It was another eventful week in the world of marijuana legalization across the United States. Perhaps the biggest news was the submission of a sentencing reform bill seeking to no longer make certain drug related crimes a federal offense, as well as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s signing of two bills: one to reduce pot penalties and the other to establish a statewide medical marijuana program. Other highlights from the past week include decriminalization in Florida’s largest city and the introduction of a second medical marijuana proposal in Pennsylvania that supporters believe will be a sure thing.
Read all about these happenings and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for July 6:
Federal: Lawmakers Ask Congress to Reclassify Weed
During the recent Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, several U.S. Senators, including Cory Booker and Kristen Gillibrand, attempted to persuade the federal government to allow more medical marijuana research. Lawmakers told officials with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Food and Drug Administration that more should be done to facilitate cannabis research, specifically cannabidiol or CBD, to find out how it can combat seizure disorders. There is speculation that this meeting may have contributed to what some believe is the inevitable demise of Drug Enforcement Administration’s monopoly on research cannabis production.
Federal Sentencing Reform Bill Submitted
Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and Bobby Scott of Virginia recently submitted the “Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act of 2015,” which would essentially eliminate drug possession as a federal offense. The proposal seeks to allow these crimes to fall on the responsibility of individual state law, while also reducing mandatory minimums and life sentences.
Illinois: New Diseases Being Accepted for Medical Marijuana Program
In the month of July, Illinois residents can submit proposed conditions and diseases to be considered for the state’s pilot medical marijuana program. On Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Health began accepting suggestions for new qualified conditions — they will be accepted throughout the month. New qualified conditions can be submitted only twice per year, according to the law. The next period in which petitions for new ailments will be accepted is January 2016.
Washington: Three-Tier Tax System Is Now Single
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has signed a bill into law that eliminates the state’s three-tier tax system and replaces it with a new single excise tax of 37 percent. The customer will pay the tax at the time of purchase. House Bill 2136, which does away with the 25% X 3 taxation method, went into effect on July 1, 2015.
Massachusetts: Initiative Submitted to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Bay State Repeal, an organization looking to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts in 2016, submitted its proposal to the state attorney general’s office last week. Reports indicate that the group has spent two years devising their master plan to end prohibition across the state. If passed, it would allow adults 21 and over to possess, consume and cultivate marijuana for personal use. A cannabis industry would also be permitted to exist in a manner similar to what is happening in Colorado.
Louisiana: Gov. Signs Bills Reducing Pot Penalties, Legalizes Medical Marijuana
Governor Bobby Jindal signed two bills into law last week, reducing the penalties for pot offenders as well as legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. The first bill, House Bill 149, reduces the sentences for habitual pot offenders – ensuring that no one ever does more than eight years in prison. The second, Senate Bill 143, allows the development of a functional medical marijuana program for patients suffering from around eight qualified conditions. Regulations are reportedly being drafted, but it could still be years before the program is off and running.
Oregon: Legalizes Marijuana, Reduces Sentences
Wednesday was the first official day of legalized marijuana in the state of Oregon. Adult 21 and over can now possess up to an ounce of weed in public, up to eight ounces at home, and cultivate up to four plants. On the same day, Governor Kate Brown signed a proposal approved by the House and Senate to establish a temporary cannabis industry beginning in October. Previously, lawmakers anticipated that the recreational market would not be ready until late 2016, but the signing of this measure will offer an alternative to the black market within the next few months. The Governor also signed House Bill 3400, which is an elaborate sentencing reform measure that transforms most marijuana-related felonies into misdemeanors and drastically reduces sentences for these offenses.
Florida: Miami Decriminalizes Pot Possession
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.
Pennsylvania: Second Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced
State lawmakers introduced a second bill last week aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. Representatives Ron Marsico, Mike Regan, and Sheryl Delozier submitted House Bill 1432, which would create a more controlled program than the one proposed under Senate Bill 3. The bill would allow physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients suffering from about nine “serious conditions” ranging from HIV/AIDS to epilepsy. Similar to other proposals, the program would not allow smoking – only the use of edibles, oils and vaporizers. There has been some speculation that Senate Bill 3 is doomed this year, but lawmakers believe the latest proposal will be more palatable for the state legislature.
Colorado: Denver Approves Language of Public Pot Consumption Initiative
A proposal aimed at allowing some public marijuana consumption is on its way to becoming a reality. The City of Denver recently approved the language of the Limited Social Marijuana Consumption Initiative, which would allow some bars and restaurants to open an area to allow cannabis consumption. Supporters of this proposal must collect around 5,000 signatures in order to earn a spot on the ballot in the November election.
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