Minnesota Groups Bind Together to Oppose Legal Cannabis

With Minnesota set to become the next front in the battle over cannabis legalization, a coalition of opponents is banding together to keep prohibition in place.

Under the straightforward name of “Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization,” the coalition “consists of the Minnesota Trucking Association, the state’s police and peace officers association and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, a policy arm of the Catholic Church of Minnesota, among others,” according to the Associated Press.

The group of likeminded, anti-pot groups is targeting a bill that passed the state House of Representatives last May. That bill would have legalized recreational pot use for adults in Minnesota, while also expunging previous low-level cannabis-related convictions.  

It also would have created “a responsible regulatory structure focused on developing micro-businesses and a craft market… fund[ed] public health awareness, youth access prevention and substance abuse treatment; provide[d] grants, loans, technical assistance and training for small businesses; require[d] testing and labeling of products; restrict[ed] packaging based on dosage size; and allow[ed] limited home grow abilities,” according to a press release last year from Minnesota Democrats.

But after passing the Democratic-controlled House, the legislation went nowhere in the state Senate, where Republicans hold the majority.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Ryan Hamilton of the Minnesota Catholic Conference said that the “marijuana bill that passed the Minnesota House last session wasn’t a justice bill, it was a marijuana commercialization bill.”

“As we’ve seen from other states that have opened the doors for the marijuana industry, the promises made to justify marijuana legalization rarely come true, particularly for communities of color,” Hamilton said, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The Minnesota legislative session is slated to convene on January 1, and as the Associated Press noted, the bill that passed the state House last May “is technically still alive, though it’s unclear whether Republicans in the Senate will take up the measure.”

The author of that bill, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, is one of the most vocal advocates of marijuana legalization among lawmakers in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“The failed criminalization of cannabis has resulted in a legacy of racial injustice that can no longer go unaddressed,” Winkler said in a statement after the bill was introduced last year. “Adults deserve the freedom to decide whether to use cannabis, and our state government should play an important role in addressing legitimate concerns around youth access, public health, and road safety. Veterans and Minnesotans with serious illnesses like PTSD deserve better access to our medical program, which is not working well for most people. It’s time to legalize, expunge, and regulate.”

According to the Associated Press, Winkler “told the Minnesota Hemp Growers Cooperative at an event on Wednesday [that] his goal is to reexamine parts of the bill this session to improve the proposal and attempt to get senators on board,” but he acknowledged its outlook in the state Senate is “up in the air.”

After Winkler introduced his bill in the state House last year, Republicans in the legislature were dismissive. 

Paul Gazelka, the GOP leader in the state Senate at the time, said at the time that he “would not consider legalizing recreational marijuana as a Minnesota priority.” 

Gazelka stepped down as majority leader in September and is now running to challenge Democratic Governor Tim Walz in this year’s gubernatorial race. It could set the stage for legalization to emerge as a dominant issue in the campaign, with Walz a full-throated supporter of ending pot prohibition. 

“I support legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use by developing a system of taxation, guaranteeing that it is Minnesota grown, and expunging the records of Minnesotans convicted of marijuana crimes,” Walz said when he ran for governor in 2018.

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Mississippi Takes Another Step Toward Allowing Medical Cannabis

The long, drawn out back-and-forth surrounding a medical cannabis bill in Mississippi reached a potentially major breakthrough last week, with members of the state House overwhelmingly passing the legislation.

The bill passed out of the state House by a vote of 104-14, the Associated Press reported. Members of the state Senate passed the bill the previous week with a vote of 46-5, “but the House made some changes,” according to the Associated Press, and now it is down to senators to either accept those changes or bring the legislation to the negotiating table.

“This bill has been vetted probably more than any bill in my history for sure,” said Republican state House Representative Lee Yancey, as quoted by the Mississippi Clarion Ledger.

The Clarion Ledger said that Yancey, the chair of the state House Drug Policy Committee, worked closely with GOP state Senator Kevin Blackwell on the legislation throughout the summer months and into the fall.

Earlier this month, Blackwell filed a 445-page bill that was then referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee for review by Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann.

According to the Clarion Ledger, Yancey “made three changes” to the bill passed last Wednesday by the state House, with the most notable dealing with the amount of cannabis a patient can procure, a major area of disagreement between lawmakers and Mississippi’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves.

Blackwell’s bill permitted patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams of cannabis per day, but Yancey’s version allows for only three ounces to be purchased at a time.

