The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Friday approved a bill 8-3 with bipartisan support that would replace criminal penalties with a civil fine for possession of limited amounts of marijuana. The measure will now receive a full vote in the Senate, which approved a similar measure last year with bipartisan support.
SB 364, co-sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore) and Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard), would replace criminal penalties for possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana with a $100 fine, similar to a parking ticket. It would also make penalties for minors the same as those for underage possession of alcohol. Under current Maryland law, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Maryland had the fourth highest arrest rate in the nation for marijuana possession, according to a report released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union. It also found that blacks accounted for 58 percent of marijuana possession arrests and were more than three times more likely to be arrested than whites despite using marijuana at comparable rates.
More than two-thirds of Maryland voters (68 percent) support changing state laws to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100, according to a survey conducted in September by Public Policy Polling. The full results are available at http://www.mpp.org/MDpoll.
The New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 10 will consider bail reform legislation at 10 a.m. A Statehouse press conference has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m., at which New Jersey faith leaders will call for bail reform and point to thousands of people warehoused in jails because they cannot afford often nominal amounts of bail.
The committee will receive expert testimony on the issue of pretrial justice and bail reform, including preventative detention, pretrial services and supervision, and non-monetary conditions of release. The hearing will be preceded by a press conference with faith leaders from across New Jersey calling on the legislature to implement comprehensive and effective bail reform that will better serve their communities.
Advocates argue that using money bail as the primary mechanism of pretrial release results in an irresponsible system in which dangerous individuals with economic resources are able to secure release, while others who pose no threat languish behind bars awaiting trial simply because they cannot afford to pay often nominal amounts of money bail.
A recent jail population analysis conducted by Luminosity in partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance found that nearly 75 percent of percent of the 15,000 individuals in New Jersey jails are there pretrial, meaning they have not yet been convicted of a crime or found guilty by a jury. Almost 40 percent are incarcerated solely because they cannot afford to pay bail and 12 percent have a bail amount of $2,500 or less.
Activists Promise 'Big Announcement' Next Week
Paul Stanford: "These measures are going to be on the ballot"
In light of recent news that the Oregon Legislature has abandoned meaningful reforms, initiative activists are moving forward with a new phase in their campaign to end criminal penalties for marijuana.
"We salute the efforts of Representative Peter Buckley and other progressive-minded legislators," said chief petitioner Paul Stanford, "and we are ready to pick up where they fell and bring a pair of ballot initiatives restoring the progressive pioneer spirit that Oregon is well known for."
Oregon has lagged behind other Western states in bringing reform to marijuana law. Two initiative petitions, IP 21 and IP 22, would change that. "Prohibition doesn't work," Stanford said. "Filling our jails with nonviolent marijuana prisoners is a waste of public resources and people's future. We will end prohibition and end criminal penalties for marijuana."
Oregon's 2014 Initiative 21, a constitutional amendment to end prohibition and stop imposing criminal penalties for marijuana, has 38,000 signatures collected to date. It needs 116,284 valid registered Oregon voters' signatures by July 3rd to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.
Initiative 22, a proposed statute to regulate and tax marijuana, and allow farmers to grow hemp for fuel, fiber and food, has gathered 25,000 signatures. It needs 87,213 valid registered Oregon voters' signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
HB 1622 would allow licensed patients to cultivate up to two mature marijuana plants until an alternative treatment center opens near their residence
The New Hampshire House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill 227-73 that will provide people who qualify for the state's medical marijuana program with legal access to medical marijuana while the state develops a system of regulated medical marijuana cultivation and distribution. The bill will now move to the Senate, where it will receive a public hearing.
HB 1622, sponsored by Rep. Donald “Ted” Wright (R-Tuftonboro), would allow licensed medical marijuana patients or their designated caregivers to possess up to two mature marijuana plants and twelve immature plants or seedlings. Patients and caregivers would be required to report their cultivation locations to the Department of Health and Human Services, and they would lose their ability to cultivate once an alternative treatment center opens within 30 miles of their residence.
“We applaud House members for continuing to stand up for people with debilitating conditions who could benefit from medical marijuana,” said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which supports the bill. “Seriously ill patients in New Hampshire have waited long enough for legal access to medical marijuana, and some simply cannot afford to wait any longer.”
By Steve Elliott
Wait, this is legalization? Colorado's police chiefs are asking the state for more money for "marijuana enforcement," whining that they are "disappointed" in Governor John Hickenlooper's plan for how to spend cannabis taxes.
