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Lets take a look, state by state, at the progression (and regression) of marijuana laws at the State House.
by Thomas H. Clarke
The Daily Chronic
WASHINGTON, DC — Bills to legalize the possession and adult use of marijuana have been introduced in several states since voters in Washington and Colorado approved similar initiatives in the November elections.
Other states are in contention to become the 20th jurisdiction in the United States to allow medical marijuana, many states have introduced legislation to decriminalize or reduce criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of cannabis, and a few have taken steps in the opposition direction, attempting to increase penalties for small time marijuana offenses.
But as the 2013 legislative session continues, where do those bills stand, what are their chances of passing, and which ones have already been tabled, killed, or left forgotten? Lets take a look, state by state, at the progression (and regression) of marijuana laws at the State House.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Late last year, wanting to get a head start on the 2013 legislative session, Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) introduced what would become House Bill 2, a bill to authorize the medical use of marijuana.
Rep. Todd has had success with medical marijuana legislation before, leading 2010′s H.B. 642, “The Michael Phillips Compassionate Care Act of Alabama,” out of the House Judiciary Committee, marking the first time that medical marijuana legislation ever passed committee in Alabama. The bill went to the House floor, but unfortunately, the legislature adjourned on April 22, 2010, without the bill receiving a vote.
This year’s House Bill 2 was not so fortunate. Following a hearing on Todd’s bill, the Alabama House Committee on Health voted 12-2 on February 6, 2013 to oppose the measure, which would have allowed people with certain illnesses, such as cancer and AIDS, to obtain small amounts of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.
Despite this overwhelming vote against the bill, Rep. Todd received some helpful feedback from committee members, and now she is trying again. She introduced a new bill, House Bill 315, on February 21, 2013. The new proposal would protect patients from arrest if their doctors recommend medical marijuana.
The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Health, the same committee that voted against House Bill 2, where it awaits further action.
PENALTY REDUCTION: Alabama has some of the harshest marijuana penalties in the country. Possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year of incarceration. No legislation has yet been introduced to change that.
Alaska’s marijuana laws, while more liberal than many other states, remain somewhat in limbo, although no legislation has been introduced so far in 2013.
The Alaska Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that possession of under four ounces of marijuana in the home was protected from criminal sanction by the state constitution’s right to privacy, effectively removing any penalties – criminal or otherwise -for possession of marijuana in the confines of a person’s private residence.
However, in 2006, the legislature passed a bill, later signed by the governor, attempting to re-criminalize marijuana legislatively. A lawsuit challenging the new law was thrown out on procedural grounds leaving the state of the law somewhat in flux.
Notwithstanding the legal murkiness regarding possession in one’s home, possession of one to four ounces of marijuana outside the home is a misdemeanor subject to 90 days incarceration and a fine of up to $1,000. Alaska has been a medical marijuana state since March 4, 2009.
No marijuana legislation is pending in 2013.
Arizona continues to be a hotbed of activity at the State House, with several marijuana related bills — good and bad — introduced this year.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA REPEAL: Just over 50 percent of voters (50.13 percent) approved Proposition 203 on November 2, 2010, legalizing medical marijuana in the state. Many legislators, however, still refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of this sensible, compassionate law. Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) has filed a resolution, HCR 2003, that would refer the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act back to the ballot in November 2014.
If approved by the legislature, this would put this much-needed medical marijuana program at risk of being repealed. Recent polls have found that 59% of Arizona voters support the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, so Rep. Kavanagh is probably just wasting everybody’s time. The resolution awaits action by the House Health and Human Services Committee, where it has been dormant since its introduction, and doesn’t appear to be headed anywhere.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA RESEARCH: A bill that would allow Arizona colleges and universities to conduct medical marijuana research, Senate Bill 1443, has passed in the Senate by a vote of 28-1, and is currently advancing through various House committees. The bill would exempt approved medical research projects from a 2012 law that bans the use or possession of marijuana, including by medical marijuana card holders, on any college or university campus.
A physician from the University of Arizona, Sue Sisley, a specialist in internal medicine and psychiatry, sought the change to the law to continue research into the effectiveness of treating symptoms of post traumatic stress. Sisley gained approval nearly two years ago from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct a study to determine whether marijuana, in various dosages and methods of administration, can help combat veterans suffering from PTSD, but University of Arizona officials have prevented Dr. Sisley from conducting the research study under the existing state law.
The bill is currently being considered by the House Rules Committee, and has already been approved by the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. The bill is expected to pass in both chambers, but it remains to be seen if Gov. Jan Brewer, who has attempted to block nearly every aspect of medical marijuana implementation in Arizona, will sign the bill into law.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA PACKAGING, LABELING & ADVERTISING: A bill that would revoke the license of any medical marijuana dispensary who advertises, packages, or sells cannabis for any use purpose than the medical use of marijuana has passed in the Senate and is advancing in the House. Senate Bill 1440 also requires that all medical marijuana is packaged in white, opaque packaging, and all labeling must be in black text on a white background.
Senate Bill 1440 has been referred to the House Rules Committee, is likely to pass in both chambers, and Gov. Brewer is expected to sign the bill into law. This bill only affects licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and distribution centers.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA SEIZURE & DISPOSITION: A bill that would allow any medical marijuana sized by law enforcement as part of a criminal investigation to be destroyed following the conclusion of court proceedings — regardless of defendant’s guilt or acquittal – has passed the Senate and is advancing through the House. The bill, Senate Bill 1441, is a legislative response to a January court ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals, which ordered the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office to return marijuana confiscated from a California medical marijuana patient in 2011. The bill has passed the Senate 25-3 on February 26, and has been cleared by the House Judiciary Committee. It currently awaits action by the House Rules Committee. If the bill makes it to the floor of the House, as expected, it would need 75% approval to advance to the Governor’s desk.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA ZONING: A bill that makes a minor change to zoning for the agricultural and medical marijuana industries is close to approval. Specifically, Senate Bill 1098 changes wording to Arizona’s zoning regulations to state that zoning for “General Agricultural Purpose” does not include the cultivation of cannabis. The bill has passed in both chambers, and has been sent back to the Senate for final approval before being sent to Gov. Brewer.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MARIJUANA: The Arizona Supreme Court has been asked to review a lower court’s ruling that marijuana users don’t need to be actually impaired to be successfully prosecuted for driving under the influence. The common sense-defying ruling came in February in the case of a man who tested positive for an inactive marijuana metabolite that remains in the body for weeks after the high from smoking marijuana had worn off. Because the law was drafted to protect public safety, the appeals court said, it should be interpreted broadly to include inactive as well as active compounds. The case remains pending before the Supreme Court, but has not been scheduled for a hearing.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Arkansas narrowly missed a chance to become the first medical marijuana state in the South, when Issue 5 was narrowly defeated by just a few thousand votes in November, 2012. Arkansas voters cast ballots in favor of the medical marijuana measure than they did for President Barack Obama, with more than 500,000 voters in favor of the marijuana issue and about 390,000 votes cast for Obama.
An attempt by Arkansans for Compassionate Care to place a similar measure on the 2014 ballot was set back in February, when Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rejected the wording of the proposal, complaining of ambiguities in the measure. McDaniel must certify the wording of the measure before signature-gathering to qualify for the 2014 ballot can begin.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA REGULATION: Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has introduced legislation, Assembly Bill 473, that would impose state control over California’s medical marijuana industry, which has been largely unregulated since Proposition 215 passed in 1996. AB 473 would create a new agency within the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to regulate the growth, supply and sale of medical cannabis, replacing standards that now vary wildly from one city and county to another.
