This week we’ll give you updates on legislation in Florida, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Ohio. Plus we have exciting ballot initiative news out of California and Missouri! Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform this week.
California: Proponents of the marijuana legalization ballot initiative, the AUMA (Adult Use of Marijuana Act), announced announced at a press conference that they have gathered more than 600,000 signatures from registered voters. This total is far more than the required number of 365,880 signatures needed in order to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. The Board of Directors of NORML has endorsed the measure, which permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales.
Florida: Members of the Orlando City Council voted 4 to 3 this week in favor of a new municipal ordinance giving police the option to cite, rather than arrest, minor marijuana possession offenders. Under the ordinance, which takes effect on October 1, 2016, first-time and second-time possession offenses involving up to 20 grams of cannabis may be punished by a fine of no more than $200 – no arrest and no criminal record. Under state law, similar offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Similar local measures have been recently approved in several other Florida cities and counties, including Tampa, Miami-Dade county, Palm Beach county, and Volusia county.
Louisiana: Members of the House of Representatives have approved senate legislation, Senate Bill 271, to fix and expand the state’s dormant medical marijuana law. Existing law only permits for the patients’ use of medical marijuana in instances where the plant is ‘prescribed.’ However, under federal law, physicians cannot legally ‘prescribe’ cannabis or any schedule I substance. Senate Bill 271 seeks to change the language of existing law so that physicians may ‘recommend’ rather than prescribe cannabis therapy. The measure also expands the pool of conditions eligible for cannabis therapy to include Crohn’s disease, HIV, multiple sclerosis, and other disorders. The bill will now return to the Senate for concurrence. Governor John Bel Edwards has expressed support for the medical marijuana expansion measure, stating that he wants a ‘meaningful’ bill that will ‘actually work.’ #TakeAction
Missouri: Representatives of New Approach Missouri, the group pushing for a statewide medical marijuana ballot question this November, announced earlier this week they have turned in just under 250,000 signatures to the state for certification — well over the 167,000 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. The measure, which NORML has endorsed, would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to patients at their discretion, and would also permit qualified patients to cultivate marijuana or obtain it from licensed dispensaries.
New Hampshire: Members of the House approved an amended, Senate-backed sentencing reform bill, Senate Bill 498, in a 298-58 vote on Wednesday, May 11th. The amended language would make first-time marijuana possession offenses a civil violation rather than a criminal offense. The civil penalty would be limited to a fine only: no arrest, prosecution, or criminal record. Subsequent offenses would continue to be classified as misdemeanors. The legislation now returns to the Senate for concurrence. Members of the Senate have previously rejected decriminalization for several years running. #TakeAction
Ohio: House lawmakers approved revised legislation, House bill 523, to establish guidelines for those who may qualify to use medical marijuana and how it may legally be consumed, in a 71-26 vote on May 10th. The revisions outline 20 ailments for which cannabis may be recommended, including epilepsy, AIDS, and intractable pain. However, the revised language prohibits the consumption of medicinal cannabis via smoking. Such restrictions exist in three other states: Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania. The measure will now be considered by members of the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday, May 17th. #TakeAction
A separate, more comprehensive medical marijuana measure is likely to appear on the 2016 ballot initiative. Proponents of the initiative, the Marijuana Policy Project, must collect 305,591 valid signatures of Ohio voters by early July to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. The MPP-backed measure would permit qualified patients to cultivate their own medicine and/or obtain cannabis from licensed dispensaries. You can read a summary of the measure here.
We are ten days out from NORML’s 2016 Conference and Congressional Lobby Day and we are excited to share with you the full itinerary! Have you registered to attend? We have some fun events planned and it would be a shame for you to miss out!
Colorado: Denver NORML filed the Responsible Use initiative with the city of Denver. If passed by voters this November, it would legalize the establishment of private marijuana clubs for adults 21 and up. Passage of this ordinance would be a historic first step in moving toward normalizing the responsible, adult consumption of marijuana. The initiative would provide adults with a legally defined space where marijuana could be consumed and shared with other like-minded citizens — a simple, yet necessary accommodation for states that have passed some form of legalization. You can show support for the initiative by liking their page on Facebook.
Florida: On April 1st, the city of Tampa began implementing its new decriminalization law. Under the new ordinance, people caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana will now only face a civil citation rather than a arrest, criminal prosecution, and a criminal record.
Also, The Florida Democratic Party has endorsed Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment to permit the physician-authorized use and state-licensed distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The initiative has also received recent endorsements from the Tallahassee Democrat, the Miami Herald, and the Bradenton Herald. Presently, 16 states explicitly exempt the use of CBD by qualified patients. But, to date, no of these states provide a regulated, in-state supply source for the product.
Maine: A superior court judge today overturned the Secretary of State’s ruling that a citizen petition seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine was invalid. The ruling mandates the Secretary of State to review the disputed signatures to determine whether petitioners submitted enough valid ones to qualify for ballot placement this November.
Missouri: This week, regulators at the Missouri Department of Agriculture granted licenses to two applicants seeking to grow CBD-dominant cannabis. Their products are anticipated to be ready for distribution this fall to state-qualified patients.
