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New Mexico: Governor Vetoes Industrial Hemp Bill

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Susana Martinez, Governor of New Mexico, has vetoed a bill that would have created a research program for industrial hemp.

The Democrat-sponsored bill was vetoed by the second-term Republican governor on Wednesday without comment.

The bill would have required the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to set up an industrial hemp research program for cultivation and marketing.

Democratic Sen. Cisco McSorley of Albuquerque has authored a more restrictive bill which is on its way to the governor's desk right now. McSorley says it addresses concerns raised by Martinez two years ago about potential conflicts with federal law and provides for police training.

Thirty-one states have authorized hemp research. The 2014 federal farm bill allows state agriculture departments to designate hemp projects for research and development.

California: Medical Marijuana Legalization Associated With Fewer Hospitalizations From Opioids

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

According to data published online ahead of print in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a reduction in the number of opioid-related hospitalizations.

A researcher from the University of California at San Diego, assessing the association between medical marijuana laws and hospitalizations related to opioid use, reported both immediate and long-term reductions in opioid-related hospitalization following changes in law.

"This study demonstrated significant reductions on OPR- (opioid pain reliever) related hospitalizations associated with the implementation of medical marijuana policies. ... We found reductions in OPR-related hospitalizations immediately after the year of policy implementation as well as delayed reductions in the third post-policy year."

The author also dismissed the argument that liberalized marijuana were associated with an increase in marijuana-related hospitalizations, saying "While the interpretation of the results should remain cautious, this study suggested that medical marijuana policies were not associated with marijuana-related hospitalizations. Instead, the policies were unintendedly associated with substantial reductions in OPR related hospitalizations."

Texas: Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana Is Getting A Hearing In The State House

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A bill that would decriminalize the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana has been scheduled for a hearing at the Texas State Capitol.

House Bill 81 will be argued in front of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on March 13th. If it passes, it will make low-level marijuana possession a misdemeanor.

House Bill 81 would make possession of 1-2 ounces of marijuana a Class B misdemeanor. The possession of a small amount of marijuana would result in a civil penalty not exceeding $250. Possession of up to 4 ounces would result in a Class A misdemeanor, while any amount over that would result in a felony still.

The bill was authored by Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, and Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs.

Connecticut: Lawmakers Debate Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Connecticut lawmakers debated Tuesday on recreational marijuana legalization, and found only disagreement.

“It is time to consider legalizing marijuana for adults,” said State Rep Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, and sponsor of a bill to legalize recreational use during testimony before the General Assembly public health committee.

“I realize this is a difficult issue for many,” Ziobron said. “But legal marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana has never caused a fatal overdose in the 7,000 years of reported human use.”

Carolyn Dennis of Milford told the committee she opposes legalizing marijuana, especially under the guise of raising revenue.

"Do not threaten our state’s future by endangering the future welfare of our citizens’ health for a dollar,” Dennis said. “I expect that unlike the supporters of this proposed bill, you will not let budget woes take a front seat over the health of the residents and workers, children and adults in the state.”

Massachusetts and Maine voters last year authorized recreational use and the sale of weed is expected to begin next year. Weed is also legal for recreational use in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, California, Nevada and Oregon.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Bill Would Outlaw Smokable And Edible Pot

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Last year, 72 percent of Floridians voted to amend the state constitution to make medical marijuana legal for patients with certain qualifying illnesses such as cancer and Alzheimer's. The Florida Legislature must now come up with medical marijuana rules.

Fort Myers Rep. Ray Rodrigues introduced the first medical marijuana regulations yesterday, and they would ban patients from smoking marijuana or using edibles. Only patients that are terminally ill would be allowed to vaporize.

"It goes further than the current statute in terms of restricting medical marijuana," says Ben Pollara, United for Care's campaign director. "There was unanimous agreement that the new amendment would expand use."

Rodrigues' bill defines the "medical use" of cannabis as "the acquisition, possession, use, delivery, transfer, or administration of marijuana authorized by a physician certification."

Specifically, however, the bill says medical use does not include "possession, use, or administration of marijuana in a form for smoking or vaping or in the form of commercially produced food items made with marijuana or marijuana oils, except for vapable forms possessed, used, or administered by or for a qualified patient diagnosed with a terminal condition."

Massachusetts: Senator Patricia Jehlen To Lead Committee On Marijuana Policy

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Massachusetts Senator Patricia Jehlen has officially been named as leader of the new Committee on Marijuana Policy, according to The Common Wealth Magazine. The lawmaker will be in charge of the Senate side of the state Congress, and charged with looking at how to ‘revamp’ the new marijuana law.

