Tag: Pending Legislation

The ‘Respect State Marijuana Laws Act’ Reintroduced In Congress

WASHINGTON, DC — United States Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, has reintroduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

House Resolution 975 amends the federal Controlled Substances Act to read, ”Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with state laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.”

Passage of this Act would halt federal officials from prosecuting individuals and businesses in the 29 states that permit either the medical or the adult use and distribution of marijuana. According to national polling, 60 percent of Americans believe that state officials ought to possess the authority to “control and decide whether to legalize marijuana” – not the federal government.

“With the recent confirmation of militant marijuana prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to the position of US Attorney General, passage of this Act is a priority to ensure that medical marijuana patients and others are protected from undue federal interference,” NORML’s Political Director Justin Strekal said.

The bill is one of several pieces of legislation already filed in Congress to amend federal marijuana policy. Other pending measures include HR 715, which seeks to reschedule cannabis under federal law, and HR 331, which halts the federal government from taking civil forfeiture action against properties involved in state-approved, medical marijuana-related conduct.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

New York State Assembly Passes Landmark Bill to Seal Past Marijuana Possession Convictions

ALBANY, NY — The New York State Assembly voted this week in support of a bill that will seal the criminal records of people who have been unjustly and unconstitutionally arrested for simple possession of marijuana in public view.

The vote on Assembly Bill 2142 was 95 in favor and 38 opposed.

Over the last 20 years, more than 800,000 New Yorkers have been arrested for simple possession of marijuana. Those convicted face significant barriers to accessing education, employment, housing opportunities, and other state services.

This bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes of Buffalo and members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus, who have vocally called for equity in our state’s drug policies, citing the impact the discriminatory enforcement of these policies have had on communities of color.

“I introduced the marijuana sealing bill because drug laws have created a permanent underclass of people unable to find jobs after a conviction,” said Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “One of the most damaging issues derived from the war on drugs is that the policies are inherently racist. Communities of color have been devastated by bad drug policies and hyper-criminalization for the last 40 years. It is an approach that has never worked and has caused significantly more harm than good to our communities and to our families.”

“If today’s moment of increased attention to heroin encourages us to center public health in our drug policy, then we need to ensure that we are making amends to communities of color by alleviating the burden bad policies have had on their lives. Sealing low-level marijuana possession convictions is the first step to reintegrating thousands of New Yorkers who are inhibited daily from accessing employment, housing and an education all due to a conviction on their record for simple possession of marijuana,” added Peoples-Stokes.

New York State first decriminalized personal marijuana possession in 1977, recognizing the harmful impact an arrest could have on young people.

Although New York officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, have previously recognized these arrests as ineffective, unjust, and racially discriminatory, they still continue across the state because of a loophole in the law.

In 2016 more than 22,000 New Yorkers were arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana – 80% of whom were black or Latino. Governor Cuomo proposed closing this loophole as part of his State of the State 2017, citing the damaging collateral consequences. As policymakers acknowledge that these arrests are unjust and should not take place in the future, they must simultaneously focus on repairing the harm for people burdened by a criminal record from such an arrest.

The discriminatory practices are statewide. For example, in the city of Buffalo in Erie County, African Americans represent 70% of the marijuana arrests – despite only being 38.6% of the population, and using marijuana at similar rates as other groups.

Once convicted, a permanent record can follow these mostly young people of color for the rest of their lives – a record easily found by banks, schools, employers, landlords, and licensing boards.

This sealing legislation has taken on increased importance amid the Trump Administration’s rhetoric and actions targeting immigrant communities. On the national level, simple marijuana possession is the fourth most common cause of deportation, according to the report “Secure Communities and ICE Deportations: A Failed Program?

Sealing records will provide a measure of protection for immigrants by making it difficult or impossible for immigration authorities to meet their legal burden of proof for a judge to find a lawful permanent resident deportable.

Additionally, sealing will guard against the Trump administration’s Executive Order targeting non-citizens with any criminal arrests and/or convictions for deportation. If the arrest is also sealed and the sealed information is not shared with the FBI, these individuals may be at lower risk of becoming an enforcement target.

“A marijuana conviction can lead to devastating consequences for immigrants, including detention and deportation,” said Alisa Wellek, Executive Director of the Immigrant Defense Project. “This bill will provide some important protections for green card holders and undocumented New Yorkers targeted by Trump’s aggressive deportation agenda.”

