The legislative grind has come to a screeching halt for the holiday season, but that did not stop lawmakers and marijuana supporters across the country from introducing last-minute proposals to legalize the leaf. Interestingly, this week’s roundup indicates supporters in the Midwest are ready to pass legislation in 2015-16, while there is some motion in Texas to decriminalize marijuana statewide.
Find out what your pot-friendly lawmakers have been up to in this week’s High Times Legislative Roundup for December 22.
New York: Public Forum Held Over Recreational Marijuana Bill
New York State Senator Liz Krueger held a public forum last week to discuss her bill, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over. Although Krueger admits legislation to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol is not something the majority of the local lawmakers are ready to grasp, she feels it is important to keep the issue moving forward.
“It is not intended as legislation to endorse the use of marijuana for recreational purposes,” said Krueger. “Rather a recognition that decade after decade, we see a significant percentage of Americans who wish to use marijuana recreationally do so. And at least in our state (they) face serious criminal charges from doing so. (They) use the resources of our police, our courts and our jail systems, and cost our taxpayers an enormous amount of money to go through the prosecution of such cases.”
The bill, if passed, would impose a $50 per ounce tax on recreational marijuana – a price the opposition argues will not extinguish the Black Market.
Texas: Decriminalization Bill Filed
Texas State Representative Joe Moody filed a bill early last week that would decriminalize marijuana in Texas. House Bill 507 would replace the criminal penalties associated with pot possession by replacing them with a fine of $100. “Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” said Moody. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”
The bill is expected to be heard during the next legislative session.
Delaware: Decriminalization and Legalization
Delaware House member Helene Keeley is drafting legislation to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in 2015. The measure will replace the current criminal penalties associated with this offense and replace them with a $100 civil fine. As it stands, anyone caught in possession of any amount of marijuana can receive up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,150.
In addition to the decriminalization efforts, the Marijuana Policy Project, which is the largest anti-prohibition organization in the United States, plans to assist the state in legalizing recreational marijuana in the 2016 election.
Indiana: Medical Marijuana Bill to be Filed
Indiana State Senator Karen Tallian plans to introduce a bill during the next legislative session aimed at legalizing a statewide medical marijuana program. Although she has unsuccessfully introduced measures to decriminalize pot in the past, she believes a recent congressional decision to no longer pay the DEA to target medical marijuana states could help her cause.
“My bills in the past have only addressed the decriminalization of marijuana, but I had planned on including a medical facet of the proposal that would allow for medical marijuana in Indiana,” said Tallian in a press release. “For this upcoming session, I have a bill ready to file to legalize medical marijuana.”
Ohio: Plans to Reduce Pot Possession Penalty
In Ohio, there is a 1990 federal law that requires people who have been busted for weed to have their driver’s license suspended or revoked in the case of a drug conviction. However, a committee is now in the process of reviewing a measure that would remove these harsh penalties from the books and allow pot offenders to keep their license to drive. The measure was approved last Tuesday and now goes before the full House. If it receives approval, Governor John Kasich would need to get federal support before signing it into law. So far, all but 16 states have managed to get out from under this federal statute.
Missouri: Anarchist Initiative Filed to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Mark Pedersen and Kansas City NORML filed the paperwork for an initiative last week aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana. If passed, the proposal would legalize the leaf in the Show-Me state, free of age restrictions for purchasing pot, eliminating the possibility of getting a DUI, while also releasing every prisoner currently doing time for a marijuana-related offense. The group needs to collect 160,000 signatures to earn a spot on the 2016 ballot.