It was another exciting week in the world of marijuana legalization across the United States. Some of the biggest news to surface comes from California, where legislators, in the 11th hour, approved several bills for the purpose of regulating the state’s nearly two-decade-old medical marijuana industry. Across the country, in Illinois, a lawmaker hopes to get a recreational cannabis industry legalized in 2016, which could be just what the state needs to make up for the embarrassment of its so-called medical marijuana market.
Read all about these highlights and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for September 14:
Illinois: Legislation Filed to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Lawmakers are pushing Illinois to become the next state to legalize a recreational cannabis market. House Bill 4276, which was introduced by Representative Kenneth Dunkin, aims to take the issue of marijuana legalization straight to the state legislature. The bill would create a legal environment similar to what is currently underway in Colorado by allowing adults 21 and over to cultivate, purchase and possess marijuana for recreational use. Unfortunately, this bill is not expected to have its day in front of the Senate Rules Committee until the legislative session reconvenes in January.
Illinois: Governor Refuses Medical Marijuana Expansion
Governor Bruce Rauner has vetoed a bill that would have allowed medical cannabis to be recommended for patients suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and 11 other proposed conditions. Rauner said that the program is still too young to consider an expansion. As it stands, patients that fall under the state’s current qualified conditions are not expected to have access to the herb until 2016.
"No patients have yet been served, and, consequently, the state has not had the opportunity to evaluate the benefits and costs of the pilot program or determine areas for improvement or even whether to extend the program beyond its pilot period," Rauner said in a statement.
In the meantime, the clock is running out. The state’s medical marijuana program is scheduled to end in January 2018.
New Mexico: Albuquerque Attempts to Decriminalize
Once again, lawmakers in Albuquerque are attempting to pass a bill that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana. Rey Garduño and Isaac Benton of the Albuquerque City Council have submitted a proposal that would allow petty pot possession to be handled with a $25 fine rather than criminal penalties. In addition, a companion measure is also on the table, which would force the Albuquerque Police Department to make marijuana enforcement their lowest possible priority. A similar measure failed last year at the hands of Mayor Berry. Yet, there is hope that he will support the measure in 2015.
California: Medical Marijuana Regulations Reached
California’s medical marijuana industry will never be the same. It was announced last week that an agreement was finally made over how to regulate the nearly 20-year-old market. The new scheme will force marijuana businesses to obtain state and local licenses, as well as create a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. This department will work with other state agencies to oversee every aspect of the industry from cultivation to sale. Some aspects of the proposal were left out, including a provision that would have imposed an excise tax predicted to generate tens of millions of dollars for the environment and public safety. The Senate and Assembly approved the bills right before the midnight deadline last Friday. Governor Brown is expected to sign them into law later this week.
California: Asset Forfeiture Reform Fails
A measure aimed at changing the laws regarding the civil asset forfeiture program did not receive enough support to make it off the Assembly floor. Reports suggest that a barrage of law enforcement opposition tactics that included calls to legislators begging them not to support the proposal is ultimately what sabotaged Senate Bill 443. Interestingly, the bill simply proposed changing the way to program was implemented, not a total elimination. Instead of allowing property to be seized based on suspicion of a drug-related crime, the measure would have required a conviction to take place before items could become the permanent possession of police.
Louisiana: Man Files Grievance to Legalize Marijuana
Stephen Simpson, a member of Legalize Louisiana for Cannabis, submitted a grievance to the Ouachita Parish Courthouse last week in hopes of getting a three-phase cannabis bill approved by the state. Simpson’s proposal seeks to legalize marijuana for medicinal, recreational, and industrial purposes, essentially allowing a full-scale repeal of prohibition across the state. Similar grievances were reportedly filed across in other jurisdictions.
Kansas: Supreme Court to Decide on Wichita’s Decriminalization Ordinance
A decriminalization ordinance approved last year by voters in Wichita is headed to the State Supreme Court for clarification. Reports indicate that Attorney General Derek Schmidt is hoping that the state’s highest court will rule that a decriminalization measure cannot be imposed in the city because marijuana remains illegal under state and federal law. However, arguments on behalf of Wichita suggest that the city should be allowed to set decriminalization policies based on the majority vote. The case is set to get underway later this week.
Michigan: Detroit Considering Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ordinance
In response to the over-saturation of dispensaries, the Detroit City Council may consider an ordinance to regulate how these businesses operate across the city. The goal is to provide patients with access to medical marijuana without inconveniencing the rest of the city’s residents with pot shops in certain areas. The proposal reportedly will not limit the number of dispensaries allowed in Detroit, but it will force them to abide by strict licensing requirements. Detroit City Councilman James Tate, the man behind the plan, said that no operation would be grandfathered in and those unable to adhere to the licensing rules would be forced to shut down.
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