It was a fun-filled week in the fight to legalize marijuana in the United States. Some of the most important news comes from Louisiana, where lawmakers are working to make adjustments to an old law that would create a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Other highlights include Orlando’s move to decriminalize marijuana, as well as the race between the Ohio Legislature and local cannabis advocates to see whose concept of legal weed will see the light of day.
Read all about these actions and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for May 16:
Florida: Orlando Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession
Orlando is the latest Florida municipality to decriminalize small time pot possession. Last Monday, the City Council voted 4-to-3 in favor of an ordinance that will allow the Orlando Police Department to issue tickets to people caught with up to 20 grams of marijuana. First time offenders would be slapped with a $100 fine, while a second offense would cost $200. Anyone unable to pay the cash would be permitted to do community service or take drug abuse classes. However, only those busted three or more times for this offense would be required to make a court appearance. The ordinance will take effect on October 1.
Missouri: Medical Marijuana Fails in Legislature, Likely Headed for November Ballot
Although the Missouri House once again rejected a measure aimed at legalizing medical marijuana, Missouri still has a fighting chance at becoming one of the next states to legalize a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Last week, New Approach Missouri announced that it submitted 250,000 signatures to the state in hopes of getting an initiative cleared for the November ballot. The group needs 167,000 verified signatures to get the go-ahead from the Secretary of State. As long as everything goes according to plan, voters will likely get to decide whether patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, spinal-cord injuries and other serious or debilitating medical conditions should have access to marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Colorado: Lawmakers Work to Authorize Weed Carriers
Colorado could soon have weed carriers. A bill aimed at creating a “marijuana transporter” is headed to the desk of Governor Hickenlooper for a signature. If signed, the new law would give vendors an opportunity to apply for a courier license that would allow them to temporarily store marijuana in the event of storms or other factors that may prevent them from making a timely delivery. The courier license would cost $4,400 and run for two years.
Ohio: House Approves Medical Marijuana Bill
Lawmakers are working to legalize marijuana before voters have a chance to decide on the issue in November. Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives put their stamp of approval on House Bill 523, which would create a medical marijuana program for those suffering from around 19 conditions. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. Although the General Assembly appears to be in a race to pass legislation before the November election, their actions would be meaningless if voters get a chance to approve a ballot measure brought forth by the Marijuana Policy Project. According to the Toledo Blade, no matter what kind of law the General Assembly passes this session, a voter-approved Constitutional amendment would prevail.
Louisiana: Set to Legalize Functional Medical Marijuana Program
Last week, the Louisiana House approved a measure that would lead to the creation of a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Although marijuana has been legal for medicinal purposes in the state for a few decades, the language of the law has prevented the program from any functionality. However, Senate Bill 271 would simply tweak the old law, giving physicians the right to “recommend” marijuana for patients suffering from conditions ranging from cancer to multiple sclerosis instead of writing a prescription. The Senate has already approved the bill, but it must go before the upper chamber once again for concurrence on a minor change made by the House. If the Senate gives approval, the proposal would go before Governor John Bel Edwards in the near future for a signature. While the governor has said he does not support the legalization of marijuana in a manner similar to Colorado, his office has indicated that he would sign SB271 into law.
Michigan: Recreational Marijuana Initiative Could Be Sabotaged
Organizers with a group working to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan announced last week that they have secured more than enough signatures to qualify their initiative for the November ballot. However, actions in the state legislature could disqualify most of the signatures they group has collected in 2016. MILegalize has until June 1 to submit around 252,000 verified signatures in order to put a ballot measure aimed at ending prohibition in front of voters in the upcoming election. Unfortunately, lawmakers are gunning to sabotage the group’s campaign by fixing a loophole in the law that forces signatures for ballot measure to be collected within a 180-day window. If this clarification is made, thousands of signatures could be disqualified – forcing organizers to take their fight to the courts.