Delaware House panel approves marijuana legalization bill

DOVER, Del. – (AP) – A bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Delaware has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The legislation, which was released Wednesday by a House committee and now goes to the full House for a vote, regulates and taxes marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.

The bill doesn’t allow people to grow their own marijuana but allows adults over age 21 to legally possess less than an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

The legislation would create a commission to regulate, license and tax the marijuana industry, allowing licenses for up to 40 retail stores.

Consumers would pay an excise tax of $50 an ounce, while businesses would pay an application fee of $5,000 and a $10,000 licensing fee every two years.

Palm Beach County update 

Getting caught with a little marijuana in Palm Beach County could result in a $100 ticket instead of a trip to jail, under a new law initially approved Tuesday.
The proposal would allow law enforcement officers to issue civil citations — similar to traffic tickets — instead of arresting adults found with 20 grams or less of marijuana. Twenty grams is about 3/4 of an ounce. Supporters say the change would lessen public costs at the jail and avoid saddling people with criminal records that can make it harder to get jobs, housing and help paying for college.
“There are a lot of domino effects,” County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said about marijuana arrests. “We can’t just lock up everyone for these small crimes.” The proposed marijuana rule change goes back before the County Commission for a final vote on Oct. 20.
Miami-Dade County and the city of West Palm Beach have already passed similar measures creating alternatives to jail for marijuana possession. Broward County is also considering creating a civil citation alternative. Commissioner Hal Valache cast the only vote against the local measure, saying he was concerned that the county was “effectively decriminalizing marijuana.” The proposed easing of marijuana laws creates an alternative, not a requirement, for law enforcement officers to issue civil citations. That would leave the use of civil citations up to the officer’s discretion.
The civil citations would not be allowed if marijuana was found in conjunction with more serious offenses, such as driving under the influence or domestic violence. Palm Beach County’s proposed use of civil citations instead of arrests applies to areas outside city limits, where nearly half of local residents live. Cities could also choose to follow the new measure. Under the county’s proposal, the $100 fine that comes with a civil citation for marijuana possession can grow to $500 if the fine is unpaid. People could go to court to challenge the citation, but would face a penalty of up to $500 plus court costs if a judge finds they broke the law.
Also, the county’s final version of the law is expected to include limits on how many citations a person can receive before facing arrest.
From 2010 to 2014, Palm Beach County had 7,571 cases of marijuana possession of 20 grams or less. About 90 percent of the time that resulted in an arrest, according to the county. Currently, someone caught with small amounts of marijuana is taken to jail or given a notice to appear in court. First-time or low-level offenders often receive probation or are allowed to enter a diversion programs such as drug treatment as an alternative to spending more time in jail.
Palm Beach County’s proposal seeks to avoid arrests and involving the courts.
Supporters say jailing people for a nonviolent, low-level drug offenses such as marijuana possession bog down the court system and also create legal problems for people that can last a lifetime. Miss a court date or fail to pay a fine and the punishment for a minor offense grows much worse.
“If there is a legal way to give [people] a life without a criminal record, then we should do it,” County Mayor Shelley Vana said.

Salt Lake City, Utah- Senate Kills Bill 

SALT LAKE CITY – Legislation that would have legalized medicinal marijuana in the state was killed in the state Senate by a single vote Monday night. Senate Bill 259, which passed a second substitute version of the bill in the Senate last week in a 16-13 vote, was defeated in its fourth substituted version’s third reading Monday night in a 15-14 vote. “Obviously I’m disappointed,” said Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, following the Monday nights vote. 


Madsen said he was disappointed in the Senate and some fellow senators who he thought supported the bill. As well, he said he felt disappointed in himself for letting down the people the bill is meant to aid. SB 259 would have allowed individuals with qualifying illnesses to be able to register with a state database in order to possess medical cannabis and related devices for ingestion. State-licensed individuals could also grow and sell medical cannabis.


Among the qualifying illnesses the bill list includes: AIDS, Alzheimer’s Disease, Chron’s Disease, glaucoma, post traumatic stress disorder, cancer, multiple sclerosis and other ailments.


Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, a pharmacist by profession, said in an email Friday that he felt the bill didn’t give the state enough oversight in the matter.


“It does not allow for the state to have any oversight for important things like money transactions, inspections of its manufacturing facilities, the testing and labeling of the product, patient counseling, verification that the prescription from the physician is valid, etc.,” Vickers wrote.


Vickers voted against the second version of SB 259 last week, and did so again Monday night when a fourth version was put forward. However, he said he wasn’t completely against the idea of medicinal cannabis.


