NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 19, 2011

    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.

    Connecticut: Lawmakers have introduced a pair of bills to reform state marijuana laws. House Bill 5139 amends state law to “authorize an individual to use marijuana for medical purposes as directed by a physician.” Lawmakers passed similar legislation in 2007 only to have the measure vetoed by then-Gov. Jodi Rell. Newly elected Gov. Dan Malloy has been a past supporter of medical marijuana law reform and indicates that he is inclined to sign HB 5139 into law. A separate bill, Senate Bill 163, amends 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 $1,000 fine) to an infraction, punishable by a nominal fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. This measure would similarly reduce penalties for the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Both measures have been referred to the Joint Judiciary Committee. If you reside in Connecticut, you can take action in support of both bills here.

    Illinois: Illinois state legislators are considering a pair of bills to reform the state’s marijuana laws. Lawmakers this week reintroduced House Bill 30, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which allows qualified patients to possess and grow marijuana for medical purposes. The bill already has strong support among lawmakers, as a previous version of the measure was approved by the Senate and only narrowly defeated by the House. Separate legislation, House Bill 100, amends state law so that the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine) to a “petty offense” punishable by a fine only. Both measures have been referred to the House Rules Committee. If you reside in Illinois, you can take action in favor of both measures by clicking here and by becoming involved with Illinois NORML.

    Rhode Island: House Bill 5031 amends 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 $500 maximum fine) to a civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. The measure has legislative support. In 2010, members of a special Senate committee advocated for the decriminalization of adult marijuana possession offenses, finding that over 91 percent of the state’s marijuana arrests are for possession only, and that of those first-time offenders are sentenced to incarceration, defendants on average were sentenced to 3.5 months in jail. House Bill 5031 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which may be contacted here. If you reside in Rhode Island, you can take action in support of HB 5031 at NORML’s ‘Take Action’ Center here.

    Virginia: There is disappointing news to report from Virginia. On Monday, January 17, lawmakers on the House Courts of Justice, Criminal Subcommittee decided on a voice vote to “pass by indefinitely” legislation, HB 1443, which sought to reduce criminal marijuana penalties for first-time offenders. Virginia NORML, which backed HB 1443, co-organized a Lobby Day to coincide with Monday’s hearing and vote. An estimated 75 citizens participated in the day-long event, about a dozen of whom testified in favor of HB 1443. (You can read NORML’s testimony in favor of the measure here.) Unlike in past years, no one, including representatives of law enforcement or the state prosecutors office, testified publicly against the measure. Del. Morgan, the sponsor of HB 1443, has already vowed to reintroduce a similar measure next year. You can read a full report on Monday’s Lobby Day and hearing, as well as what you can still do to help, by clicking here.

    Washington: Senate Bill 5073, which seeks to expand Washington’s twelve-year-old medical marijuana law and creates greater legal protections for authorized patients, providers, and caregivers. has been assigned to the Committee on Health & Long-Term Care and has been scheduled for a hearing on Thursday, January 20 at 1:30pm in Senate Hearing Room 4 of the Cherberg Building. For more information on this measure and tomorrow’s hearing, please visit here.

    To be in contact with your state officials regarding these and other pending legislation, please visit NORML’s Take Action Center here.

    39 responses to “NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up”

    1. todd says:

      alright lets see if we can do it this time Illinois. write to the representatives that have the power to do something to help us.

    2. T. Sex says:

      Even though I don’t live in any of the above mentioned states (Tennessee) I’m ecstatic over these announcements. The more states that support pro-cannabis measures the better. It’s like a snowball rolling down hill and pretty soon it will be unstoppable. I can’t help but think that if Prop. 19 had passed not only would the above states have a higher support (no pun intended) for the proposed bills, but more states might have had reps. submitting similar bills. Can’t wait to see some updates on this article!

    3. Anonymous says:

      I live in CT, and I just used these forms to send them to the appropriate house representative. Specifically, I included a link to the excellent Psychedelic Salon podcast with Claudia Little which explains “the safety, benefits, and importance of medical marijuana.”


      (I do wish there were a way to get rid of the 4:30 intro and rehost it on a better URL, but hopefully there is at least a chance for this to have an impact.)

      If you haven’t listened to this podcast then you definitely should, even if you read the NORML blog religiously there is still probably a lot you will learn.

    4. AfraidinCt. says:

      Hey Connecticut, we have an oppurtunity to change our Law’s. Let’s not waste the chance to let our Law makers how we feel. Let’s let them know, NOW is the time to move forward, Now is the time to beet the Gangs here in Ct. Let remember the People who have died as a result of these gangs, and the relentless pursiut of this unwinable war on drugs. Let’s remeber the co-lateral Damage that occurs to non-violent people who are involved or those who get caught in the middle and get shot not only by the criminal element, but by the accidental shottings from the nation’s Law Enforcement community. But let us remember that the Law Enforcemnet community can’t decide witch law they will and will not enforcement they are bound by oath to enforce them all.

    5. Anonymous says:

      Eventually all States will follow California except for maybe the hillbilly ( as we call them in Cali. ) States in the deep South .
      Everybody laughed at our Nation when California was a few million in the hole . Now every State is underwater .
      It’s just a matter of time before everybody finally catches up to Cali.

    6. […] NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform Share and Enjoy: […]

    7. DugN says:

      I’m shocked!
      I propose a toast!
      I thought KY would be the last state to consider.
      Check it out!


    8. DugN says:

      Guess where I live?

    9. Don says:

      I live in VA and want to share with you the letter I just emailed to all 3 of the prohibitionist delegates. Let’s hope it does us some good! Here it is:

      I am very disappointed with your failure to support HB 1443, which would have reallocated criminal justice costs and benefited public safety. I hope that you will reconsider your position when this measure is reintroduced in a future legislative session.

      I believe that we, the American people, have been lied to for many many years regarding the so-called dangers of marijuana and that it is time to legalize and regulate it for responsible adults. I don’t know why you decided not to back HB 1443. The fact is that I know many marijuana users and they are all good productive tax-paying citizens and that not a single one of them is a criminal!

      Perhaps you are uneducated about what marijuana is and why it is illegal. May I suggest that you read this book: “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink”. You can get a copy for less than $10.00. After reading it I suspect that you will not be of the same opinion that you are now.

      You probably think that bad people use marijuana and that they are societal deviants but nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of people use it and – some are bad, some are good. Some are old some are young, some are white, some are black… I think you get my point.

      It is incredibly unjust to continue to treat marijuana users as though they are criminals when alcohol is legal and is much more dangerous. Please forget the lies of the past and look to the future – a better future. Prohibition is the cause of 99.99% of the problems with marijuana.

      Thank you for your consideration!