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.
#1 Colorado and Washington Vote To Legalize Marijuana
Voters in Colorado and Washington made history by approving ballot measures allowing for the personal possession and consumption of cannabis by adults. Washington’s law, which removes criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use (as well as the possession of up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form), took effect on December 6. Colorado’s law, which allows for the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants in private by those persons age 21 and over, took effect on December 10. Regulators in both states are now in the process of drafting rules to allow for state-licensed proprietors to commercially produce and sell cannabis.
#2 Most Americans Favor Legalization, Want The Feds To Butt Out
A majority of Americans support legalizing the use of cannabis by adults, according to national polls by Public Policy Polling, Angus Reid, Quinnipiac University, and others. A record high 83 percent of US citizens favor allowing doctors to authorize specified amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses. And nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose federal interference in state laws that allow for legal marijuana use by adults.
#3 Connecticut, Massachusetts Legalize Cannabis Therapy
Connecticut and Massachusetts became the 17th and 18th states to allow for the use of cannabis when recommended by a physician. Connecticut lawmakers in May approved Public Act 12-55, An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana. The new law took effect on October 1. On Election Day, 63 percent of Massachusetts voters approved Question 3, eliminating statewide criminal and civil penalties related to the possession and use of up to a 60-day supply of cannabis by qualified patients. The law takes effect on January 1, 2013.
#4 Schedule I Prohibitive Status For Pot “Untenable,” Scientists Say
The classification of cannabis and its organic compounds as Schedule I prohibited substances under federal law is scientifically indefensible, according to a review published online in May in The Open Neurology Journal. Investigators at the University of California at San Diego and the University of California, Davis reviewed the results of several recent clinical trials assessing the safety and efficacy of inhaled or vaporized cannabis. They concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”
#5 Marijuana Arrests Decline, But Still Total Half Of All Illicit Drug Violations
Police made 757,969 arrests in 2011 for marijuana-related offenses, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report. The total marked a decline from previous years. Of those charged in 2011 with marijuana law violations, 663,032 (86 percent) were arrested for marijuana offenses involving possession only. According to the report, approximately 43 percent of all drug violations in 2011 were for cannabis possession.
#6 Long-Term Cannabis Exposure Not Associated With Adverse Lung Function
Exposure to moderate levels of cannabis smoke, even over the long-term, is not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function, according to clinical trial data published in January in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Investigators at the University of California, San Francisco analyzed the association between marijuana exposure and pulmonary function over a 20-year period in a cohort of 5,115 men and women in four US cities. They concluded: “With up to 7 joint-years of lifetime exposure (e.g., 1 joint/d for 7 years or 1 joint/wk for 49 years), we found no evidence that increasing exposure to marijuana adversely affects pulmonary function. … Our findings suggest that occasional use of marijuana … may not be associated with adverse consequences on pulmonary function.”
#7 Cannabis Use Associated With Decreased Prevalence Of Diabetes
Adults with a history of marijuana use have a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and possess a lower risk of contracting the disease than do those with no history of cannabis consumption, according to clinical trial data published in the British Medical Journal. Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles assessed the association between diabetes mellitus (DM) and marijuana use among adults aged 20 to 59 in a nationally representative sample of the US population of 10,896 adults. Investigators concluded, “Our analysis of adults aged 20-59 years … Showed that participants who used marijuana had a lower prevalence of DM and lower odds of DM relative to non-marijuana users.”
#8 Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Not Associated With Neighborhood Crime
The establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries does not adversely impact local crime rates, according to a federally funded study published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Researchers reported: “There were no observed cross-sectional associations between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and either violent or property crime rates in this study.”
#9 Rhode Island Becomes The 15th State To Decriminalize Pot Possession Penalties
Governor Lincoln Chafee signed legislation into law in June amending marijuana possession penalties for those age 18 or older from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense — punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. The decriminalization law takes effect on April 1, 2013.
