HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: February 1

It has been another huge week in the fight to legalize marijuana in more of the United States. Some of the biggest news comes from Florida, where a group working to get a comprehensive medical marijuana program legalized in the November election has been officially approved for the ballot. Other highlights include pot progress in the Vermont legislature that seems to indicate that lawmakers are on the verge of legalizing a recreational cannabis industry this year. Meanwhile, activists in Colorado are pushing to legalize social use, and possibly even cannabis cafes.

Read all about this and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for February 1:

New Hampshire: Working to Add More Qualified Conditions
New Hampshire lawmakers want to expand the state’s medical marijuana program by adding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualified conditions. Last Thursday, one of the co-sponsors of this proposed action, Assemblyman Joe Lachance, a military and police veteran, testified that medical marijuana has worked to alleviate his bouts of PTSD, chronic pain, and even an addiction to painkillers. There is a great deal of concern that if the medical program is not expanded, many disregarded patients will simply travel into neighboring states to pick up the medicine they need – putting them at risk for legal troubles. It is not clear yet whether PTSD will be added to the program before dispensaries open later this spring.

Kansas: Supreme Court Snubs Wichita’s Desire to Decriminalize
The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled against allowing the city of Wichita to lower the penalties associated with marijuana possession. In the verdict, the state’s highest court said the decriminalization ordinance was not enacted in accordance with state law, which “effectively disposes of the case,” leaving them no need to hear any further arguments. The ordinance would have allowed those adults caught in possession of up to 32 grams of weed to be slapped with a $50 fine instead of the state’s penalty of up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Unfortunately, Kansas will have to wait for this issue to be hashed out in the state legislature because the state is one of those that does not allow constitutional amendments by way of voter initiatives. 

Colorado: Denver NORML Attempts to Legalize Social Pot Use
The recently formed Denver NORML announced plans last week to put together a voter initiative that would legalize social pot use and possibly even cannabis cafes. Although the Marijuana Policy Project has been negotiating with a city for the past several months in hopes of putting a social use initiative on the ballot in 2016, supporters with Denver NORML fear those talks are going nowhere, so they have decided to take matters into their own hands. The group’s proposal is not yet drafted, but they are expected to reveal the scope of their efforts in the near future. 

Colorado: Lawmakers Work to Tweak Recreational Marijuana
Lawmakers are hoping to work out some of the kinks they feel have plagued the state since the implementation of Amendment 64. For starters, they are looking into the issue of pesticides. Legislation is being considered that would create a labeling system intended to identify marijuana products “pesticide free.” Along with this concern comes an attempt to expand testing facilities and collect information on cannabis products that pertain to public health. There is also an effort this year to clear up the issue of distributing weed during live events, such as HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup. 

Alabama: Lawmakers Wants to Legalize Cannabis Oil
State Representative Mike Ball announced has announced plans to submit a proposal that would allow specific patients to have low-THC cannabis oil in their possession without facing legal consequences. Although the state passed Carly’s Law in 2014, which allowed the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study CBD oil on qualified patients, not everyone suffering from seizure disorders managed to get into the study. The latest bill would establish a system similar to the one in Georgia, which allows registered patients to be in possession of certain amounts of non-intoxicating cannabis oil without a legal shakedown. However, while it is safe for Georgia patients to have the oil within the state’s borders, it forces them to break federal law by transporting the medicine across states line. Apparently, Representative Ball believes this is best Alabama can do during this session.

Arizona: Lawmaker Withdraws Proposal to Change Medical Marijuana Rules
Representative Jay Lawrence has made the decision to withdraw his latest proposal aimed at preventing physicians specializing in naturopathy and homeopathy from offering medical marijuana recommendations. After receiving hundreds of messages from angry patients, Lawrence announced that his bill was no longer on the table, and that he didn’t have any plans to introduce a replacement measure. However, there is still a proposal up for consideration that would prevent pregnant women from participating in the program. 

Hawaii: Proposal Would Require Pot Purchases Through Dispensaries Only
Representative Marcus Oshiro recently submitted a bill that would prevent patients from engaging in home cultivation, forcing them to get their weed only from a state licensed dispensary. House Bill 1680 would put another wrench in Hawaii’s medical marijuana program by banning patients from producing their own medicine. Oshiro is concerned that allowing patients to grow their own herb will undermine the new dispensary system. Opposing forces worry that eliminating the right to grow will only push people into the black market. The bill is expected to be assigned to committees later this week. If passed, patients would no longer be able to engage in home cultivation beginning in July 2017. 

Florida: United for Care on the Ballot in 2016
United for Care’s “Amendment 2” is back on the ballot in 2016. Last week, the group announced the approval of their latest initiative for November’s general election. The proposal is similar to the one that failed in 2014, with the exception of a few minor adjustments.

The updated ballot measure will only those “individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physicians” to participate in the program. Those patients would include people suffering from “cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the initiative is the elimination of home cultivation – only dispensary sales will be available. 

Virginia: Decriminalization Fails in House Subcommittee
The concept of decriminalizing marijuana has been shot down in Virginia. A number of bills aimed at stripping the criminal penalties away from minor possession were denied action last week by a subcommittee within the House of Delegates. Law enforcement testified against the bills, arguing that Virginia needs to be “a little bit smarter and take our time and look at this objectively.” As it stands, this offense can result in a fine up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail. 

Ohio: Attorney Rejects Medical Marijuana Proposal
A proposal to legalize medical marijuana has been denied. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has rejected an initiative called the “Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment,” which was submitted by a group known as Ohio Medical Cannabis Care LLC. The proposal was dismissed based on several issues with the language. The latest failure is reportedly the group's third attempt at getting their initiative approved, the first of which was rejected in the summer of 2015. Several other measures gunning for both medicinal and recreational markets are in the works for the 2016, including one overseen by the Marijuana Policy Project. 

California: Lawmakers Work to Slow Marijuana Bans
California lawmakers are working to slow down the marijuana ban in local municipalities. Assembly Bill 21 was unanimously approved last week, putting it in route to the office of Governor Jerry Brown for a signature. The bill would give local jurisdictions beyond the initial March 1 deadline to establish medical marijuana policies. Already, more than 100 localities have prohibited medical marijuana. Lawmakers hope this bill will stop the bleeding.

Vermont: Governor Endorses Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Vermont is on the verge of becoming the first state in the nation to end prohibition by way of the state legislature. The Vermont Senate Committee on Judiciary put their seal of approval on a bill last week aimed at creating a taxed and regulated cannabis trade. The proposal would essentially legalize recreational marijuana similar to how it is being done in states like Colorado. Governor Peter Shumlin and Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears came out last week in support of a measure to “cautiously and deliberately” legalize marijuana statewide. So, it is conceivable that this bill could blaze through the legislature and land on the governor’s desk for a signature relatively soon. If that happens, state residents would likely be permitted to engage in home cultivation by the summer, and a retail market could be in place by mid-2017. 

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