July 29, 2014

Florida Rolls Forward for Medical Marijuana

Things continued to move ahead in Tallahassee for the new medical marijuana resolution. Representative Jeff Clemens held a press conference last week and the media coverage began.  Here are some of the mainstream stories: “Rep. Clemens is Fired Up About Medical Marijuana, Wants Floridians to Vote on It ” or “Medical Weed Proposed by Lawmakers .”

Headline writers in news media just can’t resist snarky headlines with new cannabis legislation.

Here at freedomisgreen.com we were part of the breaking coverage, bringing our readers the story of how local Florida NORML Chapters and senior activist Robert Platshorn helped get the resolution introduced.

BREAKING: Florida gets medical marijuana bill

Exclusive interview-Florida: Robert Platshorn moves medical marijuana

 

 


 

New Hampshire: Medical marijuana bill passes key vote

photo by C. David Freitag

Remember that School House Rock segment on how a bill becomes a law? Just put that on repeat. A House committee in New Hampshire approved legislation this week to legalize medical marijuana. This is an important step as bills often need to be heard by several committees before they can pass all-important floor votes.

But New Hampshire had a similar bill run this gauntlet just two years ago. Medical marijuana legislation passed in 2009 only to be vetoed by Governor John Lynch.

The resulting attempt by the General Court to overturn the veto missed by just two votes in the state Senate.

Advocates on the ground were buoyed by the 14-3 vote on the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee who recommended that House Bill 442 be passed on the floor.

Polling shows that public support for medical marijuana in New Hampshire runs above 70%.

New England voters are demonstrating a visible groundswell of support for changing local cannabis laws.  Connecticut: Public backs marijuana reforms

Grassroots information: http://nhcommonsense.org/

 

Connecticut: Public backs marijuana reforms

photo by C. David Freitag

The Drug War Chronicle reported yesterday on some striking new polling in Connecticut. Voters are heavily favoring a variety of marijuana reforms and legislation is currently active,  giving the poll results even more importance.

DRCNet - A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed strong support for medical marijuana and marijuana decriminalization among Connecticut voters. The poll comes at state legislators consider medical marijuana and decriminalization bills.

The plant is getting popular in Connecticut.

Medical marijuana had the support of a whopping 79% of respondents. Support was above 70% in every demographic, with even 72% of Republicans favoring it.

“There is a near consensus on the medical marijuana law with about eight in 10 voters supporting it,” said Quinnipiac poll director Dr. Douglas Schwartz. “It’s rare to see such a level of support for any issue.” Read full

Connecticut residents can use the NORML CAPWIZ tool to contact your legislators: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues


Philadelphia: Marijuana arrests remain high

I am your neighbor and I smoke pot

"I am your neighbor and I smoke pot" sign at PhillyNORML march 2010

Each year PhillyNORML, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, looks at the marijuana arrest data for the city. The information comes directly from the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System.

Here are the numbers for 2009, the most recent data available:

There were 6, 402 marijuana related arrests by Philadelphia City Police in 2009. These were stand-alone violations not in conjunction with other crime.

4, 656 were adults arrested for simple possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana.

Of the adults arrested for simple marijuana possession more than 75% were 18-29 years old (3,129) and 91% were men (4,251).

The trend of white women being the group who have the least amount of annual possession arrests was true again with just 104 all year; less than 10 per month.

[Read more...]

NJ: Controversial doctor registry for marijuana begins

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) launched the physician registry for the Medical Marijuana Program today. No other state has this requirement. The details emerged in draft regulations DHSS released earlier this month that were criticized by potential patients and some local physicians.The state also created a new website for the marijuana program: https://njmmp.nj.gov/njmmp/The registering of doctors and the surrounding requirements are not a part of the medical cannabis law. Instead they are part of an array of new regulatory restrictions being imposed on the most limited marijuana access legislation in the country.

