New York Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) claims she has rallied enough votes to pass SB 4406, which legalizes medical marijuana. Thirty-nine senators, seven more than what is needed to pass the bill, have pledged their support.
However, gathering this support has come at a price. Three significant changes differentiate the current bill from the original.
First, physicians are limited to recommending medical marijuana for only 20 conditions. Secondly, the bill would create an advisory committee to recommend additions to the list of qualifying conditions. This board could also hear appeals for individual patients who fall outside of the list. Lastly, people under 21 would not be permitted to smoke marijuana as a treatment; they would be restricted to ingesting or vaporizing.
Other details of the bill include required medical marijuana cards for patients, a limit of up to 2.5 ounces per 30-day supply, and the dispensaries would have to pay taxes to the state.
According to the New York Daily News, it looks like the Senate’s Health Committee will take up the bill at noon on Tuesday.
Tragically, Lydia Schaeffer (aged 7) passed away on Mother’s Day from a rare genetic disorder called Kleefstra syndrome, which causes terrible seizures and other complications. Her plight inspired lawmakers in Wisconsin to legalize a marijuana extract to treat her condition, despite their opposition to a broader medical marijuana reform.
Sally Schaeffer, Lydia’s mother, lobbied the state legislature to legalize the cannabidiol (CBD) extract from the marijuana stain known as Charlotte’s Web for use on children with seizure disorders. Even though lawmakers moved to pass the limited CBD-only bill in record time, determining the implications of the law stalled it from going into effect. Additionally, CBD-only bills leave behind 98% of the patients who can benefit from medical marijuana, so Wisconsin still has a long way to go before patients have legal access to this much-needed medicine.
In Lydia's honor, Sally plans to continue spreading the word on CBD oil. She said she was contacted by Sen. Robert Wirch's office this week and told they would try to have the bill she championed called Lydia's Law. Wirch’s sympathy toward the Schaeffer family is welcomed, but his and other politicians’ compassion for the vast majority of other patients in need is currently lacking.
I am pleased to announce that today is the 17th anniversary of the founding of the Marijuana Policy Project!
Since our formation in 1995, MPP has worked tirelessly to reform marijuana policies around the country and put an end to the harms caused by marijuana prohibition. It’s been a difficult struggle that does not appear to be getting any easier, but despite powerful opposition, we’ve made great strides. Here are just 17 of the things we’ve helped accomplish in the last 17 years:
June 2011 — The first bill to end federal marijuana prohibition was introduced by Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Ron Paul, and a handful of other courageous Members of Congress. The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2012” (H.R. 2306) would treat marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol under federal law and would allow states to determine their own marijuana policies. MPP was instrumental in lobbying support for this bill, which now has 20 co-sponsors in Congress.
May 2011 — The Delaware Legislature passed and Gov. Markell signed SB 17, which will allow qualified, registered patients to obtain three ounces of marijuana every 14 days from state-regulated compassion centers. Initially, one center will be allowed in each of Delaware’s three counties. MPP led the two-year grassroots and lobbying efforts to pass the bill, which is based on MPP’s model bill.
May 2011 — The Vermont Legislature approved S. 17, which will add four non-profit dispensaries to the existing law. MPP played an instrumental role in passing this legislation, including by funding a two-year lobbying effort and helping elect a governor who supports sensible marijuana policies.
April and May 2011 — The Maryland General Assembly approved and Gov. O’Malley signed an affirmative defense bill, removing criminal penalties from qualifying patients who possess up to an ounce of marijuana and establishing a work group to study a more comprehensive law. The bill improves upon a sentencing mitigation bill the legislature enacted in 2003, following four years of lobbying by MPP. MPP also played a leading role in the 2011 victory, including in-person lobbying, working with patients, and testifying before legislative committees.
November 2010 — The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, a ballot initiative campaign backed by MPP, successfully passed a ballot initiative making the use and possession of medical marijuana legal and establishing approximately 120 non-profit dispensaries around the state. This made Arizona the 15th state (plus the District of Columbia) to adopt a medical marijuana law.
