The legislative session is in full swing, and as per the not-so-subtle suggestion of President Obama, we’re seeing a clear trend of more and more states considering decriminalization in addition to legalization efforts. Here’s what's been happening in legalization efforts both domestic and international:
Medical marijuana sales tripled in 2014, according to the latest report from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Dispensaries sold more than nine metric tons of cannabis, with an estimated gross revenue of $110 million. Broken down, the average Arizona patient bought about 166 grams over the year. Wow, $110 million just in medical cannabis sales! Just think, if Arizona legalized recreational cannabis, as it has been proposed, the revenue produced from legal cannabis sales would be huge (and might help solve a few border patrol issues along the way…).
Governor Hickenlooper, despite his claims to support the will of the voters, has repeatedly made remarks in opposition to the legalization that was voted into effect in 2012. His latest statements are that the state’s decision to legalize cannabis was “a bad idea,” and that Colorado should have waited several years until the realities of legalized recreational cannabis were more well-known. This, despite the millions of dollars generated in revenue, the 16,000 jobs created to boost the Colorado economy, and the widely agreed upon success of Colorado’s first year in legalized cannabis. Sigh. I guess he just doesn’t like being on the forefront of a revolution. It’s a good thing governors can’t retroactively reverse elected decisions.
State Representative Allen Peake, after having the majority of his previous medical cannabis bill stripped and shut down by Governor Nathan Deal, is coming back with a vengeance and it seems he will not take “no” for an answer. The bill he plans to introduce is very similar but even broader, allowing in-state growth and cultivation, manufacture, and sale of cannabis oil with low THC levels for patients suffering from cancer, seizure disorders, and other chronic ailments. Will Governor Deal or no deal?
Hawaiian lawmakers are introducing a series of bills that will make cannabis more readily accessible in the islands. Senator Will Espero is introducing a bill to decriminalize the possession of cannabis, making it a civil violation similar to a parking ticket. Espero will be introducing two other bills as well – Senate Bill 190 would allow cannabis growers to serve up to three medical patients at a time (up from the current one-patient-at-a-time policy) and to reclassify cannabis, which is currently in Classification 1, on par with heroin. In the House, House Bill 31 would prohibit discrimination against medical marijuana use in condominiums and housing complexes. Clearly, Hawaiian lawmakers are making access to medical marijuana an increasingly high priority. Mahalo!
Maine legislators have been busy! There are at least 15 bills being considered this year regarding cannabis, including a measure to tax and regulate cannabis like alcohol in Maine. State Representative Diane Russell is sponsoring five pieces of cannabis legislation, including the latest attempt to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The other bills update the language in current laws, allow registered dispensaries to be for-profit, and increase the number of patients allowed to be served by a caregiver. One of the more controversial bills would set the legal limit on the amount of THC allowed in the bloodstream, similar to measures already in place in Washington and Colorado. It should be a pretty exciting time for Maine this year – will they be able to legalize in the whole state, rather than just one city?
A number of bills are anticipated in the Montana Legislature this year, from possible decriminalization to the potential ban of medical marijuana. State Senator Mary Caferro stated, “I wanted to do a legalization of marijuana bill, but I didn’t have the energy.” Hopefully, she’s not fighting a losing battle! On the other side, Senator David Howard is pushing a bill that would make illegal all drugs that are listed as Schedule I of the Federal Controlled Substance Act. Montana recently saw a resurgence in the medical marijuana scene, so if you disagree with banning medical marijuana, contact Senator Howard and let him know!
You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard the spectacular news that Senator Liz Krueger has introduced a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in New York. Unfortunately, she recently admitted that she has no misgivings that the bill is unlikely to pass considering the current political climate and New York's current governor, who has been digging in his heels against the implementation of medical marijuana. But no matter! We’re thinking positively over here and are still hoping the bill will pass.
A Pennsylvania professor just received $8 million in funding from Colorado for medical marijuana research as a treatment for PTSD. There will be two different studies, both with a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder. One will consist of 76 participants who have been diagnosed with PTSD, and will be treated with three different strains, using questionnaires to measure effects over the course of six months. The other study is largely observational and will consist of 150 participants, half of whom have a history of cannabis use, to be paired with those who have no history of cannabis use. The study will track and compare progress over the course of a year. PTSD is a serious issue and this study could be a big step forward in definitive, measurable data that cannabis is a beneficial treatment for suffers.
Two members of the GOP announced they are filing bills to legalize the use of cannabis oil to treat intractable epilepsy. Senate Bill 339 and House Bill 892 would regulate the growth and distribution of CBD oil which would not contain more than .5% THC and not less than 10% CBD. This bill is not being released in conjunction with the previously announced plans to submit consecutive bills to change Texas cannabis policy. Everything’s bigger in Texas, including legalization efforts!
Virginia is pushing several cannabis-related bills. Senator Adam Ebbin has introduced a decriminalization measure which would reduce the penalties for the possession of small amounts of cannabis down to a civil fine. Virginia Parents for Medical Marijuana have been working with legislators for a bill that would legalize cannabis oil for seizure disorders, and while lobbying for the bill, one of the children who would benefit from the law actually had a seizure caused by Dravet’s Syndrome in front of the General Assembly. The time is now.
Lawmakers will be discussing whether adults with misdemeanor convictions for cannabis should have their charges thrown out on the grounds that they were over the age of 21 at the time. The House’s Public Safety Committee is considering the bill, which, if it passes, would clear the record immediately, rather than waiting the standard three years the way other misdemeanors are expunged.
The father of a terminally ill two year-old girl is facing criminal charges for giving his daughter cannabis oil (without any psychoactive properties) for her stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer. He saw immediate improvements in her health, giving her energy and increased appetite. Unfortunately, the man was arrested and his daughter has declined in health, now in intensive care on harsh painkillers. This story is yet another example of how medical marijuana legalization would improve Australian lives and relieve the suffering of thousands.
Jamaica is considering a bill that would legalize the possession, production, and use of cannabis for medicinal and religious purposes, as well as decriminalizing the personal use and possession of cannabis, so long as you stay away from public consumption. We're rooting for you, Jamaica!