High Times Legislative Roundup: Sept. 1

Medical marijuana received a major push last week with a new study suggesting there are fewer opioid painkiller overdose deaths in states with legislation that allows medicinal cannabis.

Researchers from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center found that in states where medical marijuana was legal, there was a significant decrease in overdose deaths as the result of OxyContin and Vicodin. Ultimately, the study could prove to be heavy artillery for lawmakers across the country, as they work to pass medical marijuana laws in their state.

Here is a closer look at what your pot-friendly lawmakers were up to last week:

Florida: Bong Ban Removed?

If Florida voters approve Amendment 2 in the November election, its passing will pre-empt the state’s “bong ban,” which prohibits the sale of paraphernalia to smoke marijuana. Recent reports speculate that if the law is passed, the legislature will be forced to redefine what can and cannot be legally used to consume medical marijuana. Others argue that smoking devices are already included in the amendment’s verbiage. The bong ban law resulted in 10 arrests last year.

Oregon: Newspaper Supports Measure 91

The Oregonian, which is a daily newspaper owned by Advance Publications, recently voiced its support for Measure 91, which will put the question of a legalized recreational marijuana market to the voters in the November election. Earlier last week, the publication wrote:

“Measure 91 would move Oregon from a hazy condition of almost-legalization to one of rational access guided by straightforward regulations and subject to sensible taxation. In other words, it would force Oregon’s 16-year-old marijuana experiment out of adolescence and into legal adulthood. The measure appropriately leaves the task of regulating the new industry to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which knows a thing or two about the distribution and sale of intoxicants. The OLCC would adopt the necessary rules by 2016.”

“Measure 91, far from revolutionary, would simply allow Oregon adults to obtain something they may obtain now, but without having to stroll through a “medical” loophole or drive over a bridge to a neighboring state. The measure would be worth supporting for reasons of honesty and convenience alone, but it also would raise millions of dollars per year for schools and other purposes. For that reason, it deserves support even from those who aren’t normally high on taxes.”

Meanwhile, the Oregon Sheriffs’ Association announced last Monday the donation of $10,000 to fund a series of events campaigning against legalized marijuana.

New Mexico: Santa Fe Decriminalization

Last Tuesday, the Santa Fe County Commission voted to proceed with putting an initiative on the November ballot aimed at decriminalizing marijuana possession. This motion to reform the city’s pot laws would reduce the current criminal penalty of 15 days in jail and $100 fine to a citation of $25. Supporters of the initiative turned in over 11,000 voter signatures, with recent polls indicating that 70 percent of residents are in favor of decriminalization. Even Mayor Javier Gonzales sides with the effort.

“I have been in favor of decriminalization all along, I just wanted this to be on the November ballot in order for the citizens to make the decision,” he told Reuters.

In addition, patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will not be allowed to use medical marijuana. The New Mexico Secretary of Health said last week that they would not add Alzheimer’s to the state medical marijuana program’s list of qualified medical conditions, despite a recommendation from the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Advisory Board.

“It is really unfortunate that New Mexicans suffering from Alzheimer’s related dementia, which often leads to a refusal to eat and combative moods, will not be allowed to seek relief from medical cannabis,” Jessica Gelay, policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “There are no curative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, and, as the peer-reviewed evidence submitted to the department of health shows, there is reason to believe that medical cannabis could be helpful for people afflicted with this terminal condition.”

Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease can receive medical marijuana in 13 states.

Colorado: Colorado Springs Still Unsure About Recreational Marijuana

Colorado Springs remains undecided about allowing recreational marijuana shops to operate within the city limits. Although the city council promised the community they would resolve the issue this month, council members have delayed making a decision for weeks and as it stands, the situation does not appear likely to change in the near future. However, if the council decides in favor of the measure, supporters will be challenged with collecting almost 20,000 voter signatures before receiving approval for the April ballot. The council is expected to meet on the issue again on September 9.

Maine: Three Cities to Decriminalize?

Three cities in Maine will ask voters to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana during the upcoming November election. Lewiston, South Portland and York have all turned in petitions with the required signatures needed to put marijuana reform on this year’s ballot. If all are approved, Maine will be home to four cities that have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Supporters say a success of this magnitude could set Maine up to legalize the leaf all across the state in 2016.

Michigan: Saginaw to Decriminalize

While voters in Saginaw are preparing to vote on the issue of decriminalizing the possession of marijuana, the initiative is getting some resistance from Governor Rick Snyder. “The language is inaccurate because it is does not inform the voters that the proposed amendment conflicts with state law or that state law will control regardless of whether the proposed amendment is adopted,” Snyder said in a statement.

Despite the governor’s concerns, city leaders are moving forward with the initiative that was approved for the November 4 ballot. There is speculation that this move could steamroll the state into considering statewide legalization.

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