It was another eventful week for marijuana legalization across the United States. Some of the biggest news to surface comes from the West coast, where California’s most anticipated recreational marijuana initiative has been submitted, revealing a number of interesting twists. Other highlights include a federal sentencing reform deal for drug offenders, as well as reports that progress is being made in Michigan with regard to its medical marijuana overhaul.
Read all about this and more in the High Times Legislative Roundup for October 12:
Federal: House Makes Sentencing Reform Deal
A deal was reached last week on the issue of federal sentencing reform. The bill, entitled The Sentencing Reform Act, would slightly reduce the mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, while providing more of a safety valve for judges to use their own discretion when sentencing low level crimes against the Controlled Substances Act. There also provisions that expand reentry and early release programs.
Federal: Legislation Introduced to Protect Legal Marijuana States
On Friday, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene submitted a piece of legislation that would prevent the federal government from interfering in states that have legalized marijuana for any purpose. The State Marijuana and Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act would provide both states that have legalized weed for medicinal and recreational purposes with a shield from federal drug enforcers.
“My bill will fix the conflict between state and federal law by giving the U.S. Attorney General authority to waive the Controlled Substances Act for states that are effectively regulating marijuana themselves, such as Washington,” DelBene said in a statement. “It also resolves the banking issues that currently force dispensaries to operate on an unsafe, all-cash basis. These waivers will ensure people in states that have different laws than the federal government on marijuana are protected from prosecution, provided they meet certain requirements, as more and more states work to regulate marijuana in their own borders.”
Similar bills have been introduced this year, but none have been taken seriously.
New Mexico: Albuquerque Mayor Vetos Decriminalization Ordinance
Once again, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has used his veto authority to destroy a bill that would have decriminalized small time pot possession throughout the city. In a statement, Berry said he has a “hard time signing legislation that preempts state and federal law,” which is ultimately what killed the hope of decreasing the criminal penalties for this offense. He took the same action on a similar measure in 2014.
California: Big Initiative Filed
ReformCA, the group with the best chances at legalizing recreational marijuana in California in 2016, announced last week that their proposal was submitted to the Attorney General’s office for review. The group’s initiative would legalize a recreational cannabis industry in a manner similar to what is currently underway in Colorado: allowing possession of up to an ounce and cultivation up to 100 square feet. The initiative would also provide room for the opening of marijuana-friendly bars and restaurant, not to mention exclude restrictions for stoned driving. To make this happen, ReformCA must first collect around 365,000 verified signatures.
California: Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Medical Marijuana Regulations Into Law
On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown put his signature on a series of bills that will establish regulations for California’s nearly two-decade-old medical marijuana market. Together, the bills establish standards for many facets of the industry from licensing to testing. The new detailed rules must be drafted before January 2017, with businesses allowed to apply for licenses in January 2018.
North Carolina: Hemp Bill Heads to Governor
Industrial hemp could soon be legal in North Carolina. Senate Bill 313 was approved last week by the full Senate and now heads to the desk of Governor McCrory for a signature. If he signs it, the state would launch a hemp pilot program, which would allow them to experiment with the industry. So far, there is no word whether the Governor will sign the bill, allow it to become law through his inaction, or knock it down with a veto.
Illinois: Panel Recommends More Qualified Conditions
Despite the fact that not a single Illinois patient has yet to get their hands on medical marijuana, a state panel has approved a list of additional qualified conditions under the state’s medical marijuana program. Last week, the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board approved a number of conditions associated with chronic pain. However, those conditions added to the almost 40 already on the list will need to be approved by Governor Bruce Rauner before they are officially included. The governor rejected some additional conditions earlier this year because he said it was still too premature to consider expanding the program.
Michigan: House Approves New Medical Marijuana Rules
The Michigan House of Representatives put their seal of approval on legislation last week that would impose regulations on the medical marijuana market. The proposed rules would set a 3 percent excise tax and a 6 percent sales tax on marijuana sales, while also allowing the resurgence of edibles back on the shelves. There would also be licensing fees attached to every facet of the industry and a special tracking system to monitor every action from seed to sale. The bills are now headed to the Senate for consideration.
Pennsylvania: Industrial Hemp Approved
A House committee unanimously approved a measure last week that would allow the state to produce industrial hemp. If the legislation goes the distance, the state would launch a pilot program to experiment with the potential of a fully legalized hemp commerce.
“The feds are catching on to the enormous environmental and economic benefits of the use of industrial hemp, and this pilot program anticipates the full legalization of hemp crops for industrial purposes in the future,” Diamond said in a statement. “My bill will put Pennsylvania in position to reap the economic rewards that will come when further barriers are removed.”
Florida: Medical Marijuana for the Terminally Ill
A proposal was filed in the Florida state legislature last week that would allow terminally ill patients to have access to medical marijuana. The bill would complement the “Right to Try Act” that was passed last year, allowing the terminally ill to get their hands on experimental drugs that have no been approved by the FDA. Fortunately, several groups are working to pass much broader reforms in the 2016 election.