Last week, while California Governor Jerry Brown spoke out against the idea of legalized marijuana in his state, citing fears that an uprising of stoner society would destroy the ambition of modern America, lawmakers in our nation’s capital were doing the good work: voting in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession.
Meanwhile, other pot proponents across country continued to wage war against prohibition by introducing a variety of legislative measures to legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
Here is a glimpse at what your pot-friendly legislators were up to last week:
Florida: Joint Bills Introduced
A set of bills aimed at making marijuana legal for recreational use was introduced earlier last week in Florida.
Senate Bill 1562, which is sponsored by Senator Dwight Bullard, would serve to create a tax and regulatory system for a recreational marijuana trade, making it legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to two-and-a-half ounces of weed. Representative Randolph Bracy introduced an accompanying bill, House Bill 1039.
"We've spent billions and possibly trillions of dollars since this war on drugs has started to incarcerate so many people for the use of marijuana. I think its. and it really hasn't had a positive effect. If anything marijuana use has increased since the war on drugs,” said Representative Bracy.
Minnesota: Medical Marijuana Bill Approved
Last Tuesday, a Minnesota House committee approved legislation to legalize medical marijuana. After hearing the testimony of patients and other concerned citizens, the House Health and Human Services Committee recommended the bill be advanced to another committee for consideration.
House Bill 1818 would allow patients suffering from debilitating ailments like cancer and HIV/AIDS to be prescribed select amounts of marijuana as well as cultivate a number of plants.
Medical marijuana legislation was approved by the state in 2009, but was vetoed by then Governor Tim Pawlenty.
Current Governor Mark Dayton says he would like supporters of the bill and law enforcement to negotiate a fair medical marijuana program.
South Carolina: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford introduced a bill aimed at legalizing medical marijuana in South Carolina last week. The “Put Patients First Act,” would allow patients with debilitating conditions to obtain a prescription of marijuana. The bill would also allow patients and caregivers to cultivate their own supply.
“The time has come to put aside archaic misconceptions of medical marijuana and put patients first,” said Representative Rutherford. “I hear devastating stories every single day from people who are battling epilepsy or suffering from a brain tumor who desperately need medical marijuana to treat the debilitating symptoms. I want to help these people and the government should not be a barrier for them to get the medical services they need. Medical marijuana has been legal in South Carolina for three decades but the state has refused to initiate the process of allowing patients to obtain it and for licensed professionals to grow it. I refuse to let these people suffer any longer – it’s time to move forward and put the health of our citizens ahead of politics.”
New Mexico: Medical Marijuana Program Adds Conditions
New Mexico health officials announced last week that Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease will be added to the list of qualified ailments under the state’s medical marijuana program.
Supporters had been attempting to get these two neurological conditions listed since 2010, but their petitions were denied.
“It appears the Martinez Administration’s position on medical marijuana is evolving in support of increased access to medical marijuana,” said Emily Kaltenbach, director of the New Mexico chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance. “However, we will not rest until the Martinez Administration continues to demonstrate, as they did on Friday, that they will not turn their backs on medical marijuana patients.”
In addition, the Department of Health also announced a plan to solve the state’s medical marijuana shortage, which involves increasing the overall number of plants allowable, as well as issuing additional licenses to non-profit producers. If all goes according to plan, the state could provide patients with double the medicine than what is currently available.
Michigan: Senate Permits Landlords to Ban Marijuana Smoking and Growing
Last Tuesday, the Michigan state Senate approved a bill that would allow landlords to prohibit marijuana smokers and growers from their rental property. The bill, which was approved in a vote of 31-7, dictates that anyone with rental property of any kind, including hotels, can prohibit the use or cultivation of marijuana on the premises.
Under this bill, some medical marijuana patients could be in violation of public health codes and subject to prison terms and fines.
New Hampshire: Decriminalization Bill Approved
A bill to decriminalize marijuana in New Hampshire was approved with a vote of 12-5 last week by the state House of Representative Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
House Bill 1625 would strip away criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession and impose a civil fine of up to $100. In addition, the bill would make the cultivation of up to six plants a misdemeanor offense as opposed to a felony.
“Nobody should be saddled with a criminal record simply for possessing a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol, said Matt Simon from the Marijuana Policy Project. “This should be the year New Hampshire brings its penalties into line with neighboring states.”
Currently, penalty for marijuana possession is one year in prison and a fine up to $2,000. If this measure is passed, the same offense would be punishable with the equivalent of a parking ticket.
Georgia: Limited Medical Marijuana Bill Passes
Legislation that would make cannabidiol or CBD oils available for children suffering from epileptic seizures was passed last week by a margin of 171 to 4.
Two weeks ago, supporters argued the bill was a lost cause as long as the state did nothing to allow marijuana cultivation. However, the bill’s sponsor, Representative Allen Peake, amended the bill prior to last week’s vote to allow specific universities to grow marijuana.
If it passes in the Senate, academic institutions would be permitted to distribute cannabis oils to select patients.
Louisiana: Medical Marijuana Bills
Several pieces of marijuana legislation are set to be discussed during the legislative session, which begins today, including House Bill 14, a measure that aims to adjust the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession. However, Senate Bill 87 looks to do the opposite by increasing penalties for those convicted of possession and distribution.
On the medical side of things, Senate Bill 541 would serve to broaden the state’s definition of medical marijuana to include diseases like epilepsy, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis.
A total of 15 marijuana-related bills will be covered during this session.
Washington DC: Decriminalization Passed
The Washington DC City Council voted last week to decriminalize up to one ounce of marijuana -- passed by a vote of 11-1. Now, Mayor Vincent Gray must sign the bill, which he intends to do, before it hangs in congressional limbo for 60 days. Specific regulations mandate that Congress have the option to squash any proposed legislation in the District. However, this practice has only been exercised three times since 1973.
The current penalty for marijuana possession is a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. The same offense, under the new measure, would institute a maximum penalty of $25.
Public consumption of marijuana is still against the law. Anyone caught doing so is subject to a fine of up to $500 and six months in jail.
UPDATE: Congress is expected to examine the decriminalization bill passed last week by the Washington D.C City Council. House Speaker John Boehner said that while he was unfamiliar with the bill, he was positive Congress would inspect it. “I really haven’t seen what the D.C. Council did, but I’m sure we’ll look at it,” he said