Berkeley Patients Group notched another win against federal authorities in court Friday when a Federal judge sided with the City of Berkeley in its efforts to keep the dispensary open. The dispensary will now remain open while the courts decide whether the City of Berkeley has the legal standing to defend the club in court against federal prosecutors. In May 2013, United States Attorney Melinda Haag moved to seize the dispensary as part of a broad crackdown on state-legal canna-businesses. But the property owner and the City of Berkeley sued to block the forfeiture. The City argues that it would suffer irreparable harm if the case were allowed to proceed to conclusion without City participation. BPG’s leadership does not understand why U.S. Attorney Haag is defying orders from the White House as well as Congressional law mandating she do something more useful with her time and resources.
Alaska lawmakers are considering a bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee that would remove marijuana, hash and hash oil from the state’s controlled substance statutes. As of Feb. 24, adults 21 years and older will be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana under a ballot issue passed in November. Lawmakers have been working on a bill that accomplishes that, and also updates other related laws. Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, said the newest bill allows adults to possess up to 4 ounces of marijuana. The initiative legalized possession of up to 1 ounce, but a previous court decision allowed possession at home of up to four ounces based on privacy rights. The draft also adds marijuana to language revolving around dependency — nurses can lose their licenses for habitually abusing marijuana, and individuals can receive treatment for marijuana abuse. The state has nine months from Feb. 24 to write regulations for the retail and commercial aspects of the industry.
The Virginia General Assembly has passed legislation to allow use of two derivatives of the marijuana plant for treating severe epilepsy. It’s the first effective medical marijuana legislation to win approval in Virginia, according to its House sponsor, Del. Dave Albo. The measure, unanimously passed by the House on Tuesday, allows possession of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil with written certification by a doctor that it is needed for treatment of intractable epilepsy. Lawmakers were moved by emotional testimony from parents of children with epilepsy who have suffered debilitating side effects from taking legal drugs. A similar bill was approved by the state Senate last week 37-1. Albo said his bill originally would have covered marijuana used in treating cancer and glaucoma, but he encountered opposition from lawmakers concerned that the drug would be diverted for recreational use.
Medical marijuana will be back on the table during the Louisiana Legislature’s spring lawmaking session. Rep. Dalton Honore, D-Baton Rouge, has pre-filed a bill that would allow for marijuana to be dispensed and distributed for medical purposes. The Legislature legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 1991, but the current law does not allow for the legal dispensing of the drug. Doctors can legally prescribe it, patients can legally use it, but there is no way to acquire it. Honore’s bill would address the lack of a middle man. Last year, 79 percent of Louisiana residents participating in an LSU survey said they supported some marijuana legalization. Gov. Bobby Jindal has also indicated he would back access to medical marijuana, as long as it was tightly regulated. Last year’s proposal was killed in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The powerful Louisiana Sheriffs Association and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell opposed the legislation.
A group pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine has submitted a citizens initiative to the Secretary of State to start the process of getting the issue on the November 2016 ballot. Legalize Maine, a political action committee formed last year, proposes to legalize and tax marijuana, with an emphasis on supporting local agriculture. The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project also plans to gather signatures to get legalization on the ballot next year. Legalize Maine’s plan would allow adults 21 and older to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana outside of their homes, require that 40 percent of cultivation licenses go to small-scale farmers and allow marijuana social clubs, where people could buy and use the drug. It would also tax marijuana sales at 10 percent, a higher rate that the one that applies to prepared food, lodging and liquor. To qualify for the ballot, Legalize Maine will need to collect 61,123 valid signatures.