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CA Lt. Gov. Newsom Calls for Legalizing Marijuana

At the California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento Saturday, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom called for marijuana legalization and described the war on drugs as "an abject failure." (Watch the speech here.)

Gavin Newsom
The famously well-coiffed former San Francisco mayor is one of the key contenders for the Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination in 2014 -- if Gov. Jerry Brown (D) decides not to run again. The other leading contender is state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who did not broach the topic in her convention address.

"It's time to decriminalize, tax, and regulate marijuana," Newsom said to raucous cheers and applause. "In 2011 alone in this country, three quarters of a million people in the United States were arrested for marijuana law violations, 87% of them for simple possession. And listen to me closely on this -- African-American children are ten times more likely to get arrested for drug crimes than their white counterparts even though white children are more likely to abuse drugs."

"You can't make this up," Newsom said. "We send a higher percentage of African American males to prison and jail in this country than we send to colleges and universities in California. After 42 years of failure, I think it's time we concede that if we continue to do what we've done, we'll continue to get what we've got. I think you and we deserve better. It's about standing up on principle, having the courage of our convictions, about saying publicly all too often what we say privately."

The lieutenant governor's speech wasn't all high seriousness. Jokingly referring to his role as acting governor while Brown is on an overseas trip, he said, "I'm thrilled to be here… on the sixth day of the Newsom administration," he said. "This is the right time and the appropriate time to reflect on our cornucopia of landmark accomplishments over these magical six days." Among those was the creation of hundreds of new jobs, "notably in the now-booming hair gel industry," he said, patting his hair.

"All of these wonderful achievements will one day be studied by scholars at the Newsom Acting Governor Library, currently being constructed in the back of a medical marijuana dispensary in the Haight-Ashbury," he said to laughter and applause. "I'm looking forward to it as well," Newsom said, smiling.

Sacramento, CA
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

Rhode Island is set to see its first dispensary open next, Mendocino County faces down the feds, and more news from around the country. Let's get to it:

California

On Tuesday, the city of Concord banned outdoor grows. The "outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana" is banned by ordinance in order to properly "maintain and protect the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Concord." The ban came despite appeals from a number of residents to delay or defeat the ordinance. The vote was unanimous.

Also on Tuesday, Mendocino County officials announced they had reached agreement with federal prosecutors on limiting the feds' fishing expedition into the county's legal medical marijuana growers' program. No personal identifying information from the county's program will be released to US Attorney Melinda Haag. In October, Haag had demanded just about anything to do with the program -- names and locations of pot gardeners, county bank records, "any and all" legal correspondence, etc. The county fought back, hiring a San Francisco attorney to fight the federal subpoena. Now, the feds have backed down.

Also on Tuesday, Humboldt County supervisors okayed a Myrtletown dispensary. The Humboldt Collective had operated there, but had its permit revoked after a former director was arrested last year in Pennsylvania on marijuana trafficking charges. The new directors have made minor changes sought by the county, and now they have received permission to remain in business.

Florida

On Wednesday, activists were meeting with a key state senator in a bid to keep a medical marijuana bill alive. Senator Aaron Bean, chair of the Senate Health Policy Committee, has the bill, Senate Bill 1250, locked up in committee. No word yet on whether he has been moved to allow the bill to progress. The bill is also known as the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, after a medical marijuana patient who was arrested along with her husband for growing her medicine. Charges against the couple were dropped last week.

Maine

On Friday and Saturday, dispensary workers rallied to protest working conditions. The workers' target was Wellness Connection of Maine, which operates four dispensaries in the state. Workers said it was ignoring their concerns about working conditions and refusing to recognize their union. Demonstrations took place in Hallowell Friday and Portland Saturday. Wellness Connection said it was committed to caring for its workers and doesn't object if they want to join a union.

Massachusetts

On Wednesday, state regulators were debating proposed state medical marijuana rules. One proposed rule would require dispensaries to test their products for contaminants. Americans for Safe Access is calling for state-licensed, independent labs that would not be at risk of federal sanctions because they would not test narcotics and other federally regulated drugs. The proposed rules also include state inspections of dispensaries "at any time without prior notice."

Michigan

Last Wednesday, the state Supreme Court said it would review the legality of a city ban on medical marijuana-related activities. The city of Wyoming had passed a zoning ordinance barring the use, manufacture, or cultivation of medical marijuana, and the court said it wants to review whether the ordinance is superseded by the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law. Significantly, the court also plans to consider if the state law is preempted by a federal law that makes marijuana use illegal.

