By Paul Armentano
Much has been made in the mainstream media in recent weeks regarding the federal government’s attempts to intimidate states into dropping their medical marijuana programs. But much less media attention has been paid to the reality that in several states, lawmakers are continuing to move forward with medical cannabis legalization efforts despite the Justice Department’s recent rhetorical smack-down.
Here’s a run down of the latest statewide developments and what you can do to help.
Connecticut: Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Public Health on Tuesday decided in favor of Governor’s Bill 1015, which amends state law to “authorize an individual to use marijuana for medical purposes as directed by a physician.” Members of the Judiciary had previously endorsed the bill, which is backed by Gov. Dan Malloy, in April. “States have a right to decide this for themselves,” Michael P. Lawlor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s senior criminal justice adviser told The Connecticut Mirror this week. If enacted, Connecticut will become the sixteenth state since 1996 to authorize the state-sanctioned use of cannabis when recommended by a physician. You can support this effort via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
Delaware: Lawmakers are in the final stages of making Delaware the sixteenth state to allow for the physician-authorized use of marijuana. On Thursday, May 5, House lawmakers approved an amended version of Senate Bill 17, The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act. Senate Bill 17 amends state law so that physician-supervised patients with an authorized “debilitating medical condition” can possess and use marijuana for medical purposes. The measure would also provide for the establishment of non-profit “compassion centers” that would be licensed by the state to produce and dispense medical cannabis. Because House lawmakers made amendments to the Senate version of the bill, the measure must return to the Senate for an additional vote. In March, members of the Delaware Senate voted 18 to 3 in favor of the measure. You can learn more about this measure and how to support it via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
Ohio: Legislation that seeks to legalize the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana was reintroduced this week in the Ohio Legislature. House Bill 214, the Ohio Medical Compassion Act, amends state law so that physician-supervised patients with an authorized “debilitating medical condition” can possess and grow marijuana for medical purposes. Full text of the measure can be read here. HB 214 would allow qualifying patients to possess up to two hundred grams of usable marijuana and twelve mature cannabis plants. Qualifying patients from other medical marijuana states would be provided legal protection under this measure. HB 214 has been referred to the House Committee on Health and Aging, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. You can contact your state lawmakers in support of this measure here.
Vermont: Vermont lawmakers have cleared the way for the enactment of the state-licensed distribution of medical marijuana. On Thursday, May 5, House lawmakers voted 99-44 in favor of Senate Bill 17, which allows for the state-sanctioned sale of marijuana to qualified patients. Under the bill, four dispensaries may be established to serve up to 1,000 patients. House lawmakers overwhelmingly decided to pass the measure despite warnings from the US Department of Justice claiming that the operation of such facilities could place citizens and state officials in conflict with federal law. Senators previously passed a version of SB 17 in April and are expected to concur with the minor changes made by the House. State Gov. Peter Shumlin supports the measure. Vermont lawmakers legalized the use of marijuana as a medicine in 2004, but the law presently provides no legal source for cannabis aside from home cultivation.
Currently, both Colorado and New Mexico authorize the state-sanctioned distribution of cannabis.