The D.C. City Council is continuing to snub Congress by exploring ways to use emergency reserve funds to implement a regulatory framework for marijuana. According to councilmembers, the city may be able to tap in emergency reserve funds to get around the prohibition set in place by Congress which states that the city cannot spend Fiscal Year 2015 funds “to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with [marijuana’s] possession, use, or distribution.” The requirement, then, surrounds whether councilmembers can convincingly argue that marijuana legalization—without any accompanying regulation or taxation—constitutes a threat to “public safety or health.” Since no dispensaries are currently permitted, there is no way for users to legally purchase the drug. This means that users find themselves looking into the black market for untested, unregulated cannabis, which is often controlled by dangerous cartels. Whether the city will be able to get away with using contingency funds remains to be seen.
The New Hampshire House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday in favor of a bill that makes carrying a half-ounce or less of cannabis a violation-level offense, like a speeding ticket. The House has voted six times in its history to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, but never by such a landslide margin. The measure received just under 300 votes. Supporters said it’s a reflection of major change on what used to be a controversial issue. Last year the House passed a similar bill making possession of an ounce or less a violation-level offense. This year’s version is more conservative, taking the threshold down to half an ounce and makes cultivating six or fewer marijuana plants a misdemeanor. The more cautious approach was credited with cutting even further into hardline opposition. Possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only New England state yet to decriminalize marijuana.
A Tennessee bill to legalize cannabis oil for medical purposes passed through the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Wednesday, but not without needing an amendment requiring a doctor’s letter for patients requesting the treatment. There are three other bills extant in the state legislature with varying prospects of success. One seeks to remove marijuana from the list of ingestible or inhalable substances for which an object can be designated as drug paraphernalia. Another, a decriminalization bill, has been placed on the Criminal Justice Subcommittee calendar for March 17. Lastly, on the other end of the spectrum, a bill seeks to penalize handheld vaporizers and vape pens as drug paraphernalia and include marijuana concentrates and oils under the definition of marijuana. Recent polling by Middle Tennessee State and Vanderbilt Universities indicate three of four Tennesseans support legalization in some form.
Lawmakers in Boston introduced The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 which would also legalize industrial hemp and cannabis cafes — fixing a thorny issue in past legalization states. People caught giving pot to minors could face up to $2,000 in fines and a year in prison. Underage citizens caught with pot would face up to a $100 civil fine. “Personal” use or cultivation amounts aren’t specified, but you couldn’t transport more than ten ounces of bud or ten pounds of products. Cities could ban stores, but the people could call a referendum on that ban with 10 percent of voters’ signatures. Processors would pay a $10 per ounce sales tax the first year, then $20 per ounce the second year, then $35, and stabilizing at $50 per ounce. The Act would also let folks expunge their records of marijuana violations.
Michigan marijuana advocates have confirmed plans to launch a petition drive later this year and hope to put a legalization proposal on the statewide ballot in 2016. The Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative Committee is one of two marijuana-related groups eyeing the 2016 ballot. Board members officially announced the effort on Thursday, indicating that they want to strengthen the state’s medical marijuana program, create a regulated system for taxable sales to adults over 21 and facilitate industrial hemp farming. Proposed language would allow citizens to grow up to 12 marijuana plants each and dedicate tax revenues toward “public interest projects” such as road repairs and schools. Michigan election law gives ballot committees a 180-day window to collect the required number of signatures necessary to place a proposal on the ballot. Roughly 250,000 signatures are required for initiated legislation.