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RI: House approves medical marijuana law

Providence, RI
United States

CT: House votes to legalize medical use of marijuana; Wilton's Rep. Boucher tries in vain to change the bill, files 50 amendments

Hartford, CT
United States
Wilton Villager (CT)

Medical Marijuana: Connecticut Bill Passes House, Heads for Senate

A bill that would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana for some patients has passed out of the Connecticut House of Representatives on a vote of 89-58. It now heads for the state Senate, which approved a similar measure in 2005. That bill was defeated in the House. The vote came after six hours of debate in the House, where lawmakers cited their own experiences with debilitating illness.

"The message is simple: We have compassion for people who are suffering in this state," said Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby) during the debate.

"Today, we have the opportunity to give relief to Connecticut residents who are sick, who are dying, who are wasting away, who are losing their quality of life," she said. "And we can tell those Connecticut residents that the state of Connecticut no longer will prosecute you," said Rep. Penny Bacchiochi (R-Somers), who led the fight for the bill.

The bill, HB 6715, would allow physicians to certify an adult patient's use of marijuana after determining he or she has a debilitating condition and could potentially benefit from marijuana. Patients and their primary caregivers would then register with the state's Department of Consumer Protection. Patients and caregivers could grow up to four plants four feet high in an indoor facility.

The bill was supported by a broad coalition including The Alliance Connecticut, United Methodist Church of Connecticut, Connecticut Nurses Association, Dr. Andrew Salner -- Director of the Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital, A Better Way Foundation, the Drug Policy Alliance Network, and the Drug Policy Alliance.

It was opposed by law enforcement and by Rep. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton), who led a virtual legislative crusade against it. Boucher filed 50 hostile amendments to the bill before Thursday's vote, but gave up after the first eight got shot down. Her proposals included informing police departments of the names of registered medical marijuana users and requiring the state Agriculture Department to set up a pilot program.

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero put on his best street hustler accent as he opposed the bill. "How do you get it?" he asked, referring to the seeds for starting the four plants allowed under the bill "You've got to buy it. How do you buy it? As Rep.(Michael) Lawlor said, you've got to hit the streets folks -- nickel bag, dime bag. You gotta make a drug deal, baby."

Cafero's Scarface imitation notwithstanding, the bill has passed and now heads to the Senate, where it faces committee votes.

Medical Marijuana: Minnesota Bill Dies Without House Vote as Legislature Adjourns

A bill that would have made Minnesota the 13th medical marijuana state died for lack of a House floor vote before the state legislature adjourned Tuesday. A companion bill had passed the Senate earlier in the session, but even if the House had passed it, it faced a veto threat from Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The bill, HF 655, would have allowed patients with specified chronic debilitating conditions to possess up to 12 plants and 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Patients would have been able to designate caregivers to grow for them. The bill also called for patients to register with the state after obtaining a written recommendation from a physician, registered nurse, or physician's assistant.

Although the Minnesota medical marijuana bill could not clear the final legislative hurdle this year, supporters said their success this year left them well-positioned for next year. Under the state's two-year session, next year's drive will begin with the legislation having already passed the Senate, and with the momentum of an unbroken string of committee wins.

"We are in a very strong position to pass this sensible, compassionate bill into law next year, and making sure that happens will be a top priority," said Rep. Tom Huntley (DFL-Duluth) in a press release from Minnesotans for Compassionate Care (MCC), a coalition of citizens, patients, medical professionals and others working to pass the bill.

"Passage of the medical marijuana bill in the Senate this year gave the effort incredible momentum, and I look forward to passing the House in 2008," added Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing).

Another legislative supporter, bill cosponsor and former House speaker Rep. Steve Sviggum (R-Kenyon) vowed to work on bringing Gov. Pawlenty around in the mean time. "I look forward to having a continuing dialogue with the governor about the need to protect seriously ill patients who use medical marijuana, and about the safeguards built into this legislation," he said. "I'm confident we will pass it when we return next year because it's the right thing to do."

Last month, New Mexico became the latest state to enact a medical marijuana law when Gov. Bill Richardson, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, signed a bill into law there. That gave some hope to MCC director Neal Levine. "As states like New Mexico continue to step forward and new research continues to document the relief that medical marijuana can provide for suffering patients, the momentum is overwhelming," said Levine. "No Minnesotan should fear arrest and jail simply for trying to stay alive, and I have no doubt that 2008 will be the year that protection for patients becomes law."

