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Medical Marijuana: Maine Legislature Approves Dispensaries

A bill to set up a medical marijuana dispensary and distribution system in Maine passed both houses of the legislature this week and is expected to be signed by the governor. The measure passed the House 126-17 Monday and the Senate 32-3 later the same day.

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patient sign from last fall's campaign (courtesy mainecommonsense.org)
Maine enacted a medical marijuana law in 1998, but it failed to provide a way for patients to legally obtain their medicine. Once this measure, SP 0719, is enacted, patients will be able to go to dispensaries or grow their own.

Last November, Maine voters approved a referendum directing the legislature to set up a dispensary system. Now it has. The measure envisions up to eight dispensaries and creates a process to set fees for patients, caregivers, and dispensaries.

"Today, Maine becomes the latest state in the country to set up a legal distribution system for medical marijuana, and is now a leader in providing patients with a legal and dignified way to obtain their medicine," said Jill Harris, managing director of public policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, which supported the referendum and the legislation. "The legislature has followed the will of the voters in Maine who overwhelmingly voted for such a system last November."

Maine now joins New Mexico and New Jersey as states with state-authorized dispensary systems. California and Colorado also have dispensary systems, but those are more loosely regulated. An initiative trying to make the November ballot in Oregon would bring a dispensary system there if passed.

Medical Marijuana: Maryland Bill Passes Senate Committee, But Is Bottled Up in House

A bill, SB 627, that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Maryland passed out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Monday, but appears stalled in the House, where there is talk of postponing consideration of it until "working groups" hammer out concerns between now and next year.

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Jamie Raskin
Introduced by Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), the bill would allow physicians to recommend marijuana to patients suffering from a number of specified conditions, including wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe muscle spasms, and "any other condition that is severe and resistant to conventional medicine." The bill also envisions a system of "authorized growers" who would be licensed by the state to provide medical marijuana to registered pharmacies.

Advocates lauded the Senate committee victory, which came on a 7-4 vote. "This vote represents the biggest victory to date for supporters of an effective medical marijuana law in Maryland," said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. "I look forward to a productive discussion on the Senate floor, and I sincerely hope Maryland legislators do all in their power to get this bill passed and ensure Maryland's most vulnerable citizens don't have to spend another year living without effective medicine or in fear of arrest."

But with the legislative session set to end next week, companion legislation in the House, HB 712, is all but dead for now. So many concerns were raised by House members that supporters agreed to establish a working group to address them and that working group has recommended putting off any action until next year.

"We worked through, I think, all the issues. There are just some legislators who have an uncomfortable feeling and they can't really define it," said Del. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County). "Bills like this sometimes take two years. I hope not, because every year that goes by, there's another set of Marylanders who are going to be suffering needlessly," Morhaim said.

One roadblock is House Judiciary Committee Chair Del. Joe Vallario. "The manufacturing and production are something that we're going to really have to look at," he said.

Another roadblock is cost and a tight state budget. Del. James Hubbard (D-Prince Georges), who headed the House working group, said the proposed medical marijuana program's start-up costs were an issue. "We don't pass bills without funding sources," Hubbard said, referring to costs that analysts believe would take to get the program off the ground. "And in this budget year, it's tough trying to find $40, much less $400,000."

