New York Senate Passes Gray Market Cannabis Bill

The New York Senate voted this week to approve a bill to crack down on the state’s cannabis gray market, giving regulators the authority to seize illicit weed and increasing fines for unlicensed operators. State Senator Liz Krueger introduced the measure on Sunday and by Wednesday, the Senate had voted to approve the bill, offering an indication of the legislature’s interest in addressing New York’s unregulated pot market before legal sales of recreational cannabis begin later this year.

Justin Flagg, a spokesperson for Krueger, said that the bill is designed to empower the New York Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and the Department of Taxation and Finance to address unregulated cannabis retailers, which have become brazenly ubiquitous in Manhattan and other areas since state lawmakers legalized adult-use cannabis last year. The OCM is currently working to establish rules for the regulated market, which should begin licensed recreational cannabis sales by the end of 2022.

“This bill is aimed at gray market operators such as retail cannabis stores that have emerged during the period after legalization but before licensed businesses begin operating,” Flagg said in an email quoted by Syracuse.com. 

Flagg added that Krueger drafted the legislation with cooperation from OCM and the tax and finance department, noting that their action was “prompted by the difficulty of enforcement against several illegal cannabis stores that have been hard to shut down under the existing statute.”

The bill gives the OCM the authority to seize illicit cannabis and expands the authority of the Taxation and Finance Department to assess fines against unlicensed cannabis operators. The measure also doubles civil penalties for anyone who knowingly possesses illicit pot, which is defined as taxable cannabis products for which no tax has been paid. Flagg clarified that the legislation applies to any cannabis product that was not grown by or purchased from a cannabis business licensed by the state.

Fines for Illicit Weed Doubled in New York

Fines for illicit cannabis would be increased from $200 per ounce of flower to $400 per ounce. Fines for other cannabis products would also be doubled, with edibles rising to $10 per milligram of THC and concentrates to $100 per gram, while the fine for each illicit cannabis plant would jump to $1,000. The bill also allows the Taxation and Finance Department to revoke certificates of registration for businesses that sell or possess illicit cannabis.

Flagg said that restraining the illicit market is in part a safety issue because unlicensed operators do not follow packaging rules and other regulations designed to curtail cannabis use by children.

“Addressing these illegal operators will help ensure that licensed equity operators have the opportunity to succeed and also help ensure that cannabis products are sold in a responsible way,” Flagg said.

Joshua Waterman, a cannabis grower and the co-founder of the Legacy Growers Association, told local media that Krueger’s bill was drafted with good intentions, but he does not support the legislation.

“Although the idea of shutting down dispensaries that are flooding the market with … products from other states is something we would support, we just don’t see that in this bill,” he said. “I’m afraid this will end up being another way for the state to fine and penalize lower-class individuals, especially minorities.”

Waterman added that the bill will strengthen legacy growers’ mistrust of legalization and make them less likely to join the ranks of the regulated market, which has been a goal advanced by lawmakers and regulators.

“The state and the OCM keep saying they want to include and incentivize legacy people to enter the legal market,” Waterman said. “Putting out a bill to stop legacy operations before releasing applications for licensing is disgraceful, and truly shows where lawmakers stand when it comes to the legends that created the cannabis industry without ever asking for their support.”

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Germany Decided to Legalize, But When?

The new cool thing in Europe seems to be talking about impending cannabis legalizations, which are not backed by anything other than a promise, and which come with no upcoming date. Germany just joined Switzerland and Luxembourg in claiming it made the decision to legalize recreational cannabis, but apparently we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out when.

Germany stated its set to legalize cannabis, but what backs this up, and when will it happen? This publication focuses on cannabis and psychedelics stories, bringing you everything going on in these changing landscapes today. Follow along by subscribing to the THC Weekly Newsletter, and also get first-place access to deals on a catalogue of cannabis products like vapes, edibles, and smoking devices. Along with that, we’ve got deals on tons of cannabinoid compounds like the super popular delta-8 THC. Please keep in mind, *cannabinoid products are not everyone’s first choice. We support customers only buy products that they are fully comfortable with using.

