Is New England The New Hotbed For Marijuana Law Reform?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 4, 2011

    The northeast has historically been a hotbed for marijuana use — with five of the six New England states self-reporting some of the highest percentages of marijuana consumption in the nation. But recently New England has also become a regional leader in marijuana law reform.

    Lawmakers in every New England state are now debating marijuana law reform legislation. Here’s a closer look at what’s happening.

    Connecticut: The nutmeg state is the only northeast state besides New Hampshire that has yet to enact some form of marijuana decriminalization or medicalization. But that drought may end this year. Weeks ago, newly elected Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy publicly affirmed 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 has also spoken out in favor of legalizing the physician-authorized use of medical marijuana. (Similar legislation was passed by the legislature in 2007, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jodi Rell.) 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.

    Maine: Maine voters have twice approved ballot initiatives in recent years addressing the medical use and distribution of medical cannabis. And in 2009, Maine lawmakers increased the amount of marijuana that may be classified as a civil offense from 1.25 ounces to 2.5 ounces (the second highest threshold in the nation). This year state lawmakers have introduced a pair of bills, LD 754 and LD 750, to expand the state’s existing marijuana decriminalization law. LD 754 would amend existing law so that the adult possession of over 2.5 ounces but less than 5 ounces is classified as a civil violation. LD 750 would amend existing law so that the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants by an adult is also classified as a civil violation. Both measures have been referred to the Joint Committee Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. You can contact your lawmakers in support of these measures here. NORML is also working with state lawmakers regarding the introduction of separate legislation to legalize adult marijuana possession, production, and distribution. You can learn more about this pending legislation here.

    Massachusetts: In 2008, a whopping 65 percent of voters in endorsed Question 2 decriminalizing the adult possession of an ounce or less of cannabis to a fine-only civil offense. Now a coalition of state lawmakers are backing House Bill 1371 to legalize and regulate adult marijuana production and sales in Massachusetts. You can watch a 60-minute discussion with the bill’s lead sponsor and supporter here. You can contact your state elected officials in support of HB 1371 here, or by visiting the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition/NORML here. You can learn about a separate state legislative effort to regulate the use of medical marijuana here.

    New Hampshire: Lawmakers this week heard testimony in favor of House Bill 442, which legalizes the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana. (Similar legislation passed both the House and the Senate in 2009, but was vetoed by Governor John Lynch.) You can write your lawmakers in favor of HB 442 via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here, or by contacting NHCompassion.org.

    Rhode Island: In coming days, Rhode Island state regulators will become only the third in the nation to begin licensing medical marijuana dispensaries. A coalition of lawmakers is also debating the amending the state’s penalties for non-patients. 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. You can voice your support for HB 5031 by clicking here.

    Vermont: Two separate marijuana law reform measures are pending before Vermont lawmakers. Senate Bill 17 proposes expanding the state’s medical marijuana law to permit the establishment of two nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. You can learn more about this measure here. House Bill 427 amends state law so that the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by six months in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. Passage of the measure, which has been endorsed by Democrat Governor Peter Shumlin, will allow state law enforcement to reallocate an estimated $700,000 annually in criminal justice resources. You can contact your House member in support of HB 427 here.

    For up-to-date information on marijuana law reform measures pending in other states, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    60 responses to “Is New England The New Hotbed For Marijuana Law Reform?”

    1. Brian says:

      New Hampshire: Vetoed by DEMOCRAT Governor Lynch..

      Neoconism does not adhere to the bounds of party line. President Obama is a Neocon just like his predecessor Bush, and our gov here in NH is a neocon just like the majority of republicans (and other dems).

      Hungry for war.

    2. Stompedonmyrights says:

      The hour of your redemption is here. Your patriots have demonstrated an unswerving and resolute devotion to the principles of freedom that challenges the best that is written on the pages of human history. We the People now call upon your supreme effort that the government may know from the temper of an aroused and outraged united people within that they are forced to contend with.
      Rally to US. Let the indomitable spirit of California, Oregon, and Washington lead on. As the lines of this battle roll forward to bring you within the zone of opportunity, rise up and strike down this injustice. Strike this injustice at every favorable opportunity. For your homes and hearths, strike this injustice! For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike at this injustice! In the name of your sacred dead, strike at this injustice! Let no heart be faint. The guidance of divine God points the way. Follow in His Name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory over this injustice!

    3. Ant says:

      The first American revolution started in New England, and this one will too.

