Mississippi Lawmakers Move to Implement Medical Cannabis Legislation

After months of negotiating, lawmakers in Mississippi reached a deal this week to implement a new medical marijuana law in the state.

Mississippi Today reported that “legislative negotiators and leaders have agreed on a draft of medical marijuana legislation,” and that they are “anticipated to ask Governor Tate Reeves as early as Friday to call the Legislature into special session.”

The approach to Reeves could be significant, as the report noted that the first term Republican governor “has sole authority to call lawmakers into special session, and would set the date and parameters of a special session.”

“Although legislative leaders have expressed interest in dealing with COVID-19 and other issues in a special session, Reeves has appeared unwilling but said he would call a session for medical marijuana, pending lawmakers are in agreement and he agrees with the measure,” the report said. 

In May, Reeves said that a special session to address medical marijuana was “certainly a possibility.” 

For medical cannabis advocates and would-be patients of the treatment, the legislative wrangling has been a long, and at times frustrating, process.

Nearly 70 percent of Mississippi voters approved a ballot initiative last year that legalized medical marijuana for a host of qualifying conditions including cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia (weakness and wasting due to chronic illness), post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV+, AIDS, chronic or debilitating pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, glaucoma, agitation from dementia, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia and autism. 

Under Initiative 65, qualifying patients could legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis.

But the new law hit a major snag in May, when the state’s Supreme Court struck down Initiative 65 citing a strange and obscure provision in the state’s constitution. In the 6-3 ruling, the majority justices “ held the initiative had to be struck down because of an odd flaw in the state constitution’s voter initiative process,” NBC News reported at the time. 

“Passed in the 1990s, the measure called for a percentage of signatures to come from each of the state’s five congressional districts to get on the ballot,” NBC reported. “But, the judges noted, the state lost one of those congressional districts thanks to the 2000 U.S. Census, and now only has four districts.”

After that ruling, lawmakers in Mississippi went back to the drawing board to create a new medical marijuana program to supplant Initiative 65. 

Negotiations ran through the summer, with state lawmakers and other agencies hearing testimony from both advocates and opponents to medical cannabis. 

The breakthrough finally arrived on Thursday. Mississippi Today reported that some legislative leaders “released some details of the proposal—which had been kept close to the vest for months—such as that cities and counties will be allowed to ‘opt out’ of having medical marijuana cultivation or dispensaries, although local voters can override this.”

“City councils or aldermen, or county boards of supervisors, within 90 days of passage of legislation, could opt out from allowing cultivation or dispensing of medical marijuana within their borders,” the report explained. Voters in those cities and counties could force a referendum to rejoin the medical marijuana program if they gathered 1,500 signatures or 20 percent of the voters, according to the report.

Other notable provisions in the draft proposal include that smokable cannabis would be permitted, and that the state’s sales tax of seven percent would be imposed on medical marijuana. But the lawmakers have closed the door on personal cultivation, with Mississippi Today reporting that “outdoor growing would not be allowed, nor home growing.”

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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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Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Patients Could Be Protected Against DUIs

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are considering legislation that would aim to protect medical cannabis patients in the state from DUI penalties.

On Tuesday, a pair of state House representatives, Democrat Chris Rabb and Republican Todd Polinchock, announced that they had introduced a bill that would “ensure the rights of the more than 500,000 medical cannabis patients in Pennsylvania, protecting them from DUI penalties.”

“I believe that people with a medical need for cannabis, who have acted courageously to seek help for their medical condition and have been granted use of medical cannabis, should be protected from DUI penalties for their legal medical cannabis use,” said Rabb, who represents a district in Philadelphia. “I know I’m not the only lawmaker in the General Assembly who has been contacted by constituents concerned that their responsible use of medical cannabis may expose them to targeting by law enforcement when they drive.”

In a press release, Rabb noted that THC often remains in an individual’s system for weeks after use, potentially complicating the enforcement of impaired driving laws when a legal cannabis consumer is behind the wheel.

