Massachusetts: Backers of Marijuana Legalization Urge Legislators To Approve H. 3932


Leaders of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will testify at a legislative hearing Monday in support of a measure that would end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol.

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary is considering H.3932 because the CRMLA submitted more than 105,000 signatures in support of the proposal in December. The measure will appear on the November ballot if the Legislature does not approve it.

“This is the Legislature’s opportunity to embrace a far more sensible marijuana policy,” said CRMLA campaign manager Will Luzier.

“Marijuana prohibition does not eliminate marijuana use," Luzier said. "It only ensures that marijuana is unregulated, untested, untaxed, and sold by gangs and criminals. It is time to regulate marijuana and stop punishing adults for consuming a substance that is less dangerous than alcohol.”

Florida: Senate Unanimously Passes Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform


The Florida Senate on Friday voted unanimously to approve SB 1044, which reforms the state’s “Contraband Forfeiture Act.” Introduced by Sen. Jeff Brandes, the bill now heads to Florida House of Representatives for a floor vote.

The House companion, HB 889, passed its final committee of reference last week. The two bills are identical as amended and if HB 889 passes, civil asset forfeiture reform will head to Gov. Scott to be signed into law.

Civil asset forfeiture reform is a core national policy priority of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and Florida is a state the group has specifically targeted for reform.

“This is a tremendous step towards reforming Florida’s outdated forfeiture laws," said Theshia Naidoo, senior staff attorney for the DPA. "The unanimity of the Senate vote speaks volumes to the necessity of these important reforms. The House needs to act quickly to pass this law when it meets next week.”

“The broad, bipartisan coalition that Sen. Jeff Brandes built in the Florida Senate is what made these reforms possible," said attorney Ron Book, who represents the DPA in the Florida Legislature. "This legislation heads to the House with consensus amongst both parties, law enforcement, and reform advocates. We hope the House will act with the same unanimity that the Senate just did.”

Ohio: Ohioans For Medical Marijuana Submit Initiative Petition To State Attorney General


Backers of a proposed 2016 ballot measure to establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program in Ohio submitted their initiative petition to the Ohio Attorney General on Thursday with more than 2,000 signatures.

The office has 10 days to examine the official summary of the initiative and confirm the petition contains at least 1,000 valid signatures of Ohio voters. The petition will then be sent to the Ohio Ballot Board, which will have 10 days to review the measure and confirm it complies with Ohio initiative laws.

Initiative backers will then need to collect an additional 305,591 valid signatures of Ohio voters by early July in order to qualify for the November ballot.

Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, a campaign committee formed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), posted the full initiative text, the official initiative summary, and a Q&A with MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia on its website earlier this week at https://www.ohioansformmj.org/initiative.

“This initiative was drafted to ensure seriously ill Ohioans have safe and legal access to medical marijuana if their doctors believe it will alleviate their pain and suffering,” said MPP communications director Mason Tvert. “The one benefit of not already having a medical marijuana law is that we were able to incorporate the best practices and lessons learned from the 23 states that do have one.”

In summary, the initiative would:

Maine: Marijuana Initiative Backers Respond To Determination That Measure Didn't Qualify


The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has responded to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office, which announced Wednesday that a proposed initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Maine did not qualify for the November ballot.

At least 61,123 signatures of registered Maine voters were required, and state officials determined that the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 51,543 valid signatures.

Based on a document the Secretary of State’s Office provided to the campaign, it appears that more than 17,000 valid signatures of registered Maine voters were not included in the count because the signature of an individual notary did not match the signature the state has on file for that notary. The notary’s commission is current, according to state records.

“We are very disappointed by the Secretary of State’s determination," reads a prepared statement from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "Based on documents they have provided, it appears that more than 17,000 valid signatures from registered Maine voters were excluded from the count because the signature of a single notary — whose notary commission has not expired — did not exactly match the signature the state has on file for that notary.

