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Prisoner Re-Entry: New Mexico Becomes Second State to "Ban the Box;" New Law Bans Criminal History Query on Public Job Applications

Gov. Bill Richardson (D) Monday signed into law a bill that removes one obstacle to employment for people with criminal convictions. The bill, http://legis.state.nm.us/lcs/_session.aspx?chamber=S&legtype=B&legno= 254&year=10" target=_blank_>SB 254, the Consideration of Crime Convictions for Jobs bill, will remove the question of public job applications about whether a person has been convicted of a felony, leaving such questions for the interview stage of the hiring process. The bill applies to job application for state, local, or federal public jobs. It does not apply to private sector employers. It passed the Senate 35-4 and the House 54-14. Known as "ban the box," such bills are designed to allow ex-convicts a better opportunity to re-enter the job market. Having a job is a key means of reducing recidivism. The measure passed the Senate 35-4 and the House 54-14. New Mexico now becomes the second state to pass such legislation. Minnesota passed a similar measure in 2009. Some cities, including Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Francisco have passed similar measures as well. "Lots of young people - and old people, too - have that one stupid mistake they made years ago," said Republican Sen. Clint Harden, a former state labor secretary who sponsored the bill. The bill gives them a chance to explain before they are shut out of the hiring process: "Yeah, I had a felony when I was 22, I got caught for possession with intent, I did probation, that was 15 years ago, and I don't do drugs now and yadda yadda," he told the Associated Press late last month. "We thank Gov. Richardson for signing the 'ban the box' bill," said Julie Roberts, acting state director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. "The governor and the New Mexico legislature affirmed their support for people with convictions to be given this opportunity for a second chance. This bill will make our communities safer and keep families together by providing job opportunities to people who need them most." One in five Americans has a criminal record, and Roberts is one of them. She had a drug bust at age 18. "Since then, I've gone to college, I have had internships, I haven't been in trouble for eight years but I still have to check the box," she said. "There's a lot of people like me. This new law will allow individuals who are qualified for a position the chance to get their foot in the door," she said. "As a person with a criminal conviction, this law will not only help me, but others around the state who made a mistake years ago and are now rebuilding their lives." In addition to the Drug Policy Alliance, the bill was supported by the New Mexico Conference of Churches, the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of New Mexico, the New Mexico Public Health Association, the Women's Justice Project, and Somos Un Pueblo Unido.
Location: 
Santa Fe, NM
United States

For the record: State Department Report, NYC ODs drop, Guatemalan Top Cop & Head Narc Busted, Salvia Banned in Wisconsin

Even though there was no Chronicle last week--due to your editor's death-battle with a vicious Mexican bug; I only returned to the land of the living on Friday--things continued to happen anyway. Here are a handful of items that would have been in the Chronicle had there been one last week: On Monday, the State Department released its annual state on the world on drugs report. The report, called the 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy, was going to be the subject of a feature story last week before I got sick. I may still go with it this coming week. Also on Monday, the New York City Health Department reported overdose deaths fell in 2008 to the lowest level since 1999. OD fatalities fell from 874 in 2006 to 666 in 2008. Increased use of naloxane, an opioid agonist used to undo overdoses may get some of the credit. On Tuesday, Guatemala's national police chief and its head narc were arrested for links to drug traffickers and for the murders of five policemen. Police Chief Batlazar Gomez and anti-drug head Nelly Bonilla were arrested during an "investigation into a drug robbery (in April 2009) in Amatitlan, which those detained today are believed to have participated in", said Attorney General Amilcar Velasquez. Five police officers were killed during the robbery. The pair currently face charges of conspiracy, breaking and entering, abuse of power, making illegal arrests, drug trafficking, obstruction of justice, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. On Thursday, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed into law a bill banning salvia divinorum. That makes Wisconsin the 19th state to move against Sally D. A few states have limited its sale to adults, but most of those states have simply banned salvia. The Wisconsin bill, AB 186, bans the manufacture, distribution, or sales of salvia—although not its possession—and backs it up with a $10,000 fine. I'm back at it now, and that means the Chronicle will be back on Friday. In the meantime, I'll most likely post a story or two in the blog just to see if you're paying attention.

