NORML’s Weekly Legislative Update

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 9, 2010

    Lawmakers around the country are debating a record number of marijuana law reform bills in 2010. NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up is your one-stop guide to pending marijuana law reform legislation around the country, along with tips for influencing the policies of your state.

    ** Remember: 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 make the changes they want to see. We can’t do it without you.

    Washington: Democrat Gov. Christine Gregoire signed legislation into law last week that expands the state’s nearly twelve-year-old medical marijuana law. Senate Bill 5798 allows additional health care professionals including naturopaths, physician’s assistants, osteopathic physicians, osteopathic physicians assistants, and advanced registered nurse practitioners to legally recommend marijuana therapy to their patients. Presently, only licensed physicians may legally recommend medicinal cannabis.

    Washington is the first state to codify these recommendation rights into law. Senate Bill 5798 takes effect on June 10, 2010.

    Maine: State lawmakers approved legislation this week establishing guidelines for the establishment of state-authorized medical marijuana distribution facilities. As approved by the legislature, LD 1811 authorizes the creation of up to eight nonprofit medical cannabis dispensaries – one for each of the state’s public health districts. Under the measure, dispensaries may legally “acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, sell, supply or dispenses marijuana or related supplies and educational materials” to state-authorized medical marijuana patients.

    Patients and/or their caregivers will still be allowed to cultivate their own medical cannabis under state law. However, patients will now be required to join a confidential state registry in order to be able to legally possess and grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services will oversee the new medical marijuana programs.

    Last November, voters approved Question 5, the Maine Marijuana Medical Act, which amends existing state law by: establishing a confidential patient registry; expanding the list of qualifying conditions for which a physician may recommend medicinal cannabis; and by allowing for the creation of state-licensed nonprofit dispensaries. In 1999, 61 percent of state voters approved the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana. However, the law did not establish a state identification registry for qualified patients, nor did it address regulating the distribution of medical marijuana.

    Democrat Gov. John Baldacci is anticipated to sign the dispensary measure into law imminently.

    Ohio: House lawmakers this week introduced House Bill 478, the Ohio Medical Compassion Act. The act would allow state-authorized patients to possess and cultivate cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The bill allows for authorized patients or their designated caregivers to cultivate medical marijuana, but only at designated registered sites. Patients are allowed to possess up to 200 grams of usable cannabis (about six ounces) or 12 mature plants under this proposal. To support this measure, visit the Ohio Patient’s Network or NORML’s ‘Take Action’ Center here.

    Pennsylvania: Minor marijuana possession offenses in the city of Philadelphia will be no longer be prosecuted as criminal misdemeanors, according to a policy change announced this week by new District Attorney Seth Williams. Philadelphia NORML had been lobbying for the policy change after publishing a report which found that African American males comprised an estimated 83 percent of all persons in Philadelphia arrested for minor marijuana possession offenses.

    Under the new policy, which is anticipated to take effect later this month, prosecutors will charge minor marijuana possession (defined as 30 grams or less) as ‘summary offenses’ rather than criminal misdemeanors. Defendants will be required to pay a fine, but will not face incarceration or receive a criminal record. Under the previous District Attorney, the city criminally prosecuted some 3,000 minor marijuana possession cases per year.

    You can read further details regarding this policy change here, here, and here.

    To learn about pending legislation in additional states — and how you can get involved, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action’ Center here.

    17 responses to “NORML’s Weekly Legislative Update”

    1. achillesGrk says:

      what? no mention of house bill 642 passing the committee in Al?

      [Paul Armentano responds: That is why the bottom of the post says to visit NORML’s Take Action Center for information on legislation pending in additional states. Alabama’s progress is summarized here:


      NORML also sends out state-specific e-mails with legislative updates to those who sign up for our e-zine alerts. Alabama’s update, with links to video from Wednesday’s hearing, was sent out yesterday to NORML’s Alabama members.]

