State & Local Legislatures

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Chronicle AM: Oregon Pot Sales Could Start in October; MT & NM Forfeiture Reforms in Effect, More (7/3/15)

Oregon is working to expedite the beginning of legal pot sales, Rand Paul rakes in the campaign cash at a pot industry confab in Denver, asset forfeiture reforms go into effect in Montana and New Mexico, law enforcement naloxone access goes into effect in Virginia, Colombia's coca crop jumps, and more.

Coca cultivation and potential cocaine production jumped last year in Colombia. (deamuseum.org)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon Legislature Okays Retail Marijuana Sales Beginning October 1. With a 40-19 vote in the House Thursday, the legislature has sent a bill temporarily allowing tax-free marijuana sales through existing medical marijuana dispensaries to begin October 1. Gov. Kate Brown (D) has not indicated whether she will sign it. If she doesn't, sales wouldn't begin until sometime next year.

Rand Paul Raises At Least $120,000 at Marijuana Industry Fundraiser in Denver. The Republican presidential contender pulled in the campaign cash at a private fundraising event at the National Cannabis Industry Association's Cannabis Business Summit. At least 40 people paid a minimum of $2,700 each to take part, and the Marijuana Policy Project also kicked in another $15,000. This is the first time a major presidential candidate has taken big money from the pot industry.

Asset Forfeiture

Montana, New Mexico Asset Forfeiture Reforms Now in Effect. Both states passed reform bills earlier this year, and they went into effect July 1. The Montana law requires a criminal conviction before civil asset forfeiture can proceed. The New Mexico law is even tougher. It abolished civil asset forfeiture outright. The New Mexico law also requires that all seizures go into the general fund, preventing them from being used as a law enforcement slush fund.

Harm Reduction

Virginia Law Allowing Cops to Carry Opiate Overdose Reversal Drug Now in Effect. A series of bills approved by the General Assembly this year dealing with heroin and prescription opiate use went into effect July 1, including a provision that allows police officers to carry the opiate overdose reversal drug, naloxone. More than 3,000 Virginians have died of heroin overdoses in the past five years.

International

Big Increase in Colombian Coca Crop Last Year. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has reported that Colombian coca cultivation jumped 44% last year, to about 430,000 acres. Potential cocaine production jumped from 290 tons in 2013 to 442 tons last year, an increase of 52%. Colombian officials said the increase showed the ineffectiveness of aerial eradication, which Colombia halted earlier this year after a UN agency linked the herbicide used in the spraying to cancer in humans.

Thai Anti-Drug Officials Prepare to Drug Test Entire Village. All 500 residents of the community of Suan Son Soi 9 are set to be drug tested next Friday after the Narcotics Suppression Bureau said recent inspections had found a seven-year-old child already using drugs and a mother who fed her infant child the mild stimulant drug kratom mixed with water.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Medical Marijuana Update

It's been quite a week for medical marijuana. Delaware, Massachusetts, and Minnesota saw their first dispensaries open; Hawaii is now set to join the dispensary crowd; CBD cannabis oil became legal in Wyoming, and more.

Delaware

Last Friday, the state's first dispensary opened for business. The First State Compassion Center opened last in a Wilmington industrial park. This is nearly four years after the legislature approved them, but the process was stalled when Gov. Jack Markell (D) backed away in the face of federal threats. Finally, Delaware's patients have a legal place to obtain their medicine.

Hawaii

On Monday, it became clear that the dispensary bill will become law. Gov. David Ige (D) has released a list of bills he intends to veto, and the dispensary bill is not on it. That bill, House Bill 321, will initially allow up to 16 dispensaries, to be operated by eight medical marijuana businesses. It comes 15 years after the state became the first to legalize medical marijuana through the legislative process.

Massachusetts

Last Thursday, the state's first dispensary opened for business. The Alternative Therapies Group has opened the state's first dispensary in Salem. It only took three years once voters approved medical marijuana in 2012.

Minnesota

On Wednesday, medical marijuana became legal in the state, but you can't smoke it. The state's new medical marijuana law went into effect at midnight, with people lining up at the Minnesota Medical Solutions clinic in downtown Minneapolis as it opened its doors as soon as it was legally able. The state's law is very restrictive and highly regulated, and does not allow for use of smokeable marijuana as medicine.

New Jersey

On Monday, the legislature approved a bill allowing sick kids to use CBD cannabis oil in school. The state Senate Monday approved the bill; an identical version had already passed the House. Now it's up to Gov. Christ Christie (R) to sign it.

Pennsylvania

Last Friday, the House Health Committee unanimously approved a medical marijuana bill. The committee voted unanimously to approve Senate Bill 3, which would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to access medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors. The bill will now go to the House Rules Committee for further consideration. The bill had been bottled up by the committee chair, but a vote was allowed after Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Ridley Park) filed a discharge petition that would have put it before the House for a floor vote. The bill passed the Senate in May.

