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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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

Recreational Cannabis qualifies for the 2016 ballot In Nevada

Nevada’s top election official has confirmed that an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana will be on the ballot for the 2016 election. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol turned in more than 200,000 signatures in support of the initiative, which far exceeded the 102,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

Secretary of State Ross Miller certified that the coalition had indeed submitted more than enough signatures before the November 12th deadline, thus forcing Nevada’s 2015 legislature to consider the issue or automatically put it on the 2016 ballot for the general election.

This means that, best case scenario, Nevada state legislature may legalize recreational cannabis as early as end of session 2015. Worst case scenario, the initiative will be automatically placed on the 2016 ballot where, presumably, the hundreds of thousands of Nevadans who support recreational legalization (or just recognize its touristy benefits) can vote in support during the general election.

Sounds like it’s time to start planning a trip to Vegas!

photo credit (resized): Curtis Gregory Perry via photopin cc