HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: April 4

It was a busy week in the fight to reform the marijuana laws in the United States. Some of the biggest news comes from Ohio, where a highly publicized ballot measure has been cleared for signatures. There was also some progress in Illinois to decriminalize marijuana, as well as momentum in Hawaii to study the decriminalization of all illegal drugs.

Read all about went down last week in the world of cannabis reform in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for March 28:

Ohio: Medical Marijuana Initiative Cleared for Signatures
Medical marijuana is back on track in Ohio. Attorney General Mike DeWine recently announced that the medical marijuana initiative supported by the Marijuana Policy Project had been cleared for the next level of review. The proposal then went before the Ohio Ballot Board where the five-member panel also gave approval. Organizers must now collect 305,591 verified voter signatures before July in order to earn a spot on the ballot in the November election.

“We plan to mobilize a large group of volunteers, and we’ll be enlisting the help of paid petitioners to meet the state’s sizeable signature requirement in the short amount of time we have,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “A lot of our volunteers are family members of patients or patients themselves, so they’re incredibly motivated. The initiative process isn’t easy, but it pales in comparison to undergoing chemotherapy or witnessing your child have seizures on a daily basis.”

Illinois: Decriminalization Measure Being Discussed
The Illinois legislature is once again debating the issue of marijuana decriminalization. A bill seeking to replace the criminal penalties for possession of 10 grams of marijuana or less with a $100-$200 fine is currently waiting to be voted on in the Senate. If it passes, it will then move to the House of Representatives for consideration. Many expect the bill to be successful this year because the language falls right in line with the recommendations made by Governor Bruce Rauner after he vetoed a decriminalization measure in 2015. 

Florida: Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill
Governor Rick Scott signed a bill last week that will allow terminally ill patients to have access to full strength cannabis products. As an amendment to the state’s “Right to Try Act,” which allows dying patients to use experimental medications that have not been FDA approved, the new law will allow those patients who have been given less than a year to live the option of medicating with cannabis. However, no one seems certain when the program will launch. Florida passed a low-THC medical marijuana bill in 2014, and still not a single patient has been served. 

Colorado: Lawmakers Pushing for THC Restrictions
There is a proposed ballot measure and bill in the state legislature hoping to place a cap on the amount of THC allowed in marijuana and marijuana products sold in Colorado. The ballot initiative, put together by Ali Pruitt and Ron Castanga, seeks to impose a restriction of 16 percent THC on all cannabis sold throughout the state. The House proposal, introduced by Representative Kathleen Conti, would require similar limits on THC content  — capping it at 15 percent. Neither measure would apply to medical marijuana. Although the movement has some support, opposing forces are calling it an unconstitutional plan that will only drive cannabis users back into the black market. 

Hawaii: Lawmakers to Study Decriminalizing All Drugs
Hawaii lawmakers have approved a measure that would allow the state to conduct a feasibility study over the decriminalization of all illegal drugs. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted 7 to 1 in favor of the resolution, sending it to the House floor for consideration. As reported by Marijuana.com, the measure has been amended from its original version to limit the study to only certain felony drug offenses. The proposal must be in front of the Senate by April 7 in order to have a shot of passing in 2016. 

Oregon: Updated Hemp Bill Signed
Although Oregon passed a hemp bill in 2009, the program has been difficult to get involved with due to its strict entry barriers. However, Governor Kate Brown recently signed a new bill into law that lowers some of the criteria for industrial hemp farming in an effort to allow more producers the opportunity to participate. Reports indicate that the Oregon Department of Agriculture is currently accepting applications for the 2016 season. 

Oregon: Governor Signs Bill Allowing MMJ Dispensaries to Sell Edibles
As part of a bill that allows Oregon’s recreational pot shops to sell tax-free herb to medical marijuana patients, people will now also be able to purchase cannabis edibles and extracts from dispensaries. Senate Bill 1511, which was signed into law last week by Governor Kate Brown, gives dispensaries the ability to sell small amounts of edibles and extracts to people 21 and older. Before this can begin, however, the Oregon Health Authority must first draft the regulations for the sale of these products. There is no word on when this will happen.

Maine: Senate Backs Stoned Driving Bill
A bill seeking to define what constitutes stoned driving is making its way through the Maine Legislature. Last week, the Senate voted 19 to 14 in favor of a bill that would establish a legal limit of .05 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood – the same standard being used in Colorado and Washington. Supporters say the limit is needed to prevent stoned driving, while the opposition argues it will lead to responsible patients being unjustly arrested. The bill must now go before the House of Representatives for consideration. [link: ]

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