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This week: A new study shows cannabis use decreases mortality rate in patients with schizophrenia and related ailments and Rhode Island’s Governor signs a bill allowing for “Compassion Centers.”
Also, check out this latest NORML PSA, featuring some great rhyming on the problems of prohibition, submitted to us from artist Will Brennan:
On Tuesday, separate legislative committees in the Rhode Island House and Senate approved measures to significantly reduce the state’s criminal marijuana possession penalties.
House Bill 7092 and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 2253, amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 or older is reduced 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. You can read NORML’s testimony in favor of the measures here.
According to a recent statewide poll, commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project, 65 percent of Rhode Island’s residents are in favor of decriminalization. In recent years, neighboring Connecticut (in 2011) and Massachusetts (in 2009, via a voter-approved initiative) have enacted similar decriminalization laws.
Rhode Island lawmakers have a long history of supporting medical marijuana law reform legislation. However, yesterday’s vote marks one of the first times in recent memory that lawmakers have taken action to amend the state’s marijuana penalties for non-patients.
The decriminalization measures now await floor votes in their respective chambers. These votes could come as early as this week. Therefore, if you reside in the Ocean State, it is vital that your elected officials hear from you. You can contact your state elected officials directly via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
Presently, in eight states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Oregon — the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by an adult is defined under the law as a civil, non-criminal offense.
Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense. Alaska law imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults.
In all other states, marijuana possession for personal use remains a criminal offense — punishable by an arrest, potential incarceration, and a criminal record.
Rhode Island: Governor Signs Legislation Authorizing State-Licensed Medical Marijuana ‘Compassion Centers’May 24, 2012
Governor Lincoln Chafee signed legislation into law this week authorizing the creation of state-licensed ‘compassion centers’ to engage in the production and distribution of cannabis for authorized patients. It is the second time since 2009 that state lawmakers have approved legislation allowing for the state regulation of medical marijuana facilities.
Under the new law, Senate Bill 2555, health regulators will license three not-for-profit entities, known as ‘compassion centers,’ to operate within the state. Compassion centers will not be allowed to cultivate more than 150 cannabis plants on the premises at any one time, only 99 of which may be mature. Centers will also be restricted to possessing no more than 1,500 ounces of usable product at any one time.
Lawmakers have suggested that the imposed statutory limits will lower the likelihood of federal law enforcement officials interfering with the implementation of the law. At least one other state, New Mexico, imposes similar caps on authorized dispensaries.
State lawmakers initially enacted legislation allowing for the authorization of ‘compassion centers’ in 2009. However, Gov. Chafee suspended the law in 2011, stating, “[L]arge-scale commercial operations such as Rhode Island’s compassion centers (would) be potential targets of ‘vigorous’ criminal and civil enforcement efforts by the federal government.” Earlier this year, Gov. Chafee agreed to revisit the issue and to work with lawmakers to amend the law so that a limited number of small-scale distribution centers could apply for state licenses.
In response to the legislature’s actions, US Attorney Peter Neronha has said he will continue to oversee the enforcement federal drug laws. However, he has not specifically said whether ‘compassion centers’ will be targeted.
Three states – Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico – presently issue licenses to allow for the state-sanctioned production and distribution of cannabis. So far, dispensary facilities in those states have operated largely without federal interference.
Similar licensing legislation approved in recent years in Arizona, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington, DC has yet to be implemented by local lawmakers.
In February, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell announced that he was suspending the implementation of a similar licensing program in that state.
Rhode Island lawmakers legalized the limited use and cultivation of cannabis for therapeutic purposes in 2006. Over 3,000 Rhode Islanders are presently authorized under state law to use cannabis.
From the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines
IACM-Bulletin of 8 April 2012
World: Increasing numbers of patients use cannabis for medicinal purposes
An increasing number of patients in the world are using cannabis for therapeutic reasons, with available data from countries, which have installed programs for their citizens. Good data are available for Israel, Canada, the Netherlands and many states of the US with medicinal cannabis laws and registries. In several more countries only a few patients are allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, including Germany, Norway, Finland and Italy. In many other countries such as Spain and some states of the US without a registry such as California the number of medicinal users is estimated to be high, but no detailed data are available.
The numbers in California with hundreds of cannabis dispensaries and clinics that issue medical cannabis recommendations are unclear, since the state does not require residents to register as patients (see below**)
Most of the 16 states that allow the medicinal use of cannabis require a registration. Recently the press agency Associated Press published data on registered patients in different states of the USA based on state agencies responsible for maintaining patient registries:
State: Number of registered patients (per 1,000 of the whole population) –
Colorado: 82,089 (16.3)
Oregon: 57,386 (15.0)
Montana: 14,364 (14.5)
Michigan: 131,483 (13.3)
Hawaii: 11,695 (8.6)
Rhode Island: 4,466 (4.2)
Arizona: 22,037 (3.5)
New Mexico: 4,310 (2.1)
Maine: 2,708 (2.0)
Nevada: 3,388 (1.3)
Vermont: 505 (0.8)
Alaska: 538 (0.8)
Patient registration is mandatory in Delaware, New Jersey and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.), but their registries are not yet up and running. Washington State has neither voluntary nor mandatory registration.
