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House Passes Seven Amendments to Rein in DEA [FEATURE]

This article was published in collaboration with AlterNet and originally appeared here.

In a series of votes yesterday, the House voted to end the DEA's controversial bulk data collection program and also passed three amendments cutting funding from the DEA and shifting it to other federal law enforcement priorities. In more votes today, it approved three amendments aimed at blocking DEA and Justice Department interference with industrial hemp, CBD cannabis oil, and medical marijuana in states where they are legal. A fourth amendment that would have barred interference in legal marijuana states was narrowly defeated.

The votes came as the House considers the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.

Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), David Schweikert (R-AZ), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) offered the amendment barring the DEA and the Justice Department from using taxpayer funds to do bulk collection of Americans' communications records. It passed on a voice vote yesterday.

"Congress dealt a major blow to the DEA by ending their invasive and offensive bulk data collection programs and by cutting their budget, said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The more the DEA ignores commonsense drug policy, the more they will see their agency's power and budget come under deeper scrutiny."

Last night, members voted to slash $23 million from the DEA's budget and reallocate the money for more cost-effective programs. One amendment, from Rep. Ted Liew (D-CA) shifted $9 million from the agency's marijuana eradication program to youth programs; another, from Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) shifted $4 million from the DEA budget to rape test kits; while the third, from Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) shifted $9 million from the DEA to a program to try to reduce police abuse by procuring body cameras for police officers.

In today's votes, an amendment offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Joe Heck (R-NV), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Don Young (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Dina Titus (D-NV) would bar the DEA and Justice from interfering in medical marijuana states. It passed 242-186. Similar legislation passed Congress last year, but was set to expire.

The House also passed an amendment from Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) to protect state laws allowing for the use of CBD cannabis oil. It passed 297-130. A third amendment, from Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), to protect state laws allowing industrial hemp also passed on a vote of 282-146.

But the most far-reaching amendment, which would have barred federal interference in states where marijuana is legal for either medical or general purposes, failed on a vote of 206-222. It was sponsored by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Don Young (R-AK), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

"Votes in support of rolling back the federal government's war on medical marijuana are beginning to become routine. Last year, passing this amendment was unprecedented. This year, it was predictable. Medical marijuana has gone from 'controversial' to 'conventional' on Capitol Hill," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policy for the Marijuana Policy Project.

But this is just the start, Riffle said.

"This is an important amendment because it addresses the tension between state and federal marijuana law," he noted. "We welcome it as a temporary fix, but what we really need is a comprehensive and more permanent solution. It's time for Congress to pass legislation that ends prohibition at the federal level and allows states to determine their own marijuana policies."

Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority was singing the same tune.

"Now that the House has gone on record with strong bipartisan votes for two years in a row to oppose using federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws, it's time for Congress to take up comprehensive legislation to actually change federal law," he said. "That's what a growing majority of Americans wants, and these votes show that lawmakers are on board as well. Congress clearly wants to stop the Justice Department from spending money to impose failed marijuana prohibition policies onto states, so there's absolutely no reason those policies themselves should remain on the law books any longer."

"There's unprecedented support on both sides of the aisle for ending the federal war on marijuana and letting states set their own drug policies based on science, compassion, health, and human rights," said DPA's Piper.

Despite the narrow failure of that last amendment, the votes are just the latest indicator of rising congressional dissatisfaction with the scandal-plagued agency. Former Administrator Michele Leonhart was forced to resign earlier this year after a disastrous performance before congressional overseers over the agency's latest scandal, which involved DEA agents using taxpayer (and sometimes, drug baron) funds to consort with prostitutes in Colombia.

But the agency's problems with Congress go deeper than mere scandals -- of which there are plenty -- and reflect rising congressional concern that the DEA is not only ineffective, but downright obstinate, especially when it comes to marijuana policy. Leonhart herself epitomized the culture problem in the DEA when she was unable to bring herself to admit to Congress last year that marijuana is less dangerous than heroin.

The House has now shown it isn't very keen on the DEA's mass surveillance programs, either. Knowledge of their extent first appeared with a Reuters expose in 2013 that outlined collaboration between the DEA, NSA, CIA and other agencies to spy on Americans in the name of the drug war, including the creation of false investigative trails to disguise the fact they were getting information from secret surveillance programs. Then, this April, USA Today reported that the DEA and Justice Department have been keeping secret records of billions of international phone calls made by Americans for decades. The program, the first known US effort to gather bulk data on citizens, regardless of whether or not they were suspected of committing a crime, was the precursor of the post-9/11 spying programs.

