By Lisa Rough
U.S. News Updates
A bipartisan effort to expand cannabis research has an unexpected sponsor. The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016 has the backing of a few familiar faces – Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.). But it was the addition of vehement anti-cannabis politician Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) that caused a stir on Capitol Hill. The proposal would overhaul the current federal marijuana policy, cutting “though the red tape,” as Harris put it, in order to ease the restrictions on marijuana research. Harris has been vocal in his opposition to legal cannabis. After the District of Columbia legalized recreational cannabis, he has consistently blocked the District from opening retail cannabis shops or even setting local regulations.
Arkansans For Compassionate Care submitted 117,469 signatures to Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin on Monday in support of the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act. The group needed 67,887 valid signatures in order to earn a spot on the November ballot. Little Rock attorney David Couch is still gathering signatures for a competing measure. He says he’s got more than 50,000 of the necessary 84,859 signatures for his proposed constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, but he’ll have to collect the remaining 35,000 quickly. The deadline is July 8.
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill into law to protect medical marijuana patients from prosecution. Sen. Fred Mills (R-St. Martinville) introduced Senate Bill 180 in March. It was amended by both the House and Senate before landing on the governor’s desk. The bill contains uncomplicated language that protects patients in legal possession of medical marijuana from criminal penalties and prosecution as long as they abide by existing state rules and regulations. The law will go into effect on August 1.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts turned in more than 25,000 signatures in support of the legalization measure, far more than the 10,792 needed at this stage of the initiative process. The extra signatures will provide a cushion in case some signatures are invalidated for various reasons (see: Maine, a cautionary tale). The proposal would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use and would impose a 3.75-percent excise tax on recreational sales. Supporters and opponents of the measure are still waiting to hear from the state Supreme Court, which is considering a lawsuit over the measure’s final ballot language.
The New Mexico Department of Health’s secretary-designate, Lynn Gallagher, is in hot water after State Auditor Tim Keller discovered that patients seeking entry into the state’s medical cannabis program were experiencing wait times double or triple what’s allowed by state law. The law states that the Department of Health must process applications within 30 days, but there’s been a surge in applications over the past year. The number of registered medical marijuana patients jumped from 14,000 last year to 25,000 this year. That spike has created a backlog. Keller said he sympathized, but he was firm that the department needs to step up its game and approve or deny the applications within 30 days “regardless of volume or budget constraints.” Attorney General Hector Balderas has already received a complaint on the matter and may conduct a special audit of the agency.
International News Updates
Uruguay celebrated its first legal harvest this week. Juan Andrés Roballo, president of the National Drug Board, announced that the country’s first legal cannabis harvest will soon reach Uruguayan pharmacies from licensed growers. The companies — International Cannabis Corp. (ICCorp) and SIMbiosys — have facilities in Montevideo, and recently harvested hundreds of plants yielding up to 300 grams each. The harvest still needs another six weeks to dry and cure, but the finished product will be available in 5- or 10-gram packages by August, with the price set at $1.20 USD per gram. Consumers can purchase up to 40 grams a month with identification and registration. Uruguay also has 15 registered cannabis clubs, where growers can raise up to 99 plants and distribute 40 grams per month to as many as 45 club members.
For as long as the self-proclaimed “autonomous neighborhood” of Freetown Christiania has existed in the heart of Copenhagen, it has openly allowed and traded cannabis, even existing under its own law, the Christiania Law of 1989. However, a major raid last week of Pusher Street, Christiania’s cannabis market, inspired many prominent Danish politicians to urge the police and legislators to stop fighting a losing battle. Anne Birgitte Stürup, senior prosecutor for the Copenhagen Public Prosecutor Office (Statsadvokaten) was fed up with the raids and encouraged legalization. “I personally believe we should legalize the sale of cannabis because this is a fight we cannot win,” she told reporters. Denmark has considered cannabis legalization for years, having tolerated the peaceful cannabis trade, and the city of Copenhagen has requested a trial program for legalization multiple times.
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