Marijuana Law Reform State-By-State Updates

There’s quite a bit going on across the country in the effort to repeal the 70+ year old federal ban on marijuana. The fight is at various stages within each state, so I wanted to give a run down of where each effort is at. Some states are fighting for full legalization already, while others are still just trying to ensure that those with medical uses for the drug can legally use it.

If I’ve missed a state, please shoot me an email and I’ll update this post.

Full legalization


State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced a bill that would make California the first U.S. state to treat marijuana the same as alcohol. His proposal would make the use or sale of marijuana legal to anyone 21 or older.

Ammiano points to a recent poll showing 56 percent of Californians favor legalizing and taxing marijuana. His bill would impose hefty taxes on marijuana sales that state officials estimate would bring US$1.3 billion annually to financially stressed California.


A pair of bills — House Bill 2929 and Senate Bill 1801 — seeking to “tax and regulate the cannabis industry” have just been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature.

These proposals seek to legally regulate the commercial production and distribution of marijuana for adults over 21 years of age.


An initiative that would have provided for the nation’s first legal, regulated sale of marijuana for personal use is on hold. The organizers of the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) announced last weekend that they were suspending signature gathering for the proposed 2010 initiative after it did poorly in initial polling.

But while the OCTA is down, it may not be out. Organizers are suggesting they may be back with a rewrite in time to still make the 2010 ballot.



An early afternoon committee deadline Tuesday killed a bill that would have decriminalized penalties for possession of up to half ounce of marijuana.

The bill, along with legislation that would have prohibited smoking in the state’s casinos, died as the Legislature’s chief opponent to the pot legislation, Sen. Antonietta Boucher, R-Wilton, talked at length on the marijuana bill through the early afternoon deadline.


The state legislature just had its chance to fix this ass- backward approach to pot enforcement. It blew it. A bill to reclassify pot offenses, reducing the maximum penalty for misdemeanor pot possession from three months in jail to a $100 fine, died in the legislature in mid-March.

Medical marijuana – Improvements


Senate Bill 1058, an act to create a medical cannabis task force committee, has been approved by the legislature and now awaits action from Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

Rhode Island

A bill that would allow for the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries passed the Rhode Island House Wednesday, paving the way for a showdown with Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri, an opponent of medical marijuana. The state Senate passed its version of the bill last month. Now, the two chambers must go through the formality of approving each other’s bills. Then the bill will go before the governor.

Medical marijuana – New


This year, the Drug Policy Alliance and Alabamians for Compassionate Care are continuing the effort to advance marijuana legislation with the help of compassionate legislators.

A new bill, H.B. 434, which was introduced by Representative Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), will authorize the medical use of marijuana for certain qualifying patients who have been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition.


The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act initiative drive, which was launched last week, is limited in scope. Howard Fischer reported in Friday’s Star that the measure, if it makes the 2010 ballot and is approved by voters, would give people who are prescribed marijuana and test positive for the drug at work the anti-discrimination protections available to women and minorities.


In the coming weeks, Delaware will have its first chance to stand up for seriously ill patients when Senator Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) introduces medical marijuana legislation for the first time in the Delaware Senate.


In a true grassroots effort, a group of Floridians organized as People United for Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) has begun an effort to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November 2010 ballot. The group needs some 687,000 valid signatures of registered voters in the next nine months to qualify.


Trail’s draft bill seeks protection for qualified patients to smoke marijuana, and for designated providers and licensed physicians to grow and possess medical marijuana. Nonmedical acquisition, possession, manufacture, sale or use would remain illegal. The state would not be liable for ill effects of medical use and patients would be limited to 60-day supplies.


A vote in the state Senate was delayed until Wednesday on a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Illinois.

SB 1381, sponsored by downstate Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), would legalize marijuana as treatment for chronic pain and nausea if other treatments have failed, for patients with cancer, HIV-AIDS, hepatitis C, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease and Alzheimers.


Despite passionate pleas Tuesday for the state to allow restricted use of marijuana for pain and nausea relief, a key lawmaker stressed that the idea will go no further this legislative session.

“There is a long way to go, I must say,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, of Senate File 293.


Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill to legalize marijuana for terminally ill patients late Friday evening, saying he sides with law enforcement opposition to the bill. Bill proponents say they will introduce a constitutional amendment to bypass the governor, noting overwhelming popular support in the state on the issue.


A medical marijuana bill that would of helped thousands of patients in Missouri was killed by a single politician. Speaker Ron Richard extended his role from Speaker of the House to Sole Decider when he went back on his word (and job) to assign the bill to a committee, ensuring not a single word from either side of issue would be heard.


A bill to give medical-marijuana patients better access to the drug stalled in a House committee Friday and is likely dead, deadlocking on a party-line vote.

All eight Republicans on the House Human Services Committee voted against Senate Bill 326 and all eight Democrats voted for it.