On Monday, a "compromise" medical marijuana bill was filed. Rep. Ron Marisco (R-Dauphin) and several cosponsors have filed House Bill 1432, which would allow for the limited use of medical marijuana. The move comes as a measure that passed the Senate, Senate Bill 3, has been stuck in the House.

Wyoming

On Wednesday, CBD cannabis oil became legal in the state. A new law allowing seizure patients to use CBD cannabis oil is now in effect. But the state health department hasn't yet created patient registration cards, leaving patients uncertain about their legal status. The department says it is working on it. The measure was House Bill 32

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: OR Legalizes, Miami Decriminalizes, CT Defelonizes, More (7/1/15)

New laws went into effect today, legalizing pot in Oregon, legalizing medical marijuana in Minnesota, legalizing CBD cannabis oil in Wyoming, Miami decriminalizes pot possession, and more. 

Marijuana Policy

Marijuana is Now Legal in Oregon. The Measure 91 marijuana legalization initiative approved by Oregon voters last November went into effect as of 12:01 a.m Pacific Time today. That means that people 21 and over can now legally possess up to eight ounces of weed at home and grow up to four plants. Only one ounce may be possessed in public. Public consumption remains illegal. But you won't be able to go to the marijuana store just yet. Sales are currently set to begin next year, although there is a chance the legislature could act to move up that date. 

Washington Governor Signs Marijuana Reform Bill Into Law. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) Tuesday signed into law a bill that rejiggers parts of the state's marijuana legalization plan. The new law replaces the existing three-tier tax structure and replaces it with a 37% retail tax. The law also directs the state to share pot tax revenues only with cities and counties that allow sales in a bid to encourage them to do so.

Wyoming Governor Creates Marijuana Task Force. Gov. Matt Mead (R) announced Tuesday that he is creating a council to assess the impact of marijuana use. The move comes as Wyoming activists plan a legalization initiative that could go before voters next year.

Miami Decriminalizes. The Miami-Dade County commission Tuesday approved an ordinance allowing police to issue $100 civil citations to people possessing up to 20 grams of pot. Police could still arrest them, though. Police officials said they will have to develop a policy on when a ticket is appropriate.

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Governor Will Sign Dispensary Bill. Gov. David Ige (D) has released a list of bills he intends to veto, and the dispensary bill is not on it. That bill, House Bill 321, will initially allow up to 16 dispensaries, to be operated by eight medical marijuana businesses. It comes 15 years after the state became the first to legalize medical marijuana through the legislative process.

Medical Marijuana Now Legal in Minnesota—But You Can't Smoke It. The state's new medical marijuana law went into effect Wednesday, with people lining up at the Minnesota Medical Solutions clinic in downtown Minneapolis as it opened its doors shortly after midnight. The state's law is very restrictive and highly regulated, and does not allow for use of smokeable marijuana as medicine.

Wyoming CBD Cannabis Oil Law Goes Into Effect. A new law allowing seizure patients to use CBD cannabis oil went into effect Wednesday. But the state health department hasn't yet created patient registration cards, leaving patients uncertain about their legal status. The department says it is working on it. The measure was House Bill 32.

New Synthetic Drugs

DC City Council Passes Measure Toughening Synthetic Drug Penalties. The council Tuesday approved emergency legislation that allows DC Metro Police Chief Cathy Lanier to shutter for four days any business caught selling synthetic drugs. The businesses could also face a $10,000 fine for a first offense and loss of their business licenses for a second one.

Sentencing

Connecticut Drug Sentencing Reforms Pass Legislature. The legislature gave final approval Monday to a bill that reduces most drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Under current law, drug possession can garner up to seven years in prison. A mandatory minimum two-year sentence for drug possession in a school zone is also being eliminated. The law will go into effect October 1. 

Chronicle AM: MedMJ Moves in NJ, PA; Initiative News from CA, MS, OH; Pot Sentencing Reform in LA, More (6/30/15)

It looks like ResponsibleOhio will qualify for the November 2015 ballot, activists in California and Massachusetts move forward with their initiative campaigns, the New Jersey legislature passes a bill to let sick kids use CBD cannabis oil in school, and more. 

Initiative season is upon us. (reformca.com)
Marijuana Policy

California Legalization Initiative Okayed for Signature-Gathering. The Responsible Use Act has been cleared for signature-gathering. It has 180 days to collect 365,880 valid voter signatures, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The act is one of four legalization initiatives that have been filed so far this year; a fifth is expected to drop later this summer. This act would set a retail tax of $8 an ounce on dried buds.