Under the proposed bill, the Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement (DMCRE) would be empowered to establish statewide standards for the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, distribution, and sale of medical marijuana and medical marijuana products, as well as a statewide licensing fee structure. The bill also requires the DMCRE to develop uniform policies statewide for the taxation of the medical marijuana industry, establish a licence structure and uniform identification card program.
Rep. Ammiano introduced a similar bill last year, Assembly Bill 2312, but it called for establishing an entirely new agency that critics said would have created a cluster of legal, fiscal and jurisdictional troubles. The bill barely passed in the House, but stalled in the state Senate. That bill, like the current proposal, had support from medical marijuana patients, dispensaries, and advocates.
The bill has been referred to the Assembly Public Safety Committee, where it awaits action.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MARIJUANA: Legislation is pending in the California Senate, Senate Bill 289, that seeks to “make it unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle if his or her blood contains any detectable amount of a drug classified in Schedules I, II, III, or IV of the California Uniform Controlled Substance Act,” including marijuana.
Under the proposal introduced by State Senator Lou Correa, prosecutors could charge individuals, including state-qualified medical marijuana patients, with driving under the influence of cannabis solely based on the presence of trace levels of THC in their blood, regardless of whether further evidence of behavioral impairment is present. mHC, Marijuana’s best known component, can be detected in some users’ blood for days after the use, and its metabolites can sometimes be detected weeks after last use rendering their presence useless to determine if an individual was driving while impaired.
According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, THC blood levels are poor indicators of cannabis-induced impairment. NHTSA states: “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. … It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”
California NORML successfully lobbied against the passage of a similar bill last year. Senate Bill 289 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Public Safety and will be heard on April 23.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP: California lawmakers are also considering a bill that would remove industrial hemp from the definition of controlled substances in the state, separating it from marijuana. While the bill does not specifically allow the cultivation of industrial hemp, the passage of Assembly Bill 1137 would bring California farmers one step closer to growing the crop if federal restrictions are ever lifted. The bill awaits action by the Committees on Public Safety and Agriculture.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: On Thursday, February 28, the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force met for the final time and proposed rules for how a taxed and regulated system of adult marijuana sales should work.
The task force made many recommendations, including allowing for marijuana tourism, requiring retailers to cultivate 70% of the marijuana they sell, and sales taxes that must be approved by the voters. The report now will go to the state’s lawmakers, who will use the recommendations to create the regulations for Colorado’s newest industry.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MARIJUANA: House Bill 1114, that presumes cannabis-induced impairment, was approved by the House Committee on the Judiciary and is currently pending in the Colorado House Committee on Appropriations House Bill 1114 provides presumptive legal standard for cannabis-induced psychomotor impairment. The measure sets this presumptive limit at 5ng/ml THC in blood. However, unlike past legislative efforts, this limit is not per se. This means that defendants charged under the statute who possess THC/blood levels above this threshold could continue to provide evidence in criminal court indicating that they did not present a legitimate traffic safety risk. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Connecticut became the 17th medical marijuana state in 2012, when House Bill 5389 was signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy. HB 5389 provides for access through licensed dispensaries, which only pharmacists will be allowed to file applications for. Dispensaries may obtain marijuana from licensed producers, who will pay an application fee of at least $25,000.
Proposed rules governing the program have been posted on the Department of Consumer Protection’s website and will be considered at a public hearing April 22.
Patients — who must be 18 or older — will be able to obtain a one-month supply, and the amount will be determined by the department. The bulk of the bill went into effect on October 1, 2012, including a provision to allow patients to obtain a temporary registration to possess marijuana while the department implements the remainder of the act.
Delaware has harsh marijuana laws, and it has the twelfth-highest marijuana arrest rate in the U.S. First-offense possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,150 fine, which is the fourth-harshest penalty in the nation for personal use possession. There has been no legislation introduced in 2013 to reform Delaware’s marijuana possession penalties.
Governor Jack Markell signed legislation — Senate Bill 17, The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act — into law on May 13, 2011, although the state’s medical marijuana program has yet to be fully implemented. The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services drafted regulations for the medical marijuana program and began accepting applications for medical marijuana ID cards, but Gov. Markell suspended the regulation-writing and licensing process for medical marijuana dispensaries in early 2012, bowing under pressure from a letter he received from United States Attorney for Delaware, Charles M. Oberly, III.
This suspension has not yet been lifted, effectively killing medical marijuana in a state whose law does not allow patients or caregivers to grow their own. According to the state’s website, there is no plan to open medical marijuana dispensaries at this time.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: More than 14 years after nearly 70% of D.C. residents voted to allow medical marijuana, the first of five medical marijuana dispensaries in the District is expected to finally open in April 2013. While several bills regarding medical marijuana dispensaries have been introduced to the DC Council this year, they all essentially involve the zoning of the dispensaries, limiting them to five within the district and no more than two per ward.
DECRIMINALIZATION: Possession of any amount of marijuana — even as little as a single gram — is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. There has been no introduction of legislation to reduce penalties of small time marijuana possession within the District. With the DC council unlikely to advance reform, that leaves the field open to potential initiative campaigns.
LEGALIZATION: While no legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Washington, DC has been introduced, there is strong speculation that such a proposal will go before voters in 2014 or, more likely, 2016. A successful initiative in Washington, DC, would reverberate not only around the country, but around the world, particularly an initiative that enacted legalization in our nation’s capital.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Democrat Sen. Jeff Clemens (Palm Beach County) has introduced Senate Bill 1250, the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, that would allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis in the Sunshine State.
The proposal seeks to establish a network of state-regulated dispensaries where qualified patients could obtain cannabis with a physician’s recommendation. Medical marijuana patients or their officially designated caregivers would be allowed to possess up to four ounces of marijuana and grow up to eight marijuana plants. The bill would also require the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities.
The bill has been referred to the Health Policy, Judiciary, Criminal Justice, and Appropriations Committees, and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. If Florida lawmakers fail to approve the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, top Democratic fundraisers in Florida have already committed to providing the money and know-how to get the question of legalizing medical marijuana on the state ballot in 2014.
According to a February 2013 statewide poll, 70 percent of Floridians favor allowing doctors to authorize specified amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses.
Possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a fine up to $1,000. Possession of over an ounce is a felony punishable by a minimum of 1 and maximum of 10 years imprisonment. Georgia does not allow the medical use of marijuana.
Although recent polls show growing support for the medical use of marijuana in Georgia, to date, no legislator has made it a priority to protect medical marijuana patients, and no bills to have been filed in 2013.
The Georgia legislature, meanwhile, has been looking at how to reform the criminal justice system in the state, assessing how to reform the criminal code to reduce the number of non-violent offenders in the prison system and enhance public safety. A grassroots group supporting marijuana law reform, the Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform, & Education (Georgia CARE), is seeking legislative sponsors for two resolutions they say will help to gather information on how Georgia should deal with marijuana law issues.
One resolution pertains to medical marijuana. In 1980, Georgia was one of the first states to enact medical marijuana legislation through the “Therapeutic Research Act” that passed unanimously by the General Assembly. The research program was halted after the federal government refused to supply states with medical cannabis. The second resolution would establish a study committee to address criminal law reform for marijuana.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: While the Hawaii legislature was one of the first states to consider the legalization and regulation of the adult use of marijuana following the historic votes in Washington and Colorado in November, they were also among the first states to table or kill such legislation this year.
