Marijuana advocates across the country are not wasting any time organizing efforts to legalize the leaf within the next few years. Already, several initiatives have been approved to begin collecting signatures, while some lawmakers are pre-filing measures that are slated for discussion in the next legislative session. The success of November’s general election, which resulted in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, has spawned a new lease of rabid enthusiasm for the cause, one potentially leading to huge victories over the course of the next two years.
Here is what you pot-friendly lawmakers were up to last week:
New York: NYC Finally Decriminalizes Marijuana
Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced last week that possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana would no longer be an arrestable offense in New York City. Instead, offenders will be given a court summons and a fine of $100. Some argue, however, that the changes to law are too late… about 37 years too late. In 1977, Governor Hugh Carey signed the Marijuana Reform Act, which said that marijuana possession for less than 25 grams was to be treated as a traffic violation, punishable with a $100 fine. The changes will go into effect on November 19.
Kansas: Wichita Decriminalization Initiative Qualifies for Ballot
The Southcentral Kansas Peace and Justice Center reports an initiative aimed at decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana in Wichita has been approved for the April 2015 ballot. Voters are set to decide next year on removing the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession and replacing it with a $50 fine. As of now, getting busted for any amount of marijuana in Wichita can result in spending the next year in jail.
Nevada: Initiative Makes Deadline
Recreational marijuana could soon be a reality in the state of Nevada. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol has announced that it has collected more than 145,000 signatures, which is “much more than the 101,667 registered voter signatures needed to qualify the petition,” according to Joe Brezny, a representative for the organization. There is speculation that the Nevada State Legislature could approve this measure early next year, which would take a two-third majority to pass. If this happens, Republican Governor Brian Sandoval would need to sign the bill before it could become law. Yet, even if the legislature rejects the measure, it would be slated for a vote in 2016.
Connecticut: Adding More Qualified Conditions to Medical Marijuana Program
Officials with the Department of Consumer Protection will hold a hearing in the next few weeks to discuss adding sickle cell disease, Tourette’s Syndrome, and several others to the state’s list of qualified conditions. The meeting will be held on November 26.
“Any member of the public can file a petition with the board of physicians to add debilitating conditions to the list treatable with marijuana,” said William Rubenstein, the Consumer Protection Commissioner.
Georgia: Medical Marijuana Bill for 2015
Georgia lawmakers are still working to develop a restricted medical marijuana bill for 2015. At the core of the debate, lawmakers will decide on whether to allow cannabis grow operations in the state that would cultivate high CBD strains for a variety of patients. However, the proposed ideas are so Dark Age conservative that most medical marijuana patients will not gain any benefit. Last year, lawmakers passed “Haleigh’s Hope Act,” which failed to receive approval at the last minute.
Virginia: Decriminalization Bill Filed
A measure to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in Virginia was filed last week. Senator Adam Ebbin introduced Senate Bill 686, which would eliminate criminal penalties surrounding pot possession and treat it as a civil infraction with a $100 fine. That money, in turn, would be used to assist the state’s Literary Fund.
“I don’t think marijuana decriminalization has ever been introduced in the Virginia Senate,” Senator Ebbin said. “I think criminalizing marijuana, disrupting careers and families, does more harm than the drug itself does.”
Unlike similar measures, this bill would also strip away criminal penalties attached to distribution and intent to distribute marijuana; decriminalize the cultivation of up to six plants, and change paraphernalia laws. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice and will be discussed when the legislature reconvenes in January.
Arkansas: Marijuana Legalization Initiative Approved
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has approved an initiative sponsored by the Arkansas Citizens’ Alliance for the Legalization of Marijuana to begin its signature collecting campaign. Although the Secretary of State must still approve the wording of the petition, supporters are preparing to secure the 85,000 signatures needed to earn a spot on the 2016 ballot. If the amendment were to pass, the state would establish a recreational marijuana market.
Missouri: Initiative Filed to Legalize Marijuana
Show-Me Cannabis has filed a petition to legalize marijuana in Missouri. Last Wednesday, organizers submitted the petition to the Secretary of State and will now endure a review process. Supporters must gather 165,000 signatures in order to qualify for the 2016 ballot. If voters approve the measure, the state would establish a recreational marijuana market for adults 21 and over.
Rhode Island: Marijuana Legalization in 2015?
There is speculation that Rhode Island is planning an attempt to legalize marijuana by way of the state legislature in 2015. Jared Moffat, with Regulate Rhode Island, said last week that he believes the state will attempt to capitalize on the momentum of the recent election.
“Many newly-elected state leaders in Rhode Island focused their campaign messages around rebuilding Rhode Island’s economy. Establishing a system to regulate and tax marijuana would create hundreds of new jobs and generate tens of millions of dollars in additional tax revenue for the state. Rhode Island can give itself a head start advantage over other states in the region by becoming the first East Coast state to end marijuana prohibition in 2015.”