Lansing, Michigan

LANSING – The battle to free the weed officially started Thursday when the State Board of Canvassers ruled that a group pushing a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use got enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.

The 4-0 decision by the board was met with cheers by advocates for the proposal.

“The people of Michigan deserve this. They earned it,” said Rick Thompson, a board member of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws or NORML. “We’ve faced many trials and tribulations. We’ve had so many stop and go signs from the federal government. That’s why states have to take the reins on the issue and really be the crucibles of democracy that they’ve always been intended to be.”

It was the second time that the coalition had turned in enough signatures to get on the ballot. The last time, however, it didn’t get the signatures in a state-mandated 180-day window and the petition was thrown out. But the coalition didn’t have the same problem this time around. “We expected this,” said John Truscott, spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “Now, we’ll be out and about talking to people and educating them about the issues.”

Scott Greenlee, executive director of the Healthy and Productive Michigan political action committee, which opposes the ballot proposal, urged the Board of Canvassers to keep the issue off the ballot because marijuana is still considered an illegal drug by the federal government.

“By putting this on the ballot, you’re disregarding federal law,” he said. “I recognize that other states have done it, but like my mom always told me, ‘Just because your friends jump off a bridge, doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing.’

“We’re picking and choosing which laws to follow and that’s no way to live,” he said, adding he’s not sure whether his group will continue to fight the Board of Canvassers’ decision in court.

The Michigan marijuana ballot proposal would:

Legalize the possession and sale of up to 2½ ounces of marijuana for personal, recreational use.
Impose a 10% excise tax on marijuana sales at the retail level as well as a 6% sales tax. The estimated revenues from the taxes are at least $100 million.
Split those revenues with 35% going to K-12 education, 35% to roads, 15% to the communities that allow marijuana businesses in their borders and 15% to counties where marijuana business are located.
Allow communities to decide whether they’ll permit marijuana businesses.
Restrict purchases of marijuana for recreational purposes to 2½ ounces but an individual could keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana at home.
Allow the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), and not the politically appointed licensing board that will regulate the medical marijuana side of the market, to regulate and license marijuana businesses, ranging from growers, transporters, testers and dispensaries.
Set up three classes of marijuana growers: up to 100, 500 and 2,000 plants.
Michigan voters have already weighed in on marijuana once, approving cannabis for medical use in 2008 by a 63%-37% margin. As of March, 1, 277,752 people are medical marijuana cardholders and 43,131 people are caregivers who can grow up to 72 plants for up to five cardholders. The state is in the process of vetting applications of people who want to get into the medial marijuana business, which is expected to generate at least $700 million in sales.

That financial prediction is estimated to grow to more than $1 billion a year if voters pass the ballot proposal and Michigan becomes the ninth state to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

In Colorado, the oldest recreational marijuana market in the nation, sales in 2017 were $1.5 billion.

But getting the ballot proposal passed is not a foregone conclusion, despite recent polls showing more than 60% support for legalizing marijuana.

Healthy and Productive Michigan has $215,286 for the battle ahead, primarily from Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a Virginia-based organization that supports cannabis for medical, but not recreational, uses.

“We’ll continue to press forward with education and explain to the public the problems that recreational marijuana will cause in our state,” Greenlee said. “And once it’s certified for the ballot, we’ll have a number of people from Michigan who will come in and support us.”

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol has raised more than $1 million, but spent the vast majority on paying the firm that collected petition signatures. According to campaign finance reports filed this week with the Secretary of State, the coalition has only $17,326 in available cash for the upcoming campaign.

The action taken by the Board on Thursday will trigger a large fund-raising effort, Truscott said.

“We expect to have quite a bit coming in now that it’s all approved,” he said. “There have been a number of meetings in the last few weeks about that.”

With the Board of Canvassers’ approval, the state Legislature has several options: it could consider the measure and pass it, in which case it would automatically become law; it could offer a competing proposal for the ballot or it could do nothing and let the issue go to the Nov. 6 ballot.

While Republicans might want to keep the issue off the ballot in November — because it’s expected to increase voter turnout that could be more beneficial for Democrats — it would also be a very difficult vote for Republican lawmakers to take as many of them face elections in the fall.

Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt, seemed to take the legislative vote option off the table on Thursday.

“I don’t anticipate it happening. There’s not much support in the caucus for it and I personally do not support it,” he said. “I think it’s something that the voters are going to have to ultimately decide.”

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.

