Chronicle AM: CA MedMJ Reg Bill Moves, IL Heroin Bill Passes House, Brits to Ban Legal Highs, More (6/1/15)
California could finally end up with statewide medical marijuana regulation as a compromise bill moves, asset forfeiture reform is moving in Michigan, an omnibus heroin bill moves in Illinois, and more.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Maine Legalization Bill Rejected in Committee. The Criminal Justice Committee last Thursday rejected Rep. Diane Russell's legalization bill, LD 1380, but the bill is not yet dead, and supporters say the real battle will be on the House floor. Stay tuned.
California Medical Marijuana Regulation Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Assembly Appropriations Committee has approved a compromise regulation bill that combines features of two competing bills, Assembly Bill 34 and Assembly Bill 266. The bill would create a Governor's Office of Medical Marijuana Regulation, with three divisions. The Agriculture Department would handle cultivation, the Public Health Department would handle product safety and labeling, and the Board of Equalization would be responsible for licensing. The compromise bill is AB 266. A floor vote is expected later this week.
Illinois Bill to Add PTSD Moves Ahead. The House last Saturday approved a bill that would add PTSD to the list of qualifying medical conditions. The bill has already been approved by the Senate, but will have to go back there for approval after the House added language clarifying that patients are not prohibited from having a state firearms owner ID card.
Illinois Heroin Bill Passes House. The House last week approved House Bill 1, a comprehensive bill aimed at combating heroin use. Sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), the bill would expand access to the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone, establish a prescription drug return program, expand Medicaid services to include rehabilitation, and expand the use of drug courts for people charged with simple possession. The bill now goes to the state Senate.
Michigan House Committee Approves Asset Forfeiture Reform Package. The House Judiciary Committee has passed a package of bills aimed at reforming the state's asset forfeiture laws. The package raises the standard of proof before goods can be seized and mandates increased reporting of seizures by law enforcement agencies. One of the bills would bar asset forfeiture in cases involving less than an ounce of pot.
California Assembly Committee Rejects Uber Driver Drug Testing Bill. The Appropriations Committee has voted down Assembly Bill 24, which would have required drug testing of Uber and Lyft drivers.
Silk Road Mastermind Gets Life in Prison. Ross Ulbricht, founder of the Dark Web's first widely-known drug sales website, was sentenced to life in prison Thursday, the harshest possible sentence he faced. With no chance at parole, Ulbricht will die in prison unless his sentence is overturned.
British Ban on Psychoactive Substances Could Cripple Brain Research. Last week, the British government announced it would ban all unregulated psychoactive substances via a new act, the Psychoactive Substances Bill, but some scientists are now saying the bill would cripple research on the brain. The bill would ban laughing gas, salvia, "poppers," and synthetic cannabinoids, among other things. Dr. David Nutt, the former top drug advisor to the government, said that such efforts could bring some areas of scientific research to a standstill. "It's going to end brain research in this country. It will be disastrous," he said.
British Lib Dem Leadership Candidate Says Legalize Marijuana. Norman Lamb, who is seeking to lead the Liberal Democrats after their poor showing in the last election, is calling for Britain to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana commerce. Lamb said he is seeking immediate legalization for medical use and a swift, evidence-based policy change regarding recreational use.
Chronicle AM: ME Pot DUID Bill Dies, SC MedMJ Bill Dies, OR Senate Restricts MedMJ Grows, More (5/28/15)
The Maine legislature kills a pot DUID bill, the Arizona Supreme Court will take up the issue, Florida's CBD cannabis oil program will finally roll out, the Dutch crack down on grow shops, Australia's Greens want to ban drug dogs, and more.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Maine Marijuana DUID Bill Stalls in Legislature. An effort to pass a per se marijuana impaired driving law has stalled in the legislature after experts said that, given the state of the science, any specified limit would be "arbitrary." Under per se impaired driving laws, merely testing positive for the specified amount is sufficient to get you convicted of drugged driving. The legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted Tuesday not to advance LD 1320, but instead to convene a working group to study the issue.
Arizona Supreme Court Will Review Ruling on DUID Immunity for Patients. The Supreme Court Tuesday agreed to review a state Court of Appeals ruling issued last November that said medical marijuana patients can still be prosecuted under laws against drugged driving. Arizona has a zero tolerance per se DUID law under which all that is necessary to convict if the presence of inactive metabolites in the blood.
