Legislation adopted this year to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession in Maryland will go into effect on Wednesday. Maryland joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia that have decriminalized or legalized marijuana possession.
Senate Bill 364 makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program.
According to WSHU.org, New Yorkâs health department is asking permission from the federal government to import out-of-state medical marijuana until its own program is able complete the regulatory process.
The program requires the health department to establish rules and license marijuana production companies. The health department, however, says that it will take until 2016 to get the program started.
Until then, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomoâs administration has requested the Department of Justice to permit importation of medical marijuana from states with existing functional programs.
Although the federal government could potentially grant such a waiver, or simply exercise prosecutorial discretion, patients in the Empire State should not hold their breath.
MPPâs Rachelle Yeung says the federal government has been slow to recognize the medical benefits of marijuana, and that Gov. Cuomo has been equally slow to implement medical marijuana.
âI donât want to speculate as to his motivations, but as governor of the state of New York, there are ways to expedite the process without asking for special permission from the federal government.â
Furthermore, Yeung relays that it typically takes years for the federal government to allow researchers access to medical marijuana. To avoid this delay, she and other marijuana advocacy groups are urging Cuomoâs administration to accelerate the regulatory and production processes within the state.
According to Kentucky.com, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes â whose tight race against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is receiving national media attention â said it is âworthwhileâ for elected officials to discuss the prospect of making marijuana legal in the state of Kentucky.
âI would want to the have the discussion, and I think that itâs worthwhile to bring the experts together and talk about the reclassification, especially for medical purposes,â Grimes said.
In addition, Grimes criticized McConnell for not recognizing the economic benefits Colorado is experiencing after making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol.
Robert Steurer, a spokesman for McConnellâs Senate office, said in a statement yesterday that âSenator McConnell is strongly opposed to the legalization of marijuana as Kentucky families deserve no less.â
According to a Bluegrass Poll of registered Kentucky voters taken in February, 52% favored âallowing the use of medical marijuana in Kentucky.â Just 37% were opposed.
The Alaska Dispatch News reports that a group of more than two-dozen concerned parents from across Alaska have formed a coalition in support of Ballot Measure 2, the statewide initiative on the November ballot to regulate marijuana like alcohol. They believe that regulating marijuana like alcohol will be a more effective means of keeping it out of the hands of their children, noting that marijuana prohibition has failed to prevent teens from accessing marijuana, and illegal dealers are not limiting their sales to adults over 21.
The chair of Parents for Ballot Measure 2, Kim Kole, an Anchorage high school teacher and mother of two teenage girls, made the following statement in a news release:
âIâm voting yes on Ballot Measure 2 because marijuana prohibition has failed miserably at preventing teen access to marijuana. Keeping marijuana in an illegal marketÂ guarantees that sales will be entirely unregulated and that those selling it will not ask for ID.Â Itâs time to control the sale of marijuana, and thatâs whatÂ this will do. Arresting thousands of Alaskan adults has done nothing to keep marijuana out of the hands of teens. Itâs time for a more sensible approach.Â As a high school teacher â and as a mom â I feel that regulating marijuana like alcohol isÂ critical to protecting the health and safety of Alaska teens. Parents need to think critically about this issue, because what we are doing now clearly isnât working. Marijuana is already here in Alaska and itâs not going away. By passing Ballot Measure 2, we can make sure that it is regulated and that the market is managed by responsible businesses governed by strict regulations to protect our kids.”
Kole is the face of an online ad campaign launching today throughout the state that will educate parents about the benefits of regulating marijuana to keep it away from teens. Please support the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol by passing the message on to your friends and relatives!
When Jane West and her friends get together, the laughter rolls, trays of food and stories are passed around. But instead of splitting bottles of wine, these women like to unwind with artisanal marijuana.
In fact, these mothers with young children are regular marijuana users who are âunapologetic about getting high.â Moreover, some, including West, have made it their mission to make the use of marijuana as socially acceptable as having a glass of wine or a cocktail.
âIf other people were willing to talk about it, instead of saying, âOh, my God, I was so drunk last night,â then more people would be talking about it just as openly,â West said.
The Associated Press reported that Pennsylvania state senators approved legislation yesterday that, if enacted, would make several forms of medical marijuana legal, including extracted oil, edible products, and ointments and tinctures, to patients with debilitating medical conditions.
According to the proposal, Pennsylvania residents would need an access card from the health department upon proving a practitioner-patient relationship and written confirmation of a qualifying medical condition.
However, even if the legislation does pass, it would exclude most patients and would not allow them to use marijuana in the way that best works for their preferences and conditions; both vaporizing and smoking marijuana would be forbidden. The list of approved conditions is also extremely narrow and does not include severe pain.
âIt is cruel and heartless to deny people the best medicine that is available,â Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) said during the floor debate. âAnd itâs time to stop treating this irrationally and saying, âweâre not going to let you have this, weâre going to instead make you take far more dangerous and less effective drugs.â Thatâs just not how we would want to be treated; itâs not how we want our families to be treated.â
Despite these limitations, passage of this legislation would still be a step in the right direction for the state. Citizens of Pennsylvania should encourage their representatives to enact a bill that will benefit vast numbers of suffering patients, as well as allow patients to use marijuana in the way that best suits their preferences and conditions. If you are a citizen of Pennsylvania, please pass this message on to family and friends and help spread awareness concerning the issue.
