether or not to include in the final spending package language that would bar Washington D.C. from implementing a recreational market for marijuana. Last year, Congress included language that prevented the district from taxing and selling marijuana, leading to the implementation of a grow and share program in the District.
We are expecting to receive news of final budget negotiations next week so keep following the NORML blog for an update!
Illinois: House Bill 4357, legislation to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses in Illinois, is pending in the General Assembly.
If approved, the legislation would make the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine only. Adults would no longer face criminal arrest or the threat of time in jail or a criminal record.
Introduced by Representative Kelly Cassidy, this proposal largely mirrors legislation previously introduced in the spring of 2015 that was approved by members of both the House and Senate.
Missouri: Senate Bill 762, which permits for the personal possession and retail sale of marijuana by those age 21 and over, has been prefiled for the 2016 legislative session. The measure permits adults to privately possess up to one ounce of cannabis without penalty. Senate Bill 762 also seeks to license the commercial production and to regulate the retail sale of marijuana for adults. To take action on this measure click here.
House legislation has been prefiled —HB 1524 — to allow marijuana convictions to be expunged contingent upon the passage of a constitutional amendment or other statutory enactment legalizing marijuana. To take action on this measure click here.
Senate Bill 761 has been prefiled in the Missouri legislature to exempt marijuana from certain forfeiture provisions relating to controlled substances.
“Under current law, illegal controlled substances, anything of value exchanged for a controlled substance in violation of the law, money used to facilitate a violation of the controlled substances laws, money found in close proximity to an illegal controlled substance, and any other property used in relation to or derived from a violation of the controlled substances laws is subject to seizure and forfeiture.” This act exempts marijuana from these forfeiture provisions. To take action on this measure click here.
Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!
** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!
Missouri: Lawmakers Reduce Marijuana Possession Penalties, But Legal Relief Still Remains Years AwayMay 21, 2014
Legislation revamping Missouri’s criminal code became law last Tuesday, absent the signature of Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon.
Lawmakers and advocates spent some eight years drafting the legislation, Senate Bill 491, which significantly revises the state’s criminal code for the first time in over 30 years. Missouri NORML Coordinator Dan Viets served on the Missouri Bar Association Committee that authored many of the criminal code revisions.
Provisions in the measure amend marijuana possession penalties. At present, the possession of up to 35 grams of cannabis is classified as a Class A criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to a one-year incarceration and a $1,000 fine. Under SB 291, the possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis will be reclassified as a Class D misdemeanor (the lowest criminal classification available), punishable by a fine, but not the possibility of jail time. However, the possession of greater quantities of cannabis will remain a Class A misdemeanor offense.
In 2010, Missouri police made nearly 18,500 criminal arrests for marijuana possession offenses, one of the highest totals in the country.
Separate provisions in the bill amend Missouri’s “prior and persistent drug offender” law. The changes eliminate the mandate that persons convicted of a drug felony offense for the third time are not eligible for probation or parole.
Unfortunately, despite the passage of SB 491, Missouri residents ought not to expect legal relief any time soon. That is because the changes to the Missouri criminal code do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2017. Consequently, local activists are continuing their push for a potential 2016 legalization initiative.
In St. Louis, Missouri Sgt. Gary Wiegert has been given permission by his chief of police to become an official lobbyist in the state to legalize marijuana for the non-profit organization Show Me Cannabis.
While there are hundreds of former law enforcement officers lobbying with the non-profit group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), having a currently employed law enforcement officer being given the ‘green’ light by their command to lobby for marijuana legalization maybe a first. Regardless, it most certainly will not be the last!
Article appeared from the AP in the Kansas City Star:
ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson has reversed course and will allow a veteran officer to moonlight as a lobbyist for a pro-marijuana organization.Dotson wrote to police Sgt. Gary Wiegert on Tuesday saying his request for “secondary employment” will be allowed.
Wiegert filed a complaint earlier this year with U.S. District Court claiming the department violated his First Amendment rights to free speech for refusing to allow him to lobby on behalf of Show-Me Cannabis.
Wiegert worked for three years as a lobbyist for the St. Louis Tea Party. In February, he submitted a new application to the department. The application did not require him to state for whom he would lobby. It was approved but revoked after the department learned Wiegert was lobbying for the pro-marijuana group.
Last night, the City Council of Springfield, MO voted 6-3 in favor of an initiative that would lower city penalties for possession of up to 35 grams of cannabis to a maximum $150 fine. This measure came about as part of a petitioning process by the group Show-Me Cannabis Regulation. After the group collected enough signatures from Springfield voters, the council had the option of either passing the legislation or putting it before voters in the November election.
This measure is similar to an ordinance passed in Columbia, MO in 2004, that received 61% of the vote. This initiative differs in that it adds automatic expungement of convictions for possession
of up to 1 and 1/4 ounces of cannabis or cannabis paraphernalia two years after a plea of guilty
or conviction. It also requires the council to appoint a “Citizens Committee” to review and monitor the implementation of the ordinance.
The city council has the opportunity to amend its language and several members have signaled a desire to do so. If they are to amend the language they only have 30 days in which to do so. To what extent the measure will be changed before it is implemented remains unclear. Councilman Tommy Bieker stated that, “I will be voting in support with the intent of turning around and working out the amendment.”
His colleague, Councilman Jeff Seifried told press he supported passing the amendment “then gutting, the entire ordinance.”
NORML will keep you updated as this situation progresses. You can read more about initiatives that did advance to this fall’s ballot by visiting NORML’s 2012 Election Guide, Smoke the Vote.
Residents of Springfield, Missouri will likely be voting on a marijuana decriminalization measure this fall. Initiative proponents, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, submitted their final round of signatures to the city clerk in the past week and received word yesterday that they have met the required threshold of signatures for qualification. On Thursday afternoon, the Springfield City Clerk confirmed the petition has officially qualified with at least 2,132 certified signatures.
The petition now moves to the City Council, which has the opportunity to enact the measure into law as written or place it before voters in Springfield this November. The initiative aims to lower the penalty for possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana, currently a misdemeanor punishable by arrest, to a ticket with a maximum fine of $150.
NORML will keep you updated as this initiative progresses. For information on other Election 2012 reform efforts, check out NORML’s voter guide, Smoke the Vote.