High Times Legislative Roundup: Sept. 15

There are just two months remaining before three initiatives aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana will be voted on in the upcoming November election. Two states — Alaska and Oregon — hope to pass legislation similar to Colorado and Washington that will establish a tax and regulatory system for the cannabis industry, while the District of Columbia is pushing to allow adults to possess up to two ounces of weed and cultivate six plants without risk of prosecution. DC’s initiative, however, will not establish a retail pot market.

Marijuana advocates believe each of these measures has a significant chance of winning majority approval, which could be enough success to steamroll further progress across the country in 2016. However, some fear that even one failed initiative could be enough to put a wrench in the momentum that much of the nation has been experiencing for the past several years. Yet, the overall vibe is mostly positive.

“We’re in a position where we will continue to move forward, and it’s unlikely we will move backwards,” said Mason Tvert with the Marijuana Policy Project. “In Colorado in 2006, people told us we were crazy to run an initiative because we would lose and the state would never legalize marijuana, but public opinion is moving toward ending prohibition, and we expect to see that continue. And even if one or more don’t pass this year, we will surely see several pass in the near future.”

Here is a look at what your pot-friendly legislators were up to last week:

Pennsylvania: Medical Marijuana Closer

The Pennsylvania state Senate reconvened last week, with a focus on medical marijuana. Earlier this summer, Senate Bill 1182, also known as the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, was approved by the Law and Justice Committee. It’s next stop is the Appropriations Committee.

“We are planning on hopefully moving out of appropriations on Sept. 15 and on to a full Senate floor vote on Sept. 16 … and get it over to the House as soon we can,” said state Sen. Mike Folmer. “We have the votes, but we just need to get through the political process, and that can be very slow because our system of government is never really meant to be fast.”

Although Governor Tom Corbett has vocally expressed his disapproval for medical marijuana in the past, he has loosened his opinions in recent months in regards to allowing children access to non-psychoactive cannabis oils.

…Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced plans to sign an ordinance that will decriminalize marijuana in the city. A finally revision of the bill is expected to be finished by the end of October, which will make possession of less than an ounce of marijuana punishable with a $25 fine instead of criminal penalties. The amended measure will also impose a $100 fine for anyone caught smoking pot in public, but the courts will allow offenders to perform community service to waive the fine.

Colorado: Voters in Colorado Springs Won’t Vote on Recreational Marijuana

Earlier last week, the Colorado Springs City Council voted 6-3 to ignore the issue of recreational marijuana in 2015. The measure, which slated for the April 2015 ballot, would have allowed voters to decide whether to bring recreational marijuana businesses into Colorado Springs. Supporters will have to raise the issue again next year.

Georgia: Macon Hearings

Georgia C.A.R.E. is pushing lawmakers to reconsider passing CBD-only legislation over concerns that restricted cannabis laws will not be enough to fulfill the needs of medical marijuana patients. “The cannabis plant contains many compounds that have proven to be effective in treating a variety of conditions,” said James Bell with Georgia C.A.R.E. “We should not be determining who can and cannot benefit from this healing plant.”

There are concerns that Big Marijuana lobbyists are influencing the governor into passing legislation for CBD-based medicine, with more focus on profit than treatment.

“Today the study committee will hear from adult patients with various medical conditions. We hope their testimony will convince lawmakers that we need to legalize the whole plant and allow doctors to treat patients who can benefit. Introducing a limited bill such as House Bill 885 will do little to get the medicine needed by so many,” Bell noted.

Maryland: Decriminalization Goes Into Effect October 1

Governor Martin O’Malley recently signed a proposal into law that will decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana – the measure goes into effect on October 1. The new law will make the possession of less than 10 grams of weed punishable with a fine up to $100 for a first offense — $250 for a second offense.

“As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the public will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety. I now think that decriminalizing possession of marijuana is an acknowledgment of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police, and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health,” O’Malley said in a statement.

New Mexico: Albuquerque Mayor Veto’s Decriminalization Initiative

Albuquerque mayor Richard Berry posted a YouTube video last week announcing that he was vetoing the initiative to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. Voters were slated to head to the polls in November to cast a ballot on the question of making possession of less than an ounce of weed a civil infraction – punishable with a $25 fine. Yet, the governor believes passing such a measure would be too much of a conflict with state and federal laws to be worthwhile.

Maine: Lewiston to Decriminalize?

The Lewiston City Council reported earlier last week that an initiative to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana was certified for the November ballot. The measure, which was submitted by Citizens for a Safer Maine, proposes to make it legal for adults 21 and over to be in possession of up to an ounce of marijuana without fear of prosecution. Supporters are hopeful that this measure and several others on the ballot this November will be as successful at last year’s decriminalization measure in Portland.

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