Bipartisan Bills To Legalize Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans Introduced In Congress – Marijuana Moment
A bill that would have officially decriminalized medications in Washington State was gutted about the Senate floor on Thursday, using lawmakers approving a radically revised version that rather reinstates criminal penalties following a state Supreme Court ruling that overturned prohibition.
The activity puts up a potential showdown with much more progressive Democrats in the House of Representatives who have said that they will not vote for legislation that returns to some criminal war on drugs.
Washington was without a law against drug possession because a divided state Supreme Court abruptly struck down it February, after ruling that a narrow section of the decades-old legislation was unconstitutional. Lawmakers have since scrambled to address the decision–which has stopped drug arrests and prosecutions throughout the state and freed dozens of people incarcerated on drug possession charges–before the legislative session ends April 25.
Before the court decision, medication possession was categorized as a felony.
It next proceeds into the House, where it’s scheduled for an initial hearing in the Appropriations Committee on Monday, with potential committee action slated for Wednesday, April 21.
Watch the senators discuss the medication penalties legislation, around 1:01:33 to the video below:
It requires the prosecutors divert people for first- and – second-time possession charges to treatment and evaluation plans, and enables the possibility of additional diversions using a prosecutor’s approval.
“I believe this dramatic amendment can help move us forward as we continue discussions in these last 10 days with the body throughout the way toward having a reply that will provide services and treatment and help for folks who are fighting substance use disorder,” Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D), who attracted the amendment, said on the Senate floor.
The bill in its initial form represented a significant shift away from the drug war. It might have imposed no fines for possession of little,”personal use” quantities of drugs, rather routing people to test and treatment services for drug use disorder.
Some senators who originally supported SB 5476 finally changed their vote after the misdemeanor amendment has been adopted.
“The way we’re doing so, I am glad there’ll be opportunities for diversion, but it has to be through the criminal justice system,” Dhingra said during floor debate. “I know this is my invoice, I know my name is on the market, but I will be voting on this now.”
Most senators who weighed in on the invoice Thursday said it was essential that the legislature pass some thing prior to the session finish, provided the sweeping impact of February’s state Supreme Court decision, State v. Blakesaid In a statement issued after the ground vote,” Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D) said that not passing a state law on drug possession”means a patchwork of local ordinances that will be confusing to Washingtonians and will not offer equal justice throughout the state.”
Broadly , state drug laws are understood to preempt those of Washington’s counties and cities. With all the state law against possession gone, localities can set their own laws and penalties, and some have already begun doing so.
“The bill we passed today isn’t the last word on the subject,” Billig said in an declaration. “It is a compromise that keeps this important legislation going so we can do our duty as the representatives of the people of our state.”
Representatives in the House, however, have suggested more openness to leaving medication possession decriminalized this session. On Thursday, lawmakers in favor of wider medication reform introduced a new bill, HB 1578, which would extend recovery and treatment solutions and reclassify non-refundable ownership as a civil infraction, punishable by a fine up to $125 without the possibility of prison time.
Marijuana Moment is currently tracking over 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and medication coverage bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, graphs and hearing calendar in order that they do not overlook any developments.
Of all the steps currently in play with this session, the new announcement is the one that most closely resembles neighboring Oregon’s drug decriminalization measure passed by Republicans in November. However, its route forward is uncertain: HB 1578 would need to pass both chambers of the legislature in under fourteen days.
Likewise, it remains uncertain how the House will probably receive the Senate-passed bill, SB 5476, in its new form. More progressive members of the Democratic caucus have said that they will not vote for legislation that reimposes criminal penalties for simple possession, but it’s not sure they will be able to muster enough support to pass a decriminalization measure.
If House lawmakers had been to amend the Senate bill prior to passing , the legislation would need to go to a conference committee, where members of both chambers could iron out differences in the two versions of their bills.
Before this season, prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, a House committee passed a different bill, HB 1499, who’d have finished criminal penalties for personal use quantities of drugs and instead routed people to treatment and evaluation. It would have also considerably expanded the state’s outreach and healing programs for people with drug use disorders. That step failed to proceed farther after lost a legislative deadline last month.
HB 1499, for its own part, derived from an attempt to put a drug decriminalization initiative on Washington’s ballot this past year. Supporters pivoted into some push during the legislature after pressing their signature-gathering effort after COVID-19 first broke out in the Seattle area early this past year.
Advocates for reform have noted the state’s criminal authorities of drug possession laws has had a powerful bias against people of color, particularly the state’s Black, brown and Indigenous communities.
In her comments on the Senate floor, Dhingra declared there, asserting that the Blake alternative presents an opportunity for lawmakers to eventually start to tackle those racial disparities.
“I will mention that the Supreme Court did provide us with a chance,” she stated,”an opportunity to really consider what we as a state and as a nation have been performing in regards to this war on drugs, and to really think critically of the impact this has had very, very especially on Black and Brown families.”
“The racial effects of our drug laws cannot be understated,” Dhingra continued. “When we have a look at mass incarceration, when we have a look at households using one mom who is bringing up her children, when we have a look at parents who cannot find a job because of their criminal history, cannot find housing, cannot find retrieval, it comes down to the manner in which we’ve been applying our drug laws.”
In an interview with Marijuana Moment last month, but he called the Blake decision”both a boon and a curse.”
“It’s a chance for us to come up with a better approach that does not injury,” he stated,”but we do not have the opportunity to be deliberate and inclusive in discussions with interested parties, so it’s much less well thought-out a proposition as it would be otherwise. It needs to be an interim step”
Only five decades ago, few state legislatures could have dreamed of letting drugs remain decriminalized after a court verdict like Blake. Now approaches are beginning to shift.
“There is this phenomenon known as discontinuous change,” Goodman advised Marijuana Moment,”where nothing happens and nothing else happens and nothing else happens, and the Berlin Wall falls down. We’re getting to this place in drug coverage where it’s a tipping point.”
Oregon voters stopped prohibition of low-level drug possession in the ballot during last November’s election, and which has led to the national dialog.
In the Maine and Vermont, lawmakers have also recently unveiled legislation last month to decriminalize small amounts of prohibited drugs. Last month, some Rhode Island Senate committee held a hearing on legislation that could stop criminal penalties for possessing small quantities of drugs and replace them with a $100 fine.