Politics 

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

Montana Can’t Decide Whether to Embrace or Reject Cannabis Initiatives: The Leafly Legalization Roundup

The cannabis world is on fire lately, with unprecedented support from all kinds of unexpected places. Arizona, Missouri, and Montana are preparing for the fight to the finish line for the general election next November, collecting signatures and signed-on support. Montana’s proposals are running hot and cold, though – there’s one medical, one one recreational, and one measure to ban cannabis entirely.

Internationally, some Canadian dispensaries are holding their breath after a brush with the long arm of the law, Colombia’s president wants to cultivate and export cannabis, and Mexico can’t decide what the Supreme Court ruling will mean for the future of cannabis. Hold on tight, this ride towards marijuana legalization is just getting started!

 

U.S. Cannabis Updates

NATIONAL

After DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg recently made inflammatory remarks about medical marijuana being “a joke,” cannabis advocates were righteously outraged and circulated a petition calling for his resignation on the basis that he is not qualified for the job (you can sign it here if you’re feeling similarly inclined). The petition has gained more than 80,000 signatures, which is actually about twice the number of signatures that were on a petition that led directly to the resignation of the former chief of the DEA, Michelle Leonhart.

With so many Americans who have benefited from the use of medical marijuana, shouldn’t there be a qualified administrator leading such a crucial component of drug policy, one who understands and respects the science behind the medicine, as well as the will of the patients and voters?

 

ARIZONA

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona announced that they have collected 100,000 signatures in support of marijuana legalization, meaning they have hit the two-thirds mark on the road to the November 2016 general election. They still need to collect another 50,000 signatures before the July deadline, but the campaign is aiming even higher than that with a goal of 230,000 total signatures. As they are well on their way, the group is optimistic that they won’t have any trouble achieving their goal.

The proposal would create a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to oversee implementation, regulate distributors licensed to sell cannabis products to anyone over 21, and instate a 15 percent excise tax on cannabis products. A recent poll found that 53 percent of Arizonans support legalization, which means that this time next year could prove to be quite an exciting time for Arizona.

 

MISSOURI

Missouri is looking for a chance to get marijuana on the 2016 ballot one way or another, but competing measures could create a dilemma for voters. Show-Me Cannabis is supporting one such measure for medical marijuana, although they previously pushed for a more broad legalization initiative. The effort they’re now supporting comes from an organization known as New Approach Missouri. This effort outlines a comprehensive ballot proposal that would allow for the licensing of 75 cultivation centers and allow qualifying medical patients to purchase cannabis from distribution centers, as well as grow up to six plants for personal use in their home.

Another proposal, known as Missouri Research: Cures, Jobs, Health & Lower Taxes, is also seeking to legalize medical marijuana, but it would be heavily taxed – 75 percent at the retail level – with the extra revenue being put towards medical research. Both groups still need 168,000 signatures from at least six of the nine congressional districts in Missouri to get their initiative on the ballot for 2016.

 

MONTANA

There are three upcoming marijuana proposals that could change the cannabis game in Montana come next November. One would legalize cannabis to create a similar recreational structure as Colorado or Washington through a constitutional initiative. The second would modify the state’s existing medical marijuana system. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the third would outlaw cannabis entirely on the basis that any drugs that are illegal federally would also be illegal in the state.

Wow, sounds like Montana can’t quite decide whether it loves or hates the cannabis movement. One way or another, the deadline for collecting signatures is June of 2016 – may the best initiative win.

 

NEVADA

Nevada may well give Arizonans a run for their money in the race to be the next recreationally legalized state, although some might argue that Nevada has a bit of an advantage. It was able to secure a position on the November 2016 general election ballot, while other states are still scrambling to gather signatures and support. Nevada’s medical marijuana system has only just gotten off the ground, though, and hasn’t yet been able to work through the inevitable kinks and regulatory hiccups that come with an emerging medical market. Can Nevada win that golden ticket?

 

NEW YORK

After Governor Andrew Cuomo finally signed legislation to expedite access for critically ill qualifying patients, the countdown has begun and the commencement of New York’s medical marijuana market is nigh. In preparation, the Cannabis and Hemp Association will be holding a panel discussion entitled “Open For Business” on the implementation of the medical marijuana market in New York. The meeting will be held December 2nd from 7 to 9pm at District Cowork and the panel will feature:

  • Senator Diane Savino (D-NY), sponsor of the Compassionate Care Act
  • Dr. Julie Netherland, the New York Deputy Director of the Drug Policy Alliance
  • Dr. Larry Good, CEO of Compassionate Care NY
  • Hanan Kolko, regulatory attorney for Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein P.C.

The panel will be open to the public and will consist of topics relating to the new medical marijuana system and making sure it stays within the lines of regulation. If you’re in New York and would like to attend, you can RSVP here.

 

International Cannabis Updates

AUSTRALIA

Australia has been making major moves for cannabis legalization and the support for medical marijuana “Down Under” is at an all-time high, with 91 percent of polled respondents in support of legalizing cannabis for medical use, and only a tiny fraction, 7 percent, opposed. New South Wales has led the charge due to a moving story from a mother who watched her son succumb to cancer. Clinical trials will be starting in NSW next year, but they have also inspired similar legislation in Victoria and Queensland. Read our report on Australia’s fight for medical marijuana for more details.

 

CANADA

Nanaimo dispensaries got a scare last week when dispensary owners received a strongly worded cease-and-desist letter from the local RCMP. The letters threaten legal action if the dispensaries do not cease selling cannabis and close doors within seven days, although Canada’s new justice minister was not informed of this plan ahead of time. Furthermore, the letters point out that the dispensaries are not in compliance with Health Canada’s MMPR law and do not comply with the current Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

It’s a strange and unexpected turn of events, particularly after the victory of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party, who campaigned with the promise of legalizing cannabis on a federal level. Luckily, it appears that Nanaimo was the only jurisdiction to receive the letters, although only time will tell if the threat of a local government shutdown is real.

 

COLOMBIA

President Juan Manuel Santos announced an executive decree to legalize the cultivation and sale of cannabis for medicinal and research purposes. Although the measure has not been signed into law yet, it would license official growers for the program and possibly even offer exports of their cannabis products eventually. The country decriminalized the possession of up to 22 grams of cannabis in 2012 in an effort to combat the black market and shift to a health-centric drug policy, rather than making it a criminal justice issue. Could this mark a shift in policy towards the War on Drugs in general?

 

MEXICO

After the landmark ruling by Mexico’s Supreme Court, Mexico has been thrown into a disarray and no one can decide what this will mean for the country’s future marijuana policy. On the one hand, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto immediately went on the record as being opposed to the legalization of marijuana. Almost immediately afterwards, a senator from the President’s governing party introduced a bill to allow qualifying patients to gain access to cannabis-based medicine by way of importing cannabis and derivatives from outside sources.

“This measure is responding to the urgent need to allow availability of medicines thought importation,” said Senator Cristina Diaz Salazar, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.