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.

Vermont legislature approves recreational marijuana use

A measure legalizing marijuana use in Vermont cleared the state’s legislature on Wednesday.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has said the legislation is not “a priority for Vermont” and has not made a final decision as to whether he will sign it. The measure makes Vermont the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana use among adults and the first to legalize through a legislative process. Other states have approved recreational marijuana use through ballot initiatives.

“Vermont lawmakers made history today,” said Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a marijuana policy group. “The legislature has taken a crucial step toward ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.” Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized the possession and use of marijuana, though each state has its own rules and regulations. For example, in Washington — one of the first states to legalize pot — only individuals using the drug for medical purposes can grow it, though any adult is allowed to possess and use it.

In Washington, D.C., marijuana can be used and “gifted,” but not bought, sold or exchanged for other goods or services.

Marijuana use is illegal according to federal policy, and President Trump’s opposition to legalization has created uncertainty for some states seeking to regulate the industry.

If signed by the governor, the Vermont measure would remove civil penalties for possessing one ounce of marijuana or less and would allow adults to keep up to two mature pot plants. It would also create a commission to develop a plan for taxing and regulating the drug.

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.

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. 

Delaware Senate to discuss decriminalization bill 

UPDATE:

June 18, 2015

The Delaware Senate approved a bill 12-9 that will eliminate criminal penalties and jail time for adult possession of a small amount of marijuana. Under current Delaware law, adults found guilty of marijuana possession face a maximum punishment of a $575 fine and three months in jail. They also get a permanent criminal record. The new law makes possession a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $100 with no possibility of jail time, much like a traffic ticket.

Original article Below!

June 15, 2015

          Legislation to decriminalize possession and personal use of small amounts of marijuana heads to the Senate floor on Thursday, with an amendment expected that could send the legislation back to the Delaware House of Representatives. As written, the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington, would allow Delawareans to possess up to an ounce and use marijuana privately without facing criminal sanctions. Criminal penalties would be replaced with a civil $100 fine. An amendment expected in the Senate would reduce the amount of marijuana subject only to civil penalties to half of an ounce. The legislation cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Law enforcement groups have forcefully opposed the legislation.But a representative from the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council said the group will not actively oppose the bill if lawmakers adopt the amendment.

The House passed the decriminalization measure earlier this month. Gov. Jack Markell has indicated he will sign the legislation.

FLORIDA CBD law update 

TALLAHASSEE — The Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Tuesday is expected to take up a plan that would try to move forward with the state’s new medical-marijuana industry.

The agenda for the committee meeting indicates it will take up a cannabis bill (SPB 7066), though the detailed proposal had not been posted online as of Saturday. Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, told The News Service of Florida on Thursday he expects the measure would set up a structure for nurseries to grow, process and distribute non-euphoric cannabis.

The Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott approved a law last year that allows types of marijuana that are low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD. Doctors will be able to order the low-THC pot for patients who suffer from severe muscle spasms or have cancer.

But the Department of Health has been delayed in carrying out the law because of legal challenges to its regulatory proposals, frustrating lawmakers.

Bradley on Thursday said he expects the committee meeting to include “a serious discussion and possible consideration of legislation that puts an end to the delays and makes sure that we get this substance in the hands of suffering families as quickly as possible.”


Meanwhile, Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth McArthur has scheduled an April 14 hearing in a legal challenge to a proposed regulatory framework for Florida’s new medical-marijuana industry, according to a document posted on the state Division of Administrative Hearings website.

The case challenges a proposed Department of Health rule for carrying out a 2014 law that would make available a limited type of medical marijuana. A Jacksonville attorney filed the challenge on behalf of 4-year-old Dahlia Barnhart, who has an inoperable brain tumor.

The challenge alleges the department did not follow the law in drawing up the rule. In part, it takes issue with the way the department proposes selecting five “dispensing organizations,” which would grow, process and dispense the cannabis.

In November, another administrative law judge rejected the department’s first attempt at a rule to carry out the law.

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.