House Bill 699, The Personal Use of Marijuana Act, would have legalized the possession of up to an ounce or less of marijuana and the private cultivation of a limited number of cannabis plants for adults 21 years of age and older. H B 699 would have also allowed for the commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana, regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol by amending Chapter 329 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Karl Rhoads said he decided to defer the bill in early February after learning from House leadership that the initiative may not have had enough votes to pass the House, although key lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled House, including the House Speaker Joseph Souki and majority leader Scott Saiki, supported the measure. The bill could still be brought back to life in 2014, as Hawaii’s legislative session lasts two years, and the bill’s official status is that it has been deferred to 2014.
A similar measure, House Bill 150, has not yet been acted on, but has also been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and is likely to suffer the same fate. The primary difference between the two measures was the inclusion of a cannabis tax in HB 699, and would presumably have less support than HB 699.
A third bill, Senate Bill 738, would decriminalize the growing, processing, possession, transfer, and personal use of marijuana by anyone at least twenty-one years of age. The bill also requires licensing to operate marijuana establishments and subjects marijuana establishments to excise taxes and income taxes. The bill lies untouched in several Senate subcommittees, and is unlikely to see any action this year.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: A bill that would decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses has been approved by a unanimous vote in the Hawaii Senate, and is advancing though the House. Senate Bill 472 reduces minor marijuana possession offenses to a non-criminal, fine-only offense. Although the measure, as introduced, capped fine-only penalties at $100, the bill has seen several changes as it advances through the legislature, at one point raising the fine to $1,000. The most recent version of the bill, SB 472 SD1 HD1, calls for a fine of $100 for possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana.
Under present law, the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for non-medical purposes is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill is expected to pass, but the fine, as well as possession limits for the amount of marijuana decriminalized, remains to be finalized.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Hawaii has been recognized as a medical marijuana state since Senate Bill 862 took effect in December 2000. Two bills designed to improve the state’s existing medical marijuana program were passed by the House in early March, and have advanced to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 667 (HD 2) makes several improvements to the medical marijuana program by defining adequate supply, confidentiality of growing sites, certifying physician requirements, confidentiality of patient’s condition, caregiver to patient ratio, transportation of medical marijuana, qualifying visitors, and registration requirements.
The bill clarifies the amount of marijuana that constitutes an “adequate supply,” setting a limit of five ounces of usable marijuana and seven plants growing at any time. Limits are currently one ounce of usable marijuana, three mature plants and four immature plants. The proposal also adds reciprocity to Hawaii’s medical marijuana laws, allowing visitors from other medical marijuana states to be protected while visiting the island paradise. Visitors to Hawaii would be able to use their own state’s medical marijuana identification in Hawaii for up to thirty days.
HB 667 also allows the non-profit transfer any part of the marijuana plant, including seeds, seedlings, or clones, between medical marijuana caregivers. The bill also clarifies the definition of “reimbursement” for caregivers, allowing compensation for costs associated with assisting qualifying patients but not for the sale of medical marijuana, which remains a federally controlled substance. Under the proposal, caregivers would also be allowed to provide for up to three patients. They are currently limited to one.
The second medical marijuana bill being considered is House Bill 668 (HD 2) would transfer oversight of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health. The bill also creates a medical marijuana registry revolving fund, and limits the medical marijuana registration fee to $35.
Given the Hawaii legislature’s support of responsible marijuana law reform, both pending medical marijuana bills should be approved by the legislature.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP: A bill that would establish a two-year hemp pilot program in Hawaii passed a second reading with amendments on the floor of the Senate in March, and the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Energy and Environment have even appropriated funds for the program should the bill pass.
If passed in its most recent form, House Bill 154 HD2 SD1 would allow the director of the college of tropical agriculture and human resources at the University of Hawaii at Manoa to establish a two-year industrial hemp remediation and biofuel crop pilot program. A primary focus of the proposed research would be phytoremediation, a process by which the hemp plant draws toxins out of the soil and processes them safely through its roots, stalk, branches, and leaves.
The bill, which passed unanimously on the floor of the House in March, should easily pass a third reading in the Senate.
A separate measure regarding hemp, Hawaii’s House Concurrent Resolution 3, is nearing the final phase of approval by lawmakers. The resolution encourages Congress and the President to re-state that the intent of the Federal Uniform Controlled Substances Act, the federal law banning marijuana, is not to prohibit the production of industrial hemp. The resolution has been adopted by the House, and was given a favorable recommendation by a Senate committee The resolution should pass a final reading in the Senate, and then certified copies of the resolution will be sent to the President of the United States, Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and each member of Hawaii’s Congressional delegation.
In 2011 and 2012, Idaho lawmakers debated the merits of implementing a medical marijuana program thanks to the introduction of legislation by former Representative Tom Trail. Unfortunately, Rep. Trail retired, and no lawmaker has yet to take up championing patient protections.
Instead, Idaho lawmakers are spending precious legislative time on resolutions that will accomplish nothing, while opposing sensible reforms. Senate Concurrent Resolution 112 is set for a final vote on the House floor. The resolution passed overwhelmingly in both chambers, officially proclaiming that the current Idaho Legislature opposes marijuana legalization “for any purpose.”
Possession of 3 ounces or less of marijuana currently is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year imprisonment and a fine up to $1,000.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Medical marijuana has been gaining support at the State House, and a bill introduced by Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie), which gained approval by a House committee on March 6, could be called for a vote on the floor of the House this spring. Rep. Lang estimates that his bill, House Bill 1, is just “one or two” votes short of passage in the House.
The bill would create a four-year pilot program to allow people suffering from specific medical conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Qualified patients would be able to obtain marijuana from one of up to 60 dispensaries, which would acquire marijuana from up to 22 cultivation centers. The Illinois Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, and Department of Financial & Professional Regulation would regulate the cultivation, acquisition, and distribution of marijuana.
Late last year, Rep. Lang introduced similar legislation that came close to passing, but a vote on the bill was postponed until the new legislative session began in January. Now, with the bill gaining support, medical marijuana could finally become a reality in Illinois, where Democrats have traditionally been more supportive of medical marijuana than their Republican counterparts and hold a record-high number of seats in the House. Even among Republicans, support is increasing, thanks to additional changes in the bill to address their concerns — one third of the Republicans on the Human Services Committee voted in favor of the bill.
LOCAL MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: A bill that would allow local governments the authority to decriminalize the possession of marijuana has advanced in the House. House Bill 2332, if passed, will allow counties and municipalities to amend their local laws to reduce the penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses of up to 15 grams of marijuana to a fine only misdemeanor. House Bill 2332 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in a 9-5 vote. The measure now awaits action from the full House of Representatives.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP: Legislation to legalize the licensed cultivation of industrial hemp, House Bill 2668, has been approved by the Illinois House Agriculture and Conservation Committee in a 9-8 vote. The measure now awaits action from the full House.
Indiana lawmakers have killed one bill to decriminalize marijuana possession, while advancing another bill that would toughen marijuana penalties.
SB 580, was introduced earlier this year by Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage), could have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in Indiana, but was killed by Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis), chair of the Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law, who said in February that he will not allow the bill to receive a public hearing. The bill would have lowered the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana from a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 to a Class C infraction — a civil offense similar to a traffic ticket — punishable by a fine of up to $500 with no possibility of jail time. Sen. Young did say he would work with Sen. Tallian throughout this year to “learn a little bit more on this issue,” which could indicate that it may be considered for a hearing in the future — but not until 2014 at the earliest.
