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HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: September 28

Mike Adams

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It is that time once again when the bid to legalize marijuana across the United States begins to heat up in preparation for the new year. Some of the biggest news to surface was the introduction of a bill aimed at preventing the next president from shutting down the cannabis industry. Other highlights include Michigan’s attempt to overhaul its medical marijuana program, as well as a push in South Carolina to bring a full-scale medicinal cannabis market to the state in 2016.

Read all about this and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for September 28:

Federal: Legislation to Keep Next President From Eliminating Legal Weed
Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado plans to re-introduced a bill aimed at preventing the next president of the United States from stopping the legal marijuana industry. Although the majority of presidential hopefuls seem willing to allow states to continue setting their own policies in regards to the cannabis plant, there are no concrete laws on the books to prevent a shutdown from happening in the next administration. However, DeGette’s bill, which failed several years ago, would provide protection by not allowing federal drug enforcers to step in as long a person is in compliance with state law. 

Florida: Medical Marijuana Campaign on Track to Make Ballot in 2016
United for Care, the group once again pushing to legalize medical marijuana in Florida appears to be well on its way to securing a spot on the ballot in 2016. Reports indicate the campaign has already generated 500,000 of the required 683,149 signatures needed earn a voice in the next election. The group has until the beginning of February to collect the remaining signatures. In 2014, a similar initiative failed by only a few points. 

Florida: Creating a Threshold for Stoned Driving
Although Florida has a threshold for driving under the influence of alcohol, there is currently no such standard in place for marijuana impairment. Representative Dave Kerner intends to change that with his new bill, the “Naomi Pomerance Victim Safety Act.” Essentially, the measure seeks to set a THC limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood, the level currently being used in many states all over the country. Kerner wants a law on the book before voters decide on legalizing marijuana in 2016.  

Ohio: Group Attempts to Expunge Marijuana Records
ResponsibleOhio not only hopes to legalize a statewide cannabis industry in the upcoming November election, but organizers are preparing to introduced a second initiative in 2016 aimed at clearing the records of those convicted of marijuana-related offenses. The group plans to submit their proposal to the state legislature in January, which will give lawmakers four months to either approve or reject the measure. If it is denied, ResponsibleOhio will begin collecting the necessary signatures to put it on the ballot in the next election. The initiative would allow those convicted of minor possession, cultivation and paraphernalia charges to have their criminal records wiped clean. 

New Mexico: Albuquerque Votes to Decriminalize
The Albuquerque City Council voted last week in favor of decriminalizing the possession of marijuana. The proposed ordinance would eliminate the criminal penalties for those busted with up to an ounce of weed, making it a civil infraction punishable with a $25 fine. It is now up to Mayor Berry to sign the measure or do what he did last year and crush it with his veto authority. Recent polls indicate that over half the population in New Mexico supports doing away with criminal penalties for marijuana-related offenses. 

Massachusetts: Signature Collecting Campaign Underway
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol launched its signature-collecting crusade last week at the State House. The group must gather 65,000 valid signatures before November 18 in order to get their initiative to establish a statewide cannabis industry in front of the state legislature. At that point, if lawmakers reject the measure, the group will then be forced to collect another 11,000 signatures to put the issue in front of voters in the 2016 election. 

Michigan: House Panel Approved Medical Marijuana Overhaul
Last Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved several bills intended to overhaul Michigan’s medical marijuana program. In addition to imposing an excise tax and establishing a system to monitor every aspect from cultivation to sale, the package includes a provision that would allow the return of marijuana edibles. There is no word yet on whether the proposal stands any chance of going the distance, but lawmakers believe it puts them in a better position than they were in 2014. The deal now goes before the full House for consideration. 

South Dakota: Needs Last Minute Push to Legalize Medical Marijuana
New Approach South Dakota, a group working to legalize medical marijuana, reportedly needs only about 3,000 more signatures to get their initiative on the ballot in 2016. The group has a month left before the deadline, so they need to make a serious push in the coming week if this issue is to be expected to be answered in the next election. Find out how you can help by visiting the group’s Facebook page.

Missouri: Move to Legalize Medical Marijuana
Show-Me Cannabis, the group that was pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri in 2016, recently downgraded their initiative to include a focus on medical marijuana. The change was made after recent polls showed only 49 percent of the population supported legalization for recreational use.

“We have always been committed to pursuing the broadest initiative that the polling data indicates would be likely to pass, and legalization, although trending in the right direction, just isn't quite there yet,” John Payne, executive director of the organization, said in an emailed statement.

Once the initiative is approved by the state, the group will need to collect 160,000 valid signatures to earn on spot on the ballot in the 2016 election. 

South Carolina: Medical Marijuana Considered
A South Carolina Senate panel approved a piece of legislation last week aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. The bill would pick up where the state’s highly restricted CBD-only law leaves off by providing patients, including those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and PTSD, with access to a full scale of medical marijuana products. The proposal has received a great deal of opposition by area law enforcement, which could have an impact on lawmakers’ final decision. The proposal is schedule to go before a Senate committee in 2016. If it passes, it will need the majority vote of the full Senate and House to win approval. 
 

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