MARYLAND HOUSE, OKLAHOMA SENATE PASS MARIJUANA BILLS
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, March 19, 2003 4:53 PM
Subject: Maryland House, Oklahoma Senate pass marijuana bills
After much arm-twisting and numerous backroom arguments, the Maryland House of Delegates passed a watered-down version of the MarijuanaPolicy Project's medical marijuana bill yesterday. For details, please see http://www.mpp.org/releases/nr031803.html .
This vote follows on the heels of our 22-7 victory on March 13 in the Vermont Senate, which passed our comprehensive medical marijuana bill.
(Please see http://www.mpp.org/releases/nr031303vt.html for the news release.) The Vermont bill is now pending in the House, where it is expected to pass.
Please consider visiting http://www.mpp.org/DonateVT to help pay for MPP's TV ad campaign to pressure the governor of Vermont to sign the bill. It could go either way at this point!
Below is an accounting of other marijuana-related bills in the 50 states. Please take special note of the stunning victory in Oklahoma on March 12, when the Senate passed a marijuana penalty reduction bill by a 26-19 vote. (Please see http://www.mpp.org/OK/bills_588.html for the text of this bill.)
BAD MARIJUANA BILL SIGNED INTO LAW
* SOUTH DAKOTA enacted legislation that expands the state's definition of marijuana distribution to include possession with intent to distribute. This law, which will give nonviolent marijuana offenders longer prison sentences, comes at a time when South Dakota is already struggling under the weight of a $54 million budget deficit. In addition to being expensive, the new law will not decrease marijuana use or distribution.
MARIJUANA "DECRIMINALIZATION" BILLS IN SIX STATES
* CALIFORNIA might tweak its existing "decrim" law to change the existing $100 misdemeanor (criminal) penalty for marijuana possession to a $100 civil penalty. The bill is pending in committee.
* CONNECTICUT is considering legislation that would make possession of less than four ounces of marijuana punishable by a civil violation and fine, rather than jail time. The bill is pending in committee.
* MASSACHUSETTS is looking at legislation that would impose a $100 civil fine for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. A hearing is scheduled for April 9.
* MICHIGAN is considering a bill that would remove the threat of jail or a criminal record for first-time marijuana possession offenses, allowing for drug treatment or community service to be mandated instead of other penalties. The bill is pending in committee.
* OKLAHOMA's bill -- which would impose a $500 fine rather than jail time for up to 17 ounces of marijuana, repeal some mandatory minimum sentences, and authorize community service and treatment instead of jail for some offenders -- passed the Senate on March 12 with a 26-19 vote. This important bill is now pending in a House committee.
* TEXAS is looking at legislation that would impose up to a $500 fine but no jail time for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana; the bill is pending in a House committee. (Amazingly, similar legislation was passed by a House committee during the 2001 legislative session, only to fail to receive a vote on the House floor.)
MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILLS IN 14 STATES (INCLUDING MARYLAND AND VERMONT)
* ARKANSAS voted down its bill by a voice vote (with at least six votes in favor of the bill) on March 11 in committee, where former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders had testified in support of the bill.
* CALIFORNIA is looking to clarify its existing medical marijuana law with a bill that would direct police not to arrest patients with medical marijuana identification cards (which would be optional for patients).
* CONNECTICUT could go either way on its medical marijuana bill. The 43-member House/Senate Judiciary Committee is split down the middle and is expected to vote at the end of this month.
* IOWA has not taken action on its bill, which is pending in committee.
* MASSACHUSETTS will almost surely not pass its medical marijuana bill as long as it remains in its current committee, which is co- chaired by a hostile legislator.
* MISSISSIPPI took no action on its bill, which died in committee on February 4.
* MISSOURI only recently had a bill introduced; the bill will not pass in that conservative legislature.
* MONTANA surprised everyone when a committee passed the bill by a 12-5 vote on February 21. Unfortunately, the House killed the bill by a 60-40 vote on February 26.
* NEW MEXICO's House defeated its bill by a 46-20 vote on March 6, even after three committees pushed the bill to the floor with 9-1, 9-3, and 8-0 votes. This defeat is bitterly disappointing, given that both the House and Senate passed similar legislation last year, only to run out of time before the bill could be sent to the governor.
* NEW YORK is considering a medical marijuana bill that was introduced by the chair of the Assembly Health Committee and co- sponsored by 27 of his colleagues. In the meantime, the New York City Council is expected to pass a resolution in support of the state bill.
* RHODE ISLAND is expected to vote on a bill in committee sometime soon. Similar legislation has failed to pass in the past few legislative sessions.
* WYOMING broke new ground when a committee passed MPP's bill by a 3-2 vote on February 5. Unfortunately, the Senate leadership decided to let the bill die without bringing it to a vote on the Senate floor.
Marijuana Policy Project
P.S. Please help us push the Vermont bill over the top by donating at
http://www.mpp.org/DonateVT today. Thanks in advance for your support.