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Cities Across Ohio Will Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization In November

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Voters in at least six municipalities across Ohio will have an opportunity to vote on local initiatives to decriminalize marijuana in November.

The decriminalization of misdemeanor cannabis offenses will appear on the ballot in Dayton, Fremont, Garrettsville, Norwood, Oregon and Windham.

Possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana is currently a misdemeanor in Ohio, punishable by a $150 to $250 fine and up to 30 days in jail, depending on the exact amount.

The proposed ballot measures won’t change state law, but if approved they will alter local policies and likely protect at least some cannabis consumers from criminal sanctions. The ultimate impact will depend on whether municipal police choose to abide by the will of local voters or instead use their authority to continue enforcing state policy.

Here’s the text of each local measure:

Dayton: “Shall the Dayton Revised Code of General Ordinances be amended to decriminalize specific misdemeanor marijuana and hashish offenses?”

Fremont: “Shall the proposed Sensible Marihuana Ordinance which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law be adopted?”

Garrettsville: “Shall the proposed ordinance to lower the penalties for misdemeanor marihuana offenses to the lowest penalties allowed by state law be adopted?”

Norwood: “Shall the proposed ordinance adding Section 513.15 Marijuana Laws and Penalties to the City of Norwood Municipal Code, which would lower the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law, be adopted?”

Oregon: “Shall the proposed Sensible Marihuana Ordinance which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law be adopted?”

Windham: “Shall the proposed ordinance to lower the penalties for misdemeanor marihuana offenses to the lowest penalties allowed by state law be adopted?”

“Voters in these six municipalities have the ability to send a resounding message to the state legislature of Ohio in advance of their next legislative session,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in an interview. “That message would simply be, ‘stop arresting our friends and loved ones.'”

An attempt to get decriminalization on the ballot in Nelsonville was derailed earlier this year after a city attorney found “fatal flaws” with petitions that were initially submitted, The Athens News reported. The group behind the proposed ordinance, Grassroots Ohioans, resubmitted amended petitions, but the deadline for inclusion on the 2018 ballot had passed.

Last month, a federal judge ordered the Garrettsville and Windham measures onto their respective ballots after local officials initially tried to keep them off.

Norwood Police Chief William Kramer has already said that his department would continue to prosecute people for misdemeanor marijuana offenses according to state law, regardless of the election outcome.

Via Mapsof.

Six other Ohio cities—Toledo, Logan, Roseville, Bellaire, Newark and Athens—have approved similar decriminalization initiatives over the past three years.

In 2015, Ohio voters resoundingly defeated a statewide marijuana legalization measure that was opposed even by many longtime cannabis policy reformers who were concerned about the manner in which it proposed a lock on cultivation licenses by the people who paid for the effort to put it on the ballot.

While much of the country’s attention has focused on cannabis reform developments at the state level, a growing number of cities and counties throughout the U.S. are also participating in the movement.

“These ballots initiatives did not magically appear, but rather were earned by the commitment and dedication of citizens from around Ohio,” Strekal, of NORML, said of the local measures in the Buckeye State. “In recent years, the tireless work of individuals around the country have resulted in over 50 cities and localities reducing fines and penalties for simple possession.”

In Wisconsin, advisory referendums in 16 counties will ask voters to weigh in on cannabis legalization for either medical or recreational use this November. Nearly half of the state’s population lives in those counties. Advisory questions cropped up throughout Massachusetts in election cycles preceding the state’s 2016 vote to legalize marijuana for adult use.

Unlike advisory questions, the local ordinances in Ohio aren’t just designed to gauge public sentiment toward cannabis reform; they’re binding policies that will take effect immediately if a majority of voters approve them.

It’s difficult to say on a city-by-city level how voters will react to the decriminalization ordinances, but in general, Ohioans seem increasingly supportive of marijuana reform. A June poll of 500 likely midterm election voters in the state found that 55 percent are OK with medical cannabis dispensaries in their neighborhoods, for example.

Almost Half of Wisconsin Voters Will See Marijuana Ballot Questions In November

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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Congressional Committee Asks JUUL For Documents On Marijuana Partnerships

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Is the e-cigarette company JUUL planning on expanding its stake in the marijuana industry?

That’s one question the chair of a congressional subcommittee asked the company in a letter concerning JUUL’s role in the “youth e-cigarette epidemic” earlier this month.

Lawmakers have frequently criticized JUUL for making products—specifically flavored e-cigarette cartridges—that allegedly appeal to young people at a time when rates of cigarette use are steadily declining. But while JUUL was developed by the cannabis vaporizer company PAX, it hasn’t announced plans to further partner with marijuana companies.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, apparently sees the possibility on the horizon, though.

In a letter sent to JUUL on June 7, the congressman said his panel was investigating youth e-cigarette usage and, specifically, how the company’s marketing tactics might be exacerbating the issue. He requested documents on everything from clinical trials on how JUUL devices divert people away from traditional cigarettes to communications on the company’s rationale for the nicotine concentration of JUUL pods.

Tucked within the extensive request is a question about potential marijuana partnerships. Krishnamoorthi asked for:

“All documents, including memoranda and communications, referring or relating to proposals, plans, and/or intended partnerships or collaborations between JUUL and any cannabis-related companies, including but not limited to Cronos Group.”

It’s not clear where the Cronos-specific mention comes from, but the company has perviously caught the interest of the tobacco industry. The maker of Marlboro cigarettes, Altria Group, invested almost $2 billion in the Canada-based cannabis company in December. Two weeks later, Altria invested $13 billion in JUUL.

Marijuana Moment reached out to JUUL, Cronos and Krishnamoorthi’s office for comment, but representatives did not respond by the time of publication.

