• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 8, 2010

    Though the race for California‘s next Attorney General still officially remains undecided, Republican candidate Steve Cooley is now leading Democrat Kamala Harris by some 26,000 votes. The Los Angeles Times reports that at least 850,000 ballots — mostly mail-in ballots that arrived in election offices on election day — still need to be counted, and that the race remains far from over.

    The race for California Attorney General has significant implications for the distribution of medical cannabis in California, as Cooley has previously pledged to prosecute dispensaries that engage in over-the-counter cash sales of marijuana to authorized patients. In October, while serving as Los Angeles District Attorney, Cooley declared that state law bars sales of medical marijuana, and opined: “The vast, vast, vast majority, about 100%, of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally, they are dealing marijuana illegally. … The time is right to deal with this problem.”

    Present Attorney General guidelines, issued under former A.G. (now Governor-elect) Jerry Brown in 2008, authorize the distribution and non-profit sales of medical cannabis in California by qualified “collectives and cooperatives,” but warn that ‘storefront’ business that engage in the for-profit sales of medical marijuana “are likely operating outside the protections” of state law. Cooley has long maintained that California dispensaries that engage in over-the-counter sales to customers do not meet a legal definition of ‘collectives’ or ‘not-for-profit’ entities.

    By contrast, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris has previously voiced strong support for protecting the legal rights of patients who use cannabis medicinally.

    In Arizona, Proposition 203 is still trailing — now by some 6,600 votes — with more than 100,000 still remaining to be counted. If passed, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, would permit state-registered patients to obtain cannabis legally from licensed facilities.

    Arizonans have twice before — in 1996 and again in 1998 — voted in favor of medical marijuana ballot measures, though neither proposal was ever enacted by the legislature. This year’s proposal was sponsored by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, an affiliate of the Marijuana Policy Project.

    In Michigan, voters elected vocal medical marijuana opponent Bill Schuette to be the state’s next Attorney General. Schuette was a vocal opponent against Proposal 1, the 2008 voter initiative that legalized the physician-authorized use of medical cannabis. While running for Attorney General, Schuette continued to campaign against both medical marijuana and broader efforts to halt the prosecution of non-medical consumers. Since the election, however, Schuette has yet to weigh in on whether he will use his office to target and prosecute the state’s emerging medical cannabis dispensaries.

    Finally, in Connecticut, state officials have officially declared Democrat Dan Malloy as the state’s next Governor. Malloy had been in an exceedingly close race with Republican opponent Tom Foley.

    Malloy has reportedly voiced support for decriminalizing marijuana for adults, and also supports the legalization of medical cannabis. Malloy’s predecessor, Republican M. Jodi Rell, vetoed legislation in 2007 that would have allowed for the legal use of marijuana by those authorized by their physician. In recent years, lawmakers in Connecticut have expressed support for both medical marijuana and decriminalization.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director December 13, 2009

    Already Four States Have Marijuana Legalization Bills In Play; Californians To Vote On Legalization in 2010

    It can readily be said that 2009 was one of the busiest and most productive years in cannabis law reform since NORML’s founding in 1970. However, it appears as if 2010 is going to be an even busier year–notably marked by the increasing number of actual state legalization bills and a voter initiative in America’s most important state.

    Currently, there is legalization legislation pending in California, Massachusetts, Vermont, and a legalization bill was just introduced this week in Washington. Frankly, most of these bills do not have a strong prospect in passing this time out, however the immense public discussion that is generated is crucial for overall reform efforts.

    The formula is simple: No public discussion or debate about legalization, obviously equates to no substantive law reforms. This is what regrettably happened in the United States, Canada and Europe from 1980-2000, buttressed by extreme federal anti-marijuanism in the form of the DARE program in the public school, the blitzkrieg of Partnership for a Drug-Free America ads polluting media airwaves and omnibus federal crime bills overloaded with severe and costly penalties (i.e., mandatory minimum sentencing, civil forfeiture, mass drug testing, etc…). However, since the turn of the century, there have been ever-increasing public discussions and debates about marijuana prohibition–principally driven by the creation and implementation of medical cannabis laws in thirteen states–which is leading to greater public support for reform.

    Breaking News: NORML has just learned that the TaxCannabis2010 initiative in California has gathered more than enough signatures to qualify for the 2010 ballot and the announcement of such is imminent (like, this week!).