Hawaii Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Three Bills to Improve Marijuana Laws



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                     

March 3, 2010

Hawaii Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Three Bills to Improve Marijuana Laws

Measures would expand state’s medical marijuana law and reduce the penalty for possession of one ounce to a civil fine

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

HONOLULU, HAWAII — Yesterday, the Hawaii Senate passed by overwhelming, veto-proof margins three measures that will greatly improve marijuana laws in the state:

SB 2213 passed 20-4, with one excused. This bill would allow counties to license medical marijuana dispensaries.

SB 2141 passed 24-1. This bill would increase the ratio of plants, ounces and caregivers allowed for each medical marijuana patient.

SB 2450 passed 22-3. This bill would remove criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $300 for a first offense and $500 for a subsequent offense.

         The bills now go to the state House.

         “These votes show that Hawaii’s Senate supports sensible marijuana policies that will serve the best interests of state citizens,” said Eric M. McDaniel, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Hawaii’s most vulnerable citizens deserve safe and reliable access to their medicine, and no Hawaiian deserves to go to jail simply for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. If House members agree, I would strongly encourage them to pass these measures as well.”

         The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, headed by Pamela Lichty and Jeanne Ohta, and the Peaceful Sky Alliance, headed by Matt Rifkin, played crucial roles in getting these measures through the Senate.

         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 www.mpp.org.

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Location: 
HI
United States

ACTION ALERT: Statewide Bill Threatens Patient Rights

On Thursday, March 4, starting at 1:30pm, the Colorado State Legislature will hear the first reading of a bill which seeks to regulate dispensaries-- and weaken patient rights.  This bill, HB 1284, which was largely authored by law enforcement, threatens to cripple the state medical marijuana law in a number of ways. (Note a version of this bill will be posted on our website shortly.)

 

Here are a few of the most damaging provisions of the bill:

 

  • Prohibits patients from living near schools.  Patients could not possess medicine within 1000 feet of a school, which means patients could not live near schools.
  • Patients could not join together with family members or others to share grow space.
  • Would allow cities and towns to ban dispensaries-- forcing sick patients to "get on the bus" to find medicine.

 

Here's how you can help fight HB 1284

 

Attend the Thursday Hearing.  Legislators need to hear from patients and professionals about how damaging HB 1284 will be.  This Hearing should begin around 1:30 at the State Capitol in Denver in the Old Supreme Court Chambers (2nd floor).  Please show up, dress nice, and spread the message to "vote no on HB 1284."

 

Call your state legislator

 

Every state legislator should hear how bad HB 1284 is.  You can find and contact your state legislators here.  Note you will need to enter your nine digit zip code to find your state rep and senator.  Find your full zip code here.
Location: 
CO
United States

What is Keeping Maryland from Passing a Medical Marijuana Law?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

MARCH 2, 2010

What is Keeping Maryland from Passing a Medical Marijuana Law?

Despite overwhelming public support and virtually no opposition, key officials are still silent about their stance on the issue

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

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND — Last Friday, Feb. 26, the Maryland House Judiciary and Health and Government Committees held a public hearing on a bill that would allow chronically ill patients to have safe access to medical marijuana with their doctor’s recommendation—an idea supported by 81% of Americans nationwide, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Dozens of witnesses—including physicians, patients, and former law enforcement officials—testified in favor of the bill, and no one testified in opposition. Fourteen other states have already passed medical marijuana laws. So why hasn’t Maryland?

