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New Mexico: House Narrowly Approves Bill To Reduce Marijuana Penalties

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Under a bill passed 37-33 on Monday by the New Mexico House, adults possessing less than eight ounces of marijuana would no longer receive any jail time. House Bill 465 now goes to the Senate, which only has four and a half more days to act on it.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Emily Kane (D-Albuquerque), would reduce penalties for possession of up to four ounces to a civil penalty with increasing fines, while eliminating the potential for jail time for possession of any amount up to eight ounces, reports Steve Terrell at The New Mexican.

"Spending $5 million a year to arrest people with small amounts of marijuana is a waste of resources," Rep. Kane said during the three-hour debate on her bill. "We could put that money to better use."

"Why on God's green Earth would we want to spend money throwing college kids in jail for having a few joints when we could be spending that money on early childhood education?" said Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) during the debate.

Rep. Egolf called New Mexico's current marijuana laws "institutional state stupidity."

Iowa: Rodeo Clown Convicted For Growing Marijuana; Faces 20 Years In Prison

Photo by Dan Williamson, Iowa Press-CitizenBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An Iowa man who worked as a rodeo clown in local and national rodeos faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison after being convicted Friday of conspiracy to "manufacture marijuana."

Federal prosecutors claim Rory Meeks, 55, of Marion, Iowa, planted cannabis along corn and soybean fields in rural areas of Jones County, tending the plants all summer, reports the Iowa Press-Citizen.

Authorities claim Meeks and others harvested and dried the plants each fall, then sold the marijuana for several years in a row.

Jurors found Meeks guilty, after a three-day trial, of growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants between 2004 and 2011. He had been acquitted of one count of manufacturing marijuana in April 2011.

Meeks performed as a clown for prominent Iowa City-area charities. He now faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $20 million fine, and at least 10 years of supervised release following imprisonment.

(Photo of Rory Meeks by Dan Williamson, Iowa Press-Citizen)

Maryland: Health Secretary Backs Medical Marijuana Bill

Maryland: Health Secretary Backs Medical Marijuana BillBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maryland's health secretary has expressed support for a measure to allow medical marijuana in the state.

Secretary Joshua Sharfstein told lawmakers on Friday that Governor Martin O'Malley's administration has changed its position since last year, when it opposed a medical marijuana bill because, it said, it could expose state employees who administered such a program to being federally charged.

Sharfstein said the O'Malley administration is changing its position because the federal government has not brought charges against any state employees in other states who are involved in administering medical marijuana programs.

Sharfstein said the administration is now behind the bill sponsored by Delegate Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), with some amendments.

Morhaim's bill would create a commission to oversee the medical marijuana program at academic medical centers. It would be "the tighest and most controlled of any state" medical marijuana program, according to Morhaim.

Colorado: CU Officials Say 4/20 Gathering Is Unwelcome On Campus

Colorado: CU Officials Says 4/20 Gathering Is Unwelcome On CampusBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Officials with the University of Colorado at Boulder said they still firmly oppose a large-scale marijuana party that traditionally takes place on campus every 4/20. With April 20 falling on Saturday this year, the party could be huge.

Despite the fact that Amendment 64, approved by voters in November, made marijuana use legal for all adults in the state, it is still illegal to smoke pot in public, CU-Boulder officials said, reports Brittany Anas at the Boulder Daily Camera.

"4/20 is most certainly an unwelcome gathering on the campus," sniffed CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard.

CU officials said the smoke-out "disrupts academics," and they'll be making a stern announcement as early as next week about what the school's plans are to squelch the 4/20 celebration.

Last spring, CU took the unprecedented step of actually shutting down the Boulder campus to outside visitors on April 20. Norlin Quad -- the location of the party, which had grown to 12,000 pot-smokers -- was completely shut down.

University officials even put a foul-smelling fertilizer on the Quad to deter crowds. As a result, a far smaller crowd of only about 300 people gathered on a smaller campus field.