Montana

Last Friday, a drugged driving bill that could affect patients was signed into law. The bill creates a 5 nanogram per milliliter per se drugged driving level for THC. In addition to the penalties for drugged driving, if convicted under the law, patients would face revocation of their state registry identification card.

New Jersey

On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie proposed $1.6 million for the state's medical marijuana program in his state budget. That's more than twice the current spending level. The budget assumes that more dispensaries will open next year. So far, only one out of the six authorized by the state is actually in operation. But patient advocates said a greater budget wouldn't help patients until onerous regulations imposed by the Christie administration are revised.

Oregon

On Tuesday, a bill allowing medical marijuana for PTSD passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 281 now moves to the Senate floor. Currently, medical marijuana is currently allowed for patients with certain debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, HIV and AIDS. The bill would add PTSD to the list.

Rhode Island

Last Thursday, what will be the state's first dispensary got its license. The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center is now set to open April 19.

Medical Marijuana Update

Medical marijuana bills were laid to rest in two states this week, changes in the medical marijuana law went into effect in another, and Massachusetts now appears set to open dispensaries by year's end. There's more news, too. Let's get to it:

California

Last Friday, a retired San Diego couple were bound over for trial on marijuana charges even though the presiding judge said he believed they were not selling the medical marijuana they grew. Deborah and Dennis Little were raided by DEA agents after a San Diego Sheriff's Department helicopter spotted their garden. Although the Littles are qualified patients, medical marijuana foe San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis filed criminal charges against them anyway. In binding the Littles over for trial, the judge noted that their medical marijuana recommendations were one month out of date.

Florida

On Monday, supporters conceded that medical marijuana legislation was dead for this year. The legislation has been bottled up by hostile or indifferent legislative leaders. "Shame on us as a legislature for not taking the opportunity to hear this bill this year," House bill sponsor Rep. Katie Edwards (D-Plantation) said at a press conference on Monday.

Maryland

On Monday, the House of Delegates approved a bill extending protections to caretakers. The measure had already passed the state Senate, so it now goes to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who has not said whether he will sign it. Under a 2011 law, patients are allowed to use medical necessity as an affirmative defense if caught with marijuana. This bill would expand that same protection to their caregivers.

Massachusetts

Last Friday, the Department of Public Health filed draft regulations for medical marijuana. Under the proposed rules, dispensaries (or "Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers") could open in the Bay State by the end of this year. Dispensaries would have to grow their own product and would not be able to sell wholesale to other dispensaries. The regulations aim to minimize home grows by various means, including discounted prices for low-income patients, allowing secure home delivery, and encouraging caregivers to pick up product instead of grow it. The regs would also define a 60-day supply of medical marijuana as 10 ounces.

Michigan

On Monday, changes to the medical marijuana laws passed last year went into effect. The law now defines and requires a "bona fide physician-patient relationship" -- which includes an in-person evaluation -- between a patient and recommending physician. Also, newly issued registry ID cards will be valid for two years instead of only one. A requirement that patients transporting marijuana by vehicle keep it in a case in the trunk took effect in January.

West Virginia

On Monday, a medical marijuana bill died after it failed to get a vote in the House. This marks the third consecutive year that bills filed by Del. Mike Manypenny (D) have been snuffed out in the House. At least this year, Manypenny managed to find some cosponsors, including Republicans. Maybe next year.

Marijuana Possession Now Decriminalized in Rhode Island

Rhode Island became the 14th state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana Monday as a law passed last year went into effect. As of now, it is no longer a criminal offense to possess up to an ounce of pot.

People caught with small amounts now face only a civil citation similar to a traffic ticket and a fine of up to $150. But get caught three times within 18 months and you will be facing a misdemeanor.

People under the age of 18 who are caught will have their parents notified. They could also be required to attend alcohol and drug education courses and perform community service.

Decriminalization legislation was introduced by state Rep. John Edwards in January 2011. It was approved by the legislature the following year and signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee last June. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) helped shepherd the bill through the legislative process.

"We applaud the legislature and Governor Chafee for answering Rhode Islanders' calls for a more sensible marijuana policy," said Robert Capecchi, MPP deputy director of state polices. "Nobody should be subject to life-altering criminal penalties simply for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol."

