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

Proposal would put legalized marijuana on Missouri ballot

JEFFERSON CITY – Supporters of legalized marijuana are getting an early start on an initiative that could put the issue to a public vote on Missouri’s 2016 ballot.

A pro-marijuana initiative was the first item submitted to the secretary of state’s office on the first day possible to propose measures for the next general election. By Thursday, it was posted online for public comment.
The proposed constitutional amendment would make it legal to produce, sell and use marijuana in Missouri for people age 21 and older. The goal is to tax and regulate marijuana in a similar way as alcohol, said Columbia attorney Dan Viets, who submitted the measure.

The Missouri initiative comes after voters on Tuesday approved legalized marijuana in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. Recreational use of marijuana already is legal in Colorado and Washington state.

Before a petition can be circulated for signatures in Missouri, it must receive approval from the secretary of state and attorney general and get a financial estimate from the state auditor. The petition summary prepared by the secretary of state’s office then could face legal challenges, and supporters would have until May 2016 to collect the roughly 165,000 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Although some Missouri cities already have passed local ordinances decriminalizing marijuana possession, it remains a state crime punishable by up to a year in prison to possess up to 35 grams. A state criminal code revision set to take effect in 2017 would remove the possibility of jail time for first-time offenders convicted of possessing less than 10 grams.

The proposed initiative would invalidate those laws and require a state license to produce, deliver and sell marijuana, which could be taxed at 25 percent of its price. The tax revenues would be divided among pension plans for law enforcement officers and firefighters, K-12 schools, substance abuse programs, military veterans’ services, college scholarships and local governments.

Viets is criminal defense lawyer who is chairman of Show-Me Cannibas and secretary of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He is a longtime critic of Missouri’s criminal marijuana laws.

“The vast majority of people who use marijuana are adults who use it responsibly. They do not deserve to be treated like criminals,” Viets said. “We squander millions of tax dollars persecuting and prosecuting marijuana smokers, and we lose tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue.”
Viets also proposed initiatives in 2012 and 2014 to legalize marijuana. The effort two years ago fell well short of the needed petition signatures and supporters didn’t try to collect signatures this year. Viets said an aggressive effort is planned for the 2016 ballot using a mixture of volunteer and paid petition circulators.

Some public opinion polls have shown most Americans now favor legalization of marijuana. But legalization proposals have gained little traction in Missouri’s Republican-led legislature, which is why Viets said supporters are turning to the initiative process.

Missouri 2016 opportunity to legalize!

Missouri voters in 2016 will have a hand in picking a new president, a successor to Jay Nixon and possibly legalizing marijuana in the Show-Me State.

Show-Me Cannabis, an association of pro-legalization-minded individuals and organizations, plans to submit paperwork with the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office this week or next to start the process of putting a ballot initiative before voters in 2016.

Once bureaucratic matters get sorted out in the coming weeks, Show-Me Cannabis will seek about 300,000 signatures (almost double the 160,000 required to put matters before the electorate) from at least six of the eight Missouri congressional districts to put marijuana legalization on the 2016 general-election ballot.

John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis, tells us that internal polling earlier this year showed 45 percent of registered voters supported the measure for the 2014 mid-term elections, typically a low-turnout affair relative to presidential elections.

The support, Payne projects, swells to 52 percent during a higher-turnout presidential election, which is why his group opted for the 2016 ballot instead of pushing forward in 2014.

“It’s really a question of turnout,” Payne says. “If everyone in the state voted tomorrow, we would win.”

Attitudes have been transforming toward ending, or at least relaxing, marijuana prohibition. Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana, largely without incident, since 2012. (Oregon; Washington, D.C.; and Alaska voters will weigh in on legalization tomorrow, while Florida will take up medical marijuana.) Those two states have also realized a fiscal boost from both law-enforcement savings and from taxes gleaned from marijuana sales.

