2017

South Africa: High Court Says Laws Barring Private Adult Marijuana Use Are Unconstitutional

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

South Africa’s Western Cape Town High Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to prohibit marijuana use by adults in private homes, opening the door for reforms that will allow adults to privately cultivate, possess, and use cannabis, according to a News24 report.

Judge Dennis Davis also directed Parliament to change sections of the Drug Trafficking and Medicines Control acts within 24 months as part of the decision.

The suit was filed by Dagga Party leader Jeremy Acton and Rastafarian Garreth Prince, the duo who has been obtaining stays of prosecution for people arrested for possession pending the outcome of their case. They argued that some of the sections of the Drug Trafficking and Medicines Control acts are discriminatory, outdated, or unfair, and applied disproportionately to black individuals.

The judgment will legalize sales, according to News24.

West Virginia: Legislature Fast Tracks Medical Marijuana Bill

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A bill to legalize medical marijuana in West Virginia has passed the Senate and been fast-tracked through a first reading in the House of Delegates. The measure passed the Senate on Wednesday with a vote of 28-6. Republican Del. Michael Folk motioned to skip sending the bill to House committees on Thursday, based on supporters saying that would have been a death sentence for the measure this late in the session.

Folk’s motion passed the House 54-40, allowing it to move to a second reading and making it eligible for amendments today.

Opponents of the motion said that it was reckless to move the bill forward without a committee hearing and would prevent the implementation of medical marijuana laws in a responsible manner. Delegates say they have been overrun by calls about the bill.

“Like every member of this body, I can’t count the number of emails and phone calls I received on this subject today,” Del. Mike Pushkin (D) said in the report.

The measure would allow patients with approved conditions to access medical marijuana in the state and grow up to two plants at home. The measure would also set up a Medical Marijuana Commission. The program could be rolled out as early as September 2018.

Delaware: Lawmakers Confident They Have Enough Votes To Legalize Marijuana For Adults

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Delaware lawmakers say they have enough votes to pass legislation to make marijuana legal for adult use, and to set up a regulated and taxed marijuana industry in the state. They are opposed, however, by the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council and Democratic Gov. John Carney, the News Journal reported.

State Rep. Helene Keeley (D) and state Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D) estimated that a legal and regulated cannabis market could generate $22 million in tax revenues for the state during its first year.

“As the only state in a seven-hour drive to have legalized marijuana, we would become a destination that would attract out-of-state sales, which would have a benefit to our Delaware businesses,” Keeley said in the report.

Henry said legalizing cannabis is “a social justice issue” rather than budgetary, indicating that the measure works to that end by legalizing “something that people always have done and are doing.” Delaware currently faces a $386 million budget deficit.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of negatives that also come with it, and we’re against the bill,” said Jeffrey Horvath, executive director for the Delaware Police Chief’s Council. He added that law enforcement officials in Colorado have told him “the black market is stronger” than before legalization and “teen marijuana use also has increased.”

Rhode Island: Legalizing And Regulating Marijuana Would Yield Nearly $50 Million In New Tax Revenue

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

According to a report issued this week by the advocacy coalition Regulate Rhode Island, legalizing, regulating, and taxing the state's marijuana market would result in the generation of nearly $50 million in new annual tax revenue.

Commercial sales of cannabis are estimated to reach $161 million by 2020, according to the report. Taxing this retail market at rates comparable to those in Colorado or Washington would yield $48.3 million per year.

The Adult Use of Cannabis act is legislation pending in the Rhode Island House and Senate to regulate the commercial production and sale of marijuana to adults. Connecticut has similar legislation pending.

Similar legislation was approved by voters in Massachusetts in November.

U.S.: Public Support For Marijuana Legalization Surged In 2016

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Public support for marijuana legalization surged in 2016, according to data just released from the General Social Survey.

57 percent of Americans told the survey's pollsters last year that they “think the use of marijuana should be legal,” up from 52 percent in 2014.

The numbers from the General Social Survey agree with other national surveys last year, which found support ranging from the upper 50s to low 60s.

The survey indicates different attitudes toward marijuana legalization, divided mainly by age and political party. Two-thirds of respondents ages 18 to 34 supported legalization in the survey, as well as majorities of those ages 35 to 49 and 50 to 64. But seniors 65 and older stood apart, with only 42 percent supporting legalization.

