On Tuesday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 22 drug offenders, including that of Francis Darrell Hayden, who was serving life for growing marijuana. The commutations are part of a larger effort aimed at fairer sentencing in the United States. “As the Department of Justice has noted, mandatory minimum sentences have at times resulted in harsher penalties for non-violent drug offenders than many violent offenders and are not necessary for prosecutions at this level,” the White House states. Hayden received life in prison for his involvement in the cultivation of an estimated 18,900 plants grown among rows of corn in Indiana and Michigan between 1991 and 1998. It was Hayden’s third conviction after pot offenses in 1980 and 1990. Hayden’s was the lone pot sentence commutation among the batch, which mostly dealt with commutation of sentences for cocaine and cocaine base.
A year after Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales, millions of tax dollars are rolling in, dedicated to funding school construction, marijuana education campaigns and armies of marijuana inspectors and regulators. The problem is a strict anti-spending provision in the state Constitution, known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, may require Colorado to refund nearly $60 million in marijuana taxes. Lawmakers are scrambling to figure out a way to keep that money, and they are hoping Colorado voters — usually stingy when it comes to taxes and spending — will let them. In rare bipartisan agreement on taxes, legislators are piecing together a bill that would seek voters’ permission to hold on to the marijuana money. But anti-tax feelings run deep here, and some anti-tax groups said they would fight any effort to deprive the public of a refund, even if it amounts to only $11 or less a person.
The New York State Health Department has issued final regulations after receiving hundreds of comments from the public. The state expects to get its medical marijuana program off the ground next year, but has refused to loosen up its stringent medical marijuana rules that prohibit the drug from being smoked and only allow it to be used to treat 10 medical conditions. Commenters asked the state to expand the list of conditions that can be treated with marijuana. The conditions listed in the regulations include: cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disorder, neuropathies and Huntington’s disease. Commenters also suggested the state allow more organizations to grow and dispense marijuana. Under the regulations, the state will issue licenses to five organizations that will grow and dispense marijuana.
Legislation allowing Tennesseans diagnosed with terminal and other illnesses to use medical marijuana passed its first hurdle in the state House Tuesday. The House Health Subcommittee approved the bill sponsored by state Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, through voice vote without dissent or debate. The proposal will be sent to the full committee for consideration. Patients could not grow their own plants, rather, the legislation would allow those with terminal illnesses to be prescribed marijuana administered through gel tab pills or a patch, purchased at one of 33 dispensaries in the state, Williams said. Those illnesses include stage II, III or IV terminal cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease and certain forms of epilepsy, Williams said. Williams said the legislation would not allow recreational use of marijuana. The state would also oversee the plants “from seed to sale” to ensure the product is grown and distributed safely and effectively.
A bill that would legalize medical marijuana is close to being debated by one chamber of the Missouri legislature. HB 800 is sponsored by State Representative Dave Hinson, and on Tuesday, the bill unanimously passed in the General Laws committee chaired by State Representative Caleb Jones. The bill has been changed to specify it won’t legalize medical use of synthetic marijuana, and patients suffering from certain illnesses such as Hepatitis C have been removed from the list of those it would make eligible. The amount patients could possess per month was decreased from 2.5 ounces to 30 grams. Patients would not be able to produce their own cannabis and may only purchase it at one of thirty dispensaries statewide, with those purchases subject to Missouri sales tax. Those dispensaries and the thirty grow sites that would serve them would be required to hold a half-million dollars in escrow. One of the amendments requires the fingerprinting of patients and monitoring by police agencies when patients receive medical marijuana.