It was another eventful week in the fight to legalize marijuana in the United States. Perhaps the biggest news to surface was a couple of federal bills that some activists believe to be another indication that the government’s war on marijuana is on its last leg. Other highlights include an initiative aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in Michigan, as well as guidance coming from the California Lieutenant Governor’s office in an attempt to help steer the regulatory model of a potential cannabis industry in 2016.
Read all about this and more in the High Times Legislative Roundup for July 27:
Federal: Bill to Expunge Federal Records for Marijuana Offenses
Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon intends to introduce a bill this week that would eliminate some marijuana offenses from criminal records. The Clean Slate for Marijuana Offenses Act of 2015 would allow offenders convicted of possessing under an ounce of marijuana, as well as those charged federally for a crime that was legal under state law, to have their records expunged. Blumenauer said his bill would prevent people’s lives from being ruined over a minor pot offense, enabling anyone with a federal record over the possession of less than two ounces of weed to be considered for expungement. The lawmaker hopes his proposal will spark a debate that leads to state jurisdictions adopting similar policies.
Federal: Senate Appropriations Approves Legal Sales in Washington D.C., Etc.
In a move of bipartisan support, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill last week that would allow the District of Columbia to open retail pot shops, as well as one permitting banks to work with the marijuana industry. The Financial Services spending bill eliminates the congressional ban in the District, giving the DC Council the right to push for a taxed and regulated cannabis industry in 2016. The committee also approved an amendment that would allow banks to work with marijuana businesses without the risk of federal prosecution. All of these proposals are expected to be discussed further in the next few weeks.
Michigan: Initiative to Legalize Marijuana in 2016
A group of marijuana activists under the name MILegalize are in the process of collecting signatures in hopes of earning a spot on the ballot in the November 2016 election. The organization, which has been challenged with securing over 252,000 valid signatures in the next 180 days, is proposing a fully legal cannabis industry for adults over the age of 21. In addition, the initiative allows for the cultivation of 12 plants and the transfer of up to 2.5 ounces. A 10 percent excise tax comes attached to this measure that would be used to repair roads and schools. If voters approve this measure, the state will stand outside prohibitionary lines as of March 1, 2017.
Michigan: Bill to Legalize Marijuana Heads to State Legislature
Despite several initiatives currently working to legalize marijuana in Michigan, State Representative Jeff Irwin announced last week that he, too, is drafting a bill aimed at legalizing a statewide cannabis industry. Irwin said he plans to submit his proposal to the state legislature in the near future. As of now, the lawmaker is searching for cosponsors to help see his bill to fruition. The Marijuana Policy Project has set up a pre-generated form letter on their website, so that Michigan residents can write their local representatives and ask for their backing on this issue.
California: Marijuana Legalization Guidance Issued
A commission headed by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom released a report last week, providing marijuana activists with a list of 58 recommendations to consider in the effort to legalize weed in 2016. The report touches on everything from production to taxation, indicating that, “Legalization of marijuana would not be an event that happens in one election. Rather, it would be a process that unfolds over many years requiring sustained attention to implementation.” So far, six initiatives have been submitted in California in hopes of legalizing a recreational cannabis market in the next presidential election. Recent polls indicate that 56 percent of the voting population is prepared to end prohibition.
Ohio: ResponsibleOhio Short on Signatures
ResponsibleOhio, the group behind the controversial initiative to legalize a cannabis market in Ohio, has reportedly fallen 30,000 certified signatures short of qualifying for the November ballot. The Secretary of State has given the group 10 days to come up with the missing signatures or else forfeit their shot to end prohibition in 2015. Last month, ResponsibleOhio said in a press release that they were submitting “in excess of 550,000” signatures — well above the requirement earning them a spot on the ballot. But the Board of Elections said last Monday that they could only certify 276,000. The group was expected to try and collect around 100,000 more signatures in hopes of getting at least 30,000 certified before the deadline.