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OR Drug Recriminalization Debate, AR MedMJ Advocates Resubmit Ballot Initiative, More... (2/8/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1205)

A South Carolina medical marijuana bill is back, an eighth Massachusetts municipality endorses psychedelic reform, and more.

Lawmakers in Oregon are debating whether to recriminalize drug possession. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Bill to Cap THC Potency of Recreational Marijuana Advances. The Senate Health Committee voted Tuesday to approve a bill that would cap THC content in smokeable marijuana at 30 percent, Senate Bill 7050. Recreational marijuana is currently not legal in the state, but the bill was filed with an eye toward a pending marijuana legalization initiative likely to be on the ballot in the fall.

Committee Chairwoman Colleen Burton (R) of Lakeland said its aimed at beginning to create a separate regulatory structure for recreational marijuana, should the amendment be placed on the ballot and be approved.

"Should the amendment pass, we will continue to have a medical marijuana market and we would have a personal use market," Burton said. "The potencies and quantities that you see in the recommended language today are based upon keeping that separate."

The bill now heads to the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee before it can get a Senate floor vote.

Virgina Senate Committee Unanimously Approves Bill Barring Pot Use from Being Used as Evidence of Child Abuse. The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a bill that would bar the state from using marijuana alone as evidence of child abuse or neglect, Senate Bill 115. The aim is to prevent parents and guardians from being discriminated against based on marijuana use and possession, which has been legal in the commonwealth since 2021.

The bill also provides that drug testing in child custody and visitation matters "shall exclude testing for any substance permitted for lawful use by an adult" under the state’s alcohol, marijuana and drug laws.

A person’s "lawful possession or consumption" of those substances, the bill says, "shall not serve as a basis to restrict custody or visitation unless other facts establish that such possession or consumption is not in the best interest of the child."

The bill now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Expansion Advocates Resubmit Ballot Initiative. After state Attorney General Tim Griffin (R) rejected the language in their medical marijuana expansion ballot initiative last month, Arkansans for Patient Access has resubmitted the language for their initiative, The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Amendment of 2024.

Griffin had found that the ballot title for the measure was insufficient due to improper formatting and that there were ambiguities about how the proposed amendment would impact the state’s existing laws and regulations surrounding cannabis.

"The resubmission is focused on responses to issues raised in the attorney general’s rejection opinion," said Bill Paschall, executive director of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association. "Legal counsel believes Arkansans for Patient Access’ latest submission should satisfy those issues."

The initiative would allow patients and caregivers to grow up to seven mature and seven immature plants, broaden the categories of medical personnel who could certify patients, allow for the use of telemedicine, establish reciprocity with other states, and extend patient ID cards from one year to three years.

Provided they get the okay from the attorney general, petitioners will have until July 5 to come up with 90,704 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Is Back. The Senate has signaled it is ready once again to move on a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 423, also known as the Compassion Care Act, which was first filed more than a year ago. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 26-13 to set it for special order, meaning it will be fast-tracked for Senate debate.

The bill would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in the state for certain specified ailments and conditions. Similar legislation passed the Senate in 2022, only to die in the House.

Bill sponsor Sen. Tom Davis (R) says the bill would be the "most conservative medical cannabis bill in the country" because it does not allow for smoking marijuana flowers and because of the tight list of specified conditions.


Another Massachusetts City Embraces Psychedelic Reforms. The city council in Medford, Massachusetts, voted Tuesday night to approve a resolution to make investigation and arrests for entheogenic plants and fungi the lowest law enforcement priority. The resolution also calls for all controlled substances to be addressed primarily as a public health matter and for the Middlesex County District Attorney to cease prosecutions for noncommercial activities involving the psychedelics.

Medford becomes the eighth Massachusetts city to adopt  psychedelic reforms.

Drug Policy

Oregon Effort to Recriminalize Drug Possession Debated for Hours at Capitol. Lawmakers trying to figure out whether to leave the state's voter-approved drug decriminalization intact or not held an hours-long public hearing Wednesday on the controversial topic.

Advocates for retaining decriminalization argued that expanding drug treatment is and treating addiction as a public health matter is a smarter approach than criminalizing drug use, while proponents of recriminalizing drug possession said it must bee done to help police stop open drug use and the disorder playing out on some Portland streets.

"Please address drug addiction and homelessness, but do so with real solutions — not political theater," said Sandy Chung, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. "For decades, lawmakers have fed unconscionable amounts of money and actual human beings into the criminal legal system."

"Measure 110 has failed," said House Minority Leader Jeff Helfrich (R-Hood River), a former Portland police sergeant. "We can see it on the streets. We can see it in the statistics. We can hear it in the voices of the victims."

The legislation at issue is House Bill 4002, drafted by Democratic lawmakers, which would make make possession of small amounts of drugs like fentanyl and heroin a Class C misdemeanor, the state’s least-severe crime classification punishable by 30 days in jail.

Among its many provisions, the bill would also create a new system by which drug users could opt to meet with a social services provider rather than face charges for possession, make it easier to seek harsh punishments for drug dealers, and expand access to medications that ease opioid withdrawal.

The public hearing is over, but the debate will continue.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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