According to the Clarion Ledger, a patient “can still purchase 3.5 grams of marijuana at a time, but only six times a week.”

It is unclear if that will be enough to placate Reeves, who has said that he would prefer the limit to be lowered to 2.7 grams.

The Clarion Ledger said that Yancey considers the number “just a starting point, and he expects the legislature to increase the amount of marijuana a person can purchase each month in future years.”

“This is an effort to start small and grow rather than start big and reduce,” Yancey said.

In another notable change, the House-passed bill “puts the entirety of the program under the Mississippi State Department of Health,” according to the Clarion Ledger, whereas the Senate version tasked the Department of Agriculture and Commerce to oversee “the licensing, inspection and oversight of cannabis cultivation facilities, processing facilities, transportation and cannabis disposal entities in the state.”

Nearly 70 percent of Mississippi voters passed a proposal at the ballot in 2020 to legalize medical cannabis for patients in the state suffering from a host of conditions, including cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. 

But the law’s path to enactment has been troubled. Last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative, citing a technicality that rendered it unconstitutional. 

In the wake of that ruling, state lawmakers sought to replace the nullified initiative with a new medical marijuana law, but that, too, has been hamstrung by delays.

Lawmakers produced a draft of a bill in September, but Reeves had concerns with the proposal and never called a special session to debate and pass the legislation.

“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.”

Now, with the regular session underway, the bill returns to the Senate––but the ball remains very much in Reeves’ court. 

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Kentucky Addresses Cannabis Reform Through New Legislation

Lawmakers and activists convened in Kentucky this week to discuss a pair of proposals that would dramatically change how cannabis is treated in the state, but there remains a divide over how far the reform effort should go.

The biggest question of the moment remains: Will they legalize recreational cannabis, or just medicinal? 

Local television station WDRB reported that “state representatives and members of the Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition, ACLU and NAACP met Tuesday in support of legalization” in the capital city of Frankfort, with the focus primarily aimed at two bills brought by Democratic state House Representative Nima Kulkarni. 

In November, Kulkarni pre-filed two pieces of legislation. One was a proposed constitutional amendment to allow adults ages 21 and older to possess, use and sell as much as an ounce of cannabis (or up to five personal plants) without legal repercussions. If the amendment were to pass, “the question would be added to the November ballot,” according to local television station WLKY.

Kulkarni’s other bill would decriminalize cannabis in the state while also expunging the records of those previously convicted of pot charges.

“I am sponsoring these bills for several reasons, any one of which should be enough for them to become law,” Kulkarni said in a statement after the bills were filed late last year. “First, current cannabis statutes have needlessly and tragically ruined many lives, especially people of color who have suffered because of unequal enforcement. Second, thousands of citizens, from cancer patients to veterans suffering from PTSD, should have the right to use something that gives them the mental and physical relief they deserve without relying on stronger, potentially addictive medicine.

“Third, cannabis decriminalization would give the state a much-needed source of reliable revenue without raising current taxes by a single cent. And, finally, polls have repeatedly shown a majority of Kentuckians backs decriminalization and allowing cannabis to be used responsibly by adults.”

Democratic state House Representative Attica Scott, a co-sponsor of the legislation, told WLKY that legislators in the Bluegrass State “have the opportunity to take the question to the voters in Kentucky and ask them, not politicians who want to be obstructionist, but the people who can benefit most from the legalization and decriminalization.”

Scott said that, for her, the two bills are a package deal.

“You can’t have one without the other, and I have been very clear that I am not going to sign onto legalization legislation if we don’t include decriminalization,” Scott said, as quoted by WLKY.

But other lawmakers in Kentucky are in favor of a different approach to cannabis reform, one that begins with a focus on medicinal cannabis.

WDRB said that lawmakers there expect the debate of this year’s legislative session “to revolve around medical marijuana, and some hope with the changes they’ve made to the bill, it will get through the Senate.”

Republican state House Representative Jason Nemes, who has previously pushed for medical marijuana in Kentucky, said that it’s an area with clear support from both voters and lawmakers.

“That’s the place where we have the votes, and we’re fine-tuning some things to try to make sure that we get a vote in the Senate,” Nemes told WDRB.

“Thirty-six states already have it,” he added. “There’s a lot of people who it would help, so I think medical marijuana is the step that Kentucky needs to take.”

