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Mississippi will remain in the minority of states without a medical marijuana program after the state Supreme Court on Friday overturned an initiative that voters approved last fall — a decision that also limits other citizen-led efforts to put issues on the statewide ballot.
At the heart of the ruling is the fact that initiatives need signatures from five congressional districts to get on the ballot, but because of Mississippi’s stagnant population, the state only has four districts.
Six justices ruled that the medical marijuana initiative is void because the state's initiative process is outdated. Three justices dissented.
The initiative process was added to the Mississippi Constitution in the 1990s as Section 273. It requires petitioners trying to get any initiative on the ballot to gather one-fifth of signatures from each congressional district. Mississippi had five congressional districts at the time that was written. But the state dropped to four districts after the 2000 Census, and language dealing with the initiative process was never updated.
“Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress," Justice Josiah Coleman wrote for the majority in the ruling Friday. "To work in today’s reality, it will need amending — something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”
Two Republican members of the House of Representatives introduced a bill on Thursday that would effectively enact federal marijuana decriminalization. The measure, the Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Medical Professionals Act, was filed by Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Rep. Don Young of Alaska and Ohio’s Rep. Dave Joyce.
If passed by the Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden, the bill for federal marijuana decriminalization would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act. The measure would also require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to issue rules for the regulation of cannabis modeled after those for the alcohol industry within one year of enactment. The goal of the legislation is to reform the nation’s archaic cannabis policy, which Young characterized as “ineffective.”
“For too long, the federal government’s outdated cannabis policies have stood in the way of both individual liberty and a state’s 10th Amendment rights,” he said in a statement. “It is long past time that these archaic laws are updated for the 21st Century.”
The bill would also provide federal preemptive protection to financial institutions and other businesses in states that have not legalized marijuana so that they can service legal cannabis companies. Additionally, the legislation would allow physicians with the Department of Veterans Affairs to legally prescribe medicinal cannabis for military veterans.
“This bill takes significant steps to modernize our laws by removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and allowing the VA to prescribe medical cannabis to veterans, in addition to finally permitting state-legal cannabis businesses to utilize traditional financial services,” added Young.
The District of Columbia is not a state, and a good chunk of the land is federally owned, where cannabis is not legal. D.C. currently sits in a bit of a gray area. Here’s what consumers and operators should know.
I recently relocated to Washington, D.C. to join our East Coast practice group and have been inundated with inquiries surrounding the legal framework of recreational cannabis (i.e., marijuana and hemp) in the nation’s capital. So, in light of this overwhelming interest, I thought I’d briefly summarize this issue for our readers.
In November 2014, D.C. residents overwhelmingly approved Initiative 71, a ballot measure that legalized the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana by residents of 21-years of age or older.
Photo by 12019 via Pixabay
However, a few weeks following the passage of the marijuana ballot initiative, Congressional Republicans attempted to nullify the law by including a rider in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 that prohibited the District from using any funds to enact legislation taxing and regulating marijuana. Under federal law, Congress reviews all legislation passed by the Council (think of it as the equivalent of D.C.’s state legislature) and any referendum measure approved by voters before it becomes law. In addition, Congress retains authority over the District’s budget. Therefore, if Congress wishes to influence the affairs of the District, it generally does so through amendments to unrelated legislation such as spending bills.
Two companies fighting to open medical marijuana dispensaries downtown have sued the city of Miami, challenging the city’s stance that federal law trumps the Florida Constitution.
Miami’s city government has rejected cannabis dispensaries since Florida voters approved the creation of a full-fledged medical marijuana marketplace in a 2016 referendum that amended the state Constitution. Instead of creating zoning restrictions to regulate where dispensaries can open, or outright banning them, Miami has created no new laws and relied on an internal legal opinion that the change to the Florida Constitution was moot because federal law continues to categorize marijuana as an illegal substance with no medicinal value.
Dispensaries are storefronts where card-carrying patients certified by the state to treat medical conditions with cannabis can purchase products. There are more than 270 dispensaries in the state of Florida, according to the website FLDispensaries.com.
The city’s resistance to medical cannabis has caused problems for company MRC44, which has sought city approvals since 2019 to open a dispensary at 90 NE 11th St. The city initially denied the company a certificate of use, citing the city attorney’s opinion. Miami’s zoning board recently sided with the company in an appeal, leading city administrators to challenge the board’s decision before the Miami City Commission.
Most of the 5,000 marijuana-related arrests from last year probably won’t end in a prison sentence. Some won’t even lead to a conviction.
Although marijuana is legal in more than half the United States for medicinal and recreational use, that hasn’t stopped gung-ho federal drug agents from cracking down on it. The latest report from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) finds that its cannabis eradication team was busy last year, seizing millions of cannabis plants and dragging thousands of offenders to jail.