Press Release: Third Colorado City Legalizes Marijuana

For Immediate Release April 7, 2010 Contact Mason Tvert, SAFER executive director, 720-255-4340 Nederland Becomes Third City in Colorado to Remove All Penalties for Adult Marijuana Possession Mayor who opposed measure ousted -- Boulder District Attorney says he's "paying attention to public sentiment" Statement below from SAFER Executive Director Mason Tvert NEDERLAND -- On Tuesday, April 6, a majority of voters in Nederland approved a ballot measure that removed all local penalties for private adult marijuana possession, making the mountain town the third Colorado locality to "legalize" marijuana in the past five years. Denver voters adopted a citizen-initiative to do so in November 2005, and voters in Breckenridge approved a similar measure in November 2009. More than 54 percent of Nederland voters supported the measure in what Town Clerk Christi Icenogle said was a high turn-out election. Voters also ousted incumbent Mayor Martin Cheshes, who had vocally opposed the measure and referred to it as "foolish," replacing him with Trustee Sumaya Abu-Haidar. Prior to the announcement of the vote, the Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett told The Daily Camera: "I'll pay attention if it passes. Marijuana enforcement is a sensitive issue, and it's important to gauge public sentiment.” "It's time for Colorado's elected officials to recognize that many -- and in some cases most -- of their constituents support an end to Marijuana Prohibition," said SAFER Executive Mason Tvert. "Those who fail to do so are the 'foolish' ones, and in some areas it could result in them losing votes. "Nederland is not the first Colorado locality to express its opinion that marijuana should be legal for adults, and it certainly won't be the last," Tvert said. "More and more Coloradans are beginning to recognize the fact that marijuana is far safer than alcohol for the user and for society, and it's only a matter of time before they decide to stand up against irrational laws that drive people to drink by prohibiting them from making the safer choice." Durango, which voted largely in support of the statewide initiative to legalize marijuana in 2006, will likely to vote on a similar local marijuana legalization initiative this November. A recent poll of likely Colorado voters found that 50 percent now support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol. In Denver, ground zero of the statewide movement to reform marijuana laws, polls find # # #
Location: 
Nederland, CO
United States

Press Release: Maryland Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

APRIL 6, 2010

Maryland Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

By 7-4 vote, Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee OKs Bill to Provide Qualified Patients With Safe Access to Medical Marijuana

CONTACT: Mike Meno, MPP director of communications …………… 202-905-2030 or mmeno@mpp.org

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND — Last night, Maryland’s Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 7-4 to pass SB 627, a bill that would provide qualified patients with safe access to medical marijuana and protection from arrest for using the medicine that works best for them. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

         “This vote represents the biggest victory to date for supporters of an effective medical marijuana law in Maryland,” said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “I look forward to a productive discussion on the Senate floor, and I sincerely hope Maryland legislators do all in their power to get this bill passed and ensure Maryland’s most vulnerable citizens don’t have to spend another year living without effective medicine or in fear of arrest.”  

         Sponsored by Sen. David Brinkley (R-Frederick), a two-time cancer survivor, and co-sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Takoma Park) and key members of the Senate leadership, including Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Clinton), SB 267 would not only protect patients from arrest but also allow pharmacies or other similar dispensing entities to distribute marijuana to patients.

       Currently 14 other states, including New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Maine, have medical marijuana laws that provide qualified patients with safe access and protection from arrest. The District Council of Washington, D.C. is working on a medical marijuana law expected to be implemented by the end of this year.

         With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

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Location: 
MD
United States

Press Release: Speakers Make Case for Decriminalizing Marijuana to New Hampshire Senate Committee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

APRIL 6, 2010

Speakers Make Case for Decriminalizing Marijuana to New Hampshire Senate Committee

HB 1653 Would Remove Criminal Penalties for Possession of Quarter-Ounce of Marijuana, Replace with a Fine of Up to $200

CONTACT: Matt Simon, NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy…………………(603) 391-7450

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Today, a panel of witnesses told the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee how a proposed bill to decriminalize marijuana in the state would save law enforcement costs, allow police to focus on more serious crimes, and stop wasting resources arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens who choose to use a substance that is safer than alcohol. 

            Sponsored by Rep. Steve Lindsey (D-Keene), HB 1653 would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to a quarter-ounce of marijuana and replace them with a fine of up to $200. Last month, the bill passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan 214-137 vote.

            “Even though most offenders in New Hampshire don’t actually get sentenced to jail for possessing one or two marijuana cigarettes, our state still goes through the expensive process of arresting these people, prosecuting them, and branding them with criminal records—all for using a substance that by any objective standard is safer than alcohol,” said Matt Simon, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy. “The conclusion reached by every study I’ve ever read on this subject is that the harshness of penalties has little or nothing to do with an individual’s choice to use or not use marijuana.”