The latest in Germany

When a government is in the midst of doing something, and it isn’t putting out direct information for its citizens, it means it’s probably not going to, even if asked. I think we’re all aware that governments are good at giving government lines, wherein, questions are often ignored, in place of restating obvious lines. On one hand, populations seem so used to this treatment, that an ignored question and standard answer, actually make for coverable stories these days. On the other hand, perhaps if no formal statement is made, we shouldn’t expect an answer to the question anyway.

In early May, Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach confirmed to German newspaper Handelsblatt that he supports that the country legalize cannabis, saying “I’ve always been opposed to cannabis legalization, but I revised my position about a year ago.”

Earlier then that, on April 6th, Marco Buschmann, the Justice Minister announced that he was in the midst of strategizing a legalization in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, which would involve a consultation process. This process would included talks involving representation by federal, state, and local governments, along with other organizations. The conversations are set to start this summer, with a formal bill hoped for by late 2022.

On the same day, via Twitter, Finance Minister Christian Lindner also confirmed – in a way – that the country was undertaking the legalization process, saying cannabis would be legal soon.

As you can see, none of this gives any real information about what to expect, or when. In fact, it sounds like a bunch of government ministers not wanting to say anything, or having nothing yet to say. So little has actually been confirmed, that it brings up the question of whether we’re sure Germany will go through with this. As of last fall, Germany made what sounds like an official decision to legalize, but how official is a decision with no legal backing?

Germany’s decision to legalize

Why do we keep looking to Germany’s government to give us more information on a legalization? Technically this decision was made back in October 2021 by the new government coalition ruling Germany, made up of three pro-legalization parties: Social Democrats (SPD), Green Party, and Free Democrats (FDP). By November 2021, it was said that a bill was in progress.

The decision was to create “the controlled sale of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes in licensed shops.” This would make cannabis accessible to adults 18 years and up. Whenever it comes out, a new Cannabis Control Law would regulate licensing for cultivation, and general rules of sale.

For years, Germany was ruled over by right-leaning coalitions, headed by Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats. Cannabis reform was repeatedly blocked by these parties, even as Germany itself became more acclimated to the idea of it, with more of the population in agreement with its legalization. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Angela Merkel stepped down, understanding that a new era is here.

In the last Bundestag elections in 2021, it was already known that Merkel, the chancellor since 2005, would step down. The resulting election saw the longstanding center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lose its upper hand in favor of the Social Democrats, a coalition partner to the CDU which is pro-weed, but which was constantly stifled by the CDU. This time around the SPD took the most seats, and left the Christian Democrats out of any coalition, instead forming one with two other pro-legalization parties. In fact, one of the first topics of business, was the agreed upon legalization of cannabis.

Germany elections

At that time, an anonymous representative explained to die Funke Mediengruppe publication, “We’re introducing the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed stores. This will control the quality, prevent the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantee the protection of minors. We will evaluate the law after four years for social impact.”

The new European trend of legalization

Usually in politics, we wait for bills to come out before coming to the understanding of a legal change. The reason for this, is that a lot of things are often said on a political stage, and not all (or even much) is actually relevant in the end. Tons of bills that get introduced, pushed hard, and lobbied for, die anyway. Simply having a bill, isn’t a direct lead-in to a new law. Statements without published laws behind them suffer under the weight of not having official backing, and in very few instances do we simply trust a statement when there is nothing to show for it.

The new trend in Europe is for countries like Germany to make statements about their decision to legalize cannabis, but with no approved legalization measure in sight. Does this mean that a measure must go through? Not exactly. We know something will go through, but as none of the specifics have been worked out, and nothing voted on, we really don’t know what.

