This week of legalization news brings some fierce fighters for cannabis. Delaware shows us that size doesn’t matter when it comes to progress, and Florida’s freedom fighters will not back down from the challenge of legalizing medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. Australia’s got some friends in high places, but can they make medical cannabis happen Down Under? Here’s the latest cannabis legalization news:
U.S. Cannabis Updates
Delaware’s attitude towards cannabis is changing at a rapid rate – not only did the state open its first medical marijuana dispensary in June and quietly decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of cannabis in January, but last month Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 138 into law, which will allow for expanded research on the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Some big moves for a small state!
Florida marijuana proponents keep pushing on and will not be dissuaded. State Representative Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) re-filed a bill to allow the use of cannabis for medical reasons. Steube’s bill would allow use of non-smokeable forms of cannabis for various medical conditions, including cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis, and terminal illnesses.
This bill is much more comprehensive than both the limited CBD bill that passed last year and the medical marijuana initiative that was on the ballot for the 2014 general election (which nearly won with 58% of the vote, although 60% is needed in order to amend the Florida constitution). United For Care, the group behind the campaign, has created a new constitutional amendment and submitted 100,000 signatures for the initiative to be placed on the 2016 ballot, which is nearly 30,000 more signatures than necessary.
Montana’s medical marijuana industry has been through the wringer. After legalizing cannabis for medical use in 2004, the state's medical marijuana industry boomed. At its peak, the program had 30,000 patients and 4,900 doctors – impressive figures for a state with a population under a million.
However, in the years since, the opposition grew and began to raid establishments with the cooperation of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Several major changes to the allowable symptoms mean that patients don’t know if they’ll have a medical marijuana card from one year to the next, and multiple bills have crossed the governor’s desk that would nullify the program entirely. Will Montana be able to save its medical marijuana program?
Ohio’s proposal for recreational cannabis legalization has officially made it onto the ballot for the general election this November. After turning in nearly 700,000 signatures, Ohio election officials found that 400,000 signatures were false and gave the campaign 10 days to collect the remaining signatures. The campaign succeeded, turning in 95,000 signatures and raising the total to 320,000 – far above the 305,591 signatures necessary to get the initiative on the ballot.
However, the legalization campaign has been widely criticized for creating a monopoly among its wealthy investors, an issue that the Ohio legislature is seeking to fix with another initiative that would ban monopolies.
Texas’ up-and-coming medical CBD program is one step closer to selecting a grower to produce medical-grade cannabis for use in treating certain seizure disorders. The low-THC, high-CBD oil will be extracted from plants grown by firms hired, licensed, and overseen by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Final regulations are expected to be released in December 2015 with the expectation that the program will be operational by September 2017.
International Cannabis Updates
A parliamentary committee is backing a plan to make medical cannabis available to Australians. The Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee recommended the bill by the Greens to set up a regulator of medical cannabis, and was sponsored by Senator Ian MacDonals, Labor Senator Anne Urquart, and Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leynhjlm. This regulator would be “responsible for formulating rules for licensing the production, manufacture, supply, use, experimental research and import/export of medicinal cannabis.”
The committee unanimously recommended passing the bill, with amendments to ensure scientific validity for treatments and to make sure that products are available in line with international obligations.
An interesting assessment of medical marijuana patients in Canada found that cannabis users tend to pay a higher price for life insurance because they are technically considered to be “smokers” regardless of whether or not they smoke their cannabis. Smokers can pay twice as much as non-smokers, despite the fact that using vaporizers or edible products don’t carry nearly the health risks that come from smoking tobacco.
The United States has run into this problem as well, but many companies are changing their policies as cannabis policies continue to evolve state-by-state. “The only way carriers are going to change is by consumers voicing their opinions,” said Syed Raza of LSM Insurance.