A poll in 2020 found that nearly 60 percent of Kentuckians support legalizing pot for any use, while 90 percent said they backed medicinal cannabis. 

In 2012, the same poll found that less than 40 percent favored cannabis for any use.

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Ohio Advocates Submit Additional Signatures for Cannabis Proposal

Activists in Ohio last week submitted nearly 30,000 additional signatures as part of an effort to get a marijuana legalization proposal before state lawmakers.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that the group known as the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol “turned in another 29,918 signatures to Secretary of State Frank LaRose” on Thursday “after falling short earlier this month.”

The coalition submitted a total of 206,943 signatures late last month as part of a petition campaign for the legalization proposal to be brought to the legislature. 

If the proposal were to be enacted, Ohioans ages 21 and older could legally buy and possess as many as 2.5 ounces of pot. The activists must obtain 132,887 signatures from Ohio voters spanning a minimum of 44 counties in order for the proposal to be considered by lawmakers. Then, lawmakers have a maximum of four months to act on the bill.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol suffered a setback earlier this month when LaRose’s office said that only 119,825 of the more than 200,000 signatures were valid—well under the threshold.

Now, with almost 30,000 additional signatures submitted, the coalition will hope that the legalization measure will finally make it to the state house in Columbus.

According to the Dispatch, if legislators “don’t pass the bill or pass an amended version” within the four-month time frame, “supporters can collect another 132,887 valid signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.”

In addition to permitting eligible adults to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, the new proposal would also allow for up to “15 grams of concentrates,” along with “up to six plants individually and no more than 12 in a household with multiple adults,” according to the Dispatch.

The newspaper reported that, under the proposal, cannabis products “would be taxed at 10 percent, with revenue going toward administrative costs, addiction treatment programs, municipalities with dispensaries, and a social equity and jobs program.”

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol launched its campaign in earnest in July.

“We are proposing to regulate marijuana for adult use, just like we do for alcohol. Our proposal fixes a broken system while ensuring local control, keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, and benefiting everyone,” coalition Spokesman Tom Haren said in a press release at the time of the campaign launch.

“Ohioans want this,” he added. “They see marijuana legalization as inevitable. They want our leaders to seize the opportunity and take control of our future. Marijuana legalization is an issue whose time has come in Ohio. Nineteen states have gone before Ohio and we crafted legislation based on the best practices learned by those that went before us.”

But in the announcement, Haren noted that lawmakers did not have to wait for the petitions to be verified, saying the group is “ready to work with the General Assembly on meaningful reform right now, and it’s our sincere hope that we’ll collaborate on a sensible solution.”

While recreational cannabis isn’t yet legal in the Buckeye State, Ohio has had a medical cannabis program since 2016. Last month, state lawmakers passed a bill that would amount to some of the biggest changes to the program since it launched. 

Most notably, the bill would permit licensed physicians to “recommend marijuana for treatment for any condition if the physician, in the physician’s sole discretion and medical opinion, finds either of the following”: “that the patient’s symptoms may reasonably be expected to be relieved from medical marijuana” and “that the patient may otherwise reasonably be expected to benefit from medical marijuana.”

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A crossword all about stupid laws

The law is supposed to make sense but sometimes, it doesn’t. Some laws are timeless and agreeable to all, others have an expiry date. Keeping our laws current costs taxpayer money so if a law is outdated, it’s often ignored rather than struck down. As a result, there are some extremely stupid laws that are […]

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Mississippi Lawmakers Propose Expanded Medical Cannabis Rules

After months of debate and back-and-forth, lawmakers in Mississippi have finally produced a bill to implement a new medical cannabis law in the state.

Republican state Senator Kevin Blackwell filed a 445-page bill on Tuesday, according to the Clarion Ledger newspaper, and the legislation was promptly referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee for review by Lieutenant. Governor Delbert Hosemann.

The Clarion Ledger reported that the chair of that committee, Democratic state Senator Hob Bryan, has said that he intends to bring the bill up for a debate before the panel on Wednesday. 

So Blackwell’s bill must effectively clear four more hurdles in order to become law: gain approval from the public health committee; pass out of the state Senate; pass out of the state House; and be signed by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves.

In other words: sit tight. 

Still, the mere filing of the bill is itself a breakthrough after a year of disagreement and delay surrounding the law.

Almost 70 percent of Mississippi voters approved a ballot initiative in 2020 to legalize medical cannabis in the state for patients with qualifying conditions that include cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis, among others.

