U.S. News Updates
District of Columbia
Cannabis legalization advocacy group DCMJ is organizing a series of protests against the Trump administration’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. The protests, dubbed “Smoke Sessions” by the group, began with a meeting with Sessions’s congressional staff in the Russell Senate Office Building. Riffing on Sessions’s famous quote that “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” volunteers arrived in bright red shirts bearing such phrases as “Great Americans use cannabis” and “Great Americans do not belong in jail for a plant.” Although its ultimate goal is to block Sessions from being confirmed, the group is also seeking clarification on the Trump administration’s stance on federal cannabis policy.
Rep. Clel Baudler (R-Greenfield) announced plans to introduce a bill that would allow for the production and distribution of medical cannabis oil. The Legislature passed a law in 2014 that allows Iowans to possess cannabis oil for the treatment of epilepsy, but a separate law makes it illegal to manufacture or distribute cannabis oil. As such, patients have no legal avenues through which they can obtain the oil. The 2014 law will expire in July 2017, and several legislators have proposed solutions. Rep. Peter Cownie (R-West Des Moines) proposed a law for manufacturing and distribution, but it stalled in the Ways and Means Committee. Rep. John Forbes (D-Urbandale) has advocated expanded access, acknowledging that “We’re kind of under the gun right now, and we need to act.”
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission announced that it will hire a diversity consultant to consider how to ensure licenses are distributed equitably. After the first round of license approvals, some lawmakers and community leaders spoke out against the chosen applicants, noting that the list did not include minority business owners despite an explicit requirement written into the medical cannabis law itself. The state paused the issuance of licenses after the initial approval of applicants seeking a cultivation or processing license, but the commission has continued reviewing applications and plans to announce the recipients of 102 dispensary licenses by Dec. 9.
After an extremely close vote in favor of adult-use legalization, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced that a recount will commence on Dec. 5. Opponents challenged the results after it became clear the measure would be decided by a razor-thin margin. The recount, which will take place at the Maine Department of Public Safety, will be open to the public and is expected to take four to six weeks.
According to Secretary of State William Galvin, the results of Question 4 may not fully certified by Dec. 15, the day that the measure is slated to go into effect. Before a successful ballot measure can become law, it must be certified by the governor’s council, a panel of eight members that meets on Wednesdays. Legalization advocates have been frustrated, citing a lack of cooperation from lawmakers, who have discussed the possibility of delaying implementation of the new law until 2018.
Montana voted to lift crippling restrictions on medical cannabis dispensaries this month, but advocates are now pushing for the measure to take effect immediately. An apparent drafting error means the law takes effect July 1, 2017. Bozeman attorney James Goetz filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association asking District Judge James Reynolds to allow dispensaries to re-open immediately. Another advocacy group, Montanans Ensuring Access to Natural Medicine, is also updating a lawsuit filed in September to argue that dispensaries should be re-opened immediately.
A group of New Jersey lawmakers, aides, and lobbyists visited Colorado last month to investigate the inner workings of the state’s cannabis industry. The trip included a tour of Medicine Man Technologies, one of the state’s largest cannabis growing and retail operations, as well as meetings with state legislators, tax officials, public health researchers, and entrepreneurs. A Rutgers–Eagleton poll from June found that 58 percent of New Jersey residents support regulated, adult-use legalization. Gov. Chris Christie, however, remains in the 39 percent opposed, and has repeatedly vowed to block legalization efforts. Christie will be in office only for another 13 months, and although his successor has not been named yet, the current frontrunner, Phil Murphy, has expressed support for legalization, taxation, and an end to prohibition.
During the general election, about 30 counties and cities voted to lift a moratorium on cannabis businesses, meaning those jurisdictions must now establish rules and regulations on everything from operating hours to security protocols. In order to cash in on the excise tax revenue, a strong incentive for local governments, the communities that opted in to the state’s cannabis program should have regulations finalized no later than January, when the opt-in measure go into effect.
A new bill is in the works to revive failed efforts to establish limited delivery service in Washington state, Leafly News reported last week. Although there is demand for Washington delivery services, retailers say they remain concerned about the safety of delivery drivers, who could be carrying large sums of cash and cannabis products. The newly proposed bill would disallow curbside sales and limit the amount of cash and product in the vehicle, but an issue still at stake are geographical limits to the delivery service areas. A previous bill would have offered a limited number of delivery endorsements to retailers in cities with a population of over 650,000 residents. The bill made it out of committee, but no action was taken on it before the voting deadline.
International News Updates
A new opinion poll found that 92 percent of Irish respondents are in favor of legalizing cannabis for medical purposes. All surveyed areas were more than 90 percent in favor, with Munster counties expressing the most support, at 94 percent, and women responding more positively, with 93 percent in favor compared to 90 percent of men. The 2016 Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill is on the docket to be debated in the Dáil for the first time since it was submitted last July, and the Joint Committee on Health met earlier this month to discuss cannabis medical reform.
The majority of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s political party, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), voted to support the regulation of cannabis, and have embraced plans to “redesign the entire domain surrounding soft drugs.” Although Rutte has been vocal about his distaste for cannabis, referring to it “garbage” and “shit,” 81.6 percent of the VVD party voted in support of making legalization an issue in the party platform. Although the move is purely a show of support at the moment, Dutch NGOs have been examining regulatory models from around the world and preparing to assist lawmakers should they decide to legalize and regulate more of the nation’s long-established cannabis industry.