Political

Massachusetts: Lawmakers To Hold Hearing On Bill To Regulate And Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

MassachusettsMarijuana

Joint Committee on the Judiciary to consider H. 1632, which would establish a legal market for businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would make possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET in Room A-2 of the Massachusetts State House.

H. 1632 would eliminate criminal penalties for adults 21 years of age and older if they possess or cultivate marijuana for personal use. It would also create a Cannabis Control Authority, which would establish licenses, collect taxes, and regulate the production, processing, and sale of marijuana to adults.

"Marijuana prohibition has been just as colossal a failure as alcohol prohibition," said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), who is scheduled to testify during the hearing. "Marijuana is less toxic than alcohol, less addictive, and less likely to contribute to violent or reckless behavior.

"Most voters think it's time to stop punishing adults who make the safer choice, and we hope their elected officials will agree," Simon said.

A majority of Massachusetts voters likely to vote in the November 2014 midterm election (53 percent) support making marijuana legal, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll released in February. Just 37 percent were opposed.

Florida: CBD-Only Cannabis Oil Bill Approved By House Judiciary Committee

CBDCannabidiol

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Florida House Judiciary Committee on Monday approved a plan to allow doctors to authorize patients to use a non-psychoactive marijuana extract which provides relief from seizures and pain.

HB 843, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar), passed on a 15-3 vote over some determined opposition, reports Health News Florida. Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong opposed the bill, and warned the committee that it is "unwise" for the Legislature to allow untested drugs to market rather than going through the lengthy process of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

"We must be wary of unintended consequences and remember that first we must do no harm," said Armstrong, who also heads the Florida Department of Health. Anecdotal reports have indicated that cannabidiol (CBD) oil is quite effective in quelling seizures, and parents like it because it doesn't get their children high, as would THC, the other major medicinal cannabinoid in marijuana.

The bill would set up four regional organizations around Florida that could grow, test and dispense CBD oil. It wouldn't have enough THC in it to get you high, but would be rich in CBD, which appears to have anti-seizure effects.

New Hampshire: Senate Committee Votes To Deny Patients Legal Access To Medical Marijuana

NewHampshireMedicalMarijuana

Senate Health, Education, and Human Services Committee fails to pass bill that would allow limited home cultivation until patients have state-legal access through dispensaries

The New Hampshire Senate Health, Education, and Human Services Committee on Tuesday morning failed to take decisive action on a bill that would provide licensed patients with legal access to medical marijuana while the state develops a system of regulated cultivation and distribution. Instead, the committee voted 3-1 to refer the bill for "interim study."

Sponsored by Rep. Donald “Ted” Wright (R-Tuftonboro), HB 1622 would allow licensed medical marijuana patients or their designated caregivers to possess up to two mature marijuana plants and 12 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.

HB 1622 passed the House in a 227-73 vote March 6. If the Senate upholds the committee recommendation of interim study, patients will likely continue to have no legal protection until alternative treatment centers open, which could take another year and a half or more.

An amendment proposed by Rep. Wright would have added a sunset provision, repealing the home-grow option when the fourth alternative treatment center opened. Senators decided against this option in a 3-1 vote, with Sen. John Reagan (R-Deerfield) the lone dissenting vote.

Minnesota: More Than 100 Doctors And Clergy Express Support For Legal Access To Medical Marijuana

MinnesotaWithCannabisLeaf

Supporters of medical marijuana legislation pending in the Minnesota Legislature will announce at a Tuesday news conference that more than 100 doctors and clergy throughout the state have expressed support for legal access to medical marijuana. The event will be held at 10 a.m. CT in Room 125 of the Minnesota State Capitol.

Attendees will include Rev. Catherine Schuyler of the Duluth Congregational Church; a representative from the Minnesota Nurses Association; Bill Tiedemann, executive director of the Minnesota AIDS Project; representatives from the AFL-CIO, UFCW, and other organizations; and Minnesota patients and their family members.

