State & Local Legislatures

RSS Feed for this category

Hemp: Idaho Resolution Supporting Industrial Production Fails in Legislature

A resolution supporting the legalization of industrial hemp production died Wednesday in the Idaho House Agricultural Affairs Committee. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Tom Trail (R-Moscow), who said hemp could be a multi-million dollar industry for Idaho farmers and create jobs and tax revenues for the state.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/hempplants.jpg
hemp plants
According to the Idaho Reporter, Trail made a strong case for hemp, arguing that it could be used in thousands of food and fashion products and that because of its low THC levels, it would not impact the drug trade.

"To get a high from industrial hemp you'd have to build a cigar the size of a telephone pole," Trail explained.

But Rep. Dennis Lake (R-Blackfoot) objected, saying allowing industrial hemp would place an unneeded burden on law enforcement. Police could have trouble differentiating between hemp and marijuana, Lake worried.

Trail responded by saying that during his research for the bill, he had met with law enforcement in Canada, where hemp production is legal, and they told him marijuana growers are not "stupid enough" to plant in hemp fields because of cross-pollination. Marijuana plants pollinated by hemp plants would see their THC content shrink and their fiber content increase, making them less desirable to pot smokers.

Another cosponsor of the resolution, Rep. Brian Cronin (D-Boise) told lawmakers the state is losing out on jobs and tax revenues because of the federal hemp ban. The public and lawmakers suffer from a "fundamental misunderstanding of what hemp is," he said. "It's as American as apple pie. Both Washington and Jefferson grew hemp, and the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper," he added.

A third cosponsor, Rep. Eric Anderson (R-Priest Lake), echoed the charge that America is missing out because of the federal hemp ban. "We spend hundreds of millions buying it from Canada," Anderson said. "There is not a day that goes by that we don't use hemp products."

That wasn't enough to sway their fellow lawmakers. Rep. Lake proposed killing the bill, but that motion failed on a 5-5 tie vote. Rep. Donna Pence (D-Gooding) then asked the committee to send the measure to the full House for further consideration. That request also failed on a 5-5 tie vote, effectively killing the bill.

Drug Testing: Missouri Bill to Test Welfare Recipients Passes House, But Faces Battle in Senate

The Missouri House Thursday passed a bill that would require welfare recipients to undergo drug testing upon "reasonable suspicion" they used drugs. But the Senate version of that bill, SB 607, is under sustained attack by Senate Democrats, who are filibustering it this week.

Under the bills, all work-eligible adults who received cash payments through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program would be drug tested if a caseworker has "reasonable suspicion" they are using drugs. Those who test positive would become temporarily ineligible for cash assistance, but their children could continue to receive benefits through a third party.

TANF is a federal program designed to help poverty-stricken parents provide for their children. In Missouri, more than 112,000 people get cash assistance through the program. The average family on the program gets $292 a month.

A legislative staff fiscal analysis of the Senate bill put the annual cost to the state at more than $5 million next year, and more than $6 million in coming years. Those figures represent the cost of drug testing an estimated 90,000 TANF recipients or new applicants each year and the cost of providing additional drug treatment services to deal with those who test positive.

But in debate this week, Senate Democrats said the fiscal analysis didn't take into account the cost of possibly having to care for children whose parents are denied benefits. "The people who are the complete, total innocent victims in this are the kids," said Sen. Victor Callahan (D-Independence), the Senate minority leader. "Let's act like a responsible family," he said. "What about our brother's kids?"

Republicans said the bill just made good sense. "It seems to prevent the state of Missouri from becoming an enabler to addiction," said Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin).

Will the Senate filibuster succeed? Stay tuned.

Harm Reduction: Washington Senate Passes Good Samaritan Bill; Would Protect Against Prosecution in Overdose Cases

The Washington state Senate Friday passed SB 5516, the 911 Good Samaritan Act, on a vote of 47-1. One member was absent. The bill now goes to the House. The measure provides immunity from prosecution for drug possession offenses for overdose victims and people who seek medical assistance for overdose victims. It does not grant immunity from prosecution for drug distribution offenses. It also allows expanded access to naloxone, a powerful opiate antagonist that can bring people back from the brink of death from overdoses in a matter of moments. The bill comes as the number of drug overdose deaths in Washington state have increased from around 403 in 1999 to 707, or nearly two a day, in 2006. Drug overdose is now the second leading cause of accidental death in the state, second only to traffic accidents. The bill was opposed by the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, who argued that because there was no budget for publicizing the bill, it would not affect drug-taking behaviors, and thus would be no more than another complicating factor in drug prosecutions. Drug overdose fatalities now outrank traffic accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in more than a dozen states. But only one state, New Mexico, has approved a Good Samaritan law. Now, perhaps Washington will be next.
Location: 
Olympia, WA
United States