            “I believe passage of this bill would simply mean we’ve gotten smarter,” said Rep. Joel Winters (D-Manchester). “That police would be able to waste less time dealing with marijuana users and have more time and resources freed up for dealing with serious crimes.” 

            In 2008, 65 percent of voters in neighboring Massachusetts voted to remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replace them with a $100 fine. Twelve states across the country, including Ohio, Mississippi, and North Carolina, have passed marijuana decriminalization laws. 

Under current New Hampshire law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense, carrying a potential penalty of up to one year in jail, a $2,000 fine, and a criminal conviction that could damage someone’s ability to find employment, secure government benefits, or qualify for student financial aid.

The bill would also require parents of offenders younger than 18 to be informed of the offense, and underage offenders would have to complete a drug awareness program within one year of the violation, or face a $1,000 fine.

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Location: 
NH
United States

Lindenhurst Medical Cannabis Educational Meeting

The Illinois Cannabis Patients Association and Americans for Safe Access will host an informative meeting and discussion on Senate Bill 1381, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. This bill has made it through the state Senate and is currently pending in the House of Representatives. Research supporting the medical use of cannabis will also be presented and discussed. Legislators who serve Lake County, Illinois, are being encouraged to attend so they may better serve their constituency. This meeting is open to the public. For more information, contact Dan Linn of Illinois Cannabis Patients Association at 847-341-0591 or dan@illinoiscannabispatients.org, or Brian Powers/Mueller of Americans for Safe Access at 224-420-6282 or illinoisvoices@gmail.com. Presented by the Illinois Cannabis Patients Association and Americans for Safe Access
Date: 
Mon, 04/05/2010 - 6:30pm - 8:45pm
Location: 
1001 E. Grand Ave.
Lindenhurst, IL 60046-9154
United States

New Hampshire Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Senate Committee Hearing

New Hampshire’s Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on HB 1653, a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to one-quarter ounce of marijuana, and replace them with a fine of up to $200. Under current law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense, carrying a potential penalty of up to one year in jail, a $2,000 fine, and a criminal conviction that could damage someone’s ability to find employment, secure government benefits, or qualify for student financial aid. Sponsored by Rep. Steve Lindsey (D-Keene) HB 1653 would also require parents of offenders younger than 18 to be informed of the offense, and underage offenders would have to complete a drug awareness program within one year of the violation, or face a $1,000 fine. Last month, the bill passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan 214 to 137 vote.
Date: 
Tue, 04/06/2010 - 2:30pm
Location: 
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301
United States

Press Advisory: New Hampshire Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Gets Senate Committee Hearing on Tuesday

MEDIA ADVISORY                                                                                                                                               

APRIL 5, 2010

New Hampshire Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Gets Senate Committee Hearing on Tuesday

Bill Has Already Been Passed By House, Would Reduce Penalty for Possession of Quarter-Ounce of Marijuana to a Fine of Up to $200

CONTACT: Matt Simon, NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy…………………(603) 391-7450

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 6, New Hampshire’s Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on HB 1653, a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to one-quarter ounce of marijuana, and replace them with a fine of up to $200.

Under current law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense, carrying a potential penalty of up to one year in jail, a $2,000 fine, and a criminal conviction that could damage someone’s ability to find employment, secure government benefits, or qualify for student financial aid.

Sponsored by Rep. Steve Lindsey (D-Keene) HB 1653 would also require parents of offenders younger than 18 to be informed of the offense, and underage offenders would have to complete a drug awareness program within one year of the violation, or face a $1,000 fine.

            Last month, the bill passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan 214 to 137 vote.

WHAT: Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on marijuana decriminalization bill

WHO: Witnesses will testify in favor of the bill

WHERE: State House Room 103

WHEN: Tuesday, April 6, at 2:30 p.m.