Louisiana Governor Signs Marijuana Sentencing Reform Law. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has signed into law a bill that would reform the state's marijuana sentences—the harshest in the nation. First time possession was punishable by up to six months in jail; now the maximum will be 15 days. Second offense possession was a felony punishable by up to five years in prison; now it's a misdemeanor punishable by six months. Third time was punishable by up to 20 years; now it remains a felony, but the max is only two years.

Massachusetts Activists Release Second Draft of Legalization Initiative. Bay State Repeal has submitted a second draft of its legalization initiative for informal review by the state attorney general's office. The current draft of the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 and over and envisions a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. The Bay State Repeal effort is one of two potential legalization initiatives; the other is supported by the Marijuana Policy Project.

Ohio Legalization Initiative Turns In Twice the Number of Needed Signatures. The controversial but well-financed initiative to create an oligarchy of sanctioned commercial marijuana growers as part of overall legalization scheme turned in more than 695,000 voter signatures today. ResponsibleOhio only needs 305,000 valid signatures to qualify for the November 2015 ballot. At least two other groups are seeking signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Legislature Approves Bill Allowing Sick Kids to Use CBD Cannabis Oil in School. The state Senate Monday approved the bill; an identical version had already passed the House. Now it's up to Gov. Christ Christie (R) to sign it.

Compromise Medical Marijuana Bill Filed in Pennsylvania. Rep. Ron Marisco (R-Dauphin) and several cosponsors have filed House Bill 1432, which would allow for the limited use of medical marijuana. The move comes as a measure that passed the Senate, Senate Bill 3, has been stuck in the House.

New Synthetic Drugs

DC City Council Considers Harsher Penalties for Synthetic Drugs. The council is set to consider emergency legislation that would allow the DC Metro Police chief to temporarily close businesses that sell synthetic drugs. The move comes after the city has seen a spike in overdoses and bad reactions linked to the new synthetics. The measure would let the city close businesses for up to four days and fine them up to $10,000.

Chronicle AM: First DE Dispensary Opens, OR Pot Legalization Starts Wednesday, More (6/29/15)

Marijuana becomes legal in Oregon this week (except for sales), Washington's legislature moves to modify pot legalization there, Delaware becomes the latest state to see dispensaries arrive, the policy folks at Rice University's Baker Center have a new drug policy report out, and more. 

Rand Paul will make history tomorrow--the first presidential candidate to seek pot industry funding. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Rand Paul to Fundraise at Marijuana Industry Event in Denver Tomorrow. The Kentucky Republican junior senator will become the first presidential candidate ever to seek funds from the marijuana industry when he appears at the Cannabis Business Summit in Denver tomorrow.

Oregon Legalization Goes Into Effect Wednesday, But No Sales Yet. Beginning July 1, adults 21 and older will be able to legally possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana in their home and up to 1 ounce of marijuana outside their home. Adults may also grow up to four plants as long as they are out of public view. The regulatory structure allowing for commercial retail sales is still in the works and will not be implemented until next year--or, at best, later this year.

Washington House Passes Legalization Changes. Last Friday, the House approved House Bill 2136, which changes several features of the state's voter-approved legalization scheme. The bill replaces the three-tier tax structure with a single 37% retail excise tax. It was also amended last Friday to eliminate language that would have required a vote of residents before towns or counties could ban licensed pot businesses. The bill now moves to the state Senate.

Medical Marijuana

Delaware's First Dispensary is Open for Business. The First State Compassion Center opened last Friday in a Wilmington industrial park. This is nearly four years after the legislature approved them, but the process was stalled when Gov. Jack Markell (D) backed away in the face of federal threats. Finally, Delaware's patients have a legal place to obtain their medicine.

Drug Policy

Baker Institute Report on Drug Policy Calls for New Paradigm. The policy experts at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy are calling for a new paradigm in drug policy—one that doesn't rely almost exclusively on punishment. "The core strategies of the US war on drugs are eradication, interdiction and incarceration,” said William Martin, the institute’s director of drug policy studies. "After a 40-year and trillion-dollar effort, illicit drugs remain available to meet a remarkably stable demand,” Martin said. The report is Rx for a US Drug Policy: A New Paradigm.

Criminal Justice

Federal Bill to Undo "Over-Criminalization" Filed. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and 21 bipartisan cosponsors have filed HR 2944 "to improve public safety, accountability, transparency, and respect for federalism in the federal criminal law by applying the findings of the Over-Criminalization Task Force and evidence-based reforms already made in some states…" It has been assigned to the House Judiciary and House Energy and Commerce Committees.

International

Peru Ends 30-Year State of Emergency in Northern Coca-Growing Area. President Ollanta Humala announced last Saturday that the government is lifting a state of emergency imposed on the Alta Huallaga coca growing region. The announcement came the same day the government said it had captured the logistics chief of the Shining Path rebels in the area. States of emergency still exist in other coca-growing areas where the Shining Path remains a presence. At least 69,000 people were killed in the Shining Path insurgency in the 1980s, and the group remains active, although diminished, and active in the coca and cocaine trade.

