Colorado and Washington Pass the Legalization Baton to Other States: Who’s Next?
Washington DC, 18 States, and Counting…
Currently there are eighteen (18) states where medical marijuana is legal, not including the District of Columbia (DC).
“2012 was easily the most productive year in the history of marijuana reform. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the country catches on.”
Colorado and Washington have, as you probably know, completely legalized cannabis, and are also included in the number. However, this number does not reflect the states that have decriminalized the drug, which include: Nebraska, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, and New York. With all the recent successful legalization efforts in Washington and Colorado, many conversations have been sparked up (no pun intended) about whom the next state will be to make a similar move.
States With Legalization Victories
Some of the accomplishments of 2012 are listed below. We have provided you with links to state info, guidelines for contacting your state representatives, and (for some states) pre-composed messages (all you have to do is click ‘Send’ to support the cause) to send directly to your state’s chamber representatives:
Colorado and Washington
As we all know,COLORADO and WASHINGTON enacted measures in 2012 to completely legalize marijuana with 55% and 56% support, respectively. While home cultivation will not be permitted in Washington, Colorado adults are allowed up to 6 plants without licensing, and adults in both states can now posses up to one ounce. You can find information on writing your state legislators at Norml.org. Here are some tips for writing your state legislators in Colorado and Washington.
Arizona’s 2010 voter-approved medical marijuana law, Prop. 203, has come a long way since its implementation. In late December of 2012, the proposition held up in court when Court Judge Michael Gordon denied Attorney General Tom Horne’s claims that the law is invalid. As a result, Arizona’s first dispensary, Arizona Organix, opened in Glendale to serve medical marijuana patients. Keep up the good work Arizona! If you would like a guideline on how to contact your state representatives, click here.
CALIFORNIA finally reformed their harsh “Three Strikes” law that would imprison third time felony convicts to 25 years to life. Non-violent offenders, and many marijuana users were being sentenced to years in jail for minor offenses. The three strikes rule still exists, but the third offense must be a serious or violent crime, not something harmless like smoking a joint. A guideline to communicating with New York State Legislators can be found here.
CONNECTICUT’s governor, Dan Malloy, signed House Bill 5389 into law, making medical marijuana available to qualifying patients from licensed dispensaries. A guideline to communicating with Connecticut can be found here.
DELAWARE: As of July 2, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services began accepting applications from patients for medical marijuana identification cards. However, the department has yet to write rules to provide patients safe access to medical cannabis. It is important that you contact your legislators to encourage them to push legislation supporting dispensaries.
ILLINOISpicked up democrat seats in their most recent election as well. The freshman democrats appear to of failed to get Illinois’ House Bill 30 passed before their January 8th deadline. Beginning this morning, supporters will have to start over and try again in 2013. It is in the hands of the marijuana advocates to contact their state legislators to let them know how you feel. A guideline to communicating with Illinois state legislators can be found here. If you would like a pre-written message asking your representatives to vote ‘Yes’ on HB 30 and SB 1548, click here.
MASSACHUSETTS’s voters approved a medical marijuana initiative with an overwhelming 63% support, making the state the 18th to legalize cannabis medicinally. In addition, voters in six districts passed ballots stating that they are in favor of legalizing marijuana on both federal and state levels (similar initiatives were passed in the cities of Michigan and Vermont). A guide to writing Massachusetts state legislators can be found here.
RHODE ISLAND decriminalized cannabis in June when Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the bill into law, establishing a fine of $150 for adults who are detained with under an ounce. Prior to the new law, minor posessions can carry up to a $1000 fine and six months in jail. If you would like to compose a direct message to be sent to your representatives, click here.
NEW HAMPSHIRE elected Maggie Hassan into office as the state’s new Governor. Seeing as how she is a democrat, it is believed that New Hampshire will surely be passing a medical marijuana law this coming spring. A guideline to communicating with New York State Legislators can be found here. In addition, here are some links to directly support decriminalization, as well as medicinal marijuana in New Hampshire.
