Lansing — The House Judiciary Committee touched off a new effort to legalize dispensaries and edible forms of cannabis for medical marijuana patients Tuesday, sending three new bills to the House floor for consideration. 

The bills, containing tighter rules than in failed 2014 proposals and an 8-percent excise tax on gross retail income of provisioning centers, is a compromise plan designed to overcome law enforcement opposition.

A voter-approved medical marijuana law that took effect in 2008 doesn’t specifically mention dispensaries or edible marijuana products, whose legality has been clouded by Michigan Supreme Court and appeals court rulings in recent years. Lawmakers are trying to pass legislation that clarifies the law. Rep. Mike Callton, who negotiated the compromises, called his main legislation “a bill we all can live with.” Callton, R-Nashville, told the committee the 8 percent tax and a mandatory system for tracking all forms of pot — from production to consumption — are key new provisions. Those proposals drew objections from advocates for less-onerous regulations as well as from Democratic Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor, a committee member who tried unsuccessfully to have them removed from the bills.

Irwin argued making medical marijuana purchases too burdensome or costly would increase the chances some would be diverted illegally to non-medical users.

“It will drive people to the black market,” added Frank James, who runs a Gaylord nutrition supplement and natural health store that also offers marijuana flowers. “People who come into our dispensary need a place to go other than the streets,” James told the committee.

Ken and Alice Szymoniak, of the tiny Presque Isle County town of Millersburg, told the committee that technically illegal cannabis oil has given Alice back a normal life. Ken Syzmoniak, a car dealer, said they tried marijuana after years of desperation.

Alice, who contracted fibromyalgia while recovering from a severe 1998 vehicle crash they were in, had such intense pain that for years they were lucky to be able to even spend an hour having a meal at a restaurant, Ken Szymoniak said.

She’s now pain-free, off prescription opiates and can engage in normal activities, including jet skiing with their grandchildren, the couple said.

“It was our only way of surviving,” Ken Szymoniak said. “It absolutely changed our life. We’re starting to travel again.” He said he became a state-licensed caregiver for four medical marijuana patients to offset the cost of growing the plants he needs for his wife. “I don’t understand everything that’s in the bills,” he said, “but I support making (cannabis) oils legal.”

The proposed 8 percent excise tax would be in addition to Michigan’s 6 percent sales tax, also collected on cannabis items. Its revenues would offset regulatory and law enforcement costs involved with dispensaries and new medical marijuana products.

Provisions of the bill package also call for a state Medical Marijuana Licensing Board to oversee the new rules. There would be five kinds of state licensees — grower, processor, provisioning center, secure transporter and safety compliance facility.

Chances the bills will pass are uncertain, but more promising than a year ago.

“Too soon to say at this point, as not everyone has had a chance to review them yet,” said Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant. “But I think most people realize there are problems with the recent law that need to be fixed.”

Amber McCann, press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said the GOP majority will decide its fate in caucus discussions. “At this point there is not a push within the caucus for this issue,” she added.

Callton said the bills would need a simple majority vote to pass in each chamber because they aren’t amending the 2008 medical marijuana act.

Meanwhile, two groups are circulating petitions to initiate a new state law that would legalize marijuana for nonmedical, personal use. The measures would go on the November 2016 ballot if enough signatures are gathered and the Legislature doesn’t act on the proposals.

Connecticut- New Dispensaries Coming Soon 

HARTFORD — Connecticut plans to allow up to three more medical marijuana dispensaries, targeting New Haven and Fairfield counties, where there are the most registered patients and the fewest licensed sellers.
The decision to add to the state’s six dispensaries comes nine months after the first medical marijuana sales by a fledgling industry in Connecticut in which both growers and dispensaries are still in a struggle to break even.

The Department of Consumer Protection announced Thursday that it would seek proposals for the new dispensaries because there has been “significant growth” in patient registration, especially this spring.  The medical marijuana program had 4,097 registered patients as of June 5, up from 3,600 in April and 1,683 in September, according to state officials.

“Back of the envelope, there should be 6,000 registered patients by the end of the year,” said Jonathan Harris, commissioner of consumer protection. “That’s even before the addition of the six new [medical] conditions in place through the regulatory process in the first quarter of next year.”
Harris said the number of new dispensaries would depend on trends in registration of both patients and physicians for the program. Acceptance by the medical community has been slow, mostly because research on medical marijuana is scant. Connecticut now has 222 doctors registered to refer patients to a dispensary for treatment. That’s still a small sliver of the 10,000 doctors practicing in the state.

Illinois medical marijuana program delayed !!!!