Having said that, the statements themselves are essentially marketing lines, letting the world know the interests of these governments. It suffices to say that the reason these statements are trusted, is because the leadership of these countries have indicated a strong desire to reap the rewards of a cannabis market. So no, these are not official policies, but realistically, they almost certainly will go through.

Germany joins other countries in making promises to its citizens about an upcoming bill to legalize cannabis. The first to do it was Luxembourg. Back in September, 2021, Luxembourg became the first European country to make such a statement, while the bill it spoke of was merely a proposal. Under the proposal, Luxembourg would allow adult-use for 18+, and for private residents to grow up to four plants in a home. As stated, a lot of bills come up, and they don’t always go through, so even though Luxembourg pushed a story of being the first legalized country in Europe, it really is just pushing a standard bill.

Switzerland also got in big on making announcements for things that haven’t happened yet. In September 2021, it too declared the decision to legalize via the Social Security and Health Commission, which is a part of the Council of States, also known as the upper house of the Federal Assembly; Switzerland’s parliament. The council took a vote, with nine out of 11 members voting to change laws (not to directly legalize). The next move is for parliament to draft a bill, which means no laws are close to changing yet, and there is no guarantee for how they will.

legalize cannabis

On the other hand, Malta didn’t just make statements. It went all the way, actually becoming the first European country to pass a measure. It did so with Bill no. 241, on December 14th, 2021. The final vote for passage was 36 to 27. The new law permits cultivation and use, but does not set up a regulated sales market. Adults 18+ can have up to seven grams on their person, and up to 50 grams stored.

The country is looking to set up ‘associations’ in the place of a legal sales market, whereby non-profit organizations will grow and distribute plants and seeds. This sounds similar to Spain’s cannabis clubs, but whereas Spain’s clubs function off a legal loophole, Malta’s would function in an above-board fashion.

Conclusion

The world is moving in a very specific direction when it comes to cannabis legalization, even if it doesn’t always move fast. In fact, it’s moving so directly, that several countries are stating their future plans, without having the legislation to back them up. Luckily, since it’s a competitive market, and everyone wants money, Germany is expected to fulfill its intention to legalize, just like Switzerland and Luxembourg, as well.

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Delaware House Passes Historic Cannabis Legalization Bill

Members of the Delaware state House on Thursday passed legislation that would eliminate all penalties for adults aged 21 and older having up to an ounce of weed in their possession, a move that local media is describing as “a historic first step” toward cannabis legalization in the state.

Lawmakers in the chamber passed the bill early in the evening “with a vote of 26-14, which included bipartisan support from Republican Representatives Michael Smith of Pike Creek and Jeffrey Spiegelman of Clayton,” according to the Delaware News Journal.

The bill’s passage on Thursday comes nearly two months after a separate legalization measure failed to make it out of the Delaware House, where Democrats hold the majority. 

Lawmakers in the House voted for that bill 23-14, but as the Associated Press noted at the time, “it required a three-fifths majority of 25 votes.”

That bill would have legalized possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults aged 21 and older, and would have established a state-regulated cannabis industry. 

After the bill fell short in March, lawmakers went back to the drawing board and decided to separate the main components of the bill—the legalization of possession and the creation of a market—into two separate pieces of legislation. 

As the Delaware News Journal reported, “there are some early signs that [splitting the measures into two bills] could be a successful approach.” 

According to Delaware public radio station WHYY, the bill dealing with cannabis regulation and taxes “has cleared a House committee but no vote has been scheduled yet,” although the station indicated that the vote “is expected in the coming weeks.”

The bill pertaining to possession now heads to the state Senate, where Democrats also hold the majority. 

According to WHYY, “Representative Ed Osienski, the lead House sponsor, predicts the bill will pass the Senate.” 

Osienski was also the sponsor of the larger cannabis bill, HB 305, that failed to make it out of the House earlier this session, which prompted him to split the measure into two.