But despite such resounding public approval, the proposal has been met with resistance ever since. In May of last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the initiative, ruling it unconstitutional on a technicality. 

Following that decision, state lawmakers have been engaged in months of negotiations with Reeves to produce a medical cannabis bill in place of the one that was nullified by the court.

In August, Blackwell expressed confidence that lawmakers could get a medical cannabis bill over the line.

“Well, I kind of get tired of saying this, but we’re getting very close,” Blackwell told Mississippi Today.” And I’m sure the folks who are out there who are wanting to use these products for medical needs and certainly for the kids with some of their seizure disorders (that are) frustrating for them. But we are working every day on this trying to advance to get to the point where we can present something to the governor.”

In September, legislators produced a draft of a bill, but Reeves never called a special session to consider the legislation, citing concerns with the drafted proposal.

“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.”

In November, Reeves cited one part of the proposal that “forbid the Department of Public Safety from having a role in the state’s potential medical marijuana industry” as a major area of disagreement. 

“Clearly, I wasn’t going to agree to that, so we’ve made some necessary improvements to the bill, but we haven’t gotten to the point where I am comfortable yet in ensuring that we have a program that is truly ‘medical mariuana’ that has strict rules in place,” Reeves said, as quoted by Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

The governor has also raised concerns about the amount of pot a patient can purchase at one time. Now, with the Mississippi legislature officially convening last week, lawmakers will look to pass the bill in a regular session.
The Clarion Ledger reported that the new bill filed this week “allows for medical marijuana card holders to purchase 3.5 grams of the substance a day,” even though Reeves has said that he “would like to see that number lowered to 2.7 grams in most circumstances.”

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Vive La CBD Revolution: The French Ground War on Regulated CBD

As with many things in the cannabis revolution, there are moments when achieved reform or market creation feels bittersweet. Certainly, most within this industry, having attained a hard fought and well-deserved, even litigated, or legislative victory have also had the experience of realizing that such a development is both a step forward but also two back. 

Thus is the case in France right now.

On one hand, the order by the French Ministry of Solidarity and Health, issued on December 30, 2021, implementing Article R.5132-86 of the Public Health Code is a victory for the industry. In direct response to the KanaVape case, where the European Court of Justice decreed that imported CBD sold in France (and produced elsewhere in the European Union (EU)) was legal and by extension that the cannabinoid was not a narcotic, the French government has essentially enshrined an EU decision into French law.

Namely, that CBD can be sold and further that it is clearly not a narcotic.

However, it is what forms that cannabis could be available to consumers that are creating consternation if not a direct rebellion from some in the industry.

The Basics

Here is what the new order does. It legalizes the CBD industry and products. Here is the bad news. It specifically bans the retail sale of cannabis flower. This includes the smokable and tea varieties.

The positives? This development means that the purveyors of any CBD containing product that has been certified in the required regulatory pathways are finally in a position where there is a legal market for their products. 

No French police raids on grocery stores for CBD cookies loom in the horizon as a result. 

Merci beaucoup.

On the other hand, here is the merde a la mode.

The order is devastating to hemp producers and small stores who sell flower and products that contain the same (like hemp tea). While the legal limit for THC in hemp was also raised (from 0.02 percent to 0.03 percent), this means that cultivators must rely only on B2B sales to those who will further transform (usually extract) the CBD for use in other products (from cosmetics to food).

The new order also does not move CBD out of the Novel Food category. This could also be a ripe territory for legal challenges, particularly for CBD cultivated in France itself. However, given the blow just directed in the direction of the French cultivation industry, a by-product of this decision could very well move cultivation of even hemp outside the country’s borders.

A Whimper Rather than a Bang

The bottom line is that this development is hardly a French Revolution on CBD. Further it may well be a cynical move by French President Emmanuel Macron, who as of January 1 took over the next six month tenure as the President of the EU on his way to facing national voters in the near future. Namely, inch a conversation which is much despised at the nosebleed level of European politics only as far forward as absolutely necessary.

Indeed, this kind of unfortunate mindset is still much in keeping with the general attitude about cannabis cultivation, even of the medical kind, in Europe. Politicians in Germany were so opposed to legalizing home grow that they banned even registered German pharmaceutical firms from participating in the country’s first cultivation bid for the regulated pharmaceutical market. Beyond that, there are still many questions still open on the hemp side of the conversation.