Providence, RI
United States

Kentucky Legislature Passes Industrial Hemp Bill

The Kentucky legislature approved an industrial hemp bill Wednesday in the final hour of the session, but only after last-minute negotiations brought it back from the dead. Whether Gov. Steve Beshear (D) will sign it remains to be seen.

hemp field at sunrise (votehemp.org)
]The bill, Senate Bill 50, would allow for industrial hemp production in Kentucky, if the federal government allows it, which it currently doesn't. It keeps the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, which was created by earlier legislation, in the state Department of Agriculture and gives the University of Kentucky authority over hemp research.

Fighting over whether to shift the commission as well to the University of Kentucky nearly derailed the bill. The bill's lead sponsor, Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) and its chief advocate, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, had to fend off efforts by House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook) to shift the commission to the university.

Once agreement had been reached, the bill passed the House on an 88-4 vote, and the Senate then approved the compromise language on a 35-1 vote.

The bill now goes to Gov. Beshear, who has said he shares concerns aired by the Kentucky State Police, who opposed it on the grounds that it could make enforcing the marijuana laws more difficult. Beshear has not said whether he will veto the bill or sign it into law.

The bill was also supported by the Bluegrass State's two Republican US senators, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell. McConnell is also an original sponsor of this year's federal hemp bill, Senate Bill 359.

According to the industry group Vote Hemp, eight states have already passed laws removing barriers to hemp production, while others have passed bills establishing commissions or research activities or passed resolutions endorsing industrial hemp. Fifteen states have seen hemp bills introduced this year.

Frankfort, KY
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

There is plenty of action in state legislatures, the battle over rescheduling continues, a Maine dispensary gets called out for using pesticides, and much more. Let's get to it:

National

Last Friday, Americans for Safe Access petitioned the DC Circuit Court for a rehearing before a full panel in its fight to force the federal government to reschedule marijuana. The move comes after a three-judge panel in January granted plaintiffs standing, but denied the appeal on its merits. In so doing, it set a near impossible standard for forcing rescheduling.

California

Last Thursday, prosecutors in Vallejo dropped charges against dispensary operator Matt Shotwell. The move marked an ignominious end to a series of a dozen dispensary raids conducted by Vallejo Police in early 2012. At least six dispensaries were raided, some repeatedly, but now cases against all six have now been dropped. The police raids came after the city council voted to impose taxes on dispensaries.

On Tuesday, the Concord city council approved an outdoor cultivation ban. The ban came despite only 14 complaint calls in the city of 120,000 residents. Council members cited concerns about public safety and "odiferous blight." Officials did say enforcement of the ban would be "complaint driven."

Colorado

On Tuesday, an audit found problems in the state's medical marijuana enforcement division. A report from the state auditor found that a lack of funding for the program led to a lack of consistent enforcement and a nearly two-year delay in reviewing license applications. Problems mentioned included a failure to quickly review applications, a failure to follow state law, and removing marijuana from dispensaries under disciplinary review and a failure to make sure seized marijuana is destroyed properly. The report also criticized the Department of Revenue for spending too much on capital projects and then laying off staff members, leading to long delays and mistakes in reviewing applications.

Florida

On Wednesday, activists were meeting with House Speaker Will Weatherford in an effort to get a pending medical marijuana bill moving. Weatherford has been blocking the bill, House Bill 1139, from getting a hearing or moving forward. No word at press time on the meeting results.

Illinois

Last Friday, the sponsor of a medical marijuana bill said it was just "one or two" votes shy of passing in the House. Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) is the author of the medical marijuana bill, House Bill 1.

Maine

On Monday, state regulators said a dispensary was violating state rules by using pesticides on plants it was growing. Wellness Connection of Maine was ratted out by one of its own employees at its Auburn grow site, and investigators subsequently found pesticides present, as well as 20 other violations of the rules for growing marijuana. Wellness Connection said it would stop using pesticides and make other changes, too. State regulators will allow the dispensary to sell the pesticide-treated plants, but it must inform patients that chemicals were used in their growth. Wellness Connection, which runs half of the state's medical marijuana clinics, must now contact all prior and current patients to tell them pesticides were used in the products they purchased or are purchasing, and that they have stopped using the chemicals designed to keep bugs away.

