A monumental week for Canada means that the new Prime Minister has got a lot of work ahead of him, but he’s got a lot of backers sending support and advice on the best ways to legalize cannabis. On the domestic front, Arizona’s new pro-legalization billboard is catching some flack, Massachusetts’ medical marijuana program is finally making some progress, and Vermont is taking steps to protect the public in the event of legalization. Lastly, Australia and Mexico are making some big decisions and international change is coming. Catch up on the latest cannabis happenings from our gorgeous blue and green planet.
U.S. Cannabis Updates
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has been receiving mixed reviews over a prominent billboard featured in downtown Phoenix. The billboard features a screaming face akin to the ‘Reefer Madness’ propaganda from decades ago, with the words, "LESS toxic! LESS addictive! LESS scary than ALCOHOL!" The campaign looks to be trying to take advantage of the Halloween season while seeking to educate, but many members of the community found the message jarring and counterproductive to the cause. The campaign seeks to legalize the possession and sale of cannabis for recreational purposes through an initiative on the 2016 general election ballot.
After an executive order from Governor Butch Otter, the limited use of cannabidiol will soon be available for up to 25 children suffering from severe seizure disorders. Otter signed the order after vetoing a less restrictive bill that would have allowed non-intoxicating cannabis extracts to be used as a treatment for those suffering from intractable epilepsy or severe seizures. Advocates are hoping that this limited trial run will lead to wider acceptance in Idaho, and possibly to an eventual expanded medical program.
Minnesota’s medical marijuana program is so restrictive that the state has not made any profit, and many potential patients are hoping to see the program expand. There are only two clinics operating in the state, and the qualifying conditions are so strict that just 642 patients have qualified so far. Low enrollment numbers have made it hard for Minnesota dispensaries to remain open, forcing them to increase prices until demand catches up to the supply.
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Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger is debating whether to add intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions, and has been traveling the state listening to comments and soliciting testimony from the public. An advisory panel will submit their findings in November and Ehlinger will make a ruling by January, allowing new patients to enroll in August of 2016.
The Massachusetts medical marijuana program is finally seeing results! New England Treatment, the second dispensary open in the Bay State, has seen 1,428 patients within the first three weeks of opening their doors. By comparison, Alternative Therapies Group, the first official Massachusetts dispensary, has seen nearly 1,500 patients over the course of the two months since it opened in June of this year. The difference between the two organizations is that Alternative Therapies can see patients by appointment only, while New England Treatment, based out of Northampton, sees as many as 40 new walk-in patients each day.
At New England Treatment, the average patient is 47 years old and about 25 percent of patients are over the age of 60, representing an older demographic than that of Colorado. As of October 1, there are 19,783 patients registered with the Massachusetts State Health Department, being served by three dispensaries. A fourth dispensary, Patriot Care, will begin planting cannabis in anticipation of opening its doors in February.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has spent months editing, revamping, and tweaking the rules and regulations for the new recreational market, and they’re finally ready. Seventy-seven pages comprise the rules, which cover information on security, product labels, seed-to-sale tracking systems, production limits, and licenses for both indoor and outdoor growing. The two-tier licenses for production have been criticized for restrictive limits, although the commission said that without data, they will have to revisit these limits annually to examine supply and demand, and possibly expand the cultivation size allowed for producers.
One of the newest rules will allow for cannabis home delivery services – retailers will be allowed to deliver up to $100 of cannabis within the city in which they are licensed to operate. Another decision came from Portland City Council, which voted against allowing legal marijuana sales in downtown Portland. A "yes" vote would have essentially created a “Green Light District” for cannabis tourism.
The Vermont Public Health Association is hosting a session to explore policy options related to health and marijuana legalization. It’s been predicted that the Vermont General Assembly, with the blessing of Governor Peter Shumlin, will pass legislation to legalize and regulate the use and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes. With this in mind, Vermont lawmakers are seeking to minimize public health impacts of marijuana legalization by studying financial, public safety, and criminal justice considerations.
There will be a special session on October 29th at the University of Vermont Medical Center’s Davis Auditorium to explore the topics and consider recommendations for the next legislative session.
International Cannabis Updates
After much consideration as of late, the Australian government has announced plans to allow cannabis to be grown legally for medical and scientific research purposes. They are planning to amend the Narcotic Drugs Act of 1967 to allow cannabis cultivation locally without breaking international treaties.
Meanwhile, a petition to decriminalize cannabis in Australia for medicinal use has garnered more than 246,000 signatures over the past two years, instigated by Lucy Haslam, whose late son used cannabis to ease symptoms related to terminal bowel cancer. Since her son's death in February, Haslam has founded the group United in Compassion to campaign for legal medical marijuana, and the Australian government is taking note and taking action.
After Justin Trudeau’s stunning victory as the new Prime Minister, Canada will usher in a new era led by the Canadian Liberal Party, which now takes up a majority of the seats in the House of Common. As a result of campaign promises for legalization and expectations from the public, Trudeau has been receiving all sorts of unsolicited advice on the matter. B.C. Senator Larry Campbell offered his take, saying that the process should not be hasty, that Canada should take a year to 18 months for a complete rollout, and that officials should look to Colorado as an example of seamless transition and regulation.
Lewis Koski of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division also offered his advice, providing some sobering words on how costly and time-consuming the process of legalization truly is, not to mention the challenges of regulating cannabis-infused edibles so they don’t appeal to children, as well as making decisions on driving while impaired, an area that needs research and study to determine the most effective course of action. Monsieur Trudeau, you have your work cut out for you, but don’t worry, you’ve got tons of support from all over the whole world!
The Mexican Supreme Court will be making a decision soon about whether federal laws prohibiting the production and consumption of cannabis are unconstitutional. If the court were to decide that prohibition were unconstitutional, the decision would open the door to legalizing the consumption and production of cannabis for recreational purposes.
In related news, the Mexican Association for Responsible Self-Consumption and Tolerance filed an appeal in 2013 for the right to grow, possess, and consume cannabis for recreational use, and the conflicting court decisions have climbed up the legislative ladder all the way to the Supreme Court. The court is set to vote on this issue in a hearing on October 28th, and this decision could have huge implications for Mexico – impacting tourism, local drug cartels, and cannabis patients across the country.
Did you miss last week's legalization roundup? Catch up on your reading now, or check out the other legislation news bubbling up over the past few weeks.