    This coming year the following states will have numerous cannabis law reform legislation or initiatives:

    Medical Cannabis

    State legislation: MN, IL, MO, OH, TN, MD, NC, PA, DE, OH, WI, NY, CT, MA, NH and TX; NJ has a special legislative session going on right now until January 7, 2010 where a pro-reform medical cannabis bill is pending and the outgoing Governor assures a signature to passed legislation.

    Voter Initiatives: AZ

    Cannabis Legalization

    State legislation: VT, MA, WA; CA’s legalization bill (AB 390) will kickoff a smoking hot year in cannabis law reform with a series of planned subcommittee hearings and testimonies currently scheduled for the first week in January.

    Voter Initiatives: TaxCannabis 2010 appears ballot bound and this means that Californians will have the opportunity on November 9, 2010 to effectively end cannabis prohibition in the United States, and arguably most of the of the civil world. Also, Nevada and Oregon voters may also be voting on cannabis legalization initiatives in 2012.

    In a country where one out of eight citizens live in a particularly state, and that state’s citizens democratically vote to end cannabis prohibition and replace it with tax-and-control measures, it is only a matter of time before a number of other states follow suit, then the federal government must end it’s failed three-quarter of a century social experiment of cannabis prohibition.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 6, 2009

    Lots to report on this week, so let’s get right to it.

    If you have not yet gotten active in your state, now is most definitely the time to start.

    Here’s this week’s highlights of actions you can take right now to reform the laws in your state.

    For a complete listing of statewide actions, please visit NORML’s Take Action Center here.

    Decriminalizing Marijuana: In a historic vote, members of the Connecticut Joint Committee on Judiciary last week approved Senate Bill 349, which as amended, would mandate that the possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana by those over 18 years of age is punishable by a ticket — not criminal charges. The bill now awaits action from he full Senate. Show your support for this effort by logging on here or by getting in touch with Connecticut NORML here.

    In Texas, members of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will hear testimony on Wednesday in favor of House Bill 902 — an act to reduce the penalties for the possession of up to ounce of marijuana to fine-only offense. The hearing is scheduled for 2pm in room E-2028 in the State Capitol Building. If you live in Texas you can write your representative in support of HB 902 by going here. You can also leave a message for the Committee by going here. Full details on attending this week’s hearing are available from Texas NORML here.

    Legalizing Medical Marijuana: Minnesota lawmakers continue to show their support for making medical cannabis legal. Senate File 97 is now before the Senate floor, and the House companion bill is also gaining momentum. If you reside in Minnesota and want to see it become the fourteenth state to legalize the physician-supervised use of cannabis, please visit here to contact your elected officials and the Governor’s office.

    In Alabama, members of the House Judiciary Committee are scheduled to hear testimony this Wednesday in favor House Bill 434, The Michael Phillips Compassionate Care Act. If you live in Alabama you can contact your state officials here, and you can learn more about attending this week’s hearing from Alabamians for Compassionate Care here.

    And since so many of you have asked: yes, medical marijuana legislation is coming to Pennsylvania. Over the past weeks, NORML state affiliates in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been working closely with Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia) to draft legislation legalizing the authorized use of medical cannabis. Representative Cohen’s bill is anticipated to be formally introduced before the legislature later this month, and mainstream media outlets are already opining for its passage. For more information, or to become involved in this effort, please visit here, or contact the good folks at Philly NORML.

    UPDATE: Montana GOP Kills Marijuana Law Reform:
    On March 23, members of the Montana House Judiciary Committee deadlocked 9 to 9 on House Bill 541, which sought to reclassify the possession of thirty grams or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction. Not one Republican voted in favor of the bill. An effort by supporters to raise the measure for reconsideration also failed.

    Days later, members of the House Human Services Committee voted 8 to 8 on Friday, March 27, to table Senate Bill 326, which sought to expand Montana’s medical marijuana program. Once again, no Republicans endorsed the bill. A motion on the House floor to reconsider the bill failed 47 to 51.

    More information on this disappointing news is available here. If you live in Montana, don’t just get angry — get involved!

    To learn about additional pending legislation in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Vermont, please visit NORML’s Legislative Action Alerts page here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 27, 2009

    As I wrote on NORML’s blog yesterday, let the White House laugh for now but the public knows that the marijuana law reform issue is no laughing matter.

