It was another huge week in the fight to legalize marijuana across the United States. Some of the biggest news comes from the District of Columbia, where the U.S. Senate voted to make medical marijuana available to veterans. Other highlights include another push in Ohio to legalize a recreational marijuana market in 2016 and news that two marijuana initiatives in Massachusetts may join forces to ensure an end to prohibition in the next election.
Read all about this and more in the High Times Legislative Roundup for November 16:
Federal: U.S. Senate Passes Bill to Allow Veterans Access to Medical Marijuana
The U.S. Senate passed a measure last week that could allow veterans living in medical marijuana states to have access to those programs without issue. Lawmakers voted in approval of a portion of the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill, which will stop the federal government from spending funds to prevent VA doctors from discussing medical marijuana with their patients. The bill would also protect veterans, who do take advantage of their state’s medical marijuana program, from being penalized by the department for a failed drug screen. The bill now heads to the negotiation table for possible inclusion in a federal spending bill.
Massachusetts: Two Groups Battling Out to Legalize Weed
Two groups are fighting each other to legalize marijuana statewide in 2016. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and Bay State Repeal have both launched signature collecting campaigns in hopes of getting their respective initiative on the ballot next year. Both need around 65,000 signatures by the beginning of December to qualify. If they are both successful, voters will have to choose between the two proposals. However, there is possibility the two groups will join forces to prevent confusion at the polls.
Kansas: Group Working to Legalize Medical Marijuana
Bleeding Kansas, a group working to legalize medical marijuana across the state, are working to get the state legislature open to discuss the issue of medical marijuana once the session resumes. A report from KSNT indicates the organization is currently collecting signatures for their petition that they hope to present to state lawmakers in early 2016.
Arizona: Ballot Initiative Has 100,000 Signatures
Arizona is on its way to legalizing a statewide cannabis industry. Last week, the Campaign to Legalize Marijuana Like Alcohol announced that they have collected 100,000 signatures. The group still needs around 50,000 more to make it on the November ballot, which shouldn’t be an issue considering they have until July 2016 to make it happen.
Ohio: Another Push to Legalize in 2016
Ohio marijuana advocates are picking up the pieces of the ResponsibleOhio debacle and moving forward with a more sensible plan to legalize marijuana in 2016. Legalize Ohio are campaigning to put the Cannabis-Control Amendment on the ballot next year. The proposal seeks to legalize recreational marijuana without monopolizing on the market. The group needs to collect 360,000 signatures by the beginning of July 2016 to get the issue put in front of the voters in next November’s election.
New Jersey: Medical Marijuana Bill Signed by Governor Christie
Governor Chris Christie signed a medical marijuana law last week that will allow patients to be administered medical marijuana in schools and other facilities that serve the disabled. Now kids with access to medical marijuana will have the ability to consume non-smokable forms of the medicine in an area designated by the school. It was announced last Thursday that Lark School in South Jersey has established policies that will allow the consumption of cannabis oil starting Monday.
Colorado: Working to Put Tighter Rules on Doctors
The Colorado State Medical Board is working to draft regulations for the medical marijuana program that would place more restrictions on physicians who make MMJ recommendations. In September, a preliminary set of rules was released, which received an almost immediate chastising by many patients and businesses that worry the state is trying to eliminate the medical sector. The latest guidelines, which are set to be presented at a hearing on November 19, still have some worried that many patients will be forced into the black market or recreational sector.
Florida: Broward County Decriminalizing Pot Possession
Last week, Broward County commissioners approved a measure to ease the penalties associated with the possession of marijuana. Similar to other cities across the state, anyone busted for carrying a small stash of weed (under 20 grams) would be eligible for a ticket rather than a misdemeanor charge. Essentially, officers will hand out citations for the offense as long as the pot possession is not connected to a violent crime or driving under the influence. Fines would range between $100-500 for the first three incidents – all others would be treated as a criminal offense.
Washington: Spokane To Eliminate Misdemeanor Pot Offenses
The Spokane City Council has voted in support of a measure to expunge the records of people with convictions for misdemeanor marijuana possession. The proposal, which was modeled after a failed bill introduced in the state legislature earlier this year, was unanimously approved 6-0, putting Spokane stoners on course for having their records vacated by the courts early next year. Officials say that over 1,800 people could benefit from this ordinance.
North Carolina: Legalizes Industrial Hemp
North Carolina has legalized industrial hemp. A bill that was sent to Governor Pat McGory last month has automatically gone into effect after several weeks of inaction. The new law will allow North Carolina University to establish a pilot program to study how legal hemp production might impact the state. Governor McGory said that while he believes there were good intentions behind the bill, he has a few concerns that prompted him not to grace it with his signature. [link: ]