Activists in Oklahoma Finalize Recreational Cannabis Ballot Proposals

An activist group in Oklahoma said this week that it has put the finishing touches on a pair of ballot proposals that would legalize recreational pot in the state and overhaul its medical marijuana program. 

Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action, or “ORCA,” said on Tuesday that it had produced the “final drafts” of the two petitions that could help get the initiatives on next year’s ballot in the state.

Under the proposed Oklahoma Marijuana Regulation and Right to Use Act, it would be lawful for “all persons twenty-one (21) years of age and older to grow, purchase, transport, receive, prepare and consume marijuana and marijuana products,” and to “possess up to: twelve (12) marijuana plants and the marijuana harvested therefrom; one (1) ounce of concentrated marijuana; seventy-two (72) ounces of topical marijuana; seventy-two (72) ounces of edible marijuana; eight (8) ounces of suppository marijuana and eight (8) ounces of commercially sold marijuana.”

The petition explicitly addresses “impairment testing,” saying that if the initiative passed, no “test which identifies the presence of THC metabolites in a person’s blood, urine, hair, hair follicle or other body fluids or tissues shall be used as evidence of impairment or intoxication for the purposes of denying any form of healthcare, housing, employment, public assistance, license or licensed activity, public benefit, parental right, educational opportunity or extracurricular activity.”

The Oklahoma Marijuana Regulation and Right to Use Act would establish an “expungement program,” taking a cue from other states that have included retroactive expungement in their own legalization efforts.

Oklahoma Stepping it Up

Under Oklahoma’s program, a person currently serving time for a pot-related conviction “may file a petition for resentencing, reversal of conviction and dismissal of case or modification of judgment and sentence before the trial court that entered the judgment of conviction in the person’s case to request resentencing, modification or reversal in accordance with this Article.”

It would also open the door for a “person who has completed his or her sentence for a conviction, whether by trial or plea of guilty or nolo contendere, whose conduct would have been lawful had this Article been in effect at the time of the offense, [to] file a petition before the trial court that entered the judgment of conviction in the person’s case to have the conviction dismissed, expunged and vacated as legally invalid in accordance with this Article.”

The law would levy an excise tax rate of 15 percent for “marijuana and marijuana products purchased by persons without a valid Oklahoma medical marijuana patient license or Oklahoma caregiver license.” The tax revenue would be divided up among various agencies anc causes. 

Ten percent of the gross collection of taxes on retail sales would go to “the Oklahoma Water Resources Board for infrastructure financing programs to foster water supply reliability and economic and environmental resiliency,” while five percent would go to “the Department of Human Services to provide for Home and Community-Based Services Waiver Programs for the benefit of persons with physical and developmental disabilities.”

Another five percent is going to “not-for-profit organizations, whether government or community-based, to increase access to evidence-based low-barrier drug addiction treatment and to support job placement, housing, and counseling for those with substance use disorders.” 

Various other agencies would absorb the rest of the tax revenue.

ORCA’s other petition addresses Oklahoma’s new medical cannabis program, which was established after voters in the state passed a measure legalizing the treatment in 2018.

Under the so-called Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Enforcement and Anti-Corruption Act, a newly created state agency called the Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission would “assume all administrative, regulatory and appropriate adjudicative authority over cannabis, hemp and marijuana plants, the products derived therefrom, and the related services as established in the provisions set forth in this Article.”

The new OSCC would supplant the existing Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, which was established to oversee the state’s medical cannabis program.

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Florida Advocacy Petition Drive Aims to Allow Home Growing of Cannabis

A political action committee in Florida is spearheading a petition drive to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana in the state, after two previous legalization efforts this year were stymied by the courts. 

Sensible Florida PAC announced on Friday that it was kicking off “a new petition drive for a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that will permit adults 21 and older to grow and use marijuana.”

The group said it has initiated “an aggressive campaign” in order to get the proposal on next year’s ballot. 

The timing of the petition drive may strike some as unusual, and the prospects of qualifying for the 2022 ballot might seem dim.

