What's the latest in cannabis legalization? In the U.S., Minnesota’s medical marijuana program is making a slow rollout while Oregon just finalized its plan for recreational implementation, which means sales could start sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, in Canada, Vancouver votes for regulation — check out the news that's been making waves this past week:
Congress recently considered two amendments on a Department of Justice spending bill – one that would protect states that have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, and one that would protect recreational states. Unfortunately, only the amendment to protect medical states passed, leaving recreational states vulnerable to a crackdown from the Department of Justice (if they felt so inclined). The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment prohibits the Department of Justice from spending federal funding to raid compliant medical cannabis businesses. A similar proposal, the McClintock-Polis amendment, would have protected states with legalized recreational markets, but unfortunately, the proposed amendment failed by a slim margin.
Since Georgia passed a law legalizing the use and possession of cannabis oil for medicinal purposes, physicians have been speaking out and saying they're uneasy making recommendations when certain children experience an adverse reaction to the treatment. One of the biggest concerns has been the quality of the product being administered, as many cannabis oils come from unregulated sources and, without proper testing, could contain any number of contaminants. Georgia’s spokesman and sponsor of the law, Representative Allen Peake (R-Macon), has reassured these fears, saying that parents and patients will have access to two sources of quality-controlled, tested products being manufactured out of state.
A bill to decriminalize the use and possession of cannabis has already passed swimmingly through both the House and Senate and is now headed to Governor Bruce Rauner. With the state's medical cannabis program gaining traction, this bill is considered to be “low-hanging fruit” for Rauner. The bill is projected to reduce the prison population by 25 percent over a number of years. It would also reduce the penalties for possession of up to 15 grams with a civil fine between $55 and $125, and all simple possession charges would be expunged after six months.
Minnesota’s medical program is making a slow rollout, with the state opening dispensaries in Eagan and Minneapolis and eventually opening another six across the state. Qualified patients must pay a $200 registration fee and make an appointment to gain access to the medicine. The program has been criticized for not allowing enough conditions, as well as restricting the methods of consumption to pills, oils, and vaporizers. If you’re in Minnesota, you can find more information on becoming a registered patients here.
After months of negotiations and revisions, the Oregon legislature was able to cement the final framework and regulations for the state's new legal recreational cannabis market. House Bill 3400 is expected to be signed into law by the Governor this week. The marijuana sales tax was approved at 17 percent, with an additional local tax of up to 3 percent per jurisdiction. The legislature also repealed the previous harvest tax of $35 per ounce.
This bill also creates a seed-to-sale tracking system, reduces penalties for certain drug-related offenses, and will also expunge the records of those with cannabis convictions. The final touches come just in time for July 1st's recreational cannabis debut for Oregon. With the final plans in place, recreational sales may be coming to Oregon sooner rather than later, with some predicting a debut date of as soon as October 1.
Since Senate Bill 3, a measure to legalize medical marijuana, stalled in the House Health committee with no movement in weeks, Pennsylvania Representative Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) will be introducing an alternative medical cannabis bill. The bill would allow the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to oversee the production of five organizations to grow, process, and distribute medical cannabis to qualified patients. Rep. Marsico says that he feels this bill is a good compromise and will hopefully gain some traction with the Pennsylvania Congress.
Washington lawmakers just voted to reorganize the recreational sales tax, striking down the three-tiered approach and electing instead to impose a single 37 percent excise tax at the retail point of sale. Under the newly passed medical reform bill, qualified patients will be exempt from sales tax but not from the excise tax.
Within days of Canada’s highest court ruling that the ban on cannabis oils and concentrates was unconstitutional, the city of Vancouver in British Columbia voted to regulate medical cannabis dispensaries. Medical cannabis is legally supposed to be distributed solely through Health Canada’s Licensed Producer program, but many dispensaries are continuing to operate. City authorities have chosen not to crack down on the dispensaries, keeping it a lower priority, but Federal Health Minister Rena Ambrose is not pleased with the outcome – she ordered the council to vote down the policy and the police to enforce the law.
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