Keeping you up to date on federal and state policy changes and other news from the world of cannabis.
Marijuana policy activists are celebrating as a historic vote in the House of Representatives restricted the Department of Justice from interfering with states that have legalized adult-use marijuana. The bipartisan measure was approved 267 to 165. Activists say it’s the most significant step Congress has ever taken toward ending marijuana prohibition.
A three-judge panel from the Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento ruled against prosecuting possession charges of less than an ounce of marijuana by adults in prison—the same amount Californians have been allowed to carry since 2016. It will remain illegal to use cannabis while on prison property, where inmates would still be subjected to penalties for possession, such as privilege revocation, but now like everyone else in California, inmates will be safe from felony prosecution for minor possession.
A bill introduced in Congress aims to help small businesses navigate the ins and outs of cannabis licensing . The Homegrown Act of 2019 helps boost entrepreneurship and break down barriers to jobs “so that it does not become consolidated in the hands of a few big companies,” says the bill’s sponsor, Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Dwight Evans. According to Evans, people of color have been “the most adversely impacted by the harmful war on cannabis …. [this will] act as a poverty-buster in impoverished communities.”
Michiganders approved recreational cannabis for adult use in November 2018, but the rules and regulations of the roll-out plan for dispensaries and more are only just getting decided. The state has until December 6, 2019 to figure it all out. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an emergency bill to help govern recreational use when it comes to both possession and growing marijuana plants.Currently marijuana can only be sold legally to medical marijuana patients.
Minnesota has added Alzheimer’s disease as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. Department of Health reps are working hard to register patients into the state’s five-year-old medical marijuana program so they can obtain cannabis from the state’s two manufacturers starting in August. The plan was announced in December 2018, and Alzheimer’s was the only condition Governor Ian Malcolm approved from a list of seven that included opioid addiction and brain injury.
After unsuccessfully trying to legalize recreational marijuana earlier this year, a trio of medical marijuana bills were put into effect to expand Virginia’s medical marijuana program. The laws specifically increase access for those with disabilities and for students (allowing students to legally and safely access their marijuana medication on campus, the fourth state to allow this) and give doctors far more control when it comes to recommending medical cannabis.
The full Judiciary Committee is expected to consider legislation to reform federal cannabis policy later this year. Several pieces of marijuana reform legislation are currently pending in Congress, including the Marijuana Justice Act from Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, which allows cannabis businesses more access to banking, and proposals from Oregon Democrats Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer known as the Path to Marijuana Reform.
Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy signed the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, to reform the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. Changes include increasing the monthly limit for medical cannabis from two to three ounces, extending authorization from 90 days to a year, and phasing out the sales tax. The new law also allows registered medical marijuana patients from other states to possess cannabis while in New Jersey. The law is named in memory of the 7-year-old Howell boy who died of brain cancer last year. The bill does not allow visiting patients to purchase cannabis at New Jersey dispensaries, however.
Bill Levin founded the First Church of Cannabis in response to Indiana’s controversial 2015 “religious freedom” law, and now Levin is vying for the 2020 nomination from the Libertarian Party for governor. If elected, the self-styled Grand Poobah of the church says changing how ballot initiatives work in Indiana is one of the first things he’ll tackle. “If we were a ballot initiative state we would’ve had cannabis legal 10 years ago….The people of this state can decide what their future is, rather than the corporations who buy our politicians,” he said.
Alex Berenson, a former op-ed columnist for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and author of several novels, wrote a book arguing that legal marijuana will increase schizophrenia and psychosis rates, in turn causing crime rates to rise, a thesis picked up by both mainstream and alt media. But even the researchers who conducted the studies Berenson used to draw his conclusions have publicly denounced his interpretations of their work—and so it’s been hard not to poke holes (and fun) at both the author’s misguided conclusions, and criticize his more famous supporters.
Two new laws introduce the possibility for Oregon to import and export cannabis across state lines, giving the state a head start should national laws change anytime soon. Oregon is unique among states in that it never restricted the number of cannabis licenses issued. The result seems to now be a glut of Oregon product. Moving this surplus of marijuana across state lines is illegal under federal law, however, so it could be a while before we see mail-order marijuana out of Oregon.
Sarah A Lybrand is a writer specializing in lifestyle, health, finance—and fun. She’s written for Bust, Juno, Yahoo, MarketSmiths, and Toast Media, among many others.