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.

Rules approved for cannabis oil, will start Jan. 30

DES MOINES — A legislative panel on Tuesday cleared state rules on registration cards that will allow possession of marijuana-derived cannabis oil for medical treatment of intractable epilepsy.

The new rules take effect Jan. 30.

However, Deborah Thompson, policy adviser for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said her agency and the state Department of Transportation may not be in a position to actually issue the photo ID registration cards until a later “launch” date once the rules have taken effect.

The cards are part of a new state law that allows very limited access to medical cannabidiol. State officials are treating the cards as a “priority project” as they push for a launch date to physically issue the cards.

“We just want to make sure that all of the pieces are there,” Thompson said. “I would like to think we’ll know closer to the date what everything looks like.”

It is likely that the health agency will post an application form online in advance of the card issuance, so patients and parents of minor patients can submit the pertinent information needed from a licensed neurologist to qualify. The state-issued registration card would provide an affirmative defense against prosecution to Iowans possessing no more than 32 ounces of the cannabidiol.

“It’s been a collaborative effort based on wanting to do right by these families,” Thompson said of the process, which is new to many states that are adopting medical marijuana laws. “All of the states are learning together. We all have different laws, even if we have the same goal.”

However, the bigger issue for families of epileptic patients in Iowa is getting access to a product that is expensive and only available in a limited number of places due to a host of legal hurdles.

Last May Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law Senate File 236, which granted special provisions for permanent Iowa residents 18 years of age or older, with a written recommendation from a neurologist, to possess and/or use cannabidiol as a medical treatment to alleviate symptoms of intractable epilepsy, if there are no other satisfactory treatment options.

Last month members of a legislative study panel recommended Iowa lawmakers next session develop a program to produce, process and dispense medical marijuana to address shortcomings in a new state law regarding access and standards to cannabis oil.

House and Senate committee members also called for the federal government and Iowa’s Board of Pharmacy to consider reclassifying marijuana as a scheduled II controlled substance that would lessen criminal penalties and allow doctors to prescribe marijuana-derived medications.

Medical cannabis bill could get push in Pennsylvania

By Mark Walters – EveningSun.Com

On the heels of a trip to Colorado, state Sen. Mike Folmer said he thinks he can improve his bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

A public hearing this week on Folmer’s legislation, Senate Bill 1182, will focus on an amendment ensuring prompt legislative action on the bill. The hearing is slated for 10 a.m. on June 10.

Folmer would not make a comprehensive statement regarding the amendment, but said last week that he wants to make sure drug cartels do not get involved with medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

While in Colorado last month, Folmer visited Colorado Springs and Denver. Speaking with doctors and patients who prescribe and use medical marijuana was very interesting, he said.

Dispensaries in Colorado manage marijuana distribution very well, Folmer said. Patients are required to show a doctor-prescribed red card to obtain marijuana and the people he witnessed entering the dispensaries were what he referred to as everyday folks.

Folmer said he saw more alcohol use than marijuana use during a visit to a college campus on his two-day trip. And when he visited a dispensary in a relatively questionable neighborhood, he said he still felt safe.

Colorado, which legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational uses, gives municipalities the authority to decide whether they will allow recreational marijuana dispensaries, Folmer said. Denver allows recreational sales, but Colorado Springs does not, he noted.

While Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a medical marijuana pilot program specifically for children with epilepsy, Folmer said he would like to see medical marijuana treat a range of ailments including epilepsy, diabetes, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The potential of this plant is amazing,” Folmer said.

Folmer’s bill, The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, was proposed in January. A hearing was held on the bill on Jan. 28, but it has not moved from the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee since then. With 16 cosponsors, the bill has gained some traction in the 50-member Senate.

Local parents of children with epilepsy who have been lobbying for the bill’s passage reached out to the state House of Representatives, inquiring members about their stances on legalizing medical marijuana.

While 90 of the House’s 203 members said yes to legalizing the drug for medical purposes, 87 did not respond, said Cara Salemme, a North Codorus Township mother of a 7-year-old child with epilepsy.

“A lot of what we’re hearing is, ‘It’s not in the House, so we don’t have to worry about it. We’ll wait until it gets to the House, if it gets to the House,'” Salemme said. “We got a lot of encouraging but also discouraging comments.”

Of the remaining House members, 11 said no, 12 said maybe and three said they would only support Corbett’s plan, Salemme said.

But that plan has not gained steam. Salemme and several other families of children who have epilepsy met in Hershey with state health officials on behalf of the governor’s office, only to hear that nothing has been done with Corbett’s proposal, Salemme said.

Still, Salemme said she is hoping S.B. 1182 is voted out of committee in the coming weeks.

“It is unconscionable that some people don’t want to help,” Salemme said. “Crohn’s disease, ALS — these are devastating conditions people have.”

