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.

Texas Update 

AUSTIN — Patients with cancer, seizures and PTSD are fighting to legalize medical marijuana in Texas — despite Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s stance against it.  a news conference at the State Capitol Tuesday, Barbara Humphries was among those pushing for the legalization of medical marijuana. The 31-year-old has endured months of intense chemotherapy for stage three breast cancer. She says marijuana has helped her, and she buys it illegally. 

“Before I started using it, I was extremely nauseated. I couldn’t eat,” said Humphries. “We should not be denied legal access when our doctors recommend it.” State Rep. Marisa Marquez (D-El Paso) filed legislation that gives patients access to the whole marijuana plant, to treat everything from seizures, cancer and PTSD. 

“This piece of legislation is a comprehensive medical marijuana bill. Texans deserve a choice when it comes to their health care,” said Marquez. 

If the legislation passes, Texas would join 23 states and the District of Columbia who already have legal plants. Marquez’s bill stipulates the Department of State Health Services would establish a regulated system of licensed marijuana growers, processors and dispensaries. The head of the House Public Health Committee, Rep. Myra Crownover, says the bill is likely dead in the House. The Texas Association of Sheriff’s says they oppose any substance with THC, citing concerns about its effect on children.

TEXAS legislator proposes an idea for decriminalization 

David Simpson’s bill to “deregulate” marijuana in Texas became an overnight Internet sensation not so much for its legal intent but for his novel views on what for years has been viewed by many conservatives in the Lone Star State as a dangerous narcotic.

While most efforts to decriminalize pot across America have come from the left side of the political spectrum, Simpson, a Republican state representative from Longview, comes at it from the Christian, free-market right.

“Everything that God made is good, even marijuana,” he said in explaining his legislation, which he filed Monday at the state capital in Austin. “The conservative thought is that government doesn’t need to fix something that God made good.”

Simpson’s 24-page bill begins: “The following provisions are repealed,” then lists dozens of Texas statutes related to marijuana. If the Legislature were to approve House Bill 2165 and it was signed by the governor, pot in Texas would be regulated like any crop.

In a news release, Simpson said he supported regulating marijuana like the state regulates “tomatoes, jalapeños or Coffee.”

The odds of the bill winning legislative approval and Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature are virtually zero, according to Gary Hale, former intelligence chief in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Houston division and a drug policy scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy.

“It’s probably a little too much at this point,” Hale said. “A blanket decriminalization of marijuana and classification as a vegetable is not going to happen.”

There was no immediate reaction from the office of House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. An aide advised not to await a call back.

None of which is to say that marijuana may not come up during the current legislative session. But if any change comes at all, the end result is much more likely to be decriminalizing possession of a small amount of the drug than seeing pot for sale in the coffee aisle of H-E-B.

Joe Moody, an El Paso Democrat who is vice chair of the House Criminal Juris­prudence Committee, where marijuana legislation is typically debated, is sponsoring a bill that would let people caught with less than 2 ounces of pot avoid jail time and face a fine of no more than $100.

He said a wide spectrum of marijuana reform legislation has been filed this session and is likely to spark a broad discussion at the Legislature. But Simpson’s bill is equivalent to “moving from a pretty robust sanctioning scheme under current law to no prohibition or regulation,” Moody said.

“Texas has been absent from the national conversation regarding marijuana enforcement and to go from zero discussion to the broadest reform in the country is pretty drastic,” he said. “I’ve never seen the Legislature take that drastic of a step.”

Simpson’s bill deregulating pot takes a markedly different approach to marijuana law reform than other states have adopted. Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Washington, D.C., all have voted to legalize pot within a detailed framework of taxation and regulation. But Simpson’s bill would offer no such restrictions.

Simpson, 54, said he wants to “reframe the current marijuana discussion” by talking prohibition repeal in terms of common conservative values. Many of his Republican peers also support repeal of prohibition, and consider the nation’s long-running war on drugs an “abysmal failure.”

For Simpson, it all comes down to his belief in less government.

“We should use our resources in law enforcement to deal with murder, with rape, with theft, but just possessing a substance that God made is not wrong,” he said. “If you use it irresponsibly, then sure. If you drive off the road from marijuana, then sure, but I don’t know anyone who’s run off the road because of marijuana. I do know people who have fallen asleep because they ate too much.”

“It’s the official party position that we don’t favor legalization of marijuana. However, it should be noted that a sizable minority voted in favor of allowing medical marijuana usage,” said Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. “It was hotly contested by a sizable number of delegates on both sides.”

Simpson’s bill has yet to be referred to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which has handled all other marijuana measures. Maybe the leadership is trying to tell him something. He’s undeterred.

“Putting people in prison and teaching them a whole lot about crime, separating them from the family,” he said, “taking away the breadwinners simply for possessing a plant that God made – that’s wrong.”

New Dallas Store Selling Cannabis For Medical Use

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Cannabis is coming to Dallas. That’s how a new company is promoting products to sell to the public that has the same chemical ingredient as marijuana.

This is not a medical marijuana firm opening in Dallas, but it is promoting the health and medicinal benefits of marijuana’s cannabis cousin hemp.

