It was another action-packed week in the fight to legalize marijuana across the United States. Some of the biggest news to surface comes from Florida, where the Supreme Court is set to rule on an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in 2016. Other highlights include the passing of a proposal by a Senate committee that could change the way the U.S criminal justice system handles drug offenders and discussions in Utah over how the state should expand on its CBD-only medical marijuana law.
Read all about this and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for October 26:
Federal: U.S. Government to Study Stoned Driving
The U.S government could soon begin studying the effects of stoned driving. There is a bill — The Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 — currently waiting to be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives, sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, that calls for the Department of Transportation to dig into a year’s worth of research on marijuana impairment to uncover methods that could be used in training law enforcement how to deal with high drivers and other issues pertaining to this controversial subject. The proposal is expected to be hashed out before the end of the month.
Federal: Criminal Justice Bill Makes It Through Senate Committee
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a measure aimed at sentencing reform. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections 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. The bill is now on its way to the Senate floor.
Unfortunately, this bill is more hype than guts.
Oregon: Temporary Rules Established
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has approved a list of temporary rules that will be used to regulate the state’s full-scale recreational market once it is full swing in 2016. In addition to preventing dispensaries from selling both medical and recreational marijuana, the new rules place restrictions on growers and prohibit on-site consumption. These rules are set to come into play at the beginning of next year.
Florida: Supreme Court to Hold Hearing On Medical Marijuana
The Florida Supreme Court is set to consider an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in 2016. United for Care announced last month that it had more than enough signatures to secure a review by the Supreme Court. It was said last week that a hearing date of December 8 was scheduled to decide whether the language of the initiative is decipherable for the voting population and if it should be allowed on the ballot. If it is approved, United for Care will be challenged to secure 683,000 signatures by February in order to get a second chance at brining medical marijuana to the Sunshine state.
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 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 two bills are scheduled for a vote next month.
Virginia: Decriminalization Measure in the Works
Virginia NORML is reportedly working with state delegates to pass a measure aimed at decriminalizing marijuana possession. The goal is to strip away the criminal penalties currently associated with this offense and give patients “the ability to use and access medical marijuana.” According to the results of a poll conducted by NBC affiliate WSLS-10, over 93 percent of the respondents believe weed should be decriminalized in Virginia, while only about 6.5 percent disagree.
Pennsylvania: Religious Leaders Push for Medical Marijuana
A group of religious leaders in Pennsylvania issued a statement last week announcing their support for a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Around 60 members of the clergy put their signature on a document asking state lawmakers to consider passing such a proposal in 2015.
“We cannot remain silent while people in pain and anguish are deprived of a viable, safe, and responsible remedy. While we may practice different faiths and come from different communities, we share the same commitment to improving the broader community through the practice of humanity, healing, mercy, and compassion. That is why, as leaders within our respective communities of faith, we are joining together to encourage the Pennsylvania General Assembly to adopt sensible, comprehensive medical cannabis legislation.”
The State Senate approved a bill earlier this year, but it is currently stalled in the House.
Colorado: Governor Wants to Keep Pot Taxes
Colorado voters will soon decide on proposition BB, which will determine if the state will get to keep the $66 million in tax revenue generated from legal sales in 2014. However, Governor John Hickenlooper has already cast his vote – siding with the concept of Colorado keeping the money.
"All the pot revenue that comes in — our goal is to regulate marijuana, to make sure our kids don't get access to marijuana and, as the voters originally intended, that we build buildings to improve our K-12 education," Hickenlooper said.
If the measure is unsuccessful, $25 million will be refunded to Colorado residents.
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