    4. David762 says:

      1. Brian ‘NH: Vetoed by a Democrat Governor Lynch …”

      Please, Brian. Don’t mistake NeoLiberalism with NeoConism, although I admit there’s not so much difference — they’re both Fascistic. It’s not so much the degree of Fascism, but how quickly they are trying to get us There. Think of NeoConism as the Iron Fist, while NeoLiberalism is that same Iron Fist, but in a Velvet Glove.

      It’s good to see that New England, that historical hotbed of revolutionary thought, take on the issues of Medical Marijuana, decriminalization, and re-legalization of cannabis. Finally!!

      I like to think that Massachusetts led the way with decriminalization, like their $100 fine for public possession of 1 ounce or less of cannabis, and which California later adopted. Baby steps, baby steps. Because decriminalization does nothing to create new legal sources of this contraband, instead relying upon those same illicit sources like the violent Mexican drug cartels.

      When are we going to stop That war along our border? We certainly don’t see Mexican breweries taking it to the bloody streets over who will import Corona or Dos XX beer (or Molsen) into the USA. Let’s make cannabis legal like beer, or better legal like tomato plants, like this plant was Before Prohibition was enacted — for smoking, ingesting extracts of, growing, or non-commercial distribution. Those that cannot be bothered with growing cannabis, and can afford it, are welcome to buy Big Pharma’s new patented compounds of THC that are emerging.

      Let’s get it done, New England — we’re counting on you in 2011.

      [Paul Armentano responds: Maine actually decriminalized marijuana possession decades before Massachusetts voters enacted Question 2. Maine’s decrim threshold (2.5 ounces) is the second-highest in the nation, only behind Ohio (100 grams).]

    5. i feel it in the best interest for us to legalize medical marijuana..
      i have always been dumbfounded at the lack of knowledge and the 50’s “REEFER MADNESS”thought process ,that has followed pot…
      i lost my brother to drinking and driving…i myself have drank and drove ..and any problems i or my friends have had has been due to alcohol consumption…the amount of revenue attained from the sales of alcohol..then the police waiting outside,the local watering hole for you to drive then arrest you ,for consuming ..generates even more..i challenge anybody to find more than 10 deaths a year by pot…
      Statistically,nicotine, alcohol ,crack ,cocaine are killers….and what about our medical programs offering “the loop” as i would call it for heroin users …in order to get of one you have to be prescribed methadone..then they get addicted to that so they go to oxycoton’s ?(s.p.) then it is back to another drug…facilitating there circle of addiction..but still getting paid money (i.e.medical programs) and not helping people…the amount of tax payer dollars to prosecute an individual for possession of marijuana,and or to hold him in the county jail is ridiculous!!
      The only thing that gets hurt if you smoke marijuana is a bag of chips…the only thing that gets damaged or dented is your pillow….it has helped me with my bad knees as opposed to giving myself silicon shots and costing an arm and a leg..
      the amount of money to be generated from the legalization is limitless….you would have lighting and gardening stores see a MAJOR!! increase in business,storage and coffee shops would flourish..
      People would stay at home and watch t.v. as they wouldn’t have to drive to go have a beer..(legally) ..only to have the chance of getting pulled over for an illegal act on a legal drug? it just mind boggling to me that we have so many money mongers but no-one has figured out that this will take us right out of debt!!! thank you for your time …i have much more to say on this issue…

    6. Anonymous says:

      everywhere is the new hotbed for marijuana law reform

    7. […] full post on NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform Share and […]

    8. David says:

      Woh woh wooooohhhh everybody. I am the first in line for legalization but did you all miss the first 3 min of this interview? The state would be the worst pot dealer of all. $ 10.00 TAX for each 1% of THC. Are you serious? Y’all like that?
      Who’s going to set the potency measurements?


      So if THC levels of White Widow can be around 20% if grown properly. G13 is said to be 25% THC, the State of MA will TAX you $200.00 – $250.00 for these yummies. Then of course the “OTHER” dealer has to get his.
      Still think its a good idea? I think it’s wrong and unconstitutional to tax someones medication in such a way! So we should pay more tax at a good restaurant than a dive? C’mon MA…you can do better than that!

    9. hippie dude says:

      hotbed ??? ha ha ha…. nobody has the balls to legalize!! just hot air!! why start a new economic windfall when all the states are crying broke? rather give our money to the drug war and drug lords… pick and choose your hypocrisy thats the game!

    10. If we can get some support perhaps someone can get Block Island to secede and avoid these ridiculous cannabis laws imposed by the states and federal government