Florida Judge Clears Way for CBD Cannabis Oil Program. A judge in Tallahassee Wednesday dismissed the final challenge to the state's CBD cannabis oil law passed last year, clearing the way for the long-delayed program to actual get underway. Now, growers should be able to provide CBD cannabis oils to patients within a few months.
Oregon Senate Passes Bill Restricting Medical Marijuana Grows. The state Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill widely opposed by patients and growers that limits the number of plants caregivers could grow. The measure, Senate Bill 964, also requires regular reporting by growers and allows localities to prohibit dispensaries.
South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Dead for This Year. A bill that would have allowed for the use of medical marijuana is dead in the state legislature this year, senators said. Senate Bill 672, sponsored by Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), will, however, get more hearings before the legislature begins the second year of its two-year session in January.
Dutch Police in Massive Raid on Grow Shops. Dutch police enforcing a new law cracking down on people aiding or promoting illicit marijuana cultivation raided 27 grow shops across the country Tuesday, arresting 11 people. Under the new law, it is now illegal to deliberately supply equipment for illicit marijuana cultivation. Violators face up to three years in prison.
Australia Greens File Bill to Ban Drug Dogs from Festivals. The Greens have filed a bill to end the use of drug-sniffing dogs at music festivals, bars, on public transport, and in Sydney's Kings Cross neighborhood. The bill is part of a broader Green campaign against the use of drug dogs. The Greens say the drug dogs program doesn't work, but does subject thousands of young people to humiliating searches. The Greens also argue that the dogs program doesn't target major suppliers, but people carrying small amounts of drugs for personal use.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]This week the General Law Committee of the Connecticut House and Senate gave its approval for a final vote to add children to the state's medical marijuana program with certain restrictions.
The main provision that was added to gain the Committee's support would block minors from smoking or vaporizing marijuana despite a doctor's recommendation. While the debate did stir the standard, "We don't want people to think it's okay for kids to smoke weed" argument, it also gave opportunities for the new rhetoric being heard in state capitols around medical marijuana a chance to shine. Rep. Dan Carter made an excellent case for not restricting a doctors ability to treat a patient telling the Connecticut Post:
"I do believe there's a clear need with respect to younger patients," Carter said. "In a way, I think we're putting the political part of it above the health part of it. I think there should be freedom for those practitioners who are going to prescribe this to utilize any delivery system they need to do. Clearly there are benefits, certain times, to inhale certain products. If we shut it down and say you can't smoke it or you can't vaporize it, I think in a way that retards... some of the studies we need to do."
The provision has a chance of being removed with time, more so with folks like Dan Carter already on the right side of the fence. With the way things are going, I don't expect a 16 year old smoking a joint on the way to chemo to rip at the moral fabric of society much longer.
The bill will also allow hospitals and hospices to administer cannabis to their patients. This will be a major factor in improving the quality of life for folks forced to live under medical supervision. Also it would request a group of pediatricians be formed for the purpose of adding more ailments to the 11 already approved for use in the state.
In general the bill represents a step forward, with a bit of a pothole that will be filled in time. Time is also the keyword in getting it passed, as lawmakers have until midnight on June 3rd to vote on the bill.
(Welcome back to our one-time intern Jimi Devine, who has graciously volunteered his time to support our blog. We are cross-posting this piece to the Chronicle because it is news-focused.)
[image:1 align:right caption:true]The smell of marijuana reform is strong in the bayou air, with Louisiana now home to a big push for both medical marijuana and major sentencing reforms around marijuana convictions.
Today the Louisiana legislature's House Health and Welfare Committee will hear a medical marijuana bill brought forward by Republican State Senator Fred Mills, a man who formerly served as head of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy. Mills spent the last year working with law enforcement to make it past a committee and organizations that had held it back in the past.
According to Northeast Louisiana media outlet The News Star, major revisions have been made with support from the Louisiana Sheriffs Association, including:
- Prescribed marijuana would be taken in a form other than smoking it, perhaps in a pill.
- The state Agriculture Department would be in charge of growing marijuana to be used for medical purposes.
- Dispensing pharmacies -- ten, at this point -- would be required to meet certain conditions.
