HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: April 18

It was a big week in the fight to legalize marijuana in the United States. Some of the most exciting news comes from Pennsylvania, where lawmakers there have finally legalized a comprehensive medical marijuana program. There was also some momentum in Rhode Island to establish a recreational marijuana trade, as well as some support at the federal level to give veterans hassle free access to cannabis treatment.

Read all about this and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for April 18:

Federal: U.S. Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana for Veterans
Last Thursday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment attached to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that would allow Veterans to participate in medical marijuana programs without getting hassled.

The amendment would prevent federal funds from being used to drop the hammer on VA physicians for providing their patients with medical marijuana recommendations. A similar measure was met with a great deal of support last year in the Senate, but sadly, it was rejected by the House, and the amendment was not picked up for inclusion in the final version of the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.

However, both chambers of Congress will likely approve the amendment this year – giving it a good chance of being included in the final Fiscal Year 2017 budget. 

New Jersey: Bill Introduced to Add Menstrual Cramps to Medical Marijuana
On the heels of Whoopi Goldberg’s new line of cannabis products for females, a couple of New Jersey lawmakers have filed legislation aimed at adding menstrual cramps to the state’s list of qualified conditions.

Democratic Assembly members Tim Eustace, L. Grace Spencer and Angelica Jimenez submitted a bill last week that would allow women to get their hands on medical marijuana to help relieve the symptoms of PMS.

As it stands, New Jersey only allows people with certain chronic conditions to have access to weed. This bill aims to give women suffering from severe dysmenorrheal the option of using cannabis as opposed to ineffective over the counter medications and prescription drugs. Supporters are concerned that Governor Chris Christie will veto the bill even if it is widely received in the State Legislature. 

Colorado: Lawmaker Trying to Ban Marijuana Infused Gummy Bears
A Colorado lawmaker is working to outlaw cannabis infused gummy bears. Representative Dan Pabon has introduced a bill intended to ban the sale of marijuana candies that appear in the form of an animal, fruit, or other shapes attractive to children.

Pabon says he wants pot products sold in Colorado to contain distinguishing characteristics that would make kids think twice about consuming them. His bill would force state regulators to establish more restrictive guidelines on the type of marijuana edibles allowed for retail sale. 

Colorado: Medical Marijuana in Schools Being Discussed Again
The issue of whether schools should be forced to allow students being treated with medical marijuana to consume on campus is being discussed in the state legislature.

Last Monday, a key legislative committee put its seal of approval on a measure (House Bill 1373) that would make school districts draft policies pertaining to the use of medical marijuana. Although lawmakers passed a measure last year authorizing schools to implement policies for students to consume cannabis medicine, none of the state’s 178 school districts have taken action for fear of losing federal funding. 

Rhode Island: Recreational Marijuana Gets a Hearing
Although there was a great deal of uncertainty as to whether the Rhode Island legislature would hear a measure aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana, H. 7752, otherwise known as the Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, was scheduled for discussion last Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee.

Supporters say the proposal, which seeks the creation of a retail cannabis trade for adults 21 and over, would create thousands of new jobs and contribute to the state’s downtrodden economy. Unfortunately, the committee recommended that the proposal be held over for additional study.

Oklahoma: Medical Marijuana Initiative Submitted
Former State Representative Joe Dorman has submitted a proposed ballot measure with the Secretary of State’s office aimed at legalizing medical marijuana.

If all goes according to plan, Dorman and his group Oklahomans for Health will have 90 days to gather around 66,000 signatures in order to earn a spot on the November ballot.

The same organization made an attempt to bring medical marijuana to the state in 2014, but failed to collect the signatures needed to put the issue in front of voters. However, with fewer signatures required this time around, supporters hope to lead a successful campaign.

Arkansas: Recreational Marijuana Initiative Rejected
Arkansas isn’t having much luck bringing down prohibition in the state. Reports indicate that Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has rejected yet another proposal aimed at legalizing marijuana.

Supporters of The Arkansas Cannabis Restoration Amendment, which would allow residents 18 and older to cultivate and use marijuana for personal use, learned last week that their proposed ballot measure would not be allowed to advance to the next level due to ambiguities in the proposal’s language. Those championing change are expected to correct the problems and resubmit. 

Pennsylvania: Medical Marijuana Bill Heads to Governor’s Office
Pennsylvania is set to become the twenty-fourth state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana.

Last week, after the Senate pushed through a slightly amended version of Senate Bill 3, the House voted in concurrence with the changes, sending it to the desk of Governor Tom Wolf for a signature. As long as the bill is signed, patients suffering from 17 qualified conditions will soon be given access to full strength cannabis products.

Unfortunately, the program will not allow for home cultivation or the use of smokable marijuana — only pills, oils, tinctures and liquids that can be consumed through vaporizers. The bill could be signed this week

Missouri: House Votes to Legalize Industrial Hemp
A proposal aimed at legalizing industrial hemp has advanced in the Missouri Legislature.

On Monday, the House voted 123 to 29 in favor of legislation that would establish an industrial hemp program in the spirit of economic development. If the bill goes the distance, the state would begin licensing business interested in industrial hemp cultivation. The bill must now go before the Senate for consideration. A similar measure was killed in 2014. 

Maryland: Health Care Providers Could Recommend Medical Marijuana
The Maryland Senate recently approved a House bill that would allow additional health care providers to provide patients with medical marijuana recommendations. In addition to physicians, the proposal would give “dentists, podiatrists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners,” to authority to certify patients for participation in the medical marijuana program.

The bill will now go before Governor Larry Hogan, who has not given any indication whether he plans to sign it or not. 

Utah: Medical Marijuana Initiative Will Not Make It on the Ballot
A proposed ballot measure seeking to legalize medical marijuana in Utah is off the table for 2016.

Organizers with Truce announced last week that they are suspending their campaign due to an inability to secure the 102,000 signatures needed to earn a spot on the ballot. However, the group says it begin collecting signatures later this summer in hopes of getting the issue in front of voters in 2017.

For now, Utah only allows specific patients to possess CBD oil, but they are forced to smuggle the medicine in from legal states. A couple of proposals introduced earlier this year in the State Legislature aimed at expanding the program to include in-state cultivation and distribution failed miserably. 

Ohio: Medical Marijuana Bill Filed
The Ohio Legislature is calling for supporters of a medical marijuana ballot measure to suspend their campaign in an effort to join them in legalizing weed on their turf.

A group of lawmakers are preparing to introduce a piece of legislation aimed at legalizing a comprehensive medical marijuana program, so they want the Marijuana Policy Project to drop its initiative slated to go before voters in November.

Reports indicate that lawmakers plan to move swiftly on the issue in an effort to get a medical marijuana bill in front of Governor John Kasich by summer. However, the Marijuana Policy Project, which was recently approved to launch its signature collecting campaign, says it would be “irresponsible” to suspend the initiative because the state legislature’s proposal could end up being a much weaker deal.

Louisiana: Bill to Expand Qualified Conditions Advances
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee approved a bill this week that would expand the list of qualified conditions in Louisiana.

Senate Bill 271, which was introduced by Senator Fred Mills, would give patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma, positive status for HIV, AIDS and chronic conditions such as wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other severe muscle spasms, access to medical marijuana once it becomes available.

The proposal now goes before the full Senate. 

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