Decrim advances in Illinois, an Ohio legalization initiative is rolling along, asset forfeiture reform passes in Montana and is now under consideration in Michigan, Vancouver will regulate its dispensaries, and more.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Illinois House Passes Decriminalization Bill. The House Thursday approved House Bill 218, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Cassidy (D-Chicago). The bill would make possession of 15 grams or less an infraction punishable only by a fine of no more than $125. Under current law, people face up to a year in jail for simple possession. The bill now goes to the state Senate.
Ohio Legalization Initiative Making Progress on Signature-Gathering. The Responsible Ohio legalization initiative campaign has gathered more than 180,000 signatures in its effort to put its initiative before voters in November. Buckeye State initiatives need 305,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, so the group probably needs to gather something like 400,000 signatures to ensure that disqualifications don't knock it off the ballot. Responsible Ohio says it is aiming even higher -- for 700,000 signatures. They have until July to gather them. A second legalization initiative, aiming at 2016, Ohioans To End Prohibition, is just in the initial phase of its campaign, while a third effort, led by the Ohio Rights Group, says it will not manage to qualify this year and has filed Election Commission complaints claiming that people associated with Responsible Ohio have interfered with its efforts.
Heroin Use Up Sharply in Past Decade, SAMSHA Says. The number of heroin users in the country was stable at around 400,000 between 2002 and 2007, but began increasing in 2008 and reached 681,000 by 2013, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). But that's still less than one-third of 1% of the population. Another 11 million people, or 4% of the population, used prescription pills for off-label reasons.
Michigan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Package Filed. A bipartisan package of eight asset forfeiture reform bills was filed Wednesday with support from the legislature's Republican leadership. One bill would create uniform, mandatory reporting requirements and raise the standard of evidence needed for a seizure from "a preponderance" to "clear and convincing." Another bill would bar seizures of vehicles used by someone buying an ounce of pot or less. The package doesn't include a bill to ban civil asset forfeiture outright, but it's a start.
Montana Legislature Passes Bill Ending Civil Asset Forfeiture. A bill that would end civil asset forfeiture passed the House Thursday. House Bill 463 had already passed the Senate and now heads for the governor's desk. New Mexico and Wyoming have both passed similar laws this year; the New Mexico governor signed hers, but the Wyoming governor vetoed his.
Florida ACLU Targets Police Field Drug Tests. The ACLU of Florida is investigating the presumptive field test kits police use to make drug arrests. The move comes just a day after Hillsborough County Public Defender called them "faulty" and "inaccurate." Scientists have reported that kits like the Nark 2 are unreliable, but thousands of people have been arrested on the basis of their field test results.
Louisiana Bill Would Let Employers Drug Test Hair. The House Health Committee Wednesday approved House Bill 379, which would allow employers to use hair drug tests on potential hires. Hair drug tests can detect use going back as far as three months. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.
Seattle Doing Mass Arrests to Clean Up Downtown Drug Dealing Police in Seattle have arrested more than a hundred people in two days in a push to clean up open-air drug dealing downtown. The arrests involved undercover officers making marijuana, heroin, meth, and cocaine buys. Prosecutors said they would seek judicial orders barring those people from returning to the area, but that they would seek diversion programs in other cases.
Vancouver Moves to Regulate Marijuana Stores; Ottawa Not Happy. Vancouver has announced plans to regulate the more than 80 unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the city, making it the first city in Canada to do so. But the federal Health Minister is warning the city not to do it, saying it would "normalize" marijuana sales.
Drug Cartel Violence Flares in Mexican Border State. Gun battles and arson attacks flared for the second time in a week in Tamaulipas, just across the Rio Grande River from Texas border towns such as Harlingen and Brownsville. The brouhaha broke out after police captured four alleged Gulf Cartel members and included blockades in the town of Altamira. At least two people were killed. Earlier this month, major violence broke out in Reynosa after the arrest of a Gulf Cartel leader. More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed in prohibition-related violence since 2006.
