Delaware House panel approves marijuana legalization bill

DOVER, Del. – (AP) – A bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Delaware has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The legislation, which was released Wednesday by a House committee and now goes to the full House for a vote, regulates and taxes marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.

The bill doesn’t allow people to grow their own marijuana but allows adults over age 21 to legally possess less than an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

The legislation would create a commission to regulate, license and tax the marijuana industry, allowing licenses for up to 40 retail stores.

Consumers would pay an excise tax of $50 an ounce, while businesses would pay an application fee of $5,000 and a $10,000 licensing fee every two years.

Congress Hands A Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

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.


NYPD Plans to Stop Arresting Cannabis Consumers

The New York Times reports that the NYPD plans to stop arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana “in public view.” Cops will instead issue summonses requiring pot possessors to appear in court on the misdemeanor charge. That means cannabis consumers, provided they have ID, will no longer be handcuffed and taken to a police station for processing.

In 2012, the Times notes, “more than half of those arrested for marijuana were released a couple of hours after being brought to a station house,” where they were “fingerprinted, checked for warrants and issued a ticket demanding their appearance in court six to eight weeks later.” The rest “were ‘put through the system,’ meaning they were held for up to 24 hours before being arraigned.”

Eliminating arrests for this petty offense would be a big improvement, since cannabis consumers in New York City would no longer have to endure the humiliation, inconvenience, and deprivation of liberty that has been routinely inflicted on them until now. But they would still be charged with a misdemeanor, even though merely possessing up to 25 grams of marijuana (about nine-tenths of an ounce) has not been a crime in New York state since 1977, and they would still be subject to arrest if they did not have ID or failed to appear in court. It does not sound like the NYPD plans to change its practice of transforming a violation into a misdemeanor by claiming that marijuana was possessed in public view (often as a result of police instructions or pat-downs).

Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned such arrests during his campaign last year, calling them “unjust and wrong.” He noted that pot busts disproportionately affect minorities and can have “disastrous consequences for individuals and their families,” since they “limit one’s ability to qualify for student financial aid and undermine one’s ability to find stable housing and good jobs.” But so far petty marijuana arrests have been just as frequent under De Blasio as they were in 2013. Now he apparently has decided that the arrests should be replaced by misdemeanor summonses, which are not as bad but can have the same “disastrous consequences” that he decried last year.

This latest shift in policy is reminiscent of a change announced by De Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, in February 2013:

Right now, those arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana are often held in custody overnight. We’re changing that. Effective next month, anyone presenting an ID and clearing a warrant check will be released directly from the precinct with a desk appearance ticket to return to court. It’s consistent with the law, it’s the right thing to do, and it will allow us to target police resources where they’re needed most.

That change was welcome, but it raised the question of why cops were bothering to arrest people for this trivial offense at all, especially since Bloomberg said “Commissioner [Ray] Kelly and I support Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation, rather than a misdemeanor, and we’ll work to help him pass it this year.” Like De Blasio, Cuomo highlighted “gaping racial disparities” in marijuana arrests, saying he wanted to “save thousands of New Yorkers, particularly minority youth, from the unnecessary and life-altering trauma of a criminal arrest.” He regretted the “countless man-hours wasted” on “what is clearly only a minor offense.” But after De Blasio, a fellow Democrat, was elected, Cuomo dropped the proposed legislative fix, saying “it’s not timely in the way it was last year.”

Either possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use should be a crime, or it shouldn’t. If it shouldn’t, the legislature should eliminate the “public display” loophole. But even if it doesn’t, De Blasio, like Bloomberg before him, has the discretion to stop charging cannabis consumers with a crime that is not supposed to exist anymore.

New York – MMJNEWS update

N.Y. lawmakers want faster medical-marijuana process

ALBANY Members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration met this week with about a dozen advocates for medical marijuana as some lawmakers call on him to speed up the state’s issuance of the plant*.

Deputy Secretary for Health Courtney Burke and Howard Zucker, acting commission of the state Department of Health, were among those who met Monday with the advocates, all of whom were active in convincing Cuomo and lawmakers to approve the state’s new medical-marijuana law in June.

Late last week, the sponsors of the bill wrote to Cuomo, urging him to consider different ways to get the drug to terminally ill patients more quickly. Under the new law, the Department of Health has 18 months to get the state’s medical-marijuana system up and running.

Kate Hintz, a resident of North Salem, Westchester County, said the purpose of the meeting was to keep lines of communication open with advocates as the state begins to implement its program.

“I’m pleased that they have opened a dialogue with advocates and parents, such as myself,” said Hintz, who was part of the meeting Monday. “I think that there are ways that we can safely and efficaciously provide medicine sooner than an 18 month time period.”

Hintz’ daughter Morgan, 3, suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. She suffers from multiple seizures a day while adhering to a strict diet, and her mother is hopeful an oil-based marijuana derivative could help calm the condition.

State lawmakers passed the medical-marijuana bill in June, and Cuomo signed it into law soon after. It allows the drug in non-smokeable form for patients who suffer from serious diseases or conditions — including HIV and epilepsy — and gives broad authority to the Department of Health to regulate it.

Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan—who were the prime sponsors of the medical-marijuana bill—sent a letter Saturday to Cuomo, pressuring him to take action to get the drug to epileptic children and the terminally ill sooner.

The letter was also signed by Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo. It came in response to the death earlier this month of Anna Conte, a 9-year-old girl from the Buffalo area who suffered from Dravet Syndrome and whose parents lobbied lawmakers to pass the law.

“We saw that during that time, some number of Dravet Syndrome babies will die,” the lawmakers wrote. “Other patients’ conditions will worsen and some will die. We must get relief to these children sooner than that. This is a public health emergency.”
The lawmakers urged Cuomo to push to allow the state to obtain marijuana from other states in order to get it to patients in dire need.

But, they acknowledge, there’s a potential problem: The federal government doesn’t allow the drug to be transported across state lines.
In Buffalo on Monday, Cuomo said his office is “looking at” the issue.
“We want to do it as quickly as possible, but we need to do it right,” Cuomo said. “We have an 18-month timeframe in the legislation that was passed. If it can be accelerated safely, then we will do that.”

*I changed word ‘drug’ to ‘plant’. RESPECT!

Gov. Cuomo Rejects Revamped Medical Marijuana Bill

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo has rejected a medical marijuana bill newly amended by lawmakers to address some concerns he has raised in negotiations, which continued Tuesday.

Cuomo said the changes to the so-called Compassionate Care Act don’t include a ban on smoking the drug and requiring the program to be evaluated in five years.

Lawmakers revised the measure late Monday, just beating a deadline and setting up a possible vote by the end of the week. The regular session is scheduled to end Thursday.

“We’ve made progress in the discussion, but we’re not there yet,” the Democrat told public radio’s “Capitol Pressroom” on Tuesday.

The bill would legalize medical marijuana for severely ill patients. Among the changes made Monday were allowing only doctors to prescribe the drug, dropping three conditions for which marijuana could be prescribed – diabetes, lupus and post-concussion syndrome – and doing away with an advisory panel that would oversee the program.

The amended bill, introduced shortly before midnight Monday, needs to be on lawmakers’ desks for three days before it can be voted on, though Cuomo could waive the aging period.

Advocates are pressing Cuomo to allow the drug to be smoked, saying that is the fastest way of ingesting the drug, which helps with nausea associated with chemotherapy treatment.

A spokesman for bill co-sponsor Sen. Diane Savino said negotiations with Cuomo’s office are continuing and that amending the bill didn’t signify that a final deal had been reached. He said negotiators are still waiting for bill language from Cuomo.

When pressed on why his office hasn’t provided language for the medical marijuana bill, Cuomo said, “I don’t want to get into the negotiations with the Senate leadership and the Assembly leadership.”

Medical marijuana legalization bill passed by state Senate’s Health Committee for the first time – NEW YORK

ALBANY — Backers of legalizing medical marijuana in New York were flying high Tuesday after the measure cleared a state Senate committee for the first time.

The Health Committee approved the bill on a 9-8 vote, with one Republican, Sen. William Larkin of Orange County, joining eight Democrats in voting “yes.”

Medical marijuana advocates, who have been frustrated for years by Senate opposition, erupted in cheers and applause when the final tally was announced.

“This bill is really about a simple concept, which is to alleviate suffering,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan). “I can’t think of a more important or noble pursuit on the part of . . . the Legislature.”

To improve the bill’s chances, its sponsor, Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), amended it to limit to 20 the number of ailments for which marijuana could be prescribed. That list includes cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The bill would also create an advisory panel to consider expanding or reducing the list in the future based on science and doctor recommendations.

Savino also tried to alleviate fears that New York’s program could mirror the much-maligned California program that critics say made it too easy to obtain pot.

More here

New York – Amendments May Help Bring Medical Marijuana Bill to Vote

By Danny Spewak

ALBANY – New amendments to the Compassionate Care Act in the State Senate could help sway opponents of medical marijuana legalization to finally bring the matter to a vote for the first time in history, according to a New York City-based non-profit.

Gabriel Sayegh, the state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said the Senate is “closer than it’s ever been” to passing a legalization bill. Although the Assembly has passed the bill four times, the Senate has never discussed it in a committee hearing. In 17 years, Senate leadership has never allowed the bill to the reach the floor for a vote, even though Sayegh said he believes there’s more than enough bi-partisan support to pass it along to the governor’s desk.

But several new amendments in the Senate may change that. Specifically, the bill has been changed to the number of medical conditions eligible for medical marijuana treatment.

“For additional conditions to be added, patients would have to go to a committee that would be put together by the Department of Health,” Sayegh said. “That’s one of the biggest changes here.”

Sayegh, whose organization supports legalization of medical marijuana, also said the new bill would restrict people 21 years and younger from smoking the marijuana, instead forcing them to use alternative forms. Another amendment would change the way the medical marijuana dispensary system would work.

“The hope is that these changes expedite this process, that the senate leadership finally agrees to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” Sayegh said. “We know there’s enough votes to pass it. It has strong bi-partisan support.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo still has not expressed support for the bill, though he has softened his stance recently and said last week he’d keep an “open mind.”

“It’s long past time,” Sayegh said, “that we provided relief for people living with debilitating conditions in our state.”