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Va. passes pot decriminalization bills

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decriminalization, gay news, Washington Blade, House Bill 972
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is on record supporting the decriminalization legislation. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Va. passes pot decriminalization bills

RICHMOND, Va. — House and Senate lawmakers have passed legislation decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.

House Bill 972, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 64 to 34, reduces penalties for offenses involving the possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana to a civil violation – punishable by a maximum $25 fine, no arrest, and no criminal record. Senate Bill 2, which passed the Senate by a vote of 27 to 13, reduces penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a $50 fine. It is anticipated that the two competing bills will be reconciled in conference committee.

Under current law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a criminal record, and the possible loss of driving privileges.

According to data from the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission, more than 15,000 people were convicted for a first or second marijuana possession offense from July 2018 to June 2019.

Both the Governor and the Attorney General are on record in favor of decriminalization.

Senate lawmakers also passed separate legislation this week, SB 1015, by a unanimous vote. The measure states that no person may be arrested, prosecuted, or denied any right or privilege for participating in the state’s medical cannabis oil program. The program is expected to be operational and dispensing cannabis products to authorized patients by mid-year.

Cessation of CBD not linked to withdrawal symptoms

LONDON — The abrupt cessation of CBD (cannabidiol) is not associated with physical withdrawal symptoms in healthy volunteers, according to clinical trial data published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior.

A team of investigators from the United Kingdom and the United States assessed the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms induced by the abrupt cessation of CBD. Subjects in the trial were healthy volunteers who ingested 750mg of plant-derived CBD twice daily for a period of four weeks. Study participants either continued to receive CBD or received a placebo during weeks five and six.

Researchers reported no serious adverse events resulting from the discontinuation of CBD.

They concluded, “In healthy volunteers, no evidence of withdrawal syndrome was found with abrupt discontinuation of short-term treatment with CBD.”

In 2018, federal regulators classified Epidiolex – an FDA-approved formulation of plant-derived CBD – as a Schedule V substance, the lowest restriction classification available under federal law.

Cannabis associated with reduced use of ADHD meds

HAIFA, Israel — The use of medical cannabis is associated with a reduction in the use of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) medications in patients diagnosed with the syndrome, according to data published in the Israeli medical journal Rambam Maimonides.

Israeli investigators surveyed 59 patients with ADHD who possessed a license from the Ministry of Health to access medical cannabis products. They reported that the use of medical cannabis, and in particular products dominant in the cannabinoid CBN (cannabinol), was associated with medication-sparing effects.

The findings suggest that some ADHD patients may consume cannabis as a “substitute treatment” for more conventional medications, authors concluded. They added, “These results, although not causal, might shed light on the potential beneficial effects of MC on ADHD symptom severity and motivate future prospective studies in order to validate our results and perhaps even consider making ADHD an approved indication for MC license in Israel in future.”

Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. Visit norml.org for more information.

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Cannabis Culture

New Mexico guv signs marijuana legalization

Retail sales would begin by April 2022

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decriminalizing possession, gay news, Washington Blade

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham earlier this month signed two separate measures into law amending the state’s marijuana policies. The first measure (House Bill 2) legalizes and regulates marijuana possession, production, and sales for adults. The second measure (Senate Bill 2) facilitates the automatic review and expungement of the records of those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses.

Lawmakers approved both bills during a special legislative session demanded by Gov. Lujan Grisham, who had been a vocal proponent of the reforms.

NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf said: “This is a day to celebrate! New Mexico will greatly benefit from this new revenue stream and the creation of thousands of jobs. Most notably though, legalization will spare thousands of otherwise law-abiding residents from arrest and a criminal record, and the state’s new expungement law will help provide relief to many who are suffering from the stigma and other collateral consequences associated with a prior marijuana conviction.”

The adult-use measure (House Bill 2) permits those ages 21 and older to legally purchase up to two ounces of marijuana and/or up to 16 grams of cannabis extract from licensed retailers. It also permits adults to home-cultivate up to six mature plants for their own personal use. Retail sales would begin by April 2022.

The expungement measure (Senate Bill 2) stipulates that those with past convictions for offenses made legal under this act are eligible for automatic expungement of their records. Those currently incarcerated for such offenses are eligible for a dismissal of their sentence. It’s estimated that over 150,000 New Mexico residents are eligible for automatic expungement under this measure, according to the Department of Public Safety.

 

Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. Visit norml.org for more information.

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Cannabis Culture

Delaware cannabis activists take on corporate marijuana

Criticism from medical marijuana operators claimed that HB150 offers too many cultivation and retail licenses

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cannabis regulation, gay news, Washington Blade

As the country moves forward with sweeping changes in cannabis policy reform, locals in Delaware are tangling with corporate, multi-state medical marijuana permit holders to pass a bill for full legalization.

