State of the Leaf: Texas Decriminalization Measure Moves Ahead, MMJ Stalls in SC

Florida

There’s a lot going on in Tallahassee as Sunshine State legislators forge the regulatory framework for Florida’s medical marijuana program.

Senators appear poised to advance legislation (SB 406) to welcome five new cannabis dispensaries to Florida by October. At least one would be minority-owned. Friday’s measure also requires four additional dispensaries within “six months after each instance of the registration of 75,000 qualifying patients with the compassionate use registry.”

That 75,000 figure is dramatically less than the previous threshold of 250,000.

The House is currently considering a slightly stricter measure.

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Maryland

Add Maryland to the growing list of states considering using cannabis as a tool to combat opioid addition. An amendment to add “opiate use disorder” to the list of qualifying conditions was introduced last week in Annapolis. It didn’t last long, though. By Monday, that measure had been stripped from the bill.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore), said that insisting on the opioid bit would have risked the whole package.

“Like they say, the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze,” she told local media.

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“Reefer madness propaganda unfortunately lingers on,” MPP’s Kate Bell told Leafly. “It’s important to keep in mind that, unlike potentially deadly opiates, there are no recorded deaths due to overdose on cannabis.”

Massachusetts

Bay State lawmakers are poised to rework the state’s adult-use cannabis regulations. For starters, lawmakers would strip the state treasurer of regulatory authority in favor of an “independent oversight commission” in an effort to protect adult-use cannabis from the whims of a solitary elected official.

Reaction from advocates was mixed. Proponents argue the change is necessary to curb any undue influence the industry might have over regulators. Others fretted that switching gears now would cause delays.

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Meanwhile, medical cannabis delivery options became available to patients in Massachusetts this week. But the news comes with a caveat: Delivery costs extra, putting this new service out of reach for many who need it most, such as low-income, homebound patients.

“Massachusetts finally having a dispensary offering a delivery service to the entire state is absolutely a step in the right direction,” Bay State advocate Ellen Brown told Leafly. “But Massachusetts still has a very long way to go to provide all of our patients with safe and affordable access. Only one dispensary is offering a delivery service to the entire state, and it is nowhere near enough to fully take care of all the 34,392 active patients that we have.”

Minnesota

Could the sponsor of Minnesota’s adult-use cannabis referendum become the state’s next governor? Democratic Rep. Tina Liebling, a 12-year House veteran, is one of five Democrats seeking to replace Minnesota’s term-limited Gov. Mark Dayton, whose term ends in January 2019.

“The war on drugs has failed—costing Minnesota taxpayers too much and destroying too many lives,” Liebling’s campaign website says. “It’s time to remove the prohibition on personal use of cannabis. Minnesotans should have the opportunity to decide whether to legalize personal use of cannabis under a careful system of regulation and taxation. Law enforcement should have a voice on drug policy, but never a veto.”

Whether she wins or not, Liebling’s presence in this race ensures that cannabis reform will figure prominently in the campaign debate.

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North Dakota

In November, North Dakota voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure legalizing medical cannabis. Lawmakers have modified their original (awful) regulations but cannabis reformers are (still) unimpressed. According to local media “A big sticking point is restrictions on smoking marijuana as medicine.”

Advocates are threatening another citizen referendum if lawmakers don’t get their act together.

Ohio

Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is unconvinced that Ohio’s newly passed medical marijuana law would put a dent in his state’s appetite for opioids like heroin or Oxycontin.

“I know it’s not recreational marijuana, not recreational use, but I don’t see a role for it in this at all,” Kasich said.” That’s despite evidence showing opioid use drops 25% on average in states with medical cannabis programs.

Kasich signed medical marijuana legislation last June, making Ohio the 25th state to permit medical cannabis.

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South Carolina

The chances you’ll see medical cannabis made legal in South Carolina this legislative session? Slim to none. While both parties deserve blame for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the chief antagonist was Republican House Speaker Jay Lucas, whose personal lobbying efforts reportedly kept the bill bottled up in committee.

Thing were only slightly better in the upper house.

“The Senate hearing was a bit frustrating,” MPP’s Becky Dansky told Leafly. “The other side was allowed several more witnesses whose testimony was based on misinformation and at time flat out lies. They used dated quotes from medical organizations that have since changed their positions and other unscrupulous tactics.”

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Texas

A bill to decriminalize cannabis in the Lone Star State cleared an early hurdle in the Texas legislature on Monday. Still a long way to go, but early GOP support is a good sign.

Meanwhile in El Paso, democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke has made ending the war on drugs a central theme in his longshot bid to defeat US Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican incumbent.

Coincidently, both the state of Texas and the National Football League have notoriously strict marijuana policies which disproportionately affect black people.

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Enter Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a bona fide Texas icon. With three Super Bowl titles to his credit, Jones usually gets what he wants. That’s why mere reports he suggested that the NFL revisit its marijuana policy are such a big deal. Jones’ influence extends well beyond the NFL. His ability to bend Texas policymakers to his will is the stuff of legend.

“Just as changes in public policy lend to cultural changes, shifts in our culture can trigger shifts in public policy,” Marijuana Policy Project’s Mason Tvert told Leafly. “Hopefully this report about Jerry Johnson’s position on the NFL’s needlessly punitive marijuana policy will lead to some Cowboy fans in the Legislature rethinking their positions on Texas’s needlessly punitive marijuana laws.”

West Virginia

With editorial boards urging “a compassionate vote,” the West Virginia House of Delegates finally passed a long-languishing medical cannabis bill. A similar bill previously sailed through the Senate.

Medical cannabis legislation had flat-lined several times in Charleston this year, mostly on account of resistance from House Speaker Tim Armstead. In the end, legislators were unable to withstand the grassroots backlash to all that legislative foot-dragging.

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“My phone has been blowing up and I know that everybody else’s phones have been blowing up,” Del. Mike Caputo (D-Marion) told local media.

The legislation includes a fairly robust list of qualifying health conditions. Unsurprisingly, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and Lou Gehrig’s disease were included alongside Parkinson’s disease and seizure disorders. Anemia and PTSD were also included, among others.

The current bill does not contain a home-grow provision. Medical cannabis would be permitted by pill, oil, tincture, liquid, or dermal patch—but no smokable flower.

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International News

Canada

Ending prohibition would diminish alcohol sales in Canada, according to a recent study by the accounting firm Deloitte.

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Israel

Israel pioneered medical cannabis research and that’s led to a “green rush.” How green? Try $100 million green—with boundless research opportunities to boot. And that’s just for starters.

Read all about it booming here.

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