Happy 420, kids! This week’s High Times Legislative Roundup is being written under some extremely… well… high conditions right smack dab in the middle of the Mile High City. As most of you are aware, Colorado was the first state to repeal the prohibition of marijuana and lay a regulatory framework for recreational sales. Now, buying weed in cities like Denver and Aurora is as easy as purchasing a six pack of beer. So, it makes complete sense to celebrate this high holiday, of sorts, with the Cannabis Cup, the largest and most enthusiastic tribute to weed in the entire universe. Being in this place for only a day is all the proof one needs to know that legalization should be happening all over the United States.
So, without further ado, here is what some of the pot-friendly lawmakers were up to in your neck of the woods last week.
Federal: Bill to Reschedule Marijuana/Legalize CBD Introduced in Congress
A bill has been introduced in Congress that aims to reschedule marijuana and legalize specific extracts from the plant nationwide. It is called the Compassionate Access Act, and it would remove cannabis from its current Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act and rank it a Schedule II. The proposal would also eliminate cannabidiol (CBD) from the DEA’s controlled substances list and make the medicine more accessible in states that have medical marijuana programs in place.
Maryland: Bill to Decriminalize Pot Paraphernalia Approved
Maryland lawmakers put their final seal of approval on a measure last week aimed at decriminalizing marijuana paraphernalia across the state. The House of Delegates approved Senate Bill 517 by a vote of 83 to 53. The proposal is now on its way to the desk of Governor Larry Hogan to be signed into law. This is good news considering that while the state decriminalized marijuana possession last year, the bill did not remove the criminal penalties surrounding paraphernalia. The new law will also reduce the maximum penalty for public pot consumption from a $1,000 fine to $500. It is expected to take effect in October.
New Mexico: Hemp Farming Bill Vetoed, While Policing for Profit Outlawed
The prospect of growing industrial hemp is no longer an option in New Mexico. Governor Susana Martinez vetoed the bill that would have legalized the cultivation of the product for research purposes. Senate Bill 94 was largely successful in both the state Senate and the House of Representatives, but ultimately it met its demise once it landed on the governor’s desk.
“New Mexicans across the political spectrum are ready for hemp to be an option for the agricultural sector and to improve our economy,” said Emily Kaltenbach of the New Mexico chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The Governor missed an important opportunity to support New Mexico’s farmers and small business owners.”
However, the governor did sign a bill into law making the Civil Asset Forfeiture program illegal in the state. This means that police agencies will no longer be permitted to seize and capitalize on personal property without charging a suspect with a crime.
Massachusetts: Initiative Filed to Legalize Marijuana in 2016
Massachusetts could be one of the next states to legalize a recreational marijuana market. On Friday, an organization called Bay State Repeal filed the necessary paperwork to get an initiative to establish a statewide cannabis industry on the ballot in the November 2016 election. It is up to the Attorney General to decide whether the language of the proposal is fine the way it is, or if it needs to be revised, which is expected. The group has until August to file its final draft.
Wisconsin: Bill Introduced to Legalize Marijuana
Representative Melissa Sargent has submitted a proposal aimed at legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes. LRB-0188 would allow people over the age of 21 to possess up to a half ounce of weed for any purpose. Tourists, however, would only be allowed to possess up to a quarter ounce. In addition, residents would be permitted to grow up to 12 plants, as long as they have a cultivation permit from the state. The bill would also establish a market for medical marijuana, which would be regulated by the Department of Health Services and qualify patients to purchase medicine without the 25 percent sales tax.
Idaho: CBD Bill Vetoed by the Governor
Idaho Governor Butch Otter has vetoed a piece of legislation that would have allowed children with seizure disorders to have access to cannabidiol (CBD oil). While the governor says he “sympathizes” with patients and their families, he does not believe there is enough evidence to suggest that cannabis is medicine, and therefore does not believe a law should be passed based on pure speculation.
“I don’t know what more I or senior members of my administration could have done to help legislators understand our strong opposition to this legislation,” Governor Otter wrote in a veto message. “Both the House and Senate were told by the Office of Drug Policy, the Department of Health and Welfare, and the Idaho State Police — as well as prosecutors and local law enforcement officers from throughout Idaho — that there were too many questions and problems and too few answers and solutions in this bill to let it become law.”
Although the vetoing of this bill is disheartening, the law would not have been enough to truly benefit patients in need. It did not come with any provisions allowing for cultivation and distribution, which would have forced those wanting this medicine to smuggle it in from legal states.
Oklahoma: CBD-Only Legislation Approved
The Oklahoma Senate did not flinch at approving a proposal last week aimed at legalizing CBD oil for children suffering from seizure disorders. The bill passed earlier this year in the House of Representatives but must now return for a second time so they can approve some changes. Once this happens, the bill will head to the desk of Governor Mary Fallin for her signature. The law would allow for children under 18 to qualify for clinical trials in which they would receive CBD oil from select universities. If the governor signs it, the law will take effect immediately.
Mississippi: Ballot Initiative in Full Swing, But Struggling
Marijuana supporters in Mississippi are struggling to collect the required signatures needed to legalize the herb for recreational use in 2016. Ballot Initiative 48 currently only has about 4,000 signatures, according to organizers, with a total of over 107,000 needed by October. This means that each of the state’s 5 major districts need to produce 21,444 signatures in order to be successful. Organizers say Jeremy Bufford, the initiative’s latest sponsor, intends to donate $1 for every signature collected in each district, with $2 per signature going to District 2. Visit www.yesonproposition48.org for more information.
Georgia: Hemp Bill Introduced & Governor Signs CBD Bill
State lawmakers have introduced a proposal aimed at legalizing the research of industrial hemp. The law would establish a pilot program, which would allow the state to conduct studies into the operations of a hemp program. The bill is in response to legislation introduced earlier this year with hopes of legalizing industrial hemp. Lawmakers are expected to address these measures when they reconvene in 2016.
Also, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill into law last week, which gives patients with certain debilitating conditions to access to cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD oil.
“For the families enduring separation and patients suffering pain, the wait is finally over,” Deal said. “Now, Georgia children and their families may return home, while continuing to receive much-needed care.”
Now, patients suffering from seizures, cancer, sickle cell anemia, Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease can possess up to 20 ounces of marijuana oil, as long as it does not go over 5 percent THC. Patients will be required to get a registration card from the Department of Public Health.
Iowa: Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill
On Wednesday, the Iowa Senate approved legislation that could end up establishing a comprehensive medical marijuana program across the state. Senate Bill 484 will now head to the House of Representatives for further consideration, which some fear will not go well. That is because the Republican-dominated House does not believe that medical marijuana should be made legal because it violates federal law. If passed, patients could see dispensaries open no later than April 2016.