New Hampshire

State Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and county prosecutors have aggressively pushed back against a bill that would legalize marijuana for some seriously ill patients, sending lawmakers a letter calling marijuana an addictive drug and claiming that reclassifying marijuana as medicine could undermine efforts to keep youths from trying drugs. The bill’s supporters decry the letter as “misleading” and have circulated a seven-page rebuttal of the two-page letter.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, a medical marijuana bill passed the Senate in February, but has languished in the House, where it is stuck in committee. But a hearing will take place later this year, and the bill could move forward after that.

New York

The movement to legalize medicinal marijuana is gaining momentum in New York, with a proposal to let some people grow their own or buy from a state-approved organization.

Sen. Thomas Duane of New York City is introducing the bill, which will have a matching version sponsored by Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried. The Democrat-led Assembly has passed similar measures in recent years, but the issue fizzled in the formerly Republican-led Senate.

North Carolina

On April 9, North Carolina House Bill 1380, titled the North Carolina Medical Marijuana Act Introduction, was drafted. It is sponsored by Representatives Earl Jones and Pricey Harrison of Guilford County, and Representative Nick Mackey of Mecklenburg County.

House Bill 1380 aims to exempt medical cannabis patients from arrest and prosecution if they are found using marijuana and it would also allow for the possession of cannabis for medical purposes provided that the amount in possession is not excessive.


Last session, a medical marijuana bill was sponsored by Democrat Tom Roberts out of Dayton, but the legislation died in a committee after a weak debate and Roberts left the Senate. Orlett plans on speaking with some other Senators about sponsoring a new, similar bill.


State Rep. Mark Cohen of Philadelphia said yesterday he hoped to introduce a bill next month to legalize the medical use of marijuana in Pennsylvania.

“There is obviously no consensus on legalizing marijuana, but there is a widespread consensus on legalizing medical marijuana,” the Democrat said. “I think there is a solid scientific case and there is overwhelming popular support.”

South Dakota

Documents were filed Monday to seek a statewide public vote on a proposed law that would legalize marijuana in South Dakota as a medical treatment for severe and chronic pain.

If supporters get 16,776 valid petition signatures by April 6 next year, the proposed law will go on the general election ballot in November 2010.


Recently, Sen. Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis) and Rep. Jeanne Richardson (D-Memphis) introduced companion medical marijuana bills — SB 209 and HB 368.

This legislation would allow terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana pursuant to a physician’s recommendation. Registered patients or their caregivers would be allowed to possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana and 6 mature or 12 immature marijuana plants.


The bill would establish medical necessity as a defense to marijuana possession and also prevent doctors from being punished for recommending marijuana use to treat serious conditions.

For the Texas House of Representatives to even vote on a bill, it must be scheduled for a reading by Tuesday. Naishtat’s bill, however, has so far not made it out of committee.


  1. 2

    william spews:

    Quite Frankly, I’m very pleased w/ what I see.

    w/ CA, + MA being the most favorable. I have to have their backs to the fullest extent.

    Med. Mary States I also salute you.

    March of the Penguins

  2. 3


    True, but they can render it obsolete and toothless, which is probably a more accurate description of this process.

  3. 4

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    Well, the federal laws are surely toothless in this area! Time to make marijuana legal!

  4. 5

    nemo spews:

    The momentum to change the cannabis prohibition laws is inversely related to the amount of taxpayer dollars that can be expended in these increasingly tight times to prosecute their offense.

    The cold, impersonal force of the shrinking economy is doing what all the attempts at sweet reason have failed to do…just like what happened the last time we tried a drug prohibition with alcohol. Let’s hope it doesn’t require a full on economic depression to end the nonsense…

  5. 6

    Kyle spews:

    @1, a state can make any law that trumps a federal law. It would take federal law enforcement to enforce the laws in the state that does now.

    To give an example. In Washington State when child support is worked out it usually says that the parent alternate claiming a child on their taxes. However, there is a federal tax law that says the primary parent can claim the child every year. Since the IRS is run by the federal government it is easy to enforce this.

    No FBI agent is going to try to bust you for smoking a joint. They might bust you if you had a couple of pounds of pot.

  6. 7

    End the Prohibition spews:

    As Mexican drug cartels move into quiet Atlanta neighborhoods Senators Chambliss and Isakson tell us they’ll take NO steps to legalize marijuana because “it might be bad for us”.

    These cartels murdered more than 6,000 people last year and more than 2,300 people so far this year. Marijuana has never killed a single person in the history of mankind.

    Our *only* protection from the cartels is to legalize the production and sale of marijuana to adults. End the Prohibition!!

  7. 8

    Cheech spews:

    @6 — “@1, a state can make any law that trumps a federal law” -??

    What are you smoking??

    And was the civil war just a big acid flashback, man?

  8. 9

    william spews:

    I dk anymore. I think the gov’t of the US is in deed a piece of shite. W/ no remorse. Whatevers convenient, and more likely for the people to suffer, then the better. LOL there all a bunch of cowards.

  9. 10


    I’m in CA and I think we’re making good progress with marijuana legalization, though I’m not sure how any of that is going to work if a state legalizes marijuana…considering it’s still illegal at the federal level. The feds might come in and try to stop it, just like they did with the dispensaries. It’s exciting stuff regardless though.