Politics 

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

State of the Leaf: Montana Dispensaries Shut Down in Droves

U.S. News Updates

Alaska

Cannabis social clubs have existed in a legal gray area since the state legalized cannabis for adult use in 2014. But this week Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth weighed in, the Associated Press reports, saying that under his office’s interpretation of the law, the clubs are illegal. Cannabis social clubs are not to be confused with licensed retail cannabis shops, however, which will allow onsite consumption under strict regulations. Separate clubs are considered public spaces in the same vein as movie theatres, cafes, or other businesses — and as such consumption there is illegal. Lindemuth didn’t specify whether the state will take legal action against existing clubs.

Arizona

Proposition 205, which would legalize cannabis for adult use in Arizona, is officially headed for November’s ballot after finally shrugging off legal challenges by opponents. The measure’s ballot language will change slightly as the result of the latest challenge, however. Maricopa County Judge James Blomo this week ordered Secretary of State Michele Reagan to change the description, which currently says cannabis would be legal for anyone “over 21,” to correctly reflect that adults “21 and older” may lawfully consume cannabis.

Colorado

Denver advocates are trying to carve out safe public spaces in which adults can consume cannabis socially, but one of the citywide initiatives just bit the dust. Although NORML’s Denver chapter submitted more than 7,500 in support of its cannabis social club initiative, city officials found that only 2,987 signatures were valid. An alternative measure, the Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Initiative, submitted 10,800 signatures that are still being verified by state officials.

Montana

Despite the best efforts of medical marijuana advocates and patients across the state, most Montana dispensaries went dark this week. A court ruling from March limits dispensaries to serving just three patients total. Implementation of the ruling was delayed until Aug. 31. Though advocates fought tooth and nail to delay it further, their efforts fell short. Dispensaries that chose to close operations held sales and even gave away product as a goodbye to some of the state’s 13,640 registered patients. In certain areas, such as Butte, as many as 93 percent of patients will no longer have safe access to medicinal cannabis. Advocates are hoping to undo the crippling restriction through a ballot measure, Initiative 182, that will be on the ballot in November. The initiative would erase the court ruling and ease restrictions on the medical marijuana program. If the ballot measure passes, many dispensary owners plan to re-open their shops.

Nevada

At least three Nevada-based prohibitionist groups have been formed to fight Question 2, the measure on November’s ballot that would legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. But so far legalization opponents have been curiously quiet, having neither purchased nor reserved a single TV advertising slot. A Reno educational nonprofit known as Join Together Northern Nevada has, however, erected several billboards in Reno and Las Vegas with images of cookies and candies beside text that reads, “Can you spot the POT? Can your KIDS?” For now all eyes are on Sheldon Adelson, a staunch anti-cannabis voice who provided financial backing for campaigns that opposed Florida’s 2014 push to legalize medical marijuana. Late last year Adelson bought Nevada’s biggest paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and critics have since noticed a shift in the paper’s opinion pages.

New York

The state Health Department is making changes to the state’s medical marijuana program in an attempt to address patient complaints. The changes will be based on recommendations of an agency report, which include allowing nurse practitioners to recommend medical cannabis and allowing home delivery of medicine. The regulations are subject to a 45-day comment period before they’re enacted, but home deliveries of cannabis products could be available as early as the end of September. The report also recommended expanding qualifying conditions to include post-traumatic stress disorder and other debilitating illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Tennessee

Both Memphis and Nashville are considering municipal measures to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis, but law enforcement officials are divided on the idea. Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, in Nashville, has expressed support for the measure, asking “Do you really want the 19-year-old kid who has marijuana in the car … sent to jail overnight, go to court, tie up bed space?” The Nashville measure would replace current criminal penalties for possessing up to a half an ounce of cannabis to a civil fine of $50 or 10 hours of community service. Sheriff Joe Long of Williamson County, however, argues that decriminalization creates a loophole for drug dealers. “Here is what happens: A dealer will carry just a half-ounce with him and leave the rest in the car, then go back and return with another half-ounce,” he said. In Memphis, where a similar decriminalization measure is being considered, the City Council’s Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee voted to approve the measure despite the Memphis Police Department’s testimony against it.

International News Updates

Israel

An Israeli doctor is in the process of obtaining permits from the Health Ministry for one of the first formal clinical trials of the effects of cannabis on autism. Dr. Adi Eran is leading the study, which will involve 120 patients with autism. Participants are between 4 and 30 years and have been diagnosed with low- to medium-functioning autism. Treatment will involve cannabis oils high in CBD and low in THC and will focus specifically on a certain behavioral symptoms, such as physical aggression toward themselves and others. Cannabis oil is not typically recognized as a form of treatment for autism, but anecdotal evidence shows that it has helped several dozen Israeli patients who suffer from severe, treatment-resistant symptoms.

New Zealand

The Ministry of Justice in Rotorua released figures in response to a public-records request that reveal that the number of individuals arrested for cannabis possession has fallen more than 66 percent in the last six years. The drop was attributed to law enforcement being more likely to issue warnings for low-level drug offenses, but it’s also a reflection of changing attitudes towards cannabis in New Zealand. A recent Drug Foundation poll found that 64 percent of Kiwis believe possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use ought to be decriminalized, and 79 percent support cannabis use for medicinal reasons.