Politics 

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

Alabama Introduces the Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act: The Leafly Cannabis Legalization Update

From the Heart of Dixie to the Lone Star State, from sea to shining sea, the tide is turning towards marijuana legalization and we’re on the front lines. Here’s the latest in cannabis legalization news:

 

U.S. Updates

ALABAMA

The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act (Senate Bill 326) was introduced by Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) to be joined by a companion bill in the House, coming soon courtesy of Representative John Rogers (D-Birmingham). The bill is shockingly comprehensive, approving 25 qualifying medical conditions and allowing patients to purchase between 2.5 and 16 ounces of cannabis from state-regulated dispensaries (overseen by the Department of Agriculture). Additionally, patients could apply for an individual license to cultivate their own plants. If you live in the Heart of Dixie and you want to support the Alabama Medical Marijuana Safe Access Act, sign the petition here!

 

ALASKA

Recently the Alaska House of Representatives passed House Bill 75 to help define the municipalities' role in regulating marijuana businesses. The House Community & Regional Affairs Committee worked on the bill, which essentially gives municipalities the same rights and jurisdiction for cannabis as alcohol. It allows towns and villages the authority to place bans on cannabis just as they can with alcohol. The bill also clarifies the number of plants, setting the limit of 24 plants per household of three or more adults, which is higher than what the initiative specified at 12 plants per household. The bill goes on to the Senate for consideration. Every step is another step closer to retail cannabis shops!

 

ARIZONA

The Arizona Supreme Court handed down two rulings that bar the courts and prosecutors from denying medical marijuana patients access to the drug, even if they are under probation. In one case, a man had been convicted of selling cannabis and was forbidden from using cannabis while on probation. Another case had a woman who refused to accept a plea agreement if she was forbidden to use cannabis as part of the terms of her probation. Both defendants were card-carrying medical marijuana patients. The Supreme Court ruled that these defendants had the right to use cannabis for their respective medical conditions. Yay for ruling in favor of patient rights!

 

CALIFORNIA

Due to a severe ongoing drought, California’s State Water Board has released a new campaign to protect sensitive watersheds by encouraging would-be cannabis cultivators to “Know Before You Grow.” In an unprecedented move, they’ve also provided guidelines on allowable pesticides for cannabis grow-ops: no illegal pesticides, no “restricted materials,” apply for a pesticide permit with the County Agriculture Commission (with monthly follow-up reports), and make sure to protect your workers with training and proper equipment. If you’re a California grower, be safe, be smart, and conserve your water!

 

ILLINOIS

Illinois residents are trying to expand the state's medical marijuana program before it’s even started! Petitioners filled 269 pages of signatures asking the state to add 20 more qualifying medical conditions to the medical marijuana program, including anxiety, insomnia, migraines, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Illinois Department of Public Health must approve these additions based on the recommendation of an advisory board after a public hearing on May 4th. The petitioners cited many well-known medical studies as evidence in favor of including additional medical conditions, but U.S. research is limited by federal constraints. The chairman of the board offered a wise quote on the situation: “Where science is lacking, we must factor in our compassion more heavily.” Hear hear!

 

KANSAS

State officials gathered at the polls in Wichita Friday to encourage voters to vote NO on a local, city-wide ordinance that would reduce the penalty for first-time offenders of cannabis possession to a civil fine of $50, rather than a fine of $2,500 and a year in jail (which is the current penalty – ouch!). The ordinance would apply to residents of Wichita only and would not supersede state law, which seems to be the major concern of Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who has been most vocal in protesting the proposal. Despite officials' efforts, however, voters approved easing penalties for possessing small amounts of cannabis, with 54% voting in favor of the ordinance. Hurray!

 

MICHIGAN

Michigan held its 44th Annual Hash Bash in Ann Arbor last weekend and it was more than just a festive affair – it was the official announcement of State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) introducing his own initiative to legalize cannabis in Michigan. His announcement was well received by the crowds at Hash Bash, but it’s going to be a fierce battle – there are two other groups eyeing petition drives for signatures supporting the divided legalization efforts. Rep. Irwin’s initiative would allow residents to cultivate their own cannabis, would not change the current medical marijuana laws, and would allow retail cannabis shops with a lower tax rate in an effort to break up the black market.