"We are exploring all legal means available to appeal this determination, and we sincerely hope that 17,000-plus Maine citizens will not be disenfranchised due to a handwriting technicality,” the statement reads.

Iowa: Poll Shows Growing Support For Medical Marijuana; Legislature Considers Expanding Law


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than three of every four Iowans now favor allowing patients to use marijuana medicinally, but most remain opposed to its recreational legalization, according to a new poll.

Iowans have become more comfortable with medical marijuana, which is now supported by 78 percent of the state's adults, according to the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, reports Tony Leys at The Des Moines Register. That represents a gain of 20 points in support levels in just three years; support was at 58 percent in 2013.

But most Iowans continue to oppose allowing marijuana for fun. Just 34 percent of adults favor that idea, up 5 percentage points from 2013, according to the poll.

The poll results come as Iowa lawmakers are considering expanding the state's tiny, ineffective medicinal cannabis program. The state's current law, passed in 2014, only allows possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a marijuana extract that isn't psychoactive and helps quell seizures associated with severe epilepsy. It provides no legal method to make the CBD oil, nor does it provide any legal method to obtain or distribute it.

Washington: Legislature OKs Industrial Hemp Cultivation; Bill Heads To Governor's Desk


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Washington Legislature on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow licensed farmers to produce industrial hemp in the state as part of a research program.

Senate Bill 6206 unanimously passed the Washington House, 97-0, on Tuesday after passing the state Senate last month, reports the Associated Press. It now heads to Governor Jay Inslee's desk.

The measure would allow Washington State University to conduct a research program on the feasibility of industrial hemp production in the state. WSU would report to the Legislature in January 2017.

Industrial hemp can be made into a number of products such as food, fuel, fiber, clothing, cosmetics and medicines.

The Washington Department of Agriculture would supervise the program and license hemp farmers.

Graphic: Marijuana Venture

Global: UN-Led Drug War Threatens Peace And Security In 1 In 3 Member States


A new report from the Count the Costs initiative, ‘The War on Drugs - Undermining Peace and Security,’ finds that in 60 countries around the world national security is fundamentally compromised or threatened by the UN-led global Drug War.

Despite claiming to protect society from the potential harms of drugs, the approach pursued through the United Nations – which involves prohibiting drugs, and punishing users and dealers – has created a criminal market so vast that drug gangs now pose a significant threat to international security.

“This is a classic case of security blowback," said Danny Kushlick, the report’s co-author and head of External Affairs at Transform Drug Policy Foundation. "The UN’s own analysis shows that it is the drug control system that fuels organised crime, and that this in turn threatens the security of as many as one in three UN member states.

"Indeed, a report published tomorrow [Wednesday 2nd March 2016] by the UN International Narcotics Control Board concludes that drug trafficking is creating failed states,” Kushlick said.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime – the body in charge of the global drug control system – has described how the War On Drugs undermines international security: “Global drug control efforts have had a dramatic unintended consequence: a criminal black market of staggering proportions. Organized crime is a threat to security. Criminal organizations have the power to destabilize society and Governments.”

Ohio: Group Releases Specifics of New Medical Marijuana Ballot Measure


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana could be on the November's ballot in Ohio if 305,291 signatures of registered voters are collected.

The plan, which could provide medicinal cannabis to an estimated 215,000 Ohioans with qualifying medical conditions by 2018, is backed by the D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, which has been successful with ballot initiatives in other states, reports Alan Johnson at The Columbus Dispatch.

A year after Ohioans overwhelmingly rejected a for-profit plan to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, the MPP is counting on the differences in the plans to mean success this time. ResponsibleOhio's plan would have handed over control of commercial cannabis cultivation in the state to a dozen wealthy investors who backed the campaign.

MPP will be working locally through a group called Ohioans for Medical Marijuana.

“The Ohio initiative is similar to the medical-marijuana laws in 23 states and the District of Columbia,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the MPP, reports Meghan Matthews at WBNS-10TV. “The Ohio initiative will allow patients with a list of medical problems to use, possess, and grow their own medical marijuana if they have the approval of their physicians.”