    2. Pain-fully Stressed says:

      what about new york ?

      [Paul Armentano responds: Please see my previous reply.]

    3. Don says:

      The Ohio Patient`s Network has been somewhat of a disappointment to me, Not only has it Not been updated very often, After I registered a long time ago, I verified my E-Mail and everything and still have never been able to log in, What`s there IS good reading as long as you don`t have to log in for any reason.

      GO OHIO!!! Cant Wait!

    4. Ben says:

      What is still crap is that some Philadelphia police officers plan to continue arresting those who are simply in possession of some weed, instead of just writing a citation for the fine. If I read it correctly on NORML’s stash, they’d basically just move the court proceedings to a different place so that all of the cases will move faster because the majority of drug offenses would be at this place, rather than clogging up our courts and wasting time. So, you’re still going to get arrested, you just won’t be facing jail time or a criminal record, which is better than nothing, but is hardly a baby step.

    5. Raphael says:

      I noticed on the form for Ohioans seeking to contact state officials that there is confusion in naming the house bill, which is numbered 478, not 487. This should be corrected. This is where I found the error:


      [The typo has been changed. Thanks.]

    6. The Oracle says:

      PA cops should shut up and let full legalization happen to save their pensions. Pension fund is in the hole, so even if PA cops don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves they should let the stuff be regulated and taxed. They have to keep the streets safe of DUIs and violence of disputes anyway, not like that shit’s ever going away. The media keep asking the questons to cops the wrong fucking way. They’re asking them like will they still enforce cannabis laws, so no cop is going to go on record, especially on tv, for saying s/he is not going to do their job, basically not enforce the anticannaibs laws. Decrim is not legalization and cops know that. Duh! Dumb media! They should ask if cannabis is legalized will they still follow the law, and if the cops will stop trying to affect the making of the laws in face of the overwhelming support for cannabis in polls. We are not a police state, even if the police want it that way. Cops should just go for the moneygrab, keep their jobs–no layoffs, get raises, and best of all save the pension system. Their union bosses need to orchestrate this with the cooperation of the executives and bureaucracy of the whole state, not just the city. I just got done bitchin on MPP’s blog about how it was stupid to offer Palin such a low speaking fee, and how Bill Maher missed a chance on Jay Leno’s show to explain how tax revenues can be used to pay for a tax break for businesses so they can create jobs. Damn! I know Pennsylvania, and there are some real people with their heads up their asses…got no qualms about gambling addictions in introducing table games but all of a sudden have a moral argument about addiction when it comes to cannabis.

    7. bama says:

      NORML needs to offer a support group for intellectual/ ratioanale americans who have a hard time coping with the ignorant majority. I was reading about the efforts for medicinal marijuana in my state of AL and I no its going to be like pulling teeth to get people this medicine let alone the justice of down rite legalization.

    8. Bob Erhlich says:

      News from Maryland:


      Md. Senate advances medical marijuana bill
      April 9, 2010 – 5:44pm

      Senators backed a procedural move on Friday that will allow a final vote on the measure.

      The proposal would allow pharmacies to distribute marijuana to patients who receive authorization from a physician with whom they have had ongoing medical relationships. It would also re-categorize marijuana as a highly regulated pain medication like morphine instead of keeping it in the same category of drugs like heroin.

      The bill has bipartisan support. An aide to House Speaker Michael Busch says members of a House group studying a similar bill will probably hold it for review during the months before next year’s session, meaning the measure is not likely to become law this year.


      On the Net:

      Senate Bill 627:


    9. mtlasagna says:

      nyc cops have been arresting 50,000 people a year for possessing small amounts of marijuana most of whom are young male and brown.


    10. Buc says:

      Pennsylvania is, only in name, not a part of the Bible belt.

      Unfortunately, we combine the fiscal liberalism of some northern states with the social conservatism of southern states.

      The worst of both worlds… Pennsylvania.