LANSING – MICHIGAN 

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.

Tennessee 

A medical marijuana bill likely to have a Republican sponsor on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill could be announced on Friday.

We were informed that a well-known lobbyist hired by supporters of the medical marijuana movement has been working with a Republican member of the GOP to sponsor the legislation. 

Both the lobbyist and the lawmaker have declined to comment, except to update the press that they would be ready to talk about the bill in a few days, and no later than next week.

Iowa – Medical marijuana at the forefront of legislative sessions

MASON CITY, Iowa – The discussion of medical marijuana was at the forefront of legislative sessions last year in Iowa. Within the state they have approved the usage of medical marijuana, but not a way to obtain the medicine.

On Saturday, State Rep. Sharon Steckman, (D) Mason City, and State Sen. Amanda Ragan (D) Mason City, hosted a legislative forum at the Mason City Public Library. One of the main topics covered during the morning was the discussion of making amendments to the medical marijuana bill that passed in 2014.

Three north Iowa women used the forum as a platform to educate the public about the need to amend and recreate a cannabis oil law in the Hawkeye state. “The laws we have now aren’t sufficient,” says Mason City resident Amber Lenius.

Amber tells us she suffers from a condition that causes her chronic and excruciating pain throughout her body. Claudia Tillman of Forest City was also present at the forum talking about her daughter who deals with symptoms and side effects from Ulcerative Colitis on a daily basis. Finally, Mason City resident Cassie Helland spoke about her young son who suffers from regular seizures because of his epilepsy.

“The law that passed last year said that we could legally have it,” explains Helland, “but there’s no way that we could legally get it.” She says this is just one of the many roadblocks for the bill, and that another issue is not including other types of conditions that could benefit from the plant.

Sen. Ragan says that because the legislation was so new for the state, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle aired on the side of caution and wrote the law in a very conservative manner. “When you make a first step you have to do it with a lot of restrictions on and you need to make sure that you’re not making bad choices,” she explains, “but, we heard from a lot of folks today that [the law] really didn’t make much of a difference to them, and they gave us some suggestions and encouraged us to more research.”

However, more research means more time that the bill won’t be ironed out in a way these women would like to see. Now, they’re left to think outside of the box, and even the state. “At this point, I mean, if something doesn’t happen, we may have to move,” says Helland.

“It would mean uprooting myself, my husband, and my six-year-old daughter, and my two-year-old daughter, from our entire family, to a place that we don’t know, just so that I could have a chance to try something that might help my quality-of-life,” explains Lenius.

Session reconvenes on Monday in Des Moines and as of right now, no changes have been made to the law.

Legislators want to put marijuana rules on the fast track in Alaska

SOURCE: NEWSMINER .COM

By Matt Buxton

JUNEAU — With legalized marijuana a month away, lawmakers are hoping to fast track legislation they hope will clear up legal gray areas.

On Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced Senate Bill 30 to address underage consumption, what constitutes a public place (because public consumption of marijuana will still be illegal) and addresses driving with marijuana.

Ballot Measure 2, which passed by wide margins in the Fairbanks and Juneau areas, makes marijuana possession, use and growing legal when the law officially goes into effect on Feb. 24, 2015. Commercial production and sales will follow next year.

North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill, the vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the bill is intended to give law enforcement clarity with how to enforce the changes. He said the goal is to get the bill passed before Feb. 24.

“This (bill) deals with what we are immediately implementing,” he said. “We have to at least give clarity to the people who will hold people accountable. We would like to get this to the governor as soon as possible.”

The bill creates laws against a person younger than 21 consuming or possessing marijuana, makes it a crime to give marijuana to a minor, and adds marijuana to the open container laws that already apply for transporting alcohol in a motor vehicle.

It also ties the laws against public consumption of marijuana to existing definition of a public place, which covers anywhere the general public has access. That definition would include a private business open to the public, like a bar.

But there are also a number of points — both big and small — supporters of legalized marijuana see with the bill.

“We’ve got a shopping list of concerns with that bill,” said Bruce Schulte, the spokesman of the Alaska-based Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation. “I understand that they’re on a tremendous time crunch and I think (Judiciary Committee Chair) Sen. Lesil McGuire’s office has the right idea in mind. They want to get it into the queue to get things in place and that’s what’s driving this.”

His biggest complaint is instead of repealing existing laws against marijuana, the bill creates a number of criteria that would serve as a defense to those existing crimes. It would mean people could potentially be arrested and charged for possessing or using marijuana in situations Ballot Measure 2 makes legal, Schulte said.

“It’s guilty until proven innocent instead of innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “If Senate Bill 30 were to play out and go through exactly as written, then law enforcement could go to any marijuana business and arrest them on the spot and let it play out in court. That’s the antithesis of it of what Ballot Measure 2 was.”

