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media :: news - Wed, 03 Jun 2015 04:20:21 PST
US Senators Cast First-Ever Vote In Favor Of Medical Marijuana Access
Washington, DC: Members of the US Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week in favor of expanding medical cannabis access to United States veterans. The vote marks the first time that a majority of any body of the US Senate has ever decided in favor of increased cannabis access.
Committee members decided 18 to 12 in favor of The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Sponsors added the provision in committee to a must-pass military construction and veterans' affairs spending bill (the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act). The full Senate is expected to approve the language imminently.
Weeks ago, House members narrowly killed a similar amendment in the House version of the Military Appropriations Act by a floor vote of 210 to 213. Once the Senate passes its version on the floor, House and Senate leaders will reconcile the two versions.
The Daines/Merkley amendment permits physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use. Under federal law, VA doctors are not permitted to fill out written documentation forms authorizing their patients to participate in state-sanctioned medical cannabis programs.
Stand-alone legislation (HR 667) to permit VA physicians to recommend cannabis therapy is pending in the US House of Representatives, Committee on Veterans Affairs: Health Subcommittee. A similar provision is also included in Senate Bill 683/HR 1538, The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act.
Illinois: Lawmakers Approve Measure Decriminalizing Minor Marijuana Possession Offenses
Springfield, IL: Senate lawmakers approved legislation last week decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses. Members of the House had previously approved the measure in April. The measure awaits action from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, whose office has pledged to "carefully consider" the legislation.
House Bill 218 reduces penalties involving the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana from a Class A criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months in jail, a fine up to $2,500, and a criminal record) to a petty offense punishable by a fine of no more than $125 - no arrest, and no criminal record.
Illinois is #5 in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests. Those arrested are disproportionately people of color. For example, in Chicago, some 95 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession are either Black or Hispanic.
The bill also amends the state's zero tolerance DUI limits for the presence of THC in blood.
Fifteen states currently have similar decriminalization laws in effect. Three states - Alaska, Colorado, and Oregon - previously decriminalized marijuana possession offenses, but have since legalized the plant's use, production, and retail sale.
Maryland: Governor Vetoes Measure Depenalizing Marijuana Paraphernalia
Annapolis, MD: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed legislation Friday that sought to depenalize marijuana paraphernalia offenses.
Senators had previously passed Senate Bill 517 by a vote of 32 to 13. Members of the House of Delegates approved the measure by a vote of 83 to 53.
Votes from three-fifths of lawmakers from each chamber are needed to override a veto.
Senate Bill 517 amended state law so that the possession of marijuana paraphernalia would no longer be classified as a criminal offense. Maryland law currently classifies the possession of marijuana paraphernalia as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $500 fine.
Last year, lawmakers enacted legislation decriminalizing the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana.
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