Adult-use activists and registered medical patients were stunned to hear opposing testimony from Delaware’s medical marijuana operators. Patients already deal with limited access and costly products. Now, many see the established industry voicing opposition as simply obstructing the progress of adult-use legislation. In response, some patients are now staging a boycott of the regulated dispensaries.

During the first committee hearing for HB150, Delaware’s adult-use bill, four of the state’s six currently licensed, multi-million dollar medical cannabis facilities offered negative testimony.

Zoë Patchell, executive director of Delaware CAN responded: “This market belongs to the long-time consumers, patients, and activists. We create the demand, we’ve been the ones driving the reform efforts, and we pay the prices at dispensaries. Cannabis is more than a market – cannabis is a community. These companies cannot reasonably fathom that we are going to purchase cannabis from any entity that has proven to put profits over patients. And now they seem willing to put consumers’ lives and freedom at risk just to hold out for an unfair advantage in the industry.”

These included publicly traded Columbia Care, “Fresh Delaware” aka CCRI, CannTech Research Inc., and the owner of EZY Venture aka “The Farm.”

They all went on record condemning HB150, and pushing a false narrative about oversupply. The core demand from the permit cartel was some protection for their private business interests with guaranteed adult-use licenses.
Criticism from the medical marijuana operators claimed that HB150 offers too many new cultivation and retail licenses, underlined by deep yet unfounded fears that the new competition would put their companies out of business.

Patchell noted, “We are not going to sit back while multi-state corporate entities, that already monopolize East Coast medical markets, work to undermine our social equity and micro-license provisions.”

 

Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. Visit norml.org for more information.

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Virginia marijuana legalization takes effect July 1

Adult possession of cannabis up to one ounce without penalty

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Adam Ebbin, gay news, Washington Blade

Following legislative approval of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s amendments to Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312, Virginia became the first southern state to legalize the possession and use of marijuana by adults.

Senate Bill 1406, introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) and Senate President Pro Tempore Senator Louise Lucas (D-18), and House Bill 2312, patroned by House Majority Leader Delegate Charniele Herring (D-46), establish a statutory timeline for the legalization of the commercial marijuana market in Virginia. The measure also permits for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis by those ages 21 or older.

Last week, Gov. Northam recommended changes to the legislation to permit the personal use provisions of the law to take effect on July 1, 2021 rather than on January 1, 2024, the enactment date initially approved by lawmakers. A majority of the legislature concurred with that change.

Therefore, beginning July 1, 2021, adults will be permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to cultivate up to four cannabis plants per household without penalty.
The timeline by which state regulators have to enact provisions licensing commercial cannabis production and sales remains July 1, 2024.

Commenting on final passage, NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as executive director of Virginia NORML, said: “This is an incredible victory for Virginia. Legalization will bring an end to the thousands of low-level marijuana infractions occurring annually in the Commonwealth — ending a discriminatory practice that far too often targets Virginians who are young, poor, and people of color.”

Majority Leader Charniele Herring added: “It is a huge day for equity in the Commonwealth. Virginia is now the first state in the South to legalize recreational marijuana use, and I am so proud to have been able to carry this monumental legislation.”

Sen. Ebbin said, “The passage of SB1406 caps off years of struggle to reform our broken and outdated marijuana laws and begins the deliberate steps to repeal the harms of the failed prohibition. I am thankful to NORML, the governor, and my colleagues for moving this 283 bill from inception to passage over the last four months, and look forward to continuing to partner with them to establish a regulated, equity focused, adult-use marketplace in the coming years.”

Newly released statewide polling data finds that 68 percent of registered voters in Virginia, including majorities of Democrats and Republicans, support legalizing marijuana for adults.

Additional amendments added by Gov. Northam will allow the sealing of records related to crimes involving the misdemeanor possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. Those records will begin to be sealed starting on July 1, 2021. Separate legislation enacted in 2020 previously sealed records related to misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Records specific to the simple possession of marijuana and/or misdemeanor possession with intent to distribute records will be automatically expunged no later than 2025. Those with records specific to crimes involving the felony possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute may begin to petition the courts for an expounging of their records in 2025.

The bill also allows for the re-sentencing of individuals currently incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. The measure permits those individuals to have a hearing before the court that originally sentenced them, with legal counsel provided for indigent individuals. However, this portion of the bill must be reenacted in 2022.

The legislation also establishes an independent agency, the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, to oversee the establishment of regulations that will govern the adult-use market. This agency is set to convene this summer. The remainder of the 300-page bill, which details the regulatory and market structure and social equity provisions, is subject to a second review and vote by the Assembly next year.

 

Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. Visit norml.org for more information.

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