Leading members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent signals this week that the CARERS Act is in serious trouble. The Act, proposed by three rising young senators to protect medical marijuana states from federal interference, must pass the committee stacked with some of the most senior lawmakers in Congress, many of whom came to power during a tough-on-crime era of the drug war. Several of them openly gripe about what they call the Obama administration’s lack of enforcement of existing federal drug laws — and they certainly aren’t willing to send a signal that Congress is OK with the movement to liberalize pot. “I’m probably against it,” Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the most senior Senate Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said of the cannabis bill. “I don’t think we need to go there,” added Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican.
Uncle Sam has awarded the University of Mississippi $68.8 million to grow marijuana and analyze it. The contract awarded Monday by an arm of the National Institutes of Health will go to a marijuana research lab at Ole Miss, which has been the sole producer of federally legal marijuana since 1968. The project is ramping up to grow 30,000 plants. The government said it’s interested in developing new methods for growing plants that contain a variety of different levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical most responsible for pot’s psychological “high” effect, and cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive ingredient claimed in high-profile anecdotes to effectively treat medical disorders like epilepsy.
On Friday, six months after her infamous “Fuck it, I quit” live walk-off from her TV reporter job, Charlo Greene’s Alaska Cannabis Club was raided by police. Her former employer, CBS affiliate KTVA, reported that the club is being investigated over alleged illegal sales of marijuana. Possessing small amounts of marijuana became legal in Alaska last month, but selling it is still illegal there until the state decides how to regulate the pot business next year. The Alaska Cannabis Club describes itself as a private clubhouse where its nearly 700 members can freely consume cannabis. The warrant for the search said police were looking for marijuana and concentrates as well as “items relating to illegal transactions” and money “used in or intended for use in or derived from trafficking in controlled substances.” “No charges were filed, and none will be because we don’t sell weed here. Period. Point blank,” Greene said. Although she was upset by what happened, she reopened the club the next morning. She has consulted with a lawyer, and her focus now is getting ready for the club’s first big event on 4/20.
The Marijuana Policy Project, which led the drive to legalize recreational marijuana use in Colorado, unveiled its legalization plan for Maine today. It is the second marijuana legalization plan released in the state this year and sets the stage for dueling campaigns pushing for legalization referendums in 2016. In February, Legalize Maine submitted to the Secretary of State an application for a citizens initiative that also seeks to legalize and regulate marijuana. Legalize Maine touts its proposal as a “homegrown” plan that focuses on supporting cannabis agriculture and small-scale growers. To qualify for the ballot, each group must collect 61,123 valid signatures, or 10 percent of the total votes cast for governor last November. The filing deadline is Feb. 1, 2016. In addition to the efforts to get referendums on the 2016 ballot in Maine, Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, has submitted a legalization bill that the Legislature will consider this session.
A two-year effort to legalize medical marijuana in Georgia may finally succeed, as the Senate passed a likely compromise that would OK a limited form of the drug for disorders including cancer, seizures and sickle cell disease. The new version would allow cannabis oil to be used to treat cancer, Crohn’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure disorders and sickle cell disease. It would open the door to both children and adults as being eligible for treatment. It would, however, eliminate one disorder favored by the House — fibromyalgia — as being an accepted disorder for treatment. And it would set a higher bar for what type of oil would be allowed: The oil could contain no more than 5 percent THC — the high-inducing chemical associated with recreational marijuana use — and must include at least a matching amount of cannabidiol to ensure better purity and quality of the drug.