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  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate February 5, 2016

    map_leafThis week we have an array of legislative updates ranging from more bills being introduced, other bills stalling, and everything in between. We have news out of Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia, Utah and Washington D.C.! Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform this week.

    Federal:

    The Marijuana Advertising in Legal States (MAILS) Act was introduced this week by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici. This legislation would “reverse the outdated declaration by the U.S. Postal Service in December 2015 that prohibited the mailing of newspapers with ads offering to buy or sell marijuana, even if the marijuana-related ad complies with state law.” Senator Wyden says, “Our bill updates the federal approach to marijuana, ending the threat to news publications that choose to accept advertising from legal marijuana businesses in Oregon and other states where voters also have freely decided to legalize marijuana.”

    Democrat Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made comments this week in response to a question at a town hall meeting from a medical marijuana patient who asked what she would do to decriminalize the drug. Clinton responded boldly saying, “She would do a lot.” She reiterated her support for states to decide the issue and reaffirmed that, if elected President, she would reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act to a Schedule II substance. She stated, “I have no doubt there are very real benefits to people.”

    Democrat Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also made comments this week related to marijuana policy when he addressed the question, “If elected, how would your administration address the current tension between state and federal marijuana laws?” Sanders responded, “As President, I would direct HHS and DOJ to immediately review if marijuana should be rescheduled or descheduled under the Controlled Substances Act, and I would instruct DOJ not to interfere with states who have legalized or decriminalized marijuana.”

    State:
    Arizona: House Bill 2007, was introduced to defelonize minor marijuana possession offenses.Under present law, marijuana possession is classified as a felony, punishable by up to two years in jail. House Bill 2007 reclassifies minor marijuana possession offenses from a felony to a civil offense, punishable by a fine only — no arrest, no criminal prosecution, and no criminal record. #TakeAction

    California: Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that seeks to dissuade California cities and counties from enacting municipal restrictions on the cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana by amending a drafting error in the The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. It also removes objectionable language authorizing local governments to prohibit patients from cultivating, storing, donating, or processing marijuana for their own personal use, and by doing so, reaffirms that qualified patients have the right under state law to engage in personal cultivation absent a city or state license.

    Florida: House legislation, House Bill 271, redefines industrial hemp as an agricultural crop and establishes licensing regulations to allow for the plant’s cultivation. A committee substitute version of the bill was unanimously approved by members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Tuesday, February 2nd. We’ll keep you updated as this legislation moves forward. #TakeActionindustrial_hemp

    Hawaii: Objectionable legislation is pending in the House to eliminate patients’ longstanding rights to cultivate medical marijuana. House Bill 1680 repeals patients’ legal authority to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis. Criminalizing the personal cultivation of cannabis is an arbitrary prohibition that has absolutely no basis in public safety. For sixteen years, thousands of Hawaii patients have possessed the ability to cultivate personal use qualities of medicinal marijuana. There exists no evidence that this law has led to any sort of widespread abuse or public safety threat.. #TakeAction

    Illinois: Legislation is pending in the Senate to expand Illinois’ hemp law to promote hemp-related commerce. The act seeks to establish regulations for the Department of Agriculture to license persons “desiring to grow, process, cultivate, harvest, process, possess, sell, or purchase industrial hemp or industrial hemp related products.” #TakeAction

    In separate news, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner this week rejected a recommendation from the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to expand the state’s medical marijuana program by adding eight additional qualifying conditions. For more information on organizing patients’ efforts in Illinois, please contact Illinois NORML.

    Kansas: Members of the Senate voted 38 to 1 on Wednesday, February 3, in favor of a Committee substitute version of HB 2049 to reduce 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). Second convictions will no longer be classified as a felony offense. The amended language now returns to the House for a concurrence vote. #TakeAction

    Maine: Marijuana legalization advocates turned in more than 100,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office this week in hopes of meeting the 60,000 requirement to qualify for the 2016 ballot. Read more about this campaign here.