December 2009 — MPP successfully lobbied for the removal of the so-called "Barr Amendment" from the D.C. appropriations bill. MPP led the fight to end Congressional interference, which, for over 10 years, blocked the District of Columbia from implementing a medical marijuana initiative that passed with nearly 70% of the vote. MPP even retained the amendment's namesake, former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, to lobby for the amendment’s removal after he reversed his position in 2007. Following the removal of the amendment, MPP successfully lobbied the District Council to improve the language they were considering to implement the initiative and lobbied the executive branch for reasonable regulations. The regulations' went into effect on April 15, 2011.
November 2009 — The American Medical Association rescinded its previous support of classifying marijuana alongside LSD, PCP, and heroin under federal law. This was the result of nearly three years of behind-the-scenes work, whereby MPP worked with key advocates to persuade lower-level medical associations to bring the issue to the full AMA.
November 2008 — MPP's ballot initiative to remove the threat of arrest and jail for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana passed overwhelmingly in Massachusetts. The successful initiative — the first statewide decriminalization initiative ever — replaced the threat of arrest and jail with a $100 fine.
November 2008 — Michigan passed MPP's ballot initiative to permit terminally and seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with their doctors' approval, making Michigan the 13th medical marijuana state and the first in the Midwest.
January 2006 — The Rhode Island Legislature overwhelmingly overrode the governor's veto of MPP's bill to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest — making Rhode Island the 11th state where medical marijuana use, possession, and cultivation is legal. This was the first state medical marijuana law to be enacted over the veto of a governor.
November 2005 — The MPP grants program funded a successful initiative to make the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal under city ordinances in Denver, Colorado.
November 2004 — MPP funded and ran the campaign that succeeded in passing a statewide medical marijuana initiative in Montana with 62% of the vote — the highest margin of victory for any of the medical marijuana initiatives that had passed in eight states since 1996.
May 2004 — At the conclusion of MPP’s intensive, three-year lobbying campaign, Vermont became the ninth state to enact a medical marijuana law — and only the second state to do so through its legislature, rather than through a ballot initiative.
May 2003 — Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) became the first Republican governor to sign medical marijuana legislation. MPP lobbied the Maryland Legislature for four years to pass the bill, which protects medical marijuana patients from imprisonment.
June 2000 — Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano (D) signed MPP's medical marijuana legislation into law, making Hawaii the first state to pass a medical marijuana law through its legislature, rather than through a ballot initiative.
December 1997 — The American Medical Association's House of Delegates voted to adopt a report that (1) recognized the existence of scientific research showing marijuana's medical value, (2) recommended that doctors and patients should not be punished for discussing marijuana as a treatment option, and (3) urged the federal government to expedite medical marijuana research. MPP worked for months to persuade the AMA to adopt these improvements to a policy that had been fairly hostile to medical marijuana.
April 1995 — The U.S. Sentencing Commission voiced its unanimous approval of an amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines, which established shorter sentences for people convicted of cultivating marijuana. MPP was helpful in persuading the commission to vote 7-0 in favor of the penalty reduction, which took effect on November 1, 1995. A subsequent 7-0 vote on September 6 made the change retroactive, resulting in the early release of an estimated 950 federal marijuana prisoners.
For a more complete list of our history, please go here.
MPP is dedicated to continuing the fight to end marijuana prohibition, and we couldn’t do it without the support of our members and passionate activists.
Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin – who MPP helped elect – just signed a bill to make Vermont state law the eighth to explicitly authorize and regulate dispensaries where registered patients can purchase medical marijuana. Today’s signing marks the culmination of a two-year lobbying effort led by MPP and the third bill signing we’ve been a part of just this month. Many thanks to Governor Shumlin and the bill’s sponsors, Senators Jeanette White, Hinda Miller, and Dick Sears for their leadership, and the dedicated patient advocates throughout the state who made the case for adding dispensaries to Vermont’s medical marijuana law.
[caption id="attachment_4156" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="MPP’s lobbyists and several of the state’s most committed patient advocates watch as Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin signs S. 17"][/caption]
Today’s signing bucks a trend of sorts. Governors in Rhode Island, Arizona, and Washington have all put the brakes on bills or laws to allow dispensaries, after receiving threatening letters from U.S. Attorneys in their states. Shumlin and legislative leaders received a similar letter on May 4, the day before the House of Representative was slated to vote on the dispensary bill. We were able to address concerns in the House and the administration, and the next day the House passed the measure 99-44 – with a copy of the letter on the desk of each representative.
