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In yet another huge victory for marijuana reform, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted by 21 to 8 to approve an amendment offered by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Maryland) to protect state medical marijuana laws from federal interference by the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Marijuana reforms are repeatedly winning votes in Congress,” said Bill Piper, senior director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Letting states set their own marijuana policies is now a mainstream, bipartisan issue.”
After decades of inactivity on marijuana reform, Congress has moved at lightning pace to advance marijuana reform in recent years. Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to allow Veterans Administration doctors to recommend marijuana. The Committee approved similar amendments last year as well as an amendment to allow state-legalized marijuana businesses to access banks and other financial services.
The Mikulski Amendment is expected to pass the full Senate as well as the House. Similar amendments were passed by Congress last year and the year before.
Sanders criticized the American War On Drugs, saying that millions of lives have been “ruined” because they got a police record, and sometimes prison sentences, for possessing marijuana, reports Tom Kertscher at Politifact.
“Today, under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed in the same Schedule I as heroin,” Sanders said. “That is nuts. Now people can argue — although I suspect in this audience, there may not be much of an argument — about the pluses and minuses of marijuana,” Sanders said, drawing cheers from the crowd of thousands at the Alliant Energy Center. “But everybody knows marijuana is not a killer drug like heroin.”
Sanders then pointed out he’s introduced legislation which would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act — as in DEscheduling cannabis, not REscheduling it. (Merely moving marijuana to Schedule II would effectively hand over its control to Big Pharma.)
Multiple authorized medical cannabis patients living in the same residence in Washington state can grow up to four plants each, up to a total of 15 plants, without being on the patient registry, according to information received from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board on Thursday.
In answers to a Washington state medical marijuana patient advocate, Brian E. Smith of the WSLCB clarified the home growing rules for patients in the state. Only medicinal patients with a physician’s authorization are allowed to cultivate cannabis in Washington without an I-502 cultivation license.
A qualifying patient not entered in the medical marijuana authorization database (Washington’s euphemism for a patient registry) is allowed to grow up to four plants and possess up to six ounces of useable marijuana in his or her domicile, according to the LCB. This possession limit is per patient (RCW 69.51A.210) (3)).
“If multiple qualifying patients reside in the same housing unit, no more than 15 plants may be located in that housing unit,” Smith told patient advocate Tracy Linderman Sirrine of Patients For Patients Medical. “The production and/or processing of marijuana cannot be in any portion of the house that can be readily seen or smelled from a public place or the private property of another housing unit (RCW 69.51A.260).”
Natlie DePriest and David DePriest each received 15 years, the harshest possible sentence which can be given for cannabis cultivation in Missouri, reports Daniel Miller at the Daily Mail. The maximum punishment for manslaughter in Missouri is also 15 years.
A maintenance man entered the DePriests’ home in the city of Farmington, Missouri, in 2001, in order to “fit a fire extinguisher” while they were out, and photographed what he thought was a “pipe bomb” on the counter.
He informed the police, showing them the pictures, and they conducted a search, considering the photos probable cause. They found the marijuana plants inside a bedroom closet, along with three pounds of dried cannabis, a rifle which was a quarter-inch shorter then the legal limit, two legal pistols and two bulletproof vests. They also found ledgers they claimed contain sales record totaling up to $8,000 a month. The “pipe bomb,” basis of the entire search, turned out to be no such thing, and harmless.
On Thursday, April 21 – the last day of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs – several members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy held a press conference in New York. The Global Commission evaluate the outcome of the UN meeting and call for concrete steps to ensure more effective drug policy reform in the years ahead.
The UNGASS took place in New York from April 19-21 and was the first such gathering of governments in 18 years.
“Globally, we’re wasting too much money and precious resources on criminalizing people and sending them to jail when we should be spending this money on helping people – through proper medical care and education,” said Global Commission Member Sir Richard Branson. “From the perspective of an investor, the war on drugs has failed to deliver any returns. If it were one of my businesses, I would have shut it down many many years ago.”
Commissioner and former President of Switzerland, Ruth Dreifuss also noted that “many countries are already successfully adopting innovative harm reduction and treatment strategies such as needle exchange, substitution therapies, heroin prescription and safe consumption rooms”. She added that “for these efforts to be truly effective, governments must decriminalize the use of drugs for personal use.”
“This is not a gateway to anything other than … reinforcing what we’ve always done and that is allow doctors, encourage doctors, to do what they can do to make the lives of their patients more comfortable,” Gov. Wolf told KDKA Morning News.
Implementing the newly legal medicinal cannabis programs is expected to take from 18 to 24 months, but Gov. Wolf said patients should get relief long before that.
“People should be able to start using these medicines quickly,” Gov. Wolf said. “If someone were to go to another state and buy it legally and bring it back for medicinal purposes, I kind of doubt that most prosecutors would pursue a case.”
Colorado and Washington both passed initiatives by popular vote to decriminalize and legalize cannabis in 2012. In 2014, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., followed suit.
Many states including Massachusetts, California, Missouri, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada and Ohio have flirted with legalization for a few election cycles, with buzz growing.
The United States isn’t the only country where people use marijuana legally or illicitly. In fact, it isn’t even the country with the highest reported marijuana use.