It was a rather exciting week in the world of marijuana legalization across the United States. Perhaps the biggest news was an announcement from the White House regarding the elimination of barriers to medical marijuana research, as well as word that Pennsylvania may actually have a shot at legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes in 2015. Other highlights from the past week include Oregon lawmakers establishing a temporary recreational cannabis market that will get underway later this year, and the passing of a measure that could prevent California medical marijuana patients from being ousted from the organ transplant program.
Read all about these happenings and more in the High Times Legislative Roundup for June 29:
Federal: White House Lifts Ban on Marijuana Research
The Obama Administration announced last week that it was eliminating the additional Public Health Service Review that has been imposed on marijuana research since 1999. In an official notice, the White House said that it was no longer necessary to force an extra review because political opinion had overshadowed the necessity for stricter guidelines. Marijuana advocates say the move is added evidence that the war on weed is finally coming to an end.
While Obama’s staff was making it easier for researchers to study the benefits of medical marijuana, the Senate International Narcotics Control Caucus was meeting to discuss additional ways to make research more accessible for cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating compound in marijuana. During the hearing, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said that putting an end to the DEA mandated monopoly on cannabis production would greatly serve the research community. There is speculation that limiting the DEA’s control on the national pot supply could be next on the list of the Obama Administration’s reform objectives.
California: Senate Allows Medical Marijuana Patients Organ Transplants
On Monday, the California Senate voted 33-1 in approval of a bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to have the same access to organ transplants as other citizens. Assembly Bill 258, which was introduced by Assemblyman Marc Levine, aims to protect medical marijuana patients from being discriminated against in regards to transplants simply because they test positive for THC. If passed, physicians in California would no longer have the right to disqualify medical marijuana patients from the organ transplant program.
New Jersey: Bill Advances Allowing Children Medical Marijuana in School
Children using medical marijuana treatment could soon be allowed to bring it to school. Earlier last week, Assembly Bill 4587 was introduced in the state legislature, and then almost immediately approved by the Appropriations Committee. If passed, kids with seizure conditions and other ailments would be permitted to bring cannabis oil on school property without risking trouble with the law. The proposal must now go before the full assembly.
Delaware: Governor Signs Cannabis Oil Bill
On the heels of statewide decriminalization, Governor Jack Markell put his signature on legislation, last Wednesday, giving children with seizure disorders access to cannabis oil treatment. The law, which legalizes both CBD and THC-A oils for patients under the age of 18, went into effect immediately. Cannabis activists applaud the governor for his recent reform actions and ask that other states follow his lead.
Maine: Lawmakers Reject Legislation to Legalize Marijuana
Both the House and the state Senate said last week that they would not support the legalization of marijuana. The House voted against a proposal (LD 1380), sponsored by Representative Dianne Russell, which would have put the question of a taxed and regulated cannabis industry up to the people in the next presidential election. The Senate is expected to follow the lead of the House. Reports indicate that Russell’s proposal was the best chance advocates had at legalizing the leaf through the state legislature, but all hope is now gone. There are, however, still two legalization initiatives currently in the process of collecting signatures in hopes of earning a spot on the 2016 ballot. Maine is one of several states predicted to become one of the next states to legalize a cannabis industry.
Montana: Business Owner Proposes Anti-Marijuana Initiative… Again
Once again, a proposal is being considered to ban marijuana in 2016. Although the state legalized medical marijuana in 2004, a Billings business owner has decided to try to get an initiative on the ballot in the next election that would outlaw all illegal drugs, including cannabis for medicinal use. Previous attempts at this effort have failed miserably, and similar proposals aimed at tickling the state legislature into action have not made it through the drafting process. If passed, however, this initiative would repeal the Montana Marijuana Act, effective immediately.
Pennsylvania: Lawmakers Fight to Move Medical Marijuana Bill
In an attempt to move a stalled medical marijuana bill out of committee, Republican Representative Nick Miccarelli has submitted a resolution that would force Senate Bill 3 onto the House floor for a vote. The resolution now needs the signatures of 25 House members in order to free it from the confines Committee Chairman Matt Baker.
UPDATE: Senate Bill 3 was set back into motion on Friday when it was sent forward to the House Rules Committee for consideration. Interestingly, this happened as a result of Matt Baker switching gears and calling the motion to a vote. Although advocates are encouraged by Baker’s sudden change of heart, they are concerned it is just another ploy to jam up the progress of the bill.
To confound the situation even more, Representative Ron Marico announced last week that he is preparing to introduced another piece of legislation to legalize medical marijuana — only allowing patients suffering from about 4-5 “serious medical conditions” to have access to the herb. The new bill, he said, would not endure the wrath of Baker because it would sidestep his committee completely. Instead, the proposal would go before a different committee — one overseen by Marico himself.
Ohio: House Passes Measure to Block Responsible Ohio
Responsible Ohio, the group attempting to legalize a statewide marijuana monopoly, could be in trouble. Last week, the Ohio House approved a measure that would allow voters to decide in 2015 whether or not to allow the creation of monopolies. If this measure goes the distance, and the voters approved it, the marijuana legalization proposal currently slated for the 2016 ballot would not be allowed to take effect. Some argue that while the initiative by Responsible Ohio is not ideal, it is better than continued prohibition.
In addition to their initiative to legalize marijuana, Responsible Ohio recently proposed legislation that would allow small time marijuana offenders to have their records expunged. The proposal, which is called the “Fresh Start Act,” has already been submitted to the Ohio attorney general and, if approved, it would go before the state legislature for a vote. Lawmakers would have only four months to act on the bill or else it would be put in the hands of the state voters.
Oregon: House Advances Regulations for State Cannabis Industry
The Oregon House approved a bill last week that confirmed the regulations for the state’s newfound cannabis market. The possession and cultivation of marijuana becomes officially legal on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, but the recreational market will not likely be functional until late 2016.
UPDATE: Lawmakers passed a bill late last week that will allow the state to launch a temporary recreational marijuana market beginning October 1, 2015.
Rhode Island: Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Remains Tabled
State lawmakers ended the legislative session last week without voting on a proposal aimed at legalizing a statewide cannabis industry. Despite recent polls indicating majority support for the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, the proposal was left pending by the state legislature until possibly later this fall.