Chronicle AM: IL Senate Approves Decrim, MedMJ Extension; Ex-Cincy Police Chief Endorses Pot Init, More (5/22/15)
Midwest marijuana news dominates today, with the Illinois Senate approving decriminalization and medical marijuana extension bills, a prominent Ohio law enforcement figure endorsing a legalization initiative and the state attorney general rejecting another one, and more.
[image:1 align:right]Marijuana Policy
Illinois Senate Passes Decriminalization Bill. The state Senate Thursday approved House Bill 218, which would decriminalize the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana, replacing the possibility of jail time and a criminal record with a maximum $125 fine and no criminal record. The bill has already cleared the House, but will not go to the governor's desk until sponsors get some additional cleanup language approved.
Former Cincinnati Police Chief Endorses Ohio Legalization Initiative. Former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher has come out in favor of the controversial ResponsibleOhio pot legalization initiative. "Our state spends over $120 million per year to enforce marijuana prohibition, even though we all know these laws do not work," Streicher said. "Law enforcement should instead be able to spend their time and their resources cracking down on the real criminals." ResponsibleOhio is the midst of a signature-gathering campaign to qualify for the November 2015 ballot. It needs more than 300,000 approved voter signatures to qualify, but says it has 320,000 raw signatures right now and aims to gather 800,000 by the July deadline.
Ohio Attorney General Rejects Language for Third Legalization Initiative. Attorney General Mike DeWine Thursday rejected the ballot summary language for a third statewide legalization initiative, the Ohio Cannabis Control Amendment from Ohioans to End Prohibition. Two other initiatives, from ResponsibleOhio and Better for Ohio, have already been approved and are in the signature-gathering phase. Now, Ohioans for Prohibition will have to gather another 1,000 signatures and resubmit modified language if it wants to move forward.
Illinois Senate Approves Extension of Medical Marijuana Program. The state Senate voted 33-16 Thursday to approve House Bill 3299, which would extend the program by two more years. The measure has already passed the House and is headed for the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), but it's unclear if he will sign it. He has said he didn't think the program should be extended until it's been fully evaluated -- but it hasn't even really started.
Nebraska Legislature Approves CBD Cannabis Oil Study Bill. The state Senate Thursday gave final approval to Legislative Bill 390, under which the University of Nebraska Medical Center would study the effectiveness of CBD in treating epileptic seizures. Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) now has five days to act on the bill.
Washington Supreme Court Upholds Local Collective Garden Bans. The state Supreme Court ruled 8-1 Thursday that the city of Kent can ban medical marijuana collective gardens. The decision upheld lower court rulings allowing cities to impose bans via zoning regulations. The case was Cannabis Action Council v. City of Kent.
Maine Committee Rejects Governor's Food Stamp Drug Testing Bill. The legislature's Health and Human Services Committee voted 6-5 on party lines to reject LD 1407, Gov. Paul LePage's (R) bid to impose drug testing on food stamp recipients. That doesn't mean the bill is dead, though; it is still likely to be debated in the House, and the question will be whether the Democrats can hold their caucus together in opposition.
North Carolina Jail Becomes First in South to Offer Naloxone to Released Inmates. The Durham County Detention Facility last month began distributing overdose reversal kits to inmates being released in a bid to cut the overdose rate among the newly freed whose tolerance to opiate drugs has been reduced by the jail stays. The formerly incarcerated are more than a hundred times more likely to die of drug overdoses in the first two weeks after their release than the general population.
Iceland Support for Marijuana Legalization Doubles, But Still Low. Nearly one quarter (24.3%) of Icelanders now support marijuana legalization, up from 12.7% in 2011, a new survey finds. Men were more supportive than women (31% v. 16%), and the youth were more supportive than older cohorts, but even among people under 30, support was only at 43%.
The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved an amendment that would allow doctors with Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to veterans suffering from PTSD, serious injuries, and other debilitating conditions. The amendment was approved on a vote of 18-12.
[image:1 align:left]The vote marked the first time any Senate body has approved a marijuana reform measure.
The vote came on an amendment to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment was offered by Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and would undo a 2009 directive barring VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana even in states where it is legal.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking recommendations or opinions regarding participation in a state medical marijuana program. The Daines/Merkley amendment authorizes VA physicians and other health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the use of medical marijuana to veterans who live in medical marijuana states.
The House narrowly defeated a similar amendment to its version of the appropriations bill. Now, the two versions of the bill must be reconciled.
[image:2 align:right]Even if the move is killed in conference committee, a legislative version of the amendment is still alive in Congress. That is the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, sponsored by Sens. Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY).
The vote was lauded by drug reform advocates.
"Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor and use it if it's medically necessary," said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "They have served this country valiantly, so the least we can do is allow them to have full and open discussions with their doctors."
