It seems that lawmakers all across the country strongly support legalizing marijuana as long as patients cannot get high. Several extremely limited medical marijuana laws went into effect last week in the United States, including in Iowa, Mississippi and Utah. However, while the powers that be work up the nerve to legalize weed in America as it should be, there are a few state legislators doing their best to bring the question of legal weed to the people -- bypassing the grey hairs of prohibition by allowing the democratic doobie to speak for itself.
Here is a closer look at what your pot-friendly lawmakers were working on last week:
Pennsylvania: Medical Marijuana Bill Approved
Earlier last week, Pennsylvania lawmakers voted unanimously to approved a bill -- Senate Bill 1182 -- that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. The measure must now go before the Senate Appropriations Committee and then the Senate floor.
“History was made today!” said Republican Senator Mike Folmer, who sponsored the bill. “I am overjoyed that Senate Bill 1182, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, was unanimously reported out of the Senate Law & Justice Committee. We are one step closer to this becoming law in Pennsylvania.”
New Jersey: Medical Marijuana Amendment Introduced
Assemblywoman Linda Strender introduced a measure last week aimed at bettering the state’s medical marijuana program. The bill would overhaul the current system, which would allow patients to grow their own marijuana, provide mandatory marijuana testing, eliminate sales tax on medical marijuana, and expand on the current list of qualified conditions.
However, if the bill is passed, it will likely receive a veto from Governor Christie, who has vowed not to make changes to the current medical marijuana program.
Ohio: No Legal Weed This Year
Ohio will not get a chance to vote on the issue of medical marijuana this year. The Ohio Rights Group announced last week that it failed to collect the required 385,000 signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot in the November election. Campaign president John Pardee said the initiative did not have the proper funding to make legal weed a reality in 2014.
"You need paid help for an effort like this and what's disappointing is that we can't convince enough donors to contribute to get the necessary resources to put us over the top," said Pardee. "We found there are a lot of people who would sign petitions but they fear losing their job," he continued. "Doctors and lawyers and other professionals tell me the same thing. There is stigma attached to the issue. We do find the continuing education is helping but that takes time."
However, the initiative will begin collecting signatures again in 2015.
Washington D.C.: Legalization Initiative Collects 55K Signature
The DC Cannabis Campaign announced last week that the initiative has successfully obtained more than twice the number of required signatures needed to reserve a spot on the ballot in the upcoming election -- 58,000 voters interested in legalizing the leaf in our nation’s capital. However, there are now concerns that Congress will step in and put the kibosh on their efforts by preventing voters from casting their opinion on the issue.
“We are proud of our petition circulators who braved the heat to further democracy in the District of Columbia,” said Campaign chairman Adam Eidinger. “But I am very concerned that members of Congress will use their power to stop District of Columbia voters from being able to fully participate in the democratic process. We deserve the right to vote on Initiative 71.”
The Campaign intends to submit the signatures to the DC Board of Election Monday morning.
Washington D.C.: Feds Trying to Block Decriminalization
Republicans are trying to block Washington D.C. from being allowed to decriminalize marijuana. Representative Andy Harris introduced an amendment last Wednesday that would prohibit the District of Columbia from spending local revenue to legalize or decriminalize weed. The amendment is a way to lash out against the District’s recent decision to reduce marijuana penalties.
“It is outrageous that members of Congress are trying to overturn a locally-enacted law that has the overwhelming support of D.C. voters and the D.C. Council,” said Bill Piper, with the Drug Policy Alliance. “That Rep. Harris is picking on a majority black district and no other jurisdiction with marijuana decriminalization is very telling. His own state has decriminalized marijuana but he’s not interfering with it.”
However, it is important to point out that the introduction of this amendment does not put D.C.’s decriminalization law down for the count. The amendment must first be voted on by the full House of Representatives, and if it passes, it must receive approval from the Senate majority and President Obama. Even if that happens, which is unlikely, there is speculation that marijuana might just become legal.
"Basically what would happen is, this amendment -- the way it's written -- would not re-criminalize or rewrite the laws around criminalization of marijuana," said Dr. Malik Burnett, with the Drug Policy Alliance. "Police issuing tickets to people who they found to have marijuana on their person wouldn't be able to do so, that would create a sort of de facto legalization."
The consensus seems to be that this proposed amendment has very little chance at stopping D.C. from moving forward with the decriminalization of marijuana.