Medical Marijuana: Colorado Senate Passes Bill to Restrict Physicians' Recommending

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/colorado-application.jpg
Colorado state medical marijuana application
Stunned at the rapid increase in the number of registered medical marijuana patients in the state, the Colorado Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to impose new restrictions on physicians who make medical marijuana recommendations. The Senate voted 34-1 to pass SB 109.

Sponsored by Sens. Chris Romer (D-Denver) and Nancy Spence (R-Centennial), the bill would require physicians who make medical marijuana recommendations to have a "bona fide" relationship with patients, including treating a patient before he applies for medical marijuana, conducting a thorough physical exam, and providing follow-up care. The bill would also bar doctors from being paid by dispensaries to write recommendations and require that they not have any restrictions on their medical licenses. Doctors would have to keep records of all medical marijuana recommendations and provide them to state health agencies seeking to investigate doctors for violating state laws.

The bill would also require persons between 18 and 21 to get recommended by two different physicians.

Colorado began registering medical marijuana patients in June 2001 after voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing its use. For years, the number of patients hovered around 2,000, but after state courts last year threw out a regulation limiting the number of patients for whom caregivers could provide to five and the Obama administration signaled that it was not going to interfere in medical marijuana states, the numbers exploded. By last September, there were more than 17,000 registered patients, and now the number is near 40,000. A similar boom has gone on with dispensaries, with Colorado now second only to California in their numbers.

The bill was supported by Colorado law enforcement and the Colorado Medical Association, but was opposed by most medical marijuana patients and providers.

"This is the beginning of the end of the Wild West" for the state's booming medical-marijuana industry, said bill sponsor Sen. Chris Romer.

"This bill is an unprecedented assault on the doctor-patient privilege that would hold medical marijuana doctors to a higher standard than any other doctor," medical marijuana attorney Robert Correy told lawmakers. "This would cause human suffering. The most sick and the most poor would be disproportionately harmed. You're going to see the Board of Medical Examiners conducting witch hunts against medical marijuana providers."

The bill now moves to the House.

Marijuana: It's Pot Week in Providence as Rhode Island Solons Introduce Decrim Bill, Ponder Prohibition

It's been a big week for marijuana at the statehouse in Providence, with lawmakers Tuesday introducing a decriminalization bill and hearing testimony on the effects of marijuana prohibition Wednesday. Also this week, the state Department of Health held the final round of public comment on proposed rules for the state's new medical marijuana compassion center program.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/risenate.jpg
Rhode Island Senate Chamber
Introduced by Rep. John Edwards (D-Tiverton), HB 7317 would decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of weed. People caught with less than an ounce would be subject to a $150 fine, but no criminal record. Fines would go to the state general fund if the person is cited by state police, but to localities if cited by local police. Simple possession is currently a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and a $500 fine.

"This legislation is less about the ongoing debate over the decriminalization of marijuana and more about providing some relief to the taxpayers of this state," Edwards said. "The average cost to keep someone [in prison] is more than $44,000 per year. Rhode Island taxpayers should not be paying to keep someone locked up due to a simple possession charge."

Edwards said his bill would help in three different ways. "First, we wouldn't tie up our criminal courts with these minor offenses. Second, the entity that catches the individual keeps the fine and finally, we save some money by not having to house and feed these individuals at taxpayer expense," he explained.

On Wednesday evening, the state Senate Commission on Marijuana Prohibition held what should be its final hearing -- it was supposed to report back to the General Assembly by last week. Created by a legislative resolution last summer, the commission is charged with undertaking a thorough evaluation of the impact of marijuana prohibition.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition head Jack Cole, a former undercover narc in New Jersey, told the committee in written testimony that arresting marijuana users is a luxury Rhode Island can't afford. "A tremendous amount of the staff time and funding for law enforcement is wasted arresting nonviolent drug users who hurt no one,'' said Cole. "Let police get back to protecting all of us from violent criminals and child molesters. We will all be much better off.''