Uruguay Rejects UN Criticism on Marijuana Legalization. Juan Andres Roballo, head of Uruguay's National Drug Board, said last Thursday he will present a report to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights defending his country's decision to regulate marijuana markets. "We won't go back," he said. "Uruguay has embarked on a different path. Not only have we made proposals, we have also taken effective, concrete measures in a different sense."

Bermuda Poll Finds Rising Majority Support for Marijuana Law Reforms. Nearly eight out of 10 Bermudans want marijuana either decriminalized or legalized, up from seven out of 10 last year, according to a new Profiles of Bermuda poll. Almost 40% supported decriminalization number, and another 40% supported outright legalization. The number of people who want pot prohibition on the island to continue dropped from 27% to less than 20%. Click on the link for more poll details. 

 (This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: PA MedMJ Bill Moves, OR Early Pot Sales Possible, Global Anti-Drug Day Protests, More (6/26/15)

Oregon legislators are working to move up legal pot sales, Pennsylvania's long-stalled medical marijuana bill moves under pressure, the state will also move to address asset forfeiture reform, and Global Anti-Drug day sparks death sentences in China, protests around the world. 

It's the UN's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. There's a new report, and protests, too. (unodc.org)
Marijuana Policy

Key Oregon Committee Approves Early Marijuana Sales. Marijuana becomes legal in Oregon next week, but the state Liquor Control Commission says it will take until the second half of 2016 for it to be ready to allow pot shops to open. The legislature thinks that's too long, and Thursday, members of the House-Senate marijuana committee voted to approve a measure that would allow sales to begin October 1. Buyers would be limited to a quarter-ounce of buds per day, and they could also buy seeds and clones, but edibles or concentrates wouldn't be allowed. The measure must still pass the legislature and be signed into law to go into effect.

Rhode Island Legislative Session Ends, But Legalization Bill Still Alive. The session recessed Thursday, but a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 510, remains alive because lawmakers have signaled they may call a special session to deal with pending bills

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania House Health Committee Unanimously Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The House Health Committee voted unanimously today to approve Senate Bill 3, which would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to access medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors. The bill will now go to the House Rules Committee for further consideration. The bill had been bottled up by the committee chair, but a vote was allowed after Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Ridley Park) filed a discharge petition that would have put it before the House for a floor vote. The bill passed the Senate in May.

Asset Forfeiture

Pennsylvania Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Push Coming. A bipartisan group of lawmakers joined a coalition of conservatives and civil libertarians this week to push for a legislative overhaul of the state's civil asset forfeiture laws. The coalition is known as Fix Forfeiture. "Asset forfeiture can be a critical tool for law enforcement to combat criminal activity," said Holly Harris, Fix Forfeiture’s senior project director. "But it’s also a tool that can be abused, entangling innocent property owners with the costly and often bizarre task of having to prove their property ‘innocent’ of criminal activity. Fix Forfeiture will work with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to pass the reform legislation introduced by Sen. Folmer and Rep. Cox to ensure the property and due process rights of innocent citizens are protected." That legislation is Senate Bill 869.

International

On the UN's Global Anti-Drug Day, Civil Society Fights Back. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today released its 2015 World Drug Report as the organization marked the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, but civil society groups around the world used the occasion to take to the streets to demand an end to the global drug prohibition regime. Click on the link for much more.

Vancouver's Cannabis Day Will Go On Despite City's Wishes. Marc and Jodi Emery, the long-time organizers of Vancouver's July 1 Cannabis Day celebrations, say the event will go despite a cease and desist letter from the city. The event needs to be permitted, the city says. "People say get a permit that is not something we’ve done for 21 years, you can’t issue a permit for people to sell pot and smoke marijuana all day, there is no permit that allows that," Emery rejoined.

China Sentences 13 Drug Offenders to Death in Public Rally. A crowd of 10,000 in Lufeng in the southern province of Guangdong watched as Chinese officials sentenced 13 drug traffickers to death and 8 more to suspended death sentences. The sentences came on the UN's International Anti-Drug Day amid a Chinese campaign to rally support for crime crackdowns. 

It's Full Speed Ahead for CA Marijuana Legalization Next Year [FEATURE]

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

On June 14, more than 200 people gathered at the Sebastopol Grange for a fundraiser and organizing meeting of local pot growers, the Sonoma County Growers Association. They were being mentored by their northern neighbors from Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties, the Emerald Growers Association, which already has lobbyists in Sacramento and is in the middle of the effort to legalize weed in California next year. The Emerald Triangle is the largest marijuana growing area in the country's largest marijuana producing state.