- The bill would "sunset," or be reviewed on Jan. 1, 2020, giving lawmakers a deadline for determining whether the changes to state law were beneficial. If the bill proves ineffective, the law could be modified or allowed to expire.
- The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy would adopt rules about dispensing medical marijuana.
This session the bill made it through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, which had halted its progress in 2014, and then passed the full senate with two thirds in support. On when he takes it before the House, Mills noted, "I'm hoping for a repeat performance from the Senate."
While the bill is very restrictive, it would reinforce national trends on the medical use of marijuana by bringing a law involving more than CBD marijuana strains to the south, and hopefully would lead to a more inclusive medical marijuana law in the future.
The sentencing reform bills look to reduce the penalties associated with a marijuana conviction in the state. Currently a third marijuana possession conviction could lead to a baffling 20 year sentence.
According to NOLA.com, the bill authored by New Orleans State Senator J.P. Morrell "reduces the maximum penalty for possession from 20 years in prison to eight, raises the threshold for a felony-level possession charge, and adds a second-chance provision for first-time offenders."
Penalties would still be much more severe than their counterparts in other states, but first time offenders would have one opportunity to expunge their record after two years without a conviction. The bill would also reclassify a second offense from a felony to misdemeanor for quantities between fourteen grams and two and a half pounds.
The bill is projected to save Louisiana $17 million over the first five years. This would cover the $900,000 a year in wasteful spending on corrections highlighted by the Office of State Inspector General with $13 million to spare.
NOLA.com columnist Jarvis DaBerry noted, "Such a bill does two important things. First, it establishes that a person with a small amount of weed isn't a real threat to the public. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the bill would keep such a conviction from haunting a person forever."
The second bill, authored by Rep. Austin Badon, would push major reforms, but is not as big a shift as the one presented by Morrell. Badon's bill would see those committing a third offense jailed five years, as opposed to the two year sentence in Morell's bill. It also does not include the possibility of conviction being expunged for first time offenders.
While Louisiana debates the direction of their sentencing procedures, I'll leave you with another quote from Jarvis DeBerry on the subject: "Here's a prediction: Sooner or later, we're going to look back at what Louisiana has doing to folks caught with marijuana, and we're going to be just as shocked those sentences had our officials' blessing."
[image:1 align:left caption:true]This week the General Law Committee of the Connecticut House and Senate gave its approval for a final vote to add children to the state's medical marijuana prog
California localities continue to wrestle with medical marijuana, Illinois' nascent program gets an extension, another South Dakota initiative could be coming, Seattle plans to shut down dozens of dispensaries, and more.
Last Tuesday, Marin County supervisors began working on a restrictive medical marijuana ordinance. The ordinance envisions up to three nonprofit dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county, but critics said it would create so much red tape that it would be difficult to comply with its provisions.
Last Wednesday, the State Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Yuba County patients challenging the county's new marijuana cultivation ordinance and especially its urgency provision. That provision effectively stopped opponents' ability to circulate petitions for a voter referendum. Other legal challenges to the ordinance are still pending.
On Tuesday, a successful Santa Cruz County referendum blocked a supervisors' ban on commercial medical marijuana grows. The supes had voted last month to enact the ban, but opponents managed to gather enough signatures in just three weeks to qualify an initiative for the ballot, thus putting the ban on hold until the vote.
Last Thursday, the Senate approved an extension of the medical marijuana program. The state Senate voted 33-16 to approve House Bill 3299, which would extend the program by two more years. The measure has already passed the House and is headed for the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), but it's unclear if he will sign it. He has said he didn't think the program should be extended until it's been fully evaluated -- but it hasn't even really started.
Last Thursday, the legislature approved a CBD cannabis oil study bill. The state Senate gave final approval to Legislative Bill 390, under which the University of Nebraska Medical Center would study the effectiveness of CBD in treating epileptic seizures. Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) now has five days to act on it.
On Wednesday, a CBD cannabis oil bill was pronounced dead. A bill that would have allowed the limited use of CBD cannabis oil has died. LB 643, filed by state Sen. Tommy Garrett (R-Bellevue), did not have enough support to advance, Garrett said. He said he would bring it back next year.
On Monday, it looked like the medical marijuana bill had been blocked in the House. A medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 3, has passed the Senate, but appears to be bottled up in the House after being assigned to the Health Committee, which is headed by medical marijuana foe Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga County). He told local media last week he didn't see the bill moving any time soon. Bill supporters are exploring their options, including moving the bill to a different committee, adding it as an amendment to other legislation, and including it in a budget measure.
