Medical Marijuana at the Statehouse: Prospects for 2008

A dozen years after California voters ushered in the age of legal medical marijuana by supporting Proposition 215, the legal use of the herb for medicinal purposes has spread to 11 other states -- Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- but in recent years, progress has been excruciatingly slow.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/cmmnj2.jpg
2005 Coalition for Medical Marijuana-NJ press conference
The last statewide initiative to go to voters failed in 2006 in South Dakota -- the only state where voters have rejected an initiative legalizing medical marijuana -- and last year, it took Herculean efforts by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) to revive and rescue the medical marijuana bill there, making the Land of Enchantment the only state to be added to the list of medical marijuana states in 2007. (Rhode Island legislators, who had passed a sunsetted bill in 2006, made it permanent last year.)

This year, serious efforts to pass medical marijuana laws at the state house are underway in several more states, with most of the efforts being run by local groups backed by either the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) or the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Here's a look at the states where there has been or will be action at the state house on medical marijuana:

Alabama: A medical marijuana bill was introduced last week by Rep. Laura Hall (D), but has yet to be assigned a bill number. This will mark the second year in a row that Alabama legislators have had a medical marijuana bill before them. There will be hearings this year, said Loretta Nall, executive director of Alabamians for Compassionate Care, the local group coordinating the effort to pass the bill.

One of those who will testify is Jacki Phillips, whose son, Michael Phillips, had testified in support of medical marijuana in the past. Michael Phillips, who throughout his life suffered from seizures related to brain tumors, died last December in a New Orleans hotel room during the DPA conference.

"I'm going to tell those lawmakers that the system killed my son," said Phillips. "I truly believe that if he could have gotten the marijuana and it had been regulated like other seizure medicines, he would be alive today. I'm not asking them to legalize it for potheads," she said, "I'm a Southern Baptist and I believe God gave you a brain to use, but using marijuana for medical purposes would help a lot of people."

Marijuana didn't stop Michael Phillips' seizures, his mother said, "but it gave him the chance to function on a normal level for a period of time." When he smoked marijuana, she said, he would still have seizures, but their frequency and intensity was greatly reduced.

Connecticut: After seeing a medical marijuana bill pass the legislature there last year only to be vetoed by Gov. Jodi Rell (R), activists there have found little traction on the issue this year as the legislature debates other criminal justice and drug policy issues.

"We were emboldened last year and then deeply disappointed that people still essentially have to commit a crime to get access to medicine," DPA policy director Gabriel Sayegh told the Hartford Business Journal earlier this month. But despite little progress this year, "there is no doubt we are going to continue with this," he vowed.

Illinois: A medical marijuana bill, SB 2865, has passed committee votes and is now headed to the Senate floor, but its House companion bill, HB 5938, lost a committee vote this week. Still, that doesn't mean the measure is dead.

"Unlike many states, losing a committee vote doesn't kill your bill," said MPP's Mirken, who spent part of this week at the state capitol in Springfield accompanying patients as they lobbied legislators.

MPP and local reform groups IDEAL (Illinois Drug Education and Legislative Reform) and Illinois Compassion Action Network are keeping the pressure on. This week, MPP released a poll showing 68% support for medical marijuana in the state.

Kansas: The first effort at passing a medical marijuana bill in Kansas, supported by the Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition and former Republican Attorney General Robert Stephan, ended a couple of weeks ago, bottled up in committee by a hostile committee chair. While disappointing, that is hardly surprising, given the torturous legislative process facing any new bill.

Kansans should not be disheartened that they did not achieve victory in their first try, said MPP's Mirken. "It has been a multi-year struggle in all the states that have passed these laws," he said. "It's no surprise that it will take more than one year in Kansas."

Minnesota: Last year, a medical marijuana bill passed the state Senate, but died of inaction in the House in the face of veto threats from Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But MPP and local affiliate Minnesotans for Compassionate Care are again working with friendly legislators. A Republican House member, Rep. Chris DeLaForest, is cosponsoring a House bill this year.

Minnesota's is a two-year legislative session, so that means only a House bill must pass this year, provided it is congruent with the already passed Senate bill.

"We are sitting in the House waiting for it to be brought up," said Mirken. "We're hoping it will pass and the governor will see the light."

New Jersey: For the fourth consecutive year, a medical marijuana bill, AB 804 has been introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) and a companion bill has been introduced in the state Senate. DPA's New Jersey office is working the legislature, but there seems little likelihood the Senate will act.

"The Senate has always been the hold-up," said Ken Wolski, RN, executive officer of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey. "Although Gov. Corzine has said he would sign a bill if it gets to his desk, the Assembly doesn't really want to mess with it if the Senate won't move on it, so here we are."

