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.

Nebraska Senators debate legalizing for medical use

LINCOLN, Neb. – 

Nebraska senators will debate whether to legalize medical marijuana under a bill proponents say is aimed at residents struggling with debilitating seizures. A legislative committee voted 7-1 Monday to advance a measure to create cannabis centers where marijuana would be produced and dispensed. Patients and caregivers could register with the state to obtain the drug for treatment.

“If it gets legalized, I will be a very happy person,” said Maria Vavra, who uses marijuana as treatment for MS. “I have MS and if I did not smoke marijuana daily, I would be using my walker again and I would probably be in a wheelchair today.”

“I use it for the spasms in my leg,” said Dennis Pyle. “It seems to work better than the pills that I take.”

The committee advanced a version allowing a limited number of manufacturing centers and specifying that patients could not ingest the drug by smoking it.

The bill by Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue is the second of two medical marijuana bills up for debate this year. Last month the committee advanced a measure creating a pilot study of cannabidiol, a marijuana derivative, to gauge its effectiveness in treating seizures.

“If the legislative body feels they are not ready for that, then will go with what we can get,” Garrett said.

“I am still concerned where this takes us long-term,” Sen. Matt Williams said.

Williams, the only judiciary committee member to vote against Garrett’s bill, said he wants proof of marijuana’s medical benefits.

“I support Sen. Crawford’s bill that does the research on this at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, to find and determine if this does help and benefit people,” Williams said.

Some patients said that wait is too long.

“If I get caught, it will be worth every day that I spend in jail,” Vavra said.

With 24 days left in this legislative session, some worry there won’t be time to debate the bill. But Sen. Sue Crawford, whose medical marijuana research bill made it out of committee, asked to be scheduled second for debate on the floor, giving Garrett’s bill a fighting chance.

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.

North Carolina Conversation to Legalize opens up to the public 

North Carolinians are increasingly backing a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in their state, momentum that advocates say could signal a turning point for lawmakers who have tried for years to push legal pot through the Legislature, but to no avail. About 150 people showed up Thursday outside the Statehouse in Raleigh to voice their support for House Bill 78, filed in February, which would allow patients with certain chronic ailments to access medicinal marijuana. The crowd included U.S. veterans with the group North Carolina Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (N.C. RAMP), according to reports.

“I think the public’s evolving. I think we’ll get there,” Democratic state Rep. Pricey Harrison, who co-sponsored HB 78 and has sponsored previous medical marijuana bills in North Carolina without success, told WRAL-TV. The gathering Thursday was the largest turnout of marijuana reform advocates in years, the news organization reported.

“We won’t get there this year, but it’s a grass-roots movement building support,” Harrison said.

Democratic state Rep. Kelly Alexander introduced HB 78 in February, citing recent polling that showed roughly 70 percent of North Carolinians were in favor of allowing doctors to write marijuana prescriptions. Alexander said legalizing and taxing cannabis could bring in as much as $100 million in tax revenue, although he didn’t specify a time frame. Twenty-three states in the U.S. allow medical marijuana to be prescribed.

The veterans who demonstrated Thursday were mostly retired officers, some of whom had suffered injuries for which marijuana offered relief.

“It’s all over my body. I’m in pain right now,” Edwin McClannan, a retired Army first sergeant whose spine was severely injured during a parachute accident, told the Fayetteville Observer. McClannan said he tried a pot edible once and found relief. “For me, any break in the pain is critical. … But I’m one of those anal-retentive, law-abiding citizens,” he said.

If HB 78 were to pass, it would make North Carolina the first Southeast state to legalize marijuana. But with little support from Republicans in the House, the bill has a long way to go before becoming law. Last summer, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law allowing patients suffering from seizures to use cannabis-derived cannabidiol, a compound found in marijuana. 

Idaho Senate Revises Cannabis Oil Bill 

    A bill fronted by Boise Republican Sen. Chuck Winder, which would legalize the use of medication derived from cannabis in the treatment of some forms of epilepsy, is advancing to the full Senate. 

    Other versions of the measure had stalled at the Idaho Statehouse, but the latest rewrite passed through the Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday by a unanimous vote. 

    Winder’s bill would require the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to issue registration cards for users, and joins another bill from Boise Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie that would also open the way for use of cannabis-derived medicine to treat seizure disorders.

    McKenzie’s bill, which would provide patients and caregivers with a legal defense if prosecuted for using or possessing cannabidiol, narrowly passed the State Affairs Committee on March 13. 

    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.

    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.