The legalization initiatives are piling up in California, and we're still waiting for the big one; Rick Perry talks states' rights on pot, an Alabama medical marijuana bill is actually moving, so is a California asset forfeiture reform bill, and more.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Third California Legalization Initiative Filed. And then there were three. Two previously unknown activists, Chad and Marinda Hanes, have filed The Responsible Use Act of 2016 with state officials. It would allow for the personal possession of up to 24 ounces and the cultivation of up to 12 mature plants. The initiative also envisions marijuana commerce regulated by a Cannabis Control Board. If qualified for signature-gathering, the initiative would need slightly more than half a million valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Rick Perry Says Marijuana Legalization is a States' Rights Issue. The former Texas governor and potential GOP presidential contender told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt Tuesday that legalization should be up to the states. "Well, I'm a big believer in the 10th Amendment," he said. "I don't agree with those decisions that were made by... the state of Colorado or Washington, but I will defend it to my death, if you will, to allow them to make those decisions. So you know, I think I'm closer to Ted [Cruz] there than I am to Chris [Christie]. I just happen to think that that's one of those that maybe the federal government got wrong to begin with from the standpoint of you've got to have some, you've got to have, you either believe in the 10th Amendment or you don't, is kind of where I come down on it."
Pacific Northwest Voters Still Happy With Legalization. A new Oregon poll has 53% of voters still supporting legalization, while a Washington poll has support at 51%. In both states, support has declined slightly from Election Day (56% in Oregon and 54% in Washington), but is still above 50%.
Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a medical marijuana bill Wednesday on a 4-3 vote. The measure is Senate Bill 326, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro).
Florida Medical Marijuana Effort Dead for This Session. Sunshine State patients will get no relief from Tallahassee this year. Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), who has been pushing to quicken the implementation of last year's CBD cannabis oil law, said Wednesday that even that effort is dead. The Senate postponed Senate Bill 7066 Wednesday, and Brandes said he didn't think either chamber would take it up again this year.
California Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday approved Senate Bill 443, which would rein in civil asset forfeiture abuses. It now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The sponsor is Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles).
Ireland to Consider Marijuana Decriminalization. Incoming Minister of State with Responsibility for the Drug Strategy Aodhan O'Riordain will examine the possibility of decriminalizing marijuana, he said today. "I think people -- guards, the prison service -- will probably agree with me on that," he said. "We have an opportunity through the legislation that is forthcoming the Misuse of Drugs Act to investigate that. I am going to make any hard calls on that but the difference between decriminalization and legalization is quite different. We need to have a proper discussion before we set up alarm bells in people's heads."
(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)
Busy, busy at the statehouse, there's news out of Washington, DC, too, a Wyoming medical marijuana initiative gears up, and more.
On Sunday, Obama suggested support for the Senate medical marijuana bill. In an interview aired Sunday night on CNN's Weed 3 special with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Gupta asked the president if he would get behind the CARERS Act, which would reschedule marijuana and allow states with medical marijuana laws to proceed without threat of federal punishment. "You know, I think I'd have to take a look at the details," Obama replied, "but I'm on record as saying that not only do I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue, but I'm also on record as saying that the more we treat some of these issues related to drug abuse from a public health model and not just from an incarceration model, the better off we're going to be."
On Tuesday, six House Republicans filed the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act. Led by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a half-dozen GOP congressmen today filed the act, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to clarify that anyone acting in compliance with a state marijuana law would be immune from federal prosecution. The act would apply to both medical and recreational marijuana laws. It is not yet available on the congressional web site.
Last Wednesday, a 2016 medical marijuana initiative was filed. A group of medical marijuana activists have filed the Compassionate and Sensible Access Act, which is designed to protect a doctor's right to recommend medical marijuana and limit officials' ability to regulate cultivation, distribution, and transportation of the plant. To make the ballot, the language must first be approved by state officials, then campaigners will have to gather more than half a million valid voter signatures within 180 days of starting.