Cannabis Progress Previously Halted in Florida

In June, a different constitutional amendment proposed by Sensible Florida was ruled unconstitutional by the state’s Supreme Court. A majority of the justices took issue with the proposed amendment’s language, particularly the portion that said marijuana would be legalized “for limited use and growing by persons 21 years of age or older,” saying it was “misleading.”

“As an initial matter, the initiative’s ‘age limit’ is clearly not the “limited use” contemplated by the ballot summary,” the majority opinion said. “Indeed, the summary tells voters that the measure will regulate marijuana ‘for limited use… by persons 21 years of age or older.’ The summary thus informs voters that the initiative imposes use limitations on age-eligible persons, not that the age limitation is itself a ‘use’ limitation. 

“Secondly, ‘use’ cannot be synonymous with ‘possession,’ ‘growing,’ or ‘gifting.’ Indeed, the initiative separately addresses those activities… The Sponsor’s inability to point to anything in the text of the measure that could credibly support the ‘limited use’ language in the summary leaves no doubt that the summary is affirmatively misleading.”

“We conclude that the language in the ballot summary indicating that the proposed amendment “regulates marijuana … for limited use … by persons 21 years of age or older” is affirmatively misleading and fails to comply with section 101.161(1), Florida Statutes,” the opinion continued. “Accordingly, the proposed amendment should not be placed on the ballot.”

Sensible Florida said at the time that it would go back to the drawing board and offer up a new amendment with the intention of qualifying for next year’s ballot. But for legalization advocates in the Sunshine State, the June ruling by the state Supreme Court was all too familiar. In April, the court struck down a different ballot measure that aimed to legalize recreational pot use in the state, saying that proposal’s language was also misleading.

In that decision, the court specifically took issue with the notion that the measure would not change federal law against marijuana.

“A constitutional amendment cannot unequivocally ‘permit’ or authorize conduct that is criminalized under federal law,” Chief Justice Charles Canady wrote. “A ballot summary suggesting otherwise is affirmatively misleading.”

The challenges to each proposal were backed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican. 

“We thank the Florida Supreme Court for their time and attention to this issue and respect their ruling,” a Moody spokesperson said after the state Supreme Court’s ruling in April. “Floridians must fully understand what they are voting on when they go to the ballot box.”

Other Florida politicians were upset by the decisions. Congressman Charlie Crist, who previously served as governor of the state, lamented June’s ruling and laid blame on Florida’s current governor, Republican Ron DeSantis.

“The Florida Supreme Court that @GovRonDeSantis packed with partisan judges just denied another ballot initiative to let Floridians vote on legalizing marijuana. This is wrong. Legalization should be up to the people of Florida,” Crist tweeted at the time.

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Ohio Cannabis Activists Get Nod to Collect Petition Signatures

Cannabis reform activists in Ohio can now circulate petitions for a cannabis legalization measure after receiving permission to begin collecting signatures to place the proposal before lawmakers.

The Ohio Ballot Board approved the proposed legalization measure from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) as a single issue on Monday, allowing the group to begin collecting the nearly 133,000 signatures necessary to submit the proposal to the legislature.

“We’re happy with today’s outcome and believe the ballot board made the right call on this one,” campaign spokesman Tom Haren said in a press release after receiving the green light to circulate petitions, adding that the group would begin collecting signatures “as soon as possible.” 

If the group collects at least 132,887 valid signatures, the proposal will head to the Ohio General Assembly for consideration by the legislature. If lawmakers decline to approve the measure or amend it, supporters could collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the proposal before voters, possibly as soon as the November 2022 general election.

Under the proposed statute, adults 21 and older would be permitted to possess and purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. Additionally, the proposal allows for the home cultivation of up to six cannabis plants by adults, with a maximum of 12 plants per household. Regulated, commercial cannabis production and sales would be legalized as well.

