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!
News reports out of Vermont indicate that a major political shift has just occurred that well positions the state legislature to become the first in the nation to end cannabis prohibition and replace with tax-n-regulate policies.
The four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) that have chucked cannabis prohibition have done so by popular vote on binding ballot initiatives passed by citizens, not legislators. Historically, circa 1996, most all substantive cannabis law reforms at the state level have happened because of ballot initiatives, not legislation.
With national surveys and the vote totals in favor of legalizing cannabis in the four vanguard states equaling similar levels of support–54%–some elected officials have finally ‘got it’ about the need to end cannabis prohibition, if only because it is no longer politically popular.
A state legislature voting in the majority for cannabis legalization, with a supportive governor awaiting passed legislation to sign, has yet to happen in America. Arguably, once a state legislature passes cannabis legalization legislation, this action more so than voter initiatives placed on the ballot by stakeholders in reform (be them civil justice groups or business interests) will likely spark a ‘reefer revolution’ among states that want the revenue and public policy controls that the long-failed federal prohibition does not provide them.
With a largely supportive and anti-prohibtion legislature and governor (in Democrat Peter Shumlin) already in place in the Green Mountain state, the only political impediment was the Speaker of the House Shap Smith, who, in his run up to try to become the state’s next governor, has reversed his public stance on cannabis legalization from undecided to publicly endorsing Vermont legalizing cannabis:
“It’s clear to me in my discussions with Vermonters that in general, the people in this state probably favor legalization. And I certainly believe that we can legalize marijuana if we do it right.” – House Speaker Shap Smith
Will the Vermont legislature be the first one to officially legalize cannabis?
Yesterday’s policy reversal from Speaker Smith almost certainly places Vermont in the lead to do so.
A strong majority of Vermonters support regulating the commercial production and retail sales of marijuana for adults, according to a statewide Castleton Polling Institute survey commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that they support “changing Vermont law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, so retailers would be licensed to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older?” Only 34 percent of those survey opposed the notion of legalization.
The Castleton poll possesses a margin or error of +/- 4 percent.
Within the past few months, separate statewide polls in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Texas have all shown majority support for legalizing the adult consumption of cannabis.
Legislation reducing marijuana possession penalties in Vermont became law today.
Under the new state law, penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia by a person 21 years of age or older have been amended from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine) to a civil fine only — no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record. The law also decriminalizes possession of less than five grams of hashish.
Vermont’s new law is similar to existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island, where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated 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.
Three states – Alaska, Colorado, and Washington – impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.
It’s Official: Vermont Becomes 17th State To End Criminal Sanctions For Marijuana Possession OffensesJune 6, 2013
Democrat Gov. (and NORML PAC recipient) Peter Shumlin today signed legislation into law eliminating criminal penalties for adults who possess personal use amounts of cannabis and/or hashish.
“This change just makes common sense,” said Shumlin. “Our limited resources should be focused on reducing abuse and addiction of opiates like heroin and meth rather than cracking down on people for having very small amounts of marijuana.”
The new law amends penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia by a person 21 years of age or older from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine) to a civil fine only — no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record. The law also decriminalizes possession of less than 5 grams of hashish.
Vermont’s proposed law is similar to existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island, where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated 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.
Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana. (The laws in Colorado and Washington were enacted via voter initiative while Alaska’s legal protections were imposed by the state Supreme Court.)
Vermont’s new law takes effect on July 1, 2013.