Colorado: Cannabis Chamber To Hold Press Conference On Marijuana Edibles Standards


The Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce (C4) has scheduled a press conference for Thursday afternoon. Attendees will hear from several C4 members, as they discuss C4’s recent all member, voluntary adoption of new edibles standards. There will be time for questions.

The newly adopted standards are as follows: C4 manufacturers will no longer produce or sell marijuana infused edibles that are in the shapes of humans or animals. Animal shapes such as gummy bears, gummy worms, “sour patch kids,” and other items will be prohibited.

“I am proud to announce that members of the C4 organization, along with our Board of Directors, began discussing this initiative to address these concerns in the fall of 2015,” said Tyler Henson, C4 president.

“C4 has worked to ensure our members adopt manufacturing and sales standards which recognize that legal marijuana should only be consumed by adults," Henson said. "This is done in good faith and in the spirit of cooperation with cannabis regulators, community leaders, and our elected officials as we work together to continue to advance both public safety and robust industry standards.”

Ohio: Details of 2016 Medical Marijuana Initiative To Be Released Tuesday


Backers of a 2016 initiative effort to establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program in Ohio will release the details of the proposed ballot measure on Tuesday.

The full text of the initiative will be posted at https://ohioansformmj.org/initiative at 9 a.m. ET, and the Marijuana Policy Project, which helped draft the initiative, will hold a teleconference.

WHAT: Release of 2016 Ohio medical marijuana initiative language and teleconference to discuss the details of the proposal and answer questions from members of the media

WHEN: Tuesday, March 1, initiative text will be posted online at 9 a.m. ET; teleconference at 10:30 a.m. ET

WHERE: Initiative text at https://ohioansformmj.org/initiative

WHO: Heather Azzi, MPP campaigns analyst
Rob Kampia, MPP executive director
Mason Tvert, MPP director of communications

D.C.: Friday Marks One Year Anniversary of Marijuana Legalization In Nation's Capitol


Marijuana Arrests Down 85% After First Year

Congress Continues to Prevent District from Taxing and Regulating Marijuana

This Friday marks the one year anniversary of the implementation of marijuana legalization in the District of Columbia. In the 2014 election, District voters overwhelmingly passed Ballot Initiative 71 with 70 percent support, legalizing the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and allowing individuals to grow up to six plants in their home.

Overall, marijuana arrests decreased by 85 percent from 2014 to 2015. Marijuana possession arrests fell from 1,840 in 2014 to just 32 in 2015.

“The decrease in marijuana arrests is an enormous victory for District residents, who have resoundingly rejected the criminalization of marijuana,” said Bill Piper, senior director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Marijuana law enforcement has particularly damaged communities of color in the District, who have borne the brunt of prohibition.

"We hope that law enforcement continues to responsibly enforce the new law and completely eliminates any racial disparity in arrests,” Piper said.

U.S.: Congressman Blumenauer Says Medical Marijuana Could Solve Opioid Epidemic


U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) on the House floor Wednesday, addressed the serious opioid abuse epidemic across America, highlighting medical marijuana as an alternative to highly addictive prescription opioids in treating chronic pain.

In his remarks, Congressman Blumenauer called for further reforms to our medical marijuana laws, including making sure our Veterans – who are frequently prescribed opioids – are able to discuss medical marijuana as an alternative treatment option with their Veterans Administration providers in states where it is legal.

Rep. Blumenauer on Feb. 3 reintroduced H.R. 667, the Veterans Equal Access Act, to address this and will once again offer it as an amendment during consideration of the FY 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill this year.

“Last night, ‘Frontline’ on PBS had a compelling documentary on the opioid and heroin epidemic," Rep. Blumenauer said. "We’re now seeing politicians diving in – governors across the country sounding the alarm. It’s being featured by presidential candidates of both parties.

