This 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.
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 This legislation would “reverse the outdated declaration by the U.S. Postal Service in December 2015 that prohibited the mailing of newspapers with ads offering to buy or sell marijuana, even if the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.”
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. #TakeAction
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. #TakeAction
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. #TakeActionWashington 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.
A majority of Rhode Island voters back legalizing and regulating the use and sale of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, according to a just-released Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project.
Fifty-three percent of respondents support “changing Rhode Island law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, so stores would be licensed to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older?” Forty-one percent of respondents oppose the idea. Six percent of voters were undecided.
Legislation to legalize the adult consumption and licensed production and retail sale of cannabis in the state is expected to be reintroduced shortly. (Rhode Island does not have a statewide ballot initiative process.) In previous years, state lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported the passage of legislation to legalize the use, growing, and dispensing of medical marijuana to qualified patients. The PPP survey found that 77 percent of Ocean State voters support the state’s present medical marijuana program.
The PPP poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percent.
In recent months, separate statewide polls in Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Texas have all shown majority support for legalizing the adult consumption of cannabis.
Presently, possessing cannabis in the Ocean State is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine. Starting Monday, the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 years or older is a non-arrestable civil offense, punishable by a maximum fine of $150 but no jail time, and no criminal record.
Fifteen states have enacted similar decriminalization laws. Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana. (Colorado had previously decriminalized cannabis possession decades earlier, while Alaska’s legal protections were imposed by the state Supreme Court.)
Similar decriminalization legislation is pending this year in nearly a dozen additional states, including Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas, and Vermont.
Lawmakers in several other states, including Maine, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, are considering separate legislation to legalize the adult consumption of cannabis and regulate its retail production and sale.
Representative Joseph Souki, Chair of the Hawaiian House Committee on Transportation and House Speaker Emeritus, has introduced legislation that would make Hawaii the third state to legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana.
House Bill 150 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce or less of marijuana by adults over the age of 21, in addition to allowing for the licensing and regulation of marijuana retail stores, as well as cultivation and manufacturing centers.
Polling conducted this month by the ACLU of Hawaii found that 57% of Hawaiians support taxing and regulating marijuana and only 39% were opposed.
Hawaii now joins Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont on the list of states with pending legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana, with more expected to join them in the coming weeks. It is no longer a question of if these states will join Colorado and Washington in adopting new and sensible marijuana laws, but which one will do it first. Perhaps, in honor of the Choom Gang, President Obama’s birth state of Hawaii will lead the charge.
It is extremely important your elected officials hear from you in support of these measures. You can find out if your state is currently considering marijuana law reform legislation and easily send a pre-written letter of support to your elected officials by using NORML’s Take Action Center here. If you live in one of the five states (Hawaii, Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont) considering the legalization of marijuana for all adults, you can click on the appropriate link below and go directly to your state’s action alert.
Tell Your Elected Officials to Support Marijuana Legalization!
The votes this past November in Colorado and Washington to regulate marijuana for adults have sparked a fire of change that seems to be spreading across the country. This month, both state and federal legislatures will return to work to kick off the 2013 legislative session and it is already shaping up to be one of the busiest in recent memory for marijuana reformers. Bills are already slated to be introduced in states such as Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Texas – with many more to be introduced in the coming weeks. It is very likely that on top of federal legislation coming down the pipeline, nearly two dozen marijuana reform measures will also be introduced across the country in various states. NORML will be providing you with Action Alerts as new bills are introduced, easily allowing you to contact your elected officials and ask them to support these important reform measures.
2013 is going to be one active year in the world of marijuana law, below you can read the summaries of the first 5 bills that were prefiled for introduction. Residents of these states can click on the “Write Your Officials!” link and easily send a pre-written letter of support to their state Senator or Representative. You can also click here to download our NORMLIZE CONGRESS graphic and share with your friends and family and encourage them to speak out against our country’s draconic marijuana policies.
Alabama – Medical Marijuana
Summary: Legislation that seeks to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis is pending before state lawmakers. Democrat Rep. Patricia Todd (Jefferson) has pre-filed legislation, House Bill 2: The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act, to be debated by lawmakers this spring.
