HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: September 12

The fight to legalize marijuana continues to strengthen in more of the United States.

Some of the biggest news of the past week comes from the City of Nashville, where the Metro Council recently approved a proposed ordinance that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana. Other highlights include confirmation from Denver that voters will get to decide on the social use of marijuana in the upcoming November election. There was also some surprising momentum late last week in the Michigan Senate aimed at finally overhauling its medical marijuana program.

Read all about these happenings and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for September 12:

Arkansas: Marijuana Advocate Trying to Stop Legalization
An Arkansas cannabis advocate has filed a complaint with the state Supreme Court in hopes of preventing the legalization of medical marijuana. Last week, Little Rock attorney Kara Benca asked the court to disqualify the signatures submitted by Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the organizers behind the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, because she says the group did not follow the rules established for signature collecting campaigns. A number of reports revealed that attorney David Couch, the primary supporter behind a competing medical marijuana initiative, contributed information to assist with Benca’s lawsuit. No word yet if the state’s highest court will even entertain the complaint.

Colorado: Denver to Vote on Social Marijuana Use
Denver voters will get to decide this November whether marijuana consumption should be allowed in social situations. On Thursday, organizers with the Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program received confirmation from the Denver Elections Division that the group collected enough signatures to earn a spot on the ballot in the upcoming election. The initiative seeks to provide the business community with the freedom to set up indoor or outdoor consumption areas in their establishments where people can use cannabis products. However, businesses would not be permitted to sell or distribute marijuana to its customers, only provide them with a space to engage in responsible use. If voters approve the measure, it would establish a four-year pilot program that would allow the city to determine what works regarding social use, and what does not. The goal is to investigate a concept that could lead to a more definitive structure for a future social-use ordinance.

Tennessee: Nashville Decriminalization Ordinance Advances
Nashville is well on its way to eliminating the criminal penalties associated with small time marijuana possession. Last Tuesday, the Metro Council passed a proposed ordinance seeking to decriminalize the possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana. It would give officers with the Metro Nashville Police Department the option of issuing a $50 fine instead of dragging the offender to jail. As long as the proposal survives the final vote by the council, which is set to happen later this month, there is a good chance the decriminalization ordinance will hit the books in 2016. Although Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has not yet said whether she plans to sign the measure, a recent release from her press secretary indicates that she “is generally supportive of efforts to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and looks forward to hearing more about this specific proposal.”

Oklahoma: Lawsuit Filed Against Attorney General
Marijuana advocates have filed a lawsuit with the Oklahoma Supreme Court in hopes of having the ballot language of their medical marijuana initiative restored to its original draft. Although Oklahomans for Health submitted the signatures required to be added to the November ballot, Attorney General Scott Pruitt tossed a wrench in the wheels of the campaign when he changed the initiative’s ballot description, allegedly, in an attempt to mislead voters. The lawsuit, which is being handled by attorney David Slane, is asking the state’s highest court to restore the language to its original form because it was written in compliance with the law. But even if the lawsuit is successful, timing will most likely prevent the measure from going before the voters this fall.

Michigan: Supreme Court Refuses to Hear MILegalize
The Michigan Supreme Court said last week that it would not hear a case brought forth by MILegalize begging to have hundreds of thousands of signatures reinstated. MILegalize recently filed an emergency appeal with the state’s highest court in a last-ditch effort to get its proposal seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in front of voters later this fall. This is after a judge with the Michigan Court of Claims dismissed a similar lawsuit a couple of weeks ago. The decision by the Michigan Supreme Court not to hear the case almost guarantees that voters will not get to decide whether the state should legalize a recreational cannabis trade this November. However, attorney Jeff Hank, who serves as the chairman of MILegalize, has filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of still getting the initiative in front of the voters in 2016.

Michigan: Medical Marijuana Reform Bills Approved
The Michigan Senate approved a legislative package last week aimed at establishing new regulations for the state’s dispensaries and edible marijuana. These bills (HB 4209, HB 4210, HB 4827) were passed by the House last year, but the Senate Judiciary Committee has had them locked up in political purgatory ever since. If the House concurs with the Senate changes, the legislation will head to the desk of Governor Rick Snyder for a signature.

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