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

When’s Nevada Debuting Medical Marijuana Dispensaries? The Leafly Legalization Roundup

The future of cannabis is progressing by leaps and bounds — D.C.’s recreational legalization seems to have created a loophole for the black market, Massachusetts is revamping the dispensary licensing process, and Nevada could begin selling medical marijuana as early as next month! Check out this week’s legalization update to catch up on the latest in cannabis legislation from your region:

 

U.S. Updates

CALIFORNIA

California’s harsh drought due to a warming climate is having an unexpected result: more potent cannabis. Stress on the plants from hotter, drier outdoor environments tends to result in plants exhibiting more of their medicinal properties. It’s also been proposed by ethnobotanists that plants grown outdoors under duress will become stronger and heartier, requiring less water to thrive while also producing more psychotropic compounds as a pest repellent. With more and more cannabis farmers entering the industry, climate change and lack of water for planting have the potential to take a toll on both the water supply and the economy at the unintended expense of producing more potent cannabis.

 

COLORADO

Colorado Governor Hickenlooper just signed a bill to crack down on the misuse of medical marijuana in the state. The bill will limit caregivers and add them as a part of the already tightly-controlled recreational regulatory system. The recreational community supports the bill after years of testy negotiations between medical marijuana groups and police resulted in an evolution of the law's details and language. This measure also relieves a few restrictions to make access for parents who come to Colorado as “marijuana refugees” less restrictive. Keep up the good work, Hickenlooper!

 

WASHINGTON D.C.

The new legalization measure in D.C. has evolved into a different trend that no one really saw coming: it has allowed the black market to flourish. Although cannabis is legal to possess, sales are prohibited and there are no recreational shops open, resulting in few avenues to legally acquire cannabis. Residents' options are reduced to legally growing up to three plants (seeds have been distributed as an alternative source), accessing medical marijuana dispensaries (three of which are currently operational) as long as they have a valid recommendation, or turning to the unchecked black market.

It seems that in trying to thwart recreational legalization rather than provide a system for regulation, Congress (and one opponent in particular, Representative Andy Harris, R-MD) is protecting drug dealers while providing no legal avenue for recreational consumers. D.C., as the nation’s capital, you are in the limelight whether you like it or not, and setting a poor precedent makes the whole nation look bad. Regulations = black market destruction. ‘Nuff said.

 

DELAWARE

Senator Ernie Lopez (R-Lewes) has proposed new legislation that would expand the medical marijuana program to include minors by allowing access to cannabis oils only for the treatment of seizure disorders. Anyone under the age of 18 is currently prohibited from the state’s medical marijuana program, but new insights into the treatment of seizure disorders with CBD and THCA (the two components that would be allowed for minors) is encouraging legislators to expand medical marijuana rights to include minors with certain medical conditions. Thanks for thinking proactively, Delaware!

 

GEORGIA

Georgia Representative Allen Peake (R-Macon) almost single-handedly created, advocated, and pushed for legislation that would allow access to cannabidiol for qualifying medical patients in a nearly two year-long battle that ended triumphantly last month with the passage of House Bill 1. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that the new commission for the regulation of cannabidiol in Georgia will be headed up by – who else – Rep. Peake. The new commission will also include a member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford), as well as medical experts, lawyers, law enforcement officials, and state Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black.

 

LOUISIANA

A proposal to reduce jail time for marijuana offenses made headway in the Louisiana House of Representatives. The bill would reduce the amount of time for a second offense of marijuana possession from five years to two years, and a third offense would get reduced from twenty years to five. We’re talking years in a person’s lifetime here, not to mention a criminal record. Louisiana has the highest rate of incarceration per capita of any state in the nation. May I ask, have you ever heard of a crazy little thing called “decriminalization?”

 

MASSACHUSETTS

After more than two dozen lawsuits stemming from the licensing system for medical marijuana dispensaries, Massachusetts health authorities are overhauling the process to make it more stream-lined, efficient, and transparent to “maintain the highest standards of both public safety and accessible,” according to Dr. Monica Bharel, the state’s public health commissioner. So….does this mean a dispensary is finally going to open in the Bay State?

