November is upon us, and although this month will surely be quieter than next year's presidential election, it doesn’t mean that cannabis advocates are taking a break. In fact, quite the contrary — Ohio is pulling out all of the stops to legalize cannabis, but they’ve created quite a heated debate among the locals. Can they pull it off?
Meanwhile, on the international front, Iran and Ireland are both considering major decriminalization efforts and Jamaica has begun licensing producers for the legal cultivation of cannabis.
November could bring about major change – don’t forget to vote! While you figure out how to fill in your ballot, catch up on the latest cannabis news from across the globe.
U.S. Cannabis Updates
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge rejected a proposed amendment to the Arkansas constitution that would have legalized marijuana for personal use. Rutledge cited grammatical errors and ambiguity in the language of the Arkansas Cannabis Amendment, and said it would need to be revised and resubmitted.
A separate measure, the 2016 Arkansas Medical Act, which is being sponsored by Arkansans for Compassionate Care, was approved last year and has already collected 50,000 signatures towards their goal. In 2012, Arkansas narrowly voted down a measure to legalize medical marijuana with 48.56 percent approval, just shy of the 50 percent needed to pass.
The Delaware Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee held their first board meeting to hear from patients and make recommendations to improve the state's medical marijuana program. Patients were unhappy about medical marijuana packaging, quality, and costs. With only the First State Compassion Center available as a location to legally purchase medical marijuana, the price remains at $17 per gram, and although the location does offer discounts based on income, the hardship is still too much for some to bear. The number of medical marijuana patients in Delaware has increased significantly, from just 124 last year to more than 600 patients being served. Perhaps it's time for more dispensaries?
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Speaking of patient growth, New Mexico’s medical marijuana program has seen a significant boom in the number of patients over the last year. New Mexico Health Secretary Retta Ward testified before the Legislative Finance Committee to report that the number of medical marijuana patients has risen from 11,000 patients to 18,000 – a noticeable jump that Ward attributed to new changes in the law earlier this year. The New Mexico Department of Health recently announced that they will be issuing 12 new licenses to produce medical marijuana in the state of New Mexico to account for the higher demand of patient needs.
North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger rejected a petition to put an initiative for medical marijuana on the 2016 ballot, saying that it lacked sufficient information on which parts of the current state law would be altered to include the new provisions. The initiative would have allowed for the possession of up to three ounces of cannabis for medicinal purposes for those who qualify. It would also have allowed patients to obtain marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries or grow a limited personal supply on their own.
Ohio’s proposal to legalize cannabis for recreational and medical use, Issue 3 on the ballot for a voter-made decision, continues to stir up controversy. The Ohio chapter of the NAACP has come out against Issue 3, although the former president of the city council and NAACP in Cleveland, George Forbes, has come out in favor of the initiative, citing the disproportionate number of African-Americans in Ohio who have faced criminal prosecution for cannabis. Will Ohio be able to legalize the personal and medical use of cannabis this election day? Stay tuned to find out.
Since mid-November, 56 of 120 medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Seattle have voluntarily closed their doors to patients. The city’s Finance and Administrative Services have been charged with enforcing these closures until the dispensaries are able to become compliant with state regulations, which includes:
- Paying all applicable taxes
- Possessing a Seattle business license since 2013
- Applying for a license from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board
The maximum penalty for remaining open is a criminal conviction from the city of Seattle, up to 364 days in jail, and a $5,000 fine. So far, the city has filed three criminal complaints against dispensary operators.
International Cannabis Updates
Iran does not seem like the most likely candidate for legalization, but that’s exactly what Iranian officials are considering right now. Although the penalties for offenses such as drug trafficking are harsh, Iran also has surprisingly progressive drug policies towards drug addiction, including methadone treatment (even in prisons), needle exchange programs, and many options for drug treatment. The policies are in place due to Iran's unfortunate drug addiction problem — the country has an estimated two million addicts (although by some reports, the number is more likely between five and six million).
Furthermore, during a recent conference on addiction, the Council for the Discernment of the Expediency of the State discussed the possibility of introducing measures towards legalization of opium and cannabis.
The Minister of National Drug Strategy, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, announced that there will be a radical shift in Irish drug policy, including plans to decriminalize the personal use of small amounts of drugs like heroin, cocaine, and cannabis. “I am firmly of the view that there needs to be a cultural shift in how we regard substance misuse if we are to break this cycle and make a serious attempt to tackle drug and alcohol addiction,” said Mr Ó Ríordáin.
His plan will also create medically supervised injection rooms for drug users, as part of the effort to shy away from using the criminal justice system to confront the country’s drug abuse rates. Mr Ó Ríordáin plans to draw up a revised version of the Misuse of Drugs Bill that will “unblock” legislative obstacles to make these plans a reality.
The Minister of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining announced that Timeless Herbal Care will become the third Jamaican company to receive a license to legally cultivate ganja. The organization will be led by Hawthorne Watson, former head of the Scientific Research Council, and will be joining the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology in receiving a license to legally cultivate and use cannabis for research purposes, along with permission to subcontract local farmers.
Jamaica's Cannabis Licensing Authority still needs to develop criteria for applying for and retaining licenses to cultivate, process, distribute, and sell cannabis. Officials estimate that the process will take well into next year, but the wheels are in motion!