Four-year-old Harper Howard became the local example of the benefits of using cannabis hemp oil. Her seizures are decreased, according to her mother, due to the cannabis hemp oil she takes orally. That same oil is now part of a series of skin and energy products marketed in a new Dallas office.

The makers can sell the items legally, and Harper’s mother believes others will benefit.

“Adding this product to her diet took us from 10 to 12 seizures a day to 3-5. It cut them in half,” said Penny Howard.

The products will be available for sale on January 24 at the Kannaway Company.

In Texas, it’s illegal to grow cannabis, but there’s state legislation on the table to change that so that epilepsy sufferers can use the oil.

Arizona high court weighs medical marijuana access to some

PHOENIX — The Arizona State Supreme Court is deciding a case that could affect the state’s medical marijuana laws.

The case, Keenan Reed-Kaliher v. State of Arizona, was brought before the panel of five judges on Tuesday and hinges on whether those on parole or probation should be allowed access to medical marijuana under Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act.

At the forefront of the case lie arguments over the power of the courts and parole officers to set the conditions of probation or parole, the validity of Arizona’s medical marijuana policy and whether the state’s medical marijuana law should except some, particularly convicted criminals, from access to medicinal marijuana use.

The case stems from 2011, when Cochise County resident Keenan Reed-Kaliher was released from prison as part of a plea deal he accepted in relation to drug charges, for which he spent a year and a half incarcerated.

After being released, Reed-Kaliher obtained a medical marijuana registry identification card from the Arizona Department of Health Services in response to a previous injury, according to his attorney, Tom Holz.

“(Reed-Kaliher) had chronic pain from a fractured hip, he still has pins in his hip and so he got a medical marijuana card while he was on probation,” Holz said.

After becoming a medical marijuana cardholder, Reed-Kaliher was notified by his probation officer in 2013 that he was not allowed to possess or use marijuana for any reason as part of his probation condition. Later that year, Reed-Kaliher filed a motion in court to modify the conditions of his probation to allow his medical marijuana use, Holz said.

Lower courts rejected Reed-Kaliher’s motion while the state’s appeals court ruled in his favor. The case is now before the state’s Supreme Court for review.

In Tuesday’s statements before the Supreme Court, the state argued Reed-Kaliher had accepted a plea agreement and, in that, agreed not to violate any laws — a condition that can become murky when considering the differences between federal and state laws on medical marijuana.

“Probationers are required to obey the law including all federal laws and so there is this tension because clearly under federal law, medical marijuana is not recognized; this is something that’s recognized under state law,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, whose office is arguing the case. “It’s creating a lot of conflict.”

The state argued parolees and probationers are breaking federal law when possessing or consuming medicinal marijuana, and the courts and parole officers who would allow a parolee or probationer to do so would not be fulfilling their oaths in upholding the law.

One portion of the state’s defense was challenged by Chief Justice Scott Bales, who questioned whether Reed-Kaliher’s plea agreement and, therefore, the accepted condition that he not use marijuana, could be accepted, considering Arizona’s medical marijuana law had not yet been adopted by voters until after he made the deal.

Brnovich said cases such as Keenan Reed-Kaliher v. State of Arizona expose the problems associated with medical marijuana laws.

“When you treat something like marijuana as a medicine, not only does it send a mixed message to our children but it makes it hard for the courts to impose terms and conditions of probation,” he said.

Holz, however, said Arizona’s medical marijuana law creates no conflict for state courts or probation officers in enforcing Arizona laws, and the federal government could still arrest his client or any other medical marijuana user in Arizona.

“There’s absolutely no authority for the idea that federal law preempts this,” he said. “We’re not stopping the federal government from enforcing their laws, but they can’t force us to enforce their laws.”

Holz said state courts and probation officers should first follow Arizona’s law, of which the medical marijuana law makes no separation or exception for people on parole or probation.

“(The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act) says a cardholder is not subject to penalty in any manner, so you can’t have your probation revoked (and) you can’t have your parole revoked,” he said.

The court did have some concerns over the arguments raised by Holz during his 20-minute address.

Justice John Pelander raised questions over the juxtaposition of courts and parole officers in Arizona being able to curtail the constitutional rights of convicted criminals — particularly some Fourth Amendment privacy and First Amendment speech rights — but would somehow still not have the authority to curtail rights granted by states, such as access to medical marijuana.

Pelander also questioned whether the voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which does not include exceptions for parolees and probationers, would supersede an earlier state law that bars marijuana use by these groups.

Holz said the court’s decision on the matter could have a broader effect on the state’s medical marijuana law.

“This is a policy experiment you could think of it as, if it turns out that the bad results outweigh the good results then the county attorneys, the anti-marijuana state officials, they’re going to have to take this back to the people and say, ‘This isn’t working, let’s change this, let’s exclude … people on parole and people on probation,'” he said.

“But I think it’s going to work. I think the benefits will outweigh any possible harm that might come from this.”

When asked about his optimism on whether the court would rule in the state’s favor, Brnovich said he no longer makes guesses.