PA: Medical marijuana bill warming up for 2011

A supporter protests for medical marijuana in Philadelphia

Because of the two-year cycle of the Pennsylvania General Assembly the medical marijuana bills are expected to be re-introduced soon. Advocates and legislators are also talking about some interesting changes.PA saw medical marijuana legislation introduced for the first time in 2009 by Rep. Mark B. Cohen of Philadelphia. In 2010 Senator Daylin Leach introduced the concurrent bill in upper chamber.The PA House Health and Human Services Committee held two important public hearings in Harrisburg and in Pittsburgh. Patients, physicians, advocates, religious leaders and even former law enforcement officers testified in favor of medical marijuana.This week the Board of Directors at the non-profit advocacy group Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana (PA4MMJ) held a conference call with Rep. Cohen to look at the effort for 2011.During the call Rep. Cohen emphasized his commitment to re-introducing the bill this year and the group also discussed some alterations to the language.Cohen continues to be a strong champion for the issue in PA, commenting on his Facebook page today:
“Changes in the bill will include naming the act after former Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer, a leading critic of federal drug policies…”

Shafer, a Republican, was appointed by President Nixon to oversee a blue-ribbon commission to study marijuana. In 1972 the panel of experts concluded that personal marijuana use and possession should not be criminal. They also found that marijuana did not belong in Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act. *President Nixon ignored his own commission’s recommendation. Marijuana has remained in Schedule I since 1970. Each state has a drug scheduling system to match the federal code. Two states, Iowa and Oregon, have moved marijuana to Schedule II.There are also suggestions that provisions to re-schedule marijuana, at the state level, be included into the Pennsylvania medical cannabis legislation.A major shift for the issue in PA is the change in Governor. Ed Rendell would have likely signed a medical marijuana bill if it passed. But the newly elected Tom Corbett (the former state Attorney General) has voiced opposition to the issue.When Frankin&Marshall University conducted the most recent polling on the topic last year that showed a whopping 80% of state residents support the medical marijuana bill.It took over five years to pass legislation in New Jersey. Patients and advocates are striving for a less protracted fight in the Keystone State.Further updates on the status of medical marijuana in PA are expected soon – more info at www.pa4mmj.orgRep. Cohen’s medical marijuana page – http://www.pahouse.com/Cohen/med_marijuana_info.asp*Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act for the United States. Required findings for drugs to be placed in this schedule:- The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.- The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.- There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

Medical marijuana bills in DE, MD follow strict New Jersey law

CMMNJ signs

Medical marijuana press conference in Trenton

Delaware and Maryland recently introduced medical cannabis bills that follow some of limitations in New Jersey’s compassionate use law. The DE/MD bills offer potential medical marijuana patients low amounts of cannabis per month, restricted strains and no provisions for home cultivation. Still, in a refreshing move, the DE bill outlines some of it’s own shortcomings right in the synopsis:
Patients would be allowed to possess up to 6 ounces for their medical use. Six ounces is less than the federal government has determined is a one-month supply for patients in the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program. READ FULL

New Jersey’s law offers minimal access to cannabis. A short list of very serious medical conditions qualifies like MS, AIDS and Crohn’s Disease. NJ Patients are allowed just two (2) ounces of marijuana each month.Governor Chris Christie has delayed the implementation of the law several times. Christie’s administration has offered regulations that would limit cultivation to three strains of marijuana all less than 10% THC.This has caused a fight with the NJ Legislature who passed resolutions last month to invalidate the proposed regulations. So far no medical marijuana has been grown (legally) for any New Jersey residents.The efforts in Delaware and Maryland recently got a big boost with the support of the Marijuana Policy Project and celebrity Montel Williams. A multiple sclerosis patient, Montel traveled to both states to share his personal story of using therapeutic marijuana at the bill’s introductions.

One year year ago today: ‘New Jersey passes medical marijuana law’

On January 11, 2010 the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was passed by the Legislature and later signed by then-governor Jon Corzine. It marked the 14th US state to create legal access to cannabis for seriously ill residents.Lawmakers and advocates expected the program to be running by the fall of 2010 but the new governor, Chris Christie, has put up significant hurdles in the regulatory process.Currently there is no medical marijuana program running in the Garden State. The NJ Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) launched a controversial physician registry for doctors to begin recommending cannabis to their patents.DHSS representatives said in a phone call today that 69 doctors in 18 counties had registered so far, but the system to allow the registry of patients has not been brought online.

