Legislation Roundup: October 3

Cops across the United States busting fewer people for weed … New Jersey lawmakers vow to regulate marijuana like tobacco … And the latest poll shows Maine will likely legalize a recreational cannabis industry in the upcoming November election.

Read all about it in the HIGH TIMES weekly Legalization Roundup for October 3:

Where: From Sea to Shining Sea

What: FBI Shows Decline in Pot Arrests

Marijuana arrests are on the decline across the nation, but one person every 49 seconds is still going to jail for pot. The latest FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that 575,000 people in 2015 were busted for marijuana possession, a significant drop from where the numbers were in 2007 when 800,000 arrests were reported. Although prosecutors all over the country say very few small time pot offenders are being sent to jail, the America Civil Liberties Union maintains that the conviction alone can have devastating results because the “collateral consequences that flow from arrests and convictions — such as lost jobs, ineligibility for public housing, suspended driver’s licenses, and restrictions on access to federal student loans — can significantly derail lives.”

Where: Kentucky

What: U.S. Attorney General Says Marijuana Is Not a Gateway Drug

During a recent town hall meeting in Kentucky, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told high school students that marijuana is not a gateway to harder drugs. Her comments, which were made during a speaking tour to promote President Obama’s “Prescription Opioid Epidemic Awareness Week”:: “It isn’t so much that marijuana is the step right before using prescription drugs or opioids—it is true that if you tend to experiment with a lot of things in life, you may be inclined to experiment with drugs, as well. But it’s not like we’re seeing that marijuana as a specific gateway.” Federal data shows that opioids kill thousands of people every year, while marijuana has yet to claim a single life.

Where: Illinois

What: Judge Demands Medical Marijuana Expansion

An Illinois judge has demanded the state expand its medical marijuana program to include Post-Operative Chronic Pain (CPOP). Last week, Cook County Judge Neil Cohen ordered the Illinois Department of Health to expand the state’s medical marijuana pilot program by adding CPOP to its list of qualified conditions. The state’s leading health official, Dr. Nirav Shah, now has 30 days to adhere to the order or be found in contempt of court. This makes the second qualified condition this year to be ordered into the state’s medical marijuana program by Judge Cohen. Over the summer, he handed down a verdict in favor of adding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was later put into action through legislation signed by Governor Bruce Rauner. The latest ruling will give thousands of additional patients access to medical marijuana. The state Attorney General’s office has not yet said whether it will file an appeal.

Where: New Jersey

What: Bill to Regulate Marijuana Like Tobacco

One lawmakers in New Jersey wants to regulate marijuana like tobacco in the Garden State. Last week, State Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll submitted a bill aimed at legalizing a recreational cannabis industry under the same rules the state has for cigarettes: anyone 19-years-old or older could purchase weed in convenience stores, supermarkets and other establishments where people typically buy tobacco products. The bill would also take the elimination of prohibition a step further by expunging the records of some people who have been convicted of pot-related crimes. Although there is no way in hell Governor Chris Christie would ever sign this bill, but it is a sign lawmakers will be ready after Christie leaves office in another year.

Where: Maine

What: Mainers Want Legal Weed

Maine is set to legalize a recreational marijuana market this November, and the latest poll indicates that voters want it bad. A survey conducted last week by the Portland Press Herald finds that 53 percent of the voting public will likely support legal weed in the upcoming election. Only 38 percent said they would not cast a favorable vote…10 percent were undecided. Not surprisingly, a whopping 60 percent of the respondents they had experimented with marijuana at some point in their life, which is consistent with national surveys.

Where: Alaska

What: Army Bans Soldiers from Pot Festivals

With Alaska’s legal marijuana market set to open in the coming months, Major General Bryan Owens of U.S. Army has taken some ridiculous measures to ensure his troops are not inspired to use the herb. The General recently issued a statement to more than 10,000 active soldiers stationed in Alaska prohibiting them from attending cannabis-related events. “Attendance at such events is inconsistent with military service and has the potential to adversely impact the health, welfare and good order and discipline for soldiers stationed here,” he wrote. Marijuana is illegal on the federal level; a spokesperson for the U.S. Army said officials are just trying to get ahead of potential problems, and that the primary goal is “to keep our soldiers out of legal trouble.” All federal employees, including military service members are prohibited from using marijuana.

Where: Arkansas

What: Voters Split on Medical Marijuana

Arkansas may have a challenging time legalizing a medical marijuana program in 2016. That’s because the latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey shows that voters are almost evenly split on the issue–49 percent support the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, while 43 percent oppose. Interestingly, a second medical marijuana ballot measure–the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act – is not very popular. The polls found that 53 percent of the voters plan to reject the AMCA and only 36 percent intend to cast a favorable ballot. There are some concerns that the confusion of having two competing medical marijuana initiatives could sabotage legalization altogether, but pollsters argue that Arkansans have a relatively solid grip on what is at stake with both measures.

Where: North Carolina

What: Attempt to Curb Marijuana Arrests

Some North Carolina jurisdiction are working toward some common sense marijuana reform. Last week, the Durham City Council approved a measure that will allow the city to explore a decriminalization policy. The proposal was brought to the table by Durham’s FADE campaign, which pushes for alternative law enforcement measure for drug users. The unanimous vote among the council will force a meeting between City Manager Tom Bonfield and Police Chief C.J. Davis to determine if creating an ordinance that eliminates the criminal penalties for pot possession is something worth consideration. Similar measures have been approved in cities all across the nation, most recently in Nashville, Tennessee.

Where: Massachusetts

What: Lawmakers Plan to Raise Money to Contest Marijuana Initiative

Lawmakers in Massachusetts plan to raise money to prevent marijuana from being legalized in 2016. The Boston Globe reports that “top elected officials from both parties” have scheduled a unified fundraiser in hopes of generating some mega campaign funds that will be used to convince voters not to support a recreational ballot measure at the polls this November. But the move seems a little late, especially considering the election is just about a month away. The latest UMass Amherst Poll indicates the majority of voters in the Bay State support the legalization of marijuana, with 53 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed.

Where: Virginia

What: Governor Wants to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe wants to legalize medical marijuana in 2017. Unfortunately, he does not believe the state legislature is brave enough to put legislation on his desk before he leaves office. In a radio interview last week with WTOP, McAuliffe said “I do not support legalization of marijuana in Virginia,” but “I do support it for medicinal purposes. I will sign any bill you can get to me, because I’m a big believer in that.” The governor then went on to explain that legalization was not something that was likely to happen anytime soon because the Virginia General Assembly is not in any hurry to pass a marijuana bill. Governor McAuliffe’s support for medical marijuana comes just a week after a photo surfaced of him next to Willie Nelson and a can of the artist’s own brand of weed, Willie’s Reserve.

Where: California

What: Microgrowers Gain Protection

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a marijuana bill last week designed to acknowledge the “micro farmer.” The law defines this new licensing category as any cannabis grower that has 2,500 square feet or less of total canopy sized for mixed-light cultivation, up to 25 mature plants outdoors, or less than 500 square feet indoors. “This law will help ensure that small medical cannabis growers on the North Coast can comply with regulations as this industry moves forward, providing certainty and predictability,” the bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Jim Wood, said in a statement.

  1. I am curious, why is it that the people that have been voted into seats in Mass. by the people, need to have a fund raiser to convince the people, that voted them in to represent them as the “majority” opinion of the State, not to allow this legislation to go forward? If the people of that state don’t want it, will they not simply say nay? It just sounds kinda shady…

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