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.

Iowa – Medical marijuana at the forefront of legislative sessions

MASON CITY, Iowa – The discussion of medical marijuana was at the forefront of legislative sessions last year in Iowa. Within the state they have approved the usage of medical marijuana, but not a way to obtain the medicine.

On Saturday, State Rep. Sharon Steckman, (D) Mason City, and State Sen. Amanda Ragan (D) Mason City, hosted a legislative forum at the Mason City Public Library. One of the main topics covered during the morning was the discussion of making amendments to the medical marijuana bill that passed in 2014.

Three north Iowa women used the forum as a platform to educate the public about the need to amend and recreate a cannabis oil law in the Hawkeye state. “The laws we have now aren’t sufficient,” says Mason City resident Amber Lenius.

Amber tells us she suffers from a condition that causes her chronic and excruciating pain throughout her body. Claudia Tillman of Forest City was also present at the forum talking about her daughter who deals with symptoms and side effects from Ulcerative Colitis on a daily basis. Finally, Mason City resident Cassie Helland spoke about her young son who suffers from regular seizures because of his epilepsy.

“The law that passed last year said that we could legally have it,” explains Helland, “but there’s no way that we could legally get it.” She says this is just one of the many roadblocks for the bill, and that another issue is not including other types of conditions that could benefit from the plant.

Sen. Ragan says that because the legislation was so new for the state, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle aired on the side of caution and wrote the law in a very conservative manner. “When you make a first step you have to do it with a lot of restrictions on and you need to make sure that you’re not making bad choices,” she explains, “but, we heard from a lot of folks today that [the law] really didn’t make much of a difference to them, and they gave us some suggestions and encouraged us to more research.”

However, more research means more time that the bill won’t be ironed out in a way these women would like to see. Now, they’re left to think outside of the box, and even the state. “At this point, I mean, if something doesn’t happen, we may have to move,” says Helland.

“It would mean uprooting myself, my husband, and my six-year-old daughter, and my two-year-old daughter, from our entire family, to a place that we don’t know, just so that I could have a chance to try something that might help my quality-of-life,” explains Lenius.

Session reconvenes on Monday in Des Moines and as of right now, no changes have been made to the law.

Arizona lawmaker proposes legalizing marijuana

PHOENIX — Recreational marijuana use could be legal in Arizona by this summer if the Legislature and new Gov. Doug Ducey approve a plan introduced by a Phoenix lawmaker.

The legislation will be a long shot under the conservative-led Legislature. But state Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix, said he has some strong arguments. Among them is the possibility of nearly $50 million in potential tax revenue that could offset a looming $1 billion budget shortfall.

Proponents of legalizing marijuana are expected to try to get a measure on the 2016 Arizona ballot, following similar successful efforts in Colorado, Washington and Oregon. Cardenas said polling in Arizona shows such a ballot measure would probably pass, as medical-marijuana legalization did in 2010.

For a variety of reasons, Cardenas said, it would be better if the Legislature passed its own version of the law first.

“We’ve seen issues with our medical-marijuana system … but it’s nearly impossible to come back at the Legislature and adjust it because we need 75% of the Legislature (to approve any changes to a voter-approved measure),” he said. “This would give us more leeway. If there were unforeseen consequences, we could easily come back and adjust it the next year.”

House Bill 2007 would legalize the purchase, possession and consumption of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. It would expand the current medical-marijuana system under the Arizona Department of Health Services, and create a process for dispensaries to serve the general public. It also would allow adults age 21 and older to grow up to five plants for personal consumption.

“We have a rough framework to work off of, which would be Colorado,” Cardenas said. “We would like to start with a discussion and work towards creating the same system here. They’ve gained a lot of revenue from that.”

HB 2007 would levy a new tax against marijuana, at $50 an ounce. Thirty percent of the revenue would go to education; 10% to treatment programs for alcohol, tobacco and marijuana abuse; 10% for public-education campaigns educating youth and adults about the risks of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana; and the rest would go into the general fund.

The proposed tax rate is lower than that in Colorado, but higher than in Oregon. Oregon taxes marijuana at $35 an ounce. Colorado has a 15% excise tax, plus a 10% sales tax on marijuana, plus regular state and local sales taxes.

HB 2007 will need several legislative committee hearings and votes before it could become law. Even getting a first committee hearing could prove challenging.

A similar bill introduced last session by former Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, now a U.S. congressman, was never assigned to a committee. Without that assignment, it got no hearings or votes.

