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Hawaii Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Three Bills to Improve Marijuana Laws



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                     

March 3, 2010

Hawaii Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Three Bills to Improve Marijuana Laws

Measures would expand state’s medical marijuana law and reduce the penalty for possession of one ounce to a civil fine

CONTACT: Kurt A. Gardinier, MPP director of communications …… 202-905-0738 or kgardinier@mpp.org

HONOLULU, HAWAII — Yesterday, the Hawaii Senate passed by overwhelming, veto-proof margins three measures that will greatly improve marijuana laws in the state:

SB 2213 passed 20-4, with one excused. This bill would allow counties to license medical marijuana dispensaries.

SB 2141 passed 24-1. This bill would increase the ratio of plants, ounces and caregivers allowed for each medical marijuana patient.

SB 2450 passed 22-3. This bill would remove criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $300 for a first offense and $500 for a subsequent offense.

         The bills now go to the state House.

         “These votes show that Hawaii’s Senate supports sensible marijuana policies that will serve the best interests of state citizens,” said Eric M. McDaniel, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Hawaii’s most vulnerable citizens deserve safe and reliable access to their medicine, and no Hawaiian deserves to go to jail simply for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. If House members agree, I would strongly encourage them to pass these measures as well.”

         The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, headed by Pamela Lichty and Jeanne Ohta, and the Peaceful Sky Alliance, headed by Matt Rifkin, played crucial roles in getting these measures through the Senate.

         With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

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Location: 
HI
United States

New Reports Find Trend in Reform Policies, Prison Downsizing

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Announcement

Sentencing Project


The Sentencing project releases two new reports

fiscal crisis and record incarceration spur trend in prison downsizing

·         4 states - KS, MI, NJ, NY - reduced prison populations by 5-20% since 1999

·         At least 19 states adopted policies in 2009 that promote prison population reductions through sentencing, probation and parole reforms, and reexamining effective public safety


As states grapple with the fiscal crisis and confront costly and overburdened criminal justice systems, two reports released today by The Sentencing Project offer roadmaps to successful prison downsizing that maintain public safety. The reports document a growing trend to reform sentencing policies and scale back the use of imprisonment in order to control spending. 

"Downscaling Prisons: Lessons from Four States," released by Justice Strategies and The Sentencing Project, finds that four states - Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York - have reduced their prison populations by 5-20% since 1999 without any increases in crime. This came about at a time when the national prison population increased by 12%; and in six states it increased by more than 40%.  The reductions were achieved through a mix of legislative reforms and changes in practice by corrections and parole agencies. The reforms included:

·         Kansas - Changed sentencing guidelines to divert lower-level drug cases to treatment rather than incarceration; Expanded supportive services to people on parole supervision.

·         Michigan - Eliminated most mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses; enacted statewide initiative to reduce parole revocations and enhance employment, housing, and treatment services for people leaving prison.

·         New Jersey - Increased parole releases by adopting risk assessment instruments and utilizing day reporting centers and electronic monitoring.

·         New York - Scaled back harsh drug penalties, established Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison programs, and applied "merit time" credits to speed up parole consideration.

Other states have joined this trend, and 2009 proved to be a high mark for such reforms.  The Sentencing Project's report, "The State of Sentencing 2009: Developments in Policy and Practice," by Nicole D. Porter, highlights reforms in at least 19 states that hold the potential of further prison population reductions. Key among these reforms are:

·         Three states - Minnesota, New York, and Rhode Island - significantly scaled back the scope of mandatory sentencing laws for certain drug offenses.

·         Seven states increased the proportion of "good time" credits to be earned in prison to expedite parole eligibility.

·         Four states Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and New Jersey - established oversight committees to examine sentencing policies, prison overcrowding and reentry services.

Figures recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics document a record prison and jail population of 2.3 million as of 2008, but also indicate that the population in state prisons is stabilizing.  Overall, 20 states achieved at least modest reductions in their prison populations between 2007 and 2008.