One reason we were able to convince elected officials to move forward is that, despite the letters, there has still never been a raid on any dispensaries in states that explicity recognize and regulate dispensaries and that are in compliance with those laws. On the other hand, it’s unfortunate, but not uncommon, to see raids of dispensaries in places with more ambiguous laws that don’t specifically address dispensaries. In other words, in practice, it seems U.S. Attorneys are abiding by a narrow interpretation of the policy announced in the 2009 “Ogden memo,” in which these attorneys were instructed not to take action against anyone in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state law.
Ironically, that means the best way to avoid any federal enforcement action is to do exactly the opposite of what Washington, Arizona, and Rhode Island’s governors are doing, and instead embrace state laws that explicitly authorize and regulate dispensaries, like Gov. Shumlin and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell. Let’s hope today’s signing marks the end of this troubling trend.
Last week, the Montana House passed H.B. 161, a bill that would repeal the medical marijuana initiative passed by voters in 2004, in a preliminary vote that fell along party lines. This week, in preparation for the final House vote, the prohibitionists have switched their arguments from baseless fear mongering to "fiscal responsibility."
Yesterday, the main supporter of the bill argued that repeal of the medical marijuana law would cost the state money at first, but that it would save money in the long run. From the Billings Gazette:
House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, told the House Appropriations Committee that a cost estimate from the governor's budget office shows if his bill repealing the law passes, it would cost the state nearly $263,000 in fiscal 2012 but save the state about $317,000 in 2013, $479,000 in 2014 and $496,500 in 2015 …
… As estimated by the budget office, the additional costs the first year are because of the cost of estimated increases in incarcerations of people using what would then be an illegal drug. The net savings in the three future years would be from reducing state employees and the cost of running the registration for medical pot.
If Milburn's stated intention of targeting and prosecuting 20,000 Montana citizens, who are not currently criminals but who will be if H.B. 161 passes, isn't sickening enough, his economic narrow-mindedness and disrespect for the voters of Montana certainly is.
The estimate of money saved in the future by the state government is based on eliminating bureaucratic costs for running the medical marijuana program. Unfortunately, this doesn’t take into account the roughly 1400 jobs that will be lost if medical marijuana is repealed. It doesn’t consider the continued cost of prosecuting medical marijuana patients. And it doesn’t mention the revenue created by the medical marijuana industry that goes right back into the local economy. Apparently Milburn is more concerned with the amount of money in the government coffers than with the livelihood of the average Montana resident.
So let’s get this straight: Mike Milburn is willing to use his political buddies in the state legislature to overrule the will of the people of Montana, who overwhelmingly approved the use of medical marijuana by 62% of the vote. He is willing to spend taxpayer money to hunt down sick people and put them in jail. He is willing to put 1400 Montanans out of work, and take millions of dollars out of the local economy.
He is willing to do all this because he thinks too many people are using marijuana.
Are you willing to let him succeed?
If not, you can help here.
While states across the country are discussing positive reform of marijuana laws, there have recently been some bizarre exceptions, as other states have renewed attacks against one of the most recognizable icons of marijuana use: the water bong.
Yesterday, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill that would close a loophole in state law that makes it possible to prosecute people for the contents of their bong water. Under the bill, which passed the Minnesota legislature in a nearly unanimous vote, prosecutors would no longer be able to use bong water to calculate the weight of controlled substances in drug cases.
We've previously discussed the court ruling that allowed Minnesota residents to be charged with drug possession for the drug residue dissolved in the water used to filter the smoke from pipes or bongs. While the case in question involved methamphetamine residue, policy analysts worried that the same ruling could easily be applied to marijuana residue.
Last year, Pawlenty - a Republican who is widely expected to run for president in 2012 - vetoed a medical marijuana bill that would have permitted seriously ill patients to use marijuana without fear of arrest.
Meanwhile, a bill in Florida was recently passed that basically outlaws the sale of water pipes in commercial establishments. Some stores would be exempt from this, but most "head-shops" will likely be forced out of business.
It seems a sure sign that prohibitionists are grasping at straws when these types of policies are invoked. In an act of desperation, drug warriors are ramping up the attack on a symbolic tool used by marijuana users, and the people that do business with them. Does anyone think this will stop anyone from using marijuana? Or will it simply tie up more money in prosecuting and punishing otherwise law-abiding citizens?