Support for legalization among Democrats and independents has risen much faster than among Republicans. In 2016, more than 60 percent of the former two groups supported legal marijuana. Among Republicans support stood at only 40 percent.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been outspoken in his criticism of legalization, but the Trump administration has been noncommittal in its approach to marijuana enforcement

U.S.: Pharma Company That Spent $500,000 To Fight Marijuana Legalization Just Got DEA Approval For Synthetic Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that was one of the chief financial backers of the opposition to marijuana legalization last year in Arizona, just received DEA approval for Syndros, a synthetic marijuana drug.

Insys donated $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy last year, the group opposing marijuana legalization in Arizona. The donation amounted to roughly 10 percent of all money raised to fight marijuana legalization in Arizona, a fight which they ultimately won.

Syndros is a synthetic formulation of THC, marijuana's psychoactive component. It was approved by the FDA last summer to treat nausea, vomiting and weight loss in cancer and AIDS patients. The DEA approval places Syndros and its generic formulations in Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, indicating a “high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule II drugs include morphine, cocaine and many prescription painkillers.

Insys was the only pharmaceutical company known to be giving money to oppose legalization last year. “It appears they are trying to kill a non-pharmaceutical market for marijuana in order to line their own pockets,” a spokesman for Arizona's marijuana legalization campaign said last year.

Oregon: Two Congressmen Are Introducing Three Bills To Reform U.S. Marijuana Laws

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Two Oregon lawmakers plan to introduce three bills Thursday to reform marijuana laws. The bills could wipe away thousands of cannabis-related criminal convictions and make life easier for those involved in the legal marijuana industry.

Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, both Democrats from Oregon, a state where recreational marijuana is legal, named their joint proposal the "Path to Marijuana Reform".

One bill, the Small Business Tax Equity Act, deals specifically with tax issues related to the marijuana industry. It would change the tax code “to allow businesses operating in compliance with state law to claim deductions and credits associated with the sale of marijuana like any other legal business.” deals specifically with tax issues related to the marijuana industry.

The Marijuana Revenue And Regulation Act would remove cannabis from the list of drugs federally outlawed by the Controlled Substances Act. Currently, weed is listed in the Schedule I category, which is reserved for the most dangerous types of drugs, like heroin, for example.

The Marijuana Policy Gap Act would “exempt any person acting in compliance with state marijuana law from criminal penalties” under the Controlled Substances Act. It would also give certain federal marijuana offenders a clean slate.

Georgia: Atlanta Considers Eliminating Jail Time For Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

If the Atlanta City Council passes a bill under consideration, people caught with marijuana in Atlanta may not have to do jail time and pay a $1,000 fine.

The Atlanta City Council will consider legislation at April's meeting to lower fines for marijuana possession to $75 and eliminate any jail time. Under current law, people caught possessing marijuana face a fine of up to $1,000 and can receive up to six months in jail.

Advocates are pushing for the change, saying the move is necessary to address racial disparities in arrests for marijuana use.

92 percent of those arrested in Atlanta between 2014 and 2016 for possession were African American and 85 percent were male, according to the Racial Justice Action Center. An American Civil Liberties Union analysis of marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010 found blacks were 3.73 times more likely to be arrested nationally for possession of the drug than whites.

City Councilman Michael Julian Bond said he was conflicted because he doesn’t want to encourage drug use, but agreed that the penalties outweighed the violation. But he suggested that $75 may be too low a fine and that jail time could be warranted in some circumstances.

“For me this is an extremely complicated subject,” said Bond, who said he has lost friends to drugs. “I believe as a policy body, we ought not to rush this.

Oregon: Hemp Bills Would Move Crop Into Mainstream

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Two bills would bring hemp more into the mainstream of Oregon's agriculture by creating a commodity commission and seed certification process for the crop.

“Industrial hemp has a huge potential in Oregon, we just need a few tweaks to help move it forward,” said Matt Cyrus, a hemp grower in Deschutes County, during a March 28 legislative hearing.

House Bill 2372 would allow Oregon's hemp industry to join 23 other crop, seafood, and livestock sectors with a state commission meant to promote and research a commodity through fees raised from producers.

House Bill 2371 would establish a system to get the purity of hemp seeds certified through a system overseen by Oregon State University.

“It’s truly about a certified seed, one we know Oregon can count on,” said Jerry Norton, a hemp grower.

HB 2371 would also establish a hemp pilot program at OSU to comply with federal provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill that allow hemp research.