         Previous efforts to pass medical marijuana legislation in Maryland all failed to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Del. Joseph F. Vallario , Jr., (D-Dist. 27A, Calvert and Prince George’s Counties). In the past, Del. Vallario has expressed concern over legislation that might clash with federal law. But medical marijuana should no longer trigger such concerns following the October release of an Obama administration memo instructing federal prosecutors not to target medical marijuana patients or caregivers who obey state law.

         Just last week, a poll conducted by Conquest Communications in Del. Vallario’s House District showed support for passing this year’s medical marijuana bill outnumbered opposition nearly 3-1.  

         “Sometimes in an election year you’ll see politicians shy away from controversial issues, but these polls show there’s nothing controversial anymore about medical marijuana – except maybe opposing it,” said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Now that the federal government has given the green light to states to enact medical marijuana laws, there should be nothing stopping Chariman Vallario and others here in Maryland from listening to the will of their constituents.”

         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 http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Location: 
MD
United States

Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Hearing Today in Annapolis

MEDIA ADVISORY                                                                                                                                               

february 26, 2010

Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Hearing Today in Annapolis

HB 712 Would Allow Seriously Ill Patients to Use Medical Marijuana With Doctor’s Recommendation

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

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND— Today, the Maryland House Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees will hold a hearing to receive testimony on HB 712, a bill introduced by Del. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) that would make Maryland the 15th state in the nation to have a medical marijuana law. The bill would allow pharmacies or other state-regulated outlets to dispense medical marijuana to patients who receive a recommendation from their doctor.

         WHAT: Hearing on HB 712, a medical marijuana bill in Maryland

         WHERE: Maryland Legislative Services Building—across from the statehouse—in the hearing room

         WHEN: Friday, February 26, 1 p.m.

         WHO: House Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees

         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

Marijuana: Legalization Bill Reintroduced in California Assembly

Maybe the voters won't have to take things into their own hands this November in California after all. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has reintroduced his marijuana legalization bill, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act (AB 2254).

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/sacramento-jan10-3.jpg
bill sponsor Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, with Dale Gieringer, Stephen Gutwillig and Aaron Smith in background
In a historic first, last session's version of the bill won a 4-3 vote in the Assembly Public Safety Committee -- the first time any legislative committee anywhere in the country has approved marijuana legalization legislation. But the bill failed to get to the floor before the consideration deadline passed.

The bill would "remove marijuana and its derivatives from existing statutes defining and regulating controlled substances" and would instead provide for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to regulate the possession, sale, and cultivation of the herb by people 21 or older. The bill would not affect California's existing medical marijuana law (except perhaps to render it unnecessary).

Under the bill, the ABC would regulate wholesale and retail sales. A special fee would be imposed, with proceeds going to fund drug abuse prevention programs. The bill would also "ban state and local assistance in enforcing inconsistent federal and other laws relating to marijuana."

"It is time to acknowledge that the existing model of prohibition has failed, and that California is long overdue for a public policy for the control and regulation of marijuana that reflects the reality of what is happening in our state," Ammiano said.

Marijuana is California's largest cash crop, with an annual estimated value of $14 billion. In evaluating last session's version of Ammiano's bill, the state Board of Equalization estimated that taxes generated under a legalization and regulation scheme could generate more than $1 billion a year.

"The fact that California's largest cash crop continues to go untaxed and unregulated is astounding, especially in such tough economic times," said Marijuana Policy Project California policy director Aaron Smith in a statement welcoming the bill. "We once again applaud Assemblyman Ammiano on his dedication and leadership on this issue and remain optimistic that 2010 is the year California ends its state's failed marijuana policies."

If the California legislature fails to act this year, it looks extremely likely that the voters will have a chance to vote for legalization in November. Organizers of the Tax Cannabis 2010 ballot measure last month turned in nearly 700,000 signatures, more than 250,000 more than then 434,000 valid signatures needed to make the ballot. That measure awaits certification by state election officials.