The DEA’s annual Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program Statistical Report shows the agency, together with state and local police departments, seized more than 4.5 million cannabis plants last year (about a half-million more than in 2019) while arresting 5,000 people for various pot-related offenses.
Photo by Bloomberg Creative Photos/Getty Images
“In 2020, the DEA continued its nationwide cannabis eradication efforts, providing resources to support the 127 state and local law enforcement agencies that actively participate in the program,” the agency declared. “This assistance allows the enhancement of already aggressive eradication enforcement activities throughout the nation.”
In April 2018, Zimbabwe became the second African country to legalize cannabis for medical and scientific use. It joined a small group of pioneering African countries, the bulk of them in southern Africa, that have in recent years commercialized the crop or made great strides in that direction.
Many African countries traditionally rely on profits generated from exporting such cash crops as cocoa, cotton, and maize—but with prices that constantly fluctuate in the global market, they are unreliable sources of income. Legalizing cannabis could provide these countries with another lucrative income stream and help create jobs, as the plant can be used to produce goods ranging from cannabis oil to textiles.
While “cannabis” refers broadly to all products derived from the plant, “marijuana” specifically refers to its dried flowers, leaves, and stems. Legalization entails removing all legal bans against the possession, production, and use of cannabis. Under decriminalization, on the other hand, cannabis remains illegal, but governments do not prosecute people for possessing it in limited quantities.
Cannabis is one of Africa’s fastest-growing sectors, but Zimbabwe is only one of 10 countries that has decriminalized it or made efforts to do so.
Despite the plant’s economic promise, many governments remain wary of legalization. Cannabis is one of Africa’s fastest-growing sectors, but Zimbabwe is only one of 10 countries that has decriminalized it or made efforts to do so.
The Minnesota House of Representatives is planning a Thursday vote on a bill (HF 600) that would legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. The measure is expected to be passed by the House’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) majority in what will be the first cannabis legalization vote by the full legislative body in its history.
Under HF 600, adults 21 and older would be permitted to buy and use up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana for recreational purposes. Adults would also be allowed to cultivate up to four mature and four immature cannabis plants at home. The measure would establish a regulatory framework for the operation and taxation of licensed cannabis businesses. Cannabis taxes raised would be dedicated to youth access prevention and substance abuse treatment programs.
Under current Minnesota law, possession of even small amounts of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor criminal offense, although cases involving less than 42.5 grams of cannabis are punishable by a fine of not more than $200 instead of time in jail.
Additionally, the state has a strictly limited medicinal cannabis program. Patients with one or more of 18 serious medical conditions are eligible for the program with a doctor’s recommendation. Smoking of cannabis flower is not permitted under the state’s medical marijuana program.
Pending legislation in Nebraska that would have established a medical cannabis industry failed by two votes, a frustratingly tight margin for advocates. The vote needed 33 yes votes to pass, and only received 31, making it unable to break a filibuster. LB 474 is officially off the table.
Nicole Hochstein, a mother of a child with epilepsy, described herself as: “Devastated. Broken. In pieces because they literally voted my child’s life away” following the missed opportunity.
This isn’t the first time medical cannabis advocates in Nebraska have been let down. Back in September, the ballot measure to legalize medical cannabis through a vote was pulled by the Nebraska Supreme Court, who claimed the measure violated the single-subject rule. This was even after those supporting it had collected 196,000 signatures.
“It’s beyond frustrating. This is literally our children’s lives here,” Hochstein said.
State Senator Anna Wishart backed LB 474, and now plans to start a petition to add the issue to the 2022 ballot.
Zimbabwe abolished a rule which requires co-ownership between government and private investors in the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use, seeking to encourage what the country sees becoming the biggest cash crop.
“Investors can have 100% ownership of their investments and locate their facilities anywhere in the country without prescription,” Douglas Munatsi, chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Investment & Development Agency, said Wednesday in an emailed statement.
The decision is in line “with government’s investor-friendly stance to attract capital and to be competitive,” Munatsi went on to say by phone.
Zimbabwe sees export earnings from cannabis outstripping those of tobacco this year with sales expected to reach $1.25 billion, according to a Treasury forecast given in November. That may help boost an economy that’s been desperately stretched for some time.
The government also said it will guarantee the protection of property rights and ring fence investments against expropriation. The country in 2000 took over land without compensation from White farmers, displacing almost 4,500 people.
The latest study goes against the grain of previous research that shows how property values increase with the onset of legalization.
Marijuana legalization is happening across the United States. Naysayers have predicted that a veritable apocalyptic moment is coming on the heels of the movement, screaming about how ending marijuana prohibition would increase crime, minor consumption rates and contribute to the overall decline of civil society. Yet, the only thing that most of these people have proved is that they are no Nostradamus.
