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.

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.

Michigan Update

LANSING, Mich. (AP) – The state Senate has approved a bill that would prohibit the smoking of medical marijuana on rental properties where a landlord has prohibited it. 

The bill, approved 34-3 on Tuesday, would amend Michigan’s medical marijuana act, approved by voters in 2008. The bill passed with more than the three-fourths vote needed to amend a voter-approved initiative.

Under the bill, landlords also would not be required to lease property to someone who smoked or grew marijuana on a property where those actions were prohibited according to a lease agreement.

The bill will now to go the House for consideration.

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.


MICHIGAN – Bills would change marijuana rules

LANSING – Confusion surrounding the legality of marijuana dispensaries and nonsmokable forms of the drug are prompting lawmakers to propose changes related to Michigan’s voter-approved law that legalized marijuana for medical use.

Bipartisan legislation introduced Thursday would allow for “provisioning centers,” businesses where patients with a state-issued medical marijuana card could buy surplus marijuana that suppliers produce for other patients.

Advocates say the bill is needed because the state Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that qualified patients and caregivers cannot transfer marijuana to another patient or anyone else, and dispensaries that facilitate such transactions can be shut down as a public nuisance. Some municipalities have let the dispensaries continue to operate while others have not.

The legislation, which supporters say would give patients safe access to marijuana, needs regular majority support from the Republican-controlled Legislature to go to the governor’s desk because it would not directly amend the 2008 marijuana law.

Another bill would authorize non-smokable marijuana such as oils, food items and pills. It requires a vote from three-quarters of the House and Senate because it would change the voter-initiated law.

“Sixty-three percent of voters wanted the use, the compassionate use, of medical marijuana for certain classes of patients. This package of bills helps to fulfill the intention of the voters,” said House Health Policy Committee Chairman Mike Callton, R-Nashville.
Michigan has 165,000 residents allowed to use marijuana to treat cancer and other illnesses and nearly 32,000 licensed caregivers.

Among those backing the legislation is Ida Chinonis of Grand Blanc, whose 6-year-old daughter Bella was born with a genetic disorder that causes seizures. She said she obtained marijuana oil as a “last resort” a month ago and has seen improvements over regular medicines.
Seizures that lasted 10 minutes now are 10 seconds, she said, and her awareness is better.

“She’s starting to engage when you ask her questions. … She’s calmer. She’s actually participating more in school as well,” said Chinonis, who traveled to Lansing on Thursday for a Capitol news conference with lawmakers, a Detroit councilman and Lansing’s police chief.
Similar bills easily won passage in the House in 2013 but died on the Senate floor in December’s lame-duck session, primarily because of concerns from law enforcement.

Callton said he intends to speak with opponents earlier this time around, saying it was a mistake before to wait to hear their concerns.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to do this if they’re against us,” he said. “I do think that everyone is starting to recognize that we need to do this. We need a rational approach to medical marijuana, and law enforcement also needs to be able to know what they have to do to be able to oversee it.”
Robert Stevenson, executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, said the group hopes to find middle ground with legislators after opposing the legislation last year.
Chiefs worry about letting caregivers sell up to 3 pounds of overage amounts of marijuana a month to dispensaries for distribution.

“The argument was that you need to have this medical marijuana outsourced because people can’t get their medical marijuana — that’s not true. There’s plenty of marijuana out there,” Stevenson said. “It’s not supposed to be a for-profit business.”
Both Democrats and majority Republicans are backing the new bills.
Sen. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, said local officials would be empowered to decide if they want the provisioning centers in their communities.

Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyon, R-Alto, said the law’s ambiguity is clogging the court system and prosecutions are “wasting taxpayer money.”

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.

Cleveland, Ohio- News update for 2015!

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A campaign to legalize the medical and recreational use of marijuana in Ohio is quietly taking shape and includes plans to place an amendment to the Ohio Constitution before voters in November 2015, the Northeast Ohio Media Group has learned. The campaign plans to push an amendment, that if approved by voters, would guarantee a ten or so property owners the right to grow marijuana, according to sources who spoke on the condition they not be named.

By embedding in the constitution where marijuana can be produced – and essentially who can profit from its production – organizers are using an approach similar to the one gambling interests used in their 2009 successful campaign to allow casino-style gaming. That amendment, known on the ballot as Issue 3, limited gaming to just four locations in Ohio.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, including nearby Michigan.

Supporters of an earlier constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana failed in July when they failed to collect enough signatures of registered Ohio voters to get the issue on last month’s ballot. The Ohio Rights Group, which organized the effort, collected more than 100,000 signatures for the Ohio Cannabis Rights Act. That fell far short of the more than 385,000 signatures need.

John Pardee, president of Ohio Rights Group, said his organization is planning to pursue a medical marijuana amendment. Asked about the new campaign, he said, “I’m against creating a constitutional monopoly.”

About 90 minutes after the Northeast Ohio Media Group broke this story on cleveland.com, a group calling itself ResponsibleOhio released a statement announcing a campaign to legalize marijuana. The group said it plans to place a ballot initiative before voters in 2015. Here is part of that statement. The group is not answering questions at this time.

“Marijuana for medical and personal use should be a choice made by adults 21 and older in this state,” said Lydia Bolander, a spokesperson for the campaign. “We are going to end this failed prohibition.”

Bolander, who works for the political consultant, Precision New Media, also said, “Legalizing marijuana for medical and personal use means increased safety because we will regulate, tax and treat marijuana like alcohol. We will smother the black market and use the taxes generated to help local communities provide vital public services.”