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Medical Marijuana Update

There is now a House version of the federal CARERS Act, California regulatory squabbles continue, CBD cannabis oil bills move in the darndest places, and more.

National

On Monday, a House version of the federal medical marijuana bill was filed. Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (D-AK) introduced the House version of the CARERS Act filed two weeks ago in the Senate. Both bills would allow states to have medical marijuana without federal interference, reschedule marijuana to Schedule II, allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana, allow interstate commerce in CBD cannabis oils, and ease banking problems for the industry. The House version is HR 1538.

California

Last Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo city council approved an odor ordinance aimed at medical marijuana cultivators. After complaints from residents, the council amended the ordinance to apply to any offensive and persistent odors. The ordinance includes provisions specifying when enforcement actions could be taken. One more council vote is necessary for the measure to become law.

Last Friday, several Clearlake residents filed a lawsuit against the ban on cultivation in the city. The lawsuit was filed in Lake County Superior Court and says the recently adopted ban violates both the letter and the spirit of Proposition 215.

On Tuesday, Santa Cruz County supervisors voted to ban commercial medical marijuana production. Supervisors voted 3-2 to allow only limited personal grows. The county says there are 145 illegal pot grows there, up from 80 last fall. The new rules allow for only a 100-square foot garden per parcel. The ban is set to go into effect on May 30, after a second reading.

Last Friday, Upland patient advocates sought a court order to force a special election on dispensaries this year. The California Cannabis Coalition charges that the city council violated election laws when it decided to delay placing a dispensary ballot initiative on the ballot until the 2016 general election. They will get a hearing on the motion in May.

Georgia

On Tuesday, the Senate passed a CBD cannabis oil bill. The state Senate approved House Bill 1, which would allow the use of the oil for eight specified medical conditions. The bill has already passed the House, but because it was amended in the Senate, it has to go back for a final House vote. That was expected to happen today.

Idaho

Last Friday, two CBD cannabis oil bills were headed for Senate floor votes. A bill that would allow for the use of cannabis oil to treat severe forms of epilepsy passed the Senate State Affairs Committee and now heads for a Senate floor vote. The measure is Senate Bill 1106. Another cannabis oil bill that would only allow an affirmative defense, Senate Bill 1146, also awaits a Senate floor vote.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved one of those bills. The state Senate voted 22-12 to approve Senate Bill 1146, which would allow the use of the oil for children with severe forms of epilepsy. The bill had originally only offered an affirmative defense to prosecution, but was amended in the Senate to go further. The bill now heads to the House.

Louisiana

On Monday, a medical marijuana bill was pre-filed. State Rep. Dalton Honore (D-Baton Rouge) has pre-filed a bill that would allow for the use of marijuana for specified medical conditions, including seizure disorders, glaucoma, cancer, and the side effects of cancer treatments. The bill is House Bill 6. Last year, similar legislation failed to get out of committee in the face of opposition from law enforcement. The session begins April 13.

North Carolina

Last Thursday, North Carolinians rallied for a new medical marijuana bill in Raleigh. More than a hundred people rallied at the state capitol today in support of House Bill 317, which would allow for medical marijuana use by terminally ill patients. Rep. Kelly Alexander formally introduced it today.

Tennessee

Last Thursday, a Republican state senator said he would file a medical marijuana billl. State Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) said today he is working on a bill that would allow for medical marijuana. He said he expected to have final details by Monday. A Democratic bill in the House has yet to make it out of committee.

Last Saturday, medical marijuana advocates rallied in Johnson City. Hundreds of people showed up for the Smoky Mountain Medical Marijuana Rights Rally and march in Johnson City Saturday. The rally comes as the state legislature considers a number of medical marijuana-related bills.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Medical Marijuana Update

The federal medical marijuana bill picks up two more sponsors, San Diego gets its first permitted dispensaries (with numbers two and three in the works), Florida's CBD cannabis oil program is delayed again, and more.

National

On Tuesday, the federal medical marijuana bill got a new cosponsor. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is the latest. A second Republican senator has also signed on to the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act (Senate Bill 683). Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) joined fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul (KY) and Democrats Cory Booker (NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) -- and now, Boxer, too.

California

Last Wednesday, a Southern California tribe said it was getting in the marijuana business. The Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Tribe is setting aside some 40 acres to grew medical marijuana it will sell to dispensaries across the state.

Also last Wednesday, dispensary advocates filed two lawsuits against the city of Costa Mesa. They came one day after the city killed an ordinance that would have permitted and regulated dispensaries. The suits contend the city should have held a special election this month on two dispensary initiatives instead of delaying until the November 2016 general election.

Last Thursday, San Diego approved its second and third legal dispensaries. The Planning Commission okayed dispensaries in Kearney Mesa and San Ysidro, but delayed approval of one in the Midway district over parking and other access issues. In January, the commission approved the first legal dispensary in the city since medical marijuana became law in 1996. Dozens have operated illegally over the years.

On Tuesday, the Richmond city council voted to cut the number of permitted dispensaries from six to three. There are only three currently operating in the city. It also voted to allow three more permits for edibles manufacturing operations.

On Wednesday, San Diego's first legally permitted dispensary opened for business. A Green Alternative opened this morning at Otay Mesa. Last week, the city approved two more permitted dispensaries. They are the first legal ones to operate in the city.

Florida

On Monday, the state's CBD cannabis oil program was again delayed. For the second time, the Department of Health has posted "final rules" for the program, and now, for the second time, it is being challenged by lawsuits. That pushes back the timeline for getting the program up and running by another 60 to 90 days. It was supposed to be running by January 1.

Georgia

Last Thursday, the Senate passed a restrictive cannabis oil bill. The Senate passed Senate Bill 185, which would allow parents bringing CBD cannabis oil into the state to treat their children with epilepsy to be exempted from criminal prosecution, but would not allow medical marijuana in any other form and would not let adults or children with other diseases use it. The House has passed a broader CBD bill; the Senate Health Committee chair has promised it will try to reconcile the two bills.

Idaho

Last Wednesday, a CBD cannabis oil bill won a Senate committee vote. The Senate State Affairs Committee has narrowly approved a CBD cannabis oil bill, Senate Bill 1146. It passed on a 5-4 vote after law enforcement objections scuttled an earlier bill. The new bill only allows for an affirmative defense; the old one would have explicitly made it legal for patients and providers to possess the oils.

Missouri

Last Wednesday, a medical marijuana bill won a House committee vote. The House Emerging Issues Committee approved HB 800, although it added restrictions.

Montana

On Tuesday, a state senator said she was ready to file a medical marijuana bill. State Sen. Robyn Driscoll (D) says she will file a bill this week to allow the sale for profit of medical marijuana, remove limits on the number of patients a caregiver can grow for, allow for advertising, allow for the trade in plants and seedlings, and remove a requirement that doctors who recommend for more than 25 people in a year be reviewed by the Board of Medical Examiners. The provisions would enact parts of a district judge's decision permanently enjoining portions of a harsh 2011 medical marijuana law that undid much of the state's 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana initiative.

Nevada

On Wednesday, a medical marijuana for pets bill was filed. State Sen. Tick Segerholm (D-Las Vegas) introduced Senate Bill 372, which would allow pet owners to obtain marijuana for their animals upon a veteranarian's certification that it could help. He said he worries that some animals might have adverse reactions, but "you don't know until you try."

New Jersey

On Monday, the state released standards for edibles producers. The Health Department has released regulations for growers who will produce medical marijuana edibles. The guidelines are a first step in a process that is likely to last months before the first edibles are available for sale. Click on the link for more details.

North Dakota

On Monday, the House killed a medical marijuana study bill. Not only does the legislature not want to approve medical marijuana; it doesn't even want to study it. The House earlier killed a medical marijuana bill and now it has killed a study bill, with opponents claiming it wasn't needed because the House Human Services Committee "couldn't find anything that wasn't already taken care of in the hearing process."

Tennessee

On Tuesday, a CBD cannabis oil bill won a House committee vote. The House Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday approved House Bill 197, which would allow for the use of low-THC cannabis oils by specified patients. The bill now goes to the House Health Committee, the last stop before a House floor vote. Companion legislation is moving through the Senate.

Texas

Last Friday, medical marijuana bills were filed in both chambers. Rep. Marissa Marquez (D-El Paso) Friday introduced HB 3785, a full-fledged medical marijuana bill, in the House, and Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) filed a companion bill in the Senate. The bills would allow qualifying patients to use and possess small amounts of marijuana and obtain it through regulated dispensaries.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: MT MMJ Comeback Bill, NJ Edibles A Step Closer, Dark Web Drug Site Goes Dark, More (3/18/15)

There will be a bill to restore the medical marijuana status quo ante in Montana, a Nevada bill would allow it for pets, New Jersey releases guidelines for edibles producers, a North Carolina bill targets pregnant women who use drugs, and more.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Medical Marijuana Bill Coming. State Sen. Robyn Driscoll (D) says she will file a bill this week to allow the sale for profit of medical marijuana, remove limits on the number of patients a caregiver can grow for, allow for advertising, allow for the trade in plants and seedlings, and remove a requirement that doctors who recommend for more than 25 people in a year be reviewed by the Board of Medical Examiners. The provisions would enact parts of a district judge's decision permanently enjoining portions of a harsh 2011 medical marijuana law that undid much of the state's 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana initiative.

Nevada Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana for Pets. State Sen. Tick Segerholm (D-Las Vegas) Wednesday introduced Senate Bill 372, which would allow pet owners to obtain marijuana for their animals upon a veteranarian's certification that it could help. He said he worries that some animals might have adverse reactions, but "you don't know until you try."

New Jersey Releases Standards for Edibles Producers. The Health Department has released regulations for growers who will produce medical marijuana edibles. The guidelines are a first step in a process that is likely to last months before the first edibles are available for sale. Click on the link for more details.

Tennessee CBD Cannabis Oil Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday approved House Bill 197, which would allow for the use of low-THC cannabis oils by specified patients. The bill now goes to the House Health Committee, the last stop before a House floor vote. Companion legislation is moving through the Senate.

Pregnancy

North Carolina Bill Would Criminalize Drug Use During Pregnancy. State Sens. Brent Jackson (R-Autryville) and Louis Pate (R-Mount Olive) Tuesday filed a bill that would allow officials to charge a woman with assault if she uses drugs while pregnant. The measure is Senate Bill 297. Similar legislation passed in Tennessee in 2013.

International

UN Development Program Highlights Drug War's Costs to the World's Poor. UNDP, the agency charged with coming up with strategies to reduce world poverty, has slammed drug prohibition's disastrous impact on poor countries and their residents. The critique came in UNDP's formal submission to the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs, whose preliminaries got underway last week as the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Vienna.

Major Dark Web Drug Sales Web Site Goes Dark. The Evolution web site has vanished from the Dark Web. It halted withdrawals of vendors' bitcoin funds over the weekend, citing technical difficulties, then vanished Tuesday night. Some $12 million in bitcoins may have disappeared in what some are now calling a scam. The pseudonymous operators of the site are now facing threats from people who lost money.

Chronicle AM: Chicago Cops Still Target Blacks for Pot, VT Ibogaine Bill, TX Med MJ Bill, More (3/16/15)

Chicago is still arresting way more blacks than whites for pot possession, marijuana bills are moving in Missouri, Texas sees full-blown medical marijuana bills filed, an ibogaine bill gets filed in Vermont, MAPS wins DEA approval for an ecstasy study, and more.

Marijuana

Chicago Pot Arrests Continue to Target Blacks. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel says that police statistics show "progress" being made in racial disparities around marijuana arrests (he says roughly the same percentage of whites are being ticketed instead of arrested as blacks), the numbers show that blacks are getting arrested for at a rate 16 times that of whites. More than 8,000 blacks were arrested for pot possession, but only 500 whites were, even though whites are 60% of the city's population. Blacks were busted for pot possession at a rate of 977 per 100,000, while whites were arrested at a rate of 60 per 100,000.

Alaska Regulation Bill Still Pending. Senate Bill 30, which seeks to adjust state criminal laws to recognize the legality of marijuana, is getting messy. The Senate Finance Committee was to finish work on the bill Saturday, but that didn't happen. The committee is split over an amendment that passed Friday on a 4-3 vote. That amendment would ban concentrates, including edibles, after two years. In addition to unhappiness over that measure, advocates say the language of the amendment is so unclear it could even ban marijuana leaves. Stay tuned.

Missouri Marijuana Bills Move. Committees in the legislature advanced four different marijuana bills last week. The House Corrections Committee approved HB 978, which would free Jeff Mizanskey, who is serving life without parole for a non-violent cannabis offense; the House Emerging Issues Committee approved a medical marijuana bill, HB 800, although it added restrictions; the House Economic Development and Business Attraction and Retention Committee approved an industrial hemp bill, HB 830, and the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee approved SB 386, which will expand the ailments for which CBD oil could be recommended, as well as increase the number of cultivators from two to 10 and dispensaries from six to 30.

New Mexico Senate Approves Decriminalization Bill. The Senate voted narrowly Saturday to approve marijuana decriminalization. Senate Bill 383 passed on a vote of 21-20. Under the bill, possession of an ounce of less would be a ticketable offense punishable by a $50 fine. The bill now goes to the House.

Medical Marijuana

Florida's CBD Cannabis Oil Program Delayed Again. For the second time, the Department of Health has posted "final rules" for the program, and now, for the second time, it is being challenged by lawsuits. That pushes back the timeline for getting the program up and running by another 60 to 90 days. It was supposed to be running by January 1.

Idaho Limited CBD Cannabis Oil Bill Moves. The Senate State Affairs Committee has narrowly approved a CBD cannabis oil bill, Senate Bill 1146. It passed on a 5-4 vote after law enforcement objections scuttled an earlier bill. The new bill only allows for an affirmative defense; the old one would have explicitly made it legal for patients and providers to possess the oils.

Texas Medical Marijuana Bills Filed. Rep. Marissa Marquez (D-El Paso) Friday introduced HB 3785, a full-fledged medical marijuana bill, in the House, and Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) filed a companion bill in the Senate. The bills would allow qualifying patients to use and possess small amounts of marijuana and obtain it through regulated dispensaries.

Ibogaine

Vermont Ibogaine Drug Treatment Pilot Program Bill Filed. Reps. Paul Dame (R-Essex Junction) and Rep. Joe Troiano (D-Stannard) have introduced HB 387, which would set up a pilot program to dispense the drug for substance abuse treatment. The bill goes to the House Committee on Human Services.

MDMA

DEA Approves Study of MDMA for Anxiety in Terminal Illnesses. The DEA Friday approved a Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with life-threatening illnesses. The study will take place in Marin County, California, and will be conducted by Dr. Phil Wolfson.

Harm Reduction

Idaho Legislature Approves Opiate Overdose Reversal Drug Bill. The measure, House Bill 108, passed the House last month and the Senate last Thursday. The bill would allow pharmacists to prescribe naloxone to friends and family members of people at risk of an opiate overdose. It now goes to the governor's desk.

Law Enforcement

SUNY New Paltz Students Protest Honoring Campus Cops for Drug Busts. Students and community activists gathered together Friday to protest a police union award ceremony congratulating campus cops for having the highest percentage of on-campus drug arrests nationwide in 2013. "Don't honor the police for disturbing the peace!" read one sign. Students said they didn't have an on-campus drug problem, but an over-policing problem SUNY New Paltz police arrested 105 people for drugs on campus in 2013.

Chronicle AM: NH Decrim Bill Passes House, CO Legal Pot Sales Record, Coca-Chewing Day in Bolivia, More (3/12/15)

Marijuana stories all over the place, medical marijuana, too; federal drug policy bills (good and bad) get filed, it's it's National Coca-Chewing Day in Bolivia, and more. 

Marijuana Policy

Alaska Legislators Get Earful from Public Over Changes to Legalization Bill. The Senate Finance Committee overhauled Senate Bill 30, the bill that would implement the Measure 2 legalization initiative, by reversing language in the bill that would have removed marijuana from the state's controlled substance schedules and by creating new marijuana crimes. That didn't sit well with the public, who raked the committee over the coals during a hearing yesterday. It's holding another hearing today.

Arizona Legalization Initiative Drafters Grapple with Home Cultivation. A split has emerged between Safer Arizona and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) over including home cultivation language in a proposed legalization initiative. The latest draft of the initiative contains no language allowing for home cultivation, and Safer Arizona is accusing MPP of doing the bidding of dispensary operators, who it says want to corner the market. MPP says it supports home cultivation, but may be willing to sacrifice it if it thinks such a provision could delay ending pot prohibition in a given state. Stay tuned.

Colorado January Recreational Pot Sales Hit Record.  Sales in January were $36.4 million, according to the Department of Revenue, more than double the $14 million reported in January 2014. January recreational pot sales generated nearly $2.35 million in excise taxes designated for schools. Last year was when recreational marijuana sales began rolling out, so it is expected that 2015 is going to be even bigger than 2014, when more than $300 million in recreational sales occurred.

Connecticut Poll Has Solid Majority for Pot Legalization. A new Quinnipiac poll has support for marijuana legalization at 63%, up nine points from the same poll less than a year ago. The poll comes as the Judiciary Committee considers two bills that would legalize it, House Bill 6703 and House Bill 6473.

Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. David Rogers (D-Belmont), Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), and 13 bipartisan cosponsors today introduced House Bill 1561, which would legalize marijuana for adults and establish a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. If the legislature doesn't act on legalization, reform advocates are vowing to put an initiative before voters I n 2016.

Michigan Group Plans 2016 Legalization Initiative. A group calling itself the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative Committee said today it is planning a 2016 legalization initiative petition drive. The committee's chairman, Jeffrey Hank, said "the time is right" to create "a responsible tax and regulation scheme for adult use age 21 and over, and permits the farming of hemp."

New Hampshire House Overwhelmingly Approves Decriminalization Bill. A veto-proof majority of the House voted yesterday to approve House Bill 618, which would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of pot, five grams of hash, and six pot plants. The House has passed similar measures before, only to see them die in the Senate. If it passes the Senate this year, it still faces a probable veto from Gov. Maggie Hassan (D).   

Medical Marijuana

Federal Judge Reject Prosecution Attempt to Jail Kettle Falls Five Defendants Before Sentencing. Just one week after three medical marijuana patients were acquitted by a federal jury of all but one charge stemming from the widely watched Kettle Falls Five trial, US District Court Judge Thomas Rice rejected attempts by the Justice Department (DOJ) to imprison the defendants pending sentencing on June 10th. Judge Rice's ruling comes just a day after defense attorneys filed their opposition to the government's pre-sentencing detention effort

Hawaii House Approves Dispensary Bill. The House Tuesday gave its approval to a bill that would allow for at least 26 dispensaries to open across the state. The measure is House Bill 321.

Iowa CBD Medical Marijuana Bill Moves. A bill that would expand medical marijuana access in the Hawkeye State won a subcommittee vote in the state Senate yesterday. The legislature last year approved a law allowing for the use of CBD cannabis oil for epilepsy, but didn't provide for the legal distribution of the oil. The current bill would do that, as well as expand the number of qualifying conditions.

Pennsylvania Poll Shows Growing Support for Medical Marijuana. A new Robert Morris University poll has support for medical marijuana at 67.5%, up more than 11 points from a similar Robert Morris poll last year. At least three medical marijuana bills are currently before the General Assembly.

Tennessee CBD Cannabis Oil Wins Committee Vote. The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee has approved House Bill 197, which would allow people with seizures to use CBD cannabis oil with a doctor's recommendation. The bill now goes to the full House Criminal Committee.

Asset Forfeiture

Texas Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. State Rep. David Simpson has introduced House Bill 3171 to repeal civil asset forfeiture. "No one should forfeit their property without being convicted of a crime," the Republican said. "Our current civil forfeiture provisions, though a well-intended tool for law enforcement, have eroded the constitutional rights of individuals. It is time we end the practice."

Rehabilitation and Reentry

Federal Bill to Seal or Expunge Records for Nonviolent Offenses Filed. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has filed Senate Bill 675, which provides for the sealing or expungement of records relating to federal nonviolent criminal offenses. It's been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sentencing

Connecticut Poll Finds Strong Support for Reducing Penalties for Drug Offenses. A new Quinnipiac poll finds two-third (67%) of voters support making simple drug possession a misdemeanor instead of a felony and 82% support eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for small-time drug possessions.

Harm Reduction

Federal Bill to Encourage Use of Opiate Overdose Drug Filed. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Edward Markey (D-MA) yesterday filed the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act, which would  "protect first responders, health professionals and family members who are educated in administering an opioid overdose prevention drug, such as naloxone (also known as Narcan) in an emergency situation of overdose. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) plans to introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives in the coming weeks. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website. Similar legislation was filed last year.

Law Enforcement

Federal Bill Aimed at Candy-Coated Drugs Filed. Octogenarian Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) today filed the Candy-Flavored Drugs Act, under which ""criminals who manufacture, create, distribute, dispense or possess candy coated drugs with the intent to distribute them to a minor would get up to 10 years for the first offense and 20 years for the second offense." The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

International

It's National Coca Chewing Day in Bolivia. Bolivian social movements are marching from the La Paz suburb of El Alto toward Villaroel Square in the capital to commemorate National Coca-Leaf Chewing Day. The event is part of a domestic and international campaign to restore the traditional uses of the coca leaf. 

Medical Marijuana Update

Historic federal medical marijuana legislation was introduced and endorsed by the New York Times the next day, California localities continue to make life hard for dispensaries, a Utah medical marijuana bill is killed, and more.

National

On Tuesday, a bipartisan trio of senators introduced historic legislation to legalize medical marijuana at the federal level. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rand Paul (R-KY) filed the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana and allow states to set their own policies. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website. Click the link for more details.

On Wednesday,The New York Times endorsed the federal medical marijuana bill. The editorial of the nation's "newspaper of record" wrote today that the bill, which would clear away federal impediments to state-level medical marijuana, "deserves to be passed by Congress and enacted into law." Click on the link for their reasoning. 

California

Last Friday, a poll found that Riverside voters were likely to reject dispensaries. Whether to allow them will be on the June 2 ballot, but the poll has 56% opposed and only 46% in favor.

On Tuesday, the VA in Southern California announced it would allow the use of medical marijuana with prescription opiates. Click on the link to read the policy.

Also on Tuesday, the Costa Mesa city council punted on dispensaries. The council decided to kill a draft dispensary ordinance and table the issue until next year, when it might write its own ballot measure to compete with two local initiatives that have already qualified for the ballot.

Also on Tuesday, the Upland city council decided against a special election for a dispensary ballot measure. Now, voters will have to wait until next year, and that has infuriated dispensary supporters, who are threatening a recall effort.

Georgia

Last, Thursday, Georgia families swarmed the state capitol in support of a strong medical marijuana bill. Dozens of Georgia families streamed into the state capitol in Atlanta yesterday to crank up the pressure on the Senate to pass a medical marijuana bill. House Bill 1 has already passed the House, but the Senate is now considering an alternate bill, Senate Bill 185, which would only set up a limited trial program for children with epilepsy. The families want House Bill 1.

Idaho

On Monday, a CBD cannabis oil bill was revised to only allow an affirmative defense. The bill, Senate Bill 1169, has been revised to address concerns from law enforcement. It would no longer legalize the use of CBD cannabis oil, but would provide for an affirmative defense in case of arrest. The original bill would have removed CBD cannabis oil from the state's law banning marijuana.

North Carolina

Last Wednesday, a medical marijuana bill moved in the legislature. A bill that would allow for medical marijuana in the Tarheel State has passed its first reading in the House. The bill is House Bill 78

North Dakota

On Tuesday, a House committee voted down a medical marijuana study bill. The Human Services Committee has rejected a resolution calling for an interim study on medical marijuana. The measure was House Concurrent Resolution 3059. The state legislature defeated a medical marijuana bill earlier this session, and backers of the resolution hoped they could keep the conversation going. They couldn't.

Tennessee.

On Monday, a CBD Cannabis won a House panel vote. The measure, House Bill 109, was approved by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. It now moves to the House Criminal Committee, where chairman William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) says it has his support.

Utah

On Monday, a medical marijuana bill died by one vote. A bill that would have made Utah a medical marijuana state was defeated last night. Senate Bill 259, filed by Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs) lost on a vote of 15-14 in the Senate.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visitMedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: Historic Fed MedMJ Bill Filed, Coca Boom Falters, Wichita Weed Wars, More (3/10/15)

A bipartisan trio of US senators roll out a historic medical marijuana bill, American Indian tribes form a cannabis coalition, medical marijuana loses by one vote in Utah, South America's coca boom may be ending, and more.

Cocaine seized by Spanish police. Will there be more where that came from?
Marijuana Policy

Kansas Attorney General Says Wichita Decriminalization Initiative Unlawful. Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a letter to city officials that the pending initiative "may not be lawfully adopted" and shouldn't be put before voters. But residents are still likely to have a chance to vote on it. Then it will be up to the attorney general to file a lawsuit to block it. The measure would "conflict with uniform state law in numerous ways and would be void," the attorney general says.

National Indian Cannabis Coalition Forms. The country's first Native American-focused marijuana trade group launched today at a reservation economic summit in Las Vegas. The group's mission is "to inform and educate tribal leaders on the emerging regulated cannabis markets from an entrepreneurial and operations perspective," says its website.

Medical Marijuana

Historic Federal Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana Rolled Out Today. A bipartisan trio of senators today introduced historic legislation to legalize medical marijuana at the federal level. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rand Paul (R-KY) filed the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana and allow states to set their own policies. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website. Click the link for more details.

Revised Idaho CBD Cannabis Oil Bill Would Allow Affirmative Defense. The bill, Senate Bill 1169, has been revised to address concerns from law enforcement. It would no longer legalize the use of CBD cannabis oil, but would provide for an affirmative defense in case of arrest.The original bill would have removed CBD cannabis oil from the state's law banning marijuana.

Tennessee CBD Cannabis Oil Bill Wins House Panel Vote. The measure, House Bill 109, was approved by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. It now moves to the House Criminal Committee, where chairman William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) says it has his support.

Utah Medical Marijuana Bill Dies by One Vote. A bill that would have made Utah a medical marijuana state was defeated last night. Senate Bill 259, filed by Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs) lost on a vote of 15-14 in the Senate.

International

Coca Boom Over? Coca and cocaine production in South America appears to be stalling, with all three major coca-producing countries—Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru—seeing declines in acreage planted and overall cocaine production. Click on the link for more details.

Patients from 13 Countries Form International Medical Marijuana Coalition. They have formed the International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition (IMCPC) this past week gathered at a medical marijuana conference in Prague. Member countries include Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The US delegation is led by Americans for Safe Access.

Conservative Dutch Justice Minister Forced Out in Drug Dealer Cash Payment Scandal. Marijuana foe Ivo Opstelten and his deputy, Fred Treeven, resigned yesterday rather than face parliamentary questioning over revelations they authorized the repayment of millions of dollars to the drug dealer from whom it had been seized. Teeven actually authorized the 2001 payment, but Opstelten misled parliament about it. Now, they're both gone. 

Chronicle AM: UN Drug Session in Vienna, Bernard Noble Rally in New Orleans, AZ Welfare Drug Test Flop, More (3/9/15)

The global drug prohibition bureaucracy meets in Vienna, researchers say banning psychedelics offends human rights, new synthetics increase in Europe, an Arizona welfare drug testing bill comes up short in results, and more. Let's get to it;

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs gets down to business in Vienna. (unodc.org)
Marijuana Policy

Washington House Approves Marijuana Deals With Tribes. The House last Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill to allow the state's Indian tribes to participate in the state's legal marijuana industry. The bill is House Bill 2000, and it now goes to the state Senate.

First Government-Run Pot Shop Opens in Washington Town. The city of North Bonneville, Washington, has become the first government entity to open a marijuana retail store. The Cannabis Corner opened over the weekend after the city won approval from the state.

Psychedelics

Prohibition on Psychedelics An Offense Against Human Rights, Researchers Say. A pair of Norwegian researchers who, after studying population data from more than 135,000 people, including 19,000 users of psychedelics, reported no link between using psychedelics and mental health problems, have said that continuing to ban them has no justifiable public health basis and is "against human rights." Click on the link for more details.

Drug Testing

Arizona Welfare Drug Testing Law Didn't Produce Predicted Savings. When the state passed its welfare drug testing law in 2009, lawmakers said it would save about $1.7 million a year by removing drug users from welfare rolls. Not quite. In the more than five years since the law went into effect, only 42 people were flagged for drug tests. Of those, 23 didn't take the drug test and were denied benefits for one year. Nineteen other took the drug test; only three failed. The total savings are now estimated at $3,500 over the entire period, not $1.7 million a year.

Harm Reduction

Mississippi 911 Good Samaritan Bill Moving. A bill that would provide limited immunity from prosecution for people who report active drug overdoses in a bid to get medical assistance has passed the state Senate and a key House committee. Senate Bill 2780 now awaits a House floor vote.

Pregnancy

Oklahoma Bill Would Charge Pregnant Drug Users With Assaulting Fetus. A bill that would change the definition of assault to include illegal drug use by a pregnant woman has won a vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee and awaits a Senate floor vote. Senate Bill 559 would still have to get through the House.

Sentencing

New Orleans Rally for Man Doing 13 Years for Two Joints. Supporters of Bernard Noble, who is doing 13 years in state prison for possessing two marijuana joints, rallied Saturday to support a campaign to gain clemency or a commutation for him. All appeals to state courts have failed, and now it's up to Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) to act.

International

Morocco's Main Opposition Party Calls for Amnesty for Hash Growers. The Istiqlal Party, the largest opposition party, has called on the parliament to adopt a bill that would grant amnesty to hashish farmers. The party says that more than 300,000 people make a living in the hash fields.  The party's proposed bill would limit hash cultivation to specified regions of the country. The Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) has also called for the legalization of marijuana cultivation. Morocco is one of the world's leading cannabis producers.

More than A Hundred New Synthetic Drugs Appeared in Europe Last Year. The European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) reported today that 101 new substances were reported last year by the European Union's Early Warning System, up from 81 in 2013. That means more than 450 new synthetic drugs have been identified by the agency, more than half in the last three years alone. Click on the link for more details.

UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs Session Underway in Vienna.The 58th annual session got underway in Vienna today. It comes as the international drug prohibition consensus crumbles in the face of drug war failures and moves to liberalize drug laws, especially marijuana laws. This is also part of the lead-up to the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs. 

Louisiana Man Gets 13 Years for Two Joints, Commutation Campaign Underway [FEATURE]

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and originally appeared here.

Bernard Noble has already spent nearly four years in a Louisiana prison for being caught with two marijuana cigarettes -- and he's still less than a third of the way through a 13-year sentence with no shot at parole. The sentence is outrageous, but hardly unique in a state with one of the harshest marijuana laws in the country.

Under Louisiana law, possession of any amount of marijuana up to 60 pounds is punishable by six months in jail on a first offense, up to five years in prison for a second offense, and up to 20 years in prison for a third offense. While first- and second-time offenders are eligible for probation, third-time offenders are not. Distributing any amount of pot, even a joint or two, garners a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, and that includes possession with intent to distribute.

Add in the gross racial disparities in marijuana possession busts -- African-Americans in the state are 3.1 times more likely to be arrested for than whites and account for nearly two-thirds of all pot arrests while making up less than one-third of the population -- and you have a pipeline to prison for black Louisianans.

In Bernard Noble's case, getting caught with a couple of joints morphed into more than 13 years behind bars because of the way the state's harsh marijuana laws intersect with its harsh habitual offender law (known colloquially as "the bitch.") Because Noble had two previous drug possession offenses, one 12 years old and one 24 years old, he fell under the purview of the habitual offender law.

Even though his current offense was trivial (marijuana is decriminalized in nearly 20 states and possession is legalized in four others and DC) and even though his previous offenses were low-level and nonviolent, the statute called for the 13 years, without parole.

Taking into account Noble's minor criminal history, his work record, and his role as the breadwinner for a family with seven children, and making special note of his overpayment of child support to children not living with him, his sentencing judge departed from the statute and sentenced him to only five years. Orleans Parish prosecutors appealed the lower sentence to the state Supreme Court and got the 13-year sentence reinstated last year.

"Thirteen years in prison for two joints is obscene," said Daniel Abrahamson, director of the Office of Legal Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance and a lead author of a brief to the state Supreme Court in the case. "The punishment is so far out of proportion to the conduct that we really can't call it 'punishment' -- it is more like torture."

It has also shattered Noble's family and destroyed his fledgling business, a restaurant in Kansas City. Noble had relocated there after Hurricane Katrina and has just returned to New Orleans for a family visit. He left his grandmother's house on a bike ride four years ago and never made it back. He's been locked up ever since.

Bobby Jindal has a chance to do the right thing. (gov.state.la.us)
But there's renewed hope for the black, 48-year-old New Orleans family man, even if it's a longshot. Lawyers working on his case are preparing to formally seek a commutation for him from Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) within the next few days, and they, supporters, and advocates are hoping to light a fire under the governor hot enough to make him act. A rally is set for Sunday to draw attention to his case.

If Jindal's record is any indication, though, it will have to be quite a fire: During his time as governor, Jindal has granted only 40 of 390 commutations requested.

"This is one of the most egregious cases, a real heart breaker," said Yolanda Cadore, director of strategic partnerships for the Drug Policy Alliance. "He's been in there 44 months, and he's not even close to finishing his sentence. He's just passing time. The only rehab available is drug treatment."

Noble's sentence also plays into another ugly dynamic in Louisiana: imprisonment for profit. Back in the 1990s, during another overcrowding crisis, parish sheriffs were offered a cut of future profits if they covered the cost of building prisons in their counties. Now, more than half of state prisoners are held in parish jail administered by sheriffs.

The state pays them $24.39 a day per prisoner, much less than the $55 a day if would cost to house them in state prisons. If a sheriff can keep jails full, he can pull in as much as $200,000 per jail per year, all the while keeping expenses -- staffing and inmate care and programs -- as low as possible. Other sheriffs lease their prisons to for-profit prison companies in return for guaranteed annual payments.

Sheriffs have a direct financial incentive to keep their jails full, and they know it. Sentencing reforms would hurt their bottom line, and they have organized to make sure that doesn't happen. The Louisiana Sheriffs Association consistently lobbies against sentencing reforms, and its political action committee uses its financial clout to help elect politicians who agree with them.

Orleans Parish, the most populous in the state, acts as a conveyor belt for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders to fill the cells and the coffers for other parishes.

"Orleans Parish is the parish that is fueling the prison system in other parts of the state, and it's mostly black men fed into the prison system from there," said Cadore. "Look at Bernard Noble, look at Victor White, who was stopped, frisked, questioned, and ended up dead in the back of a police car after they found marijuana on him."

Case after case after case of black men being sent away for years for relatively trivial offenses is starting to have a cumulative effect on public opinion.

