HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: March 7

It has been a productive week in the fight to reform the ridiculous laws against marijuana that continue to plague the United States. Some of the biggest news this week comes from Ohio, where advocates have published the details of a major initiative aimed at legalizing marijuana for medicinal use. There was also some momentum in Florida for a bill to give terminally ill patients access to full strength marijuana, while advocates in Maine learned that their highly publicized attempt to end prohibition could be doomed.

Read all about this and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for March 7:

Wyoming: Marijuana Edibles Bill Is Dead
A bill that could have made it a felony to possess a specific amount of edible marijuana has died in the House after failing to meet the necessary deadline. The Wyoming Senate suggested that anyone caught in possession of more than three ounces of food products containing THC should be charged with felony possession, but the House Judiciary Committee felt that was too strict and downgraded the offense to a heavy misdemeanor. Some lawmakers pushed to raise the weight limit for edibles products from three ounces to a pound, but an agreement could not be reached. The legislature will now have to wait until next year to discuss the issue again.

Georgia: Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Without Cultivation
A proposal aimed at expanding Georgia’s medical marijuana law lost a crucial feature last week—cultivation and distribution. House Bill 722, which would have prevented patients from becoming drug traffickers in the eyes of the federal government by establishing a system allowing them to obtain the medicine from state licensed dispensaries, was stripped of this provision because many lawmakers bought into the negative testimony provided by the Georgia Sheriffs Association. The bill now only expands the list of qualified conditions, still forcing those approved to possess cannabis oil to smuggle it in from a legal state. The House of Representative approved the bill on Monday in a vote of 152 to 8. It now heads to the Senate for consideration. 

Florida: Lawmakers Still Messing With Medical Marijuana for Terminally Ill
The Senate Rules Committee has approved a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to have access to full strength medical marijuana. Senate Bill 460 managed to pass through this key committee last week after a serious debate over whether the state should extend its still non-existent Charlotte’s Web program. Basically, the bill would allow some of the nurseries currently involved with growing weed for the state’s low-THC program to also cultivate stronger medical marijuana for patients qualifying under the “Right to Try Act.” If it passes, people who have been given less than a year to live would be able to use medical marijuana as long as two doctors provide them with a recommendation. A similar bill also passed the Florida House last Thursday. Meanwhile, United for Care’s ballot measure pushing to legalize medical marijuana for a variety of conditions has been approved for the November ballot.

Florida: Tampa Decriminalizes Pot Possession
The Tampa City Council has voted in favor of an ordinance that would make marijuana possession a civil infraction instead of a criminal offense. In a vote of 6 to 1, the council approved a measure that would allow police to issue tickets to those caught holding 20 grams or less. The goal of the measure is to keep first time offenders from entering into the criminal justice system. Both the mayor and chief of police have said they support the ordinance. Several other Florida municipalities have passed similar measures. 

Maryland: Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced
Delegate David Moon has introduced a proposal that would make weed legal in Maryland. House Bill 0665 would amend the state constitution to determine that “any individual in the State who is at least 21 years old has the right under State law to use, possess, and cultivate marijuana.” The bill went before the Judiciary Committee last Monday for its first reading. 

Maryland: Bill That Would Decriminalize All Drugs Discussed
A couple of lawmakers from Baltimore have introduced legislation aimed at decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. House Bill 1119, which was submitted by Delegate Dan Morhaim, would eliminate the criminal penalties associated with minor possession of all controlled substances. “We have decades of proof that arresting people simply for using or possessing drugs does far more harm than good," Morhaim said. "Maryland has the opportunity to serve as a model for the country in treating drug use for what it is—a public health issue.” Other bills that were discussed before the House Judiciary Committee include one that would create “treatment-on-demand” at hospital ERs and another that would provide drug users with safe havens. 

Colorado: Denver Social Use Initiative Submitted
Denver NORML will make a push in 2016 to legalize social pot consumption. The organization has filed an initiative with the city council that would allow the emergence of cannabis clubs throughout the city and allow public consumption during special events. Once the group receives approval from the city council, they will begin collecting the signatures required to earn a spot on the ballot in the November election. “Denver residents and visitors alike need places other than private homes to legally and responsibly enjoy legal marijuana with other adults,” said Jordan Person, executive director of Denver NORML.

Ohio: MMP’s Medical Marijuana Initiative Revealed
The Marijuana Policy Project under the campaign Ohioans for Medical Marijuana has released the details of an initiative aimed at legalizing medical marijuana in 2016. The proposal would allow patients suffering from “cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, or the treatment of these conditions; a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe debilitating pain; severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy; severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis” and other medical condition to have access to cannabis with a recommendation from a doctor. Patients would be allowed to cultivate up to six plants for personal use and be in possession of up to 2.5 ounces. The campaign must now collect over 300,000 signatures by July 6 to qualify for the ballot. 

Mississippi: Decriminalization Bill Snuffed by the House
It appears that lawmakers in the South are not even willing to consider reducing the penalties associated with marijuana possession. Last week, a measure aimed at decriminalizing marijuana in small amounts was “quickly shot down” by the House. Although Democrats, including Representative Steve Holland, who introduced the bill, argued the measure would save the state millions of dollars every year, Republicans maintained a strong opposition, suggesting that marijuana was a dangerous, gateway drug. Lawmakers say they will try again in 2017.

Pennsylvania: House Prepares to Debate Medical Marijuana
It was recently revealed that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has resurrected a bill aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. "I have heard the House leadership has promised the people desperate for medicine that there will be a vote the week of March 14,” Senator Daylin Leach, a co-sponsor of the bill, said. “I believe and assume that the House leadership are men of their word.” If the House makes any changes to the bill, it will need to go back to the Senate for approval. Governor Tom Wolf recently issued a statement saying, “it is long past time to provide this important medical relief to patients and families across the commonwealth.” The state legislature must either pass the bill this year or be forced to start the process all over again in 2017. 

Maine: MPP Fails to Get Certified for the Ballot
Maine voters may not get an opportunity this year to decide whether the state should legalize marijuana. The Secretary of State’s office announced last week that the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol missed qualifying for the ballot by nearly 10,000 signatures. Although the group submitted 99,229 signatures in February, a notary error has apparently caused only 51,543 of them to be verified. Organizers are now trying to find a way to bring thousands of voter signatures back into play. They are expected to know more within the next couple of weeks. If their attempts prove unsuccessful, one of the year’s most highly anticipated initiatives will be shutdown. 

(Photo Courtesy of the Cannabis Reporter)

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