#10 Cannabis Reduces Symptoms In Patients With Treatment-Resistant MS
Cannabis inhalation mitigates spasticity and pain in patients with treatment-resistant multiple sclerosis (MS), according to clinical trial data published online in May in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association. Investigators at the University of California, San Diego assessed the use of inhaled cannabis versus placebo in 30 patients with MS who were unresponsive to conventional treatments. “Smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in symptom and pain reduction in patients with treatment-resistant spasticity,” authors concluded.
Despite several attempts by the media and policy makers to associate the rising number of state regulated medical marijuana programs (and popular legalization efforts) with a rise in use and a drop in associated risk, the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey reports that there was no rise in daily or annual marijuana use among teens. According to the report, “annual marijuana use [among 8th, 10th and 12th graders] showed no further increase in any of the three grades surveyed in 2012… [And the] daily use of marijuana…remained essentially flat.” Also of note, despite the sharp decline in perceived risk of marijuana use across all three grades, there was a statistically significant decline of use among 8th graders. These numbers are consistent with other recent studies showing that states with regulated marijuana programs have not seen an increase in teen use. Some have even seen a decrease in pot use among their youth population.
“This study suggests that exposure among teens to the concept of marijuana regulation policies (one third of whom live in such states) does not cause an increase in use. It is also important to consider that a drop in perceived risk is likely associated with their rejection of the overzealous scare tactics used in most schools’ drug education programs” said Sabrina Fendrick, Director of Women’s Outreach.
It is important to note, however, that marijuana use rates and availability nationwide remain at relatively high levels, while alcohol use rates remain historically low. This is most likely due to the fact that the former is illegal and thereby not subject to government controls, while the latter substance is legally restricted to adults only. The same goes for tobacco. We did not have to outlaw cigarettes to reduce the use among minors. A policy of education and regulation (not prohibition) has created an environment in which cigarette usage has fallen to an all time low. According to the principal investigator of the study, Lloyd Johnston, “[A] lowering teen smoking rates…likely…depend[s] on…changes such as raising cigarette taxes, further limiting where smoking is permitted, bringing back broad-based anti-smoking ad campaigns, and making quit-smoking programs more available.” It has been proven that age restrictions, coupled with the imposition of government regulation and education are the most effective at reducing youth access to adult-only recreational substances. According to the 2011 MFS report, the drop in alcohol use can be attributed to a strict regulation scheme that include educational campaigns focusing on responsible use and age restrictions which, in turn, lowers availability.
The report concluded; “In the 1980’s a number of states raised their minimum drinking age to twenty-one, which these researches were able to demonstrate reduced drinking.” It goes on to say “the proportion of 8th and 10th graders who say they could get alcohol ‘fairly easily’ or ‘very easily’ had been declining since 1996 and continued to drop in all three grades in 2011. Various other factors of likely importance include…higher beer taxes and restrictions on alcohol promotion to youth.” The 2012 survey reported that again, “there was no increase in perceived availability of alcohol.”
One can therefore conclude that the only sensible answer to restricting marijuana access to [as well as use among] minors is through state and local government regulation and a message of moderation.
MOMENTUM: Post Election, Marijuana Law Reform Bills to be Introduced at Both State and Federal LevelNovember 19, 2012
The message from our big wins on Election Day has already begun to reverberate around the nation. Right on the heels of the votes in Washington and Colorado, several other states (and countries!) are already beginning to consider similar measures in their legislature.
Last week, representatives from Maine and Rhode Island announced their intentions to introduce legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana in their respective states. Rep. Diane Russell of Maine and Rep. Edit Ajello from Rhode Island will be submitting these bills soon. Reports from Marijuana Policy Project indicated that Vermont and Massachusetts intend to follow suit.
Reform is spreading as far as Iowa. Today, Rep. Bruce Hunter announced his intentions of not only reintroducing his medical marijuana measure, but also a bill that would decriminalize the possession of cannabis.