NEW YORK also had some democrats added to their legislature, which will help their marijuana efforts in the state. They also introduced a senate bill that legalizes the “possession, manufacture, use, delivery, transfer, transport or administration of marijuana by a certified patient or designated caregiver for a certified medical use.” Patients under the bill will be permitted to carry up to 2.5 ounces at a time. However, the New York Senate’s session is scheduled to end yesterday (Jan. 8), so it would take a special session to pass the bill considering the Assembly adjourned sine die in June. A guideline to communicating with New York State Legislators can be found here. If you would like to send a pre-written call to action, click here.
OHIO‘s Governor, John Kasich, signed legislation into law in July that reduces penalties associated with the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Senate Bill 337 took effect on September 28, and lowers the possession of cannabis paraphernalia from a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, to a misdemeanor equivalent to a traffic ticket. While Ohio law already decriminalizes the possession of up to three ounces. Nonetheless, Ohio residents still need to take action and write their representatives to support medical marijuana for qualified patients.
VERMONT reelected their Governor Pete Shumlin, with a 58 percent vote. Gov. Shumlin is known to be a strong marijuana reform advocate. A survey of 148 separate Vermont cities found that nearly half of Vermont citizens support legalization, while only 40 percent oppose the idea. It is in the hands of the marijuana advocates to contact their state legislators to let them know how you feel. To compose a direct message to your upper and lower state representatives to ask them to support legalization, click here. To send a message pertaining to marijuana decriminalization, click here. To support the full tax & regulation legislation, click here.
States With ‘Work-In-Progress’ Legalization Efforts
While some of these states were unsuccessful in their legalization efforts, it is not because of a lack of effort. This is a list of states with either failed legislation in 2012, or those who are working towards getting their legislation on 2013 ballots. We have also decided to include info on all other states and their legalization status:
ALABAMA proposed House Bill 25, which proposed marijuana use for medical purposes. The legislation died in the house when the legislative session ended in May. Democrat Rep. Patricia Todd has pre-filed legislation to be voted on this spring. The measure would enact statewide legal protections for qualified patients, establish a network of non-for-profit dispensaries and delivery services, and allow patients to grow a specified quantity of plants. A guide to write your state legislators can be found here. If you would like to send a pre-written message to your representatives, click here.
ALASKA’s marijuana laws are a little hazy, to say the least. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case Ravin v. Alaska, that possession of under four ounces of marijuana in the home was protected. However Alaska passed a bill in 2006 attempting to re-criminalize cannabis, however a lawsuit was filed challenging the new law. The lawsuit was thrown out on procedural grounds, and the Supreme Court’s decision was essentially undermined by the new law. MPP suggests that rather than attempting to undermine the court’s decision, the legislature should consider tax & regulation legislation in order to undercut the criminal market. To write your lawmakers to express your support of T&R legislation in Alaska, click here.
ARKANSASvoters defeated an initiative for medical marijuana with a 51.45% to 48.55% vote in November. This year can be the year for Arkansas if advocates voice their opinions and vote. A guide to write your state legislators can be found here.
District of Columbia (D.C.)
D.C.has been waiting for legal access to medical marijuana for nearly 14 years, when they voted to allow seriously ill residents access to medical marijuana. Cultivation centers and dispensaries were given their registrations in June and will begin to serve the nations capitol in February. None the less, it remains illegal for residents to possess marijuana with out a doctors recommendation. To contact your local officials and urge them to decriminalize minor possession, click here.
FLORIDA’s Medical Marijuana Amendment did not make the state ballot in 2012. The measure would have established a medical marijuana program, and allowed qualified patients to become enrolled. In order to qualify the amendment for the next ballot, a approval of 60% is required in the House and Senate in Florida. To write your representative and senators asking them to support medical marijuana legalization, click here.
GEORGIA seems to be a little confused on how to run a government that is favorable to the people. While they have found plenty of time to make it harder for low-income families to receive welfare by requiring drug-testing, they have completely ignored the hundreds of suffering patients who would benefit from medical marijuana. Click here to contact your legislators to prompt them to begin considering legislation that would protect medical marijuana patients. If you want, you can share a model medical marijuana bill that was created by Marijuana Policy Project.
