On the docket this week: Legalization measures are taking one step forward in Connecticut, one step back in New Mexico. Louisiana is thinking positively, Ohio has the best-laid plans for medical marijuana, and Rhode Island is trying to expand qualifying conditions. Beyond the borders, Australia is hoping to become a new global cannabis leader, Tunisia seriously needs to relax their laws, and one brave British politician is standing up for legalization. Here’s the latest:
State Rep. Juan Candelaria (D-New Haven) introduced a bill to legalize possession and use of cannabis for adults 21 and older. Candelaria then joined a group of legislators, including Rep. Eszequiel Santiago (D-Bridgeport), in supporting another, more comprehensive proposal that includes specs on tamper-proof packaging, regulatory oversight, banning public use, and more. Under Candelaria’s proposal, medical marijuana dispensaries could grow cannabis for recreational use, with an allowance for more producer licenses in the event that demand exceeds supply. Unfortunately, Gov. Dannel Malloy says he isn’t comfortable with legalization, although he would support decriminalization.
A group of community members will hold a public forum to discuss opinions and concerns about the possible legalization of cannabis in the Bayou State. A representative from the group Legalize Louisiana are to speak Tuesday afternoon in an effort to educate the public about the benefits of legality, such as the revenue generated from legal cannabis sales. Currently, Louisiana has a strict medical marijuana law that allows patients who qualify under three qualifying conditions to access non-smokable forms of cannabis, such as oils and tinctures, which will be available through ten distribution centers tentatively scheduled to open June 2017.
New Mexico senators voted down a measure, 24–17, that would have legalized recreational marijuana. If it had been approved, the measure would have gone to voters in November. Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque), who authored the proposal, has vowed to continue advocating for legalization in future legislative sessions.
In other news, doctors will be treating the youngest-ever epileptic child ever in a case study about the benefits of hemp oil in Colorado. The child, Amylea Nunez, is just a few months old, but when she was born in Albuquerque in December, it was immediately apparent that she needed specialized care. She suffered from 15 seizures a day and her heart stopped twice. Nunez has only just started her regimen, but her parents are hoping to wean her off other medications and replace them with hemp oil.
Ohio’s new constitutional MMJ amendment is planned for the November ballot, but the language hasn’t yet been officially drafted. We’re starting to hear details, though. The amendment would establish a standard infrastructure of businesses to grow, process, test, distribute, and sell medical marijuana. Qualifying patients would obtain a registry card to buy and possess cannabis. Amendment authors are envisioning two types of cultivation licenses, one for smaller grow operations and another for large-scale, industrial production. An Ohio political action committee, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, chose Michael Revercomb, Lissa Satori, and John Pardee to lead the campaign. To qualify for the November ballot, they’ll need to collect 305,591 signatures between April 2 and July 6.
The state Senate Health and Human Services Committee is considering legislation that would expand the qualifying MMJ medical conditions to include post-traumatic stress disorder. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Archambault (D-Smithfield), would also accelerate the issuance of a medical marijuana card if the patient is eligible for hospice care. A report from the Veterans Administration found that nearly 30 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan now suffer from PTSD. The condition is currently included as a qualifying condition in Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, and New Mexico.
The Liberal Party has introduced a draft bill in the Australian parliament to amend the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967, and the measure seems all but guaranteed to pass. The proposal includes regulations for licensing national companies to supply medical cannabis to patients with painful and chronic illnesses as part of state-run clinical trials. New South Wales and several other states have passed laws allowing clinical trials on the effectiveness of cannabis as medicine, but current laws severely restrict cultivation. Researchers have found it all but impossible to find a reliable international source. Access to cannabis is currently limited to researchers and patients in clinical trials, but lawmakers will decide by the end of March whether to allow access for all qualifying patients.
Tunisian rapper Kafon is facing charges under a draconian law that criminalizes any public discourse of cannabis, including arguments, verbal statements, and even song lyrics. In this case, Kafon’s song “Chakchak” contained a violation that put him in prison for nine months before he was released due to pressure from international media. Kafon is hardly the first person to fall victim to the law. Tunisian prisons are overflowing with young, poor, low-level offenders jailed for possession of “zatla,” a low-quality cannabis usually smuggled in from Morocco and Algeria. In December, a proposal to revise the law was approved and sent to parliament. The reform measure would allow first-time offenders to pay a fine rather than serve a year in jail, and it would reduce the maximum penalty for repeat violations from five years down to one.
Tim Farron became the first leader of a British political party, the Liberal Democrats, to openly endorse the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. Farron plans to propose a motion in support of legalization for both medicinal and recreational use. Those subjects will be debated after the release and analysis of the findings from an expert panel appointed by the party to examine how a legal marijuana market would function in the U.K. The panel so far has found that legalization could save the criminal justice system between £200 million and £300 million annually and could generate between £400 milliion and £900 million in yearly tax revenue.