Californians will have their chance to vote for recreational marijuana this November, and many believe it will pass. Fillmore is just one city in the state that has already placed bans on growing and selling marijuana within city limits, but of those cities with bans, Fillmore is the only one considering reversing the ban in the future. Fillmore is also the only city in Ventura County to discuss taxing potential future marijuana sales, as the statewide bill could force the city to reverse the ban. City Council will revisit the issue of lifting the ban on August 9th, but they have already approved a measure that would allow up to 22.5% tax on marijuana sales. While some say a high tax could hurt the potential market, advocates are still happy to see progress towards reform. "The taxes proposed are dangerously high and will only prevent legitimate providers form entering your city limits, and will encourage black market activity," said Mari Scott, the CEO of the California Emerald Club, a dispensary that delivers medical marijuana in Ventura County. Fillmore is the first city in Ventura County to discuss taxing legal marijuana. It is also one of six cities with complete bans on growing and selling medical marijuana, but it is the only one of those to seriously consider lifting its ban, said Chelsea Sutula, the CEO of Sespe Creek Collective, another local delivery service, and the chair of the Cannabis Alliance's industry committee. "They've been very open to meeting with us and very open to learning more about the issue," Sutula said. "They've been a little more proactive than some other council members in other cities."
After tireless hard work gathering tens of thousands of signatures, it looks like Michigan's recreational marijuana bill will NOT pass this year. The group supporting the bill, The Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee, claims that 137,000 signatures were not counted due to a new law signed by Governor Rick Snyder that limits petition initiatives to 180 days, making all signatures before that timeline invalid. Without the extra signatures the recreational marijuana bill had no chance, allowing a 4-0 vote by the Board of State Canvassers to be the final blow. Many deem the 180-day signature limit unconstitutional and one group trying to prohibit fracking in the state has already sued. Supporters of the recreational marijuana bill may also sue, hoping to reverse the 180-day petition limit. The state elections board says a ballot drive to legalize marijuana for recreational use did not collect enough valid voter signatures to qualify for a statewide vote in November. The Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee contends that 137,000 of its signatures are still valid despite being older than 180 days. The group may sue.
Microsoft announced this week that they will be partnering with the tech company, Kind, to develop sofware the for legal marijuana industry. The more it grows, the more the industry desparately needs a standard to track each marijuana plant through the system, and this new 'seed to sale' software is designed to do just that. While Microsoft will be far from selling marijuana directly, the fact that such a large corporate company is willing to associate with the controversial (and still federally illegal) industry, is a great sign. Some states have resorted to using smaller companies with less resources to track the plants, but a singular regulated system for the country, “We do think there will be significant growth,” said Kimberly Nelson, the executive director of state and local government solutions at Microsoft. “As the industry is regulated, there will be more transactions, and we believe there will be more sophisticated requirements and tools down the road.”
This week the Governor of Colorado has signed the renewal of the state's marijuana regulations, but one part of the bill was adjusted to allow tourists the same buying power as residents. Until yesterday, residents of Colorado could buy up to 1 ounce of marijuana per day, and tourists were limited to 1/4 ounce per day, but the new regulations allow for all adults over 21 to purchase up to an ounce per day. Now the state laws are in line with the state constitution by not descriminating between locals and guests. The change allows for an easier transaction between budtenders and customers with the varying product concentrations. “A statutory change resulting from the 2016 Legislative Session eliminated the quarter ounce purchase limitation for customers unable to provide identification showing Colorado residency,” MED director Jim Burack wrote in the memo. “Sales transactions to Colorado residents and non-residents are now limited to one ounce. Regulations will be aligned with current statute during the 2016 Rulemaking Process.”
Senator Harold Jones is recommending less strict punishments on personal marijuana posession in the state of Georgia. Currently less than an ounce of bud will likely earn a misdemeanor and 30 grams can land you up to 10 years in jail. The negative repercussions of a marijuana possession conviction can span far into people's lives like losing the right to vote and to sit on a jury, as well as the chance for certain scholarships and student loans. Senator Jones wants to remove the harsh penalties associated with the lesser crime. The proposed bill is showing support on both democratic and republican sides and if passed could become law by next July. "You lose the right to vote. You lose the right to sit on a jury. In Georgia, you can lose the right to get the Hope scholarship. As far as student loans are concerned, you lose that. And of course the stigma that comes with a felony, and of course the potential of jail time,” Jones said. "So what we're going to do next year is change the structure of it, and probably have something along the lines of up to half an ounce will be a civil infraction. So, that will just be civil, no criminal penalty at all. And then up to probably 3 ounces it will be a misdemeanor. And then above that it would be a felony,” Jones explained.
Rhode Island legislators approved of a state budget this week after making changes to the governor's amendments that would've given patients large fines for growing plants at home. The House Finance Committee reduced the fines making home growers buy $25 tags for each plant, with an exception for low-income patients. The amendments also remove the rule that patients can only purchase from a single caregiver, allowing access to all compassion centers. The Department of Business Regulation will also begin distributing growing licenses to manufacturers providing for compassion centers. In February, Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed an annual state budget that included several amendments to Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program, including hefty new fees that alarmed patient advocates. On Tuesday, the House Finance Committee approved a budget proposal with many of Gov. Raimondo’s medical marijuana amendments, but with far lower fees.
