Last week, the Midwest gained some momentum in marijuana legalization, as the state of Kentucky gave way to the possibility for medical marijuana. All the while, Alaska cleared the necessary hoops to bring the question of a taxed and regulated recreational marijuana market to its voters in the summer election. Little by little, our pot-friendly legislators are plunging away at the prohibition cesspool here in America, and someday soon we will all smoke in copious fields of marijuana without running the heinous risk of stepping in the mess.
Here is what our national lawmakers were up to last week:
Alaska: Certified for 2014 Ballot
It’s official… voters will decided this summer if Alaska will join Colorado and Washington as the third state in America to legalize recreational marijuana. The measure qualified a statewide ballot last Wednesday, after Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell certified the campaign had obtained over 36,000 signatures.
If the initiative receives a favorable majority vote, adults 21 and older would be permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use and cultivate as many as six plants.
Alaskan voters are set to hit the polls on August 17.
Maine: Memo Signed Urging Marijuana Legalization
Forty state lawmakers recently got together to co-sign a memo to the Appropriation and Financial Affairs Committee urging their consideration for a taxed and regulated recreational marijuana market.
“All options should be on the table,” wrote Representative Diane Russell, the author of the memo. “In this spirit, we propose committee members give serious consideration to the revenue options associated with legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis for responsible adult use.”
Last year, the issue of marijuana legalization fell just four votes shy in the Maine House of Representative of being put in the hands of registered voters during the fall election.
Indiana: Hemp Bill Passes Senate
Industrial hemp is one step closer to becoming a reality in Indiana. Earlier last week, Senate Bill 357 passed through the state’s House Agricultural Committee. It is now set to go before the full House.
If passed, Indiana would join 10 other states, including Colorado, Kentucky and California, in the production of industrial hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana.
Rhode Island: Governor Not Opposed to Legalizing Marijuana
Last week, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee told the Providence Journal that after seeing the impressive tax revenues generated in Colorado, he is not opposed to signing a bill legalizing marijuana.
“The state has already approved medical marijuana,” Chafee’s spokesperson wrote in a recent statement. “The legislation to legalize marijuana is currently winding its way through the General Assembly. If it were to reach his desk, the Governor would evaluate it at that time.”
Wisconsin: Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Assembly Committee
Wisconsin lawmakers made a move towards legalizing medical marijuana. Assembly Bill 726, which would allow access to cannabidiol or CBD oil to children suffering from seizures, received approval last week from the Assembly Committee on Children and Families.
There are similar bills being debated throughout the state, including a piece of hemp legislation. However, none were discussed last week.
South Carolina: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced
State lawmakers introduced a piece of legislation last Thursday at the Statehouse that is slated to go before the full House in March. The Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Treatment Research Act serves to establish a medical marijuana program that was actually passed in South Carolina back in 1982.
“We certainly want to make sure that patients in South Carolina do not have to leave our state in order to receive this promising treatment. MUSC is a world class medical facility and with this legislation they can treat thousands of South Carolinians who suffer from seizures," said Representative Jenny Horne, co-sponsor of the bill.
Georgia: Marijuana Bill Passes Without Opposition
The House Health Committee voted in support of a measure to legalize medical marijuana in the state. House Bill 885, which would allow doctors to prescribe cannabidiol or CBD oils to parents with children suffering from seizures, advanced by way of unanimous vote.
However, supporters say the bill is dead legislation unless the state first makes it legal to cultivate marijuana. “We supported HB-885 with the hope that the [House Health & Human Services] committee would identify the issues and modify the bill”, said James Bell, director of Georgia C.A.R.E. “We have seen an unwillingness on behalf of the bill’s author to consider any form of legalization. Without this reform the bill is dead!”
The bill is expected to go to the House on Monday.
Maryland: Legalization Hearings
Last Tuesday, Maryland lawmakers gathered to debate the issue of legalized marijuana, looking into two proposals -- one to tax and regulate and the other to decriminalize.
After hearing varying degrees of testimony from both supporting and opposing forces, lawmakers made the decision to advance the bills.
"We've really turned [the war on marijuana] into a war against our own people," said Senator Jamie Raskin, who introduced the legalization bill. "We have criminalized and demonized tens of thousands of our fellow Marylanders; we have ruined many of their prospects for success in the labor market and the job force; we have been spending more than $100 million a year on criminal arrest prosecution and supervision of people for marijuana-related offenses, and yet we didn't put a dent into the demand for the drug, and so indirectly we have been supporting the drug gangs and the international drug cartel."
However, what would happen if marijuana legislation landed on Governor O’Malley’s desk is anyone’s guess. The governor has stated that he does not support legalized marijuana, but admits it is an evolving issue with him.
Kentucky: Medical Marijuana Bill Passes
Medical marijuana could be headed to Kentucky. Late last week, lawmakers passed a bill that would make marijuana legal for people suffering from debilitating conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS. House Bill 350, also known as the Cannabis Compassion Act, would allow patients and caregivers to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Another bill, Senate Bill 124, which would allow the use of cannabis oils for children with seizures, was passed earlier last week in a Kentucky Senate committee. The bill is set to be heard before the full Senate, which could receive a vote sometime this week. Kentucky lawmakers say this is the first medical marijuana bill of its kind to be passed in a Kentucky legislative committee.
A recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll indicates that 80% of Kentucky adults support medical marijuana.
California: Last Chance Initiative
California has one last chance to legalize marijuana this year. The only thing standing in their way is the $2 million they need to obtain the required hundreds of thousands of signatures before spring.
The Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act will need to gather in upwards of 500,000 signatures before April 18 to get their initiative on the November 2014 ballot. “The only thing that stands in the way of legalization in 2014 is money, and it’s not a lot,” said Dave Hodges, a supporter of the proposal. “It will take an additional $2 million dollars to cover the signature gathering costs.”
The initiative was approved to gather signatures earlier this month. Donations can be made on the MCLR website.
Utah: Medical Marijuana Bill Passes the Committee
Last week, the House Law Enforcement Committee passed a bill 8-2 that would allow children with epilepsy to have access to cannabidiol or CBD oil.
"I feel like it's safe -- hemp oil. They can't get high off it. It's not smoke. It's not something that, at this time, has been shown to have any harmful side effects, and I'll take that over the medication that I already know," said Barbara Kohler, whose son Peyton suffers from Dravet Syndrome.
Supporters of the bill drove it home to colleagues that unless a change was made, children like Peyton had a very short life expectancy -- 18 years of age or younger.