The coalition will voice support for HF 1818/SF 1641, which would allow people with specific debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy, to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.

"Doctors and clergy throughout the state and around the country support legal access to medical marijuana," said Heather Azzi, political director for Minnesotans for Compassionate Care. "Legislators need to adopt comprehensive medical marijuana legislation this year. Seriously ill Minnesotans should not have to wait any longer."

WHAT: News conference to announce more than 100 Minnesota doctors and clergy support legal access to medical marijuana

WHEN: Tuesday, April 22, 10 a.m. CT

WHERE: Room 125 of the Minnesota State Capitol Building, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul

U.S.: Obama Plans Clemency For 'Hundreds, Perhaps Thousands' Sentenced for Drug Law Violations

PrisonBarsHandsHoldingBook

Follows on Footsteps of White House’s Recent Call For Clemency Candidates

Drug Policy Alliance: Positive Step, But Comprehensive Sentencing Reform Is Needed to Prevent More Mass Injustice

A White House official has told Yahoo News that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes.

The report said that the administration is making moves that will help it handle the increase in petitions that Mr. Obama is planning to sign off on before he leaves office. Last Tuesday, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama has directed the Justice Department to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applications from convicts.

The White House’s new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases.

New Hampshire: Senate Committee To Vote Tuesday On Bill To Provide Legal Access To Medical Marijuana

NewHampshireLiveFreeOrDie

Senate Health, Education, and Human Services Committee will vote on bill that would allow limited home cultivation until alternative treatment centers open

The New Hampshire Senate Health, Education, and Human Services Committee will vote Tuesday morning on a bill that would provide licensed patients with legal access to medical marijuana while the state develops a system of regulated alternative treatment centers. The vote is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. in Room 103 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

Sponsored by Rep. Donald “Ted” Wright (R-Tuftonboro), HB 1622 would allow licensed medical marijuana patients or their designated caregivers to possess up to two mature marijuana plants and 12 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.

"If this bill passes, New Hampshire will continue to have one of the most tightly controlled medical marijuana systems in the nation," said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It will help desperately ill patients who cannot wait any longer for legal access to medical marijuana."

Washington: Five Medical Marijuana Patients Headed To Federal Trial; Prosecutors Seek 10 Years

LarryHarveyAndRhondaFirestack-Harvey

Prosecutions Contradict Obama Administration Statements, Policy Against Targeting Sick Patients

Family members from a rural area of eastern Washington are expected to go to trial next month on federal marijuana charges, despite the Obama Administration's repeated claims that it does not target seriously ill patients. The federal trial of the "Kettle Falls 5" is scheduled for May 12, pending several pretrial motions which will be heard on April 22 before U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle in Spokane.

Because of marijuana's illegal status under federal law, patients like the "Kettle Falls 5" are typically prohibited from raising a medical necessity or state law defense in federal court.

Federal agents raided the property of Larry Harvey, 70, and his wife, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 55, at their rural family home near Kettle Falls, Washington in August 2012. In addition to seizing 44 premature marijuana plants, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confiscated the family's 2007 Saturn Vue, $700 in cash, medicated cookies and marijuana stored in the family freezer, along with legally owned firearms.

The five federal defendants, including Mrs. Firestack-Harvey’s son, Rolland Gregg, and daughter-in-law, were all qualified patients in compliance with Washington state law. Defense attorneys say the cannabis being cultivated on a remote corner of the family's 33-acre property was strictly for personal use.

Michigan: Medical Marijuana Advocates Concerned About Saliva Testing For Drugged Driving

PoliceDUICheckpoint

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana advocates are fighting proposed changes to Michigan's driving laws that would allow police to check a driver's saliva for the presence of drugs during a traffic stop.

The Michigan House Judiciary Committee on Thursday heard testimony on a three-bill package of legislation concerning "drugged driving" and make driving under the influence of a controlled substance subject to the same testing as drunk driving, reports Brian Smith at MLive.com.