According to Vox, just before U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reported his resignation from the Justice Department, he stated in an interview with Yahoo News that itâs time to reconsider whether marijuana should be a Schedule I substance treated similarly to heroin.
âI think itâs certainly a question that we need to ask ourselvesâwhether or not marijuana is as serious a drug as in heroin,â Holder said. âThe question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that I think we need to ask ourselves, and use science as the basis for making that determination.â
The question, which goes to the core of U.S. drug policy, embraces Holderâs legacy of disapproval in regard to the war on drugs. However, Holder did clarify that he is still skeptical as to where he stands on eliminating the threat of arrest if caught in possession of marijuana, as well making marijuana legal. Although, he does think that efforts to make marijuana legal at the state level should provide a lesson for federal policymakers.
The Marijuana Policy ProjectÂ filed a committee with the California Secretary of Stateâs Office today to support a 2016 statewide ballot initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use.
The new committee, the Marijuana Policy Project of California, will start raising funds immediately to help place a measure on the ballot.
According to a statement from MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia:
âA diverse coalition of activists, organizations, businesses, and community leaders will be joining together in coming months to draft the most effective and viable proposal possible. Public opinion has been evolving nationwide when it comes to marijuana policy, and Californians have always been ahead of the curve.â
The announcement has generated quite a bit of media interest, which began with a mention in aÂ Washington PostÂ story summarizing the statewide efforts currently underway to end marijuana prohibition.
It noted MPP has filed committees in Arizona, Massachusetts, and Nevada for 2016, and it plans to focus on making marijuana legal through state legislatures in Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont over the next few years.
Managing a medical marijuana operation could potentially cost each grower more than $125,000 a year in fees, a sum so exorbitant some officials believe it may affect small and newly developing marijuana businesses.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Marylandâs medical marijuana commission has proposed for such a fee to be imposed on each of the 15 potential growers envisaged for the stateâs new program. The commission has also proposed a yearly $40,000 charge for dispensaries. These steep license fees, on top of the estimated $6,000 in application fees, would finance the stateâs incipient medical marijuana program.
âThe volume of these fees, for probably many of us, takes our breath away,â commissioner Eric E. Sterling said at a meeting in Annapolis Tuesday. âIt is simply a reflection that the General Assembly has put the operation of this on the growers and the dispensaries, and ultimately upon the patients,â he said. âThere is no taxpayer money, according to the General Assembly, that is going to finance this.â
The commission plans to meet again October 16, when it is anticipated to take its final vote on the proposed regulations. The decision will be passed on to state health secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein for review and then later go to a panel of state lawmakers for final approval.
Following Tuesdayâs meeting to push the fees among draft proposals, citizens expressed concern.
âThe number of licenses theyâre issuing seems to be incongruent with their perceived demand,â stated Attorney John A. Pica, who represents a coalition that wants to open a growing and dispensing operation in Baltimore. âWith high overhead costs and low demand, growers might be forced to increase medical marijuana prices to make ends meet, which would drive patients to the black market. You have to be careful that the price isnât too high, or you invite the same scenario you had in prohibition,â he said.
The cost to operate a cultivating or dispensing business in Maryland is one of the last major issues the medical marijuana commission must decide on, following the stateâs 2013 law that made medical marijuana legal. The Marijuana Policy Project plans to host a âMaryland Canna-Business Seminarâ in Bethesda October 8 for entrepreneurs to learn about how to launch a marijuana business. In addition to educating would-be marijuana entrepreneurs, MPP will be urging the commission to reduce fees and otherwise improve draft regulations.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel called on the General Assembly to replace criminal penalties with civil penalties for the possession of marijuana statewide at a state legislative hearing today.
During the 90 minutes of testimony before the House-Senate Joint Criminal Reform Committee in Chicago, the mayor urged lawmakers to challenge the âassumptions that are embedded in the criminal justice systemâ and argued that reducing the penalties for minor drug possession would allow the city of Chicago and state of Illinois to focus their efforts on more violent crime.
âItâs time, in my view, to free up our criminal justice system to address our real public safety challenges and build on the progress that has been made,â Emanuel stated. The proposed changes, the mayor said, would âchange, not just the criminal system, and the fact that weâll save time and money, but it also will change peopleâs lives. Some who are walking around with a felony, their employment prospects, their job prospects, their lives are on a different trajectory than if they had a misdemeanor associated with them.â
Reducing sentencing for less violent crimes would help the estimated 7,000 people who are arrested, and subsequently affected, for the possession of one gram or less of a drug each year.
The opinions expressed by our viewers and posters do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Marijuana Policy Project. These views are those of their individual authors alone. MPP does not condone or support the illegal use of marijuana. We do encourage open and frank discussion, but if a comment has been posted that is in some way significantly inappropriate, please email us at [email protected] to report it. Thank you, and we're looking forward to what you think!
"The sole tangible way in which pot is a gateway to other illegal drugs is that it is illegal. The best way to end this easy path to worse narcotics is to legalize it and take it out of the hands of criminals and gangs."