A no vote doesn’t mean you aren’t intrigued with the idea, because many of us are, me included,” Vickers said.


Some lawmakers, such as Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said they worried the bill could open the door to policy abuse. Gov. Gary Herbert has also said he worried that approving medicinal marijuana would open the door to recreational use.


“If the Legislature won’t do it, let’s have the people do it themselves,” Madsen said, suggesting the possibility of the public seeking medical marijuana legalization through a public initiative if their elected officials keep refusing to advance it on their end.


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.

Florida may expand medical-marijuana law

Floridians can expect the Legislature to ponder expanding the state’s new medical marijuana law to allow for more potent marijuana that would treat other illnesses, but lawmakers might first wait to carry out the statute the state already has.

Last year the Legislature approved a law that allows non-euphoric marijuana for Floridians who suffer from epilepsy, cancer and a handful of other ailments that cause severe seizures or spasms.

But that law, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, has bogged down in rule-writing, special-interest disputes, challenges and court orders. The state Department of Health still needs to determine how to select, license and regulate private companies to grow and process the low-THC medical marijuana and produce and sell the products.

A rule-making hearing set for early February could get it going, or could lead to more delays. Key lawmakers say they are waiting to see if they need to step in again.

State Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, who championed the so-called “Charlotte’s Web” law last year, said Monday he expects the Department of Health hearing will sort out the disputed details so that patients can be helped soon.

Gaetz and some other state lawmakers said they expect to expand the law eventually to include higher-THC marijuana and more patient groups — but not yet.

“I’d like to take one or two spins around the block with the training wheels on before we take them off,” Gaetz said.

State Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, agreed.

If the rules-making committee hearing does not go well, “There’s still enough time for us to act before the end of this session,” he said.

Even so, medical-marijuana advocates are lobbying to get the law expanded to possibly allow extracts made from higher-THC marijuana. Such a treatment would get users high, but they are believed to be more effective for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia and other ailments.

Among those groups is United For Care, which campaigned unsuccessfully last year for a state constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana broadly.

The organization, chaired by Orlando attorney John Morgan, got approval last week for new petitions so it can seek to put the issue back on the ballot in 2016. But the group also is lobbying the Legislature to broaden the law before then, with a draft bill that would largely enact its Amendment 2.

State Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Sunrise, said she also hopes the hearings in February can straighten out the licensing issues for low-THC marijuana products. But she also said there are problems that probably cannot be fixed through the those meetings.

Chief among them, she said, is that the low-THC medicinal marijuana oil may wind up being expensive to produce. The number of epileptic patients and other eligible users is small, which could result in high costs for the treatment that cannot be covered by health insurance, she said.

She intends to push for an expansion this spring to make medical marijuana available to more people and reduce per-patient costs.

United For Care director Ben Pollara said his group’s representatives are getting encouraging feedback from lawmakers about expanding the law. He pointed out that Amendment 2 barely missed approval last November, when 58 percent of voters said yes to it. It needed 60 percent for approval.

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.

FLORIDA – Medical marijuana law won’t take effect Thursday

Lawmakers will have to sign off on a new rule to kick-start the state’s nascent medical marijuana industry, meaning another likely delay in the law that was supposed to take full effect Thursday.

Office of Compassionate Use Director Patricia Nelson, who took over the state Department of Health post earlier this month, told an audience gathered for a workshop Tuesday in Orlando that the rule would require the Legislature’s blessing because costs associated with the new law are growing.

To be eligible for one of five state licenses to grow, process and distribute strains of non-euphoric marijuana, nurseries will likely have to make significant investments in “high-ticket” items like analytical equipment, expert consultants, security operations and procuring the $5 million performance bonds required in the law, Nelson said.

Nelson told nursery owners, investors and lobbyists gathered for the meeting that she needed estimates from them to calculate the anticipated impact of the rule. Florida law requires the Legislature to ratify rules that cost in excess of $1 million over five years. Nelson said she anticipates that the combined costs for businesses to operate the cannabis industry and for the state to regulate it would exceed $1 million over five years, triggering ratification.

“We have to have that before these rules will be effective. That requires an actual bill. It’s not something that can be done by committee. That bill has to be passed by both chambers and then signed by the governor,” Nelson said.

Under the law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott, doctors on Jan. 1 were supposed to begin ordering strains of cannabis that are low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD , for patients who suffer from severe spasms or cancer. But, siding with a group of nurseries and other businesses that launched a legal challenge, an administrative law judge in November struck down the health department’s first stab at a regulatory structure, prompting Tuesday’s workshop, the fourth public meeting on the issue since the law was passed.

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