Marijuana legalization got a boost on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as a trio of rising stars in the Senate launched an effort to rewrite federal drug laws. The push to decriminalize at least the medical use of marijuana came from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Under the proposal by the three senators, the federal prohibition on medical marijuana would be lifted. States that allow it would no longer be operating in defiance of federal law. The proposal embraces policy ideas from advocacy groups that have long been on the sidelines of Congress, including the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project.
Utah’s state Senate defeated a bill 15-14 that would have legalized cannabis use for medicinal purposes. Senators said they’re sympathetic to people who could benefit from the drug, but said the issue needs more study. Sen. Evan Vickers, a pharmacist, said that even if lawmakers are intrigued with the idea, they should want to do it correctly. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Madsen, called medical cannabis a less toxic alternative to addictive opioids and said it would save lives. Opponents of the bill say it puts the state on a slippery slope toward legalized recreational marijuana. The bill would have legalized medicinal marijuana use and production for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, Chron’s disease, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.
The Iowa Board of Pharmacy disappointed medical marijuana advocates again Monday. Board members rebuffed a request that they recommend changing Iowa law’s classification of marijuana in a way that would make it easier to use the drug for medical purposes. The board, which regulates medication sales, said it didn’t want to get involved now. “This is clearly a political issue at this point,” said board member James Miller, a Dubuque pharmacist. State law now classifies marijuana as both a Schedule I drug, whose use is impermissible in almost any circumstance, and as a Schedule II drug, which could be used for medical purposes in some circumstances. The pharmacy board recommended in January that legislators reclassify CBD extract, but not to reclassify marijuana entirely. Activist Carl Olsen, who filed the request rejected by the board, said he’ll appeal in court, as he has in the past.
An Alaska Senate committee is considering a new approach to decriminalizing marijuana. The Senate Finance Committee on Monday heard about a new draft of the bill intended to decriminalize possession, growth and transportation of limited amounts of marijuana for adults 21 years and older. The draft would list marijuana as a controlled substance, but include a non-applicability section that essentially would create an exception to controlled substance crimes for acts that are within the bounds of a voter initiative passed in November. That initiative legalized recreational use of pot. The draft also would still allow for a commercial industry, as the initiative intended.
The Georgia General Assembly has two radically different medical marijuana bills in front of it; only one of them would make cannabis oil available soon. Rep. Allen Peake’s House Bill 1, which overwhelmingly passed that chamber, is pitted against Senate Bill 185. The Macon Republican’s bill would legalize cannabis oil for patients with seizure disorders, mitochondrial disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and sickle cell anemia. A bill by Rep. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, would restrict access to cannabis oil only to participants in a limited five-year clinical trial involving people under 21 with epilepsy. It has been approved by a Senate committee. Peake’s bill would allow for 20 ounces of oil with up to 5% THC content; Tippins’ bill would restrict THC content to less than 0.3%. The full chamber could consider Tippins’ bill as soon as Wednesday.
Two bills introduced in Florida would authorize marijuana to be taxed and regulated similar to alcohol and legalize the cultivation and possession of marijuana by adults 21 and older. Senate Bill 1176 and House Bill 1297, introduced Sen. Dwight Bullard and Rep. Randolph Bracy, respectively, would make Florida the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes through the legislature rather than the popular vote should either pass into law. Under the bills, Florida adults would be allowed to use and purchase 2.5 ounces of marijuana from retail stores and cultivate up to six plants and possess all the harvest of those plants at the grow site.