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Press Release -- Philadelphia: New Marijuana Procedure in Place on June 8th

PhillyNORML FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 7, 2010 CONTACT: Chris Goldstein at 215-586-3483,, or 505 577 5093 (cell), or Rob Dougherty at 215-586-3483 or Philadelphia: New marijuana procedure in place on June 8th Starting tomorrow, those caught with a small amount of pot (30 grams or less) will be issued a summary violation. This will save the city’s criminal courts the burden of over 4,000 marijuana possession cases each year. Philadelphia’s new District Attorney Seth Williams announced the change in April as part of a broad court-reform package. PhillyNORML’s analysis of the arrest data and continued discussions with city officials were instrumental to the change. Chris Goldstein, the group’s Communications Director, led the project. Philadelphia has seen a significant increase in marijuana arrests over the last decade. PhillyNORML found that 4,716 adults were arrested for marijuana possession of less than 30 grams in 2008. Every individual endured a mandatory custodial arrest and full Criminal Misdemeanor prosecution in court. Summary violations are issued for offenses such as Public Urination. The procedure for a summary violation gives police officers the option of performing a custodial arrest or issuing a court appearance date. Offenders then appear before streamlined diversion court pleading to non-misdemeanor charges. Consequences include fines, attending classes or performing community service. Assistant District Attorney for the Trials Division, Ed McCann, confirmed that the implementation of the new procedure takes place June 8, 2010. Chris Goldstein, in an OPED published 5/17/10 in the Philadelphia Inquirer, summarized the change: “This is a pragmatic, procedural shift that was supported by other city officials and the state Supreme Court. It is not marijuana legalization, as … claimed, or even the decriminalization that has happened in other states and cities. It simply aligns Philadelphia's procedures with those in the rest of Pennsylvania.” PhillyNORML, the ACLU of PA and other local advocates welcomed the change. CONTACT: Chris Goldstein for comment 505 577 5093 cell
Philadelphia, PA
United States

Press Release: Colorado Gives Marijuana Dispensaries Legal Status

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

JUNE 7, 2010

Colorado Gives Marijuana Dispensaries Legal Status

Governor Signs Regulations for State’s Medical Marijuana Industry

CONTACT: Mike Meno, MPP director of communications …………… 202-905-2030 or

DENVER, COLORADO —Today, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (D) signed legislation that will regulate the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries through a system of local and state licenses, but still allow individual localities to ban dispensaries. Currently there are an estimated 1,100 medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Colorado — the most in any state other than California, which does not have statewide dispensary regulations. Colorado officials estimate that about half of current dispensaries will be able to comply with new regulations.

         “By approving a statewide system of dispensaries through which patients can safely acquire marijuana, Colorado is taking a significant amount of revenue away from the dangerous, illicit, and unsanctioned market created by prohibition,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Instead, patients will now be able to obtain marijuana from a sensible and orderly system of law-abiding and regulated providers. The scope of this newly regulated industry makes it the largest ever in the United States.”

         Under the regulations, dispensary owners will be subject to licensing fees and criminal background checks. Dispensaries will be required to grow 70 percent of the marijuana they sell and, like liquor stores, could not operate within 1,000 feet of a school.

         A state-regulated medical marijuana program is up and running in New Mexico and similar programs will soon be operational in Rhode Island, Maine, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. — but the number of sanctioned dispensaries to be allowed in each of those states is fewer than 10. Colorado’s law will authorize hundreds, and potentially more if future demand increases.

         A Rasmussen telephone poll released May 15 showed that there is also plurality support among Colorado voters for further expanding the state’s marijuana laws. Forty-nine percent of likely voters said they support taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, with an additional 13 percent still undecided. 

         With more than 124,000 members and supporters 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


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Sentencing: South Carolina Governor Signs Reform Bill, Will End Mandatory Minimums for Some Drug Offenses

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) Wednesday signed into law a sentencing reform package that includes ending mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses. The bill, SB 1154 was based on the recommendations of the South Carolina Sentencing Reform Commission, empanelled by the governor in a bid to slow the growth of corrections spending in the state.

