May 122015

The future is in doubt for a bill aimed at cutting off the flow of medical marijuana to the black market after an Oregon legislative committee overseeing legal marijuana reached an impasse late Monday. The bill creates a variety of new restrictions and regulations for the medical marijuana community, which lawmakers see as a necessary step to ensure the recreational program can succeed without drawing objections from federal authorities. They include limits on the number of plants at a single grow site, an inventory tracking and reporting system, inspection requirements and an Oregon residency mandate. But lawmakers could not agree on the process for local governments to ban medical marijuana dispensaries or other pot facilities within their boundaries.

A marijuana advocacy group is launching a TV ad to run in major markets throughout Texas in the run-up to Thursday’s deadline for House legislators to decide on HB 507, which would decriminalize marijuana possession in the Lone Star State. The new advertisement shows Russell Jones, a former Texas police officer and narcotics detective, weighing the dangers of alcohol versus marijuana. The ad is sponsored by the Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy with support from the Marijuana Policy Project.

Medical marijuana legalization has passed the Pennsylvania Senate with a 40-7 vote. The Senate approved a similar measure last year, but it may face a more difficult vote in the House, which failed to consider last year’s measure before the end of the 2014 session. The bill also outlines an electronic monitoring system that tracks patients and producers. More recent changes included the addition of treatments like chronic pain, Crohn’s Disease and diabetes to the conditions that can be treated with cannabis. Marijuana cannot be smoked under the proposal, but doctors could prescribe it through an oil extract.

A controversial bill that would allow medical marijuana to be sold and distributed in Utah will return to the state legislature this year. Sen. Mark Madsen’s bill would make medical cannabis available in Utah to people with severe or chronic medical conditions including cancers, AIDS and epilepsy. The bill narrowly died in the Utah State Senate earlier this year, with many senators complaining they had not had enough time to properly vet the legislation. Madsen raised eyebrows on Utah’s Capitol Hill when he revealed that he had traveled to Colorado to try cannabis himself as treatment for chronic back pain. While many lawmakers remain skeptical, Governor Gary Herbert’s office said he is now open to having a discussion about medical cannabis — with plenty of caution.

Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis plans to host its inaugural worship service July 1, the same day the state’s controversial religious freedom law takes effect. If all goes according to plan, the service will offer a bold test of the law’s ban on government burdens on the exercise of religion. Adherents of the recently established church worship cannabis, which is illegal to grow, use or possess under state law. The first service, church founder Bill Levin says, will open with “Amazing Grace” played on harmonica by a popular young musician and move to a quick sermon. And then, as anticipation mounts in what’s likely to be a packed house, Levin will issue a call to worship and the sanctuary will fill with smoke. It’s unclear if local police and prosecutors are prepared to accept church claims the conduct is protected by the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

For the second time this year, Milwaukee Common Council members will consider an ordinance that would shrink the maximum fine for possession of 25 grams from $500 to $50. A state law enacted last year gives local governments more authority to craft laws on the possession of marijuana or its synthetics. Under the proposal, the forfeiture for smoking marijuana in public would remain the same: $250 to $500. Repeat offenders could be charged by the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office with felony possession and tried in state court.