The new year marks a fresh slate and new beginnings for many and here at NORML it’s no different. The year 2016 is going to be monumental for marijuana law reform and we’re already starting to see an influx of marijuana law reform legislation being introduced around the country. In the coming days and weeks we’ll see a significant increase in the number of marijuana related activity so be sure to stay up to date on what YOU can do to help pass these reforms in your own communities.
This week we’ve seen bills introduced in Georgia, Indiana, and Virginia plus some exciting news in Massachusetts, Washington D.C., New York and Vermont. Keep reading below to find out what the latest is!
Georgia: Senate Bill 254 seeks to amend the state criminal code so that no marijuana possession offense may any longer be classified as a felony. Under current law, any marijuana possession offense involving more than one ounce of cannabis is classified as a felony offense, punishable by one year (mandatory) to up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Passage of SB 254 would reduce these offenses to misdemeanors. According to an analysis of arrest data by the ACLU, Georgia ranks sixth out of all US jurisdictions in total annual marijuana possession arrests and ninth in per capita possession arrests. To support SB 254, click here.
House bill 722 seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes.
Under a 2015 law, qualifying patients are permitted to possess 20 ounces of infused cannabis oils containing not more than 5 percent THC and a equal or greater amount of CBD. However, the law provides no legal supply source for these products and, as a result, has failed to meet the needs of patients. House bill 722 would rectify this situation and impose other improvements, such as patient protection from job discrimination. To learn more about this measure, click here.
The measure, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Karen Tallian, will permit qualified patients — including patients with arthritis, migraine, PTSD, and seizures — to engage in cannabis therapy. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Indiana patients deserve these same protections.
Massachusetts: Just a reminder that The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 will be the subject of a hearing NEXT Wednesday, January 13, before the Judiciary Committee. This is your chance to speak before your lawmakers in support of legalization!
The Act would regulate the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. It also permits the home cultivation.
For more information on next week’s legislative hearing, click here.
New York: Medical marijuana dispensaries opened Thursday in the Empire state. To date, only eight of out of the state’s allotted 20 dispensaries are operational; they’re located in Manhattan, Westchester County, Kingston, Albany, two in Buffalo and two in the Finger Lakes region.
Though the dispensaries are now be open to patients, due to the law’s unnecessary strict regulations only 51 patients in the state have qualified for access so far. Furthermore, the law only allows for non smokable forms of marijuana restricting access to capsules, liquids or oils — restrictions that NORML opposes and that unnecessarily limit patients choices..
So far, about 150 doctors in New York have registered to be part of the program.
Vermont: Governor Peter Shumlin made his annual state of the union speech yesterday and called upon lawmakers to pass pending legislation to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana by adults in the state.
The Governor said, “I will work with you to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably. I believe we have the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right the Vermont way. Let’s do it together.”
Vermont has long been considered a state that could be the first to legalize recreational marijuana legislatively.
To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization click here.
Virginia: Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) has reintroduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses.
Senate bill 104 eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses, replacing them with civil fine-only penalties — no arrest and no criminal record.
Presently, Virginia ranks among the top ten states in annual marijuana possession arrests. In fact, the number of Virginians arrested for violating the state’s marijuana possession laws increased 76 percent between the years 2003 and 2014, at a time when arrests for similar violations were falling nationwide. Clearly there is a need for reform in the Old Dominion state. To this end, the Virginia chapters of NORML will be holding their State Lobby day to lobby the General Assembly in Richmond on January 14th at 8:30 a.m. Advocates from around the state will meet with legislators in support of SB 104.
Washington DC: When marijuana possession was legalized in DC via voter initiative in 2014, Mayor Muriel Bowser quickly asked the City Council to bar marijuana smoking at nightclubs, private clubs and virtually any other businesses licensed by the city. But on Tuesday the subject was revisited when City Council voted to legalize the smoking of marijuana at certain rooftop bars and sidewalk cafes, where cigarette smoking is currently permitted, and in private clubs. However, 30 minutes later, reversed itself, extending the current ban for an additional 90 days.
The flip flop was again the result of Mayor Bowser’s influence. The City Council has to take permanent action on this soon so we’ll be meeting with the Mayor’s office in the coming weeks to ensure a public use provision is considered with accompanying regulations and provisions for responsible use.
Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!
** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!