Marijuana law reform legislation is pending in over twenty states, and progressive measures have been pre-filed in many more. Below is this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — activists’ one-stop guide to pending marijuana law reform legislation around the country.
** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAWS UNDER SIEGE IN MONTANA AND NEW MEXICO
Montana: As anticipated, on Monday members of House of Representatives gave final approval to HB 161, which would repeal the state’s existing medical cannabis law. The measure now goes before state senators, who are being targeted with anti-pot propaganda advertisements. Nevertheless, a new poll released this week of over 2,200 Montanans found that 63 percent of voters support allowing medical marijuana, and only 20 percent support current proposals to repeal the state’s compassionate medical marijuana law. Tell the Senate to uphold the will of the voters and to reject HB 161. You can contact your lawmakers via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here, or by contacting Montana NORML. You can also visit our allies Patients and Families United on Facebook here for up-to-date information on pending hearings and votes.
New Mexico: House Bill 593, introduced by Santa Fe Republican James Smith, aims to completely repeal New Mexico’s existing medical marijuana law, which was initially approved by the legislature and the Governor in 2007. Presently, over 3,200 patients are using cannabis legally in compliance with state law. In addition, state officials have licensed some 25 facilities to produce or dispense medical cannabis. Reports of abuses regarding the use or distribution of medical cannabis as authorized by the law have been minimal. Nevertheless, Smith — who admits “I’m not a medical doctor, I don’t pretend to be.” – states that the law sends a mixed message to young people and that other alternative medications are available. House Bill 593 has been assigned to the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and awaits a scheduled hearing. Newly elected Republican Governor Susana Martinez, who recently stated that this issue would not be a legislative priority for her administration in 2011, now says that she will sign Smith’s bill if it reaches her desk. You can prevent that from happening by contacting your House member here and urging them to vote ‘no’ on repeal.
OTHER STATE ACTIVITY
Indiana: On Tuesday, February 22, the Senate voted 28 to 21 in favor of legislation, SB 192, to consider the impact of the state’s marijuana policies, including costs in the state’s criminal justice system and the potential for regulation and taxation options. The bill now goes to the House. You can read NORML’s testimony in support of SB 192 here. You can contact your member of the House in support of SB 192 here. You can track the progress of this effort on Facebook here.
Texas: On Tuesday, March 1, members of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee will hear testimony in favor of HB 548, which seeks to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses in Texas. The hearing is scheduled for 10:30am in room JHR 120 of the state capitol. To date, nearly 1,300 of you have contacted your House members in favor of HB 548 via NORML’s Take Action Center. Now show them that you support this effort by appearing before them in person. Join Texas NORML at next week’s hearing or track the progress of this bill online here.
Maryland: On Tuesday members of the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from NORML representatives and others in favor of House Bill 606. House Bill 606 amends current state law so that the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1000 maximum fine) to a civil offense, punishable by a $100 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. You can follow the progress of HB 606 on Facebook here. You can contact your House Delegate in support of the measure via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here. Separate state legislation regarding the medical use of marijuana will be hard next week in the Maryland House and Senate. You can learn more about these measures here.
Connecticut: Newly elected Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy last week reaffirmed his support for legislation that seeks to reduce minor marijuana possession to a noncriminal offense. Malloy endorsed reducing adult marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to an infraction, punishable by a nominal fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. Gov. Malloy also reaffirmed his support for legalizing the physician-authorized use of medical marijuana. You can contact your state elected officials in favor of both of these proposals here and here. You can also get involved with Connecticut NORML here.
West Virginia: Lawmakers will debate for the first time legislation, HB 3251, to legalize the use of medical marijuana in West Virginia. House Bill 3251, The Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act, amends state law so that physician-supervised patients with an authorized “chronic or debilitating medical condition” can possess six plants and up to an ounce of usable marijuana for medical purposes. The measure also allows for the establishment “compassion centers” to dispense medical cannabis to qualified patients. You can contact your House members in support of this effort here.
To get involved in legislation pending in dozens of other states, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.