"The DEA built the modern surveillance state," said Piper. "From spying on Americans to busting into people's homes the DEA doesn't fit in well in a free society and the time is now to reverse these harms."

DPA recently released a new report, The Scandal-Ridden DEA: Everything You Need to Know. The report and a comprehensive set of background resources about the campaign to rein in the DEA are available at www.drugpolicy.org/DEA.

"The DEA is a large, expensive, scandal-prone bureaucracy that has failed to reduce drug-related problems," said Piper. "There's a bipartisan consensus that drug use should be treated as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue; with states legalizing marijuana and adopting other drug policy reforms it is time to ask if the agency is even needed anymore."

Washington, DC
United States

ProCon.org: Should Marijuana Ever Be Used to Treat Children and Adolescents?

Did you know that "A new strain of marijuana has motivated hundreds of families with epileptic children to pack up and move to Colorado to legally obtain the drug"?, Read the details on medicalmarijuana.procon.org, part of the ProCon.org family.

This is the first of a Drug War Chronicle "Did You Know" series of important facts from ProCon.org. Follow the Chronicle the next six weeks to read them, or sign up for ProCon.org's email list or RSS feed.

ProCon.org is a web site promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format.

Chronicle AM: Supreme Court Nixes Deportation for Pills, Texas Gov Signs CBD Bill, More (6/2/15)

Massachusetts politicians start to figure out that marijuana is going to be legalized, Congress is set to take up measures to protect legal marijuana states, Texas becomes the 15th CBD cannabis oil state, the Supreme Court nixes deportation of an immigrant for drug paraphernalia, and more.

This article contains a correction, in the Minnesota subsection.

The US Supreme Court rejects deportation of immigrant who had pills in a sock. (supremecourt.gov)
Marijuana Policy

House Getting Ready to Vote on Measures to Protect State Marijuana Laws. The US House is set to vote this week -- perhaps as early as tonight -- on a series of amendments to the Justice Department appropriations bill that would limit federal government interference in states that have legalized marijuana production and consumption. Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) are sponsoring an amendment that would halt the federal prosecution of people involved in marijuana-related activities legal under state law. Last year, the Congress passed a similar measure barring the Justice Department from prosecuting people in medical marijuana states, but this year's amendment covers both legal and recreational states.

Massachusetts Senate President Floats Notion of 2016 Nonbinding Legalization Question. State Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said Monday that lawmakers should consider putting a nonbinding question about marijuana legalization on the 2016 ballot. He said that would give lawmakers the political cover to craft their own legalization bill. But they may not get the chance: two separate groups are planning legalization initiatives for 2016, and if either makes the ballot and passes, Massachusetts will have legal weed without the legislature.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota's Cannabis Oil Program Now Taking Registrants. As of Monday, patients can sign up for the state's cannabis oil program, which will go into effect July 1. The state estimates that some 5,000 people will sign up. [Ed: The initial version of this article initially described the Minnesota program erroneously as involving "CBD cannabis oil." While the program has limits including not allowing smoked or edible marijuana, it does not specify THC vs. CBD content.]

Texas Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) Monday signed into law the CBD cannabis oil bill, Senate Bill 339, which allows the use of the oil for treating severe forms of epilepsy. Texas is now the 15th state to allow the use of CBD cannabis oils.

Law Enforcement

US Supreme Court Rejects Deportation for Drug Paraphernalia. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that an immigrant could not be deported for possession of drug paraphernalia -- in this case, a sock that was used to hold Adderall pills. The immigrant in question was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia and served a probated sentence, but was then targeted for deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Board of Immigration appeals upheld his deportation, ruling that his paraphernalia possession triggered deportation even though the drug his paraphernalia (the sock) contained was not federally scheduled. The Supreme Court found this untenable: "The incongruous upshot is that an alien is not removable for possessing a substance controlled only under Kansas law, but he is removable for using a sock to contain that substance. Because it makes scant sense, the BIA's interpretation, we hold, is owed no deference…" The case is Mellouli v. Lynch, Attorney General.

URGENT: Congressional Vote on Permitting State Marijuana Laws!

