U.S.: Congressmen Introduce Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017

U.S. Capitol - Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017

Bill would legalize production of industrial and research hemp in the U.S.

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

Recent Congressional action, which would move the U.S. closer to legalizing industrial hemp, was introduced by Congressman James Comer (KY-01) today in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bipartisan Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017, which would remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and legalize its production in all 50 states, has four initial co-sponsors.

"I'm glad to file the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017 after getting a bipartisan consensus of Congressmen on board,” said Congressman Comer. “This will be my priority legislation."

New York: Hemp NY City Series of Events Focuses On Hemp Movement


GenCanna Global Chief Operating Officer and Managing Partner Steve Bevan will join a distinguished panel of hemp industry experts at HEMP NY CITY, a multi-day series of events focusing on the contemporary hemp movement in New York and throughout the nation.

The third event of the series, a panel presentation on Saturday, March 5 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., will cover hemp legislation in New York State; CBD oil production and use; industrial hemp in Colorado; and the opening of a hemp processing plant in Kentucky.

Speakers include New York Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo; Trey Riddle of Sunstrand LLC; Colorado hemp farmer Ryan Loflin; Morris Beegle, owner of the Colorado Hemp Company; and Joel Stanley, CEO of CW Botanicals. The event will take place at the Great Hall in Cooper Union in Manhattan.

“I am excited to be a part of this esteemed panel and to move forward this important dialogue about industrial hemp and its enormous potential for social, economic and environmental good,” said Bevan. “For the past two years, GenCanna has worked primarily in Kentucky to produce a sustainable and reliable supply of specialized industrial hemp of the highest quality.

"Working together with farmers, greenhouse specialists, researchers, scientists, technological innovators, regulators and legislators has been incredibly rewarding and bountiful," Bevan said. "We look forward to empowering our strategic partners in New York State with the lessons we have learned in Kentucky to jumpstart New York’s own industrial hemp revolution.”

U.S.: First-Ever Bail Reform Legislation Introduced In Congress


Bill Would Ban States from Receiving Federal Law Enforcement Dollars If They Use Money Bail

DPA: Far Too Many People Behind Bars Simply Because They Can’t Afford Bail; 60% of People in U.S. Jails Have Not Been Convicted of Any Crime

A group of Congressmen led by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) on Wednesday introduced the No More Money Bail Act of 2016. The bill would reform the country’s bail system by denying states access to Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) funds until they end the use of monetary payment as a condition for pretrial release.

Byrne JAG is one of the main federal law enforcement grant programs, directing hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state law enforcement agencies. The bill would also prohibit the use of money bail at the federal level.

“Too many individuals are currently held without trial simply because they cannot afford bail,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “Many of them are charged with drug offenses, therefore the nexus between the drug war and money bail is clear.”

Currently, around 60 percent of individuals in jail in the U.S. are pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of any crime. Such a system contradicts the ethos of “innocent until proven guilty,” and has an adverse impact on low-income families and communities of color.

Vermont: Faith Leaders Support Legislation To End Marijuana Prohibition


In a letter to state senators on Tuesday, a diverse group of more than a dozen local clergy and faith leaders from across Vermont expressed support for legislation that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adult use. The bill, S. 241, is expected to receive a full Senate vote this week.

In the letter, the faith leaders say they believe they have “a moral obligation to support change” because the state’s current marijuana prohibition laws “have caused more harm than good for the people of Vermont” and they are “disproportionately enforced against the poor and people of color.”

“As those who teach compassion and love, we believe the harm associated with marijuana can best be minimized through a regulated system that emphasizes education, prevention, and treatment rather than punishment,” they said. “For these reasons, we support S. 241, the proposal to end marijuana prohibition and regulate marijuana in Vermont.”

S. 241 would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores.

Alabama: Bill Filed To Decriminalize Marijuana Possession


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill filed by Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) in the Alabama House would decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Currently, that "offense" would get you a Class A misdemeanor in the Heart of Dixie, punishable by jail time and fines.

