In a recent HIGH TIMES interview with NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, he predicts Alaska and Oregon will join the recreational ranks of Colorado and Washington’s legal marijuana market later this year, with California, Maine and Massachusetts positioned to follow suit in 2016.
Last week, the biggest legislative movements were when the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment to restrict DEA raids, while Minnesota, with perhaps one of the most bizarre pieces of marijuana legislation ever, became the 22nd state to legalize the leaf for medicinal purposes. Here is a more detailed look at what your pot-friendly lawmakers were up to last week:
Federal: Medical Marijuana Raids
The US House of Representatives debated a legislative amendment to keep the DEA from using tax dollars to raid medical marijuana dispensaries -- passing it by a vote of 219-189. The amendment, which is entitled the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, would not force states to legalize medical marijuana or prevent law enforcement from fighting against marijuana-related crime, it would simply remove funds from the Department of Justice that are used to interfere with medical marijuana laws.
“Congress is officially pulling out of the war on medical marijuana patients and providers. Federal tax dollars will no longer be wasted arresting seriously ill medical marijuana patients and those who provide to them,” said director of federal policy, Dan Riffle with the Marijuana Policy Project. “This is a historic vote, and it’s yet another sign that our federal government is shifting toward a more sensible marijuana policy.”
The amendment must now go before the Senate.
Iowa: Governor to Sign CBD Bill
Governor Terry Branstad announced last week that he fully intends to sign a measure that will allow seizure patients access to CBD oil. The bill was signed by the governor last Friday at the State Capitol, which now allows physicians to prescribe up to 32 ounces of CBD oil for patients suffering from epilepsy. No word on how patients will actually get their medicine… cultivation is prohibited.
Colorado: Pueblo City Council Agree to Private Pot Clubs
Last Tuesday, the Pueblo City Council said they were open to allowing private marijuana clubs to operate within the city limits. However, the informal agreement dictates that anyone who attends the club must be a member. There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding this issue, especially after Police Chief Luis Velez made statements earlier this year that he was afraid his officers would get a contact buzz if they were forced to enter these types of establishment. Yet, the many argue it is not any different for police to enter a pot club than it is a bar or nightclub.
Assistant City Attorney Carla Sikes told the council that there is not enough evidence to suggest a contact high is even possible. However, the sheriff’s department said it was prepared to implement a procedure to detox officers after they enter a pot smoking establishment.
Montana: Marijuana Ban Initiative Gathers Signatures
A proposal introduced by Steve Zabawa to impose a ban on marijuana use and possession across the state of Montana has received clearance to begin gathering signatures. However, Zabawa has only three weeks to collect the required 24,175 voter signatures if he plans to get the motion on the ballot in November.
Zabawa’s proposal serves to repeal the state’s medical marijuana law by banning all Schedule I substances.
Nevada: Las Vegas Marijuana Push
Although, medical marijuana has been approved in Las Vegas, some lawmakers are already prepared to take weed to a recreational level. Last Tuesday, Senator Richard Segerblom launched an initiative aimed at putting the question of recreational marijuana on the ballot in a future election. Segerblom says he wants to develop Las Vegas into the “Amsterdam of the West,” for tourists.
As it stands, Segerblom needs 100,000 signatures to receive approval for the 2016 ballot.
Georgia: Medical Marijuana Research
Researchers are not wasting any time launching a study to test the medicinal benefits of cannabidiol, which is being legalized across the United States to treat children suffering from seizures. A recent press release indicates that Georgian Regents University has officially signed an agreement to begin testing the GW Pharmaceuticals’ investigational drug “Epidolex.” The study was originally supposed to involve cannabis oil, but a bill to approve this measure did not make it through the legislative session.
Delaware: Marijuana Decriminalization
State lawmakers have proposed a measure to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Under the legislation, adults over the age of 21 would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and not face criminal charges. A $100 civil fine would be imposed, instead. As it stands, anyone caught with a small amount of marijuana is subject to a misdemeanor charge, which comes with a penalty of six months in jail and a fine up to $1,150.
