There was fear coursing through the veins of marijuana advocates last week, due to possibility that a Republican-led lynch mob would stop Washington DC from implementing their new decriminalization law -- this, however, did not happen. After two months of sandbag tactics on the part of Congress, the District law to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana finally went into effect last Thursday -- making possession of no more than an ounce of weed punishable with a $25 fine.
In other parts of the country, lawmakers were hard at work trying to implement some level of marijuana reform in their state. Here is a closer look at what your pot-friendly legislators were up to:
Arizona: Law Enforcement Anti-Pot Resolution
Arizona law enforcement along with a group of county attorneys passed a resolution last week aimed at preventing marijuana from being legalized in Arizona. During the Arizona County Attorney and Sheriff’s Association meeting, the collective opposition took a voice vote in a stand against any measure aimed at implementing pot-friendly legislation, similar to those in Colorado and Washington, in 2016.
The Marijuana Policy Project has their sights set on legalizing marijuana in Arizona through voter initiatives throughout the next two elections. Mason Tvert, the spokesperson for MPP, says he is bewildered by the resolution. "It's baffling that law enforcement officials would prefer adults use alcohol instead of marijuana when alcohol is far more dangerous," said Tvert.
In addition, thousands have signed a petition demanding the University of Arizona rehire researcher Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who was terminated from her position shortly after winning federal approval to study medical marijuana for military veterans suffering from PTSD. Her research, which is currently in limbo, took three years to receive approval. The university has not said whether they would consider reinstating Sisley.
California: Berkeley Give Free Weed to the Poor
Earlier last week, the Berkeley City Council approved a measure that would make it mandatory for all dispensaries to offer free medical marijuana to patients who are financially incapable of purchasing it out of pocket. The measure was passed in an undisputed vote last Tuesday, and is expected to receive final approval later this week.
The goal of the new proposal, which requires dispensaries to give away marijuana equal to two percent of their yearly cannabis sales, is to ensure all patients have an opportunity to receive the medicine they need, regardless of their ability to pay. To qualify for the program, medical marijuana patients must earn less than $32,000 for a single person/ $46,000 for a family of four.
Illinois: Medical Marijuana in 2015?
Although Illinois recently approved medical marijuana, patients have not been able to access medicine because there have been no regulations put into place. However, last week, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules approved regulations for the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, which they speculate could be up and running sometime in early 2015.
As it stands, patients suffering from one of the 39 qualified ailments, whose last names start with letter A-L will be allowed to apply for their medical marijuana card in September. The rest will have to wait until November.
New Mexico: US Attorney Not Busting Patients Who Cross the Border
New Mexico US Attorney Damon Martinez announced last week he would not prosecute medical marijuana patients caught with cannabis at US Customs and Border Patrol checkpoints. Unfortunately, agents working the checkpoints would still be allowed to seize the marijuana.
Michigan: Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bills
The senate approved two measures last week -- House Bills 4271 and 5104 -- that could expand the state’s voter approved medical marijuana program. Last year, the state imposed a ban on dispensaries, as well as outlawed the use of marijuana edibles. The passing of these bills would allow communities to govern their own marijuana dispensaries as well as give patients permission to use edibles.
The bills now move to the Senate floor, where it will be decided if they receive a vote in their current form or be amended first. This is expected to happen later this week.
Maine: Group Files Petition for Legal Weed in South Portland
Last week, Citizens for Safer Maine turned in a petition with 1,521 signatures to South Portland officials, which could put the issue of legalized marijuana on the ballot in the November election. The organization, which is being backed by the Marijuana Policy Project, only needed 959 valid signatures to force the council to act.
“Our goal is to get people talking about marijuana and the benefits of ending prohibition,” David Boyer, with the MMP, said in a statement. “Marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol for the consumer and for society. It should be treated in that way, and that entails no longer punishing adults who choose to use it responsibly.”
However, earlier last month, the South Portland City Council unanimously adopted a preemptive resolution against decriminalizing marijuana in South Portland. Yet, Mayor Jerry Jalbert says their efforts are meaningless and hold no weight. “We have no legal authority at the municipal level,” he said. “This is really more of a ploy where if it were to pass they could bring it to the state Legislature. This is a non-binding item. It’s not a real change.”
Missouri: Medical Marijuana Bill Signed
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed a bill into law last week that will enable access to CBD oil for patients suffering from epilepsy. The new law will give some patients with high seizure rates the ability to be prescribed non-psychoactive marijuana extracts to help diminish the frequency of their attacks. Unfortunately, this law does not cover the thousands of other patients in Missouri that could benefit from less restrictive medical marijuana legislation, but it is a start.
Oklahoma: Bureau of Narcotic Opposes Initiative to Legalize Marijuana
Although the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics opposes the initiative to legalize marijuana, which is currently gaining momentum across the state, they say residents should be prepared for it to pass -- but as for the OBN, they are not backing down. Last Tuesday, during a board meeting, OBN Executive Director Darrell Weaver said law enforcement is standing its ground against legal weed in Oklahoma. “We’re all aware that this petition is out there” and that “probably this and prescription drugs, is the number one thing that most states are addressing,” he said.
“This is our game plan on this,” Weaver continued. “We’re monitoring this very closely. We are gathering information right now. We have analysts that are gathering information…getting our ammunition together."
A recent poll shows 71 percent of Oklahoma residents support medical marijuana and 57 percent believe weed should be decriminalized.