a proposed bill circulating in the Legislature, marijuana would no longer be a controlled substance in Alaska, while new misdemeanors and fines would be created for some marijuana misconduct.
An updated draft of Senate Bill
30 was reviewed Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Its counterpart, the identical House Bill 79, was heard simultaneously in the House Judiciary Committee.
“Marijuana will be treated as a regulated substance under Alaska law” and would no longer be a controlled substance in Alaska, Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, said of the bill revisions.
When introduced in late January, the first draft of the bill meant to clarify Alaska’s criminal marijuana statutes added confusion to already convoluted marijuana laws. Marijuana remained a controlled substance under the first draft, to the concern of legislators and supporters of the ballot initiative.
A few days later, meetings on the bill were postponed until drafters completed a version that better reflects “the will of the people,” Anchorage Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux told Alaska Dispatch News.
Originally introduced as a nine-page bill, the version discussed Wednesday had ballooned to 88 pages.
Much of the bill amends statutes in order to separate marijuana from controlled substances – for instance, one amendment states employers may test for alcohol impairment, drugs or marijuana impairment.
The bill would also create new crimes for misconduct involving marijuana.
Misdemeanor offenses could be issued for:
Selling any amount of marijuana without a license;
Possessing more than six plants (more than 25 plants would be a class A misdemeanor);
Transporting more than 1 ounce of usable marijuana;
Giving marijuana to someone under 21;
Manufacturing marijuana concentrates or extract using a volatile or explosive gas.
The bill also outlines violations punishable with up to a $300 fine if marijuana is grown in public view, if a minor under 18 possesses marijuana, or if someone under 21 enters a marijuana business.
A violation punishable by a $100 fine would be for a person 21 years or older who consumes marijuana in public, or someone between 18 and 20 who possesses, uses or displays marijuana.
Overall, the bill was met with support from both the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska and industry group the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation.
“As a whole, the latest draft is a bill that we can support,” wrote Timothy Hinterberger, chair of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska.
A major sticking point, however, was the term “not withstanding any other provision of law,” which was not included in the revised bill.
SOURCE: NEWSMINER .COM
By Matt Buxton
JUNEAU — With legalized marijuana a month away, lawmakers are hoping to fast track legislation they hope will clear up legal gray areas.
On Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced Senate Bill 30 to address underage consumption, what constitutes a public place (because public consumption of marijuana will still be illegal) and addresses driving with marijuana.
Ballot Measure 2, which passed by wide margins in the Fairbanks and Juneau areas, makes marijuana possession, use and growing legal when the law officially goes into effect on Feb. 24, 2015. Commercial production and sales will follow next year.
North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill, the vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the bill is intended to give law enforcement clarity with how to enforce the changes. He said the goal is to get the bill passed before Feb. 24.
“This (bill) deals with what we are immediately implementing,” he said. “We have to at least give clarity to the people who will hold people accountable. We would like to get this to the governor as soon as possible.”
The bill creates laws against a person younger than 21 consuming or possessing marijuana, makes it a crime to give marijuana to a minor, and adds marijuana to the open container laws that already apply for transporting alcohol in a motor vehicle.
It also ties the laws against public consumption of marijuana to existing definition of a public place, which covers anywhere the general public has access. That definition would include a private business open to the public, like a bar.
But there are also a number of points — both big and small — supporters of legalized marijuana see with the bill.
“We’ve got a shopping list of concerns with that bill,” said Bruce Schulte, the spokesman of the Alaska-based Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation. “I understand that they’re on a tremendous time crunch and I think (Judiciary Committee Chair) Sen. Lesil McGuire’s office has the right idea in mind. They want to get it into the queue to get things in place and that’s what’s driving this.”
His biggest complaint is instead of repealing existing laws against marijuana, the bill creates a number of criteria that would serve as a defense to those existing crimes. It would mean people could potentially be arrested and charged for possessing or using marijuana in situations Ballot Measure 2 makes legal, Schulte said.
“It’s guilty until proven innocent instead of innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “If Senate Bill 30 were to play out and go through exactly as written, then law enforcement could go to any marijuana business and arrest them on the spot and let it play out in court. That’s the antithesis of it of what Ballot Measure 2 was.”
But both Schulte and Coghill acknowledge the bill introduced on Friday is a starting point for the legislation, and it could change dramatically by the time it reaches the governor’s desk.
Coghill, along with many members of the Legislature, was an outspoken opponents of legalizing marijuana, but said he putting effort into the bill and hopes to get it right with voters.
“Why are we trying to work with this? Because we have a huge respect for the voters of Alaska,” he said. “We have voted it in and we’re addressing public safety.”
The bill is one of many introduced relating to marijuana this session.
A bill by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, would delay regulations for marijuana concentrates for one year. Another bill by the House Community and Regional Affairs committee would clean up language dealing with local control and regulation of marijuana.
The bill dealing with regulatory work for commercial marijuana growing and sales, including likely the formation of the Marijuana Control Board, will be introduced later this session, Coghill said.
The Judiciary Committee has scheduled meetings on Senate Bill 30 during each of its meetings next week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Public testimony on the bill is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 30. People can testify by attending a local Legislative Information Office.
Today, officials for the City of Santa Ana began accepting applications from people interested in opening up medical marijuana shops.
Santa Ana was the first city to accept these applications in Orange County and they will be available for the next 30 days.
The applications will be screened for a period of time, before about 12 or so will be selected to open for business. It has been reported that more than 75 people lined up at City Hall to apply for licenses today, and in the coming days dozens more are expected.
