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Things To Know About Medical Marijuana in Colorado

Source: Associated Press

Denver — Colorado lawmakers are taking another look at the state’s medical marijuana market this week. That’s because the state’s medical marijuana regulations were passed in 2010 with a five-year sunset provision, so they expire this year if legislators don’t renew them.

Everything is on the table, and a Senate committee takes a first look at the rules Tuesday. Here are some things to know about what’s at stake:

THE BIG FIGHT

It will be about caregivers. These are people designated by medical marijuana patients to grow their pot for them. Officials say caregivers need more oversight to make sure they’re not growing more pot than authorized and have suggested that caregivers’ plant production amounts to a gray market because that marijuana isn’t taxed or regulated the way commercial marijuana is.

Lawmakers already have a bill focused just on caregivers. It would require them to register with the state, instead of the optional registration system in place now. Officials say the lack of a statewide registry makes it too hard for law enforcement to check a pot-grower’s claims that they are producing marijuana for patients.

“We want to make there aren’t any bad actors sending their marijuana out into the black market,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont.

The bill also requires the Colorado medical board to step up oversight of doctors who recommend pot for patients’ severe pain — the most common condition authorized under the state’s medical pot registry but one that critics complain is overused by unscrupulous physicians.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA WILL LOOK MORE LIKE RECREATIONAL POT Read More..

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D.C. Council Sets Up Hearings on MJ Regulations

Source: Washington Times

Washington, D.C. — The D.C. Council is pursuing a regulatory scheme for the sale and taxation of marijuana, scheduling hearings on proposed legislation that flies in the face of congressional attempts to prevent the District from loosening its drug laws.

City officials say council committees expect to begin hearings on the bill in early February — a move that will gauge how far D.C. lawmakers are willing to challenge Congress on the issue.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the council should be in the clear to hold public meetings on the proposed legislation, which would codify regulations regarding marijuana that were not included in a voter-approved ballot initiative.

“All we’re talking about is a hearing,” Mr. Mendelson said. “I don’t think that’s inappropriate. And I think trying to muffle public discussion would implicate constitutional issues. It would be bad public policy.”

The District is still wrangling with Republican members of Congress over the fate the city’s marijuana legalization initiative, which seven out of 10 voters supported at the ballot box in November. Congress passed a spending bill in December that blocks the District from spending money to “enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession” of any schedule 1 drugs. City lawmakers have taken the legal stance that Initiative 71 was self-executing and took effect when voters approved it — well ahead of the adoption of the spending bill by Congress.

Enacting new laws regarding marijuana in the time since the spending bill was passed is different territory, leaving in question at what point city lawmakers would run afoul of the restrictions approved in the congressional budget package.

The federal lawmaker who included the language blocking marijuana legalization in the federal spending bill doesn’t have a firm stance on how far through the legislative process D.C. lawmakers would legally be allowed to go. Read More..

Man Who Faces Years In Prison Has Cancer

Source: Huffington Post

Washington State — A Washington state man who is facing at least 10 years in prison if convicted in a high-profile federal case over growing medical marijuana for personal use has been diagnosed with cancer. Larry Harvey, 71, has stage 4 cancer of the pancreas that has begun to spread to his liver, Harvey’s wife, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, told The Huffington Post in a written statement.

“Larry’s health has been going downhill since this case began,” Firestack-Harvey said. “This summer, he was hospitalized for ten days due to blood poisoning. That was the first sign of trouble with his pancreas. Larry took a sudden turn for the worse in December and we learned on his birthday that he has pancreatic cancer.

Doctors have since confirmed that it is Stage IV and has started to spread to his liver. Larry had his second round of chemotherapy this Wednesday, followed by a blood transfusion on Thursday. We are trying to stay focused on his recovery, but the stress of trial in February makes this struggle even harder than it already is.”

Harvey, along with his wife, Rhonda; their son, Rolland Gregg; Rolland’s wife, Michelle Gregg; as well as close family friend Jason Zucker are all facing federal marijuana charges for growing about 70 cannabis plants for their own medical use at the Harveys’ rural home. The family’s defense attorneys have maintained the pot patch complied with state law. Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998 and recreational marijuana in 2012. Still, federal law classifies marijuana a Schedule I substance “with no currently accepted medical use.” Read More..

D.C. Moves Forward With MJ Legalization

Source: Huffington Post

Washington — D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) submitted the District of Columbia’s new marijuana legalization initiative to Congress Tuesday, ignoring an effort by congressional Republicans to block the measure.

Alana Intrieri, legislative counsel to Mendelson, confirmed to The Huffington Post in an email Tuesday that Initiative 71 has been transmitted to Congress, beginning a mandatory 30-day congressional review process.