“A medical cannabis user can take a miniscule amount of medicine for their ailment and weeks later, with traces of cannabis still in their system, be subject to arrest on a DUI charge if pulled over—not because they’ve driven impaired, but because our state laws haven’t caught up with the science,” Rabb said. 

“And, if you think you don’t know someone who falls into this category—a person who has been prescribed medical cannabis and who drives and is fearful of the potential DUI charge they could face—you’re wrong. I am a card-carrying medical cannabis patient, and I drive regularly, including in and around Philadelphia and to Harrisburg conducting the people’s business.” 

The legislation would “not extend to any illegal cannabis use,” and would only apply to “approved patients with a noncommercial driver’s license who use medicinal cannabis legally and are not impaired.”

Polinchock said it would simply place “medical cannabis on the same level as other prescription pain relievers.”

“It helps many Pennsylvanians, including many of our seniors. It’s time to remove the stigma and treat this drug as we do others,” he said.

For Rabb, the bill is personal, noting that he, too, is a medical cannabis user.

“Anyone, like me, who regularly uses cannabis for symptom relief, will always be breaking the law when we get behind the wheel given that traces of THC can remain in our system for up to a month,” Rabb said. “As the law is written today, I could go to jail for six months for driving four weeks after swallowing a few drops of cannabis tincture sold at a dispensary licensed by the very same government that cashes in on tax revenue from the sale of medical cannabis. That’s perverse. And it’s also easily corrected. Our legislation will set things right.”

On the other side of Pennsylvania’s general assembly, a separate bill aims to remedy the same problem.

State Senator Camera Bartolotta, a Republican, has her own bill that would “change that by requiring proof of impairment for someone to be charged with and convicted of DUI, not just a THC level,” local television station WFMZ reported.

At a hearing on Tuesday, a medical cannabis patient named Jesse Roedts testified in support of Bartolotta’s legislation, recounting a time that he was charged with DUI despite being a medical marijuana patient and showing no signs of impairment.

“When the medical cannabis laws were passed in Pennsylvania, a critical detail was missed,” said Roedts, as quoted by WFMZ. “That detail was DUI reform for legal card holders. The state legalized medical cannabis and then turned hundreds of thousands of patients into potential criminals.”

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Green Party in Finland Calls for End of Prohibition

Finland may not be first on anyone’s list when it comes to being an epicenter of cannabis reform, but even this Scandinavian country is now considering the same.

The Green political party of Finland, the Green League, is championing a policy of legalization and regulation of a nascent domestic cannabis market. While the move has no official basis on a legislative level, it marks the first time a political party in the Finnish parliament has called for the legalization of cannabis.

Given the fact that there appears to be only narrow support at the federal level at the moment, it is unlikely that the measure will move forward (for now). 

Cannabis in Finland

This region of the world is perhaps best known to outsiders as having lots of snow and occasionally cool, do it your-selfish furniture. Beyond this, however, cannabis reform has moved glacially, even at the pace seen in Europe, and many are growing impatient for prohibition to end.

The prohibition of cannabis in Finland specifically harks back to the mid-1960s although this being one of the most liberal parts of Europe, the criminalization of personal use has always been highly controversial. The national government achieved this goal however by 1972.

Fast forward to this century. In 2008, the Finnish government approved the use of medical cannabis flower (imported from Holland). As of 2017, Finland’s Supreme Court ruled that a sentence for an aggravated drug offense could be reduced, depending on the nature of the offender’s role in the same and the amount of illegal drugs involved.

In 2018, a national survey indicated that just 18 percent of Fins believed that adult use should be legal. In 2019, a citizen’s initiative to decriminalize gained 50,000 signatures to force the Parliament to consider it (it did not pass). 

Finland’s Narcotics Act states that the use or possession of any illicit drug (including cannabis) is a criminal offense. Punishments can range, depending on the amount involved, from a fine to six months in prison.

