State & Local Legislatures

RSS Feed for this category

Medical Marijuana Could Become Legal in Illinois

Location: 
IL
United States
A stricter set of rules and a surprise political alliance are helping build momentum for a long-thwarted effort to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Illinois.
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times (CA)
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/health/ct-met-illinois-medical-marijuana-20110427,0,2735371.story

Medical Marijuana Bill Re-Introduced in Pennsylvania (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 4/27/2011
CONTACT: Chris Goldstein at 267-702-3731 or media@phillynorml.org

Medical Marijuana Bill Re-Introduced in Pennsylvania


A bill to legalize the use of medical marijuana for qualifying patients and to create a statewide system of “Compassion Centers” has been introduced in the Keystone State. Senator Daylin Leach brought SB 1003 forward on April 25th with Senators Larry Farnese, James Ferlo and Wayne Fontana as the initial co-sponsors. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. READ SB 1003

The language is essentially a re-introduction of a bill that was active in 2009-10 in both houses of the General Assembly. The bill includes provisions for home cultivation and collects the state sales tax on medical cannabis. Last year the issue saw impressive public hearings in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh before the House Health and Human Services Committee.

Dr. Harry Swidler, an Emergency Medicine physician, said at the hearings: “Marijuana is non-addicting. There is no physical dependence or physical withdrawal associated with its use. It is, from a practical standpoint, non-toxic. Marijuana is safer by some measures than any other drug. There is simply no known quantity of marijuana capable of killing a person.”

Renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht testified before the HHS Committee in August 2010:  "I have personally performed 17,000 autopsies and reviewed 36,000 other postmortem protocols signed out by pathologists throughout the United States. I have never attributed a death to marijuana overdose, nor have I ever seen such a death certificate issued by any coroner or medical examiner."

WATCH VIDEO OF TESTIMONY HERE: http://www.youtube.com/pa4mmj

Advocates at Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana PA4MMJ are pushing for several changes to the bill when it gets to committee this session. These include re-naming the bill to The Governor Raymond P. Shafer Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.

Just after stepping down as governor of Pennsylvania in 1970 Shafer, a Republican, chaired a blue-ribbon commission for President Nixon that recommended two main points: 1) Marijuana should not be placed in Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act 2) Marijuana possession should be decriminalized at the federal level.

Nixon ignored those suggestions and ever since the federal government has aggressively enforced the Schedule I classification that describes cannabis as having “…no currently accepted medical use in treatment …” This is the reason that 15 states and the District of Columbia have independently legalized marijuana for medical uses.

Derek Rosenzweig at PA4MMJ in Philadelphia made this statement today, “The best person to help a patient decide what medicine works best is their physician. Marijuana should be available as an option for the thousands of residents in PA dealing with terrible medical conditions that we know cannabis can help treat.”

Patrick Nightengale of PA4MMJ in Pittsburgh added this statement; “ We have spoken with older citizens undergoing chemotherapy to our young warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have all implored us to get a medical marijuana law passed in PA. Routinely prescribed pain medications cause abuse, addiction and deaths everyday.  We should not criminalize the possession of a plant that has never resulted in a single lethal overdose.”

Polling conducted by Franklin&Marshall in 2010 showed that a striking 80 percent of residents support passing a medical marijuana law in Pennsylvania.

More information on the statewide effort in support of safe access to cannabis at www.pa4mmj.org

To speak with advocates, medical experts or cannabis patients in Pennsylvania please contact Chris Goldstein, media coordinator at PA4MMJ, at media@phillynorml.org or 267-702-3731.

Additional contacts: Derek Rosenzweig at
derek@phillynorml.org and Patrick Nightengale at patrick@pittsburghnorml.org.

