What’s new in the world of cannabis legislation? The battle for cannabis progress is meeting many opponents, but advocates and activists are fighting strong. Florida is expanding, Louisiana and North Dakota are looking to legalize, and Pennsylvania could pass its long-debated medical cannabis bill any minute now. Georgia and Utah both took a step back, but the fight’s not over, not by a long shot. Australia may have legalized cannabis cultivation, but they’d like to remind you that cannabis is not decriminalized…yet. Are you in the know?
A bill to expand Florida’s medical marijuana program is headed to the desk of Governor Rick Scott. House Bill 307 aims to improve the long-delayed medical cannabis program, which was supposed to be operational more than a year ago. The bill would dramatically increase the number of potential patients in the program and allow for three more cultivation licenses in addition to the five nurseries already licensed. However, the additional licenses would only be allowed once there are 250,000 patients. By comparison, Colorado, which boasts the highest number of medical marijuana patients in the country, only has 107,798 patients.
Florida’s restrictive program only allows patients with seizure disorders and cancer to access a non-intoxicating form of cannabis, and it’s very unlikely that the number of patients will ever reach 250,000. However, any progress is a step in the right direction.
Georgia’s best chance to expand its limited medical marijuana program has stalled in the Senate. House Bill 722, authored and cosponsored by Representative Allen Peake (R-Macon), stalled in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, after Chairwoman Renee Unterman (R-Buford) refused to schedule a hearing for the legislation before the Legislature ends its session on March 24th.
Leafly reached out to Rep. Peake, who assured us that the fight for medical cannabis is far from over. If you’re a cannabis supporter who wants to see medical marijuana expanded in Georgia, please contact Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and urge him to allow a Senate vote on HB 722 to ensure that no more Georgians must suffer needlessly.
A new group has emerged from the Bayou State with a new petition in support of legalization, both medically and recreationally. Legalize It Louisiana’s petition indicates its support for the current marijuana law, Act No. 261 (Senate Bill 143), which was passed last year and allows limited access of medical marijuana to qualified patients, but also takes note of the shortcomings of the legislation and where it could be improved. That’s where Legalize It Louisiana comes in. Its using Washington and Colorado as inspiration, using their revenue and success as examples to be emulated.
If you want to support cannabis in Louisiana, please sign this petition to further the campaign.
Montana’s cannabis community can’t seem to catch a break. Since the Montana Supreme Court upheld a 2011 ruling severely limiting the number of patients a dispensary can service, the medical marijuana program is in turmoil. Dispensary owners requested a delay until the 2017 legislative session before the changes go into effect and were backed by state health officials. Unfortunately, the Department of Justice opposed both the request for a delay and a reconsideration of the ruling. Instead, the law is scheduled to go into effect within 49 days of the ruling, on April 14th, although officials agree that it will take at least four months for the Department of Public Health and Human Services to implement the changes.
In a move that seems designed to kick ‘em while they’re down, a new ballot initiative from Safe Montana is seeking to repeal the medical marijuana program. Initiative 176 would align the state with federal law and render cannabis illegal. A competing ballot initiative, I-178, would legalize cannabis for recreational use. It’s a battle to the finish line, and November is likely to bring huge changes to Big Sky Country.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger approved the wording on a petition that would legalize the use, possession, growth, and distribution of cannabis to anyone 21 years of age and older. The measure would prohibit the states, cities and counties from taxing cannabis or paraphernalia at a rate higher than 20 percent. Sponsors of the measure will need to gather 13,452 signatures from eligible voters by July 11th in order to qualify for the ballot this November, but Eric Olson, the campaign director of the 27-member sponsoring committee, said that they are hoping to gather at least 20,000 signatures “for a safe margin.”
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives spent Monday debating 220 proposed amendments to Senate Bill 3, which would legalize medical marijuana. Unsurprisingly, longtime opponent Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga County) spoke against the medical marijuana measure for more than an hour, but the majority of the amendments passed with overwhelming support. The amendments that were adopted are as follows:
The cannabis oil bill signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott last June is making progress. One of two cannabis oil dispensaries is on track to open in Gunter, a small town in North Texas. The dispensary will be owned and operated by Acquiflow, the first open, transparent and legal Texas-based cannabis company, which is based out of McKinney. Texas has yet to approve Acquiflow’s application, but Patrick Moran, Acquiflow’s CEO, held a town hall meeting last week, which was attended by more than 100 local Texans.
Utah’s attempts at an expansive medical marijuana program are falling flat once again. After Senator Mark Madsen’s Senate Bill 73 died in committee last week, the less comprehensive piece of legislation, Senate Bill 89, looked like it might have a fighting chance. Alas, it was not meant to be. SB 89 died due to budgetary restrictions, although Representative Brad Daw (R-Orem) has said that he will introduce the bill again next session.
In the meantime, the Legislature did pass Senate Concurrent Resolution 11, an official statement from the Legislature of Utah asking for the federal rescheduling of cannabis in order to perform more in-depth scientific research on cannabis's medical benefits.
The Australian government passed the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016 in February to legalize the cultivation of medicinal cannabis within the borders, but unfortunately, Queensland’s Health Minister Cameron Dick has said that the state has no plans to decriminalize cannabis. The Queensland Government will be holding a month-long consultation before introducing any related legislation before the parliament. Queensland’s Shadow Minister of Health Mark McArdle, on the other hand, embraced the federal government’s legislation to cultivate medical cannabis and called for immediate action to make medical cannabis accessible to patients.