    More states are moving forward to reduce or eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, and this week has been especially busy.

    If you have not yet gotten active in your state, now is most definitely the time to start.

    Here’s this week’s latest summary of how you can get involved!

    Taxing & Regulating Marijuana: As we noted previously this week, a pair of bills — House Bill 2929 and Senate Bill 1801 — seeking to “tax and regulate the cannabis industry” have been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature. You can show your support for these measures here.

    In California, next Tuesday’s scheduled hearing before the Public Safety Committee on Assembly Bill 390: The Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act, has been postponed. However, this is a good news! Members of the Committee on Public Safety and Health were anticipated to vote on AB 390 immediately following next week’s hearing. While it is impossible to know how the Committee would have voted, all early indications were that several powerful members of the Committee were expected to oppose the bill. We now have additional time to lobby the Public Safety Committee and the Assembly to support AB 390, which you can do here and here.

    Decriminalizing Marijuana: Members of the Connecticut Joint Committee on Judiciary heard testimony this week from NORML and others in favor of Senate Bill 349, which seeks to reclassify the possession of minor amounts of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction. This measure is backed by a solid majority of state voters, and you can urge the Judiciary Committee to support this effort here.

    Members of the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee also heard testimony in favor of a similar bill, Senate Bill 320. You can read about the hearing here, and voice your support by going here.

    Finally in Montana, members of the House Judiciary Committee deadlocked in a 9 to 9 vote this week on House Bill 541, which seeks to reclassify the possession of thirty grams or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction. This action does not kill HB 541, as the Committee can reconsider the issue if just one member is persuaded to change their vote. Help them do so by going here.

    Legalizing Medical Marijuana: In arguably the biggest legislative news of the week, members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted Wednesday 234 to 138 in favor of House Bill 648, which seeks to authorize the physician supervised use of marijuana. The vote marked the first time that either chamber of the legislature had voted in favor of the medicinal use of cannabis. You can learn more about this effort by going here and here.

    In other progress, legislative committees in Illinois and Minnesota also approved medical marijuana bills this week. Key hearings and committee votes are also scheduled in the coming days in Montana and Alabama. You can learn how to support these and other statewide medical cannabis efforts at NORML’s Take Action Center here.

    To learn about additional pending legislation in Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Washington, please visit NORML’s Legislative Action Alerts page here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 30, 2009

    Marijuana law reform bills are now pending in nearly a dozen states. Here is this week’s summary of pending state legislative activity and tips on how you can become involved in changing the marijuana laws in your area.

    Connecticut: Legislators introduced a bill this week to decriminalize the personal use of marijuana. Senate Bill 349 would amend Connecticut law so that adults who possess one ounce of marijuana or less will be issued tickets and assessed a nominal fine in lieu of criminal charges (up to one-year in jail, under current law). In the House, lawmakers will consider HB 5175, which seeks to legalize the medical use of cannabis. (The legislature passed a similar measure in 2007, only to have it vetoed by Gov. Jodi Rell.) Both bills are now before the Joint Judiciary Committee. Please show your support for these efforts here.

    Montana: Legislators tabled a pair of bills this week pertaining to the state’s medical marijuana patient registry. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today killed SB 212, a measure that NORML strongly opposed. However, in the House, members of the Human Services Committee deadlocked on House Bill 73, which would have allowed patients greater access to medical cannabis. A separate, more comprehensive measure to expand Montana’s medical marijuana program is expected to be introduced imminently.

    New Hampshire: House Bill 648, an act to legalize the medical use of marijuana, is now before the House Health, Human Services & Elderly Affairs Committee. A similar bill was narrowly rejected (186-177) by the House in 2007. For more information on this measure, please visit NHCompassion.org or click here.

    South Dakota: Lawmakers will hold hearings next week on a pair of bills to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest and jail. House Bill 1127, an act “to provide safe legal access to medical marijuana for certain qualified persons,” will be heard by the House Health and Human Services Committee at 7:45am on Tuesday, February 3. The House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony regarding a separate medical marijuana bill on Wednesday. To attend these hearings or to learn more about how you can support these efforts, please visit South Dakota NORML/South Dakotans for Safe Access or go here.

    To learn about additional pending legislation in Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, please visit NORML’s Action Alerts page here.

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