Location: 
PA
United States

Hearing Set for Bill Legalizing Marijuana in Maine

Location: 
ME
United States
At 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, supporters of legalized marijuana in Maine will crowd into a hearing room in Augusta to support a Portland legislator's bill to decriminalize pot. Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, sponsor of LD 1453, "An Act To Legalize and Tax Marijuana," said she was thrilled to learn about the hearing that has been scheduled before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
Publication/Source: 
The Portland Daily Sun (ME)
URL: 
http://portlanddailysun.me/news/story/hearing-set-bill-legalizing-marijuana

RI State Rep. Watson Presents His Version of Marijuana Related Arrest in CT

Location: 
RI
United States
In a televised speech on the House floor about his arrest in Connecticut last Friday on driving-under-the-influence and marijuana-possession charges, House Minority Leader Robert A. Watson admitted to using marijuana to treat flare-ups of the pancreatitis that landed him in the hospital last November. Watson, R-East Greenwich, said he took a small amount of the drug with him when he went to Connecticut that day to help a friend move because he had had a pancreatic attack the day before, and wanted the drug handy if he had another severe one.
Publication/Source: 
The Providence Journal (RI)
URL: 
http://www.projo.com/news/content/watson_caucus_04-27-11_05NOUF0_v38.1afa32c.html

Medical Marijuana Bill on Montana Legislature's Agenda

Location: 
MT
United States
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer says he hopes the Legislature gets the medical marijuana reform bill to him with enough time for him to make changes and send it back for their approval. He says when the bill gets to his desk, he's going to make sure legitimate patients still have the option to use cannabis.
Publication/Source: 
KPAX (MT)
URL: 
http://www.kpax.com/news/medical-marijuana-bill-on-montana-legislature-s-agenda/

High-Ranking RI Lawmaker Faces Drug Charge

Location: 
RI
United States
State Rep. Robert Watson (R-East Greenwich), the House Minority Leader, who criticized the Legislature by invoking the image of pot-smoking immigrants is facing drug charges in Connecticut.
Publication/Source: 
The Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hQZTY6cZDqZGZoIuK0j-liVXqnNw?docId=752ae20652cb4175b982874a8adfb094

Maine Bill Eases Medical Marijuana Rules

Location: 
ME
United States
A bill to ease Maine's regulations on the medical use of marijuana faces a legislative hearing. A separate bill unveiled last week would legalize personal use and private and commercial cultivation of marijuana, and tax consumer purchases at 7 percent.
Publication/Source: 
The Portland Press Herald (ME)
URL: 
http://www.pressherald.com/news/Bill-eases-medical-marijuana-rules-.html

Oklahoma Senate Passes Life Sentence for Hash Making

The Oklahoma Senate Wednesday passed a bill that would mandate a sentence of up to life in prison for making hashish out of marijuana. The House has already approved the measure, but it must go back to the lower chamber for a final vote.

Making this could get you life in prison in Oklahoma if a current bill becomes law (Image via Wikimedia.org)
The measure sailed through the Senate with little debate, passing on a vote of 44-2. The House also approved the measure by a large margin, passing it on a vote of 75-18.

The bill, House Bill 1798, creates a new felony of converting marijuana into hash. A first conviction could garner a $50,000 fine and prison sentence of two years to life. And that's a mandatory minimum two years. Second or subsequent convictions would net doubled penalties.

Oklahoma legislative analysts said the bill would cost the state $56 per day, or more than $20,000 a year, for each day someone is imprisoned. At that rate, if Oklahoma imprisoned five hash makers for 10 years each, the bill to taxpayers would be one million dollars.

The bill was the brainchild of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBNDD), which says on its web site that its mission is "to serve the citizens of Oklahoma in the quest for a drug-free state."

According to the Tulsa World, OBNDD said there have been "few" cases of hash making in the Sooner State. But OBNDD spokesman Mark Woodward said the goal of the bill is to "send a message" that illegal drugs won't be tolerated in Oklahoma.

Neither, apparently, will common sense or a sense of proportionality.

Oklahoma City, OK
United States

Fed Threat Puts Washington Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill in Doubt

A bill that would create a system of state-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries and patient registries faces an uncertain future after Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) said she would not sign legislation that could get state employees in trouble with the feds.

The battle is joined over dispensaries in Washington, and the clock is ticking. (Image via Wikimedia.org
The bombshell statement came after she solicited the input of the state's two US Attorneys, Mike Orsmby in the Western District in Spokane and Jenny Durkan in the Eastern District in Seattle. The prosecutorial pair responded to Gregoire's inquiry with an April 14 letter warning of a possible federal response if the legislation passes.