Payne says Missouri could realize $90 million in law-enforcement savings from no longer having to patrol, arrest, prosecute and, in some cases, imprison users and sellers. That figure is based on work done by Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard University economist hired by Show-Me Cannabis to analyze legalization’s fiscal impact in Missouri.

If Missouri adopted a tax structure similar to what’s placed upon alcohol and tobacco in the state (about 12 percent), that could result in $60 million in new revenues. Payne adds that if a 25 percent tax were applied, that number could grow north of $200 million.

Show-Me Cannabis is still discussing how to apportion marijuana revenues, but likely recipients may include police and firefighter pensions, education, mental-health services, drug prevention and treatment, and the like.

That kitty may be alluring not only to voters but also Missouri lawmakers who show signs of coming around on marijuana-related matters. The Missouri General Assembly dipped its toe into the medical-marijuana waters by allowing the use of low-THC concentrated treatments for various ailments and has relaxed punishment guidelines for small-time weed users.

“What we’ve found is, when we talk to a lot of legislators, it’s not so much that they oppose medical marijuana and industrial hemp, it’s just that they don’t know a lot about it,” Payne says.

Still, voters are the more palatable conduit to ending marijuana prohibition in Missouri.

Missouri Update! CBD legislation signed

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missourians with epilepsy that cannot be effectively treated by conventional means will now be able to use a cannabis extract under legislation signed into law Monday by Gov. Jay Nixon.

The legislation was sponsored by St. Louis County Republican Eric Schmitt, a state senator whose 9-year-old son has the central nervous system disorder.

Patients wanting to use marijuana oil containing high cannabidiol content will be required to register with the state health department and also have a neurologist vouch that the patient’s epilepsy hasn’t responded to at least three other treatments. The extract is known for having more CBD than THC so it contains little of the related marijuana compounds favored by recreational users.

In a separate action, Nixon also signed legislation allowing terminally ill patients to use investigational drugs not yet approved by the federal government.

We asked the governor if families who moved to Colorado, where the oil is legal, would be prosecuted if they moved back to Missouri.

“It would be better to talk to attorney general’s office about that. All I know is the measure I signed today will help us move forward to make sure Missouri can provide these therapies to families in need,” said Nixon.

Missouri update!

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP/) – Missouri lawmakers have given final approval to a bill that would allow use of a cannabis extract by people whose epilepsy isn’t relieved by other treatments. On Thursday, the Senate passed the bill 32-0. House members later approved it 136-12, which sends the legislation to Gov. Jay Nixon. The bill would allow use of “hemp extract” containing little of the substance that makes marijuana users feel high and greater amounts of a chemical called cannabidiol, or CBD.

Senators approved the measure after Sen. Eric Schmitt gave an impassioned speech about his son, who has epilepsy. Schmitt says he doesn’t know if CBD oil will work but that a lot of families are willing to try. Schmitt’s family watched the debate from the Senate chamber.

Opponents to the bill say Missouri is not yet ready for this law, as more research needs to be done on the effects of the drug. We also wanted to know whether the bill opens the door for more widespread legalization of marijuana in Missouri.

For more click here

full text found on mpp.org (of which I’m a proud member!)

Missouri – CBD Bill moves forward

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missourians whose epilepsy isn’t relieved by other treatments could start taking a cannabis extract under legislation approved Thursday by the state House.
The measure would allow use of a “hemp extract” containing little of the chemical that causes marijuana users to feel high and larger amounts of a chemical called cannabidiol, or CBD. Supporters contend CBD oil could be effective in preventing seizures.
“I want to give hope to the children of Missouri who are suffering from intractable epilepsy that they can stop having seizures and live a healthy, normal life,” said sponsoring Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia.
About a dozen states have considered legislation seeking to allow use of CBD oil for patients with seizures. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last week, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley previously signed a bill allowing the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study the marijuana extract while giving participants legal protection from state criminal charges.
There has been particular attention paid to oil from the marijuana strain called Charlotte’s Web that cultivated for an epileptic patient in Colorado. It is high in CBD and has little or no psychoactive effects. There is a waiting list, and patients must live in Colorado where marijuana is legal. Families have moved to the state to gain access to it.
House members approved the bill 139-13, and it now moves to the state Senate. The measure would take effect immediately if Gov. Jay Nixon signs it into law.
Earlier this week, a Senate committee endorsed separate legislation that would allow use of medical cannabinoids for conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and chronic or debilitating conditions that produce severe pain or seizures. The products could be oils, tonics, ointments or be ingestible but not able to be smoked. Patients would need a written certification from a doctor.
Full story here