New York: A medical marijuana bill, SO4768, initially introduced last year was reintroduced in January. It passed the Assembly last year, but was referred at that time to the Senate Health Committee where it has languished ever since. Given the turmoil in Albany in the wake of this week's resignation of Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer, said MPP's Mirken, it will take awhile for the dust to settle. "We're trying to figure out how the Spitzer follies will change the situation, " he said. "While we have some hopes for New York, at this point, medical marijuana is not on the top of anybody's agenda."

One optimistic sign, said Mirken, was that the new governor, David Paterson, is on much better terms with Republican Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno. Another is that, like Minnesota, New York has a two-year session, so a bill will not have to again pass the Assembly.

The medical marijuana movement has mowed its way through most of the low-hanging fruit of the initiative states and now faces the long, hard slog through the legislative process if it wants to get more states on board. While it is less expensive to attempt to win in the legislature than at the ballot box, it is also much more difficult and complicated.

"A lot of politicians are needlessly skittish about the politics of this," said Mirken. "If it were just a vote on the merits, it would pass today. Everywhere, we can produce polling numbers to show these guys a medical marijuana vote is not going to hurt them, but there is a deeply ingrained fear of being portrayed as soft on drugs, and that's very difficult to overcome. It's a real struggle," he said.

When pressed on where victories might come this year, Mirken was careful. "I'd say there was a fighting chance in Illinois, Minnesota, and New York, but in an election year, politicians are more timid than usual," he offered.

The real best shot this year, he said, is likely Michigan, where an initiative has been approved for the November ballot.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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I wished Oklahoma would pass medical marijuana use here

I am most definitly pro medical marijuana on so many levels. I for one suffer from chronic pain. I have fibromyalagia, chronic fatigue syndrome. and arthritis, etc and anymore seems like when i go to the doctor they find something new wrong with me. Not only that but i have problems with eating. The pain is hard to deal with alone on a daily basis. Especially when you can't get out of bed or can hardly move cause your so stiff and hurt so bad and the only thing that helps is marijuana. I wished all these lawmakers could suffer how we do and then have them smoke a joint and see how much better they feel. They'd be signing that bill quickly. I believe god had a cure for every disease we have on earth we just havenb't found then all yet, Well one but everyone is so against it "morally" that they don't see or even want to hear the benefit's of marijuana. Then there are those who secretly support it but don't have the gut's to stand up and say yes this is medically benefitial to soo many people with many different illnesses, disabilities, sicknesses, sysmptoms. Medical marijuana can help a lot of diseases or sysmptoms of diseases. There's just too much proof that it does help in so many way's. Since when does our goverment have the right to step i and tell us how we can suffer? It should be up to our doctor's how we are treated and with what medication wheather it be man made or herbal (eg. marijuana) I for one know that it helps me eat and helps me deal with the daily excruciating pain i suffer with every day. I have even recently thought of moving to a medical marijuana state. But you know it broke my heart to think of leaving my family and friends and doctors behind. So I just join the fight with everyne else hoping, fighting, and praying for the legalization of marijuana. I say legalize it for medical AND everyday use. It's safer then cigarettes and booze!!! I say legalize it nationwide at least for medical use and without any reprecussions on doctors who do reccomend it (yes talking about you fed's, dea whoever (*roll's eye's*). Quit making people who are sick and suffering and dying feel like criminals just for wanting to get better or to make thier suffering easier. It's not up to you it's up to us and our doctors!!!

Anon

prohibitions on medical marijuana are barbaric

anyone got a better word for it? fascist will work too. so much totally unnecessary suffering and death. history's judgement will be very harsh on people brutal enough to make medicine a crime.

what about MI

Michigan also has medical marijuana on the ballot...do you have info on this?

Prove me wrong if you can! Marijuana is LEGAL in America!

The law is on my side and I have proved it. Now wake up to what I am saying.

In my opinion marijuana is legal in America. The problem is that people do not know their rights and their lawyers don't know them either. That is why I wrote the book "Why Marijuana is Legal in America." Based upon one's permanent "rights and liabilities" created by U.S. Congress in the 1939 Statutes at Large that a person has the right to be an illegal user.

Do a search and read U.S.C. Title 26, Section 7851 (b)(1) of the current code. The current code still backs up what congress did in 1939. Copies are available on amazon if you want to check it out or go to www.outskirtspress.com /marijuana

To cut to the chase or short version is that Congress established the right to be an illegal user by paying a $100 transaction tax per ounce for an illegal user. All rights can still be claimed today. Claim it or lose it. The transaction tax was later abolished by the Supreme Court but you still have a right to be an illegal user, with no transaction tax. That's the facts and your rights in a nutshell.

You can email me at [email protected]. I can't guarantee every email a reply.

Cannabis Hemp is the #1 biofuel on plantet earth. Industrial Hemp will change every industry in America and create millions of new jobs. Do some research and stop listening to this government babble and lawyer legalese or words of witchcraft to steal your mind and property. Think for a change!