HB 257, sponsored by Rep. Todd, would make possession of an ounce or under simply a ticketable offense, reports Adam Powell at Alabama Today. "Possession charges for people clog up a lot of our court services," Todd said. "This would help eliminate some of that bottleneck."

The bill would lower penalties for recreational cannabis consumers, and would, Todd said, create much-needed revenue for the state, since offenders are forced to pay tickets.

"I believe it's safer than alcohol," Rep. Todd said. "If people could take their emotions out of it, I think most people would agree with me."

Todd said she'd spoken with law enforcement officials, and most are supportive, specifically because the measure would remove a lot of work processing and jailing nonviolent marijuana offenders. She does expect opposition, however, from district attorneys, she said.

Maine: Considering Legislation Increasing Drug Penalties, Escalating Drug War


Advocates Say Increasing Penalties Will Frighten People Away from Seeking Treatment, Increase Incarceration, and Exacerbate Racial Disparities and the “New Jim Crow”

The Maine Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on legislation backed by the Attorney General that could roll back groundbreaking reforms passed last session that reduced drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The proposed legislation (LD 1554) would make possession of 30 milligrams (often less than one single pill) or more of prescription opioids and any amount of certain other drugs into felony offenses, continuing the criminalization of drug users and wasting scarce resources on incarceration instead of treatment and prevention.

Under this proposed bill, users not engaged in any other type of illegal conduct would face mandatory felony prosecution for possessing even minuscule amounts of certain substances.

“Addiction should be treated by healthcare professionals rather than the criminal justice system and, as a taxpayer and citizen of Maine, I would prefer our tax dollars go to prevention, treatment, and recovery, rather than mounting costly felony prosecutions against the users actively facing addiction,” said Chris Poulos, a person in long term recovery who overcame addiction and federal incarceration to attend law school and work on criminal justice policy reform at the local, state, and federal levels.

Georgia: Lawmakers Face Seven Marijuana Bills


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Georgia lawmakers are facing no fewer than seven marijuana-related bills this session. Two of the measures, if passed, could result in cannabis legalization.

HB 722, sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), would allow the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana, reports Randall Savage at 13 WMAZ. Peake is the author of the CBD-only cannabis oil bill that lawmakers passed and Governor Nathan Deal signed into law last April.

SB 254, sponsored by Sen. John Colbert (R-Lowndes County), would reduce marijuana possession charges from a felony to a misdemeanor for first-time offenders. Under Colbert's bill, first-time offenders could be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail, fined $1,000, or both.

HB 704, sponsored by John Pezold (R-Columbus) and co-sponsored by James Beverly (D-Macon), would allow the cultivation of industrial hemp.

HB 283, sponsored by Stephen Allison (R-Blairsville), would eliminate the current practice of suspending the driver's license of anyone convicted of marijuana possession.

SB 7, sponsored by Sen. Curt Thompson (R-Gwinnett County), would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for an expanded number of conditions.

SB 198, also sponsored by Sen. Thompson, a legalization bill, would permit the cultivation, production and retail sale of marijuana throughout the state.

Massachusetts: Judiciary Committee To Hold Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Bill


The Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use.

Dick Evans, chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is supporting a 2016 ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts, assisted in drafting H.1561 and will join lead House sponsor Rep. David Rogers to testify in support of the measure.

Rogers and Evans will hold a media availability at 12:30 p.m. ET just outside of the hearing room in the State House, where they will discuss the details of the legislation and the benefits of replacing marijuana prohibition with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

“It’s time for Massachusetts to replace the failed policy of marijuana prohibition with a more sensible system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol,” Evans said. “We support this legislative effort, but we are also committed to moving forward with the initiative so that voters can take over if the Legislature fails to act.

“Whether it happens in the legislature or at the ballot box, the result will be the same,” Evans said. “Our communities will be safer because marijuana will be produced and sold by licensed businesses instead of criminals in the underground market.