###

Location: 
NH
United States

Salvia Divinorum: Ban Bill Moving in Minnesota, Age Restriction Bill Moving in Maryland

At least 17 states have passed laws regulating salvia divinorum, most of them with outright bans on its possession and distribution. Now, two more states, Maryland and Minnesota, are poised to join them, the former with legislation limiting its possession to adults and the latter with an outright ban.

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Salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid.org)
Salvia, a Mexican member of the mint family, is a powerful, fast-acting, short-live hallucinogen. Traditionally used for shamanic purposes in Mexico, it has in the past few years developed a following among youthful experimenters and sophisticated psychonauts alike.

While the DEA has been monitoring salvia as a "drug of concern" for the past nine years, it has yet to move to add it to its list of controlled substances. But since 2004, when Delaware became the first state to ban salvia, more and more states have moved to fill the regulatory void.

Minnesota may be the next to respond to salvia by prohibiting it. The state Senate Monday passed SF 2773, which makes possession of any amount of salvia or its psychoactive ingredient, salvinorin A, guilty of misdemeanor and anyone selling salvia guilty of a gross misdemeanor. A companion measure, HF 2975, has passed the House Public Safety and Oversight Committee and awaits a House floor vote.

Carol Falkowski, director of the alcohol and drug abuse division at the Minnesota Department of Human Services told the Minnesota Daily the federal government had not regulated salvia because of a lack of evidence of its risks. "They don't have a preponderance of evidence about the negative consequences," she said, supporting the bill.

Maryland is taking a more enlightened approach. On Monday, the state Senate passed SB 17, which prohibits the distribution of salvia or salvinorin A to anyone under 21. Companion legislation has passed the House Judiciary Committee and awaits further action.

The bill is an improvement over a similar bill offered last year. Following the lead of Ocean City, which banned salvia several years ago, last year's bill would have simply criminalized the possession of distribution of the plant.

But last year, the ban bill ran into opposition led by the Drug Policy Alliance, which lobbied legislators with information about salvia's research potential and relative safety. It looks like that effort paid off.

Feature: Washington Marijuana Legalization Initiative Aims for November Ballot

There is a chance, albeit an outside one, that the entire West Coast could go green in November. Last week we noted that the California tax and regulate initiative had made the ballot, and reported on the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act initiative's ongoing effort to make the ballot. This week, we turn our attention to Washington state, where yet another marijuana legalization initiative campaign is underway.

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Seattle Hempfest, 2009
Sponsored by Seattle Hempfest head Vivian McPeak, marijuana defense attorneys Douglass Hiatt and Jeffrey Steinborn, and journalist-turned-activist Philip Dawdy and organized under the rubric of Sensible Washington, initiative I-1068 would legalize marijuana by removing marijuana offenses from the state's controlled substances act.

As the official ballot summary puts it:

"This measure would remove state civil and criminal penalties for persons eighteen years or older who cultivate, possess, transport, sell, or use marijuana. Marijuana would no longer be defined as a 'controlled substance.' Civil and criminal penalties relating to drug paraphernalia and provisions authorizing seizure or forfeiture of property would not apply to marijuana-related offenses committed by persons eighteen years or older. The measure would retain current restrictions and penalties applicable to persons under eighteen."

"We've had to go this route because the legislature isn't getting the job done," said Dawdy. "We had a decriminalization bill and a tax and regulate bill, and neither one could even get through committee. We've basically hit a brick wall in Olympia, and as activists, we're tired of waiting. The state is spending way too much on arresting, prosecuting, and sometimes jailing people for marijuana crimes. We have 12,000 people arrested for marijuana offenses every year. It's got to stop. If the legislature can't get it done, we have the initiative process."

The initiative campaign needs to gather 241,000 valid signatures by July 2. According to the campaign, they are shooting for 350,000 signatures and are about 20% of the way toward their goal. So far, it's an all-volunteer effort.

