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

Cities Facing Penalization for Pungent Cannabis: The Leafly Cannabis Legalization Update

This week has brought incredible news for the United States – a proposed bill would completely overhaul medical marijuana in the country and, with bipartisan support, things are looking up! Advocates everywhere are stepping up their efforts for recreational cannabis after watching victories in Alaska and Oregon, and these next few months could be crucial in the quest to end prohibition (although Oregon may be in hot water over the admittedly pungent aroma that is permeating one city). Here’s the good, the bad, and the stinky news for this week:

 

U.S. Updates

NATIONAL

In epically-awesome, doesn’t-get-any-better-than-that news, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act of 2015, which would reduce cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug and revolutionize the medical marijuana industry. Since announcing the bill, another Republican senator (Dean Heller, R-Nevada) has come forward to co-sponsor it as well, evening the bill's bipartisanship. 

 

ALASKA

Senate Bill 30, which has been an ongoing piece of legislation intended to regulate the burgeoning recreational cannabis market, reinstates cannabis as a controlled substance, redefines what is considered an “open container,” and outlines which crimes could be considered felonies. Critics of the bill have been outspoken about their disappointment in the revisions, which include making possession of over one pound of cannabis a felony, even in your own home. The bill outlines what is legal, with anything outside of those bounds considered a misdemeanor or felony.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has been hearing public testimony on the bill all week before making any more revisions, although there has been a lot of back-and-forth debate about whether or not to reschedule cannabis. Stay tuned to see what happens next!

 

CALIFORNIA

California cannabis advocates can only agree on one thing: they want to legalize cannabis recreationally. Beyond that, there’s a four-way battle between competing groups to get recreational cannabis on the ballot for the 2016 general election. The group for the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act of 2014 couldn’t get enough signatures for the 2014 election, and they’ve said they’re pushing for a 2016 bid.

Another group for the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative has been pushing for a 2016 bid, but based on their track record of trying and failing to get initiatives on the ballot for 2010, 2012, and 2014, they might struggle to make the 2016 ballot as well. Additionally, a northern California lawyer, Omar Figueroa, has submitted the California Artisan Cannabis Initiative 2016, which should appeal to the more upscale California cannabis connoisseurs and would protect smaller farmers from being bulldozed by big business.

However, the award for Most Credible Recreational Bid goes to the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (ReformCA), a conglomeration of many renowned cannabis companies including NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Drug Policy Alliance. None of the groups have submitted language for an initiative, which is due by July 7th to have enough time for gathering signatures. Game on, Cali!

 

COLORADO

Colorado retail sales soared in January, with an increase of 153% and a grand total of…wait for it…..$3.5 million, or roughly 1/5th of the revenue for the entire year of 2014. Holy crapola, Colorado! 2015 is already off to a great start!

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.

The D.C. City Council is taking a step further in snubbing Congressional attempts to shut down recreational cannabis by exploring ways to use the city’s emergency funds to implement a regulatory framework for the new retail marijuana system. Congress used their omnibus bill to declare government funding off-limits for the implementation of recreational marijuana, but city officials have taken it upon themselves to find new, creative solutions as a workaround and contingency funds appear to be an option. Initiative 71 does not allow for recreational shops, but council members have stated that they would like regulate the buying and selling of cannabis as a source of revenue.

 

IOWA

Efforts to expand access to medical marijuana in Iowa (which currently has a limited CBD-oil law) won preliminary approval in the Iowa Senate. The law outlines a plan for state-run dispensaries to provide medical cannabis products for patients with certain chronic illnesses, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. The CBD-oil law, which went into effect this year, did not establish an in-state program for the production and distribution of cannabis oil to qualifying patients, and this law aims to fix that.

 

MARYLAND

Senator Jamie Raskin and Representative Curt Anderson recently introduced House Bill 911 (Senate Bill 531), or the Marijuana Control and Revenue Act of 2015. That’s right, folks – Maryland is playing their hand at a chance for recreational marijuana. The bill would repeal portions of the Maryland Criminal Law related to marijuana and establish a regulatory framework for a new recreational market. Personal quantities would be set at one ounce of flower, five grams of hashish, 16 ounces of edible products, or 72 ounces of liquid extracts for adults over the age of 21, and the bill would also create an excise tax on sales and cultivation.

Maryland has my best wishes, but let’s see if the state can establish some medical marijuana guidelines first, mmkay?