Increasingly, jurisdictions and legislators across the country are realizing that marijuana prohibition has been ineffective, unjust, and racially discriminatory, and are working to implement regulatory systems that are fair and effective. In New York, Assembly members recognize that, at a minimum, people should not be saddled with a permanent criminal record simply for possession of small amount of marijuana.

“New York must repair the harms of our racially biased marijuana laws and sealing low-level marijuana convictions is a step in the right direction. Thank you to the New York State Assembly for recognizing that a permanent criminal record is an out-sized burden for low-level marijuana possession and that allowing sealing for these convictions will allow New Yorkers to avoid job loss, eviction, and a host of unnecessary collateral consequences.” Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director, VOCAL-NY

Advocates now look to the Senate to quickly pass the Senate companion bill (S.3809) sponsored by Senator Jamaal Bailey before the session ends on June 21, and to begin to repair the harm done by marijuana prohibition to communities across the state.

Governor Cuomo also has a unique opportunity to address the harms that these arrests have caused by enacting sealing for marijuana possession arrests as part of his decriminalization proposal in the state budget legislation.

Such a move would show his commitment to communities that have borne the harshest brunt of racial profiling and those currently most vulnerable under Trump’s executive orders.

“In New York State 22,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2016. The misdemeanor charge for public view of marijuana possession gives those people convicted a criminal record that will follow them throughout their lives, potentially limiting their access to education, affecting their ability to obtain employment, leading to a potential inability to provide for  their families,” said Senator Jamaal Bailey.

“Furthermore, and even more problematic, there exist significant racial disparities in the manner that marijuana possession policy is enforced. Blacks and Latinos are arrested at higher rates despite the fact that white people use marijuana at higher rates than people of color. Responsible and fair policy is what we need here and this bill will do just that. I am proud to sponsor this legislation with Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes and commend her for taking initiative on this issue. We must act now, with proactive legislation, for the future of many young men and women of our State are at stake here.”

Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “Any one of the more than 22,000 arrests made in our state last year over misdemeanor marijuana possession could snowball into the nightmare of losing one’s job, losing a license used to make a living – to be a nurse, a home health aide, or a security guard – or for immigrants, losing the ability to remain in our country. All that stands alongside stigma and other consequences. This legislation is an important part of tackling that current, overly punitive approach. Steps like this one move us toward the wiser, more humane approach New Yorkers deserve.”

“We applaud the New York Assembly for their continued leadership on marijuana reform,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Sealing past illegitimate marijuana convictions is not only right, it is most urgent as the country moves toward legalization and immigrant families are put at risk under our new federal administration. Comprehensive drug law reform must include legislative and programmatic measures that account for our wrongheaded policies and invest in building healthier and safer communities, from the Bronx to Buffalo, Muslim and Christian, US-born and green card-holding.”

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

In the Time of Trump, Can Congress Take the Lead on Marijuana Policy?

While the marijuana community — consumers, industry, and advocates alike — eyes with trepidation the reign of avowed anti-pot Republican Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department, the Trump executive branch isn’t the only game in town when it comes to making marijuana policy. Congress is back in session, and after last November’s legalization and medical marijuana victories at the polls, the pot state delegation is larger than ever.

And at least some of those senators and congressmen and women representing the 28 states (and the District of Columbia) that have embraced medical marijuana and the eight states plus DC that have so far gone for adult legalization, are gearing up to fight for reform at the Capitol.

A nascent congressional Cannabis Caucus formed in December is preparing a plethora of bills for the current session, and its members say they are optimistic about their chances, even in the time of Trump — and Republicans holding every committee chair in both houses. It’s because Congress is riding the marijuana wave, too, said caucus founder and co-chair Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

“This Congress is going to be a little better than last Congress, and last Congress was better than the one before that,” he said in an interview this week with The Cannabist. “It’s very interesting watching the momentum build.”

That momentum derives from public opinion polls consistently showing nationwide majorities favoring legalization and, more importantly, the actual victories at the polls in November, where legalization went four for five and medical marijuana went four for four.

“It’s easier for people to embrace much of what we’re doing legislatively,” he said. Fixing industry-critical concerns such as the lack of operating expense deductions or access to financial services for state-legal businesses or barriers to medical marijuana research are now mere “housekeeping” issues, he added.

Nonetheless, fixes still have to get through the Congress. They haven’t so far, and it’s a long way between filing a bill and seeing it signed into law. Still, Blumenauer and colleagues will be pushing harder than ever.

