Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that he is “cautiously optimistic” about how legalized marijuana is playing out in Colorado and Washington. And although he is skeptical about the rest of the nation jumping onboard within the next decade, he believes the so-called “marijuana experiment” will continue to go according to plan, which could persuade more states to follow suit.
Over the course of the past week, we have watched state lawmakers sign decriminalization bills into law as well as measures to make CBD strains available to sick children. Even a few initiatives aimed at putting the issue of legal marijuana up to voters in the November election gained some ground.
This is what you pot-friendly lawmakers were up to last week:
Federal: Vote to Reduce Drug Sentences
Federal drug offenders may get some relief when it comes to the fairness of their sentences. Earlier last week, the United States Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to give the majority of federal drug trafficking offenders a reduction in their sentence.
“This modest reduction in drug penalties is an important step toward reducing the problem of prison overcrowding at the federal level in a proportionate and fair manner,” said Judge Patti B. Saris, who chairs the commission. “Reducing the federal prison population has become urgent, with that population almost three times where it was in 1991.”
Unfortunately, the new guidelines will only have an impact on defendants sentenced after November 1; that is unless the USSC decided to make it retroactive.
Maryland: Decriminalization Signed Into Law
Earlier last week, Governor Martin O’Malley signed a marijuana decriminalization bill into law. The bill, which passed through the Maryland General Assembly in recent weeks, reduces the penalties for those caught in possession with less than 10 grams of pot. The law removes the need for criminal prosecution and imposes a fine of up to $100 for a first time offense; $250 for a second offense; and $500 for each subsequent offense.
Governor O’Malley has not always supported this move, but contends that marijuana arrests should be a low priority for law enforcement.
"This measure will prevent tens of thousands of Marylanders from facing life-altering criminal penalties simply for possessing a less harmful substance than alcohol. But there is still more work to be done. Although it is a step in the right direction, this legislation will not do anything to eliminate the problems associated with relegating the sales of marijuana to the underground market," reads a statement from the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland.
Oregon: Signature Gathering
Last Thursday, New Approach Oregon began collecting signatures for a proposed ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. The initiative, which is modeled after Washington’s Initiative 502, has until July 3 to collect 87,213 signatures from valid voters in order to get the question of legal weed put on the ballot this November.
“We are very pleased to start gathering signatures to place our measure to sensibly regulate marijuana on this November’s ballot,” said organizers on their website. “The harmful consequences of prohibition have gone on for far too long. It is time to implement common-sense regulations instead of leaving marijuana sales to the black market.”
Supporters say they do not see any issues with qualifying enough signatures before the July deadline.
Missouri: Hemp Network Announce Support
Last week, the Missouri Hemp Network announced its full support for HJR86, which is an amendment to the constitution that seeks full cannabis reform.
“Letting the voters sound off is the best way to get the message across the aisle,” said Steven Wilson with the Missouri Hemp Network. “Industrial Hemp is about job creation and long term wealth building. MMJ is about quality of life for all. Missouri can enter the 21st century at full speed.”
New Hampshire: Decriminalization Bill Killed… Again
State lawmakers will have to wait until next year to get a hearing on a bill aimed at decriminalizing marijuana in New Hampshire. Last week, the state Senate refused to consider House Bill 1625, which would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil infraction. A similar measure aimed at decriminalizing a quarter ounce was killed off by the Senate last year.
Earlier this year, the bill was passed with overwhelming support by the House with a vote of 215-92, but the Senate continues to stand in the way of it advancing.
New Jersey: Companion Bill Filed
New Jersey lawmakers filed a companion measure last week to legalize marijuana in the state. Assemblywoman Linda Stender and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora introduced Assembly Bill 3094, which is aimed at complimenting a recreational marijuana bill, Senate Bill 1896, filed by Nicholas Scutaris, earlier this year.
The measure serves as an addition to previous legislation aimed at putting the question of legalized marijuana before voters. It would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, as well as work to establish a taxation and regulatory system for a retail marijuana trade.
Kentucky: Cannabis Oil Bill Signed Into Law
Cannabis oil is now legal in Kentucky. Last week, Governor Steve Beshear signed a bill that will make CBD oil or cannabidiol legally accessible to children suffering from seizures. The law, which received unanimous approval from the Kentucky State House and Senate, allows specific state medical school to research and distribute the CBD to qualified patients.
This measure takes effect immediately.
Rhode Island: Several Bills to Be Heard
The Rhode Island House heard seven marijuana bills last week, one of which is aimed at legalizing it for recreational purposes. Testimony was heard by the Judiciary Committee last Wednesday. The goal, according to Representative Edith Ajello, is to take marijuana “out of the back alleys” and establish a tax and regulatory system that would benefit the whole state.
However, many opponents showed up to contest the idea of legal weed. They say legalization sends the wrong message to children. Others, including law enforcement, testified that medical marijuana has led to an influx in crime.
UPDATE: All seven bills have been killed. After last week’s hearings, the state House Judiciary Committee decided to table all marijuana-related measures until next year.
Tennessee: Hemp Production Approved
Last week, state lawmakers approved a measure that would allow the production of industrial hemp. Senate Bill 2495 and House Bill 2445 now advance to the office of Governor Bill Haslam to be signed. The proposal reclassifies cannabis that possesses less than 0.3 percent THC as an industrial crop and removes it from the list of controlled substances. The state Department of Agriculture will develop regulations for Tennessee farmers.
A limited medical marijuana bill passed last Monday in the Tennessee House of Representatives by a unanimous vote of 97-0. Senate Bill 2531 would allow cannabis oil to become the focus of a four-year study of CBD as a treatment option for seizures.
Wisconsin: Governor Signs CBD Bill Into Law
Last week, Governor Scott walker signed a bill to legalize cannabidiol or CBD oil into law. The measure will allow children suffering from seizures to have their doctor request an investigational drug permit from the US Food and Drug Administration. Only if the physician receives approval will the state look into dispensary options for the patient.
So, even though CBD is now legal, patients still have a long way to go before treatment is readily available.
Oklahoma: Medical Marijuana Initiative Filed
The issue of legalized marijuana could be on the ballot in the upcoming November election. Last Friday, Oklahomans for Health filed an initiative with the Secretary of State seeking to put the question of medical marijuana for conditions like cancer and HIV/AIDS up to the voters.
The initiative dictates that the Oklahoma State Department of Health regulate medical marijuana, which would be reclassified as an herbal drug. Supporters believe the verbiage of the initiative will be easy for the state to manage.