Maryland

On Monday, a medical marijuana bill passed in the House. The bill, House Bill 1101, would set up a medical marijuana commission to which the academic medical centers could apply for permission to administer marijuana to patients within a research-focused program. Marijuana would be grown either by state-licensed growers or by the federal government.The bill now goes to the Senate.

Michigan

Last Friday, the Ypsilanti planning commission approved a new cultivation facility. It will be the second to operate in the city. The grow op won unanimous approval from the commission, on the condition that it construct a sidewalk and close a curb cut. Another facility has already been approved by the commission, but is awaiting site plan approval.

Nevada

Last Monday, Sen. Richard Segerbloom introduced a bill that would allow dispensaries to operate in the state. The bill, Senate Bill 374, would regulate dispensaries. Under the state's current medical marijuana law, there is no provision for dispensaries.

New York

On Tuesday, matching medical marijuana bills were introduced in the Assembly and Senate. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried filed Assembly Bill 6357 and Senator Diane Savino filed companion legislation, Senate Bill 4406. The bills would create a tightly regulated system of medical marijuana supply, complete with patient registries, but would not allow patients or designated caregivers to grow their own medicine. Patients would be limited to possessing no more than 2.5 ounces.

West Virginia

Last Thursday, Del. Mike Manypenny introduced a medical marijuana bill. In previous years, he has gone it alone, but this time around he has nine cosponsors. The bill is House Bill 2961.

As NYC Pot Busts Continue, New York Punts on Marijuana Reform

People -- almost all of them young people of color -- are being arrested at the rate of a thousand a week in New York City for marijuana possession "in public view," but although a legislative fix was in sight this week, the state's political establishment couldn't come to an agreement on it. Instead, the legislature is going on vacation.

The New York City "in public view" arrests violate the spirit of the Empire State's 1977 marijuana decriminalization law, which made possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense, not a criminal one. They typically occur when the NYPD stops and frisks someone, then either reaches into his pockets or belongings or intimidates the detainee into pulling out his biggie himself and then charges him with the criminal misdemeanor of possession "in public view."

Through-out the legislative session, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Senate and Assembly leaders talked about fixing the situation as part of the budget process. During his State of the State address, Cuomo had called for decriminalizing the possession of up to 15 grams "in public view," but with smoking in public remaining a misdemeanor. But on Thursday, Cuomo and the legislative leadership announced they had reached a final deal on the budget, one that didn't include marijuana law reform.

That doesn't mean decriminalization reform is dead this year -- the session will resume after a three-week hiatus -- but it is certainly delayed and possibly derailed without having the impetus of the budget agreement behind it. In either case, legislators and community activists blasted the leadership for punting on the issue while the arrests (and the costs) mount by the day.

"I am gravely disappointed that this budget failed to enact justice for the more than 44,000 individuals arrested last year based on a flawed law. Not only does allowing these arrests directly impact the lives of individuals and their communities, they are a gross misappropriation of city and state resources, and a waste of officer manpower that can be spent on more pressing law enforcement matters," said Assemblyman Karim Camara, Chair of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. "Changing this flawed law has the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYC Police Commissioner Kelly, the District Attorneys of the five boroughs, and Buffalo and Nassau and Albany counties, the Police Benevolent Association and major law enforcement agencies throughout the state. Yet politics trumped the policy that would be best for New York City and our state."

"This is an issue that cannot wait. Our tens of thousands of youth arrested annually under unfair practices shouldn't have to wait," said Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez. "They deserve better -- they deserve justice and equality. And they deserve it now. We need to end this policy that has plagued our communities for too long  and make public view possession a violation."

"Why is it acceptable to kick the can down the road when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of young Black and Latino New Yorkers?" asked Alfredo Carrasquillo, civil rights community organizer for VOCAL-NY. "Getting this done is a test for the political leadership in Albany that right now they are failing. It's time to stop delaying justice when it comes to ending racially biased and costly marijuana arrests."

Since 2002, nearly 500,000 thousand people have been arrested in New York  for marijuana possession -- the vast majority of those arrests, 440,000, took place in New York City. Last year alone in the city, there were nearly 40,000 such arrests, far exceeding the total marijuana arrests in the city between 1981 and 1995. The cost to taxpayers is $75 million a year, and over $600 million in the last decade. A report released earlier this week found that the NYPD had spent one million hours making these arrests over the past decade.