He is joined in the Cannabis Caucus by co-chairs Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Don Young (R-AK). The bipartisan grouping is notably made up of representatives from vanguard legalization states, but by no means all of them — California alone has 53 House members — and there is certainly room for more to come on board.

“I’m more hopeful than ever before that we can move legislation like the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act,” Polis told The Cannabist, referring to last session’s H.R. 1013, which picked up 19 cosponsors and was referred to a slew of subcommittees, but never even got a hearing.

That bill was one of about two dozen pot-related proposals filed in the last session, and they’re already starting to pile up again this session. While Blumenauer told The Cannabist more were to come, here’s what’s on the table so far:

H.R. 331 — Filed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the States’ Medical Marijuana Rights Protection Act would block federal civil asset forfeiture aimed at the owners of state-legal medical marijuana operations.

H.R. 714 — Filed by Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), the Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marihuana Act would move marijuana to the Controlled Substance Act’s Schedule II, opening the door to more research and, potentially, doctors’ ability to prescribe (as opposed to recommend) marijuana for patients. It would also bar the use of that act or the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to interfere with medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

H.R. 715 — Also filed by Rep. Griffith, the Compassionate Access Act would reschedule marijuana, provide for its medical use under state laws, and remove CBD (cannabidiol) from the definition of marijuana.

H.R. 975 — Filed by Cannabis Caucus co-chair Rep. Rohrabacher, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act would exempt people and entities from certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act if they are acting in compliance with state laws. Rohrabacher authored similar legislation in the last Congress, garnering 20 cosponsors, including seven Republicans.

There is no outright federal marijuana legalization bill out there yet this session, but expect to see Rep. Polis come back with his bill or perhaps Bernie Sanders reviving his bill to end federal marijuana prohibition, or both. Given political realities on the Hill, though, the Cannabis Caucus will likely save its political capital for fights it might be able to win, such as fixing the tax and banking problems facing the industry.

Another key battleground — and one where marijuana advocates have actually won before — is the appropriations process. The Justice Department and the DEA can’t go after marijuana in legal states if Congress bars them from spending any federal funds to do so, and that’s exactly what Congress did when it approved the Rohrabacher-Farr Medical Marijuana Amendment last session.

If a similar amendment were to succeed again, even if Attorney General Sessions wanted to call out the cavalry, he couldn’t buy the horse feed, and it wouldn’t matter how many nasty memos his deputies wrote.

And while his past pronouncements are indeed worrisome, he was quite coy at his nomination hearings, saying that he “won’t commit to never enforcing federal law,” but adding that enforcement priorities are “a problem of resources for the federal government.”

Sessions did add later in the hearings that it’s not “the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce,” but suggested that his former colleagues could settle things once and for all.

“I think one obvious concern is that the United States Congress has made the possession of marijuana in every state and distribution of it an illegal act,” he said. “If that something is not desired any longer, Congress should pass the law to change the rule.”

And then there’s Sessions’ boss, President Trump. While he projects a law and order image and has campaigned against “drugs,” the drugs he seems most concerned about are heroin and the prescription opioids — not pot. He’s also suggested in the past a willingness to let states experiment on marijuana policy, and he has a lot of other things on his plate. It’s not at all clear he would let Sessions unleash a war on weed even if he wanted to.

Earl Blumenauer doesn’t think Trump wants to charge into this particular melee.

“This is a struggle and will continue to be, but this is something where I honestly don’t think the new administration, which has probably enough controversy on its hands, is going to knowingly pick a fight with what, almost without exception, was approved by local voters,” Blumenauer said.

To ensure that Sessions doesn’t strike out, “we need to make the case directly to Trump” about the economic potential of the marijuana industry, said Polis. But until federal marijuana prohibition is ended, “the industry really exists at the discretion of the president and the attorney general, and that’s a dangerous place to be,” he added.

Well, and Congress, too. It holds the purse strings, after all.

Marijuana policy is going to be at play in the 115th Congress. Ending federal prohibition remains the Holy Grail, but in the meantime, there are concrete actions Congress can take to protect medical and legal marijuana and the industry it’s creating. Now, let’s see if the Cannabis Caucus can lead the way to some victories.


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license from StopTheDrugWar.org and was first published here.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

GOP Rep Introduces “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act” to US Congress

WASHINGTON, DC — Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday that would resolve the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws and allow states to determine their own marijuana policies.