The legalization plan also levies a 10 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, with 36 percent of revenue going to local governments that host cannabis businesses and 25 percent dedicated to funding substance abuse programs. Another three percent of taxes raised would be used for operational costs to govern the legal cannabis program, with the remainder allocated to a cannabis social equity program to remedy disproportionate harms caused by the War on Drugs.

The proposal also allows local governments to opt out of allowing marijuana companies from operating within their jurisdictions, although that authority would not apply to existing medical marijuana businesses.

Earlier Ohio Petition Nixed By AG

In early August, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost rejected an initial draft of a summary of the cannabis legalization proposal. After reviewing the proposal to ensure it was a “fair and truthful” description of the law, Yost cited a list of seven deficiencies in the summary and returned it to supporters for correction. The attorney general wrote, for example, that the summary did not adequately explain the “cannabis social equity and jobs program” and did not clearly indicate that home growers are limited to possessing up to six cannabis plants.

“In total, the summary does not properly advise a potential signer of a proposed measure’s character and limitations,” Yost wrote in a letter to the group’s attorney.

Yost approved a revised version of the summary language on August 20, clearing the proposal for Monday’s consideration by the ballot board.

Although CRMLA could take the proposal to the voters if necessary, Haren says that the group is “laser focused” on getting the legislature to approve a legal source of cannabis in Ohio.

“The name really says it all,” Haren said. “We want to regulate marijuana like alcohol. By that, we mean restrict sales to people under 21 years of age. We want to make sure every product is tested, is produced here in Ohio by licensed cultivators or processors [and] sold at licensed dispensaries.”

Haren added that if the plan is approved by lawmakers, Ohio’s adult-use cannabis program could launch as quickly as within 90 days of the effective date of the new statute. But if the legislature balks at the proposal, he expects the legalization effort to succeed at the ballot box.

“It’s time for Ohio to take the next step,” Haren said. “We think this is something Ohioans support and are in favor of. We think it’s wildly popular among the voting public.”

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New Mexico Approves Cannabis Rules and Prepares for Legalization

New Mexico officials have announced the arrival of cannabis producer rules, and they plan to allow interested producers to begin their applications for licenses sometime this week.

The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department announced on Facebook on August 24 that rules regarding cannabis producers have been finalized and are effective today, and that the agency will begin to accept applications sometime this week. 

“Producer Rules Effective Today! The rules that take effect today cover the licensing of cannabis producers—the people and businesses that grow and harvest cannabis,” the post read. “The rules include plant count limits, which are required by the Cannabis Regulation Act, as well as licensing fees. The Cannabis Control Division will start accepting license applications through its streamlined online system later this week. The CCD has 90 days to approve or deny an application once a completed application is received.”

This is the first round of rules released to the public. Eventually, more will follow with details about retailers and testing facilities, among other important topics. These rules will need to be finalized by January 2022.

“We are ready for business,” said New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department Superintendent Linda Trujillo about the announcement. “The Cannabis Control Division is committed to supporting licensees to maximize the economic opportunities that adult-use cannabis sales offer our state.”

The rules were published on the New Mexico Commission of Public Records website in four different sections: General Provisions, Licensing and Operational Requirements for Cannabis Establishments, Cannabis Plant Limits and Process to Address Shortage of Cannabis Supply in the Medical Cannabis Program and Fees.

One point of concern has been rules regarding allowances for large-scale cannabis cultivators. Following two public hearings, the final rule text states that cultivators may grow between 6,000 and 8,000 mature plants (or up to 10,000 if they have special approval from the state). There are varying levels of farm sizes ranging from Level 1 (201-1,000 plants), Level 2 (1,001-3,000 plants), Level 3 (3,001-6,000 plants) and the final tier, which includes the information above. Originally, the Cannabis Control Division set plant caps at 4,500 per producer.

