The final version of a medical marijuana bill in New York was submitted before midnight, qualifying it for a final vote on the final day of the legislative session Thursday. We reported yesterday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had issued a list of changes he wanted to see that mostly served to appease law enforcement concerns. The governor wanted many qualifying conditions eliminated, such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, but only post-concussion syndrome, lupus, and diabetes were removed from the bill. Gov. Cuomo wanted to ban cannabis smoking but the new bill does not. Bill sponsors did bow to the governor’s complaint that 2.5 ounces of marijuana per month was excessive, reducing the possession limit to just two ounces per month. The governor’s wish for a 5-year sunset clause was also rejected. Under the bill, medical cannabis would be taxed at 7%, patients would not be allowed to cultivate cannabis, and only nineteen or fewer certified growers will be licensed statewide during the program’s first two years.
While the New Approach Oregon campaign has raised over one million dollars and surpassed 100,000 signatures, the other legalization campaign in Oregon is beset by labor controversy. The Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (or CRRH) was picketed by its signature gatherers, who walked off the job last week. The United Campaign Workers (or UCW) posted a demand letter to CRRH complaining of late and bounced paychecks and CRRH’s failure to reimburse of travel expenses. CRRH is gathering signatures for Initiative 21, a constitutional amendment called Help End Marijuana Prohibition (or HEMP), and Initiative 22, a statutory legalization called the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (or OCTA). HEMP has submitted 43,000 of the over 116,000 signatures needed and OCTA has submitted just 34,000 of the over 87,000 signatures it requires to qualify for the November ballot. UCW also wanted to discuss “why we’ve continued on [HEMP] so late in the game and if it’s going to fail.” On Monday, UCW offered to return to work unconditionally, but were locked out by CRRH management. UCW says the lock out is illegal and will be filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. CRRH did not return 420RADIO News’ requests for comment.
Safer Arizona, a grassroots coalition of four volunteer organizations, has called off its signature gathering campaign to legalize marijuana in 2014. The group explained that they had only gathered “around a third” of the signatures it was seeking. Arizona law requires over a quarter million signatures to place an initiative on the ballot. As a volunteer effort, the group explained it did not have the manpower and money required to complete a statewide initiative drive. However, the group is resolved to fight for legalization in 2016 by allying with the Marijuana Policy Project, the national advocacy group with deep pockets that put medical marijuana on the ballot and won with 50.13% of the vote in 2010. “Over the next couple years we will be building a broad coalition of community activists, local leaders, organizations and businesses that are committed to passing a law that regulates marijuana similarly to alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.
Governor Chris Christie said Monday on his monthly radio show that medical marijuana “is a fallacy” and all state medical marijuana programs “are a front for legalization.” New Jersey’s medical marijuana program is one of the most restrictive in the nation, a point that was made recently in newspaper editorials. One woman’s op-ed explained how New Jersey’s strict rules cost her daughter’s life. One newspaper said the medical marijuana program “is on life support” because so few doctors and patients will enroll. For Gov. Christie, however, low enrollment isn’t a sign of his failure to implement a workable program, it’s confirmation of his anti-medical marijuana bias. “What there’s a huge demand for is marijuana. Not medical marijuana,” said the governor. “Because when we run a medically based program, you don’t see the demand.” Last week, the president of one of the state’s three dispensaries quit, complaining he’d been working for three years for no pay since lack of patients can’t keep the business afloat. Gov. Christie mocked that complaint, asking, “What did these folks say? They weren’t making enough money. You know, if this was a medical program, what’s everybody worried about making money for?”
Congress does not appear to be willing to overturn the District of Columbia’s marijuana decriminalization law. The new law was signed by the mayor on March 31 and is currently under its required 60-day review by Congress, which has final say over any laws in Washington DC. Under the new law, as of July 17 any adult 18 years of age or older caught in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is subject to only a $25 fine and the confiscation of their weed. No members of Congress have stepped up to sponsor legislation to block the decriminalization, perhaps heeding the nation’s change in sentiment after a 219-189 vote in the House to defund DEA raids on medical marijuana states. Congress’ new-found relaxed attitude toward marijuana in DC may be put to the test this November, however, when District residents may be voting on full-scale marijuana legalization.