It is trickle down reform and of course, as a result, will be fought, again, in court.

The Industry Strikes Back?

On January 3, industry groups including the hemp union and the trade association of CBD sellers, the Union des Professionals du CBD, for whom flower sales can represent as much as 80 percent of their business, issued a challenge to the new order. They are asking the government to suspend the same because at an EU level, there is no distinction between flower and extract. The application was submitted to the highest administrative court in France—the Council of State. It has so far not been rejected (meaning that the court could side with the industry).

Indeed, many on the ground feel that this is just another way of setting back the industry if not reform itself—and further apparently fairly similarly at the nosebleed level of European politics. For example, the discussion about the sales of both flower and CBD containing products has also been contentious in places like Germany (which has seen both police and court action against firms selling either or). In the UK, the sale of the same is explicitly banned. 

Yet this is not the trend in Europe. In most places, although not explicitly stated as such as in Belgium and Luxembourg, CBD flower is more or less treated like tobacco. In both Malta and Italy, home grow is also now explicitly allowed—even if just of the hemp variety. Indeed, that is one of the more intriguing aspects still outstanding of the KanaVape case (namely that the imported extract at the centre of all the hullabaloo was for inhalation). 

Obviously, since 2017 in Germany, there are very clearly medical flower sales that are smoked by patients and nobody is talking (yet) about removing flower from the high THC, adult-use market, coming hopefully now sooner than later aus Deutschland. There is also no guarantee that those patients now participating in French trials are only consuming their dispensed flower by approved medical vape.

Regardless, no matter the hypocrisies and inconsistencies, on both the smoking argument, and of course the perennial pushback from the police (on issues from not being able to tell the difference on the street, to driving issues), these are the issues much in the room across the European discussion right now. This newest development in France is no exception.

Further, the underlying assumption being made about even CBD flower is also highly significant. Not only does it rule out the opportunity of consumers and patients to make their own products using extraction methods, but it also continues to categorize all cannabis flowers in a highly harmful category.

This is concerning for two reasons. The first, obviously, is that this is potentially a major blow to the hemp industry in France, an industry with about $180 million in sales last year. More worryingly, it may also have an impact far beyond French borders. European countries are looking to each other to figure out a pathway to legalization that can be both accepted and implemented given the current state of international regulations on cannabis. Namely the still unchanged classification of cannabis and cannabinoids by the UN as a Schedule I drug.

Indeed, the many wrinkles in the path towards even CBD legalization seen in France, among other EU countries, are just a small precursor to the now looming fight over THC.

It is for all these reasons that the hemp industry at both the French and increasingly European level is watching this case actively, if not preparing strategies on how to fight back not only on the ground in France, but use similar tactics unleashed locally in every sovereign nation in Europe.

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Florida Lawmaker Works to Increase Medical Cannabis Access

A Democratic lawmaker in Florida wants medical cannabis patients in the state to have easier access to the treatment.

That is one of the goals behind a bill being introduced by state House Representative Andrew Learned as Florida’s legislative session opened on Tuesday.

Learned’s proposal, House Bill 679, “would change Florida’s medical cannabis program, offering several technical clarifications,” local television station WFTS explained.

Among those changes, the bill “would reduce costs for people by requiring fewer doctor’s visits, allow patients to keep their registration cards for two years instead of one and give people the option to use telehealth to refill their prescriptions,” according to WFTS.

Moreover, the bill would implement regulations on the sale of Delta-8, the hemp extract that is known to yield a similar high to cannabis with Delta-9 THC and that has become ubiquitous in the years since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which effectively legalized hemp on the federal level. 

Learned told the station that “the first thing to understand about [the bill] is this is the first bipartisan marijuana package we’ve really run as a state in five years since the constitutional amendment passed.” 

“Just getting both sides to agree on a way forward, I count this as a win already,” Learned said.

“This does things like, again, like keeping harmful products out of the hands of children, it’s making sure that we clean up advertising statues so we aren’t inadvertently advertising medical marijuana products in general to minors,” Learned continued. “It’s improving the program from a practical use perspective like I said with telehealth but also things like DUI testing and creating testing councils for that. Making sure products are safe and that a hemp product for example, like a CBD really is a CBD. Right now there’s no testing requirement pre-sale.”

Learned said that the bill will provide needed regulation for the burgeoning CBD industry.

