Cannabis law reform has gained a tremendous amount of momentum in the past several years, specifically in 2012, when historical statement votes were made in both Colorado and Washington. The political atmosphere has shifted in drastic fashion, and we’re winning.
As the battle wages on, here’s a state-by-state look at efforts across the country to fight against this failed prohibition.
In Alabama, the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition has been running televised ads in favor of HB – 2, the Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients’ Rights Act.
Among adding protection to patients who consume, the bill would allow patients to grow small amounts of their own cannabis, and allows for a system of non-for-profit dispensaries.
In Arizona, the fight wages on from both sides.
On one end, Republican representatives are attempting to repeal the state’s medical cannabis laws.
On the positive side of things, efforts are being made to significantly expand the amount of qualifying conditions.
In a relatively narrow defeat, in a state where many wouldn’t have expected a change for years, Issue 5 – which would have legalized medical cannabis in the state – lost 48% to 52% in last November’s election.
Despite the defeat, the results were promising for future efforts.
In California, many patients and activists are working towards the Regulation of Medical Cannabis Act, an act that would expand upon California’s current medical cannabis law and is being worked on for the 2014 election.
In the realm of full recreational legalization, activists are shooting for the same 2014 ballot (though recent reports show that 2016 may be more likely). Improving their chances of success if the unity stays true, the three main initiative campaigns which vied for the 2012 ballot signed a “Statement of Unity” early last year.
Regulations are currently being established for legal cannabis retail outlets after the passage of Amendment 64 in November. If the federal government minds their own business, and all goes as planned, cannabis stores will be opening in the state soon, and cannabis clubs have already began to spring up, with more in the works.
If you’re 21 or older in the state and you possess an ounce or less and are growing 6 or fewer plants, you’re not breaking state law.
As eluded to by the Sunshine State News in a November article, the conversation is changing in Florida, and support for reform is ever-growing (unlike Sunshine we think the conversation is heating up, not just beginning). If you live in the state and support cannabis law reform, now is the time to get involved, contact your legislators, and join your state chapters of organizations like MPP and NORML.
Although when it comes to Georgia there isn’t much in the way of particular cannabis reform legislation, a new group – called the The Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform and Education (Georgia C.A.R.E. Project) – has set out to change that.
In Hawaii, where reform chatter has been picking up in recent years, there’s no better time to make your voice heard if you support reform. New polling from earlier this month shows that over 80% in Hawaii support medical marijuana use, 78% support a dispensary in the state, and an impressive 57% support legalization, taxation and regulation.
An update from Neal Smith, the Chairman of Indiana NORML:
I would like to update you on what’s going on with reform in Indiana. State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) has introduced S.B. 0580. This bill would decriminalize two ounces to a $500 fine. The bill would also relegalize industrial Hemp. It has been sent to the Corrections and Criminal Law committee. Chairman Michael Young has not set the bill for a committee hearing, saying he is still “Evaluating” it. We have information about contacting Senator Young at http://www.inorml.com. You can read the bill at http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2013/IN/IN0580.1.html There is also S.B. 196 that would reduce the Habitual Offender status in Marijuana cases. You can read that bill here: http://www.in.gov/apps/lsa/session/billwatch/billinfo?year=2013&session=1&request=getBill&doctype=SB&docno=0196
In Iowa, medical cannabis is a real potential, real soon. Support has increased in the public and legislature, and State Rep. Bruce Hunter has filed a bill, HF 22, which would allow for the medical use of cannabis (including home-growing and not-for-profit dispensaries).
It won’t get a hearing during this legislative session according to the chair of the committee it would be seen in, but a State Senator has recently filed a bill that would allow qualifying patients to possess up to 6 ounces of cannabis, and to grow up to a dozen plants.
Maine is ripe for reform, with a strongly supportive public. Legalization is continuing to be discussed within the state’s legislature, and it’s grown increasingly vital for constituents to contact their elected officials, urging them to support legalization.
The activists behind the local victories in Michigan this past year have vowed to attack more cities going forward. They also predict a victory for legalization in the state in 2016, which is undeniably possible with the movement’s increasing momentum.
The organization Show-Me Cannabis, which sponsored a legalization initiative this past year, has announced that they will be running another statewide initiative, and are trying to decide whether to run in 2014, or 2016.
In the meantime, they’re supporting local efforts at reform such as in St. Louis.
A group of bipartisan lawmakers have introduced a bill to legalize cannabis for those 21 and older. In a state with support for legalization above 50%, this is promising news.
In New Jersey the legislation A1465 is currently pending, and is before the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill would reduce the penalties for possession of 15 grams or less to a simple ticket, similar to what California has done with 28 grams.
A senator in the state is currently working on a resolution to legalize cannabis, that would be put to the 2014 ballot if voted through the house and senate.
Medical cannabis in New York continues to be a close, but oh so distant reality. The votes are clearly there to pass the Assembly, but a senate that’s been controlled by Republicans has failed to even put it to a vote. This past election has led to the Republicans needing to share control of the senate going forward, meaning that it’s possible we could see a change. A huge call from their constituents could also help sway the decision (you can find you legislators here).
In a state where you can be legally sentenced to life in prison for hash, there are still some clear common-sense crusaders. A state senator has introduced two cannabis related bills, one to allow individuals to use cannabis for medical purposes, and another to reduce penalties for possession of a small amount of cannabis.
The Cannabis Tax Act surpassed expectation and polling when it finished with 48% of the vote this past November. Efforts are in the works for a potential 2014 or 2016 run, either of which is likely to lead to legal cannabis in Oregon.
A legalization bill has recently been introduced in the state. However, the state’s Governor, Tom Corbett, has stated in the past that he would veto any legalization legislation whether for recreational or medicinal purposes – please make sure to let him know how you feel about that ridiculous overplay of power (his number: 717-787-2500, his Facebook page).
Proponents are once again fighting for medical cannabis during this year’s legislative session. In addition, a bill has been filed to lower the penalties for possession of an ounce or less (though it would still remain a Class C misdemeanor, down from a Class B).
Vermont is right on track to be the next state in our country to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis. A bill has been introduced, sponsored by 9 senators, that would bring the possession of an ounce or less down to a simple civil infraction, similar to California.
The good political news is that the governor specifically wants it to happen, and the state’s Speaker of the House has stated publicly that he won’t stand in the way.
In Washington, the Liquor Control Board is continuing with its formation of regulations in the plans of licensing individuals for cannabis production and sales by year’s end. In the meantime, possession of an ounce of cannabis is no longer a crime under state law.
In the legislature, multiple bills are being considered. House Bill 1084 would add arrest protection for patients, among other improvements (currently it’s only an affirmative defense for anything above an ounce – the limit’s 16 ounces – or anyone growing a single plant – the limit’s 15 plants). SJM 8000 would reschedule cannabis in the state from schedule 1, to schedule 2 (a pointless change)
In addition, SB 5222 would direct the University of Washington to run a viability study for industrial hemp, and to report back to the legislature by January 14th, 2014.
Regardless of what state you’re in, the reality of cannabis law reform is being felt by the people around you. It’s up to us to make sure we stay involved, stay educated, and stay angry at this absurd prohibition.
[Ed. Note: If your state isn’t on the list it’s simply because we had nothing new, or solid to report on. However, keep checking back as we will be updating this post as we get more information.]