State of the Leaf: D.C. Preps for Pre-420 Smokeout, and Hawaii Wants More DUI Data
This week in cannabis politics: A clash between Georgia lawmakers sheds light on medical marijuana in the South, Hawaii debates cannabis DUIs, Virginia could get a chance at cannabis oil production, and both Rhode Island and Jamaica are trying to find a way to profit from cultivation. If that weren’t enough, this week wraps up with a Washington, D.C. protest that will be one for the history books: a smokeout on the White House lawn.
The efforts to end prohibition are heating up – into the frying pan we go!
U.S. Cannabis News Updates
DCMJ, the organization that helped bring legalization to the District, will be hosting a rally in front of the White House and asking President Obama to reschedule cannabis. The rally, dubbed Reschedule420, will be held this Saturday, April 2, at 2 p.m., on the north side of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. As part of an act of civil disobedience, activists will consume cannabis at 4:20 p.m. as part of a mass mobilization of the East Coast cannabis community. Oh, and although the “Mass-Consumption” includes smoking, organizers are encouraging advocates to consume responsibly in any matter they feel comfortable, whether it’s vaporization, edibles, or oils. All are welcome — RSVP here!
After a race to the deadline and a fight to the bitter end, House Bill 722 to expand medical marijuana in Georgia died at midnight at the end of the legislative session. Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) was pushing for a hearing up to the very last minute, but the bill, which had already been amended and stripped of many of its original clauses, such as the creation of a cannabis distribution system, did not receive a hearing. In a series of leaked email exchanges between Peake and Gov. Nathan Deal’s office, it became clear this week that Deal’s opposition to medical marijuana has been vehement. The emails revealed staffers trying to bully Peake into dropping the issue entirely. Peake, however, refused to back down and continues to be a tireless advocate for the citizens he represents.
A group of Hawaiian legislators have banded together to introduce a resolution asking the state Department of Health to conduct a study on the safety of driving under the influence of cannabis. Rep. Cindy Evans, along with 15 other lawmakers, joined forces to urge the state to come to a consensus on the acceptable limit for driving under the influence of marijuana. The Health Department opposed the resolution due to the fact that it's being given no money to conduct a complex study that hasn't been undertaken by anyone in the U.S. due to the federal government’s blockade of cannabis research. Hawaii law currently bans individuals from driving under the influence of a drug that impairs their ability to operate a vehicle, but there is no threshold for the amount of THC that can be in the bloodstream.
Louisiana's House Health and Welfare Committee spent 40 minutes debating House Bill 446 before officially approving it. Included in the bill is the creation of a licensing process for the newly established system of medical marijuana pharmacies. The pharmacy system was written into Act No. 261, the first attempt to regulate the use and distribution of medical marijuana since medical cannabis was technically legalized 25 years ago. This new bill would set the groundwork for pharmacies and set the application fees at $5,000 for a license. If an applicant is chosen, the fee to operate a store is set at the reasonable fee of $150. The fees are expected to be put towards inspections, background checks, and paperwork. Keep in mind, however, that the competition for these pharmacies will be fierce — there's a limit of 10 pharmacies across the entire state.
Rep. Scott Slater and Sen. Stephen Arhcambault have introduced a proposal to double the number of licensed cannabis dispensaries from three to six in an effort to put a regulated medical marijuana framework in place prior to a vote on full recreational legalization. There's another bill in the pipeline that could legalize the commercial sale of cannabis, and Rhode Island Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio (D-North Providence) has already signed on as a co-sponsor.
A proposal from Gov. Gina Raimondo would also create a new “tagging fee” on medical marijuana plants. The fee would amount to $350 per year per tag for caregivers and $150 per year for patients growing their own cannabis. The proposal has drawn protests from many of the state's 13,126 medical marijuana patients.
Senate Bill 207, which would allow the production of therapeutic cannabis oils, passed through the Senate unanimously earlier this month. Last year Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed House Bill 1445, which allowed epilepsy patients to possess cannabis oil with at least 15 percent CBD and less than 5 percent THC. Unfortunately, the bill prevented patients from accessing the medication until 2017, and allows access only if the Legislature votes to reenact the law between now and then. The law states that, if enacted, pharmaceutical processors could produce the specific variety of cannabis oil with a permit from the state Board of Pharmacy. If McAuliffe signs SB 701, the Board of Pharmacy would be charged with developing the regulations for the production of cannabis oil and bring much-needed relief to Virginians.
International Cannabis News Updates
The Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation council meeting voted to support a resolution passed by the St. Catherine Parish Council to allow local councils to make regulations regarding the sharing of fees related to the “cultivation, processing, distribution, sale and handling of marijuana within their particular jurisdiction.” The St. Catherine Parish Council made the case that local authorities ought to be able to collect taxes in return for their regulation and enforcement efforts. The resolution will be sent to all other parish councils for a vote, upon which it will be sent to the Ministry of Local Government for approval.