    Maryland: House Bill 443 is pending in the General Assembly to permit the Department of Agriculture to authorize institutions of higher education to cultivate industrial hemp for academic research purposes.This legislation is scheduled to be heard Wednesday, February 10th by members of the Environment and Transportation Committee at 1:00PM. #TakeAction

    Separate legislation, House Bill 665, seeks to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2016 ballot to regulate adult marijuana use. If approved by lawmakers, the bill would allow voters to decide if they wish to regulate the commercial cultivation, processing, and retail of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. You can read the full text of this proposal here. #TakeActionlegalization_poll

    New Jersey: Assembly Bill 2050, legislation to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses in New Jersey, is pending in the General Assembly. If approved, the legislation would remove criminal penalties for those who possess 15 grams of marijuana or less. New Jersey’s 24,765 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2013 was the state’s highest number in 20 years. #TakeAction

    Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo has proposed that a new tax be imposed upon state qualified patients who choose to cultivate their own cannabis. The proposed taxes range from $150 per plant for an individual patient up to $350 per plant for growers with cultivator licenses. The proposed tax is rightfully drawing fire, from patients and other concerned citizens. For more information on efforts to oppose this change, please visit the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

    Utah: On Thursday, February 4th, members of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee moved SB 73, the Medical Cannabis Act, to the Senate floor. The legislation seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis, including strains with higher THC content, for the manufacturing of medicinal products and/or herbal preparations. We’ll keep you updated as this measure continues to move forward. #TakeAction

    Virginia: House and Senate lawmakers set aside legislation that sought to eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses. On February 3rd, Senate Bill 104, was passed by indefinitely by the Courts of Justice Committee in an 11-4 vote. This action stalls any legislative progress for now, but allows for the committee to reconsider legislation at a later meeting. It is apparent by these actions that Virginia lawmakers need to hear from constituents that marijuana law reform ought to be a legislative priority. #TakeAction

    Washington D.C.: A bill aimed at permanently banning private marijuana clubs in the District was pulled on Tuesday and instead Council members passed an amendment to create a seven member taskforce to look into the issue more closely. The taskforce will be made up of two members from the D.C. Council, one from the Office of the D.C. Attorney General and five from city agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Health Department, who will be appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate November 13, 2015

    thumbs_upWith many state legislative sessions coming to an end and the federal government beginning final budget negotiations, we’ve seen plenty of marijuana legislation move forward this week. Keep reading below to catch up on this week’s legislative action!

    A full list and summary of pending state and federal legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.

    Federal:

    On the eve of Veterans Day members of the US Senate adopted language to permit Veterans access to medical marijuana in states that allow for its use. Senate members passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs APpropriations Bill, which for the first time includes language to allow Veteran’s Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. You can read more about this measure here.

    State:

    New Jersey: Governor Chris Christie signed legislation into law on Monday, November 9, that allows for the administration of edible forms of cannabis for children attending school.

    A4587 and S3049 “require facilities providing services to persons with developmental disabilities and schools to adopt policies permitting administration of medical marijuana to qualifying patients.”

    Additionally, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Monday, November 16th at 1:00PM in Committee Room 4 of the state capitol to discuss the merits of legalizing and regulating marijuana in New Jersey. The informational hearing comes ahead of the anticipated introduction next session of legislation to legalize the plant’s production, sale, and use. To express your support for legalization in New Jersey, click here.

    Vermont: Members of the Senate Government Operations Committee are discussing how best to implement a regulated marijuana industry in Vermont. Statewide polling reports that 57 percent of Vermont voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana production and sales. State lawmakers acknowledge that 2016 is the “time” to regulate cannabis in Vermont and they need to hear from their constituents that legalization is a priority. To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization, click here.

    North Carolina: Senate Bill 313, an act to establish a pilot program for hemp cultivation in North Carolina, has become law absent the Governor’s signature. The legislation declares, “The General Assembly finds and declares that it is in the best interest of the citizens of North Carolina to promote and encourage the development of an industrial hemp industry in the State in order to expand employment, promote economic activity, and provide opportunities to small farmers for an environmentally sustainable and profitable use of crop lands that might otherwise be lost to agricultural production.”

    New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that seeks to accelerate medical marijuana access to patients who are suffering from critical conditions and are in urgent need for medical cannabis. Assembly Bill 7060 & Senate Bill 5086 require the Commissioner of Health to establish emergency access to medical cannabis access for patients with conditions for whom a delay would pose a serious risk to the patient’s life or health.

    Florida: The Broward County Commission approved a marijuana ordinance on Tuesday, that will give police officers the option of issuing a $150 civil citation to someone caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana instead of filing a misdemeanor criminal charge against that person. Similar ordinances have been passed in Miami-Dade County and Key West.

    Palm Beach County will be voting on a similar measure, December 15th. Contact your County Commissioner today and urge their support for the option of issuing a civil citation for the nonviolent possession of marijuana! You can find out who your County Commissioner is here.