Also last Wednesday, the Riverside County planning commission recommended approval of an ordinance that would clarify that growing marijuana is illegal. The move is laying the groundwork for a crackdown on grows in unincorporated parts of the county. An ordinance pending before the Board of Supervisors would impose both civil and criminal penalties for such grows, with only a limited exemption for patients and caregivers.
Last Thursday, an Orange County Superior Court judge denied a motion to force Costa Mesa to hold a special election this year about whether to allow dispensaries in the city. The city council had refused to hold a special election even though a petition had been submitted and certified, instead opting to put the issue on the general election ballot in November.
Also last Thursday, the Assembly Agriculture Committee approved AB 243, which would require all medical cannabis grows to follow existing environmental laws and be permitted by the state. The bill was supported by a broad coalition of environmental and governmental interests, as well as by some growers. But California NORML, Americans for Safe Access, and Crusaders for Patients' Rights are opposing the bill unless it is amended to delete a requirement that individual patients get permits to grow, which the groups see as an unconstitutional infringement on Prop 215 patients' rights.
Last Friday, Yuba County advocates sought a state Supreme Court order asking local officials to accept petitions for a voter referendum challenging the county's new marijuana grow ordinance. The motion also seeks to stay enforcement of the ordinance, which limits indoor grows to 12 plants in a qualifying accessory structure. The move comes after the 3rd District Court of Appeals a week earlier denied an emergency writ that would have allowed for referendum petitions to move forward.
On Tuesday, the El Centro city council killed a medical marijuana ordinance that would have allowed for dispensaries in the city. The move reverses a 2011 decision to allow them. The city never actually had any permitted dispensaries, though; it kept passing moratoria while it sought to sort out legal issues.
Also on Tuesday, a medical marijuana regulation bill won a Senate committee vote. The Senate Business and Professions Committee approved Senate Bill 643, which would establish a comprehensive, statewide licensing system for medical marijuana commerce.
Last Thursday, the governor signed the CBD cannabis oil bill. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) today signed into law House Bill 1, which allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil for a list of specified diseases and medical conditions. The bill allows patients to possess the oil, but has no provision for obtaining it in the state.
On Tuesday, the Senate approved a 25% tax on medical marijuana sales. The bill is House Bill 321. It was approved by the House without the tax provision, which was added by a Senate committee without any public hearing. The bill now goes to conference committee, where advocates hope the tax can be reduced or eliminated. There is no tax on prescription medications.
Last Thursday, the governor vetoed the CBD cannabis oil bill. Gov. "Butch" Otter vetoed a bill that would have allowed the use of CBD cannabis oil to treat children suffering from epileptic seizures. Senate Bill 1146 had passed the House 39-30 and the Senate 22-12. Otter said the bill asked the state to ignore the potential for abuse and misuse, even though the oils don't contain enough THC for anyone to get high.
On Tuesday, the House approved a bill extending the medical marijuana program. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), would extend the program beyond January 1, 2018, when it is set to expire as a pilot program. The bill now goes to the Senate.
Last Wednesday, a CBD cannabis oil bill won final approval in the legislature. The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 124, which would allow for the use of the oil to treat seizure disorders in children. The bill passed the House in February and now heads to the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin (R).
On Tuesday, the medical marijuana bill won a committee vote. The Senate State Government Committee has approved Senate Bill 3, but will hold further hearings on it next month. The sponsor, Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County) says it may be modified to address concerns raised in the House.
On Monday, plans for a medical marijuana initiative get underway. Activists with Wyoming NORML submitted their initiative application with the secretary of state's office Monday. If and when the application is approved, organizers will have until next February to gather 25,673 valid voter signatures to place it on the 2016 general election ballot. A recent poll had support for marijuana at 72% in the Cowboy State.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]