Missouri has become the 19th state to decriminalize personal marijuana possession. Senate Bill 491, a proposal that greatly alters Missouri’s criminal code – including decriminalizing the possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis – has become law without Governor Jay Nixon’s signature. The state’s legislature approved the measure with a 169 to 17 vote. Under current Missouri law, the possession of any amount of cannabis can net someone a prison sentence of up to a year. Under Senate Bill 491, the charge for possessing up to 10 grams of cannabis would be reduced to a simple fine, rather than an arrestable misdemeanor. Charges involving cannabis cultivation and distribution would also be reduced. The measure includes several other reforms as well, including removing a mandate that finds someone convicted for the third time on a drug felony charge automatically denied probation and parole. Unfortunately the proposal doesn’t go into full effect until January, 2017.
FBI Director James Comey wants to make clear that the Bureau still maintains a ban on hiring any agents who admit to smoking marijuana in the past three years. Comey generated a buzz among marijuana reformers on the subject of FBI hiring of talented computer hackers to combat cyber-terrorism. “One of the challenges we face is getting a good work force,” Comey mentioned at a recent conference, “at the same time that young people’s attitudes and our states’ attitudes about marijuana are leading more and more of them to try it. I have to hire a great workforce to compete with those cyber-criminals, and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview.” Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions chided Comey at a congressional oversight hearing, saying FBI director’s remarks, “could be interpreted as one more example of leadership in America dismissing the seriousness of marijuana use. That could undermine our ability to convince young people to not go down a dangerous path.”
New York Senator Diane Savino’s move to further restrict a medical marijuana bill has gotten it past its first Senate committee in a 9-8 vote. Sen. Savino said her bill “would create the tightest, most-regulated program in the nation,” describing how her colleagues complained that “We don’t want this to be California.” Sen. Savino explained, “In California, physicians often have far too much latitude about who should and shouldn’t be listed as a marijuana patient,” necessitating the strict list of twenty qualifying conditions that include typical medical marijuana state conditions such as cancer and AIDS, but forbids pain, nausea, non-rheumatoid arthritis, and glaucoma. Under the current bill, patients would not be allowed to cultivate their own plants, which would make New York the 12th medical marijuana state in a row since 2010 to forbid home grow to all patients. The Senate Republicans prefer language that would forbid any smoking of marijuana, but Sen. Savino’s bill only bans smoked marijuana for patients under age 21.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed into law a bill requiring the legislature to design regulations that make THC-infused edible products to be readily identifiable as such even when out of the packaging. The law comes in response to rising numbers of children admitted to hospitals for accidental ingestion of marijuana products that come in forms like cookies, gummi bears, and chocolate bars. In the eight years from 2005-2013, eight children total had been admitted to ERs; in 2013, eight children were admitted in that year alone, and in 2014 already nine children have succumbed to accidental ingestion. The Denver Post reports that “Lawmakers suggested the products might all contain a unique stamp or be made in a particular shape or color.” While it seems beyond obvious that a big green pot leaf stamp and edibles shaped like pot leaves would do the trick, politicians in Washington State nixed a plan that would have labeled all infused products with a pot-leaf-and-state-outline icon for fear it would be interpreted as state endorsement of marijuana use.
New York State voters back medical marijuana by a 83 percent to 15 percent margin according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll. Support for recreational marijuana received a slim majority of 51 percent to 44 percent, with women’s support lagging behind men’s by seven points at 50 percent. As usual young people and Democrats support legalization at 62 percent, while Republicans and older people oppose legalization at 69 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Sixty percent of New Yorkers also believe that alcohol is more harmful to a person’s health than marijuana.