 

NEBRASKA

The Nebraska Senate just voted on Legislative Bill 390 to commission a pilot study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center on the effectiveness of cannabidiol as a course of treatment for severe epileptic seizures. The bill is now headed to Governor Pete Ricketts’ desk, who has five days to act on it. Another bill called Legislative Bill 643 (or the Medical Cannabis Act), which would allow the use of medical cannabis for cancer, glaucoma, and other chronic illnesses, has been approved by the Legislature and is ready for a second round of debates and testimony. The bill would not allow smoking as a consumption method, but is much more comprehensive than LB 390. “Equality before the law” is Nebraska’s state motto, and we are quite happy to see that motto in action (although “Equality within the law” would be better).

 

NEVADA

Mark your calendars because Nevada dispensaries could be selling cannabis to medical patients within one month! The last hurdle remaining in the stretch to the finish line is a dispute about the use of pesticides. Once that issue is resolved, Clark County will be ready for cannabis. State lawmakers are very confident in their program, having placed routine inspections, lab testing, and other regulatory measures in place. They are also confident that if (or when, more likely) recreational cannabis is legalized in the state, Nevada will be ready with regulations in place. Bring on the green rush, Nevada!

 

OHIO

It’s a sad day for the Buckeye State. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a petition for legalized cannabis. This was the third attempt to amend the state constitution to legalize cannabis, but the Cannabis Control Amendment apparently contained inconsistencies regarding restrictions on minors. Curious, though, that Mike DeWine has supported two other legalization efforts, including Responsible Ohio and the Better for Ohio amendment. In reaction to Responsible Ohio’s proposal, state auditor Dave Yost introduced an amendment that would ban ballot initiatives to create economic monopolies. As we all know, Responsible Ohio’s proposal is largely dependent on creating an economic monopoly for marijuana growing sites. Get your ducks in a row, Ohio!

 

PENNSYLVANIA

The Pennsylvania Senate passed the Medical Cannabis Act, or Senate Bill 3, with a vote of 40-7. The bill is nearly identical to the one that nearly passed through Pennsylvania Legislature last year, and would legalize various forms of cannabis to be made available to seriously ill patients, although smoking is not permitted a form of delivery. It would also create a system of licensed, state-regulated medical dispensaries throughout the state, and has been expanded to include 15 medical conditions. I'm going to take this opportunity to remind y’all that 85% of Pennsylvania voters support the legalization of medical marijuana and since the city of Philadelphia has decriminalized cannabis, they’ve already saved about $1 million.

 

TENNESSEE

Let’s all sing a mournful tune for Tennessee today. They were unable to obtain the required 6,845 signatures required to get a charter amendment for marijuana decriminalization onto the August ballot before May 18 deadline. Don’t get the Memphis Blues, there’s always next year!

 

TEXAS

Yee-haw! The Texas House gave final approval to a limited medical marijuana bill that would allow the use of cannabis oil for epileptic patients. This is a historic moment for Texas, whose past support for cannabis has been mostly nonexistent until this year, when the enthusiasm for cannabis decriminalization and legalization reached a fever pitch. Next up, the bill heads to Governor Greg Abbott's desk.

Will he sign it? The Republican governor has not said whether or not he supports this measure, although he did predict earlier this year that he did not anticipate decriminalization happening in 2015. Will he uphold the Texas Legislature’s decision and allow CBD treatment for 150,000 Texans who suffer from seizure disorders? Stay tuned next week for the stunning conclusion!

 

WASHINGTON

Washington’s Liquor Control Board is about to get a makeover and will soon be renamed the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board. The change is coming after the passage of Senate Bill 5052, which aims to overhaul the state's current medical marijuana system. The new board will use a merit-based system to award licenses to currently-operating medical marijuana dispensaries. First priority will go to businesses that have been operating since before 2013, those who have been paying taxes, and those who applied for a recreational license.

According to the board, approximately 825 unlicensed dispensaries in Washington will be applying for the licenses, of which there are roughly 400 licenses available, although the number of unlicensed medical shops tops over 1,000. The board is expected to decide which licenses and growing operations to legitimize by July 1, 2016. Godspeed, my friends.

 

International Updates

CANADA

Quebec has created a medicinal marijuana registry to determine the safety of cannabis and its effectiveness in treating various illnesses. The Quebec Cannabis Registry will follow the habits and clinical data from about 3,000 medical cannabis patients in the region, who will be followed for four years after enrollment, while the study will last at least 10 years. This research could provide valuable insight into treating medical conditions and, hopefully, will help inform Health Canada’s future policies. A sensible approach to research, study, and extrapolate is the best way to improve patient’s lives!