Also this week, the state Department of Health held what is likely to be its final hearing on draft regulations for licensing up to three nonprofit "compassion centers," or dispensaries. For the next two weeks, anyone can submit written comments to the department, then it will decide how to proceed. It can file the regulations as is, make minor changes, or make major changes. If the latter, another public hearing must be held.

Once the regulations are filed, they will take effect in 20 days. Then, Rhode Island's more than 1,200 medical marijuana patients will have one more option in addition to growing it themselves or having a caretaker do it for them.

Methamphetamine: Cold Sufferers Caught in the Crosshairs

Meth lab busts nationwide were up 27% last year over the previous year, according to the DEA, and state legislatures, prodded by law enforcement, are responding with a new batch of bills to ban pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in home-cooked meth, but also a key ingredient in widely used cold remedies such as Sudafed and Claritin-B.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/sudafed.gif
In at least three states -- California, Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri -- bills to make products containing pseudoephedrine available by prescription only have been or will be filed. Meanwhile, Mississippi this week became the first state this year to pass such a law, and only the second in the nation. Oregon passed such a law in 2006 and saw a dramatic reduction in meth lab busts.

In Mississippi, Gov. Hailey Barbour (R) is poised to sign HB 512, which would make ephedrine and pseudoephedrine Schedule III controlled substances available only by prescription. The measure passed the House 45-4 late last month and passed the Senate 45-4 on Tuesday.

The Tuesday vote came as about 50 uniformed members of Mississippi law enforcement looked on from the gallery. Mississippi law enforcement had been the primary force behind the bill.

As the cops looked on, supporters of the bill fended off amendments to the bill that would allow patients to be charged lower than normal fees when going to a physician to get a prescription. Opponents of the bill had argued that it would place a burden on Mississippi residents who would now be saddled with having to pay for a doctor's visit and a co-pay for their now prescription drug.

"I look forward to signing House Bill 512, which will make it more difficult to obtain the ingredients for this drug that tears families apart and harms many of our communities," Barbour said in a statement.

Barbour and the cops may have been happy, but the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents over-the-counter medicine makers, was not. The bill will be a burden on residents and will raise health care costs in the state, the group said.

"We are disappointed that the Mississippi Senate chose to overlook consumer sentiment and passed a bill today that will significantly impact how cold and allergy sufferers access some of their medicines," said association spokeswoman Linda Suydam. "While well-intentioned, this bill will impose an unnecessary burden on Mississippians, despite there being a better and more effective solution to address the state's meth production problem."

The association said that electronic tracking of over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine was a "more effective, less-costly alternative, and one that eight states have adopted to fight domestic methamphetamine production while maintaining consumer access to these medicines."

Indiana is also moving to restrict pseudoephedrine, but not to make it prescription-only. The state Senate voted 46-4 Tuesday to approve SB 383, which limits customers to 3.6 grams of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine in one day and nine grams of the drugs in one month. That bill now heads to the House.

Drug Testing: Missouri Senate Committee Passes Bill to Drug Test Welfare Recipients

A Missouri state Senate committee voted Tuesday to approve a bill that would require welfare recipients and applicants to pass a drug test in order to receive government aid. The bill, SB 607, passed the Senate Health, Mental Health, Seniors, and Families Committee on a 5-3 vote.

The bill attempts to get around constitutional problems with other mandatory drug testing bills by limiting drug testing to those whom case workers have identified as creating "a reasonable suspicion" they are using drugs. Persons who are then drug tested and test positive would have an administrative hearing and after that hearing, could be declared ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for three years. Dependent children of people thrown off the rolls would not lose their benefits; instead, they would be provided through a payee for the children.

The bill also provides that the Department of Mental Health would refer people who test positive to drug treatment, although it doesn't specify who would pay for it. Nor does the bill have any provision for returning someone to the rolls after successfully completing treatment.

The vote came despite a fiscal impact analysis that found the measure would cost the state more than $2.5 million in 2011 and around $3.5 million in 2012 and 2013. While the state would save some money from paying out fewer benefits, those savings would be swamped by the costs of drug testing, hearings for people who appealed the loss of benefits, and the cost of drug treatment.