Marijuana legalization is working for the most part, and it hasn’t led to any drastic uprising in dread and downtrodden. However, if there has been a downfall to this progress, it’s that it seems to be lowering property values in neighborhoods that open dispensaries.
A recent study in the journal Regional Science and Urban Economics found that Washington state, one of the first jurisdictions to legalize for recreational use, has experienced a decline in property values in districts with cannabis dispensaries. Researchers found a 3-4% decrease in property values in homes that were .36 miles from retail pot shops. Although the study focused specifically on Washington state, it provides a glimpse into what might be expected nationwide as legalization spreads.
Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels
Mexico is very close to becoming the third country in the world to legalize all uses of cannabis . The end of the approval process for the Federal Law for the Regulation of Cannabis in Mexico is approaching . Let us remember that the law was approved by the Senate in November 2020 and by the Chamber of Deputies in March 2021.
Due to the multiple modifications and changes that the deputies made to the bill, the bill had to return to the Senate for the changes to be validated and thus finally become a reality.
Back in the Senate, the project seemed to have the necessary consensus to move forward, so much so that it was taken advantage of by two of the three ruling committees; Justice and Legislative Studies.
However, the claim of errors and unconstitutionalities resounded in the leadership of the parliamentary majority, which through Ricardo Monreal completely stopped the advance of the project. In this way, the Senate made changes to the errors claimed, again the bill will go back to the lower house to ratify the modifications.
What can happen?
There are several scenarios, the first is that the Senate requests, for the fourth time, an extension to the SCJN, hoping that this time will be the last, and that the issue will be discussed again in the next regular period of sessions, that is, of September to December 2021.
Medical marijuana is legal in New Hampshire, but patients have to buy their therapeutic cannabis at one of a handful of Alternative Treatment Centers. Now, legislators are considering allowing patients to grow their own marijuana at home.
The law as it stands
Back in 2013, New Hampshire legalized the use of marijuana as a medical treatment. Under that law — RSA 126-X — patients with certain symptoms can be prescribed the use of cannabis by their healthcare provider. Some of these include:
■suffering from chronic severe pain;
■diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition such as cancer, glaucoma, or HIV;
■a terminal medical condition resulting in at least one of a list of specific symptoms, such as seizures or severe nausea.
After a long legacy of having a medical cannabis program that barely took care of patients, the governor of Georgia has finally signed SB 195—a law that will expand the medical cannabis program to license retailers of low-THC cannabis
Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 195 into law last week, and now, up to 30 state-licensed businesses can become sellers of high-CBD cannabis, as long as they keep the THC to a minimum. SB 195 will officially go into effect July 1.
While medical cannabis first got passed in Georgia in 2015, it just exempted patients from criminal prosecution as long as they needed the cannabis for verified medical reasons, and as long as the cannabis possessed was in the form of oil extracts at 5 percent or less THC. Effectively, all it did was decriminalize possession. Without crossing state lines, there was no legal way for medical patients to obtain cannabis oil.
And there is already a customer base in place. As of now, about 15,000 residents are registered to qualify for the use of high-CBD, low-THC oils, and are just waiting for a legal way to purchase cannabis in their home state.
The Road Leading To SB 195
In 2019, House Bill 325, also known as the Georgia’s Hope Act, came up with a regulatory commission that would oversee the industry when it did finally get off the ground. However, while putting that framework in place was a big step, it still didn’t take things far enough and create a legal industry.
Destination Germany is the watchword for those in the international cannabis industry—but it is still a rocky path to gaining access for most. Specifically, there is a lot of confusion surrounding API and cannabis classification and issues from a lack of consistent standards.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the process currently is how flower is categorized (especially for imports) once it gets to the country. For a country of rules, this is surprisingly all over the place right now. There is no one single answer—which rules apply depend on both the regulatory requirement at point of cultivation as well as distribution (on a state, not federal, level).
This can also be frustrating even within Germany and the EU—namely because of a lack of homogeneity still, that exists in the treatment of cannabis flower—both within the region and at a sovereign level. This is especially true where pharmaceutical guidelines cross those for irradiating anything bound for consumption by consumers.
According to the most recent data available, the vast majority of irradiated food within the EU is frozen frogs legs (at 65.1%). The second, at just over a fifth of the market, is poultry. And the third is for dried aromatic herbs, spices, and vegetables (at 14%). According to data from the European Commission, this sterilizing process is also on the decline for food at least, although Belgium is the EU state with the most irradiation regulations.
The Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that effectively decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana. Under the measure, House Bill 652 (HB 652), possession of up to 14 grams (about a half an ounce) of cannabis would be punished by only a fine of up to $100 on the first and second offense. Minor marijuana possession offenses would still be classified as misdemeanors but would no longer carry the threat of time in jail.
“We don’t need to be filling up our jails with misdemeanor offenses of marijuana,” Democratic Rep. Denise Marcelle, a supporter of the bill, told local media.