Pennsylvania: State lawmakers have unanimously passed separate pieces of legislation to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp.” Members of the Senate voted 49 to zero in March in favor of SB 50. House lawmakers more recently voted 187 to zero in favor of the House companion bill, HB 967. House Bill 967 will now go to the Senate for concurrence with SB 50 and then to Gov. Tom Wolf, who has expressed support for the legislation. #TakeAction
Members of the Pittsburgh City Council have approved a new ordinance imposing more lenient penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses. Under this ordinance, marijuana-related offenses will now be classified as summary offenses, punishable by a fine of $100 for public smoking or $25 for the possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Virginia: Governor Terry McAuliff has signed legislation, Senate Bill 701, into law to establish regulations governing the in-state production of therapeutic oils high in cannabdiol and/or THC-A (THC acid). Senate Bill 701 requires the Board of Pharmacy to adopt regulations establishing health, safety, and security requirements for pharmaceutical processors of oils high in CBD and/or THC-A. The measure takes effect on July 1, 2016.
Don’t forget to join us in Washington D.C. May 23rd and 24th for our 2016 Congressional Lobby Day! Whether you are a longtime activist, a young college student, a medical marijuana patient, a social marijuana consumer, or just someone who opposes prohibition, this is an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals from across the country and get a glimpse into the Capitol Hill lawmaking process. It is an exhilarating experience for anyone who has taken the time to come to DC to lobby their members of Congress. Get your tickets today!
Legislation around the country continues to move forward and more measures are being introduced every day! We have updates from , Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, and Rhode Island. Keep reading below to see what the latest in marijuana law reform is this week.
Florida: On Thursday, Tampa City Council voted to draft a marijuana decriminalization ordinance. The ordinance would treat small marijuana infractions as a citation, fine-only offense, similar to a traffic ticket or an open container offense. Similar municipal measures have recently been enacted in Miami Dade county and in West Palm Beach county. Under state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1000 fine.You can contact Tampa City Council members and urge their support for this common sense policy, here.
Hawaii: House lawmakers took no action on legislation that sought to eliminate patients’ longstanding rights to cultivate medical marijuana. House Bill 1680 sought to repeal patients’ legal authority to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis. The legislation was not heard in time for the filing deadline and therefore will no longer be considered by lawmakers during this legislative session. NORML would like to thank everyone who contacted their lawmakers and urged them to reject HB 1680.
Kansas: After Members of the Senate voted 38 to 1 on Wednesday, February 3, in favor of a Committee substitute version of HB 2049, the amended language was sent to the House for a concurrence vote. Because the House did not concur with all of the Senate changes, the bill will now be sent to a Conference Committee to reconcile the differences. The amended language reduces criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine) to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by no more than six months in jail and a $1,000 fine). #TakeAction
Maine: Senator Thomas Saviello has introduced legislation (LD 726) to permit qualified patients to use medical marijuana in Maine hospitals. Members of the Health and Human Services Committee approved this legislation on Wednesday, February 10th. As this measure continues to move forward it’s important to contact your Senator and urge their support! #TakeAction
Maryland: A new bill has been introduced to to recriminalize offenses involving the public use of small amounts of marijuana. While NORML is generally supportive of efforts to dissuade the use of marijuana in public or in a vehicle, this new measure is unnecessary and overly punitive. House Bill 1304 is scheduled to be heard by members of the House Judiciary Committee, March 1st at 1PM. #TakeAction
A related measure, House Bill 183, was amended by the House so that all provisions seeking to criminalize public use were removed. As amended, the measure explicitly prohibits cannabis inhalation by a driver or passengers in a moving motor vehicle. Engaging in such behavior will be a citable offense, punishable by a fine only. Following these amendments, NORML has dropped our formal opposition to this bill, which will now be debated by members of the Senate.
Missouri: Legislation to permit qualified patients to consume cannabis with a physician’s written authorization is pending in the 2016 legislative session. House Bill 2213, the Missouri Compassionate Care Act, permits qualified patients to engage in cannabis therapy and establishes a licensed system for cannabis production and distribution. #TakeAction
New Mexico: Members of the Senate unfortunately voted down Senate Joint Resolution 5 which sought to put legalization before a public vote this November. Although 17 Senators stood in favor of the measure, 24 voted against it. However, the vote marks the first time that such a measure has ever been debated on the floor of either chamber of the New Mexico legislature.
After extremely compelling testimony from injured workers in earlier committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to schedule a hearing for House Bill 195, which sought to prohibit workers compensation insurers from reimbursing employees who qualify for medical cannabis access for injuries sustained on the job. This means that the measure, which had been narrowly approved by members of the House of Representatives, is now dead for 2016. NORML thanks those of you who took time to contact your elected officials and encouraged them to reject this legislation.
Rhode Island: A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers, including a majority of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have introduced legislation, Senate Bill 2420, to permit the personal cultivation and commercial retail sale of marijuana. The Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, would regulate the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to those over the age of 21. Adults would be permitted to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It also permits adults to cultivate up to two marijuana plants (no more than 1 mature) at home for non-commercial purposes. #TakeAction
Legislation, SB 2115 and HB 7142, is pending to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. The Senate version of the bill is pending before members of the Senate Health and Human Services committee. The House version of the bill is before members of the Judiciary Committee. #TakeAction
Vermont: Members of the Senate are anticipated to decide on legislation to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. The vote is expected to be a close one; therefore, we are urging supporters to contact their Senate members over the coming days and to urge them to vote ‘yes’ for Senate Bill 241. If approved by the Senate, the bill will face further debate in the House. #TakeAction
Don’t forget to take a look at our #TakeAction Center for up to date information on all pending marijuana law reform legislation.
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.