Senator Jason Lewis, Vice Chair of the committee, has been an opponent of marijuana legalization in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reported that his concerns arise from being a father as well as a public official.

“I am opposed to the likely ballot question because this is the wrong time for Massachusetts to go down this road, and a commercial, profit-driven market is the wrong approach to take,” Sen. Lewis said in the Boston Globe report.

The House Chair has not been named at this point, but the duo will handle issues such as taxes on retail sales of marijuana, the local control over dispensary locations, and the potency of edibles.

Nearly two million voted 'yes' to Question 4 on Election Day, making Massachusetts one of the first states on the East Coast to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult use.

Despite vigorous campaigning against marijuana legalization from Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo,

Illinois: Democrats Demand Trump Clarify Stance On Medical Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

An Illinois state Democrat is asking the Trump administration for greater clarity on whether they will be opponents to state laws legalizing marijuana.

Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerich sent a letter to President Donald Trump Monday criticizing the administration for teasing a crackdown on states with legal marijuana but giving no follow-up details on their plans. The Chicago Tribune reports that the legal future for medical patients and businesses involved in the marijuana industry is uncertain due to the absence of an official position on both recreational and medical marijuana.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during a press conference on February 23 that the Department of Justice is likely going to increase enforcement efforts of federal law.

“If the Trump administration seeks greater enforcement, then it should clearly define what this means so hard-working people in Illinois can make informed decisions,” Frerich said in the letter. “Vague statements undermining medical marijuana violate commonsense and only serve to hurt the people who have pursed this treatment as a last resort.”

Massachusetts: State Treasurer Seeks Clarity From Trump Administration On Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Massachusetts State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who's in charge of implementing the new recreational marijuana law in the state, wrote Tuesday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions seeking guidance on federal enforcement of marijuana.

"In recent weeks, comments from the Trump Administration suggest that the [Department of Justice] may be considering a change [in enforcement]," Goldberg wrote to Sessions. "I would greatly appreciate your prompt response to clarify whether this is true — and if so, what changes we should prepare for before we commit significant public resources to implementing Massachusetts' recreational marijuana laws."

In a briefing last month, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he believes "you'll see greater enforcement of [recreational marijuana]," drawing a distinction between medical and recreational cannabis.

State Attorney General Maura Healey said the Justice Department is sending "mixed messages" around marijuana policy.

"I certainly would like to get some clarity and some certainty on that, and that's just one example of an area where we need more information," she said in a Herald Radio interview on Monday.

Pennsylvania: Auditor General Supports Legalizing Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (D) said Monday he strongly supports legalizing marijuana in the state, and said it is a taxable asset the state needs.

"Cities in Pennsylvania and some towns have started their own decriminalization process," DePasquale pointed out.

He cited states that have legalized marijuana and have been reaping the benefits of legalizing and taxing the plant.

"The regulation and taxation of marijuana train has rumbled out of the station across the United States," DePasquale said. "The question is whether Pennsylvania is going to miss its stop as the train moves its way across the country and allow other states to pick up the business opportunities."

"I'm a hundred percent behind him," Dan Skaggs of Lords Valley told WNEP16. "Looking at the revenue that alone Colorado has generated, we could get Pennsylvania out of bankruptcy."

But State Representative Sid Kavulich, a fellow Democrat, says the state shouldn't be so quick to follow Colorado's lead.

"It's still too early, Colorado certainly," said Kavulich, who represents the 114th District. "Let's wait a few years, see what kind of revenue comes in, what develops over a few years with the general legalization."

South Carolina: Bills Introduced To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Bills were recently introduced in South Carolina to legalize medical marijuana for certain qualifying conditions.

The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act would allow those with a physician's recommendation to use and possess marijuana and marijuana-related products if they have a qualifying condition.

Those conditions include glaucoma, cancer, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDs, ulcerative colitis, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, autism, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Parkinson’s disease and neural-tube defects.

The bills are being introduced, “to improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of South Carolina patients who can benefit from alternate courses of treatment instead of pharmaceutical,” says David Newsom, head of Government Affairs for SC Compassion, a nonprofit medical cannabis group that has been working with the lawmakers to help draft the bills.

Virginia: General Assembly Passes Two Marijuana-related Bills

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

In this year's session of Virginia's General Assembly, 17 marijuana-related bills were proposed. The House and Senate voted to pass two of those proposed bills.