The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act exempts individuals and entities from certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act if they are acting in compliance with state marijuana laws. This is the third time Rohrabacher has introduced the bill. Twenty of his colleagues in the House, including seven Republicans, co-sponsored the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015, which was introduced in the 114th Congress.

“This is commonsense legislation that is long overdue,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It is time to end marijuana prohibition at the federal level and give states the authority to determine their own policies.

“States throughout the country are effectively regulating and controlling marijuana for medical or broader adult use,” Capecchi said. “Federal tax dollars should not be wasted on arresting and prosecuting people who are following their state and local laws.”

Eight states and D.C. have enacted laws making possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older. Four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — have established systems for regulating the production and sale of marijuana for adult use.

Four additional states that adopted such laws in November — California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — are in the process of setting up similar systems.

Twenty-eight states, D.C., and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws that allow seriously ill patients to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.

Eighteen additional states have adopted limited and/or unworkable medical marijuana laws.

“Nine out of 10 Americans now live in states that have rejected federal marijuana prohibition by adopting some sort of marijuana policy reform,” Capecchi said. “This legislation would ease the tension between state and federal laws to ensure these state-level reforms are successful. It would also help states address the public health and safety priorities shared by state and federal authorities.”

A national Gallup poll released in October shows public support for making marijuana legal in the U.S. has reached a record high of 60%, up from 58% in 2015 and 50% in 2011. The Pew Research Center also released a national poll in October showing support at 57%, up from 53% in 2015. In August 2015, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) approved a resolution urging the federal government to allow states to determine their own marijuana policies.

“The call for federal marijuana policy reform is growing louder and louder,” said Don Murphy, MPP director of conservative outreach. “Congress needs to listen to their constituents and to state lawmakers, most of whom agree marijuana policy is an issue best left to the states. This is a bipartisan solution that ought to find support on both sides of the aisle.”

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Over 50 Vermont Attorneys Urge Legislature to End Marijuana Prohibition

MONTPELIER, VT — More than 50 Vermont attorneys have signed a letter urging the Legislature to “reform our state’s outdated and unjust policies towards cannabis by passing a bill to legalize and regulate its cultivation and sale for adult use in 2017.”

The letter will be presented to lawmakers at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on H. 170, which is scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m. ET in Room 30 of the Vermont State House.

Hose Bill 170 is a bipartisan proposal to eliminate penalties for possession and cultivation of personal amounts of marijuana by adults 21 and older. It also reduces penalties for possession and cultivation of larger amounts of marijuana.

The letter highlights the harms caused by prohibition laws, which it notes are unevenly enforced across racial and geographic lines:

“Vermont’s current cannabis policy — predominantly criminal prohibition, with civil penalties for minor possession — has created an inconsistent and confusing patchwork of enforcement that varies from county to county and town to town. … Regulating possession, cultivation and sale will help end these grossly unjust and potentially unconstitutional disparities.”

The letter also discusses the recent passage of laws regulating marijuana for adult use in Massachusetts and Maine, as well as Canada’s plans to adopt a similar policy later this year:

“It is inevitable that entrepreneurs and businesses in neighboring jurisdictions will establish retail locations as close to Vermont as possible in order to cater to Vermont citizens who wish to be free from the dangers of the unregulated market, as well as the tourists drawn to our state. Rather than watching as cannabis policy is shaped by those around us who do not consider Vermonters concerns, the Legislature should seize the opportunity to design sensible drug policy that puts the public interest, social justice, and the rule of law at the forefront. …

“We cannot afford to wait and watch any longer as other jurisdictions reap the benefits of regulation while we continue to pay for the consequences of prohibition.”

The full letter and list of signers is available here.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

New Hampshire Marijuana Bill Decriminalization Advances; Legalization Bill Killed

CONCORD, NH — New Hampshire won’t be joining neighboring states of Maine and Massachusetts in legalizing marijuana, but the Granite State could soon follow the rest of their New England neighbors in treating marijuana possession as a violation, rather than a crime that carries a penalty including the possibility of jail time.

Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 14 to 2 on Tuesday to advance a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession, but elected to send a bill that would legalize marijuana for adults to further study, effectively killing the measure for the year.

House Bill 640, sponsored by a bi-partisan coalition of six Republican and six Democrat lawmakers, would would reduce the penalty for marijuana possession of up to one ounce by someone 21 years old or older to a violation, punishable only by a fine. Fines would be set at $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offens, or $350 for a third or subsequent offense.  The bill was advanced on a 14 to 2 vote, and will now be considered by the full House.

