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Illinois Stalls, Massachusetts Progresses, and Washington and Colorado Face Black Market Competition: The Leafly Cannabis Legalization Update

Happy new year, everyone! 2015 is already making headway towards major cannabis progress. Watch closely as the cannabis movement continues to heat up! Here are the latest updates from both near and far: 

U.S. Updates


A bill filed in Arizona last week would authorize marijuana to be taxed and regulated like alcohol, effectively legalizing all possession and use of cannabis and nullifying the unconstitutional federal prohibition. House Bill 2007 was pre-filed by State Representative Mark Cardenas and would allow people ages 21 and older to possess, consume, use, display, purchase, or transport one ounce or less of cannabis, or up to five cannabis plants. If you are an Arizona resident and you want this bill to be passed, contact your legislators today and let them know!


A year into the legalization of cannabis, recreational shops face competition from medical marijuana and even outright black market sales. The number of patients on Colorado’s medical marijuana registry has gone up since 2012, which means more users can avoid paying higher taxes for recreational cannabis. Similarly, Washington’s black market has exploded since legalization, with medical dispensaries operating in gray areas and delivery services openly advertising outside of the legal market. Both states have been raking in the taxes, but newly legalized states Alaska and Oregon may want to pay attention to the realistic trials and pitfalls of a legal cannabis market as they create regulations of their own.


D.C.’s new mayor Muriel Bowser is exploring the possibility of suing Congress over the legalization of recreational cannabis, which passed with overwhelming support by D.C. voters in the November general election. Congress passed a recent omnibus spending bill, which included a rider to disallow any funding for the implementation of cannabis legalization in the district.


An Idaho mom hopes to put a face on the fight for medical cannabis oil in her state by joining forces with New Approach Idaho to push for the legalization of medical marijuana. The Bunderson family shared the story of their six year-old son, Scout, who has suffered from seizures since he was 10 months old. His mother wants lawmakers to put a face on medical cannabis to challenge prohibition.


Illinois’ medical marijuana market is delayed once again as state officials acknowledged they missed their self-imposed deadline to issue licenses to approved growers and sellers. Let’s get your patients access to the medicine they need as soon as possible, okay, Illinois?


Senator Perry Clark has filed a medical marijuana bill for 2015, the same bill he has proposed for three years running. The bill would allow for physicians to recommend medical marijuana to qualifying patients, remove legal prosecution against patients possessing cannabis for medical purposes, and allow for home cultivation. Another medical cannabis bill was introduced by the House Speaker Greg Stumbo – very similar, but differing in the establishment and regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.


The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has FINALLY(!) issued the state’s first certificate of registration for a marijuana dispensary. The certificate was given to Alternative Therapies Group, Inc., to allow it to begin growing cannabis for medical use. ATF, Inc. has been approved for a dispensary site in Salem and a cultivation site in Amesbury. Huzzah!


A Helena judge has permanently blocked several key provisions for Montana’s restrictive medical marijuana law. Blocked provisions include a ban on advertising cannabis, a ban against the commercial sale for profit of cannabis even to people authorized to obtain for medical purposes, and a restriction on medical cannabis providers assisting more than three people licensed by the state to obtain cannabis (again, without being able to be paid). 


The Texas Sheriffs Association says it will fight to block efforts in the upcoming legislative session against the proposed bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis. Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk noted that based on the direction these cannabis bills are going, “the next step is to legalize the use of medical marijuana for medical purposes…then they come back and try to legalize marijuana for any purpose.” Well yeah, that’s often how it works. 


A bill pre-filed in the state legislature last month would allow people with previous convictions for misdemeanor marijuana offenses that occurred before Washington state legalized recreational cannabis to apply to vacate their record. The law has stipulations: the person cannot have any pending criminal charges or new charges since the misdemeanor cannabis conviction, and he or she must have completed the terms of the original sentence, including fines and service.

International Updates


The Austrian Health Agency exported 142 kilos of medical-grade cannabis in 2014, grown in Hirchstetten, Vienna, to foreign pharmaceutical companies. It was sold to pharmaceutical companies to make cannabinoid painkillers, used for treating cancer and other medical ailments. These cannabinoid painkillers are banned in Austria, a hypocrisy that Green MP Eva Mückstein called “outrageous.” She is calling for the laws on the use of medical grade cannabis to be relaxed and to allow Austrian patients to benefit from these medications.


Some entrepreneurial students from Nsawkaw Senior High School were discovered to be engaged in marijuana farming and smuggling to the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso and Mali to raise money for their educational needs. Many students do not have the means to pay for schooling or to take care of themselves after school. It is considered an “open secret” that many students turn to cannabis farming to support themselves and their families and pay for their education.


At least 10 Israeli farmers are vying for government permits from the Israeli Health Ministry to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes. There are currently eight approved medical cannabis growers in Israel providing cannabis for 18,000 Israelis currently permitted to use medical marijuana, a number that is estimated to rise to 40,000 by 2018. The results are expected to be announced in March and should help balance the supply with the demand, an issue exacerbated by the Israeli ban on cannabis imports (despite repeated requests from growers).


Sufferers of serious medical conditions in Merseyside are taking the law into their own hands to treat their ailments using cannabis. The United Patients Alliance and the Merseyside Cannabis Supporters will be holding an event next month to raise awareness for their campaign to legalize cannabis. If you’re a UK cannabis supporter, come to the event at the Neurosupport Centre, Norton St., Liverpool on January 23rd at 7:30 pm. Cannabis in the UK!

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Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

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