Legalizing marijuana in the United States has become more like a Kentucky cockfight than anything resembling conscientious lawmaking. Last week, several pro-pot proposals were introduced and before receiving so much as a single consideration, their heads were gnawed off and they were left for dead.
Some local lawmakers even found themselves forced into submission, at least for the time being, due to an overall lack of support from apprehensive citizens. It is getting brutal out here folks, and becoming painfully obvious that our reefer roosters must learn to devour the wolves.
Here are the fierce details of last week:
Missouri: Bill to Legalize Marijuana
Missouri lawmakers are pushing to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. Last week, Representative Chris Kelly filed a piece of legislation -- House Bill 1659 -- which borrows verbiage from one of 13 filed initiatives that allows the highest possible possession amounts.
Kelly’s bill would regulate marijuana similar to alcohol, making it legal for adults 21 and over. The proposal would also allow individual counties to have one retail pot shop for every 2,500 residents, as well as instill 25 percent sales tax.
However, while Kelly admits passing the bill is “possible,” he does not have much faith that it has what it takes this time around to make it happen.
Show-Me Cannabis announced last Wednesday that due to recent polls indicating less than 50 percent support for marijuana legalization in Missouri, the organization would wait until the 2016 presidential election to push an initiative.
SMC has decided to use this time to build additional support for statewide marijuana legalization, rather than waste valuable resources rushing to get on the 2014 ballot.
New Hampshire: Medical Marijuana Legislation Advances
Last Thursday, House Bill 1622, which would allow patients to cultivate limited amounts of medical marijuana, was approved in a vote of 13-3 by the House Committee on Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs.
The bill would allow qualified patients or their caregivers to possess two mature plants and 12 seedlings. The bill is set to be heard by the full House in March.
Iowa: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced
State lawmakers introduced a bill to the Iowa Senate last week, aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. Hours later the bill was pronounced dead by the very man that introduced it.
The bill sought to legalize medical marijuana for limited use for conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, HIV/AID, and injuries to the spinal cord.
Senator Joe Bolkcom says in order to pass the measure, he needs the help of both Republicans and Democrats…but the GOP has expressed no interest in the legislation. “It’s dead,” said Senator Bolkcom. “There’s disappointment we were not able to recruit bipartisan support for a very narrow bill to help these families with children suffering from seizures as a result of epilepsy.”
New York: Medical Marijuana Bill Gains Support
Medical marijuana proponents gained some major support last week in New York. Surprisingly, this mega-boost comes from two Republicans -- Senators George Maziarz and Mark Grisanti. The two publicly announced their support for a bill to legalize marijuana for medicinal use, becoming the second and third Republican senators to stand behind this measure.
Senator Diane Savino says she intends to bring her proposal to the Senate Health Committee and receive a vote before the full House before the end of the legislative session this June.
South Carolina: Hemp Bill Advances
Last Thursday, the South Carolina Legislature advanced a bill to legalize industrial hemp. The bill, which was met with great enthusiasm, received approval by the state Senate agriculture council. However, before putting the issue up for vote, lawmakers were quick to pint out that Senate Bill 839 had nothing to do with marijuana before passing it in a subcommittee meeting.
This legislation will also removed the word “marijuana” from the state’s definition of hemp.
Oregon: Medical Marijuana Bill Advances
Legislation allowing individual municipalities to regulate but not ban marijuana dispensaries now advances to the House. Senate Bill 1531, which gives communities the right to dictate the manner in which marijuana dispensaries operate within their borders, was passed unanimously in the state Senate on Tuesday.
Many cities and counties have banned dispensaries from operating in their communities ever since they were legalized last year. However, the legislation serves to better define the rules surrounding area dispensaries, giving regulatory power to local governments without pushing dispensary owners out altogether.
Washington DC: Legalization Initiative in Trouble
DC attorney general, Irvin Nathan, wrote earlier last week that the proposed measure to legalize marijuana in the District of Columbia should not be left up to voters because it is infringes upon federal law.
Irvin’s written opinion was submitted last Thursday to the DC Board of Elections in hopes of swaying their decision ahead of this Tuesday’s meeting. However, according to board representative Tamara Robinson, his opinion will not necessarily dictate the outcome of their vote.
If the board sides with Irvin, the DC Cannabis Coalition will be forced to start over again. Yet, if the board chooses to ignore the opinions of the District’s leading attorney, the initiative, which would allow the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and the cultivation of six plants, will be well on its way to collecting signatures.