“HB 305 had the whole regulatory system in there for the industry of cultivating, manufacturing, and selling marijuana in the state of Delaware and it had a tax on it, which meant it would require 25 [votes], which is a hard threshold to meet,” Osienski said last month. “I figured, at least we can move forward with legalization with a simple majority of 21. I do have 21 House co-sponsors on the bill, so I think I’m pretty fairly confident that, unless something dramatically changes, that will pass and end prohibition.”

But even if either of the bills make it out of the legislature, there is no guarantee that they will be signed into law.

The state’s Democratic governor, John Carney, has made it clear previously that he is no fan of cannabis legalization.

“Look, I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” Carney told Delaware Public Media last year. 

“If you talk to the parents of some of these folks that have overdosed and passed away they don’t think it’s a good idea because they remember the trajectory of their own sons and daughters,” he continued. “And I’m not suggesting that that’s always a gateway for all that, but if you talk to those Attack Addiction advocates they don’t think it’s a very good idea.”

“As I look at other states that have it, it just doesn’t seem to me to be a very positive thing from the strength of the community, of the economy in their states,” Carney said. “Is it the worst thing in the world? No, of course not.”

The cannabis possession bill that passed the House on Thursday might have enough support to overcome Carney’s opposition. Per WHYY, “the 26 yes votes in the House are one more than needed to override a veto.”

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Delaware House Passes Historic Cannabis Legalization Bill

Members of the Delaware state House on Thursday passed legislation that would eliminate all penalties for adults aged 21 and older having up to an ounce of weed in their possession, a move that local media is describing as “a historic first step” toward cannabis legalization in the state.

Lawmakers in the chamber passed the bill early in the evening “with a vote of 26-14, which included bipartisan support from Republican Representatives Michael Smith of Pike Creek and Jeffrey Spiegelman of Clayton,” according to the Delaware News Journal.

The bill’s passage on Thursday comes nearly two months after a separate legalization measure failed to make it out of the Delaware House, where Democrats hold the majority. 

Lawmakers in the House voted for that bill 23-14, but as the Associated Press noted at the time, “it required a three-fifths majority of 25 votes.”

That bill would have legalized possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults aged 21 and older, and would have established a state-regulated cannabis industry. 

After the bill fell short in March, lawmakers went back to the drawing board and decided to separate the main components of the bill—the legalization of possession and the creation of a market—into two separate pieces of legislation. 

As the Delaware News Journal reported, “there are some early signs that [splitting the measures into two bills] could be a successful approach.” 

According to Delaware public radio station WHYY, the bill dealing with cannabis regulation and taxes “has cleared a House committee but no vote has been scheduled yet,” although the station indicated that the vote “is expected in the coming weeks.”

The bill pertaining to possession now heads to the state Senate, where Democrats also hold the majority. 

According to WHYY, “Representative Ed Osienski, the lead House sponsor, predicts the bill will pass the Senate.” 

Osienski was also the sponsor of the larger cannabis bill, HB 305, that failed to make it out of the House earlier this session, which prompted him to split the measure into two.

“HB 305 had the whole regulatory system in there for the industry of cultivating, manufacturing, and selling marijuana in the state of Delaware and it had a tax on it, which meant it would require 25 [votes], which is a hard threshold to meet,” Osienski said last month. “I figured, at least we can move forward with legalization with a simple majority of 21. I do have 21 House co-sponsors on the bill, so I think I’m pretty fairly confident that, unless something dramatically changes, that will pass and end prohibition.”

But even if either of the bills make it out of the legislature, there is no guarantee that they will be signed into law.

The state’s Democratic governor, John Carney, has made it clear previously that he is no fan of cannabis legalization.

“Look, I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” Carney told Delaware Public Media last year. 

“If you talk to the parents of some of these folks that have overdosed and passed away they don’t think it’s a good idea because they remember the trajectory of their own sons and daughters,” he continued. “And I’m not suggesting that that’s always a gateway for all that, but if you talk to those Attack Addiction advocates they don’t think it’s a very good idea.”