New York: Minority Caucus Joins Community Groups Calling For Fix To Broken Marijuana Possession Law

New York: Minority Caucus Joins Community Groups Calling For Fix To Broken Marijuana Possession LawBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus on Tuesday will gather to urge an end to the biased and costly practices of falsely arresting tens of thousands of people in New York for low-level marijuana possession.

They will be joined by dozens of advocates and impacted people from around the state to urge passage of Governor Andrew Cuomo's marijuana decriminalization proposal. The proposal, outlined in his 2013 State of the State Address, would decriminalize possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis in public view, but smoking in public would remain a misdemeanor.

Fixing the law would help end the practice of arresting tens of thousands of young people every year for possessing marijuana in public view -- after police have misleadingly demanded they "empty their pockets" during a stop-and-frisk encounter.

The reform proposal outlined by Gov. Cuomo is supported by dozens of community organizations throughout the state, state legislators, the NYC Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Additionally, the reforms are supported by law enforcement leaders from across the state, including NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelley, all five NYC district attorneys (Democrat and Republican), district attorneys from Long Island, Buffalo and Albany, and police leaders like the Albany sheriff and Rochester police chief.

Washington: Shooting At Growhouse Leaves 1 Dead, 1 Critical

Washington: Shooting At Growhouse Leaves 1 Dead, 1 CriticalBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

One person is dead and another is critically wounded after a shooting at a marijuana grow house in SeaTac, Washington, early Monday morning.

A woman called 911 just before 3 a.m. to report the shooting, according to King County Sheriff's Sgt. Cindi West, reports Kelly Koopmans at KOMO.

Deputies discovered one person dead inside the home in the 3000 block of South 146th Street in SeaTac. Another person who had been shot was taken in critical condition to Harborview Medical Center.

There were two attackers, and both escaped, according to Sgt. West. No description was immediately available.

About 50 cannabis plants were inside the House, according to West. Officers are trying to determine if the shooting happened during a robbery attempt.

The name of the person who was killed had not been released as 9 a.m. on Monday.

Montana: Medical Marijuana Advocates Push Bill To Amend Strict 2011 Law

Montana: Medical Marijuana Advocates Push Bill To Amend Strict 2011 LawBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana advocates are making what is being called a final try this legislative session to fix the 2011 law that imposed such tight restrictions on what was then a booming industry that it has been called a defacto legislative repeal of the 2000 law approved by 62 percent of voters.

Senator Dave Wanzenreid (D-Missoula), who has consistently been a friend to medical marijuana patients in the Big Sky state, recently introduced Senate Bill 377 on behalf of a group called Montana Association for Rights, reports Charles S. Johnson at The Missoulian.

A hearing date hasn't yet been set for the bill, which has been assigned to the Senate Business and Labor Committee. Wanzenreid hopes to get the bill switched to the Judiciary Committee.

Political analysts believe SB 377 may have a tough time getting any traction; it would expand the 2011 medical marijuana law in some ways.

The 2013 Legislature, controlled by Republicans, has so far opposed changing the current strict law, killing, so far, six other bills that sought to soften it. The 2011 law was intended by the Legislature to make it harder for people to get medical marijuana cards, and to profit from the industry.

California: Company Wants To Bring Marijuana Dispensing Machines To San Diego

Photo - California: Company Wants To Bring Marijuana Dispensing Machines To San DiegoBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

One New York City-based company says they have the solution to controlling medical marijuana purchases: vending machines selling the herb in dispensaries.

Far from being as shocking as it might appear at first blush, Dr. Bruce Bedrick said his cannabis vending machine, called a MedBox, could actually help regulate medical marijuana sales, reports Fox5.

"Our technology is not a vending machine that is sitting out on the street corner," explained Bedrick. "These are 800-pound, armor coated machines that are sitting in dispensaries."

Patients would first be required to show their medical marijuana card to an employee at the dispensary before using the machine. They would then get a card which would allow them to make future purchases from the MedBox.

"This type of technology really helps regulate the industry," Bedrick said. "The software and the way the system is set up can limit the actual dispensing to patients."

"In our case, there's no free-wheeling marijuana around," Bedrick said. "There's no marijuana in big glass jars that's unaccounted for."