Call Congress This Afternoon to Protect State Marijuana Laws!
Congress may vote as soon as tonight on the McClintock-Polis amendment, which would prohibit the Department of Justice, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from spending funds to interfere with state-legal marijuana laws. This amendment would renew similar legislation passed last year to protect medical marijuana, and would expand it to include regulated marijuana for personal use as well.

Please call your member of Congress this afternoon to ask for a YES vote on the McClintock-Polis amendment. Our system will look up who your representative is, based on your address, and will provide the phone number. Here are a few points you can make, if you get into discussion with the staff:

  • The McClintock-Polis Amendment will only apply in states that have adopted marijuana law reforms.
  • Today people who are acting in compliance with their states' marijuana laws remain at risk of federal prosecution -- a large and growing number of ordinary businesspersons and citizens.
  • The amendment doesn't require states to legalize marijuana, nor will it impact on any state's ability to enforce their own marijuana laws
  • There is substantial support across a range of the political spectrum for allowing states to set their own marijuana policies, including legalization -- even from people who themselves don't support legalization in their own states.

Visit http://capwiz.com/drcnet/callalert/index.tt?alertid=66234626 to take action now!

Chronicle AM: CA MedMJ Reg Bill Moves, IL Heroin Bill Passes House, Brits to Ban Legal Highs, More (6/1/15)

California could finally end up with statewide medical marijuana regulation as a compromise bill moves, asset forfeiture reform is moving in Michigan, an omnibus heroin bill moves in Illinois, and more.

Illinois is the latest state to try to legislate a response to heroin. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Legalization Bill Rejected in Committee. The Criminal Justice Committee last Thursday rejected Rep. Diane Russell's legalization bill, LD 1380, but the bill is not yet dead, and supporters say the real battle will be on the House floor. Stay tuned.

Medical Marijuana

California Medical Marijuana Regulation Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Assembly Appropriations Committee has approved a compromise regulation bill that combines features of two competing bills, Assembly Bill 34 and Assembly Bill 266. The bill would create a Governor's Office of Medical Marijuana Regulation, with three divisions. The Agriculture Department would handle cultivation, the Public Health Department would handle product safety and labeling, and the Board of Equalization would be responsible for licensing. The compromise bill is AB 266. A floor vote is expected later this week.

Illinois Bill to Add PTSD Moves Ahead. The House last Saturday approved a bill that would add PTSD to the list of qualifying medical conditions. The bill has already been approved by the Senate, but will have to go back there for approval after the House added language clarifying that patients are not prohibited from having a state firearms owner ID card.

Oklahoma Initiative Campaign Began Saturday. Hundreds of people showed up at the state capitol Saturday for the launch of a medical marijuana initiative campaign led by Oklahomans for Health.

Heroin

Illinois Heroin Bill Passes House. The House last week approved House Bill 1, a comprehensive bill aimed at combating heroin use. Sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), the bill would expand access to the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone, establish a prescription drug return program, expand Medicaid services to include rehabilitation, and expand the use of drug courts for people charged with simple possession. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan House Committee Approves Asset Forfeiture Reform Package. The House Judiciary Committee has passed a package of bills aimed at reforming the state's asset forfeiture laws. The package raises the standard of proof before goods can be seized and mandates increased reporting of seizures by law enforcement agencies. One of the bills would bar asset forfeiture in cases involving less than an ounce of pot.

Drug Testing

California Assembly Committee Rejects Uber Driver Drug Testing Bill. The Appropriations Committee has voted down Assembly Bill 24, which would have required drug testing of Uber and Lyft drivers.

Law Enforcement

Silk Road Mastermind Gets Life in Prison. Ross Ulbricht, founder of the Dark Web's first widely-known drug sales website, was sentenced to life in prison Thursday, the harshest possible sentence he faced. With no chance at parole, Ulbricht will die in prison unless his sentence is overturned.

International

British Ban on Psychoactive Substances Could Cripple Brain Research. Last week, the British government announced it would ban all unregulated psychoactive substances via a new act, the Psychoactive Substances Bill, but some scientists are now saying the bill would cripple research on the brain. The bill would ban laughing gas, salvia, "poppers," and synthetic cannabinoids, among other things. Dr. David Nutt, the former top drug advisor to the government, said that such efforts could bring some areas of scientific research to a standstill. "It's going to end brain research in this country. It will be disastrous," he said.