"Growing, distributing and possessing marijuana in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities," Ormsby and Durkan wrote. "State employees who conducted activities mandated by the Washington legislative proposals would not be immune from liability under the Controlled Substance Act."

"I will not sign anything subjecting state employees to prosecution," Gregoire said last week after receiving the letter.

The bill, Senate Bill 5073, has passed both houses, but needs to go before a conference committee to hammer out differences. Gregoire has urged legislators to send her a bill she can sign. They have until the end of the week to do so before the legislative session ends.

Some dispensary supporters are urging legislators to stand up to Gov. Gregoire, but others said the bill, as amended in the House, removed protections for patients and must be fixed in concurrence before going to the governor. The main House amendment removed protection from arrest from patients unless they signed onto the state's patient registry. And some are so unhappy with the bill, they would rather see it die.

The ACLU of Washington, which supports the bill, sent a letter to legislators over the weekend urging them to stand firm and saying the concerns expressed by Gregoire were overblown. The federal government has never prosecuted a state employee implementing a dispensary program, the letter pointed out, citing the example of New Mexico, where the state Department of Health administers the program.

The US Attorneys' letter displays the federal government's insistence on being part of the problem instead of part of the solution, said the letter, written by ACLU attorney Shankar Narayan. "The feds have promised no action to control the chaos of semi-legal businesses, yet balk at a law that regulates them sensibly," Narayan wrote. "The legislature and our governor must step in where the feds will not, so that patients can have access to medicine and communities are safe."

On Tuesday, the Seattle mayor, city council, and city attorney all signed a letter to the Senate calling the federal threats to state employees "specious" and urging that body to accept the House amendments and send a strong bill to Gov. Gregoire.

"The question we face is not whether or not we are going to have medical marijuana use in Washington State," the Seattle officials wrote. "The voters already decided that question more than a decade ago. The question we face is whether or not we will have a thoughtful and rational regulatory framework for the production, processing, and distribution of medical marijuana. In its current form SB 5073 provides much needed clarity to this important issue and we urge you to adopt it and send it to the governor."

Also on Tuesday, several dozen demonstrators showed up at the state capitol in Olympia calling on the governor to sign the dispensary bill. The protestors said Gregoire was abandoning patients and snubbing the will of the voters.

"We're in the early stages of making some noises to try to get the governor to change her position," said Philip Dawdy, a spokesman for the newly formed Washington Cannabis Association, which came together to support the bill.

Another activist group, the Cannabis Defense Coalition, however, is harshly critical of the bill as amended by the House, saying the House action had "torpedoed" the bill. The bill as amended by the House includes language "that removes arrest and search protection for authorized patients who choose not to notify the state of their medical treatment decisions and disqualifies parolees and people on probation from any medicinal use of cannabis," the group complained.

And pot provocateur and CannaCare dispensary operator Steve Sarich was even more harsh, telling the Seattle Weekly that the bill as amended by the House "eviscerated" patients' rights. Sarich led a small group of demonstrators to the ACLU of Washington offices last week to protest its support of the bill.

But now, it's up to the legislative conferees and the governor. Will the unpopular House amendment stand? Will the legislature stand up to the governor? Will the governor stand up to the feds? We will have the answers in a matter of days.

Olympia, WA
United States

Big Brother or Little Brat? Washington's Governor Gins Up a Federal Controversy Over Medical Marijuana

Location: 
WA
United States
It appears Washington's Governor Chris Gregoire is being intellectually dishonest regarding a letter the US Department of Justice sent to her saying that federal prosecutors could slap any state employee who administers medical marijuana licenses with a criminal prosecution. Not only is Gregoire mischaracterizing the letter (which never says the Feds "would" prosecute), she also ginned up this whole controversy herself by specifically asking the Obama administration if state employees would be "immune from arrest or liability" knowing full well that prosecutors would never provide blanket immunity. Now Gregoire is leveraging the letter to bully the legislature into watering down the medical marijuana bill this week — asking them to gut key protections for sick and dying patients and complicating access for their caretakers. The fact is that no state employee has ever been prosecuted for activities related to medical marijuana so long as he or she was in compliance with state laws governing its licensing and regulation.
Publication/Source: 
The Stranger (WA)
URL: 
http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/big-brother-or-little-brat/Content?oid=7770341

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School