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U.S.: Supreme Court Rejects Other States' Lawsuit Over Colorado Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The United States Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the case brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado over its marijuana legalization law. Oklahoma and Nebraska had claimed the Colorado law had created an increased law enforcement burden in neighboring states.

The suit, filed by Nebraska Attorney General John Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, claimed that federal marijuana prohibition preempts the law that Colorado voters decisively adopted in 2012. The Federal Government filed a brief urging the high court to reject the case.

"There is no question about it: This is good news for legalization supporters," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "This case, if it went forward and the Court ruled the wrong way, had the potential to roll back many of the gains our movement has achieved to date. And the notion of the Supreme Court standing in the way could have cast a dark shadow on the marijuana ballot measures voters will consider this November.

Washington: One-Year Status Report On Marijuana Legalization

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New Report Finds Major Fiscal Benefits, Decrease in Violent Crime, No Increase in Youth Marijuana Use or Traffic Fatalities – And Massive Drop in Marijuana Arrests

Popular Support for Marijuana Legalization Remains Strong in Washington; Only Dark Cloud Remains Uncertain Fate of Medical Marijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

As several states consider marijuana legalization initiatives, all eyes are on the initial outcomes of Washington’s marijuana law. In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first two states to pass laws taxing and regulating marijuana.

Wednesday will mark the one-year anniversary of retail marijuana sales in Washington. Adult possession of marijuana became legal on December 6, 2012, 30 days after the passage of I-502, the voter-approved initiative legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and older. A year-and-a-half later, the first retail marijuana store opened its doors, on July 8, 2014.

A new report by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) highlights data on public safety, youth marijuana use, and the economy before and after passage of I-502. Since adult possession of marijuana became legal 18 months ago, the state has benefitted from a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests and convictions, as well as increased tax revenues.

Oregon: Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization Law Including Sentencing Reform

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Oregon Rewrites Marijuana Criminal Code to Reduce Most Felonies to Misdemeanors and to Make Prior Convictions Eligible to be Cleared

Law Goes Beyond Other Legalization States to Reduce Harsh Marijuana Sentences and Allow for 78,319 Prior Marijuana Convictions to Potentially be Cleared

Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Wednesday signed H.B. 3400, an omnibus bill to implement Measure 91, the marijuana legalization initiative adopted by voters last November. The bill was approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives this week.

Measure 91 legalized possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 and older and regulated commercial production, manufacturing, and retail sales of marijuana. Legalization for personal use took effect July 1, 2015.

As of that date adults 21 and older can legally possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana at home and up to 1 ounce of marijuana outside the home. They may also grow up to four plants at home, as long as they are out of public view. The regulatory structure for commercial retail sales will not be up and running until next year.

In addition to addressing the implementation of Measure 91, H.B. 3400 contains broad sentencing reform provisions that extend well beyond the elimination of criminal penalties for simple possession of marijuana and cultivation of up to four plants. The new law reduces most marijuana felonies to misdemeanors or lesser felonies with significantly reduced sentences.

New Mexico: Court Upholds Insurance Coverage For Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An injured auto mechanic who uses medical marijuana to treat pain can have his former employer and the company's insurance provider reimburse him for the cannabis, a New Mexico appeals court ruled on Monday.

The New Mexico Court of Appeals voted unanimously to uphold a previous workers compensation court decision, also in favor Gregory Vialpando, the 55-year-old former mechanic, who suffered a lower back injury back in 2000, reports Joseph J. Kolb at Reuters.

The Santa Fe man's former employer, Ben's Automotive Services, and its insurance provider, Redwood Fire & Casualty, had tried to get out of reimbursing the mechanic for using medicinal cannabis as a pain treatment, pointing to marijuana's illegal status under federal law.

New Mexico is the first state he's aware of where a workers compensation board has approved insurance reimbursement for medical marijuana, according to Albuquerque attorney Peter White, who represents Vialpando.

"It's an important decision for workers so seriously injured they would be bound to a lifetime of narcotic medications," White said.

"It might be fairly unique," said Drug Policy Alliance staff attorney Tamar Todd of the ruling.

New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge James Wechsler's written opinion found the employer and its insurer had failed to cite a specific federal law they'd be forced to violate by reimbursing the man for his medical marijuana.

Alabama Supreme Court Rules That Women Can Be Arrested For Using Drugs While Pregnant

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Health Professionals Call For Medical Care and Treatment Instead of Imprisonment and Punishment

The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday issued a 8-1 decision in Ex Parte Hicks upholding the conviction of Sara Hicks, who gave birth to a healthy baby who tested positive for cocaine in 2008. This decision affirmed the Court's prior ruling in Ex Parte Ankrom, holding that that the plain meaning of the word "child" in the Alabama law unambiguously includes fertilized eggs and that pregnant women may be arrested for using a controlled substance while pregnant.

The chemical endangerment law was passed in 2006 to deter people from bringing children to places where controlled substances are produced or distributed, such as methamphetamine laboratories. Since 2006, more than 100 women who became pregnant and tested positive for a controlled substance have been arrested. Some have experienced pregnancy losses, but the majority – like Sara Hicks – have continued their pregnancies to term and given birth to healthy children.

California: Two Bills Introduced in Legislature to Regulate Medical Marijuana

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New state level regulations establish a marijuana division of the Alcoholic Beverage Control

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The president of the California Senate and Chair of Assembly Public Safety on Monday introduced bills to crack down on illegal cultivation and distribution under the guise of medical marijuana, and to create one of the most comprehensive regulatory structures in the country to allow bona fide patients to access medical marijuana, from state registered growers, transporters and dispensaries, and to reduce diversion to non-medical users.

SB 69 by Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and AB 604 by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, is, in part, response to the recent announcement by the Federal Department of Justice that the federal government would be disinclined to target marijuana cultivators and providers that are operating pursuant to state laws, as long as comprehensive regulation prevents problems, including diversion of marijuana to the illegal market.

While some within the medical marijuana community question the wisdom of turning an herbal medicine over to the state agency responsible for controlling alcoholic beverages, Tamar Todd, senior staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), thinks it's a good idea.

“This is a much needed move toward comprehensive regulation,” Todd said. “California medical marijuana providers have been targeted by the Federal government.

California: Berkeley Fights Federal Action To Seize Property Of Medical Marijuana Dispensary

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City Files Claim Asserting that Federal Action Harms Berkeley’s Ability to Control and Regulate Medical Marijuana

Federal Action to Close Berkeley Patients Group will Hurt City’s Tax Revenue and Weaken Medical Marijuana Regulation, City Asserts in in Federal Court Proceeding

The City of Berkeley on Wednesday filed a claim in the action brought by the federal government in May to seize the property used by Berkeley Patients Group at 2366 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, California. Berkeley Patients Group has been providing medical marijuana to patients within the City since 1999. It is in full compliance with the City of Berkeley’s medical marijuana ordinance, regulations, and zoning laws.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California has used federal asset forfeiture laws to target and close numerous medical marijuana dispensaries, even when those dispensaries have long track records of working with the cities in which they are located, responsibly providing medical marijuana to patients, and complying with state and local law.

The city’s claim was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In its claim, the City asserts that the closure of Berkeley Patients Group will harm the City through the loss of substantial revenue. Berkeley Patients Group has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the City in taxes over the years.

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