It was another busy week in the wonderful world of marijuana reform across the United States. Several proposals, some of which were submitted at the federal level, were met with much enthusiasm—a signal that has pot advocates predicting that the end of the war on weed is right around the corner.
Read all about what went down last week in the High Times Legislative Roundup for June 8:
Federal: Amendments to Leash DEA Proposed and Passed
Lawmakers introduced several proposals to the House of Representatives last week aimed at attaching amendments to a new federal spending bill to prohibit the Justice Department from interfering in states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana. Reports indicate that several amendments were approved by the House, ranging from eliminating DEA funds for marijuana enforcement to preventing interference with states that have legalized medical marijuana. The amendments will now be considered for the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.
Ohio: Green Party Opposes Legalization Proposals
The Ohio Green Party recently came forward in opposition of two proposals aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. The group says both “ResponsibleOhio” and “Better for Ohio” would establish a “cartel-like” market and should not be supported. Instead, they offered suggestions of three other initiatives “worthy of consideration”—Ohio Rights Group, Ohioans to End Prohibition and Responsible Ohioans for Cannabis.
The group released a statement urging “all Green Party members and other interested citizens to help collect signatures so these proposals can be included on future ballots.”
Massachusetts: Initiative to Legalize Marijuana in 2016
An advocacy group in Massachusetts has announced plans to submit an initiative aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. Bay State Repeal is expected to submit the language of their proposal in the coming weeks. Reports indicate the group must collect nearly 70,000 signatures to earn a spot on the ballot in the 2016 election.
Earlier last week, State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg proposed putting a non-binding question on the ballot in 2016 to gauge how many voters would actually support the legalization of marijuana. In the event of an outpouring of support, the state would have the final decision on whether or not the proposed question would become law.
Illinois: Lawmakers Add PTSD As Medical Marijuana Condition
Illinois lawmakers approved a measure last week that will allow PTSD to be added to the state’s list of qualified conditions under its medical marijuana program. Senate Bill 33 was passed in a vote of 68 to 36 by the House of Representatives. It now heads to Governor Bruce Rauner for his signature.
Texas: Legalizes Restrictive Cannabis Oil Program
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill last week legalizing “low-THC” cannabis oil. The law allows epilepsy patients, who have been unsuccessful in controlling their seizures with at least two pharmaceutical drugs, to have access to non-intoxicating CBD oil. The law also dictates that two different physicians write prescriptions for the medicine, which will likely make this law worthless, since federal law prohibits this practice. Nevertheless, the Texas Department of Public Safety has until September 2017 to open at least three dispensaries.
Delaware: Decriminalization Passes
The Delaware House has voted in approval of a measure aimed at decriminalizing the possession of marijuana for first time offenders only. In a vote of 24 to 12, the bill intended to strip away the criminal penalties (for citizens over the age of 18) associated with possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by replacing them with a $100 civil fine now heads to the Senate for consideration. If it goes the distance, Governor Jack Markell has indicated that he would sign the bill into law.
Wisconsin: Milwaukee to Reduce Pot Penalties
The Milwaukee Common Council voted in support of a measure last week that would reduce the penalty for possession of marijuana to $50 instead of $500. In a vote of 10 to 3, the council moved in favor of reducing the penalties for anyone caught with 25 grams or less of cannabis. The proposal now heads to Mayor Tom Barrett for his signature.
Louisiana: House Approval for Medical Marijuana Bill
The Louisiana House of Representatives approved a measure last week in a vote of 70 to 29 to legalize a statewide medical marijuana program. The measure, which was recently amended by the House Committee on Health and Welfare to allow physicians to “recommend” cannabis as opposed to “prescribe,” now heads to the Senate for approval over those changes. If it passes, the next step will be the office of Governor Bobby Jindal, who has signaled that he will sign the bill into law.
Maine: Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Stalls in the Senate
A proposal aimed at eliminating the word “debilitating” from the language of the state’s medical marijuana law was recently approved by the House of Representatives but has since stalled in the Senate. Reports indicate that the proposal, submitted by Representative Diane Russell, which is geared toward expanding the state’s qualified conditions, has been met with resistance in the Senate—they have simply refused to give the measure the time of day.
Maine: Another Campaign Announced to Legalize Recreational Marijuana in 2016
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which has the support of the Marijuana Policy Project, announced the launch of a signature collecting drive in hopes of getting their proposal on the ballot in 2016. Supporters must collect around 61,123 valid voter signatures by January to earn a spot on the ballot in the November election.
Connecticut: Hemp Bill Approved
The Connecticut Senate unanimously voted in support of a measure that would legalize the production of industrial hemp. House Bill 5780, which has already received House approval, would establish a pilot hemp program that would be overseen by the Department of Agriculture. The measure would authorize the production of hemp with less than 0.3 percent THC. [link: http://www.thedailychronic.net/2015/43878/connecticut-lawmakers-approve-hemp-legalization-bill/]
Colorado: Hickenlooper Signs Bill to Put Pot Tax to a Vote
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper singed a piece of legislation last week that will allow state voters to decide whether the state should continue to use pot taxes for schools or be refunded. The state is essentially asking the public whether they can keep around $58 million. If voters reject the proposal, about $20 million would be refunded to pot growers, while another $25 million would go to the taxpayers.
California: Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Assembly
California has tried for years to put regulatory restraints on its nearly two-decade-old medical marijuana program. The latest attempt made it off the Assembly floor last week in a vote of 50 to 5. The goal of Assembly Bill 266 is to create a dual-licensing system that would force cannabis businesses to get permits from a couple of different agencies. The measure would basically tighten up the medical marijuana industry and put more power into the hands of the state government.
New Hampshire: Senate Kills Decriminalization Measure
After a long debate, the New Hampshire Senate made the decision last week to table a bill that would have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. House Bill 618, which would have stripped the criminal penalties away from petty pot possession and replace them with a $100 fine, was left to die in the legislature after some concerns that its approval would turn New Hampshire into the New England version of Colorado. Although the House approved the bill earlier this year, Governor Maggie Hassan has said that she would veto it if it reached her desk.