The push for sensible reforms does not end at the state level, this week 18 members of the House of Representatives cosigned a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart urging them to respect states that chose to experiment with new approaches to marijuana. You can read the full text of the letter here.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) also declared that she will soon introduce legislation, entitled the “Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act,” which would exempt states where voters have legalized cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act provisions related to the substance.
Leaders outside of the United States have also been following these recent reform efforts closely. Uruguay has just introduced legislation into their congress that would legalize the possession, cultivation, and state-controlled production of marijuana. In Mexico, lawmaker Fernando Belaunzaran of Party of the Democratic Revolution has introduced legislation that also aims to legalize the production, sale and use of marijuana.
Now that two states have legalized marijuana, the floodgates of reform have opened and each day more Americans, and people around the globe, are waking up to the reality that the prohibition of marijuana has been an utter failure. The statement delivered by the voters of Colorado and Washington is that we must regulate marijuana and do away with the societal ills caused by prohibition. Further, it showed that if the government isn’t willing to take the first step, the people will do it for them. We can only hope this recent wave of reform measures is just the beginning and we must work diligently to spread these rational policies nationwide. If history is any indication, like alcohol prohibition before it, the one on marijuana will crumble at an accelerated rate as more Americans continue to stand up, in growing numbers, and demand sensible marijuana policy.
Ruminating on the ‘domino effect’ of change, President Eisenhower once stated, “You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly.”
May it be so with marijuana legalization.
This upcoming November, voters in Washington and Colorado will go to the polls to decide whether marijuana should be totally legal in their respective States. But will it matter? After all, cannabis consumers and retailers in the 17 states that have legalized medical marijuana are still subject to harassment and arrest from the federal government. The threat of federal action has halted the implementation of recently passed medical marijuana programs in Delaware and Rhode Island, and has slowed the progress of other States’ efforts to ensure that sick patients have access to the medicine they need. In the first three years of the Obama administration, the federal government has participated in over 100 raids on medical marijuana dispensaries within states where medical marijuana is legal, even after promising shortly after assuming office that he would end federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries that complied with state laws. If voters in Washington and Colorado decide to take the leap and legalize marijuana, we have no reason to expect, based on prior actions, that the federal government will let these voters express and enforce their popular will unimpeded.
To fix the system, we must first understand the system. This paper seeks to explain why the federal government has the power to ignore the democratic will of its citizens and to continue to enforce unjust laws on voters who have decided that the imprisonment of cannabis consumers is a waste of government resources and a threat to civil society. While to government’s power to regulate the economy isn’t new, this power was only “recently” (by legal standards) expanded to give the government the power to ban non-lethal drugs. After all, banning alcohol required an Amendment to the Constitution. Yet, less than 50 years later, the Supreme Court changed its mind and allowed the federal government to ban marijuana without state approval, much less a Constitutional Amendment.
This apparently tyrannical power-grab stems, not solely from overzealous law makers, but from the inherent structure of our constitutional government. There are certain explicit provisions in our Constitution, such as the Supremacy Clause, Commerce Clause, and Necessary and Proper Clause, that the Supreme Court has seized upon to allow the federal government to override the legislative wishes of individual states in the course of setting federal policy. The first half of this paper provides a detailed overview of the powers provided to the federal government by the Constitution, and how these powers have been construed in recent times to allow the government to completely ban the possession, use, production, and sale of marijuana.
The federal government’s power in this arena is not unlimited, however, and there are certain actions marijuana reformers can take to help prevent this crackdown as they pen future marijuana legalization ballot initiatives. The second half of this paper explains how, through proper legal drafting, reform activists can limit the ability of the federal government to strike down or limit the effectiveness of state marijuana initiatives.
If you would like to learn more on the subject of how the powers of the federal government operate to curtail your ability to consume cannabis, and how we can correct this injustice through the power of democracy, then this paper is for you.