Cannabis advocates are watching the clock tick as 2016 looms in the distance. When it comes to cannabis support, Arizona is split down the middle; Massachusetts is looking at recreational legalization; and Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming are pushing for their own medical marijuana bills.
South of the border, Mexico will be holding a national debate, Chile removed cannabis from its list of hard drugs, and Uruguay announced what kind of cannabis will be sold in licensed pharmacies.
There's plenty to be thankful for as the end of the year grows near, but 2016 will need more support for cannabis reform than ever before. Stay up-to-date on the latest in both national and international cannabis news!
U.S. Cannabis Updates
Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board reversed a decision about the new retail marijuana industry requirements pertaining to residency. The amendment defaults to the Permanent Fund dividend eligibility, which includes a requirement that the person must be physically present in the state.
Another amendment was introduced that would allow for outside investment of up to 12.5 percent, whereas under the current law, Alaska marijuana businesses must be 100 percent Alaskan-owned.
Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board is currently elbows-deep in drafting regulations for the state's retail marijuana licensing process. Retail cannabis business license applications are expected to be available by March 2016.
In keeping true to their mixed feelings on marijuana, Arizona voters showed in a recent polling that they are split right down the middle between supporting and opposing recreational legalization. The poll, conducted by the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University in conjunction with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, found that 49 percent of Arizonans support legalization, with 51 percent opposed. This means that when next year’s election date gets close, Arizona cannabis supporters will be counting every last vote.
When Arizona legalized medical marijuana in 2010, the measure passed by just 4,340 votes out of 1.7 million total ballots. Make sure to get out and support legalization in your state, or the opportunity may pass you by.
The Appropriations subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice approved Senate Bill 460 that would allow stronger but still non-smokeable forms of cannabis for terminally ill patients. Although Florida’s Governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law legalizing low-THC forms of cannabis oil for children with seizure disorders, the new legislation would amend the state’s “Right to Try Act” rather than adding it to the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.”
Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) would not support expanding the number of approved cultivation nurseries for the program, although he did recognize that the number may need to be revisited at some point in the future.
Illinois’ medical marijuana program may have taken its time getting off the ground, but it's finally in full swing and continuing to gain momentum. The Illinois Department of Public Health just announced that it has officially registered 3,600 patients, including 22 children, to be included in the state's pilot medical marijuana program. It's an increase of about 300 patients, which indicates a sizeable jump compared to recent months.
Despite a rocky beginning to Massachusetts’ medical marijuana program, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts recently announced that it has collected 100,000 signatures in support of legalizing cannabis for sale to adults over the age of 21. The state only requires 64,750 signatures and once the 100,000 signatures are verified and tallied, the measure will be added to the 2016 general election ballot.
Despite the optimism of the campaign, many advocates are wondering if the state is ready for legalized marijuana. A Boston Globe poll from last year found that residents were split on the issue, with 48% of voters saying they'd support a legalization initiative and 47% opposing it.
Senator Tommy Garrett (R-NE) has promised that he will re-introduce Legislative Bill 643, known as the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act Bill, during the 2016 legislative session. The bill would allow for the use of marijuana for medical purposes for patients who qualify. During a press conference on the topic, Sen. Garrett used real-life examples, as well as clinical studies, to make his case for medical cannabis in the generally conservative state.
A study from Stanford University found that a cannabis oil regimen lowered seizures in 84% of children by 50% or more. Dominic Gillen, father of Will Gillen, spoke on the daily struggle of his son’s seizure disorder:
“To give you a glimpse into what my life is like every day, two o’clock this morning we were up with Will while he’s having a seizure and I’m having to straddle him and holding his hands down so he doesn’t hurt himself and that’s a daily occurrence for us. Will maybe has fifty or sixty seizures a day and almost every night he wakes up in the middle of the night having a maybe five, ten, fifteen minute seizure.”
Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced that he has officially approved the ballot language for a medical marijuana measure, which means that backers of the campaign can begin collecting signatures now. Members of the North Dakota Committee for Medical Marijuana had their first petition rejected as incomplete and resubmitted the petition in November. They will need to collect 13,452 signatures in order to qualify for the 2016 ballot, and they intend to hold meetings in Fargo and Bismarck to circulate the petition and answer questions from the public. The deadline for signatures in order to appear on the November ballot is July 11th.
There are two proposals to legalize medical marijuana that are being considered in Utah’s legislature. One has been approved for discussion by the Health and Human Services Interim Committee in Utah, with another proposed bill being drafted for next year’s docket. The first proposal was sponsored by Representative Brad Daw (R-Orem) and backed by Senator Evan Vickers (R-Cedar City), and would legalize the use of cannabidiol for medicinal use for patients with qualifying medical conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, and HIV/AIDS.
The second proposal is being sponsored by Senator Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs), and although it would also treat a similar list of conditions, it would legalize the use of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for medical use as well. The real question now is if Utah is ready for legal cannabis
The Wyoming chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is struggling to get enough signatures for a medical marijuana initiative that it had drafted in hopes of placing it on the 2016 ballot. During the drafting process, some members wanted to include a measure for recreational legalization. After much debate, it was agreed that the group would include a provision for the cultivation of industrial hemp, but rejected the clause for recreational cannabis, and the resulting dissension caused friction in the group. The group had gathered about 5,000 signatures towards the 25,000 signatures necessary to get on the ballot.
A 2014 poll from the University of Wyoming found that 72 percent of respondents support the use of marijuana as directed by a physician, but can Wyoming supporters join together to even get this initiative in front of the voters?
International Cannabis Updates
Canada is attempting to legalize marijuana on a federal level, but the changes aren’t coming fast enough. One judge in Quebec, fed up with the country's antiquated laws, issued a sentence of just a $1 fine to a would-be medical marijuana patient while lamenting the law’s limitations.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, dispensaries in Nanaimo and Sechelt were raided and shut down by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who made good on the cease-and-desist letters they sent out in past weeks. Meanwhile, a medical cannabis dispensary in Vernon called the Herbal-Health Centre wants a moratorium on further RCMP visits until the Liberal government has time to implement a plan to legalize.
If Canada’s government is serious about making legalization a priority, it needs to take action now before we see even more casualties as a result of the country's outdated drug policies.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a decree that removes cannabis from the country's list of hard drugs, as well as authorizes the sale of cannabis products at pharmacies. Planting, selling, and transporting marijuana remains illegal in Chile, although Congress is expected to further debate the topic and possibly change Chile’s drug policies even more expansively. Chile planted its first crop of medical marijuana plants in October 2014 as part of a government-approved program to ease cancer symptoms.
Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting the use and cultivation of marijuana was unconstitutional under the right of “free development of personality,” but the ruling only applied to the four defendants on trial. The ruling, however, will open up a national public debate on the topic starting in January that will feature medical, legal, and academic experts. A total of five debates will be held in different regions of the country to focus on health implications, regulations, costs, the relationship between decriminalization and violence, and whether cannabis consumption should be considered a human right.
Uruguay’s new licensed pharmacies will begin recreational cannabis sales in June 2016, and the price is still expected to remain at just $1.20 USD per gram. Authorities are expecting to offer three different types of cannabis with low, medium, and high levels of THC, depending on the tolerance level of each consumer. They are using genetically modified plants with controllable effects and are working with the private sector over the plants' production and eventual export.