Michigan law already allows for blood, breath and urine testing for driving impairment. House Bill 53895 would add saliva testing through a mouth swab. The Los Angeles Police Department are already using saliva tests at DUI checkpoints in a pilot program.

The changes would "put a new tool in our toolbox" for dealing with impaired driving, Sgt. Dwayne Gill, legislative liaison for the Michigan State Police, told the House panel. Sgt. Gill claimed the cops wouldn't immediately use the tests until the science behind them was proven.

"It's forward-thinking," Gill claimed. "These tests have not been proven to be reliable in Michigan yet, but we are looking to have pilot testing in the future on some of these tests."

But medical marijuana advocates told legislators they are worried about saliva testing because of questions surrounding the accuracy of the tests.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Campaign Manager Blasts CPS Investigation Of Advocate

LegalizeMedicalMarijuanaInFlorida

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The campaign manager of Florida's medical marijuana ballot drive has expressed outrage after a woman last week was abruptly visited by Child Protective Services on an anonymous tip that she had been giving marijuana to her son, who suffers from a rare form of severe epilepsy.

Renee Petro, the advocate in question, wasn't administering any cannabis to her 12-year-old son, Branden, reports Chris Joseph at Broward Palm Beach New Times. But that didn't stop CPS agents coming into her home to interrogate Petro's 9-year-old daughter and the nurse who helps take care of Branden.

"This is exactly why Floridians need to pass Amendment 2 in November," said Ben Pollara, campaign manager with United For Care, the main organization backing the ballot initiative. "And why we need everyone's support to get word out about stories like Renee's and her family's."

Petro gives Branden his prescribed medications, as well as legal hemp oil. Since she hadn't actually broken the law, her experience could be considered even more egregious than that of Cathy Jordan, the wheelchair-bound activist with Lou Gehrig's disease who was raided by police after a tip last year when a neighbor spotted some marijuana plants on the property of Jordan and her husband Robert. (Jordan's charges were dropped by the State Attorney's office in Manatee in April 2013.)

Rhode Island: Lawmakers, Former Cops Voice Support For Marijuana Legalization Bill

RhodeIslandRepEdithAjello

Legislators, Former Police Officers, and Health and Legal Experts Voice Support for Bill That Would Regulate and Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

State legislators, former police officers, and health and legal experts joined representatives of several organizations at a Wednesday news conference to voice their support for a bill that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol in Rhode Island. The House Committee on Judiciary was scheduled to hold a hearing on the measure later Wednesday.

Speakers at the event included the bill's sponsor, Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Providence); Dr. David Lewis, founder of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University; Professor Andy Horwitz, director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Roger Williams University School of Law; and Beth Comery, a former Providence police officer.

A bipartisan group of 29 sponsors, including House Minority Leader Rep. Brian Newberry (R-North Smithfield), is supporting H 7506, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act. The bill would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space.

New Jersey: Residents More Supportive Of Marijuana Decriminalization Than Ever Before

NewJerseyMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Support among New Jersey residents for decriminalizing marijuana is higher than ever before, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released on Tuesday.

An overwhelming majority, about 66 percent, of residents believe penalties for marijuana use should be reduced, according to the poll. That number is up from 58 percent in 2011 and 40 percent in 1972, reports Andrew George at NJ Biz. Sixty-five percent said penalties should be eliminated altogether.

Twenty-nine percent of residents said they oppose marijuana decrim.

Outright legalization of marijuana is supported by 49 percent, with 48 percent opposed.

Back in 1972, just 34 percent of adults wanted to get rid of penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana, while 56 percent did not, reports Matt Friedman at The Star-Ledger.

The poll comes about a month after state Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) introduced a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol in New Jersey.

Rhode Island: House Committee To Hold Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Bill

I(PotLeaf)RI

Bill That Would Regulate and Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

The Rhode Island House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Rep. Edith Ajello will join supporters of the measure at a pre-hearing news conference at 3 p.m. ET in Room 101 of the Rhode Island State House. Attendees will include Dr. David Lewis, founder of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University; Professor Andy Horwitz, director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Roger Williams University School of Law; and Beth Comery, a former Providence police officer.

