HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: May 9

 It was a full week in the fight to legalize marijuana in the United States. Some of the most exciting news comes from California, where advocates there recently submitted more than enough signatures to earn a voice in the forthcoming November election. Other highlights from the week, include the sabotage of a bill by the Vermont House that will prevent marijuana from being legalized in 2016, as well as the passing of legislation in a couple of states that will give more patients access to cannabis oil.

Read all about these actions and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for May 9:

Vermont: House Kills Recreational Marijuana for 2016
The concept of legal marijuana is a dead issue this year in Vermont. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives rejected a Senate bill that would have established a taxed and regulated cannabis industry throughout the state. The House also voted against another proposal that would have allowed residents to cultivate up to two plants without facing criminal charges. However, the chamber did manage to pass a measure that would create a task force aimed at studying the potential benefits of a legal pot market moving into the state.

Governor Shumlin, who urged lawmakers to get legalization done this year, said he was disappointed by the outcome of the House vote.

“The War on Drugs policy of marijuana prohibition has failed,” he said. “I want to thank those House members who recognize that and worked to move this issue forward. It is incredibly disappointing, however, that a majority of the House has shown a remarkable disregard for the sentiment of most Vermonters who understand that we must pursue a smarter policy when it comes to marijuana in this state.”

Maine: State Legislature Pushing to Decriminalize Drugs
Lawmakers in Maine are working to become a portrait for drug reform in the United States. Last week, a proposal was passed into law without the signature of Governor LePage that will make the possession of less than 200 mg of heroin a misdemeanor rather than a felony. In addition, state lawmakers are pushing to treat drug abuse as a health issue rather than a criminal action by approving legislation aimed at creating new diversion programs for those busted for this offense. Although Governor LePage recently vetoed a bill that would have allowed access to the life-saving drug Naloxone without a prescription, the state legislature took precedence over this move and legalized it without his consent. Now, the drug will be made available over-the-counter for families in need. 

Colorado: Lawmakers Consider Selling More Pot to Tourists
Colorado lawmakers are discussing a bill that would allow people from out-of-state to purchase the same amount of marijuana as the residents. Ever since Colorado launched its recreational pot market in 2014, tourists have only been allowed to purchase up to 7 grams of pot at a time, while Colorado residents have had the luxury of buying as much as 28 grams a visit. However, the latest proposal, which was introduced last week, would give tourists the same freedom to purchase 28 grams as those who live in the state. The bill has passed the House of Representatives and is set to heard on the Senate floor. 

Colorado: Denver Discusses Odor Restrictions on Cannabis Industry
The Denver City Council recently approved a new ordinance that would force commercial cultivation operations to control the odors coming from their facilities. The issue has been the center of an extensive debate, and on Monday the Council voted 13 to 0 in favor of new rules that would force commercial pot growers to invest in better methods for preventing the smell of weed from infiltrating the city. The latest ordinance, which is just an update to a previous measure, would force cultivators to file odor control plans with the Department of Environmental Health. It would also give more parties permission to file a formal complaint. The new ordinance could take effect by the end of the year. 

Colorado: Pot-in-Schools Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk
A bill that would force school districts to devise a plan for children to consume medical marijuana on campus is on its way to the office of Governor Hickenlooper for a signature. On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved the measure (Jack’s Law), which would require schools to draft policies for allowing parents or licensed caregivers to administer non-smokeable marijuana to students. The governor is expected to sign the bill without hesitation. 

Colorado: Lawmakers Reject Organic Labeling
Colorado lawmakers have rejected a proposal intended to create a labeling system that would verify whether retail marijuana is organic. A Senate committee rejected the measure in a vote of 4 to 3 because of concerns that the labels would imply that marijuana is healthy and completely harmless. However, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Pat Steadman, argued that the idea of an organic label suggesting that a product is free of potential health risks was ridiculous. Others argued that other products such as chocolate and wine were not exactly healthy but qualify for organic status. There is no word whether lawmakers will revamp the bill and make a second attempt.

Connecticut: Children’s Medical Marijuana Program Heads to Governor
Minors may soon be allowed access to medical marijuana in Connecticut. A proposal that would give children suffering from specific conditions the right to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program has made its way through the state legislature and is now moving on to Governor Malloy’s desk for a signature. Although medical marijuana is already legal in Connecticut, the law did not come attached with a provision that allows minors to participate. If the governor signs, parents of kids with seizure disorders and other conditions will be able to purchase liquid cannabis derivatives from area dispensaries. 

North Carolina: Considering Medical Marijuana
North Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill that would legalize medical marijuana across the state. The proposal – House Bill 983 – would allow patients with terminal or chronic conditions to purchase and use full strength cannabis products as long as they have a recommendation from a physician. However, due to the nature of the bill, and because similar proposals have been snuffed out quickly in the past, lawmakers are not holding their breath for things to turn out differently in 2016. 

Illinois: Lawmakers Works to Expand Medical Marijuana Program
Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is working to expand the state’s medical marijuana pilot program. Last week, the Board recommend the addition of 10 previously rejected conditions as well as a couple of new ones: Type 1 diabetes and panic disorder.  However, Governor Rauner has made it perfectly clear that he has no interest in including more qualified conditions until after the program is properly assessed. Last year, the governor’s leading health official denied the addition of autism, chronic pain syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, neuropathy, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain due to trauma, chronic post-op pain, intractable pain, migraines and osteoarthritis. There has been no indication on whether the administration’s position on this issue has changed. 

California: Recreational Marijuana Initiative Likely on November Ballot
Organizers with Sean Parker’s “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” submitted 600,000 signatures last week in hopes that 365,880 of them would be certified, putting the question of legal weed on the ballot this November. If approved, adults 21 and over would be allowed to purchase weed from retail outlets across the state and cultivate up to six plants for personal use. Although there are a number of other proposals working to get on the ballot, the Parker initiative is the only proposal with the financial resources needed to actually make it happen. Some reports have suggested that it could cost in upwards of $20 million to legalize weed in California this year. 

Hawaii: Medical Marijuana Bill Advances
The Hawaii Senate has approved a measure that would tweak the state’s medical marijuana dispensary law and give more medical professionals the freedom to provide patients with recommendations. In addition to doctors, House Bill 2707 would give nurses the right to certify patients to participate in the medical marijuana program. It would also allow inter-island transport for laboratory testing, as well as fix a tax loophole regarding dispensaries. The bill now heads to the office of Governor David Ige for a signature.

Alabama: Governor Signs Cannabis Oil Decriminalization Bill
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has signed a bill into law that will allow seizure patients to possess low-THC cannabis oil without fear of prosecution. Although the bill, also known as Leni’s Law, does not come with a cultivation and distribution system, it does give specific patients the freedom to smuggle in CBD oil from a legal state in an effort to combat the symptoms of certain conditions. The new law goes into effect on June 1. 

Oklahoma: House Approves Cannabis Oil Expansion
The Oklahoma House of Representatives has voted in favor of a proposal that would expand the use of cannabis oil for patients suffering from specific conditions. The current law allows children with epilepsy to possess low-THC cannabis oil, but the latest measure would give the same permission to patients suffering from spasticity due to multiple sclerosis, paraplegia and symptoms of chronic wasting disease. The bill now goes before Governor Mary Fallin for a signature.

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