“It’s still legal; we’re just changing some definitions and making sure the product is safe and tested, and we’re also limiting them to the sale of over 21. Right now, there’s no age limit so children can buy this stuff,” he told WFTS.

Florida voters passed a measure to legalize medical cannabis in 2016. Two years ago, the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, signed a bill that ended the ban on smokable medical cannabis products.

In October, an administrative judge in Florida ordered a requirement from the state health department to ban services like Leafly, which patients had used to order medical cannabis online.

The Florida Department of Health had said that “the services were prohibited under a 2017 law that set up a structure for the Florida cannabis industry,” according to a local news report at the time, but the judge found that “the ban on the use of the third-party sites amounted to an unadopted rule and ordered the state agency to ‘immediately discontinue reliance on its policy regarding online ordering of medical marijuana through third-party websites.’”

Recreational cannabis remains illegal in the Sunshine State, though there have been growing calls from both activists and prominent politicians there to change that.

Legalization figures to be a significant issue in Florida’s governor’s race, with Democratic hopefuls currently trying to outflank one another on the issue.

“Let me be clear: If I’m elected governor, I will legalize cannabis in the Sunshine State,” Charlie Crist, the former governor and current congressman vying for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, said in October. “This is the first part of the Crist contract with Florida.”

Crist is contending with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried for the Democratic nomination, and the right to face Crist in the general election. 

After Crist’s pledge in October, Fried called him out on his previous positions when he was governor and still a member of the Republican party.

“Imitation is flattery, but records are records,” Fried said on Twitter at the time. “People went to jail because Republicans like @CharlieCrist supported and enforced racist marijuana crime bills. Glad he’s changed his mind, but none of those people get those years back. Legalize marijuana.”

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South Carolina Lawmakers Fight Cannabis Smell Search Law

Catching a whiff of a weed shouldn’t be enough for probable cause, and South Carolina lawmakers want to make sure it no longer is. That’s the thinking behind a bill offered up by a Democratic lawmaker in South Carolina.

State House Representative Deon Tedder “is pushing for a bill where the scent of marijuana alone would not provide law enforcement with reasonable suspicion or probable cause to support a stop, search, seizure or arrest,” according to local television station WSPA.

“The smell alone is not enough to be considered an illegal act because the accused could’ve been around someone who was illegally using marijuana or legally using hemp and both substances smell the same,” Tedder said, as quoted by the station.

“It’s a fishing expedition is what I call it,” he continued. “It just allows for them to search for things, so I think that this bill will take care of that and stop certain bad actors on police forces from doing a fishing expedition because then they could just go look for anything.”

The station reported that the bill “would stop a person or motor vehicle from being stopped or searched based solely on the scent of marijuana, cannabis or hemp, whether burnt or not,” and that it would not “stop an officer from searching a vehicle if someone appears under the influence.”

Tedder, a Democrat from Charleston, was motivated to propose the legislation because he believes “most people stopped and searched in South Carolina are African American males who were stopped because an officer allegedly smelled marijuana,” according to the station.

The bill might have an uphill climb in the state’s general assembly, where Republicans hold large majorities in each chamber.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, a Republican, has said that he is opposed to legalizing recreational pot.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” McMaster said last year. “It’s not helpful.” 

South Carolina is currently one of only 14 states that has not legalized medical cannabis, although McMaster has said he is potentially amenable to the policy.

“That’s a different story, and there may be some answers there,” he said last summer. “I know there’s a lot of suffering that is helped with medical marijuana.”

McMaster will be up for re-election this year. One potential challenger, Democratic congressman Joe Cunningham, has made it clear that he intends to run on legalization. 

“This is going to be a game changer in South Carolina,” Cunningham said last year of legalizing recreational and medical cannabis in the state. “There are so many reasons why we need to do this, and the time is now.”

“People are behind it, and politicians need to get behind it, too,” Cunningham added.

He might have a point.

A poll released last year by the Marijuana Policy Project found that 72 percent of South Carolina voters support “allowing patients in [the state] who suffer from serious medical conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it,” while only 15 percent were opposed.

The absence of a medical cannabis law is not due to a lack of trying.

Legislators in South Carolina have taken a stab at medical cannabis bills in recent years. In late 2020, a Republican state senator there introduced the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, which would have legalized medical marijuana for the following qualifying conditions: cancer; multiple sclerosis; neurological disease; sickle cell anemia; glaucoma; PTSD; autism; Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis; cachexia; conditions that cause people to stay home chronically, be chronically nauseous or have persistent muscle spasms; a chronic medical condition requiring opiates and terminal diseases where the patient has a year or less to live.