Two days later, more than a hundred people met in a conference room at the Oakland Marriot City Center to plot the intricacies of producing a statewide marijuana legalization initiative. For several hours, attendees -- dispensary operators and employees, small growers, not-so-small growers, patients, consumers, interested citizens, even a nun -- offered their input on a rapid-fire but seemingly endless array of issues related to legalization and how it should occur:

Who can grow it? How much? Where? Who can grow it commercially? Should there be tiered licensing to ensure small operators have a chance? Who can sell it? Can cities and counties opt out? Who should regulate it? How should it be taxed and how much? Where should the revenues go? Should there be amnesties or expungements of records? Should employees be protected from being fired for smoking on their own time? Should there be protections from child welfare services or family courts? Does impaired driving need to be addressed? What about medical marijuana? Should existing businesses get a priority?

The complexities of knitting together a legalization initiative that will satisfy the community's already well-developed interest groups become apparent. But the process is nearing its end, and, it is hoped, a repeat of the movement infighting that accompanied 2010's failed Prop 19 effort can be avoided.

The Bay area events are nothing unusual in California this year. Pot politics is in the air. There is a lot at stake for the existing medical marijuana system as the legislature tries again to agree on a statewide regulation scheme, but beyond that, there's the whole issue of outright legalization, and that's going to come to a head in the months leading up to November 2016.

That's because Californians are extremely likely to have a chance to vote directly to approve legalization then and quite likely to do so. Polls this year are coming in with support for legalization above 50%, although not enough above for anyone to think it's going to be a slam dunk. Four legalization initiatives are already at the state attorney general's office awaiting circulating titles and summaries, while a fifth, and the one most likely to actually qualify for the ballot, is set to drop sometime this summer.

Four states and the District of Columbia have already beaten California in the race to Promised Land of legal weed (much to the chagrin of California activists), but if and when the state goes green, that could be the death knell for pot prohibition. In one fell swoop, 15% of the entire country will have legalized it--and that's not even counting other states also likely to legalize it the same day, including Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. When the nation's most populous state does something, the rest of us take notice.

ReformCA activists are beating the bushes. (reformca.com)
Enforcing marijuana prohibition constitutes about half of all the resources--state, local, and federal--devoted to the war on drugs. When a state as large as California rejects pot prohibition, that begins to call into question the entire drug war model, and the resources devoted to it. Legalizing in California will have ramification far beyond the state's borders.

The initiative everyone is waiting on is from the California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, the group that organized the Oakland meeting -- and 13 others just like it among stakeholders in every corner of the state. The coalition, also known by its web address, ReformCA, is working with a number of state and national organizations to get a broadly-backed legalization initiative on the ballot.

ReformCA's state supporters include California NORML, the California Cannabis Industry Association, the Emerald Growers Association, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, Oaksterdam University, and the state chapter of the NAACP. Its national allies include such deep-pocketed groups as the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the Marijuana Policy Project, as well as Americans for Safe Access, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and the United Food & Commercial Workers.

"We're definitely working in coalition with a lot of organizations, including criminal justice and public health organizations," said Amanda Reiman, DPA's manager for marijuana law and policy. "They agree that legalization is the right step; that we need to regulate it. There seems to be a fair amount of unity there."

The ReformCA public forums were a deliberate way to "hear from the marijuana base," said Reiman. "They have ideas, and those come back to the coalition, but that is only a small piece of the puzzle. We've also been meeting with people who don’t come at it from a consumer or industry perspective -- medical, law enforcement, public health. They have an interest in this, too; we all have a vested interest in a sound regulatory structure."

North Bay cannabis defense attorney Omar Figueroa has a hand in a couple of other initiatives that have already been filed, the California Craft Cannabis Initiative and the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act of 2016. Based in Sonoma County, just south of the Emerald Triangle, he's attuned to the interests of small growers, and both initiatives reflect that.

Both have provisions for marijuana cultivation licensing schemes that would leave room for the area's traditionally family-sized operations, designated "craft growers" in one and "artisan cultivators" in the other. Small-scale operations would be able to buy cultivation license for far less than operations large enough to be designated "commercial."

Whether the initiative campaigns end up folding themselves into the ReformCA campaign remains to be seen.

"The craft cannabis initiative is there for discussion purposes; I'm releasing the meme into the wild," said Figueroa. "But the other one actually has some funding behind it. It'll probably end up unifying with what ReformCA comes up with -- if it's palatable."

Figueroa has his druthers and he has his bottom line.

"I'd prefer that medical marijuana be untaxed or less taxed, and I'd prefer that regulation be done by a transparent elected body like a cannabis commission," he said. "And it would be nice if existing growers got priority licensing or some sort of head start, but at a minimum would be recognizing appellations. California has world famous cannabis appellations. No one's ever heard of Denver or Boulder bud; it doesn't have that branding that Humboldt or Mendocino does.