British Lib Dem Leadership Candidate Says Legalize Marijuana. Norman Lamb, who is seeking to lead the Liberal Democrats after their poor showing in the last election, is calling for Britain to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana commerce. Lamb said he is seeking immediate legalization for medical use and a swift, evidence-based policy change regarding recreational use.

Chronicle AM: ME Pot DUID Bill Dies, SC MedMJ Bill Dies, OR Senate Restricts MedMJ Grows, More (5/28/15)

The Maine legislature kills a pot DUID bill, the Arizona Supreme Court will take up the issue, Florida's CBD cannabis oil program will finally roll out, the Dutch crack down on grow shops, Australia's Greens want to ban drug dogs, and more.

Marijuana and driving remains a contentious issue. (flickr.com)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Marijuana DUID Bill Stalls in Legislature. An effort to pass a per se marijuana impaired driving law has stalled in the legislature after experts said that, given the state of the science, any specified limit would be "arbitrary." Under per se impaired driving laws, merely testing positive for the specified amount is sufficient to get you convicted of drugged driving. The legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted Tuesday not to advance LD 1320, but instead to convene a working group to study the issue.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Supreme Court Will Review Ruling on DUID Immunity for Patients. The Supreme Court Tuesday agreed to review a state Court of Appeals ruling issued last November that said medical marijuana patients can still be prosecuted under laws against drugged driving. Arizona has a zero tolerance per se DUID law under which all that is necessary to convict if the presence of inactive metabolites in the blood.

Florida Judge Clears Way for CBD Cannabis Oil Program. A judge in Tallahassee Wednesday dismissed the final challenge to the state's CBD cannabis oil law passed last year, clearing the way for the long-delayed program to actual get underway. Now, growers should be able to provide CBD cannabis oils to patients within a few months.

Oregon Senate Passes Bill Restricting Medical Marijuana Grows. The state Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill widely opposed by patients and growers that limits the number of plants caregivers could grow. The measure, Senate Bill 964, also requires regular reporting by growers and allows localities to prohibit dispensaries.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Dead for This Year. A bill that would have allowed for the use of medical marijuana is dead in the state legislature this year, senators said. Senate Bill 672, sponsored by Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), will, however, get more hearings before the legislature begins the second year of its two-year session in January.

International

Dutch Police in Massive Raid on Grow Shops. Dutch police enforcing a new law cracking down on people aiding or promoting illicit marijuana cultivation raided 27 grow shops across the country Tuesday, arresting 11 people. Under the new law, it is now illegal to deliberately supply equipment for illicit marijuana cultivation. Violators face up to three years in prison.

Australia Greens File Bill to Ban Drug Dogs from Festivals. The Greens have filed a bill to end the use of drug-sniffing dogs at music festivals, bars, on public transport, and in Sydney's Kings Cross neighborhood. The bill is part of a broader Green campaign against the use of drug dogs. The Greens say the drug dogs program doesn't work, but does subject thousands of young people to humiliating searches. The Greens also argue that the dogs program doesn't target major suppliers, but people carrying small amounts of drugs for personal use.

From the Blog: CT Lawmakers Push to Add Children and Hospital Patients to Medical Marijuana Program

Connecticut House of Representatives
This week the General Law Committee of the Connecticut House and Senate gave its approval for a final vote to add children to the state's medical marijuana program with certain restrictions.

The main provision that was added to gain the Committee's support would block minors from smoking or vaporizing marijuana despite a doctor's recommendation. While the debate did stir the standard, "We don't want people to think it's okay for kids to smoke weed" argument, it also gave opportunities for the new rhetoric being heard in state capitols around medical marijuana a chance to shine. Rep. Dan Carter made an excellent case for not restricting a doctors ability to treat a patient telling the Connecticut Post:

"I do believe there's a clear need with respect to younger patients," Carter said. "In a way, I think we're putting the political part of it above the health part of it. I think there should be freedom for those practitioners who are going to prescribe this to utilize any delivery system they need to do. Clearly there are benefits, certain times, to inhale certain products. If we shut it down and say you can't smoke it or you can't vaporize it, I think in a way that retards... some of the studies we need to do."

The provision has a chance of being removed with time, more so with folks like Dan Carter already on the right side of the fence. With the way things are going, I don't expect a 16 year old smoking a joint on the way to chemo to rip at the moral fabric of society much longer.