CBD, however, is legal, and limited amounts of hemp are grown in the country.

The fact that the issue of cannabis reform appears to be moving, no matter how glacially in Finland, is a good sign for this part of Europe.

Scandinavia, generally, has tough laws about cannabis use. Sweden allows only the medical use of cannabinoid-based drugs. In Iceland, in stark contrast, the entire cannabinoid discussion, even for medical use, is off the table. Norway has liberalized its cannabis laws (back in 2018) allowing for small amounts of possession in the country. The one exception is Denmark, which began a four-year medical trial in 2018 and is further considering a recreational trial in the near future. The country has one of the larger cultivation programs in Europe with over 40 licenses granted.

Given that agriculture only represents just over two percent of Finnish GDP, it is unlikely that a large cultivation industry will develop here. But imports, just like in Germany, and of the medical kind, could begin to show up here, particularly from neighboring Denmark.

Regardless, some kind of cannabis reform is clearly on the political agenda now—and that is a positive development, generally. There is also, at this point, no part of Europe where at least medical cannabis reform has been considered. Moving forward, beyond this, however, is going to be the next big hurdle, just about everywhere, including in Scandinavia.

It remains to be seen what will happen, but it’s clear that a change is coming to Europe when it comes to legal cannabis. 

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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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Italian Advocates Collect 500,000 Signatures for Decriminalization of Cannabis and Psychoactive Substances

Italian advocate group Referendum Cannabis announced that it has collected 500,000 signatures in one week for its proposed ballot measure, which would decriminalize cannabis cultivation and consumption, as well as other psychoactive substances.

Advocates in charge of Referendum Cannabis announced on Facebook on September 18 that they have collected 500,000 signatures in just one week. It’s also the minimum number of signatures required to qualify for a nationwide ballot voting measure set for Spring 2022.

According to the group, Referendum Cannabis will continue to collect more signatures, according to this Facebook translation. “In less than a week we’ve gathered more than half a million signatures for the #ReferendumCannabis, a stunning outcome that was possible thanks to the efforts of thousands of activists. But to send a clear message to the politics that is already undermining the importance of this result, we want to undermine the parliament with a green tide! Also to be sure to reach the goal and vote in the spring next spring it’s essential to reach 600,000 signatures.”

This success was partially made possible because of a new law that was passed in July, which legitimized the use of collecting signatures digitally. Prior to this, signatures had to be collected in person. According to the Agenzia Giornialistica Italia, advocates of Referendum Cannabis are proud to see how successful the campaign has been with the allowance of digital signatures. “An extraordinary but not surprising result: an intervention on the topic of Cannabis was needed for some time and with the digital signature in a few days the issue exploded,” the advocates told Agenzia Giornialistica Italia, according to a translation.

“This referendum is the first Italian signature collection held entirely online on the referendumcannabis.it site. The speed of the mobilization confirms the desire for change on cannabis but also for participation in decisions on matters that affect personally. Now, however, we need to collect a further 15 percent more signatures to be sure of being able to deliver the referendum to the Supreme Court on September 30.”

If the referendum becomes law, it would decriminalize cannabis cultivation and would “eliminate the prison sentence for any illegal conduct relating to cannabis, with the exception of the association aimed at illicit trafficking pursuant to art,” the Referendum Cannabis’ website states. It would remove the ban on driving a moped for three years if an individual has been found in possession or consumption of drugs, as it would “eliminate the sanction of the suspension of the driving license and of the certificate of suitability to drive mopeds currently intended for all conducts aimed at the personal use of any narcotic or psychotropic substance…”

Italian Group Also Pushes to Legalize Psilocybin

It would also allow Italian residents to use other psychoactive substances, specifically psilocybin. “It is also worth remembering that with the exception of cannabis inflorescences (and mushrooms), all other narcotic substances necessarily require subsequent steps for the substance to be consumed, activities which continue to be punished in Article 73.” However, the group does not specific which psychoactive substances would be allowed.

