Florida expands medical marijuana program

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month. Lawmakers passed the measure (Sb8A) in a special session after failing in their regular session that ended in May to implement a constitutional amendment legalizing the drug, which was supported by 71 percent of voters last year. Under the constitutional amendment, patients with a host of conditions can buy and use medical marijuana. Among the conditions that qualify for the drug: cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and epilepsy. The new law also sets in motion a plan to license 10 new companies as growers by October, bringing the statewide total to 17.
It allows patients to use cannabis pills, oils, edibles and “vape” pens with a doctor’s approval, but bans smoking.

“The constitutional amendment was passed overwhelmingly, and I’m glad the House and Senate were able to come together for a bill that makes sense for our state,” Scott said earlier this month. Lawsuits are likely to follow. John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who bankrolled the constitutional amendment’s campaign, has promised to sue over the smoking ban, and Tampa strip club magnate Joe Redner said he will file a suit because people cannot grow their own plants. “Great Scott,” Morgan said Friday after hearing that Scott signed the bill. “It’s a no-brainer. Gov. Scott wants to run for U.S. Senate. If he didn’t sign this bill, he couldn’t run for dog catcher.

“It’s not perfect. I’m going to sue for the smoking but I know there are sick people who will see relief starting in July.’’ The marijuana law was among 38 bills Scott signed Friday afternoon.

Arkansas Update! Get ready residents !

 

By TAFI MUKUNYADZI, Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ medical marijuana industry will ramp up in the next week, with the state poised to accept applications from potential patients, growers and distributors.

Beginning Friday, the state Medical Marijuana Commission will accept applications from those hoping to grow or supply marijuana, while the Health Department will take applications from those hoping to benefit from the first marijuana-as-medicine program in the Bible Belt. The application periods will run until Sept. 18.

State officials expect anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 people to seek permission to use the drug for a number of health problems. It will cost $50 to apply and permits must be renewed yearly.

Potential patients must submit written certification from a physician to obtain a registration card, demonstrating that the doctor has fully assessed the patient’s medical history. The application must show that there’s an established physician-patient relationship and that the patient has a certain qualifying medical condition.

All applicants must have a driver’s license or state-issued ID card, and those under age 18 need the consent of a parent or guardian to apply.

Family Council president Jerry Cox, who opposed the medical marijuana plan, fears that some may try to “game” the system and obtain marijuana even if they don’t have one of the 18 medical conditions listed in the law. The health issues include intractable pain, cancer, glaucoma, a positive HIV/AIDS status, hepatitis C, Tourette’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and severe nausea.

Cox said intractable pain and severe nausea are conditions that are difficult to medically prove and that doctors have to take patients at their word when recommending them for medical marijuana. He said that state lawmakers could’ve placed more restrictions on medical marijuana, like blanket bans on edibles and smoking.

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.

LANSING – MICHIGAN 

Lansing — The House Judiciary Committee touched off a new effort to legalize dispensaries and edible forms of cannabis for medical marijuana patients Tuesday, sending three new bills to the House floor for consideration. 

The bills, containing tighter rules than in failed 2014 proposals and an 8-percent excise tax on gross retail income of provisioning centers, is a compromise plan designed to overcome law enforcement opposition.

A voter-approved medical marijuana law that took effect in 2008 doesn’t specifically mention dispensaries or edible marijuana products, whose legality has been clouded by Michigan Supreme Court and appeals court rulings in recent years. Lawmakers are trying to pass legislation that clarifies the law. Rep. Mike Callton, who negotiated the compromises, called his main legislation “a bill we all can live with.” Callton, R-Nashville, told the committee the 8 percent tax and a mandatory system for tracking all forms of pot — from production to consumption — are key new provisions. Those proposals drew objections from advocates for less-onerous regulations as well as from Democratic Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor, a committee member who tried unsuccessfully to have them removed from the bills.

Irwin argued making medical marijuana purchases too burdensome or costly would increase the chances some would be diverted illegally to non-medical users.

“It will drive people to the black market,” added Frank James, who runs a Gaylord nutrition supplement and natural health store that also offers marijuana flowers. “People who come into our dispensary need a place to go other than the streets,” James told the committee.

