It was another interesting week in the world of marijuana legalization in the United States. Two federal bills were introduced: one purportedly designed to facilitate marijuana research, and another that would make banks accessible to the cannabis industry. Other highlights from the past week include the signing of law in California that gives medical marijuana patients the right to receive organ transplants, as well as a push in South Dakota to decriminalize the possession of cannabis statewide.
Read all about these happenings and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for July 13:
Federal: Amendment Submitted to Create Schedule I-R Classification
Several lawmakers have submitted an amendment aimed at creating a sub-category of the Controlled Substances Act that would make it easier to research marijuana. The proposal, which is attached to a larger bill intended to expedite the creation of new medication, would establish a Schedule I-R classification for marijuana that is used for research purposes. The hope is that the passing of this measure would “facilitate credible research on the medical efficacy of marijuana,” and lead to further rescheduling.
UPDATE: This amendment was shot down last week in the House.
Federal Banking Bill Introduced
A piece of legislation with bipartisan support was submitted last week, aimed at allowing banks to work with the cannabis industry. The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015 would prevent the federal government from prosecuting financial institutions for doing business with marijuana-related companies. In spite of guidelines put into place last year by the Justice Department and the U.S. Treasury, there is no law in place that actually prevents the federal government from challenging a bank’s dealings with marijuana businesses based on suspicion of money laundering. If passed, this bill would eliminate those concerns.
North Carolina: Changes to CBD Law Approved
The North Carolina Senate recently approved some changes to the state’s CBD law that will make cannabis oil available to more patients. House Bill 766, which was passed in a unanimous vote of 15 to 0, would allow additional patients to receive CBD oil by no longer making it mandatory to be a part of the pilot study program. The bill would give patients permission to use CBD oil as long as they have a recommendation from a board certified neurologist. House Bill 766 would also make minor changes to the THC limits.
South Dakota: Possible Decriminalization in 2016
An initiative to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in South Dakota was approved last week by the state’s Attorney General. The organization behind the proposal is expected to begin collecting signatures in the near future in hopes of securing a voice in the November 2016 election. Supporters must collect around 13,871 valid signatures before this November in order to qualify. If passed, any adult 18 and older caught in possession of less than an ounce of weed would receive a fine of $100 and be forced to relinquish their stash. Minors, however, would be subjected to a $300 fine. In South Dakota, this offense is currently a misdemeanor with a penalty of a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
Florida: Miami Approves Decriminalization Ordinance
Miami-Dade has taken steps to reform the methods for which they handle pot offenders. Last week, in a vote of 10 to 3, county commissioners approved a new ordinance that will allow police officers to issue citations to those caught in possession of less 20 grams of weed, specifically those without an extensive criminal record. The ordinance will simply give officers the discretion to write a $100 ticket instead of making an arrest. Reports indicate the city’s semi-decriminalization measure will take effect within the next 10 days.
California: Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Organ Transplant Law
Medical marijuana patients can now qualify for the organ donor transplant program. Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that prohibits the medical community from discriminating against patients who use cannabis for medicinal purposes. Assembly Bill 258, which has been several years in the making, received overwhelming support in both the Assembly and the state Senate. Medical marijuana advocates applaud Governor Brown for his signing of this important legislation. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2016.
New Hampshire: Governor Signs Expansion of Medical Marijuana Conditions
A few more qualified conditions have been added to New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program. Governor Maggie Hassan recently signed a bill to include epilepsy, lupus, and Parkinson’s disease to the list of qualified conditions under the state’s medical marijuana law. It is set to go into effect in 60 days. However, reports indicate that it could still be another 9 months before dispensaries are operational.
Wyoming: Initiative to Legalize 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.
California: Medical Marijuana Bills Advance
Two bills aimed at putting a leash on California’s medical marijuana market advanced last week in their respective committees. Senate Bill 643, which would create a regulatory structure for the medical marijuana industry, received approval from the Assembly Committee on Business and Professions, and now heads to the Assembly Committee on Health. If passed, the bill would force the creation of a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation and force taxes on those who cultivate and sell marijuana.
The second bill, Assembly Bill 243, which would allow water agencies to have control over the medical marijuana growers, advanced in a unanimous vote of 5 to 0 in the state Senate Governance and Finance Committee. This bill would allow agencies like the Water Resources Control Board to review medical marijuana growers and force them to pay a $50 tax for each cannabis plant they grow.
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