Michigan: Medical Marijuana Bill Allows Landlords to Restrict Use
Michigan lawmakers are hoping to apply some tighter restrictions on the cultivation and use of medical marijuana. Last week, Senators Rick Jones and James Marleau introduced Senate Bill 783, which would make it illegal for people to grow or smoke medical marijuana on private property if the owner prohibits it.
The opposition calls the bill a “hostile” and “unnecessary” revision to the current medical marijuana law. "It would end up so some people couldn't even use it in their own residence," said Matt Able, an attorney with the Cannabis Council. "People who can afford their own home don't have to worry about it but people who are less fortunate and rent would be subject to the predilection of their landlords. It's discriminatory."
If this bill is passed, there will likely be an increase in marijuana violations, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. Public Health Code dictates that illegal use of marijuana comes with penalties of up to a year in jail and fines up to $2,000. Anyone caught smoking marijuana in rented domains where use is restricted are subject to penalties of 90-days in jail and/or a fine of $100.
Update: One hearing is all it took. Last Tuesday, the Michigan Senate Committee approved Senate Bill 783 to amend to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.
Hawaii: Recreational Marijuana Bill Dies
Legislation aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana died in committee last week, but there may still be hope for the state’s decriminalization bill.
“Washington and Colorado have taken the big leap, and everybody is looking at these two states to see how they will be dealing with all of the issues that come up,” said Senator Will Espero. “At this time, the legalization bill is dead.”
During a fueled debate, the opposition for decriminalization was less rabid than the idea of full legalization. Hawaii’s decriminalization bill would eliminate criminal penalties for individuals caught with up to an ounce of marijuana. As a result, offenders would receive a $100 fine for their first offense.
Florida: Recreational Marijuana Bill
Representative Randolph Bracy announced last Wednesday that he plans to introduce legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana in Florida. The bill, expected to be filed sometime this week, would tax and regulate marijuana similar to alcohol.
However, Bracy does not have much faith in his measure being approved. "I'm not under the illusion that this would pass," said Bracy. "But it's more so to get a start to the conversation, and maybe get it down the line."
Louisiana: Lawmaker Will Attempt to Loosen Marijuana Laws
Representative Dalton Honore’ announced last week that he has pre-filed legislation aimed at eliminating penalties for marijuana offenses. House Bill 130 would prohibit a conviction for marijuana possession from counting towards the state’s three-strikes habitual offender program, which comes with a life sentence.
“The majority of the persons doing time under the Habitual Offenders Act, they were at one time arrested for possession of marijuana,” said Honore’. “Marijuana being used as a tool to sentence people as habitual offenders is wrong. It has crowded our prisons. The money we spending on that—it’s wrong!”
California: Waiting for 2016
California will not get to vote on the question of legalized marijuana later this year. A coalition of supporters has decided it is in the best interest to wait until 2016 to get serious about pushing the initiative.
This group, which includes members of the Drug Policy Project, says that the time was not right to push the measure this year. “We see this as a trial run or a dress rehearsal for 2016,” said a representative for the group.
Unfortunately, the sidetrack of this initiative will make the likelihood of California legalizing marijuana in 2014 a near impossibility.
Washington: Medical Marijuana Overhaul
Earlier last week, the Washington House approved legislation to overhaul the state’s current medical marijuana program to better position it with the state’s recreational market. The Senate approved House Bill 2149 in a vote of 67-29.
Representative Eileen Cody says the bill will establish a statewide medical marijuana registry, reducing the possession limits for patients from 24 ounces to three. Patients would also only be permitted to grow six plants instead of the 15 under the current law.
The Liquor Control Board could eventually eliminate home cultivation altogether, under this proposal. That is if the recreational market proves cultivation unnecessary.
What’s really going on? Washington State is basically searching for a clever way to eliminate the medical marijuana program altogether.
The Washington Liquor Control Board announced last week plans to cap the number of pot farms allowed to facilitate the recreational marijuana market. State regulators insist this action is to prevent an overabundance of surplus from illegally tricking out of the state.
Initially, regulators did not intend to put limits on grow operations; however, with 2,200 license applications out of the 7,000 received being for farms, the board felt the need to implement restrictions.
The board is expected to approve the licenses for 20 growing and processing facilities as early as next month, and will continue to issue approvals for the next several months.