This measure seeks to enact statewide legal protections for qualified patients who are authorized by their physician to engage in cannabis therapy. The proposal seeks to establish a network of state-regulated not-for-profit dispensaries and delivery services to provide cannabis to patients. Qualified patients would also be able to grow specified quantities of cannabis in private.
Indiana – Decriminalize Marijuana Possession
Summary: Two separate pieces of legislation that seek to significantly reduce marijuana possession penalties are expected to be debated during the 2013 legislative session.
State Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) has announced that she will reintroduce legislation to reduce penalties for the adult possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana to a fine-only, non-criminal violation.
Separately, Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford) has announced he intends to introduce legislation in 2013 that would make the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana by adults a non-criminal offense. Senator Steele, who chairs the Senate committee on corrections, criminal and civil matters, told the Associated Press that he intends to include the marijuana provision in a bill that revamps the Indiana criminal code to align charges and sentencing in proportion to the offenses.
Iowa – Medical Marijuana Measures
Summary:Two separate pieces of legislation that seek to allow the physician supervised use of cannabis are expected to be introduced during the 2013 legislative session.
State Sen. Joe Bolkham has announced that he will introduce legislation, SF 266, to allow for Iowa patients with qualifying conditions to access and use cannabis for medical purposes with a doctor’s recommendation. Rep. Bruce Hunter also declared his intention to introduce a similar measure, HF 2270, in the General Assembly. These proposals would allow for Iowans with qualifying conditions to possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana, which can be cultivated from a private grow of no more than six plants, or purchased from a state approved dispensary.
Kentucky – Gatewood Galbraith Medical Marijuana Act
Summary: Legislation that seeks to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis is pending before state lawmakers. Democrat Sen. Perry Clark (Louisville) has pre-filed legislation, the Gatewood Galbraith Medical Marijuana Memorial Act, to be debated by lawmakers this spring.
The proposal seeks to establish a network of state-regulated dispensaries where qualified patients could obtain cannabis if and when the substance is authorized by their physician. Qualified patients would also be able to grow specified quantities of cannabis in private. The measure bears its name after longtime Kentucky attorney and cannabis advocate Gatewood Galbriath, who passed away last year.
Maine – Tax and Regulate
Summary: Legislation that seeks to make Maine the third state to legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana is pending before state lawmakers. Democrat Representative Diane Russell of Portland has pre-filed legislation to be debated by lawmakers this spring. Her proposed measure would legalize the sale of as much as 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana per week to people 21 or older at licensed retail locations. The law would also permit for the cultivation of the plant in private settings.
New Hampshire – Decriminalize Marijuana Possession
Summary: Legislation that seeks to significantly reduce marijuana possession penalties is once again before state lawmakers. Republican Rep. Kyle Tasker has pre-filed legislation to amend marijuana possession penalties for up to one ounce of marijuana.
Under present law, the possession of one ounce of cannabis or less is classified as a criminal misdemeanor publishable by up to one-year in jail and a $2,000 fine. This proposal seeks to make minor marijuana offenses a fine-only, non-criminal infraction. Doing so would significantly reduce state prosecutorial costs and allow law enforcement resources to be refocused on other, more serious criminal offenses.
New Hampshire – Medical Marijuana
Summary: Legislation that seeks to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis is pending before state lawmakers. A coalition of some dozen state lawmakers have pre-filed legislation that seeks to make New Hampshire the 19th state since 1996 to allow for the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.
Rhode Island – Tax and Regulate
Summary: Legislation that seeks to make Rhode Island the third state to legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana is pending before state lawmakers. House Judiciary chairperson Edith Ajello has pre-filed legislation to be debated by lawmakers this spring. States Rep. Ajello: “I want to see the criminal element out of this. I think that legalizing and taxing it just as we did with alcohol prohibition is the way to do it.”
Texas – Lower Possession Penalties
Summary: Legislation that seeks to significantly reduce marijuana possession penalties is once again pending before state lawmakers. State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) has prefiled legislation, House Bill 184, to amend minor marijuana possession penalties to a fine-only, Class C misdemeanor.
Under present law, the possession of one ounce of cannabis or less is classified as a Class B criminal misdemeanor publishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Passage of HB 184 would reduce these penalties to a maximum fine of $500 and no jail time.