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HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: September 7

Mike Adams

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Happy Labor Day, folks! It was another interesting week in the fight to legalize marijuana in the United States. Some of the biggest news to surface comes from Florida, where marijuana activists are on their way to getting both medical and recreational marijuana on the ballot in the 2016 election. In Vermont, a key legislative gatekeeper suggests the state will become the first in the nation to legalize a cannabis industry through the legislature.

Read all about this and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for September 7:

Wyoming: Medical Marijuana Study Is Underway
A group put together by Governor Matt Mead to study the impact of medical marijuana on the state is now underway. The Marijuana Impact Assessment Council plans to break into several subcommittees, each responsible for delivering a report on their specific assignments, including the areas of education, health and criminal justice. This research will carry on through the end of November, with a comprehensive report due shortly thereafter.

Arkansas: Medical Marijuana Initiative Collecting Signatures
Arkansas could be on its way to legalizing medical marijuana in the 2016 election. It was revealed last week that the state’s Attorney General approved the language of the Arkansas Medical Care Act, enabling supporters to begin collecting the necessary signatures to get their initiative on the ballot. Melisa Fults, Campaign Director for the AMCA, says the organization has recruited hundreds of volunteers to start gathering the signatures, and she believes the group has the time and resources to bring medical marijuana to the state next year. 

Florida: Could Decide on Recreational Marijuana in 2016
Cannabis activists in Florida are gearing up to legalize a statewide cannabis industry in the next presidential election. Regulate Florida’s initiative — “Florida Cannabis Act” — has been approved by election officials, which clears the path for the group to begin collecting the required 683,149 signatures needed to secure a spot on the ballot next year. If passed, adults 21 and over would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to six plants for personal use. A retail trade would also be established, allowing dispensaries to open up all across the state. Regulate Florida has until the beginning of February 2016 to turn in their signatures. 

Florida: Medical Marijuana Initiative Gets Supreme Court Review
Medical marijuana will likely be heading to Florida’s ballot once again in 2016. United for Care announced last week that it has more than enough signatures to secure a review by the Supreme Court. Once the state indicates that the language of the initiative is decipherable for the voting population, the group will begin collecting the remainder of the signatures needed to take the issue of medical marijuana to the polls.

“We have collected in reality close to 400,000 petitions and we’re in the process of submitting those to supervisors of elections and having them verified by the state,” said Ben Pollara, spokesman for United for Care. “We’re in better shape than it looks and in much, much better shape than two years ago.”

Vermont: Legalizing Cannabis Industry Via State Legislature
Vermont could be the first state to legalize a cannabis industry through the legislature. Last week, House Speaker Shap Smith announced plans to support a bill in 2016 aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana across the state. During an interview with Vermont Public Radio, Smith said he feels confident the state legislature will approve a bill by spring of 2016, putting the pot market in a position of being up and running by 2017. 

Colorado: Denver Pot Activists Pull Initiative for Public Consumption
Supporters of an initiative aimed at allowing pot smoking in Denver bars and restaurants announced last week that they are pulling their proposal from the ballot. After a significant level of backlash from the business community, the group has decided it is in the best interest of everyone involved to develop a compromise on the issue. The word on the street is that pot proponents and representatives with restaurant and lodging associations will work together on drafting a new initiative, one in which could recognized by the Denver City Council sometime next year. 

Massachusetts: Groups Begin Collecting Signature for Recreational Marijuana
Two initiatives have been cleared by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to launch their respective signature collecting campaigns for legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and Bay State Repeal initiatives must now collect around 65,000 verified voter signatures to earn a spot in the next presidential election. Both groups are working to eliminate prohibition statewide, but their proposals for establishing a cannabis industry differ in approach. CRMLA wants to legalize in a manner similar to Colorado, complete with a special tax and caps on cultivation. Bay State wants to create a more free market system. Read more about the two initiatives here.

Illinois: Lawmakers Attempt to Change Governor’s Medical Marijuana Decision
Illinois lawmakers want to strike a deal with Governor Bruce Rauner on his decision to veto an expansion measure for the state’s medical marijuana pilot program. Over the summer, Rauner used his authority to amend the bill, expanding the program by only a few months rather than four years approved under the General Assembly. Sponsors of the proposal say they are going to attempt to meet the governor in the middle on this issue, but the outcome remains uncertain. Rauner also amended a marijuana decriminalization bill… this one, however, is expected to pass without any retaliation from the General Assembly.

(graphic via deviantart.com)

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