HAWAII failed to get anything passed during the 2012 session that ended in May. However, the Senate passed a number of positive marijuana policy bills, but the House did not vote on them. The legislation would have created a medical marijuana program and a system of dispensaries in Hawaii. Another bill would have decriminalized minor possession of marijuana. To read more about the drug policy reform in Hawaii, click here. For a guideline on how to contact your state representatives, click here.
IDAHOproposed House Bill 370 that would have established the “Idaho Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.” The bill died in March when the legislative session ended. A guide to write your state legislators can be found here.
INDIANAintroduced House Bill 1370, which also died in March. The bill would have required the executive board of the state department of health to adopt rules to regulate a medical marijuana program. State Sen. Karen Tallian has announced she will reintroduce the legislation in the once the new session begins, as well as a bill that would decriminalize up to 10 grams or less of marijuana. A survey done in Indiana showed that 54% of respondents favored removing criminal penalties for first-time offenders. Only 37% opposed the idea. A guide to write your state legislators can be found here. If you would like to send a pre-written message to your representatives, click here.
IOWAproposed Senate File 266, which would have allowed qualified patients to possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana, and grow six cannabis plants. The file has not advanced out of committee. State Sen. Joe Bolkham announced that he will reintroduce the legislation in 2013. A similar bill called HF 2270 is being introduced by Rep. Bruce Hunter Legislator that would allow for qualified Iowans to possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana (either purchased from a dispensary or grown), and grow up to six plants. Instructions on how to contact your state representatives can be found here. If you would like to send a pre-written message to your representatives to support the pair of medical marijuana measures, click here. If you would like to support only the decriminalization effort (or in addition to the other letter) with a message to your state representatives, click here.
KANSASproposed both House Bill 2330, and Senate Bill 354, which both enact the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act providing for the use of medical marijuana. Both of these bills were referred throughout committees and eventually died when the legislative session ended June 1, 2012. A guide to write your state legislators can be found here.
KENTUCKYput forth a largely symbolic, Senate Bill 129, which aims to amend current law to decriminalize marijuana, making it a schedule II drug. The bill is considered invalid because the bill used the word “prescribe;” prescribing marijuana is illegal under federal law. However, Sen. Perry Clark has pre-filed legislation by the name of, “Gatewood Galbraith Medical Marijuana Memorial Act,” to be voted on by lawmakers in the spring. The legislation is named after a former Kentucky attorney, and strong marijuana advocate, who passed away last year. The proposal would establish a system of state-run dispensaries where qualified patients can obtain the prescribed medicine. Patients would be allowed to grow specified quantities in the privacy of their home as well. A guide to write your state legislators can be found here. If you would like to submit a pre-written message to your state representatives asking them to support medical marijuana, click here.
LOUISIANA, like Georgia, spent 2012 trying to enact legislation to withholding cash assistance from families in the ‘Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program,’ pending a drug-test. Luckily the legislation was stalled in the states Senate, but they failed to pay any attention to the number of suffering patients who are waiting for a medical marijuana program. In fact, they have been working for harsher penalties that would discriminate against marijuana users. Something needs to be done about the situation in Louisiana, please contact your state legislators today.
MAINE joined the number of states who are considering tax and regulation laws last year. While the state has decriminalized marijuana in addition to its medical marijuana program, Rep. Diane Russell plans to push a bill in 2013 that would put the state on the same standard as Washington and Colorado. While the same bill failed in 2012, now that other states are setting precedents, the bill should be taken more seriously next time around. To ask your representatives to support the bill, click here.
MARYLANDproposed the Maryland Medical Marijuana Act (House Bill 15), and Senate Bill 995. The bills would have authorized the use of medical marijuana and created defenses from prosecution for the possession of marijuana or paraphernalia (for patients and specified caregivers). A guide to write your state legislators can be found here.
