High Times Legislative Roundup: September 21

It was another exciting week for marijuana legalization across the United States. Some of the biggest news to surface comes from the nation’s capital, where federal lawmakers recently introduced a bill intended to castrate one of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s most controversial programs. Other highlights include the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision on a marijuana initiative to be voted on in November, as well as word that Arizona is well on its way to getting an initiative on the ballot in the 2016 election.

Read all about these highlights and more in the High Times Legislative Roundup for September 21:

Federal: Bill Introduced to End DEA’s Marijuana Eradication Program

Federal lawmakers have come up with a plan to eliminate the DEA’s nearly four-decade-old marijuana eradication program. Last week, Democratic Representative Ted Lieu and Republican Representative Justin Amash submitted a proposal aimed at preventing the DEA from using funds to seek and destroy the cannabis plant. If passed, the DEA would be forced to suspend its marijuana enforcement efforts.

“As multiple states legalize marijuana across our nation, it is a huge waste of federal resources for the DEA to eradicate marijuana,” Rep. Lieu said in a statement. “The federal government should focus its precious resources on other issues and let the states innovate in the cannabis field.”

The measure would also prevent the DEA from profiting on the seizure of assets collected from marijuana busts in the United States.

New York: Group Fights to Change Medical Marijuana Citywide

In an attempt to better the service of New York’s Compassionate Care Act, a group of patients have drafted a measure they hope will lead to a medical marijuana cooperative supported by the NYC Health Department. The plan proposes the city assist in devising a co-op program to benefit every patient who needs medicinal cannabis, not just those who fall under the state’s 10 qualified conditions. In addition, the group hopes the city would put together a program where abandoned building and lots could be used to cultivate NYC’s cannabis supply. The overall goal is to make medical marijuana more readily available and affordable to those in need. In fact, the target price is $1 per gram. Reports indicate the group has received some support from Councilman Corey Johnson.

Michigan: Bill Introduced to End Prohibition Statewide

Although there are several groups hoping to get initiatives on the ballot in 2016 that would legalize marijuana, one state lawmaker has made advancements to address the issue in the state legislature. House Democrat Jeff Irwin has introduced a bill that would legalize a statewide cannabis market. However, instead of forcing cities to participate, it would give local officials the option to refrain from opening pot shops, while still mandating that possession be legalized across the board. Otherwise, the proposal is much like other recreational bills: it would set up a statewide cannabis industry and allow pot to regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.

Ohio: Supreme Court Rules Ballot Description Must Change

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled last week that the ballot language used to describe an initiative aimed at legalizing marijuana across the state may be misleading to voters. The justices have demanded that the Ballot Board change a few select paragraphs, those dealing with retail locations, grow facilities and the possession of marijuana, in order to remedy the situation. The court, however, is not forcing the board to alter the title in the description, which calls Issue 3 a “monopoly.” Interestingly, both Secretary of State Jon Husted and ResponsibleOhio executive director Ian James have declared the verdict a victory.

Ohio: Toledo Decriminalizes Marijuana

By a margin of more than 2-1, voters in Toledo passed a measure last week to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. The ordinance will eliminate the criminal penalties for anyone caught holding less than 200 grams of weed. The offense is currently a misdemeanor. The new law will go into effect sometime within the next three weeks, after the votes have all been confirmed.

Arizona: Campaign to Legalize Cannabis Industry on Track to Make the Ballot

Supporters of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol says their signature collecting efforts are on track to put their initiative on the ballot in 2016. The group announced last week that they have already secured 75,000 of the 230,000 signatures they are trying to collect in the next several months.

“We’re finding that more than one out of every two registered voters we ask to sign is happy to do it, so that’s a good sign,” said campaign chairman J.P. Holyoak. “People recognize that marijuana prohibition has been just as big of a mess as alcohol prohibition was 80 years ago. It’s time for a more sensible approach.”

The group only needs 150,642 certified signatures to get the issue on the ballot.

Florida: West Palm Beach Decriminalizes Marijuana

Officials in West Palm Beach recently passed an ordinance decriminalizing the possession of marijuana. Under the new rules, police have the option of issuing a $100 fine instead of arresting a person caught with less than 20 grams of weed. State law maintains that possession at this level is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable with up to a year in jail. Several other Florida cities have passed similar measures, including Miami and Key West.

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