If a partnership does emerge, it would likely be met with some controversy, as opponents and proponents of marijuana reform alike have long expressed concern that the tobacco industry would take over the cannabis market and commercialize it in a way that mirrors how it peddled cigarettes.

Of course, given that tobacco use is declining and tobacco companies generally have the infrastructure that would make a pivot to cannabis relatively simple, such a partnership would not be especially surprising.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made the case several times that tobacco farmers in his state could leverage the federal legalization of industrial hemp and its derivatives by growing the crop to offset profit losses from declining tobacco sales.

Read Rep. Krishnamoorthi’s full letter to JUUL below:

2019-06-07.Krishnamoorthi t… by on Scribd

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

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New York Lawmakers Might Actually Vote On Marijuana Legalization This Week

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With just days left before the end of the legislative session, efforts to legalize marijuana in New York have been revived, with a possible vote this coming week.

Though momentum to pass a legalization measure seemed to largely die off after lawmakers in neighboring New Jersey announced they wouldn’t move forward with plans to end cannabis prohibition through the legislature, advocates are increasingly optimistic that a deal in the Empire State is imminent.

Democratic members in both the Senate and Assembly held conferences last week to discuss details of the legislation. Spectrum News reported that the meetings went well, with members indicating that there’s support for the measure.

That’s just one of several positive signs that a proposal many observers thought was dead for the year has new life.

On Saturday and Sunday, staff for legislative leaders from both chambers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) met to negotiate provisions of a revised legalization plan.

On Wednesday, an earlier Senate version of the bill was assigned “same as” status in the Assembly version. That means the current proposals in each chamber lined up with identical language and is considered to be an indicator that the legislation could pass.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) said on Friday that his party has yet to determine whether they’ll bring the bill to the floor, but he added that “I think there is support in the conference.”

He also characterized the window of time until the end of the session on Wednesday as “an eternity.”

Cuomo, who said late last month that passing legalization remains a top 10 priority, has said that lawmakers who fail to approve items on his agenda, including ending cannabis prohibition, “should all be primaried, because that is a failure of a basic progressive agenda.”

On the flip side, the chairman of New York’s Democratic Party said earlier this month that if the Senate approves the legalization bill, they run to risk of alienating voters in certain areas such as Long Island and upstate New York. But that argument neglects to account for recent polling that shows voters in those regions strongly support legalization.

Notably, the measure’s most vocal opponents with the anti-legalization Smart Approaches to Marijuana have been sending email blasts in recent days urging their supports to call senators and voice opposition to the bill, giving the impression that the group is anticipating a vote.

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D), sponsor of the legalization legislation, seemed to confirm that suspicion on Friday, stating that after “conversations with my co-sponsor and colleague in the Senate, I am even more confident of a path for victory.”

But despite that confidence, the fate of legalization in New York remains murky. An analysis earlier this month found that legalization was two votes short of a needed majority in the Senate.

Meanwhile, a number of key elected officials are calling on the governor and lawmakers to not only push legalization over the finish line but to include certain key provisions in the final legislation.

State Attorney General Letitia James (D) sent a letter urging that the bill expunge prior cannabis records.

“Before we create a booming business for legal marijuana, we must provide relief to those individuals that have paid much more to society than what was due,” she wrote.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), a 2020 presidential candidate, also pushed for expungements and said in a Twitter thread that legalization should “empower local business and not big corporations.”

And the Manhattan and Albany County district attorneys co-authored an op-ed calling leaders to “correct staggering inequities and promote public safety by passing” legalization.

 

The Buffalo News reported on Sunday afternoon that there were still a number of outstanding issues left to be settled between lawmakers, including whether or not home cultivation of cannabis would be allowed, how tax revenue would be allocated and whether localities would have to proactively opt in to allowing marijuana businesses or if there would instead be an opt out provision for those wanting to ban cannabis commerce.

The session ends on Wednesday, and so far no vote has been scheduled in either chamber.

Meanwhile, lawmakers early on Monday morning filed what appears to be backup legislation to expand the decriminalization of marijuana and to provide a process to expunge or vacate prior cannabis convictions. And others support putting legalization on the ballot through a referendum that voters can decide on.

The situation is very fluid, and over the next few days advocates will be stepping up the push for action in Albany. On Sunday, they held a rally outside Cuomo’s Manhattan office.

Bill Allowing Interstate Marijuana Commerce Heads To Oregon Governor’s Desk

This post has been updated to include the latest developments as well as comment from a number of elected officials.

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Texas Governor Signs Bill To Expand State’s Medical Marijuana Program

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The governor of Texas signed a bill into law on Friday that significantly expands the state’s medical cannabis program.

The legislation, which was overwhelmingly approved by lawmakers last month, adds multiple medical conditions to the list of disorders that qualify patients of low-THC marijuana. Currently only patients with intractable epilepsy qualify under the CBD-focused program.

New qualifying conditions include epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, autism, spasticity and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed the bill with little fanfare.

Reform advocates said the legislation is a big step in the right direction, even though it doesn’t go as far as they’d hoped. A 0.5 THC cap on marijuana products remained in the bill, for example, and a section that would have established a research program to study the therapeutic potential of cannabis was removed.

“Cannabis is effective medicine for many patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions,” Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told Marijuana Moment. “HB 3703 represents a positive step toward a functional medical cannabis program, but sadly, it still leaves behind millions of Texas families that could benefit from legal access.”

Also this legislative session, the House of Representatives approved bills to more comprehensively expand the medical cannabis program and to decriminalize marijuana possession, but they died in the Senate.

Abbott signed a hemp legalization bill earlier this week.

Bill Allowing Interstate Marijuana Commerce Heads To Oregon Governor’s Desk

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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