State of the Leaf: Illinois Gets New Qualifying Condition, and the Battle for California BeginsLisa RoughJune 29, 2016
U.S. Cannabis News Updates
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act has officially qualified for the November ballot, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The legalization initiative has support from some major players, such as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Facebook president and Napster founder Sean Parker, as well as the Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance, California Cannabis Industry Association, and more. The measure would allow adults 21 and older to grow up to six plants for personal use and purchase up to an ounce of cannabis and infused products from licensed retailers, with a 15 percent excise tax on sales. Cities and counties would retain the right to ban cannabis businesses and impose additional taxes on sales. The latest poll from the Public Policy Institute of California found that 60 percent of likely California voters are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana.
A conservative Republican state senator and gubernatorial candidate shocked the legislature by calling for Delaware to formally legalize cannabis. Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover) helped pass House Bill 332, which would spare misdemeanor drug offenders in possession of small amounts of cannabis from criminal penalties, opting for probation instead. Bonini made waves after the bill’s passage by announcing his support for broader legalization. “The reality is we’ve legalized marijuana in Delaware and we’ve legalized it through backwards steps. I think incrementally pulling away restrictions and by default legalizing marijuana is not the best way to do it,” he said. “If we’re going to legalize marijuana, let’s legalize marijuana.” Bonini is one of two Republicans running for governor, although a Republican hasn’t won that race in Delaware since 1992.
A court has ordered Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the state’s list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. The decision was handed down by Cook County Judge Neil Cohen, who ruled in favor of an Iraq War veteran, Daniel Paul Jabs, in a lawsuit against the department. In a harshly-worded ruling, Cohen criticized Shah’s investigation and subsequent rejection of the many petitions seeking to add qualifying conditions, calling the actions “constitutionally inappropriate.” Not only did Shah deprive the plaintiff of his right to due process, the original rejection was also “contrary to the plain language of the Department’s rules.” Cohen gave the state 30 days to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions and has scheduled a follow-up hearing to ensure compliance. It’s the first of eight lawsuits seeking to expand qualifying conditions in the state.
Montana’s medical marijuana law was struck another blow when the state Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal challenging the 2011 law that limits cannabis providers to supplying a maximum of three patients. The ruling has essentially gutted Montana’s medical cannabis law for dispensaries and caregivers, but the Montana Cannabis Industry Association won’t take the decision lying down. Advocates asked for a delay in the enforcement date until August 31 and have sued to block the law. In the meantime, the group has an initiative that would reverse the policy, but it’s still awaiting word from the Secretary of State as to whether the submitted signatures have officially been validated for November’s ballot.
New Mexico’s medical marijuana program is now so clogged with unprocessed applications that desperate would-be patients are turning to the black market. Enrollment in the program has increased exponentially in the past year, and the New Mexico Department of Health can’t process applications up within the legally required 30-day period. Patients trying to apply or renew their cards now face waiting periods of up to 120 days. Meanwhile, dispensaries cannot sell cannabis to patients with an expired card, forcing patients either to go without medicine or seek illegal, black market alternatives. The Department of Health is under fire for the delays, but it says its limited staff is already working six days a week. It’s hoping to hire additional staff to get caught up this summer.
International Cannabis News Updates
Colombia’s first legal cannabis production may be getting help from an unexpected source: former members of the rebel guerrilla group FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). The Colombian government is nearing a peace deal with the armed militia group and hopes the medicinal marijuana venture will generate legal jobs and boost the rural economy. The Ministry of Health just granted its first license for the production and export of medicinal cannabis to Toronto-based Canadian-Colombian company PharmaCielo Ltd., a move that could create a global shift in developing the international cannabis industry.
Croatia quietly made history when the country received the first legal shipment of cannabis extract from North America. Croatia proved to be an incredibly progressive actor among the rest of the European Union by legalizing cannabinoid therapy and implementing a functional medical marijuana program in less than a year. The country's officials approached the topic of medical cannabis pragmatically, using medical research, media coverage, and roundtable discussions to create a sustainable system for the use of medical cannabinoids. The program, which only allows oils and capsules, is still in its infancy, but the cooperation of the medical industry, foreign cannabis industry leaders, the government policymakers and, indeed, the Croatian public at large, has many optimistic.