Ohio’s initiative efforts are heating up, but organizers are shifting from their goal of full legalization to a purely medical program. Iowa and Utah are looking to seize a rare chance to allow limited medicinal use in their deep-red states. Switzerland hopes to start a pilot program for cannabis social clubs in four lucky Swiss cities. And cannabis cultivation is going Down Under.
Leafly’s got the scoop to keep you informed. Here's the latest:
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has a history of rejecting cannabis initiatives, but for the first time since she came into her position, Rudtledge has approved the language for a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize cannabis in the conservative Midwestern state. Not to be confused with the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, another medicinal cannabis initiative that's been gathering signatures since 2014, the latest proposal comes from Little Rock attorney David Couch and is dubbed The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016. Couch had submitted ballot language for the measure three times before it won approval. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment will need to gather 67,887 signatures in order to qualify for the November ballot. The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act already has a head start.
Ohio’s legalization efforts are moving forward, but forward in a slightly different direction. Legalize Ohio 2016 announced this week that the campaign will join forces with a medical marijuana initiative movement spearheaded by the Marijuana Policy Project. “We must put aside our differences and do our best to live up to the expectations of the sick and dying citizens of Ohio," Legalize Ohio said in a statement to supporters. "There is no more time to waste.” A recent Public Policy Polling survey found that 74 percent of Ohioans support medical legalization, a good sign for the upcoming ballot measure.
There are three major bills on the docket to improve Oregon’s legal cannabis market. House Bill 4904 provides legal protection to banks and credit unions that offer financial services to cannabis-related companies. Senate Bill 1511 would combine medical and recreational shops into one entity and allow recreational outlets to offer untaxed cannabis for medical patients, similar to the system Washington state is implementing. And HB 4014 would eliminate the in-state two-year residency requirement, which was initially intended to protect small marijuana businesses, but has prevented the influx of much-needed equity investment from sources outside the state.
Iowa passed legislation last year to allow patients with epilepsy to use and possess cannabidiol oil (CBD) with the recommendation of a doctor. But like so many CBD-only states, Iowa failed to include a provision to allow the legal production or distribution of CBD oil to qualified patients. A new bill in the House could change that. House Study Bill 607 would allow production and distribution in the state itself, but would only cover three qualifying conditions: epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and terminal cancer. The bill passed through committee and is now headed to a full House vote.
Utah's Senate passed SB 73 by a nose, on a 15–13 vote. The measure would allow qualifying patients to use cannabis edibles, extracts, and oils. A narrower competing bill, SB 89, passed on an 18–8 vote. Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs), the author and sponsor of SB 73, already had to reword the language of his bill to remove access to whole plant cannabis, which essentially earned a pass from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, albeit not an actual endorsement.
Vermont may legalize recreational cannabis sooner rather than later, becoming the first state to legalize through the legislative process rather than a voter initiative. With the newfound support of the state attorney general, S.241 sailed through the Senate Judiciary and Finance Committee. It won initial approval from the full Senate on Wednesday, and a second vote is expected later this week. If the Senate passes the bill, it will head to the House for scrutiny by a number of committees. Gov. Peter Shumlin has promised his signature.
The state Senate is wrestling with how to regulate marijuana edibles. And by "regulate," it means outlaw. The Senate voted to advance Senate File 96, which would make possession of more than three ounces of cannabis-infused edibles a felony. Lawmakers can’t decide potency details or how to measure the concentration of the cannabis in the edibles, however. Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) proposed an amendment that would allow defendants to argue that their stash of edibles actually contained less than three ounces of raw cannabis material. The amendment failed.
The Australian Parliament just took a monumental step forward in cannabis policy reform. Amendments to the Narcotics Drug Act will now allow the growth and manufacture of products for medicinal use within the country, actions that previously were forbidden. The New South Wales government is in the process of setting up clinical trials on the medicinal benefits of cannabis, but ran into a problem when it came to sourcing cannabis. Due to restrictions in the Narcotics Drug Act, cannabis products would have to be imported from outside the country, likely from Europe, which would limit the supply and could compromise the trials.
Cannabis clubs could be coming soon to four Swiss cities. A pilot program is seeking to open social clubs for members to consume cannabis freely in Zurich, Basel, Bern, and Geneva. If enacted, the program would allow an estimated 2,000 citizens to use cannabis legally. That might not meet demand: Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen recently reported that more than 500,000 Swiss residents regularly consume cannabis. Cannabis is decriminalized in Switzerland, and possession of up to 10 grams is punishable by a civil fine of 100 Swiss francs ($99). The four-year project still needs approval from local governments before it can take effect.