2018 was a frustrating year for marijuana policy in the West Virginia Legislature, with the Senate’s excellent version of a medical marijuana improvement bill never getting a House vote, and other reforms stalling. Fortunately, it is now election season, and candidates all over the state have been talking to voters about marijuana policy. The primary election will take place on Tuesday, May 8.
Before you go to the polls tomorrow, please take time to review MPP’s voter guide for the West Virginia primary election. After sending surveys to all candidates for state House of Delegates and state Senate and compiling their responses, we now have quite a bit of information available on candidates. The voter guide also includes votes cast by incumbent legislators and any available public statements.
Monday is a crucial deadline for marijuana policy reform bills in Maryland. HB 1264, which would let Marylanders vote on regulating marijuana for adults, needs to move out of the House Judiciary Committee by then to stay alive this year. HB 602, a bill that would protect the rights of Maryland’s medical cannabis patients, must be voted on by the Senate in order to “cross over” to the House of Delegates and move forward during this session.
If approved by 60% of both chambers of the Maryland Legislature, HB 1264 would place a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot that would make possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis legal for adults 21 years of age and older and require the state to establish regulations and taxation for a legal cannabis market, as well as to ensure diversity in the cannabis industry.
HB 602 would ensure that patients don't lose their Second Amendment rights under state law simply because medical cannabis helps them with their serious illness. Regardless of what you think about Maryland’s gun laws, no patient should have to lose any of their legal rights because of their status as a patient. This is of particular concern to veterans, who may be dissuaded from trying medical cannabis — a much safer alternative to the opioids they are frequently prescribed for pain or PTSD — because they don’t want to lose these rights.
Back in 2014, Maryland lawmakers decriminalized the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana. Unfortunately, in some jurisdictions, people in possession of less than that amount are still being criminalized. Increasingly, some prosecutors are charging individuals with “possession with intent to distribute” — a felony — based on very limited evidence, like having their marijuana in more than one baggie (which could easily be because they purchased it that way or had a few different strains, rather than because they were selling it).
In order to address this overcharging, Sen. Bobby Zirkin, Chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, introduced SB 128, which MPP supported. The bill just passed the Senate 45-1. The bill now goes to the House of Delegates.
SB 128 would simply create a legal presumption that people who have less than 10 grams should not be charged with possession with intent to distribute. Prosecutors could still make the case if there’s evidence of an intent to sell.
Even being arrested for a felony can have serious collateral consequences. For example, some jobs will suspend or fire employees immediately due to a felony arrest. Lawmakers intended to reduce the number of people caught up in the criminal justice system for having small amounts of marijuana — ask them to help fulfill that goal by passing this bill.
Today, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill making limited improvements to the medical cannabis program. HB 4345 would increase the number of licenses available for growers and dispensaries, and it would allow patients to pre-register for the program. Unfortunately, the bill would also add onerous restrictions on physicians that would discourage them from certifying patients. You can read a summary of the bill here.
If you are a resident of West Virginia, please call your state senators today and urge them to amend and pass HB 4345.
On February 5, the Virginia Senate unanimously passed legislation that will permit doctors to recommend CBD or THC-A oil to their patients for any diagnosed condition or disease. The companion bill passed the House of Delegates unanimously on Friday, and the bill will now go to Gov. Ralph Northam, who is expected to sign it.
This bill expands Virginia’s CBD oil law, which previously limited the use of CBD oil to cases of “intractable epilepsy” only. This bill represents a major expansion of that program, allowing doctors to determine whether CBD or THC-A oil is right for any given patient. This law will provide relief to thousands of patients in the commonwealth and could help curb the ongoing opioid crisis in Virginia. We applaud all of the activists and patients who worked diligently to see this moment.
The Virginia General Assembly convened last week, and marijuana law reform is on the docket! After a disappointing conclusion to last year’s session, the General Assembly appears ready to tackle decriminalization of marijuana.
Late last year, the Virginia State Crime Commission looked at the benefits of marijuana decriminalization in Virginia, and the majority leader of the Senate, Sen. Tommy Norment (R), expressed his intent to introduce a bill to decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. Sen. Norment’s bill has not yet been introduced, but he has indicated it will make the first offense a misdemeanor rather than making it a civil offense; we don’t expect the penalty for subsequent offenses to be reduced.
Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), on the other hand, has introduced SB 111, which would reduce the penalty for simple possession to a civil penalty: $50 for the first violation, $100 for the second violation, and $250 for the third and subsequent violations. This bill is a huge step forward for Virginia, and Sen. Norment should stick to his promise of real decriminalization and support SB 111.
Considering Gov. Ralph Northam’s pro-decriminalization position during his campaign and the new makeup of the House of Delegates, 2018 could be the year the commonwealth stops arresting Virginians for simple possession.
If you are a Virginia resident, please contact your Senators today and tell them to support decriminalizing marijuana.
On Tuesday, Virginians across the state will head to the polls to cast their primary ballot for candidates for House delegates and governor. MPP looked at where gubernatorial candidates stand on three critical marijuana policy questions and assigned each candidate a letter grade. You can check out our voter guide here.
After tomorrow’s primary, November’s ballot will be finalized where — in addition to the governor’s race — all of Virginia’s 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for election. If you are a Virginia resident, please consider asking the candidates from your district where they stand on these issues and then let us know if you get any responses. We will be putting together a general election voter guide later this year.
If you do not know where your polling place is located, you can find out here.
Virginia’s gubernatorial primary is less than one month away, and MPP has put together a guide on where the candidates stand on marijuana policy issues. Please check out our voter guide so you can be informed on this critical topic before heading to the polls.
We put together a candidate survey and asked each campaign for governor to give us their thoughts on three issues:
1) marijuana decriminalization;
2) medical marijuana; and
3) taxing and regulating cannabis for adults age 21 and over.
Based on their responses to our survey, along with any public statements they have made, we assigned each candidate a letter grade, which you can check out here.
In addition to the governor’s race, each of Virginia’s 100 seats in the House of Delegates will be on the ballot this year. Please consider asking the candidates from your district where they stand on these issues before casting your vote. Let us know if you get any responses.
A bill that would allow patients with certain debilitating conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it was approved by the West Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday. SB 386 passed 76-24 on third reading after being revised on second reading.
SB 386 was originally introduced by Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) in the Senate, where it was approved 28-6 last week. The House version of the bill, which is titled the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, would charge the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries, while the Senate version would set up a 16-member independent commission. Under the amended House bill, patients with specifically listed qualifying medical conditions could use extracts, tinctures, and other preparations of marijuana, but not marijuana in flower or leaf form. This differs from the Senate version of the bill and most of the other state medical marijuana programs.
MPP issued the following statement in a press release:
“The Legislature has answered the prayers of many seriously ill West Virginians and their families,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “This could be life-saving legislation for some patients. We commend House members for working diligently to make sure it passes this year, but we urge the Legislature to continue efforts to make sure the program truly works for the seriously ill and to ensure it does not unnecessarily drive up costs.”
After being approved by the General Assembly on Saturday, a bill that would replace current penalties for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana with a fine passed the Maryland Senate. The bill will now go to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who has indicated he will sign the bill into law. This would make Maryland the 18th state to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana.
Watch MPP's Rachelle Yeung talk about this major victory: