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DC Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Likely Coming

Faced with the prospect of having District of Columbia marijuana policy determined directly by voters through the initiative process, at least two members of the DC Council are considering introducing legislation that would decriminalize possession in the nation's capital. The Washington Post reported that Council members Marion Berry (D-Ward 8) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) are formulating a decriminalization bill.

"Absolutely, it's time we look at decriminalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia," said Wells, who is chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee and who is running for mayor next year. "It's time we enter the 21st century and stop criminalizing people... for what is not really a major crime."

Wells and Barry aren't the only council members who are thinking decrim. Anita Bonds (D-At Large) said she is also considering drafting a decriminalization bill.

And Council Member David Grosso (I-At Large) said he could get behind decriminalization, but that he wanted to broaden the discussion to include legalization.

"The people on the streets dealing are the nonviolent drug offenders who are going to jail for dealing drugs," said Grosso, who got busted for marijuana possession as a young man in Florida two decades ago. "I think that's a serious problem.”

But council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) may prove an obstacle.

"I don't think it's the right time," said Mendelson, citing congressional opposition that blocked the city from implementing a voter-approved medical marijuana program for more than a decade. "I don't think decriminalization of marijuana will go over easily with Congress."

If the council doesn't act, District marijuana reform activists are ready to step up to the plate. They have already been engaged in discussions about a possible November 2014 initiative and whether it should be a decriminalization measure or go for the fence with a legalization measure.

If activists try to take the issue to the voters, they appear to be well-positioned. A Public Policy Polling survey last month showed three-quarters of DC residents supported decriminalization and nearly two-thirds (63%) supported legalization.

Washington, DC
United States

Rep. Steve Cohen Grills Eric Holder on Marijuana Prohibition (VIDEO)

Republic of Georgia Could Legalize Marijuana

The government of the former Soviet republic of Georgia is considering legalizing marijuana, the country's Labor, Health, and Social Affairs minister said Friday.

"As far as drugs are concerned, ban-related mechanisms very often entail a ricochet effect, which means strengthening and development of other directions and etc.," David Sergeyenko told the local Novosti-Georgia news agency. Dealing with drugs requires "a well-considered strategy" and "the legalization of marijuana could be a part of it," he said.

But don't start torching up in Tbilisi just yet, Segeyenko said.

"The fact that we are now discussing this issue does not mean that we will wake up one day and see marijuana at supermarkets. Of course, it will not happen this way," he said, leaving unclear just exactly what he did envision.

Under current Georgian law, people convicted of illegal drug possession face up to a year in jail, a fine, or community service.

This isn't the first time there has been legalization talk in Georgia. In 2005, the head of the Georgian Council for Drug Policy, Tamara Sirbiladze, called for marijuana legalization, saying it could "reduce the number of drug-related crimes."

Tbilisi
Georgia

Author, Filmmaker, Drug Reformer Mike Gray Dies

We received word Wednesday that Mike Gray, probably best known in the drug reform community as the author of "Drug Crazy: How We Got in this Mess and How We Can Get Out," has died.

Mike Gray, RIP
A fixture at drug reform conferences for the last decade, Gray had been a staunch advocate of ending drug prohibition and had worked with Robert Field at Common Sense for Drug Policy to publicize the abuses of the drug war and assist local activists seeking reform. Among his many works at CSDP were the DVDs "Law Enforcement Against Prohibition," highlighting spokespersons of the group by the same name, and "Cops & Clergy Condemn the War on Drugs."

Born in 1935 in Darlington, Indiana, Gray received an engineering degree from Purdue University, but found his life's work in documenting political violence as a filmmaker. He was a cofounder of the Chicago-based Film Group, a pioneering collection of documentary filmmakers whose works included "The Murder of Fred Hampton," the Chicago Black Panther leader gunned down by police in 1969. Gray's iconic coverage of the police riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention were seen around the world.

Gray moved to Los Angeles in 1973, where he expanded his creative endeavors to include screenwriting credits for four-time Oscar nominated "The China Syndrome" and other films, for episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," as well as a number of books. His written work addressed issues such as the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island and the use of the death penalty, as well as drug reform. In addition to "Drug Crazy," Gray returned to the issue of drug policy with "Busted: Stone Cowboys, Narco-Lords, and Washington’s War on Drugs."

Gray won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Drama and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and for the BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay.

Your reporter conversed briefly with Gray at the California NORML conference in January. He didn't appear to be in ill health; his death comes as a shock, if not a surprise, given his age. He will be missed.

 
 
 

A Rising Marijuana Reform Tide at the Statehouses [FEATURE]

In the wake of the marijuana legalization victories in Colorado and Washington last November, and buoyed by a series of national public opinion polls showing support for pot legalization going over the tipping point, marijuana reform legislation is being introduced at state houses across the land at levels never seen before.

Oregon is one of the more promising states for marijuana legalization legislation. (Oregon State Capitol photo via oregon.gov)
While the mere fact that a bill has been introduced is no guarantee it's going to pass, that such bills are being introduced in record numbers speaks to how far the marijuana reform movement has come. According to a legislative activity web page maintained by the Marijuana Policy Project, decriminalization bills have been introduced in 10 states and the dependency of the Northern Mariana Islands this year, while outright legalization bills have been introduced in 11 states and the dependency of Puerto Rico.

(This article does not review current medical marijuana legislation, which will be the subject of an additional report. In the meanwhile, our Medical Marijuana Update each week provides extensive info on legislation and other developments in the issue.)

Some of the legalization and decrim bills are dead already (see below), but others remain alive. While passage of a legalization bill this year remains a long shot, decriminalization bills in some states may fare better.

NORML founder, erstwhile executive director and current legal counsel Keith Stroup has been fighting for marijuana law reform for more than 40 years. It's never looked better, he said.

"I wasn't sure I'd live long enough to see this happening, even though the demographics are on our side," he said. "A lot of these legislatures, though, are still playing around with medical marijuana, when the truth is voters are ready to go much further, probably for decriminalization and maybe for legalization. But after we won Colorado and Washington, you can see the increased confidence a number of legislators have demonstrated, and there's only going to be more of that."

Karen O'Keefe is director of state policies for MPP. She hasn't been at it as long as Stroup, but she has a solid decade of reform efforts under her belt, and she, too, said things were definitely looking up.

"When I first started at MPP, I don't think a single state had a tax and regulate bill, and now we have 11 states, and probably Ohio coming on board, too, with tax and regulate. People are realizing it's a serious issue with majority support, and legislatures are starting to catch up," said O'Keefe.

"We first saw majority support in the Gallup poll a couple of years ago, but there wasn't nearly as much activity as this year," she said. "Having two states approve marijuana legalization with solid majorities made it seem real. Colorado and Washington were initiative states, and the first medical marijuana states were initiative states, too. Once the people have led the way, legislators begin to realize it's a popular issue that makes sense and they start to act on it."

Here's what's going on in the state legislatures (excerpted with edits from the aforementioned MPP web page), with further discussion following:

Marijuana Legalization Bills

Alabama -- House Bill 550, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd, would allow adults 21 and older to possess or grow limited amounts of marijuana. It would also allow a regulated and taxed marijuana industry, in addition to setting up a medical marijuana program. The bill was referred to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

Hawaii -- Speaker Joe Souki introduced House Bill 150 and House Bill 699, which would have allowed the taxed and regulated sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older. Both bills would also have allowed adults to cultivate marijuana in a locked, secure facility. On February 12, the House Judiciary Committee deferred action on HB 699, killing the bill for the year. Because of legislative deadlines, the other tax-and-regulate bill also will not be able to advance in 2013, which is the first year of Hawaii's biennial legislative session.

Maine -- Rep. Diane Russell’s LD 1229 would allow adults 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. It would also set up a system to license and regulate growers, infused product makers, retail stores, and labs. LD 1229 would impose a $50 per ounce tax on marijuana at the wholesale level. It was referred to the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety on March 26.

Maryland -- House Bill 1453, sponsored by Del. Curt Anderson, would have provided for a taxed and regulated marijuana industry. It would have also allowed adults 21 years of age and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. HB 1453 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which heard testimony on the bill on March 19. The bill did not advance out of committee before the deadline to pass the House.

Massachusetts -- Rep. Ellen Story has sponsored House Bill 1632, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess and cultivate marijuana. It would allow a regulated, taxed marijuana industry once it is legal under federal law. HB 1632 was referred to the Joint Committee on Judiciary.

Nevada -- Assembly Bill 402, sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Hogan, would allow adults 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. It would also create a taxed and regulated legal marijuana industry. AB 402 was referred to the Committee on Judiciary, but it did not advance before the deadline.

New Hampshire -- Rep. Steve Vaillancourt proposed House Bill 492, which would tax and regulate marijuana for adults’ use. It would also allow adults 21 and older to cultivate up to six plants. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee retained HB 492, meaning it will study the issue this fall. In addition, Rep. Mark Warden introduced House Bill 337, which would have made marijuana legal without imposing regulations. HB 337 received 112 votes on March 13, including from 52 Republicans, but 239 representatives voted against the bill, so it is dead for the year.

New Mexico -- Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino introduced Senate Joint Memorial 31, which would have directed the state's Economic Development Department to study the budgetary implications of a legal marijuana industry. The legislative session ended without SJM 31 receiving a floor vote.

Oregon -- The House Committee on Revenue introduced House Bill 3371, which would allow persons 21 and older to grow and possess marijuana. It would also set up a system of taxation and regulation for the commercial production and sale of marijuana, similar to alcohol. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary, which approved the bill on April 2. The bill is now pending in the House Committee on Revenue.

Pennsylvania -- Senate Bill 528, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach, would regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. It would allow adults 21 years of age or older to purchase, cultivate, and possess limited amounts of marijuana. On April 3, the bill was referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Puerto Rico -- Sen. Miguel Pereira has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 517, which would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess marijuana but would not provide for regulated distribution or cultivation.

Rhode Island -- On February 6, Rep. Edith Ajello introduced House Bill 5274, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, which was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would tax and regulate marijuana sales for adults' use and would allow adults to cultivate up to three mature marijuana plants. Sen. Donna Nesselbush sponsors the Senate companion bill, Senate Bill 334. The bills are pending in the House and Senate judiciary committees.

Vermont --  Rep. Susan Davis’ House Bill 499 would have allowed adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and to grow up to three plants. It would have required the Department of Liquor Control to regulate marijuana wholesalers, retailers, and labs and impose a $50 per ounce tax at the wholesale level. The bill did not advance before the crossover deadline. In addition, Sen. Jeanette White's Senate Bill 160 would create a Study Committee on the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana, which would be a legislative committee that would study a process for licensing marijuana businesses along with a taxation and regulatory structure.

Decriminalization Bills (generally speaking, see the notes)

Hawaii --  Sen. Kalani English sponsored Senate Bill 472, which would punish possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine, while Sen. Donovan De la Cruz sponsored Senate Bill 739, which would impose a civil fine of up to $100 for no more than an ounce of marijuana. The Senate unanimously approved SB 472 on March 5. Both bills are dead for the year, but they will carry over to the second year of the state's two-year session.

Illinois -- House Bill 2332 would have imposed a civil fine on possession of a tiny amount of marijuana -- 0.1 gram. It did not advance before the deadline.

Indiana -- Senate Bill 580, sponsored by Sen. Karen Tallian, would have made possession of less than two ounces of marijuana a class C infraction punishable by a fine only with no possibility of jail time. The bill, which was referred to the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law, would also have made other reforms to Indiana's marijuana laws, including allowing hemp. The bill did not advance before the crossover deadline.

Maryland -- Senate Bill 297, sponsored by Sen. Robert Zirkin, would have reduced the maximum penalty for possession up to 10 grams of marijuana to a $100 civil fine. The Senate approved the bill in a 30-16 vote on March 19, but it did not get a vote in the House Judiciary Committee before the legislature adjourned on April 8. Another bill sponsored by Sen. Zirkin -- Senate Bill 394 -- would have made the maximum fine for marijuana possession a $100 civil fine. That bill was withdrawn.

Michigan -- House Bill 4623, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Irwin, would replace possible jail time and criminal penalties with civil fines of $25, $50, or $100, depending on the number of prior convictions the person has for marijuana possession. The bill was introduced on April 24 and was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.

Missouri -- Rep. Rory Ellinger has introduced House Bill 512, which would reduce the penalty for possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana from up to a year in prison to a fine of no more than $250 and a suspended sentence.

New Mexico -- House Bill 465, sponsored by Rep. Emily Kane, would have reduced the penalty for first offense possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to a $50 civil fine. A second offense would have been a petty misdemeanor carrying a $100 fine. It would have also imposed fines for up to eight ounces of marijuana. The bill passed the House, but the session ended before the Senate could vote on it.

New Hampshire -- Rep. Kyle Tasker proposed House Bill 621, which would impose a fine on simple possession of marijuana. On March 21, the House of Representatives amended the bill to apply only to a quarter of an ounce of marijuana and to impose a fine of up to $200. It then approved the bill in a 214-115 vote, sending it to the Senate. On April 16, the bill received a negative recommendation in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

New Jersey -- Senate Bill 1977, sponsored by Sen. Nicholas Scutari, would impose a $50 fine on up to 50 grams of marijuana (nearly two ounces). Assembly Bill 1465, sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, was introduced in 2012 and passed the Assembly. The bill would impose civil fines starting at $150 on possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana. Both bills are pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

New York -- Senate Bill 3315 would eliminate the "public use" exception to the state's decriminalization law, a reform supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. [Note: Although New York decriminalized in the 1970s, New York City police have continued to arrest tens of thousands of people each year under the "public use" exception.]

North Carolina -- Rep. Rep. Kelly Alexander sponsors House Bill 637, which would downgrade the penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana from a misdemeanor that does not carry jail time to a civil infraction.  [Note: This is a depenalization, not a decriminalization, bill.]

Northern Mariana Islands -- House Bill 18-42, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Leon Guerrero, would impose a $50 fine on marijuana possession in the U.S. territory.

Texas -- Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr. sponsors House Bill 184, which would make up to one ounce of marijuana a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine. It was referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which approved an amended version of the bill on April 23. The bill would now only apply to persons under 21 for their first offense.

Vermont -- Senate Bill 48, sponsored by Sen. Joe Benning, and House Bill 200, sponsored by Rep. Chris Pearson, would impose a civil fine on possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Under H. 200, a person under 21 who is found in possession of up to an ounce of marijuana would have to undergo substance abuse screening and possible treatment. On April 16, the House of Representatives approved H. 200 in a 92-49 vote, sending the bill to the Senate. Gov. Peter Shumlin has been a strong proponent of replacing criminal penalties with a civil fine.

Denver "420" rally, April 2013 (facebook.com/pages/420-Rally/104447806260934)
As the lists demonstrate, some bills have died already, but others still breathe, and some could even pass this year.

"We're most involved in Vermont, and we're very hopeful the decriminalization bill there will pass before the legislature adjourns," said MPP's O'Keefe. "The bill is in the Senate, and the governor is supportive. That's probably the best chance for removing criminal penalties this year."

Passing a legalization bill could take a little longer, she said.

"Tax and regulate could end up taking a couple of years," said O'Keefe, "but the bills in Maine and Oregon are getting serious consideration, and Rhode Island legislators seem very reasonable. But we don't think it's likely to pass in Rhode Island this year, although we are hopeful in will in the next couple of years be one of the first states to pass it."

That it should take a year or two or three to get marijuana legalization passed in any given state legislature is no surprise, O'Keefe said.

"We've had a lot of bills that got a vote one year, but legislators needed more time to think and be educated," she pointed out. "In Illinois, the House twice voted down medical marijuana before passing it, and in New Hampshire tax and regulate has slowly been gaining more and more support. This isn't something legislators are used to, and in most cases it takes them awhile to get used to it."

For Stroup, using the initiative process in states that allow for it is the best bet, but he cautioned that the movement is going to have to be able to win victories at the statehouse, too.

"Any time we have the choice of going to the people, it's always in our interest to do so," he said. "We know increasingly from the public opinion surveys that if the people decide, we win. Elected officials remain more timid about this than the public -- they're really worried about getting reelected and less worried about reform legislation -- but realistically, we have to be able to win in the states that don't have initiatives."

When it comes to passing bills, though, Stroup drew a parallel with the first burst of decriminalization efforts in the 1970s. Oregon and Maine went for decriminalization early in the decade, but the other handful of states that decriminalized in that era only came in at the end of the decade.

"When we won those first couple of states in the 1970s, we thought we were off and running, but the other states were all waiting to see what would happen, so we didn't win anything for a couple of years," he recalled. "I think we're in the same phase now when it comes to legalization. I have no doubt we will eventually win full legalization everywhere, but for the next couple of years, people in Colorado and Washington are going to have to be especially careful that they are demonstrating responsible use."

Cannabis culture celebrations like 4/20 have their place, said Stroup, but the rest of the time, it should be about responsible use.

"That's not the tactic we need the rest of the year," he said. "We want to demonstrate to the average person that nothing really changes when you legalize marijuana except you quit arresting responsible marijuana smokers and raise some revenue. What we don't want is a bunch of out-of-control pot smokers driving crazy -- that will scare neighboring states and cause a political backlash," the veteran activist warned.

"A backlash because of bad behavior won't stop us -- the demographics are on our side -- but whether it takes five years or 15 depends to some degree on how well we behave ourselves. We may see decriminalization pass somewhere, but I don't think we'll win legalization this year. I think before that passes in state legislatures, those lawmakers need to see that what Colorado and Washington did was a good thing."

The process of turning legalization victories at the voting booth into actual taxed, regulated, and legal commerce in Colorado and Washington is a process in progress in both states right now. By next year, those two states should be living experiments in marijuana legalization. Doing it right there will make it easier to get it done elsewhere. If not this year, next year. Or 2016.

Puerto Rico Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed

Puerto Rico has become the latest US state or dependency to see a marijuana legalization bill filed this year. Sen. Miguel Pereira earlier this month filed Senate Bill 517 (link is in Spanish) earlier this month.

The Old Capitol, San Juan, Puerto Rico (senadopr.us)
Ten states have seen marijuana legalization legislation so far this year. They are Alabama, Hawaii (already dead), Maine, Maryland (already dead), Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

The bill introduced by Periera, a former police chief and federal prosecutor, would amend the island's drug statute so that it "will not be applicable to the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over." It does not address marijuana cultivation or commerce.

While the bill's prospects are cloudy, space is emerging in the island dependency for a discussion of marijuana policy. Last week, Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla suggested he was open to such a discussion.

"I don't have a problem with an open debate about the possibilities, benefits or drawbacks of such a measure," Garcia Padilla said during a press conference.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Security, and Veterans Affairs.

San Juan, PR
United States

Poll of DC Voters Finds Two-Thirds Support Marijuana Legalization

District of Columbia map
Activists planning possible Washington, DC, marijuana reform efforts got some good news this week. A Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday found that three-quarters of DC voters support decriminalizing marijuana possession, two-thirds (67%) think law enforcement resources focused on marijuana should be used elsewhere, and nearly two-thirds (63%) said they would support ballot measures similar to those in Colorado and Washington state, where voters legalized marijuana last November.

DC voters weren't just interested in lessening marijuana law enforcement. A solid majority (54%) said drug use should be treated as a public health issue and people should no longer be arrested and locked up for possession of a small amount of any drug for personal use.

DC-based activists have been meeting about plans to push pot law reforms. The first stop is the city council, but it the council balks, there are also contingency plans for a possible ballot initiative. In interviews earlier this year, activists said they were waiting for polling results before deciding on a course of action. Now they have them.

Adam Eidinger holding "Free Bryan Epis" sign at protest of then drug czar John Walters, 2002 (drugwar.com)
"As a 20-year DC resident, I know scores of people who have been humiliated with an arrest and have even spent time in jail for possessing small quantities of marijuana," said longtime District activist and spokesman for Dr. Bronner's Natural Soaps Adam Eidinger. "This new poll confirms that there is little support for laws that criminalize marijuana consumers in the District and they are due for repeal. We hope it inspires the Council to craft meaningful marijuana policy reform legislation, but in either case a change in the law appears to be inevitable."

"District voters, like most Americans, think it is time for a new, more sensible approach to marijuana policy," said Steve Fox of the DC-based Marijuana Policy Project. "People should not be subjected to life-altering criminal penalties simply for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol. Harsh criminal penalties should be reserved for serious criminals, and our law enforcement resources should be reserved for addressing serious crimes."

"DC voters clearly want to end the failed war on drugs," said Bill Piper, DC-based national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Decriminalizing marijuana is a no-brainer, but the Council should do more. There is an opportunity to make a clean break from the past and treat drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue. More access to treatment and health services. No more putting people in jail."

The ball is in the DC City Council's court, but if elected representatives fail to act, the threat of direct democracy via the initiative process looms.

Washington, DC
United States

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

Alabama, Pennsylvania See Marijuana Legalization Bills

And then there were ten. That is, as marijuana legalization bills have been formally introduced this month in Alabama and Pennsylvania, the number of states to see such bills this year is up to ten. The others are Hawaii (already killed), Maine, Maryland (already dead), Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

In Alabama, Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) introduced House Bill 550, the Alabama Cannabis and Hemp Reform Act. It would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants in a secured space. Adults could share, but not sell, marijuana to other adults.

The bill is headed for the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

In Pennsylvania, Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17) introduced Senate Bill 528, the Regulate Marijuana Act. It would allow adults 21 and over to grow up to six plants and possess the resulting harvest. It would also allow adults to transfer up to an ounce to other adults. And it would direct the state to come up with a system to regulate and tax marijuana commerce.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Marijuana Legalization Bill Moving in Oregon

An Oregon bill that would legalize marijuana was approved by the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday on a 6-3 vote after hearing testimony that same day. That marks the first time any Oregon marijuana legalization measure has won a committee vote. The bill now heads to the House Revenue Committee.

The bill, House Bill 3371, would legalize marijuana possession for adults 21 and over, provide for the cultivation of a small number of plants without regulation, and set up a system of taxation and regulation of marijuana commerce. It was sponsored by the Revenue Committee.

"Marijuana legalization is coming to Oregon sooner rather than later," said Anthony Johnson of New Approach Oregon, a group supporting legalization. "It makes sense to regulate marijuana like alcohol and for the legislature to take the lead on the issue and make sure sensible regulations are in place."

The only opposition to the bill at the Wednesday hearing came from the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association, which said it was concerned about drugged driving, underage use, and drug dependency.

"This act will not make the problems of marijuana abuse go away," said Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett, speaking on behalf of the association.

Oregon became the first state in the nation to decriminalize marijuana in 1973. Last, the Measure 80 marijuana legalization initiative, poorly funded and hobbled by the mixed reputation of its proponent, Paul Stanford, managed to pull in nearly 47% of the popular vote. Activists have been discussing whether to go forward with another initiative in 2014, but if HB 3371 keeps moving, they may not have to wait that long.

Eugene, OR
United States

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