U.S.: First-Ever Bail Reform Legislation Introduced In Congress


Bill Would Ban States from Receiving Federal Law Enforcement Dollars If They Use Money Bail

DPA: Far Too Many People Behind Bars Simply Because They Can’t Afford Bail; 60% of People in U.S. Jails Have Not Been Convicted of Any Crime

A group of Congressmen led by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) on Wednesday introduced the No More Money Bail Act of 2016. The bill would reform the country’s bail system by denying states access to Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) funds until they end the use of monetary payment as a condition for pretrial release.

Byrne JAG is one of the main federal law enforcement grant programs, directing hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state law enforcement agencies. The bill would also prohibit the use of money bail at the federal level.

“Too many individuals are currently held without trial simply because they cannot afford bail,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “Many of them are charged with drug offenses, therefore the nexus between the drug war and money bail is clear.”

Currently, around 60 percent of individuals in jail in the U.S. are pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of any crime. Such a system contradicts the ethos of “innocent until proven guilty,” and has an adverse impact on low-income families and communities of color.

U.S.: How Will Marijuana Influence Super Tuesday?


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

As Super Tuesday fast approaches, Kind Financial CEO David Dinenberg decided to take a look at the influence of marijuana on the voters in the affected states.

"Most of the Super Tuesday states are historically Red states, and while that might be true today, many of these states are considering passing laws in favor of medical marijuana," Dinenberg said. "Alabama, Georgia, and Texas are considering legislation.

"Others, such as Vermont and Massachusetts, already have medical marijuana and now are considering recreational," Dinenberg said. "Of course, Alaska and Colorado have recreational use."

Dinenberg pointed out that Donald Trump is leading in the polls in every Super Tuesday state that has passed or is considering medical or recreational marijuana. "Mr. Trump is on record supporting states' rights," Dinenberg said. "While he doesn't favor federal legalization, his pro-states' rights just might be enough to fend off his competitors."

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both oppose medical marijuana, according to Dinenberg. "I ask this question to the candidates," he said. "How do you plan on winning an election that 58 percent of the voters disagree with you?"

U.S.: Former Attorney General Eric Holder Says Reschedule Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former Attorney General Eric Holder -- who once had the power to unilaterally begin the process of rescheduling marijuana, but didn't use it -- now says he agrees that cannabis should be reclassified under federal law.

"I certainly think it ought to be rescheduled," Holder said in a newly published interview with PBS. "You know, we treat marijuana in the same way that we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate."

“It’s nice to have Holder’s support for this sensible policy change, but it would have been a lot better if he’d exercised the power to get marijuana rescheduling done while he was still in office," Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told Hemp News on Wednesday morning. "We know that Holder and President Obama are good friends, so I hope the former attorney general encourages his former boss and his successor Loretta Lynch to follow through during these final months of the administration and get the job done.

"There’s absolutely no reason marijuana should be in Schedule I, and it would be absurd to keep passing the buck to Congress when federal law clearly gives the administration the power to act," Holder said.

Australia: Government Passes Bill To Legalize Medical Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Australia's Parliament on Wednesday passed a medical cannabis bill which will allow the legal cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Health Minister Sussan Ley announced on Wednesday afternoon that amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act of 1967, which passed the House of Representatives on Tuesdday, had also successfully passed the Senate, reports Josh Butler at The Huffington Post Australia.

The new law will allow access to medicinal cannabis products for patients suffering from serious illnesses, by allowing the cultivation of the plant for medical and scientific purposes.

"This is an historic day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medical cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals," Ley said.

"This is the missing piece in a patient's treatment journey and will now see seamless access to locally-produced cannabis products from farm to pharmacy," Ley said. "Under this scheme, a patient with a valid prescription can possess and use a medicinal cannabis product manufactured from cannabis plants legally cultivated in Australia."

Georgia: Medical Marijuana Won't Be Grown Anytime Soon


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana won't be grown in Georgia anytime soon, according to sources close to the situation.