Commercial hemp production is still illegal under federal drug laws which place hemp in the same category as marijuana, its psychoactive cousin.

Tennessee: Legislature Blocking Cities' Push To Ease Marijuana Punishment

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

As several states and cities seek to ease criminal punishment for marijuana possession, Tennessee's Republican legislature is blocking such efforts in Memphis and Nashville.

Police in those cities could soon be losing their option of issuing a minor citation to individuals found to possess small amounts of marijuana.

Tennessee legislators have agreed to bar cities from issuing civil citations for marijuana possession.

The ban would conform to proposals by the Trump administration to step up federal enforcement of marijuana laws.

"I am definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana," U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said recently. "But states, they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say, it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not."

Memphis and Nashville recently authorized their police officers to issue a civil citation for a $50 fine or community service to someone caught with a half ounce or less of marijuana.

Tennessee law currently imposes a misdemeanor charge for possession punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine for people caught with a half ounce or less.

Oklahoma: Supreme Court Restores Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative Title

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has thrown out a rewrite of the title of its ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana, clearing the way for a vote on State Question 788. The title of the initiative was re-written by then-Attorney General Scott Pruitt last September, and the measure has been on hold since then. The rewrite led to a lawsuit between Pruitt, Oklahomans for Health, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said the rewrite was intended to mislead voters into thinking they were voting for legalizing marijuana for adults.

“Whether it’s the folks that signed this initiative petition or all of the voters who will ultimately have the chance to weigh in on whether or not Oklahoma will have medical marijuana, they should be able to do that without the attorney general injecting his personal political position into the ballot campaign by misrepresenting what the petitioners seek to accomplish,” Kiesel said in a report.

The state Supreme Court ruled that Pruitt’s title changes be stricken and the original title language restored.

Oklahoma voters should get the chance to vote on the measure during the gubernatorial election in November 2018, but Governor Mary Fallin could schedule for a special election before then.

Utah: Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Research Bill

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Utah Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, has signed a bill to allow research into the benefits and risks of medical marijuana. The proposal is supported by the Utah Medical Association, which has been pushing for more research in the hope of expanding the state's limited medical marijuana program, which currently only allows the use of CBD.

The Utah legislature has failed to pass medical marijuana reforms for three consecutive years now. Advocates for reform have already begun to work on getting a question on the ballot for 2018.

The bill signed by the Governor (HB130) will allow researchers to study the benefits, risks, and effects of medical marijuana without federal approval. It will also create a Cannabinoid Product Board to consider future recommendations for medical marijuana policy. The board will consist of four physicians, three medical research professionals, and three members of the Controlled Substances Advisory Committee.

Illinois: Poll Shows Majority Of Illinois Supports Legalizing Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A new poll shows that a majority of Illinois voters support legalizing marijuana, following the introduction of two bills into the General Assembly proposing legalization.

The poll from the Southern Illinois University - Carbondale Paul Simon Public Policy Institute showed that 74.4 percent of Illinois citizens are in favor of legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use. Only 21 percent are opposed, and 4.6 percent either don't know or refused to answer the poll.

The Simon Institute said it collected data from live telephone interviews collected between March 4 and March 11.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy and State Senator Heather Steans introduced identical pieces of legislation into both chambers of the General Assembly on March 22. Both lawmakers said the tax revenue from legal recreational marijuana could help with the state's budget deficit.

The bills are SB316 and HB2353.

Canada: Marijuana Stocks Soar After Reports That Trudeau Plans To Legalize Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Canadian marijuana stocks were on a high Monday following reports that the government plans to legalize the substance for recreational use for adults by July 2018.

According to the CBC, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government is expected to announce the planned legislation the week of April 10.

Shares of Aurora Cannabis and Organigrams holdings were up 10 percent, Aphria rose 7.9 percent, Canopy Growth Corp. jumped 11 percent, SupremePharma and EmblemCorp rose 6 percent.

The minimum age limit for purchasing marijuana will be 18, according to the CBC, although individual provinces can set the minimum age higher if they wish.

Georgia: House Approves Compromise To Expand Medical Marijuana Program

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A compromise that would expand the list of disorders eligible for treatment with medical marijuana was overwhelmingly approved by Georgia House lawmakers Tuesday.

The chamber voted 167-4 to adopt senate Bill 16 after Senate lawmakers backed off a proposal to lower the THC level of the cannabis oil Georgia patients can legally use.

