Recent statistics indicate the majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. The latest poll conducted by the General Social Survey shows, for the first time in nearly 40 years, the consensus sides with allowing adults to use marijuana without fear of legal repercussion.
This data is consistent with previous surveys, which suggest the population strongly opposes the drug war and the incarceration of individuals for marijuana-related offenses – between 52% and 58%, according to recent Pew and Gallup research.
Last week, marijuana advocates and state legislators made significant progress in the reform of marijuana laws across the United States. Find out what went down over the past seven days in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for March 30:
Federal: House Version of CARERS Act Submitted
Representatives Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Don Young of Alaska have introduced companion legislation into the House of Representatives in hopes of legalizing medical marijuana nationwide. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act (CARERS) mirrors a bill introduced to Congress weeks ago by Senators Cory Booker, Rand Paul, and Kristen Gillibrand. It would allow states that have legalized medical marijuana to operate without DEA interference, while reclassifying the herb a Schedule II to give it more legal flexibility in regards to banking, distribution and research.
Louisiana: Marijuana Legalization Could Be Up to the Voters in 2016
Representative Dalton Honore has introduced legislation aimed at putting the question of legalized marijuana to the voters in 2016. House Bill 117 was submitted to the state legislature last week in hopes of earning approval in the upcoming session. If it passes, the issue of legalization would then be put to the voters in the next presidential election – possibly giving way to a full recreational cannabis industry similar to those currently underway in Colorado and Washington. The bill has already been assigned to the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee and could possibly be heard something between April and June.
Ohio: Signature Collecting Campaign Underway
The movement to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio is off and running. ResponsibleOhio began its signature collecting campaign last week in hopes of securing enough voter signatures to get their initiative on the ballot in 2016. The group must collect 305,591 signatures by July to earn a voice in the next Presidential election.
New Mexico: Decriminalization Bill Dies in the House
New Mexico will not decriminalize marijuana in 2015. The State Legislature ended the session last week before making a decision on Senate Bill 383, a measure that would have decriminalized the possession of marijuana statewide. The proposal would have stripped away the criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and replaced them with a $50 fine — up to eight ounces without felony repercussions. While the bill showed promise in the Senate, the House failed to give it any consideration.
Maine: Initiative to Legalize Marijuana in 2016 Submitted
Marijuana advocates in Maine have taken a major step toward legalizing marijuana in the 2016 election. Maine’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has officially filed an initiative aimed at establishing a taxed and regulated cannabis industry in the state. The proposal would allow people over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, while giving way to the cultivation for up to six plants. Once the language of the initiative is approved, supporters will have until January 2016 to collect 62,000 signatures.
North Carolina: Medical Marijuana Snuffed
Lawmakers have decided against medical marijuana in North Carolina. Earlier last week, a House committee voted to snuff out legislation to legalize the leaf for medicinal purposes.
Georgia: Restricted Medical Marijuana Bill to Be Signed
Governor Nathan Deal is expected to sign a bill legalizing medical marijuana. On Wednesday, the House passed a measure entitled, "the Haleigh's Hope Act,” which will allow patients suffering from eight qualified conditions to possess cannabis oil with less than .05 percent THC. However, the law does not come with any provisions for cultivation or distribution, so patients will be pushed to obtain the medicine from legal states – forcing them to break federal law.
Hawaii: Dispensaries As Early as 2016
Medical marijuana dispensaries could be in place in Hawaii by 2016. The Senate Health and Public Safety Committee approved a measure (House Bill 321) that would allow cultivation centers and dispensaries to open in every county. Lawmakers are currently amending the legislation to make this happen as early as next year. A previous draft would have held this off for another three years. As it stands, patients can be prescribed medical marijuana but there is nowhere for them to get their medicine. This bill will hopefully remedy the program’s defects.
Arizona: Initiative to Legalize Marijuana in 2016
The issue of legalize marijuana could be on the Arizona ballot in 2016. Arizonans for Responsible Legalization filed their organizational paperwork with the Secretary of State earlier last week, and plans to submit the language of their initiative very soon. Although the details of their group’s proposal have not been revealed, it is believed to mimic other legal states like Colorado and Washington.
Idaho: Cannabis Oil Passes Senate
The Idaho Senate has passed a bill that would allow patients suffering from seizure disorders to use cannabis oil. In a vote of 22-12, the majority approved Senate Bill 1146, allowing for the possession of CBD oil. In addition, the Senate approved SB 1156, a measure to allow clinical trials of a pharmaceutical cannabis synthetic being tested as a treatment for epilepsy. Both measures now head to the House for further consideration.
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