It was another big week in the fight to legalize marijuana across the United States. Some of the biggest news comes from New Jersey, where lawmakers are discussing the possibility of legalizing a statewide cannabis trade. There is also some movement in the Pennsylvania legislature to pass a medical marijuana bill that has been sitting idle for several months and news that the Pittsburgh City Council is considering a measure to decriminalize marijuana possession.
Read all about this and more in the High Times Legislative Roundup for November 23:
Florida: Supreme Court Cancels Hearing On Medical Marijuana
The Florida Supreme Court has canceled a hearing scheduled for next month intended to allow opposing forces to air their grievances against an initiative aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. That’s because there is no opposition this time around. In 2014, several groups along with Attorney General Pam Bondi begged the Supreme Court not to allow United For Care’s ballot measure to move forward, but they were unsuccessful. This year, all of these organizations, which include the Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Sheriff’s Association and the Florida Medical Association, have announced that they will not contest the issue. Therefore, if there is no battle, there is no need for a venue. United for Care must still collect around 346,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot in 2016.
Florida: Medical Marijuana for Terminally Ill Patients Advances
A bill that would allow terminally ill patients to have access to medical marijuana passed subcommittees in the House and Senate last week. It is being considered as an attachment to the state’s Right to Try Act, which gives dying patients permission to use experimental drugs not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, if the bill passes, patients will need to prove their demise will happen within a year before they can get their hands on weed.
New Jersey: Lawmakers Meet to Discuss Recreational Marijuana
The New Jersey legislature gathered last week to discuss legalizing a full-scale recreational marijuana market. A Senate committee heard testimony from various supporters, including law enforcement and city prosecutors, and those who staunchly oppose the concept of allowing the state to grow and sell weed. At the head of the debate is a proposal introduced earlier this year by State Senator Nicholas Scutari, who spearheaded the hearing in hopes of moving the state forward on the issue in the near future.
“We have to take a more reasonable approach to the regulation of marijuana,” Scutari said. “Legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana will bring it out of the underground market, making the product and our communities safer.”
No word yet how state lawmakers plan to combat the pot-hating attitude of Governor Chris Christie. He has said more times than once that he will veto any bill that lands on his desk asking to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.
Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh Working to Decriminalize Marijuana
Pittsburgh could be one of the next cities in Pennsylvania to decriminalize marijuana possession. City Councilman Daniel Lavelle recently introduced a measure that would eliminate the criminal penalties for this offense and replace them with a small fine. Reports indicate that Lavelle worked with the local NORML chapter to draft the language of the proposal. Mayor Bill Peduto said he would be open to reviewing the measure after discussing it with Police Chief Cameron McLay.
Pennsylvania: Medical Marijuana Bill Move Out of Committee
A proposal seeking to legalize a statewide medical marijuana program has finally moved out of committee and is now headed to the full House for consideration. The bill is expected to be voted on before the Thanksgiving holiday. However, there is a distinct possibility that conflicting opinions in the House and Senate could force lawmakers to negotiate an alternative piece of legislation—something that everyone can live with. Unfortunately, doing this will likely make the measure even more restrictive than it already is.
Arkansas: Attorney General Rejects Ballot Language Again
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has once again rejected a proposal aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana. This marks the second time Rutledge has denied the initiative based on ambiguous language. A similar measure was introduced last month, but it failed to receive consideration based on grammatical and spelling errors.
Utah: Lawmakers Discuss Medical Marijuana
A couple of restrictive measures intended to legalize medical marijuana are now being discussed in the Utah legislature. Senator Mark Madsen wants patients suffering from conditions like chronic pain and PTSD to have access to the herb, while Representative Brad Daw and Senator Evan Vickers want to provide low-THC cannabis oil to a select number of patients. As of now, the state only allows those with epilepsy to legally possess cannabis oil. Both proposals are catching heat from local law enforcement agencies. The Utah state legislature will consider both bills when the session reconvenes in 2016.