New Jersey: Senate To Hold First-Ever Hearing On Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients


New Legislation Clarifies Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act Patient Protections

Advocates Applaud Legislation and Declare that Legislature Did Not Intend For Patients To Lose Jobs For Using Legal Medical Marijuana

The New Jersey Legislature is poised to hold the first-ever hearing on legislation clarifying employment protections for medical marijuana patients. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee hearing is scheduled for Monday, December 21 at 1 p.m., in the New Jersey State House Annex Committee Room 1.

The legislation, Senate Bill 3162, is sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari (DMiddlesex/Somerset/Union) and Senator Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex).

Advocates applaud the bill. “Medical marijuana patients in New Jersey are in a state of limbo and fear,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “They fear being fired from their jobs for using medical marijuana even though it is legal under New Jersey law. No individual and no family should be punished for following their doctor’s order and the laws of their state.”

U.S.: Sen. Bernie Sanders To Introduce Legislation To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition


First-Ever Bill Introduced In Senate To Legalize Marijiuana; Second Major Cannabis Reform Bill Introduced in the Senate This Year

Support for Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Continues to Grow

Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders is to announce at a Wednesday town hall meeting that he is introducing legislation in the Senate that would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances, end federal marijuana prohibition, and let states set their own policies without federal interference.

The bill, which could be introduced as early as Thursday, is expected to be similar to a 2011 bill introduced in the U.S. House by Democrat Barney Frank and Republican Ron Paul known then as the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. It would be the first bill ever introduced in the U.S. Senate to end the failed war on marijuana.

“Clearly Bernie Sanders has looked at the polls showing voter support for marijuana legalization,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Marijuana reform was already moving forward in Congress but we expect this bill to give reform efforts a big boost.”

Illinois: Senate Approves Bill To Remove Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession


Measure Will Be Sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for His Signature

HB 218 replaces the threat of jail time and a criminal record with a civil penalty — a $125 fine, similar to a traffic ticket — for possession of a small amount of marijuana

The Illinois Senate on Thursday approved a bill 37-19 to remove criminal penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana. The measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives in April, will now be sent to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

HB 218, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin) and in the House by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), makes possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana a civil law violation punishable by a $125 fine. Individuals will no longer face time in jail, and the civil offense will be automatically expunged in order to prevent a permanent criminal record.

“Serious criminal penalties should be reserved for individuals who commit serious crimes,” Rep. Cassidy said. “The possibility of jail time should not even be on the table when it comes to simple marijuana possession. Criminalizing people for marijuana possession is not a good use of our state’s limited law enforcement resources.”

Pennsylvania: Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Pennsylvania Senate on Tuesday voted 40-7 to approve a bill that would make it legal for seriously ill patients to use marijuana to treat their conditions with recommendations from their doctors. The bill will now go to the House for consideration.

SB 3, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), would allow qualified patients to obtain medical marijuana from a limited number of licensed, regulated dispensaries throughout the state.

Smoking would not be permitted under the restrictive language of the bill, but patients could consume marijuana in edible form, and patients with certain conditions could consume it through vaporization. Patients under the age of 18 would be required to have parental consent in order to take part in the program.

Unfortunately, home cultivation would also not be allowed under the bill, depriving many fixed-income patients of an economical way to provide their own medicine.

Pennsylvanians suffering from cancer, seizures, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cachexia/wasting syndrome, Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome, multiple sclerosis, spinocerebellara ataxia (SCA), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe fibromyalgia, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and chronic pain would be eligible for the program with a recommendation from their doctor.

Texas: Provocative Marijuana TV Ad To Begin Airing As Lawmakers Consider Reducing Penalties


A provocative television ad in support of legislation to reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession in Texas began airing Tuesday in the state’s four largest media markets.

The ad is scheduled to air on CNN, ESPN, and Fox News Channel across Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin through Thursday at midnight, the deadline by which the House must approve HB 507 in order for it to advance to the Senate.

You can watch the ad below, or online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E83Uv4VtpsE.