Medical Marijuana: Measure Passes New York Senate Health Committee, Assembly Health Committee

The New York Senate Health Committee approved a medical marijuana bill, S 4041-B, on a 9-3 vote Tuesday. The measure now moves to the Senate Codes Committee. The Assembly version of the bill, A 9016, passed out the Assembly Health Committee last month and is now before the Assembly Codes Committee.

The Assembly approved medical marijuana bills in 2007 and 2008, but the measure had never gotten a Senate floor vote while Republicans controlled the state Senate until after the 2008 elections. Last year, the Senate Health Committee passed a bill, but it never got a floor vote as the Democratic leadership in the Senate imploded in bitter infighting.

The bill would allow patients with a doctor's recommendation and state registration or their caregivers to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of usable marijuana, but not to grow it. Marijuana cultivation would be done by registered producers, who would not provide the product to patients and caregivers, but would instead sell it to pharmacies, the state or local health departments, or nonprofit organizations registered as medical marijuana providers.

"We applaud the New York Senate Health Committee members for doing the right thing and taking this important step toward protecting sick and dying New Yorkers from arrest or jail," said Noah Mamber, legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. "Let's hope New York legislators will follow the lead of New Jersey, the state next door, which is about to become the 14th state to implement an effective medical marijuana law."

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Bill Passes New York Senate Health Committee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

FEBRUARY 23, 2010

Medical Marijuana Bill Passes New York Senate Health Committee

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the New York State Senate Health Committee passed S. 4041-B, the Senate’s medical marijuana bill. This marks the second consecutive year that the bill has gotten out of the Senate Health Committee. The Assembly’s medical marijuana bill, A. 9016, passed the Health Committee last month and is now sitting in the Assembly Codes Committee.

         “We applaud the New York Senate Health Committee members for doing the right thing and taking this important step toward protecting sick and dying New Yorkers from arrest or jail,” said Noah Mamber, legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Let’s hope New York legislators will follow the lead of New Jersey, the state next door, which is about to become the 14th state to implement an effective medical marijuana law.”

         The New York State Assembly passed medical marijuana legislation in 2007 and 2008, but the issue has never gotten a Senate floor vote. For the first time in 2009, a Senate medical marijuana bill passed the Senate Health Committee, but progress stalled because of the Senate leadership struggle, which lasted until just before the legislature recessed.

         With more than 29,000 members and 124,000 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.

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Location: 
NY
United States

Medical Marijuana: Iowa Pharmacy Board Recommends State Legalize It for Therapeutic Use

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend that state lawmakers reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance and set up a task force to study how to create a medical marijuana program. Medical marijuana bills have previously failed to move in the state legislature, but the board's action could help spur forward momentum.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/carlolsen.jpg
Carl Olsen
Similarly to the federal Controlled Substances Act, Iowa law currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no proven medical use and a high potential for abuse. By recommending that marijuana be rescheduled to Schedule II -- a potential for abuse, but with accepted medical use -- the board acknowledged the herb's medical efficacy.

Given the board's initial reluctance to take up the issue, the unanimous vote comes as something as a pleasant surprise to advocates. In May 2008, Iowans for Medical Marijuana founder Carl Olsen petitioned the board to reschedule marijuana, arguing that the evidence did not support its classification as Schedule I.

The board rejected that request, and Olsen, three plaintiffs, and the ACLU of Iowa sued to force it to reconsider. (See the filings in the case here). Last year, a Polk County judge ordered the board to take another look at the matter. The board again declined to reclassify marijuana, but did agree to a series of four public hearings.

It was after those hearings, which were packed with medical marijuana supporters, and after a scientific review of the literature, that the board acted this week. In doing so, it becomes the first state pharmacy board in the nation to take such a step before voters or lawmakers have legalized medical marijuana.

The board's action also puts it squarely in line with popular sentiment in the Hawkeye State. According to an Iowa Poll released Tuesday, 64% of Iowans want medical marijuana to be legal. Now, if only the legislature will act on the recommendation of the board and the will of the voters.

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