A few of the most prominent supporters of Referendum Cannabis include the Luca Coscioni Association, Meglio Legale, Forum Droghe, Società della Ragione, “Antigone and by the Italian + Europa, Possible and Radical parties.” The referendum will still need to be approved by the Supreme Court of Cassation and Constitutional Court of Italy in order to proceed as a ballot measure next year.

On September 8, the country’s Justice Committee of the lower house of Italian parliament stated that residents may cultivate up to four cannabis plants for personal use, and increases the punishment for illegal cannabis sales from six to 10 years. It has been two years since the Italian Supreme Court ruled that cultivation was legal, although cultivation is still illegal in the United Kingdom.

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Italy to hold cannabis decriminalization referendum in 2022

Could cannabis legalization in Italy be on the horizon? A new proposal seeking to legalize cannabis for personal use while easing criminal penalties is making waves in the country of love. In just a week, #referendumcannabis garnered well over 500,000 online signatures. It’s the first referendum to ever do so fully online, writes a post […]

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Uruguay Considers Opening Legal Marijuana Market to Tourists

Uruguay, the world’s first nation to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use, is considering opening its regulated marijuana market to tourists. Under the proposal from the administration of President Luis Lacalle Pou, visitors to the country would be permitted to purchase marijuana at licensed outlets, providing a new source of revenue for Uruguay’s struggling regulated cannabis industry.

Daniel Radio, Uruguay’s secretary-general of the National Drugs Board, said that the administration’s plan could be released by the end of this year in order to garner support and build consensus for the proposal, according to a report published by Bloomberg this week. Allowing visitors to the country to purchase marijuana legally would give Uruguay’s cannabis industry access to an additional 3.5 million visitors per year, many who come from neighboring Brazil and Argentina to enjoy beaches during the South American summer during the months of December through February.

“It seems to me that if we come up with a good proposal,” Uruguay could allow tourists to purchase cannabis in its regulated market, Radio said in an interview. “For the upcoming tourism season, it’s highly unlikely, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Uruguay’s Deputy Tourism Minister Remo Monzeglio said the goal is not to make the country a cannabis destination for tourists from around the world. Instead, the plan to allow tourists to purchase marijuana legally is an attempt to direct sales from visitors away from the illicit market and provide regulated producers a new source of business.

Uruguay Legalized Cannabis in 2013

Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize cannabis with a bill passed by lawmakers and signed by the president at the time, Jose Mujica, in December 2013. Under the regulations, adult citizens of the country and foreign residents can join a government registry that allows them to grow their own marijuana, join a cannabis buyers club, or purchase up to 40 grams of cannabis per month at authorized pharmacies.

Supporters of legalizing cannabis in Uruguay argued that the move would support personal freedom, provide a legal alternative to the criminal gangs running the country’s drug trade, and create a new product for export to the rest of the world. But after eight years of legal cannabis, much of the trade in marijuana is still controlled by illicit gangs while exports have yet to hit $10 million in a year. And as more countries around the globe legalize cannabis, competition for lucrative foreign trade in the crop is ramping up.

“I think there was excessive optimism regarding the possibilities of growth, because we aren’t playing alone here,” said Radio, who also heads cannabis regulatory agency Ircca.

Cannabis exports are increasing, doubling to $7.5 million in 2020, but far less than the hundreds of millions of dollars predicted by some in the industry. And now Colombia is emerging as a regional powerhouse cannabis producer, posing stiff competition to other countries including Uruguay thanks to favorable regulations and an excellent climate for growing the crop.

Camilo Ospina, chief innovation officer for the Canadian-owned PharmaCielo Colombia Holdings, noted in 2018 that Colombia’s reputation as a global source for premium cannabis has already been established thanks to decades of trade on the illicit market.

