High Times Legislative Roundup: Feb 16

Lawmakers across the United States were extremely busy last week introducing various forms of legislation aimed at legalizing marijuana. Several medical marijuana bills were filed, as well as a couple of measures to eliminate prohibition and establish a taxed and regulated cannabis industry. And while the majority of this legislation has a fighting chance to be heard, this is not the case in the Midwest, where some proposals have been shot down and cannot get so much as a hearing.

Read all about what went down last week in the High Times Legislative Roundup for February 15.

Virginia: House Approves Cannabis Oil

The House of Delegates has unanimously approved a measure, 98 to 0, that would allow parents with epileptic children to be in possession of cannabis oil without risking prosecution. Senate Bill 1235, which would allow certifications to be issued for the non-intoxicating strain of CBD oil, is now set to go before the Senate, who just two weeks ago approved a similar measure. If this happens, which is expected, the bill will go before Governor Terry McAuliffe for a signature.

Michigan: Medical Marijuana Bills Reintroduced

Michigan lawmakers are still trying to remedy the conundrum surrounding the state’s medical marijuana program. Last week, two bills aimed at making changes to the program were reintroduced to the state legislature after these issues failed to be rectified before the end of the last session. The bills would allow patients to purchase cannabis through provision centers, as well as legalize the use and possession of cannabis edibles. Both bills have strong opposition from the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police and Michigan Sheriffs’.

Louisiana: Medical Marijuana Considered

Representative Dalton Honore has pre-filed legislation aimed at establishing an effective medical marijuana program in Louisiana. Although cannabis was legalized for medicinal use in 1991, the law does not allow pharmacies to dispense it. Similar measures have failed in the state legislature in the past, but with recent polls indicating an overwhelming majority of local support, lawmakers hope the measure will make some progress. Governor Bobby Jindal has previously commented that would support medical marijuana as long as the program was tightly regulated.

Maryland: Recreational Marijuana Bill Introduced

State lawmakers have introduced a bill aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana. House Bill 911 would allow cannabis to be taxed and regulated across the state in a manner similar to alcohol. If passed, adults 21 and over would be allowed to be in possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, while cultivating six plants at home. It would also require the Maryland Controller to draft regulations for a cannabis industry, similar to what is seen in Colorado and Washington. It is predicted that if the measure survives the House, it could find trouble in the Senate (and if the bill makes it out of there alive), Governor Maggie Hassan has said she plans to hit it with a veto.

“The Marijuana Control and Revenue Act is the next step on the road to saner drug policy in Maryland,” Sara Love, with the ACLU of Maryland, said in a statement. “For too long, tens of thousands of Marylanders, disproportionately black Marylanders, have faced life-altering criminal penalties simply for possessing a substance most voters believe should be legalized. Now, our state has the opportunity to move beyond the tragic costs of the counterproductive ‘war on drugs’ and toward increased revenue that can be used to support policies that strengthen communities.”

New Mexico: Proposal to Legalize Marijuana Advances

New Mexican lawmakers have approved legislation to legalize a taxed and regulated marijuana industry. Senate Joint resolution 2, which would make it legal to grow, buy and sell weed for recreational purposes, passed the Senate Rules Committee by a vote of 5 to 4. This is the first time this type of legislation has successful passed the committee.

“Today is an historic day for New Mexicans,” Brett Phelps, with the New Mexico division of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). “Our legislature has taken a courageous step towards creating a sensible policy for regulating and taxing marijuana in New Mexico. This is an issue that should be decided by the people and SJR 2 will allow New Mexicans to do just that. ”

Unfortunately, Governor Susana Martinez does not support legalized marijuana, and will likely veto the measure if it makes it to her desk.

Texas: Bill Introduced Would Create New Penalties for Marijuana Possession

State Representative Gene Wu has introduced a piece of legislation aimed at reducing the penalties surrounding the possession of marijuana. House Bill 325 would make possession of just under 10 grams punishable with a fine of up to $500. This measure would reduce the offense to a Class C misdemeanor rather than its current Class B status.

“Arrests for very small amounts of Marijuana drain law enforcement resources and divert valuable time away from addressing more serious public safety concerns, like Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Domestic Violence offenses,” Wu told The Observer. “Defendants serving time for low-level Marijuana possession add to jail overcrowding and deplete county coffers without adding to overall community safety. Counties must also provide attorneys to all indigent defendants charged with Class B Marijuana possession; but not for defendants in Class C cases.”

