NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 16, 2012

    Marijuana law reform legislation still remains pending in several this 2012 legislative session. Is your state among them? Find out here.

    More importantly, have you taken the time to call or write your state elected officials this year and urged them to support these pending reforms? If not, NORML has provided you with all of the tools to do so via our capwiz ‘Take Action Center’ here. (FYI: NORML’s capwiz page is specific to legislation only, not ballot initiative efforts. A summary pending 2012 ballot initiative campaigns may be found at NORML’s Legalize It 2012 page on Facebook here or on the NORML blog here.)

    Below is this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — where we spotlight specific examples of pending marijuana law reform legislation from 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. Get active; get NORML!

    California: Longtime NORML ally Mark Leno is sponsoring legislation, Senate Bill 1182, that seeks to clarify how medical marijuana dispensaries may legally operate under state law. As introduced, SB 1182 seeks to bar from state prosecution those establishments that operate within the state Attorney General’s 2008 written guidelines for the ‘lawful operation of cooperative or a collective’.
    The measure also “exempts those entities and persons from criminal prosecution or punishment solely on the basis of the fact that they receive compensation for actual expenses incurred in carrying out activities that are in compliance with those guidelines.” California NORML strongly supports SB 1182, as it would substantially eliminate confusion over the legality of the state’s several hundred dispensaries. You can learn more about the measure here.

    Maryland: As anticipated, a series of bills that sought to allow for the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana once again stalled in the Maryland legislature. On a more positive note, however, lawmakers did take action this session to reform the way minor marijuana possession cases are prosecuted and defendants are sentenced. Specifically, lawmakers passed legislation that lowers the penalty for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana from up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine to up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. Legislators also passed a separate measure that provides police the discretion to cite, rather than arrest, minor marijuana offenders. Both measures await the signature of democrat Gov. Martin O’Malley.

    Massachusetts: State lawmakers on Wednesday, April 11, delayed action on several bills that sought to allow for the limited use of marijuana therapy. By failing to take action on any of these measures, lawmakers all but assured that a binding ballot question on the topic will go before voters this November. According to the statehouse news report: “Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, co-chair of the committee, told the News Service after [the] hearing … that his committee is ‘not working on anything’ that would stop the planned ballot question. The Legislature has until May 1 to either pass the initiative, draft its own version of legislation, or refrain from acting on it and allow the process to continue toward the November ballot.” (You can read a full summary of the hearings and initiative effort here.)

    In previous elections, Massachusetts voters have overwhelmingly supported non-binding public policy questions regarding the legalization of medical marijuana. Further information on Massachusetts statewide reform efforts is available from NORML’s statewide affiliate Mass/Cann NORML here.

    New Hampshire: House lawmakers in March passed marijuana decriminalization legislation. Senate lawmakers are considering doing likewise this week. On Thursday, April 19, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony in support of House Bill 1526, which amends penalties for possession of marijuana (up to one-half ounce) from a criminal misdemeanor punishable (by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine) to a civil infraction, punishable by a maximum fine of $250 and no criminal record. Click here to contact your state Senator regarding this proposal.

    Separate legislation (Senate Bill 409), which allows for the possession and cultivation of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, has passed the Senate and remains pending in the House. You can track this legislation here or by contacting NH Compassion here.

    Tennessee: Tennessee’s Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act (House Bill 294/Senate Bill 251) will receive a final hearing on Tuesday, April 17th. This will be the final opportunity for advocates to publicly show lawmakers their support for marijuana law reform during the 2012 legislative session. The hearing will take place at a special meeting of the Senate Health Committee at 9:00am. More information on this proposal and NORML’s ongoing lobbying efforts in Tennessee is available here.

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

    1. Brian says:

      The Tennessee bill has already been proclaimed dead here in Tennessee. That’s about all the news coverage it gets.

      [Paul Armentano responds: Tennessee’s Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act has made significant progress this session, having passed out of multiple committees following several high profile hearings. The measure has also received unprecedented mainstream media attention, virtually all of it favorable. Tomorrow’s hearing will be the final hearing for this session, as the Senate is in recess. However, a strong show of support before the Committee will lay the groundwork for what we hope will be a successful bid in 2013.

