Michigan residents and legislators gathered in Traverse City, Michigan to discuss in a panel format the future of marijuana law reform. There was an overwhelming favor of further legalization from the voters and legislators we're either in agreement or acknowledged the failing war on drugs. The crowd's passion for legal marijuana showed in anger towards the recent raids of Michigan dispensaries seizing cash, product, and personal belongings rather than shutting down the businesses. Dispensaries are not clearly outlined in law through the Michigan Medcial Marihuana Act of 2008, but an estimated 200 operate around the state. The city of Flint recently licensed a handful of dispensaries, called Provisioning Centers, as have cities like Ypsilanti and Ferndale. Other communities tolerate the centers without sanction, some have for years. After raiding the dispensaries and homes, law enforcement officials declined to force any of the centers to close and made no arrests, although cars, cash and cannabis were seized.
Maine legalized medical marijuana in 1999 and nearly 10 years later added a market for patients to legally purchase their medicine. This week a legislative committee voted against legalizing a recreational marijuana bill after much debate, but as with many other states, given the opportunity, voters may legalize the recreational use of the drug in 2016. The rejected bill would've allowed adults 21 and over to purchase up to an ounce of pot with a 10% tax that would benefit public school renovations as well as substance abuse and drug and alcohol awareness programs. Under the compromise unveiled Thursday, the bill would allow up to 45 marijuana retail stores around the state, including up to four in Cumberland County and three in York County. But stores would be allowed only in municipalities where residents vote to allow retail operations.
The positive shifting view of legal marijuana is causing some states to have competing legalization initiatives. Arizona legalized medical marijuana in 2010 allowing the cultivation and sale of medicinal pot to patients, but some of the medical dispensaries are worried about legalizing recreational marijuana and stunting their own sales. The two groups currently campaining for legal marijuana have similar bill proposals, but both are great for consumers and a no brainer for voters. There don't appear to be substantial differences between the MPP proposal and the dispensary proposal. Both give preferential treatment to existing dispensary operators. The MPP proposal allows for home growing of six plants while Medar's proposal allows for twelve plants. The two also differ slightly over penalties for possessing more than the personal amount allowed by law. In one written comparison, Medar's proposal appears to be looser than MPP's initiative.
Florida, like many other states, is ready to embrace low-THC marijuana to help treat children with epilepsy, as well as many other debilitating conditions that marijuana can help treat. Under this new bill, there will only be allowed 5 growers in the state, and the applications to jump on the marijuana bandwagon is taking off. The strain of marijuana chosen to treat children most would be Charlotte's Web, which is a strain purposely bred low in THC,(the cannabinoid that gets you high) and high in CBD which is primarily a healing cannabinoid. "It's been a long discussion and dialogue and I know there's been some frustration with it, but here we are with a rule that's going into effect. We'll have people submitting applications to become dispensaries and I think Florida's ready for this."
Last year, the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association was publicly against every marijuana bill as a principle of thinking negatively of marijuana, and lawmakers have almost always sided with the sheriffs' association. It wasn't until the marijuana advocates aimed legislation at lesser sentencing that it became clear to the opposing side that legalization is not the main goal, but to keep a small marijuana offense from ruining a person's chances at a productive and full future. Morrell's bill (SB 241) would reduce a second-time offender's charges from felony status to misdemeanor, and it contains a key second-chance provision that allows a first-time marijuana conviction to be expunged if the person keeps their nose clean for two years. A similar bill (HB 149) in the state House of Representatives introduced by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, was later amended to contain the same reforms.
Recent polls show that 81% of Americans support the use of marijuana for medical use, and though the average view of marijuana has turned much more positive, some state legislators are still not onboard, particularly in more conservative areas. Texas has seen some groundbreaking bills this year, but sadly only one so far is on it's way to the governor's desk. This bill would only allow for CBD oils to treat patients with seizures, as many other states have decided to do instead of regular plant marijuana. the bill, now headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, provides that doctors may “prescribe” the extract to patients. Almost two dozen states allow physicians to legally “recommend” or “certify” medical marijuana use. Prescribing it violates federal law, said Fazio.
Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA meaning it has no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. Because of this categorization, it is under intense restrictions making it very difficult for scientists to get funding for marijuana research. As of now there is only one federally sanctioned marijuana farm and it's located at the University of Mississippi, where recently the DEA signed off for the cultivation order to be tripled as research needs are much more than anticipated. This is a big step for federal marijuana soley for the purpose of condoning more testing and research to be done for the progress of the drug. Last month, the DEA signed off on a NIDA request to more than triple federal marijuana cultivation from its previously stated 2015 quota of 276 pounds (125 kilograms) to 881 pounds (400 kilograms), explaining that "research and product development involving cannabidiol is increasing beyond that previously anticipated."
Nebraska has already seen a small victory recently with the passing of a limited, but important, medical marijuana bill. The bill passed would allow for medical prescription of marijuana and only in non-smokeable forms. Another medical bill expanding on the already passed bill would allow for more leniency, but would stay strictly medical and non-smokeable forms only. Senator Garrett sponsored the new bill but did not receive enough support to pass the measure this year. Bellevue Sen. Tommy Garrett said Tuesday he will ask to have his medical marijuana bill (LB643) tabled until 2016 so he can refine it and attempt to gain more support. Tabling the bill will allow debate to pick up at the same place next year, instead of requiring another formal committee hearing and additional votes.
With Washington state legalizing recreational marijuana, the state wants to differentiate medical and recreational marijuana. However, since the initial legalization and business licensing, the governor estimates almost half of the operating medical marijuana dispensaries are operating illegally. With a new bill in play, the state will be able to shut down the unregulated shops, and create a unique license for future pot shops. Some are worried with a mass shutdown of shops that ease of access will go down and prices will shoot up, but legislators are more concerned about regulating the drug properly first. Murray on Tuesday announced plans to require a new special business license for marijuana establishments, akin to those required for taxi operators and pawn shops. Under the mayor's plan the businesses will be required to obtain the licenses by July 2016.
Rhode Island joins a few other states in enacting safety regulations for certain manufacturing of marijuana products. Due to the dangerous nature of extracting concentrates from marijuana using butane, this new law proposed by the state's attorney general would prohibit anyone but a licensed compassion center, to produce marijuana concentrates. Some amatuer enthusiasts have ended up burning down their houses and more, so the state needs legislation to guarantee the proper safey measures are followed. Democratic state Sen. Frank Ciccone III of Providence is sponsoring the bill on behalf of Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. The legislation would allow only compassion centers to extract butane hash oil from marijuana, following the rules and regulations to be promulgated by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
American soldiers come back from war and are often greeted by friends and family, but no matter how much it means to be home, many soldiers never rid themselves of the horrors or combat. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) effects soldiers in such a way that too many are driven to suicide as they find themselves consumed with anger, depression, anxiety, and unforgettable night terrors. As a last restort, one soldier, Pfc Jared Hunter, tried marijuana and it turned his life around for the better, allowing him to move on from crippling depression. Someone reported Pfc Hunter for his marijuana use and he was nearly convicted until the court offered him a deal which most of his punishment is fines. One is glad Hunter's legal travails have come to such a favorable end. But who's to say the next person in his position will be as fortunate? More to the point, we should be appalled this sort of thing is even possible, that a veteran can be threatened with prison because he used the only effective treatment for a wound incurred in the service of his country.
Two newer bills have passed through the general assembly in Illinois. One would reset the end date of the medical marijuana pilot program to be 4 years after the first dispensary opens, as opposed to 4 years after the bill was passed. As of now the pilot-program will end in 2 and a half years if this new bill does not pass. The second bill would decriminalize marijuana possession under 15 grams and replace current penalties with minor fines instead. The bill won’t go to Rauner until an additional measure is passed that would permit court clerks to expunge records of the fines. But he should sign it when he gets it. We are clogging up our court system with low-level marijuana offenders.