The bill will also allow hospitals and hospices to administer cannabis to their patients. This will be a major factor in improving the quality of life for folks forced to live under medical supervision. Also it would request a group of pediatricians be formed for the purpose of adding more ailments to the 11 already approved for use in the state.

In general the bill represents a step forward, with a bit of a pothole that will be filled in time. Time is also the keyword in getting it passed, as lawmakers have until midnight on June 3rd to vote on the bill.

From the Blog: Three Marijuana Reform Bills Filed in Louisiana

(Welcome back to our one-time intern Jimi Devine, who has graciously volunteered his time to support our blog. We are cross-posting this piece to the Chronicle because it is news-focused.)

The smell of marijuana reform is strong in the bayou air, with Louisiana now home to a big push for both medical marijuana and major sentencing reforms around marijuana convictions.

Today the Louisiana legislature's House Health and Welfare Committee will hear a medical marijuana bill brought forward by Republican State Senator Fred Mills, a man who formerly served as head of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy. Mills spent the last year working with law enforcement to make it past a committee and organizations that had held it back in the past.

According to Northeast Louisiana media outlet The News Star, major revisions have been made with support from the Louisiana Sheriffs Association, including:

  • Prescribed marijuana would be taken in a form other than smoking it, perhaps in a pill.
  • The state Agriculture Department would be in charge of growing marijuana to be used for medical purposes.
  • Dispensing pharmacies -- ten, at this point -- would be required to meet certain conditions.
  • The bill would "sunset," or be reviewed on Jan. 1, 2020, giving lawmakers a deadline for determining whether the changes to state law were beneficial. If the bill proves ineffective, the law could be modified or allowed to expire.
  • The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy would adopt rules about dispensing medical marijuana.

This session the bill made it through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, which had halted its progress in 2014, and then passed the full senate with two thirds in support. On when he takes it before the House, Mills noted, "I'm hoping for a repeat performance from the Senate."

While the bill is very restrictive, it would reinforce national trends on the medical use of marijuana by bringing a law involving more than CBD marijuana strains to the south, and hopefully would lead to a more inclusive medical marijuana law in the future.

The sentencing reform bills look to reduce the penalties associated with a marijuana conviction in the state. Currently a third marijuana possession conviction could lead to a baffling 20 year sentence.

According to NOLA.com, the bill authored by New Orleans State Senator J.P. Morrell "reduces the maximum penalty for possession from 20 years in prison to eight, raises the threshold for a felony-level possession charge, and adds a second-chance provision for first-time offenders."

Penalties would still be much more severe than their counterparts in other states, but first time offenders would have one opportunity to expunge their record after two years without a conviction. The bill would also reclassify a second offense from a felony to misdemeanor for quantities between fourteen grams and two and a half pounds.

The bill is projected to save Louisiana $17 million over the first five years. This would cover the $900,000 a year in wasteful spending on corrections highlighted by the Office of State Inspector General with $13 million to spare.

NOLA.com columnist Jarvis DaBerry noted, "Such a bill does two important things. First, it establishes that a person with a small amount of weed isn't a real threat to the public. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the bill would keep such a conviction from haunting a person forever."

The second bill, authored by Rep. Austin Badon, would push major reforms, but is not as big a shift as the one presented by Morrell. Badon's bill would see those committing a third offense jailed five years, as opposed to the two year sentence in Morell's bill. It also does not include the possibility of conviction being expunged for first time offenders.

While Louisiana debates the direction of their sentencing procedures, I'll leave you with another quote from Jarvis DeBerry on the subject: "Here's a prediction: Sooner or later, we're going to look back at what Louisiana has doing to folks caught with marijuana, and we're going to be just as shocked those sentences had our officials' blessing."

CT Lawmakers Push to Add Children and Hospital Patients to Medical Marijuana Program

Connecticut House of Representatives
This week the General Law Committee of the Connecticut House and Senate gave its approval for a final vote to add children to the state's medical marijuana program with certain restrictions.

