If you have not been following the efforts to legalize marijuana in the United States, you should know that there are four important initiatives up for a vote in the upcoming November election. Alaska and Oregon will deicide on whether or not to establish a recreational marijuana market similar to Colorado and Washington, while voters in Washington, DC will determine if the District will allow recreational marijuana use without imposing a retail market. In Florida, voters will answer the question of legalized medical marijuana. The outcome of all these measures are extremely important, as they will dictate how other states approach legalization in 2016, as well potentially serve to weaken the state of federal prohibition.
State lawmakers fought last week to reform current marijuana laws, as well as to establish some much needed changes. Here is how that went down:
Connecticut: Proposed Changes Already?
Although medical marijuana literally just hit dispensary shelves, there is a group already working to change the regulations. “Our Plant, Our Right” wants to expand on the current law by allowing patients to consume marijuana in it whole form rather than ground up buds. “They could offer us a choice or just give us the whole bud like every other state [that has a medical marijuana law] does,” said Peter Mould, who launched the petition. “You don’t go into a steakhouse to get pre-chewed steak.”
The petition was posted to Change.org, which aims to change the current law to allow producers to sell medical marijuana in whole-bud form in order to give patients a higher quality medicine.
Washington, DC: Vote to Seal Records
The DC Council voted earlier this year to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, but lawmakers in the nation’s capital are taking the next step in pot reform by approving a measure that would seal the criminal records of those convicted of marijuana-related offenses.
Councilmember David Grosso introduced a bill last year that would close the criminal records of offenders convicted of a non-violent marijuana-related crime. The council unanimously approved the bill on Tuesday.
In a prepared statement, Gross said that expunging the records of non-violent marijuana offenders was the next logical step for the District of Columbia. “Our criminal justice system has relied on vengeance and punishment,” he said, which has caused many people to endure hardships like not being able to secure gainful employment because of drug charges stemming from minor pot possession.
If the bill is approved, it would seal the records of “residents with a non-violent misdemeanor or felony possession of marijuana as their only prior criminal history,” which stands to benefit about 20,000 people, according to Grosso’s office.
Pennsylvania: Marijuana Bill Assigned to Committee
A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania was assigned last week to the House Judiciary Committee. The move, however, is not expected to be approved until the end of the year, according to the committee chairman. Senate Bill 1182, also referred to as the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, will receive two hearings before it is passed. The first hearing will likely happen in November, with the second expected in December or January.
Maine: Judge Rules Against Marijuana Advocates In York
Last week, Citizens for a Safer Maine announced that it would not fight a judge’s decision to give the York Board of Selectmen the right to snuff out a ballot measure to decriminalize marijuana.
“We’re confident an appeal would be successful, but at this point we cannot afford to continue playing this game with the selectmen,” David Boyer, with the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “We know there is support for ending marijuana prohibition in York, and we’re going to focus our resources on giving them a chance to vote on it in 2016 with a statewide ballot initiative.
Citizens for a Safer Maine submitted more than 1,000 signatures in August, but the Board of Selectmen voted against allowing the imitative on the ballot. Of course, the organization fought the decision in court, but lost the battle when Judge Paul Fritzche’s handed down his verdict in September.