"A number of structural problems with our prison and parole system have prevented Corrections from making improvements that would both discourage recidivism and save taxpayer resources in the process," Sanford said in a signing statement. "This bill accomplishes many of those goals. It's designed not only to make our corrections process even more lean and effective and thereby save taxpayers millions -- but also to reduce overall crime and consequently improve the quality of life we enjoy as South Carolinians."

While South Carolina can brag about how cheaply it can imprison people -- it spends the second lowest amount per inmate in the country -- its prison budgets have soared along with its inmate population since the 1980s. In 1983, South Carolina spent $64 million to keep 9,200 people behind bars; this year, it will spend $394 million to imprison 25,000 people.

The bill attempts to change that trajectory through a number of measures. It ends mandatory minimum sentences for first-time drug possession offenders and allows the possibility of probation or parole for certain second and third offenders. It also removes the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine possession.

It also allows more prisoners to get into work release programs in the final three years of their sentences and mandates six months of reentry supervision for nonviolent offenders. The bill allows for home detention for third time driving-with-a-suspended-license offenders and for route-restricted drivers on first and second convictions.

It isn't all sweetness and light. The bill shifts the status of two dozen crimes, including sex offenses against children, from nonviolent to violent, meaning inmates convicted of those offenses will have to serve at least 85% of their time before being paroled. It also increases penalties for habitual driving-while-suspended offenders who kill or gravely injure someone.

Still, the bill should have a real impact on the system, especially given that drug offenders are the biggest category of offenders in prison in South Carolina, followed in order by burglars, bad check writers, and people driving on a suspended license. Officials estimate the measure will save the state $409 million over the next five years.

Feature: Arizona Medical Marijuana Initiative Will Be on November Ballot

Arizona is now set to join South Dakota as states where voters will have the chance to approve a medical marijuana initiative this year. The Arizona secretary of state's office announced Tuesday that supporters had turned in enough valid voter signatures to be certified for the November ballot.
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project (AMMPP), which is pushing the initiative, collected more than 252,000 signatures on petitions that were turned in to state officials in March. They only needed 153, 365 valid signatures to make the ballot, and now they have done so.

The initiative would allow terminally and seriously ill patients suffering from specified diseases or conditions to use marijuana with their doctor's approval. It also allows for state authorities to add diseases or conditions to that list. The initiative creates a registry system for patients and caregivers and establishes penalties for false statements and fraudulent IDs.

Patients would have to procure their medicine at a regulated medical marijuana dispensary unless they live more than 25 miles away from a dispensary. In that case, patients or their caregivers could grow up to 12 plants. No caregiver could grow for more than five patients. Patients could possess up to 2.5 ounces.

The initiative caps the number of dispensaries at 120 to avoid a California-style green gold rush. It also specifies that people cannot smoke marijuana at the dispensaries, a phenomenon that has occurred in some medical marijuana states. And it has zoning restrictions to keep dispensaries in commercial or industrial areas and away from schools.

"We are very happy that Arizonans will have the opportunity this November to vote for a compassionate and responsible law that protects seriously ill patients," said Steve Fox, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project, which provides significant funding and support to AMMPP. "By voting in favor of this initiative, Arizonans will ensure that residents suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other serious ailments will be given safe access to a medicine they and their doctors believe can relieve their condition. The proposed law will also create a dispensary system that will provide patients the same reliable access to medical marijuana that they would have to any other medicine -- meaning they won't have to risk their own safety by purchasing it from the criminal market."

"This would provide relief for Arizona's most vulnerable and ill residents," AMMPP spokesman Andrew Myers told the Arizona Capitol Times.

Opponents are already sharpening their arguments. Former DEA agent and Partnership for a Drug-Free America Arizona affiliate spokesman Doug Hebert told the Capitol Times smoking marijuana is no substitute for medicine and that allowing medical marijuana would lead to increased illegal drug use. He also questioned the motives of initiative backers.