“As I look at other states that have it, it just doesn’t seem to me to be a very positive thing from the strength of the community, of the economy in their states,” Carney said. “Is it the worst thing in the world? No, of course not.”

The cannabis possession bill that passed the House on Thursday might have enough support to overcome Carney’s opposition. Per WHYY, “the 26 yes votes in the House are one more than needed to override a veto.”

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Medical Cannabis Bill in Wisconsin Likely Already Dead

A measure that would legalize medical cannabis in Wisconsin has apparently reached the end of the line. 

Republican lawmakers, who hold the majority in the state legislature, “allowed a Capitol debate on legislation that would legalize marijuana use, but the step forward for proponents won’t result in a new cannabis law in Wisconsin anytime soon,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

According to the newspaper, a medical cannabis bill got a hearing at the state capitol in Madison on Wednesday that was “scheduled weeks after GOP leaders concluded the Legislature’s work for the year—prompting some Democrats who have long supported legalization to accuse Republican bill authors of using the hearing as a ‘political ploy’ in an election year.”

The bill was authored by a GOP state senator who also leads the committee whose medical cannabis advocacy stems from her experience with breast cancer.

“All of those drugs have severe side effects, some that I realize yet today, which is fine. I mean, I’m alive. But if there was a way that a natural product could have helped me with that?” the senator, Mary Felzkowski, said at Wednesday’s hearing, as quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“When you have a prescription drug that has a horrific side effect, then you’re taking a drug to counteract the side effect … it was unreal. I mean, it’s almost like I went through six months of a fog,” she added.

But the bill was seemingly dead on arrival, with the Journal Sentinel reporting that it “has little support in the state Senate and virtually no chance of advancing, where the GOP leader has said he won’t support such legislation unless the Food and Drug Administration approves it as a prescription drug.”

Cannabis policy has become a divisive issue in the Wisconsin legislature this year. In February, the state’s Democratic governor Tony Evers vetoed a Republican-backed bill that would have imposed stricter and distinct penalties for manufacturing and distributing cannabis or resin by butane extraction.

Evers, who has been vocal in his calls to legalize cannabis for all adults, said the bill was “another step in the wrong direction.”

“I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to creating additional criminal offenses or penalties related to marijuana use,” Evers, who is up for re-election this year, said in his veto statement at the time. 

“State across our country—both Democrat and Republican-controlled alike—have and are taking meaningful steps to address increased incarceration rates and reduce racial disparities by investing in substance use treatment, community reentry programming, alternatives to incarceration, rehabilitation, and other data-driven, evidence-based practices we know are essential solutions to reforming our justice system,” the governor added. “The data and the science are clear on this issue, and I welcome the legislature to start having meaningful conversations around justice reform in Wisconsin.”

Neither medicinal nor recreational pot is legal in Wisconsin.

For now, with Republicans controlling the legislature, outright legalization appears unlikely. But in a moment of candor, one top GOP lawmaker in the Badger State recently suggested that such reform might be inevitable.

“Recreational marijuana, I think, has a much tougher path to get through the legislature and eventually signed into law, but I do think we’re heading in that direction,” Jim Steineke, the majority leader in the state assembly, said last month. 

But last year, Steineke’s counterpart in the state Senate, Majority Leader Devin LeMathieu, said that legalization is a nonstarter in the GOP-controlled legislature.

“We don’t have support from the caucus. That’s pretty clear, that we don’t have 17 votes in the caucus for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes [to] legalize it,” LeMathieu said then.

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House of Representatives Passes Bill to Expand Cannabis Research

The House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill that would broaden access to medical cannabis research, the second time in a week that the chamber approved legislation aimed at federal cannabis policy. 

Known as the Medical Marijuana Research Act, the bill easily passed the House on a bipartisan vote, 343-75. 

