Vermont Senate Passes Another Marijuana Bill


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On Friday, for the second time this year, the Vermont Senate voted to legalize marijuana for adults’ use! The Senate voted 20-9 to attach the legalization language from H. 170 to an unrelated bill, S. 22, and added a study commission to consider regulation and taxation. It will now be up to the House whether or not to concur with the Senate’s offer of amendment.

This move represents an attempt by the Senate to compromise with the House, which voted for the first time in its history to legalize marijuana earlier this week. H. 170, which would eliminate penalties for adults’ possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, two or fewer mature plants, and four or fewer immature plants, passed the House in a 75-71 vote. The Senate prefers a regulated market approach, but today’s vote shows that senators are willing to accept H. 170 as long as it includes a pathway to sensible regulation.

Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Projectreleased the following statement in a press release:

“You have to give the Senate credit for standing up for Vermont voters, who strongly support making marijuana legal for adults. We hope the House will do the same and concur with S. 22 as amended by the Senate. This is not just a reasonable compromise, but an important step forward for supporters of both home cultivation and regulation. The bill would eliminate penalties for adult possession and cultivation, as the House sought to do with H. 170, and create a commission to explore regulating and taxing marijuana, which the Senate clearly supports. This bill proposes a very thoughtful and deliberate approach to replacing prohibition with a more sensible marijuana policy.”

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Vermont House Approves Bill to Legalize Possession, Home Cultivation


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Late Tuesday, the Vermont House of Representatives made history by voting to legalize marijuana. H. 170, which would eliminate penalties for adults’ possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and limited home cultivation passed the House in a 74-68 vote. If the bipartisan measure is approved at a third reading, which is expected this week, it will advance to the Senate.

H. 170, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), Vice Chair Charles Conquest (D-Wells River), and ranking Republican Rep. Tom Burditt (R-West Rutland), would eliminate Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana, and it would eliminate penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants. Penalties for possession of more than one ounce of marijuana would also be reduced.

The Senate has already agreed with the House that personal possession and cultivation should be legal for adults. On April 21, the Senate voted 21-9 to amend a House-passed bill (H. 167) to include language of a comprehensive legalization and regulation bill. That bill, which passed the Senate, mirrors the personal possession and cultivation provisions of H.170. The original House version would not take effect until January 2019, whereas the Senate-amended bill would take effect on July 1, 2017.

MPP released the following statement in a press release:

“We applaud the House for approving this commonsense legislation and hope their colleagues in the Senate will agree that it’s time to move forward with this important reform,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Most Vermonters support this bill, in part because they know that marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and it’s time to start treating it that way.”

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New Hampshire One Step Closer to Decriminalizing Possession


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For the first time in its history, the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to approve a marijuana decriminalization bill. HB 640 was amended and passed by the committee in a 3-2 vote today. A vote by the full Senate is expected on Thursday, May 11. For a summary of the bill, as amended, click here.

The House overwhelmingly approved HB 640 in February in a 318-36 vote, and it has approved similar bills eight times since 2008. The Senate Judiciary Committee vote marks the first time such a bill has been approved by a Senate committee. Gov. Chris Sununu has consistently said he supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and is expected to sign the bill if it is approved by the full Senate.

MPP released the following statement from New England Policy Director Matt Simon in a press release:

“This is a big step toward a more sensible marijuana policy in New Hampshire,” said Matt Simon, the Manchester-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It will allow police and the courts to spend their time addressing serious crimes instead of wasting it on pointless arrests and criminal prosecutions for marijuana possession.”

“The current penalties for marijuana possession in New Hampshire are causing more harm to consumers and the community than marijuana itself,” Simon said. “Every other state in New England has already stopped criminalizing people for simple marijuana possession. Granite Staters are ready to do the same.”  

HB 640, which was originally introduced in the House by Rep. Renny Cushing and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, would remove the threat of arrest and jail time for simple marijuana possession. As amended by the Senate, the penalty for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana would be reduced 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 $100 fine for a first or second offense and a $300 fine for a third offense within three years of the first offense. A fourth offense within three years of the first offense could be charged as a class B misdemeanor without arrest or the possibility of jail time.

In other great news, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously to approve HB 160, which would make post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) a qualifying condition for the medical cannabis program and make other positive changes to the law.

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West Virginia Becomes the 29th Medical Marijuana State


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Today, West Virginia officially became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation!

Gov. Jim Justice signed the law today after the bipartisan bill passed both the Senate and House earlier this month.

While the law isn’t perfect, it’s a great start toward providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients. A summary is available here.

This achievement didn’t happen overnight. In fact, MPP, along with many other advocates, has been working tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed for years.

MPP released the following in a press release:

“This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. It is a proven pain reliever, and it is far less toxic and less addictive than a lot of prescription drugs. Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state.”

Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months. Three of those laws, including West Virginia’s, passed through Republican-controlled legislatures. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio approved them last April and June, respectively. The other three were approved by voters in November in states won by Donald Trump — Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.

