New this week: Nevada and Rhode Island are making progress on their legalization initiatives, but Vermont’s efforts have stalled in the House Judiciary Committee. Ohio legislators made a bold new medical marijuana proposal, while Pennsylvania is so close to medical cannabis they can almost smell it. Internationally, the Australian state of Victoria became the first to legalize medicinal access, a Canadian cannabis activist uses civil disobedience to make a point, and one French minister wants the country to reconsider prohibition.
U.S. News Updates
House Bill 1436, introduced in the state House of Representatives last week, would restrict the design of cannabis infused edible products, banning the creation of any edibles that “resemble the form of a human, animal or fruit.” The restriction is aimed at reducing the appeal of cannabis-infused edibles to children, which has been a longstanding concern in Colorado’s medical and retail cannabis industry. If they’re really hoping to avoid appealing to kids, though, they ought to start manufacturing infused canna-carrots and broccoli.
Nevada’s legalization initiative is officially on the November ballot. The Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative, known as Question 2, would legalize the sale and possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults 21 and older. The state Department of Taxation would be charged with issuing licenses to retailers, suppliers, testing facilities, and distributors, and all wholesale cannabis sales would be subject to a 15 percent excise tax. The revenue generated would go toward supporting K–12 education.
Lawmakers in Ohio presented the findings of a medical marijuana task force along with a bold proposal aimed at bringing medical cannabis to the state by this summer. If adopted, the proposal would actually outpace the current effort to put a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot this November. The proposal, by House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, task force chairman Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), and Sen. Dave Burke (R-Marysville), sets a hard deadline for medical marijuana legalization. If the bill passes the House this month and the Senate in May, it could reach Gov. John Kasich by May 31 and take effect by the end of August.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has officially approved Senate Bill 3 to legalize medical marijuana. The bill now heads to Gov. Tom Wolf, who has already pledged to sign the measure into law. The 80-page bill has been amended and changed many times since its introduction last May, and this round was no different. Once signed by the governor, it will go into effect after about a month. Drafting regulations and opening medical dispensaries could take another two years.
Rhode Island legislators held a hearing on the referendum to tax and regulate cannabis this week, along with several other cannabis-related bills. H.7752, also known as the Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, would legalize the use and possession of up to an ounce of cannabis and the growing of up to two plants for personal use by adults 21 and older.
Vermont’s legalization bill has hit an unexpected twist. After a positive vote from the Senate just a few short months ago, it seemed as though the Green Mountain State was on its way towards adult-use legalization. The House Judiciary Committee, however, rejected S.241 in its current form, favoring instead a proposal to create a commission to study the legalization of cannabis. Of course, Gov. Peter Shumlin last year commissioned and released a comprehensive 218-page study on the impact of legalization in Vermont. There’s still a glimmer of hope for advocates, though. The bill will be heard by at least two more committees before a vote a by the entire House, during which the bill could be readjusted. S.241 is now headed to the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Education Committee for consideration.
International News Updates
Victoria passed the history-making Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2015 this week, making it the first Australian state to allow medical cannabis. The bill ensures that children with severe epilepsy will be given first access to medicinal cannabis starting in early 2017. It also creates an Office of Medicinal Cannabis to oversee regulations and framework for the new program. An independent medical advisory committee will make future recommendations on expanding patient conditions and medical cannabis products.
Canadian cannabis activist Dana Larsen began a tour across the country last week, giving away one million marijuana seeds en route to becoming a veritable Johnny Cannabis Seed. Larsen’s Overgrow Canada Tour was abruptly interrupted in Calgary when he was arrested on charges of trafficking and possession. After spending the night in jail, he was released on $1,000 bail and vowed to continue onto Edmonton, the next scheduled stop on his tour. When asked about his motivation, Larsen responded: “It’s not about me. It’s about supporting the many other people who are still in jail for cannabis.” Not one to be deterred, Larsen is now vowing to give away two million cannabis seeds as a form of civil disobedience.
Secretary of State for Relations with Parliament Jean-Marie Le Guen, said in a recent interview that France needs to rethink its policies on cannabis prohibition. “Prohibition does not cause a decrease in consumption,” he argued during an interview with BFMTV, noting a recent survey from the World Health Organization that found France had the highest percentage of teenagers who use cannabis. Le Guen emphasized that he doesn’t support public consumption but would rather see sanctions and decriminalization of private use for adults. “We must stop the trafficking. Billions of euros are now in our suburbs and feed into a culture of illegality.” His support has already sparked a new conversation on cannabis in France’s Parliament, although Le Guen’s own party condemned the idea of decriminalization.
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