“Our advantage is that the Colombian brand already has a mystique,” Ospina told The Washington Post. “We want to intensify that, so that the Colombian cannabis you already know – the Punto Rojo, the Colombian Gold – is the cannabis you want to buy.”

To contend with the competition, Uruguay has enacted new regulations to boost imports. And the country’s cannabis regulator Ircca has issued a total of 56 licenses for operations including medical marijuana cultivation, research and development, and medical and consumer product manufacturing.

“Some investment is showing up in manufacturing and value-added processes. That has to be our bet, because it’s the only way Uruguay can be competitive,” Radio said, noting the country’s high costs for labor and energy.

Tourists Would Pay More for Weed

Radio said that a presidential decree from Lacalle Pou would be the quickest way to grant tourists who register with the national database access to Uruguay’s authorized pharmacies and perhaps cannabis clubs. A plan that would allow visitors to the country to purchase marijuana without joining the national registry would require new legislation from Uruguay’s Congress, however.

Monzeglio of the tourism ministry said in a separated interview that he has proposed charging tourists who buy cannabis in Uruguay higher prices than those paid by residents of the country. The additional revenue, he suggested, could be used to fund addiction treatment and drug rehabilitation programs.

Although Uruguay is unlikely to establish rules to allow visitors to purchase legal cannabis this year, the country is ready to welcome back tourists following the pandemic. Authorities plan to reopen Uruguay’s borders to fully vaccinated travelers beginning on Nov. 1.

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Michigan Legislature Introduces Bills to Reduce Caregiver Program

Michigan lawmakers proposed three bills yesterday that aim to reduce what caregivers can provide for medical cannabis patients.

The Michigan legislature returned full-time on September 9, and House Bills 5300, 5301 and 5302 were introduced on September 14. This bill package seeks to alter the Medical Marihuana Act, which was initially implemented in 2008. If passed, the bills would reduce caregiver patients from five to only one, and reduce the number of plants a caregiver can grow from 60 to 12, with an additional 12 plants they’re allowed to grow for personal use. One of the bills also creates a license called “specialty medical grower,” which would require a $500 application to get cannabis tested.

According to Mlive.com, these bills were proposed one day before a protest was set to occur. Yesterday, the “Michigan Caregivers United: Rally at the Capitol” protest was held in front of the state capitol in Lansing. The march was held to protest the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturer’s Association (MCMA) and its push to limit caregiver’s allowances for their patients. 

“Michigan’s cannabis consumers have lashed out in anger; a boycott of MCMA products and companies affiliated with them has resulted in the resignation of their president, the removal of any reference to individual members on their website, the election of a new board chair to clean up their public relations and the cancellation of orders from MCMA companies by retailers.” The protest has been in the works for some time, with an official press release announcement posted on July 8 in anticipation of these plans.

The MCMA released a study in June through the Anderson Economic Group stating that 70 percent of cannabis sales were made outside of regulated dispensaries, and that illegal sales are the main way that residents are obtaining cannabis. 

“Michigan’s unregulated cannabis market poses an immediate threat to the health of all Michiganders, and the Michigan Cannabis Safety Act updates outdated laws to help ensure all Michiganders have access to tested, tracked and labeled cannabis products,” MCMA Board Chair Shelly Edgerton told Mlive.com

“We look forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to bring Michigan’s unregulated, unlicensed cannabis market in line with the rest of the cannabis industry to help ensure safe, high-quality cannabis is available for all Michiganders.”

The MCMA’s website states that the organization represents “nearly half of all multiple Class C cannabis licenses in Michigan,” which is the most expensive license type, and represents the largest cultivation businesses in the state.

Those who oppose this notion argue that caregivers are not responsible for black market sales, and that there’s no good reason to threaten the caregiver system. Over 250 companies have spoken out in favor of supporting the caregiver program as well as small businesses. Companies such as The Botanical Co. released official statements regarding the MCMA. 