Ken and Alice Szymoniak, of the tiny Presque Isle County town of Millersburg, told the committee that technically illegal cannabis oil has given Alice back a normal life. Ken Syzmoniak, a car dealer, said they tried marijuana after years of desperation.

Alice, who contracted fibromyalgia while recovering from a severe 1998 vehicle crash they were in, had such intense pain that for years they were lucky to be able to even spend an hour having a meal at a restaurant, Ken Szymoniak said.

She’s now pain-free, off prescription opiates and can engage in normal activities, including jet skiing with their grandchildren, the couple said.

“It was our only way of surviving,” Ken Szymoniak said. “It absolutely changed our life. We’re starting to travel again.” He said he became a state-licensed caregiver for four medical marijuana patients to offset the cost of growing the plants he needs for his wife. “I don’t understand everything that’s in the bills,” he said, “but I support making (cannabis) oils legal.”

The proposed 8 percent excise tax would be in addition to Michigan’s 6 percent sales tax, also collected on cannabis items. Its revenues would offset regulatory and law enforcement costs involved with dispensaries and new medical marijuana products.

Provisions of the bill package also call for a state Medical Marijuana Licensing Board to oversee the new rules. There would be five kinds of state licensees — grower, processor, provisioning center, secure transporter and safety compliance facility.

Chances the bills will pass are uncertain, but more promising than a year ago.

“Too soon to say at this point, as not everyone has had a chance to review them yet,” said Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant. “But I think most people realize there are problems with the recent law that need to be fixed.”

Amber McCann, press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said the GOP majority will decide its fate in caucus discussions. “At this point there is not a push within the caucus for this issue,” she added.

Callton said the bills would need a simple majority vote to pass in each chamber because they aren’t amending the 2008 medical marijuana act.

Meanwhile, two groups are circulating petitions to initiate a new state law that would legalize marijuana for nonmedical, personal use. The measures would go on the November 2016 ballot if enough signatures are gathered and the Legislature doesn’t act on the proposals.

Rauner uses veto to call for changes to marijuana decriminalization bill (Illinois)

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday used his veto powers to rewrite a bill aimed at decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, saying the measure that lawmakers sent him would let people carry too much pot and sets fines too low. Sponsors of the bill pushed back, saying the changes are “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to reforming the criminal justice system and contending the governor is working against his own goal of reducing the number of prison inmates. Under the proposal, people caught with up to 15 grams of marijuana — about the equivalent of 25 cigarette-sized joints — would not go to court but instead receive fines ranging from $55 to $125. 
Rauner said those standards were too lax and the threshold should be lowered to 10 grams and fines should range from $100 to $200. The governor also took issue with a provision that would loosen the state’s zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of cannabis. Currently, a driver can be charged if any trace of marijuana is detected, even if it was ingested days or weeks before and a driver showed no signs of impairment

The bill that lawmakers sent Rauner would have set new limits of 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Rauner again argued that standard went too far in the opposite direction, suggesting the limit instead should be 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood.
Sponsoring Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, acknowledged science on that front is evolving and said she knew when the bill passed that lawmakers likely would have to revisit what levels of THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana — were acceptable when someone was behind the wheel.
Cassidy called Rauner’s partial veto “frustrating,” saying she made numerous changes during the negotiation process at the behest of Republican leaders who act as the governor’s liaisons

Secretary of State certifies marijuana amendment on ballot

COLUMBUS – Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted today certified that petitioners seeking to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2015 ballot have collected 44,185 additional, supplemental signatures. This number joins the 276,082 valid signatures the group submitted on June 30, 2015 for a total of 320,267 valid signatures. 

The petitioners, known as ResponsibleOhio, needed to gather 305,591 signatures in order to secure a place on the ballot, a number equal to 10 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election, 2014. As part of the total number of signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot, petitioners are also required to have submitted signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and within each of those counties, collected enough signatures equal to five percent of the total vote cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election, 2014. Petitioners met this requirement in their first signature submission, having collected enough signatures to meet the five percent threshold in 73 counties.Having met the constitutional and legal requirements to place the matter before Ohio voters, the issue will appear on the ballot during the General Election held on November 3, 2015. The next step in the process is for the Ballot Board to convene to approve the ballot language that voters will consider this fall. It is the constitutional and statutory duty of the Secretary of State to verify and certify signatures submitted for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments, initiated statutes and legislative referenda. 