Rhode Island: Medical Marijuana Law Amended
Last week, lawmakers made some negative changes to the state’s medical marijuana laws aimed at lining out what law enforcement is calling public safety issues. Now, property owners have the right not to rent to anyone holding a medical marijuana card that wishes to cultivate his own marijuana. In addition, all primary caregivers are now required to undergo criminal background checks and be registered if convicted of a felony.
New York: Governor to Sign Medical Marijuana Law
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the state’s newly approved medical marijuana legislation into law sometime this week. He has until Saturday to sign the bill, which has said he intends to do. After the measure becomes law, the state will have 18 months to begin establishing a regulatory system for the program.
Florida: Medical Marijuana Go Grassroots
Although the amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Florida is funded by wealthy supporters, other advocates have taken to a grassroots campaign to build additional support for the movement. A group called “Yes on 2” is asking its supporters to donate as little as 50 cents each time the opposition, “Vote No on 2” makes a post to its Facebook page. Supporters of the Yes on 2 initiative say that when a person invests money in a campaign they are more likely to get out and vote on the issue.
North Carolina: CBD Bill Approved By Senate
A measure to legalize CBD oil for patients suffering from epileptic seizures made it the Senate floor last week. A bill called “Hope for Haley” passed a state Senate committee on Wednesday and was approved unanimously on the Senate floor by Thursday evening. It must now go before Governor Pat McCrory for his signature, which is expected to happen.
UPDATE: Last Thursday, Governor Pat McCrory signed this bill into law. However, due to the restrictions associated with this measure, it is not being counted as one of the 23 states to legalize medical marijuana.
West Virginia: Banning Paraphernalia?
In Oceana, there appears to be such a problem with drugs that the town council is considering banning drug paraphernalia. Last week, an ordinance was proposed that would make illegal to be in possession of devices made to use or conceal illegal drugs. First offense would be punishable with a $500 fine; second offense $1,000, and $2,000 for subsequent offense. The Town Council is expected to decide on this issue next month.
Colorado: Pueblo County Cannabis Clubs OK’d
The Pueblo County commissioners voted last week (2-0) to finally allow cannabis clubs. These establishments would be private, members-only type clubs that would allow patrons to smoke weed outside out of public view. Visitors of these clubs will be allowed to obtain guest passes, which supporters believe will give tourists a way to partake in legal weed without worrying about consumption issues.
Rhode Island: Legal Marijuana Runs Out of Time
There is no more hope for legal marijuana in Rhode Island this year. The state’s 2014 legislative session ended last weekend without addressing the issue of establishing a tax and regulatory system for marijuana -- known as the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act -- to legalize marijuana similar to how it is being done in Colorado and Washington.
“While we are disappointed the bill didn’t pass this year, we are not discouraged,” said Robert Capecchi, with the Marijuana Policy Project. “This long overdue policy change enjoys majority support among voters, and the Regulate Rhode Island coalition continues to grow and strengthen.”
Minnesota: Legalization Push for 2015
The Minnesota chapter of NORML announced last week plans to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana during the next legislative session. Organizers say that the success in Colorado and Washington gave them hope that legalizing the leaf was “a reasonable fight.”
Plans to hash out the details of the bill are expected to take place during an upcoming retreat. The group hopes they can get Representative Rena Moran to sponsor the measure.
Hawaii: Proposed Dispensary System
Although thousands of people in Hawaii have been approved for marijuana, none of these patients have a way of legally obtaining their medicine. Last Tuesday, the question of how patients can legally purchase marijuana was a hot subject at the State Capitol, which has spawned a committee to appoint a taskforce to look into establishing a statewide dispensary program.
Now, it is up to a designated group, put together by the State House Health Committee, to decide how a dispensary system would work. The taskforce is scheduled to meet several more times before offering their recommendation to the committee.
Oregon: Voters to Decide on Legal Weed in November
Last week, Paul Stanford announced he was throwing in the towel on his marijuana legalization initiative due to an inability to collect the required signatures. However, the good news is he blames most of the initiative’s failure on another proposal that has been signatures for the same cause – New Approach -- which is well on their way to being to being added to the November ballot.
Stanford says his initiative was only able to collect around 50,000 of the 116,284 signatures needed to have a voice in the upcoming election. He believes it would be impossible to gather what is needed before the July 3 deadline.
UPDATE: New Approach Oregon announced last Thursday the initiative will submit more than 145,000 signatures to the state. In order to get the measure on the ballot, the organization had to have collected 87,213 valid voter signatures before July 3. It looks like as long as the initiative clears signature approval, voters will decide on legal weed in the November election.