By Steve Elliott
A bill which would legalize medical marijuana has stalled at Minnesota's Capitol, but supporters say they will continue pushing for Governor Mark Dayton's support on the issue. Gov. Dayton has said a "compromise" with state law enforcement officials is necessary to win his support -- but law enforcement has refused to compromise.
Negotiations are deadlocked, according to the bill's chief sponsor in the Minnesota House, Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing), reports Christopher Snowbeck at the Pioneer Press.
"We had offered them a number of concessions," Melin said. "They still rejected the proposal, so I just don't know where to go from here."
We must have missed the meeting where citizens agreed to turn over their health care to law enforcement, Governor Dayton.
The bill would offer safe access to medical marijuana to some patients who were authorized by their doctors to receive the herb. It was scheduled for a Tuesday hearing at the Capitol, but Melin asked for a postponement.
Melin said she offered to remove provisions that would allow some patients to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes, in order to compromise and win support from law enforcement. She also offered to remove an option for patients to smoke medicinal cannabis, she said -- even offering a penalty for smoking it -- and narrow the definition of which patients might be eligible.
By Steve Elliott
Legalization is raking in the cash for Colorado, where state coffers are $2 million fatter from taxes on recreational marijuana from January, the very first month it was legal to sell non-medicinal cannabis in the Rocky Mountain State.
State officials said the numbers are about what they expected, reports Katie Lobosco at CNN Money. Colorado on New Year's Day became the first state to allow the sale of recreational marijuana to adults 21 or older; it's considered the first place in the world where cannabis will be tracked and regulated "from seed to sale."
The state gets a 15 percent excise tax, a 10 percent sales tax and a 2.9 percent sales tax on recreational cannabis, as well as application and license fees. Just the 2.9 percent sales tax, and the license and application fees, apply to medical marijuana, which Colorado voters legalized back in 2000.
Recreational and medical marijuana, considered together, brought in about $3.5 million in taxes for Colorado in January, reports Carla Mozée at Wall Street Journal Market Watch.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper expects the state to get about $134 million in taxes from the cannabis industry in the next fiscal year. He wants much of the marijuana tax money will be used in programs aimed to keep kids from using cannabis.
By Steve Elliott
Pointing out that it could put billions of dollars into state coffers and provide much-needed jobs, California Democrats on Sunday insert a plank in their party platform calling to "support the legalization, regulation and taxation of pot in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol," reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
On the marijuana issue, California Democrats "support the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol," the official party platform reads, reports Seema Mehta at the Los Angeles Times.
The change -- a monumental political shift -- comes as 3,000 state Democrats met over the weekend at a three-day convention in Los Angeles, where they heard a Saturday appeal by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on the issue, reports Carla Marinucci at SF Gate. The former San Francisco mayor told the Democrats that the state should be leading, not following, on an important issue that, according to the latest polls, is experiencing a surge of popular support among Americans.
Citizens Demanding Due Diligence, Full and Immediate Restoration of Natural Rights to Cannabis
Not in small part for the dedicated work of the diligent citizens of Legalize Louisiana, the state Legislature has multiple bills to restore cannabis rights. Advocacy group Legalize Louisiana says it is "trying to make sure the full restoration of natural rights is achieved."
Legalize Louisiana called all citizens to the Capitol on Monday "to ensure, from the start, that this year's Legislature ends cannabis prohibition, for health and justice in Louisiana."
Responsible citizens brought the research and testimony "exposing the current laws and policies as unjust, illegal, unscientific and irrational, unconstitutional, inhumane, and unacceptable," according to Legalize Louisiana. Lawmakers were "drawn clear solutions based on the promised rights to peace and prosperity for all," according to the group.
Community members gathered at the Capitol steps at 8:30 AM, to share their testimonies and pleas for justice, and at the Legislature’s opening, submitted facts and researches attesting to the abuses now being permitted under color of law. "Nothing short of due diligence will be allowed; law and policy must respect the highest and most basic natural and common, State and Federal Constitutional, and human rights to use cannabis for any bona-fide medical reason," the group said in a prepared statement.
Patients, Families, Caregivers Call on Senate To Do Same
Statewide Coalition Launches Month of Actions With Weekly Lobby and Education Days in Albany and Community Forums in Buffalo, Syracuse, Capital Region, Westchester, NYC, Long Island
Momentum Builds as Assembly Jumpstarts Negotiations and Four Senate Republicans Announce Support for Compassionate Care Act
Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D, WFP – Manhattan) on Friday announced that the Assembly would include the comprehensive medical marijuana bill in their state budget proposal. The move assures that, for the first time ever, the Compassionate Care Act will be formally discussed in state budget negotiations between the Assembly, Senate and Governor.
The move comes as momentum continues to build for a comprehensive medical marijuana bill. In the last few weeks, four Republican State Senators have added their voices to the chorus of support for the Compassionate Care Act: Senator George Maziarz (R – Newfane), Senator Mark Grisanti (R, IP – Buffalo), Senator Joe Robach (R, C, IP - Rochester) and Senator Tim O’Mara (R, C – Big Flats, Elmira).
The senators garnered praise and thanks from patients around the state. Now, patients, families, caregivers and healthcare providers are echoing the call of these leaders to demand the Senate pass Compassionate Care Act. After passing the Assembly four times, the bill is currently stuck in the Senate, despite the fact that there are enough votes for the bill to pass.
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."
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.
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.