New Jersey: Lawmakers Want To Keep Marijuana Patients From Being Kicked Off Organ Transplant Lists

(Photo: Think Progress Health)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill which would ensure that medical marijuana patients' use of cannabis would not prevent them from getting needed medical care such as organ transplants was approved Tuesday by a New Jersey state Senate committee.

The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee took action to prevent patients from getting kicked off transplant lists due to their physician-authorized medicinal cannabis use, reports Sy Mukerjee at Think Progress.

The panel passed S-1220, sponsored by New Jersey state Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Nicholas P. Scutari. The legislation "would provide that a registered, qualifying patient's authorized use of medical marijuana would be considered equivalent to using other prescribed medication rather than an illicit substance and therefore would not qualify the person from needed medical care, such as an organ transplant."

"We are hearing of cases in other states of sick and dying patients being kicked off organ transplant waiting lists for their legal use of medical marijuana," said Sen. Vitale (D-Middlesex), who is chairman of the Senate Health Committee. "This practice is unconscionable as the patients have followed their doctors' orders and have taken a legal medication to reduce the pain and suffering associated with their illness.

California: $1 Million Worth of Camouflaged Marijuana Found at Vandenberg Air Force Base

Photo of Col. Nina Armagno by Janene Scully/Santa Maria TimesBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Vandenberg Air Force Base officials say that marijuana smugglers crashed a 20-foot boat onto the beach on base property, leaving behind at least $1 million worth of marijuana just after 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

The marijuana was found near an overturned boat north of Wall Beach, according to Vandenberg officials, and was removed by Homeland Security investigators, who "took over" the investigation around 5:40 p.m. on Thursday, reports The Los Angeles TimesZ.

The cannabis was camouflaged, according to Col. Nina Armagno, a 30th Space Wing Commander, reports Janene Scully at the Santa Maria Times.

"What it looks like to me are large bags, kind of like dark-colored trash bags, wrapped up and stacked, and actually they have been covered in what looks like an attempt to camouflage them with brush," Armagno said.

"We immediately secured the scene and started searching the beaches and the local area," Armagno said. "I ordered all facilities to be searched and secured."

Washington: Residents Seek Answers About Legal Marijuana At Final Public Forum

Photo - Washington: Residents Seek Answers About Legal Marijuana At Final Public ForumBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

About 200 people attended a marijuana forum Thursday night in Bremerton, Washington, the last of eight meetings the state Liquor Control Board has held around the state as it prepares licensing regulations for the newly legal cannabis industry.

Speakers overwhelmingly supported rules that would allow a marijuana cottage industry, rather than a market dominated by a few large corporate producers and a black market, reports Josh Farley at The Kitsap Sun.

"My biggest fear is that Big Agra, Big Pharma, and other corporations, having had no real great investment, interest or sacrifice, will lobby hard to seek control and dictate to those who are now in this historic position," said Christy Stanley, a Kingston mother of four who wants a future in the cannabis industry.

Stanley focused her support on the cottage industry that could develop and asked that no barriers be erected that could hinder that type of development, rather than a big corporate takeover.

Some of those attending expressed concerns about high taxes, the scientifically unsupported low marijuana blood limit for driving included in the legalization measure, and "exposing drug use to children."

California: L.A. Mayor Frontrunner Calls On Feds To End Marijuana 'Hypocrisy'

Source: blogdowntownBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Los Angeles mayoral frontrunner Eric Garcetti is calling on the federal government to reclassify marijuana as medically useful, urging the Obama Administration to end what he called the "hypocrisy" of current pot laws.

"I think the federal government should do that swiftly and end some of the hypocrisy on the use of marijuana as a medicine," Garcetti told HuffPost Live's Jacob Soboroff on Wednesday.

Garcetti said the issue is personal for him because of fellow L.A. City Council member Bill Rosendahl, who is fighting cancer, reports The Huffington Post. According to Garcetti, if it weren't for medical marijuana, Rosendahl would not be able to keep food down during his cancer treatments.

During an emotional city council meeting last October, Rosendahl begged his fellow council members to reverse a recently passed dispensary ban in Los Angeles.