Cardenas introduced a bill last year that would have lowered the penalties for marijuana possession. It was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, but it was never scheduled for a hearing.

“The possibility of it passing is not good, but we need to start looking at new and exciting ways to fill our budget gap if the governor is taking a ‘no new taxes’ stance.”

AUSTRALIA * NSW: Green Light For Cannabis For Terminally Ill

By Geoff Winestock

The terminally ill will be protected from prosecution for using medicinal cannabis under landmark NSW drug laws but they will have to grow their own.

In what is being hailed as the start of a nationwide trend, NSW Premier Mike Baird late last month announced a more compassionate approach to medicinal cannabis, including a register of terminally ill patients who police will not charge for using cannabis as their medicine. But the measure has been criticized because supplying cannabis is still criminal and the terminally ill will have to grow their own.

A certificate from a doctor will be logged with the Department of Justice and will in theory protect terminally ill patients and up to three of their caregivers from prosecution.

Catherine Cusack, a Liberal state MP who has co-ordinated the policy changes, said the register of terminally ill would bring relief to people immediately and would probably have greater practical effect than three clinical trials of medicinal cannabis also announced last week which have attracted more media attention. “The terminally ill no longer have to be afraid of going to jail,” Ms Cusack said.

Other states

Other states could soon follow NSW’s lead in allowing medicinal cannabis which is widely used to relieve chronic pain and nausea and potentially treat other conditions. New Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced he will make medicinal use of cannabis legal by the end of 2015 and a group of federal senators has proposed a bill for a national medicinal cannabis regulator. Medicinal cannabis use has been legalised in 23 US states and a growing and processing industry has boomed to meet demand.

Supporters of medicinal cannabis have welcomed the NSW register of ­terminally ill but they warn it is a short-term and half measure. Laurence Mather, emeritus professor of anaesthetics at the University of Sydney, said doctors were conservative and scared of prosecution and would be reluctant to sign a certificate for the terminally ill because it would effectively prescribe cannabis to patients. He said that unless there was a major education campaign for doctors, many people would be denied access to the scheme.

He said another concern was that it would still be illegal to take cannabis and the new system just guides police in their discretion in deciding to charge people. “It should be up to doctors, not police, to decide whether to prescribe cannabis. They should just change the law and make it legal,” Professor Mather said.

Administering the scheme

Ms Cusack said that the government had asked the Department of Justice to administer the scheme to reduce the need for cannabis users to deal with police.

Troy Langman, chief executive of AusCann Group, one of several firms which is trying to secure a licence to supply medicinal cannabis legally, said the new scheme would cause problems because it would still be an offence to grow the drug. “The terminally ill need the convenience of buying cannabis with guaranteed quality.”

The NSW law will also allow for clinical trials of cannabis for epilepsy, and for chronic pain and nausea for the terminally ill and chemotherapy patients. But the trials will have to use cannabis imported from overseas. Mr Langman said there was a growing shortage of certified cannabis in places like Canada, and Australia should develop its own medicinal cannabis supply industry under federal regulation.

“Australia is perfectly placed to develop a local industry,” he said.

Ms Cusack said that the government was adamant that recreational use of cannabis would remain illegal.

Cleveland, Ohio- News update for 2015!

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A campaign to legalize the medical and recreational use of marijuana in Ohio is quietly taking shape and includes plans to place an amendment to the Ohio Constitution before voters in November 2015, the Northeast Ohio Media Group has learned. The campaign plans to push an amendment, that if approved by voters, would guarantee a ten or so property owners the right to grow marijuana, according to sources who spoke on the condition they not be named.

By embedding in the constitution where marijuana can be produced – and essentially who can profit from its production – organizers are using an approach similar to the one gambling interests used in their 2009 successful campaign to allow casino-style gaming. That amendment, known on the ballot as Issue 3, limited gaming to just four locations in Ohio.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, including nearby Michigan.

Supporters of an earlier constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana failed in July when they failed to collect enough signatures of registered Ohio voters to get the issue on last month’s ballot. The Ohio Rights Group, which organized the effort, collected more than 100,000 signatures for the Ohio Cannabis Rights Act. That fell far short of the more than 385,000 signatures need.

John Pardee, president of Ohio Rights Group, said his organization is planning to pursue a medical marijuana amendment. Asked about the new campaign, he said, “I’m against creating a constitutional monopoly.”