“Intensifying public support and a growing body of evidence are driving the rapid growth in the number of states adopting medical marijuana laws,” Simon said. “Lawmakers are also learning about marijuana’s medical benefits from friends, family members, and constituents who have experienced them firsthand in other states. More than nine out of 10 American voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. In light of this near universal support, it is shocking that some legislatures still have not adopted effective medical marijuana laws.”

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WV Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Bill


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West Virginia is on the verge of becoming the next state with an effective medical marijuana law!

The bill received final approval in the West Virginia Legislature on Thursday and is headed to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice. He has publicly expressed support for legal access to medical marijuana and is expected to sign the bill into law, making West Virginia the 29th state to adopt an effective medical marijuana law.

SB 386, titled the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, charges the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries. Patients with specifically listed qualifying medical conditions will be allowed to use extracts, tinctures, and other preparations of marijuana, but not marijuana in flower or leaf form. This differs from the original version of the bill and the medical marijuana programs in most other states. A summary of SB 386 is available at http://bit.ly/2nbUAq3.

MPP issued the following statement in a press release:

“Some of the House amendments to the bill are concerning, but it still has the potential to provide relief to thousands of seriously ill WestVirginians,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “We commend the Legislature for passing this compassionate and much-needed legislation, and we encourage Gov. Justice to sign it into law.

“This will be an important and, in some cases, life-saving program,” Simon said. “It is critical that the state implement it promptly. We are committed to working with officials to make sure the program is as effective as possible and to get it up and running in a timely fashion. Many patients cannot afford to wait much longer.

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West Virginia House of Delegates Approves Medical Marijuana Bill With Amendments


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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.”

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West Virginia Senate Approves Medical Marijuana


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The West Virginia Senate has voted to approve a medical marijuana bill Wednesday. SB 386, sponsored by Sen. Richard Ojeda, passed the Senate in a 28-6 vote! The bill will now move to the House.

In the past, House Speaker Tim Armstead has not been willing to allow medical marijuana bills to be considered. However, if enough delegates are willing to stand up and support this critical reform, it will be possible to overcome the speaker’s opposition.

“We applaud the Senate for standing up for seriously ill West Virginians and giving them hope with this much-needed legislation,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “For many patients, medical marijuana is a far safer alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs. Any delegates who are serious about addressing the opiate crisis in West Virginia need to consider the substantial benefits this law could have on that front.  We hope Speaker Armstead will review the facts and give this bill a fair shake in the House.”

If you are a West Virginia resident, please call your delegates’ offices right now, and urge them to support allowing medical marijuana in West Virginia.

It’s also imperative that you call House Speaker Tim Armstead’s office at (304) 340-3210, and urge House leaders to stop stonewalling on this important issue.

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Key Committee Approves Marijuana Possession Bill in Vermont


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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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University of Vermont to Host Public Forum on Marijuana Policy


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Legislative leaders in Montpelier are describing last week’s victory in Massachusetts as a “game changer” for Vermont. This week, Sen. Dick Sears, chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, told a VPR reporter, “For me, that’s a game-changer, that Massachusetts has voted to legalize. Rep. Maxine Grad, chair of the equally powerful House Judiciary Committee, agreed and said she thought the House would be much more amenable to ending marijuana prohibition now that legalization is definitely coming to a neighboring state.university_of_vermont
It is critical that we continue building momentum for legalization and regulation. We had a very successful event this week, and we’re looking forward to another great event called “Cannabis on Campus” on Thursday, Dec. 1, at the University of Vermont. Here are the details:
WHAT: Cannabis on Campus: The Implications of Reform in Vermont and Beyond
(This event is free and open to the public.)
WHO: Hosted by the Community Development and Applied Economics Department at UVM in partnership with Heady Vermont. Program includes presentations on medical cannabis and hemp, and a debate between MPP’s Matt Simon and SAM-VT’s Margo Austin about legalization and regulation for adult use.
WHEN: Thursday, December 1
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
WHERE: Dudley H. Davis Student Center
University of Vermont
590 Main St.
Burlington, VT 05405
Please forward this message to your friends and family. If you use Facebook, please RSVP and share the event page.
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Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Launches TV Ad Campaign


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The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana released a new television ad this week, produced by the Marijuana Policy Project, featuring Vermont’s former top law enforcement official. The ad began airing statewide on Tuesday and will appear on WCAX, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC through Sunday.

VT commercial screenshot

In the ad, titled “Time to End Prohibition (Again),” former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney points out that “marijuana prohibition has caused a lot of the same problems” as Alcohol Prohibition. The ad ends with Cheney urging viewers to contact their state senators and tell them, “It’s time to end prohibition and start regulating marijuana in Vermont.”

In a news release, MPP’s Montpelier-based New England political director, Matt Simon, said:

“Mr. Cheney decided to appear in this ad for the same reason he served as the state’s top law enforcement official. He cares strongly about the safety and wellbeing of Vermont citizens. 

“There are a lot of current and former law enforcement officials out there who support ending prohibition and regulating marijuana. It’s important that citizens and lawmakers hear from them.”

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