Marijuana laws in Pennsylvania should be eased, former public defender says

Joe is a 20-year-old straight-A college student from Lebanon County who was never in trouble with the law until October.Now he worries about a prospective employer going online and finding that Joe pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a charge that makes it sound like he is prone to fighting.

Photo: The Associated Press

Joe wasn’t busted for fighting. He was arrested for being in the same car as someone who police caught with a small amount of marijuana.Officials in Lackawanna County, where Joe was arrested, said he could avoid a license suspension and drug conviction by pleading guilty to disorderly conduct. They also said Joe could keep his record clean by completing substance abuse classes and counseling, a process known as Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition or ARD.Joe said he didn’t have $1,500 the courts wanted for ARD, so he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.“What they didn’t tell me and what I didn’t learn is that engaging in fighting is the tag that goes with every disorderly conduct charge. That’s the opposite of me. I’ve never fought. It is just an incredibly inaccurate depiction of who I am,” Joe said.Joe asked that his real name not be used. He worries knowledge of his pot bust could hurt his chances to get a job.People shouldn’t have to choose between the lesser of two evils for getting arrested for a small amount of marijuana, said Cumberland County Public Defender Taylor Andrews, who retired recently after 34 years.Andrews said Pennsylvania should follow states like California, Massachusetts and New York that have decriminalized possession of a small amount of pot — about an ounce or less — to the equivalent of a traffic ticket.“That strikes me as a sane response,” said Andrews. “There are people who have used marijuana and it has not affected their careers and their lives. It becomes almost a random thing, if they are caught and prosecuted, then their lives are significantly affected, where the prosecution has a greater affect than the actual drug.”But don’t look for any easing of Pennsylvania’s pot laws, despite others states’ steps toward making it legal to smoke and grow marijuana.Andrews emphasized he favors relaxing the law only for adults.In November, California voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have allowed people over 21 to grow and possess marijuana and for municipalities to collect taxes on retail sales of pot. Proposition 19 lost by only 53 percent to 46 percent and supporters vow to try again.That Proposition 19 got as far as it did is a game-changer, said Harry Levine, who has studied marijuana arrests as a sociology professor at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.“California is the largest state in the U.S., with 40 million people and the eighth largest economy in the world. By itself that had an enormous effect on the national conversation. It allowed for a more elevated conversation” in the country about decriminalizing marijuana, Levine said.State and local government budget woes could favor relaxing pot laws. Former-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t support Proposition 19, but signed legislation to decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana because he agreed with those who said California couldn’t afford devoting court resources to such cases.Andrews said, “It’s a misuse of police time and resources to be focusing a lot on just marijuana possession” when alcohol abuse is the far greater evil.“The biggest slice of the (court) docket are DUI (driving under the influence) cases and most DUI cases are alcohol,” Andrews said. “If you look at your domestic violence cases in virtually 80 percent of them somebody is liquored up. You look in your bad checks, forgery, embezzlement cases, invariably somebody’s life is out of control and often that is correlated with alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse is the biggest common denominator. It was when I started in the 1970s and it still is.”Public supportPublic support for legalizing pot in Pennsylvania is only 33 percent, but that’s up from 22 percent two years ago, according to a 2010 survey by Franklin & Marshall College.G. Terry Madonna, a political analyst at Franklin & Marshall who co-authored the survey, said he thinks public support would be even higher for reducing the penalty for possession of a small amount of pot, perhaps even to a traffic ticket as in the other states. He said that’s a question the survey hasn’t asked yet but might in light of California’s decision.Madonna said public support was highest — 80 percent — for legislation that would allow marijuana for medicinal use. State lawmakers considered such legislation during the 2009-10 session and Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, plans to re-introduce a medical marijuana bill this year.But medical marijuana and even decriminalizing is a far cry from outright legalization.“We are in a very conservative state culturally,” Madonna said. “We do have a gaming culture. We are far more accepting of the lottery, horse racing and casinos. But we don’t have a drug culture. You are always going to find a segment of the population that will have moral objections” to relaxing pot laws, regardless of any perceived monetary benefit.He said the state budget crunch is forcing the re-evaluation of the cost benefit of strong-on-crime policies popular in the 1990s, such as sentencing guidelines that can lead to prison for people arrested multiple times for having a little pot.But Madonna sees as slim prospects for relaxing pot laws in this state soon, especially since voters just elected a more conservative legislature and governor.Jack Carroll, executive director of Cumberland County Drug and Alcohol Commission, sees no sentiment for legalized marijuana in Pennsylvania, given the state House 198-1 vote this year to ban synthetic marijuana. The ban awaited Senate action.Pot casesMidstate district attorneys don’t see pot cases as an undue burden on courts. They say a first-time offender busted for a small amount of pot usually gets ARD.“We’ve made it as non-criminal as you can possibly make it,” said Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed.The district attorneys don’t support decriminalizing pot. They see marijuana as leading to abuse of more serious drugs like heroin and cocaine. The prosecutors also worry relaxing pot laws will cause more people to use it.Perry County District Attorney Charles Chenot said “I’ve seen what smoking pot can do to a person. It really truly is a mind-altering substance. It influences your ability to drive, walk and reason. It is a substance that leads to other drugs. By decriminalizing we are kind of giving up on our war on drugs.”PossessionDauphin is the only midstate county where the number of cases filed in court for people arrested for having a small amount of marijuana exceedsed the number of DUI cases from 2005 to 2009, according to data provided by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. Dauphin’s pot cases in recent years even exceed those of York County, which has larger population than Dauphin.Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. said a lot of the small pot possession cases come from people who are arrested at concerts in Hersheypark.Otherwise, Marsico said many of the small pot arrests are accompanied by other charges. Often, people who are already on supervised probation for other offenses get caught with marijuana, as do individuals police stop on the street for suspicious behavior, Marsico said.In June, Philadelphia created a diversion court where anyone arrested with up to 30 grams of pot would pay a fine. The city said the program would divert more than 4,700 possession cases from its criminal courts.Marsico said he is watching Philadelphia to see how its diversion court goes. “The small amount of marijuana alone is not bogging down our court system but it is certainly something we should take a look at going further.”Gov. Tom Corbett while running for governor said he opposed expanding Philadelphia’s pot decriminalization court outside the city. Marsico said he does not believe Dauphin would need state approval to set up a pot diversion court similar to Philadelphia’s.Joe still smokes pot about four times a year.“I do more harm to myself eating bowls of ice cream,” he said. “We all know marijuana is not a healthy thing to do, the same as with cigarettes, fatty foods and alcohol.“In excess all these things are bad for you. But what it comes down to is these are decisions of individuals. As Americans we are allowed to do unhealthy things,” he said.

