It was another exciting week in the fight to legalize marijuana in the United States. Some of the biggest news to surface was that ResponsibleOhio successfully got their controversial initiative on the ballot in the 2015 election. Other highlights include Delaware’s secret passage of a law aimed at allowing medical marijuana research, as well as news that Illinois may be well on its way to becoming the next state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Read all about this and more in the High Times Legislative Roundup for August 17:
Colorado: Denver Campaign to Smoke Pot in Bars Submits 10K Signatures
Denver voters will likely get to vote on the issue of allowing designated pot smoking areas in bars and restaurants in 2015. The Denver Campaign for Limited Social Use reportedly submitted 10,000 signatures last week in hopes of earning a spot on the ballot in the upcoming November election. The organization only needed short of 5,000 certified signatures to qualify for the ballot, which should be determined by officials within the next month. If passed, businesses that have a license to sell booze would be allowed to set up special areas for marijuana consumers to partake in their own stash—as long as those places fall in line with statewide smoking ordinance. The proposal would not allow public consumption in parks or sidewalks, etc. The latest polls suggest that almost 60 percent of the voters in Denver support this measure.
Colorado: Packaging Rules for Pot Edibles Drafted
In response to a 2014 law that requires marijuana edibles in Colorado to have a distinct look before the beginning of 2016, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division has released a regulatory draft that proposes these items be branded with a stop sign warning label. The state suggests that the label should appear as a bright red octagon with the letters THC in bold slapped on each individual edible marijuana product. In addition, manufactures of these pot-infused candies and cakes would be restricted on how they use bulk materials. A public hearing on this issue is scheduled for the end of August. A law must be in place by the start of the New Year.
California: Governor Signs Law Against Illegal Grow Operations
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law last week that will impose larger fines against marijuana cultivation operations that damage the environment. The new law gives the Department of Fish and Wildlife extra authority over illegal grow operations that pollute the waterways with chemicals, uproot tress or kill animals. Fines previously in the hundreds of dollars have now been expanded up to $40,000 for anyone caught dumping hazardous material into waterways and up to $10,000 for the removal of trees or death of wildlife.
Delaware: Medical Marijuana Research Cleared
Delaware lawmakers made a quiet move recently, passing legislation that allows state facilities to conduct studies on medical marijuana. The new law will allow researchers in compliance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to research the benefits of medical marijuana—a move that supporters believe will make the state pioneers in the realm of pot science. The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Jack Markell, will allow marijuana research, including “demonstrations of safety and efficacy for treatment of medical conditions that often fail to respond to conventional treatment.”
Arizona: Marijuana Initiative Gaining Momentum
Arizona is well on its way to voting on the issue of recreational marijuana in the next election. Organizers with Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol announced last week that they have already managed to collect 50,000 signatures for their initiative within the past 10 weeks—and there are no signs of this momentum winding down. The campaign has until July 2016 to submit 150,642 signatures to the state, so the likelihood of the initiative being included on the ballot in the 2016 election is very good. Representatives for the Marijuana Policy Project, who are assisting in this campaign, believe they will collect 200,000 before the deadline. If voters approve this measure, the state would set up a taxed and regulated cannabis industry similar to the one currently underway in Colorado.
Ohio: State Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in 2015
Ohio will get to decide whether or not to legalize marijuana this November. Secretary of State Jon Husted announced last week that ResponsibleOhio managed to certify the necessary 320,267 signatures needed to earn their initiative a spot on the ballot in the upcoming election. The initiative must now go before the Ohio Ballot Board sometime this week for final approval. ResponsibleOhio reportedly spent over $2 million to successfully complete this phase of their campaign. However, in order to win, they must combat opposing forces that suggest the group is working to establish a cartel-like cannabis trade, as well as lawmakers attempting to kibosh their plans with another initiative aimed at banning monopolies. The election will take place on November 3, 2015.
Illinois: Statewide Decriminalization Could Be Around the Corner
Illinois is on its way to becoming the 21st state to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. On Friday, Governor Bruce Rauner released an amendatory veto that would allow the state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of weed. If approved by the General Assembly, the new law would allow anyone caught in possession of less than 10 grams to simply pay a fine up to $200. In addition the new law would establish a THC limit of 15 nanograms per milliliter of blood before motorists are considered impaired. This would be the highest limit for stoned driving in the nation. The original language of the bill, which has been on Rauner’s desk for the past couple of months, was not nearly as strict. It suggested that possession of less than 15 grams of weed be punishable with a fine of up to $125. However, pot advocates are still pleased with the progress being made in Illinois.
“The governor’s version is not preferable to the original bill, but it is still commonsense legislation,” Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “It will still prevent countless citizens from having their lives turned upside down by an arrest for simple marijuana possession. This is a major victory for Rep. Cassidy and the Assembly, and it is an important step forward for Illinois.”