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.

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.

New Dallas Store Selling Cannabis For Medical Use

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Cannabis is coming to Dallas. That’s how a new company is promoting products to sell to the public that has the same chemical ingredient as marijuana.

This is not a medical marijuana firm opening in Dallas, but it is promoting the health and medicinal benefits of marijuana’s cannabis cousin hemp.

Four-year-old Harper Howard became the local example of the benefits of using cannabis hemp oil. Her seizures are decreased, according to her mother, due to the cannabis hemp oil she takes orally. That same oil is now part of a series of skin and energy products marketed in a new Dallas office.

The makers can sell the items legally, and Harper’s mother believes others will benefit.

“Adding this product to her diet took us from 10 to 12 seizures a day to 3-5. It cut them in half,” said Penny Howard.

The products will be available for sale on January 24 at the Kannaway Company.

In Texas, it’s illegal to grow cannabis, but there’s state legislation on the table to change that so that epilepsy sufferers can use the oil.

Mass. approves first medical marijuana dispensary, cultivator

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Wednesday selected the first company allowed to grow marijuana for medical use, a milestone in the troubled effort to carry out the state’s 2012 medical marijuana law.

Alternative Therapies Group Inc. received permission to operate a dispensary at 50 Grove St., Salem, and a cultivation site at 10 Industrial Way, Amesbury.

But the sale of medical marijuana is still months away. The seeds need at least three months to grow. Then, ATG will face further review, including tests of the plants and inspections of the company’s transportation plans.

“This is an exciting first step,” said Nichole Snow, deputy director of Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, which supports access to medical marijuana. “I am overwhelmed with joy. . . . It means that myself as a patient and other patients will have safe access to their much-needed medication.”

Snow, who lives in Salem, said she needed marijuana to treat muscle spasms and pain resulting from injuries she suffered in multiple car accidents.

The dispensary licensing process has been delayed after questions arose about the work of companies hired to review the 100 applicants.

One contractor acknowledged that it was pressed for time while scrutinizing some applications. Another, hired to perform background checks, failed to discover that a couple in line to run several proposed dispensaries had lost their marijuana license in Colorado because of violations.

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.

Source

Mass. drops flawed marijuana applicants

By BostonGlobe.Com
Kay Lazar

Nearly half the 20 applicants given initial approval for medical marijuana dispensaries have been eliminated after a second review, state health officials announced Friday — including both in Boston and all three run by former Massachusetts congressman William Delahunt.

Reasons for rejection ranged from questionable corporate structures that appeared to divert revenues from the non-profit dispensaries to for-profit affiliates; misrepresenting local support; and omitting one investor’s drug conviction.

Only 11 dispensaries will be given provisional certificates allowing them to set up operations and undergo inspections, Karen van Unen, executive director of the state’s medical marijuana program, said during a news conference.

She said some dispensaries could open by November, but most wouldn’t until February; state officials originally envisioned most would open this summer. She said 97 percent of the state’s population will live within 30 miles of a dispensary.

The contentious, high-stakes selection process was delayed for months after the media and losing applicants raised concerns about misrepresentations, financial arrangements, and conflicts of interest involving several of the companies approved in January for provisional dispensary licenses, as well as the backgrounds of some of their principals.

The state then launched a more thorough examination of the companies, which revealed the assorted problems.

Those rejected are: Delahunt’s Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, which had proposed locations in Plymouth, Mashpee, and Taunton; Green Heart Holistic Health & Pharmaceuticals in Boston; Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, with proposed locations in Boston and Worcester; Brighton Health Advocates, Fairhaven; Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers, Holyoke; and Greeneway Wellness Foundation, Cambridge.

RELATED: Mass. cracking down on medical marijuana caregiver

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These companies can reapply next year, when a new round of applications will likely be considered, van Unen said.

In a letter to Delahunt’s company, van Unen said it was denied licenses because it planned to divert excessive gross revenues to a management company, and made “incorrect representations” on its application that suggested it had support from state Senate President Therese Murray.

A marijuana dispensary “must operate on a non-profit basis for the benefit of registered qualifying patients,” Van Unen wrote. Delahunt’s company, she said, “could not substantiate the reasonableness of the fee’’ it planned to pay to the management company, which amounted to an estimated $10.6 million over the first three years.

When pressed about how it had arrived at that amount, Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts admitted it was “arbitrary,” van Unen wrote.

Delahunt’s company said on its application that in an effort to obtain assurances of support or non-opposition for its Plymouth dispensary, it met with more than a dozen officials, including Murray.

Van Unen said in her letter that Delahunt, the chief executive of Medical Marijuana, admitted during an interview with state officials that his meeting with Murray “was simply informative and no request was made for her support.”

Delahunt issued a statement, saying, “We worked very hard to get this right at every turn, legally and ethically, so we’re obviously surprised and disappointed. But frankly, I’m also perplexed, because the corporate structure cited as the main reason for our denial is the same one that was in place when we were rated #1 among applicants in the last round and received the Department’s green light to proceed.”

He added that his team would review the decision, “with the intention of providing clarifications of any findings that warrant them and to weigh our options going forward.”