But in the end, he's looking for an initiative that is "create no new crimes and legalizes personal cultivation."

ReformCA and the other initiative proponents aren't even the only game in town when it comes to marijuana policy reform. Their efforts are going on parallel to the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Cannabis Policy, led by pro-legalization Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the ACLU of Northern California, which will issue a much-anticipated report on July 7.

While not explicitly pro-legalization itself, the commission was formed out of the expectation that legalization is coming and in an effort to and is identifying policy issues and solutions related to dealing with it. Its membership consists of policymakers, public health experts, and academics, and its report will include input from important groups not necessarily friendly to change, such as the California Police Chiefs Association.

Waiting for the commission report is one of two things slowing the completion of the ReformCA initiative, sound Dale Gieringer, longtime head of California NORML, as well as a spokesman for the coalition.

"The biggest one is whether the legislature will implement a comprehensive medical marijuana regulation system this year or not, and what it would look like," he said. "But it looks like they will pass Assembly Bill 266, which is basically a multi-agency approach. I think we now have a good idea of where the legislature is headed and a solution to the problem of regulation."

The other thing is the Blue Ribbon Commission report.

"I suspect we'll see a draft shortly thereafter, but I can't guarantee that. It may take another four to six weeks of working out," Gieringer said. "Several drafts have been circulated, and we're waiting for something from the Drug Policy Alliance, with the advice of a bunch of other people who've been consulted. But nothing has been finalized."

The clock is ticking, but the only real hard deadline facing initiatives is, ironically enough, April 20. That's when signatures have to be in if they want to make the 2016 ballot.

Still, the sooner the better. Initiatives need 585,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, which means they better have a minimum of 800,000 or even more to account for the inevitable disqualified signatures. It also means initiatives don't manage to get on the ballot without a paid signature-gathering campaign, and the less time they have, the more they have to pay. Budget $1 or $2 million just to get those signatures.

"We could file as late as November or December," said Gieringer. "It just costs more. If we were ready now or even next month, that would give us maximum time to do everything, but it looks like it's going to be a rush."

Funding will appear, supporters said, but they are going to need a lot. The 2010 Prop 19 initiative campaign raised and spent $5 million for advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts, and that wasn't enough. California is a huge and expensive series of media markets, and organizers are thinkng they will need to spend somewhere between $10 and $20 million to ensure victory.

The traditional deep pocketed sources of drug reform funding -- the Drug Policy Alliance and its PACs, the Marijuana Policy Project and its PACs, the Peter Lewis estate -- have not yet committed serious money, but they are watching with great interest.

DPA's Reiman would say little about funding, except that "the money is out there, and we're just going to have to see. Right now, we're doing our due diligence."

"I'm confident we can get the money, there are large pledges sitting on the sidelines ready to get in once signature collection starts," Gieringer said. "And there are some promising leads, although the industry itself has been very disappointing. They're quick to suggest things to make it more profitable, but not so quick to put up the money."

One exception is Weedmaps, the dispensary-locater app. The Orange Count company announced in April that it had donated $1 million to a campaign committee called Californians for Sensible Reform, which will support what it thinks is the strongest legalization measure on the ballot. Weedmaps is also throwing another million bucks into a PAC of the same name that will spend it supporting weed-friendly candidates.

California is a large, complicated state. Even its marijuana movement is large and complicated, not to mention factoring in the interests of the much, much larger non-marijuana community. Whether all the moving parts can fit together in a measure that can win at the ballot box next year is an unanswered question, but Reiman sounds confident.

"Coming up with the details is where the difficulty is, and there's always something to disagree about, but we're coming at this with such strong support, we've got the Blue Ribbon Commission, that's more academic and political weight behind this than ever before," she said. C

CA
United States

Chronicle AM: Vancouver Regulates Dispensaries, Albanian Pot Clashes, OR Pot Bill Advances, More (6/25/15)

You can listen in on the marijuana conversation in California, there's more Ohio pot legalization news, the Oregon House has passed a marijuana regulation bill, Vancouver decides to regulate its dispensaries, and more.

Vancouver dispensaries like the Green Panda will now be regulated by the city. (yelp.ca)
Marijuana Policy

Drug Policy Alliance Releases Videos of Three Marijuana Symposia in California. In an effort to educate the public and discuss pressing issues related to the legalization of marijuana in California in 2016, the Drug Policy Alliance held three symposia, each focusing on a different aspect of marijuana regulation. Videos from those symposia are now available online to view for free. The first symposia, held in Los Angeles, addressed issues related to marijuana use and public health. The second symposia, held in Oakland, addressed the social and racial justice issues related to legalization, including the modification of criminal penalties for marijuana, and the impact that prohibition has had and legalization might have on communities typically targeted by the War on Drugs. The final symposia, held in Eureka, focused on the impact that marijuana prohibition has had on the environment, and the ways in which this damage can be addressed via the regulation of marijuana cultivation. Click on the link to see the videos.

