Perhaps the greatest victory last week was New York’s decision to legalize medical marijuana on the final day of the legislative session. There were concerns that after a week of negotiations, the measure was doomed to not make it out alive. Yet, by Thursday afternoon, reports began to surface that lawmakers had reached a deal, which spawned a whole new cluster of concerns about what types of restrictions would come with the state’s new program.
As part of the agreement, patients will not be allowed to smoke marijuana, but can use a vaporizer or edible. In addition, those qualified for the program will be limited to receive two ounces of medicine per month. The measure was passed by an assembly vote of 113-14, and it is expected to be signed into law sometime this year.
To find out more about what your pot-friendly lawmakers were up to last week, check out the rest of the HIGH TIMES legislative roundup:
Federal: Members of Congress Want Medical Marijuana Research
Medical marijuana continues to gain ground on a federal level. In a letter sent last week to the secretary of Health and Human Services, 30 members of Congress requested that the government cut the red tape surrounding medical marijuana research. The letter, which was sent to the office of Sylvia Matthews Burwell, reads: "We believe the widespread use of medical marijuana should necessitate research into what specific relief it offers and how it can best be delivered for different people and different conditions," the letter states. "Yet, the scientific research clearly documenting these benefits has often been hampered by federal barriers."
The letter goes on to explain that more than a million American citizens are currently using medical marijuana, which has been legalized in 22 states and the District of Columbia. “Considering the number of states with medical marijuana laws and the number of patients who use marijuana medicinally in the United States, it is clear that we need more scientific information about the therapeutic risks and benefits of marijuana.”
Florida: Limited Medical Marijuana Bill Signed Into Law
Last Monday, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a law that would allow the high-CBD strain Charlotte’s Web to be given to children suffering from epileptic seizures. Governor Scott said he was honored to help Florida families. “As a father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer," he said. "I am proud to stand today with families who deserve the ability to provide their children with the best treatment available.”
Beginning January 1, 2015, physicians will be allowed to prescribe CBD oil to patients suffering from epilepsy, cancer and other conditions that induce “seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms.” However, there is speculation that the restrictive nature of the bill will not serve the needs of patients.
Connecticut: Hemp & Feasibility Study Now Law
Connecticut will now embark on a journey in hopes of determining if legalized industrial hemp would benefit the state. Governor Dan Malloy recently signed a law that will enable the Commissioners of Agriculture, Consumer Protection and Economic and Community Development to conduct a feasibility study to gauge the importance of legalizing hemp for “the purpose of encouraging economic development and increasing the number of new businesses in this state.”
The results of the study are to be reported by January 1, 2015.
Kentucky: Medical Marijuana Inevitable
Kentucky lawmakers were back at the drawing board last week in an attempt to legalize medical marijuana. Earlier this year, a similar measure was killed on the chamber floor after passing the House Health and Welfare Committee. Lawmakers feel confident that medical marijuana is destined to become a reality in the Bluegrass State.
“I think eventually it will happen, because every survey I’ve run shows big percentages of people that want it legalized," said committee chainman Tom Burch. "I’m sure some of the legislators here on this panel, if they surveyed their district, probably comes back close to mine.”
The committee is scheduled to discuss the issue once again this fall.
Arkansas: Struggle for Signatures
Now that approval has been given by the state Attorney General to begin collecting signatures to get the issue of legal marijuana on the November ballot, it seems the organization responsible for the measure is having trouble getting people interested.
Arkansans for Compassionate Care said last week they have only obtained half of the 62,507 required signatures it needs to get the issue in front of voters in the upcoming election. The organization blames tight finances for their troubles.
Delaware: Decriminalization Bill Advances
Delaware is one step closer to decriminalizing marijuana. Last week, a state House committee approved a piece of amended legislation that would strip the criminal penalties from possession of small amounts of marijuana. Instead, anyone over the age of 21 caught in possession of up to an ounce of weed would be slapped with a $250 fine. The current law mandates that the same offense be punishable by a fine of up to $1,150 and six months in jail.
North Carolina: CBD Bill Approved
A House committee approved a measure last week aimed at legalizing cannabis oil for epilepsy patients. Not unlike other CBD bills, this piece of medical marijuana legislation is very restricted. It is now scheduled to go before the House Finance Committee and then back to the House floor. More news regarding this bill is expected to come later this week.
Oregon: Signature Goal Close
Reports emerged last week indicating that New Approach Oregon, one of three initiatives vying to get the issue of legal marijuana on the ballot in the November election, only needs a few thousand more signatures to make it happen. So far, the organization has submitted 83,500 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office. It needs 87,213 valid voter signatures by July 3 to get the initiative on the ballot.
If the organization manages to obtain the required signatures, voters will have a chance to decide on the issue of establishing a taxed-and-regulated marijuana law similar to the one passed in Washington state.
The latest SurveyUSA poll, which was released last Tuesday, found that 51 percent of Oregon residents favored legal marijuana, while 41 percent were not.
UPDATE: New Approach Oregon has now collected over 100,000 signatures.
Arizona: No Legal Weed in 2014
Although marijuana advocates Safer Arizona have been attempting to collect signatures to get the issue of legal marijuana on the ballot in the November election, the organization announced last week that it was putting an end to its efforts until 2016. Citing a lack of funding as the primary reason for dropping out, the group now plans to work towards creating a successful campaign that will help them prevail in the next presidential election.
Colorado: Recreational Marijuana In Colorado Springs on November Ballot?
Recreational marijuana may make it on the ballot again during the upcoming November election. A proposed ordinance is in the works by the city attorney aimed at regulating marijuana similar to alcohol in Colorado Springs. However, Mayor Steve Bach does not support legal marijuana, while other city leaders are ready to join the green rush that other Colorado municipalities have been capitalizing from for the past six months.
"So we have a unique opportunity to get control of this and bring it in the world where we can make some money from it so we can pay for exactly what they were talking about here today. The storm water, potholes, roads and bridges," Mark Slaugh with Every Vote Counts told KRDO.
Opposing forces say that legalized marijuana in Colorado Springs would create problems between the private sector and the military.
New Mexico: Medical Marijuana Rules
Last Monday, the New Mexico Department of Health held a public hearing to discuss proposed changes to the state’s medical marijuana program. Patients have concerns over the proposed changes, which they believe would limit their access to medical marijuana.
The Department of Health wants to increase producer fees to help cover cost not covered under state funds. Yet, there are concerns that the increased price of medical marijuana will drive patients back to the black market.
In addition, petitions have been filed in Albuquerque and Santa Fe aimed at lessening the penalties associated with marijuana possession. The hope is to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil infraction with a fine of only $25, instead of the current $50 and 15 days in jail.
Wisconsin: Marijuana Pills Remain Unavailable
Due to issues over obtaining FDA approval for pills containing marijuana extract, Wisconsin families have been forced to remain in waiting for medicine used to treat children with seizures. Not one parent has been prescribed CBD extract for their child since the state made it legal two months ago because the “FDA must approve a physician to prescribe CBD to patients,” according to an amendment in the law.
The medical community’s hands are tied and most physicians have refused to even submit an application to the FDA.