A second bill, House Bill 1006, would, among other things, increase the penalties of low-level marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to a felony. Introduced by Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon), the bill has already been approved by the House, who voted 80-13 in favor of the bill last month. The bill was originally intended to rewrite the criminal code to lessen penalties for low-level drug offenders and toughen punishment for the worst sex and violent offenders, directing more people convicted of low-level felonies to work release and other local programs rather than sending them to prison, but Gov. Pence said that he was unhappy with the bill’s provisions that would decrease penalties for entry-level drug offenses. Now, a proposed change to the bill would make possession of between about one-third of an ounce and 10 pounds of marijuana the lowest-level felony rather than the highest-level misdemeanor. The bill remains in the Senate Criminal Law Committee.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Rep. Bruce Hunter (D – Des Moines) and Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D – Iowa City) have introduced companion bills that would create a medical marijuana program in Iowa, although neither bill is expected to advance to a vote in either chamber.
Rep. Hunter’s bill, House File 22, was killed following a 40 minute hearing by three member panel of the House Public Safety Committee in January. Committee chairman, Rep. Clel Baulder (R-Greenfield), a retired Iowa State Patrol officer, made it clear from the beginning of the meeting that the bill had no chance at advancing. Sen. Bolkcom’s identical bill, Senate File 79, was approved by a Senate subcommittee on March 4, but is unlikely to advance further this year. This measure has been referred to the Senate Committee on Human Resources, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.
The twin bills would have allowed Iowa residents with debilitating medical conditions to obtain and use marijuana without fear of arrest. Patients or their caregivers would be able to grow their medicine or they could obtain it from a nonprofit dispensary.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: Legislation to significantly reduce marijuana possession penalties is expected be debated by Iowa lawmakers this spring. Rep. Hunter, sponsor of the now-dead medical marijuana bill, also plans to introduce legislation that seeks to amend minor marijuana possession offenses from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation. Under present law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $1000 fine and up to six months incarceration.
REEFER MADNESS: Even if Iowa were to legalize the medical use of marijuana or reduce marijuana possession penalties, Gov. Terry Branstad has said he’ll veto any bill that would legalize marijuana in any capacity. Gov. Branstad, through the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy, introduced a proposal, SSB 1029, that would remove the power of the pharmacy board to ever allow the medical use of marijuana.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: In January, Sen. David Haley introduced Senate Bill 9 to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis. It would allow patients with qualifying conditions, who have received recommendations from their physicians, to privately possess up to six ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 marijuana plants in their homes. The bill also calls on the Kansas Department of Public Health to regulate and license medical marijuana compassion centers to provide medicine to qualified patients. The department would be able to limit the number of centers in any particular area.
Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook, the Republican chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, where the bill was assigned, said from the bill’s introduction that she would block the measure from getting a hearing during the 2013 session, and remained true to her word. The measure has now officially missed the deadline for passage out of committee, and is dead for the legislative session.
The House Standing Committee on Vision 2020 also introduced medical marijuana legislation, HB 2198, which was referred to the Committee on Federal and State Affairs, but is also dead for 2013.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP: Perhaps one of the most publicized bills so far in 2013 was Kentucky’s SB 50, which would allow farmers to cultivate industrial hemp if federal restrictions are ever lifted. With less than an hour remaining in the regular legislative session, the Kentucky House voted 88-4 to pass an amended version of the hemp bill that was already feared dead. Just a few minutes later, the Senate, who had already voted in favor of the original bill, voted 35-1 to pass the amended version.
The bill, Senate Bill 50, now heads to the desk of Gov. Steve Beshear for approval. The Democratic governor has said he shares some concerns with the Kentucky State Police who opposed the Republican-sponsored bill. Beshear hasn’t said whether he would veto the hemp bill or sign int into law.
Under the bill, Kentucky will be able to license industrial farmers to grow industrial hem, but only if the federal government ever lifts a ban on cultivating the crop. The State Police would have access to GPS coordinates of licensed hemp fields. Hemp growers would undergo criminal background checks, and each grower would be limited to 10 acres per license. A production license would be valid for one year.
The bill had strong support, but was feared dead in the House as lawmakers were unable to agree on who would oversee the hemp program. An eleventh hour compromise deal between House Democrats and Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) that will allow hemp licensing by the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission under the control of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture brought the bill back to life.
Both of Kentucky’s Republican US Senators, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, have sponsored federal legislation to allow cultivation of hemp, while endorsing the pending measure in their home state.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Kentucky legislators have been dragging their feet for years on medical marijuana. Fortunately, rather than being discouraged, Sen. Perry Clark (D-Louisville) has vowed to keep working to persuade his colleagues. Sen. Clark has again introduced his medical marijuana bill, now known as SB 11, for the 2013 legislative session.
Senate Bill 11 would establish a comprehensive system for medical marijuana in Kentucky, allowing patients with a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of serious medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, among others. It would also create a network of state-regulated dispensaries, and registered patients and their caretakers could opt to grow their own marijuana. The bill specifies that patients or caregivers could possess up to six ounces of marijuana and up to 12 mature and 12 immature plants.
SB11 has been assigned to the Joint Committee on Judiciary, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. Sen. Clark introduced similar legislation, SB 129, in 2012, when it generated significant media coverage but died without a hearing.
MANDATORY MINIMUMS FOR MARIJUANA: A Louisiana lawmaker has filed legislation to reduce mandatory minimum penalties for certain marijuana offenses in a state with a reputation for some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. House Bill 103, sponsored by Rep. Austin J. Badon, Jr. (D-New Orleans), reduces penalties and incarceration time for those convicted more than once of possessing marijuana, and removes cannabis possession as an offense that qualifies for mandatory minimum sentences under the state’s habitual offender (‘three strikes’) law.
Specifically, the proposal seeks to lower the maximum penalty for a second marijuana possession offense from five years imprisonment to no more than one-year. It lowers the maximum penalty for a subsequent marijuana conviction from 20-years imprisonment to no more than two-years.
Under present law, Louisiana’s penalties for marijuana offenses are among the toughest in the nation. For first offenders, possession of less than 60 pounds of marijuana is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 6 months of imprisonment. Second offenses are punishable by a fine of $250-$2500 and/or up to 5 years of imprisonment.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: A bipartisan group of 35 state lawmakers are listed as co-sponsors of a bill to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Maine. LD 1229, the “Act to Tax and Regulate Marijuana,” was filed in March by State Rep. Diane Russell. The bill would make the private possession and home growing of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older, direct the Department of Administrative and Financial Services to license and regulate marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities, and it would enact an excise tax of $50 per ounce on wholesale sales. The bill would also allow the state to begin regulating the cultivation, processing, and distribution of industrial hemp.
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, chaired by bill co-sponsor Sen. Stan Gerzofsky (D-Cumberland). If state lawmakers approve the bill this session, it will be referred to voters in the upcoming November election. If the measure gets carried over and approved during the next legislative session, it will be placed on the November 2014 ballot.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Maine is one of 19 jurisdictions in the United States that allow the medical use of marijuana. Three bills that would affect Maine’s medical marijuana program are pending before the state legislature: one that sets medical marijuana program fees, one that authorizes additional dispensaries, and one that expands the qualifying conditions for the medical marijuana program.
Most importantly, LD 1062 would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and pharmaceutical drug addiction recovery to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The bill also adds the key phrase “Any other medical condition or its treatment as determined by a physician” to the list of qualifying conditions, allowing the discretion of doctors — not lawmakers — to recommend medical marijuana for ailments not specifically authorized under the Act. The bill has several sponsors from both chambers of the legislature, and has been assigned to the Joint Committee on Health and Human Services.
