N.H. Senate Blocks Widely Supported Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

Jun 05, 2015 Garret Overstreet

Despite overwhelming approval in the House — and a poll released last week that found 63% of New Hampshire voters support such legislation — the Senate tabled HB 618 on Thursday evening

CONCORD — The New Hampshire Senate blocked a widely supported bill Thursday evening that would have removed criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

After Senators voted 9-15 to overturn the Judiciary Committee’s recommendation that the bill be killed, Sens. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) and David Pierce (D-Etna) proposed a compromise floor amendment to HB 618. Four senators argued strongly against the bill and the amendment: David Boutin (R-Hooksett), Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), Gary Daniels (R-Milford), and Jeannie Forrester (R-Meredith). Senators were unable to agree on the language and the bill was tabled.

HB 618, which the House approved 297-67 in March, would have made possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense. Under current state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

“The Senate’s failure to adopt this moderate, commonsense legislation is truly stunning,” said Matt Simon, Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “There is also exceptionally strong public support. Voters are clearly tired of New Hampshire being the only state left in New England that criminalizes people for simple marijuana possession.

“The senators who led the effort to block this bill should explain why they think citizens should be branded as criminals for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.”

Three out of five adults in New Hampshire (63%) support removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released last week. Only 27% said they were opposed.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail for simple marijuana possession. The Illinois General Assembly approved a similar measure last month, which is now awaiting action from the governor.

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U.S. House Narrowly Defeats Amendment to Block DEA Interference In All State Marijuana Laws

Jun 03, 2015 Garret Overstreet

The House approved a similar amendment that applies only to state laws allowing the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes
 
* Statement below from Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project *

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly defeated a measure 206-222 on Wednesday that was intended to prevent the federal government from interfering with state laws regulating marijuana for all purposes, including adult use.

The amendment, offered by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) to the House version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, would have prohibited the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana.

Earlier, the House approved a similar amendment that applies only to state medical marijuana laws, which was offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA). It has been offered in the House eight times since 2003, and the first time it passed was last year by a vote of 219-189. It was codified in the so-called “CRomnibus” funding bill in December, and it is expected to be included in the final spending law again this year.

The House also passed three amendments, sponsored by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Joaquin Castro (D-TX), respectively, which redirected a combined total of $23 million away from the DEA and toward analyzing rape kits, helping victims of child and domestic abuse, and purchasing body cameras for police officers.

Statement from Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Today’s vote is the most significant step Congress has ever taken toward ending federal marijuana prohibition. This is the first time this amendment has been offered, and it received an impressive amount of support. It’s not really a question of whether this measure will pass; it’s a question of when it will pass.

“Most Americans think marijuana should be legal for adults. With more and more states adopting their own marijuana policies, the tension between state and federal laws needs to be addressed. Just about every candidate for president has said states should be free to determine their own marijuana policies. It is time for Congress to get serious about addressing this problem and repeal federal prohibition so that states can regulate marijuana as they see fit.”

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U.S. House Votes to Prevent DOJ From Interfering in State Medical Marijuana Laws

Jun 03, 2015 Garret Overstreet

COMING UP: The House is also expected to vote on a broader amendment intended to protect state laws regulating marijuana for adult use
 
* Statement below from Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project *

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure 242-186 on Wednesday that is intended to prevent the federal government from interfering in state medical marijuana laws.

The amendment, offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) to the House version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, prohibits the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to interfere in the implementation of laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

The amendment has been offered in the House eight times since 2003, and it passed for the first time last year by a vote of 219-189. It was codified in the so-called “CRomnibus” funding bill in December, and it is expected to be included in the final spending law again this year.

The House is now expected to consider a broader measure that would not be limited to medical marijuana. The amendment, offered by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO), would prohibit the Justice Department from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws regulating marijuana for adult use, in addition to medical purposes.

Statement from Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Votes in support of rolling back the federal government’s war on medical marijuana are beginning to become routine. Last year, passing this amendment was unprecedented. This year, it was predictable. Medical marijuana has gone from ‘controversial’ to ‘conventional’ on Capitol Hill.

“This is an important amendment because it addresses the tension between state and federal marijuana law. We welcome it as a temporary fix, but what we really need is a comprehensive and more permanent solution. It’s time for Congress to pass legislation that ends prohibition at the federal level and allows states to determine their own marijuana policies.”