In the ad, Russell Jones, a Texas Hill Country resident who served 10 years as a police officer and narcotics detective in California, highlights the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol and says limited law enforcement resources should not be wasted on arresting and jailing people for using the less harmful substance.

“I know of no instance in my entire career where someone was acting out under the influence of marijuana,” Jones says. “People under the influence of alcohol are much more problematic.

"Law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time than arrest people for marijuana possession," Jones says in the ad. "They need to be there to protect the public, to respond to crimes such as robbery, burglaries, rape, and murders.”

The ad cites annual arrest reports produced by the Texas Department of Public Safety that show more than 360,000 arrests for marijuana possession were made in Texas from 2009-2013.

Texas: Senate Approves Unworkable Medical Marijuana Bill


House will now consider measure that is intended to allow access to low-THC marijuana extract for qualifying seizure patients

The Texas State Senate on Thursday approved a bill 26-5 that is intended to allow qualifying patients with intractable seizure conditions to access a marijuana extract containing high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, and only trace levels of THC. SB 339, introduced by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), will now be considered by the state House of Representatives.

“We’re pleased to see a majority of the Senate recognizes the medical benefits of marijuana, but it’s of little comfort if patients aren’t able to experience them,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Texas needs a comprehensive medical marijuana program that allows patients to take full advantage of the various compounds found in different types of marijuana.”

SB 336 requires doctors to “prescribe” marijuana to patients, which exposes doctors to federal criminal sanctions. By contrast, doctors “recommend” medical marijuana or “certify” patients to use medical marijuana in the 23 states with comprehensive medical marijuana laws and the District of Columbia.

Unlike “prescriptions,” recommendations and certifications are federally legal and protected under the First Amendment.

U.S.: Bipartisan Legislation Introduced In Congress To Crack Down On Drug War Asset Forfeiture


FAIR Act Would Eliminate Department of Justice Program that Enables State and Local Police to Keep Proceeds of Property Seized from Citizens

Momentum Builds in Congress for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Days after Attorney General Holder Issues Policy Limiting Police Participation in Controversial Department of Justice Program

Bipartisan legislation was introduced on Monday in both houses of Congress that would roll back changes made in the 1980s by Congress to federal civil asset forfeiture laws largely intended to incentivize law enforcement to pursue civil asset forfeitures as part of the rapid escalation of the War On Drugs.

In the Senate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act. In the House, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced an identical version of Sen. Paul’s FAIR Act.

“It’s encouraging to see strong bipartisan support in Congress for rolling back policies that have perpetuated the failed war on drugs and eroded the public’s trust in law enforcement,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Congress has an opportunity to end the perverse incentives that federal laws give police to take innocent people’s property and run.”

Iowa: Medical Marijuana Bill Lasts Less Than One Day In Legislature


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A medical marijuana bill in the Iowa Legislature died on Tuesday, the same day it was introduced.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), would have allowed patients with certain medical conditions to use medical marijuana with a doctor's authorization, report Brian Wellner and Mike Wiser at the Quad-City Times. Sen. Bolkcom said he wasn't able to get any help from Republican legislators, who he said have shown "little interest" in endorsing the legislation.

"There's disappointment we were not able to recruit bipartisan support for a very narrow bill to help these families with children suffering from seizures as a result of epilepsy," Bolkcom said. "We're not going to be successful creating a program until we have bipartisan support for it. so we have a lot of education work to do ahead here."

Senate File 2215, Bolkcom's bill, was referred to Human Resources for assignment, but won't be assigned by the "funnel week" deadline, in which all bills have to make it through the committee process by Friday in order to be continued this session. "It's dead," Bolkcom said.

Advocates, including Tina McDermott of Davenport, were devastated by the news. Her son suffers from Dravet syndrome, a form of epilepsy with severe seizures. "I could cry I'm so disappointed," McDermott said.

"There's not even a chance for our kids," McDermott said. "Unbelievable. I know I"m not going to quit, but today was a big day."