Missouri is one of a handful of states where similar bills are moving this year. Similar bills have been filed or pre-filed in Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Press Release: Rhode Island House Members Introduce Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                              

February 3, 2010

Rhode Island House Members Introduce Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana

Bill would decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and substitute a civil penalty of $150

CONTACT: Kurt A. Gardinier, MPP director of communications …… 202-905-0738 or kgardinier@mpp.org

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND —A bill to decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and substitute a civil penalty of $150 was introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives yesterday. H 7317, a bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by 35 House members and has been referred to the House Judiciary committee. The Rhode Island State Senate is likely to introduce their version of the bill later this week. If the bill becomes law, Rhode Island would join their neighboring state to the north, Massachusetts, and become the 14th state to pass a law to decriminalize marijuana. In 2008, Massachusetts voters passed a similar decriminalization law with 65% of the vote.

         “Rhode Island lawmakers should be applauded for their support of this bill that will save the state much needed money and resources by not arresting, prosecuting, sentencing and incarcerating marijuana users,” said Karen O’Keefe, MPP director of state policies. “We look forward to the day when the citizens of this state no longer have to fear being handcuffed and thrown in jail for using a substance far safer than alcohol.”

         The entire text of the bill can be read at:

www.rilin.state.ri.us/billtext10/housetext10/h7317.pdf

         With more than 29,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

####

Location: 
RI
United States

Medical Marijuana: Colorado Bill to Rein-In Booming Scene Passes Senate

Stunned at the rapid increase in the number of registered medical marijuana patients in the state, the Colorado Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to impose new restrictions on physicians who make medical marijuana recommendations. The Senate voted 34-1 to pass SB 109. Sponsored by Sens. Chris Romer (D-Denver) and Nancy Spence (R-Centennial), the bill would require physicians who make medical marijuana recommendations to have a "bona fide" relationship with patients, including treating a patient before he applies for medical marijuana, conducting a thorough physical exam, and providing follow-up care. The bill would also bar doctors from being paid by dispensaries to write recommendations and require that they not have any restrictions on their medical licenses. Doctors would have to keep records of all medical marijuana recommendations and provide them to state health agencies seeking to investigate doctors for violating state laws. The bill would also require persons between 18 and 21 to get recommended by two different physicians. Colorado began registering medical marijuana patients in June 2001 after voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing its use. For years, the number of patients hovered around 2,000, but after state courts last year threw out a regulation limiting the number of patients caregivers could provide for to five and the Obama administration signaled that it was not going to interfere in medical marijuana states, the numbers exploded. By last September, there were more than 17,000 registered patients, and now the number is near 40,000. A similar boom has gone on with dispensaries, with Colorado now second only to California in their numbers. The bill was supported by Colorado law enforcement and the Colorado Medical Association, but was opposed by most medical marijuana patients and providers. "This is the beginning of the end of the Wild West" for the state's booming medical-marijuana industry, said bill sponsor Sen. Chris Romer. "This bill is an unprecedented assault on the doctor-patient privilege that would hold medical marijuana doctors to a higher standard than any other doctor," medical marijuana attorney Robert Correy told lawmakers. "This would cause human suffering. The most sick and the most poor would be disproportionately harmed. You're going to see the Board of Medical Examiners conducting witch hunts against medical marijuana providers." The bill now moves to the House.
Location: 
Denver, CO
United States

Law Enforcement: Maryland Bill Would Ban SWAT Teams for Misdemeanors

Maryland state Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince Georges) has filed a bill, SB 30, that would prohibit Maryland police forces from conducting SWAT team raids on homes where the only suspected offense is a misdemeanor. The bill also requires county prosecutors to sign off on SWAT team search warrant applications before they are submitted to judges.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/swatcartoon2.jpg
PolitickerMD cartoon about the Berwyn Heights raid
The bill is only the latest fallout from a July 2008 raid by the Prince Georges County Sheriff's Department SWAT team at the home of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo. The SWAT team was after a marijuana-filled box that had been delivered to that address, but subsequent investigation revealed that the mayor and his family were victimized in a smuggling scheme that used Fedex to ship drugs and knew nothing about the box, which had already been intercepted by police before being left on the family's porch. Mayor Calvo and his mother-in-law were cuffed and detained, and the two family dogs were shot and killed by SWAT team members.

Last year, the raid -- and the Prince Georges Sheriff's Department's refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing -- led Sen. Muse to file the first bill in the nation to try to rein in aggressive SWAT teams. That bill, which required extensive reporting requirements on SWAT team deployments and results, passed into law and took effect January 1.

Muse's current bill had a hearing Tuesday in the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Law enforcement officials from across the state showed up to complain that the bill would add unnecessary steps to the warrant review process and threaten the safety of SWAT team officers. No vote was taken.

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, 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, 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