The bill was approved last week by the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice in advance of this week’s floor vote. The full House approved HB 652 on Tuesday with a vote of 67 to 25. The measure sponsored by Rep. Cedric Glover received significant support from both his Democratic colleagues and members of the GOP majority.
“I think it’s a fairly good compromise,” said Rep. Alan Seabaugh, a Republican and one of the most conservative members of the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Some of Louisiana’s largest cities, including New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport, have already taken action to reduce the penalties for low-level marijuana possession. In New Orleans, penalties for a first cannabis possession offense are capped at a fine of only $40, while some city leaders are calling for the fine to be dropped even further to $1. In 2018, Baton Rouge eliminated jail time as a possible penalty for possession of less than 14 grams of marijuana. Instead, a fine of between $40 and $100 will be assessed, depending on the number of prior offenses for a particular defendant. Shreveport’s revised ordinance is similar to HB 652.
Mississippians could soon see a ballot initiative aimed to fully legalize marijuana during the next general election.
During the past general election, Mississippians voted in droves for initiative 64, which allows regulated medical marijuana.
"I mean it really is time a lot of states are already ahead us there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be doing it," said David Nelms.
Some want to take it a step further. Dr. David Alan, the author of initiative 77, wants to fully legalize the possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana up to 99 plants.
Dr. Alan's reasoning behind it is to both decriminalize and research the plants potential medical benefits.
A cross-county search in California involving five warrants and numerous law enforcement agencies has bagged US$120 million ($146 million) worth of illegal cannabis.
While cannabis and hemp cultivation can be legal depending on the local ordinances, according to the Solano County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO), “it is a crime when it is not done in compliance with the law.
In California, people 21 and older can legally grow up to six cannabis plants for recreational use. Outdoor grows are off-limits, unless specified by local authority.
The recent discovery of the illegal grow was the fruit of an investigation that kicked off last November and led police to Elk Grove in Siskiyou County, the SCSO reports. Involving law enforcement in both Siskiyou and Solano counties, the five search warrants were recently executed in Siskiyou County.
Those warrants revealed 14 weapons and US$312,000 ($380,640) in illicit money. / PHOTO BY SOLANO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
Chuck Schumer and crew have been talking a lot of smack this year about how they will introduce a comprehensive cannabis reform bill, and how it’s going to pass.
There has been a lot of chatter during President Biden’s first 100 days in office over this thing called a “filibuster” and how it will prevent the Democrats from legalizing marijuana at the national level. However, we’re about to enter a time when cannabis advocates, pot industry executives, and lobbyists will get to see firsthand just how much of a crude destructor this old Senate rule is going to be for the course of federal marijuana reform. Welcome to the next 100 days.
The Democrats have done an excellent job for America so far. They are responsible for passing a huge $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill to keep the nation from sinking into the gutters. At the same time, vaccinations are happening without issue, and businesses are starting to get their footing on the steps back to normal. But this progress was made relatively quickly, considering that it only took a simple majority to pass it through budget reconciliation. They didn’t need any Republican support, which is a good thing because they didn’t have any. And the fight is far from over.
Photo by Esther Kelleter / EyeEm/Getty Images
Now is the time when Senate Democrats need to be prepared for war. In the next 100 days, President Biden will want to chip away at his agenda — affordable healthcare, ending gun violence, tackling the opioid crisis, etc. — but not much of it will have the capacity for movement under the filibuster.
Trying to figure out who qualifies to have a New York marijuana conviction expunged? Reading the law is a brain-teaser, at best.
The recent legalization bill doesn’t even call it marijuana anymore -- those criminal laws have been completely erased. It’s now officially cannabis.
The repeal of the old law is expected to clear 150,000 people of marijuana convictions, according to a state court system estimate.
For those who qualify, it’s great news: the courts and legal authorities are required to proactively go into their own records and erase all traces of any marijuana arrests, prosecutions or convictions. Background reports shouldn’t show any marijuana arrests, let alone convictions, once the process is over in two years.
People who qualify for expungement don’t need a lawyer, don’t need to go to court and don’t actually need to do anything at all.
Governor Ralph Northam and his administration celebrated the day he signed the bill legalizing marijuana in Virginia.
"This is yet another example of Democrats, yes Democrats listening to Virginians and taking action on the will of the people," Northam said.
However, David Lewis isn't celebrating the new pot laws. He's been in recovery for more than three years and knows first-hand the dark side of marijuana.
"One night I was at a party," Lewis said. "Someone had just passed me a joint and I hit it. Almost immediately I felt different. It just didn't feel like a normal high from marijuana. I asked the guy what it was and he said it was laced with K -- Special K. Once that happened I really don't remember anything."
Lewis admits he probably should have been hospitalized that night.