Drug Law

NORML’s Weekly Round Up of Pending Marijuana Bills

| by NORML

By Paul Armentano

For a listing of all of the pending marijuana law reform proposals that NORML is tracking, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here. (For a map of pending legislation, please visit here.)

Delaware: House and Senate lawmakers have given final approval to legislation, Senate Bill 17, which allows for the state-authorized use and distribution of medical cannabis. Senate Bill 17, The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act amends state law so that patients with an authorized “debilitating medical condition” can possess and consume cannabis (up to six ounces) obtained from state-licensed facilities. The measure provides for the establishment of at least one non-profit ‘compassion center’ per county that would be licensed by the state to produce and dispense medical cannabis. The measure now goes before Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, who is expected to sign it. If SB 17 becomes law, Delaware will become the sixteenth state since 1996 to allow for the physician-supervised use of marijuana.

Maryland: On Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation, Senate Bill 308, into law expanding the state’s eight-year-old ‘affirmative defense’ law. Senate Bill 308 removes fines and criminal penalties for citizens who, at trial, successfully raise an ‘affirmative defense’ establishing that they possessed limited amounts of marijuana for medical purposes. As initially introduced, SB 308 and its House companion bill sought to establish a government-regulated program to provide qualified patients with legal access to state-licensed producers and distributors of medical cannabis. However, the measure was rewritten after Maryland’s Department of Health secretary testified against it. State lawmakers are expected to revisit the possibility of regulating the production and distribution of medical marijuana next year, after the issue is further examined by a legislative ‘work group’ of medical, legal, and law enforcement professionals.

Vermont: House and Senate lawmakers last week gave final approval to Senate Bill 17, which allows state-licensed facilities to dispense marijuana to medically authorized patients. House lawmakers overwhelmingly backed the proposal despite last-minute warnings from the U.S. Justice Department alleging that SB 17 would conflict with federal anti-drug laws. As approved, each dispensary would be licensed by the state Department of Public Safety and would be permitted to serve up to 1,000 registered patients. Senate Bill 17 now goes to the desk of Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, who is on record in support of the measure.

Connecticut: Members of the Joint Finance Committee this week voted 31 to 20 in favor of Senate Bill 1014, which amends state law so that the adult possession of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to a non-criminal infraction, punishable by a nominal fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. This measure would similarly reduce penalties on the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Members of the Joint Judiciary Committee had previously approved the bill in April. The measure, which is backed by Gov. Dan Malloy, now moves to the Senate, where it faces potential resistance from lawmakers. If you reside in Connecticut, you can support this campaign and/or contact your Senate member in favor of SB 1014 via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

California: The California Assembly is considering legislation, AB 1017, to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana cultivation. The bill seeks to downgrade cultivation from a mandatory felony to a “wobbler” or alternative misdemeanor. This would permit judges and DA’s to treat minor cultivation cases as misdemeanors, at considerable cost savings to both users and law enforcement. AB 1017 was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee by a 4-3 vote on May 3rd, and is now awaiting a vote by the full Assembly. You can urge your member of the Assembly to vote ‘yes’ on AB 1017 by clicking here.

New York: State Senate and Assembly lawmakers this week introduced bi-partisan legislation, Senate Bill 5187 and Assembly Bill 7620, seeking to reduce marijuana penalties and arrest violations involving cases where where marijuana was either consumed or allegedly possessed in public [NY State Penal Law 221.10]. Under present law, non-public possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is a non-criminal civil citation, punishable by a $100 fine. However, in recent years, police — particularly in New York City — have misused Penal Law 221.10 to arrest tens of thousands of defendants who would have otherwise faced no more than a civil citation. Passage of SB 5187 and AB 7620 will save taxpayer dollars, protect citizens against illegal searches, and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in arrests by clarifying the law and standardizing penalties for marijuana possession offenses. If you live in New York state you can urge your state Senator and member of the Assembly to support these measures by visiting NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.