Politics 

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

State of the Leaf: Maine Opponents Abandon Recount. Is New Hampshire Legalization Next?

U.S. News Updates

Maine

Legalization opponents abandoned their recount effort over the weekend, conceding the race after about 30 percent of the ballots had been recounted. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said recount had been proceeding somewhat slowly due to a lack of volunteers from the opposition campaign. Opposition leader Newell Augur blamed the issue on volunteers who already had full-time jobs. The campaign in support of Question 1 had offered to provide additional volunteers. Voters approved Question 1 in November by the slimmest of margins, passing it by just a few thousand votes. With the win, eight of nine states considering some form of statewide legalization last month chose to embrace it.

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Michigan

New rules for Michigan’s medical marijuana program took effect this week after being signed into law this fall. The new laws allow cannabis concentrates and extracts as well as topicals and tinctures. The law also establishes a three-percent tax on medical marijuana sales and creates a new state licensing scheme for growing, processing, selling, transporting, and testing cannabis, including an extensive seed-to-sale tracking system. There are currently more than 211,000 patients registered for Michigan’s medical marijuana program.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn (D-Dalton) announced plans to introduce legislation to legalize cannabis for adult use. Inspired by the recent legalization in neighboring states of Maine and Massachusetts, Woodburn said he believes New Hampshire residents are ready for legalized cannabis. Even if he introduces a bill in the coming legislative session, however, it’s unlikely the bill would take effect until 2019 or 2020. New Hampshire considered legalization in 2014, and a bill cleared the House of Representatives before dying in the Senate. Gov. Maggie Hassan has been vocal about her opposition to legalization, and Gov.-elect Chris Sununu has indicated he’ll take a similar stance, though he says he’s open to statewide decriminalization.

Ohio

Ohio’s Board of Pharmacy has released the initial rules and regulations for the state’s medical marijuana program. A maximum of 40 medical marijuana dispensary licenses are expected to be issued leading up to September 8, 2018, when the program is set to debut. A few changes have made their way into the 66 pages of proposed rules, including one that will doubling the number of small growing sites from six to 12. The number of larger growing operations will still be capped at 12. The rules are subject to review from the public. Those interested in weighing in must submit written comments before 5 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2017. They may be submitted to MMCPRules@pharmacy.ohio.gov.

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Oregon

The city of Portland is facing a backlog of hundreds of retail applications from medical dispensaries across the state. In order to help speed the process, the city is weighing an ordinance to restructure the licensing process. Under the ordinance, a new agency, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, would be tasked with issuing cannabis business licenses, and three new tiers of retail licenses would be allowed, including legal cannabis delivery services. Many dispensaries are concerned about a Jan. 1, 2017 deadline, after which they will no longer be allowed to serve adult consumers without a retail license. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz assured anxious business owners that they would not be penalized if they are still awaiting their license approval by the deadline.

Pennsylvania

Secretary of Health Karen Murphy announced that applications for medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries will be available starting Jan. 17 of next year. It was during a regular briefing of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program that the official timeline was confirmed; applications will be accepted from Feb. 20 until March 20, and licensing is expected to be fully implemented by 2018. There will be up to 12 permits issued for growers and processors, and up to 27 dispensary permits, which are to be distributed across Pennsylvania’s six designated medical marijuana regions.

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Vermont

It’s last call to request a cannabis-related conviction be expunged by outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin. Residents convicted before 2013 of possessing small amounts of cannabis have until Christmas Day, Dec. 25, to file a request for the governor’s pardon. Shumlin has said that he will pardon any Vermont citizens convicted of possessing up to an ounce of cannabis before 2013, when Vermont decriminalized simple possession. “Decriminalization was a good first step in updating our outmoded drug laws,” Shumlin said. “It makes no sense that minor marijuana convictions should tarnish the lives of Vermonters indefinitely.” If you believe you qualify, apply through the Vermont Pardon Application before Dec. 25.

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International News Updates

Australia

A terminally ill patient in New South Wales has been denied access to medicinal cannabis because her physicians refuse to sign off on the treatment. Katherine Lorraine, who has cancer, has repeatedly tried to gain access to cannabis over the last six months in order to improve her quality of life, but her doctors have refused to recommend it. The Centre for Medicinal Research and Innovation (CMCRI) has since August had a framework through the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist that allows doctors to apply for approval to prescribe cannabis-based products not evaluated by the Therapeutic Good Administration. Lorraine’s general practitioner has already approved her request, but only her specialists can obtain approval—and so far all of her specialist oncologists have refused the request. “I have 100 percent voiced my desire to have it,” Lorraine has said. “I thought the law had changed.” According to reports, Lorraine may only have one or two weeks left to live.

Canada

Licensed medical cannabis producers are gearing up to expand into Canada’s forthcoming adult use market. The federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recently recommended that the legislation establishing the system, expected this spring, keep the market separate from existing medical markets. Some licensed producers under the country’s existing medical program are eyeing expansion into the retail market. Tilray and United Greeneries have both said indicated they hope to cross over into adult-use cannabis. Tilray President Brenden Kennedy said the company would create a separate business entity specifically for the adult-use market. “Similar product, similar production staff,” said Tilray President Brendan Kennedy, but “a completely different brand targeting adult consumers.” [Editor’s note: Tilray and Leafly are both owned by Privateer Holdings.]