We are down to the final two days of the 2014 legislative session in Michigan, and this is the last opportunity to pass two critically important bills. HB 5104 would protect patients who consume non-smoked forms of marijuana, while HB 4271 would create clear legal protections for medical marijuana provisioning centers (dispensaries) to ensure patients have safe and regular access to medical marijuana.
Currently, non-smoked forms of marijuana are not considered “usable marijuana,” and therefore can’t be legally consumed by those who prefer not to smoke –- sometimes leading to tragic consequences. At the same time, provisioning centers do not have clear protections under Michigan law, which harms patients who should have safe, regulated access to medicine. These bills both make huge improvements for patients. Both passed by wide margins in the House, and now we are down to the final steps in the Senate.
A national survey released Tuesday found teen marijuana usage rates decreased from 2013 to 2014 — a period marked by heightened national debate regarding marijuana policy and implementation of the nation’s first marijuana legalization laws.
Teens’ perception of ‘great risk’ in marijuana use also decreased among students in all three grades, contradicting the often-heard claim that public dialogue about the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition — including discussion of the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol and other substances — will result in more teens using marijuana.
In August, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that rates of current and lifetime marijuana use among the state’s high school students has dropped since marijuana became legal for adults. More information is available here.
There has been more public dialogue about marijuana over the past year than any 12-month period in history. States around the country are making marijuana legal for adults, establishing medical marijuana programs, and decriminalizing marijuana possession, and the sky is not falling. The debate is not resulting in more marijuana use among young people, but it is resulting in more sensible marijuana laws.
When the Virginia Legislature convenes in January, a bill to stop criminalizing those who simply possess marijuana will be awaiting consideration.
Today, an individual convicted of marijuana possession in Virginia can be thrown in jail for up to thirty days, fined up to $500, or both! This overly punitive approach can destroy dreams — a criminal conviction makes it harder to get a job, housing, and education. Criminalizing marijuana possession also wastes vast amounts of resources. In 2012, there were more than 20,000 arrests made in Virginia for marijuana possession. It takes time for police to book marijuana users, prosecutors to try cases, and labs to test marijuana. Meanwhile, more than half of all reported rapes and 80% of all burglaries went unsolved.
SB 686 takes a more sensible and humane approach by replacing the criminal penalties with a civil penalty of up to $100. Punishing marijuana possession with a civil citation recognizes that no one should be denied housing or a job because they possessed a substance safer than alcohol. It also allows Virginia’s law enforcement to quickly issue a ticket and move on to police more serious matters.
The bill includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice — which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration — from using funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. A similar amendment has been offered seven times in Congress, failing in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. The House finally approved it in May when it was offered by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.
The federal spending bill also prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from interfering with state-level hemp laws.
Unfortunately, the bill also contains a provision that is meant to interfere with the implementation of Washington, D.C.’s recently approved marijuana initiative, and effectively blocks the District from regulating marijuana.
At a press conference held today and hosted by Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, State Representative Joe Moody announced the details of his new bill to stop branding Texans as criminals for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana.
Many members of our coalition, including Texas District Court Judge John Delaney, the ACLU of Texas, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, and the Marijuana Policy Project, joined him for the big announcement.
“Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Rep. Moody said. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”
More than 60% of Texas voters support limiting the punishment for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a fine of $100 with no possibility of jail time, according to a September 2013 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.