The marijuana legalization initiative adopted by D.C. voters was transmitted to Congress Tuesday, starting the clock on a review period that defies efforts by Republicans to block its implementation. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson had Initiative 71 transmitted to the House and Senate Tuesday, starting the 30-day legislative review period during which Congress can move to disapprove the legislation. By transmitting the legislation, the council ignores the efforts of some Republican lawmakers who have sought to stop the legalization effort. Last year, Republicans amended a congressional spending bill to include language they say blocks the city from spending any money to loosen drug laws. To block Initiative 71 through the process, federal lawmakers could file a disapproval resolution that both chambers of Congress and the president would have to approve. The process has been used infrequently however — with Congress successfully blocking only three laws over the last 40 years through that process.
Texas State Representative Joe Moody is proposing a bill that, if approved, would reduce the penalties associated with possessing small amounts of marijuana. Moody said Texas spends $740 million a year to arrest and prosecute low-level drug offenders. Under Moody’s bill, possessing one ounce of marijuana would result in a $100 fine. Currently, possessing up to two ounces of marijuana could land an offender six months in jail and a $2,000 fine. Moody says his bill would consider the violation a civil matter. That way, the offender wouldn’t have a criminal record. Lawmakers will also consider legalizing medical marijuana and the use of recreational marijuana. Moody said he’s already heard from other lawmakers who support his bill. “In fact, just sitting on the House floor for the first day,” said Moody, “I had three or four Republican members snag me and just say ‘hey, I’ve been getting a lot of emails about your bill.'”
In Washington State, recreational marijuana is now legal but industrial hemp — which has little THC, the high-causing chemical in pot — is illegal to grow. State Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, and fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are trying to fix that with Senate Bill 5012. The measure would allow the industrial growing, processing and sale of hemp, the fibrous portion of the cannabis plant used in everything from clothes to cosmetics. The United States is the world’s largest importer of hemp, according to a news release from the Legislature Tuesday. The bill also would instruct Washington State University to compile a study about how to implement a hemp industry. The bill received its first committee hearing Tuesday in the Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development Committee and a public hearing. “It just makes common sense to have that a legal crop to grow in Washington state,” said Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond.
Brazil on Wednesday for the first time approved the use of a marijuana derivative to treat people suffering from severe seizures and other conditions. Directors of the country’s Health Surveillance Agency recognized the therapeutic properties of cannabidiol, saying it is now a “controlled” substance and no longer illegal. It can now be used to treat epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia among other disorders. Cannabidiol is not produced in Brazil and the agency said it will draw up legislation permitting it to be imported. Last month, the Federal Medical Council that regulates the medical profession in Brazil authorized neurologists and psychiatrists to prescribe cannabidiol to treat epileptic children and teenagers who do not respond to conventional treatment.
Connecticut’s Medical Marijuana Program could be broadened to allow patients who suffer sickle cell disease, chronic pain after back surgery and severe psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Tourette’s disorder, however, was unanimously rejected from being added to the list of debilitating medical conditions that allow a patient to buy and use medical marijuana. On Wednesday, the marijuana program’s Board of Physicians voted on petitions seeking to add four debilitating conditions to the existing list of roughly a dozen medical ailments that allow a person to buy and use medical marijuana. State law currently allows Connecticut residents 18 or older to register as medical marijuana patients if they have any of the following conditions: cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, intractable spasticity related to nerve damage in the spinal cord, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease or post-traumatic stress disorder.
About 125 people from across Arizona gathered in front of the State Capitol on Monday morning to protest current marijuana laws and call for its legalization. The protest organized by the advocacy group Safer Arizona was one of many planned for the first day of the 2015 Legislative session. The protesters circulated two petitions at the event: one to legalize marijuana and one to end the penalties for possession. The current penalties for illegal marijuana possession are a fine of $750 and up to nearly 4 years in prison, while the sale of marijuana could result in up to 12½ years in prison.