"We've been battling the weather, which has been horrible, and that makes it really difficult to work outdoor events," said Dawdy. "You can't gather very many signatures when it's raining. But we are starting to get inundated with signature petitions, and we remain confident we can get enough to make the ballot."

The campaign is finding support in some unusual places, Dawdy said. "The issue is really popular here, and one of our best hits was at a gun show. Libertarians and conservative Democrats go to those things. We're probably going to have a gun show coordinator for western Washington, and try to target those events. And we can use retired police officers instead of stinky hippies."

There are no signs yet of any organized opposition, but Dawdy said that was no surprise. "I would have been surprised if any popped up this early. I wouldn't expect it until we make the ballot, and then there will probably be some law enforcement group showing up to float the gateway theory and all that stuff."

"We're doing this on a shoestring," Dawdy explained. "We're getting online donations, a few in-kind donations, a few thousand-dollar checks, but funding from the national organizations hasn't really gelled yet. But the medical marijuana campaign in 1998 didn't get any big money until May, and they got on the ballot and one. I think we can do the same thing."

Unlike California and, to a lesser degree, Oregon, there is little money to be had from the Washington medical marijuana community, Dawdy said. "It isn't like California here," he said. "There are no $70 eighths, it's very much a nonprofit kind of system. What profits there are are small and underground, and they're underground for a reason."

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) executive director Allen St. Pierre said that the national NORML board of directors had endorsed the initiative and that local chapters were involved in the effort, but that NORML wouldn't do much more than that until -- and unless -- the initiative makes the ballot, something St. Pierre suggested he doubted would happen.

"I'm very skeptical about their prospects," he said. "These guys said from the beginning they didn't have any money, and no initiatives not funded by billionaires have actually made it, yet they still decided to move forward. I told them NORML can't do much until they get on the ballot -- it's not worth the time and effort to point people towards initiatives that haven't made the ballot."

"We're getting sick and tired of being written off by people 3,000 miles away," retorted Dawdy. "That's just not fair, and it suggests that they don't really know Washington state despite coming out for three days each summer for Hempfest. People here are sick and tired of the situation, and legalization and reform are issues that poll strongly. People back East don't appreciate this and they don't understand this is one of the few issues where you can actually make the ballot with an all-volunteer effort."

That's not the only flak the initiative campaign is getting. One of the leading drug reform groups in the state, the ACLU of Washington has refused to endorse the initiative on the grounds that it does not include a regulatory system for marijuana. In a February statement, the Washington ACLU's lead person on drug policy, Allison Holcomb, laid out its arguments:

"The ACLU supports marijuana legalization and will continue to work toward that goal. However, we will not be supporting I-1068 because it does not provide a responsible regulatory system."

"We believe that full marijuana legalization will be accomplished only through implementation of a controlled regulatory system. Marijuana should be placed under controls that not only remove criminal penalties for adult marijuana use but also address the public's concerns about health and safety. It is unrealistic to regulate it less than tobacco or alcohol."

"We're aware that some believe that I-1068's passage would force the legislature to adopt such regulations in 2011."

"However, the ACLU isn't willing to support an incomplete initiative in hopes that the Legislature will fix it. We believe that when seeking support of such an important and complicated issue, the public should be presented with a carefully considered and well-vetted proposal."

But the initiative campaign argues that Washington's stringent single-issue rule for initiatives blocks it from concocting an elaborate regulatory scheme. Passage of the initiative would force the legislature to then enact regulations, they said.

"All our initiative does is remove criminal penalties for adult use, possession, and cultivation," Dawdy explained. "That will put it back in the hands of the legislature to come up with sensible civil regulations. We would have loved to do regulations in the initiative, but the single issue rule on initiatives in our state is very strict."

The Washington ACLU also argued that support for legalization is less than solid and that a defeat at the polls would be "a significant setback" for the drug reform movement.

And so things stand as April begins. Initiative campaigners have about 90 days to gather the requisite signatures and make the ballot. Maybe then they'll begin to get some respect. And maybe then they can join California, and hopefully, Oregon, in turning the West Coast green.

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