Advocates like the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Congressman Ed Blumenauer, said it would avail crucial opportunities to U.S.-based researchers who have often been hamstrung by the federal government’s prohibition on cannabis. 

Ahead of the vote on Monday, Blumenauer said in a tweet that the bill would establish a framework, without which “research is outsourced to other countries-a missed opportunity for the industry, and millions of Americans who consume cannabis products.”

The bill, first introduced in the House in October of last year, “establishes a new, separate registration process to facilitate medical marijuana research,” according to an official summary of the measure. 

More specifically, it would amend the Controlled Substances Act, the federal statute that has kept cannabis illegal in the United States, despite the dozens of state and local governments that have ended their own prohibition on pot in recent years. 

The bill would direct the “Drug Enforcement Administration to register (1) practitioners to conduct medical marijuana research, and (2) manufacturers and distributors to supply marijuana for such research,” and require the Department of Health and Human Services to “produce marijuana through the National Institute on Drug Abuse Drug Supply Program and implement a specialized process for supplying marijuana products available through state-authorized marijuana programs to researchers until manufacturers and distributors can provide a sufficient supply of marijuana for medical research.”

As evidenced by the final vote on the House floor on Monday, the bill enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, racking up nearly a dozen Democratic and Republican co-sponsors. 

One such co-sponsor, Republican Representative Dave Joyce of Ohio, tweeted out his support of the legislation on Monday evening.

“For the sake of patients across the country, as well as USA’s medical superiority across the globe, we can’t allow outdated federal policy to keep obstructing legitimate medical research,” Joyce said.

The legislation now heads to the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate along with another major cannabis bill passed by the U.S. House in the past week. 

On Friday, the House, where Democrats also hold the majority, passed a bill that would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively ending the federal prohibition on pot. 

That bill, known as the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, passed on a largely party-line vote of 220-204.

Its prospects in the Senate appear dim, however, with Democrats in the upper chamber indicating that they would prefer to take up their own legalization bill. 

Advocates urged the Senate to follow the House’s lead and get something down.

“At a time when the majority of states regulate marijuana use and when the majority of voters of all political ideologies support legalization, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective for federal lawmakers to continue to support the ‘flat Earth’ failed federal prohibitionist policies of the past,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano told High Times last week

“It is time for members of the Senate to follow the House’s lead and take appropriate actions to comport federal law with majority public opinion and with the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”

On Monday, following the House’s vote on the medical cannabis research bill, Armentano said that the legislation’s “common-sense regulatory changes are necessary and long overdue.”

“Currently, the limited variety of cannabis cultivars accessible to federally licensed researchers does not represent the type or quality of cannabis products currently available in legal, statewide markets. The reality that nearly one-half of U.S. adults have legal access to this multitude of cannabis products, but our nation’s top scientists do not, is the height of absurdity and it is an indictment of the current system,” Armentano said, as quoted by Forbes.

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Mississippi Lawmakers Finally Agree on Medical Cannabis Bill

After more than a year of disagreement, back-and-forth and false dawns, Mississippi lawmakers may have finally produced a medical cannabis bill that will become law.

The Clarion Ledger reported that “members of the Mississippi House and Senate on Tuesday announced a final agreement on a bill to create a medical marijuana program in the state.”

Crucially, versions of the bill that passed out of both chambers did so with veto-proof majorities. 

As expected, the central area of compromise centered “around how often and how much cannabis a medical marijuana patient can purchase,” according to the Clarion Ledger.

Under the bill that passed Tuesday, patients would be allowed “to purchase 3.5 grams of cannabis up to six times a week, or about 3 ounces a month,” the Clarion Ledger reported, which represents a “a decrease from the 3.5 ounces a month the Senate originally passed and the 5 ounces a month voters approved in November 2020.”

The purchasing limits represented the primary area of dispute between Mississippi lawmakers and the state’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, who had said that his preference was for the limit to be set at 2.7 grams.

