West Virginia legislators on Thursday approved a significantly amended version of Senate Bill 386, which seeks to establish a state-regulated medical cannabis program. The measure now awaits action from Democrat Gov. Jim Justice, who has previously expressed support for permitting qualified patients access cannabis therapy.
If signed into law, West Virginia will become the 30th state to authorize by statute the physicians-recommended use of cannabis or cannabis-infused products.
Under the amended measure, qualified patients will be permitted to obtain cannabis-infused oils, pills, tinctures, or creams from a limited number of state-authorized dispensaries. Cannabis-based medications will be produced by state-licensed growers and processors. Patients will not be permitted to grow their own cannabis, nor will they be able to legally access or smoke herbal formulations of the plant. Similar restrictive programs are presently in place in Minnesota and New York and are awaiting implementation in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
To participate in the proposed program, both patients and physicians would need to be registered with the state. Government officials are not mandated under the legislation to begin issuing patient identification cards until July 1, 2019.
Federal lawmakers pressured President Obama this week to take executive action to reform marijuana policy. Meanwhile, state legislative reforms are still moving forward throughout the country. Keep reading to get the latest news and to learn what you can do to take action.
Fourteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter this week to President Obama urging the administration to enact various marijuana law reforms.
The letter requests the administration to reschedule marijuana under federal law to Schedule III or a lower category, or to deschedule it altogether; to license additional growers of cannabis for research purposes; to extend protections for secondary and tertiary businesses that serve the medical marijuana industry, and to ensure that the Justice Department better respects Congressionally-enacted legislation preventing it from interfering with well-regulated state medical cannabis programs.
The letter comes after the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced recently that it will soon issue a decision on pending petitions seeking to reclassify marijuana. However, lawmakers cautioned that reclassification is only one of many changes needed with regard to federal marijuana regulations. The letter reads, “We would like to caution against adopting the assumption that rescheduling alone is the panacea to the difficulties currently facing businesses, practitioners, and consumers. As such, we implore your Administration to investigate additional reforms that may be made administratively.”
California: The Public Policy Institute of California released new polling information Thursday showing “broad and increasing support for a legal, regulated system of adult-use marijuana in California.” The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which is expected to appear on the November ballot, permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possession and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes.
Sixty-nine percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents and 45 percent of Republicans support regulating the adult use of marijuana, according to the poll, In each demographic, support has increased in recent months. National NORML has endorsed the AUMA, along with California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu and Dana Rohrabacher, the California Council of Land Trusts, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, the California Cannabis Industry Association, the California Medical Association, and the California NAACP.
Ohio: Lawmakers in both chambers have approved legislation, House bill 523, to regulate the use of medical cannabis preparations by qualified patients. The bill authorizes the use of various forms of cannabis preparations for the physicians-authorized treatment of nearly two-dozen conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy, and Crohn’s. It calls on the state to license the production, distribution, and testing of cannabis products. Home cultivation is not allowed. Products may be dispensed as oils, tinctures, edibles, patches, or as plant material. However, smoking herbal cannabis is not permitted under the measure. Vaporizing medical cannabis products is permitted. Similar restrictions exist in three other states: Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania.
The measure now awaits action from Gov. John Kasich, who may be contacted here.
Proponents seeking to place a separate, broader medical marijuana measure on the 2016 ballot announced on May 28 that they were suspending their campaign, stating, “[A]ll in all, it is a moderately good piece of legislation passed by lawmakers who were pushed hard by the patient community. We plan on continuing forward as an advocacy effort to ensure that the State of Ohio lives up to the promises contained in HB 523, but also working to better the program utilizing our amendment as a roadmap for those improvements.”
Pennsylvania: Representative Ed Gainey has introduced legislation, House Bill 2076, to amend the state’s controlled substances act so that minor marijuana possession offenses are considered a non-criminal offense. The legislation would impose a fine and a summary conviction for an individual possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana or eight grams or less of hashish. Offenders would no longer face criminal arrest, incarceration, or a criminal record. The bill is now pending before the House Judiciary committee. #TakeAction
West Virginia: Legislation was recently introduced to decriminalize the possession and cultivation of limited quantities of marijuana in West Virginia.
House Bill 114 permits the personal use, growth and possession of up to two ounces of marijuana by persons over the age of twenty-one who have acquired a “tax stamp” from the state. It removes marijuana from the state list of schedule I drugs and decriminalizes first-time marijuana distribution offenses involving under 30 grams of marijuana. Adults will be allowed to transfer to another person twenty-one years of age or older, without remuneration, one ounce or less of marijuana.