California: Bill to Allow Organ Transplants for Medical Marijuana Patients

Assembly member Marc Levine introduced a measure last week that would allow medical California medical marijuana patients to qualify for the organ transplant program. The bill would make it illegal for doctors and hospitals to deny patients organ transplants simply or testing positive for medicinal cannabis. The bill states, “A hospital, physician and surgeon, procurement organization, or other person shall not determine the ultimate recipient of an anatomical gift based solely upon a potential recipient’s status as a qualified patient… or based solely on a positive test for the use of medical marijuana by a potential recipient who is a qualified patient.”

District of Columbia: Retail Marijuana Hearing Downgraded After Threats of Prison

The D.C. Council was forced to reconsider a recent hearing to discuss the possibility of establishing a retail marijuana market due to threats of prosecution from newly elected attorney general Karl Racine. In a letter sent to the council, Racine explains that the recent rider attached to a federal spending bill, which prohibits local and federal funds from being used to legalize controlled substances, makes it a federal offense for the District to hold a hearing to “enact” legislation. Rather than risk the potential of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine, the council decided to downgrade the hearing to a roundtable discussion with key members of certain committees. Now, the council must find a clever way to finance the enactment of this bill in order to avoid breaking federal law. There is speculation the council is already exploring its options.

Indiana: Medical Marijuana Bill Will Not Get Hearing

State Senator Karen Tallian learned last week that her latest proposal aimed at legalizing medical marijuana in Indiana will not get a hearing… again. Senate Bill 284, which would have  allowed patients suffering from conditions ranging from AIDS to glaucoma, was shut down by the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee. “Today, I was informed by Chairwoman Patricia Miller that my medical cannabis bill will not be given a hearing once again this year,” Senator Tallian said in a Facebook post. “I spoke with Senator Miller at least once a week about my bill and I began to fear that this was going to be the result, since I could not get a definitive answer from Senator Miller.”

Although Tallian claims this is “not her last dance with Mary Jane” and that she will move forward by making amendments to the bill in hopes of winning a hearing before the end of the session, there is very little hope that the bill will gain any support in 2015.

Iowa: Reduced Penalties Considered

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a measure, 13 to 1, that would reduce the penalties associated with the first offense of marijuana possession in Iowa. The proposal would amend the current law by making the crime of possessing less than five grams a misdemeanor with a penalty of no more than 30 days in jail and a fine up to $620. As it stands, first time offenders can receive as much as six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000. Obviously, the proposed change is still too harsh for this type of offense, but lawmakers feel the move is a step in making “common sense reforms” because it allows an officer to issue a violation rather than make an arrest. Yet, the potential for some jail time still exists.

Maine: Signature Collecting Campaign Is Close

Legalize Maine said last week that it will soon begin collecting signatures for their initiative aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana across the state in 2016. The group has filed the necessary paperwork with the state, and organizers expect to out in full force in the next few weeks.

Georgia: Bill Would Allow Pot Offenders to Keep Their License

Representative Stephen Allison recently introduced a bill that would allow people caught with pot to keep their driver’s licenses. House Bill 283 aims to amend the local Controlled Substance Act, which currently suspends the licenses of drug offenders, by incorporating the following line in the constitution: “provided however, that this Code section shall not apply to convictions for simple possession of marijuana occurring on or after July 1, 2015.”

Oklahoma: House Approved CBD Oil

In a near unanimous vote, the House of Representatives passed a measure last week that would legalize cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD oil, and allow children suffering from epilepsy to participate in clinical trails. The bill received only two “no” votes and now proceeds to the Senate.

North Carolina: Expansion of Medical Marijuana

Representative Pricey Harrison has introduced a bill in the state legislature aimed at expanding the current medical marijuana law. House Bill 78 would establish a functional medical marijuana program by allowing patients with a variety of debilitating conditions to have access to the herb, as well as home cultivation. However, there is not much hope the bill will receive the necessary support, because there is too much “Bible Belt Resistance,” according to Harrison. It is predicted the state could generate $250 million in revenue from loosening it belt, so to speak.

Hawaii: Functional Medical Marijuana Legislation Approved

The House Health Committee has approved House Bill 1455, which would allow the transfer of medical marijuana between patients and caregivers. Although medical marijuana has been legal on the islands for around 15 years, patients have been forced to grow their own medicine or go without, which many must do because of a lack of financial resources to grow. However, this bill would allow an estimated 13,000 patients to obtain cannabis from licensed caregivers. It must now pass before the House Judiciary Committee before moving to the full House

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