Politics 

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

What Are Wisconsin’s Chances of Passing its New Marijuana Legalization Bill? The Leafly Cannabis Legalization Update

Happy 420, everyone! Today is a day for celebration, to commemorate how far we’ve come in cannabis progress, and to inspire us all moving forward. This week brings reexamination of policy for the cannabis industry, particularly in relation to federal banking and the New Jersey bar association. Georgia legislature took an enormous step forward by legalizing the use of cannabis oil, while the Idaho legislature took a step backward with their cannabis policy. Stay informed with the latest in cannabis legalization news:

 

U.S. Updates

CALIFORNIA

Two years ago, Los Angeles voters passed Proposition D, which imposed strict regulations on medical marijuana clinics. At the time, 700 clinics were operating in the city limits. Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer estimates that 500 of those clinics have since been closed, leaving about 120 clinics that meet the guidelines, but the city is constantly reevaluating the regulations. The California cannabis scene is in for some major changes before recreational can become a reality!

 

COLORADO

A House committee voted to make it a felony to use explosive gases to make hash oil at home, a move designed to increase safety measures after a string of explosions and injuries resulting from amateur hash oil production. There were at least 30 people in Colorado who were injured last year while trying to make hash oil, which can be a dangerous endeavor due to the use of butane or propane gas to separate the psychoactive material from the plants. The gases can pool and collect, and the slightest spark can set it off, triggering a severe explosion. Thanks for making the cannabis world a little safer, Colorado!

 

GEORGIA

After a long and tumultuous journey, Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 1, known as the Haleigh’s Hope Act, into law. There were many in attendance, including families touched by the disorders specified in the new law. Emotions were running high – Representative Allen Peake, who authored the bill, and Governor Deal both fought tears while discussing the impact of the bill.

Unfortunately, the bill does not offer specifications on where to acquire medicine. A company in Colorado has tentatively agreed to send cannabis extracts to Georgia, but, since the drug is not FDA-approved, it faces federal restrictions for transporting or being sent across state lines. Legalizing cannabis oil was a big step forward, but the journey is not over for Georgia yet!

 

HAWAII

Hawaiian legislators are facing down a deadline to finalize several bills, including House Bill 321 HD1 SD1, a measure to create a system of medical marijuana dispensaries for patients. The Senate has already passed the measure, and now the House and Senate must work together to draft rules and regulations (always a time-consuming and troublesome process). There are currently 13,000 patients on the islands who are mostly left to home cultivation or the black market. The bill would allow one license per county that permits two dispensary locations and one cultivation site.

 

IDAHO

In a move that saddened supporters and maddened advocates, Governor Butch Otter decided to veto a cannabis oil bill that would have allowed a low-THC cannabis extract to be used to treat certain disorders, particularly certain seizure disorders that are prevalent in children. Governor Otter instead said he would issue an executive order for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to study and possibly start an expanded research program on treatment-resistant epilepsy in children. It’s mind-boggling that instead of embracing treatment that’s been proven effective, Otter opts to delay progress while children needlessly suffer.

 

ILLINOIS

In an unexpected turn of events, the CEO for one of the companies who had applied for a medical marijuana cultivation permit died while his company was in the process of suing the state. Andrew James, who was also an attorney, served as the CEO for PMRx. The company sued the state of Illinois after being rejected on the basis that the committee wasn’t following their own licensing guidelines when scoring applicants. James was reportedly quite passionate about medical marijuana access, as evidenced by his legal fight to cultivate.

 

MARYLAND

Talk about playing catch-up! Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley signed a medical marijuana initiative into law almost exactly one year ago, but the Maryland General Assembly repealed the prohibition on cannabis paraphernalia. The Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission to implement a medical marijuana program has been delayed while hearing public testimony and updating regulations, the latest draft of which was released March 20, 2015. Medical marijuana legalized? Check. Cannabis decriminalized? Check. Paraphernalia decriminalization? Check and check. Now can we get some safe access?

 

NEVADA

A measure to allow pet owners to treat their pets with cannabis as recommended by their veterinarian has died after the bill’s sponsor noted that the bill had become “too humorous.” It’s true – the piece of legislation became the butt of many jokes and punchlines, which was an unintended consequence for Senator Richard “Tick” Segerblom (D-Las Vegas). “Rather than let people make fun of it, let’s move on,” he said. He also noted that if recreational marijuana is legalized in 2016 (as it is expected to), treating pets with cannabis will be a non-issue – no bones about it!

 

NEW JERSEY

The Compassionate Care Foundation, one of a very limited number of medical marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey, is facing off in court against claims that the company blocked employees from joining unions. With charges pending from the National Labor Relations Board, the dispensary owner, David Knowlton, can’t find a lawyer due to major incongruent differences between state and federal laws.

State bar associations in states like Colorado and Nevada have altered their rules to permit attorneys to council clients involved in the cannabis industry, as long as they are advising their clients on strict compliance with the state law. New Jersey’s bar association makes no such amendments, and professional conduct advises lawyers not to advise or assist clients to engage in conduct a lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent, putting any potential lawyers in an ethical bind. This case could set a major precedent for cannabis on a federal level – can Knowlton find a lawyer to represent him?

 

OREGON

MBank, the first and only bank to embrace the legalized cannabis industry, will be shutting down its cannabis accounts. When asked for comment, CEO Jef Banker said that the company did not “have the resources to manage the compliance needed for this industry.” MBank reportedly has $165 million in assets and simply wasn’t big enough to handle the government regulations imposed on businesses operating in the cannabis industry. This country’s economy has everything to gain from cannabis legalization – we need to update federal banking policy to accommodate legal canna-businesses!

 

WASHINGTON

Controversy in cannabis town! Certain Washington cannabis producers have been accused of “spiking” their testing samples with extra hash and kief to increase the THC content listed in their testing data. Growers receive a higher fee for their crop if they have a higher THC percentage, which provides an incentive for test tampering. Some crops have been reported to have THC content of 30-40%, an impossibly high number. Another possibility is that the producers are cherry-picking the product sent to labs – the best buds get inspected, but don’t reflect the rest of the crop. The Washington State Liquor Board has started a new “secret shopper” type program, testing retail cannabis at an independent lab to ensure the accuracy of the testing data.

 

WISCONSIN

Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) introduced a law to legalize the use of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. Unfortunately, it appears unlikely that the bill will take hold in the staunchly conservative state, as Republicans control both chambers and there has been minimal support thus far. The bill would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to a half ounce of cannabis and would put a 25% excise tax on regulated producers, processors, and retailers. Rep. Sargent introduced a similar bill during the last legislative session – how’s that for tenacity?

 

International Updates

AUSTRALIA

Ever since the New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced a $9 million clinical trial of medicinal cannabis in December, he has been inundated with pleas from families in similar predicaments, begging for a similar trial to be conducted in Queensland. After being moved by the plight of the people, Health Minister of Queensland Cameron Dick just confirmed that Queensland will be joining New South Wales and Victoria in conducting new clinical trials. These trials could set the groundwork for medical cannabis – fingers crossed!

 

UNITED KINGDOM

During a legalization rally in Hyde Park for the joyous celebration of 4/20, more than 50 people were arrested for public consumption of cannabis. There had been 10,000 people at the rally, causing a cannabis cloud that could be smelled up to a half mile away, and with the cannabis laws fairly strict in the U.K., a number of protesters were arrested when police arrived towards the end of the rally.

image credit: freestock.ca