LD 1161 would increase the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine to ensure safe access to all patients, and has been assigned to the Committee on Health and Human Services. The bill would ensure that the additional, newly authorized dispensaries are located in previously underserved areas within the state.
Finally, LD 480 would establish a set of minimal fees charged by the state under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act, and is pending in the Joint Health And Human Services Committee.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: Senate lawmakers on Monday, March 18, passed Senate Bill 297 by a vote of 30 to 16. The bill now goes before House lawmakers for further consideration, where members of the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the bill Thursday, March 28, but have yet to vote on the measure. If passed, Senate Bill 297, would make the penalties for possession of less than ten grams of marijuana (approximately one-third of an ounce) a civil offense punishable by up to a $100 fine with no time in jail. Currently, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana in Maryland is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 90 days in jail.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: Delegate Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore) has introduced House Bill 1453, a bill to legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana. House Bill 1453 would create a system to regulate and tax cannabis in a manner similar to how the state handles alcohol. It would instruct the Maryland comptroller to license marijuana retail stores, wholesale facilities and testing facilities and apply an excise tax of $50 per ounce on wholesale sales, with proceeds going to fund treatment programs to prevent alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse. The House Committee on the Judiciary held a public hearing on Tuesday, March 19, but the committee has yet to vote on the bill. Representatives from NORML, MPP, NAACP, LEAP, and the ACLU testified in favor of the measure.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Three medical marijuana bills have been filed in Maryland this session. One has stalled in committee, another was withdrawn by the sponsor, and a third has been passed by the House and is expected to pass in the Senate.
House Bill 1101 ,introduced by Delegate Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore), an emergency room physician, would create the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission to oversee a medical marijuana program at academic medical research centers. Maryland’s medical marijuana program would be a research-focused program, with marijuana would be grown either by state-licensed growers or by the federal government. Patients would not be allowed to grow their own. This bill has already passed in the House, is expected to easily pass in the Senate. Governor Martin O’Mailey has stated that he would support the bill, as long as it gave him the ability to suspend it in the event the federal government began persecuting state workers. If House Bill 1101 becomes law, it is estimated that patients could begin participation in the medical marijuana program around July 2015.
Representative Cheryl Glenn has filed legislation, House Bill 302, would create clear rules for qualified patients and law enforcement, put in place a strictly regulated production and distribution system, and protect patients from housing and workplace discrimination, is favored by medical marijuana advocates. The proposal seeks to establish a network of state-regulated compassion centers to provide cannabis to patients. Qualified patients would also be able to grow specified quantities of cannabis in private. The bill has been retained in committee for further study, and is unlikely to advance further, especially considering the progress of House Bill 1101.
A third bill, HB 1100, was withdrawn after receiving an unfavorable report by the Health and Government Operations Committee, and is no longer being considered by the legislature. The bill would have created an independent Medical Marijuana Oversight Commission to implement a research-focused medical marijuana program, similar to HB 1101.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Massachusetts voters made the Bay State the 18th state, and 19th jurisdiction, to recognize the medical use of marijuana in the November 2012 elections. While the law took effect January 1, the state Department of Public Health is currently in the process of establishing the guidelines for the medical marijuana program, which will include the opening of up to 35 dispensaries in the first year. Draft regulations for the proposed regulations were released on March 29, beginning a public comment period, which will end on April 20. On April 19, public hearings will be held in Northampton, Boston and Plymouth. The amended regulations, based on public hearings and feedback, will then be presented to the Public Health Council on May 8, when state lawmakers will discuss and vote on the proposed regulations. If adopted, the regulations will go into effect on May 24, and the first dispensaries could be open by the end of 2013.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst) has introduced HB 1632, a bill that would allow adults who are 21 and older to possess and cultivate marijuana. Once federal law changes, it would regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. House Bill 1632 would regulate the commercial cultivation, processing, and retail of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. The measure has been referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. As was the case with decriminalization in 2008 and medical marijuana in 2012, it is unlikely that lawmakers on Beacon Hill will give this bill serious consideration, despite the overwhelming support of marijuana reform among Massachusetts voters. While Massachusetts will likley legalize the adult use of marijuana in the near future, it will not be through the State House. Look for a ballot initiative in 2016.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA CHANGES: Several changes, authorized last year, to the medial marijuana program in Michigan took effect on April 1, 2013, including extending medical marijuana registration card expiration to two years, setting rules defining a doctor-patient relationship, and requiring medical marijuana to be transported in the trunk (or similar locked compartment) of a vehicle.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES: A Republican lawmaker introduced a bill that would legalize medical marijuana dispensaries after the state Supreme Court said they’re not allowed under the state’s 2008 medical marijuana law. House Bill 4271, The Provisioning Centers Act, was introduced to the legislature in February by Rep. Michael Callton (R-Nashville). The bill would allow local communities to license and regulate “provisioning centers,” allowing medical marijuana patients to have access to their medicine. The current medical marijuana law says registered patients can possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants in an enclosed space, but it does not mention dispensaries or otherwise say how patients might obtain their medicine.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: Michigan law is unusual in that it includes separate penalties for the possession and use of marijuana. Possession of any amount of marijuana – whether several ounces or a single gram – is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Separately, use of marijuana is also a misdemeanor, but punishable by 90 days in jail and a fine of not more than $100. Despite the approval of separate proposals to decriminalize adult possession or de-prioritize enforcement by five Michigan cities in November, lawmakers have thus far failed to introduce legislation at the state level to reduce or eliminate criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession. Michigan activists are considering a statewide ballot initiative in 2014 or 2016.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Bills to allow for the use of medical marijuana in Minnesota have popular support and may still be introduced this year, but will be little more than place markers for 2014, as there is strong opposition from the governor’s office and law enforcement. A bi-partisan group of lawmakers is expected introduce a bill in early April that would make it legal for Minnesota residents with debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, to access and use medical marijuana if advised to do so by their physicians. That bill, however, won’t likely advance beyond committee, but activists are hopeful that a 2014 ballot initiative will bring medical marijuana to Minnesota. Medical marijuana made it through the legislature in 2009, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R).
INDUSTRIAL HEMP: Three bills that would license and regulate hemp production are pending in Minnesota. HF 736, HF 230, and SF 1153 would create the ”Industrial Hemp Development Act”, allowing the licensing and cultivation of industrial hemp in Minnesota. The bills have been assigned to various committees on jobs and agriculture, and as 2013 progresses, at least one of these bills (most likely HF 230, as it has the most sponsors) should advance, at least somewhat.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Members of the House Judiciary Committee have killed legislation that sought to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis is pending before state lawmakers.
Senate Bill 2396 sought to enact statewide legal protections for qualified patients who are authorized by their physician to engage in cannabis therapy.
MARIJUANA PENALTY REDUCTION: While not quite “decriminalization,” House Bill 512, introduced by Rep. Rory Ellinger (D-University City) and two cosponsors, would make the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana or pot paraphernalia punishable only by a fine, but it would still be a criminal offense—a misdemeanor—instead of a civil infraction. The bill would also encourage judges to use “suspended imposition of sentence,” under which the person is not convicted and, if he successfully completes a probationary period, there is no longer any public record of the matter. The bill has not seen movement since its introduction in early February.
