State of the Leaf: Oregon Weighs Cannabis Protections for Workers on Days Off

U.S. News Updates

Alaska

Sara Chambers, director of Alaska’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office told a state budget panel that the office needs at least two more licensing examiners and an administrative assistance to handle licensing the state’s retail cannabis shops. The board has also been debating a previously agreed-upon clause that would allow onsite consumption of cannabis in retail shops. The Board has not come to a clear conclusion, however, and regulators are now requesting licensed retailers interested in allowing onsite consumption to submit relevant documents for review.

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Georgia

Georgia’s medical marijuana champion is back in action with a new proposal to expand the state’s limited CBD law. State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) will be introducing a proposal to add AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, intractable pain, and autism to the list of qualifying medical marijuana conditions. House Bill 65, a bill that would allow voters to decide if medical cannabis should be grown in Georgia, is currently being debated in the legislature and will be discussed during a meeting of the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis next Wednesday. If the commission votes in favor of the bill, it will move on the House floor. Even as Peake moves forward with the legislation, however, lawmakers are considering a separate bill from Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) that would lower the amount of THC allowed in medical cannabis from five percent down to three percent. The bill was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee despite Watson admitting that he has no scientific evidence to back up the bill.

Kansas

State Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City) announced he will introduce two cannabis-related bills, one that would allow medicinal use of cannabis and one to legalize adult use. Haley also introduced medical cannabis proposals during the 2016 legislative session, but both died in committee. Haley noted that the Kansas Legislature may be more amenable to legalization following the 2016 election and pointed to revenue that Kansas would likely earn through legalization. Haley said he supports decriminalization as a way to reduce cannabis arrests but feels full legalization is the better route. “One focus for me is the loss in revenue and work hours for people who are needlessly being persecuted and prosecuted for simple possession of a medicinal, natural plant,” he said.

Minnesota

State Rep. Jon Applebaum (DFL-Minnetonka) announced he is in the process of drafting a bill that would legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. The chances of the bill passing are expected to be fairly slim in the Republican-controlled Legislature, but Applebaum insists Minnesotans’ attitudes are shifting toward legalization. The state legalized the use and possession of medical cannabis for qualified patients in 2014, but the state has one of the most restrictive programs in the country. Only two dispensaries operate in the state, and patients may not purchase cannabis flower, relying instead on only pills, oils, and tinctures to treat their conditions.

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North Dakota

An overwhelming 64 percent of North Dakotans voted to legalize medical marijuana in November, but an extensive bill has since been introduced to amend the measure. Senate Bill 2344, which weighs in at a whopping 81 pages, would prohibit possession cannabis flower in plant form, would cap the number of cultivators and dispensaries to four and eight, respectively, and would reduce the amount of cannabis may legally possess. Advocates plan to lodge complaints that the bill will override the intention of the voters. In the meantime, the North Dakota Department of Health has appointed Kenan Bullinger to direct the state’s new medical marijuana program, effective immediately. Bullinger has served as director of the Food and Lodging Division and has more than three decades of experience in regulation and oversight. Proponents of the voter-approved Compassionate Care Act lodged their complaints during the first hearing of Senate Bill 2344 this Wednesday at 9:45 a.m. in the Capitol’s Brynhild Haugland Room.

Oregon

A novel bill has been introduced in Oregon that would protect employees from being fired for consuming cannabis on their days off. Bill No. 301 would make it illegal for employers to prohibit the use of “any substance that is lawful to use in Oregon” during their time off work. The bill does not specifically mention cannabis but instead aims to broaden an existing state law that provides the same protections for tobacco use.

Rhode Island

A Public Policy Polling survey has found that 59 percent of Rhode Islanders support legalizing cannabis for adult use. Marijuana Policy Project began regularly polling the state in 2012, after a poll found that 52 percent of voters supported legalization. Since then, support has steadily increased, with 57 percent reporting in favor of legalization in 2015 and now with nearly three of five of all Rhode Islanders on board. State Sen. Josh Miller (D-Cranston) and Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence) have said that they will file legislation to legalize cannabis this week in the General Assembly. Rhode Island does not allow for voter initiatives, making support from the legislature essential to enact a legalization measure.

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Utah

Utah’s House of Representatives voted approve a proposal to allow universities to study the benefits of medical marijuana. Sen. Brad Daw (R-Orem) introduced the bill with the endorsement of the Utah Medical Association, which has called for more study on the medicinal benefits of cannabis before the state enacts a medical marijuana law. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Vermont

More than 50 Vermont lawyers signed a letter urging the Legislature to end cannabis prohibition and legalize cannabis statewide. The letter will be presented to the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing for H. 170 on Thursday at 9 a.m. in Room 30 of the Vermont State House in Montpelier. H. 170 is a bipartisan proposal to eliminate all penalties for the possession and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis by adults 21 years of age and older. The letter notes the the recent laws passed in Maine and Massachusetts, reading: “We cannot afford to wait and watch any longer as other jurisdictions reap the benefits of regulation while we continue to pay for the consequences of prohibition.”

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Wisconsin

Two Wisconsin lawmakers are making another effort to bring medical cannabis to the Badger State. Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) have teamed up on cannabis reform, sponsoring a pair of bills this year. One would legalize cannabis use and possession for medical purposes. The other is an advisory referendum that would allow voters to decide the issue. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), a powerful political figure in the Wisconsin Legislature, surprised his colleagues by supporting medical marijuana legalization, which bodes well for the future of the bill. Another bill, which would allow the possession of cannabis extracts with a doctor’s certification—a fix to a 2014 limited CBD law—is expected to pass through the Senate this week, but it must pass the Assembly and be signed by Gov. Scott Walker before becoming law.

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International News Updates

New Zealand

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has delegated the decision-making process for prescribing medical cannabis to bureaucrats at the Ministry of Health, removing a rule that required ministerial signoff on recommendations. Since the first application was approved, guidelines and regulations have been developed, improved, and simplified, Dunne said, adding that he expects the New Zealand Medical Association and the Pharmacy Society of New Zealand to encourage medical professionals to consider medicinal cannabis-based products as a method of treatment.

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