Access the reports at www.sentencingproject.org or click the links below:

"Downscaling Prisons: Lessons from Four States"

"The State of Sentencing 2009: Developments in Policy and Practice"

 

The Sentencing Project | 514 Tenth Street, NW | Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004 | 202.628.0871 |
Send an email to The Sentencing Project.

The Sentencing Project is a national organization working for a fair and effective criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing law and practice, and alternatives to incarceration.

ACTION ALERT: Statewide Bill Threatens Patient Rights

On Thursday, March 4, starting at 1:30pm, the Colorado State Legislature will hear the first reading of a bill which seeks to regulate dispensaries-- and weaken patient rights.  This bill, HB 1284, which was largely authored by law enforcement, threatens to cripple the state medical marijuana law in a number of ways. (Note a version of this bill will be posted on our website shortly.)

 

Here are a few of the most damaging provisions of the bill:

 

  • Prohibits patients from living near schools.  Patients could not possess medicine within 1000 feet of a school, which means patients could not live near schools.
  • Patients could not join together with family members or others to share grow space.
  • Would allow cities and towns to ban dispensaries-- forcing sick patients to "get on the bus" to find medicine.

 

Here's how you can help fight HB 1284

 

Attend the Thursday Hearing.  Legislators need to hear from patients and professionals about how damaging HB 1284 will be.  This Hearing should begin around 1:30 at the State Capitol in Denver in the Old Supreme Court Chambers (2nd floor).  Please show up, dress nice, and spread the message to "vote no on HB 1284."

 

Call your state legislator

 

Every state legislator should hear how bad HB 1284 is.  You can find and contact your state legislators here.  Note you will need to enter your nine digit zip code to find your state rep and senator.  Find your full zip code here.
Location: 
CO
United States

What is Keeping Maryland from Passing a Medical Marijuana Law?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

MARCH 2, 2010

What is Keeping Maryland from Passing a Medical Marijuana Law?

Despite overwhelming public support and virtually no opposition, key officials are still silent about their stance on the issue

CONTACT: Mike Meno, MPP assistant director of communications …………… 202-905-2030

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND — Last Friday, Feb. 26, the Maryland House Judiciary and Health and Government Committees held a public hearing on a bill that would allow chronically ill patients to have safe access to medical marijuana with their doctor’s recommendation—an idea supported by 81% of Americans nationwide, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Dozens of witnesses—including physicians, patients, and former law enforcement officials—testified in favor of the bill, and no one testified in opposition. Fourteen other states have already passed medical marijuana laws. So why hasn’t Maryland?

         Previous efforts to pass medical marijuana legislation in Maryland all failed to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Del. Joseph F. Vallario , Jr., (D-Dist. 27A, Calvert and Prince George’s Counties). In the past, Del. Vallario has expressed concern over legislation that might clash with federal law. But medical marijuana should no longer trigger such concerns following the October release of an Obama administration memo instructing federal prosecutors not to target medical marijuana patients or caregivers who obey state law.

         Just last week, a poll conducted by Conquest Communications in Del. Vallario’s House District showed support for passing this year’s medical marijuana bill outnumbered opposition nearly 3-1.  

         “Sometimes in an election year you’ll see politicians shy away from controversial issues, but these polls show there’s nothing controversial anymore about medical marijuana – except maybe opposing it,” said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Now that the federal government has given the green light to states to enact medical marijuana laws, there should be nothing stopping Chariman Vallario and others here in Maryland from listening to the will of their constituents.”

         With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Location: 
MD
United States

Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Hearing Today in Annapolis

MEDIA ADVISORY                                                                                                                                               

february 26, 2010

Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Hearing Today in Annapolis

HB 712 Would Allow Seriously Ill Patients to Use Medical Marijuana With Doctor’s Recommendation

CONTACT: Mike Meno, MPP assistant director of communications …………… 202-905-2030

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND— Today, the Maryland House Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees will hold a hearing to receive testimony on HB 712, a bill introduced by Del. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) that would make Maryland the 15th state in the nation to have a medical marijuana law. The bill would allow pharmacies or other state-regulated outlets to dispense medical marijuana to patients who receive a recommendation from their doctor.

