As marijuana policy reforms advance nationwide, Mississippi Sen. Deborah Dawkins has vowed to keep fighting for medical marijuana legislation. Last week, Sen. Dawkins introduced SB 2318, a bill that would allow seriously ill patients to possess and cultivate a limited amount of marijuana. Although SB 2318 would not allow for dispensaries to provide medical marijuana to patients, it would be an important step in ensuring that patients have safe and reliable access to the medicine they need.
A bill has been introduced in the New Hampshire House of Representatives that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The House passed a nearly identical bill last year by a vote of 215-92, but the Senate refused to consider it.
HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of up to $100. It would also make cultivation of up to six marijuana plants a Class A misdemeanor instead of a felony. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
Delaware State Rep. Helene Keeley, State Sens. Margret Rose Henry and Bryan Townsend, and 10 of their colleagues have just introduced legislation that would replace Delaware’s criminal penalty for marijuana possession with a simple civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket.
Possessing one ounce or less of marijuana in the First State is currently classified as a unclassified misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in jail, a criminal fine of up to $575, or both! HB 39 proposes making possession of one ounce or less of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of $100. This modest change will allow law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes while ending the draconian practice of saddling Delawareans with a criminal record for simply possessing a small amount of a substance that is safer than alcohol.
Earlier this month, Gov. John deJongh Jr. of the U.S. Virgin Islands stated that he supported decriminalizing marijuana, despite the fact that he vetoed a bill that would reduce penalties at the end of 2014. The Senate overrode his initial veto, adding the Virgin Islands to the list of U.S. territories that are changing their marijuana policies.
Sen. Terrence Nelson sponsored the measure, which is now law, to decriminalize the possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana and make it a civil offense punishable by a fine of between $100 and $200, with the possible forfeiture of the contraband.
In the case that an offender is younger than 18, the offender could receive a $100 fine, the parents or guardians would have to be notified and the offender will be required to complete an approved drug awareness program within one year of the possession.
Last week, a bipartisan group of North Dakota state representatives introduced compassionate legislation that would establish a workable medical marijuana program in North Dakota. Under HB 1430, seriously ill patients would be able to possess and cultivate a limited amount of marijuana. It would also create a system of registered medical marijuana providers to ensure patients have safe and reliable access.
Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C. have compassionate laws on the books that protect individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, ALS, and other serious medical conditions from arrest and prosecution for using marijuana medicinally under their doctors’ recommendations. Why should the seriously ill in North Dakota not be afforded the same protections? We trust our physicians to prescribe highly addictive and potentially lethal drugs to treat many of these same conditions, so why should they be prevented from recommending marijuana, which has never caused a lethal overdose, if they think it would work best? It’s clear now more than ever: North Dakota should enact a workable medical marijuana program.