One of the bills focuses on driver's license reform. Under Virginia law, a driver's license is suspended for six months for any drug possession charge, regardless of whether a motor vehicle was involved or not.

This new reform will allow a judge to determine the outcome for first offenders, with alternatives including community service.

"What this really helps do is open up the conversation and help lawmakers realize that this truly is a bipartisan effort and the demand for this type of reform is abundant, not only within their communities but within the legislature itself," Jenn Michelle Pedini, Executive Director of Virginia Norml, said.

The other bill passed allows pharmacies to manufacture and produce cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil to treat epilepsy.

A bill that would have allowed marijuana to be grown in the state for medicinal uses was proposed, but was not passed.

Israel: Cabinet Makes Move To Decriminalize Recreational Marijuana Use

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Israeli cabinet took a major step toward decriminalizing recreational marijuana use on Sunday, approving a plan that would impose fines rather than criminal penalties on those caught using the drug in public.

Growing and selling marijuana, widely used here both recreationally and medicinally, would remain illegal.

“On the one hand, we are opening ourselves up to the future,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet. “On the other hand, we understand the dangers and will try to balance the two."

The decision must still be approved by Israels' Parliament, the Knesset.

Prior to Sunday, people charged with marijuana use could face heavy fines and even incarceration. Under the new rules, people caught using marijuana publicly a first time would face a fine of about $270 rather than criminal charges. Charges would increase with repeated offenses, with criminal charges filed after a fourth offense.

The new rules were drafted by Gilad Erdan, the public security minister. “The government’s approval is an important step on the way to implement the new policy, which will emphasize public information and treatment instead of criminal enforcement,” he said after the cabinet’s decision on Sunday.

Germany: Medical Marijuana Program To Begin In March

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Qualifying patients in Germany should be able to obtain medical marijuana as early as next month, as a result of medical marijuana legislation recently passed by the German government.

Regulators will license marijuana cultivation under the new program to provide the drug for patients with qualifying conditions. Patients will not be permitted to grow their own plants under the new law. Health insurance providers will cover marijuana-related expenses for patients.

Regulators will import marijuana from the Netherlands and Canada in the early stages of the program.

Germany joins several other nations, including Jamaica and Colombia, which have recently passed legislation to legally produce and supply medical marijuana.

Georgia: House Passes Medical Marijuana Expansion

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Georgia House on Wednesday backed a broad expansion of the state's medical marijuana law.

House Bill 65, sponsored by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, would double the list of illnesses and conditions eligible for treatment with medical marijuana in Georgia to include AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune disease, epidermolysis bullosa, HIV, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome.

The bill will remove a one-year residency requirement.

It will also allow people with registration cards from other states with similar low-THC cannabis oil laws to also possess the oil in Georgia.

Under Georgia’s 2015 law, patients and, in the case of children, families who register with the state are allowed to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil to treat severe forms of eight specific illnesses, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

The oil can have no more than 5 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the component of marijuana that causes a "high."

Federal officials still consider the oil an illegal drug.

Virginia: Republican Representative Introduces Bill To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A Republican representative from Virginia introduced legislation this week to end the federal prohibition of marijuana, allowing states to form marijuana policies on their own.

The bill would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act but would not legalize the sale and use of marijuana in all 50 states. It would only allow states to make their own laws without the possibility of federal interference.

“Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California,” Rep. Thomas Garrett (R) said in a statement. Virginia presently does not allow medical or recreational marijuana use.

The bill specifies that transporting marijuana into states where it is not legal would still be considered a federal crime.

“This step allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth, something that will provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia,” he continued in the statement.

Nevada: Feds Threaten To Shut Down Las Vegas High Times Cannabis Cup

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by Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, the Feds threaten to shut down the 2017 Las Vegas High Times Cannabis Cup in a Feb. 16 letter to the Moapa Paiute Tribe.

The article reports that U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden, based in Las Vegas, sent a Feb. 16 letter to the Moapa Paiute Tribe reminding the tribe that the transport, possession, use and distribution of marijuana is illegal under federal law.

The letter obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal said that the marijuana trade show and festival, planned for March 4 and 5, would be in violation of that law.

In the letter, Bogden states, “I am informed that the tribal council is moving forward with the planned marijuana event referred to as the 2017 High Times Cannabis Cup because it is under the impression that the so-called ‘Cole Memorandum’ and subsequent memoranda from the Department of Justice permit marijuana use, possession and distribution on tribal lands when the state law also permits it. Unfortunately, this is an incorrect interpretation of the Department’s position on this issue.”