 

MISSOURI

A Republican lawmaker has come up with a new tax stamp that would be applicable on all cannabis, as well as other drugs. The bill would not legalize possession or decriminalize the possession of cannabis, but if a dealer is caught selling cannabis without a tax stamp, he or she would face additional fines. Hmmm, this seems like a new and interesting (albeit weird) way for the state to benefit financially from cannabis. Hey Missouri, how's about you start seeing those sweet, sweet dollar $ign$ from legalization instead?

 

RHODE ISLAND

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services heard testimony for a bill that would expand Rhode Island’s qualifying medical marijuana conditions to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If the bill passes, it will be the first mental health-related issue that has been allowed under the state’s medical marijuana law. The committee heard testimony from many community members, including firefighters and veterans who would benefit from the law. However, the committee did not vote on the bill, instead motioning to consider the language about who can write a prescription to treat PTSD with cannabis. If all goes well, there may be a few more people joining the 10,000+ patients accessing Rhode Island's medical cannabis program!

 

TENNESSEE

The Tennessee House Speaker, Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), said that while she supports the direction the state is heading towards the eventual legalization of medical cannabis in some form, the bills currently being debated need more work before they should face a vote. There are two bills related to medical cannabis up for debate: one is proposed by Representative Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) and would allow cannabis oil for seizure disorders, and another by Representatives Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) and Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) that would allow cannabis oil and would also establish a system for growing, processing, and distributing the oil.

 

TEXAS

The many referendums for marijuana on the docket saw their day in Texas courts. First, a decriminalization measure to reduce the penalties for cannabis down to $100 was touted by three Democrats in Texas Legislature. That measure was followed by the boldest (and easily the strangest) of the proposed measures, the only measure to propose outright legalization to be taxed in the same vein as tomatoes or other crops, but using the Bible and a religious argument in favor of legalization. Do any of them have a fighting chance? Based on Governor Greg Abbott’s past anti-cannabis stance, the outlook is not so good.

 

WASHINGTON

There’s good news and there’s bad news. First, great news for the Washington recreational marijuana scene! In addition to the surplus of cannabis causing a slow descent of prices, now the Washington Senate has passed Senate Bill 6062 to remove the 25% excise tax on both producers and processors, which means the only remaining excise tax is 25% at the retail tier. The bill is still up for consideration by the House, but this should put a significant dent in the cripplingly high prices seen at local retail establishments. Wahoo! Time to pay a visit to your friendly neighborhood retail cannabis shop, dontcha think?

Unfortunately, this update comes on the heels of some potentially bad news for medical marijuana patients. Senate Bill 5052 is poised to close certain dispensaries if they do not adhere to new licensing and business regulations, create a highly-contested patient registry, and reduce the legal possession amounts for patients. Senator Ann Rivers (R-La Center) recognized the resentment with her quote, “You know you’ve got a perfect bill when no one’s 100 percent happy.” We’re all in favor of finding a solution for uniting the tightly-controlled recreational side and the loosey-goosey medical side (where regulations are but a dream), but please, let’s make sure we’ve got the best interests of the patients in mind here!

 

International Updates

CANADA

A new medical marijuana clinic is opening in Alberta that is designed to help patients negotiate around the strict and often confusing rules for Health Canada’s federal medical marijuana program. Currently, medical marijuana patients must acquire their cannabis from federally licensed producers, but the regulations prohibit LPs from discussing the strains of cannabis they specialize in (or what medical symptoms they treat). This will be the first clinic to guide patients through the process of gaining an Authorization To Possess (ATP), getting registered with licensed producers, and what course of treatment is best for the patient. The 420 Clinic will be opening in Calgary, Alberta, and will not be prescribing or selling any cannabis onsite, but they're hoping to inform and assist patients.

 

CHILE

Chile just harvested the first crop of medical cannabis for the government-approved medical marijuana pilot program. About 850 cannabis crops were planted in October 2014 from seeds imported from the Netherlands. Officials are planning to process the cannabis into an extracted oil, to be distributed to about 200 patients nationwide. Although cannabis is technically illegal, Chilean lawmakers are considering a measure that would legalize the planting and cultivating of up to six plants for personal use. ¡Buena onda!