Montpelier, VT: Legislation permitting adults to legally possess and grow set quantities of cannabis for their own personal use took effect on Sunday, July 1.
Vermont joins Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington in legalizing the adult possession and use of marijuana. It is the first state to enact legalization via an act of the legislature rather than by the passage of a voter initiative.
The new law, which Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed in January, legalizes the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, as well as the private cultivation of six marijuana plants (two mature and up to four immature). Those who cultivate marijuana for their own personal use may possess at home the total quantity of their harvest. The measure also imposes new civil penalties with regard to the consumption of cannabis while driving, and imposes additional penalties for those who operate a motor vehicle impaired with a minor in the vehicle.
A summary of the law is available online.
Senators Approve Federal Legislation Authorizing Commercial Hemp Cultivation
Washington, DC: Members of the US Senate have approved legislation to expand commercial hemp production.
Provisions added by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to H.R. 2: The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the 2018 Farm Bill) amend federal regulations to further expand and facilitate state-licensed hemp production, research, and commerce. The language also for the first time amends the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 so that industrial hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance. (See page 1182, Section 12608: 'Conforming changes to controlled substances act.') These provisions were initially introduced as stand-alone legislation, Senate Bill 2667: The Hemp Farming Act of 2018.
Members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture approved the hemp amendments to the Farm Bill on June 13, and members of the full Senate voted 86 to 11 in favor of the act - must-pass legislation that is approved by Congress every five years. Senate leadership and House leadership will ultimately have to reconcile both chambers' versions of the legislation. The House version does not contain the same hemp-related provisions.
Senator McConnell previously shepherded hemp-related language (Section 7606) in the 2014 version of the Farm Bill, which for the first time permitted states to establish hemp research and cultivation programs absent federal approval. A majority of states have now enacted legislation to permit such programs.
Oklahoma Lawmakers: No Special Session To Amend Voter-Approved Medical Law
Oklahoma City, OK: Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has scrapped plans to convene a special legislative session for the purposes of amending provisions of State Question 788 - the medical marijuana access initiative approved by voters last week.
On Friday, Fallin - who publicly campaigned against the measure - stated: "After conferring with legislative leaders, we believe a special session is not necessary. ... The Health Department has been working with other agencies the past several months to develop a medical and proper regulatory framework to make sure marijuana use is truly for valid medical reasons. The voters have spoken, and it's important that our state has a responsible system up and running to meet the deadlines outlined in State Question 788."
Draft regulations compiled by state regulators regarding the implementation of SQ 788 are available online. The regulations, which may be subject to future changes, include provisions limiting the use of medical cannabis in public, establishing hours of operation for licensed dispensaries, and mandating that physicians conduct a physical exam prior to recommending medical cannabis to a patient.
State Question 788 permits licensed medical marijuana patients to cultivate up to six mature plants and to possess personal use quantities of marijuana flowers, edibles, or infused concentrates. It also establishes a regulatory framework for the retail production and dispensing of medical cannabis at licensed facilities. Under the act, the state Department of Health has a 30-day timeline in which to establish an online license application process for eligible patients.
Arizona: Appellate Court Rules Cannabis Concentrates Are Not Protected Under State's Medical Cannabis Access Law
Phoenix, AZ: A ruling from the Arizona Court of Appeals has found that the possession of concentrated forms of cannabis resin is not protected by the state's voter-initiated medical marijuana access law, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The 2 to 1 decision upholds the two-and-one-half year prison sentence of a state-registered patient, Rodney Jones, for the possession of 0.05 ounces of hashish.
The majority opined that the legal definition of marijuana in the AMMA "does not specifically include extracted resin" and that the legislature had previously "recognized hashish and marijuana as two distinct forms of cannabis. ... [B]ut marijuana alone has been singled out for separate treatment under our states."
They added: "If the drafters [of the AMMA] wanted to immunize the possession of hashish they should have said so. We cannot conclude that Arizona voters intended to do so."
By contrast, dissenting Judge Kenton Jones opined that AMMA defines marijuana broadly and clearly provides "evidence of intent to include hashish." He concluded, "The resin extracted from the marijuana plant ... is part of a plant of the genus of cannabis, just as sap is part of a tree ... [and] therefore [is] 'marijuana,' as defined within AMMA, and subject to its protections."
The ruling is expected to be appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Legislation (House Bill 2630) that sought to expand the legal definition of marijuana to explicitly include "all products that are manufactured primarily from the plant" was held in committee and failed to receive a vote during the 2018 legislative session.
The case is Arizona v. Rodney Christopher Jones.
Study: Dispensaries Not Associated With Increased Criminal Activity
Bonn, Germany: The operation of medical cannabis dispensaries is not associated with increases in either violent crime or property crime, according to the findings of a discussion paper published by the IZA Research Institute.
Researchers affiliated with the RAND Corporation investigated whether the establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries in California effects local crime rates - including rates of violent crimes, property crimes, and substance abuse crimes.
Authors "found no evidence that ordinances allowing for medical marijuana dispensaries lead to an increase in crime. In fact, we see some evidence of a reduction in property crimes." Their findings are consistent with those of prior studies, such as those here, here, and here.
Authors did acknowledge an association between dispensaries and DUI offenses - a finding that is consistent with at least one other study. By contrast, data published in the American Journal of Public Health reports that dispensaries are associated with a decline in fatal motor vehicle accidents among drivers ages 25 to 44 years old.
RAND's investigators concluded: "Our study appears to reinforce the conclusions from other studies that fail to find an increase in the type of crime predicted by law enforcement. We find no effects on burglary, robberies, or assaults, which are the types of crimes one would expect if dispensaries were prime targets as a result of their holding large amounts of cash. ... Our findings suggest that it is possible to regulate these markets and find a common ground between safety and access to medical marijuana."
Full text of the study, "High on Crime? Exploring the Effects of Marijuana Dispensary Laws on Crime in California Counties," appears online. NORML's fact-sheets: 'Marijuana regulation and Crime Rates' and 'Societal Impacts of Cannabis Dispensaries' are available online.