After President Obama’s State of the Union speech last Tuesday, many people felt he cowardly skated the issue of marijuana prohibition. However, days later, during an interview with CNN, the president emerged with some insight to compliment his recent remarks in The New Yorker, in which he stated he did not feel marijuana was any worse than alcohol.
Obama told CNN last Friday that he believes the penalties placed on individual marijuana users “have been applied unevenly, and in some cases, with racial disparity,” indicating his support for decreasing punishments associated with marijuana laws in the United States.
Nevertheless, instead of exercising his authority and reclassifying marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act, an order in which the executive branch has the power to execute, the president has apparently decided to practice ignorance, stating "what is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress."
Meanwhile, this is what your pot-friendly lawmakers were up to last week:
Federal: Bill Allowing Industrial Hemp
Lawmakers hope a farm bill, about to be voted on by the Senate, will allow the 10 states with hemp farming laws in place to legally cultivate the product.
Supporters say they have had issues with the subject of hemp for years because much of the opposition view it as a gateway to marijuana legalization "From Oregon to Colorado to Kentucky, voters across the country have made it clear that they believe industrial hemp should be regulated as an agricultural commodity, not a drug," said Representative Earl Blumenauer.
The United States reportedly imported $11.5 million of hemp product in recent years.
Georgia: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced
Georgia lawmakers filed a bill at the state Capitol last Tuesday that would legalize medical marijuana for epilepsy patients.
State Representative Allen Peake says his bill is a very specific piece of medical marijuana legislation: giving parents the ability to apply for the use of cannabis oils -- cannabidiol -- on behalf of their epileptic children.
However, marijuana access would be “restricted, controlled by doctors and limited in scope,” according to Peake. “Private doctors would not be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana.”
Peake says he believes his bill will be met with bipartisan support, and he hopes to get it heard before the legislative session ends in March.
Florida: High Courts Approve Language -- On the Ballot in November
Perhaps the most popular piece of legislative news is last week's Supreme Court victory in Florida, where the high courts finally approved the language of a controversial ballot initiative, giving voters the opportunity to cast their voice on the issue of medical marijuana this November.
If it passes, Florida will join 20 states and the District Columbia in legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Wyoming: Decriminalization Bill Introduced
The state of Wyoming is exploring a recent decriminalization bill, which would serve to lessen the penalties for anyone caught with less than an ounce of marijuana.
Last week, Representative James Byrd introduced House Bill 49, which would establish statutes making possession of less than a half ounce punishable with a $50 fine and possession of up to an ounce $100. The bill could be a step in the right direction, considering a conviction under the current law comes with a penalty of one-year jail term and a fine of $1,000.
“We fill up our jails with young people,” said Byrd. “We set all sorts of traps for young people. Look at the arrest rates for young people. Look at the arrests for marijuana. We ruin lives.”
Byrd’s proposal is scheduled to be heard during the upcoming legislative session.
Arkansas: Proposal Fails Again
A bill aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in Arkansas has failed again to receive approval from the attorney general.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rejected Representative Marjorie LeClair’s proposal because he believes the language is too vague.
McDaniel has given approval on the language of two measures involving medical marijuana, but has yet to stand behind it for recreational use.
New Jersey: Next State to Legalize Recreation Marijuana?
One lawmaker says he will fight Governor Christie tooth and nail to make New Jersey the next state to legalize recreational marijuana.
State Senator Nicholas Scutari announced last week that within the next month, he intends to introduce a bill aimed at ending marijuana prohibition in New Jersey.
However, Governor Christie insists he will not support any such legislation and will use his veto authority if this type of legislation crosses his desk.
Scutari says he is currently drafting his proposal using Colorado as a template.
Pennsylvania: Limited Medical Marijuana Bill
Senators Daylin Leach and Mike Folmer introduced legislation last week that would legalize CBD oils, but on an extremely limited spectrum.
Senate Bill 1182 would authorize the legal production of “Charlotte’s Web,” a marijuana strain high in cannabidiol, which is being currently being bred in Colorado. However, while both legislators agree this bill is not as detailed as their past proposals, they say it is imperative that measures be taken to help sick children.
Philadelphia Considering Decriminalization
City lawmakers introduced legislation last week that would decriminalize marijuana, making possession of small amounts punishable as a minor infraction.
Several years ago, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams began punishing marijuana offenders with a $200 fine rather than seeking jail time through the courts…it worked. Now, lawmakers say they wonder if decriminalization is the way to go.
City Councilman Jim Kenney introduced the bill to the City Council last Thursday, which serves to eliminate jail time for small amounts of pot. Instead, offenders would receive a ticket and be required to attend a drug education class.
“To take an officer off the street for two hours or more to fingerprint, photograph and book someone who's not going to be prosecuted any way, seems to me a waste of time. It is a waste of time," said Kenney.
Wisconsin: Passing Stricter Laws for Marijuana Offenders
While many states are attempting to lessen the penalties surrounding marijuana possession, it appears as if Wisconsin may actually be trying to pass stricter laws.
Last Tuesday, the state Assembly passed a bill giving cities the option to issue citations to marijuana users if the district attorney dismissed them from criminal charges.
Although the bill did receive some resistance, it somehow managed to pass based on a voice vote -- a common method used when a motion does not require any more than a majority to receive approval.
