Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said last Thursday that he believes the time has come for the federal government to legalize marijuana, comparing the nation’s pot laws to alcohol prohibition. “I really think that that’s another instance of public opinion [that’s] changed,” he said. “And recognize that the distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction.”
Many state legislators agree, and are doing their best to fill the gap between that part of America hell bent on maintaining prohibition and the part working to establish sensible marijuana policies.
Here is what your pot-friendly lawmakers were up to last week:
Montana: Marijuana Ban Proposed
A Montana businessman recently filed an initiative to put the question of a full-blown marijuana ban on the ballot in the November election. The measure would prohibit the possession, use, cultivation, trafficking and transportation of cannabis across Montana.
Steve Zabawa introduced the proposal last week, which if approved, would make any drug classified a Schedule I substance illegal across the board. “The initiative would eliminate the current disparity between federal law and state law with respect to the legal status of the possession and use of marijuana,” according to the proposed ballot measure.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Montana since 2004, with the numbers increasing over the past five years. However, in 2011, a law was passed that put the stranglehold on medical marijuana, taking its cardholder from 30,000 to just over 8,000.
Alaska: Legalization Vote Pushed Back to November
Voters will have to wait until the November election to decided on the issue of legalized marijuana. Alaska residents were initially supposed to vote on whether the state should operate a recreational marijuana trade, but because of an extended legislative session, the vote will be pushed back to the November election.
Some supporters say this delay may actually help the measure to pass, which would cause the state to join the ranks of Colorado and Washington in legalized recreational marijuana.
Florida: Drug Testing Unconstitutional
Last Monday, the United States Supreme Court found Florida Governor Rick Scott’s plan to impose drug testing on state employees unconstitutional. In March 2011, the governor filed an executive order that made drug testing mandatory for new hires, as well as random drug tests for current employees. That decision was contested by American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 79, which argued a violation of Fourth Amendment rights.
Some public safety workers and law enforcement will still be forced to undergo drug testing, but the governor’s plans, for the most part, have been foiled.
In other news, a Florida lawmaker is worried about people getting high on CBD, so he has amended a current bill that will make it a misdemeanor for a physician to recommend CBD to patients no suffering from any ailments. Of course, this measure is ludicrous, as cannabis oil or CBD does not contain the psychoactive compound, THC, which produces the stoned effect.
Regardless, Representative Eric Eisnaugle from Orlando wants to impose a jail term of one year, one-year probation and a $1,000 fine for any doctor who prescribes CBD to a patient without a need for the medicine.
Washington DC: Decriminalization Law Examined
The recently signed decriminalization law in Washington DC is set to be heard before a House Oversight subcommittee in the near future. However, there is speculation that Congress may exercise their right to overturn the measure and keep the law from going into effect… a rumor passed down from a congressional delegate, citing a House Republican controlled subcommittee as cause for paranoia.
“It is inappropriate to hold a hearing on the local marijuana laws of only one jurisdiction, the District of Columbia, when 18 states have decriminalized marijuana, 21 states have legalized medical marijuana and two states have legalized marijuana,” said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton in a recent statement. “There is nothing that distinguishes the District from these states except for Congress’s illegitimate power to overturn the democratically enacted local laws of the District.”
Missouri: CBD Bill Approved
Legislation to make cannabis oil available to epilepsy patients was endorsed last week by the Missouri House. The measure give patients access to the medicine only after a neurologist makes the determination that three other treatment options have failed. Only then would patients be eligible to receive a state-issued medical marijuana ID.
In addition, state growers would be placed under the thumb of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
The measure was approved last Tuesday in the House by a voice vote. Another confirming vote will advance it to the Senate.
Louisiana: Lawmakers Say No to Marijuana Misdemeanor
Possession of marijuana will remain a felony offense in Louisiana. Last week, a state Senate committee voted to kill a measure that would make marijuana possession a misdemeanor for first and subsequent offenses.
While the measure would have still imposed sentences more severe than they need to be -- $500 fine/6 months in jail -- opposing forces decided to snuff it out over fears that it would lead to full-blown legalization.
Despite arguments that sentencing reform could save the state over $20 million per year, the committee voted to kill it by a vote of 4-3.
Iowa: Medical Marijuana Bill Advances
A limited medical marijuana bill was advanced last Wednesday in the Iowa Legislature. Senate Study Bill 3222, which aims to decriminalize cannabis oil used to treat children with epilepsy, received overwhelming support for a measure that was initially believed to be a dead issue this year.
Under this proposal, patients and licensed caregivers could receive a recommendation for CBD oil from a neurologist, which would make them eligible for a state-issued ID that would make them immune to prosecution if they are ever caught with the medicine.
If the bill receives approval by the Senate, it will advance to the House for a floor debate.
New Hampshire: Votes to Deny Access to Medical Marijuana
Last Tuesday, the New Hampshire Senate Health, Education, and Human Services Committee failed to take action on a bill that would provide patients with access to legal marijuana while the state works out its own system. The committee has, instead, voted for an interim study. If the Senate upholds this decision, patients will continue to be without legal protection until alternative treatment centers open in the next year or more.
“Passing HB 1622 is the only way to make New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law workable for patients in the here and now,” said Matt Simon with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Sadly, Governor Hassan and a number of senators are still putting the opinions of a few police chiefs ahead of the needs of seriously ill patients.”
California: Medical Marijuana Regulations
New regulations are coming to California’s medical marijuana community. A measure introduced by Senator Lou Correa would require all medical marijuana dispensaries to obtain licenses from the Public Health Department, as well as impose stricter standards on physicians who recommend weed.
The bill is set up to eliminate bogus medical marijuana recommendations seen in places like Sacramento, where patients can receive a medical marijuana card after a Skype chat with a doctor.
“The implementation of medical marijuana laws has been marked by conflicting authorities, regulatory uncertainty, intermittent federal enforcement action and many, many lawsuits,” said Correa.
The bill is sponsored by the California Police Chiefs Association and League of California Cities, which are determined to put an end to doctors handing out medical marijuana recommendations to individuals without a legitimate need for medicine.