“The voters passed this overwhelmingly with 75 percent approval,” said Vincent Sarmiento, Santa Ana Mayor pro tem. “Many of those voters have family members, or themselves, who are suffering with illnesses and hope that medicinal marijuana will be able to give some relief to them.”
The rules about where the collectives can operate are strict.
They will be zoned and regulated to operate in the southern and eastern parts of the city. The collectives must also be at least 1,000 feet from parks, schools and residential areas, similar to rules in Riverside County.
FOR MEASURE BB TEXT CLICK HERE
The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana movement, plus a painful setback
For the marijuana legalization movement, 2014 ends the way it began: with legal changes that showcase the movement’s momentum alongside its problems.
Tucked into the 1,603-page year-end spending bill Congress released Tuesday night were a pair of provisions that affect proponents of cannabis reform. Together they form a metaphor for the politics of legal cannabis—an issue that made major bipartisan strides this year, but whose progress is hampered by a tangle of local, state and federal statutes that have sown confusion and produced contradictory justice.
First the good news for reformers: the proposed budget would prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funds to prosecute patients or legal dispensaries in the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that passed some form of medical-marijuana legalization. The provision was crafted by a bipartisan group of representatives and passed the Republican-controlled House in May for the first time in seven tries. If passed into law, it would mark a milestone for the movement, restricting raids against dispensaries and inoculating patients from being punished for an activity that is legal where they live but in violation of federal law.
“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana, and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement to TIME. The California Republican’s work on the issue reflects the strange coalition that has sprung up to support cannabis reform as the GOP’s libertarian wing gains steam and voters’ views evolve.
At the same time, the House chose to overrule Washington, D.C., on the issue. Last month voters in the District chose to liberalize its marijuana laws, passing an initiative that legalized the possession, consumption and cultivation of recreational marijuana. The move, which was supported by about 70% of the capital’s voters, paved the way for D.C. to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State by establishing a tax-and-regulatory structure for cannabis sales in 2015.
After years of debate — and decades of semi-legal status — Alaskans will finally be able to light up legally. On Tuesday, voters approved Ballot Measure 2, an initiative legalizing recreational marijuana in Alaska, by about 52 percent in favor to 48 percent opposed, with 100 percent of the state’s precincts reporting.
With the vote, Alaska joins Washington, Colorado and Oregon — the latter of which also approved a similar initiative Tuesday — as the first states in the country to legalize pot. Washington and Colorado approved their own initiatives in 2012.
The initiative will not become law until 90 days after the election is certified, which is expected to be in late November. Per the law, the state can then create a marijuana control board — expected to be housed under the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. That group will then have nine months to craft regulations dealing with how marijuana businesses will operate.
The initiative was years in the making. Alaska voters considered similar measures in 2000 and 2004. Both failed, though each indicated a measure of support for legalization. Measure 5 in 2000 took 40.9 percent of the vote; Ballot Measure 2 in 2004 gained a few more points, with 44 percent of the electorate voting in favor of it.
Supporters expressed relief Tuesday as results streamed in.
“It looks good for us, but there are still a lot of votes to be counted” said Taylor Bickford, spokesman for the pro-legalization Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, as the results ticked up to 44 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday evening.
But by 2 a.m. Wednesday, with all precincts reporting, the pro-legalization crowd was declaring victory.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration would be willing to work with Congress if lawmakers want to take marijuana off the list of what the federal government considers the most dangerous drugs, Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday.
“We’d be more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled, as I said there is a great degree of expertise that exists in Congress,” Holder said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. “It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made.”
Several members of Congress have called on the administration to downgrade cannabis on its own without waiting for congressional action. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the attorney general has the authority to “remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule.” Holder didn’t indicate Friday that he would be willing to do that unilaterally.
Although there haven’t been any documented cases of deaths from overdosing on marijuana, the federal government treats it as a Schedule I drug with a “high potential for abuse,” along with heroin, LSD and Ecstasy.
Re-categorizing marijuana would not legalize the drug under federal law, but it could make research into marijuana’s medical benefits much easier and allow marijuana businesses to take tax deductions.
Several Republican lawmakers at the hearing questioned Holder’s decision to allow Colorado and Washington to legalize and regulate marijuana and to take the states’ actions into consideration when prioritizing federal marijuana prosecutions. But Holder said that he was “not sure that you’re going to see a huge difference” between the cases the Justice Department was bringing before and after guidance went out to U.S. attorneys on which cases to prioritize.
“We’re not blazing a new trail,” Holder said of the decision to prosecute only certain cases based on the department’s limited resources, noting that much of marijuana law enforcement happens on the state and local levels.
Any move to reschedule marijuana would probably face resistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which Holder oversees. DEA chief Michele Leonhart said this week that the growing acceptance of marijuana only makes her agents “fight harder.”
The Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana turned over 46,000 signatures on Wednesday–about 50 percent more than the roughly 30,000 needed. If the state Division of Elections reviews and approves the signatures ballot language will be prepared, according to a state description of the process. The sponsors of the initiative say the next step for them will be to spread the word and garner support.
“We’ll be taking our message to the voters in lots of different ways,” says Tim Hinterberger, one of the three sponsors and a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s School of Medical Education. “It’s clear to everyone that prohibition is a failed policy.”
If voters approve the measure, Alaska would become the third state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, joining Colorado and Washington where voters approved similar measures in 2012.
The initiative would offer lawmakers guidelines on how to set up the regulations governing the production and sale of marijuana, including a $50 per ounce tax. But legislators will be able to regulate however they please, Hinterberger said.
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