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.

Georgia Senate committee passes medical marijuana bill 

ATLANTA — A Georgia Senate committee passed a medical marijuana bill on Thursday, but hurdles remain before it can become law. The bill is similar to a House bill that passed weeks ago. Addiction specialists took turns telling the Senate committee why legalizing medical marijuana could have consequences. “If we increase the supply of THC in Georgia it will absolutely, positively find its way into the hands of abusers,” said Dr. Paul Early. The Senate had taken a very narrow approach to medical marijuana but the new Senate bill presented at Thursday’s hearing mimics the much broader House bill – and the parents of patients say they are grateful. 

Vince Sievert’s daughter has epilepsy and is using medical marijuana in Colorado. “She has gone as long as 26 days seizure-free from medical cannabis,” Sievert told the committee. 

Supporters of the measure are hopeful that the Senate and House bills will be combined and pass both chambers. There has been some speculation that a medical marijuana bill could merge with an autism bill that has stalled in the House. That would require insurance to cover autism treatment. Last year, the combined medical marijuana/autism bill stalled.

Atlanta – Georgia Lawmaker OFFICIALLY introduces a Bill Legalizing Cannabis Oil

ATLANTA | A Georgia lawmaker will officially introduce a bill legalizing cannabis oil for people with cancer, seizure disorders and other chronic diseases on Monday as the General Assembly returns to action.

Rep. Allen Peake, a Republican from Macon, had discussed a broader bill allowing in-state growth of marijuana to manufacture the oil with low levels of THC, the chemical that can cause a high feeling for marijuana users. But Peake described his official proposal as a compromise with Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who was unwilling to sign off on an in-state program.

In his state of the state address this month, Deal said he hopes to sign a bill legalizing the oil by the end of the year. Peake wants to begin committee hearings this week.

The compromise disappointed some Georgia parents of children with seizure disorders who moved to Colorado, where the oil is legal. They worry people will be unable to afford the travel or risk arrest when traveling through states where the product is not legal.

Blaine Cloud, whose daughter Alaina has a seizure condition, told reporters they were “disheartened and frustrated” but said families owed Peake some support.

“We need to get this bill passed so we can move on to the next fight,” he said.

Peake said he’s working on several options to help people avoid arrest while traveling to buy the oil or those who can’t afford the trip. He said those include shipping low-THC products classified as hemp to Georgia or asking Deal to get a federal exemption allowing a state agency to obtain cannabis oil for ‘compassionate-need’ distribution.

If all else fails, Peake volunteered himself for trips to Colorado and “a little civil disobedience.”

“It may just be that it takes someone like me being arrested to show the lunacy of having a product sold legally in one state … but get arrested driving through Kansas,” he said. “You would not believe the number of volunteers who have said ‘I’ll go with you.’”

The proposal also creates a commission to make recommendations by the end of the year about an in-state program to make and sell the product.

House Speaker David Ralston has said he supports the proposal. An attempt to pass a similar bill last year failed when some lawmakers attached an unrelated bill requiring insurance coverage of children with autism.

Georgia – support for medical marijuana increases

Nearly a year after the first medical marijuana bill failed in Georgia, those suffering and those fighting to relieve that pain are hopeful that won’t happen again.

As state lawmakers prepare for the next General Assembly in January, some things have changed.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 80 percent of Georgians support the legalization of medical marijuana.

Plus, in the recently passed federal spending bill, President Barack Obama and Congress blocked funding for the Department of Justice to penalize those with medical marijuana in states where it is already legal.

Congress approved, and President Barack Obama signed into law, a measure that eliminated funding for the Department of Justice to enforce federal laws blocking the use of medical marijuana in states that have their own laws on the books.
“Imagine, before you even have a thought in the morning, you wake up, just in agony,” Katie Crosby said.
She’s only 26, but for nearly half her life, Crosby has tried almost everything to stop the pain.

“The reality is, nothing’s working. Nothing.”

She calls her pain chronic, crippling.
“A living hell, a living nightmare to be honest.”

So in September, after testifying in front of a medical marijuana study committee led by state Representative Allen Peake, she started a Facebook group called Hope for Silent Sufferers.
It advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana in Georgia and has nearly 20,000 supporters.

That’s how she connected with people like Pamela Skinner, who’s felt that pain for decades.
“Day after day after day, it drains you,” Skinner said.

Doctors diagnosed Skinner with fibromyalgia in 1996, long-term pain that spreads throughout the body, plus degenerative disc disease.
“Anything physical poses a threat. I have grandbabies that weigh 30 pounds and I can’t pick them up,” Skinner said.

And though some research shows medical cannabis could help them, it’s illegal in Georgia.

“I don’t break laws. It needs to be passed so that people like me have access,” Skinner said.

And as 2015’s legislative session draws closer, they fear chronic pain might not be included in the medical marijuana bill.

“It’s just sad to me that you can live in one state and receive relief but not in another,” Crosby said.

Peake, who sponsored House Bill 1, says his committee’s been exploring a range of conditions that could be treated by medical cannabis.
“Seizure disorders, cancer, glaucoma, MS, ALS, autism, possibly chronic pain,” Peake said.

He says says likely only seven or eight of those conditions will be written into the bill, consistent with what’s been passed in other states.
He says that limited list is an effort to keep medical cannabis tightly regulated.

“It’s cannabis oil or an edible form, cannot be smoked, you cannot get high,” Peake said.
But he hopes there will be other options for those conditions that aren’t written into the bill.

“We’re looking at a provision where someone who has a condition that’s not on that list could appeal to the Department of Public Health,” he said.
It’s the relief Crosby hopes for, but she says it hinges on lawmakers, who research the benefits, and remember the afflicted.

“We may be suffering, but we’re no longer silent. Please don’t leave us behind,” Crosby said.
Peake says the idea is to have five or six growers, processors and retailers of medical marijuana across the state.
Those who can access it would receive a registration card, only after a diagnosis of a qualifying condition by a qualified doctor.
The General Assembly will gather starting January 12.