Prohibition

Key Committee Approves Marijuana Possession Bill in Vermont

March 23rd, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

The Vermont House Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 to approve H. 170, a bill that would eliminate penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and a small number of plants. Additionally, an independent poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project and conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 57% of Vermonters support H. 170.

As amended by the committee, H. 170 would eliminate penalties for adults 21 and older who possess one ounce or less of marijuana, two mature plants, and four immature plants — as well as the marijuana produced by those plants, if stored properly in accordance with the law. Possession of between one and two ounces would become a civil violation punishable by a fine.

“Today’s vote shows just how far this issue has advanced in just this past year,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a press release. “Most Vermonters agree it makes no sense to continue punishing adults for consuming a less harmful substance than alcohol — especially now that it is legal for adults in Massachusetts and Maine. Vermonters are ready to close the book on marijuana prohibition.”

If you are a Vermont resident, it is critically important that you call or email your representatives today and urge them to vote YES on H. 170.

 

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Tax and Regulate

Nevada Considers Social Consumption Bill

March 23rd, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Nevada Senator Tick Segerblom introduced Senate Bill 236, which aims to allow social use of marijuana in public places such as lounges, bars, coffee shops, and special events like fairs and concerts. SB 236 would allow local governments to issue permits to businesses and licenses for special events allowing marijuana consumption in designated places.

Social use would be monitored locally and would only allow adults aged 21 and over to publically consume marijuana. SB 236 outlines clear regulatory instructions that social use venues cannot exist within 1000 feet of a school, public park or playground, church, or anywhere that is otherwise viewable from a public place. If passed, SB 236 would become the first state law to address public consumption of marijuana. With legal sales expected to begin soon, SB 236 is increasingly important to ensure consumption can take place in a safe and legal environment.

Fifty-five percent of Nevada voters approved Question 2, legalizing adult use and possession of small quantities of marijuana, and state regulators are demonstrating their commitment to immediately begin complying with the wishes of Nevada citizens by creating rules to establish retail sales by July 1, 2017.

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Tax and Regulate

Push to Regulate Marijuana for Adult Use Picks Up Steam in Connecticut

March 13th, 2017 1 Comment Marijuana Policy Project

The newly formed Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana (CCRM) held a press conference March 7 to rally support for legislation that would regulate and tax marijuana for adult use in Connecticut.

The event was held just prior to a committee hearing on H.B. 5314, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Ziobron (R-East Haddam), which directs the Department of Consumer Protection to establish a regulated system of marijuana cultivation and sales for adults 21 years of age and older. It also directs the Department of Revenue Services to create a tax structure that would generate revenue for the state and certain municipalities.

“I feel that the legalization of marijuana is inevitable and, as such, Connecticut should be at the forefront of the movement in order to set the standard for effective policy,” Ziobron said in a CCRM news release.

Ziobron and the sponsors of three similar proposals — Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven) and Reps. Juan Candelaria (D-New Haven) and Toni Walker (D-New Haven) — have agreed to work together to end marijuana prohibition in Connecticut and ensure whichever bill moves forward will create the best system possible for regulating and taxing marijuana.

“The vast majority of voters in Connecticut think it is time to end marijuana prohibition and start regulating it similarly to alcohol,” CCRM Director Sam Tracy said in a statement to the media. “Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society. It should be produced and sold by tightly regulated, taxpaying businesses, not by criminals in the underground market.”

Nearly two-thirds of Connecticut voters (63%) support making possession of small amounts of marijuana legal for adults, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll conducted in March 2015.

If you live in Connecticut, contact your elected officials today and ask them to support the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adult use.

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Prohibition

South Dakota Lawmakers Considering Marijuana Bills

March 10th, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Last week, the South Dakota State Senate passed Senate Bill 95, which would remove cannabidiol, or CBD oil, from the definition of marijuana and make it a Schedule IV controlled substance under state law. However, the bill included a requirement that CBD oil be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which would indefinitely curtail access to CBD oil in South Dakota.

On March 2, the House Health and Human Services Committee approved SB 95 by a vote of 7-3 and added an amendment eliminating prior FDA approval with the goal of increasing access for patients. MPP is closely monitoring SB 95 for potential problems, since pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists are pushing the South Dakota Legislature to keep the FDA approval requirement in the bill.

Additionally, Senate Bill 129 was introduced with a total of 15 sponsors. This legislation would revise the penalty for ingestion of marijuana, which would undo South Dakota’s uniquely severe law of criminalizing internal possession. However, the sponsors have unambiguously stated this is not a first step toward legalizing marijuana. Nonetheless, if enacted, this bill demonstrates a step toward reasonable regulatory laws relating to possession.

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Prohibition

New Hampshire House Approves Decriminalization Measure

March 10th, 2017 1 Comment Matt Simon

The New Hampshire House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved HB 640 on Wednesday (318-36), bringing New Hampshire one step closer to becoming the final state in New England to decriminalize marijuana possession. The bill will now be considered by the Senate.

HB 640, sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) and a bipartisan group of 10 co-sponsors, would reduce the penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, which is currently punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000, to a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense within three years, and $350 for a third or subsequent offense within three years of two previous offenses.

