Philly NORML

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 12, 2011

    The city of Philadelphia saved an estimated $2 million last year by ceasing criminal prosecutions for minor marijuana offenses, according to comments made last week by District Attorney Seth Williams to the Philadelphia Daily News.

    In April 2010, Williams publicly announced a citywide policy change whereby law enforcement officials would issue a summons rather than arrest and criminally prosecute minor marijuana offenders. Philadelphia NORML had actively lobbied for the policy change after finding that the city punished minor marijuana violations more severely than many neighboring counties. A February 2010 Philly NORML report also found significant racial disparities in the city’s marijuana prosecutions – noting that African American males comprised an estimated 83 percent of all persons in Philadelphia arrested for minor marijuana possession offenses.

    The new enforcement policy took effect in June 2010.

    Approximately 4,160 defendants were diverted under the program, called the Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM), during its first year, the Philadelphia Daily News reported. Defendants in the program pay a $200 fine to attend a three-hour drug awareness class. Those who complete the class and pay the fine do not have to appear in criminal court and will not have a criminal record.

    Previously, minor (under 30 grams) marijuana possession offenders in Philadelphia were criminally prosecuted with a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 30 days probation or jail time, a $500 fine, and a criminal record.

    “There’s no reason to waste tax dollars on harsh prohibition enforcement,” said Chris Goldstein, media coordinator for Philly NORML and publisher of FreedomIsGreen.com. “Removing the criminal penalties for marijuana possession helps to pay for firefighters, ambulances, and other necessary services. It’s that simple.”

    Additional information on this story will appear in this week’s NORML media advisory. Sign up to receive NORML’s news advisories free online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 27, 2011

    Immediate action is needed in the following states:

    Hawaii: Hawaii’s decade-plus medical marijuana law is under fire. The chairman of the Senate Health Committee, Sen. Josh Green (District 3, West Hawaii), is pushing for additional amendments to SB 1458 (which NORML already opposed) that would eliminate chronic pain, nausea, and Crohn’s disease as qualifying conditions under the state’s medical marijuana program. Lawmakers will decide on these draconian proposals this Thursday. Our allies at the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii are encouraging advocates to contact Sen. Green and urge him to withdraw his amendments. Please contact the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii for further information on how you can take action to preserve Hawaii’s medical cannabis law.

    Illinois: Members of the House of Representatives are anticipated to vote next week on House Bill 30, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. In the previous session, similar legislation was approved by the Senate but was narrowly defeated by the House. You can contact your member of the House regarding HB 30 via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here. You can further support this effort by contacting Illinois NORML.

    Montana: Montana’s patients are once again in legal jeopardy. House and Senate lawmakers this week approved Senate Bill 423, which seeks to severely curtail the number of state-authorized patients who have legal access to medical cannabis. According to a recent summary in The Billings Gazette: “The latest version of SB423 seeks to greatly limit the number of people licensed to use medical marijuana, now at 28,300, with backers hoping to bring that number fewer than 2,000. SB423 first would repeal the current law and shut down medical pot growing and dispensing operations on July 1.”

    Our allies Patients and Families United have accurately labeled SB 423 “Repeal in Disguise.” It would “require the Board of Medical Examiners to review the practices of any physician who recommends marijuana for more than 15 patients in 12 months. Furthermore, the bill would require the physician to pay the cost of the board’s review.” Montana NORML has an action alert here urging the Gov. Brian Schweitzer to veto or amend SB 423 here. Montana activists may also wish to leave a message for the Governor urging him to stand up for Montana’s patients by rejecting SB 423. Call to leave your message here: 406-444-3111.

    Pennsylvania: Legislation to allow for the physician supervised use of marijuana has been re-introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate. Senate Bill 1003 would allow state-authorized patients to possess and cultivate cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The measures also seek to allow for the state-licensed distribution and sale of medical marijuana by authorized ‘compassion centers.’ For more information, or to become involved in this campaign, please contact Philly NORML or Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana.

    Washington: Lawmakers in both chambers have approved an amended version of Senate Bill 5073, which seeks to provide state licensing to medical marijuana producers and dispensaries in order to assure that qualified patients “will have access to an adequate, safe, consistent, and secure source of medical quality cannabis.” The proposed law does not amend patients’ existing rights to possess up to 24 ounces of marijuana for medical purposes and cultivate up to 15 cannabis plants. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Chris Gregoire, who has expressed concerns regarding the measure and has threatened to veto it. Washington advocates may contact the Governor’s office and leave her a message in support of this bill by calling 360-902-4111 or via email here. Additional information and up-to-date information regarding this measure is available from the Washington state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) here, or by contacting Washington NORML here or visiting them on Facebook here.

