Public Opinion and Wasted Tax Dollars Push Legislator to Fix Broken Marijuana Policies
Colorado, Washington, and Now Uruguay Offer Sensible Models and Precedent for Reform
New Mexico State Senator Ortiz y Pino (D-12-Bernalillo) on Friday pre-filed Senate Joint Resolution 10 (SJR 10) proposing to amend the New Mexico’s constitution to tax and regulate marijuana for adult use. SJR 10 would allow for the possession and personal use of marijuana by persons 21 years of age and older and for the regulation of the production, sale and taxation of marijuana in New Mexico.
If SJR10 passes both the House and the Senate, the amendment will be placed on the November 2014 ballot for the voters to decide.
"New Mexico's voters should be given the opportunity to decide on this issue,” said Sen. Ortiz y Pino. "Other states' experience can help us formulate an approach that will end the problems created by prohibition while protecting juveniles.
"Because of the disparate impact the failed 'war on drugs' has had on minorities and the poor, we are ruining lives, wasting money and missing economic development opportunities," Sen. Ortiz y Pino said.
Colorado made world history on January 1 when commercial sales of marijuana became legal for adults. New Year’s Day marked full implementation of Amendment 64, Colorado’s successful 2012 ballot initiative. In December, Uruguay became the first nation to adopt a modern marijuana legalization law.
By Steve Elliott
A Republican state senator in Kentucky on Wednesday said that state lawmakers should look at whether oil extracts from marijuana can provide medicinal benefits.
Measures to legalize cannabis oil stand a much better chance of passing the Legislature than bills to legalize medical marijuana as a plant, said Sen. Julie Denton (R-Loiuisville), who chairs the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, reports Mike Wynn at The Courier-Journal.
"People need to get comfortable with something that they don't feel threatened by, that they can understand and that they can support rather than going from 0 to 60 all in one fell swoop," she said. (I would suggest to Sen. Denton that her job is to educate her constituents, rather than dumb-down legislation so as not to alarm them.)
The committee heard nearly an hour's worth of testimony from advocates who said the cannabis plant (and its oils) can treat medical conditions ranging from epilepsy to diabetes.
Sen. Denton said that cannabis oil is more likely to win support in this year's session because of its low levels of THC, the primary psychoactive component in marijuana. (She has evidently heard about CBD oil, and has incorrectly assumed that all cannabis oil is CBD oil, but of course there is also THC oil and full-extract oil which contains all the cannabinoids).
By Steve Elliott
The Drug Enforcement Administration's chief of operations on Wednesday gave some freaked-out, emotional testimony at a Senate hearing, admitting that marijuana legalization "scares us."
"I have to say this ... going down the path to legalization in this country is reckless and irresponsible," said James L. Capra, reports Eric W. Dolan at The Raw Story. "I'm talking about the long-term impact of legalization in the United States. It scares us."
"Every part of the world where this has been tried, it has failed time and time again," Capra lied. (Cannabis legalization hasn't "been tried" anywhere since the Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs in 1961).
"The idea somehow ... that this is somehow good for us as a nation, that this is good for the next generation coming up is wrong," Capra sputtered. "It's a bad thing, and this body will get its door knocked on 10 years from now and say, 'How did we get where we got?' "
Capra said that when he attended an international "drug control" conference in Moscow, foreign officials wanted to know why the U.S. was scaling back its war on weed.
"Almost everyone looked at us and said: Why are you doing this, you're pointing a finger at us as a source state," Capra claimed. "I have no answer for them," he intoned dramatically. "I don't have an answer for them."
By Steve Elliott
A bill which would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in Pennsylvania will get a legislative hearing later this month, the chairman of a state Senate committee announced on Thursday.
Law and Justice Committee Chairman Chuck McIlhinney scheduled a January 28 public hearing in the state Capitol on Senate Bill 1182, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, which was introduced this week. Seven members of the 50-person Senate are cosponsors.
Governor Tom Corbett remains opposed to the bill, according to a spokesman, even if it is scaled back to only allow "non-intoxicating" forms of cannabis. "The FDA is the arbiter of the safety and efficacy of all drugs, all substances that are ingested," Corbett's press secretary Jay Pagni said. "If the FDA were to run a clinical trial, the Governor would be interested in the findings."
The 34-page bill would allow patients with a doctor's authorization to acquire marijuana legally. It would create a Medical Cannabis Board; an enforcement arm would be run by the state police.
"There are sick children who have medicine that will make them better, but under current Pennsylvania law they are not allowed to take it," said sponsor Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery). "They are allowed to take much more toxic, less effective medicine."
By Steve Elliott
Supporters of a medical marijuana initiative in Florida on Wednesday announced they have collected enough signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot.
Campaign manager Ben Pollara of United For Care, which is sponsoring a constitutional amendment to legalize medicinal cannabis in Florida, sent out an email to supporters that the group has collected more than 1.1 million signatures, reports NBC Miami.
Organizers face a February 1 deadline to turn in 683,189 valid voter signatures in order to qualify. Election supervisors have already certified nearly 458,000 signatures.