Adults who choose to grow their own marijuana will be permitted to cultivate and harvest up to six pants. #TakeAction
Australia: Members of Australia’s House and Senate approved legislation this week to amend federal law to permit for the licensed production and distribution of cannabis to qualified patients. The move by Parliament follows recent efforts by several Australian territories to provide patients participating in clinical trials with access to the plant. Government officials will still need to develop and approve regulations for the new program before any production licenses can be issued.
Canada: A federal court in Canada ruled this week that government officials cannot prohibit physician-authorized patients from growing their own supply of medical cannabis. The decision strikes down regulations enacted in 2013 that sought to take away patients’ longstanding authority to grow personal use quantities of cannabis.
The judge’s ruling provides Parliament with six months to create new rules governing the regulation and distribution of medical cannabis in a manner that no longer requires patients to obtain medicine solely from federally-licensed, private third party providers. NORML Canada ‘s John Conroy served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, while NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano served as an expert witness and filed an affidavit in the case.
In an interview from last year but only recently made public, former US Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that marijuana should “certainly be rescheduled”. He said, “You know, we treat marijuana in the same way that we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate. So at a minimum, I think Congress needs to do that. Then I think we need to look at what happens in Colorado and what happens in Washington.”
While NORML agrees that marijuana’s current classification in the Controlled Substances Act is inappropriate, NORML believes in descheduling cannabis, not rescheduling the plant. In an article published this week on Alternet, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano outlines why rescheduling cannabis does not go far enough and advocates for why it should be removed from the CSA altogether.
Georgia: Legislation has been introduced, House Bill 1046, to amend state law so that minor marijuana offenders no longer face jail time. If approved, the legislation would make the first time possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a $250 fine. Subsequent offenses would result in a $500 fine for the second offense and $750 fine for the third offense. #TakeAction
Hawaii: Pending legislation, Senate Bill 2787, to further encourage the state Department of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp for “research and development purposes” was approved by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor this week. The committee approved an amended version of the legislation in a 4-0 vote. #TakeAction
Pennsylvania: Members of the Harrisburg City Council have scheduled two separate public meetings to discuss a proposal to redefine municipal marijuana possession offenses from a misdemeanor to a citation. The meetings will be Thursday March 10 at the Harrisburg Area Community College midtown campus, Midtown 2, Room 206, at 1500 North Third Street and Thursday March 24 at the city’s public works building at 1820 Paxton Street. Both meetings will start at 5:30 p.m.
Michigan: Newly introduced Senate legislation, SB 813, seeks to permit for the personal possession, cultivation, and retail sale of marijuana. Under the measure, adults would be permitted to possess and grow personal use quantities of the plant, and a system would be established for the retail production and sale of cannabis. Similar legislation introduced in the fall of 2015, HB 4877, remains pending in the Judiciary Committee. #TakeAction
Vermont: Members of the Senate voted 17 to 12 on Thursday in favor of legislation, Senate Bill 241, to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. The historic vote marks the first time that any legislative chamber in the state has ever approved legislation to permit the adult use and retail sale of cannabis.
The Senate’s action was praised by Gov. Shumlin, who is backing the measure. The measure now will be debated by members of the Vermont House. #TakeAction
West Virginia: House Bill 4712 was introduced this week to depenalize marijuana possession offenses. The legislation removes marijuana from West Virginia’s list of schedule I drugs and removes all state criminal and civil penalties associated with the substance. Additionally, the proposal allows adults 21 and older to cultivate up to six cannabis plants, and to transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another person age 21 or older without remuneration. #TakeAction
In addition, senate legislation is pending to permit qualified patients access to medical cannabis. Senate Bill 640 permits qualified patients to engage in marijuana therapy and to cultivate (up to 12 mature plants) and to possess (up to six ounces) personal use amounts of cannabis. The measure also seeks to establish a permitting process for “registered compassion centers”, which will be licensed to produce and dispense medicinal cannabis to qualified patients. The bill is before the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee. You can read the full text of this measure here. Companion legislation, House Bill 4680, has also been filed in the House of Representatives. #TakeAction
In another sign of the changing times, this past week two new polls have been released demonstrating majority support for allowing the medical use of marijuana in two southern states, a region historically less supportive of cannabis law reforms.
A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling revealed that most North Carolinians believe that a doctor should possess the legal option to authorize marijuana for patients. Support for legalizing medical marijuana is at 58% overall, with 33% opposed and 9% undecided. A majority of every age group under age 65 supports allowing for the medical use of marijuana. The poll surveyed 608 North Carolina voters between January 10 and January 13, 2013.