CRIMINAL RECORD EXPUNGEMENT: Rep. Ellinger also introduced House Bill 511, which would expunge misdemeanor offenses, including marijuana possession, from a person’s record after five years. Under current Missouri law, only a very few specified offenses can be expunged. This bill would allow expungement for all misdemeanor offenses, including marijuana and paraphernalia offenses, except for violent or sex offenses.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Rep. Mike Colona has introduced House Bill 688 that would remove criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana. House Bill 688 would allow patients with a physician’s recommendation to possess up to one ounce of usable marijuana and grow up to three mature and four immature marijuana plants. HB 688 also authorizes the state to license nonprofit compassion centers to distribute medicine to qualified patients. The bill, introduced in February, awaits action by the legislature.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP: Senate Bill 358, sponsored by Senator Jason Holsman (D—Kansas City), would exempt industrial hemp—defined as containing less than 1% THC—from the state’s controlled substances act and allow anyone not convicted of a drug-related crime to grow it. The bill has received a hearing and awaits action by the Missouri Senate General Laws Committee.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA RESTORATION: The House Human Services Committee rejected and tabled four separate marijuana related bills in February that would have restored parts of Montana’s voter-approved 2004 medical marijuana law. The bills were aimed at restoring parts of Montana’s medical marijuana program decimated by 2011′s Senate Bill 423, which essentially gutted Montana’s then-flourishing medical marijuana industry in the state.
HB340 would have eliminated a provision in the law requiring the Board of Medical Examiners to automatically review any physicians who have issued written certification for medical marijuana for more than 25 people in any 12-month period. HB341 would have allowed medical marijuana providers to be paid for providing marijuana to cardholders. The 2011 law made compensation illegal. HB342 would have removed the three-person limit on the number of cardholders that medical marijuana providers could serve. There had been no limit previously. HB343 would have eliminated requirements that providers keep records and the law’s provision allowing for automatic inspections.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MARIJUANA: House Bill 168, which seeks to criminalize the operation of a motor vehicle by persons with trace amounts of THC in their blood, regardless of whether the driver’s psychomotor performance is demonstrably impaired, was approved by the Montana House of Representatives on February 25 by a 80-18 vote. It is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has given preliminary approval of the measure by a vote of 11 to 1. House Bill 168 creates a new per se traffic violation for those persons found to possess five ng/ml or more of THC in his/her blood. This new legal limit would significantly lessen the burden of proof necessary for state prosecutors to gain a dui drug conviction in court.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Nebraska legislators are currently in session in Lincoln. Unfortunately, lawmakers have failed to introduce legislation allowing the very sick and suffering to use and safely acquire medical marijuana.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: Nebraska is one of the 14 states that have decriminalized personal use marijuana possession. First offense possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is a civil infraction punishable under Nebraska law by a $300 fine (and a possible drug education course) instead of jail time, and is a citation as opposed to an arrest. Second and third offense possession are misdemeanors, but are only citable, and not arrestable, offenses.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES: A bill that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada, SB 374 has been introduced by Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom. As it currently stands, Nevada’s law provides no means by which patients can legally obtain their medicine other than home cultivation or from caregivers who cannot receive compensation. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and should receive fair consideration as lawmakers seek to fix a medical marijuana law that many have called “unconstitutional.”
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: A bill that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 or older in Nevada was introduced in March to the Nevada Assembly and assigned to the Committee on Judiciary. Assembly Bill 402, introduced by Assemblyman Joe Hogan (D-Las Vegas), would allow adults 21 or older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use and up to six marijuana plants. A skeletal framework or regulated retail sales is also outlined in the bill. The marijuana industry would be monitored and regulated in a manner similar to the existing casino industry, using casino count room security protocols as guidelines. The bill has been assigned to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, and could receive fair consideration this year, especially if the casino or tourism industries decide to support the measure.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Could 2013 be the year that “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire joins the rest of their New England neighbors in authorizing the medical use of marijuana? House Bill 573, sponsored by Rep. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter), moved one step closer to becoming law March 20, when the House voted in favor of the bill by a record 286-64 margin. In the bill’s current form, qualifying patients would be allowed to cultivate up to three mature plants or obtain cannabis from one of five non-profit, state-regulated alternative treatment centers. The measure now awaits action in the Senate, where support is growing. Medical marijuana bills have gone to the New Hampshire governor’s desk in both 2009 and 2012, and both times they were vetoed by then-governor John Lynch. Newly elected Gov. Maggie Hassan has expressed support for passing medical marijuana legislation.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: House members voted 214 to 115 on March 21 in favor of amended legislation, House Bill 621, that decriminalizes minor marijuana possession offenses. The bill would make minor marijuana offenses a fine-only, non-criminal infraction. Under the amended version of the bill, possession of under a quarter ounce of marijuana will result in a fine of up to$200. The original version of the bill would have decriminalized up to one ounce of marijuana with a fine of up to $100. Last year, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a similar proposal, but the measure failed to receive Senate support because it was opposed by ex-Gov. John Lynch. While Gov. Maggie Hassan has expressed support of legalizing medical marijuana in New Hampshire, she has said that she is not in favor of decriminalization. This year’s bill currently awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: On March 13, members of the state House of Representatives voted on House Bill 492, which sought to legalize the possession of up to an ounce or less of marijuana and the private cultivation of a limited number of marijuana plants for adults 21 years of age and older. Lawmakers defeated the bill by a vote of 239 to 112. If passed, HB 337 would have entirely removed marijuana from the New Hampshire criminal code as of January 1, 2014, but would not have established a system of regulated cultivation, sales, or taxation in the state. While the floor vote result is disappointing, it is encouraging to know that over 100 sitting lawmakers went on record to voice their support for legalizing marijuana.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: Two separate pieces of legislation that seek to significantly reduce marijuana possession penalties await action this 2013 legislative session. Assembly Bill 1465, which reduces penalties for the adult possession of up to 15 grams or less of marijuana to a fine-only, non-criminal violation was approved last year by the State Assembly and awaits action by the Senate. Separate Senate Legislation, Senate Bill 1977, to decriminalize up to 50 grams of marijuana also remains pending. Under present state law, the possessing of up to 50 grams marijuana is punishable by up to 6 months incarceration, a $1,000 fine, and a criminal record.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENT RIGHTS: A bill that would protect medical marijuana patients from being denied medical care, including organ transplants, was approved in March by New Jersey’s Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and awaits a second reading by the Senate. Senate Bill 1220, requires that any registered, qualifying patient’s authorized use of medical marijuana is to be considered by medical providers equivalent to the use of any other prescribed medication, rather than an illicit substance. A companion bill, AB 765, has been introduced in the Assembly.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP: Legislation to legalize the licensed cultivation of industrial hemp, Assembly Bill 2415, has been introduced by Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-District 38) in the New Jersey Assembly and she is now seeking co-sponsors.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: State lawmakers have adjourned the 2013 legislative session without taking any further action on two bills that would have reduced the penalties for marijuana possession in New Mexico. House Bill 465 would have decriminalized the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana. Possession of between four and eight ounces would be a petty misdemeanor, but the maximum sentence would be a fine. House lawmakers passed HB 465 in March by a 37 to 33 vote, but Senate lawmakers failed to act on HB 465 prior to the close of the legislative session. In the Senate, SM 80 would have tasked the state’s Economic Development Department with studying the budgetary impacts of regulating marijuana like alcohol. A Senate committee passed that legislation, but the clock also ran out before it could be passed by the full legislature.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION FIX: In recent years, the “public use” exception to New York’s 1977 decriminalization law has been abused by police officers. New York City police have told tens of thousands of people, mostly young people of color, to empty their pockets — thus making them criminals. That might finally change this year. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reaffirmed his commitment to decriminalize the public possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana during his 2013 State of the State address, and Sen. Ruth Hassell Thompson has introduced Senate Bill 3315, a bill to remove the “public view” exception. Governor Cuomo had previously announced his support for a similar legislative proposal in 2012, but state lawmakers failed to act on it.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Joint legislation, Assembly Bill 6357 and Senate Bill 4406, to allow for the medical use of cannabis by qualified patients has been introduced in the state legislature by a bi-partisan coalition of more than 50 lawmakers. The bills, both introduced by lawmakers representing voters in New York City, would create one of the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs. Both bills have been referred to the Health Committee in their respective chambers, and sponsors hope to have a vote on the bills before the end of the Legislature’s session in June.
