It was another eventful week for marijuana legalization across the United States. Some of the biggest news to surface comes from the war nerve of prohibition – Washington D.C. — where a number of riders have been introduced in an attempt to prevent federal interference with state approved marijuana laws. Other highlights include the filing of an initiative in Missouri to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes and some progress in Michigan to make the state’s medical marijuana program more functional.
Federal: Senate Considers Riders for Spending Bill
Senator Thad Cochran, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, submitted a series of riders last week aimed at preventing federal resources from being used to interfere with state marijuana laws. Senate Bill 2131 would prevent the Department of Justice from bringing the hammer down on states that want to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp programs. This particular amendment was pushed through last year and simply needs to be renewed. A second rider, Senate Bill 2130, would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from punishing veterans who use medical marijuana, while Senate Bill 2132 would prevent the federal government from cracking down on banks that want to work with the cannabis industry. Furthermore, SB 2132 leaves out some language from last year that prevented the District of Columbia from enacting legislation to establish a retail pot market. If it passes ass is, it is conceivable that the nation’s capital could be selling weed similar to how it’s being done in Colorado by late 2016.
Federal: Another Bill Filed to Make Feds Respect States’ Rights
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene has submitted a piece of legislation that would prevent the federal government from interfering in states that have legalized marijuana for any purpose. The State Marijuana and Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act would provide both states that have legalized weed for medicinal and recreational purposes with a shield from federal drug enforcers.
“My bill will fix the conflict between state and federal law by giving the U.S. Attorney General authority to waive the Controlled Substances Act for states that are effectively regulating marijuana themselves, such as Washington,” DelBene said in a statement. “It also resolves the banking issues that currently force dispensaries to operate on an unsafe, all-cash basis. These waivers will ensure people in states that have different laws than the federal government on marijuana are protected from prosecution, provided they meet certain requirements, as more and more states work to regulate marijuana in their own borders.”
Similar bills have been introduced this year, but none have been taken seriously.
Missouri: Medical Marijuana Initiative Submitted
Show-Me Cannabis recently submitted an initiative to the Missouri Secretary of State aimed at legalizing medical marijuana in 2016. Previously, the group was pushing to launch a campaign to fully end prohibition in the state, but a poll conducted over the summer convinced them to take a different approach.
“We have always been committed to pursuing the broadest initiative that the polling data indicates would be likely to pass, and legalization, although trending in the right direction, just isn’t quite there yet,” John Payne, executive director of the organization, said in an emailed statement.
Once approved, Show-Me Cannabis will need to collect over 157,000 verified voter signatures to earn a spot on the ballot in next year’s presidential election.
California: Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Medical Marijuana Regulations Into Law
Governor Jerry Brown put his signature on a series of bills last week that will establish regulations for California’s nearly two-decade-old medical marijuana market. Together, the bills will establish standards for many facets of the industry from licensing to testing. The new detailed rules must be drafted before January 2017, with businesses allowed to apply for licenses in January 2018.
“We applaud Gov. Brown and the legislature for adopting a much-needed regulatory framework for the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana in California,” Lauren Vazquez, Deputy Director of Communications with the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “This is an important and long-awaited step forward not only for medical marijuana patients and providers, but also for the state as a whole. Nearly 20 years ago, California paved the way for patients’ rights to access medical marijuana. Finally, it is following in the footsteps of states around the country that have proven that regulating marijuana works.”
Florida: Lawmakers Want Weed for the Terminally Ill
Senators Rob Bradley and Matt Gaetz, the lawmakers behind Florida’s Charlotte’s Web law, submitted another piece of legislation to the state’s House of Representatives last week that would allow terminally ill patients to have access to medical marijuana. The bill is an attachment to the recently approved “Right to Try Act,” in which dying patients are allowed to use experimental medications that have not been approved by the FDA. However, if this law were to pass, it would force qualified patients to seek approval from two licensed physicians before they would be permitted to take advantage of the program.
Michigan: New Medical Marijuana Rules Approved…Senate Committee Next
The Michigan House of Representatives put their seal of approval on legislation last week that would impose regulations on the medical marijuana market. The proposed rules would set a 3 percent excise tax and a 6 percent sales tax on marijuana sales, while also allowing the resurgence of edibles back on the shelves. There would also be licensing fees attached to every facet of the industry and a special tracking system to monitor every action from seed to sale. The bills will be presented during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing later this week. Although this legislation will not actually be taken up for consideration during this time, members of the cannabis industry will be there to offer presentations to the committee on all three bills.