Another Public Policy Polling survey had the majority of West Virginians supporting the medical use of cannabis, 53% in favor to 40% opposed. Further, when asked which is a safer treatment for debilitating pain: the medical use of marijuana or Oxycontin, 63% responded medical marijuana. You can view more data from this poll here.
Legislation to allow for the medical use of cannabis is expected to be introduced in both states this year. If you live in North Carolina, you can currently use NORML’s Take Action Center to write your elected officials and tell them to support this legislation by clicking here.
These recent polls are indicative of the attitude shift towards cannabis that is occurring across the country. Check NORML’s Take Action Center to see if marijuana related legislation has been filed in your state and use our form to easily contact your elected officials in support of these important measures. Check back often, as new legislation is being introduced constantly.
Marijuana law reform legislation is pending in over twenty states, and progressive measures have been pre-filed in many more. Below is this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — activists’ one-stop guide to pending marijuana law reform legislation 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.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAWS UNDER SIEGE IN MONTANA AND NEW MEXICO
Montana: As anticipated, on Monday members of House of Representatives gave final approval to HB 161, which would repeal the state’s existing medical cannabis law. The measure now goes before state senators, who are being targeted with anti-pot propaganda advertisements. Nevertheless, a new poll released this week of over 2,200 Montanans found that 63 percent of voters support allowing medical marijuana, and only 20 percent support current proposals to repeal the state’s compassionate medical marijuana law. Tell the Senate to uphold the will of the voters and to reject HB 161. You can contact your lawmakers via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here, or by contacting Montana NORML. You can also visit our allies Patients and Families United on Facebook here for up-to-date information on pending hearings and votes.
New Mexico: House Bill 593, introduced by Santa Fe Republican James Smith, aims to completely repeal New Mexico’s existing medical marijuana law, which was initially approved by the legislature and the Governor in 2007. Presently, over 3,200 patients are using cannabis legally in compliance with state law. In addition, state officials have licensed some 25 facilities to produce or dispense medical cannabis. Reports of abuses regarding the use or distribution of medical cannabis as authorized by the law have been minimal. Nevertheless, Smith — who admits “I’m not a medical doctor, I don’t pretend to be.” – states that the law sends a mixed message to young people and that other alternative medications are available. House Bill 593 has been assigned to the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and awaits a scheduled hearing. Newly elected Republican Governor Susana Martinez, who recently stated that this issue would not be a legislative priority for her administration in 2011, now says that she will sign Smith’s bill if it reaches her desk. You can prevent that from happening by contacting your House member here and urging them to vote ‘no’ on repeal.
OTHER STATE ACTIVITY
Indiana: On Tuesday, February 22, the Senate voted 28 to 21 in favor of legislation, SB 192, to consider the impact of the state’s marijuana policies, including costs in the state’s criminal justice system and the potential for regulation and taxation options. The bill now goes to the House. You can read NORML’s testimony in support of SB 192 here. You can contact your member of the House in support of SB 192 here. You can track the progress of this effort on Facebook here.
Texas: On Tuesday, March 1, members of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee will hear testimony in favor of HB 548, which seeks to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses in Texas. The hearing is scheduled for 10:30am in room JHR 120 of the state capitol. To date, nearly 1,300 of you have contacted your House members in favor of HB 548 via NORML’s Take Action Center. Now show them that you support this effort by appearing before them in person. Join Texas NORML at next week’s hearing or track the progress of this bill online here.
Maryland: On Tuesday members of the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from NORML representatives and others in favor of House Bill 606. House Bill 606 amends current state law so that the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1000 maximum fine) to a civil offense, punishable by a $100 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. You can follow the progress of HB 606 on Facebook here. You can contact your House Delegate in support of the measure via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here. Separate state legislation regarding the medical use of marijuana will be hard next week in the Maryland House and Senate. You can learn more about these measures here.
Connecticut: Newly elected Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy last week reaffirmed his support for legislation that seeks to reduce minor marijuana possession to a noncriminal offense. Malloy endorsed reducing adult marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to an infraction, punishable by a nominal fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. Gov. Malloy also reaffirmed his support for legalizing the physician-authorized use of medical marijuana. You can contact your state elected officials in favor of both of these proposals here and here. You can also get involved with Connecticut NORML here.
West Virginia: Lawmakers will debate for the first time legislation, HB 3251, to legalize the use of medical marijuana in West Virginia. House Bill 3251, The Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act, amends state law so that physician-supervised patients with an authorized “chronic or debilitating medical condition” can possess six plants and up to an ounce of usable marijuana for medical purposes. The measure also allows for the establishment “compassion centers” to dispense medical cannabis to qualified patients. You can contact your House members in support of this effort here.
To get involved in legislation pending in dozens of other states, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.