"They're preying on voter sympathy for very ill people, because they want to smoke marijuana," Hebert claimed. "If they wanted to keep this above ground, you'd think they'd want law enforcement to have a role, but they specifically wrote into the initiative that the only agency that can monitor the dispensaries is the (Department of Health Services), and they can't make an inspection without giving notice first," he complained.

Hebert also claimed the initiative infringes on the right of employers to keep a drug-free workplace -- it does not -- and that it would cause permissive attitudes toward drug use, particularly among kids. That has not proven to be the case in other states that allow medical marijuana.

This would be the third attempt at legalizing medical marijuana at the ballot box in Arizona. In 1996, voters approved an initiative allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana, but that was overturned by the state legislature. Two years later, voters again approved medical marijuana, but that effort was invalidated because of a drafting error.

Drafters of the current initiative learned from those efforts and others around the country, Myers said. "We could look at what works, and what doesn't," he said. "We wrote it to be as transparent as possible, and to have no negative impact."

AMMPP polling has support for the initiative at 65%. If that holds, Arizona could become the 15th medical marijuana state -- or the 16th, if South Dakota also approves it on Election Day.

Feature: Schwarzenegger Trying to Gut California Methadone Funding in Budget Move

With California facing a $19 billion budget deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last month proposed saving the state $53 million by cutting off Medi-Cal funding for methadone maintenance for most heroin addicts. That would cause the loss of more than $60 million in matching federal funds. The move was fiercely resisted by methadone advocates -- including a former drug czar -- and public policy analysts, and the proposal was defeated last week in committee votes in the state Senate and Assembly.

But California gives the governor the power to veto individual budget items, so advocates are not resting yet. Instead they are reaching out to the administration in hopes they can enlighten it and persuade the budget axe-wielding Schwarzenegger to aim elsewhere.

Schwarzenegger isn't the first top-tier elected official to go after methadone maintenance. Back in 1999, then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani vowed to wean all of the city's methadone patients off it in three months. While Giuliani acted for ideological rather than budgetary reasons -- he said he wanted "drug freedom," not drug dependence -- the pugnacious mayor later changed his tune, admitting the idea was "maybe somewhat unrealistic."
superheroes for harm reduction: ''Methadone Man'' public awareness campaign during last February's Olympics in Vancouver. You're needed everywhere, Methadone Man.
Currently, nearly 150 methadone clinics provide the heroin substitute to some 35,000 addicts, 55% of whom are on Medi-Cal. Advocates and treatment providers said that clinics would be forced to close if the proposal passed, affecting not only the Medi-Cal patients, but also patients who paid out of their own pockets or through private insurance to be able to get maintenance methadone.

"Methadone isn't a cure," said Roxanne Baker, president of the National Alliance of Methadone Advocates (NAMA), "but much like thyroid medication, as long as you keep taking it, it keeps your disease in check, and opiate addiction is a disease. When you mess with your brain with painkillers, it then doesn't produce the endorphins it should. It's not a matter of will power, it's a disease. You need something to replace those endorphins, whether its methadone, suboxone, or even prescription heroin, although I doubt we'll ever see that here."

Enacting the proposed cuts would be "a disaster," said Baker. "There would be no methadone programs left. More than half the patients statewide are on drug MediCal, and they wouldn't even have a place to go. A lot of these people have their lives in order. This is somebody's brother, somebody's aunt, somebody's mom. Please don't take this from us."

Last week, Clinton-era drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey flew into the state to hold a press conference denouncing the cut. "Dumping tens of thousands of opiate addicts back on the street would be an immediate disaster to law enforcement, and to the families of people who have become stable, functioning adults" thanks to methadone, said McCaffrey, who has a consulting firm and serves on the board of directors of an organization that treats chemical dependency.

Legislators were listening, not only to McCaffrey, but to the methadone treatment community. A Senate Budget Committee hearing last week proved tough going for Schwarzenegger's representatives.