"So many people's entry into the criminal justice system involves possession or use of very small amounts of marijuana," Senator Bryan Townsend told Delaware Online. "There are very serious drugs, we need to treat people's addictions and we need to penalize drug dealers. In my mind, marijuana is not in the same grouping as a lot of the drugs we need to be focusing our efforts on."
Governor Jack Markell said that although he does not support full legalization, he is open to discuss changes to policy that remove criminal penalties.
California: The End of Medical Marijuana Problems?
Lawmakers are attempting to sort out the “chaos” surrounding California’s medical marijuana program by finally working towards the implementation of a standardized set of regulations. Last week, the Assembly’s appropriations Committee approved AB1894, sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, which serves to create a department within California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverages that will control medical marijuana across the state.
The measure would allow fees to be collected from marijuana-related businesses that would go towards funding local municipalities. Since becoming the first state to approve medical marijuana in 1996, the state has not had any standards in place.
In addition, the Senate passed a bill that will require all medical marijuana dispensaries to obtain a state license. The measure also includes rules that would force patients to undergo actual physical examinations by a doctor in order to obtain a medical marijuana card.
Minnesota: Governor Signs No Smoking Marijuana Bill
Last week, Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill into law making Minnesota the 22nd state to legalize medical marijuana -- although patients will not be able to consume it by traditional means. “I pray it will bring to the victims of ravaging illnesses the relief they are hoping for,” said Dayton in a written statement.
Under the new law, patients suffering from qualified conditions, including cancer, glaucoma and HIV/AIDS, will be eligible in 2015 to consume medical marijuana in pill, oil or vapor form. Patients will not be allowed to smoke their medicine.
New Mexico: Reduction in Marijuana Penalties?
An organization filed a couple of petitions last week aimed at lessening the penalties surrounding marijuana possession. If the petitions receive the required signatures, voters in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe would be asked to decide whether the cities should lower their penalties for possession of marijuana to a civil infraction, which would punishable with a fine of $25.
“Momentum for more sensible marijuana policies has been building in the legislature for years,” said Patrick Davis with ProgressNow New Mexico. “But we don’t see any need to wait on the legislature to make big change. When residents pass these measures, more than one-third of New Mexicans will live in cities with more practical marijuana policies and that provides great momentum for New Mexico and our country.”
Overall, decriminalization efforts have not been successful in New Mexico. Last year, the House approved a measure to strip away the penalties associated with marijuana possession, but the Senate did not have any interest.
Michigan: Advocates Sue to Decriminalize
In Oak Park, Michigan, marijuana advocates have filed a lawsuit in order to get a decriminalization measure on the ballot in the upcoming election. Although the Safer Oak Parks Coalition managed to collect 700 more signatures than the required 1,100, the organization was told their initiative would not appear on the November ballot. Now, they are suing…
"This lawsuit has to deal with keeping the government accountable for upholding the law, just as citizens must do" said Andre Cissell who heads the coalition in Oak Park. "This appears to be a personal and political attack on me and the marijuana movement as a whole."
Oak Park City Manager Erik Tungate says the decision to not put the issue on the ballot was through advice from the city attorney.
New York: State Assembly Gives Approval
Last Tuesday, the state Assembly gave their approval on measure (93-34) to legalize medical marijuana, but time is running out. The state Senate must come to a decision on the Compassionate Care Act before the legislative session comes to a close next month. And lawmakers are optimistic.
The bill managed to narrowly pass the Senate Health Committee in recent weeks, which some believe could indicate support from the Republican-majority Senate. However, there is still no indication whether the measure will receive a vote when it reaches the finance committee.
Oklahoma: Medical Marijuana Petition
A marijuana advocacy group announced last week plans to launch a petition to get the issue of medical marijuana on the November ballot. Oklahomans for Health began collecting signatures on Wednesday at the state capitol. The organization must now collect 155,000 signatures.
“I am excited about the roll out of the Oklahomans for Health medical marijuana initiative petition as yet another opportunity to have the conversations about marijuana policy reform that many Oklahomans are ready and wanting to have,” said Senator Connie Johnson.
Mike Adams writes for stoners and smut enthusiasts in HIGH TIMES, Playboy’s The Smoking Jacket and Hustler Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook/mikeadams73.