Although the several bills aimed at legalizing medical marijuana eventually failed, the 2012 General Assembly did approve bills to cut the maximum penalty for possessing 10 grams or less of marijuana to 90 days and a $500 fine. It took a conference committee to arrive at the 10 gram result, as HB 350 after several amendments passed the House at seven grams; and SB 214 had passed the Senate at 14 grams. One of the aims of this legislation is to keep less serious drug possession cases out of the circuit courts where they have been clogging the dockets.
Also passed in both Chambers was HB 96 which authorizes a court to impose probation before judgment for a second controlled substance crime if the court requires the defendant to graduate from drug court or successfully complete a substance abuse treatment program as a condition of probation and the defendant meets the requirement. The House vote was 106-33; and the Senate vote, 33-13.
The first legalization bill filed, HB 15, was amended in full, changing its name and its purpose so that it seemed simply to reiterate last year’s legislation which would allow a doctor’s certificate as an affirmative defense to possession of marijuana. In that form it passed the House 86-41, but went nowhere in the Senate. SB 995, which also started out as a legalization bill, was amended to a care givers bill, similar to HB 15. It died in the Judicial Proceedings Committee. HB 1024 and HB 1158, different approaches to legalizing medical marijuana were heard by both the Judiciary and Health and Government Operations, with no reports.