"This measure would eliminate the drug MediCal program with the exception of the perinatal and youth funding," said John Wardlaw from the state Department of Finance. "This is not an easy reduction in any way. We are at the point where we are making very difficult reductions."

Committee Chair Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego) wasn't buying it. "How much federal funding are you giving up?" she asked.

"Sixty-six million dollars," Wardlaw said.

"We save $53 million and lose $66 million?" asked Ducheny.

"That is correct, ma'am."

Ducheny just stared at him for a few uncomfortable moments before moving on to the next witness.

"There would be cost shifts in the area of corrections and child welfare services," Greg Tallivant of the legislative analysts' office told the solons. "The day the clinic closes, those people have to do something. If they can't make it to the next methadone clinic, heroin would be the next choice. You would see people arrested. You would see prison costs and child welfare costs go up."

Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) was visibly irritated by the proposal. "There is a complete lack of interest in any cost-benefit analysis here," he said. "This is reckless and cavalier. It doesn't really make much sense. We have 171,000 people addicted to drugs. This will increase our crime rate; it's a recipe for disaster on our streets. Does the governor have no interest in this or does he not believe that this will impact the safety of our children and communities? We've already zero-funded the base Proposition 36 program. The outcome of this is to have drug offenders with no jail and no treatment."

"This is really a short-sighted proposal that shifts costs from funding treatment to funding law enforcement, jails, and prisons," said Jason Kletter, a member of the Bay Area Addiction Research Team (BAART), which is in turn a member of California Opioid Maintenance Providers (COMP), a nonprofit organization representing opioid maintenance treatment centers. "It is a public safety issue, to say nothing of the humanitarian crisis it would provoke," he said.

"We think if this happened many clinics would close, and the folks who lose access to care would likely relapse and cost the system much, much more in a short time," said Kletter. "We see relapse rates of 80% within a year when clinics close, so it wouldn't even be like we'd be kicking the can three or four years down the road."

"This would have the biggest impact on programs that have a high percentage of Medi-Cal beneficiaries in treatment and would be unable to stay open because more than half their patients, and thus, their revenues, are gone," said Kletter. "You would have a fundamental dismantling of the system."

The cost incurred would be staggering, Kletter said."If 80% relapse in same year, we know that the state will incur $700 million to $1 billion in new costs in the criminal justice system," he said, citing a study from the 1990s that found each dollar invested in treatment produced a seven-dollar return. "The state wants to save $53 million by eliminating drug Medi-Cal and will also turn away more than $60 million in matching funds. That's $115 total program cost. A seven-to-one return on that is close to a billion dollars. "With 80% relapse, we could end up seeing $700 million in new criminal justice and prison costs."

"It's a terrible proposal," said Glenn Backes, a Sacramento-based public policy analyst who works with the Drug Policy Alliance at the Capitol. "California Democrats in both houses have said so. The Senate Republicans didn't do a cost-benefit analysis; they just said we can't afford to give out subsidized health care."

But in reality, the situation is even worse, said Backes. "They've killed Proposition 36 funding, drug courts are being slashed. According to the governor's finance director, that's 171,000 patients. The cost-benefit for this is worse than nil. If only one out of a thousand relapses and goes to prison, you've already lost money because prison is so much more expensive than treatment. If only one out of a thousand gets Hep C, the taxpayer loses. If only one out of a thousand gets HIV, the taxpayer loses."

It's easy to lose the human side in all the numbers, Backes said. "If only one out of a thousand ODs and dies, that's 170 California families who have lost a loved one."

And the battle continues. "While both the Senate and the Assembly budget committees have rejected the governor's proposal, in California, the governor has a line item veto," said Kletter. "We are continuing to try to work with the administration to explain the impact of this kind of proposal and get them to understand it is a public safety and cost-shifting issue. We haven't had any direct meeting with them yet, but that's next on our agenda. We want to educate them about them dire consequences of this sort of action."