A separate medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 1682, was introduced in January but remains forgotten in the Senate Health Committee. That bill would authorize patients to possess up to 8 ounces of medical marijuana, and allows medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery services.
MARIJUANA SHAPED CANDY BAN: Assembly Bill 629 would prohibit the sales of any candy or confection that are “packaged, shaped or manufactured to resemble marijuana or marijuana products or to imitate the flavor of marijuana.” The ban would apply to all novelty candies shaped to resemble marijuana, regardless of whether they contain cannabis. The bill, which has fourteen co-sponsors, has been referred to the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee. A companion bill, Senate Bill 1556, has quietly advanced to a third reading in the Senate, where it awaits a vote.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Shortly after hundreds of medical marijuana patients and advocates met in Raleigh to lobby in support of Rep. Kelly Alexander’s (D – Mecklenburg) medical marijuana legislation, a group of legislators led by Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam (R – Wake County) killed the compassionate legislation, claiming calls and emails in support amounted to harassment. The North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act (House Bill 84) would have allowed patients suffering from debilitating diseases or conditions or their caregivers to possess up to 24 ounces of usable marijuana and have a garden of up to 250 square feet. The legislation would also have created medical marijuana treatment centers, where patients or their caregivers could purchase their medicine.
The House Rules Committee heard public comments on the bill for about 20 minutes on February 20. Only one speaker, a representative of the social conservative North Carolina Family Policy Council, opposed the bill; a number of medical marijuana patients urged the committee to advance the bill, as did its sponsor Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg). Instead of merely letting the bill expire in committee, as is typically the case with bills that won’t pass, the committee voted to give it an unfavorable report, ensuring the topic could not be brought up again this session.
In North Dakota, marijuana users — including those using marijuana to treat debilitating pain or the effects of cancer — are still branded criminals. Possession of less than half an ounce is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 days imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000. No bills to reduce marijuana penalties or authorize medical marijuana in North Dakota have been introduced in 2013.
Possession of less than 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of marijuana is a “minor misdemeanor,” with punishment capped at a $150 fine without the possibility of jail time, but can also include a driver’s license suspension of six months to five years. In 2012, legislation passed that allowed the “decriminalization” law to include the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Medical marijuana, while gaining support among Ohio residents, is not yet allowed in Ohio, and there have been no bills introduced in 2013.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: A bill that would have allowed patients with serious illness to obtain and use medical marijuana if recommended by their doctors was killed by a committee of the Oklahoma Senate at a hearing in February. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 6-2 against the measure in a party-line vote with Republicans in opposition. SB 710, introduced by Sen. Constance Johnson (D-Oklahoma City), would have allowed patients with debilitating medical conditions to privately possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 marijuana plants in their homes. Patients would have also been able to obtain marijuana through state-sanctioned collectives.
A second medical marijuana bill, SB 902, also introduced by Sen. Johnson, remains pending, but stalled, in the Business and Commerce committee This bill is shorter than SB 710, leaving most of the details of the medical marijuana program to the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: Senator Johnson is also sponsoring SB 914, which would reduce the penalty for possession of 1.5 ounces of marijuana or less from a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 to a maximum of 10 days in jail and a fine of up to $200. The bill awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
MARIJUANA DEFELONIZATION: House Bill 1835 seeks to amend Oklahoma’s toughest-in-the-nation marijuana possession penalties by removing marijuana from the list of substances for which a second or subsequent offense for possession results in a felony conviction. In February, the House Public Safety Committee members voted 14 to zero in favor of the bill. However, despite this strong Committee support, House leadership may not call the measure for a floor vote.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: House Bill 3371, also known as the Control, Regulation and Taxation of Cannabis Act, was introduced in March by the House Committee on Revenue and has been scheduled for a hearing April 2 at 1:00 pm by the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would legalize the possession of up to six plants and 24 ounces of marijuana “on the premises” of non-commercial home grows, the same amounts allowed under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, for adults 21 or older. The bill does not otherwise set possession limits, but leaves them to the Oregon Health Authority to regulate. The bill would also legalize industrial hemp. If lawmakers fail to act on this bill, look for a similar initiative on the ballot in 2014 or 2016.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES: House Bill 3460 “directs [the] Oregon Health Authority to establish a registration system for medical marijuana facilities.” Such facilities exist presently in the state but are unregulated and are subject to state and local prosecution. The bill has been assigned to the House Health Care Committee, where it is expected to be scheduled for a hearing this spring.
ADDING PTSD TO MEDICAL MARIJUANA: The Senate Health Committee voted 4-1 in March to approve Senate Bill 281, which would add post-traumatic stress disorder to the definition of “debilitating medical condition” for the purpose of authorizing the medical use of marijuana. The bill has now been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and awaits a hearing.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: Legislation that seeks to make Pennsylvania the third state to legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana is expected to be introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate by Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County).
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: A bill that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older in Rhode Island has stalled in the House, but a companion bill remains pending in the Senate. House Bill 5274, introduced by Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Providence) on February 6, has been held for further study by the House Judiciary Committee following a hearing in late February. A companion bill, Senate Bill 334, has been introduced in the Rhode Island Senate by Sen. Donna Nesselbush, and has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it awaits further action.
Both bills would remove state-level criminal penalties for the private possession by adults age 21 and over of up to one ounce of marijuana and for the home-growing of up to three mature marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked space. The legislation would establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities to ensure that marijuana sold in Rhode Island is free of contaminants or other drugs. The legislation enacts an excise tax of up to $50 per ounce on the wholesale sale of marijuana applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store. Additionally, retailers would be required to collect the state’s 7-percent sales tax on marijuana. If the legalization bills fail at the state house, similar legislation could be sent to the voters as early as 2014.
MANDATORY MINIMUMS FOR MARIJUANA: Legislation is pending to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing for certain illicit drug offenses, including marijuana cultivation and trafficking. Under present law, large-scale marijuana offenses (e.g., the sale or trafficking of more than ten pounds of cannabis and/or the cultivation of 100 plants or more) are punishable by mandatory minimum sentences. House Bill 3060 seeks to allow judges discretion in sentencing defendant’s found guilty of these or other drug crimes. The measure also provides for the formation of a study committee to further assess state drug laws and make policy recommendations. The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee in January, but has not moved since.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA DEFENSE: A bill that would have allowed South Dakotans charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession to mount a medical necessity defense was defeated in February in the state legislature. The bill died on a 7-6 vote in the Health and Human Services Committee, who deferred the bill to the 41st day of the legislative session. The session only has 40 days.
The bill, House Bill 1227, would have allowed people caught with less than two ounces of marijuana to mount a medical necessity defense against either a pot possession charge or the state’s unique ingestion for the purposes of intoxication charge. It provided for such a defense to be mounted if “a competent medical authority” has recommended its palliative use or if its use is known to be palliative for a given condition.