California Moves One Step Closer To Ending Medical Marijuana ‘Chaos’

HuffingtonPost.Com

A bill that would provide order to California’s muddled medical marijuana program cleared a major hurdle Friday, when the state Assembly’s Appropriations Committee moved it forward for a full Assembly vote next week.

Authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the measure, AB 1894, would create uniform rules to govern the state’s multibillion-dollar medical marijuana industry. Although California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medicinal use in 1996, the state has yet to establish a set of standards guiding the cultivation, production and sale of the plant, which has led to what Ammiano described to The Huffington Post as “chaos.”

“I am optimistic that we can continue to work with all parties to finally create regulation that will satisfy all needs,” Ammiano said in a statement Friday, “from federal law enforcement down to the very sick patients who depend on the health benefits only marijuana can provide.”

California currently leaves it up to local governments to decide how they want to implement the state’s medical marijuana law. As a result, some cities, like San Francisco and Oakland, have established clear-cut systems that dictate where dispensaries can operate and impose fees that directly enrich their coffers. Other places, like San Diego and Los Angeles, remain largely unregulated, with very little control over where pot-related businesses can operate.

LA, for example, has been called the “poster child of chaos” for the medical marijuana industry, after clusters of dispensaries began popping up in close proximity and doctors handed out medical marijuana prescriptions to anyone who complained of a headache. In 2012, the city council voted to ban pot shops outright, and the case has been winding its way through the court system ever since. Meanwhile, lawmakers in San Jose are in the process of considering a similar ban.

“Marijuana has never been regulated by the state as any other business,” Ammiano told HuffPost last year after introducing similar legislation. “Cities and counties don’t know what to do or what they can do. Police are unsure how to respond.”

AB 1894 would create a division within California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to regulate all medical marijuana-related entities throughout the state, from the farmers that cultivate the plant to the storefronts that sell it. The proposal would allow the agency to impose fees on marijuana businesses in order to raise revenue for the state, and local municipalities would also be allowed to impose additional taxes.

“Without regulation, there’s no way to capture any of the income that could go toward our infrastructure or other worthy causes,” Ammiano told HuffPost last month.

California’s lack of statewide regulations over its pot program has left it vulnerable to federal interference, as the drug is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance (along with heroin and LSD) in the eyes of the national government. In 2011, a coalition of U.S. attorneys launched an aggressive crackdown on medical marijuana operations throughout the state under the guise that the industry had spiraled out of control. Since then, hundreds of businesses related to the drug have closed, and thousands of people have lost their jobs. Last month, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided several dispensaries in Los Angeles, and a pot shop in Mendocino, closed by federal authorities earlier this year, only recently reopened.

By contrast, the Obama administration has been less combative in states with more comprehensive regulations. Colorado, for example, has faced fewer DEA raids and has been allowed to implement its groundbreaking recreational, adult-use law largely in peace. Late last year, Attorney General Eric Holder indicated that the federal government would not intervene in states that had “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems.”

“While statewide regulations won’t change federal law, it does seem to be the case that states that have uniform, clear regulations are less likely to be interfered with by the feds,” Tom Angell, the head of weed advocacy group Marijuana Majority, told HuffPost last mont. “It’s very confusing in California right now: a patchwork of regulations city to city and county to county.”

Ammiano has made many attempts to create statewide medical marijuana regulations over the past few years, but each piece of legislation stalled or was defeated by opponents who argued the measures didn’t address key issues like the environmental implications of growing cannabis or the criteria for doctors to make recommendations to patients. He’s confident his current bill addresses every concern and more.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he told HuffPost last month. “People have seen that the more regulation you have, the less chaos you have.”

Meanwhile, marijuana reform advocates believe a measure like Ammiano’s is the key to paving the way for a law that would allow recreational use by adults in the state. Recent polls have suggested a majority of Californians support legalizing pot for recreational purposes, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has joined an effort to place a legalization initiative on the 2016 ballot.

But first, “we need to show that California has the ability to regulate marijuana,” Angell said. “This would help further demonstrate how tax revenue can be generated and put into needed programs.”

Iowa Senate approves medical cannabis oil bill

The Iowa Senate voted Thursday to decriminalize medical cannabis oil for the treatment of epilepsy, responding to emotional pleas of Iowa parents with children stricken by seizures.

Senate File 2360 was approved 36-12 after a lengthy debate that included several Republican lawmakers who warned that legalizing any form of marijuana would send the wrong message to young people in jeopardy of abusing drugs.

The bill was sent to the Iowa House, where its path to passage remains uncertain despite vocal support from some Democrats and Republicans alike.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, the bill’s floor manager, recounted the stories of Iowa children who have suffered greatly — sometimes experiencing hundreds of seizures daily — while their parents frantically searched for remedies to alleviate, but not necessarily cure, their children’s ailments.

“This legislation responds to these stories in a compassionate Iowa way,” Bolkcom said, adding that perhaps only a few hundred Iowans would directly benefit.