    Texas: In Houston, District Attorney Devon Anderson announced last Thursday that starting January 1st, those who are caught with less than two ounces of marijuana will be offered a diversion program and released rather than receiving a criminal charge. The suspect must complete the program to avoid facing charges.

    Anderson said, “It frees up space in jail. It minimizes the administrative burden that officers face when filing charges. It reduces the cost for prosecution and court proceedings. And of course, it gives the offender an opportunity to have a completely clean record,” she said. “When we don’t offer it until after the offender is charged, we lose a lot of the best benefits of the program.”

    Illinois: More than two years after lawmakers initially approved medical cannabis legislation in the state, patients are finally getting relief. This week, several of the state’s licensed dispensaries began serving patients for the first time. About 3,300 patients with Illinois-issued ID cards were able to purchase medical cannabis at one of five dispensaries opening Monday. Besides Canton, retail shops in Addison, Marion, Mundelein and Quincy were among the first to open. An estimated 25 facilities are anticipated to be operational by the end of the year.

    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!

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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 18, 2015

    Nearly six out of ten New Jersey adults favor legalizing the use and sale of marijuana, according to the results of a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released today.

    Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that they support “legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over.” Thirty-nine percent of respondents oppose legalizing cannabis.

    Support for legalization was highest among those age 18 to 34 (67 percent), Democrats (64 percent), and Independents (61 percent). Support was lowest among Republicans (41 percent) and those over the age of 65 (47 percent).

    When respondents were asked if they supported regulating marijuana in the same manner as alcohol, support rose to sixty percent.

    In a recent appearance on CBS’s program Face the Nation, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced that, if elected President, he would use the power of the federal government to prosecute marijuana-related activities in states that have legalized the plant.

  • by NORML October 28, 2014

    vote_keyboardNORML PAC is endorsing Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman in her campaign to be elected to the United States Congress representing the 12th Congressional District in New Jersey.

    “Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has been a proponent of reforming New Jersey’s marijuana laws during her time in Trenton. She voted in support of legalizing medical marijuana in New Jersey, co-sponsored legislation to decriminalize possession of marijuana in the garden state, and supports a move to the legalization and regulation of marijuana,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Voters in New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District should vote to send her to Congress where she will be a great asset in pursuing reform at the national level.”

    Bonnie Watson Coleman was named by MSNBC as one of the 30 women candidates to watch in 2014 and was named one of the top five female pro-marijuana candidates in Freedom Leaf Magazine.

    You can learn more about her campaign, including how to donate and volunteer, on her website her Facebook page.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 22, 2014

    GovChristieDuring his second inaugural address, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had some harsh words for our War on Drugs:

    “We will end the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse,” Governor Christie stated, “We will make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands that every life has value and no life is disposable.”

    While critiques of the War on Drugs are always welcomed (Governor Christie had previously made similar statements), it is hard to take his comments seriously when you consider his record regarding sensible reforms to New Jersey’s marijuana laws.

    The same day he was calling for an end to this failed policy, two pieces of legislation that would have made pragmatic changes to New Jersey’s marijuana laws were sitting on his desk awaiting signature. The first would have allowed state farmers to receive licenses for industrial hemp cultivation as soon as the federal government changed the national policy on the issue. The other, Senate Bill 1220, would have ensured patients enrolled in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program would be able to receive organ transplants and not be disqualified because of their medicinal use of cannabis. You would think that a governor who just stood at a podium and lambasted our prohibition as a failed policy, would immediately leave the stage and eagerly sign these pieces of legislation.

    He didn’t. These two important measures sat on his desk, unsigned and were ultimately doomed to failure by Governor Christie’s pocket veto.

    In the previous few years, Governor Christie declared that he would veto any legislation decriminalizing marijuana that came to his desk and also fought against rational reforms to the state’s medical marijuana program tooth and nail. He eventually capitulated slightly on the latter, but not before watering down many proposed amendments to the state’s program.

    We appreciate the Governor’s sentiment and welcome him in joining the overwhelming majority of Americans who think the War on Drugs has failed, but his statements are merely political bluster until his rhetoric is matched by his actions. While the ensuing years (and continual rise in public support) will only lead to more politicians, both aspiring and those currently in power, joining us in our call for a new approach to marijuana, we must be vigilante. Actions speak louder than words. If Governor Christie (and President Obama for that matter) want the rubber to meet the road between their statements and actual public policy, they will need to follow these flowery words with legitimate action.

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