President Obama said earlier this year that marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol, which gave cannabis advocates across the country some hope for less restrictive federal pot policies in the near future. However, the latest National Drug Control Strategy shows the president’s hands are not on the wheel when it comes to driving marijuana reform in the United States, and reveals the government is not prepared to change its anti-pot position.
“Illicit drug use and its consequences challenge our shared dream of building for our children a country that is healthier, safer and more prosperous,” wrote President Obama, revealing that the War on Drugs will continue to be fought across America. “Illicit drug use is associated with addiction, disease, and lower academic performance among our young people. It contributes to crime, injures and serious dangers on the nation’s roadways. And drug use and its consequences jeopardize the progress we have made in strengthening our economy -- contributing to unemployment, impeding re-employment, and costing our economy billions of dollars in lost productivity.”
Meanwhile, some state lawmakers are working to make changes to local marijuana policies, which appears to be as much leash as the federal government is willing to give: let’s allow individual states to reform pot laws if they so choose, while maintaining the power to tighten the choke.
In a recent interview with former President Bill Clinton, who is no stranger to the political agenda in this country, said, “This really is a time when there should be laboratories of democracy, because nobody really knows where this is going. Are there adequate quality controls? There’s pot and there’s ‘pot:’ what’s in it? What’s going to happen? There are all these questions.”
Here are what your local democratic “laboratories” were up to last week:
New York: Becomes 23rd State to Legalize Medical Marijuana
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a piece of legislation earlier last week, making New York the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana. However, the state will have one of the most restrictive programs in America, with stipulations ranging from patients not being allowed to smoke cannabis to only being used to treat 10 qualified conditions: AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, certain spinal cord injuries, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies and Huntington’s Disease.
Now, state regulators are challenged with how to implement the new program, which will take some time. It will likely be at least 18 months before medical marijuana is prescribed.
Brooklyn, NY: Stop Prosecuting Small Pot Cases
The Brooklyn district attorney’s office announced last week that it would no longer prosecute low-level marijuana possession cases. However, there will be a few exceptions. Police can still bust people for weed if the suspect has an extensive criminal record or if the incident occurs in public places near children. Yet, any officer who simply makes an arrest based on marijuana possession will have their case thrown out of court.
Arizona: Weed for PTSD in 2015
Patients suffering from PTSD will be allowed access to medical marijuana in early 2015. In a blog published last week by the Arizona Department of Health Services, director William Humble announced the decision to add the condition to Arizona’s list of qualified ailments. This just a month after judge Thomas Shedden ordered the state to add PTSD, saying “a preponderance of evidence shows medical marijuana provides palliative benefit to those suffering from PTSD.”
Patients will be eligible to receive medical marijuana for PTSD beginning in January.
Minnesota: Study Medical Marijuana Laws
Governor Mark Dayton has assembled a task force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research, which study the impact medical marijuana has on the state. This 16-member team consists of law enforcement officials and substance abuse counselors, who are now officially responsible for drumming up biased against medical marijuana in the community. Although, it will be at least a year before patients in the state are allowed access to cannabis medicine, lawmakers want to ensure they are prepared to point out the defects of the system.
“We want to make sure that there’s proper oversight of the entire process,” said Attorney James Backstrom, who is opposed to legalized medical marijuana. “The states that have had significant public safety concerns regarding medical marijuana laws that have passed, there hasn’t been a lot of oversight.”
Arkansas: Not Enough Signatures for Medical Marijuana
Although there was some speculation that the Arkansans for Compassionate Care initiative would succeed in collecting the required signatures, the latest reports indicate the question of legalized medical marijuana will not be on the ballot in the November election.
A Representative for the campaign announced last Monday that the initiative fell just 10,000 signatures shy of the required 62,507. However, the measure is expected to try again in 2016.
Opposing forces applauded the residents of Arkansas for deciding against medical marijuana. “We are pleased to learn Arkansans have rejected the legalization of marijuana once again,” said Jerry Cox, head of the Family Council, in a statement. “Voters made a decision on that issue two years ago. The fact that the measure failed to get enough signatures to make it to the ballot tells me Arkansans are standing by that decision.”
However, Arkansans for Compassionate Care campaign director Melissa Fults said there was not a shortage of supporters, but rather a lack of financial resources to reach them.
Alaska: State Will Not Study Pot Implications … Unless
With Alaskans preparing to vote on legalized marijuana in the upcoming November election, Governor Sean Parnell says he will not utilize state funds to conduct a study the implications of marijuana… unless the measure is passed. Parnell, who opposes the prospect of legal marijuana, initially asked the Alaska Department of Law to research how legal weed might affect the state prior to the election, but has since called off the dogs until after residents cast their ballots.
Montana: Initiative to Ban Marijuana Fails to Get Signatures
Steve Zabawa and his initiative to get marijuana outlawed across the state of Montana failed to collect the required 24,175 signatures needed to put the question on the ballot in the November election. Although he claims his failure was not due to a lack of interest on behalf of the residents of Montana, but a shortage of resources.
“I needed more advertising, more time,” said Zabawa. “The last few days before the election, we had a couple of hundred people hitting the website, but I just ran out of time.”
Unfortunately, the initiative plans to approach the 2015 state legislature about passing a referendum to have the initiative put on the ballot in 2016.
Rhode Island: Medical Marijuana Amendment
Governor Chafee signed an amendment to the states medical marijuana law last week, which establishes some changes to the regulatory system and co-op grow limits. The amendment dictates that in non-residential areas, coops can have 10 ounces, 48 full-grown plants, and 24 seedlings. In residential areas, the numbers diminish -- 24 mature plants and 12 seedlings. All cooperatives are now required to report their operation to state police.
In addition, a felony conviction eliminates a caregiver’s eligibility to cultivate marijuana for their patients.
Georgia: Governor Wants CBD Trails to Happen by 2015
Governor Nathan Deal said last week that he was going to push to get the state’s recently approved CBD trial started by 2015. He plans to meet with officials in the near future to begin working out the details for the program.
"We all have to be sensitive to the children who have these seizures, and that is the focal point for all this discussion," said Deal. "I want it to be helpful, not harmful. And I want it to be legal, and that's why we are taking the steps to make sure we achieve all of those goals."
The CBD trial program will allow Georgia Regents University to collaborate with GW Pharmaceuticals in order to conduct clinical trials of an experimental drug, which is also currently being tested in New York.