Author Michael Vandeburg

showing support

Just wanted to show support for medical marijuana and stress the fact for people to educate themselves. Instead of this country being in debt, decriminalization and taxation for the obviously used drugs in the country would pull us out of debt and then sum++. peace,love,light

illegal user

I would like more info on the :illegal user Act

It just seems silly.

I just wish that they would take the money they spent on raiding sick peoples houses & their providers and put it to ALOT better use. Hunger, non-insured Americans and people dieing everyday from Cancer, just to name a few. It just seems real silly to spend that money on a plant (from God & Mother Nature) that will never go away. And from what I've seen & read Medical Marijuana really does have ALOT of medicinal uses. And who knows, there has been alot of real positive things with Medical Marijuana fighting Cancer. Hey, I don't care what it is, if it helps with the symptoms, or the cure of Cancer, I say, " Let's study it all the way, with our BEST scientists". And, I think everyone has been touched by the ugly Cancer, my mom died from it... So let's stop the crazyness, and get down to what it should be... HELPING EACHOTHER!!!

Medical Marijuana is the Gateway to Recreational Legality

Some might say that cannabis can be medicine for those in need. Since cannabis appears to help with cancer and physical pain, where does this 'wonder' drug stop? Who should be legally allowed to use cannabis? Could this create issues of descrimination?

It will be interesting to see how far states go in the reform of medical marijuana. Eventually in free states, the border of how far this can go will have to be 'fully' addressed. Questions might arise to suggest in science that mind alteration (recreational use) can be a part in human health.

California Decision

Recently, California's top court made a ruling in a case involving a medical marijuana user who got fired from his job for failing a drug test. The court ruled in favor of the employer, effectively making it legal to fire medical marijuana users. There is opposition to this decision, and I know that people are making an effort to reverse it.

Genesis 1:29 G-d said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant

Genesis 1:29 G-d said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth,
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food. The Jewish Bible.

VA legal ever?

Being a commonwealth state do you think Virginia would be the last state in the US to even think about pulling up this bill?

Legal medical is not legal until the Feds legalize

Although some forward States, like California, have made some progress toward legal cannabis, there still remains a large disconnect with Federal laws. How is medical marijuana to be prescribed and distributed? This is still black market, more or less; and the Feds have deemed the substance illegal.

I think more states can move toward more liberal marijuana laws; but not move to break current Federal statute with legal permits and 'caregivers'. States can decriminalize users, and still show interest in legalization. And, the medical community has to continue to step-up support. As a larger group of states push for legalization and research, the Federal government will have the road to change.

California Cannabis Hemp & Health Initiative 2008

Initiatives
Attorney Gen. File #: 2007-064
California Cannabis Hemp & Health Initiative 2008
Legalization of Marijuana-Related Activities
. The initiative provides that no per-son, individual, or corporate entity could be prosecuted for the possession, cultivation, transportation, distribution, or consumption of cannabis hemp, including hemp industrial products, hemp medicinal preparations, hemp nutritional products, and hemp religious or recreational products. All of these products use as an ingredient the hemp plant commonly referred to as cannabis or marijuana. This measure also provides that the manufacture, marketing, distribution, or sale between adults of equipment or accessories associated with the above products shall not be prohibited.

California Hemp Initiative Volunteers is looking for volunteer petition signature collectors

http://www.myspace.com/hemp2008 http://capwiz.com/norml2/mailapp/

medical marijuana

correct me if im wrong, but if all users of marijuana paid the same overly high price of marijuana to the gov't instead of street dealers we could insure feed and clothe every person in america and have the cops goto work on the hard drug importers. i was a herion and crack addict for many years and i honestly feel that legal pot would make the average user feel better about the police in this country and give the police more freedom and tools (rats) to fight the hard drugs.

NY Governor David Paterson admits drug use

New York governor admits drug use
3/25/08

NEW YORK (AFP) — New York Governor David Paterson, who assumed office just last week after his predecessor Eliot Spitzer quit over a prostitution scandal, admitted Monday to dabbling with illegal drugs.

Paterson, a blind African-American who was sworn in on March 17, supposedly with the squeaky-clean image needed to clean up state politics, told NY1 television he had used both marijuana and cocaine, but not since the 1970s.

THE RAZOR THEORY

Simple,

The gov. is not here to help us, never was, never will be. " you can't tax it." or " anything under an ounce" I hear that alot. We are fighting a "sustainable war" and we still "support our troops".

HELLO ALL YOU CATTLE (Citizens of America)!

You can get a BJ from a prostitue for 20 bucks, whats to say that we as a people dont just work and work and work for 20 bucks.

Americans are the prostitutes of the american government.

"by the people, for the people, of the people."

revised:

"by the powerful, for the powerful, of the powerless."

blog blog blog, rant rant rant, blah blah blah.

No one has to read your website, why dont you get off your stoner asses and protest.

wanna do some really simple math?

total number of pot smokers - total number of jail cells = ummm not e fucking nough.

THEY CANT ARREST ALL OF US.

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