MICHIGANproposed a package of bills that were approved by Gov. Rick Snyder late in the 2012 legislative session. While we wouldn’t consider the further restrictions imposed by the law a victory for medical marijuana in Michigan, we feel it’s important for citizens to be aware of the new laws. A summary of the new bills was done by MMP, and can be read here. To write your state representatives, click here.
MINNESOTA reelected Gov. Mark Dayton, who is skeptical of medical marijuana. He states that, “As long as law enforcement believes whatever [law] being proposed is going to make society more dangerous, I’m going to honor their concerns.” While we believe this argument is utter nonsense and hardly consider it a rational thought, it is up to the people of Minnesota to reach out to the governor and ask him to reconsider his stance on marijuana and start standing up for his suffering citizens. A guide to write your state legislators can be found here.
MISSISSIPPI Senate Bill 2252 died in committee in March, and would have authorized the medical use of marijuana by the use of seriously ill patients under a physician’s supervision. A guide to write your state legislators can be found here.
MISSOURIproposed a decriminalization and medicinal marijuana bill (House Bill 1421) in January of last year. The bill was read in late January and referred to the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee in March, where it died at the end of the month. A guide to write your state legislators can be found here.
MONTANA has had medical marijuana since 2004. The law removes stat-level criminal penalties for those who possess written recommendations from physicians. However, in 2011, Senate Bill 423 was passed that changed the original act. The act is now in effect and limits physicians to 25 recommendations per year, restricts caregivers from accepting monetary compensation for providing medical marijuana to patients, applies more stringent requirements for ‘chronic pain’ patients, and states that patients found guilty of a marijuana DUI will have their privileges revoked. A group by the name of ‘Montana First’ was approved for signature gathering, and is currently petitioning for regulation and taxation of marijuana. A guide to writing your state legislators can be found here.
NEBRASKA‘s Gov. Dave Heineman has made his opposition to medical marijuana extremely clear. Despite that fact, members of a group called Nebraska HEMP (Helping End Marijuana Prohibition) and many other Nebraskan’s will continue to push the issue. While state legislators declared the issue dead in March when the legislative session ended, a spokeswoman from Nebraska HEMP plants to educate the state on the issue, and continue her efforts. The state is working on getting their Proposition 19 Cannabis Initiative on the ballot which seeks to “remove all laws regulating the private noncommercial use of cannabis.” For information on how to contact state legislators, click here.
NEVADA’s legislation did not meet in 2012, however the 2011 session was somewhat constructive. The bills that were introduced would have enabled collective cultivation between patients and caregivers, as well as creating a regulated dispensary system in Nevada. Currently the only way for Nevada medical patients to obtain marijuana is through home cultivation or from caregivers (who may not receive compensation). While Nevada has decriminalized minor possession for first time offenders, a second offense carries a $1,000 fine and the drug addiction screening. Possession of two ounces is punishable by a two year prison sentence. In 2006, 44% of Nevada citizens voted for a tax and regulation system. MPP has provided a T&R marijuana brochure that is ready to send to your representatives in Nevada.
NEW HAMPSHIREwas THREE votes short of getting their Senate Bill 409 enacted in June. The bill would allow qualified patients to possess up to six ounces of usable marijuana and up to 6 plants (plus 12 seedlings if the patient has no caregiver). After being vetoed by the Governor in early June, the New Hampshire senate voted 13-10 to override the veto (needed 16).
“…I cannot support establishing a system for the use of medical marijuana that poses risks to the patient, lacks adequate oversight and funding, and risks the proliferation of a serious drug.”
Governor John Lynch stated, “I continue to believe that the most effective manner in which to facilitate the safe and controlled use of marijuana for medical purposes is to distribute the drug like any other controlled substance through a regulated prescription system. I recognize that such a system is unlikely as long as marijuana use for medicinal purposes remains illegal under federal law. As well intentioned as the efforts reflected in SB 409 are, I cannot support establishing a system for the use of medical marijuana that poses risks to the patient, lacks adequate oversight and funding, and risks the proliferation of a serious drug.” A guide to write your state legislators can be found here. If you would like to send a pre-written message to your state representatives supporting the decriminalization, click here. If you would like to do the same for medical marijuana, click here.