"What's rising to the surface is the impact these current laws have on a particular community -- the black community," Dore pointed out. "We are noticing that the drug war has a color, and that's black, and it has a gender, and that's mostly male, and it has a location, mainly urban, where the young black men are. In all of that, Louisiana is no outlier."

Winning a commutation for Bernard Noble would be a step in the direction of social and racial justice. But he's just one prisoner. The state has 40,000 more, many of them also nonviolent drug offenders.

"If we are ever going to make a dent in reducing the incarceration rate and having a serious conversation about policy reform, we have to look at the impact of these draconian, regressive policies that are fueling the incarceration problem in the state," said Cadore.

"We also have to point out where lawmakers are making policy not based on evidence, but on tradition or notions of morality. We're in an age where evidence-based policy-making is not only the right thing, but the fiscally and socially responsible thing to do," she continued. "Louisiana has been casting a blind eye to evidence. Is it that they're not paying attention or that they're not paying attention to things that are profit-generating?"

Medical Marijuana Update

A near total victory for the Kettle Falls Four, California continues to wrestle with medical marijuana, CBD cannabis oil bills pop up, and a Utah medical marijuana bill stays alive. Let's get to it:

California

Last Tuesday, the Riverside city council voted to send an initiative to the ballot that would allow some medical marijuana dispensaries. The measure will be on the June 8 ballot.

Last Thursday, the Clear Lake city council adopted an ordinance banning grows within the city. Councilmembers said that was the only way to eliminate large grows, but patients and advocates protested loudly, to no avail. Legal action by patients and advocates is coming next.

On Monday, the Pismo Beach city council killed a proposed ban on medical marijuana deliveries. The council had voted last month to introduce an amendment to do so, but chose not to conduct a second reading.

On Tuesday, the San Diego city council cleared a key hurdle for dispensaries to open by rejecting environmental appeals filed against them. That means the six proposed dispensaries are one step closer to getting final approval from the Planning Commission.

Also on Tuesday, Tehama County supervisors voted to ban medical marijuana grows. The only exception is for locked outbuildings. Gardens that are currently in compliance will be grandfathered in, but only until next January.

Florida

On Monday, a jury acquitted a medical marijuana patient in a historic verdict. A Broward County jury effectively nullified the state's marijuana laws by acquitting a defendant who testified that he grew and used pot for medicinal purposes. Jesse Teplicki testified at his trial that he smoked marijuana to treat the nausea and suppressed appetite that had been plaguing him for years. The jury deliberated for less than an hour before returning with a verdict of "not guilty." Teplicki, 50, was looking at up to five years in state prison if convicted.

Georgia

Last Thursday, a CBD cannabis oil bill passed the House. The House approved House Bill 1, which allows for the use of low-THC, high-CBC cannabis oil to treat seizures and other major health conditions. The measure now goes to the Senate.

On Monday, a new, weaker CBD cannabis oil bill was filed in the Senate. The House last week passed a CBD cannabis oil bill, but now, Sen. Lindsey Tippins has filed a new bill that would not make the drug available, but would instead set up a four-year study. The Tippins bill is not yet up on the legislative website.

Iowa

On Sunday, a new poll showed strong support for medical marijuana in the state. A new Des Moines Register poll has support for medical marijuana at 70%, up from 59% a year ago. The state approved a CBD cannabis oil bill last year, but patient advocates say that law is useless because it doesn't provide for distribution of the medication.

Kansas

Last Monday, a CBD cannabis oil bill won a House committee vote. For the first time, a measure allowing some form of medical marijuana has won a vote in the state legislature. The House Health and Human Services Committee Monday approved House Bill 2282, which would allow for the use of low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil for seizure disorders.

Missouri

Last Thursday, the state issued licenses for CBD cannabis oil production. The Department of Agriculture this week issued two licenses for the cultivation of low-THC marijuana to be used to make CBD cannabis oil for patients. The licenses went to two St. Louis-area nonprofits.

Tennessee

Last Thursday, a CBD cannabis oil bill got delayed. The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee is delaying a bill that would legalize low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil. Lawmakers decided Tuesday to bump any action back by at least two weeks. The bill is House Bill 197.

Utah

Last Friday, a medical marijuana bill won a Senate committee vote. The state Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 259, a full-blown medical marijuana bill (except that it doesn't allow smoking it).

On Tuesday, the bill moved again. A bill that appeared delayed only a day earlier was approved for a third Senate reading Tuesday night. Senate Bill 259 would allow people with qualifying illnesses to use marijuana in edible or liquid form and would establish dispensaries to distribute it. If the Senate approves it one more time, it then goes to the House.

Washington

On Wednesday, the Kettle Falls Four won acquittal on most counts. A federal jury in Spokane acquitted the medical marijuana-growing family of four out of five counts, including the most serious ones, but found them guilty of growing between 50 and 100 plants. Federal prosecutors brought the case despite pot being legal in Washington state and despite federal guidance that suggests they shouldn't have. After the verdicts were read, prosecutors sought to jail the four pending sentencing, much to the disbelief of the courtroom crowd, but the judge didn't go for that.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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