D.C. Council members introduced legislation Tuesday that would greatly expand the availability of medical marijuana to D.C. patients by doing away with the list of qualifying conditions that currently restrict access to the program.
A bill introduced by Council member Yvette M. Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Health, would eliminate a list of four conditions that currently allow a patient to seek a doctor’s referral to use medical marijuana. Instead the bill would amend the definition of “qualifying medical condition” to mean any condition that would benefit from medical marijuana treatment as determined by the patient’s physician.
The council’s 13 members unanimously sponsored the bill, virtually assuring its eventual passage.
Currently, the District’s tightly regulated program identifies only four illnesses as eligible for medical marijuana treatment — HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as multiple sclerosis. While officials believe as many as 40,000 of the Dis. . . . . READ MORE
Ten of 13 members of the D.C. Council and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) have endorsed a plan to make small-time marijuana possession a civil rather than a criminal offense. That means recreational cannabis users wouldn’t face arrest, charges or jail time — any of which can destroy their lives — as long as they aren’t caught with more than an ounce of the drug. Instead, they would have to pay a fine, perhaps as low as $25. (The mayor also wants criminal penalties to remain for anyone caught using it in public.)
Much of the debate over the idea has focused on an American Civil Liberties Union report that suggests that the District and many other jurisdictions enforce their anti-marijuana laws unfairly, disproportionately arresting African American suspects. On these pages, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier pushed back, insisting that factors such as a geographic concentration of tips about marijuana users, not biased policing, are responsible for the city’s arres. . . . . READ MORE
In front of the U.S. Capitol Thursday, two congressmen discussed H.R. 2240, the Small Business Tax Equity Act, a little known bill introduced in June by Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer to allow deductions and credits relating to expenditures for marijuana sales conducted in compliance with state law.
The bill, according to GovTrack.Us, has a 0% chance of being enacted and has a tiny chance of even getting out of the House Ways and Means committee. The main reason it has reached national attention is Grover Norquist, the President of Americans for Tax Reform, who has corralled 219 Representatives and 39 Senators to pledge to oppose any and all tax increases. He has taken up the no-tax-penalty-for-pot cause. Norquist—who has “No, absolutely not” ever smoked the stuff—believes that federal encroachment on the nascent field of state regulation of marijuana is a deeply serious topic, irrespective of the drug’s effects.
“There’s always a slight giggle factor on the issue dealing with marijuana,” said Norquist. “That said, this is tax policy, this is real stuff. This is important. This is everything from jobs to whether the federal government comes in and writes rules. . . . . READ MORE
A deputy attorney general told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that the Justice Department had begun working with Treasury officials and financial regulators to clarify how it legally deals with banks and other businesses that serve marijuana dispensaries and growers in states that have legalized the drug for medical or recreational use.
The deputy attorney general, James M. Cole, said the Obama administration was dedicated to enforcing federal drug laws and was choosing the best among a number of imperfect solutions by relying on states to regulate marijuana “from seed to sale.”
The hearing was the first aimed at sorting out differences between state and federal laws since Colorado and Washington State passed measures approving the recreational use of marijuana in November.
Those laws “underscored persistent uncertainty” about how the Justice Department resolves conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws, said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the committee’s chairman.
Financial institutions, security providers and landlords that . . . . . READ MORE
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is set to announce Monday that low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with no ties to gangs or large-scale drug organizations will no longer be charged with offenses that impose severe mandatory sentences.
The new Justice Department policy is part of a comprehensive prison reform package that Holder will reveal in a speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco, according to senior department officials. He is also expected to introduce a policy to reduce sentences for elderly, nonviolent inmates and find alternatives to prison for nonviolent criminals.
Justice Department lawyers have worked for months on the proposals, which Holder wants to make the cornerstone of the rest of his tenure.
“A vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities,” Holder plans to say Monday, according to excerpts of his remarks that were provided to The Washington Post. “However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem rather than alleviate it.”
Hold. . . . . READ MORE
Marijuana advocates in the District have a few friends on the D.C. Council. D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) unveiled a bill Wednesday morning that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to WUSA9.
Under the bill, anyone caught with less than one ounce of marijuana would face a civil penalty of a $100 fine. Under current law, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense; first-time offenders face up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
At a press conference, Wells said that the purpose of decriminalization is to save youths caught with marijuana from losing employment opportunities in the future.
“Once you have a marijuana charge on your record, you cannot participate in certainly the construction boom that is happening all over the city, and it works to stigmatize people … and it disadvantages them from jobs,” Wells said, according to The Washington Post.
A report by the American Civil Liberties Union in June found that D.C. leads the nation in marijuana possession arrests per capita, with a rate more than three times higher than the national average. The ACLU also found that nationally . . . . . READ MORE