Michigan 2016 Update! Get ready! 

LANSING, MI — Two Michigan marijuana legalization committees racing to the 2016 ballot cleared an early hurdle Thursday in Lansing, although one of the groups faced a bit of pushback in the process. The Board of State Canvassers on Thursday approved the form of separate petitions from the Michigan Cannabis Coalition (MCC) and the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee (MCCLRC). That means both committees can begin circulating petitions for their initiated legislation and attempt to collect the 252,523 signatures required to make the ballot in 2016. MCCLRC, a group led by marijuana activists and attorneys, faced some criticism from canvassers for squeezing the language of their proposed initiative on the back of a single petition sheet, which canvassers said made it hard to read.

“I think this is a terrible disservice to people reading this petition,” said Julie Matuzak, a Democrat appointed to the four-member board, who nonetheless voted to approve the petition because it technically met current rules.
Jeffrey Hank, a Lansing-area attorney and chairman of the ballot committee, downplayed the critique and said the group would begin collecting signatures in the next few weeks. “We think it’s perfectly readable. Our language is publicly available and has been for some time. We’re confident the voters will understand the options we provide,” he said.

Both potential ballot proposals would legalize the possession or use of recreational marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older and allow for sales at retail shops, but they would go about it in different ways. MCC, a Pontiac-based group that has hired a former Republican legislative staffer to serve as its public face, wants to give lawmakers a role in the legalization process. Under the proposal, the Legislature would have authority to set the marijuana tax rate, but any revenues would be reserved for use on education, public safety and public health. Lawmakers could also require licensing of marijuana facilities, which would be overseen by a new Michigan Cannabis Control Board.

“I think that we have a perfectly good group of individuals that is elected and are perfectly capable of deciding what a fair tax rate is to establish on an agricultural product,” said spokesman Matt Marsden, indicating that the group plans to begin collecting signatures as soon as this weekend. By dedicating some of the potential tax revenue to public safety, MCC is hoping to minimize opposition from law enforcement groups that have traditionally fought marijuana legalization efforts.

“I don’t expect them to come out and say, ‘Hey, we’re behind this,'” said Marsden. “But I think what this does do is allow them to say, ‘You know what, we’re going to have the first revenue stream in the state budget that we’ve ever had for public safety. What’s that going to allow us to do?'”
MCCLRC, meanwhile, is proposing its own tax rate for marijuana sales — a 10 percent excise tax on top of the state sales tax — with revenue going to roads, schools and local governments.BThe activist-led group would allow residents to grow up to 12 marijuana plants at home. The proposal would let local communities prohibit marijuana facilities but give local voters the chance to overturn a local ordinance by a public vote.

“We believe we have more of a small-business friendly model and a model that will give Michigan farmers and families and businesses more freedom to operate, yet still with some fairly robust regulations,” said Hank. Those regulations include child-resistant packaging on retail marijuana and labeling that references the current laws against driving under the influence of the drug.

“We believe we’ve crafted the best law there is — better than the Legislature would create,” said Hank, noting that board members have led local decriminalization efforts around the state. Voters in Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon have already chosen to legalize marijuana, and groups in a number of other states are pursuing ballot proposals. Recent polling suggests roughly 50 percent of Michigan voters support the concept of legalization and taxation of marijuana sold through state-licensed stores. A third group, the Michigan Responsibility Council, is also considering a petition drive that may propose a three-tier regulatory system like the state currently has for alcohol production, distribution and sales.

“We are continuing to do our due diligence on this,” said Paul Welday, a high-profile Republican operative from Oakland County who is involved the planning. He suggested the group could finalize plans later this summer.
“We’ve said all along, you don’t necessarily have to be the first to the gate, but you have to get it right. We’re crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s.”