"Behind the one million police hours spent arresting young Black and Latino men is the shameful truth of 21st Century racism. These are unlawful, racially biased arrests, plain and simple. We need our elected officials to stand up for civil rights for all people" said Chino Hardin, Field Coordinator and Trainer with the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions.

Albany, NY
United States

NYPD Facing Double-Barreled Challenge to Marijuana Practices [FEATURE]

There has been a double-barreled challenge this week to the NYPD and its heavy-handed policing. On the one hand, the department and the city are being sued in federal court over their stop-and-frisk program, which is aimed predominantly at young men of color. On the other, the NYPD is facing the glare of publicity over a new report that contends it has wasted as much as a million man-hours over the past ten years arresting low-level marijuana offenders.

March 2012 protest of NYC stop and frisk violations
Under the stop-and-frisk program, which the city touts as a crime-fighting effort, more than 531,000 people were stopped last year and nearly five million in the past decade. Some were stopped only for questioning, some had their bags or backpacks searched, some were subjected to full pat-down searches. Only 10% of those stops resulted in arrests -- including arrests for public marijuana possession after police tricked or intimidated people into pulling out their baggies (possession is otherwise decriminalized in the state) -- and only a tiny number resulted in the seizure of weapons.

The massive number of annual stop-and-frisks, five times the number a couple of decades ago, raises questions itself. But who is being stopped-and-frisked is raising even more questions and concerns. While blacks make up a quarter of the city's population, they accounted for 51% of all stop-and-frisk encounters, being stopped at a rate twice what would be expected with color-blind enforcement. Whites, on the other hand, make up 44% of the population, but accounted for only 11% of stop-and-frisk encounters.

Many of the stop-and-frisks are illegal and the enforcement is racially biased, argued attorneys in the class action lawsuit in federal court this week. In the case, which began Monday, attorneys for the plaintiffs -- people who were subjected to stop-and-frisk searches -- are seeking a court-appointed monitor to oversee changes in police practices.

They are not seeking to ban stop-and-frisk searches because they have been found legal. But US District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin, who has expressed deep concerns over the tactic in previous rulings, could order reforms. The trial could last for up to a month.

NYPD is doing illegal stops and must reform its practices, said Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Darius Charney, who is representing the plaintiffs. The stops are "arbitrary, unnecessary, and unconstitutional" and a "frightening and degrading experience" for "thousands, if not millions" of New Yorkers, Charney argued. He said plaintiffs will present "powerful testimonial and statistical evidence" that residents are stopped for no good reason.

On Monday, the first plaintiff witnesses took the stand. Devin Almonor, 16, the son of a police officer, testified that he was stopped when he was 13, handcuffed and thrown against an unmarked police car as he made his way home. David Floyd, now a 33-year-old medical student, testified that he was stopped twice without cause.

Attorneys for the city responded that in a city that large, large numbers of stop-and-frisks should not be unexpected and that the NYPD went where the crime was.

"The New York Police Department is fully committed to policing within the boundaries of the law," said Heidi Grossman, an attorney for the city. "Crime is not distributed evenly across the city. Police are given an awesome responsibility, one of which is to bring crime down and keep people safe."

Given those awesome responsibilities, a new report from the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project is raising eyebrows. The report's main finding is clear from its title: One Million Police Hours: Making 440,000 Marijuana Possession Arrests in New York City, 2002-2012. The report was authored by CUNY sociology professor Dr. Harry Levine, an expert on marijuana possession arrests, at the request of members of the city council and the state legislature.

While marijuana possession offenders typically faced only fines once they had their day in court, the report found that the arrests themselves inflicted immediate pain. Those 440,000 arrests resulted in five million hours of police custody, an average of more than 10 hours per person of being held in the city's notorious holding cells, often overnight.

"We cannot afford to continue arresting tens of thousands of youth every year for low-level marijuana possession," said Alfredo Carrasquillo, civil rights organizer with VOCAL-NY. "We can't afford it in terms of the negative effect it has on the future prospects of our youth and we can't afford in terms of police hours. It's shocking that the same mayor who has been taking money away from youth programs and cutting other social services, is wasting tens of millions of dollars locking youth up through the NYPD's marijuana arrests crusade. We need legislative action to fix this madness."

