Initiative 71, a ballot measure approved by Washington D.C. voters in November, is set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday at the conclusion of a congressional review period required of all D.C. laws. While some Republicans on Capitol Hill have taken the legal stance that federal legislation enacted in December blocks Initiative 71 from taking effect, D.C. lawmakers believe nothing will prevent it from becoming law. Initiative 71 will make it legal for people 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana for recreational use, grow up to six marijuana plants inside a D.C. residence, and to transfer up to an ounce of marijuana to others. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she will seek to restrict the operation of so-called “cannabis clubs” — private organizations that would facilitate the open exchange of marijuana through memberships. Buying and selling marijuana is still prohibited.
Jamaica’s Parliament on Tuesday night gave final approval to an act decriminalizing small amounts of pot and establishing a licensing agency to regulate a lawful medical marijuana industry. The historic amendments pave the way for a “cannabis licensing authority” to be established to deal with regulating the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes. And in a victory for religious freedom, adherents of the homegrown Rastafari spiritual movement can now freely use marijuana for sacramental purposes for the first time on the tropical island. The law makes possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana a petty offense that could result in a ticket but not in a criminal record. Cultivation of five or fewer plants on any premises would be permitted. Tourists who are prescribed medical marijuana abroad will soon be able to apply for permits authorizing them to legally buy small amounts of Jamaican weed.
Legislation making it legal to possess medical marijuana in Georgia breezed through the state House on Wednesday, setting up a potential confrontation with the Senate. House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, passed the House 157-2. The bill was first amended, however, to add sickle cell disease back into the list of disorders that could qualify a patient to use the drug. The amendment came after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that sickle cell had been deleted over the objections of many African-American lawmakers. Qualified seizure disorders under the bill are cancer, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, among others. Peake told reporters after the vote that he hopes the Senate quickly passes the bill as written and sends it to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk. His fear, however, is that the Senate instead will strip every disorder except childhood seizure disorder from the bill.
In Utah, newly released legislation would establish a network of marijuana greenhouses and medical dispensaries, all licensed by the state — the first time such a plan has been proposed. Under SB259, sponsored by Republican State Sen. Mark Madsen, businesses could apply for licenses to grow cannabis under the supervision of the state. Individuals with chronic illnesses could purchase and use small amounts — not more than 2 ounces at a time — of cannabis oils and edibles containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. There would be a $100 fee to obtain a registration card from the state. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing — in the Senate Judiciary Committee of which Madsen is Chairman — Thursday morning. Madsen’s bill will face an uphill battle, not solely because of Utah’s conservative, anti-drug Legislature, but because of opposition from Gov. Gary Herbert, who called medical marijuana “a sham… being used for recreational purposes.”
Republican New Jersey Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini said she is working with other anti-marijuana activists to form an advocacy group in response to the official launch of “New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform” in Newark last week. Angelini said that some of her group’s arguments will include health and incarceration statistics about marijuana users, and questions about additional costs that might be incurred as a result of legalization. She cited the state’s alcohol tax as an example that brings in revenue that is outweighed by law enforcement and healthcare costs to the state. “Look at the tax (dollars) this would garner…the health and society issues we would encounter (as a result of legalization) would far outnumber that,” she said. However, Angelini didn’t specify any social costs in Washington or Colorado that exceed the tens of millions of dollars in pot tax revenue raised in those two legal states.