But both Schulte and Coghill acknowledge the bill introduced on Friday is a starting point for the legislation, and it could change dramatically by the time it reaches the governor’s desk.

Coghill, along with many members of the Legislature, was an outspoken opponents of legalizing marijuana, but said he putting effort into the bill and hopes to get it right with voters.

“Why are we trying to work with this? Because we have a huge respect for the voters of Alaska,” he said. “We have voted it in and we’re addressing public safety.”

The bill is one of many introduced relating to marijuana this session.

A bill by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, would delay regulations for marijuana concentrates for one year. Another bill by the House Community and Regional Affairs committee would clean up language dealing with local control and regulation of marijuana.

The bill dealing with regulatory work for commercial marijuana growing and sales, including likely the formation of the Marijuana Control Board, will be introduced later this session, Coghill said.

The Judiciary Committee has scheduled meetings on Senate Bill 30 during each of its meetings next week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Public testimony on the bill is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 30. People can testify by attending a local Legislative Information Office.

Illinois – Senate Bill 284

Among topics such as boosting minimum wage and education change, the legalization of medical marijuana could be a topic during Indiana’s 2015 legislative session.

State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, said she would author Senate Bill 284 which would legalize medical marijuana. SB 284 would allow patients to obtain marijuana with a medical marijuana card and a doctor’s recommendation.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said he would support SB 284 because of his experience of losing his father to cancer.

This isn’t the first time the issue has been raised in the state legislature. Tallian has tried five different bills to decriminalize marijuana, none of which have passed committee, according to Indiana Business Journal. SB 284 has not yet been assigned to a committee.

In Illinois the penalty for possession of roughly one ounce of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by 180 days in jail, unless the person has a prior drug conviction.

Senate Bill 284 would create a system where people with illnesses would get a card that authorizes them to possess marijuana if a medical professional recommends it. That’s similar to systems in other states.

SB 284 would also allow universities and hospitals to do research on medical marijuana, as well as create a new agency to recommend how the system would be developed.

Drama Brewing around medical marijuana bills in final days of ‘lame duck’ session

LANSING — With a little less than 48 hours remaining in the legislative session, Michigan law enforcement and public health officials expressed concern about two medical marijuana bills they say are being rushed through the Legislature.

In a Wednesday morning press briefing, the executive directors of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Michigan Sheriff’s Association and Michigan Association for Local Public Health urged Michigan senators not to pass House Bills 5104 and 4271.

The bills would allow for the return of regulated dispensaries and allow registered patients to use edibles. Parts of the bills would also allow medical marijuana cardholders to sell up to 50 ounces of excess product, something that concerned Robert Stevenson, head of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

“We’re creating an incentive for people to get a medical marijuana card and become involved in drug distribution,” Stevenson said.

The bills passed the Michigan House of Representatives back in December 2013 and have been sitting in the Michigan Senate for about a year. Stevenson, along with Terrence Jungel, head of the sheriff’s association, and Meghan Swain, head of the association for local public health, urged lawmakers to leave them be.

However, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville has been working on potential modifications to the legislation and believes both bills could still end up on Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk by the end of the year.

“We’re gonna try,” Richardville told reporters Wednesday. “We’ve got about 48 hours, and that’s more than enough time.”

When told the governor’s office didn’t believe there is enough time to finish work on the bills this year, Richardville said, “If we send him something, he’ll have to react to it. We’ve outperformed their expectations before.”

Richardville, who said that Michigan State Police have been helpful during discussions, said he’s trying to “walk that tightrope” between law enforcement needs and legitimate patient access to medical marijuana.

“Some of these people really do need this kind of medication,” he said.

The law enforcement officials who gathered Wednesday morning said they had not been consulted about the medical marijuana bills.

“We’ve not been invited to the table to talk about them,” Stevenson said.

Jungel, a retired sheriff from Ionia County, said the bills haven’t been vetted enough and complained lawmakers are trying to rush them through the Legislature in the lame-duck session.

“It’s the equivalent of Obamacare in that it’s not being betted adequately before implementation,” he said.

Swain said she was concerned with the lack of regulation regarding the edibles portions of the legislation. Edibles are foods baked with butter that’s been infused with THC, the active intoxicating chemical in marijuana.

She said it’s not clear how edibles will be regulated or who will regulate the bakeries where the edibles are made. Swain hoped the bills would be pushed into the next legislative session for more discussion and more input from local health departments.

“There are a lot of moving pieces and parts of this that have not been addressed in this legislation,” she said.

The law enforcement officials seemed mostly concerned with the provision in the bill that would allow people with medical marijuana cards to sell their excess supply.

Stevenson compared the provision with a person who is prescribed Oxycontinin being allowed to take three pills and sell the rest of the bottle to someone else. He said he’s also concerned about the bills not providing a way for law enforcement to track those sales.

“There’s no way we can track where the medical marijuana is going to, who it’s coming from and where it’s ultimately going,” he said.

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.

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