About 90 minutes after the Northeast Ohio Media Group broke this story on cleveland.com, a group calling itself ResponsibleOhio released a statement announcing a campaign to legalize marijuana. The group said it plans to place a ballot initiative before voters in 2015. Here is part of that statement. The group is not answering questions at this time.

“Marijuana for medical and personal use should be a choice made by adults 21 and older in this state,” said Lydia Bolander, a spokesperson for the campaign. “We are going to end this failed prohibition.”

Bolander, who works for the political consultant, Precision New Media, also said, “Legalizing marijuana for medical and personal use means increased safety because we will regulate, tax and treat marijuana like alcohol. We will smother the black market and use the taxes generated to help local communities provide vital public services.”

Australia Launches its First trial of Medicinal Marijuana

Sydney (AUSTRALIA) – Patients including children with severe epilepsy will be given marijuana as part of the first clinical trial of cannabis in Australia, the state government of New South Wales announced Sunday.

Terminally ill adults and chemotherapy patients who suffer from nausea and vomiting as a result of their treatment will also be included in the marijuana trial, which will be funded and run by the NSW state government, news reports said.

NSW Premier Mike Baird said he expected hundreds of people to take part in the trial, and if it is successful at relieving pain and suffering, the government would consider importing marijuana or allowing it to be grown in the state.

Marijuana is illegal even for medicinal use in Australia, although possession of small amounts has been decriminalized in some states and police turn a blind eye to small amounts for personal use.

Polls show that 70 per cent of Australians favor legalizing medicinal marijuana and 56 per cent think marijuana should be legalized outright.

Georgia – support for medical marijuana increases

Nearly a year after the first medical marijuana bill failed in Georgia, those suffering and those fighting to relieve that pain are hopeful that won’t happen again.

As state lawmakers prepare for the next General Assembly in January, some things have changed.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 80 percent of Georgians support the legalization of medical marijuana.

Plus, in the recently passed federal spending bill, President Barack Obama and Congress blocked funding for the Department of Justice to penalize those with medical marijuana in states where it is already legal.

Congress approved, and President Barack Obama signed into law, a measure that eliminated funding for the Department of Justice to enforce federal laws blocking the use of medical marijuana in states that have their own laws on the books.
“Imagine, before you even have a thought in the morning, you wake up, just in agony,” Katie Crosby said.
She’s only 26, but for nearly half her life, Crosby has tried almost everything to stop the pain.

“The reality is, nothing’s working. Nothing.”

She calls her pain chronic, crippling.
“A living hell, a living nightmare to be honest.”

So in September, after testifying in front of a medical marijuana study committee led by state Representative Allen Peake, she started a Facebook group called Hope for Silent Sufferers.
It advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana in Georgia and has nearly 20,000 supporters.

That’s how she connected with people like Pamela Skinner, who’s felt that pain for decades.
“Day after day after day, it drains you,” Skinner said.

Doctors diagnosed Skinner with fibromyalgia in 1996, long-term pain that spreads throughout the body, plus degenerative disc disease.
“Anything physical poses a threat. I have grandbabies that weigh 30 pounds and I can’t pick them up,” Skinner said.

And though some research shows medical cannabis could help them, it’s illegal in Georgia.

“I don’t break laws. It needs to be passed so that people like me have access,” Skinner said.

And as 2015’s legislative session draws closer, they fear chronic pain might not be included in the medical marijuana bill.

“It’s just sad to me that you can live in one state and receive relief but not in another,” Crosby said.

Peake, who sponsored House Bill 1, says his committee’s been exploring a range of conditions that could be treated by medical cannabis.
“Seizure disorders, cancer, glaucoma, MS, ALS, autism, possibly chronic pain,” Peake said.

He says says likely only seven or eight of those conditions will be written into the bill, consistent with what’s been passed in other states.
He says that limited list is an effort to keep medical cannabis tightly regulated.

“It’s cannabis oil or an edible form, cannot be smoked, you cannot get high,” Peake said.
But he hopes there will be other options for those conditions that aren’t written into the bill.

“We’re looking at a provision where someone who has a condition that’s not on that list could appeal to the Department of Public Health,” he said.
It’s the relief Crosby hopes for, but she says it hinges on lawmakers, who research the benefits, and remember the afflicted.

“We may be suffering, but we’re no longer silent. Please don’t leave us behind,” Crosby said.
Peake says the idea is to have five or six growers, processors and retailers of medical marijuana across the state.
Those who can access it would receive a registration card, only after a diagnosis of a qualifying condition by a qualified doctor.
The General Assembly will gather starting January 12.