HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: January 18

Cannabis activists are working harder than ever to legalize the leaf in various regions of the United States. Some of the biggest news this week comes from California, where the group supporting Sean Parker’s marijuana initiative has been approved for the next phase of their campaign. One state over, in Arizona, activists are making strides to ensure the end of prohibition in 2016. The word on the street is that the ballot measure aimed at creating a cannabis industry similar to the one in Colorado is close to meeting the necessary requirements to earn a voice in the November election. In the Midwest, lawmakers in Ohio seem focused on establishing some kind of medical marijuana program later this year, while in the eastern part of the nation, the New Hampshire legislature is considering three measures aimed at legalizing weed for recreational purposes.

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

Georgia: Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Gains Support
It was predicted last week that Representative Allen Peake’s latest proposal aimed at expanding on the restrictive nature of the Haleigh’s Hope Act was gaining some traction when Georgia House Speaker David Ralston spoke out in support of the measure, calling it “the next step” for the state’s medical marijuana program. The new bill was designed to allow a cultivation and distribution system, so that patients are no longer forced to break federal law by smuggling cannabis oil in from a legal state. It would allow for the operation of up to six cannabis producers, while also eliminating the current THC limits on pot products. Smoking would still be prohibited. As it stands, over 100 House members have signed the bill, but its passage is far from inevitable. Similar to last year, Governor Nathan Deal could step in and negotiate his terms on the upgrade – a move that is sure to further doom the program. At this point, the governor is siding with law enforcement, which believes allowing statewide cultivation will lead to an increase in marijuana-related crime. 

New Hampshire: Hearing Scheduled for Recreational Marijuana Bills
Several bills aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in New Hampshire will be heard later this week. Reports indicate that the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hear House Bills 1610, 1675 and 1694, all of which seek various concepts of legalization. House Bill 1610 would allow adults 21 or over to cultivate up to six plants and possess up to an ounce of marijuana without establishing a taxed and regulated system. House Bill 1675 would legalize a recreational cannabis trade with a tax rate of $30 per ounce — giving residents the freedom to grow up to six plants for personal use and walk around in possession of over two pounds of weed. Lastly, House Bill 1694 would legalize recreational marijuana, which would be taxed at a rate of 15 percent, while maintaining what seems to be the standard public possession limit of up to an ounce. Under this bill, residents would also be permitted to cultivate up to six plants. All of these measures are scheduled to be heard on Tuesday. 

Arizona: Marijuana Initiative Almost Election Ready
It is almost a sure thing that Arizona’s bid to end prohibition will make in on the ballot in 2016. Organizers with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol recently announced that it is only a few thousand signatures shy of meeting the requirements needed to earn a voice in November’s general election. The group is pushing to collect 225,000 signatures to ensure the necessary 150,642 are qualified. They have until July to make this happen. If the voters approve the initiative, adults 21 or older would be able to purchase weed in retail outlets in a manner similar to how it is done with beer. It would also allow residents to cultivate up to six plants at home for personal use, while establishing a possession limit of up to ounce in public. Retail marijuana would be taxed at a rate of 15 percent, with the revenue going towards education and public health. 

California: Sean Parker’s Initiative Off and Running
Sean Parker and a crew of supporters working to get the “Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (AUMA) on the ballot in the November election were recently approved by the state attorney general to begin collecting signatures. Reports indicate the group has pooled together $1.25 million to get a jump-start on this phase of the campaign. Parker himself contributed $500,000, while various others, including New Approach PAC and Drug Policy Action, donated $250,000 each. The group must now secure over 365,000 signatures in order to get their initiative in front of voters later this year. 

Ohio: Medical Marijuana Task Force, Group Working to End Prohibition
State lawmakers have assembled a new bipartisan task force for the purpose of looking into a statewide medical marijuana program. Last week, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger announced a team had been put together to assess the risks and benefits of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. The task force has until the end of March to come up with a recommendation, which could provide some legislative guidance. However, while Rosenberger claims the group was not put together as a “stall tactic,” he is not entirely sure whether their findings will lead to legalization. 

Meanwhile, a group known as Ohioans to End Prohibition (Legalize Ohio) is on a mission to collect the more than 300,000 signatures needed to get their initiative on the ballot in November’s general election. Their proposal seeks to create a medical marijuana program under the guidance of the Ohio Department of Health, while also establishing a free market recreational cannabis industry. Industrial hemp is also included in the mix. So far, the group has managed to collect 80,000 signatures. They have until the beginning of July to gather the rest. 

Pennsylvania: Governor Vows to Get Medical Marijuana Done in 2016
While Pennsylvania has struggled to get even a modest medical marijuana bill through the state legislature, Governor Tom Wolf has vowed to get this issue remedied in 2016. Right now, there is legislation hanging in limbo that would allow patients suffering from a handful of conditions, such as intractable pain, cancer and epilepsy, to get their hands on medical marijuana products. The bill was highly successful in the Senate, but the House has continued to sandbag its progress, seemingly in an effort to wipe it from the face of existence. By the end of the summer, the proposal had been plagued by nearly 100 amendments, all of which stand to cripple the concept of a functional medical marijuana program. Governor Wolf has pledged his support for medical marijuana since being elected, but his progressive mentality has been mostly wasted due to the ineffectiveness of the Pennsylvania legislature. 

Illinois: Petition to Expand Medical Marijuana Program
The Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois recently launched a petition aimed at expanding the state’s medical marijuana program, an effort that managed to reach in upwards of 10,000 signatures within the first week. In 2014, the Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board approved eight additional conditions, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, putting state health officials in charge of determining whether these ailments should become a fixed part of the program. Basically, the petition calls for Governor Bruce Rauner, a man that has expressed no interest in expanding the program, and Public Health director Dr. Nirav Shah to “Please adopt the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board's recommendation to add osteoarthritis, various types of chronic pain, autism, IBS and PTSD as approved conditions under the Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act.” A decision must be made by the end of January.

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