The rules also address the growing concern of shortage of medical cannabis. “Upon the division allowing commercial cannabis retail sales, cannabis retail establishments shall make reasonable efforts to sell a minimum of 25 percent of their monthly cannabis sales to qualified patients, primary caregivers and reciprocal participants, or to other licensed cannabis retail establishments that meet or exceed the 25 percent sales to qualified patients, primary caregivers and reciprocal participants until December 31, 2022,” the rules state. The rules also detail a plan for addressing further shortages if they persist through December 2022.

Finally, a section dedicated to social equity efforts states that a plan will be created no later than October 15, 2021, and will include numerous guidelines regarding disproportionately affected communities, individual assessments and any incentives for social equity applicants.

New Mexico is the 17th state to legalize recreational cannabis, which was made official when Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation in April 2021. The law, which took effect on June 29, legalizes possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and allows residents to cultivate up to six mature plants for personal use. Recreational cannabis sales are expected to launch by April 2022, although it is possible that they could start sooner than April if the rules are well received and not challenged in court.

In addition to the rule announcement, a recent court ruling established that the Department of Health and the Regulation and Licensing Department cannot enforce purchase limits for medical cannabis or take away rights of medical cannabis patients that they receive under state law, effectively increasing the amount of medical cannabis that can be purchased by patients.

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Maine Recruiting Members of New Medical Marijuana Workgroup

Cannabis regulators in Maine are recruiting members to serve on a new workgroup tasked with advising the state on its medical marijuana program. Dubbed the Marijuana Working Group, the newly formed panel will consist of civic officials, industry representatives, caregivers, and medical marijuana patients who will make recommendations to Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) with the goal of improving the state’s medicinal cannabis program.

On Friday, OMP director Erik Gundersen announced the formation of the new working group in a press release from the agency.

“We look forward to the opportunity presented by convening a group of well-qualified individuals in pursuit of a shared goal to both preserve patient access and support the regulated marketplace,” said Gundersen.

Maine legalized medical marijuana in 1999, while cannabis was legalized in the state for use by adults in 2016. Governor Janet Mills created the OMP as part of the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services to regulate both medicinal and recreational cannabis in 2019.

Prohibitionist Need Not Apply

The Marijuana Working Group will be composed of representatives of the OMP and at least 16 volunteer external members, with all but two seats on the panel reserved for members of the medical marijuana community. Five seats are reserved for registered caregivers, and three more will be filled by qualifying medical marijuana patients. The medical marijuana industry will also be represented on the workgroup, including two seats to be filled by a registered dispensary, one by a marijuana testing facility, and another by a cannabis products manufacturer.

The working group’s membership will be rounded out by two health care professionals with a relevant area of expertise and two representatives of municipal governments. To be qualified for the panel, prospective members must have relevant experience for the seat for which they are applying. Those seeking seats reserved for industry representatives must hold an active license or registration with the OMP and be in good standing with the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services. 

Prospective members of the Marijuana Working Group must also not be a registered lobbyist with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, except for those individuals who lobby directly and solely on behalf of their employer. Additionally, those seeking a seat on the workgroup must be “able to certify applicant’s interests are not prohibitionist in nature,” according to the listed qualifications for the panel. Members chosen to serve on the working group will be selected by the OMP following the public request for applications now underway.

“Our vision as a cannabis regulator has always been to develop a good faith partnership with our stakeholders by establishing rules and policies that provide interested consumers with access to a regulated industry,” said Gundersen.

Meetings Begin Next Month

Meetings of the new medical marijuana workgroup will be conducted and chaired by representatives of the OMP at least four times between September 28 and the end of November, and recommendations of the panel will be referred to regulators and lawmakers for further action. The group will use insight from the meetings to advise regulators with the OMP on best practices in patient education and access, as well as ways to update or improve Maine’s medical cannabis program.

“Outcomes resulting from the meetings are expected to include steps that may be taken through legislation and rulemaking or developing recommendations for streamlining the office’s licensing and compliance processes to ensure the medical-use program is fulfilling the hallmarks of a regulated industry,” the OMP wrote in the release.