"Where does anybody go, even a councilman go, to get his medical marijuana?" Rosendahl asked during the meeting. He decided not to seek reelection this year, in order to focus on his recovery.

Florida: Robert Platshorn's Pot Infomercial Pulled By Orlando Station

Florida: Robert Platshorn's Pot Infomercial Pulled By Orlando StationBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Robert Platshorn wants to spread the good news about medicinal cannabis. Since late last year, the former pot smuggler -- who served almost 30 years in federal prison after the "Black Tuna Gang" was busted by authorities -- has been buying TV time on local stations for his infomercial aimed and senior citizens, Should Grandma Smoke Pot?

The 30-minute show aims to educate the elderly on the pros of medical legalization, and is an extension of Platshorn's popular "Silver Tour," reports Kyle Swenson at Broward Palm Beach New Times.

Having already successful bought airtime and aired the show on stations in the Tampa area and in South Florida, Platshorn was ready to crack the Orlando market on WKCF, a CW affiliate owned by Hearst Media. But the deal fell apart at the last minute when the station got cold feet about the infomercial's message.

"When we bought the time to start running in March, they were very happy to sell it to us," Platshorn said. Should Grandma Smoke Pot? was scheduled for six half-hour slots on WKCF, according to Platshorn, at a total price of about $2,200; the deal was signed on February 26.

Maryland: Medical Marijuana Push Begins

Maryland: Medical Marijuana Push BeginsBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) wants Maryland patients who need medical marijuana to have safe access to it. Glenn held a Thursday news conference to discuss a bill which would allow the distribution of medicinal cannabis to patients with chronic or debilitating medical conditions through compassion centers.

Florida stockbroker Irvin Rosenfeld, one of four surviving federal medical marijuana patients, is expected to deliver remarks during the event, reports WBAL.

Rosenfeld still receives 300 pre-rolled joints from the federal government each month as part of the Compassionate Investigative New Drug program, as he has for almost 30 years. The IND program stopped taking on new patients during the George H.W. Bush Administration, when it became clear that hundreds of AIDS patients would be eligible.

Glenn has already introduced the medical marijuana legislation. Baltimore County Delegate Dan Morhaim, a physician, has also introduced a two bills this session.

New Hampshire: House Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill 14-1

Photo - New Hampshire: House Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill 14-1By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill to allow New Hampshire residents with debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana moved one step closer to becoming law on Thursday when it was approved 14-1 by the House Committee on Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs. House Bill 573 will now be considered by the full House of Representatives.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter), would allow seriously ill patients to use medicinal cannabis if their doctors recommend it. Patients would be allowed to grow up to three mature marijuana plants in their homes, or obtain cannabis through one of five nonprofit, state-licensed alternative treatment centers.

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan has expressed support for passing medical marijuana legislation. A similar medical marijuana bill that passed with bipartisan support last session was vetoed by then-Governor John Lynch.

Prior to the vote, Rep. Patrick Culbert (R-Pelham) made an emotional plea to his colleagues, sharing his experience caring for his wife, Judy, as she slowly died of cancer. He recounted how she found relief from her "agonizing" symptoms the one time she tried using medical marijuana -- but did not use it again, because she feared being arrested.

"People like Judy shouldn't have to die like that," Rep. Culbert said. "She should have died with dignity and she didn't."

Idaho: New Medical Marijuana Petition Drive Aims For 2014 Ballot

Photo - Idaho: New Medical Marijuana Petition Drive Aims For 2014 BallotBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Compassionate Idaho on Friday, March 15 will release a new petition to put medical marijuana on the 2014 ballot for the voters to decide.

The petition will address the failed medical marijuana policy of Idaho that is currently putting seriously and terminally ill patients in the position of being "criminals," according to the group.

"This petition, once law, will protect our seriously and terminally ill patients and their caregivers from arrest, prosecution, and forfeiture for obtaining medical marijuana," Compassionate Idaho said in a prepared statement.

The petition is already available for reading at www.compassionateidaho.org, although it doesn't yet have its short and long ballot titles back from the Idaho Attorney General, according to the group.