HB 640 has faced much less opposition than similar bills that failed in recent years. Only one person testified against it at a public hearing on February 1, and the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which voted 7-6 last year to kill a similar measure (HB 1631), approved HB 640 14-2. Additionally, Gov. Chris Sununu has consistently said he supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, whereas previous governors have been opposed.

More than seven out of 10 Granite Staters (72%) would like to see the Legislature decriminalize or legalize marijuana, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in July 2016.

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Prohibition

Vermont House Vote Expected on Bill Legalizing Possession and Cultivation

March 10th, 2017 1 Comment Matt Simon

The Vermont House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on H. 170, a bill that would eliminate penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and a small number of plants. The bill is expected to pass the House Judiciary Committee next week, and then it will likely advance to the House floor, where the vote is expected to be close.

Please call or email your representatives today, and urge them to vote YES on H. 170.

As amended by the committee, H. 170 would eliminate penalties for adults 21 and older who possess one ounce or less of marijuana, two mature plants, and four immature plants — as well as the marijuana produced by those plants, if stored properly in accordance with the law. Possession of between one and two ounces would become a civil violation punishable by a fine.

This is a modest reform, but it would be an important step for the state to stop treating adults’ marijuana possession as a problem for the criminal justice system.

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Medical Marijuana

Georgia House Approves Medical Marijuana Improvement Bill

March 10th, 2017 2 Comments Chris Lindsey

Both the Georgia House and Senate this year presented bills that would make changes to the state’s low-THC medical marijuana law. The better of the two, House Bill 65, just passed the House by a huge margin of 156-6 in support. The bill is now on its way to the Senate.

House Bill 65 would increase the list of qualifying medical conditions, adding HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune disease, peripheral neuropathy, and others, and it would offer basic protections for those patients visiting from out-of-state. Unfortunately for many veterans and others, PTSD was removed from the list while in committee earlier this week.

The Senate’s bill, SB 16, has already passed the Senate. Unfortunately, while it would add autism as a qualifying medical condition, it would lower the total amount of THC allowable in medical marijuana products from 5% to 3%, harming the program for all who participate.

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Bills Progressing in Iowa

March 10th, 2017 2 Comments Maggie Ellinger-Locke

The Iowa Legislature is in full swing, and over a dozen bills have been filed that would improve the state’s marijuana policies. Sen. Brad Zaun’s (R) penalty reduction bill, SF 280, has already been reported favorably out of a Senate subcommittee. Under current Iowa law, possessing even the tiniest amount of marijuana can result in a serious misdemeanor conviction, a fine of up to $1,000, and six months of incarceration. SF 280 would reduce these penalties for up to five grams, resulting in a simple misdemeanor conviction, a fine of up to $625, and a 30-day sentence.

Meanwhile, the Legislature is also considering several medical-cannabis related measures. Iowa’s existing low-THC oil law allows patients with epilepsy to possess the oil but provides no means to actually purchase it; the law is set to expire on July 1, 2017. HSB 164 would eliminate this sunset provision, making the law permanent. Better yet, HSB 132 would set up a system to license cultivators and dispensaries to produce and distribute the oil, while SSB 1176 would establish a full workable medical marijuana program.

If you are an Iowa resident, please ask your lawmakers to support SF 280 and other bills to improve Hawkeye State policies.

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Medical Marijuana

Limited Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Indiana

March 10th, 2017 No Comments Maggie Ellinger-Locke

A pair of bills that would allow certain patients to use low-THC cannabis are winding their way through the Indiana Legislature. One of the bills is markedly stronger than the other.

SB 15 would allow patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to administer low-THC, CBD-rich medical cannabis with their doctor’s authorization. The bill would create a registry program and permit pharmacists to dispense the oil. It has passed the Senate and is now in the House Committee on Courts and the Criminal Code.

The other bill, HB 1148, provides an affirmative defense for patients, and their caregivers, who suffer from Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndromes for low-THC cannabis oil. This means a patient would still be subject to arrest for use of the oil, and would simply have a defense once in court. The House passed that bill unanimously last week and it is now pending in the Senate. While MPP is not opposed to HB 1148, SB 15 is clearly the better proposal since it protects more patients, provides stronger legal protections, and includes more patients with seizures.

While neither bill is the comprehensive reform Hoosiers deserve — and overwhelmingly support — it is clear that lawmakers are listening on this important issue. Please ask your representative to stand up for compassion.

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General

Virginia Lawmakers Send Reform Bills to Governor

March 3rd, 2017 6 Comments Maggie Ellinger-Locke

Last week, the Virginia General Assembly sent Gov. Terry McAuliffe a bill to stop suspending drivers’ licenses for first-offense possession of small amounts of marijuana! This bill reflects years of work by advocates and is a significant victory on the path towards reform in Virginia!

In addition, the Legislature approved a bill allowing in-state production of cannabis and distribution of low-THC/ high-CBD cannabis oil for patients suffering from intractable epilepsy. In order to take advantage of the program, patients must obtain a written certification from their neurologist or other epilepsy specialist. Another measure that would have included other medical conditions in the program was not passed by the Legislature.

Both bills — HB 2051 and SB 1027 — must be signed by Gov. McAuliffe by March 27, 2017, in order to go into effect. He is expected to meet this deadline.

While Virginia remains a long way off from joining the majority of states that have enacted more comprehensive reform — through decriminalization or the establishment of a medical marijuana program — these are two significant steps forward that advocates can celebrate.

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