Reeves has threatened to veto a bill he deems unsatisfactory, but he may have been dealt a checkmate by members of the GOP-dominated legislature.

As Misssissippi Today explained, should the bill be passed on to Reeves, he “could sign the bill into law, veto it, or let it become law without his signature—a symbolic move governors sometimes do to show they disagree with a measure but will not block it.”

“I think the governor is going to sign it,” Ken Newburger, director of the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, told Mississippi Today, adding that the bill will provide patients with a “better quality of life” and that the program will serve as an economic boon for the state as well.

The announcement of the agreement came from the two lawmakers who have taken the lead on the effort to get medical cannabis over the line in Mississippi, who are state Senator Kevin Blackwell and state House Representative Lee Yancey, both Republicans.

“This has been a long journey,” Yancey said at a Tuesday press conference, as quoted by Mississippi Today. “It looks like we will finally be able to provide relief for the chronically ill patients who suffer so badly and need this alternative. I congratulate Sen. Blackwell—he’s carried this bill most of the way by himself.”

Yancey’s bill easily passed the state House last week, a week after the state Senate passed its own version, setting the stage for lawmakers from both chambers to negotiate a compromise.

An overwhelming majority of Mississippi voters approved a ballot initiative in 2020 to legalize medical cannabis, but that triumph quickly gave way to a long series of setbacks for advocates in the state.

The Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative last year, citing a technicality that rendered it in violation of the state constitution. The decision by the court prompted lawmakers to begin work on drafting a bill to replace the defunct law. 

They offered up a bill in the fall, when the legislature was out of session, but Reeves continually balked at calling a special session. 

“I am confident we will have a special session of the Legislature if we get the specifics of a couple of items that are left outstanding,” Reeves said at a press conference in October. “Again, we have made great progress working with our legislative leaders.”

Reeves was against the ballot initiative, but he said last year that he supports “the will of voters” and encouraged lawmakers to produce a bill to replace the one struck down by the Supreme Court.

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Proposed Bill Aims to Raise Fines for Cannabis Possession in Wisconsin

A bill proposed by a bipartisan pair of Wisconsin lawmakers could result in a spike in fines for marijuana possession in some of the state’s most populous and diverse cities.

The legislation seeks to “set fines statewide to no less than $100 for possessing 14 grams or less of marijuana and no more than $250,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, which would require “many communities like Green Bay to lower minimum fines for the misdemeanor.”

That could carry significant implications on communities such as Milwaukee, by far the largest city in Wisconsin as well as its most diverse, where, as the Journal Sentinel noted, “fines for marijuana possession of 28 grams or less are currently $1.” 

The proposed bill “would increase fines for having 14 grams or less to $100 but allow county officials to keep fines $1 for convictions for more than 14 grams,” the Journal Sentinel reported.

“Under current law, a person convicted of possessing marijuana may face up to $1,000 in fines and up to six months in prison on the first offense,” the newspaper said. “On subsequent offenses, the crime becomes a felony.”

Unlike in neighboring Great Lakes states Illinois and Michigan, recreational pot use remains illegal in Wisconsin. For years, Badger State lawmakers have proposed variations of legalization bills, all of which have gone up in smoke. There are signs, however, that change could be on the horizon.

Earlier this year, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, announced that his budget proposal for the years 2021 to 2023 seeks to “[regulate and tax] marijuana much like we do alcohol.”

“States across the country have moved forward with legalization, and there’s no reason Wisconsin should be left behind,” Evers said in a statement at the time, adding that regulating and taxing pot like alcohol “ensures a controlled market and safe product are available for both recreational and medicinal users and can open the door for countless opportunities for us to reinvest in our communities and create a more equitable state.”

For now, legalization advocates in Wisconsin will have to grapple with the bill aimed at standardizing marijuana fines throughout the state.

