It was a triumphant week in the world of marijuana reform across the United States. Even with the legislative session beginning to wind down for the summer, a number of proposals, including a federal amendment aimed at keeping the DEA out of medical marijuana states, advanced to the next level. Other highlights include Florida’s latest attempt to legalize medical marijuana, as well as news that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will sign a proposal to reduce the penalties for pot offenders.
Read all about what went down last week in the High Times Legislative Roundup for Jun 15:
Federal: Sen. Com. Votes to Prevent DEA Interference in Medical Marijuana
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week to pass an amendment that would keep the DEA from interfering with medical marijuana states. The proposal, which was approved in a vote of 20 to 10, is identical to one passed several weeks ago in the House. Drug Policy experts believe the latest vote indicates “the death throes” of the war on weed are upon us.
Florida: Miami Decriminalization
A proposal aimed at decriminalizing the possession of marijuana, which was drafted in part by the Miami-Dade Police Department, received preliminary approval on Wednesday by the County Commission’s Metropolitan Services committee. If passed, it would allow officers the authority to treat some pot offenders with leniency by issuing a $100 ticket instead of making an arrest. The commission will vote on the issue at the end of the month. It will then be up to Mayor Carlos Gimenez to make the final decision.
Will Florida Legalize Medical Marijuana in 2016?
Although the group has not formally announced a new initiative, reports indicate that United for Care is gearing up to launch an aggressive signature collecting campaign to get the issue of medical marijuana on the ballot, once again, in 2016. The updated language of the proposal is expected to be submitted to the Florida Supreme Court very soon, with supporters then working to collect around 600,000 signatures. This measure failed last November by only 2 percent of the votes.
Oregon: Considering 20 Percent Sales Tax on Retail Weed
As part of a series of proposed amendments, lawmakers are want to impose a 20 percent sales tax on retail marijuana products. According to Measure 91, only the state can tax marijuana, but the latest proposal gives local governments the opportunity to get in on the mix, collecting up to 3 percent. If this measure passes, it would replace the concept outlined in Measure 91 that suggests a $35 per ounce flat rate tax or harvest tax. Reports indicate that last weeks proposed amendments prevent the partial retail trade from starting up on July 1, the day legalization becomes official.
Ohio: Lawmakers Attempting to Snuff Out ResponsibleOhio
In an effort to prevent the state’s recreational marijuana market from mimicking its casino industry, lawmakers want to include a voter referendum on the ballot in 2015 that would ban monopolies. If this were to pass, it would prevent proposals such as the one by ResponsibleOhio from getting on the ballot in 2016. Better for Ohio, a group attempting to pass a similar initiative, announced last week that it was dropping out of the marijuana game due to the inability to collect enough signatures.
District of Columbia: Bill to Restrict Retail Sales… Again
An attachment to a proposed House Appropriations Committee bill submitted last week threatens to once again prevent the District of Columbia from moving forward with the legalization of a cannabis trade. The language is identical to the rider introduced last year by Representative Andy Harris.
The bill reads, “None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act 8… or any tetrahydrocannabinols [marijuana] derivative.”
DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said this week that the DC Council would fight the marijuana rider.
Michigan: Initiatives Approved to Legalize Recreational Weed in 2016
The Board of State Canvassers announced the approval of two initiatives aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana: The Michigan Cannabis Coalition and the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee will both begin collecting signature in an attempt to earn a spot on the ballot in 2016. They will need to collect 252,523 to make this happen.
Nevada: Governor Signs Hemp Bill
Last week, Governor Brian Sandoval signed a piece of legislation that would allow the state to cultivate hemp. The pilot program, which was recently authorized by the federal government, would allow colleges and universities to work with the Department of Agriculture on hemp production. The State Board of Agriculture is in the process of establishing regulations, and the program could be functional by early 2016.
Louisiana: House Gives Final Approval on Reduced Penalties for Pot Offenders
Last Monday, the House gave final approval on a bill aimed at reducing the penalties for pot offenders. It now heads to Governor Bobby Jindal, who is expected to sign it into law. The proposal basically ensures that habitual marijuana offenders never do more than eight years in prison. Under the state’s current statute, a maximum sentence of 20 years can be handed down for these crimes.
Delaware: Cannabis Oil Bill Receives Approval
Both chambers of the Delaware legislature unanimously approved a bill last week that would allow children suffering from epilepsy to have access to non-intoxicating cannabis oil. It now goes before Governor Jack Markell for final approval. If passed, kids under 18 would be issued a special medical marijuana card that makes them eligible to receive low-THC oil – no more than 7 percent. The first dispensary in Delaware is scheduled to open at the end of June.