"Literally thousands of volunteers contributed their time, collecting petitions in the rain and heat, on their weekends and holidays," Pollara said.
The Florida Supreme Court must approve the language that will go on the ballot, even if there are enough signatures. Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging the wording, claiming voters will be misled into approving widespread use of marijuana.
The court has until April to make its ruling on whether the ballot summary is misleading. Citizen initiatives are limited to 75 word summaries; the medical marijuana initiative's ballot summary has 74 words.
If the court approves the wording, the measure would need 60 percent of the vote, rather than a simple majority. Florida law requires that constitutional amendments get 60 percent.
By Steve Elliott
The U.S. federal government's classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no medical uses took another hit on Thursday, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said cities in his state of Nevada should move toward making medicinal cannabis available.
"If you'd asked me this question a dozen years ago, it would have been easy to answer -- I would have said no, because (marijuana) leads to other stuff," Reid told the Las Vegas Sun. "But I can't say that anymore."
"I think we need to take a real close look at this," the Senate Majority Leader said. "I think that there's some medical reasons for marijuana."
Reid, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon church), "is not one who normally rushes to embrace controversial substances," drily notes Karoun Demirjian of the Las Vegas Sun.
When asked about legalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol --which Colorado and Washington state voters have already done -- Reid stopped short of endorsing legalization, saying "I don't know about that; I just think we need to look at the medical aspects of it," but added, "I guarantee you one thing. We waste a lot of time and law enforcement going after these guys that are smoking marijuana."
By Steve Elliott
Washington state's anemic marijuana legalization law is looking weaker by the minute. Now it appears much of the state won't even have local access to cannabis -- Attorney General Bob Ferguson has announced cities and counties can block licensed, legal marijuana businesses from operating.
Just how much of the state will have actual marijuana stores remains an open question after Atty. Gen. Ferguson issued the long-awaited opinion on Thursday.
Ferguson said Initiative 502, the limited legalization measure approved by state voters in 2012, allows local governments to ban retail marijuana shops, grow operations, and processing facilities from their jurisdictions, reports Gene Johnson of the Associated Press.
The opinion was requested by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which was put in charge of implementing marijuana legalization by I-502. The LCB is concerned that such local bans could severely restrict access to legal marijuana, making it difficult to move people from the black market.
Several localities, including unincorporated Pierce County, Lakewood and Wenatchee, already have enacted bans on cannabis businesses. These jurisdictions have local ordinances requiring businesses to "follow state, federal, and local law," and of course marijuana remains an illegal, Schedule I controlled substance under U.S. federal law.
By Steve Elliott
Support for cannabis legalization has grown dramatically in the nation's capital. Four years ago, residents of Washington, D.C., were reportedly evenly split on the question, but now favor allowing marijuana sales by a ratio of almost 2 to 1, according to a new poll.
Overall, 63 percent favor legalization. District residents of every age, race and ethnic background showed double-digit increases in support for legalization, according to the Washington Post pol, report Aaron C. Davis and Peyton M. Craighill.
Even among those against legalization, nearly half support reducing penalties for possession to a fine of $100 or less, according to the poll.
The poll numbers were released on the same day that a committee of D.C. lawmakers voted unanimously to reduce the city's penalty for marijuana possession from $1,000 and six months in jail, to a $25 civil fine. The full D.C. Council will take up the measure next week.
If passed, the $25 fine would be less than most city parking tickets, and would be in contrast to the federal penalties of $1,000 and a year in jail for possession, which could still be enforced on the Mall and other federal properties in D.C.
A group of District activists has also filed a ballot initiative that would give voters the chance to legalize marijuana in D.C.
By Steve Elliott
A bill introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate on Tuesday would legalize the medical use of marijuana in the state.
Governor Tom Corbett has refused to sign any such bill until the federal Food and Drug Administration approves cannabis for medical purposes, reports John Kopp at Bucks Local News, but the bills bipartisan sponsors, state Senators Daylin Leach and Mike Folmer are working hard for its passage.
Sen. Leach has kicked off a social media campaign showing children who could benefit from medicinal cannabis. Sen. Folmer plans to hold a public hearing to educate his fellow lawmakers on the benefits of medical marijuana.
Children who suffer from severe epilepsy stand to benefit, the senators argue. They pointed to accounts of medicinal cannabis reducing seizures among children.
"This is a drug we need to get to these kids," Leach said. "If it were a derivative of a yucca plant, it would be in every CVS in the country."
Leach said the liquid drops used for children wouldn't contain any THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. They would, rather, contain the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD).
This is the first time that Leach, who has long supported medical marijuana, has enjoyed bipartisan support. He and Folmer announced their intentions last November.
State and national organizations announce the formation of the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, which will support forthcoming legislation to establish a legal marijuana market for adults
State lawmakers on Thursday launched an effort to pass a bill in this year's legislative session that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Maryland. Sen. Jamie Raskin, Del. Curt Anderson, and Del. Sheila Hixson were joined at a news conference by leaders of several state and national organizations, who announced the formation of a broad coalition in support of the forthcoming legislation.
