Politics 

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

The Leafly Legalization Roundup: Guess Which Plant Drug Cartels Are Growing Instead of Cannabis?

Summer is heating up, but we all know that cannabis progress doesn’t take a vacation! New York’s medical program is gaining international interest, Colombia is looking at legalization, and America’s cannabis is of such high-quality that drug cartels not only prefer American-grown crops, they’ve also turned to subsidizing tomatoes to make ends meet. That and more in this week’s cannabis legalization roundup!

 

U.S. Updates

COLORADO

Denver is looking at a new proposition to allow private businesses to decide if consuming marijuana on their property should be allowed. The same group that collected signatures for recreational legalization will be leading the way to collect enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot for November 2015. The measure is still in the process of being written and revised, but would essentially allow businesses like bars and restaurants to section off an area for cannabis consumption if they so choose. This could be a big new market for Colorado and transform the already progressive landscape, as well as setting a new precedent for cannabis-friendly businesses. Keep an eye out, they’ll be releasing a campaign to collect signatures for this petition.

 

DELAWARE

Governor Jack Markell just signed a measure to decriminalize the possession and private use of up to an ounce of cannabis. Despite the fact that the measure received almost no Republican support, the Delaware House and Senate, both dominated by Democrats, were able to pass it through to the governor’s desk with minimal pushback. The measure makes it legal to use cannabis in the privacy of your own home and reduces penalties down to a civil fine of $100 for the public possession of up to one ounce of cannabis.

 

GEORGIA

Georgia’s Department of Public Health is launching the new registry for patients of the state’s new legal medical cannabis oil program. They just released the “Low THC Oil Registry,” a secure database for authorized patients that will allow them to obtain a special patient identification card. The patient ID card costs $25, is good for two years from the date it is issued, and will protect patients from arrest for possessing cannabis oil. Unfortunately, the law does not address how the oil will be made or distributed, as there is no legal avenue to create cannabis oil in the state of Georgia.

If you’re a Georgia patient looking to register, you can find all of information available here. Each patient is allowed to have up to 20 ounces of low-THC oil if they qualify according to the eight listed medical conditions:

  • Severe seizure disorder
  • Mitochondrial disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cancer
  • ALS
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Sickle cell disease

 

LOUISIANA

After years of cannabis legislation stalling in Louisiana, the tide is finally turning in the Bayou State! Governor Bobby Jindal is expected to sign two separate cannabis bills into law at the end of this legislative session. Representative Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) has introduced a number of cannabis bills over the years, but many never saw the light of day or received a fair hearing in committees. One of the bills, sponsored by Rep. Badon, would lessen the penalties for second and third offenses of simple marijuana possession, significantly reducing jail time for offenses. The second bill will allow state-licensed pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana to qualified patients, which, needless to say, is a huge step forward for Louisiana.

 

MASSACHUSETTS

Looks like Governor Charlie Baker is fed up with the stagnant pace of Massachusetts’ medical marijuana program. The governor just issued a one-time, temporary waiver aimed at getting the ball rolling for implementation and the waiver only applies to the state’s first and only medical cannabis dispensary, Alternative Therapy Group of Salem. According to regulations, samples of product must be tested for cannabinoids, solvents, mycotoxins, heavy metals, and pesticides. Although the group has submitted samples for testing, labs in Massachusetts couldn’t test for seven out of the 18 required pesticides, essentially rendering the cannabis unsellable according to state law. Looks like Massachusetts has hit yet another stumbling block on the road to implementation despite the law’s passage more than three years ago.

 

MICHIGAN

The Board of State Canvassers approved legalization petition forms for groups to gather signatures in anticipation of the 2016 general election bid. Each advocacy group will need to gather 253,000 signatures in order to place the initiative on the ballot. The Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee is being led by traditional activists and lawyers, while the other group, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, has backing from a Republican political interest group. Each group’s initiatives differ on a number of issues, including the number personal plants and other taxation and regulation issues.

