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Cannabis Legalization

Petition to Legalize Marijuana Submitted to Mississippi’s Secretary of State

Jordan Webber

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Mississippi Medical Marijuana

Mississippians for Compassionate Care, an organization advocating for medical marijuana legalization, turned in a petition to the secretary of state’s office on Wednesday aiming to register medical marijuana on Mississippi’s 2020 ballot.

According to a report from WLBT, the group has submitted a petition with a total of 105, 686 signatures. This totaled way above the minimum of 86,185 signatures required by state law to qualify Initiative 65, aka Medical Marijuana 2020, to appear on the ballot for next year’s election.

Under the law, a minimum of 86,185 certified signatures, with at least 17,237 certified signatures from each of the state’s five congressional districts, must be submitted to the Secretary of State in order for an initiative to be placed on the ballot. Moreover, all signatures must also be certified by county circuit clerks before submission.

The Mississippians for Compassionate Care had managed to originally collect 214,000 signatures in total. However, only 105,686 were certified by local clerks. Nevertheless, the group had insisted they were able to meet all the given requirements.

“The medical marijuana petition, No. 65, was filed [Wednesday]. At this time, we do not know whether the signature requirement has been fulfilled,” said a spokesperson for the secretary of state. “We are in the process of reviewing and determining the number of signatures so as to file with the Legislature on the first day of the 2020 session in accordance with [state law].”

The legality of Cannabis in Mississippi

Under the current Mississippi law, medical and recreational marijuana use remains to be illegal. However, should the initiative be approved by the Secretary of State, the Medical Marijuana 2020 will appear on the ballot for Mississippians to vote on during the November 2020 election.

Once approved by the voters, doctors from Mississippi will be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana for certain medical conditions. This includes cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV, AIDS, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, and other debilitating diseases.

Although the petition had garnered an impressive number of signatures, many remain to be vocal in opposing the initiative. This includes Gov. Phil Bryant, who had previously shared his opposition on Facebook.

Nevertheless, the Mississippians for Compassionate Care said they remain to be confident that the initiative will be approved by the secretary of state’s office.

“The polling is extremely positive,” said Jamie Grantham, the group’s spokesperson. “It polls above 77 percent, with every age group, religious affiliation, political affiliation, and other groups. Also, to that point, we saw the overwhelming support from the number of signatures we received.”

Benefits of Medical Marijuana

DC Opens Marijuana Dispensaries to Out-of-State Patients

Daniel King

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DC Opens Marijuana Dispensaries

On Thursday, August 8, Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, DC announced that they will now accept medical marijuana cards from patients coming from any of the states in the U.S. with equivalent medical marijuana programs.

The new program will allow patients to purchase up to four ounces of medical marijuana each month. Patients from other states will only need to show their state-issued medical marijuana dispensary card to buy their medicines at any D.C. dispensary.

“This emergency rulemaking is patient-centric,” said Mayor Bowser in a statement. “It ensures medical marijuana patients from other states can obtain their needed medicine. It will also promote public safety by allowing visitors to obtain their medicine at one of the District’s six — soon to be seven — authorized marijuana dispensaries rather than forcing them to go without or patronizing the illegal market.”

The new policy will now expand the list of reciprocal acceptance from 19 to 27 states. The new additions include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Vermont. The District is also currently reviewing four other states to include in the list, namely Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

DC’s Medical Marijuana Reciprocity Amendment

First introduced in 2016, the Medical Marijuana Reciprocity Amendment includes a reciprocity arrangement that allows medical marijuana users to use their out-of-state registration cards to purchase medical cannabis in the District. The amendment took effect in April of 2018 and approved 19 states as part of its list of reciprocal acceptance. Under the said policy, patients enrolled in a medical marijuana program from other jurisdictions can access medical marijuana in the District of Columbia.

A year later, Mayor Bowser proposed the Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2019, which allows the sale of recreational cannabis in Washington, D.C. with a 17 percent tax. It requires cannabis-focused businesses to meet a threshold of 60% ownership by D.C. residents, and 60% DC-native employees.

“We want to be able to regulate, we want to be able to make sure we are collecting our fair share in taxes, we want to invest those taxes in ways that affect communities that have been disproportionately affected, and we want to train and hire DC residents,” she said at the time. The bill is currently under DC Council review.