On Wednesday, word came that a medical marijuana initiative is in the works. Maybe the third time will be the charm. An activist from Emery has submitted initiative language to the state Attorney General's office. If approved, petitioners would have to gather 13,871 valid voter signatures by November 8 to qualify for the 2016 ballot. South Dakota voted down previous efforts in 2006 and 2010.
Last Thursday, the state Supreme Court uphold local collective garden bans. The high court ruled 8-1 that the city of Kent can ban medical marijuana collective gardens. The decision upheld lower court rulings allowing cities to impose bans via zoning regulations. The case was Cannabis Action Council v. City of Kent.
On Tuesday, Seattle's mayor said he planned to shutter dozens of dispensaries. Mayor Ed Murray said Tuesday he plans to require special business licenses for marijuana shops and that dispensaries in operation before January 1, 2013, will get priority in licensing. But of the city's 99 dispensaries, 54 either opened after that date or are operating without a license, and the mayor's office says they need to shut down.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]
Chronicle AM: LA Pot Reform Bills Advance, KS Pot Reform Bill Dies, NE CBD Bill Dies, More (5/27/15)
Louisiana may be about to reform its harsh marijuana laws, but not Kansas; a Nebraska CBD cannabis oil bill dies, a Michigan legalization initiative goes back to the drawing board, the Germans and the Israelis grapple with marijuana policy, and more.
[image:1 align:right]Marijuana Policy
Michigan Legalization Initiative Goes Back to Drawing Board. The Michigan Cannabis Coalition has withdrawn its legalization initiative petition from consideration by the Board of State Canvassers. The group said it will resubmit new language later. The coalition is one of three separate groups pursuing legalization initiatives in the state.
Kansas Marijuana Reforms Dead for This Year. Legislation that would have decreased penalties for marijuana possession, led to a study of industrial hemp, and allowed for the use of CBD cannabis oil to treat seizures is going nowhere this year, Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce (R) said Tuesday. He said the Senate will instead try to separate out the different provisions next year and discuss them individually.
Louisiana Edging Closer to Marijuana Reforms. The state with the harshest pot laws in the country may actually change them this year. Senate Bill 241, sponsored by Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) passed the Senate Monday, while a similar measure, House Bill 149, from Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) won a Senate committee vote Tuesday. Both bills would reduce possession penalties, but Morrell's bill is stronger. Badon's bill has already passed the House, but now has to be voted on again because it was amended in the Senate to be identical to Morrell's bill. Morrell's bill now heads to the House; Badon's bill awaits a Senate floor vote.
Nebraska CBD Cannabis Oil Bill Dies. A bill that would have allowed the limited use of CBD cannabis oil has died. LB 643, filed by state Sen. Tommy Garrett (R-Bellevue), did not have enough support to advance, Garrett said. He said he would bring it back next year.
South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Could Be Coming. Maybe the third time will be the charm. An activist from Emery has submitted initiative language to the state Attorney General's office. If approved, petitioners would have to gather 13,871 valid voter signatures by November 8 to qualify for the 2016 ballot. South Dakota voted down previous efforts in 2006 and 2010.
Seattle to Shutter Dozens of Dispensaries. Mayor Ed Murray said Tuesday he plans to require special business licenses for marijuana shops and that dispensaries in operation before January 1, 2013, will get priority in licensing. But of the city's 99 dispensaries, 54 either opened after that date or are operating without a license, and the mayor's office says they need to shut down.
German Marijuana Reform Debate Energized. A conservative lawmaker who joined with the Green Party to sponsor a marijuana legalization bill has energized the long-running debate over pot policy in the country. Christian Democratic Union lawmaker Joachim Pfieffer said "the current restrictive policy failed" and it is time to tax and regulate the country's most popular illicit drug. Click on the link for lots more detail.
Israel Police Commissioner Convenes Team to Review Marijuana Policies. Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino has convened a team to look at possible changes to the way Israeli police deal with marijuana users. Danino said the time had come to reexamine its traditional approach to pot possession -- which is to arrest people for it. But he's getting pushback from the Israeli Anti-Drug Authority, which says it and the Justice Ministry -- not the police -- are the relevant authorities. Click on the link for more details.