In a recent George Washington University Battleground poll, the nationwide survey found that citizens were more likely to cast a vote during an election if the issue of marijuana legalization was on the ballot. Four our of 10 respondents said the possibility of legal pot would drive them to the polls, while another 30 percent said ballot initiatives, like the recently green lit California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, would encourage them to wax their democratic privilege.
Last week, state lawmakers fought to further the issue of legalized weed, finding some success in a few decriminalization measures as well as victories for limited medical marijuana bills with an emphasis on CBD oils. Yet, recreational marijuana cannot seem to catch a break.
Here is what your pot-friendly legislators were up to last week:
Arkansas: Marijuana Legalization Bill Shot Down
Once again, the verbiage of proposed legislation to legalize marijuana in Arkansas has led to rejection by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. Now, supporters must draft a new version and begin the process all over again.
The first section of the measure drafted by the Arkansans for Medical Cannabis reads: “We, the citizens of Arkansas hereby amend the Constitution of Arkansas to allow the legal residents of Arkansas the right to cultivate, manufacture, distribute, sell and use the cannabis plant (genus cannabis) and all products derived from the cannabis plant (genus cannabis) within the legal boundaries of the state of Arkansas,” followed by “This amendment shall take effect six months after passage,” in the second section.
However, McDaniel says the bill does not give any clear definitions of “legal resident” and it does not specify who would be responsible for regulating commercial production and retail sales. Therefore, the proposal must be amended before it can receive additional consideration.
New Hampshire: Legalization Bill Killed
The New Hampshire House voted last week 192-140 against a bill aimed at legalizing up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use. The House tax writing committee said the measure was too vaguely written to receive approval.
Those that opposed the bill argued that the state did not need the “cash cow” of legal weed, and that marijuana sales would “breed tax evasion.” However, supporters say they do not believe “New Hampshire wants to be known as the East Coast pot state.”
New Jersey: Measure to Legalize Marijuana
State Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a piece of legislation last Monday aimed at establishing a tax and regulatory system for marijuana in New Jersey. The measure is similar to legislation used to set up the recreational marijuana industry in both Colorado and Washington.
“Anybody that looks at the facts, knows that the war on marijuana has been a miserable failure. We’re not delusional about how simple the effort would be, but I think from a standpoint of moving this state and this country forward on its archaic drug laws, I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Scutari said in a recent statement.
A recent poll found that nearly 60% of New Jersey voters supported marijuana legalization.
Utah: Limited Medical Marijuana
Last Tuesday, Governor Gary Herbert held a law signing ceremony at the state capitol that will allow cannabis oils to be used by Utah children suffering from epileptic seizures. However, the new law will not allow anyone to grow cannabis, it will only give them permission to obtain the CBD extract from other states.
Yet, federal regulations could make this new law sort of a dead dog, as there could be issues transporting the medicine across state lines, specifically in the eyes of the the DEA.
There are currently no provisions written that would allow Colorado to sell or ship CBD oils to Utah or any other state.
Maryland: Medical Marijuana Bill Approved
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee passed a bill last week giving physicians permission to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients. The bill is now set to go before the full Senate for a vote, which could set the measure back if they determine changes need to be made. A second House vote would then become necessary before going in front of the Governor to be signed into law.
UPDATE: The Senate made some major revisions to the bill, eliminating the ten-grower limit and granting licenses for 94 distributors. The Maryland House and the Senate must now negotiate the terms.
Maryland has struggled to establish a medical marijuana program. In 2013, it was approved but never managed to gain the support of local universities needed to make it happen.
Illinois: Medical Marijuana Expansion Advances
A bill that would expand the current medical marijuana program advanced early last week at the Illinois Statehouse. The legislation is aimed at including the use of CBD oils for epileptic children.
The measure was unanimously passed by the Senate Public Health Committee and now advances to the full Senate.
“Letters have been sent by so many parents who suffer watching their children have seizures -- and not just one or two seizures: 100, 200, 1,000 seizures a week,” said Senator Iris Martinez. “This could be a lifesaving solution for children suffering from epilepsy.”
Other lawmakers simply want to ease criminal penalties associated with marijuana. “The war on drugs has not worked,” said Representative Christian Mitchell of Chicago. “Our jails are overcrowded. We need to get smarter on crime, not tougher. Drug addiction is a public health problem, not a public safety problem.”
On Friday, two decriminalization bills, House Bill 4299 and House Bill 5708, received approval from the Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee. These bills would make possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana punishable with only a $100 ticket. However, House Bill 4299 has an additional benefit, as it also makes it a civil infraction to manufacture or deliver up to 10 grams of cannabis or be in possession of up to 5 plants.
Both decriminalization bills are set to go before the full Senate for a vote.
Pennsylvania: Cutting Penalties?
A Pennsylvania lawmaker recent introduced a bill that would lessen the penalties for marijuana possession. Senator Mike Stack says his measure, Senate Bill 1307, is aimed at reducing the punishment for the first two offenses for possession of marijuana, less than one ounce. On the third strike, prosecutors would have the right to pursue criminal charges.
Stack also introduced Senate Bill 1308, which would make would assist offenders in having conviction for small amounts of marijuana removed from their records..
“These bills are not intended to be a commentary on the wisdom or health of marijuana use,” said Stack in a press release. “They are targeted at the wisdom of continuing an approach that is expensive, ineffective and misguided. These bills are a challenge to those who walk these halls and profess their support for smaller government at a lower cost to taxpayers.”
Right now, possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor with a punishment of 30 days in prison and a $500 fine.
Arizona: Cannabis Oil Now Legal
Cannabis extracts have been ruled as acceptable medicine under the Arizona medical marijuana program. Last week, Judge Katherine Cooper said the state’s medical marijuana law "authorizes qualifying patients to use extracts, including CBD oil, prepared from the marijuana plant."
Prior to Judge Cooper’s verdict, patients and caregivers could have faced felony prosecution for being in possession of CBD oils, which are used to treat children suffering from seizures.
Florida: $1 Million Medical Marijuana Research Bill Approved
A measure aimed at making cannabis oil available to Florida children suffering from seizures was passed earlier last week through a House committee. House Bill 843, would allow a high-CBD strain of marijuana called “Charlotte’s Web” to be used in the treatment of epilepsy. The bill would also allocate $1 million for medical marijuana research.
It is now set to be heard before the Judiciary Committee.
California: Ballot Initiative Approved for Signature Gathering
The California Cannabis Hemp Initiative has received approval to begin collecting the required 504,760 signatures needed to earn a spot on the 2014 ballot. The measure, which is also known as the Jack Herer Initiative, would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over and enforce laws to protect pot users against employers.
However, the initiative has much work to do. Signatures must be collected by August 18, which will cause some financial strains. "The challenge is finding people or a group of people willing to put up the funds, who want to see it get done in 2014, not wait till 2016," said CCHI supporter Berton Duzy.
A recent study finds that legalized marijuana could save California $100 million each year in law enforcement and court costs.