"A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers came together and passed broadly supported marijuana policy reform. This is exactly how most Americans want Congress to handle this issue. Hopefully we are reaching a point at which it is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. The pace at which support appears to be growing in the Senate is particularly encouraging," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.
[image:3 align:left caption:true]"Doctors should never be prohibited from helping their patients obtain the best possible medical treatment. Many veterans are finding that medical marijuana is the most effective treatment for PTSD and other service-related medical conditions. Finally, Congress is working to remove barriers to accessing it rather than building them," Riffle continued.
"While we won five votes in a row on the House floor last year, this is the first time we've ever won a vote on a positive marijuana reform measure in the Senate," said Tom Angell, director of Marijuana Majority. "And with polls showing that a growing majority of voters supports ending prohibition, it's safe to say it won't be the last. Elected officials are finally starting to wake up to the fact that endorsing marijuana reform is good politics instead of the dangerous third-rail they've long viewed it as, and that means a lot more victories are on the way soon," he predicted.
Chronicle AM: Bernie Sanders on Marijuana Policy, LA Reform Bill Advances, New DEA Head Nominated, More (5/21/15)
Marijuana continues to dominate the drug policy news, plus public benefits drug testing bills move in Maine and Wisconsin, the NYPD decides not to bust middle-aged dopers, and more.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Bernie Sanders Mellow on Marijuana. The Vermont senator seeking the Democratic presidential nomination hinted at support for marijuana legalization during a Reddit question and answer session Tuesday, although he did not explicitly call for it. "I can tell you very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana [when I was mayor]," Sanders said. "Our police had more important things to do." He said he supported decriminalization in Vermont and was watching Colorado closely. "Colorado has led the effort toward legalizing marijuana and I'm going to watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses of what they have done,"Sanders said. "I will have more to say about this issue within the coming months."
Louisiana Marijuana Sentencing Reform Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved a bill that would reduce the state's draconian marijuana possession sentencing. The measure is Senate Bill 241.
Maine Legalization Bills Get Hearing. The Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday heard testimony on a pair of marijuana legalization bills. Sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland), LD 1380 and its companion bill in the Senate would craft a regulatory structure for pot commerce and then put it before voters. If the legislature fails to act, the state could see two legalization initiatives next year.
Second Ohio Pot Legalization Initiative Certified for Signature-Gathering. The secretary of state's office has certified a legalization initiative from Better for Ohio, which means the group can now commence trying to gather the 306,000 signatures needed to qualify for this year's November ballot. Another group, ResponsibleOhio, is already in the signature-gathering phase.
No Decriminalization Initiative for Nashville. An effort by TN-NORML to put a marijuana decriminalization on the municipal ballot this year has apparently fallen short. Monday was the deadline day for handing in signatures, and TN-NORML didn't hand any in. Earlier, the group said it had only 4,000 signatures; it needed nearly 7,000 to qualify.
Colorado Governor Signs Bill Limiting Medical Marijuana Growers. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Monday signed into law a bill that will limit medical marijuana caregivers to growing no more than 99 plants. The bill is Senate Bill 15-014. The bill also allows parents to have someone other than themselves grow medical marijuana for child patients and allows school districts to consider allowing medical marijuana use on campus.
Obama Nominates Chuck Rosenberg to Head DEA. FBI senior official and former US Attorney Chuck Rosenberg has been nominated to replace Michelle Leonhart as head of the DEA. For the last 18 months, Rosenberg has served as chief of staff to FBI Director James Comey. He previously served as US Attorney for Southern Texas and US Attorney for Eastern Virginia and has won support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
Wisconsin Public Benefits Drug Testing Bill Advances. A bill that would require applicants for welfare benefits, unemployment benefits, job training programs, and health coverage through the state-sponsored program to be assessed for drug use passed the Senate Budget Committee Wednesday. People whose assessments suggest they may be using drugs would have to take and pass a drug test to win benefits. A provision to include food stamp recipients was stripped out because it would likely be challenged by the federal government. The measure is Assembly Bill 192.
Maine Bill to Drug Test Food Stamp Recipients Gets Hearing. The Health and Human Services Committee heard Monday from the administration of Gov. Paul LePage (R) about its bill that would require people on the food stamp program to take a written screening test to see if they are using drugs. If the assessment suggested they may be using drugs, they would have to submit to a drug test. People who tested positive could keep their benefits as long as they sought and completed drug treatment. The bill would also bar people with drug felonies from getting food stamps.
NYPD To Not Bust Middle-Aged Drug Offenders. The NYPD last week issued a memo instructing its narcs not to bust drug offenders over age 40 and instead concentrate on younger dealers. The department considers younger drug suspects to be more dangerous.
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