Kentucky: State Senator Pushes For Medical Marijuana Legalization


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A state senator in Kentucky is ready to introduce a bill which would legalize medical marijuana in the Bluegrass State.

"You ask yourself a question, 'Is cannabis medicine?' Yes or no are the only two answers, and the answer is yes," said Kentucky state Senator Perry Clark, reports Kelly Davis at WDRB.

Senator Clark has introduced a medical marijuana bill twice before in the Kentucky Legislature; he's hoping the third time's the charm.

"We are moving in the correct direction; we have a lot of people who were adamantly opposed to us three years ago that have seen a lot of evidence," Clark, a Democrat from Louisville, said.

Jaime Montalvo, who has multiple sclerosis, was arrested in 2011 for growing cannabis, but said he's not a criminal, and that he uses it to control pain.

"I never really feared the prosecution up until the time it happened," Montalvo said. "It helped muscle spasms; it helped me sleep."

WDRB 41 Louisville News

U.S.: Fewer Than One Third of Americans Oppose Marijuana Legalization


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Fewer than one third of Americans oppose the legalization of cannabis, according to a new poll from the Associated Press. Just 29 percent of respondents said they opposed "legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use."

The number opposing legalization has fallen dramatically since 2010, when 55 percent were opposed, notes Jacob Sullum at Forbes. The AP numbers are consistent with other recent surveys in finding increased acceptance of marijuana, and increased resistance to its prohibition.

The share in favor of legalization was about the same as in 2010, but more repeated "feeling neutral" on the issue this time, reports the Associated Press. Pollsters typically see an increase in "neutral" responses in surveys conducted online (as in 2013) compared with those conducted by phone (as was the case in 2010).

Public opinion has been gradually softening towards cannabis since anti-pot hysteria peaked during the "Just Say No" Reagan 80s. Opposition to legal marijuana peaked in 1990 at 84 percent, according to the General Social Survey conducted at the University of Chicago.

Arizona: Democratic Lawmaker Wants To Legalize Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The second-ranking Democrat in the Arizona House, saying legislation is better than a voter initiative, wants to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

Cannabis advocates are gearing up to put the issue on the 2016 ballot, pointed out Rep. Ruben Gallego of Phoenix, but he wants the issue debated through the legislative process, reports Howard Fischer at Capitol Media Services. Gallego said that lawmakers are better suited to come up with a comprehensive plan, without unforeseen problems, than advocates circulating petitions.

The Arizona Constitution sharply limits tinkering by the Legislature with voter-approved initiatives; such rules were passed after lawmakers twice gutted medical marijuana laws approved by the voters, before voters finally sealed the deal in 2010. Gallego believes, therefore, that any mistakes included in voter initiatives could be difficult to correct after the fact.

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert), while admitting that attitudes around marijuana are softening in Arizona and elsewhere, said he's still opposed to legalization. He said just because voters were in favor of it, is no reason for him and others who are against cannabis legalization to vote for it. (Heck, I don't see much reason for voters to elect Farnsworth again, either.)

U.S.: One In Four Americans Say They'd Buy Marijuana If It Became Legal


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Legalizing marijuana would more than double its potential market, if a new HuffPost/YouGov poll is to be believed.

The poll indicates that 26 percent of Americans say they would buy cannabis if it was legal in their state, compared to 9 percent who said they already buy it, reports Emily Swanson at The Huffington Post. The percentage who said they would buy marijuana "often" jumped from 1 percent who already do so, to 4 percent who said they would buy it "often" if it was legal.

When asked how often they'd buy weed, 18 percent said they'd buy it more often than they do now if it ws legal. That includes 16 percent who said they'd never buy pot now but would, at least on rare occasions, get it if it was legal.

Those under age 30 were more likely to say both that they'd buy cannabis if it was legal (35 percent) and that they already do so now (16 percent). But even among those 65 and older -- almost none of whom said they ever buy marijuana now -- 9 percent said they'd get it at least occasionally if it was legal.

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