The bill creates a licensing system by which patients with “intractable” epilepsy and their caregivers may pursue treatment with cannabidiol, an oil derived from marijuana that has been shown to reduce seizures and improve other symptoms related to the illness.

The legislation says patients or caregivers who receive a neurologist’s recommendation for cannabidiol could apply for a state-issued identification card allowing them to possess and use the oil without fear of prosecution under state marijuana laws.

The substance is not smokable and contains low amounts of THC, the substance that gets users high.
The floor debate elicited emotional discussion among both Democrats and Republicans, all of whom expressed empathy for parents with suffering children, although some had serious reservations about approving anything associated with marijuana.

Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, told of coming from a family in which brothers and a father experienced drug addiction. “This is a very hard vote for me,” he said, explaining compassion caused him to support the legislation.

Sen. Nancy Boettger, R-Harlan, said her heart goes out to the parents of sick children. But she worried about how an affirmative vote would be perceived by teenagers throughout Iowa reading that lawmakers have approved marijuana oil.

The bill does not allow for the cultivation, production or sale of the oil, meaning patients or caregivers will have to obtain it in states with less restrictive medical marijuana rules. The measure contains provisions for reciprocity with other states that have programs for patients with epilepsy.

It is unclear, at this point, where exactly patients and caregivers may be able to obtain cannabidiol, given the patchwork of state laws concerning medical marijuana and the availability of the highly specialized formulation of the oil.

Some lawmakers have suggested Colorado, and parents said Wednesday they may have to go to Oregon, Michigan or elsewhere.
As in the Senate, a small but devoted group of Republican lawmakers has helped negotiate and craft the cannabidiol bill now under consideration, underscoring the bipartisan nature of the discussion and perhaps helping to ensure passage within the next few days.

Rep. Rob Taylor, R-West Des Moines, said Thursday that he’d been quietly educating fellow lawmakers and advocating on behalf of the legislation for three and a half months. He counted himself “cautiously optimistic” that the measure could pass this year.
If all 47 Democrats voted yes, just four Republicans would be needed to reach a 51-vote majority and secure House passage of the bill. It’ll surely take more than that, however, for the chamber’s Republican leaders to allow a vote. The majority party very rarely allows bills to advance without a substantial majority of its caucus providing votes in favor.

For more visit the DesMoinesregister.Com

Louisiana medical marijuana bill in Senate today

By Emily Lane – NOLA.Com

Hope for medical marijuana legislation getting through the Louisiana Legislature this year is not dead, but a Senate committee quashed on Wednesday (April 30) the best shot of setting up a medical marijuana industry in the state.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee killed a bill, sponsored by Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, that would have set up the tightest law in the United States regulating the prescription, dispensing and use of marijuana for medical purposes, Mills said. A pharmacist by occupation, Mills said his past experience running the state board of pharmacy and “months and months” he spent drafting the legislation led him to believe his bill was best chance of getting lawmakers on board. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s comments early this year that he was open to medical marijuana in Louisiana added hope.

Though the Legislature legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 1991, there’s no mechanism in current law that allows for the legal dispensing of the drug. Doctors can legally prescribe it, patients can legally use it, “but they don’t have a middle man,” Mills said. Mills said after the defeat of his bill that he would work with Rep. Dalton Honore, D-Baton Rouge, sponsor of companion legislation in the House, to take another crack at it. If that fails, he’ll bring it back next year.

The bill was involuntarily deferred by a vote of 6-2.
For more details , please read the full article here

New York – Amendments May Help Bring Medical Marijuana Bill to Vote

WGRZ.COM
By Danny Spewak

ALBANY – New amendments to the Compassionate Care Act in the State Senate could help sway opponents of medical marijuana legalization to finally bring the matter to a vote for the first time in history, according to a New York City-based non-profit.

Gabriel Sayegh, the state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said the Senate is “closer than it’s ever been” to passing a legalization bill. Although the Assembly has passed the bill four times, the Senate has never discussed it in a committee hearing. In 17 years, Senate leadership has never allowed the bill to the reach the floor for a vote, even though Sayegh said he believes there’s more than enough bi-partisan support to pass it along to the governor’s desk.

But several new amendments in the Senate may change that. Specifically, the bill has been changed to the number of medical conditions eligible for medical marijuana treatment.

“For additional conditions to be added, patients would have to go to a committee that would be put together by the Department of Health,” Sayegh said. “That’s one of the biggest changes here.”

Sayegh, whose organization supports legalization of medical marijuana, also said the new bill would restrict people 21 years and younger from smoking the marijuana, instead forcing them to use alternative forms. Another amendment would change the way the medical marijuana dispensary system would work.

“The hope is that these changes expedite this process, that the senate leadership finally agrees to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” Sayegh said. “We know there’s enough votes to pass it. It has strong bi-partisan support.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo still has not expressed support for the bill, though he has softened his stance recently and said last week he’d keep an “open mind.”

“It’s long past time,” Sayegh said, “that we provided relief for people living with debilitating conditions in our state.”