The Cole Memorandum provides guidance to federal officials in states that have legalized marijuana in some form.

The Guidance Memorandum, another memo, indicates that tribal governments and U.S. attorneys should consult government-to-government as issues arise.

Texas: State Could Lose Millions Of Tax Dollars If Medical Marijuana Not Implemented

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Governor Greg Abbott signed the Texas Compassionate Care Act into law on June 1, 2015, but it looks now as if the state may not implement its medical marijuana program, and could miss out on collecting millions of dollars in potential tax revenues.

A major obstacle delaying the program in Texas is that the law requires a doctor to write a prescription for medical marijuana. The problem is that doctors can't legally write a prescription for marijuana, because it remains federally illegal, and a controlled substance. Also, prescriptions must be filled by a pharmacy, not a dispensary. The law would need to be amended so that doctors could recommend medical marijuana, not prescribe it. Heather Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana said that legal medical cannabis in Texas may "not ever get off the ground, if we're not able to change that language in the law."

So far, the only disease approved to be treated by medical marijuana in Texas is intractable epilepsy, leaving cancer patients, pain sufferers and veterans with post traumatic stress disorder unable to legally get the medicine. A bill has been introduced in both the Texas House and Senate to expand the list of qualifying conditions.

Washington, DC: Attorney General Jeff Sessions Warns Of An America With 'Marijuana Sold At Every Corner Grocery Store'

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned Tuesday that easing access to marijuana could lead to local markets selling the drug.

Speaking to a group of attorneys at the National Association of Attorneys General Winter Meeting, he said, “States can pass whatever laws they choose. But I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store.”

Sessions went on to criticize a column published by Sam Kamin in the Washington Post Tuesday. Kamin, a professor of marijuana law and policy at the University of Denver, argues in the column that the opioid crisis is “a reason to expand access to marijuana rather than to contract it.” A study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in 2016 found “adverse consequences of opioid use” gradually decreased in states where marijuana had been legalized as individuals switched from opioids to marijuana for pain relief.

“Give me a break,” Sessions said. “This is the kind of argument that has been out there. [It’s] almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove me wrong. ... My best view is that we don’t need to be legalizing marijuana.”

Israeli/Canadian Oil & Gas Corp Steals Medical Marijuana Clinics & 250,000 Patients Records

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by Angela Bacca for Huffington Post

After a lifetime of cannabis activism, since he was 18 in 1978, Paul Stanford has been working to legalize marijuana in his home state of Oregon and take his cannabis business public. For over 20 years, he has hosted Cannabis Common Sense, a well-known cable access TV program that served as a launching pad to his multi-million dollar multi-state business, The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation (THCF) Clinics. The clinics were the first to open in most states with legalized medical cannabis and connected doctors with patients in need of state-legal recommendations. Since 2001, the clinics amassed around 250,000 personal patient files and medical records. The private patient files are now at the center of an international business controversy that may leave Stanford penniless.

In 2012, Stanford succeeded at placing The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA, aka Measure 80) on the ballot, but it failed with 46.6 percent of the vote. OCTA was considered more liberal than the legalization laws approved in the same November 2012 vote in Colorado and Washington, and would have allocated two percent of net tax revenues to promote industrial hemp farming. Stanford is recognized internationally as a pioneer working for legalization of marijuana and industrial hemp. In 2014, he again sought to put a slightly revised version of OCTA on Oregon's ballot.

Utah: Lawmakers Planning For How They Would Legalize Medical Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Utah lawmakers took a first step Monday to outline how medical marijuana would be cultivated, produced and sold if it ever is made legal in the state.

The Senate Health and Human Services voted 5-0 to approve SB211, and sent it to the full Senate.

"This is a road map leading to medical marijuana," said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City. "We are getting it set up, getting it ready. And all we have to do then is have a quick vote — and we'll have the legal structure" to accommodate prescription cannabis.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said, "It does create the pattern on how the state would handle it, if and when a [legalized medical marijuana] policy is adopted."

Vickers said legalization could come soon "by the Legislature, it could be adopted by a referendum process, it could be adopted by the Legislature itself putting something on the ballot for next year."

So, Vickers said, "We felt like it was prudent to continue the discussion how the state would handle things, realizing nothing would be triggered until you had something in place that said we're going to legalize this type of cannabis product and for these conditions."

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