NEW JERSEYmembers of the state Assembly voted in favor of Assembly Bill 1465, which would have decriminalized marijuana in the state. However, when the bill was passed to the Senate, Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill, stating, “I don’t think we should send any sort of tacit approval to our children that somehow this is not bad anymore.” A guideline to contacting NJ state legislators can be found here.
NEW MEXICO‘s laws are much less restricted than most medical marijuana states. Possession of less than one ounce for non-medical reasons is a $50-100 fine and/or up to 15 days in jail. A second offense, or possession of more than an ounce of usable marijuana can be up to a $1000 fine, and up to a year in jail. Twenty-three New Mexico Caregivers are allowed 150 plants, and the list of conditions that qualify patients has been expanded. To write your legislators to support marijuana decriminalization, click here.
NORTH CAROLINAis currently in session, however it is reserved for budget-related bills this year, which means no progress will be made for marijuana. Last year, Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr. introduced H 577, which would have protected medical marijuana patients and their caregivers from penalties of the law, and establish dispensaries. House Bill 324 was also introduced, but not voted on, which aimed to decriminalize minor possession of marijuana (91% of all NC marijuana arrests in 2007 were for simple possession). In order to write your legislators a letter to ask for their support in the decriminalization effort, click here. MPP also provided additional information about marijuana laws in North Carolina that can be found here.
NORTH DAKOTA tried to get an initiative going but it did not make the 2012 ballot. However, if enacted the North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative would have allowed patients with debilitating diseases to get a doctors recommendation for medical cannabis. We are including North Dakota in this list because we feel they were cheated. Supporters were required to collect a minimum of 13,452 valid signatures and deliver them to the Secretary of State by August 8 in order to qualify the measure for the 2012 ballot. They accomplished this task by August 6 with a total of 13,500 signatures turned in. On September 4, Secretary Jaeger pronounced that the measure would not be on the ballot due to falsified signatures. The citizens of North Dakota need to unite and push harder in 2013 by contacting your state representatives; Learn how here.
OKLAHOMA made an attempt at their own Compassionate Use Act of 2011, but the bill (Senate Bill 573) was referred to the Health and Human Services committee to review when they reconvened in February. However, the bill died because it didn’t advance before the legislative deadline. A guide to write your state legislators can be found here.
OREGON’s Measure 80 was defeated in November with a 53.4% vote against the initiated state statute. The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act Initiative would have created a seven-person statewide cannabis commission to regulate the cultivation and sale of cannabis. Supporters argue that legalization would bring in an estimated $140 million in taxes for the state of Oregon, and save $60 million in law enforcement costs. While legislature is out of session, it may be effective to send a letter to your legislators; a guideline can be found here.
PENNSYLVANIAintroduced the Governor Raymond Shafer Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which provides “for the medical use of marijuana; and repealing provisions of law that prohibit and penalize marijuana use.” This bill died in committee. Pennsylvania Sen. Daylin Leach said he intends to push two legalization bills in the next session. However, Gov. Tom Corbett states, “I’d veto any legalization bill, even if it covers only medical use of marijuana”, because he believes it is a “gateway drug.” This year, there has been talks of complete legalization, so now is the time for the people to voice their opinions and write your state representatives. A guideline for contacting PA legislators can be found here. If you would like to send a pre-written message to your state representatives click here.
SOUTH CAROLINA has yet to discuss a single marijuana bill since 2007 when Sen. William Mescher introduced a compassionate bill that would have allowed seriously ill patients access to medical marijuana. Unfortunately, the former Senator passed away in April of 2007, and none of his colleagues were willing to carry out the bill. In order to contact your legislators to urge them to bring about change in marijuana laws in SC, click here. If you would like to subscribe to MPP’s legislative alert service in order to receive alerts on marijuana laws in SC, click here.
SOUTH DAKOTA is the only state to of ever decriminalized cannabis, then re-criminalized it. The state decriminalized cannabis in the late 70’s, only to be immediately repealed. Nearly thirty years later, South Dakota has yet to introduce any legislation discussing medical marijuana, or decriminalization. To ask your state legislators to consider decriminalizing marijuana once again, click here. To urge your legislators to support medical marijuana, click here.