Once Compassionate Idaho gets the petition back from the state Attorney General, they plan to post a downloadable PDF file of the petition for circulation around the state. Circulation instructions and downloadable voter registration cards will also be available.

New Mexico: Senate Committee Approves Study of Taxing and Regulating Marijuana

Photo - New Mexico: Senate Committee Approves Study of Taxing and Regulating MarijuanaBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New Mexico state Senator Ortiz y Pino's Senate Memorial 80, requesting the state Economic Development Department to study the budgetary implications of taxing and regulating marijuana in the state, on Wednesday passed out of the Senate Rules Committee on a 6-1 bipartisan vote.

The memorial bill will next be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee before being heard by the entire Senate.

"Legislators on both sides of the asile want to know how taxing and regulating marijuana in New Mexico will improve our economic success as a state," said Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico state director with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "Many of the best ideas defy political labels."

"As marijuana reform becomes a mainstream position, political candidates and elected officials are finding it less and less of a political third rail," Kaltenbach said.

A new poll conducted by Research and Polling found a majority of New Mexico's registered voters -- 52 percent -- say they support legalizing marijuana for adults, taxing and regulating it in a way similar to alcohol. Forty percent were opposed.

A report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy released last year suggests the legalization of marijuana as an affirmative step to end failed drug policies that fuel a violent black market.

Hawaii: Senate Votes Unanimously To Decriminalize Marijuana

Hawaii: Senate Votes Unanimously To Decriminalize MarijuanaBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Hawaii state Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposal now goes to the House.

The bill would make the possession of one ounce or less a civil violation. Lawmakers tacked on a $1,000 fine to emphasize that marijuana is still illegal, despite the shift from criminal to civil penalties, reports Anita Hofschneider of The Associated Press.

The bill is designed to reduce the backlog in Hawaii's criminal justice system, according to sponsor Sen. Clayton Hee.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials, reluctant to give up the disproportionate power over everyday citizens which marijuana criminalization gives them, predictably oppose the bill. They claim decriminalization would make it harder to enforce laws against pot.

A bill to legalize marijuana in Hawaii died in the House earlier this session.

U.S.: Senator Leahy To Attorney General Holder: Leave Marijuana Alone

Photo - U.S.: Senator Leahy To Attorney General Holder: Leave Marijuana AloneBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In what he called "a bit of editorializing," U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on Wednesday morning suggested to Attorney General Eric Holder that the Department of Justice should pursue "more serious things than minor possession of marijuana."

Sen. Leahy also asked Atty. Gen. Holder what many people in Colorado and Washington have been wondering about: if Holder was prepared to announce the federal government's official response to the voters of those two states legalizing marijuana at the ballot box last November. But, once again, Holder didn't offer a straight answer.

The Attorney General did say he'd had "good conversations" with elected leaders in the two states, including with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson.

"We expect our ability to announce a policy relatively soon," Holder said.

Both Washington and Colorado are moving ahead with their state-run legal marijuana programs, but could face lawsuits and prosecution from the federal government, which officially considers all forms of cannabis a dangerous Schedule I controlled substance with no accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse.

Yes, it's been awhile since federal drug policy had a meaningful reality check.

Michigan: House Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Photo - Michigan: House Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana DispensariesBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Michigan House of Representatives is considering a bill which would allow safe access for the state's medical marijuana patients through a system of dispensaries.

The Medical Marijuana Provisioning Center Regulation Act comes after a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that the transfer of medicinal cannabis between patients -- the kind that takes place in dispensaries -- is not covered or protected by the original Michigan Medical Marihuana Act approved by 63 percent of state voters in 2008.

Mike Callton (R-Nashville) said medical marijuana dispensaries are necessary for patients to have save access to the cannabis recommended by their doctors, reports Dan Lloyd of Heritage Media.

"Frankly, the recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling necessitated this legislation," Callton said. "Now there are only two limited ways someone can access medical marijuana: Grow their own, or contract with a caregiver.

"Therefore, we need to allow for provisioning centers or patients will continue to suffer," Rep. Callton said. "The more educated people become about this issue, the more they understand the pressing need before us."

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