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.


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.

Minnesota bipartisan House votes 86-39 in favor of legalizing medical marijuana

On a bipartisan 86-39 vote, the Minnesota House on Friday decided that Minnesota should become the 22nd U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana.

“This is the kind of legislation that we pass out of compassion,” Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, the chief House sponsor.

The House measure sets up a medical marijuana distribution system with strict limits on who can access the drug, where they obtain it and how they can use it. Supporters blocked numerous attempts to broaden the proposal, which they carefully tailored to maintain support from law enforcement groups and the state’s medical establishment.

The House and Senate will now work together to find a compromise measure.

In an overwhelming 28-97 vote, the House turned back an expansive version more like the one Senate passed earlier this week. The Senate gave bipartisan approval to a measure which authorizes several dozen grow and distribution sites, a wider list of qualifying medical conditions, and allows the drug to be vaporized in leaf form.

“I know some of you wish this bill would include more qualifying conditions or would be more expansive, and frankly so do I,” said Melin. “But it’s important we do not shut down an opportunity for thousands of Minnesotans, for something that will not become law this session.”

The strong House vote against a broader version makes likely the Legislature, in the final measure, will pass something limited in a form Gov. Mark Dayton can sign.

“If the Legislature passes the House’s current language, I will sign it into law,” he said following the House vote.

On the House floor the debate over the measure was emotional and free of the rancor that often accompanies controversial issues. Instead, a bipartisan cohort of lawmakers who stand on both side of the issue tearfully told personal stories of illness, pain and struggle that brought tears to speakers and listeners.

“I feel like I’ve been crying all day long, hearing the stories,” said Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater. But, she said, she feared the measure could harm the people it was designed to help.

Families of those who hope to be helped if the bill becomes law lined the House gallery Friday and watched the five-hour debate.

Neither the House nor Senate proposals allow marijuana to be smoked; the House version allows vaporizing, but only in pill or oil form.

The expansive Senate version lacks support from groups representing police and prosecutors, as well as medical professionals. Earlier this week, the Minnesota Medical Association announced its support for the current House proposal.

In a letter to Melin, the MMA called the Senate alternative “overly broad in scope.” During debate, House members discussed whether law enforcement groups supported potential changes to the measure.

That riled some representatives.

“We should not allow our medical and scientific decisions to be made by law enforcement,” Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said.

Holding on to that support was key to winning over Dayton, who will make the final call if a medical marijuana bill gets to his desk. The Democratic governor has been skeptical of a wide-ranging bill, but open to a more limited approach if it’s backed by law enforcement and medical groups.

The Legislature passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in 2009, but then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed it.