TENNESSEE’s House Bill 294 died in April after testimony before a key House committee. The bill would have legalized medical marijuana, and established a safe access program for qualified patients.
“She believes that if her colleagues hear from enough of their constituents, they will see that most people think it’s a good idea.”
State Representative Jeanne Richardson is a sponsor of the act, says most of her colleagues in the legislature support the idea of legalizing medical marijuana, they are just scared it would be political suicide to vote in favor of the bill. She believes that if her colleagues hear from enough of their constituents, they will see that most people think it’s a good idea. This is where you come in Tennessee advocates; you can find instructions for contacting your state representatives here.
TEXASis working on legislation that seeks to reduce marijuana possession penalties. Under current law, the possession of under one ounce is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, and a $2,000 fine. The legislation would reduce penalties to a maximum find of $500 with no jail time included. Nearly 80,000 Texas citizens are arrested every year for non-violent marijuana violations. The proposed bill would (while taking profits out of the greedy hands of the private prison industry in Texas) significantly reduce state legal costs for prosecuting these innocent citizens. For a guideline on how to write your state representatives, please click here. If you would like to submit a pre-written message to your legislators asking them to support the decriminalization effort, click here.
UTAH’s marijuana laws are currently rather strict, with possession of under an ounce of marijuana resulting in a six-month jail sentence. With no mention of any change in the states marijuana laws in the 2012 legislative session, it is up to advocates to contact their legislators to urge them to introduce a bill next session. To do so, click here.
VERMONTAccording to reports, senator-elect David Zuckerman plans on introducing legislation in 2013 that will completely legalize marijuana. Separate legislation is seeking decriminalization. A guideline on how to write your state legislators can be found here. If you would like to send a pre-composed direct message to your representatives asking them to support the legalization, taxation, and regulation of marijuana, click here.
VIRGINIA’s policies are beginning to look old-school compared to the nearby District of Columbia, where qualified patients can qualify for the medical marijuana program established in the nations capitol. In Virginia, you will be jailed for minor possession for up to 30 days and charged a $500 fine. Something needs to change, and quick. To contact Virginia state representatives to ask them to support the reduction of penalties for marijuana possession, click here.
WEST VIRGINIAintroduced House Bill 4498, which would have established the state’s own version of a Compassionate Use Act for Medical Cannabis. The bill died because it did not advance before the legislative session ended in March. A guideline for contacting WV legislators can be found here.
WISCONSINsenators Jon Erpenbach and Lena Taylor introduced House Bill 371 to the Committee on Health in January. The bill would have established a system of safe access, and exempted qualified patients (with doctor’s recommendation) from state marijuana laws. Consider checking out this page on how to contact your legislators to ask them to support medical marijuana in 2013.
WYOMING’s current marijuana law states that a person who is arrested for under an ounce will face up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The legislature met for under a month this year with no mention of any change in their medical marijuana laws, or medical marijuana programs. The people of Wyoming need to write their legislators, encouraging them to create a sensible medical marijuana bill.
What does the majority of America think?
Nearly every state is pushing for medicinal marijuana programs, or decriminalization. The difference in votes is less than 10% in almost all states that are pushing legislation. This is representative of the changing attitudes of Americans, who when recently polled, support legalization by a 51 to 44 percent vote.
We believe that legalization is truly in the hands of citizens. It is up to each and every one of us to start communicating with state legislators and let them know ending marijuana prohibition is important to you. Once enough states pass legislation allowing cannabis for medicinal purposes, it’s only a matter of time before the federal government will be forced to reconsider their policies.
Marijuana Policy Project provides an alert system that you can subscribe to in order to stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in your state! Also, we suggest reviewing MPP’s state-by-state guide to medical marijuana laws and MPP’s model state medical marijuana legislation. MPP is doing unprecedented things for legalization and marijuana reform, and we sincerely appreciate their effort.
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