Politics 

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

Florida’s Medical Marijuana Bills Are Dead in the Water: The Leafly Cannabis Legalization Update

The world is changing so fast, we can hardly keep up! Pennsylvania and Tennessee are making progress, but Florida hit some roadblocks and Washington is gearing up for a major change. Across the pond, even Ireland is hoping to make a play for cannabis! From one moment to the next, you never know what new changes are going to take hold, so sit back, buckle up and hold on tight. Here’s the latest in marijuana legalization updates from across the globe:

 

U.S. Updates

ALABAMA

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the state’s newly proposed medical marijuana law, though the vote was right on the cusp, with 4-3 in favor. It will now move on to the Alabama Senate for full consideration. The bill would allow patients with certain medical conditions to buy or grow a small amount of cannabis each month. Will there be enough support in the Alabama Senate for this bill to gain traction? We’ll have to wait and see!

 

CALIFORNIA

California Senator Mike McGuire (D-North Coast) introduced Senate Bill 643, the Medical Marijuana Public Safety and Environment Act, a sweeping and comprehensive attempt to rein in the state’s unregulated but incredibly lucrative medical cannabis industry. Since voting to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1996, the program has become a multimillion-dollar industry and, as Senator McGuire pointed out, one of the top crops of California that doesn’t face the restrictions placed on other agricultural businesses. There have been many attempts over the years to find a compromise for regulating medical marijuana in California, but this piece of legislation is one of the most comprehensive. California is the logical next state to consider legalization, but it needs to regulate its existing cannabis industry before it sets its sights on opening its doors for a legal recreational market.

 

FLORIDA

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news to my friends down in sunny Florida, but it looks like all of the bills relating to medical marijuana, including a proposal to speed up access to low-THC cannabis oil for qualifying patients, are effectively dead in the water. Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) confirmed the unfortunate news, saying that the legislators need to take time over the summer to research with experts in the field before coming back next session with a better, stronger proposal. Another swing and a miss for Florida.

 

MICHIGAN

A father and medical marijuana patient in Michigan is trying to regain custody of his son after an unlucky series of events has him facing felony charges. In September 2014, Max Lorincz called 911 during a family medical emergency. The deputy who responded discovered a smear of butane hash oil in his home. Lorincz is a registered medical marijuana patient in the state of Michigan and, on top of that, Michigan law states that cannabis is a Schedule 2 drug, advisable for medical use. Lorincz, however, has been charged with felony possession of a Schedule 1 drug due to a recent policy change in Michigan State Police Lab collections – butane hash oil is not considered “usable cannabis,” so medical patients with BHO are not protected under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. Lorincz’s rights as a patient are compromised, he is fighting to regain custody of his 5 year-old son, and he has resumed taking debilitating painkillers at the request of the court. Protect your patients, Michigan!

 

NEW JERSEY

A disturbing new trend has been emerging from the East Coast. A woman in New Brunswick was recently hospitalized after consuming synthetic cannabis, which was outlawed in 2013, but this was just the latest in a new wave of synthetic marijuana overdoses on the rise. Pennsylvania has also been seeing an increase in hospitalizations, and New Jersey State Police reported that there were 400 synthetic marijuana overdoses along the East Coast in the month of April alone. How’s about we crack down on synthetic cannabis and relax penalties on real cannabis so patients can safely and legally access the proper medicine they need?

 

OHIO

Cannabis advocates in Ohio have been gaining traction for a 2015 legalization bid on the ballot. Advocates have already collected more than 306,000 signatures in support of the proposed amendment. The group is required to get signatures from 44 of the state’s 88 counties before the submission deadline in July. We’re all for legalization, but ResponsibleOhio’s amendment is not the best way to get there — this law would limit the number of grow sites to 10 and give the sites only to those who invested in the campaign. If you live in Ohio and want to see cannabis legalized, make sure to do your homework before signing this petition!

 

OREGON

It looks like tax revenue estimations on the new recreational cannabis market in Oregon will be lower than expected – $18.4 million for the first twoyear period beginning this July. It’s a far cry from previous estimates of $78.7 million. With the current structure, the state will only see revenue from businesses licenses, as apparently the Oregon Liquor Control Commission does not anticipate retail marijuana shops opening until late 2016. Guess you’ll just have to wait a little longer, Oregon.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

The State Senate Government Committee voted in support of Senate Bill 3, the latest medical marijuana proposal in Pennsylvania. The measure is now headed for the Senate Appropriations Committee for review before the entire Senate votes on it. The bill is fairly restrictive; it bans smoking or vaporizing and recently rejected edibles, opting in favor of the unusual delivery method of “nebulization” (a device that uses compressed air to break up medical solutions into small aerosol droplets that are directly inhaled). Luckily, Senator Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), a co-sponsor of the bill, has said that he will push for vaporization to be included.

The latest polls for Pennsylvania show that a staggering 88% of voters support the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, so it’s fairly mind-blowing that the state’ political climate has been so lukewarm towards cannabis. Pennsylvania legislators, pay attention to the will of your constituents! Pennsylvania voters, if they don’t support the issues you care about, it’s time to vote for a different candidate.

 

TENNESSEE

A bill to allow the possession of cannabis oil to be used for the treatment of certain seizure disorders passed unanimously through both the House and the Senate. Wahoo! This proposal bans Tennesseans from growing cannabis or processing it to create cannabis oil, instead saying that patients with a medical recommendation may go to states where it is legal and bring it back, thus creating the same dilemma as patients in Georgia: patients must risk federal prosecution in order to adhere to local state laws. The bill is likely to pass, and is now headed to Governor Bill Haslam’s desk, who has hinted that he will sign it.

 

WASHINGTON

Washington’s medical marijuana program was dealt a devastating blow by Senate Bill 5052, which was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on Friday. Under the new law, medical marijuana dispensaries in their current state will no longer exist and will be forced into the tightly regulated recreational system. This law will change the entire medical marijuana scene, some of it for the better but much of it potentially for the worse.

 

International Updates

CANADA

The city of Vancouver, British Columbia has come into the spotlight regarding unlicensed, unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries. There are about 80 medical dispensaries operating in the city, but since the changes to the MMPR, these dispensaries have been operating in a legal gray area and well-meaning patients are fed up with the lack of legitimate access options. Mayor Gregor Robertson made a major proposal to regulate these shops through administrative fees, business licenses, and vetting the business to ensure legitimacy.

However, the Health Minister of Canada, Rona Ambrose, took issue with the proposal and sent a letter to the Mayor saying that “legitimizing and normalizing the use and sale of marijuana can only have one effect: increasing marijuana use and addiction.” Actually, the effect of legalization is largely a positive one – fewer arrests, higher tax revenue, and a whole lot of happy citizens. Mayor Robertson agreed in his response, retorting, “She must be misinformed.” You tell her, Mayor Robertson!

 

IRELAND

The new Minister of State with Responsibility for the Drug Strategy, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin (as Irish a name as you ever did see), will be examining the possibility of relaxing cannabis laws. In the interest of public health, he iterated his belief that those using drugs should not be dealt with through the criminal justice system. His first task is to update the National Drugs Strategy, which expires next year and is long outdated. Considering reports that the Irish consume as much cannabis as the Dutch (about 25% of Ireland’s population has used cannabis), it’s incredible that it’s taken so long to start the national conversation about cannabis. Éirinn go Brách! (Oughta be a new strain, dontcha think?)