Texas: Reintroducing Bills to Legalize Marijuana
Lawmakers in Texas say they plan to re-introduce legislation aimed at legalizing marijuana across the Lone Star state.
Although policy experts predict it could take up to a decade before the state considers making changes to the current laws, lawmakers remain adamant that they will continue to stand behind proposals until the job is done.
State Representative Harold Dutton Jr. says he will make his forth attempt during this legislative session to get a vote on his decriminalization bill. Right now, the law dictates that anyone caught with two ounces or less can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and receive up to six months in jail.
Representative Elliot Naishtat says this session will make his seventh attempt at getting the issue of medical marijuana voted on by the House. “We make a little bit of progress every session. Last session for the first time we had a hearing on the bill,” he said. “And it was very compelling because the people who testified were people with legitimate medical conditions who were using marijuana specifically for medical purposes.”
Despite his past resistance, Texas governor Rick Perry said last week that he would consider decreasing the marijuana penalties, which could mean progress for Representative Dutton Jr.’s decriminalization bill.
"After 40 years of the war on drugs, I can’t change what happened in the past. What I can do as the governor of the second largest state in the nation is to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization and keeps people from going to prison and destroying their lives, and that’s what we’ve done over the last decade," said Perry in an article in the Austin American-Statesman.
Indiana: Senate Committee Approves Industrial Hemp
Last Friday, a state Senate committee gave its approval 7-0 in favor of a bill allowing Hoosier farmers to cultivate industrial hemp.
Now, the bill must find its way through the full House and Senate before landing on Governor Mike Pence’s’ desk for final approval. The state would then need to seek a federal permit to grow hemp.
Oklahoma: Re-Introducing Legislation
Oklahoma Senator Constance Johnson says she intends to re-introduced legislation this session that would allow the taxation and regulation of marijuana in the state.
Senator Johnson says that Senate Bill 2116 will be heard this legislative session, which if passed, would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, as well as permit the taxation and regulation of marijuana sales.
“I think we need to accept the realities that alcohol is a dangerous drug, prescription drugs are dangerous. Marijuana has not killed anyone,” she said, adding that she believes the state is close to embracing legalization efforts.
“We’re making progress. I think the things that happened in Colorado will mean more action and activism in Oklahoma,” she said.
Senator Johnson’s bill will be heard during the upcoming legislative session, which is scheduled to begin the first week of February.
Oregon: Bill to Regulate Medical Marijuana Facilities
Lawmakers announced last week that they would soon discuss a bill aimed at giving local government the power to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
Senator Bill Hansell and Senator Rod Monroe recently proposed Senate Bill 1531, which would allow individual municipalities to "regulate or restrict operation of medical marijuana facility, prohibit registration of medical marijuana facility, or regulate, restrict or prohibit storing or dispensing of marijuana by facility legally authorized to store or dispense marijuana."
The bill is slated for review in February, and if it passes, it would go into effect on March 1.
West Virginia: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced
West Virginia will now debate the issue of medical marijuana.
Last Thursday, Representative Mike Manypenny introduced a bill geared towards making medical marijuana available for patients suffering a variety of conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis, as long as they receive approval from a physician.
In a recent survey, 56% of West Virginia voters said they supported the legalization of medical marijuana.
“West Virginians clearly want the legislature to take action on this issue,” said Matt Simon, with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Marijuana can be an effective treatment for a wide variety of debilitating medical conditions and symptoms. It’s time to adopt a policy that allows people to use it without fear of arrest.”
Maryland: Bill to Legalize Marijuana Introduced
State lawmakers got together last week to introduce a bill aimed at allowing marijuana to be taxed and regulated similar to alcohol.
On Thursday, Senator Jamie Raskin and Curt Anderson introduced the Marijuana Control Act of 2014, which would eliminate the war on marijuana by legalizing it across the state.
Although another piece of legislation, a decriminalization bill, was reviewed last Wednesday, making it a minor infraction for possession of less than 10 grams, Senator Raskin says that bill is not enough.
“The problem with decriminalization is that it leaves in place the basic dynamics of criminal control over the supply of marijuana,” said Raskin. “Our goal is to kick the drug dealers out of the state, and there is one way to do it, which is to regulate and tax marijuana -- let the government take over the whole process.”
Washington: Banning Tax Breaks
State lawmakers are considering passing legislation that would prohibit marijuana producers from qualifying and receiving agricultural tax breaks. If this measure is passed, the industry would be disqualified from receiving nearly three dozen tax breaks for the next decade.
Representative Reuven Carlyle says that it is crucial for the marijuana industry to pay taxes to develop a benchmark for future developments. Officials estimate this legislation will generate an additional $3.5 million per year in tax revenue.
Those that oppose the bill say that marijuana producers should not be treated differently than other farmers.
Montana: Ballot Initiative in Sight
Montana lawmakers say they intend to get a ballot measure approved this year that would allow the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. But rather than focus their efforts on a rapid turn around, advocates say they are setting their sights on the 2016 election. Montana attempted to get a ballot measure approved in 2012, but failed to collect the necessary signatures.
Mike Adams writes for stoners and smut enthusiasts in HIGH TIMES, Playboy’s The Smoking Jacket and Hustler Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook/mikeadams73.