“This bill doesn’t go as far as many of us like, it does add six more conditions,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, (R-Macon) godfather of the state’s medical marijuana program. “And it does allow many more Georgians to benefit from this law.”

"I’m grateful we’ve moved the ball," Peake said. "We’re not there yet. We still have a huge issue of, where do we access the product. And until we deal with that we’re still going to be shortchanging our citizens in some respects."

Peake received a standing ovation from members of the House for his work on the measure after being introduced by Speaker Davis Ralston. Peake is a possible upcoming candidate for higher office.

Governor Nathan Deal is expected to sign the bill into law.

U.S.: Study Finds Marijuana Could Help Curb The Opioid Epidemic

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A new study shows that U.S. hospitals have not seen an influx of cannabis consumers in states that have legalized medical marijuana as was predicted, but instead have treated far fewer opioid users.

The number of patients admitted for opioid painkiller dependence and abuse decreased on average by 23 percent after states legalized marijuana for medical purposes. The study also showed that hospitalization rates for opioid overdoses dropped 13 percent on average.

The report in Drug and Alcohol Dependence showed that fears that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to an increase in marijuana-related turned out to be unfounded.

"Instead, medical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers," said study author Yuyan Shi, a public health professor at the University of California, San Diego. "This study and a few others provided some evidence regarding the potential positive benefits of legalizing marijuana to reduce opioid use and abuse, but they are still preliminary."

An estimated 60 percent of Americans now live in the 28 states and Washington, D.C. where medical marijuana is now legal under state law.

The opioid epidemic kills 91 Americans per day; sales of prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin have quadrupled since 1999.

South Dakota: Two Marijuana Measures Proposed For 2018 Ballot

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley recently announced that two marijuana measures have been proposed and filed with the Secretary of State.

The sponsor of the measures will circulate petitions with these statements. If the sponsor obtains the required number of signatures (13,871) on each petition by November 2017, as certified by the Secretary of State, the measure will be placed on the ballot for the November 2018 election.

The measures are titled:

1. “An initiated measure to legalize marijuana for medical use.”
2. “An initiated measure to legalize certain amounts of marijuana, drugs made from marijuana, and drug paraphernalia, and to regulate and tax marijuana establishments.”

Medical marijuana measures appeared on the South Dakota ballot in 2006 and 2010 but failed to pass both years.

Oregon: Study Shows Regular Marijuana Use Associated With Lower BMI

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

People who consume cannabis more than five times per month possess lower body mass index (BMI), on average, than those who do not use the substance, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Archives of Osteoporosis.

Researchers from Oregon's Health and Science University studied the relationship between marijuana use and various health issues in a sample of 4,743 participants nationally between the ages of 20 and 59.

Authors reported, "Heavy users of cannabis had a lower mean BMI compared to that of never users, with a mean BMI being 26.7 kg/m in heavy users and 28.4 kg/m in never users."

Cannabis consumers spent more time per day engaged in physical activity compared to those who occasionally or never use the substance.

60 percent of subjects in the study reported having used marijuana at some point in their lives. 47 percent described themselves as former users. Seven percent said they used cannabis regularly and seven percent said they were occasional users.

Oregon: State May Declare Emergency Over Sessions Cannabis Comments

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Oregon is considering declaring an emergency due to the threat of federal law enforcement of marijuana laws in states that have made the substance legal.

Senate Bill 863 passed last week; it would prohibit marijuana retailers from recording, retaining and transferring types of information that are contained on passport, driver license, military identification card or other ID that bears a picture of a person.

Dispensaries typically collect this type of information across the nation, but SB 863 requires marijuana retailers to destroy the type of information covered within 30 days of Governor Kate Brown signing off on the bill.

Section 4 of the bill states that on passage of the bill Oregon would declare an emergency in the face of threats of federal enforcement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Mason Tvert, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project, said the intentions of the current administration are unclear, bit it's good to be prepared.

Vermont: Bill Would Legalize Small Amounts Of Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Lawmakers in the Vermont House are expected to vote soon on a measure that would legalize the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana for adults.

The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last Wednesday, passing the unscheduled vote 8-3.

The full House will vote on the measure in the upcoming days.

The bill would make it legal for adults to possess up to one ounce of pot and two plants under the measure. However, it does not create a regulatory system for selling and taxing pot.

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