In a letter sent to the Governor earlier this week, the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police complained that Hickenlooper's plan has no money specifically for local law enforcement, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post. The letter asks Hickenlooper to support the creation of a program to give grants to police departments to "cover extra costs related to marijuana legalization."
If that sounds strange, after hearing all these years how marijuana legalization would save on law enforcement costs, then yeah. It surely does.
"Many of our local law enforcement agencies have diverted staff from other operations into marijuana enforcement, leaving gaps in other service areas as a direct result of marijuana legalization," the letter whines.
The association wants the marijuana money for training officers to identify stoned drivers; buying "oral fluid testing" to catch impaired drivers; and creating a statewide database of "marijuana crimes."
Finding by panel of physicians, professors, and medical marijuana advocates would make Michigan the eighth state to provide relief for those suffering from the effects of traumatic events
Residents in Michigan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may soon be allowed to treat their symptoms with medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Review Panel appointed by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has decided to recommend that the department add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.
It is now up to Steve Arwood, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, to accept or reject the recommendation.
"There is mounting evidence demonstrating the benefits of medical marijuana for individuals suffering from PTSD," said Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "The panel should be commended for recommending that veterans and those who have experienced traumatic events, such as domestic abuse, be allowed to use medical marijuana to alleviate their PTSD and live healthy and productive lives. They deserve our compassion and support.
By Steve Elliott
A key committee in the Florida House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to approve medical use of a non-psychoactive marijuana extract that has shown promise jn treating seizures.
"We have evidence of benefits," said Republican Rep. Cary Pigman, who is also an emergency room physician, reports Bill Cotterell at Reuters. "We have no evidence of harm."
The Florida House Criminal Justice Committee approved the proposal, which would allow medical use of cannabidiol (CBD), on an 11-1 vote. Before the vote, Rep. Pigman referred to parents in the audience who had told of their children having epileptic seizures that destroy brain cells.
Families told the House committee that a high-CBD strain of marijuana bred in Colorado l
The CBD-only bill isn't related to a constitutional amendment put on November's ballot in Florida by a public petition campaign, People United For Medical Marijuana. That measure would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for patients with serious illnesses.
By Steve Elliott
Michigan landlords could easily ban tenants who are medical marijuana patients from smoking or growing their medicine under a bill advanced on Tuesday by the state Senate.
Senate Bill 783, sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), was approved in a 31-7 vote by the Senate, reports Jonathan Oosting at MLive.com. It would codify into law an opinion from notoriously anti-marijuana Michigan Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette, who said that hotel, motel or apartment owners could prohibit the use of medicinal cannabis without violating the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law.
Under the bill, medical marijuana patients would be banned from growing or smoking cannabis if they have a written prohibition from their landlord. If they continue using their medicine after being ordered to stop by their landlord, they could be jailed for up to 90 days and/or get a $100 fine, according to a Senate Fiscal Agency analysis of the legislation.
Jones is the one who originally requested Atty. Gen. Schuette's opinion back in 2011. He claimed landlords in his district had complained about medical marijuana patients who "created unpleasant odors" for their neighbors.
By Steve Elliott
An overwhelming majority of Ohioans believe medical marijuana should be legal, according to a poll released last week. But the Buckeye State appears unlikely to change its cannabis laws this year, because a ballot drive doesn't have enough money, and the Republican-controlled Legislature won't bring the issue up for a vote.
Advocates with the Ohio Rights Group have gathered only 50,000 of the more than 385,000 signatures they'd need by July 2 to qualify for November's ballot, reports Chrissie Thompson at The Cincinnati Enquirer. Estimates for the amount needed to gather the remaining signatures and run a campaign run as high as $10.5 million. They only have about $50,000 in donations they've received or have been promised.
Ohio has no fewer than three medical marijuana amendments whose language has been approved by the Attorney General and the bipartisan Ohio Ballot Board. The Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment has the most signatures (it's the one with 50,000), but supporters would need to hire a signature gathering firm within a month to have any hope of qualifying for the ballot -- much less finance a campaign if they manage to squeak onto the ballot.
By Steve Elliott
The Washington State Liquor Control Board on Wednesday issued the state's first licenses to produce and process recreational marijuana during a Board meeting at its headquarters in Olympia.
The licenses were issued to Sean Green of Spokane, who will be doing business as Kouchlock Productions.
"This is a historic day," said Board Chair Sharon Foster. "The hard work and preparation this agency has done has laid the foundation to make this pioneering endeavor a success."
Kouchlock Productions is licensed to produce and process -- but not sell -- recreational marijuana. It holds a restricted tier-three license to produce marijuana initially up to a maximum of 21,000 square feet.
