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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

National News for April 2016 - by Rachel Bunting



Ohio’s Attorney General Rejects Proposed Amendment
Ohio: A proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution was rejected by Attorney General Mike DeWine this month citing two defects with the summary language of the petition. The amendment attempted to legalize marijuana in the state for medical and industrial use. The petition, titled “Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Amendment”, was submitted by a legal counsel representing the petitioners who gathered 1,000 valid signatures. AG DeWine, however, stated the defects in the language were: “1. it omits references to proposed amendment language that industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis shall be researched, regulated, and promoted by the State in a manner substantially similar to other agricultural crops. And 2. The summary language states that the proposed amendment provides the right to a fair and transparent licensing process for cannabis-related commerce and provides equal opportunity for access, ownership, and employment for all Ohio citizens who have attained the age of 21 years old. However, the proposed amendment establishes the age limitation only on licensing and not on receiving equal opportunity to access, ownership, and employment.” DeWine stated in a letter to petitioners, “For these reasons, I am unable to certify the summary as a fair and truthful statement of the proposed amendment.”





Medical Cannabis for Minors
Connecticut: The Public Health Committee in Hartford approved a proposed legislation this month that would allow qualified patients under the age of 18 to use medical marijuana for debilitating illnesses. The decision comes days after the funeral of Cyndiemae Meehan, a 13 year-old girl with epilepsy who testified with her mother in favor of the legislation. Representative Kevin Ryan has proposed the bill be named in honor of Cyndiemae. If the bill is approvaed, patients who meet the necessary requirements will need the consent of a parent or guardian to receive the medication. The proposal is now in the House of Representatives to be considered for further action.



Google Blocks Medical Marijuana Ads
New York: Ari Hoffnung, CEO of a licensed medical marijuana dispensary, Vireo Health, claims Google denied the company the opportunity to advertise with them. Hoffnung says the advertisements would promote the dispensary locations and medical conditions their products can be used for. Google claims, in an email sent to Vireo, they would not permit the ads because the search engine does not “allow promotion of substances that alter the mental state for recreation or otherwise induce highs, products or services marketed to facilitate drug use, or instructional content about producing, purchasing, or using recreational drugs.” Hoffnung, however, argues that his products are for medicinal purposes, not recreational, and that New York’s medical program is “highly controlled”. Attorney Paul Derohannesian told TWC News that the issue comes up because marijuana use, for any reason, is still illegal under federal law so advertising, even in legal states, needs to first be dealt with by the federal government. Hoffnung is hopeful that public pressure will sway the company into changing its mind but is also considering legal options in the future.



Progress in the Keystone State
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives voted in favor of Senate Bill 3, bringing the state one step closer to being the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana. State Rep. Margo Davidson voted for the bill stating cannabis can fight many diseases, with ‘a main one being epilepsy, particularly in children.’ The bill could be on the Governor’s desk as early as the 23rd of March and Governor Wolf has already agreed to sign the bill when it comes before him. 



Supreme Court Dismisses Colorado Cannabis Case
Washington, D.C.: The Supreme Court dismissed a case brought against Colorado by its two neighboring states, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The complaint brought before the court stated that Colorado’s amendment allowing marijuana for recreational use is “unconstitutional because it frustrates the enforcement of federal drug laws” according to the Huffington Post.

     Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas disagreed with the dismissal, believing that it is the Supreme Court’s constitutional role to handle disputes between states. Thomas felt the case should have been allowed to continue as the plaintiff states had a “reasonable case” as they claim that Colorado’s Amendment 64 “has increased trafficking and transportation of Colorado-sourced marijuana into their territories, requiring them to expend significant law enforcement, judicial system, and penal system resources to combat the increased trafficking and transportation”. The dismissal of the case is a victory for Colorado. Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project based in Colorado, is happy with the outcome telling NPR: “States have every right to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana, just as Nebraska and Oklahoma have the right to maintain their failed prohibition policies.”



K-9 Unit Sniffs Out 25 Pounds
Indiana: State police pulled over a vehicle in late March for following too closely on the expressway. The officer suspected criminal activity due to several suspicious indicators from the driver and called for a K-9 unit. The canine officer detected illegal substances in the car, which was then searched. Police found 25lbs. of high-grade marijuana in duffle bags worth an estimated $150,000 in street value. The two men in the vehicle were arrested and face felony charges of dealing marijuana over 10lbs and possession of marijuana over 10lbs. 




Senator Lewis Opposes Commercial Cannabis
Massachusetts: Senator Jason M. Lewis of Massachusetts has had a stance of neutrality when it comes to marijuana legalization. Sen. Lewis wanted to get a better idea of the drug, so he interviewed more than 50 experts on the topic, read the current research intently, and had a firsthand observation of a state with legalization in place. Having obtained information and data, Lewis has abandoned neutrality and begun speaking out against legalizing marijuana in his state. The opinion carries a lot of weight as he is the chair of the special legislative committee on marijuana. According to the Boston Gazette, Lewis claims his position on the issue is influenced by his role as a father and public official saying, “I am opposed to the likely ballot question because this is the wrong time for Massachusetts to go down this road, and a commercial, profit-driven market is the wrong approach to take.”

     The ballot Lewis refers to would make using, possessing, and giving away up to one ounce of recreational marijuana legal for residents 21 and older, and allow for retail sales beginning in 2018. Lewis feels that the measure could make cannabis more accessible for minors while teaching them that marijuana is safe to use. The senator maintains that he is not opposed to marijuana legalization, but he would like to see the state get their medicinal laws corrected and the federal government ease their restrictions before moving forward with recreational legalization in Mass.

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