“I think there is some tension, I recognize that, but I also learned a long time ago not to predict what courts are going to do,” he said. “I do think that it’s very fair and reasonable that if someone accepts terms and conditions of probation (that) they abide by the terms and conditions, and furthermore if someone agrees to obey all federal laws (that) they obey federal laws even if it meant that some way they may conflict with some state laws.”

BY MARK REMILLARD, | January 14, 2015 @ 6:34 am

Texas lawmakers to consider lower marijuana possession penalties

EL PASO, Texas — State Representative Joe Moody of Texas spends too much money punishing low level drug offenders and wants to decriminalize marijuana.

Moody is proposing a bill that, if approved, would reduce the penalties associated with possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already passed laws that remove jail time for low-level drug offenses. The Texas legislature is expected to weigh in on the issue during the 2015 legislative session which started Tuesday.

“It is difficult to pass any bill in the Texas legislature,” said Moody. “There are 7,000 that are filed every session. Only a handful of those make it to the finish line.”

Moody said Texas spends $740 million a year to arrest and prosecute low-level drug offenders.
He said, “I think it makes a lot of fiscal sense. I think it makes a lot of sense for law enforcement.”

One resident mentioned “I think the penalties could be a little bit more lenient since we’re realizing most of the other states in the country are moving towards legalization.

Under Moody’s bill, possessing one ounce of marijuana would result in a $100 fine. Currently, possessing up to two ounces of marijuana could land an offender six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Moody said his bill would consider the violation a civil matter. That way, the offender wouldn’t have a criminal record. Lawmakers will also consider legalizing medical marijuana and the use of recreational marijuana.

Moody said he’s already heard from other lawmakers who support his bill.

“In fact, just sitting on the House floor for the first day, I had three or four Republican members snag me and just say ‘hey, I’ve been getting a lot of emails about your bill.’ ”

Texas Medical Marijuana Update

SAN ANTONIO- Patients suffering from ailments like PTSD, cancer and Alzheimer’s might soon be allowed to use medical marijuana in the state of Texas.

A bill has been drafted that would allow just that and although similar bills have been shot down by lawmakers in the past, advocates are optimistic.

“I just mostly want to talk about my experience being a nurse,” said Ann Hardee. “And what I’ve seen as benefits to patient.”

Hardee lives in San Antonio, but worked for many years in the cancer unit at M.D Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. So she said she saw first hand the positive effects of marijuana on dozens of patients.

“The only thing keeping them from hanging their head in the toilet all night,” she said. “Was smoking cannabis.”

Hardee said often patients couldn’t move past it being illegal, but that some reluctantly still tried.

“They were really against it and usually it was their kids that were like ‘Mom you gotta try this’,” she said. “And then they were like ‘I’m a whole new person now!”

Federally, marijuana is classified as a schedule one narcotic; on par with heroine and morphine.

“It’s a very good substance that somehow got a bad wrap,” Hardee said.

Advocates from the Texas chapter of the marijuana policy project said their proposed bill is getting favorable reaction. The project’s Texas director said mostly because they believe the country’s opinion on marijuana has changed since the last legislative session. Hardee remembers hearing opposition at the town hall meeting on legalization she attended last year.

“The ones against it were the ones about addiction,” she said.

The drafted bill resembles those already in place in 22 other states and Washington D.C. Those states have approved medical marijuana use, not recreational.

“I hate to be negative,”said Hardee. “But I don’t think it’s going to happen. Not with Texas politics and not with what happened with the midterms!”

TEXAS Decriminalization update !!!! 🙅🙅🙅🙅🙅

The cost of policing, prosecuting and punishing violators of Texas’ still stringent marijuana laws is enormous — in dollars, the toll on individuals and the burden on the overall criminal justice system.

About 70,000 arrests (or 6.5 percent of all arrests) in Texas each year are for marijuana possession, and carry an annual price tag of about $734 million, according to state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, who notes that the vast majority of those violators are accused of simple possession.

If a coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans gets its way, the Texas Legislature will further decriminalize marijuana possession next session.

Moody introduced a bill this week to make possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana a civil action that carries a $100 fine rather than a crime punishable by jail time.

In addition to abolishing jail time for such an infraction, proponents of the law say, it removes the threat of arrests and a criminal record for those accused.

Current Texas law provides for punishment of up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine for anyone convicted of possessing less than 2 ounces of marijuana.

Joining forces with Moody in announcing the proposed change were Texas District Judge John Delaney and other members of the coalition representing organizations such as Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, the ACLU of Texas, Marijuana Policy Project and Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

The coalition cited a 2013 poll by Public Policy Polling that showed that more than 60 percent of Texans favored limiting punishment to a fine of $100 for possession of up to an ounce of the drug.

While decriminalization is likely to be a tough sell in the next Legislature (and with Gov.-elect Greg Abbott opposing it), it is the proper path to take.

The ACLU’s Matthew Simpson states it clearly:

“The war on marijuana is a failure and has needlessly ensnared hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system, at tremendous human and financial cost. It’s time to implement reforms that are fairer, more compassionate and smarter at reducing drug dependency and improving our health and safety.”

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.


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