Missouri lawmakers working to legalize cannabis extract

JEFFERSON CITY — Although Missouri lawmakers are not clamoring to legalize marijuana, key Republican lawmakers appear ready to follow a few states in allowing use of a cannabis extract for people whose epilepsy isn’t relieved by other treatments.

Legislation is advancing in the Missouri House, where a committee could hold a public hearing and vote this week. Recently filed legislation is backed by the Republican House speaker, majority leader and Democratic leaders. It also is supported by a Republican senator whose son has epilepsy. Sponsoring Rep. Caleb Jones said lawmakers are moving quickly.

“People realize that people’s lives are at stake,” said Jones, R-Columbia.

About a dozen states have considered legislation seeking to allow use of cannabidiol oil for patients who have seizures. Cannabidiol, also called CBD, is a compound in cannabis but doesn’t cause users to feel high. During the past week, the South Carolina House approved a bill and Wisconsin lawmakers sent a measure to Gov. Scott Walker. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed legislation allowing the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study the marijuana extract while giving participants legal protection from state criminal charges.

There has been particular attention on oil from the marijuana strain Charlotte’s Web bred for an epileptic patient in Colorado. It is high in CBD and has little or no psychoactive effects. There is a waiting list, and patients must live in Colorado where marijuana is legal.

The Marijuana Policy Project said CBD oil is relatively new. The Washington-based advocacy group doesn’t oppose the state efforts but says there are other health problems for which cannabis also can help.

“It’s an easy sort of rallying point, but the problem is that it leaves behind the vast majority of patients who would otherwise benefit from medical marijuana,” said Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for the group.

Missouri’s legislation would allow use of “hemp extract” with no more than 0.3 percen tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and at least 5 percent CBD. Patients or their parents would need a registration card, and it only could be used for epilepsy that a neurologist has determined isn’t responding to at least three treatment options. The state Agriculture Department could grow plants, and universities could be certified to cultivate them for research.

“This is one to me that is kind of a no-brainer,” said Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County. “You can’t get high on it. It can help some families.”

Schmitt’s 9-year-old son, Stephen, has intractable epilepsy and daily seizures. Infantile spasms started when Stephen was about 9 months old and his first big seizure came when he was a little older than 1. Medications have helped but not stopped them.

Schmitt said he is uncertain whether CBD oil is an option but that families should have access if it can provide relief to people going through dozens or hundreds of seizures daily.

One Missouri family looking for relief for a sick child is heading to Colorado to find it.

June Jessee turns 2 years old later this month. Her parents, Matt and Genny Jessee, said they have tried everything they can legally to stop seizures that they estimate occur at least 20 times daily. June has taken 10 seizure medications, adopted a special diet, tried alternative therapies like chiropractic care and seen a homeopathic doctor. She also has other health problems, but it is unknown how they are connected.

Doctors suggested retrying medicine that already failed to stop the seizures, and the family instead is moving. Matt Jessee is a lobbyist at Bryan Cave in St. Louis.

Genny Jessee said CBD oil isn’t guaranteed to work but likened it to trying other medications or treatments. She said it doesn’t make sense families go through so many hoops for something that could prove lifesaving.

Missouri’s bill sponsor got to know Matt Jessee when they both worked on President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign and stood next to him at Matt’s wedding.

Even if Missouri lawmakers legalize CBD oil quickly, it will not stop the Jessee family from going to Colorado. But they hope it could allow them to return to Missouri.

Read more here

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