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Chronicle AM: NJ Elects MJ-Friendly Gov, Canada NDP Head Calls for Drug Decrim, More... (11/8/17)

Election day brought good news for marijuana reformers in New Jersey, Detroit, and an Ohio town; Canada's NDP leader calls for drug decriminalization, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Maine Republicans Threaten to Block Pot Bill If Not Overhauled. The Republican House Minority Leader, Rep. Ken Fredette (R-Newport), says that after Gov. LePage (R) vetoed the bill to regulate marijuana commerce, it must be altered or it will face another veto. Fredette and the Republicans want tougher penalties for impaired driving, removing "loopholes" from the medical marijuana program, and killing a tax-sharing provision for locales that host marijuana businesses. "If they don't, they'll get more of the same: they'll get another veto," said Fredette on Tuesday. "Rank-and-file House Republicans are frustrated. Our districts think this is moving too fast. If they don't reach out to House Republicans, who have been the most powerful force in Augusta for the past five years and the only group that is willing to work closely with the governor, they'll end up with another veto, and we will sustain that one as easily as we did this one." Meanwhile, it remains legal to possess and grow marijuana for personal use.

Democratic Victory in New Jersey Governor Race a Good Omen for Legalization. Voters elected a pro-marijuana legalization Democrat to replace Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Tuesday. Governor-elect Phil Murphy made marijuana legalization part of his campaign and has said he will sign a legalization bill if it reaches his desk. A legalization bill sponsored by Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Union), S3195, has already been filed, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who controls which bills move, said his goal was to get the bill passed within the first 100 days of the Murphy administration.

Athens, Ohio, Depenalizes Marijuana. Voters in the Ohio city approved The Athens Cannabis Ordinance (TACO) on Tuesday with 77% of the vote. TACO removes all penalties for the possession, cultivation, and gifting of up to 200 grams of marijuana. Last November, four other communities passed similar measures. Under state law, though, marijuana possession remains a minor misdemeanor, with fines, but no jail time.

Cook County, Illinois, Commissioner Wants Marijuana on the March Primary Ballot. Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey said on Tuesday he plans to let county residents hold a non-binding vote on marijuana legalization in the March primary election. Fritchey said he already has enough support for the idea from other commission members to get the measure on the ballot. Cook County, the home of Chicago, contains 40% of Illinois voters.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Turns in Signatures. Sponsors of an initiative to legalize medical marijuana turned in 15,000 raw signatures Tuesday, the deadline day for initiatives to turn in signatures. The state requires 14,000 valid voter signatures for the measure to qualify for the ballot, and initiative campaigns typically have an invalid signature rate of between 10% and 30%, so it still looks like an uphill battle to get the measure before the voters. A marijuana legalization initiative failed to gather enough signatures to pass this first hurdle.

Detroit Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Ballot Proposals. Voters in the Motor City approved two ordinances to loosen zoning restrictions and other rules around the city's medical marijuana industry. The ordinances are a popular response to tight zoning laws and rules passed by the city council last year. The marijuana facilities ordinance won with 60.15% of the vote and the marijuana zoning ordinance won with 58.85% of the vote.

International

Canada New Democratic Party Leader Calls for Drug Decriminalization. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Tuesday called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to consider drug decriminalization as a response to the country's opioid crisis. Trudeau has previously dismissed such pleas. Singh argued that the majority of Canadians struggling with opioids also struggle with mental health issues and poverty and that the solution to the crisis lies in social justice, not criminal justice.

South Africa's Highest Court Considers Marijuana Legalization. The country's Constitutional Court heard arguments Tuesday on the government's appeal of a case from the Western Cape High Court, which had held in March that arrests for growing marijuana for personal use at home violated citizens' right to privacy and gave the government two years to amend the Drug Trafficking Act to incorporate that decision. A decision on the appeal is expected by next March.

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