March 8, 2001
New Mexico Marijuana-Law Reform Bills Clear Major Hurdles
NM: A pair of proposals liberalizing New Mexico's marijuana policies
edged closer to becoming law this week.
The Senate Tuesday approved legislation by a 29-12 vote that exempts qualified patients who use marijuana with their doctor's permission from criminal penalties under state law. Patients would not be able to cultivate their own marijuana under the proposal, as they can in states with similar medical marijuana programs. Instead, lawmakers are hopeful that the Health Department will eventually oversee the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. However, they intend to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the matter this year before introducing regulations for any specific distribution plan. In the interim, qualified patients will be issued photo identification cards authorizing them to possess and use marijuana in accordance with state law.
A companion bill, H.B. 431, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee yesterday and now awaits action by the full House.
Also this week, the House Committee on Consumer and Public Affairs approved 6-1 a bill that would remove criminal penalties for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. Similar laws exist in ten states, all of which were enacted in the 1970s.
The proposal, introduced by Rep. Gail Beam (D-Albuquerque), would punish those found in possession of marijuana with a civil citation and $300 fine in lieu of arrest and possible jail time. Under current law, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is punishable by up to 15 days in jail for first time offenders, and as much as one year in jail for subsequent offenses.
The bill now awaits action by the House Judiciary Committee. A companion bill in the Senate, S.B. 315, has yet to be heard.
For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500. For more information on these bills, visit: http://capwiz.com/norml2/officials/state/?state=NM&lvl=L.
More State Lawmakers Push for Bills Reducing Pot Penalties
DC: Lawmakers in Arkansas, California and Nevada are backing
legislation to minimize penalties for the simple possession of marijuana.
In Nevada, Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani (D-Las Vegas) is expected to reintroduce legislation imminently that would reduce penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a felony (punishable by up to four years in jail) to a misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine. Last year, the Nevada Supreme Court's Judicial Assessment Commission made a similar recommendation, noting that Nevada is the only state that treats minor marijuana offenses as felonies.
Earlier this week, Arkansas state Sen. John Riggs (D-Little Rock) introduced S.B. 861 to reduce penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a non-criminal violation. The bill would also expunge the criminal records of those individuals previously convicted of minor marijuana offenses. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to debate the proposal tomorrow.
In California, Sen. Bruce McPherson (R-Santa Cruz) recently introduced legislation downgrading possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a criminal fine to an "infraction." The maximum penalty under his proposal would be a $100 fine, the same as under current law.
For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500. For more information on these bills and other pending marijuana-law reform legislation, visit: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/.
Environmental Coalition Urges Bush to Lift Ban on Hemp
DC: A coalition of farmers, businesses and environmental groups urged
the Bush administration this week to reconsider a petition filed with the Drug
Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
requesting they adopt regulations permitting farmers to cultivate industrial
"At a time when the American farmer is facing a devastating farm crisis and farm states across the country are passing pro-industrial hemp legislation, banning this crop shows a disregard for America's genuine interests," charged Leda Huta, director of the Resource Conservative Alliance, which is coordinating the effort. "We want the Bush administration to take a fresh look at this issue and at the value of industrial hemp for America's economy and environment."
More than 25 organizations, including The Body Shop, Rainforest Action Network, and Patagonia Inc., filed a petition with the Clinton administration in 1998 calling on the DEA to remove hemp from the list of Schedule I controlled substances because it is neither a drug nor psychoactive. The DEA denied the petition on December 19, 2000 a decision that critics maintain is "short sighted" and disregards the nation's best interest.
Several countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, India and Japan, grow hemp for its fiber content. In America, eleven states since 1996 have passed laws or resolutions supporting the formation of a legal U.S. hemp industry, and ten others are considering similar measures this year.
Although the hemp plant belongs to the genus Cannabis sativa, it contains only negligible amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751. For more information on pending hemp legislation, visit: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/.
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