 

NEW YORK

The potential market for New York’s new medical cannabis program is so high that companies from other countries are trying to get in on the action. Israel’s Tikkun Olam, one of Israel’s largest-scale industrial producers of cannabis operating under a license from the Israel Ministry of Health, will be partnering with the Compassionate Care Center of New York and applying to be a Registered Organization under the state’s new medical program. If the Compassionate Care Center gets a license from the state of New York, they will gain access to some of the top medical strains in the world, including Eran Almog, Rafael, and Erez, which are widely known and highly sought-after for their high CBD content and medicinal benefits.

Canada is also getting into the game, with MedReleaf and Tilray, two Health Canada licensed producers of medicinal grade cannabis, applying for licenses and partnerships with local businesses. New York’s cannabis industry is heating up — we can’t wait to see what happens next!

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

The New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services just released the list of three companies that have been selected as official Alternative Treatment Centers for the burgeoning Therapeutic Use of Cannabis Program, but the program is already facing complications. Representative Joseph Lachance (R-Manchester) is suing the department, as well as the Commissioner Nick Toumpas, over the lengthy implementation of the state’s medical marijuana program. The legislation was signed into law in 2013 and required that the state approve alternative treatment centers within 30 days of a court order and issue patient ID cards to protect the legal status of patients.

Governor Maggie Hassan opposes issuing patient ID cards until the treatment centers are up and running, which could be another year or more. The operators of these up-and-coming establishments certainly have their work cut out for them. In the meantime, here’s the list of the coveted new treatment centers:

  • Prime Alternative Treatments Centers of NH (Merrimac, Hillsborough counties)
  • Sanctuary ATC (Grafton, Carroll, Coos counties)
  • Temescal Wellness (Seacoast, Monadnock, Upper Valley counties)

 

SOUTH DAKOTA

A Native American tribe in South Dakota, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, just announced that they will be cultivating and selling cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes by January 1, 2016. The tribe’s council just approved the decision, which will allow cannabis to be grown and sold on a single, indoor site on the reservation. This is following a federal mandate allowing tribes the power to grow and sell cannabis on their own reservations under certain conditions.

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe already owns and operates a casino on their land and are looking at a business operation that allows a new source of revenue to develop housing, build an addiction treatment center, and improve a local clinic. This could be a new and lucrative opportunity for many reservations across the U.S. Will any others follow suit?

 

International Updates

CANADA

The City of Vancouver is pushing a controversial new ban on cannabis-infused edible products, despite the recent Supreme Court ruling that allows patient access to edibles. Many officials stated that they were concerned that the appeal of edibles to children may increase the number of children “poisoned” by such products, saying, “unregulated edible products pose a greater risk to adults than other forms of marijuana.”

There’s really quite a simple solution to this problem – regulate them! Regulations on the manufacturing of edibles, the amount of THC allowed per product, and ensuring that the packaging is clearly labeled and childproof will help improve the entire Canadian cannabis industry and ensure that patients who need or prefer the lasting effects of edibles as their medicine have access to it.

The silver lining? Vancouver did rule to allow cannabis oils and concentrates.

 

COLOMBIA

Colombia is one of the biggest drug producers in the world and is often ground zero for a negative, violent, illegal drug trade, but the country’s lawmakers are looking to change that through the legalization of marijuana. Legislators are already moving forward with a proposal for medical marijuana legalization led by Senator Roy Barreras of the city of Cali, known as a violent backdrop of southwestern Colombia. Sen. Barreras wants to take the market out of the hands of dangerous local drug gangs and allow law enforcement to confront a long-standing drug problem, saying that he truly believes that prohibition, not drugs, is fueling the prevalent gang violence. ¡Bienvenidos al futuro, Colombia!

 

MEXICO

In a twist of events too strange to be foreseen, Mexican drug cartels, previously one of the largest sources of marijuana in the United States, are now requesting and actively seeking legal, American-grown cannabis. The growing trend of cannabis legalization has been hurting business for the cartels, dropping the price of their cash crop to pennies on the dollar, and now connoisseurs in Juarez are requesting Purple Haze and Purple Kush, high-quality cannabis that is available legally in the American market. Since the wave of legalization began spreading in the U.S., many cartels have been turning to harder drugs, such as meth and heroin, and, actually, even growing vegetables to sustain their business. That’s right, the cartels are turning to subsidized tomatoes over marijuana as a cash crop.