Jun 052015

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon on Thursday called for ending the federal ban on hemp production in recognition of Hemp History Week. “In my view, keeping the ban on growing hemp makes about as much sense as instituting a ban on Portobello mushrooms,” Wyden, who introduced a hemp legalization bill earlier this year, said on the Senate floor. “There’s no reason to outlaw a product that’s perfectly safe because of what it’s related to.” Last year’s farm bill included a measure that allows industrial hemp production for research if permitted by state law. To date, more than 20 states have removed barriers to industrial hemp production. American industrial hemp production peaked in 1943, with more than 150 million pounds from 146,200 harvested acres. Production ceased in the late-1950s as a result of “anti-drug sentiment and competition from synthetic fibers,” Hemp “was once a booming crop in America,” Wyden said. “It can, and should be, again.”

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law SB225, which bars businesses from selling vapor and alternative nicotine products to children under the age of 18. The measure brings rules about vaping products in line with those for cigarettes and chewing tobacco, and it allows for the same fine and civil penalty of $500 for people who violate the law. The governor also signed SB305, which allows a college or the Nevada Department of Agriculture to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. Sandoval also signed AB12, which will permanently extend a program offering drug and alcohol addiction counseling for some parole violators. Lawmakers voted in 2011 to establish a so-called diversion program offering drug and alcohol counseling to certain parole violators instead of sending them back to jail. The bill removes a 2015 expiration date on the program and makes it permanent.

Competing proposals to regulate California’s medical marijuana industry advanced in the Legislature on Thursday, capping a week of bustling legislative activity before state budget talks take priority for awhile in the Capitol. Each house weighed in on medical marijuana, which has been legal in California since 1996 but has not been subject to statewide regulation. The Senate measure would create a new Office of Medical Marijuana Regulation to regulate how cannabis is grown and sold and to set fees and license businesses. Cities and counties would enforce the regulations and could choose to create their own marijuana sales taxes. The vote on that bill, SB 643, was 25 to 12. The Assembly approved a proposal for establishing an agency to oversee new licensing regulations, which would be enforced by several state departments. Local governments would still issue licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana. With some Republican support, the bill, AB 266, passed 50 to 5.

Possessing misdemeanor amounts of marijuana in Miami-Dade County could bring a $100 fine instead of a criminal charge under a new proposal backed by police brass. County Commissioner Sally Heyman is sponsoring the plan. If adopted by the commission and not vetoed by Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the new ordinance would let officers issue a civil citation to someone carrying less than 20 grams of marijuana, about two-thirds of an ounce — and the amount that determines a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor marijuana possession currently carries a possible maximum one-year jail sentence. Officers currently have the option not to arrest someone for minor-marijuana possession, but the misdemeanor charge would still bring a requirement to appear in criminal court. With a civil violation, the case wouldn’t enter the criminal system. Officers in Miami-Dade would have the option to issue a citation or proceed with an actual arrest under the existing misdemeanor law.

Construction apparently is underway for a medical marijuana farm on tribal land just north of Ukiah, California. Rows of huge bag-like containers typically used to cultivate pot plants above ground, pallets of potting soil, large water storage tanks and solar panels have cropped up on the northeast corner of the Pinoleville Pomo Nation’s rancheria, adjacent to Highway 101. The area — bordered by the highway, a vineyard and rancheria housing — has been leveled by earth-moving machines and partially surrounded by a chain link fence. But there’s no sign yet of the greenhouse that was originally proposed. Representatives of the 250-member Pinoleville tribe and its Kansas-based partners this week declined to comment on the work now underway but said they plan to release information about their pot-production plans within a week. Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman has said the legality of such a large-scale proposal was questionable, even though the tribe is considered a sovereign nation.