Applications for those wishing to serve on the Marijuana Working Group and a schedule of upcoming meetings are available online. Applications for membership on the panel will be accepted by the OMP until Friday, September 3, 2021.

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Wisconsin Lawmakers Push to Legalize Cannabis

Wisconsin Senator Melissa Agard wants to finally legalize marijuana in Wisconsin. This week, the midwestern state’s lawmakers introduced legislation in an attempt to make it a reality. More than 60 percent of Wisconsin citizens already support fully legalizing marijuana, while over 80 percent support legalizing the consumption and selling of medical marijuana.

Agard announced the legislation outside of South Beloit’s marijuana dispensary. It’s located right on the state line between Illinois and Wisconsin. “Not only will this proposal allow our state to right past wrongs, it will also open countless doors to our farmers and agricultural sector to participate in a growing industry,” Agard said. “Wisconsin can no longer ignore the cannabis industry—we are losing out on millions of dollars and family sustaining jobs to our neighboring states.”

Agard has been advocating for legalizing marijuana for years. She is one of the new bill’s many Democratic sponsors in Wisconsin. By passing the bill, the senator wants to generate more economic support for the state. “Not only will this proposal allow our state to right past wrongs, it will also open countless doors to our farmers and agricultural sector to participate in a growing industry,” Agard said.

“Wisconsin can no longer ignore the cannabis industry—we are losing out on millions of dollars and family sustaining jobs to our neighboring states. […] Wisconsin is an island of prohibition. Prohibition has not worked when it comes to alcohol. It did not work with margarine, and it’s not working when it comes to cannabis.”

If cannabis becomes legal, $165 million in yearly tax revenue for Wisconsin is projected. The District of Columbia and 35 states, including Midwestern states such as Illinois and Michigan, are already reaping the benefits. Since Agard began representing District 16 earlier this year, she’s continued to advocate for her state to join a majority of the country in moving along with the times. Now, Agard is telling people to ask their legislators to sign the legislation, LRB 4361. Call local legislators, she implores. 

Months ago, the Senator even penned an op-ed, titled “It’s not too late for Wisconsin to lead on marijuana policy.” Since 2013, she’s called for legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use. She’s even authored previous legislations in the state, to no avail. 

“I want to go back to the core reason that everyone should support full legalization in Wisconsin,” she wrote. “It helps us to live up to the aspirational words of our founding, that we are all created equal and should be treated as such under the laws of our state. We can lead in these efforts. There is no reason for Wisconsin to be the last state to legalize; we simply must have the political courage to do the right thing.”

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers wants to do the right thing, as well. Earlier this year, Evans proposed legalizing marijuana for the 2021-2023 biennial budget. If his plan is approved, $80 million out of the estimated $165 million state revenue would go directly into the 

“Community Reinvestment Fund.” 

The fund would support communicates harmed by outdated laws, which have worsened racial inequality in the state. “Legalizing and taxing marijuana in Wisconsin—just like we do already with alcohol—ensures a controlled market and safe products are available for both recreational and medicinal users,” Evans said, “and can open the door for countless opportunities for us to reinvest in our communities and create a more equitable state. Frankly, red and blue states across the country have moved forward with legalization and there is no reason Wisconsin should be left behind when we know it’s supported by a majority of Wisconsinites.”

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Cannabis Decriminalized in New Orleans, Pardons 10,000 Cannabis Convictions

Cannabis Decriminalized in New Orleans On Thursday, August 5, New Orleans took a historic step. The New Orleans City Council passed a series of articles to pardon cannabis-related charges and any future charges. Effectively aiming to decriminalize cannabis, the city is making an effort to work with the NOPD to end the war on weed. […]

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Business Spotlight: Fire and Flower Cannabis

Typically we focus on local small businesses for our spotlight, but recently I travelled out of my area and realised something. I didn’t have much time, or a budget and needed to find a shop with a decent CBD selection. There was no time to run around and price out different places, I was already incredibly anxious and the thought of going into a strange place was not something I looked forward to.

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