The main provision that was added to gain the Committee's support would block minors from smoking or vaporizing marijuana despite a doctor's recommendation. While the debate did stir the standard, "We don't want people to think it's okay for kids to smoke weed" argument, it also gave opportunities for the new rhetoric being heard in state capitols around medical marijuana a chance to shine. Rep. Dan Carter made an excellent case for not restricting a doctors ability to treat a patient telling the Connecticut Post:

"I do believe there's a clear need with respect to younger patients," Carter said. "In a way, I think we're putting the political part of it above the health part of it. I think there should be freedom for those practitioners who are going to prescribe this to utilize any delivery system they need to do. Clearly there are benefits, certain times, to inhale certain products. If we shut it down and say you can't smoke it or you can't vaporize it, I think in a way that retards... some of the studies we need to do."

The provision has a chance of being removed with time, more so with folks like Dan Carter already on the right side of the fence. With the way things are going, I don't expect a 16 year old smoking a joint on the way to chemo to rip at the moral fabric of society much longer.

The bill will also allow hospitals and hospices to administer cannabis to their patients. This will be a major factor in improving the quality of life for folks forced to live under medical supervision. Also it would request a group of pediatricians be formed for the purpose of adding more ailments to the 11 already approved for use in the state.

In general the bill represents a step forward, with a bit of a pothole that will be filled in time. Time is also the keyword in getting it passed, as lawmakers have until midnight on June 3rd to vote on the bill.

Medical Marijuana Update

California localities continue to wrestle with medical marijuana, Illinois' nascent program gets an extension, another South Dakota initiative could be coming, Seattle plans to shut down dozens of dispensaries, and more.

California

Last Tuesday, Marin County supervisors began working on a restrictive medical marijuana ordinance. The ordinance envisions up to three nonprofit dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county, but critics said it would create so much red tape that it would be difficult to comply with its provisions.

Last Wednesday, the State Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Yuba County patients challenging the county's new marijuana cultivation ordinance and especially its urgency provision. That provision effectively stopped opponents' ability to circulate petitions for a voter referendum. Other legal challenges to the ordinance are still pending.

On Tuesday, a successful Santa Cruz County referendum blocked a supervisors' ban on commercial medical marijuana grows. The supes had voted last month to enact the ban, but opponents managed to gather enough signatures in just three weeks to qualify an initiative for the ballot, thus putting the ban on hold until the vote.

Illinois

Last Thursday, the Senate approved an extension of the medical marijuana program. The state Senate voted 33-16 to approve House Bill 3299, which would extend the program by two more years. The measure has already passed the House and is headed for the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), but it's unclear if he will sign it. He has said he didn't think the program should be extended until it's been fully evaluated -- but it hasn't even really started.

Nebraska

Last Thursday, the legislature approved a CBD cannabis oil study bill. The state Senate gave final approval to Legislative Bill 390, under which the University of Nebraska Medical Center would study the effectiveness of CBD in treating epileptic seizures. Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) now has five days to act on it.

On Wednesday, a CBD cannabis oil bill was pronounced dead. A bill that would have allowed the limited use of CBD cannabis oil has died. LB 643, filed by state Sen. Tommy Garrett (R-Bellevue), did not have enough support to advance, Garrett said. He said he would bring it back next year.

Pennsylvania

On Monday, it looked like the medical marijuana bill had been blocked in the House. A medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 3, has passed the Senate, but appears to be bottled up in the House after being assigned to the Health Committee, which is headed by medical marijuana foe Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga County). He told local media last week he didn't see the bill moving any time soon. Bill supporters are exploring their options, including moving the bill to a different committee, adding it as an amendment to other legislation, and including it in a budget measure.

South Dakota

On Wednesday, word came that a medical marijuana initiative is in the works. Maybe the third time will be the charm. An activist from Emery has submitted initiative language to the state Attorney General's office. If approved, petitioners would have to gather 13,871 valid voter signatures by November 8 to qualify for the 2016 ballot. South Dakota voted down previous efforts in 2006 and 2010.

Washington

Last Thursday, the state Supreme Court uphold local collective garden bans. The high court ruled 8-1 that the city of Kent can ban medical marijuana collective gardens. The decision upheld lower court rulings allowing cities to impose bans via zoning regulations. The case was Cannabis Action Council v. City of Kent.

On Tuesday, Seattle's mayor said he planned to shutter dozens of dispensaries. Mayor Ed Murray said Tuesday he plans to require special business licenses for marijuana shops and that dispensaries in operation before January 1, 2013, will get priority in licensing. But of the city's 99 dispensaries, 54 either opened after that date or are operating without a license, and the mayor's office says they need to shut down.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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