Poll Shows NJ Voters Continue Strong Medical Marijuana Support

Photo: Chris Goldstein

New Jersey residents continued to resoundingly support legal access to medical marijuana according to data released by The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute yesterday. The extensive poll largely concerned opinions held about Governor Chris Christie, the Legislature and other politicians. But some issues were also put to 1, 276 registered NJ voters, including medical marijuana.Regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or political affiliation the people of New Jersey support the rights of seriously ill individuals having legal access to cannabis. However, the poll did not ask about the current debate over the regulations for the medical marijuana program.Here’s the full data on the question:
From Quinnipiac University Polling Institute 12/21/2010 release LINK31. Do you support or oppose allowing adults in New Jersey to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it?——- Tot Rep Dem Ind Men Wom Wht BlkSupport 76% 66% 82% 77% 77% 75% 77% 78%Oppose 21 32 16 20 20 22 20 20DK/NA 2 2 2 3 2 3 2 2—– AGE IN YRS……. POL PHIL………——- 18-34 35-54 55+ Lib Mod ConSupport 87% 78% 72% 88% 81% 60%Oppose 12 19 26 10 17 37DK/NA 1 3 3 2 2 2FULL Quinnipiac POLL DATA

Of note: The same poll found that the issue of legal medical cannabis is more strongly supported by voters than any New Jersey politician or governing body. For example: Governor Christie found overall support among 48% of voters polled.Among his base of Republican voters medical marijuana is just about as popular as Mr. Christie himself: 74% approve of the governor’s job so far and 66% support medical cannabis.Overall, medical marijuana remains one of the most widely supported public policy issues in the Garden State.