With 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!
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.
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.
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!
A new report released this week by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project reveals that marijuana arrests have actually increased in New York City under the new leadership of Mayor De Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton.
In March 2014, the NYPD performed more marijuana possession arrests than in any month in the last six months under the Bloomberg administration. In fact, March 2014 saw more arrests than in 10 of the 12 months in 2013 under the previous administration. The total number of arrests for first quarter of 2014 are higher than both the third and fourth quarters of 2013.
These arrests also continue the disturbing trend of disproportionately falling on individuals of color. In Brooklyn, in predominately white Park Slope, police made just 7 marijuana possession arrests in the first three months of 2014. In Carroll Gardens and Red Hook they made 12 marijuana arrests in that same time frame. More affluent neighborhoods saw even fewer arrests. In Manhattan, Police only made two marijuana possession arrests in the Tribeca/Wall Street area, one arrest in the Upper East Side, and four arrests in the Upper West Side. The story is quite different in predominately black or latino neighborhoods, where the police made significantly more arrests. In Bedford-Stuyvesant 111 individuals were arrested, 130 in Crown Heights, and 438 in East New York from January to March of this year.
Despite similar use rates across racial groups, 86% of those arrested in the first quarter of 2014 were blacks and Latinos.
Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College, City University of New York, and co-director of Marijuana Arrest Research Project said:
“At 28,000 arrests a year, New York still makes more marijuana possession arrests than any city in the world. Yet the simple possession of marijuana has not been a crime in New York State since 1978. Isn’t it time for these unfair, biased, damaging, often illegal arrests to just stop, now?”
Most New York state voters support regulating the adult use of cannabis, while a super-majority endorse legalizing the plant for therapeutic purposes, according to a recently released Quinnipiac University poll.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents support “allowing adults in New York State to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Only 39 percent of respondents opposed the idea.
Respondents most likely to favor legalization include those age 18 to 29 (83 percent), Democrats (65 percent), those age 30 to 49 (61 percent), and men (63 percent). Support is significant lower among women (51 percent), Republicans (39 percent), and those over the age of 65 (38 percent).
On the issue of legalizing cannabis for therapeutic purposes, voter support rose to 88 percent — with the issue receiving super-majority support from respondents of every age and political affiliation.
In separate questions, only 13 percent of respondents say that they believe that cannabis is “more dangerous” than alcohol, and fewer than half believe that it is a ‘gateway’ to other illicit substance use.
The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points.
Legislation to legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of the plant — the “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act” — is pending in both the New York state Senate and the Assembly. Separate legislation to allow qualified patients to possess and purchase cannabis for therapeutic purposes also remains pending.
In January, Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who had previously expressed opposition to allowing for the medical use of cannabis — announced plans to use his executive powers to revive a dormant research program that would allow for the use of government-grown marijuana in select hospitals. However, efforts to reestablish similar programs in other states have not been effective.
Just Announced: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement tonight that his state of the union speech next week will include an announcement of an executive order making medical cannabis legal.
After this comes to be New York will become the 22nd state where qualified patients will have legal access to cannabis as a therapeutic.
At a press conference this morning, New York Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and state Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) announced their intent to introduce legislation to legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis.
Speaking at the press conference, the Assembly bill’s sponsor Rep. Gottfried said, “We really need to move beyond our totally broken prohibition model to a sensible tax and regulate model. I think it’s widely recognized that marijuana is at most nowhere near as potentially harmful as alcohol and our law is dishonest.”
Added Sen. Krueger, “I don’t believe a drug that is proven to be less dangerous, from a health perspective, than alcohol or tobacco should be under laws that actually criminalize and ruin lives when alcohol or tobacco are regulated and taxed.”
The proposed Assembly and Senate measures would allow adults over the age of 18 to possess up to 2 ounces of dried marijuana, 1/4 ounce of marijuana concentrates, and to cultivate up to 6 plants. The legislation would also establish regulations for state-licensed retail cannabis outlets throughout the state. Retail sales would be limited to adults over the age of 21.
New York City Comptroller John Liu estimates that taxing the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults would yield an estimated $400 million annually, just in the city alone.
According to a 2013 ACLU report, no state arrests more of its citizens for marijuana possession than New York.
NEW YORK RESIDENTS: Click here to easily contact your elected officials and urge them to support this legislation.