H 7506 would allow adults 21 and older to possess of up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space, and establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities. It would also:

• Enact wholesale excise taxes of up to $50 per ounce of flowers and $10 per ounce of leaves applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store;
• Enact a 10 percent sales tax at the point of retail sales; and
• Require the Department of Business Regulation to establish rules regulating security, labeling, health and safety requirements.

WHAT: News conference prior to Rhode Island House Committee on Judiciary hearing on H 7506, which would regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol

Florida: Medical Marijuana Amendment Could Help Democrats

FloridaMarijuana2014

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida is the nation's largest swing-state politically, and Democrats there see the medical marijuana amendment on this year's ballot as a source of hope and high voter turnout in November's elections.

A constitutional amendment which would legalize medical marijuana in Florida, making it the first state in South to do so, has widespread public support, reports Michael J. Mishak of The Associated Press. The measure is particularly popular among young voters, a critical part of the Democratic coalition.

"I wish that it didn't take medical marijuana on the ballot to motivate our young voters to go and vote, because there's far too much at stake for them and their children," said Ana Cruz, former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. "But listen -- we'll take it any way we can get it."

The Florida Governor's mansion is up for grabs, as are a handful of competitive House seats. Florida could be a test case for whether increases in youth turnout in Washington and Colorado in 2012 -- when marijuana legalization initiatives were on the ballot -- was an anomaly, or part of a trend.

Activists plan to launch at least half-a-dozen legalization campaigns in battleground states in 2016.

"It's a smart move on Democrats' part, said Colorado-based Republican pollster David Flaherty. "It's going to help them, no doubt about it."

Maryland: 2 In 1 Day - 21st State To Allow Medical Marijuana, 18th State To Decriminalize Possession

MarylandGovernorMartinO'Malley

Gov. Martin O’Malley signs SB 923/HB 881, which would allow patients with serious illnesses to access medical marijuana; he will also sign SB 364 Monday, making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense

Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill into law Monday making Maryland the 21st state in the nation to allow medical marijuana. He will also sign a bill Monday making Maryland the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“We applaud Gov. O’Malley for signing these important bills into law,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “The progress we’re seeing in Maryland is emblematic of what is taking place nationwide. Most Marylanders, like most Americans, are fed up with outdated marijuana prohibition policies and ready to start taking a more sensible approach.”

Senate Bill 923 and House Bill 881 are identical bills that allow state residents suffering from certain qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Possession limits and regulations governing cultivation and dispensary facilities will be determined by a state-sanctioned commission prior to implementation. The measure will officially go into effect on June 1.

Missouri: House Panel Passes Marijuana-Derived CBD Oil Bill

MissouriStateRepresentativeCalebJones(R-Columbia)

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill which would allow epilepsy patients to use non-psychoactive CBD marijuana extracts to control seizures passed in the House General Laws Committee with a unanimous 11-0 vote on Tuesday.

The bill, called a "hemp bill" by Rep. Caleb Jones (R-Columbia), is intended to provide legal protection for people who find little help in conventional medicine, he said, reports Rudi Keller at the Columbia Tribune.

The bill allows adults or children with "intractable epilepsy" to get a cannabis extract which is high in non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main component responsible for the high, but which also has many medicinal benefits.

"This helps the children who need it the most and keeps out the outside influences out of the state of Missouri," said Jones, who chairs the committee and likes to say "out" a lot. "This is something that is very personal to me, and that is why I am doing it."

The cannabis oil must be 5 percent of more CBD and less than 0.3 percent THC, according to Jones' bill, which, according to many medical experts, will probably limit the effectiveness of the CBD. All of the dozens of cannabinoids found in marijuana work most effective in a synergistic fashion, potentiating each others' medical benefits in what Dr. Sanjay Gupta has called the "Entourage Effect."

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