Even if advocates many to salvage the drug Medi-Cal program, they would be well-advised to be searching for alternative funding sources, and how better than to take money from the drug war? Tough times call for creative solutions, and Backes has one: Use federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grants to fund treatment instead of drug task forces. Every dollar funding more drug war arrests costs $10 additional in spending for courts and prisons, he said.

"Historically, Byrne grant funds have been given to task forces to increase arrests," Backes noted. "The Drug Policy Alliance position is that Byrne funds would be better spent on almost anything other than doing low-level drug sweeps. We would rather see that money go into treatment for people in the system."

Sentencing: Penalties for Some Colorado Drug Possession Decrease Under New Law

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) Tuesday signed into law a package of criminal justice reform bills, including one that will reduce penalties for some drug possession offenses, one that will give judges increased discretion in sentencing, and one that will broaden parole eligibility. Of the 10 bills in the package, six were based on recommendations from the Colorado Commission on Criminal Justice, which Ritter formed in 2007 to try to get a grip on skyrocketing criminal justice and corrections costs.

"Our criminal justice system is tasked with one of the most important responsibilities in our society -- maintaining public safety and protecting communities," said Gov. Ritter, who served as Denver's district attorney for 12 years before becoming governor. "What we have created here in Colorado, particularly the past few years, is a system that is tough on crime and smart on crime. We can do both. We are doing both, because public safety is not a zero-sum game. Certainly, we can always do better. We can always make improvements. And that's what we are doing here today by signing this legislation into law."

HB 1352 reduces the penalty for the illegal use of drugs (excluding marijuana, which is already decriminalized) from a felony to a misdemeanor and removes the word "possess" from the statute regarding drug sales and manufacture. It also reduces the penalties for the simple possession of most drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor.

But not all drugs. Possession of Rohypnol, ketamine, or methamphetamine would remain a felony punishable by up to six years in prison. The misdemeanor possessors of other drugs, including heroin and cocaine, would face only 18 months.

But the bill also increases penalties for drug sales and manufacturing offenses to 12 years. Those convicted of importing drugs into the state or using guns face up to 48 years, and anyone convicted of supplying marijuana to someone younger than 15 faces a mandatory minimum four years.

Still, the bill commits $1.5 million in expected savings in prison costs to treatment and rehabilitation. Overall, the changes in sentencing, probation, and parole in the package are expected to save the state $3.6 million a year.

HB 1338, sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman, allows judges to exercise more discretion in sentencing by allowing them to sentence some two-time felons to probation instead of prison. The provision does not apply to those whose prior felonies were specified violent crimes or offenses against children.

"HB 1338 restores judicial discretion in sentencing certain nonviolent offenders to probation rather than prison. This bill saves money and saves lives," Sen. Pat Steadman said.

HB 1360 allows community punishment instead of re-imprisonment for people on parole for low-level, nonviolent crimes who commit technical parole violations, such as a dirty drug test, missing an appointment, or moving without reporting the move.

"It saves the state millions of dollars by providing more intermediate sanctions for technical parole violators," said bill cosponsor Rep. Sal Pace. "These programs not only save the state money, but more importantly they are proven though research to reduce recidivism rates. That means fewer crimes, fewer victims and greater cost savings in the future."

Marijuana: Bill to Increase Possession Penalties Advances in Louisiana Senate

Faced with an environmental disaster that could grow to epic proportions and a budget crisis that never seems to stop, the Louisiana legislature this year has decided it needed to take up other important issues, such as the voluntary drug testing of state legislators (also testing for their mental health was offered up, half-jokingly, as an amendment -- it passed) and criminalizing the possession of synthetic cannabinoids.

The legislature took another step in the same wrong direction this week. On Tuesday, the state Senate passed a bill, SB 576 that would stiffen Louisiana's already draconian statute for second offense marijuana possession. While first offense possession -- of any amount -- is a misdemeanor, a second offense is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and up to five years of hard labor.