If that is indeed the case, Minnesota will join Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington as medical marijuana states.

RI: House, Senate committee to vote on making medical marijuana law permanent

Providence, RI
United States

As Illinois' drug policy changes, incarcerations soar

United States
Chicago Tribune

CMMNJ Press Release: Jim Miller to push wheelchair across New Jersey for Medical Marijuana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 16, 2007 For more info, contact: Ken @ (609) 394-2137 Jim Miller to push wheelchair across New Jersey for Medical Marijuana WHAT: Wheel chair march across New Jersey to dramatize plight of patients who are suffering needlessly due to legislature’s failure to pass medical marijuana bill (S 88 & A 933). WHO: Jim Miller, co-founder of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc., and Libertarian Party candidate for state senate from 10th District. Libertarian Party members, patients and friends will join Mr. Miller at the start of the march. WHEN: Sunday, May 20, 2007 at 12 noon (start) through Tuesday, May 22, 2007, 11 a.m to 1 p.m. rally in Trenton (finish). WHERE: March starts at Captain Hooks Bar, 1320 Boulevard, Seaside Heights, NJ, crosses Rt. 37 Bridge and stops for lunch at The Pier, 3430 Rt. 37 east, Toms River. March proceeds to Rt. 9 to Rt 33 to Trenton. Jim Miller, the co-founder of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc., (CMMNJ) will once again push his wife, Cheryl’s memorial wheelchair across the state of New Jersey starting Sunday, May 20, 2007 at 12 noon in order to call attention to patients who are suffering needlessly because they are denied access to medically recommended marijuana. Cheryl Miller, who died in 2003 from complications of Multiple Sclerosis, was a medical marijuana user and a tireless advocate for the right of patients to use this drug. “Cheryl Miller died without ever being able to use marijuana legally in New Jersey, despite the fact that marijuana eased her muscle spasms more effectively than any other drug and did so safely and with minimal side effects,” said Ken Wolski, RN, Executive Director of CMMNJ. See for more details. Jim Miller is also this year’s Libertarian Party candidate for state senator from New Jersey’s 10th District. Libertarian Party members, patients, and friends will accompany Mr. Miller on the first leg of his march, from Captain Hooks Bar, located at 1320 Boulevard, Seaside Heights, across the Rt. 37 bridge to The Pier restaurant in Toms River, where they will stop for lunch. For more details of this year’s march, see: Mr. Miller said it has been 14 years since the last time he pushed his wife’s wheelchair across New Jersey, in May 1993. This year, Mr. Miller is expected to arrive in Trenton on Tuesday, May 22, 2007 at approximately 11 a.m. There will be a rally on the steps of the State House in Trenton when Mr. Miller arrives, until 1:00 p.m. The Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. is a non-profit educational organization. CMMNJ has public meetings on the second Tuesday of every month at the Lawrence Township (Mercer County) Library, from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM. All are welcome. Light refreshments are served. For more info, contact: Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, Executive Director Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. 844 Spruce St., Trenton, NJ 08648 609.394.2137 [email protected]
United States

Hemp: California Bill Passes Assembly

A bill that would allow California farmers to grow non-psychoactive hemp passed the Assembly May 10 and now heads to the state Senate, where it is also expected to pass. A similar bill passed the legislature last year, only to be vetoed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), AB 684 would pave the way for California farmers to eventually -- not immediately -- grow the plant, which is used to make food, clothing, paper, body care, bio-fuel, and auto products. If the bill were to be signed into law, industry organizations like Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association, as well as the California Certified Organic Farmers, have vowed to challenge the federal ban on hemp planting.

Schwarzenegger cited the federal ban when he vetoed last year's hemp bill. He claimed it would put farmers in jeopardy of federal prosecution. But proponents of this year's bill are hopeful the governor will relent.

"Passage of the hemp farming bill in the Assembly is a sign it is likely to reach Governor Schwarzenegger's desk for the second year in row," said Vote Hemp legal counsel and San Francisco Attorney Patrick Goggin. "The mood in Sacramento is this bill is consistent with California's effort to be leader on US environmental policy. Hemp is a versatile plant that can replace polluting crops such as cotton and is taking off as an organic food and body care ingredient. It is time to jump into the expanding market for hemp that California companies currently import from Canada and elsewhere."