MARIJUANA PENALTY REDUCTION: A bill that would have lowered the maximum penalty for possession of two ounces of marijuana or less was killed in February by a Senate committee. It died on a 5-2 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee after law enforcement representatives testified against it. Like the medical marijuana defense bill, it was deferred to the 41st day of the legislative session. Senate Bill 221 would have reduced the maximum penalty for the possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana from one year in jail to 30 days in jail, reducing the offense from Class 1 to a Class 2 misdemeanor.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Representative Sherry Jones Todd said in January that she intends to reintroduce legislation to protect patients who use medical marijuana, but the bill has not yet been introduced. Medical marijuana advanced past one committee in 2012, but died in a second committee hearing. Unfortunately for medical marijuana advocates, the two sponsors of 2012′s medical marijuana legislation, Rep. Richardson and Sen. Beverly Marrero did not win re-election, and Rep. Jones-Todd faces an uphill battle gaining support, making Tennessee one of the least likely states to advance any sort of marijuana reform this year or next.
MARIJUANA PENALTY REDUCTION: House Bill 184, would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, but with no possibility of jail time. Possession of two ounces or less is currently a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 dollars. The bill, which received a public hearing in March, has been “left pending in committee,” essentially killing the bill for this year.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA DEFENSE: Representative Elliot Naishtat (D-Texas District 48) has reintroduced legislation to protect patients who use marijuana therapeutically. House Bill 594 allows defendants to raise an affirmative defense of medical necessity in court. The bill would not prevent police from arresting medical marijuana patients, however. The bill awaits action by the Committee on Public Health.
Lawmakers are currently in session in Utah, but they will unfortunately not be debating making sensible reforms to the state’s marijuana policies in 2013.
Both the House and Senate bill introduction deadlines have passed with not a single piece of marijuana policy reform being introduced.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: House Bill 499, An Act Relating To Regulation And Taxation Of Marijuana, was introduced to the House in March and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. HB 499 would allow adults 21 or older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana. Adults would also be allowed to privately grow up to three marijuana plants, and possession of marijuana paraphernalia. The bill maintains criminal penalties for possession over two ounces, or for non-licensed cultivation or sale of marijuana. The bill would also create a regulatory structure for the wholesale and retail sale of marijuana, including licensing and oversight by the Department of Liquor Control. The bill would establish an excise tax of $50 per ounce of marijuana, which would be paid by the wholesale seller. The bill remains in committee, and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: A tri-partisan group of nine State Senators introduced Senate Bill 48, to amend minor marijuana possession offenses from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation. Senate Bill 48 would change the penalty for the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by a person 21 years of age or older from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil fine. Under present law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine and up to six months incarceration. SB 48 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.
Decriminalization legislation is also now pending in the House. House Bill 200, with nearly 40 co-sponsors seeks to decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis by those age 21 and over. The measure also decriminalizes minor marijuana cultivation offenses. HB200 awaits action by the House Judiciary Committee.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA IMPROVEMENTS: A bill that would improve Vermont’s medical marijuana program was introduced in March. House Bill 500 would expand Vermont’s medical marijuana program to allow caregivers to increase the number of patients they care for from three to five, and would remove the current 1,000 patients limit that the state’s dispensaries are allowed to provide marijuana to. The bill also expands the list of qualifying ailments to include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and insomnia. The bill awaits action by the House Human Services Committee.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP: Senate Bill 157 would remove language from the existing law which states that Vermont farmers can grow hemp “when federal regulations permit” moved one step closer to becoming law after receiving a favorable report by the Senate Committee on Finance in late March. A companion bill, House Bill 490, has been similarly advancing in the House. The bill also removes the wording “industrial” from all languange of the law, refering to the crop as “hemp” instead of “industrial hemp”, and specifically defines “hemp” as any cannabis plant containing less than .3 percent THC. Under Vermont law, farmers must be licensed by the state to grow hemp. Vermont is one of ten states that have made the cultivation of industrial hemp legal, but none of these states have begun to grow the crop due to resistance from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
After the retirement of long-time marijuana reform advocate Harvey Morgan, and resignation of Alexandria Delegate David Englin, a new legislative advocate for marijuana reform is badly needed in the Virginia Legislature. Unfortunately, no one has yet been willing to step up to the plate during the 2013 legislative session, and Virginia’s marijuana laws look to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future..
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: On November 6, 2012, Washington voters approved I–502, an initiative to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. The Washington State Liquor Control Board is now working on the rules and regulations governing the production and sales of marijuana to adults 21 and older. he new law — which went into effect on December 6, 2012 — will protect adults 21 and older in the Evergreen State from being arrested for possession and private use of up to an ounce of marijuana. The liquor board is charged with finalizing regulations by December 1, 2013. Once finalized, there will be a clearer idea of when marijuana retailers will begin operating.
EXPUNGE MARIJUANA CONVICTIONS: A coalition of more than 20 House lawmakers are backing legislation, House Bill 1661, to expunge the criminal records of those previously convicted of marijuana offenses. Under the measure, “Every person convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana offense under RCW 69.50.4014 may apply to the sentencing court for a vacation of the applicant’s record of conviction for the offense.” The Committee on Public Safety debated the measure on Wednesday, February 20 at 1:30PM. On Thursday, February 21, the Committee voted 6 to 5 to pass the measure. House Bill 1661 awaits a second reading by the House Rules Committee.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: House Bill 2961, The Compassionate Medical Marijuana Use Act of 2013, was introduced by Delegate Mike Maypenny (D-Taylor County) in March. Delegate Maypenny also introduced House Bill 2230, The Compassionate Use Act for Medical Cannabis, in February, but likely won’t be perused by the bill’s sponsor, who introduced HB 2961 as an “improved” version of HB 2230. Both bills have been assigned to the House Health and Human Resources committee. A hearing was held on theHB 2961 in late March, but the committee has not yet voted on the proposal.
House Bill 2961 is a “new and improved” medical marijuana bill authored by Delegate Maypenny, who has introduced similar bills in the past two sessions. The bill has nine co-sponsors, including two Republicans, and is the bill most likely to advance. If passed, HB 2961 would initially establish five tightly regulated compassion centers across the state to provide patients with safe, reliable access to medical marijuana. Patients would also have the option of privately cultivating up to 12 plants in their homes.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP: A bill that would remove a provision requiring an applicant to meet federal requirements prior to being licensed to grow industrial hemp in West Virginia was introduced in March to the House of Delegates. House Bill 3011 would remove the following wording from West Virginia’s Industrial Hemp Development Act of 1931: ”
Prior to issuing a license under the provisions of this article, the commissioner shall determine that the applicant has complied with all applicable requirements of the United States department of justice, drug enforcement administration for the production, distribution and sale of industrial hemp.” The bill, also sponsored by Delagate Maypenny, has been assigned House House Agriculture Committee.
The Wisconsin State Legislature is back in session, bringing renewed hope that 2013 will be the year that lawmakers final protect the seriously ill and suffering in the Badger State from arrest and prosecution for using medical marijuana under their physicians’ recommendations. Lawmakers have debated the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act in 2009, but it failed to advance past committee hearings. To date, no legislation has been filed in 2013.
The Wyoming Legislature is back in session, but to date, they have yet to discuss any sensible reforms of the state’s draconian marijuana laws. Being under the influence of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 90 days imprisonment and a maximum fine of $100. Possession of three ounces or less is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum of 1 year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1000. Possession of more than 3 ounces is a felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000
This article was compiled and edited by Thomas H. Clarke for The Daily Chronic with contributions from articles written by Phillip Smith, Sativa Galore, Scott Gacek, Thomas H. Clarke, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.