Meanwhile, House Bill 656, which would have legalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana or five grams of hashish, and personal cultivation of six cannabis plants, for adults 21 or older was held for further study by a vote of 15 to 1, effectively killing the bill for the year.

New Hampshire has fallen behind the rest of its New England neighbors when it comes to reforming marijuana laws.  Possession of any amount of marijuana in New Hampshire is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $350.

The other five New England states have, at the very least, decriminalized possession of personal amounts of marijuana, eliminating the possibility of jail time and imposing only civil fines.

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), police in New Hampshire make around 2,900 marijuana possession arrests each year.

Despite years of attempts to decriminalize marijuana possession in New Hampshire, the Granite State remains the only New England state where marijuana possession brings the possibility of jail time.  The New Hampshire House approved decriminalization bills in each of the last five years, only to see those bills die in the Senate.

Voters from two of New Hampshire’s neighbors, Maine to the north and Massachusetts to the south, legalized marijuana possession at the polls in November.

Newly elected Governor Chris Sununu has said he would support a marijuana decriminalization bill if it were passed by the state legislature.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Slowly Advancing

SANTA FE, NM — A proposal to legalize marijuana for adult use has advanced through the first of three committees it needs to clear before advancing to a floor vote.

House Bill 89, the Cannabis Revenue and Freedom Act, is sponsored by Reps.  Bill McCamley (D-Las Cruces) and Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque).

The bill was approved in January by the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, and is currently awaiting review by the House Business and Industry Committee.  It would also need to advance through the  House Appropriations and Finance Committee before being considered by the full House for a vote.

If passed, HB 89 would allow adults 21 or older to lawfully possess up to one ounce of marijuana in public, or up to two ounces at home.

Adults would be allowed to possess up to seven grams of concentrates.

The bill would also allow adults to grow six marijuana plants at home, with a per-household limit of twelve plants.  Adults would be allowed to keep up to eight ounces of harvested marijuana on hand.

Retail sales of marijuana would begin in 2019, utilizing much of the states existing medical marijuana system.  Retail marijuana sales would be subject to a 15% statewide sales tax, with local communities authorized to impose an additional 5% sales tax.

“It is either going to happen sooner or it is going to happen later and if it happens sooner we can realize the economic benefits now,” McCamley said at the bill’s introduction last month. “All of these things create long term job growth and help New Mexico out of this downward spiral we have had economically.”

Last year, lawmakers in the New Mexico Senate passed on the opportunity to send a similar legalization proposal to voters.

Polling data released in 2015 found that over 60% of New Mexicans support taxing and regulating the retail sale of marijuana to adults.

The full text of HB 89 can be found here.  New Mexico’s 2017 legislative session starts January 17 and ends in mid-March.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Vermont Marijuana Legalization Hearings Start Thursday

MONTPELIER, VT — Lawmakers will start legislative hearings on a proposal to legalize marijuana in Vermont on Thursday.

The Vermont House Committee on Judiciary is slated to hear testimony on House Bill 170, which would legalize limited marijuana possession and personal cultivation for adults 21 or older.  The bill being considered is sponsored by the committee’s chairman, vice-chair, and ranking Republican.

If passed, HB 170 would eliminate all civil and criminal penalties for possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and up to ten grams of concentrates by adults.

Adults would be allowed to grow up to two mature and seven immature cannabis plants in a private residence.

The proposal would also reduce existing penalties for those who possess greater quantities of marijuana.

The bill does not address commercial production or retail sales of marijuana, however.

Last year, the Vermont Senate voted to approve a bill that would have legalized up to one ounce of marijuana by adults and establish a regulated system of retail marijuana sales.  That bill was defeated in the House by a significant margin, despite being supported by then-Governor Peter Shumlin (D), who had had pushed for the state legislature to legalize marijuana in his final State of the State Address last January.

Under current Vermont law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a civil violation punishable by a fine of up to $200 for a first offense. Possession of one to two ounces of marijuana and cultivation of up to two marijuana plants are criminal misdemeanors punishable by a fine and up to six months in jail.

Parts of voter-approved initiatives recently passed in Massachusetts and Maine have already taken affect, legalizing marijuana possession by adults in Vermont’s neighbors to the north and south.

The full text of House Bill 170 can be found here.  Vermont’s 2017-2018 Legislative Biennium runs through mid-May 2017.

