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.

California presents pesticide guidelines for cultivating cannabis

The State of California is taking historic steps to protect watersheds amid the devastating ongoing drought, combined with an uptick in cannabis cultivation along remote, sensitive watersheds. The State Water Board has new outreach brochures encouraging folks to “Know Before They Grow” and warning contractors of the fines associated with unpermited roadbuilding and bulldozing of streams.

The state is also making historic efforts to educate cultivators on allowable pesticides, releasing a “Pesticide Use on Marijuana” paper. The guidelines are “being provided for informational purposes only” and the state does “authorize, permit, endorse, or in any way approve the use, sale, cultivation, or any other activity associated with marijuana. Any such activity is subject to prosecution under federal law.”

All judgement aside, the State Water Board wants people using pesticides correctly. 


1) NO ILLEGAL MEXICAN PESTICIDES
“Pesticides must be registered by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) before they can be sold and used in California.”

2) BUYER BEWARE
“There are no pesticides registered specifically for use directly on marijuana and the use of pesticides on marijuana plants has not been reviewed for safety or human health effects.”

3) THE KEY IS RESIDUE
“Under California law, the only pesticide products not illegal to use on marijuana are those that contain an active ingredient that is exempt from residue-tolerance requirements; and are registered and labeled for a use that is broad enough to include use on marijuana (e.g. unspecified green plants); or are exempt from registration requirements as a minimum risk pesticide under FIFRA.”

4) READ THE LABEL
“Before using any pesticide, ALWAYS read and follow the pesticide label. The label is the law.”

5) GET A PERMIT
“If you apply pesticides to a field, you must obtain an operator identification number from the County Agricultural Commissioner and submit monthly pesticide use reports to that office. Note: No operator identification number will be issued in any local jurisdiction that prohibits marijuana cultivation.”

6) AVOID ‘RESTRICTED USE’
“U.S. EPA designates certain pesticide products as federally “Restricted Use” products when they determine those products may cause unreasonable adverse effects even when used as directed on the product labeling. Restricted Use pesticides are limited to use by certified applicators, or to those under the supervision of a certified applicator.”

7) NO ‘RESTRICTED MATERIALS’
“U.S. EPA designates certain pesticide products as federally “Restricted Use” products when they determine those products may cause unreasonable adverse effects even when used as directed on the product labeling. Restricted Use pesticides are limited to use by certified applicators, or to those under the supervision of a certified applicator. Permits will not be issued for marijuana cultivation sites.

8) PROTECT YOUR WORKERS
“Employers must protect their workers from exposure to pesticides. State law requires that employers follow the pesticide label and Provide required personal protective equipment; provide required training and access to pesticide labels and safety information; and properly store, handle, and dispose of pesticides.

9) CAREFUL WITH RODENTICIDES
“Rodenticides that are designated as California Restricted Materials cannot be used; and those that are only designated as federally Restricted Use products can only be used by a certified commercial applicator. There are some rodenticides labeled for below ground applications that are not designated as California Restricted Materials or federally Restricted Use pesticides that can be used if consistent with the label. 

10) USE NATURAL RODENTICIDES
“The following rodent repellants may be used in and around marijuana cultivation sites consistent with the label: Capiscum Oleoresin, Putrescent Whole Egg Solids, Garlic.

Nevada regulators okay first marijuana cultivation site 

CARSON CITY — Nevada regulators Monday gave final licensing approval for the state’s first medical marijuana cultivation facility north of Reno.

Sierra Wellness Connection will grow medicinal pot at a facility in the north valleys area, and plans to open a dispensary this summer near downtown.

“We’re certainly pleased that the state has acted judiciously to allow us to move forward and open our cultivation facility,” Joe Crowley, Sierra Wellness president and former University of Nevada, Reno president, said in a statement.

“I’m at a point in my life where I often see friends and relatives in need of safe medications,” Crowley said.

Morgan Carr, Sierra Wellness vice president of research and development, said the cannabis will be independently lab tested and cultivated in accordance with strict laws and regulations.

The company said final licensing by the state of its dispensary facility is pending and subject to approval by Reno and Washoe County.

The dispensary will be located at 1605 E. 2nd Street in an area zoned for medical and wellness businesses adjacent to Renown Regional Medical Center.

The Reno City Council will consider the company’s special medical marijuana business license application at its March 25 meeting, the company said.

Texas Update 

AUSTIN — Patients with cancer, seizures and PTSD are fighting to legalize medical marijuana in Texas — despite Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s stance against it.  a news conference at the State Capitol Tuesday, Barbara Humphries was among those pushing for the legalization of medical marijuana. The 31-year-old has endured months of intense chemotherapy for stage three breast cancer. She says marijuana has helped her, and she buys it illegally. 

“Before I started using it, I was extremely nauseated. I couldn’t eat,” said Humphries. “We should not be denied legal access when our doctors recommend it.” State Rep. Marisa Marquez (D-El Paso) filed legislation that gives patients access to the whole marijuana plant, to treat everything from seizures, cancer and PTSD. 

“This piece of legislation is a comprehensive medical marijuana bill. Texans deserve a choice when it comes to their health care,” said Marquez. 

If the legislation passes, Texas would join 23 states and the District of Columbia who already have legal plants. Marquez’s bill stipulates the Department of State Health Services would establish a regulated system of licensed marijuana growers, processors and dispensaries. The head of the House Public Health Committee, Rep. Myra Crownover, says the bill is likely dead in the House. The Texas Association of Sheriff’s says they oppose any substance with THC, citing concerns about its effect on children.


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.