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

Minnesota – UPDATE – State to name 2 medical marijuana producers

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Two crucial pieces of the state’s new medical marijuana program are nearly in place.

Minnesota officials were expected on Monday morning to name the two organizations that will grow and cultivate for the state, ending a weeks-long selection process.

The question of who would grow marijuana for the state — and how many companies would apply — was a large concern for the legislators who crafted the new law last session. Lawmakers included an option to delay the registration deadline by six months in case the state had difficulty attracting applicants.

That wasn’t necessary. Twelve organizations applied, each paying a $20,000 nonrefundable fee.

Monday’s announcement will kick off a race for the manufacturer’s to set up their operations in time to start providing patients medicine in July 2015.

Minnesota hires a director to lead the new office of medical cannabis

Minnesota has hired a director to lead its newly created Office of Medical Cannabis.

The Legislature legalized the limited use of medical marijuana this year and on Wednesday the Minnesota Department of Health named Michelle Larson to oversee the program.

The new Office of Medical Cannabis has one year to set up a statewide system that can produce, distribute and regulate the use of medical marijuana. Larson comes to the job after serving as deputy director of the health department’s Office of Statewide Health Improvement, which tackled hot-button issues like tobacco, obesity and nutrition.

Larson’s to-do list for the next few months will include screening and selecting the manufacturers who will produce medical marijuana, developing rules to govern the operation of the dispensary system and building a patient registry.

Minnesota has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana laws among the 23 states that have legalized the drug for medical use. Starting in July 15, patients with certain doctor-certified conditions like cancer, seizure disorders, glaucoma or terminal illnesses, will be able to legally buy marijuana in liquid, pill or other non-smokable forms. The federal government still considers marijuana an illegal substance with no recognized medical use.

Two in-state manufacturers will produce all of Minnesota’s medical cannabis, which in turn will be distributed at eight dispensaries around the state. Who those producers will be, and where those distribution centers will be located are among the first issues Larson and her 10-person staff will tackle this summer.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said the medical cannabis program will need to ramp up quickly and Larson — an environmental health specialist who has also worked in the department’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and served in the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth — has experience and skills for the job.

“This position requires a skilled administrator, but it also requires someone who can work with people from a range of backgrounds,” Ehlinger said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Michelle brings a strong background in public policy and administration, as well as a history of working with the public health community, law enforcement and security, pharmacists, health care providers and community members. She has the ability to work with people to get things done right.”

St.Paul, Minnesota – Public meetings on new medical marijuana program

ST. PAUL, Minn. —

There will be two public meetings to discuss planning for Minnesota’s new medical marijuana program. The first will be on July 31 and will consist of information about the new duties of a 16-member Task Force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research. The announcement about an early-august session came from the Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday. It will also be open to the public and their goal is to inform future patients and residents about who potential manufacturers could be and to provide a timetable of the program guidelines. Gov. Mark Dayton and the legislature passed a limited medical marijuana law last session. Although strict it is truly helpful for patients with very debilitating conditions. Patients are allowed to consume their medicine in a liquid, pill or vaporized form of the plant. Qualifying patients would only be those who suffer from eight illnesses including cancer, HIV/AIDS and glaucoma.

Gov. Dayton Signs Medical Marijuana Bill Into Law

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota joined the ranks of 21 other states Thursday where marijuana is a legal medicine with a law that is one of the nation’s most restrictive.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed legislation that sets up a medical marijuana program with tight controls over qualifying conditions and the way it is administered. People won’t be able to smoke marijuana legally or access it in leaf form.

“I pray it will bring to the victims of ravaging illnesses the relief they are hoping for,” Dayton said in a written statement.

The compromise bill upset some medical marijuana advocates, who say many people who need relief won’t get it. But legislative backers say it is a positive first step that satisfied concerns of law enforcement and doctor groups. Dayton had said he wouldn’t get behind a bill that those two entities opposed.

Medical conditions eligible for the treatment include cancer, glaucoma and AIDS. A physician assistant or advanced-practice registered nurse would certify a patient suffered from a qualifying illness.

If all goes as planned, the drug will be available in pill, oil and vapor form in mid-2015. Two manufacturing facilities and eight dispensaries will be permitted statewide.

The law sets up a task force to assess the impact of medical cannabis.

Dayton signaled earlier this month that he would sign the bill, but waited as his staff tried to assemble bill sponsors and affected families for a formal ceremony. A ceremony could still occur at a later date.