         WHAT: Hearing on HB 712, a medical marijuana bill in Maryland

         WHERE: Maryland Legislative Services Building—across from the statehouse—in the hearing room

         WHEN: Friday, February 26, 1 p.m.

         WHO: House Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees

         With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

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Location: 
MD
United States

Marijuana: Legalization Bill Reintroduced in California Assembly

Maybe the voters won't have to take things into their own hands this November in California after all. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has reintroduced his marijuana legalization bill, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act (AB 2254).

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/sacramento-jan10-3.jpg
bill sponsor Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, with Dale Gieringer, Stephen Gutwillig and Aaron Smith in background
In a historic first, last session's version of the bill won a 4-3 vote in the Assembly Public Safety Committee -- the first time any legislative committee anywhere in the country has approved marijuana legalization legislation. But the bill failed to get to the floor before the consideration deadline passed.

The bill would "remove marijuana and its derivatives from existing statutes defining and regulating controlled substances" and would instead provide for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to regulate the possession, sale, and cultivation of the herb by people 21 or older. The bill would not affect California's existing medical marijuana law (except perhaps to render it unnecessary).

Under the bill, the ABC would regulate wholesale and retail sales. A special fee would be imposed, with proceeds going to fund drug abuse prevention programs. The bill would also "ban state and local assistance in enforcing inconsistent federal and other laws relating to marijuana."

"It is time to acknowledge that the existing model of prohibition has failed, and that California is long overdue for a public policy for the control and regulation of marijuana that reflects the reality of what is happening in our state," Ammiano said.

Marijuana is California's largest cash crop, with an annual estimated value of $14 billion. In evaluating last session's version of Ammiano's bill, the state Board of Equalization estimated that taxes generated under a legalization and regulation scheme could generate more than $1 billion a year.

"The fact that California's largest cash crop continues to go untaxed and unregulated is astounding, especially in such tough economic times," said Marijuana Policy Project California policy director Aaron Smith in a statement welcoming the bill. "We once again applaud Assemblyman Ammiano on his dedication and leadership on this issue and remain optimistic that 2010 is the year California ends its state's failed marijuana policies."

If the California legislature fails to act this year, it looks extremely likely that the voters will have a chance to vote for legalization in November. Organizers of the Tax Cannabis 2010 ballot measure last month turned in nearly 700,000 signatures, more than 250,000 more than then 434,000 valid signatures needed to make the ballot. That measure awaits certification by state election officials.

Medical Marijuana: Measure Passes New York Senate Health Committee, Assembly Health Committee

The New York Senate Health Committee approved a medical marijuana bill, S 4041-B, on a 9-3 vote Tuesday. The measure now moves to the Senate Codes Committee. The Assembly version of the bill, A 9016, passed out the Assembly Health Committee last month and is now before the Assembly Codes Committee.

The Assembly approved medical marijuana bills in 2007 and 2008, but the measure had never gotten a Senate floor vote while Republicans controlled the state Senate until after the 2008 elections. Last year, the Senate Health Committee passed a bill, but it never got a floor vote as the Democratic leadership in the Senate imploded in bitter infighting.

The bill would allow patients with a doctor's recommendation and state registration or their caregivers to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of usable marijuana, but not to grow it. Marijuana cultivation would be done by registered producers, who would not provide the product to patients and caregivers, but would instead sell it to pharmacies, the state or local health departments, or nonprofit organizations registered as medical marijuana providers.

"We applaud the New York Senate Health Committee members for doing the right thing and taking this important step toward protecting sick and dying New Yorkers from arrest or jail," said Noah Mamber, legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. "Let's hope New York legislators will follow the lead of New Jersey, the state next door, which is about to become the 14th state to implement an effective medical marijuana law."