Data from Israel show that in August 2011 6,000 patients got medicinal cannabis (0.8 patients in 1,000). It is estimated that the number increases to 40,000 in 2016 (5.2 patients in 1,000 citizens).
In Canada 12,116 patients were allowed to use cannabis on 30 September 2011 (0.35 patients in 1,000 citizens).
Numbers of patients using cannabis from the pharmacies in the Netherlands were estimated to be 1,300 in 2010 (0.08 patients in 1,000 citizens). However, many patients in the Netherlands use cannabis from the coffee shops or grow their own.
In Germany about 60 patients are currently allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes.
(Sources: Associated Press of 24 March 2012, website of the Israeli Prime Minister of 7 August 2011, UPI of 31 October 2011, Pharmaceutisch Weekblad No. 20, 2011)
**[Editor's note: CA NORML published a white paper last May estimating that California has 750,000 - 1,125,000 citizens who possess a physician's recommendation to use cannabis medicinally.]
Marijuana law reform legislation is pending in nearly 30 states this 2012 legislative session. Is your state among them? Find out here.
More importantly, have you taken the time to call or write your state elected officials this year and urged them to support these pending reforms? If not, NORML has provided you with all of the tools to do so via our capwiz ‘Take Action Center’ here. (FYI: NORML’s capwiz page is specific to legislation only, not ballot initiative efforts. A summary pending 2012 ballot initiative campaigns may be found at NORML’s Legalize It 2012 page on Facebook here or on the NORML blog here.)
Below is this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — where we spotlight specific examples of pending marijuana law reform legislation from around the country.
** 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!
California: Democrat Assemblywoman Norma Torres is sponsoring legislation, AB 2552, that seeks to criminalize anyone who operates a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of marijuana or its metabolites in their system, regardless of whether their psychomotor performance is demonstrably impaired. NORML is opposing this measure, which has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Public Safety. More information about this legislation is available from California NORML or via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
Connecticut: Legislation that seeks to allow for the limited legalization of medical marijuana by qualified patients is moving forward in the Connecticut state legislature. On Wednesday, March 21, members of the Judiciary Committee voted 35 to 8 in favor of the measure, Raised Bill 5389. NORML thanks all of you who contacted your elected officials ahead of this important vote.
The Committee vote follows on the heels of the release of a statewide Quinnipiac University Poll of over 1,600 residents which reported that 68 percent of voters endorse the measure. According to the poll, “there is no gender, partisan, income, age or education group opposed” to legalizing marijuana as a physician-recommended therapy.
To receive future e-mail updates on the progress of this legislation and what you can do to assure its passage, please contact Erik Williams, Connecticut NORML Executive Director, here.
New Hampshire: Members of the Senate Committee on Health voted 5-0 last week in favor of Senate Bill 409, which allows for the limited legalization of medical marijuana by qualified patients, on March 23rd. SB 409 now awaits a vote on the Senate floor, which may come as soon as this week. [UPDATE!] On Wednesday, March 27th, members of the Republican-led New Hampshire State Senate voted 13-11 in favor of Senate Bill 409. You can watch lawmakers reaction to the vote here. As amended, qualified patients would be able to possess up to four cannabis plants and/or six ounces of marijuana for therapeutic purposes. SB 409 now awaits action from the House of Representatives, House Health and Human Services Committee. To become involved in the statewide campaign effort in favor of SB 409, contact NH Compassion here or visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
Rhode Island: Legislation seeking to reduce marijuana possession penalties has been reintroduced in both chambers of the Rhode Island legislature. House Bill 7092 and its companion legislation Senate Bill 2253 amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 or older is reduced 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. A recent statewide poll, conducted in January by the Public Policy Polling Firm, shows that 65 percent of Rhode Island’s residents approve of this change.
On Tuesday, March 27, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony in favor of the measure. Last week, members of the House Judiciary Committee held similar hearings. NORML submitted written testimony in favor of the measure to the Committee.
Separate legislation to regulate the adult sale and use of marijuana is also pending in both chambers, and will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow.
Additional information about these measures is available from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
[UPDATE] Tennessee: The House version of legislation, the “Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act”, that seeks to allow for the use of medical marijuana passed out of Committee on Tuesday, March 27. The bill now goes to the full House Health and Human Resources Committee, which will hear the measure on Wednesday, April 4, at 1:30pm. In past years, similar legislation has gained significant legislative support. NORML had previously retained a state lobbyist to work on behalf of the medicinal cannabis issue in the state legislature, and many Tennessee lawmakers have expressed support authorizing patients’ access to marijuana therapy. Now lawmakers need to hear from you. You can contact your lawmakers about this legislation via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.