New Bills Present Trafficking Concerns and a California Senator Remains Defiantly Anti-Legalization: The Leafly Cannabis Legalization Update
More states continue to introduce promising legislation for cannabis in 2015, some of which you may not expect. Here are the cannabis legislation updates for the week, including a few that may surprise you:
State Representative Mark Cardenas has been working on a bill to legalize recreational cannabis for personal use in 2015, but that's not stopping cannabis advocates from drafting a voter initiative to legalize cannabis in 2016. A voter initiative would be more likely to pass, as more than 50% of the Arizona population believe in the legalization of cannabis; however, a legislative bill would be easier to amend in the future (although it would be more difficult to initially pass as it needs the support of 75% of the legislature). In the hands of the voters or in the hands of a few politicians? Either way, go forth with gusto!
State Senator Dianne Feinstein has stated resolutely that she will not support any initiative to legalize cannabis in California, potentially striking a huge blow for California cannabis advocates seeking legalization in 2016. Senator Feinstein, a longtime supporter of the War on Drugs, has held firm, even as other state officials have softened their stance on cannabis over the years. The latest estimates put legalization support as high as 55% in California. Will she change her stance or jeopardize an attempt to legalize?
Florida’s medical marijuana bill, Amendment 2, was so close to passing, the entire Orange State could almost taste it. It lost by less than 2% of the vote, just below the necessary 60% mark needed to pass. Don't get too down about it, though: Florida is coming back with a vengeance! Having altered the vague language that opponents used as propaganda, Florida’s United for Care is already circulating a new petition to get medical marijuana back on the ballot. Sign the petition here!
The governor of Georgia backed out of a proposed initiative to expand the state's medical marijuana bill to include the cultivation and distribution of cannabis oil to qualified patients. Most of the bill has been gutted except for a clause that would offer legal protection to patients who travel to legal states and bring cannabis oil back to Georgia, which is a felony as it's federally illegal to transport cannabis across state lines.
Idaho has had lukewarm support for cannabis in the past, but Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said this year lawmakers may explore legalizing a form of cannabis extract known to help patients with seizure disorders, creating a limited medical marijuana law very similar to some of the CBD-extract only laws we’ve seen popping up across some of the more conservative states. This would be a surprising move that's welcomed by the families in Idaho with children suffering from seizure disorders who have urged lawmakers to take action.
Governor Pat Quinn has officially appointed 10 members to be a part of the advisory board to recommend any additional diseases for the Illinois medical marijuana program. The list includes patients, nurses, a pharmacist, and a number of physicians, with six additional spots that will be filled by upcoming Governor Bruce Rauner. Petitions from the public to add qualifying conditions will be accepted through the end of February – find more information about the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program here!
State Senator Karen Tallian is introducing an impressively comprehensive medical marijuana bill for consideration, which would legalize the production of both hemp and cannabis for farmers and create a medical system, as well as DOME – the Department of Marijuana Enforcement. Read more about this exciting development here!
Despite Iowa lawmakers passing a limited CBD-extract law last session, families affected by seizure disorders are calling for the law to be expanded so patients may access the CBD oil within their home state of Iowa. The new bill allows those who are qualified to travel to legal states (such as Colorado) and obtain cannabis extracts to bring back to Iowa. This creates a whole new problem as, similar to Georgia's situation, traveling with cannabis oil through states such as Nebraska is highly illegal and the families could face prosecution on a federal level for drug trafficking.
State Senator David Haley of Kansas City has filed Senate Bill 9, a bill which would legalize cannabis for medicinal use, for the last four years. Unfortunately, the bill has never had a hearing. Senator Haley remains optimistic with the latest introduction of the bill, especially now that more than half the nation has legalized some form of cannabis, including Missouri’s CBD law just across the border. Is this the year that Kansas legislature opens the table for a discussion on medical marijuana? Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more…
A recent poll of Michigan voters found that the general population is quite split on whether or not to legalize recreational cannabis – 50% say that they would vote to legalize and tax marijuana, while 46% say they would vote against it, with a slim margin of 4% undecided. Michigan voted in favor of medical marijuana in 2008, but the program has faced an uphill battle, with constant legislative revisions creating roadblocks for patients trying to gain safe access to medical cannabis.
A study on legalizing cannabis in Vermont found that the state could generate as much as $50 million in tax revenue by taxing and regulating cannabis. This should come as no surprise to those who have been paying attention – Colorado netted an impressive $60 million by year's end for 2014 retail cannabis sales and licensing fees, of which more than $30 million will be returned to the voters.
The Tasmanian government is facing backlash for their conspicuous silence regarding cannabis cultivation, consumption, and possession of cannabis. Launceston woman Lyn Cleaver turned herself in to the police, alerting them to a home-grown crop of cannabis she cultivated for her son’s epileptic seizures. She knew her crop was illegal, but the police failed to provide any answers to her concerns – is she immune from prosecution? How many plants can she legally cultivate? Will her son face prosecution for using his medicine in public? These questions and this particular situation highlight a volatile and important issue arising in Australia regarding medicinal cannabis, and let’s face it, we all want some answers.