Cannabis activists keep plugging away at the system in an effort to legalize the leaf in more parts of the United States. Some of the biggest news of the week comes from the nation’s capital, where Congress has put their seal of approval on a couple of amendments attached to a new spending bill aimed at protecting the medical marijuana community from federal prosecution. Yet, a number of proposed riders, which did well in both the House and Senate, this year, did not survive the cut. At the state level, a Kentucky lawmaker recently began working to legalize a recreational cannabis industry, while marijuana supporters in Florida are one step closer to getting an initiative on the ballot in the upcoming presidential election.
Read all about this and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for December 21:
Federal: Congress Renews Marijuana Amendments, Snubs Several Others
Congressional leadership renewed a couple of riders for inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget that are technically supposed to prevent the Justice Department and their cronies over at the DEA from prosecuting individuals and businesses complying with their respective state’s medical marijuana laws. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, once again, was attached to the federal government’s latest spending bill, as well as another rider from last year intended to stop the DEA from meddling in industrial hemp programs. Unfortunately, several other riders, including those pertaining to veterans and marijuana banking, were not included in this year’s budget.
Washington D.C.: New Federal Budget Prohibits Recreational Pot Sales
The outcome of the latest federal spending plan includes the renewal of a rider introduced in 2014 by Maryland Representative Andy Harris that prevents the District of Columbia from moving forward with plans to launch a recreational cannabis industry. The D.C. Council anticipated that Congress might decide against the amendment in the latest budget, but it appears as though the nation’s capital will have to wait at least another year before getting into the business of selling weed.
Kentucky: Lawmaker Submits Proposal to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Kentucky Senator Perry Clark has pre-filed a piece of legislation aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana. The proposal is called the “Cannabis Freedom Act,” and it seeks to establish a taxed and regulated pot market similar to what is currently underway in some western states.
From last week’s HIGH TIMES article:
“Senator Clark’s “Cannabis Freedom Act” would create a taxed and regulated marijuana marketplace that would allow adults 21 or over to purchase weed from a state licensed retail outlet. In addition, the bill would remove all criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of pot, while giving residents the authority to cultivate up to 5 plants for personal use. Much like similar bills introduced across the United States, this measure would strictly prohibit marijuana consumption in public places. The fines associated with the social restrictions included in this bill would run in upwards of $500.
“The proposal is an attempt to intermingle the concept of a recreational and a medical marijuana trade by establishing rules that address both sectors. It comes with a provision that gives physicians permission to recommend medical marijuana to patients (even those under the age of 21) for a variety of health conditions – not just for those epilepsy sufferers selected to take part in Kentucky’s research on cannabis oil.”
Clark’s proposal will be considered once the State Legislature reconvenes after the holidays.
Michigan: Initiative to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Extends Campaign
MILegalize, the group working to bring down prohibition across the state of Michigan in 2016, recently announced that they were extending their campaign in an attempt to qualify more signatures.
"For a variety of strategic reasons, MILegalize is extending its campaign," MILegalize Chair Jeffrey Hank said in a statement. To avoid any potential challenges to the petition, MILegalize needs time to validate all the incoming petitions from volunteers between Dec. 21 and the New Year.
"We don't want any supporter to be disenfranchised because their petition was not received by us prior to submission to the State," Hank continued. "MILegalize has until June 1, 2016 to submit our petition for the November ballot. We are aware of the problems recently experienced by the prevailing wage petition, and are carefully validating every one of our signatures.”
The group is expected to have an updated campaign strategy by December 21.
Michigan: Medical Marijuana Regulations Stall
Michigan’s proposed medical marijuana regulations package isn’t going anywhere in 2015. Reports indicate there simply are not enough votes to get the bills out of committee, which has prompted a request for them to be removed from the floor by 2016. Although this is not to say this legislation is dead, there just isn’t any momentum to get anything worked out before lawmakers end the session this year. The issue will likely be picked up again sometime in the coming months.
Florida: Palm Beach Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana
Palm Beach has made the decision to join the ranks of several other Florida counties in the decriminalization of minor marijuana possession. In a vote of 4-1, the county commissioners passed an ordinance that will allow cops the option of issuing a $100 ticket to anyone caught in possession of less than 20 grams. Those with the inability to pay will be referred to community service.
Florida: Medical Marijuana Initiative Approved by Supreme Court
United for Care, the group working to legalize medical marijuana in 2016, announced last week that the Florida Supreme Court has approved the language of their latest initiative – giving way to the next phase of their campaign. The group must now collect around 280,000 more signatures before the February deadline to qualify for a spot on the ballot in the 2016 election.
Delaware: Decriminalization Takes Effect, But There Are Stipulations
A law decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana went into effect last week in Delaware. Now, anyone 21 or over caught holding up to an ounce of weed will be handed a $100 ticket instead of facing criminal charges. Unfortunately, the law does not protect everyone. Second time offenders in between the ages 18 and 21 can still face prosecution. Even those caught with weed inside their vehicle can still be charged with a misdemeanor.
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