It was another exciting week in the fight to legalize marijuana in the United States. Perhaps the biggest news to come screaming down from the wire was the signing of a bill by the Governor of Oregon, allowing recreational pot sales to begin yet this year. Other highlights include some newfound drama surrounding the controversial ResponsibleOhio and word that Missouri’s Show-Me Cannabis has backed out of its attempt to legalize recreational marijuana.
Read all about this and more in the High Times Legislative Roundup for August 3:
Federal: CARERS Act Gets Another Boost
In an effort to give the CARERS Act a larger push, New York Senator Chuck Schumer has reportedly signed on as a co-sponsor for the bill. The goal of this legislation, which was introduced in March, is to legalize medical marijuana nationwide in jurisdictions that choose to participate. Drug policy reform advocates say Schumer’s association with the bill could mean substantial progress, as the lawmaker is a key member of the Judiciary Committee and in line to lead the Senate Democrats.
Oregon: Recreational Pot Sales Begin October 1
In three months, Oregon will officially launch its recreational marijuana market. Governor Kate Brown signed a law last week allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational weed while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission prepares regulations for the full market – expected to emerge in late 2016. The move to initiate a temporary recreational market was a way to bridge the gap between the effective date for legal marijuana and the timeframe regulators predicted it would take before the market was be up and running. The Governor’s office issued a statement last week saying, “If marijuana is legal to use, it should not be illegal to buy.” Recreational sales, for raw cannabis and starter plants only, will begin October 1, 2015. The full recreational market is expected to get underway in late 2016.
Missouri: Recreational Initiative Switched to Medical Only
Insider sources told High Times over the weekend that Show-Me Cannabis, the group that was pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri in 2016, downgraded their initiative to include a focus on medical marijuana after polls showed only 49 percent of the population supported recreational use.
“We have always been committed to pursuing the broadest initiative that the polling data indicates would be likely to pass, and legalization, although trending in the right direction, just isn’t quite there yet,” John Payne, executive director of the organization, said in an emailed statement.
Ohio: ResponsibleOhio Under Investigation
ResponsibleOhio, the organization working to get marijuana legalization on the ballot this year, is expecting some difficulties that could hinder the outcome of the group’s success. Last week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted appointed a special investigator to begin looking into the organization for fraud. The state official claims there are “discrepancies between the hard copy petitions and what should have been identical electronic copies of those petitions.” If the group is found guilty of fraudulent activity, organizers could be charged with a fifth degree felony. The group ran into trouble earlier this month when Husted revealed that they were 30,000 signatures short of qualifying their initiative for the November election. However, last week, ResponsibleOhio reportedly turned into over 90,000 additional signatures before the deadline. Perhaps we’ll know in the next week or so just how many of those signatures were certified.
Ohio: Medical Marijuana Shut Down
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine refused to approve a proposed constitutional amendment, last week, aimed at putting the issue of medical marijuana on the ballot in the 2016 election. Citing four issues, DeWine said he could not authorize the Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment, which would have allowed voters to decide whether or not to legalize a statewide medical marijuana program. The group can resubmit an amended version of proposal. However, there is no word if they plan to do so.
Arkansas: Attorney General Rejects Five Proposals to Legalize Marijuana
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has reportedly rejected five separate proposals aimed at legalizing marijuana across the state. However, the Associated Press reports that the same individual, Robert Reed, has submitted all of these initiatives. Rutledge claims she has been unable to approve the language of the initiatives because they are too ambiguous.
Wyoming: Pushing for Medical Marijuana in 2016
Medical marijuana could be on the ballot in Wyoming during the next presidential election. According to reports, an initiative called The Peggy A. Kelley Wyoming Cannabis Act of 2016 has been certified by the Secretary of State’s office. Supporters with the Wyoming chapter of NORML must now collect 25,673 valid signatures before next February to earn a spot on the ballot in next year’s November election. The group announced last week that it plans to circulate petitions in all 23 counties by August 10.
Vermont: Initiative to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Marijuana activists in Vermont announced last week plans to push for recreational marijuana in 2016. State Senator Jeanette White is reportedly drafting legislation that she intends to submit during the next legislative session. The state has already decriminalized possession of the herb and legalized for medicinal purposes, which has supporters confident that establishing a fully legal cannabis market is right around the corner.