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U.S. House to Vote on Several Spending Limitations Intended to Roll Back Federal Government’s War on Marijuana

Jun 02, 2015 Garret Overstreet

Proposed amendments to appropriations bill would prohibit the Department of Justice from using any funds to prevent states from implementing laws that allow for the regulated cultivation and distribution of marijuana

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote Tuesday evening or Wednesday on several spending limitations intended to roll back the federal government’s war on marijuana.

Several marijuana-related amendments will be offered to the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill, and at least two of them would limit the manner in which funds can be spent by the Department of Justice, which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The House is expected to consider:

-  An amendment offered by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) that would prevent the Department from using any funds to prevent states from implementing laws that allow for the regulated cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana for any purpose. This will be the first time the amendment has been proposed, and it represents the most significant reform to federal marijuana policy ever offered in the form of an appropriations amendment.

-  An amendment offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) that would prevent the Department from using any funds to prevent states from implementing laws that allow for the cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana for medical purposes only. The House approved this amendment last year, and it was codified in the so-called “CRomnibus” funding bill.

-  Amendments that would redirect funding away from DEA salaries and interdiction programs and toward other more worthwhile programs, such as drug treatment for veterans and addressing the backlog of untested sexual assault lab kits.

The Marijuana Policy Project will issue statements immediately following each vote, and MPP Director of Federal Policies Dan Riffle will also be available for comment.

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Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Bill to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol TODAY

Jun 02, 2015 Garret Overstreet

Supporters of S 510 are expected to give testimony at the Rise of the Senate

PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing today regarding a bill that would make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol. Supporters of the bill, including a policy expert with experience in implementing and analyzing marijuana regulations in Colorado, are expected to testify.

The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, or S 510, would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space. It would create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities and direct the Department of Business Regulation to create rules regulating security, labeling, and health and safety requirements. It would also establish wholesale excise taxes at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store, as well as a special sales tax on retail sales to consumers.

One of the expected speakers, Jordan Wellington, worked closely with the Colorado state government to establish the systems called for by the 2012 passage of a ballot initiative, Amendment 64, which made retail marijuana legal for adults there. In 2013, Wellington served as the sole legislative staffer assigned to shepherd the legislation relating to the implementation of Amendment 64 and the legalization of marijuana through the Colorado General Assembly. Wellington was then hired by the Colorado Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division to serve as the sole policy analyst during the development and drafting of the rules governing retail marijuana and the revised rules governing medical marijuana.

WHAT: Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for S 510, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act

WHEN: Rise of the Senate (around 4:30 p.m.)

WHERE: Rhode Island State House, Room 313, 82 Smith Street, Providence

WHO: Jordan Wellington, Vicente Sederberg LLC

Michelle McKenzie, MPH, public health researcher

Elizabeth Comery, JD, retired attorney and former Providence police officer

Andrew Horwitz, assistant dean at Roger Williams Law School

Jim Vincent, president of the Providence NAACP

Jared Moffat, Director of Regulate Rhode Island

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Regulate Rhode Island is a coalition of citizens and organizations committed to ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. For more information, visit http://www.RegulateRI.com.

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Del. House Approves Bill to Remove Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Possession

Jun 02, 2015 Garret Overstreet

Senate will now consider HB 39, which would replace potential jail time with a civil fine for possession of a small amount of marijuana by adults

DOVER — The Delaware House of Representatives approved a bill 24-14 on Tuesday that would remove criminal penalties and potential jail time for possession of a small amount of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket. The bill, which was amended on the floor to apply only to adults, will now be sent to the Senate.

HB 39, introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South), would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an adult a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail. Under current Delaware law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $575 fine and up to three months in jail.

“Laws that criminalize people for simple marijuana possession are outdated and counterproductive,” said Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.. “We’re grateful the Delaware House agrees and hopeful that the Senate will join them in supporting this commonsense legislation. Delaware cannot afford to continue arresting people, jailing them, and giving them criminal records just for possessing a small amount of marijuana.”

More than two-thirds of Delaware voters (68%) support removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession and making it a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $100 with no possibility of jail time, according to a survey conducted in March by Public Policy Polling. Only 26% said they were opposed. Full results are available at https://www.mpp.org/DEpoll.

“This is a very straightforward proposal that is supported by an overwhelming majority of Delaware voters,” Capecchi said. “People are tired of seeing their communities’ limited law enforcement resources spent on arresting, prosecuting, and jailing people for marijuana possession. It’s draconian, it’s antiquated, and it’s time for a new approach.”

In a letter to the editor of the The New York Times published in March, Gov. Jack Markell (D) said he is “hopeful that [his] state will decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.”

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted laws removing the threat of jail time for simple marijuana possession.