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Wyoming Activists Prepare Cannabis Reform Initiatives

Activists in Wyoming are circulating petitions for two ballot measures to reform cannabis policy in the state, including one to legalize medical marijuana and a second to reduce penalties for cannabis-related crimes.

Wyoming is one of about a dozen states that have not yet passed laws to legalize cannabis in some form, despite data from the University of Wyoming that shows a majority of residents support cannabis reform and 85 percent support legalizing medical cannabis. Last year, a bill to study medical marijuana and another measure to legalize and regulate cannabis died in the Wyoming House of Representatives without a hearing, despite both measures gaining the approval of the House Judiciary Committee. 

Activists Advance Two Ballot Proposals

Due to the legislature’s inability to pass cannabis legislation, the Libertarian Party of Wyoming is leading the campaign for two ballot initiatives to reform marijuana policy in the state. The first proposal would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis, while the second would reduce the penalties for cannabis offenses. 

To qualify an initiative to legalize cannabis for the ballot in Wyoming, organizers will have to collect enough signatures to total 15 percent of the vote cast in the 2020 general election, when voter turnout was particularly high because of the hotly contested presidential race. The initiative campaign is also required to collect signatures from 15 percent of voters in at least two-thirds of Wyoming’s 23 counties.

Approximately 278,000 people voted in the general election in 2020, meaning that activists will have to collect more than 41,000 qualified voter signatures for each initiative to qualify for the 2024 election. Initiative campaigns are given an 18-month window to collect the required signatures, setting a deadline for the cannabis legalization measure organizers until January 23 to meet the requirement.

After collecting signatures, organizers are required to submit petitions to the office of the Secretary of State for verification. If enough signatures from registered voters have been collected, the successful measures will be added to the ballot and passed into law if approved by a majority of voters. 

Organizers say that this year’s election is too soon to collect enough signatures for the 2022 ballot. So instead, they hope to qualify the measures for the 2024 general election. Apollo Pazell, chief strategist for the national Libertarian Party, told reporters that the campaign has so far collected about 30 percent of necessary signatures.

“Everything seems to be on pace,” Pazell said.

Not an Easy Proposition

Wyoming’s requirements to qualify a voter initiative for the ballot are among the most strict in the nation, according to election information website Ballotpedia. As a result, it is a little-used method of passing legislation in the state.

“The ballot initiatives are not as common here as they are in other states,” Ryan Frost, public information officer for the state Legislative Service Office, told Caspar Star-Tribune.

Campaign organizer Mario Presutti said that most people who support the effort to reform cannabis policy in Wyoming sign both petitions. But when appropriate, volunteers prioritize the medical cannabis initiative, which now has about five percent more signatures than the initiative to reduce cannabis penalties.

“We think that the patients need to be first,” Pazell said. “This has proven to be an invaluable medication for so many patients… that is being withheld for political reasons.”

Over the past three months, approximately 1,100 residents of Sheridan County, Wyoming have signed cannabis legalization petitions. Chief Travis Koltiska of the Sheridan Police Department warned voters to be sure they know what they are supporting at the ballot box.

“This has been a discussion across the state for many years, and there is language trying to sway people on both sides of the issue,” Koltiska told the Sheridan Press. ”When people look at this petition, they need to educate themselves on the facts. Because some good things might come of it, but some bad things might as well. It’s a complicated issue from our perspective.”

Koltiska acknowledged “there are substances that have proven to have medical benefits” in cannabis, although he is also concerned that cannabis legalization could lead to drug abuse and crime.

“The potential legalization of marijuana for medical use is concerning because there is potential for abuse of any substance that impairs cognitive ability,” Koltiska said. “It’s the same thing with alcohol. If alcohol wasn’t already legal, I’m not sure I would support legalization efforts based on what we see day-to-day in our department. Over 80 percent of our arrests are alcohol and drug-related, and it is difficult to be supportive of something that has the potential for serious abuse.”

Keith Goodenough, a former Wyoming Democratic state senator, tried to pass cannabis reform legislation in the early 2000s but was thwarted by more conservative politicians. He predicted that activists will face even more opposition from the right this time around.

“The fundamentalist candidates have consistently taken a position against cannabis,” he said. “(There are) many more fundamentalist legislators in there now than there used to be.”

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