Thirty-five states have imposed legislation to legalize medicinal cannabis in some form here in the United States, according to NORML. Although some of these laws only encompass cannabidiol or CBD, making non-intoxicating cannabis oil available to children suffering from epilepsy, the progress still marks a six percent increase from the 21 states and the District of Columbia that were on the books this time last year.
On the recreational front -- Colorado and Washington are the only two states to make the leap to legalize the leaf for good times and bad, but that could all change in the fall. Alaska, Oregon and Washington D.C. are all set to ask voters the question of recreational marijuana in the November election, with most advocates expecting the outcome to go in favor of the cause.
If all of these initiatives are successful, four U.S. states and the District of Columbia will have passed laws allowing recreational marijuana on some level, which could be some positive momentum towards getting the federal government to repeal prohibition. It is still too early to tell.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers across the nation continued to work towards creating pot-friendly policies in their communities. Here is a closer look at what your legislators were up to last week:
Minnesota: Pot Producer Rules Released
Last week, the Minnesota Department of Health published its first draft of regulations for medical marijuana producers, which officials agree are vague and will need to be amended. Although some rules are set in stone, like the security provisions that prohibit manufacturers from employing anyone with a felony criminal record, as well as technical aspect to ensure facilities always maintain 24-hour surveillance, the department is seeking the assistance of Minnesotans to assemble the rest.
On Friday, prospective manufacturers and medical marijuana advocates met in the Minnesota Department of Revenue Building to discuss more about what is going to be expected of producers. Minnesota’s legislation is one of the most restrictive in the country, as it does not allow medical marijuana patients to have access to or possess the cannabis plant. Instead, all of the state-licensed dispensaries will be challenged to provide patients with oils, pills or extracts. Smoking marijuana remains illegal.
Oregon: Pot Advocates Raise $1 Million
Campaign documents released last Monday indicate that Oregon marijuana advocates responsible for qualifying the ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in the November election have raised $1 million to help ensure the push is a success. Donors ranging from libertarian activist Philip Harvey to the late Peter Lewis have all made sizeable contributions to the cause. “Our aim is to raise as much as we need to win. How much hinges on factors we can’t control and don’t know at this point,” said New Approach spokesman, Peter Zuckerman.
Oregon state officials determined last month that the New Approach Initiative qualified for a spot on the November ballot. If the measure is approved, Oregon would become the third state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.
Ohio: Toledo to Decriminalize Marijuana?
Marijuana advocates turned in signatures last week for an initiative aimed at decriminalizing the possession of marijuana in the City of Toledo. The measure is called the Sensible Marihuana Ordinance, and if it passes, it would strip away the criminal penalties associated with pot possession in the city. Supporters submitted 13,000 voter signatures to the City Council… only 6,000 valid signatures are required to get the issue on the ballot.
Washington D.C: Recreation Marijuana, Cultivation Heads to Ballot
The District board of elections announced last week that the proposed legislation (Initiative 71) to legalize up to two ounces of marijuana would be up to voters to decide in the upcoming November election. If the measure is approved, adults 21 and over will be legally permitted to grow up to six plants and can give up to ounce of weed away to friends and family. However, retail sales would not be permitted. "This is the war on marijuana's Waterloo," said Adam Eidinger, with the D.C. Cannabis Campaign. "If we can pass it here in Washington, short of Congress overturning it, then the country really has changed."
Of course, there is a possibility Congress will swoop in and attempt to put the kibosh on this measure either before or after the November election. Yet, District Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton says she will fight Congress tooth and nail if they attempt to stifle the measure.
“We will not let history repeat itself,” Norton said in a statement. “Republicans tried to prevent D.C. from voting on an initiative in 1998 to legalize medical marijuana, and after voters approved it, blocked its implementation with an appropriations rider for more than 10 years. We are not surprised that Republicans are threatening to again use the power of the federal government to block the will of the voters of a local jurisdiction. Many Republicans abandon their professed support of local control of local affairs when they have an opportunity to bully the residents of the District, who cannot hold them accountable at the ballot box. We have already begun working with our allies to protect the will of D.C. voters.”
In addition, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed the Medical Marijuana Expansion Act of 2014, which allows physicians to recommend marijuana to patients suffering from any condition they believe could benefit from its use. However, the bill is only temporary and will expire near the end of October if the District Council does not impose additional legislation.