Politics 

The latest in cannabis legalization including laws and policies, legislators’ views, election coverage, and more.

Will New York Allow Early Patient Access to Medical Marijuana? The Leafly Roundup

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose – several major marijuana proposals didn’t quite make the cut in this year’s general election, but that’s no reason to stop now. Ohio is feeling the drive, and despite a less-than-surprising loss for Issue 3, they're getting right back up on that horse with a new and improved initiative. The Canadian city of Victoria is wondering what Trudeau’s plan is for federal legalization, and Germany is debating an expanded medical cannabis program within their own borders.

Where will the next domino fall to end cannabis prohibition? Watch and see!

 

U.S. Cannabis Updates

COLORADO

Voters in Pueblo County approved a measure that will slowly phase in an increase in taxes on marijuana growers that will eventually result in a fund for college scholarships and other community projects. By 2020, the tax will be raised to 5 percent and the county is expected to raise $3.5 million, of which half will go towards a scholarship program for Pueblo County students to attend local colleges.

The revenue is expected to be available for students to apply for by 2017 and marks the first program of its kind in the country – a scholarship that is entirely funded by cannabis tax. Depending on the success of the revenue, the program may be expanded in the future.

 

ILLINOIS

Two years after a law was signed to bring legal medical marijuana to Illinois, the state finally opened its first dispensaries today. Congratulations to Illinois' medical marijuana patients who now have access to medicine!

 

MICHIGAN

'Michigan Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Agency in regards to several medical marijuana patients who were fired from their job over the use of cannabis. The patients in question tested positive for marijuana, which would normally have disqualified them for benefits under the Michigan Employment Security Act (MESA); however, since the positive drug tests were due solely to their use of medicinal marijuana, in accordance of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), to deny them benefits would constitute an improper penalty.

The Supreme Court had already ruled that provisions from the MMMA supersede any conflicting mentions in MESA and the patients will continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits.

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

A lung cancer patient in New Hampshire is suing the state health commissioner in an effort to obtain a medical marijuana patient identification card. The law was passed in 2013, and the medical marijuana program, which licensed four registered medical marijuana dispensaries, is slated to open sometime early next year.

The patient, Linda Horan, is suffering from late stage lung cancer, and wants to be able to access medicinal marijuana through the patient-caregiver program in Maine, one of the few reciprocal states that accept out-of-state patient recommendations. Horan argued that nothing in the law explicitly requires registry cards to be withheld until the alternative treatment centers open, and the department’s own guidelines specify that applications must be processed within 15 days.

Horan is a late stage lung cancer patient and would likely ingest cannabis through infused edibles. She said, “This is my final crusade. I'm asking them to provide compassion and care and do the right thing: make medical marijuana available to patients who qualify and who will benefit."

 

NEW YORK

There’s a bill that would allow certain medical patients emergency access to medicinal marijuana currently sitting on the desk of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and he has until this Wednesday to decide whether or not he will sign it. The Medical Marijuana Expedited Access Bill, co-sponsored by New York Senator Patrick Gallivan, would issue patient cards to critically ill patients as soon as possible, theoretically giving these patients access to medical cannabis before the program opens (although this would mean accessing cannabis products from out of state and violating federal law).

The state’s medical marijuana program has recently selected five companies that will be authorized to cultivate, process, and sell at 20 established medical marijuana dispensaries, which are optimistically scheduled to open in January.

 

NORTH DAKOTA

After rejecting one bid for medical marijuana, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger accepted a different measure to allow qualified North Dakota residents to possess up to three ounces of medicinal marijuana for the treatment of certain debilitating medical conditions. Patients who qualify could obtain cannabis from a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary or grow a limited supply for personal use.

The ballot initiative is sponsored by the North Dakota Committee for Medical Marijuana, who will be tasked with collecting 13,452 signatures by July 11th in order to get the measure on the November 2016 general election ballot.

 

OHIO

Not to be dissuaded by the recent loss of Issue 3 to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, state lawmakers are already moving forward with plans for several bills related to medical marijuana. House Speaker Cliff Robertson told reporters that the House Republicans will be taking “a measured and methodical” approach to drafting a medical marijuana bill, and lawmakers will also be introducing resolutions urging the federal government to reschedule cannabis and to allow the Food and Drug Administration to conduct more medical marijuana studies in Ohio.

 

WYOMING

A legislative committee is planning to sponsor a bill that would make the possession of one pound or more of edibles a felony. This comes as a reaction to the increase in confiscating cannabis-infused edibles due to residents visiting the neighboring state of Colorado and purchasing legal recreational cannabis cookies, brownies, and other candies. In Wyoming, cannabis is prohibited, but anyone caught with cannabis-infused edibles has had their case thrown out of court, as the law specifically refers to plant form, with no mention of concentrates or edibles.

One of the criticisms of the proposed law is that it would criminalize the entire contents of the edibles, including sugar, flour, butter, and other ingredients, rather than just the THC, as there are no certified crime labs that could analyze the THC content. Senator Michael Von Flatern (R-Gillette) represented the voice of reason in court, saying “I can’t see turning a whole generation into felons just because they had 3.1 ounces.”

 

International Cannabis Updates

CANADA

The city of Victoria is writing to newly sworn-in Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to ask for clarification on the planned cannabis legalization policy. In the meantime, Victoria has been developing its own regulations for marijuana shops, although Victoria councillors Marianne Alto and Chris Coleman suggested that it might be wise to wait until they hear back from the prime minister before developing citywide regulations on recreational cannabis, or until February 19th, whichever comes first.

Victoria has already created a two-tiered licensing system of non-profit compassion clubs, who will pay a fee of $1,000, and for-profit pot shops, who will pay a fee of $30,000. The city is planning to continue drafting regulations until further notice.

 

GERMANY

A new draft bill has Germany planning to set up a new state agency that will be charged with cultivation and distribution of cannabis to treat seriously ill patients. So far there are almost 400 chronic pain sufferers in Germany that have been authorized to obtain cannabis on their own, at their own expense, usually through imports from the Netherlands. As such, German patient needs cannot always be met by Dutch cannabis producers, and patients may wait weeks at a time for access.

Establishing state-controlled cannabis production in Germany would require a change in the narcotics law and would have the cost of cannabis paid for by health insurance. This proposal has already inspired much debate, with the full support of Marlene Mortler, the federal commissioner on drugs, who is hoping to see the law pass through the Bundestag (the lower house of German parliament) so it could take effect in 2016. Fabelhaft!

Read more cannabis legislation updates or catch up on last week's roundup of news:

Will Ohio Vote to Legalize Cannabis? The Leafly Legalization Roundup