 

MICHIGAN

The Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative Committee is planning a petition drive to garner support and at least 250,000 signatures in order to make it on to the 2016 general election ballot. The committee is chaired by Jeffrey Hank, a Lansing attorney who has said that the language of the bill (which is still in the works) would allow for the cultivation of up to 12 plants and dedicate tax revenues toward public interest projects such as road repairs and local schools.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has repeatedly opposed legalization efforts, despite the fact that a reported 50% of Michigan voters support the legalization and taxation of cannabis.

 

NEVADA

Nevada has officially secured a recreational legalization bid for the 2016 general election! This measure would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older. Nevada state lawmakers had the opportunity to act on the initiative in 2015 (which had already gathered nearly twice the required number of signatures), but failed to take action, landing the initiative a secured spot on the ballot for 2016 and putting the decision in the hands of the voters. Based on the turnout to sign the petition, this initiative is looking mighty promising!

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

The New Hampshire House voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that decriminalizes the possession of a half-ounce or less of cannabis, making it a civil offense similar to a parking ticket. This is the sixth time that the New Hampshire House has voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis, but this measure received the most votes in favor by far, with a majority consisting of just under 300 votes. Supporters of cannabis in the state say that this is a sign of the changing times and attitudes towards cannabis, not just at a state-level but at a national level, too. About time!

 

OREGON

The Oregon city of Medford is putting up a stink about the smelly business of cannabis (hyuk, hyuk, hyuk). But seriously, the legal staff of Medford is drafting an ordinance that would fine medical and recreational growing businesses whose operations are too malodorous, and the fines are hefty – $250 a day. In addition, it would give the city the power to seize the plants if the growers are not in compliance.

With recreational legalization coming into effect in July, Medford’s agriculture (which is already fairly inundated with medical marijuana) is likely to see more cannabis growers in the coming months as the market grows. Maybe they could use some of the revenue to create a cannabis district on the outskirts of the city? Just my two scents…

 

TENNESSEE

A new proposed cannabis oil bill from Representative Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) passed through the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, overcoming the first legislative hurdle on the way towards the finish line, albeit with some minor changes. The bill will continue on to the full House Criminal Committee, whose chairman William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) has stated his support for the measure.

 

TEXAS

House Bill 2165, a new bill from strongly conservative, Republican Representative David Simpson, has surprised many in the Texas community, but, once again, it highlights the shift in perception towards cannabis that has been sweeping the nation. This bill is a little bit different than many proposed bills, as it would legalize and tax cannabis like tomatoes and other agricultural products rather than medicinally or recreationally, which has been the focus of previous legislation.

Rep. Simpson said that his decision was somewhat based on his spirituality and belief that cannabis, as a plant, should be considered as part of God’s creation. Whether we tax it like tomatoes or like alcohol, let’s just make sure it gets legalized, shall we?

 

UTAH

Utah’s Republican-controlled Senate rejected a bill that would have allowed patients with chronic or debilitating diseases to consume edible medical marijuana products, with a slim majority opposing the measure. It may be a blessing in disguise, as the measure would have forbidden the smoking of cannabis in favor of allowing businesses to sell cannabis-infused products and edibles. Legislators have expressed concerns over setting up the state to be in conflict with the federal government, but if the CARERS Act passes, it’s a total non-issue, Utah!

 

WASHINGTON

Washington’s Senate unanimously passed a measure that adds PTSD to the list of medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. Now Senate Bill 5379 is headed to the House for consideration. Just one more reason to love this state!

Meanwhile, certain cannabis companies in Seattle received warning letters from the Food & Drug Administration this week regarding high-CBD health products intended for pets, although not for the reasons you might think. The FDA has taken issue with the marketing claims that the products help with symptoms of cancer, dementia, and asthma. With a government-sanctioned drug-approval process, claims that a substance may help with medical symptoms is problematic, although it is promising that the FDA did not target CBD as an ingredient, choosing the marketing dilemma as a soft target.

If these companies revise their marketing strategies, it sounds like the FDA will not make an attempt to shut these companies down, which is great news if you’ve got a pooch in need of CBD medicine.

 

International Updates

CANADA  

Mississauga City Council will be voting on legislation that would require regulations for growing operations in regards to location, safety, and – surprise, surprise – odor control, the latter of which seems to be the recurring theme of the week. The medical marijuana industry in Canada is booming in recent years, which means that it’s only going to get smellier from here on out. The new bylaws governing grow operations would also allow surrounding businesses to file complaints on the smell to the city, but there’s no word on whether these businesses will be forced to relocate.