"This report shows that people arrested for marijuana possession spend an average of 12-18 hours, just in police custody, and the vast majority of those arrested are young Black and Latino men from seven to ten neighborhoods in NYC," said Chino Hardin, field coordinator and trainer with the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions. "This is not just a crisis, but a frontline civil rights issue facing urban communities of color in the 21st century. We are calling on Governor Cuomo to do the right thing, and exercise the moral and political will to address this injustice."

While Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly last fall announced changes it how the NYPD processes marijuana arrests and the number of pot possession busts have begun to decline slightly, advocates are calling on the legislature and the governor to change the state's 1977 decriminalization law to remove law enforcement's "in public view" loophole, the provision NYPD has used to great effect.

"For years, New Yorkers from across the state have organized and marched and rallied, demanding an end to these outrageous arrests. And now we learn that the police have squandered one million hours to make racially biased, costly, and unlawful marijuana possession arrests. This is scandalous," said Gabriel Sayegh, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "I’m sure we can all think of more effective things for the police to spend their time on -- imagine if NYPD committed one million hours to working with communities to stop gun violence or to pursue unsolved serious crimes. We stand with the caucus and other leaders in Albany -- both Democrats and Republicans -- in demanding reform. The hour of change is upon us, and reform is long, long overdue."

Whether it is the massive stop-and-frisk policing program or the practice of turning marijuana possession tickets into misdemeanor arrests complete with post-booking jail time and criminal records, NYPD is coming under increasing scrutiny and criticism..

New York City, NY
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

Medical marijuana action was concentrated in state legislatures this week, although there was also news from the Massachusetts attorney general's office.

California

On Tuesday, Rep. Tom Ammiano introduced a bill to regulate dispensaries. The San Francisco Democrat filed Assembly Bill 473, which would create comprehensive state-level regulations for dispensaries. It would create a Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation within the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to set standards and rules and set fees and would require dispensaries to have state-issued permits.

Massachusetts

Last Wednesday, the state attorney general's office struck down a local ban on dispensaries. The office nixed a ban in the town of Wakefield, ruling that towns can regulate, but not prohibit dispensaries under the state law. Such bans would frustrate the purpose of the medical marijuana law that allows patients with certain medical conditions to obtain marijuana for medical use, the ruling said. But in a separate decision, the office upheld a temporary moratorium on dispensaries in the town of Burlington.

New Hampshire

On Wednesday, a medical marijuana bill passed the House. The bill, House Bill 573, was approved by an overwhelming 286-64 vote. The bill would allow qualifying patients to cultivate up to three mature plants or obtain cannabis from one of five non-profit, state-regulated alternative treatment centers. It will next be considered by the Senate, which passed similar legislation in 2009 and 2012. Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) previously expressed support for making medical marijuana legal in the Granite State.

Oregon

Last Friday, a bill to license and regulate dispensaries was introduced by Rep. Peter Buckley (D) and Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D). The bill, House Bill 3460, would require medical marijuana facilities to seek a license from the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program similar to the license that patients and registered growers are required to obtain under current law. The bill sets out a series of regulations the medical marijuana facilities must meet and allows the Oregon Health Authority to draft additional rules and regulations to ensure patients are protected.

No Medical Marijuana for Minnesota This Year

Bills to allow for the use of medical marijuana in Minnesota have popular support and may still be introduced this year, but will be little more than place markers for 2014, supporters said this week, citing opposition from the governor's office and law enforcement.

Heather Azzi of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care said the effort got off to a late start this year, and that the rest of the year would be devoted to trying to shore up support.

"We just had a lot of background work to do before we got started," she told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. And there is a lot of work to be done assuaging the concerns on opponents. "There has to be a way for us to mitigate their concerns," she said. "We will be meeting with them between now and January to do just that."

Medical marijuana made it through the legislature in 2009, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R). The current governor, Democrat Mark Dayton, isn't any friendlier on the issue.

He told the Associated Press in December that he wasn't interested in advancing either medical marijuana or decriminalization. "I don't think we need another drug operating in our society," he said then.

Minnesota law enforcement remains intransigent as well. Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, told the Star-Tribune any bill like the 2009 bill would not be going anywhere. "It would be a regulatory and enforcement nightmare," Flaherty said.

The state's political movers-and-shakers are apparently more attuned to the complaints of law enforcement than the desires of the electorate. A Public Policy Polling survey earlier this month had support for medical marijuana at 65%, with 66% saying the governor should not veto such a bill if it passes and 54% saying they would disapprove of sheriffs and prosecutors opposing it.

St. Paul, MN
United States

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