In November, 70 percent of D.C. voters approved the initiative, which would legalize up to two ounces of cannabis for personal use and up to six marijuana plants for home cultivation while still banning sales.

Though the city is mostly autonomous, the U.S. Constitution gives Congress final say over the District’s laws. If Congress and President Barack Obama do not decide to block the measure, the new law could go into effect as early as March.

However, a $1.1 trillion federal spending bill that was signed by Obama in December was flooded with hundreds of additional provisions known as “riders.” One of these, introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) was an anti-pot measure forbidding D.C. from using any funding to enact an initiative relaxing penalties for drugs that are illegal under federal law.

Now, following Mendelson’s move, there is disagreement over what will happen next to the pot referendum. Read More..

D.C. Challenges Congress To Halt MJ Legalization

Source: Washington Post

Washington, D.C. — The District of Columbia defied the new Republican Congress on Tuesday, challenging the House and Senate to either block or let stand a voter-approved ballot measure to legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) sent the measure to Capitol Hill, starting the clock on a 30-day review window that Congress has used only three times in 40 years to quash a local D.C. law.

If Congress or President Obama do not act to block it, the ballot measure permitting possession of up to two ounces and home cultivation of pot could become law in the District as early as March.

Another possible scenario, however, is that Tuesday’s move would launch a rocky year of legal battles — and thrust a final decision on pot legalization in the city into the hands of federal courts.

Mendelson took the provocative step of sending the marijuana measure to Congress despite a federal spending bill passed last month and signed by the president that explicitly prohibits the District from enacting new laws to reduce penalties for drug possession.

Conservative House Republicans boasted at the time that the paragraph tucked into the 900-page, $1 trillion spending bill halted the city from following Colorado and Washington state into a closely watched experiment to legalize marijuana.

“That issue has come and gone,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz last month. The Utah Republican is the new chairman of the powerful committee with oversight of D.C. issues and is an outspoken opponent of marijuana legalization. In a December interview, Chaffetz warned that any attempt by the District to move forward on legalization would be “ill-advised and fruitless.”

But Mendelson — backed by the new mayor, Muriel E. Bowser (D) — vowed to carry out the will of the 7 in 10 D.C. voters who supported Initiative 71. Read More..

Is Pot as Bad as LSD? Heroin? Judge to Rule

Source: Los Angeles Times 

California — In a rare examination of federal marijuana law, a U.S. judge in Northern California has decided to rule on the constitutionality of a 1970 act that classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug akin to LSD and heroin..

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller took the extraordinary step of holding a five-day hearing on the question late last year, with final arguments scheduled for next month. Her ruling, based on testimony and thousands of pages of briefs, exhibits and declarations, is expected later this year.

Lawyers say the case out of Sacramento marks the first time in decades that a judge has agreed to hold a fact-finding hearing on the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. Mueller’s decision came in response to a pretrial defense motion in a prosecution brought by the federal government against alleged marijuana growers.

Attorneys for the defendants have argued that the federal marijuana law violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law and a doctrine that gives states equal sovereignty. In addition to maintaining that marijuana is safer than many non-regulated substances, the defense contends the federal government enforces marijuana law unevenly, allowing distribution of cannabis in states where it is legal and regulated by state law and cracking down elsewhere.

Prosecutors, who unsuccessfully opposed the fact-finding hearing, have countered that Congress legally placed marijuana in Schedule 1, a classification used for drugs that have no medicinal purpose, are unsafe even under medical supervision and contain a high potential for abuse. In addition to marijuana, heroin and LSD, other Schedule 1 drugs include Ecstasy and Mescaline. Because of marijuana’s Schedule 1 status, federal restrictions make it difficult for researchers to obtain legal cannabis for study. Read More..

Federal Judge Weighs Marijuana’s Classification

Source: Associated Press

Sacramento, Calif. — A federal judge in California is weighing the constitutionality of a 45-year-old act that classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug along with LSD, cocaine and heroin.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller in Sacramento held a five-day fact-finding hearing on the classification question late last year, and final arguments are scheduled for next month, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. Her ruling is expected later this year.

The case marks the first time in decades that a judge has agreed to consider marijuana’s designation as a Schedule 1 drug under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, the newspaper said. Under the act, Schedule 1 drugs have no medicinal purpose, are unsafe even under medical supervision and contain a high potential for abuse.

Mueller’s decision to hold the hearing came in response to a pretrial defense motion in a federal case against alleged marijuana growers. Prosecutors unsuccessfully opposed the fact-finding effort.

A ruling against federal cannabis law would apply only to the defendants in the case and almost certainly would be appealed, the newspaper said. If the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined the law was unconstitutional, all the Western states would be affected. Read More..