The latest emergency rulemaking is regarded by many to have opened an avenue for non-resident patients to access medication when visiting the nation’s capital.

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Cannabis Legalization

Washington State Legislators OKs Cannabis Social Equity Bill

Jordan Webber

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Washington’s cannabis industry is poised to welcome diversity among licensees after state legislators approved a bill last week that would introduce the state’s first Marijuana Social Equity Program. The measure, named House Bill 2870 (HB 2870), now awaits on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for final approval.

If signed into law, the bill will enable the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) to issue forfeited, canceled and revoked retail licenses to applicants that are members of communities excessively impacted by the War on Drugs.

As written in the bill, the measure’s main objective is to benefit “individuals who have been arrested or incarcerated due to drug laws, and those who have resided in areas of high poverty, suffer long-lasting adverse consequences, including impacts to employment, business ownership, housing, health, and long term financial well-being.”

The program is set to last for eight years, spanning from December 1, 2020 to July 1, 2028, and will cost applicants a total of $1,480 for new social equity licenses.

Prior to the approval, The House originally passed an earlier version of the bill in February this year, with the intention to address racial inequity within the cannabis industry.

Democratic Rep. Eric Pettigrew, the one who sponsored the bill, described the road towards the final bill as a long yet worthwhile struggle.

“I had a chance to meet with some proponents and opponents a little more … and really came to understand that this is beyond the issue of licenses,” Pettigrew said. “This is potentially a different distribution of wealth as we move forward in this industry.”

He, along with the help of stakeholders including Paula Sardinas of the Commission on African American Affairs drafted the proposal.

“We believe we need an LCB that is more reflective of the community it serves,” she said. “It should also have a culture that mirrors the Department of Financial Institutions where education, compliance, and training are priorities along with enforcement,” Sardinas commented.

In 2012, Washington became the first U.S. state to legalized recreational use of marijuana. However, eight years after, the state’s cannabis industry is still struggling with diversity. In a report from the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs, less than 1% of the state’s over 500 recreational cannabis licenses were owned by African Americans.

“Initiative 502 missed an opportunity to incorporate a focus on social equity,” said Rick Garza, the director of the LCB, at the time the bill made its way through the legislature. “The history of cannabis prohibition shows abundant evidence there was disproportionate harm in communities of color, and that those harmful effects remain with us today.”

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Cannabis Legalization

ACT Legalizes the Adult-Use of Recreational Cannabis

Stacey Wellington

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Adult-Use of Recreational Cannabis

After months of waiting, residents of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) now have access to legal adult-use cannabis, said SBS News. This legalization came after the ACT Legislative Assembly voted for the then-proposed bill back in September 2019, according to a report by The Guardian.

Last  January 31, 2020, residents of legal age will be able to carry a maximum of 50 grams. This new law will also allow them to grow up to two cannabis plants. Adults will also be able to carry up to 150 grams of “wet” cannabis. As the law legalizes marijuana for private and adult-use only, users are urged to keep the plant away from the public eye and children.

ACT citizens have expressed optimism about this development. One resident was pleased with this development and is hopeful about the benefits of the plant.

‘Opposed to the legalization of Recreational Cannabis in ACT’

This development was frowned upon by the Federal Government, which issued a warning to ACT residents. According to SBS News, the government said that residents “would still be breaking Commonwealth law” when they consume recreational cannabis, despite its legalization in the Australian capital.

During a speech to the National Press Club, Prime Minister Scott Morrison states that “states will make their own decisions according to priorities and complexions of their own government.” However, he emphasized that he “would expect the federal law enforcement agencies to press the law.”

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr noted that this development is progress when it comes to drug reform. Barr said that state law enforcement would be focusing on organized crime and large-scale production of illegal drugs. Moreover, this action seeks to make it clear that the state government does not want to penalize or stigmatize users.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nicole Lee from the National Drug Research Institute is optimistic about this decision. She criticized the stigma created by the war on drugs, saying that this campaign has pegged marijuana issues as a criminal justice matter.

By legalizing the plant, Lee said that cannabis will become a health and human rights issue. She emphasized that the negative effects of long-term excessive use will still persist even without legalization. According to her, legalization will make it easier for users to get the help they need.

In light of this move by the capital, New Zealand is also mulling on the legalization of the plant. It will hold a referendum in September.

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