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to Sign Limited Medical Marijuana Bill Into Law TODAY at 2 p.m. CT

Jun 01, 2015 Garret Overstreet

SB 339 is intended to allow access to low-THC marijuana extracts for qualifying seizure patients; advocates hope to fix the flawed measure in next legislative session

* Statement below from Heather Fazio of the Marijuana Policy Project *

AUSTIN — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is scheduled to sign a bill into law Monday that recognizes the medical benefits of marijuana. SB 339, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), is intended to allow patients with intractable seizure conditions to access marijuana extracts containing high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and only trace levels of THC.

SB 339 requires doctors to “prescribe” low-THC marijuana extracts to patients, which exposes doctors to federal criminal sanctions. By contrast, doctors “recommend” medical marijuana or “certify” patients to use medical marijuana in the 23 states with comprehensive medical marijuana laws and the District of Columbia. Unlike “prescriptions,” recommendations and certifications are federally legal and protected under the First Amendment.

The bill also only allows for extracts with very little THC, and some seizure patients say a greater ratio of THC to CBD is necessary for it to be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. The bill also fails to allow access to any medical marijuana products for people suffering from other debilitating conditions, such as PTSD, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, for which medical marijuana has been found to have significant medical benefits.

Despite SB 339’s significant limitations, advocates support Gov. Abbott signing it into law and promptly implementing the program. It has frequently taken as long as two to three years for patients to begin safely accessing medical cannabis preparations after state medical marijuana laws are enacted. First, rules need to be crafted for the operation of dispensaries, then there is an application process, and finally the providers must find locations, build out their facilities, and begin cultivation.

Fourteen states have adopted laws that allow limited access to products containing CBD, although most of them are not functional due to defects similar to those in the Texas bill. Twenty-three additional states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territory of Guam have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws that allow patients with debilitating conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.

Statement from Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project: “While this program leaves most patients behind and we’re concerned about its functionality, today is one for the history books. The Texas Legislature is sending a resounding message: Marijuana is medicine. We commend our Texas lawmakers and look forward to continuing this conversation when the 85th Legislature convenes in 2017.”

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Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy is a broad coalition of organizations, activists, and community leaders dedicated to realizing effective, efficient, and evidence-based marijuana policies in Texas. For more information, visit http://www.TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Gov. Hogan Vetoes Widely Supported Bill Intended to Fix Maryland Marijuana Decriminalization Law

May 22, 2015 Garret Overstreet

Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland calls on state lawmakers to override veto of SB 517, which would remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia

*Statement below from the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland*

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced late Friday afternoon that he has vetoed a widely supported bill to remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia, including potential jail time. The measure would also designate public marijuana consumption a civil offense punishable by a $500 fine.

SB 517, introduced by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), was approved 32-13 in the Senate and 83-53 in the House of Delegates. Maryland adopted a law last year that decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana, but it did not include marijuana paraphernalia.

Gov. Hogan’s letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller announcing the veto and explaining his reasoning is available at http://bit.ly/1ellF1e.

Statement from the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, which supported SB 517:

“Gov. Hogan’s decision to veto this widely supported, common-sense legislation is baffling. An overwhelming majority of Maryland voters do not want citizens to be subjected to jail time and a lifelong criminal record simply for using marijuana. Their elected officials have stood up for them on this issue twice, and we hope they will do so again by overriding the governor’s veto.

“Gov. Hogan’s excuse for opposing this legislation does not hold water. Under the proposed law, it would remain entirely illegal to consume marijuana while driving and police would maintain the ability to stop anyone who they believed to be engaging in such an activity. Ironically, if Gov. Hogan’s veto holds, law enforcement officials will continue to spend time arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana paraphernalia possession instead of spending it on looking for impaired and otherwise dangerous drivers. If the governor’s aim was to keep our roads safe, his veto of SB 517 was an epic misfire.”

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The Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland includes the ACLU of Maryland, CASA de Maryland, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Demand Progress, Equality Maryland, Job Opportunities Task Force, International Women’s Cannabis Coalition-Maryland Chapter, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, League of Women Voters of Maryland, Libertarian Party of Maryland, Maryland Green Party, Marijuana Policy Project, Maryland Justice Project, Maryland NORML, Maryland United for Peace and Justice, Medical Cannabis Advocates of Maryland, Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, Maryland State Conference, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Montgomery County Young Democrats, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 400, and Veterans for Peace, Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter.

Learn more at http://www.MarijuanaPolicyInMd.org.

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