That wasn't tough enough for Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), the bill's sponsor. Under Claitor's bill, the maximum fine and prison sentence would remain the same, but a new, $250 mandatory minimum fine would be added. So would a mandatory minimum 48 hours in jail -- unless the offender attends drug treatment and does four eight-hour days of community service.

Louisiana doesn't break down how many of the drug offenders in its prisons are there for marijuana offenses, but according to the state Department of Corrections, 30.2% of inmates are drug offenders, about 50% higher than the national average. This at a time when budget cuts are paring state agencies to the bone.

The bill now heads to the House Criminal Administration Committee.

Medical Marijuana: DC City Council Approves Bill, Advocates Criticize Restrictions

The District of Columbia City Council Tuesday voted unanimously to give final approval to a bill that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the nation's capital. But while medical marijuana advocates welcomed the move, they complained that the bill is unduly restrictive.
Scott Morgan volunteering with ASA after the vote
It is not quite a done deal. The bill now goes to Mayor Adrian Fenty for his signature. After that happens, it must then undergo a mandatory 30-day review by Congress, but since Congress last year lifted the rider that had barred DC from implementing medical marijuana ever since voters approved it in 1998, it is not expected to turn around and kill it in the District now.

The measure allows for five distribution centers to provide marijuana to seriously ill patients suffering from chronic or debilitating medical conditions. That number could rise to eight under rule-making authority held by the mayor. Distribution centers can be for-profit or non-profit and must be at least 300 feet from schools.

Marijuana for patients will be grown in registered cultivation centers. Each center will be allowed to grow no more than 95 plants.

Patients may legally obtain marijuana only from distribution centers. They may not legally grow their own supply or procure it outside the DC medical marijuana system. Patients may possess no more than two ounces of marijuana per month, although the mayor is authorized to raise that cap to four ounces under his rule-making authority. Patients can only use their medicine at home.

The final bill is largely unchanged from the bill approved two weeks ago, much to the chagrin of medical marijuana advocates. They had sought a number of changes, including:

  • Removing the language prohibiting patients from using marijuana or paraphernalia not obtained from a licensed dispensary.
  • Removing the limitation to home consumption in favor of a simple public smoking ban.
  • Including severe, chronic pain as a qualifying condition for patients.
  • Removing the cap of 95 plants on cultivation centers.
  • Increased possession/purchasing limits.
  • Including home cultivation.

Advocates did not get the changes they wanted, leaving DC with a medical marijuana law that is one of the most restrictive in the land. All they got was the future possibility of raising the possession and purchasing cap for patients. Still, a medical marijuana law is a medical marijuana law.

"Today marks a long overdue victory for DC voters and potentially thousands of chronically ill residents who will benefit from legal access to medical marijuana," said Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It has taken nearly 12 years, but the District will at last have a law that recognizes the mounting scientific consensus that, for many conditions, marijuana can be safe and effective medicine."
activists outside council building
The DC medical marijuana program would allow members of Congress to get a firsthand look at how such programs work and ease the passage of medical marijuana legislation at the federal level, O'Keefe suggested. "A well-working medical marijuana program in the nation's capital will also provide members of Congress who have never seen such programs up close with a unique opportunity to do so, she said. Once they see for themselves that these laws do nothing but provide compassionate care for seriously ill patients, hopefully they will understand the need to create a federal policy that no longer criminalizes patients in any state who could benefit from this legitimate treatment option."

The Drug Policy Alliance also welcomed passage of the bill, but was more critical of its faults. "The DC Council should be congratulated for exempting AIDS, cancer and other patients from the punitive war on marijuana," said national affairs director Bill Piper. "No one should face jail for using marijuana, especially patients following their doctor's recommendation. This has been a long fight, but the voice of DC voters is finally starting to be heard."

