On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee of the Wyoming Legislature approved a bill – HB 29 – that would replace the current criminal penalty for marijuana possession with a more sensible civil fine. By a vote of 7-2, the committee supported the proposal that will end the threat of arrest for first and second possession charges.
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Byrd, the bill originally sought to impose a civil fine of $50 for the first or second possession of up to a half an ounce of marijuana and a $100 fine for possession of up to an ounce. The committee amended this language and set the fines at $250 for possession of up to half an ounce and $500 for possession of up to an ounce. If you are a Wyoming resident, please encourage your representative to support this bill, and ask her or him to lower the fine as well.
No one should be saddled with a criminal record for the simple act of possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol. If HB 29 is made law, Wyomingites will no longer face that overly harsh penalty. Email your representatives in support of HB 29 and encourage your friends and family in Wyoming to do so too!
A bipartisan group of South Carolina state representatives led by House Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford
has introduced compassionate legislation that would establish a workable medical marijuana program in South Carolina. Under the Put Patients First Act, seriously ill patients would be able to possess and cultivate a limited amount of marijuana. It also creates a system of registered medical marijuana providers to ensure patients have safe and reliable access.
According to a July 2014 poll by ABC News 4/Post and Courier, most South Carolina voters support allowing qualifying seriously ill patients to access medical marijuana legally, instead of being treated as criminals. Support was found across party lines, age, race, sex, ideology, and geography. It’s clear now more than ever: South Carolina should enact a workable medical marijuana program.
South Carolina lawmakers are proving that sensible and humane marijuana policy isn’t a partisan issue. State Representative Mike Pitts — a Republican — has not only cosponsored House Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford’s medical marijuana bill, he’s also introduced his own common-sense proposal. H. 3117 would replace South Carolina’s criminal penalty for marijuana possession with a simple civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket.
Marijuana prohibition has been just as ineffective, inefficient, and problematic as alcohol prohibition, and both national and Arizona polls now regularly show support for a better approach. Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Regulating it would replace the underground market, and law enforcement officials’ time could be more effectively directed to addressing serious crime.
Rep. Cardenas has also introduced HB 2006, which would establish a $100 civil penalty for the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. In addition to the four states that have legalized marijuana for adults, well over a dozen states have lowered criminal penalties with sensible alternatives to putting people in jail for choosing a substance that is safer than alcohol.
Back in December, the attorneys general for Nebraska and Oklahoma filed suit in federal court against the state of Colorado, claiming that the law making marijuana legal for adults there was causing problems for law enforcement in their states.
Now, a group of prominent Oklahoma Republicans is urging their attorney general to drop the suit, according to the Washington Post:
“[W]e share your concerns about the growing amounts of marijuana apparently coming into our state from Colorado,” the letter reads. “However, we believe this lawsuit against Colorado is the wrong way to deal with the issue, for a number of reasons.”
In the suit, Pruitt said Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana injured the ability of Oklahoma and other bordering states to enforce their marijuana laws and violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution giving federal law precedence over state ones.
But the group of Republicans think if the lawsuit was successful at the Supreme Court, it could “undermine all of those efforts to protect our own state’s right to govern itself.”
“We think the best move at this point would be to quietly drop the action against Colorado, and if necessary, defend the state’s right to set its own policies, as we would hope other states would defend our right to govern ourselves within constitutional confines,” the letter reads. “We also do not feel that attempting to undermine the sovereignty of a neighboring state using the federal courts, even if inadvertently, is a wise use of Oklahoma’s limited state resources.”
The letter was signed by Reps. Mike Ritze, Lewis Moore, John Bennett Mike Christian, Dan Fisher, and Sens. Ralph Shortey and Nathan Dahm.
With the Vermont General Assembly set to convene this week, a group of citizens, organizations, and businesses from around the state is officially launching a coalition to support legislation that would end marijuana prohibition in Vermont and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.
The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuanaheld a news conference Tuesday, a day before the start of a legislative session in which lawmakers are expected to consider whether Vermont should follow the lead of Colorado and Washington state in legalizing the drug. Supporters say that efforts to stamp out its use by making it illegal have failed and that the state could raise revenues by taxing the drug.
“Regulating marijuana will take sales out of the underground market and allow for it to be controlled like other products that are legal for adults,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, a coalition member. “Along with improving public safety, it will generate significant new tax revenue and create good jobs for our communities.”
Coalition member Joseph McSherry, a neurophysiologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center, said that many young people report that it’s easier to acquire marijuana than alcohol. Changing marijuana from an illegal to a legal market could reduce its availability to teenagers, he argued.
“If you want to make marijuana harder to get for kids, especially the risk takers and sensation seekers, you need to legalize it and regulate it,” McSherry said. “The people who deal in illegal drugs aren’t selective” about their customers.