State officials have acknowledged they hadn’t checked the veracity of applicants’ claims before the January announcement, despite spending more than $600,000 on two contractors who were hired to scour the backgrounds and evaluate their proposals. Regulators said they have since dug extensively into company executives’ backgrounds, finances, and business plans.

At Friday’s news conference, van Unen said the fact that the latest review found so many problems should not shake the public’s confidence in the process.

“I say it’s fabulous,” she said. “I am delighted to be at this point.”

The selection process has been shrouded in secrecy, with state health officials refusing to release the documents showing in detail how they evaluated and scored each of the 100 applicants that vied for the first batch of licenses awarded by the state. Those documents were finally released Friday afternoon.

Several lawsuits have been filed, and state lawmakers launched an investigation into the fairness of the licensing process, which was authorized by voters in a 2012 referendum. Massachusetts is one of 22 states that has legalized medical use of marijuana.

Another of the companies knocked out by regulators Friday, Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, had proposed locations in Boston and Worcester. In a letter to the company, van Unen cited claims in its license applications that it had support from local officials, which the officials contested.

Green Heart Holistic, a California-based company that had planned to open in Boston’s South End, was told it was deemed unsuitable because its application didn’t mention that the chief executive’s brother and business partner had once been convicted of a marijuana-related felony.

Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers was denied a dispensary license for Holyoke because its president, Heriberto Flores, earned a combined salary of $900,000 from two nonprofits and was expected to make at least $300,000 for managing the dispensary, state officials said.

In a rejection letter to the company, van Unen wrote that a state audit last month revealed that Flores was paid $450,000 for working full time on behalf of the New England Farm Workers Council, which provides services to the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance.

At the same time, Flores was collecting $450,000 as the chief executive and full-time employee of another, affiliated nonprofit.

A lawyer for Flores and Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers issued a statement calling the state’s action unfair and improper, saying it was based on “a gross misunderstanding” of the audit, which is being challenged by the New England Farm Workers Council.

The attorney, William M. Bennett of Springfield, said he was confident Flores would be vindicated.

As with Delahunt’s company, state officials objected to the financial structure of Brighton Health Advocates. A letter from van Unen said that Brighton’s application for a Fairhaven dispensary indicated that a for-profit management company, comprising Brighton’s top executives, would be paid “20% of the non-profit’s gross revenues; a 30% upcharge on employee salaries; lease payments under a sublease that doubled the rent charge; and repayments under a promissory note that almost doubled the interest rate.”

Ernie Corrigan, a company spokesman, said, “We changed the management structure in response to questions raised during the review process, and we are frankly at a loss to understand how we didn’t respond specifically to the concerns they raised.”

Greeneway Wellness Foundation, which won provisional approval for a dispensary in Cambridge and had applied for two additional sites, was rejected for questionable finances. Applicants were required to show evidence of at least $500,000 in capital for a single application, and $400,000 for each subsequent application.

Greeneway’s application showed three savings accounts with a total of $1.3 million, state regulators said, but on the day after the applications were submitted to the state, Greeneway pulled all of its money out and returned it to its “alleged investors,” said a letter from van Unen.

When questioned about its finances, Greeneway showed regulators bank statements and letters from 30 different “investors” that said they were “custodians” holding the funds for Greeneway, but the letters were created in early June, months after the $1.3 million was returned to the original investors, van Unen’s letter noted.

John Greene, chief executive of the company, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Anthony Richard, who is listed as the company’s chief financial officer in its application, said in an interview that he was unaware of the company’s finances, had been introduced to Greene last fall through a mutual friend, and only agreed to be involved with the company if it won a license.

“As far as finances, John was in charge of everything,” Richard said.

Advocates Urge Lawmakers for Access to Marijuana

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — The move to legalize marijuana for recreational use continues in Massachusetts.

A legislative committee heard testimony today on a bill that would legalize and tax marijuana.

The bill called the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act was introduced by Amherst State Rep. Ellen Story.

It was heard before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

If it passes, the bill would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.

The legislation also calls for putting a tax on the marijuana industry in Massachusetts.

“Very simply, this is a choice whether marijuana should be prohibited or whether it should be regulated. Currently, marijuana is all produced on the illicit market. It’s millions of dollars that flow into the hands of criminals that could be flowing with taxpaying, law-abiding businesses, creating jobs here in the Bay State. Marijuana is here, it’s widely available, possession has been decriminalized,” says Matt Simon with Marijuana Policy Project

As testimony was being heard on the bill to legalize and tax marijuana medical marijuana, patients and their families gathered inside the State House urging the state to move faster on opening medical marijuana dispensaries.

“I just started doing it…for the last three or four months. It’s made a difference in my life, where I can get around and move. I suffer from arthritis and have circulatory problems in my legs and I suffer from depression also,” adds Kim McMurray from Quincy.

Bay State voters have long favored marijuana reform.

In 2008, they approved a ballot question which decriminalized marijuana and then in 201,2 they approved legalizing medical marijuana.

In according to the latest polls most Massachusetts residents favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use. A Suffolk University poll shows 53 percent in favor and 37 percent against.

Medical marijuana advocates also brought their concerns of getting dispensaries open to Governor Patricks’s office.