Lawmakers across the country have been scrambling to get marijuana-related legislation filed before the deadline this session. Activists, too, are aggressively working to launch signature collecting campaigns in hopes of getting their initiatives voted on in upcoming elections, especially in the south where we are seeing movements for decriminalization as well as full legalization.
It is important to remember that whatever happens in the next few months, in the realm of legislation and ballot measures, sets the stage for which states are serious about changing their marijuana laws in the next two years.
Read all about what went down last week in the High Times Legislative Roundup for January 19.
Mississippi: Coalition Working to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Team Legalize is working to establish a taxed and regulated marijuana market in the state of Mississippi. Alexandria Faust, a representative for the group, told WTVA last week that they are attempting to gain the support of the public by educating the community about the physical and economic effects of marijuana. The organization is hoping to gain enough support—100,000 signatures—for “Initiative 48” to earn a spot on the ballot in the 2016 election. The group has until October to complete their signature collecting campaign.
Wisconsin: Marijuana Decriminalization to Be Discussed in Milwaukee
Two members of the Milwaukee Common Council would like to see small amounts of marijuana decriminalized across the city. As it stands, the law dictates that anyone caught in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana can receive a fine of up to $500, with the possibility of jail time. However, the latest proposal suggests dropping the fine to around $5.
“We are effectively trying to eliminate any of these tickets,” said Councilman Nik Kovac, adding that he believes the city will experience less violent crime if it decriminalizes drugs on a small scale.
Although some of the local lawmakers do not support this measure, Milwaukee’s police chief and mayor have both said that they would back this type of proposal.
Georgia: Changes to the Medical Marijuana Bill
Some less than intelligent decisions have been made in relation to Georgia’s medical marijuana bill. State Representative Allen Peake, who has fought the battle to legalize medical marijuana in the state for the past few years, says after a discussion with Governor Nathan Deal, his legislation will no longer allow the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana in the state.
“Ideally, I would have liked to see both the immunity language and the grow model in this bill but the fact that we are getting full immunity and protection from prosecution for possession for families to have access to cannabis oil is a huge win and it will allow Georgia families to come home,” said Peake in an interview with 13WMAZ.
If this bill passes in 2015, it would allow parents with sick kids the ability to possess non-psychoactive cannabis oil or CBD, but the state will not provide them with the resources to obtain this medicine. Instead, they would be forced to get their hands on CBD oil by breaking federal law, which strictly prohibits the transportation of cannabis across state lines.
However, Peake says he hopes the medical marijuana program would have a cultivation and distribution system in place by 2016.
Kansas: Tweaks Made to the Medical Marijuana Bill
In an effort to obtain a hearing on the issue, Senator David Haley announced last week that he has made some revisions to a measure aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. However, he claims there is not much difference between the updated bill and legislation introduced over the past two years, which has failed to receive any consideration. Haley believes the key to getting his bill heard is to apply pressure to the legislature in the form of public support.
“There are constituents that are committed to natural alternatives in health care that span the political diaspora,” he told KCUR. “They’re all across the board. It’s not a conservative or progressive issue. It’s a health alternatives issue.”
If the bill is passed, it would allow patients suffering from conditions ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s to cultivate up to 12 plants and keep in their possession up to six ounces of weed at a time.
Pennsylvania: Lawmakers Plan to Reintroduce Medical Marijuana Bill
Lawmakers in Pennsylvania say they plan to reintroduce legislation in the upcoming session that would legalize medical marijuana. The bill would allow patients access to medicinal cannabis as long as they have a recommendation from a qualified physician. Similar bills were introduced in 2013-2014, and even passed the Senate last year, but neither managed to receive a vote from the House of Representatives.
“The Senate-passed bill represented months of hearings, discussions, changes and compromises with one goal in mind: helping those with medical challenges – especially children with seizure disorders – to benefit from a medicinal strain of cannabis,” said Representative Jim Cox in a statement.
Wyoming: Marijuana Decriminalization
A piece of legislation was introduced to the Wyoming legislature last week aimed at decriminalizing the possession of marijuana. The house bill would remove the criminal penalties associated with this offense, which is currently a misdemeanor punishable with up to one year in jail and a fine of $1000, and replace them with a $100 fine. An increase in penalties would be imposed for second and third offenses.
Tennessee: Nashville Referendum to Decriminalize Marijuana
The Tennessee chapter of NORML has launched a signature collecting campaign aimed at preventing city funds from being used to prosecute people caught in possession of marijuana. The organization has until May 18 to secure 6,877 verified signature to secure a spot on the ballot in the August election. If the measure is passed, marijuana would not technically be decriminalized but it would stop the city from spending resources to police the offense.