The fight to legalize marijuana in more of the United States is starting to get dirty. Prohibitionists in a number of states are doing everything they can to prevent initiatives from appearing on the ballot in 2016.
However, these efforts, for the most part, have proved unsuccessful. Nevertheless, there were a lot of let downs last week, including news that activists in Oklahoma, despite having enough signatures to make it on the ballot, will not get to put their medical marijuana initiative in front of the voters this November. And let’s not forget Michigan, where a group trying to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes appears to be dead in the water after the state legislature sabotaged its campaign earlier this summer with a law that disqualified the majority of its signatures. Perhaps the most positive development of the past week is word that New York is preparing to expand its medical marijuana program in the near future.
Read all about these happenings and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for September 5:
Nebraska: New Petition Aimed at Legalizing Marijuana
Legal Marijuana Now is hoping to end prohibition in 2018. The group’s initiative aims to make up to ounce of marijuana legal for both recreational and medicinal use. They need 87,000 signatures to get the issue put in front of voters in the November 2018 election. “We’re sidestepping the lawmaking process, and we’re doing it our way; we’re getting signatures, we’re doing it the hard way,” said Mark Elworth Jr. of Legal Marijuana Now.
Oklahoma: Medical Marijuana Probably Will No Make Ballot
Although Oklahomans for Health managed to collect the necessary signatures to have its medical marijuana initiative included on the November ballot, state officials have caused the group some problems that have likely sabotaged the campaign for 2016. It seems Attorney General Scott Pruitt handed the group a ballot description that organizers believe was assembled to “cause fear and uncertainty” among the voters. Oklahomans for Health has moved to get the wording changed, but this will likely be enough of a setback to prevent the initiative from being included on the ballot later this fall. However, Oklahomans for Health could press the issue in a special election, or else wait until 2018 to try it again.
Colorado: Denver NORML Fails With Social Use Initiative, Another Cleared
One of the two social use initiatives being considered for the November ballot is now nothing more than a memory. Denver NORML’s “Responsible Use Denver” proposal did not successfully collect the signatures necessary to advance to the polls. Supporters were required to qualify 4,726 signatures, turning in around 7,500 to hedge their bet. Unfortunately, election officials said that only about 3,000 were eligible since some were gathered in areas outside the Denver municipal area. But a second ballot measure called the “Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Initiative” is still in play. The Denver Election Board announced on Thursday that this initiative aimed at allowing social use in restaurants and bars would go before the voters in the upcoming November election.
Arizona: Recreational Marijuana Supporters Sue Over Ballot Description
Supporters with the Arizona Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Michele Reagan because they believe she may have intentionally left out crucial details when drafting the ballot description for Proposition 205. The complaint argues that the description left off the fact that the 15 percent tax on marijuana sales would benefit schools, as well as a few other important pieces of information. The group asked the court to amend the ballot description. However, the only change made was in the wording “over 21” when it explained who would be permitted to buy retail weed. The judge said he disagreed with this language and ordered the description be amended to read “21 and over.”
Michigan: MILegalize Petitions Supreme Court
MILegalize, the group working to legalize recreational marijuana, this year, has petitioned the Michigan Supreme Court in hopes it will allow its initiative to move on to the November ballot. The goal is to get the state’s highest court to reverse last week’s decision by Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello and get the 200,000 disqualified signatures reinstated. However, even if this were to happen, state officials say it is too late for the group to make this election because absentee ballots are already set to go to the printer. Federal law forces all absentee ballots to be mailed out by September 23.
“With all due respect to the Court of Appeals, the elections clock is ticking,” said MILegalize chairman, attorney Jeffrey Hank, “and given the very serious legal questions of public interest at stake and our determination to ensure the constitutional rights of every Michigan voter are protected from usurpation by the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of government, our campaign must explore every option to get timely relief to place the Michigan Marihuana Legalization, Regulation, and Economic stimulus act on the 2016 ballot so that voters are not deprived of the opportunity to participate in their own self-government.”
New York: Expanding Medical Marijuana Program
New York is set to expand its medical marijuana program. Last week, the New York Times reported that the state was planning to incorporate all of the Department of Health’s recent recommendations into an updated program. Although the full scope of the expansion is expected to come later this week, it appears the addition of more qualified conditions, home delivery and the ability for nurse practitioners to write recommendations are all issues that will be addressed. New York’s medical marijuana program has been considered one of the most restrictive in the nation. It stands to gain a substantial boost from the coming changes.
Delaware: Governor Allows Medical Marijuana For Terminally Ill
Governor Jack Markell signed a bill into law last week that will allow terminally ill patients, as well as minors suffering from anxiety, depression and pain, to have access to medical marijuana. The new law allows patients qualifying for participation under these conditions to begin applying for medical marijuana cards in three months.
California: Landlord Medical Marijuana Legislation Dropped
Last week, the California legislature dismissed a bill that would have given landlords the right to evict tenants for using medical marijuana on their property. The measure, which was brought to the table by Assemblyman Jim Wood, was dropped due to concerns that it would violate the rights of patients using medical marijuana under the guidance of a physician. There is no word if the measure will be redesigned and submitted again at a later date.