CHICAGO (AP) – Without explanation, Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration has conceded it missed its end-of-the-year target for deciding which businesses will receive permits to begin the state’s pilot program with medical marijuana. Some observers think the decision could come in a matter of days.

The lag will force cultivation center owners to break ground during the coldest winter months, and, ultimately, delay harvest of the first cannabis crop. Patients who’ve paid $100 for marijuana registry cards will have to wait, perhaps until summer or beyond, before they can legally use the drug. Some patients say they’ll continue to use pot they’ve obtained on the black market.

“I hate to have to do anything illegal,” said Marla Levi, 51, of Buffalo Grove, who uses marijuana for multiple sclerosis symptoms and has been approved as a patient in the new program. “I believe it’s going to happen. In the meantime, I get it how I have to get it.”

The agency leading the program offered no explanation for the setback.

“We are strongly committed to bringing relief to thousands of people across the state and ensuring Illinois is the national model for implementing medical cannabis,” Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said in an email. “We are working hard to make sure this is done right.”

Arnold said the state is “conducting a comprehensive review of every cultivation center and dispensary applicant to ensure that only the most qualified are approved for this important program. We will announce the recipients when this important review is finished.”

A Skokie Democrat who sponsored the state’s medical marijuana legislation predicted permits will be awarded before Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner’s inauguration on Jan. 12.

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Congress Hands A Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana movement, plus a painful setback

For the marijuana legalization movement, 2014 ends the way it began: with legal changes that showcase the movement’s momentum alongside its problems.

Tucked into the 1,603-page year-end spending bill Congress released Tuesday night were a pair of provisions that affect proponents of cannabis reform. Together they form a metaphor for the politics of legal cannabis—an issue that made major bipartisan strides this year, but whose progress is hampered by a tangle of local, state and federal statutes that have sown confusion and produced contradictory justice.

First the good news for reformers: the proposed budget would prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funds to prosecute patients or legal dispensaries in the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that passed some form of medical-marijuana legalization. The provision was crafted by a bipartisan group of representatives and passed the Republican-controlled House in May for the first time in seven tries. If passed into law, it would mark a milestone for the movement, restricting raids against dispensaries and inoculating patients from being punished for an activity that is legal where they live but in violation of federal law.

“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana, and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement to TIME. The California Republican’s work on the issue reflects the strange coalition that has sprung up to support cannabis reform as the GOP’s libertarian wing gains steam and voters’ views evolve.

At the same time, the House chose to overrule Washington, D.C., on the issue. Last month voters in the District chose to liberalize its marijuana laws, passing an initiative that legalized the possession, consumption and cultivation of recreational marijuana. The move, which was supported by about 70% of the capital’s voters, paved the way for D.C. to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State by establishing a tax-and-regulatory structure for cannabis sales in 2015.


Massachusetts – preparing for legalization in 2016

SalemNews.Com Reports:

BOSTON — Emboldened by victories in other states and recent polls showing widespread support, advocates of legalized marijuana are preparing to put the question to Massachusetts voters in 2016.

Supporters of legalization say they are drafting legislation to allow recreational marijuana cultivation and use, with a tax similar to those for alcohol and tobacco, for consideration in the legislative session that starts in January. They’ll also prepare a ballot question for the 2016 elections in case lawmakers fail to act.

“If the Legislature doesn’t do anything, we’ll go to the voters in 2016,” said Richard Evans, a Northampton attorney and chairman of a coalition that is pushing for legalization. “We want to give lawmakers the opportunity to enact it. Voters shouldn’t be making laws like this, lawmakers should. But when the lawmakers won’t, voters must.”

It seems unlikely the Legislature will sign off, given the track record of previous efforts. A bill to allow adults to grow marijuana while establishing a tax on retail sales failed to gain much support in the current session.

Still, Evans said he believes public opinion on marijuana use is turning, citing an easing of state laws and the approval of recreational use in Colorado, Washington and, more recently, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C.

In 2008, Massachusetts voters decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, replacing jail time with a $100 fine. Four years later, voters approved the cultivation and use of medical marijuana. Both initiatives passed by more than 60 percent.

“It’s no longer a question of whether it will be legalized in the state, but when and how,” Evans said.

Support grows for legalization

Despite objections, a growing number of voters in Massachusetts have shown support for legalization in recent straw polls.

In the Nov. 4 elections, voters in several House of Representative districts — including several north of Boston — approved nonbinding ballot questions asking if their representatives should vote in favor of legislation permitting the cultivation and regulation of marijuana as an agricultural product.
Full article here

Recreational Cannabis qualifies for the 2016 ballot In Nevada

Nevada’s top election official has confirmed that an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana will be on the ballot for the 2016 election. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol turned in more than 200,000 signatures in support of the initiative, which far exceeded the 102,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

Secretary of State Ross Miller certified that the coalition had indeed submitted more than enough signatures before the November 12th deadline, thus forcing Nevada’s 2015 legislature to consider the issue or automatically put it on the 2016 ballot for the general election.

