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

Which State Has Cleared Over 80% of Its Prior Cannabis Convictions? The Leafly Legalization Roundup

With summer just around the corner, many legislative sessions are nearing an end, but that doesn't mean the end for cannabis progress! This week brings surprising and heartwarming news from down on the bayou in Louisiana, while California’s discussing legalization, New York is gearing up to select growers for their medical program, and India just held their first ever medical cannabis conference.

We’ve got the rundown for all of your cannabis news needs today:

 

U.S. Updates

CALIFORNIA

California Representative Jared Huffman (D-Eureka) and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom are holding a public marijuana policy forum in Garberville, a town in the heart of Humboldt County, with local authorities, advocates, and regulators to discuss possible legalization policy options for the future of California. Lt. Gov. Newsom and the American Civil Liberties Union created the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy in anticipation of a 2016 statewide legalization bid (which is generally predicted to win), and it’s a powerhouse of political players – it also includes former White House Policy Advisor Keith Humphreys and ACLU North California Executive Director Abdi Soltani.

There have been three public hearings so far, with the focus on public safety, youth education, and prevention. The next forum will be held in Fresno on June 3rd and will focus on regulation and taxation. Welcome to the future of cannabis! Are you ready?

 

CONNECTICUT

Connecticut judges have granted more than 80% of requests to expunge previous marijuana convictions since a recent Supreme Court ruling. The retroactive erasure comes as a result of the case of Nicholas Menditto, who requested his cannabis convictions be erased in the wake of Connecticut decriminalizing in 2011. He said that his main goal in pushing the case as far as the Supreme Court was to help others who may be struggling to find a job or qualify for public housing due to a minor cannabis conviction.

So far, judges have been overwhelmingly responsive to the request to clear previous convictions, with only a handful of cases rejected for possessing larger quantities of cannabis. If you’re a Connecticut resident with a low-level cannabis charge hanging over your head, contact a local attorney to see if you qualify. Get these charges thrown out and get your life back on track!

 

FLORIDA

All hope is not lost for Florida’s sluggish medical CBD program! Despite the passage of the Charlotte’s Web law last year, its implementation has been tied up in litigation while patients have been needlessly suffering in wait. But no longer! A judge threw out a major lawsuit standing in the way of implementation, which means that Florida’s Department of Health will begin accepting applications from eligible growers within just three short weeks (but they can only choose five growers, so get your applications while they’re hot!). Huzzah!

 

LOUISIANA

Governor Bobby Jindal has voiced his support for recent cannabis reform policies, saying that he would sign House Bill 149, a sentencing reform bill to reduce second and third marijuana offenses to significantly less jail time (although two years instead of five, and five years instead of 20 are still shockingly long in the age of decriminalization). Gov. Jindal also indicated that he will be supporting and signing the latest medical marijuana legislation, Senate Bill 143, which will be tightly regulated.

Hang on a second — there are two major cannabis bills on the docket with the support of a conservative southern governor? We are entering a new age for the Bayou State!

 

MINNESOTA

Registration for Minnesota’s new medical cannabis program starts today, with the expectation that qualifying patients should be able to access the various forms of cannabis extract by July this year. However, patients are hitting a new road block now – doctors. Physicians are uneasy about recommending cannabis and wary of violating federal law, leaving many otherwise qualified patients out in the cold. Some facilities are saying they’d prefer to wait to see the implementation of the program before making any recommendation, but it seems pretty cruel to these patients to make them wait even longer for relief. C’mon, Minnesota, get with the program (literally)!

 

NEW YORK

New York’s Department of Health just announced they will be extending the deadline to apply for one of only five licenses to grow cannabis for the state's upcoming medical marijuana program. Where the deadline was previously May 29th, it will now be June 5th, which means if you’re interested in growing cannabis for the state of New York and you happen to have about $200,000 for registration fees plus a nonrefundable $10,000 application fee just lying around, then head over to New York’s Department of Health and apply to be a registered organization for medical cannabis.

 

OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma marijuana advocates and patients came out to rally for legalization last week at the state capital to demand better medical marijuana initiatives. Participants included Oklahomans for Health and at least one cannabis refugee, a two year-old girl named Jaqie Warrior whose seizures were so severe and resistant to treatment that physicians recommended her family travel to Colorado to be treated with CBD. Within a year, her seizures dropped by 99 percent, making her family ardent supporters of cannabis legislation.

While the governor approved Katie’s Law (legislation for CBD trial treatments), advocates say it doesn’t go far enough for most Oklahomans who could benefit from medical marijuana. The Oklahomans for Health are gathering signatures for a petition for a more comprehensive medical marijuana initiative. The initiative is not available yet, but will be available soon from the Oklahomans for Health, and we are simply pleased as punch to hear it.

 

TEXAS

Governor Greg Abbott announced that he will sign a bill today legalizing cannabis oil for qualified epilepsy patients with a valid prescription. Although the bill is a restricted form of medical marijuana access, it's still a huge step in the right direction for Texas, a state that's gained some serious momentum this year towards more progressive cannabis policies. Congratulations, Texas! Here's hoping this is the first of many pro-cannabis bills becoming law in your near future. 

 

International Updates

INDIA

India just held its first medical cannabis conference in Bengaluru to discuss the possibility of cannabis legalization. Cannabis is in an odd predicament in India — cultivation and possession is illegal under the stringent Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985, but medicinal use is technically legal. Similar conferences will be coming up soon in Delhi and Mumbai, organized by the Great Legalisation Movement, India. The movement has been growing strong in India, with oncologists, lawyers, and environmentalists joining the fight to legalize. Shubh Kaamnaayein! Good luck!

 

NEW ZEALAND

A young man in New Zealand has been placed into a medically induced coma as a result of crippling seizures. Despite a barrage of tests, the underlying source of the seizures is unknown, but doctors suspect it may be a type of autoimmune encephalitis. The teenager, Alex Renton, had no preexisting conditions, but the nearly constant onslaught of seizures have been resistant to standard epileptic medications.

At this point, he has spent nearly two months in a coma and neurologists are recommending that the only course of treatment available now is cannabidiol oil derived from cannabis, but, of course, accessing the oil is nearly impossible. It is illegal to produce the product in New Zealand and accessing the oil abroad carries a hefty price tag ($3,000 USD, or $4,200 NZ, for 100ml of oil). While his family must navigate the treacherous legal waters between bureaucratic red tape and nearly impossible access points, young Alex just celebrated his 19th birthday in a coma, still awaiting treatment.

 

UNITED KINGDOM

A single mother in the U.K. was growing cannabis for her own personal use when a passing police officer recognized a particularly skunky scent. Deborah Weaver was arrested and admitted to the production of 53 cannabis plants, but she was spared jail time when Judge Graham Cottle heard she had no intention of selling the plant. Exeter Crown Court gave her a suspended sentence and 100 hours of ordered community service instead of sending her to prison. While we feel the ideal solution here is decriminalization (or, better yet, legalization), it's heartening to see such a conscientious and inspired decision. Cheers to you, Judge Cottle!