The company is one of more than 2,800 producer license applications that the WSLCB is currently processing. Licenses will be continuously issued as they are ready.
The WSLCB will update weekly its list of pending and active marijuana licenses on the Frequently Requested Lists page of the public records section of its website.
By Steve Elliott
A new one-minute television commercial from MarijuanaDoctors.com is set to become the first medical marijuana ad to appear on major networks, according to the company.
In the ad, a stereotypical "dealer" pushes sushi in the street, opening up his coat to display a selection of raw fish, reports Katy Steinmetz at Time.
"This area's dry, man," the sketchy-looking dealer tells the camera. "You know that. I know that. Ain't nobody selling but me. You want sushi? I got sushi. I got the best sushi," he says. "You need me and I need you. Let's make this work."
"You wouldn't buy your sushi from this guy," a female voiceover eventually says. "So why would you buy your marijuana from him?" The narrator suggests an alternative: "The only website that links patients with real doctors" who authorize medical marijuana. "Book your appointment today!" the voiceover concludes.
"We felt the viewing public would agree that in the states providing safe access, continuing to obtain medicine illegally is as absurd as purchasing raw fish from a drug dealer," MarijuanaDoctors.com CEO Jason Draizin said in a press release. Of course, while 20 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal uses, the pot dealer down the street is the only choice for recreational users in 48 states -- that is, everywhere except Colorado and (possibly this summer) Washington state.
HF 1818 would allow people with specific debilitating medical conditions to access and use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it
The Minnesota House Health and Human Services Policy Committee approved a bill in an overwhelming bipartisan vote on Tuesday that would allow people suffering from conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), PTSD, glaucoma, and HIV/AIDS to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The bill is now expected to go to the House Government Operations Committee for review.
“Seriously ill Minnesotans who could benefit from medical marijuana are one step closer to receiving the relief they deserve,” said Heather Azzi, political director for Minnesotans for Compassionate Care. “Medical marijuana has been proven to be an effective treatment for a variety of debilitating conditions.”
By Steve Elliott
Oregon's medical marijuana dispensary registration program got off to a "robust" start on Mondasy, with 289 applications, according to state officials.
Program director Tom Burns said there was heavy traffic at the state's medical marijuana dispensary application website, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. The state is issuing registrations on a first come, first served basis.
The rules require dispensaries to have at least 1,000 feet between them, leading to competition among already existing locations which are closer than 1,000 feet. That competition is likely what drove relatively high numbers of Multnomah County registrations on Monday, according to Burns.
Multnomah County saw the most applications, with 135 dispensaries starting the registration process. Lane County had 41, Jackson County had 18, Deschutes had 17, and Lincoln and Marion each had 11. A few counties, including Washington and Clackamas, had fewer than 10 each.
Oregon's existing medical marijuana dispensaries had until now operated in a legal gray area, relying on the tolerance of local police. Washington County and a few other localities had taken steps to shut down dispensaries, while Portland and Multnomah County generally let them operate.
Criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession will be replaced with a $25 civil fine, similar to a parking ticket; penalties in the nation’s capital will be among the lowest in the country
The District of Columbia Council approved a bill 10-1 Tuesday that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana in the nation’s capital. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has voiced support for the bill and is expected to sign it promptly.
“This is a big step forward for our nation’s capital, as well as our nation as a whole,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which supported the bill. “Clearly, marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered in the United States.”
“For far too long, people of color have been disproportionately and unfairly arrested and marginalized for marijuana possession in the District of Columbia,” said Grant Smith, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “D.C. Councilmembers took the first critical step today toward ending the selective enforcement of marijuana prohibition policies that have perpetuated racial disparities in the criminal justice system for decades.”
UN Wants US Federal Government to Crack Down On Colorado and Washington
By Steve Elliott
The United Nations drug watchdog group, the International Narcotics Control Board, on Tuesday released its 2014 Annual Report, in which it "deeply regrets" the states of Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana and said that cannabis legalization poses a "very grave danger to public health."
The INCB is in charge of enforcing international drug treaties, so it's no surprise that the body would take a dim view of moves towards cannabis legalization in the United States and Uruguay, because such moves are technically in violation of international drug treaties, reports Alan Travis of The Guardian.
The annual report claims that marijuana in Colorado has led to increases in car accidents involving "drug drivers" (the statistics actually show otherwise), and that marijuana-related treatment admissions are on the rise.
"Drug traffickers will choose the path of least resistance, so it is essential that global efforts to tackle the drug problem are unified," said INCB President Raymond Yans. "When governments consider their future policies on this, the primary consideration should beg the long-term health and welfare of the population."