The legislation was proposed by state House Representative Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, a Democrat, and state House Representative Shae Sortwell, a Republican, who detailed the bill at a news conference on Tuesday at the statehouse in Madison.

“Part of the problem is people in Milwaukee, if they leave the county and they’re in another county… they don’t really know that the rule only applies to this county,” said Ortez-Velez, who represents Milwaukee, as quoted by the Journal Sentinel. “When people are confused about how the laws apply, within patchworks, that makes it harder.”

But some of Ortiz-Velez’s Democratic colleagues in the legislature are not on board with the proposal.

State Senator Melissa Agard, a Democrat, said it is “important as legislators that we honor the work that is being done at a local level… to address cannabis policy in the best way they can given our state’s laws,” and that she is “concerned there are provisions in this bill that would undo some of that work.”

Agard represents Madison, the second-largest city in the state and the home to Wisconsin’s flagship university, where “there is no fine for possessing up to 28 grams of marijuana on private or public property with permission,” according to the Journal Sentinel.

Another lawmaker from Madison, Democratic state Senator Kelda Roys, echoed Agard’s concerns.

“For communities like Madison and Milwaukee, which are very diverse communities that have large populations of people of color who are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system, this would be worse,” Roys said, as quoted by the newspaper.

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Proposed Bill Would Expand Medical Cannabis Access in Ohio

A Republican lawmaker in Ohio wants to expand the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in the state.

Steve Huffman, a state senator in the Buckeye State, introduced a bill on Tuesday that his office said would make “significant improvements to the medical marijuana program in Ohio.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 261, would “expand the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana to include: autism spectrum disorder, arthritis, migraines, terminal illness and treatment of any other medical condition determined by a licensed physician,” according to the press release from Huffman’s office.

Ohio’s current medical cannabis law allows physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with the following qualifying conditions: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, Spasticity, spinal cord disease or injury, terminal illness, Tourette syndrome, traumatic brain injury and ulcerative colitis.

Additionally, Huffman’s bill would allow “for medical marijuana to be processed and dispensed in additional forms so that a patient can be treated through a variety of methods,” and would move primary oversight of the medical marijuana control program to the Department of Commerce “in an effort to streamline the process for businesses.”

Ohio Regulation and Access

Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program is currently regulated by both the Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Commerce. It was first put into effect by House Bill 523. Although it went into effect on September 8, 2016, it wasn’t until January 16, 2019, that the state opened licensed dispensaries. 

The legislation also “expands opportunities for level I and II cultivators and permits additional retail dispensaries to open, based on patient need and market demand,” and includes “an equity study examining how the state can expand and make improvements to the medical marijuana program.”

As a practicing physician in the state who wrote Ohio’s medical marijuana law in 2016, Huffman said that his hope is that “this business friendly bill will create greater access for patients at a lower cost.”

“As a medical doctor and a State Senator, I am committed to the quality of life of the people I serve,” Huffman said in the press release. “The provisions in this bill are about improving the treatment options for patients.”

Huffman’s reform effort comes at a time when other activists and lawmakers in the Buckeye State have shifted their attention to outright legalization. In September, Ohio regulators signed off on a group’s plans to circulate petitions in order to get a legalization proposal placed before state legislators. 

After receiving the green light from the state’s ballot board, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) began its efforts to collect around 133,000 signatures. 

If the group succeeds, the proposal will go to the legislature. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, if “the Legislature doesn’t pass or passes an amended version of the bill, supporters can collect another 132,887 signatures to put the proposal before voters, likely in November 2022.”

Additionally, Republican lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representatives introduced a bill last month that allows adults age 21 and older to buy, possess and cultivate marijuana. The bill, according to Spectrum News, would “impose a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana with the money going to fight drug addiction and illegal drug trafficking,” and “also allow Ohioans who went to prison for pot-related crimes to have their records expunged.”

There have also been significant changes to the state’s medical marijuana law. Last month, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy voted to more than double the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. 

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