Vermont residents can click here to contact their elected officials regarding House Bill 170.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Wyoming Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Killed, Penalty Reform Bill Advances

Wyoming State Capitol building, Cheyenne (Wikimedia Commons)

CHEYENNE, WY — Marijuana possession won’t be decriminalized in Wyoming anytime soon, but statewide penalties could be reduced for first and second time offenders under a penalty reform bill that would also elevate some possession charges to a felony.

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee considered multiple proposals that would change how low-level marijuana offenses are handled in the state, killing a bill to decriminalize possession but advancing a proposal to reduce some penalties and establish a tier-based fine structure.

Under current Wyoming law, possession of any amount of marijuana under three ounces is a misdemeanor that carries penalties of up to a year in prison and fines of up to $1,000.  Possession of over three ounces, sale or distribution of marijuana is considered a felony.

The committee chose not to advance House Bill 157, the decriminalization bill filed by Rep. Mark Baker (R-Rock Springs) and ten bi-partisan co-sponsors.  The bill would have reduced the penalty for possession of up to three ounces of marijuana in the state from a misdemeanor to a civil violation punishable only by a $200 fine and no jail time.

The committee did, however, advance a proposal that would reduce marijuana first time penalties in the state and create a tiered system of penalties for successive low-level possession convictions.

Under the proposal, House Bill 197, those caught possessing up to three ounces of marijuana would still face fines and the possibility of jail time, based on the number of times they’ve been convicted.  While the penalties for first and second time offenses would be reduced, the proposal increases the maximum possible penalties for those caught three or more times.

First time offenses would be considered a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 20 days in jail and a fine of up to $200.  A second offense within ten years would increase the penalty to up to six months in jail and fines of up to $750, but it would still be a low-level misdemeanor charge.

A third conviction would result in an elevated misdemeanor, bringing a possible prison sentences of up to two years and fines of up to $5,000.

Fourth or subsequent convictions would raise the charge to a felony, with possible prison terms of up to five years and maximum fines of up to $10,000, which is the same penalty for possessing over three ounces currently.

House Bill 197 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 8-1, and could soon see a vote by the full House.  The lone vote against the measure came from Rep. Baker, the primary sponsor of the failed decriminalization bill.

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), state and local police make approximately 2,100 marijuana possession arrests each year in Wyoming, with the state ranking sixth in the nation in per-capita marijuana possession arrests.

More than 70% of Wyoming residents support decriminalization, according to NORML.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Tennessee Could Reduce Some Marijuana Possession Penalties

(Flickr/Phillip Dodds)

NASHVILLE, TN — Penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana in Tennessee could soon be reduced to a low-level misdemeanor, punishable by only a fine without the possibility of jail time.

Two lawmakers from Nashville, both Democrats, have filed joint legislation to reduce marijuana penalties statewide in direct response to a Republican lawmaker’s attempt to nullify their city’s recently passed ordinance that gives police officers the option to issue a citation instead of placing a marijuana user under arrest.

Senate Bill 265, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville), and its companion House Bill 297, sponsored by Rep. Harold Love (D-Nashville), would reduce the statewide penalty for possessing up to one eighth of an ounce of marijuana (3.544 grams) to a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $50.

Currently, possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $250 mandatory fine for all first time convictions. A subsequent offense brings a $500 mandatory fine. Possessing over half an ounce of marijuana is a felony offense, with mandatory minimum prison sentences starting at one year and fines starting at $5,000, depending upon the total weight of marijuana an offender is caught with.

One of the bills’ sponsors says the proposal did not fully decriminalize marijuana to a civil violation, instead reducing it to a low level misdemeanor, was done to help make the bill easier to sell to Republicans, who control both chambers of the state legislature.

“The goal is to eliminate possible jail time, and to eliminate massive fines for possession of a small amount of a drug,” says Rep. Love. “But it’s still illegal.”

Last year, the state’s two largest cities, Nashville and Memphis, passed ordinances that give police the discretion to issue a $50 citation to people possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Earlier this week, Republican Rep. William Lamberth (R-Cottontown), a former Assistant District Attorney, filed a bill that would overturn both of those ordinances and prevent other communities from enacting similar measures.

A separate bill pending before lawmakers, House Bill 109, would increase the amount of marijuana considered a misdemeanor from half an ounce to one ounce.

Tennessee’s 110th General Assembly is in session through April 21.

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