May 072015

A Texas lawmaker’s proposal seeking complete deregulation of marijuana on religious grounds has cleared an unlikely legislative hurdle. Republican state Rep. David Simpson of Longview argues marijuana comes from God and therefore shouldn’t be banned by government. The tea party stalwart has repeatedly championed what he calls the “Christian case” for legalization. Simpson’s bill (HB 2165) languished for weeks before the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Three committee Democrats and two Republicans surprisingly voted to support it Wednesday, though, and it passed 5-2. That makes Simpson’s bill eligible for consideration to reach the House floor before the legislative session ends on June 1, although that’s still highly unlikely. Nearly three out of five Texas voters (58%) support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol, according to a statewide survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in September 2013.

The Montana Attorney General filed an appeal Wednesday to remove certain provisions made in the state’s medical marijuana law. If the appeal is successful, it would be a major loss for marijuana advocates. In 2011, Helena District Court Judge James Reynolds made several temporary provisions to the state’s medical marijuana law that made it more accessible and profitable. Reynolds ruled that providers, or growers, of medical marijuana could advertise, providers could receive payment, and a doctor could prescribe to more than 25 patients. All of those components were not within the law under the original statute. The Attorney General’s Office under Tim Fox has filed an appeal to reverse the provisions made to Senate Bill 423. Before SB 423 was made law in Montana, there were 30,000 medical marijuana patients in the state and nearly 5,000 providers, or someone who grows the marijuana. Today there are about 13,400 patients and 410 providers.

The Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists is opposing a move by Illinois state legislators that would set a 15-nanogram threshold for driving under the influence of THC — the active chemical in marijuana — for drivers to be considered legally impaired. AAIM, which does not oppose marijuana decriminalization or medical use, says 15 nanograms is three times the 5-nanogram THC threshold in Colorado, where marijuana is legal for recreational use, and it will ultimately will be dangerous for Illinois roads. “You’re going to have people showing impairment, yet they are under the limit,” said AAIM board member Elizabeth Earleywine, who also is a former prosecutor. The amendment is part of a larger bill that, if passed, would impose civil fines instead of jail time and criminal penalties for many marijuana possession cases. The bill passed the Illinois House and made it through a Senate committee Wednesday; it could be called for a vote next week, officials said.

Dozens of aspiring Washington business owners are prepared to sue Snohomish County, after the council voted to ban marijuana growing in certain rural areas. Thirty-six growers are prepared to go to court according to Jamie Curtismith, a consultant who represents growers who are impacted by the rule change. Snohomish County has allowed large producer/processor operations, but after a large number of residents voice concerns, council members enacted a moratorium in October. Now, there is a full-fledged ban in effect for so-called R-5 zones. Those are rural areas where the county typically allows only one house per five acres. Curtismith says 103 operators intended to move into R-5 zones. So far 35 operators have been licensed by the state liquor control board. But in R-5 zones, only six have both the proper state and county permits to be exempt from the ban.

California lawmakers are wading into the politically sticky issue of regulating medical marijuana, laying groundwork for state control of the sale and cultivation of cannabis with the expectation that voters will legalize recreational use next year. The Legislature is considering multiple — and conflicting — plans to impose the first major statewide restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries and growers; the billion-dollar-a-year industry is now regulated largely by local governments. The debate has pitted cities and law enforcement agencies against marijuana growers and sellers. In much of the state, a lack of regulation has resulted in a “Wild West,” said Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, author of one of the bills before the Legislature. His proposal, to have the state and cities license dispensaries and pot farms, was one of two that were advanced by an Assembly committee last week.