American hemp product manufacturers currently have to import their raw material from China, Canada, or one of the more than 30 other countries that allow hemp production. It is the only crop that is illegal to grow in the US, but legal to import.

Sentencing: Maryland Governor Vetoes Bill To Give Two-Time Drug Sales Offenders Parole Eligibility

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have provided the possibility of parole to people serving second-time drug sales sentences. Under current Maryland law, such offenders must serve a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence with no possibility of parole. The law would not have applied to violent offenders.

But in an interview with the Associated Press explaining his veto, O'Malley said he considered drug dealing to be a violent crime in itself. "Drug dealing is a violent crime, and the morgues of many of our counties and state are filled with the bodies that have been taken far too early because of drug distribution," O'Malley said. Maryland already provides opportunities for second-offenders to get drug treatment, he claimed, adding that the bill "unnecessarily broadens current law and makes parole a possibility, however remote, for drug dealers who are driven by greed and profit supported by violence, not addiction."

The bill, HB 992, passed the legislature with bipartisan support and was backed by a broad coalition of drug reformers, the faith community, public health and law enforcement officials, and drug treatment providers, as well as the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun. The coalition is not happy with O'Malley.

"The veto is a disappointing mistake," said Justice Policy Institute executive director Jason Zeidenberg. "Instead of taking a baby step in the right direction towards treatment instead of prison, O'Malley is stubbornly clinging to the failed tough on crime policies of the past. The governor failed to show leadership and vision in this decision."

"Governor O'Malley has put Maryland out of step with other states that are moving in the direction of smarter, more effective sentencing policies," said Naomi Long, director of the Drug Policy Alliance District of Columbia Metropolitan Area project. "This veto was a lapse of leadership, and hurts Maryland's efforts to implement the kinds of real reforms that would actually make a difference."

The state of Maryland spends millions of dollars each year incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders, the vast majority of whom would be better served by drug treatment options. A recent report by the Justice Policy Institute found that Maryland's sentencing laws disproportionately affect communities of color and may be the least effective, most expensive way to promote public safety.

"The fight for more effective and fair sentencing policies isn't over," said Delegate Curtis Anderson (D-Baltimore), a sponsor of the legislation. "Maryland voters want more fair and effective sentencing policies. We will keep working with the governor to implement those reforms."

Sentencing: Nevada Supreme Court Justices Ask Legislature for More Discretion, More Funding for Drug Courts

Two Nevada Supreme Court justices appeared before the state Senate Judiciary Committee Monday to argue for increased discretion in sentencing and increased funding for drug and mental health programs, including drug courts. Nevada enacted mandatory minimum drug laws in 1995 that have contributed to an ever-increasing prison population.

Justice Jim Hardesty asked lawmakers to consider amending the sentencing laws to allow judges to deviate from the mandatory minimums as long as they submit written explanations of why the downward deviation was appropriate. Hardesty cited the senselessness of some drug sentences.

"It makes absolutely no sense for us to sentence a young man to 10 to 25 years in the Nevada state prison who gets paid $150 to drive a car from Sacramento to Utah" containing narcotics, Hardesty told the committee. He added that current law does not allow judges to deviate from sentencing rules or allow prosecutors to makes deals in such cases.

Hardesty was joined by Chief Justice Bill Maupin in asking committees that control spending to allot more money for drug and mental health court programs that can divert offenders from prison. "When I first heard about this program, I was very skeptical," Maupin told the committee. "What I found out was that mental health courts around this country have become very well recognized as having permanent success."

Hardesty added that the Supreme Court had requested $5 million in state general funds to pay for drug courts and treatment programs, but a budget subcommittee had only voted to approve $1 million. "Compared to what we requested, and compared to frankly what the demand is -- which is $30 million -- it was disappointing," said Hardesty.

While the justices have so far been unable to win increased funding for diversion programs, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) is calling on the legislature to spend $300 million on new prison construction. Nevada currently has more than 13,000 prisoners and is admitting more than 600 new ones each month, nearly double the rate of admissions in 1990.

As for sentencing discretion, Judiciary Chairman Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) told the justices he is open to the idea, but judges would have to be very careful not to arouse the wrath of victims' rights groups, who successfully demanded the tougher sentencing law in 1995. "Those mandatory sentencings were the result of rooms like this being packed with people who said, 'Hey, so and so got a sweetheart of a deal,"' said Amodei.

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