Piper noted that DC voters passed medical marijuana with 69% of the vote in 1998 and accused the council of ignoring what voters wanted. "While the Council is heeding the will of voters in important areas, such as allowing the regulated sale of marijuana for medical use, it is ignoring the will of voters in other important areas -- most notably by prohibiting patients from growing their own medicine; a key component of the 1998 initiative, and a key component of medical marijuana laws in 13 states," he said. "The legislation also only protects patients from arrest if they use marijuana obtained from a dispensary.
Yet experience in other states show that dispensaries routinely face shortages of marijuana. And the federal government could shut down DC's dispensaries. If either happens, patients will be forced to buy their marijuana from non-dispensary sources. They shouldn't face arrest for doing so. No patient should face arrest for following their doctor's recommendation. This is a glaring problem with the legislation; the Council needs to fix it or the health of patients could be undermined."

The reaction from Americans for Safe Access (ASA) was similar. "We are certainly excited to implement a bill that has taken 11 years to see the light of day," said Steph Sherer, ASA executive director. "However, the District Council's failure to listen to patients' needs will have serious unintended effects that may force us to work for years to correct."

Once the legislation takes effect, DC will join 14 states that recognize medical marijuana.

Drug Testing: Louisiana House Committee Passes Voluntary Drug Tests for Officials Bill

Setting aside other, less pressing business, the Louisiana House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs approved a bill, HB 1352, which would allow lawmakers and elected officials to take a voluntary drug test and mental health evaluation after election, with the state paying the tab. The bill would also allow testees to post the results on the Internet. The bill is the brainchild of Rep. John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie), who has also sponsored a bill mandating drug testing for welfare recipients.
John LaBruzzo on the Rachel Maddow show
Under the bill, the House, Senate, or elected official's office would have to pay the cost of the drug test, which could be as much as $40. No figure was given for the costs of a mental health examination. The bill now moves to the House Appropriations Committee, which will evaluate its costs.

LaBruzzo's bill originally contained only the drug testing provision, but according to the account of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Rep. Nancy Lang (R-Lafayette) half-jokingly asked, "Have you considered having legislators undergo a mental health test?" An amendment to that effect was then offered and accepted.

Thousands of state employees, as well as all applicants for state jobs, are required to take drug tests under state law now. "We should apply ourselves to the same rules as state employees," LaBruzzo said.

"I think it is a lot of window dressing," said Rep. Patrick Connery (R-Harvey), before voting for it. He said legislators could simply abstain from drugs for long enough to pass a drug test, then take one and post the results online.

"If it is voluntary, and somebody is on drugs, why would he take it?" asked Rep. Wayne Waddell (R-Shreveport). "You are putting the perception out there that those who don't take it are on drugs."

The evidence is building that those legislators really do need those mental health evaluations.

Flash Report: Statewide Dispensary bill likely to become Law

Dispensary Regulation Bill Likely to Become Law


On Wednesday, May 5, the full Senate passed HB 1284 which is now likely to become statewide law.  Sensible Colorado opposed this bill and spent considerable time and resources fighting for important changes-- many of which were ultimately adopted.  

To help prepare patients for the ultimate impact of this legislation, Sensible Colorado will be hosting a series of free trainings explaining the new law (along with SB 109, the "Doctor/Patient Bill) starting the week of May 17.  Please watch for future alerts with event details.

Important Elements of HB 1284 (**again, this is not yet law, but will likely pass its final legislative hurdle on Thurs., 5/6.)

1.  Dispensaries and edible producers will have to apply for state licenses.  After July 2011, these providers must follow new state regulations in order to continue operating.  Note there are also a number of other crucial deadlines starting in August 2010 which these providers must meet.

2. Local governments can ban dispensaries.  This damaging provision will effect innumerable patients across the state.  However, Sensible's legal team is already planning local campaigns and lawsuits to overturn bans.  Click here to support our work. 

3.  Caregivers will be limited to helping five or less patients.  Anyone helping six or more patients will have to register as a dispensary with the state-- in a process yet to be determined.  Again, we plan to take prompt action to fight this restriction.

There many other aspects of this bill which effect the rights of both patients and caregivers, and we will be sending additional updates on these changes.  A near-final draft of this bill should be available soon here.  (Search "HB 1284" and look for the May 5 version).   

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