Marijuana and Hemp Legalization: Status Report for 5/5/15

Although our country is undergoing a great deal of turmoil right now, there is reason to be optimistic. Substantive reforms are making headway in state legislatures across the United States that can reduce the tension between law enforcement and the people. Reducing the prison population, providing sustainable jobs, and eliminating cruel policies that have turned the Land of the Free into a totalitarian police state are now attainable goals. We just must be proactive in helping to push these measures toward victory.

Because these bills don't have the backing of billionaires and powerful special interest groups, they rely solely on the power of the people to achieve success. People like you talking to your friends, sharing blogs via e-mails and social media, calling your state legislators, going door-to-door, staging protests, writing letters to the editor of your local newspapers, and so forth, can make all the difference in saving this country. The stakes are high, and it is time to make this happen.

The resistance is already underway, and here is the recent progress that is occurring in state legislatures across the country to end the abuses of the federal drug war:

VICTORY

New Mexico Asset Forfeiture Restriction Signed Into Law: Although we mainly focus on legalizing industrial hemp and marijuana at the state level here, we also look at abuses that have arisen from the federal drug war. Arguably the most onerous of these abuses is civil asset forfeiture, an unconscionable practice that flips the entire legal system on its head. It allows law enforcement to steal the property of suspects before they are even convicted of a crime.

New Mexico has taken a bold first step toward curbing this abusive process. House Bill 560 (HB560) was signed into law in April by Gov. Susana Martinez to prohibit law enforcement in the state of New Mexico from confiscating property until after suspects are convicted of a crime. Other states must follow in New Mexico's footsteps and enact similar measures against civil asset forfeiture as quickly as possible.

MORE RESISTANCE

Illinois Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Passes State House: An Illinois bill that would eliminate the possibility of arrest and criminal prosecution for low-level cannabis possession in the state passed through the state House in late April. Introduced by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-14) along with 16 bicameral co-sponsors, House Bill 218 (HB218) passed in the state House with a 62-53 vote.

Under HB218, individuals caught possessing up to 15 grams of marijuana would be "guilty of a civil law violation punishable by a maximum fine of $125." Possession of between 15 and 30 grams of marijuana would be considered a Class B misdemeanor. Possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana would still be considered a felony under Illinois state law. Illinois residents should find their state senator's contact information and call them immediately to demand that they support this important bill.

Missouri State House Approves Industrial Hemp Bill: In late April, the Missouri state House approved a bill to authorize the farming, production, and sale of industrial hemp in the state, effectively blocking the federal prohibition on the same. Introduced by Rep. Paul Curtman, House Bill 830 (HB830) was approved with a 104-41 vote.

Under HB830,hemp would allow anyone with a hemp license would be able to grow and produce hemp crops as long as they are farming on a minimum of 2.5 acres. Notably, the bill does address some concerns of people who oppose the idea of a license for hemp farming on philosophical grounds by making the license “shall issue,” which is a legal term requiring the state to issue the license to people. Without this section, a state department could deny applications for a myriad of reasons. That makes HB830 an extremely effective reform deserving of your support. Missouri residents should find their state senator's contact information and call them immediately to demand that they support this important bill.

Pennsylvania Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill: Last month, a Pennsylvania state Senate committee unanimously passed a bill that would legalize marijuana for specific medical purposes, effectively thwarting the federal prohibition on the same.

Introduced by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) with 27 bipartisan co-sponsors, Senate Bill 3 (SB3) would set up a program to distribute medical marijuana to certain eligible patients. The bill passed through the Senate State Government Committee with an 8-0 vote on April 21. Pennsylvania residents should find their state senator's contact information and call them immediately to demand that they support this important bill.

PUSHING THESE BILLS TO VICTORY

We can only have success if we TAKE. ACTION. NOW. The country is falling to pieces, and only we can keep it together if we unite around intelligent, sensible reforms that can bring an end some of the worst abuses that plague our nation. We must peacefully stand against injustice while we still can. We must seize on this opportunity while it is still possible.

Don't listen to the naysayers and doubters. We can put the power back in the hands of the people if we conquer our apathy, and do the work necessary to restore justice and freedom. Will you stand with us? We are almost at the finish line of ending the drug war. Your action can put us over the top. Together, we can achieve peace in our streets.