      Speaking on this year’s progress, House sponsor Rep. Jeanne Richardson (D-Memphis) said: “My colleagues, if it weren’t for political considerations, would pass this. Enough of them have come and talked to me privately and admit that this is a good, compassionate bill. They are scared it will hurt them in their re-elections.” That is why it is so important that you (and your like-minded colleagues) personally to contact your state elected officials and make it clear to them that their constituents stand firmly in support of allowing for the medical use of marijuana.]

    2. Chadwick says:

      Wow California, what an ass-backwards and evasive approach to dealing with medical marijuana regulation. As the legislature, you need to actually implement a system, not just affirm a set of guidelines that were made.

      Although the guidelines provided an aura of clarity in 2008, the legislature would be depriving itself of its ability to establish sensible regulations by opting for an affirmation of these guidelines in lieu of a licensing/permit model (liberally construed). Governmental regulation does not need to be harsh, nor does it have to be non-existent. However, the lack of statewide regulation, coupled with political fear, has obviously led many municipalities to enact a prohibition on the store-front model. Inb contrast to SB 1182, AB 2312 (Ammiano’s verison of the MMRCA) would be a far more effective tool to protect patients and collectives, by ensuring that the industry has some form of commercial regulation. Regulation, or at the very least the lack of governmental intervention via the criminal justice system, could lead to that price drop that seriously ill patients have been waiting for since the implementation of the MMP.

      But to play devil’s advocate — if this legislation were adopted as it is currently drafted, such legislation, coupled with recent court rulings, could ensure the proliferation of MMJ regardless of attempted local prohibitions to the contrary. It could even drop prices substantially as a byproduct of such proliferation. But without adding arrest/seizure protections, state and local governments will still have the ability to raid dispensaries, and destroy their plants and medicine in the process of evidence collection. Patients will still be arrested/cited, and their medicine confiscated — that is, of course, unless they go through the legal process in order to recover their medication and fight the charge, or unless they live in a city that requires law enforcement to attempt to verify a recommendation prior to arrest/citation. Without a few more tweaks, this is more of the same on the state level…

      While I love the positive news coming from Sacramento, this legislation, by in large, does very little to combat the overall problems that the industry currently faces in 2012.

      So looking ahead here on the roadmap…. MMRCTA 2014? Or perhaps RCP 2014?

    3. Ha ! So you think Cannabis is harmless . It is a dangerous drug . Just look what it does to your lungs in this scientific study .

    4. Vicki says:

      Oklahoma has been sitting on a bill that they will not even look at for about a year.

    5. Mike says:

      Dalton, You my good sir are a fucking idiot!!! If that is your best “scientific study” Then you must get ripped off all the time, because you will believe anything.

    6. Brian says:

      I know Paul, I have followed the bill. I have sent out 5 letters and only got 1 blow off letter back from Gov. Haslam. Seems they were busy with bills allowing creationism in school science and their bills about Abstinence as Sex Ed. Is the Knoxville Norml Chapter still going? Thats the closest chapter to me. If a bill comes back up, it might need some advertising in print and such to get some mainstream word out.

    7. Katrina says:

      What about Kentucky? Kentucky has the Gatewood Galbraith Medical Marijuana Act 2012 up for a vote, don’t we?

      [Paul Armentano responds: No. The measure died in Committee because the Chair failed to take any action on it: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=61160431.%5D

    8. phrtao says:

      ^^^Dalton Allison – great that you are so concerned about people’s lungs but you don’t have to smoke it! Many dispensaries offer food stuffs and oils as a means of taking the medicine. Legalizing it would make these products more common and enable people to stop smoking (for pleasure or pain relief)

    9. If you live in Connecticut and want to end marijuana prohibition in our state, please take a minute to visit http://www.ctprimaryproject.com.

      Please pass this on to anyone you know in Connecticut!

    10. Galileo Galilei says:

      @Dalton Allison

      Ha! So vaporize. End of story.