Drug Law

NORML’s Weekly Round-Up of Marijuana Bills

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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.)

Hawaii: House and Senate lawmakers could not come to agreement on Senate Bill 1458 before Friday’s legislative deadline, killing the measure for this year. As amended, the measure sought to restrict patients’ access to medical marijuana and would have imposed an exorbitant tax on the sale of medical cannabis via a single, state-licensed dispensary. As a result, NORML and our local allies The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii had withdrawn its support for the measure. NORML and DPFHI will continue to partner in our efforts to work with legislators to enact sensible marijuana law reform in 2012.

Maine: Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety will hear public testimony on Tuesday, May 10, in support of LD 1453, which seeks to regulate the commercial production and distribution of marijuana for adults over 21 years of age. You can support this effort via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here, and you can watch a recent press conference in support of the measure here.

Montana: On Friday, April 29, Gov. Brian Schwietzer announced that he intends to allow SB 423 to become law absent his signature. Senate Bill 423 repeals the state’s six-year-old medical marijuana law on July 1, 2011 and replaces it with entirely new provisions created by the legislature. The stated intent of this measure is to reduce the number of state-licensed medical cannabis patients from an estimated 28,000 today to less than 2,000.

Among the most serious changes in law:

* Chronic pain patients will face more stringent requirements to qualify under the law, and in some cases may require a recommendation from two separate physicians;

* Patients found guilty of marijuana DUI will have their medical marijuana privileges revoked; Advising physicians will be reported to the Board of Medical Examiners if they recommend for more than 25 patients per year.

* Physician will be responsible for the costs of this investigation;

*Caregivers may accept no monetary compensation for providing cannabis to qualified patients.

A full summary of SB 423’s provisions is available here.

Montana NORML is still encouraging advocates to pressure the Governor to change his mind and veto SB 423. You can contact the Governor’s office and leave a message at: 406-444-3111. Montana NORML is also contemplating the possibility of taking legal action and/or initiating a citizens’ referendum to delay or block the implementation of this law. For more information on these efforts, please contact Montana NORML here (or on Facebook here or contact Patients and Families United here.

Washington: Democrat Gov. Chris Gregoire on Friday vetoed sections of Senate Bill 5073, which sought to license and regulate the dispensing of medical cannabis to qualified persons, and would have enacted additional legal protections for patients who voluntarily participated in a statewide registry. In her veto statement, Gov. Gregoire alleged that the licensing and registry provisions “would open public employees to federal prosecution.”

Governor Gregoire did sign into law provisions in the measure reaffirming that qualified patients and their caregivers possess an ‘affirmative defense’ against state prosecution (Section 402 and 406). She also codified provisions of the measure that extend legal protections to patients or caregivers who participate in a ‘collective garden.’ A summary of the sections of SB 5073 that were approved, as well as a summary of sections that were vetoed, is available here and here. Additional information is available from the Washington state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) here or via Washington NORML here.

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