“We stand with our fellow industry professionals in their efforts to stop the attack on caregivers. It is our belief that our industry thrives when small businesses and caregivers can flourish,” officials said in a statement. “Our customers and patients remain at the core of what we do and to ensure they continue to have access to the products they rely on, we are actively pursuing the sourcing of high quality products from companies that more align with our mission. We encourage local brands to contact us if they are interested in retail space at our stores. Together, we can make a difference and move our industry forward.”

According to the Marijuana Regulatory Agency in a July report, there are 30,229 caregivers in the state and 251,284 medical cannabis patients that they serve. A majority of these patients suffer from conditions such as chronic pain, arthritis, muscle spasms and PTSD. Meanwhile, the state is taking many steps toward improving social equity and supporting residents’ rights to consume while off the job.

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Ohio to More than Double Number of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

A regulatory panel in Ohio gave the green light on Tuesday to plans that would more than double the number of medical cannabis dispensaries in the state.

The Ohio Board of Pharmacy voted “to start the process of awarding an additional 73 licenses,” per the Cincinnati Enquirer. There are currently 58 licensed dispensaries in the Buckeye State, with the Enquirer noting that nine of which “are owned and operated by someone who identifies as African American, Native American, Hispanic, Latino or Asian.”

The Enquirer reported that equity provisions “weren’t discussed during the meeting or mentioned in the request for applications approved Tuesday,” and that a spokesperson for the Ohio Board of Pharmacy said that the board “is still reviewing how it can encourage equity within the state law and rules.”

According to the paper, licenses for cultivation and dispensaries “were awarded in 2017 and 2018 under state law that required 15 percent of all marijuana licenses go to businesses owned by a member of one of those ‘economically disadvantaged’ groups,” but that requirement was later “struck down by court and won’t be in place for this second application round for 73 new licenses that begins this month.”

For now, more details regarding the application process are set to be released next week. The application period will run in November, and the licenses will likely be awarded early next year. 

Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016 when lawmakers in the state passed a bill authorizing the treatment. The state’s first dispensaries opened three years later, as it continues to tweak and expand the law.

In June, the Ohio State Medical Board added Huntington’s disease, terminal disease and spasticity to the list of qualifying conditions, although it also rejected the addition of autism spectrum disorder, restless leg syndrome, panic disorder with agoraphobia and spasms.

That same month, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program issued new rules over the use of Delta-8 THC, which included a new requirement licensee notification of “the use of Delta-8 THC must include a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that describes the process and methods with which Delta-8 THC will be used in compliance” with the state’s existing laws. 

The panel also issued requirements that the “total THC content—combination of Delta-9 THC and any other THC isomer or analog—of the manufactured product shall not exceed 70 percent,” a notable stipulation given hemp-derived Delta-8’s similarities to marijuana. In that same vein, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control program required that Delta-8 THC “must be fully incorporated on the package and label for patient awareness,” and that abbreviations “such as ‘Delta-8’ or ‘D8,’” are not allowed.

But while the state’s medical marijuana law continues to evolve, efforts to legalize recreational pot use have been slow to get off the ground. 

In July, a pair of Ohio lawmakers introduced what was said to be the first bill to legalize and regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana in the state’s history.

The bill, introduced by Democratic state House Reps. Casey Weinstein and Terrence Upchurch, would make it legal for adults aged 21 and older to “buy and possess up to five ounces of marijuana at a time and grow up to 12 mature plants for personal use.”

“We’re seeing there are dramatic economic benefits, there are medical benefits and there’s a strong criminal justice avenue here so we can focus law enforcement on violent crime,” Weinstein said after the bill was introduced. “Ohio is at the point where we’re going to be behind if we don’t act now. I hope this provides the spark that we need to elevate the conversation and get this legislation moving.”

The state’s Republican governor, Mike Dewine, has previously voiced opposition to legalizing marijuana.

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