The Marijuana Control Act of 2014 would make the personal use, possession, and limited home-growing of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older; establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol; and allow for the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp. Click here for a detailed summary of the bill.
The new and expanding Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland includes the ACLU of Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, among others.
For first time in history, a legislative chamber in the U.S. passes legislation to end marijuana prohibition and establish a legal market for businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older
The New Hampshire House of Representatives approved a bill 170-162 Wednesday that would regulate marijuana like alcohol. It is the first time in history that a legislative chamber in the U.S. has passed legislation to end marijuana prohibition and establish a legal market for businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older.
The measure will be referred to the House Ways and Means Committee to review the revenue aspects of the bill. Regardless of how that committee votes, the bill will return to the full House of Representatives for a second vote in February or March. If approved, it will then be considered by the New Hampshire Senate.
"House members made history today, and they are clearly on the right side of it," said Matt Simon, the New Hampshire-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which lobbied in support of the bill. "Marijuana prohibition has been an enormously expensive failure. Most Americans, including 60 percent of New Hampshire residents, agree that it is time to adopt a more sensible policy."
By Steve Elliott
A bill which would legalize medical marijuana in West Virginia may be introduced in the Legislature this session.
A recent survey of state voters by Public Policy Polling showed majority support for legalizing marijuana for severely ill patients, but state lawmakers have been more hesitant.
This wouldn't be the first time a medical marijuana bill has been introduced, said Delegate John Ellem (R-Wood), who said he's "not opposed" to looking at whatever is introduced.
"I would want it limited to the few conditions [medical marijuana] is valid for," he said.
But state Senator Donna Boley (R-Pleasants) expressed strong opposition to medical marijuana.
"We already have enough problems with prescription drugs," Boley said, evidently unable to recognize a solution when it's staring her in the face. "We would be opening the door for more problems."
Delegate Mike Manypenny (D-Taylor) at the end of December announced he plans to introduce a medical marijuana bill, his fourth attempt to pass such legislation.
"We do need to do a lot more research," Manypenny said. "But in the meantime, there are a lot of people out there that are suffering with a lot of different diseases that I believe could be treated with this rather than using a pharmaceutical that has 20 different side effects."
By Steve Elliott
Supporters of marijuana legalization petitions on Wednesday were cleared by Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander to start gathering signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Kander announced the approval of 13 initiative petitions regarding the use, sale and distribution of cannabis, reports Marie French at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. All of the proposals were filed by Columbia-based attorney Dan Viets, who is chairman of Show-Me Cannabis, a group advocatikng for marijuana legalization and regulation.
"Good people are being treated like criminals," Viets said. "It's the stupidest possible arrangement. We squander millions to enforce an unenforceable law and don't see a penny from the people who are making money selling marijuana."
Viets said that Show-Me Cannabis will now conduct polling to decide which of the 13 initiative petitions to push. A majority of Missourians favor marijuana legalization, according to previous polls, Viets said.
"We're proposing to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol," he said. "If the polling is not promising we might not even put it on the ballot."
Among the differences between the various petitions are the number of cannabis plants adults would be allowed to grow for personal use, and whether expunging marijuana-related crimes from a person's criminal record is included in legalization.
Legislators will join leaders of state and national organizations at a news conference Thursday at 9 a.m. ET to announce the formation of a broad coalition in support of forthcoming legislation to establish a legal marijuana market for adults
State lawmakers will launch an effort Thursday to pass a bill in this year's legislative session that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Maryland. They will join leaders of state and national organizations at a news conference at 9 a.m. ET in the House Ways and Means Hearing Room (131) to discuss their forthcoming legislation and announce the formation of a broad coalition in support of it.
Del. Curt Anderson, Del. Sheila Hixson, and Sen. Jamie Raskin are scheduled to participate in the news conference. They will be joined by the new and expanding Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, which includes the ACLU of Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, among others. A full list of coalition members is available at http://www.RegulateMarijuanaInMd.org.
A majority of Maryland voters (53 percent) support regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol, according to a survey conducted in late September by Public Policy Polling. Only 38 percent said they were opposed. The full results are available at http://www.mpp.org/MDpoll.
Four out of five committee members are sponsors of the measure, which would replace criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with a $25 civil fine similar to a parking ticket
A bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the District of Columbia is expected to be approved Wednesday by the Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. The committee is scheduled to meet at 11:30 a.m. ET in Room 123 of the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave., NW).
The measure was introduced by committee chair Tommy Wells and is cosponsored by three additional members of the five-member committee. Eight of the Council’s 13 members are sponsoring the bill, which is also supported by D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
“It’s long past time we stopped arresting and prosecuting adults simply for possession of a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “As a former prosecuting attorney myself, I know that decriminalizing marijuana would reduce the burden on our limited law enforcement resources, and allow us to focus on real crimes and real threats to public safety.”
The measure would remove criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana for individuals 18 years of age and older and replace them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a parking ticket. Individuals under the age of 18 who commit a violation would also have their parents notified.