Following weeks of controversy over his fiancee’s alleged influence peddling, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber resigned from his historic fourth term today. Taking the governor’s office until the 2016 election is Secretary of State Kate Brown. Considering what this means for Oregon’s rulemaking process for soon-to-be-legal marijuana, Measure 91 Chief Petitioner Anthony Johnson explained, “We can expect Kate Brown to be more sensible on marijuana law issues than resigning Governor John Kitzhaber. Not only did Governor Kitzhaber oppose Measure 91 and immediately call for changes that would override the will of over 56% of voters, such as moving the medical marijuana program under the OLCC and decreasing the home possession limits allowed under Measure 91, but he also signed the re-criminalization of one ounce of marijuana into law in 1997 (fortunately, Oregon voters wisely overrode his bad judgment).”
A judge in Washington state has ruled a measure approved by Congress to end federal prosecutions of medical marijuana patients does not benefit four family members and a friend who say they grew the drug for medicinal purposes. The defendants were arrested in August 2012 – months before Washington residents voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use – for tending a garden that roughly complied with the state’s medical pot law, passed in 1998. In May, the House of Representatives passed an amendment forbidding federal funds from being used to prosecute state-legal marijuana patients, which President Barack Obama signed into law in December. Defense attorneys attempted to persuade Judge Rice, an Obama appointee who worked more than two decades as a prosecutor in the office pursuing the case, that he should dismiss charges in light of the spending prohibition. Rice disagreed, citing the specific parameters of state law, dashing defendants’ best hope for a quick end to the case.
State legislators aren’t giving up the fight to legalize recreation marijuana in Maryland. Del. Curt Anderson and Sen. Jamie Raskin introduced companion bills in the House and Senate aimed at taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol. The Maryland Control and Revenue Act of 2015 would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes. The legislators sponsored similar legislation last year, but the bills failed to pass. The fiscal note on last year’s bill indicated legalizing recreational marijuana could generate more than $95 million from a $50 per ounce excise tax, and about $39 million from state sales tax. Possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana in Maryland is a civil offense that carries a fine of up to $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and as much as $500 for subsequent offenses.
Marijuana legalization proponents are gathering in San Francisco this weekend to hear about efforts to legalize marijuana in California. The International Cannabis Business Conference on Sunday and Monday is expected to draw about 1,000 investors, entrepreneurs and activists from California and elsewhere for an overview of the legalization landscape. Advocacy groups are now drafting a 2016 ballot initiative that could legalize recreational pot in California. Conference organizer Alex Rogers says the size of California’s existing medical marijuana industry and the few restrictions on it means it will take some effort to persuade all the relevant players that complete legalization would be a step forward. The state previously defeated another effort to legalize recreational use in 2010. Backers of legalization have until late August to submit a proposed initiative to the secretary of state and until April 2016 to gather enough signatures to qualify a measure for the November ballot.
The House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee has voted in favor of new legislation that would fast-track new controlled substance pharmaceuticals through the DEA. While a drug is required to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to be marketed, the DEA must also sign off on drugs subject to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). DEA can take more than a year to schedule a product under the CSA, even when FDA has made specific recommendations regarding the drugs’ scheduling. Under the proposal, DEA would be required to review applications to manufacture a controlled substance in Schedule III, IV or V for use in a clinical trial within 180 days of receiving the application, and Schedule I or II drugs within 180 days, not including a notice and comment period and a 90-day application window. The Senate has previously introduced companion legislation.