Senator Nicholas Scutari of New Jersey has taken a trip to Colorado to inspect the state's recreational marijuana program for the positive and negative effects in the community. After meeting with business owners, law enforcement, and state officials, Scutari returned home convinced that New Jersey could also successfully implement a similar recreational marijuana program. Colorado brought in $135 million in tax revenue last year, and experts estimate New Jersey could reach up to $300 million, but tax revenue is not the only reason for interest. Many who oppose marijuana law reform claim communities will take a negative hit, but Scutari saw healthy communities with happy residents and no major negative side effects of legalization. "The sale and use of marijuana is tightly regulated in Colorado and the regulated industry seems to be working very well," Scutari, an attorney and municipal prosecutor said during a Statehouse press conference. "I could not be more pleasantly surprised in what I saw." "I saw vibrant small communities which had no discernible changes as a result of marijuana being legalized. I didn't see anybody out ingesting it," Scutari said. "We interviewed dozens of people on the street and overwhelmingly the response was positive."
Medical marijuana is no longer such a radical subject in most states, but some are still appauled at the thought of giving medical marijuana to children. Parts of the cannabis plant have shown great promise in treating seizures, but a more common use for medical marijuana is to treat the side offects of chemotherapy for cancer patients. Children deserve the same access to medical marijuana for debilitating diseases as adults do. While 86% of surveyed nurses and physicians were aware of the legal marijuana system in their state, only 58% were familiar with the regulations for patient access, acknowledging that healthcare providers need to be more aware for the patient's best interest. “Awareness of state and federal regulations can be improved, and clinical trials are needed to better understand the benefits and side effects of medical marijuana in children with cancer,” Ananth said.
Canada has not experienced the influx of medical marijuana patients that it had hoped for, just under 40,000, and now companies are looking to take advantage of the next big market - exports. While the marijuana industry is growing immensely in North America, the rest of the world is trailing behind in legalization and many counties hope to join the industry soon. One Canadian company, Tilray, will soon begin exporting THC and CBD oil capsules to Croatia, and soon Australia , making them the first Canadian company to export cannabis to other countries. "Our intent is to build a global company that is investing significantly in global expansion. There is often this misconception that medical cannabis is a North American phenomenon, and that's not the case. We see massive changes in places like Australia and throughout the EU.''
Recent reports have surfaced making claims that in places where marijuana has been legalized, that car crashes and deaths involving marijuana have increased, but the data has been skewed in favor of opponents and does not tell the whole truth. Some articles are claiming that more accidents are occuring with drivers testing positive for marijuana in Colorado, but that doesn't mean drivers were high or impaired at all during the accident as marijuana can stay in your body days after the high has worn off, sometimes weeks. In fact, a well rounded article would also include that driving fatalities in Colorado decreased in 2014 compared to 2013 - after recreational marijuana became legal in the state. A true judge of impairment will come from a sobriety test administered by an officer, not the amount of THC stored in someone's body fat. That of course is why the proponents of legalization here point out that detectable residual metabolites has nothing necessarily to do with driving impairment, and therefore a far fairer and more meaningful system is a field sobriety test, as commonly used in testing for alcohol impairment.
Polls in Washington DC show that over half of residents are okay with moving forward with marijuana clubs, but legislators remain uncertain, despite public interests. Members of the Drug Policy Alliance mailed out 12,000 flyers to voters detailing the local politicians who have voted against marijuana reform laws, including cannabis clubs. Activists hope the mailers will educate local residents about the candidates up for reelection who may not have their best interests in mind when it comes to marijuana reform. It's time for voters to take a strong political stance against the representatives who refuse to stand by the people's needs. “We want to let voters know how their representatives actually voted on the cannabis clubs issue, because a lot of folks may have not heard about this issue,” Boecker said. “By educating voters on it we think that they are going to make an informed decision, because we know the majority of voters in the district are pro-reform and we think they are going to hold their council members accountable and they’re going to want pro-reform council members.”
To those living in states still stuck in marijuana prohibition, the law is no joke. One slip up in some states can land you behind bars and paying heavy fines, but in marijuana legal states the tone is quite different. The Portland Oregon Police Department has decided to tweet citizens a friendly reminder that the black market is unregulated and not 100% safe, and it's time to start using licensed marijuana shops. A major police department publicly joking about and condoning marijuana sales is a huge step in the right direction, but advocates will not stop until every state police department becomes friendly with pot. [A]t least five other states, including California, are expected to vote on whether to legalize in November. Whereas legalization supporters were largely dispirited just a few years back, they now regularly refer to federal legalization as “inevitable” and “a matter of time.” When a big city’s police department is tweeting about where to buy marijuana legally, it's easy to see why advocates are now so confident. It’s a remarkable shift.