Executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia, discusses what’s next for the push to make marijuana legal in the United States:
The state that will most likely be next to legalize is Rhode Island, which would be the first to do so via state legislature. Also this spring, the District of Columbia is expected to enact a similar law through its city council.
There’s also a real opportunity to legalize marijuana through five more state legislatures between now and 2017 – Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont. There will also be serious legislative activity in other states, such as New York, but it is less clear when such legislation will pass.
MissouriGov. Jay Nixonsigned a limited medical marijuana bill into law yesterday. HB 2238allows some patients with intractable epilepsy access to products containing marijuana extracts. Those extracts must be limited primarily to a non-psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant called cannabidiol, or CBD.
Many believe high-CBD marijuana extracts are effective in helping alleviate severe seizure conditions — reducing both the frequency and intensity of seizures. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of patients who can benefit from medical marijuana have this condition, so the vast majority of seriously ill patients in Missouri will be left out of the state program. MPP has a short analysis of the law available here.
Several other states have passed laws that are similarly limited. For the most part, laws passed in other states are not workable due to limitations imposed under federal law. By contrast, Missouri’s carefully crafted law is unique in that it may actually lead to a functioning program. This will be great news for those few seriously ill seizure patients who will be able to participate.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon made Missouri history by allowing the state to join the ranks of 18 others that have eliminated the possibility of jail time for the possession of marijuana. The new law made several significant reforms to the state’s criminal laws, including protecting people caught with up to 10 grams from incarceration for choosing a substance that is safer than alcohol.
The governor decided not to sign SB 491, instead allowing it to become effective without his signature. In addition to “decriminalizing” simple possession of marijuana, this new law also reduces possible sentences related to the sale and cultivation of marijuana, including the current ban on probation or parole for those with 3rd felony offenses.
Unfortunately, the law is somewhat limited. It will not take effect until January 1, 2017, and the protections against jail time only apply to people without prior marijuana convictions. Also, a possession charge — even without the possibility of jail time — is still a crime and can mark a person for life, affecting housing, employment, and future employment opportunities.
Nonetheless, this represents several major improvements, and now statewide law is beginning to reflect those of both St. Louis and Columbia, which previously decriminalized possession of up to 35 grams of cannabis.
MPP wishes to thank Missouri attorney and activist Dan Viets and Show-Me Cannabis for their strong contributions to the new law!
On April 24, the Missouri House and Senate passed a bill that would eliminate the possibility of jail time for people caught with up to 10 grams of marijuana — at least the first time. The bill, SB 491, was sent to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature on April 28. He has until May 13 to sign the bill or veto it.
Nearly half a million Missouri residents already live in cities, including St. Louis and Columbia, which have local ordinances that treat possession of 35 grams or less as a non-arrestable offense.
SB 491 isn’t the only marijuana-related bill on the move.
Earlier this month, SB 951 passed out of committee; it may soon receive a vote in the Senate. While far from perfect, it would allow a broad range of severely ill patients to use medical marijuana products that include THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. A second, very limited bill, HB 2238, would allow some patients to access CBD-rich cannabis oil with trace amounts of THC. It passed both houses and will be sent to Gov. Nixon for his signature. For an overview of the bill, click here.
The Missouri Legislature made significant progress this year to improve marijuana-related laws, due in large part to the hard work from groups like Show-Me Cannabis.
As more and more Americans support ending marijuana prohibition and an increasing number of states consider marijuana policy reform legislation, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are still a lot of people in prison for marijuana-related violations. As shocking as it may seem, some are slated to spend the rest of their lives behind bars for something that millions of Americans do every day and that people in Colorado and Washington do legally.
If you would like to know more about prisoners serving insanely long sentences for marijuana, please visit Life For Pot and share these stories with anyone who will listen. No on deserves to be arrested for a substance that is safer than alcohol, but putting people in cages indefinitely for it is inexcusable.