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Bill Passes New York Senate Health Committee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

FEBRUARY 23, 2010

Medical Marijuana Bill Passes New York Senate Health Committee

CONTACT: Kurt A. Gardinier, MPP director of communications … 202-905-0738 or kgardinier@mpp.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the New York State Senate Health Committee passed S. 4041-B, the Senate’s medical marijuana bill. This marks the second consecutive year that the bill has gotten out of the Senate Health Committee. The Assembly’s medical marijuana bill, A. 9016, passed the Health Committee last month and is now sitting in the Assembly Codes Committee.

         “We applaud the New York Senate Health Committee members for doing the right thing and taking this important step toward protecting sick and dying New Yorkers from arrest or jail,” said Noah Mamber, legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Let’s hope New York legislators will follow the lead of New Jersey, the state next door, which is about to become the 14th state to implement an effective medical marijuana law.”

         The New York State Assembly passed medical marijuana legislation in 2007 and 2008, but the issue has never gotten a Senate floor vote. For the first time in 2009, a Senate medical marijuana bill passed the Senate Health Committee, but progress stalled because of the Senate leadership struggle, which lasted until just before the legislature recessed.

         With more than 29,000 members and 124,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

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Location: 
NY
United States

Medical Marijuana: Iowa Pharmacy Board Recommends State Legalize It for Therapeutic Use

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend that state lawmakers reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance and set up a task force to study how to create a medical marijuana program. Medical marijuana bills have previously failed to move in the state legislature, but the board's action could help spur forward momentum.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/carlolsen.jpg
Carl Olsen
Similarly to the federal Controlled Substances Act, Iowa law currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no proven medical use and a high potential for abuse. By recommending that marijuana be rescheduled to Schedule II -- a potential for abuse, but with accepted medical use -- the board acknowledged the herb's medical efficacy.

Given the board's initial reluctance to take up the issue, the unanimous vote comes as something as a pleasant surprise to advocates. In May 2008, Iowans for Medical Marijuana founder Carl Olsen petitioned the board to reschedule marijuana, arguing that the evidence did not support its classification as Schedule I.

The board rejected that request, and Olsen, three plaintiffs, and the ACLU of Iowa sued to force it to reconsider. (See the filings in the case here). Last year, a Polk County judge ordered the board to take another look at the matter. The board again declined to reclassify marijuana, but did agree to a series of four public hearings.

It was after those hearings, which were packed with medical marijuana supporters, and after a scientific review of the literature, that the board acted this week. In doing so, it becomes the first state pharmacy board in the nation to take such a step before voters or lawmakers have legalized medical marijuana.

The board's action also puts it squarely in line with popular sentiment in the Hawkeye State. According to an Iowa Poll released Tuesday, 64% of Iowans want medical marijuana to be legal. Now, if only the legislature will act on the recommendation of the board and the will of the voters.

Decriminalization: New Hampshire Bill Wins Committee Vote, Heads for House Floor

The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted February 11 to approve House Bill 1653, which would decriminalize the possession of up to a quarter-ounce of marijuana. The measure passed on a 16-2 vote.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/new-hampshire-statehouse.jpg
New Hampshire Statehouse
The bill now heads for the House floor. It is scheduled for action on March 3.

Under current New Hampshire law, possession of up to a quarter-ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Under the bill, possession of that amount would be a non-criminal infraction punishable by a $200 fine.

Rep. David Welch (R-Kingston) told the Eagle Tribune the bill would probably pass the House. Continuing to spend law enforcement resources on pot smokers "seems foolish," he said. "It's no worse than tobacco and possibly not as bad."

The measure is supported by the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy. Coalition executive director Matt Simon told the Eagle Tribune he was pleasantly surprised by the victory. Similar legislation died two years ago, but now committee members are more comfortable, he said.

"In two years, much has changed," Simon said. "The committee has become much more knowledgeable about decriminalization and heard from constituents."

If the bill passes the House, it still must get through the Senate, and even then, it faces a probable veto from Gov. John Lynch (D) who opposes decriminalization. Lynch vetoed a medical marijuana bill last year. The House voted to override that veto, but the effort fell two votes short in the Senate.

Thirteen states have decriminalized marijuana possession. The most recent was neighboring Massachusetts, which did so last November via the initiative process.

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