This means that, best case scenario, Nevada state legislature may legalize recreational cannabis as early as end of session 2015. Worst case scenario, the initiative will be automatically placed on the 2016 ballot where, presumably, the hundreds of thousands of Nevadans who support recreational legalization (or just recognize its touristy benefits) can vote in support during the general election.

Sounds like it’s time to start planning a trip to Vegas!

photo credit (resized): Curtis Gregory Perry via photopin cc

TUCSON, ARIZONA-City Planning Commission recommends lifting medical marijuana grow house restrictions

By Christina Pae
The debate over how extensively medical marijuana can be grown and delivered to patients within Tucson city limits was discussed at a public meeting in City Hall Wednesday. The city’s Planning Commission approved to recommend several amendments to the city’s current medical marijuana regulations, including a proposal to lift floor-space restrictions for off-site cultivation houses in industrial zones. The current ordinance states these grow houses are limited to a maximum of 3,000 square feet of floor space. Those advocating medical marijuana growers in Tucson have said this is not enough space and not business-friendly. “We needed to get an expansion of the grow size, the expansion of grow opportunities, in order to keep that business back here. It means investment capital stays here, it means jobs stay here,” said Demitri Downing. Supporters who attended Wednesday’s meeting saw the commission’s approvals as a positive sign, arguing that the proposals will keep the growing medical marijuana industry in Tucson and not be lost to surrounding municipalities like Phoenix, which has no grow house space limit. The Planning Commission approved other proposed revisions, including a proposal to expand medical dispensary operation hours to 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. There was also discussion and subsequent approval of an amendment that would let dispensaries deliver medical marijuana to patients at hospices, state-licensed institutions and patients in their private homes. Other approved recommendations include allowing a minimum setback of 500 feet for off-site cultivation houses from schools, and allowing infusion kitchens within dispensaries and off-site cultivation houses. Proposals to allow expansion of medical marijuana dispensaries themselves, was not recommended by the Planning Commission. Another amendment that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries and off-site cultivation houses in C-1, or more condensed commercial zones, was also not approved by the commission. The Planning Commission will forward their recommendations to the mayor and council, which will make a final decision expected in September, according to Planning and Development’s deputy director.

New Mexico – Hearing set for proposed medical marijuana changes

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A proposed revision of the state’s medical marijuana program is drawing opposition from advocates who say new fees and other changes would make it harder for New Mexicans to obtain the marijuana they need for conditions ranging from cancer to chronic pain.

The Health Department has scheduled a hearing Monday for public comments on changes it’s considering.

The Drug Policy Alliance objects to a proposal that individuals in the program pay a yearly $50 fee or $25 if they are eligible for Medicaid.

The state proposes to reduce the number of plants that individuals can have for growing marijuana, but triple the plants allowed for nonprofit producers that supply most of the 11,000 New Mexicans in the program.

The department has no deadline for a final decision on proposed changes.

South Carolina here is your opportunity !

COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Democratic primary ballot in June will ask voters whether they support legalizing medical marijuana to treat severe illnesses.

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said Wednesday he wanted it on the ballot so the Legislature’s Republican leaders could see what voters think of the issue.

He has proposed legislation allowing patients certified by a doctor as suffering a debilitating illness to use marijuana. Last week, the House rejected his effort to attach it to a bill allowing patients with severe epilepsy to legally possess nonpsychoactive cannabidiol, known as CBD oil, which is derived from marijuana.

That limited bill, sponsored by Republicans, passed the chamber 90-24, a week after the Senate passed a similar – but even more restrictive – version.

While the House defeated Rutherford’s amendment, legislators of both parties encouraged him to re-introduce his measure next year. Patients it would allow to use marijuana include those suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic pain.

“I don’t know how we can continue to deprive families of what many consider miracle medicine,” said Rutherford, D-Columbia. Let’s “put patients in the hands of a doctor, not the Legislature.”

The advisory question on medical marijuana is among five asked on the Republican and Democratic ballots June 10. Two others on the Democratic ballot deal with gambling.

Republican voters will be asked about abortion and eliminating the state income tax. The state Election Commission gave the parties until noon Wednesday to submit their questions.

The agency charged the state GOP Party $2,500 and the Democratic party a $3,500 fee for adding the questions to their ballots, said agency spokesman Chris Whitmire.

How voters respond to primary questions do not necessarily translate to legislative action. But they are traditionally a way to get voters to the polls.

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