Macon lawmaker Rep. Allen Peake, who has pushed medicinal cannabis legislation, stripped in-state cultivation out of House Bill 722 on Monday, reports Christopher S. Hopper at 11Alive News.

Other lawmakers, law enforcement officials, religious groups, and even Governor Nathan Deal had joined in an increasingly shrill chorus of voices warning against growing medical marijuana in Georgia. These excitable folks apparently believe that -- uniquely among all medical marijuana states, which are now about half the Union -- Georgia would somehow be selected for persecution and prosecution by the federal government if it dares do something really crazy like protecting sick folks.

HB 722 was widely viewed as the next step after House Bill 1 passed last year, allowing patients to lawfully use and possess non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) cannabis oil. Patients were counting on HB 722 to make it easier for them to obtain their medicine.

A gutted version of HB 722, with in-state cultivation language stripped away, was written up. The gutted version also takes away original language which would have given a greater number of patients access by expanding the allowed list of illnesses from eight 1o 17. PTSD and intractable pain were both removed from the list.

Vermont: Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Proposal


As full Senate prepares to vote on S. 241, a new VPR/Castleton poll finds 55% of Vermonters support passing such a law and only 32% are opposed

The Green Mountain State could become even greener. The Vermont Senate Committee on Appropriations on Monday approved a bill (4-3) that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and regulate marijuana for adult use. It is now expected to receive a full Senate vote.

“The Senate has worked diligently and deliberately on this legislation,” said Matt Simon, the Montpelier-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Most Vermonters believe it’s time to end prohibition and regulate marijuana, and it appears most of their state senators agree. We are hopeful that the Senate will approve this commonsense legislation and send it over to the House for its consideration.”

S. 241 would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores. It would also create a study commission to examine issues such as edible marijuana products and home cultivation, which would not be allowed under the bill.

It would remain illegal to consume marijuana in public or drive under the influence of marijuana. If approved, rulemaking would begin this summer, but the new law would not take effect until January 2018.

California: NORML Endorses Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA)


The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) on Monday announced that its Board of Directors has formally voted to endorse the California ballot measure known as the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

Founded in 1970, NORML has been a voice for marijuana reform in states all across the country and has helped increase public awareness of the failures and costs of marijuana prohibition. But the organization's credibility has taken a terrible hit since 2012, when NORML supported I-502, the Washington state legalization measure that has resulted in the decimation of the state's medical marijuana community and the virtual repeal of protections designed to protect safe access for patients.

"With the largest population of both marijuana producers and consumers in the United States, along with the largest voting delegation in Congress, the importance of voters in America's most populous and influential state, California, passing a binding marijuana legalization ballot initiative in 2016 can't be overstated,” said Allen St. Pierre, NORML's executive director. “On the matter of ending marijuana prohibition in America, as California goes, so too goes the rest of the nation."

NORML joins the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, California Cannabis Industry Association, California Medical Association and California NAACP, among others, in support of AUMA, which has been supported to the tune of a million bucks by Napster founder Sean Parker, who was also in on Facebook at the ground floor with founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Alabama: Bill Filed To Decriminalize Marijuana Possession


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill filed by Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) in the Alabama House would decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Currently, that "offense" would get you a Class A misdemeanor in the Heart of Dixie, punishable by jail time and fines.

HB 257, sponsored by Rep. Todd, would make possession of an ounce or under simply a ticketable offense, reports Adam Powell at Alabama Today. "Possession charges for people clog up a lot of our court services," Todd said. "This would help eliminate some of that bottleneck."

The bill would lower penalties for recreational cannabis consumers, and would, Todd said, create much-needed revenue for the state, since offenders are forced to pay tickets.

"I believe it's safer than alcohol," Rep. Todd said. "If people could take their emotions out of it, I think most people would agree with me."

Todd said she'd spoken with law enforcement officials, and most are supportive, specifically because the measure would remove a lot of work processing and jailing nonviolent marijuana offenders. She does expect opposition, however, from district attorneys, she said.

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