Repealing federal pot prohibition was the buzz last week across the United States, as it was called to mainstream attention with the release of The New York Times' six-part editorial series calling for the legalization of marijuana. Every media outlet from the Huffington Post to Ricky Reefers Basement Pot Blog spent the majority of the week writing about what it meant to gain the support of the largest metropolitan newspaper in the nation. Some rejoiced: calling the endorsement an indication that federal legalization is on the horizon, while others simply poked fun at the Times for showing up fashionably late to the cause.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers across the nation continued to work towards creating pot-friendly policies in their neck of the woods. Here is a closer look at what at what your legislators were up to last week:
Federal: Legalization of CBD
Republican Congressman Scott Perry introduced a bill last week aimed at making CBD oil legal in the eyes of the federal government. This measure is an effort to cut through the lagging legislative process many states have been forced to endure while attempting to give children suffering from epilepsy access to medicine.
“These children and individuals like them deserve a chance to lead a healthy and productive life and our government shouldn’t stand in the way,” said Perry.
The proposal is called the “Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014,” and it would allow states all across the nation to give patients suffering from seizures access to CBD oil. Although anything made with marijuana is prohibited under federal law, the wording of this legislation could get around that detail by cleverly labeling CBD “Therapeutic Hemp” — medical marijuana containing no more than .3 percent THC.
Some marijuana advocates say the national “Charlotte’s Web” trend is a racket, and that other forms of high-CBD oil on the market are just as beneficial to epileptic children. Some argue that by simply pushing legislation that allows only CBD, children will be deprived of the benefits from low doses of other cannabinoids like THC and THC-A.
Michigan: East Lansing Could Decriminalize Pot Possession
The Coalition for a Safer East Lansing is trying to collect enough valid voter signatures to get the issue of pot decriminalization on the ballot in the upcoming election. “It's time to change the laws and our political leaders haven't done so, so the people are taking the initiative to do so," Jeffrey Hank, chairman of Coalition for a Safer East Lansing told WILX.
The group submitted signatures to the city clerk on Tuesday, which now has 45 days to review the measure. If enough signatures are verified, the city will vote in November on the issue of stripping away the criminal penalties associated with adults caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Georgia: Medical Marijuana Do Over
Although Georgia lawmakers failed earlier this year to pass legislation to legalize CBD oil for children suffering from epilepsy, State Representative Allen Peake says he feels confident that will not be the case in 2015 because attitudes about medical cannabis are changing across the state.
"We believe that polling has showed that they clearly want medical cannabis as an option in Georgia, so we need to figure out what's the best structure, the best infrastructure that will work in our state," said Peake.
In five upcoming public hearings, the first one schedule in Atlanta on August 27, Peake hopes to gain additional interest for his CBD bill, which he says will definitely include allowing patients and caregivers to grow their own medicine. “Any legislation we draft that doesn't provide a growing solution in Georgia, I think will be a failed piece of legislation," he said.
New York: Medical Marijuana Expedite
In light of the deaths of two epileptic children this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter last week to Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker asking for him to speed up the process of providing medical marijuana for sick children across the state.
"Striking the right balance to ensure public safety and public health are protected is crucial. That said, I ask that you review the 18-month implementation timeline to determine if there is any way to accelerate the process for this dire population,” wrote the governor.
Some worry Governor Cuomo is not doing all he can to force the Department of Health to expedite the program — that merely suggesting the department accelerate the process does not mean the anticipated 18-month wait will be diminished. "He suggested to the Department of Health to expedite this — he does not need to suggest anything. He can demand that the Department of Health take action immediately. He can demand something to be done starting today," said Wendy Conte, the mother of nine-year-old Anna Conte, one of the two children who died earlier this month.
Iowa: Medical Marijuana Expansion?
Considering the restrictive nature of Iowa’s newfound medical marijuana law, advocates are now fighting for patients to have more access to the herb. Lawmakers recently passed legislation to legalize CBD oil for children suffering from epilepsy, but they made it virtually impossible for patients to legally obtain their medicine.
Democratic State Senator Joe Bolkcom recently sponsored a bill that he believes would allow the state to have a more patient-friendly medical marijuana program. He says his efforts, which have been somewhat unsuccessful in the past, will turn around in 2015. "Members that supported the effort have gotten a lot of positive feedback from Iowans about this. People are more informed about it because of this year," said Bolkcom.
However, Governor Terry Branstad recently said that he believes Iowa needs to be cautious with the types of marijuana legislation that it passes, and that he is not in favor of expanding the current law.
Texas: Sheriff’s Association Want to Ban Marijuana Forever
The Texas Sheriff’s Association passed a resolution last week aimed at preventing marijuana from every being legalized in the state. On Monday, a measure to maintain pot prohibition in Texas was approved by the Sheriff’s Association of Texas Legislative Committee. However, this resolution is non-binding and will likely not have an impact if legislation to legalize the leaf ever makes it through the state legislature.
New Mexico: Albuquerque Decriminalization?
An initiative that would lessen the penalties surrounding the possession of marijuana in Albuquerque hopes to earn a place on the November ballot. The proposal is aimed at reducing the current penalty of 15 days in jail and fine of $50 to simply a fine of $25. Supporters of this initiative, who are admittedly “cautiously optimistic, have submitted around 16,000 signatures so far, with just under 60 percent verified as valid. The deadline for signatures was last Monday.
Colorado: Remove Fines and Sentences
Although marijuana is legal in Colorado, it is still a punishable offense to possess over an ounce of weed at a time. However, lawmakers are working to pass a ballot initiative that would change these rules by stripping away all of the penalties and jail sentences associated with marijuana. The measure is called Initiative #3, and it would eliminate the possibility of prosecution for any level of marijuana possession by amending the Colorado Constitution.
“Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution prohibiting courts from imposing any fine or sentence for the possession of cannabis?”
The Initiative has just a little over a week to collect the required signatures need to get earn a spot on the ballot, which supporters say could prove challenging.