Ohio House Approves Measure Aimed at Blocking Legalization Initiative. The House voted 81-12 Wednesday to put a question before voters this November that could derail the ResponsibleOhio legalization initiative that will likely appear on the same ballot. It now goes to the Senate. The lawmakers are pushing a constitutional amendment that would block attempts to use the state constitution to create monopolies, as was the case with a casino initiative a few years ago and is the case with the ResponsibleOhio initiative, which would limit commercial grows to 10 investors who have already paid into the campaign.

Another Ohio Legalization Initiative Approved for Signature-Gathering. A legalization initiative sponsored by Ohioans to End Prohibition has been certified by the Ohio Ballot Board and can now begin signature gathering. Petitioners will now have to gather 306,000 vote signatures to appear on the ballot, most likely next year.

Oregon House Passes Marijuana Regulation Bill. The House Wednesday sweepingly approved House Bill 3400, a 127-page bill put together by members of joint legislative marijuana committee. It would impose new limits on medical marijuana growers, make it easier for the state's conservative eastern counties to opt out of legal sales, and reduce penalties for many of the state's remaining marijuana offenses. The bill now heads to the Senate. Marijuana becomes legal in Oregon as of next week, but sales are unlikely to start until next year.

Medical Marijuana

Massachusett's First Dispensary is Open for Business. The Alternative Therapies Group has opened the state's first dispensary in Salem. It only took three years once voters approved medical marijuana in 2012.

International

Vancouver Approves Regulation of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries. Ignoring the angry protests of the federal government, Vancouver city councilors voted Wednesday to regulate and license the estimated 100 dispensaries operating in the city. Dispensaries will have to pay a $30,000 license fee, and some will have to move or close because the regulations also bar them from operating within a thousand feet of schools, community centers, or other dispensaries.

Albanian Marijuana Growers in Armed Clashes With Police. At least one police officer has been killed and two wounded in fighting between police and pot growers in the town of Lazarat, known as the "cannabis kingdom" for its industrial-scale marijuana production. More than 400 police, supported by army helicopters, have surrounded the town, where they say at least 21 members of an armed group are holed up. The same thing happened last year, when police clashed with armed groups for a week before managing to take control of the town. Italian police estimate the town produces 900 tons of pot annually. 

Medical Marijuana Update

Massachusetts finally sees its first dispensary, the White House removes a barrier to marijuana research (although others remain), a Delaware kids' CBD cannabis oil becomes law, California stays busy, and more.

Global

Last week, the Dalai Lama endorsed medical marijuana. Speaking at a an event in Guanajuato, Mexico, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism said he supported the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Speaking in response to a question about legalizing marijuana, the Dalai clarified that he opposed its recreational use, but using it medicinally would be "the exception."

National

On Monday, the White House removed a crucial barrier to marijuana research. The Obama administration announced it is ending a major impediment to marijuana research, the Public Health Service review. That hurdle, created under the Clinton administration, required all applications for marijuana research to undergo an individual review, slowing down marijuana research and making it more difficult to study than heroin or cocaine. More hurdles remain, though.

On Wednesday, the US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control Took Up CBD. The caucus, generally composed of old school drug warriors, somewhat surprisingly examined issues around access to CBDs, focusing on barriers to research and potential medical benefits.

California

Last Thursday, a Santa Cruz County initiative to overturn a cultivation ban qualified for the ballot. Now, county supervisors must either repeal the ban themselves or give voters the opportunity to do so. The county's ordinance banned commercial grows and limited personal grows to 100 square feet. If supervisors don't act, it could be on a June 2016 election ballot, or supervisors could call a special election.

Also last Thursday, the San Diego Planning Commission okayed a sixth dispensary. The dispensary is set to operate in Mira Mesa. The first approved dispensary in the city opened in Otay Mesa in March. San Diego allows for up to four dispensaries in each city council district.

Last Friday, a judge in Santa Ana denied a request to freeze the dispensary permitting process despite accusations that the process was unfair. That means the city can go ahead with permitting up to 20 dispensaries.

On Monday, the medical marijuana organ transplant bill passed the legislature. The bill would bar health care providers from denying access to organ transplants based solely on the patient's medical marijuana use. Assembly Bill 258 now awaits the governor's signature.

Also on Monday, a Mendocino County initiative to create a marijuana commission failed to qualify for the ballot. Proponents needed 5,004 valid signatures to qualify, but only came up with 2,797 raw signatures.

On Tuesday, Redding officials signaled that they will extend a dispensary moratorium for another year. Zoning Board officials said they would vote Wednesday night to extend the moratorium.

