Michigan and four other states to introduce marijuana legalization bills
15 Nov, 2012
House Representatives from two East Coast states will announce the introduction of legislation legalizing the recreational use of marijuana today, and two additional states have pledged to follow suit after the new year. The announcement will come via a teleconference hosted by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). MPP was the principal financier of the 2008 effort to legalize medical marijuana in Michigan.
Bolstered by the successful legalization campaigns in Colorado and Washington, State Representatives from Maine and Rhode Island will detail their introduction of their legalization Bills. Representatives from Vermont and Massachusetts have pledged to initiate similar legislation after the new year, when legislative cycles are renewed.
Michigan will join suit in 2013. Tim Beck, whose Coalition for a Safer Detroit won their bid to decriminalize marijuana by a 65% vote, told The Compassion Chronicles, “We have good reason to believe that there will be a legalization bill introduced in the Michigan Legislature in the next session. We are absolutely delighted by the turn of events in November. It has had a tremendous impact in the political class in Lansing, and we have some good momentum going.” Five Michigan cities voted yes to adopt pro-marijuana ordinances on November 6th.
The progressive nature of the East Coast is not surprising given the history of the states involved. Rhode Island and Maine both already have medical marijuana programs in place, including state-run dispensaries in Maine. Vermont has already approved two dispensaries and their law allows for two more within state borders.
Greg Pawlowski, an activist who has been involved in the medical marijuana movement in Michigan and New England, particularly New Hampshire, was positive about the legalization efforts. “I think legalization will definetly pass. Massachusetts is a very progressively liberal state and they do not fear federal goverment repercussions.” Regarding Michigan’s potential legalization, Pawlowski said, “We look forward to a dialog with the legislature on the legalization issue, which is a subject whose time has come.”
These existing state programs are not without controversy. In Rhode Island, the local chapter of the ACLU has sued the State for making changes to the medical marijuana program without hearings or legislative approval. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Rhode Island Academy of Physician Assistants.
In Massachusetts, the department charged with overseeing the implementation of the newly-approved medical marijuana program faces confidence issues. Tampering with drug samples at a state-run laboratory has the potential to reverse thousands of drug convictions, and forced the resignation of Commissioner John Auerbach. An injectable steroid manufactured in Framingham has been implicated in at least 31 deaths, resulting in the firing of the head of the state board of pharmacy by the Department of Public Health.
Maine’s Director of their medical marijuana program was fired last week. John Thiele was quoted in the Portland Press Herald as being too friendly with patients and caregivers. “There were only vague statements, like ‘You act too much like a social worker,’” he said. “I think there’s a general mindset in (the division of Licensing and) Regulatory Services that to have too much interaction with the people you regulate is a bad thing.”
Thiele had “a reputation for helping patients and caregivers navigate the red tape and paperwork that evolved with the program,” according to the Herald. His dismissal comes approximately one year after the head of Maine’s Health and Human Services division was let go.
Maine’s new head of DHHS, Kenneth Cobb, was quoted as saying, “We have long recognized the need to strengthen communication with many parties, especially law enforcement, in order to create consistency and a shared knowledge around where the program rules and the law intersect.”
Not everyone sees it that way. The Director of the Maine Patient Coalition, Chris Kenoyer, said, “I am extremely concerned. This is very discouraging and I’m fearing a crackdown.”