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.

Update * Bills aimed at regulating California’s marijuana industry 

Two bills aimed at regulating California’s marijuana industry cleared key hurdles in the state Legislature on Wednesday after one North Coast lawmaker hauled a live plant into the Capitol to illustrate the value of the lucrative crop. State Sen. Mike McGuire’s Medical Marijuana Public Safety and Environmental Protection Act, SB 643, advanced from the Assembly Business and Professions Committee on Tuesday and heads to the Health Committee next week. The bill would establish a broad regulatory structure for California’s medical marijuana industry, which has been plagued by ineffective and confusing rules despite being legal at the state level since 1996. With this bill, the Healdsburg Democrat set out to create a framework for governing the medical cannabis industry, from establishing tax structures and quality controls to licensing dispensaries and cultivation sites. A Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation established within the existing Department of Consumer Affairs would oversee the industry.

The bill passed on the Senate floor in June.

The Assembly Health Committee is chaired by Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, who co-authored a competing bill taking a different approach to regulating medical marijuana in the state.

AB 266 would spread the responsibility for licensing different aspects of medical marijuana across several state agencies, including the Board of Equalization and the departments of Public Health and Food and Agriculture. Local governments would oversee growing and selling marijuana. The Senate Health Committee is considering the bill.

McGuire’s bill complements proposed legislation from another North Coast lawmaker, Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, that is focused on regulating the impact of marijuana cultivation on water resources. His measure, AB 243, the Marijuana Watershed Protection Act, would bring pot under the regulatory control of water agencies. Wood noted that a single marijuana plant is worth between $2,500 and $4,000.

He brought a live marijuana plant with him to the hearing in Sacramento, saying it would help other lawmakers “understand the size and value of medical marijuana farms.” The bill passed the Senate Governance and Finance committee 5-0. It heads to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee next week.  If passed, the bill would place a $50 fee on each legal plant. Proceeds from the fee would go to environmental mitigation and restoration efforts, as well as enhanced law enforcement efforts to ensure legitimate cultivation. 

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.

1 Charge Dropped against Minnesota Mom Who Gave Son Cannabis Oil

A judge has dismissed one of two charges against a Minnesota woman who gave her son cannabis oil for chronic pain.

Judge Thomas Van Hon tossed out a charge of child endangerment against Angela Brown of Madison.

Brown still faces a charge of contributing to the need for child protection or services.

Brown has said her 15-year-old son improved dramatically after being given the cannabis oil for pain that stems from a brain injury three years ago.

The family bought the oil legally in Colorado, but medical marijuana doesn’t become legal in Minnesota until this July.

Van Hon filed his omnibus order Thursday. Neither prosecutors nor Brown’s attorney immediately returned phone calls Friday.

Nebraska update!

LINCOLN, Neb. –
A bill introduced in Lincoln on Wednesday would pave the way for legal medical marijuana in the state.

The Cannabis Compassion and Care Act proposed by Bellevue Sen. Tommy Garrett outlines how the substance could be used to treat patients with debilitating medical conditions.

“There are children and adults in our communities with diagnosed debilitating medical conditions who will benefit from the inclusion of medical cannabis as a treatment option,” Garrett said. “Such treatment would be tightly controlled and could only be prescribed by a licensed physician.”

The measure would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to issue registry identification cards to qualifying patients and registered designated caregivers.

“A qualifying patient who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner,” the bill reads.

The bill would allow qualifying patients to possess up to 12 plants and 6 ounces of usable cannabis.

The measure acknowledges that federal law prohibits any use of cannabis except under very limited circumstances; however, it lists more than 20 states which have removed state-level criminal penalties from the medical use of cannabis.

Conditions and Caregiver Information:

(a) Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, nail patella, or the treatment of these conditions;

(b) A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: Cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe pain; severe nausea; or seizures, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of epilepsy or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis; or

(c) Any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the department as provided for in subsection

Designated caregiver means a person who is at least twenty-one years of age, who has agreed to assist with a patient’s medical use of cannabis, and who has never been convicted of an excluded felony offense. A designated caregiver may assist no more than five qualifying patients with their medical use of cannabis

.

See photo below or click here for full PDF of the initiative.

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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.