    For a listing of all of the pending marijuana law reform proposals that NORML is tracking, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here. (For a map of pending legislation, please visit here.)

  • 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.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 2, 2009

    Today is a historic day at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg — as lawmakers are debating, for the first time ever in the Keystone State, the medicinal benefits of marijuana.

    Kudos goes out to Philly NORML and their allies for working directly with Democrat Rep. Mark Cohen to introduce House Bill 1393, The Barry Busch Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act of 2009 and make today’s hearings a reality.

    Pennsylvania lawmakers will talk about legalizing marijuana for medical purposes
    via The Patriot-News

    The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today will hold its first-ever hearing on a bill that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

    The House Health and Human Services Committee will hold a public hearing at 11 a.m. in Room 140 of the Main Capitol in Harrisburg on a bill from state Rep. Mark B. Cohen, D-Phila., H.B. 1393, which would permit the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

    The time has come for Pennsylvania to join 13 other states that allow patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV or other physically painful diseases to use medical marijuana,” Cohen said in a press release. “It is important the committee and the public hear the powerful stories from these patients about the beneficial use of medical marijuana in treating pain and other symptoms of debilitating medical conditions.”

    Web streaming of today’s daylong hearing is available here.

    Testifying in favor of the bill: Chris Goldstein and Derek Rosenzweig of PA4MMJ and Philly NORML; Ed Pane of Serento Gardens Treatment Center; Bradley Walter who lives with HIV; Andrew Hoover of the ACLU-PA, Criminal Defense Attorney Patrick Nightengale; MS patient John Wilson of New Jersey; Brian Gralnick of JSPAN; Bob Ceppecio of The Marijuana Policy Project along with other local patients and professionals. Signed written testimony from 26 PA residents will be presented by PA4MMJ and Philly NORML along with 19 written submissions sent anonymously. Expert written submissions and comments came from the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, the National Lawyers Guild Philadelphia Chapter, The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey and the National Organization for the reform of Marijuana Laws Deputy Director Paul Armentano.

    You can read my written testimony here.

    If you live in Pennsylvania and have not yet contacted your state officials in support of HB 1393, please do so here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 29, 2009

    Over the past 24 hours, several state legislatures have taken steps to enact medical marijuana legislation or improve upon existing law. Here is a summary of this latest progress.

    New Hampshire: The Senate voted 14 to 10 today in favor of HB 648, which would allow qualified patients to possess up to two ounces of cannabis and/or six plants for medical purposes. Because the Senate made minor amendments to the proposal, it must be re-approved by the House before going to Gov. John Lynch – who has expressed reservations about the measure. Starting tomorrow, our allies NH Compassion will begin airing television ads asking for the Governor to support HB 648. If you live in New Hampshire, you can write or call Gov. Lynch here.

    Minnesota: Also today, members of the State Senate gave preliminary approval to Senate File 97, an act to exempt qualified medical cannabis patients from state arrest and prosecution. The Senate is expected to give final passage to the bill imminently. A companion bill, House File 292, is also expected to be before the House floor shortly. If you live in Minnesota, please support this campaign by contacting your state representative and especially Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Additional information is available from Minnesota Cares here.

    Rhode Island: Members of the Rhode Island Senate voted 35 to 2 today in favor of SB 185, an act to allow for the distribution of medical cannabis by state-licensed compassion centers. A companion bill, HB 5359, is pending in the House and is expected to be voted on shortly. UPDATE! Today the House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee voted 8-0 in favor of HB 5359. The bill now goes to the House floor. If you live in Rhode Island, please contact your House member and urge him or her to follow the Senate’s lead and support HB 5359. Even if the both chambers ultimately approve this effort, it is likely that the legislature will need to override the Governor’s veto before this measure can become state law. That means that every vote counts. For more information about this campaign, please visit the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition here.

    Pennsylvania: Finally, NORML is thrilled to announce that Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia), along with six co-sponsors, introduced legislation today to make Pennsylvania the fourteenth state to legalize the physician-supervised use of cannabis. As introduced — House Bill 1393, The Barry Busch Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act of 2009 — would allow state-authorized patients to possess and cultivate cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The measure also seeks to allow for the state-licensed distribution and sale of medical marijuana by authorized ‘compassion centers. For several months, Philly NORML has worked behind the scenes with Rep. Cohen’s staff to draft this important legislation, which you can read about here. If you live in Pennsylvania, you can support this effort by going here.

    To learn about additional medical marijuana law reform legislation in Alabama, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, and Texas, please visit NORML’s Legislative Action Alerts page here.