Delaware

On Tuesday, the governor signed a CBD cannabis oil for kids bill into law. Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed into law Rylie's Law, named after a Delaware youth who suffered from epileptic seizures. The law will allow physicians to recommend the use of CBD cannabis oils for epileptic children who do not respond to other treatments. The oil will only be available at medical marijuana dispensaries, the first of which opens Friday.

Massachusetts

Last Friday, the state's first dispensary was approved to sell medical marijuana. The Alternatives Therapy Group in Salem is ready to start selling to patients after winning a temporary waiver from state testing guidelines widely viewed as too strict. The Department of Public Health has said it will reconsider the standards. The dispensary is one of four in the state that have started growing their own supply, and is the furthest along. It opened on Wednesday.

New Jersey

On Monday, a bill to allow sick kids to use CBC cannabis oil at school was filed. Assemblymembers Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden) and Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) filed a bill that would allow children to use CBD cannabis oil at school. The bill would require parents or a designated adult to come to the school and administer the oil. The measure is Assembly Bill 4587.

New York

On Monday, an early access medical marijuana bill passed the legislature. A bill that would allow early access to medical marijuana passed the Senate Monday night after already being approved in the Assembly. The move comes as a year has gone by since Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the Compassionate Use Act into law, but not one patient has yet to be able to legally obtain any. This bill would provide expedited access to seriously ill patients.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: Federal OD Prevention Bill, OH Pols Gun for Marijuana Initiative, More (6/24/15)

Ohio politicians move to undercut a marijuana legalization initiative, South Florida heads toward marijuana decriminalization, Delaware's governor signs a kids' CBD cannabis oil bill, Louisiana's governor signs an overdose prevention bill, federal lawmakers file an overdose prevention bill, and more.

The 45th annual DC Smoke-In will take place on the 4th of July. (smoke-in.us)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio House Panel Approves Measure That Could Block Legalization Initiative. A House committee Tuesday approved a resolution that could block a marijuana legalization initiative that appears to be poised to make the ballot. If approved by the legislature, the resolution would place an initiative on the November ballot that would bar amending the constitution through ballot measures that provide direct economic benefits to a few people or create monopolies. That is precisely the model adapted by ResponsibleOhio, whose initiative would allow only 10 commercial grows linked to investors in the campaign. Legal questions that could be tested if both initiatives are approved by voters are whether the ResponsibleOhio initiative will be invalidated if the amendment reform resolution gets more votes; whether it will be invalidated if amendment reform passes but with fewer votes; or whether the legalization provisions might be "severable" under Ohio law, and take effect, with only the monopoly provisions being invalidated.

Florida's Palm Beach County to Explore Relaxing Pot Penalties. Palm Beach County officials Tuesday night agreed to explore decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Officials cited a clogged court system and the problems that arise for people after a marijuana arrest. Neighboring Miami-Dade County officials are pondering a similar move, and so is nearby Broward County.

DC Smoke-In Will Celebrate 45th Anniversary July 4. The 45th annual DC Smoke-In is set for the 4th of July, and organizers are calling on all smoke-in alumni to return to DC for the rally, march, and concert. You might be able to legally possess a joint in the nation's capital, but federal prohibition still obtains. Click on the link for event details and more.

Medical Marijuana

Delaware Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil for Kids Bill Into Law. Gov. Jack Markell (D) Tuesday signed into law Rylie's Law, named after a Delaware youth who suffered from epileptic seizures. The law will allow physicians to recommend the use of CBD cannabis oils for epileptic children who do not respond to other treatments. The oil will only be available at medical marijuana dispensaries, the first of which opens Friday.

Drug Policy

New York City Council Ponders Bill to Shift Drug Policy Toward Public Health and Safety. The council is considering a measure to create an Office of Drug Strategy, which would coordinate policy and program priorities across city agencies and in collaboration with community groups. If approved, it would be the first such office in the US. The idea is to shift away from punitive criminal justice approaches and toward a public health approach.

Harm Reduction

Federal Lawmakers Introduce Overdose Prevention Bill to Combat Heroin and Opioid Overdose Crisis. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) Wednesday introduced identical bills to support the expansion of overdose prevention services. Both bills would expand community-based overdose prevention programs that provide resources to those likely to witness an overdose and be in a position to help, such as first responders and family members. Resources include trainings on how to recognize the signs of an overdose, seek emergency medical help, and administer naloxone and other first aid. Both bills would provide federal funding for the purchase and distribution of naloxone by community and public health stakeholders to people at risk of experiencing or witnessing an overdose. They are not yet available on the congressional website.

Louisiana Governor Signs Overdose Reversal Drug Access Law. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) Tuesday signed into law House Bill 10, which allows doctors to write prescriptions for naloxone, the opiate overdose reversal drug, for drug users, friends, and family members. Louisiana law already allows first responders to carry the drug.

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