Florida Senate president considers special session on medical marijuana
The Senate leader’s two-page memo doesn’t expressly call for a special session, but it’s the clearest indication since talks broke down Friday that lawmakers might return to Tallahassee to implement a voter-approved constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.
House and Senate leaders were unable to reach agreement on one major factor last week: how many retail outlets medical marijuana operators should be able to run. The annual legislative session ended Friday for issues unrelated to the state budget, which was wrapped up Monday.
While the Senate favored a cap of up to 15 dispensaries for each operator, the House —- which originally backed an infinite number of retail outlets —- ultimately settled on a limit of 100 per operator before Republican leaders acknowledged publicly they had failed to finalize an accord.
“The question is whether or not there is a path forward to bridge that divide,” Negron, R-Stuart, told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview Thursday. “There is communication between House members and senators on lots of issues, including medical marijuana. That’s productive and healthy. So let’s see where it goes.”
Lawmakers are highly unlikely to return to Tallahassee without having an agreed-upon deal, a possibility that remained questionable Thursday.
Negron gave no indication he was willing to back down from his stance that the state must limit the number of “pot shops” as part of the rollout of the constitutional amendment, which passed in November with more than 71 percent of the vote and could make Florida one of the most lucrative medical marijuana markets in the country. Estimates show that more than 500,000 patients could be eligible for the treatment.
Negron, who has maintained that lawmakers have an obligation to implement the constitutional amendment, said early input from his members indicated support for the Senate position on capping retail outlets.
“They’re telling me that they would like to resolve it but that they strongly support the Senate position on not having an unwarranted expansion on dispensaries without first establishing patient demand,” he said.
But House Speaker Richard Corcoran predicted legislators will return to the Capitol and pass a comprehensive measure that eluded them during the two-month regular session.
“I believe there should be a special session, and there will be a special session,” Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, told the News Service on Thursday. “I’m confident that we can get to a resolution.”
Branstad signs medical cannabis bill into law
DES MOINES — Medical cannabis can be grown and sold in Iowa and can be used to treat more ailments under a program expansion signed into law Friday by Gov. Terry Branstad.
The new law overhauls Iowa’s three-year-old medical cannabis program, which critics said was too restrictive because it provided no legal path for Iowans to acquire the medicinal byproduct of the marijuana plant and covered treatment only for epileptic seizures.
A key advocate for medical cannabis expansion called the new program a step in the right direction while still falling short of reaching more ailing Iowans.
“I’m thrilled, really, I’m thrilled,” said Sally Gaer of West Des Moines, who co-founded a medical cannabis advocacy group and has a daughter with a rare form of epilepsy. “We’re hugely ahead of where we were in 2014 (with the original program). Now, we can have growth and production and testing and distribution in the state. So this is huge.
“It’s not everything we wanted, but 2014 wasn’t everything we wanted either.”
Among the key provisions, Iowa’s new medical cannabis program:
• Allows for the establishment of up to two state-licensed medical cannabis manufacturers in Iowa.
• Allows individuals to obtain medical cannabis from neighboring states with similar programs.
• Expands illnesses that can be treated with medical cannabis to include cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS or HIV, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and more.
• Establishes a medical cannabidiol board that can make recommendations to state lawmakers regarding further expansion or changes to the program.
Cannabis Could Soon Be Decriminalized in All of New England
Pending the signature of Governor Chris Sununu, New Hampshire will finally decriminalize the possession of marijuana.
After the state Senate and House both passed bills to drastically reduce the probability cannabis can lead to jail time in New Hampshire, many residents no longer have to say the state motto “Live Free or Die” sarcastically. Language in the bill states that no one may be arrested by law enforcement for simply possessing small, personal amounts of cannabis.Currently in New Hampshire, marijuana possession of any quantity is punishable by up to one year in jail. If House Bill 640 becomes law, anyone over the age of 18 who is found guilty of possessing up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis or five grams of hash will be subject to a $100 penalty — even on the second offense. The fine escalates to $300 on the third offense, and a fourth will net the offender a Class B misdemeanor. The revenue derived from the possession penalties will help fund the state’s fight against substance abuse.
The Granite State Senate had been rock-steady in their resistance to reform, rejecting House-approved decriminalization bills on three separate occasions over the last ten years.