General Jeff Sessions, Texas’s Legislature: Your Weekly Cannabis Briefing

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1. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues his cat-and-mouse game on marijuana issues. After telling a group of assembled state Attorneys General that marijuana is “slightly less awful than heroin,” he dropped that line in a speech on March 15.

According to US News, Sessions predicted “victory in an ‘undefined’ argument in ‘the months to come.” And, Mark Zapotsky of The Washington Post reported him as saying, he "may have some different ideas" than the previous attorney general about pot enforcement, and that "I think medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much."

2. Texas’s Legislature only meets every two years, and when it does, it moves at a slow pace. It maximizes its press exposure strutting and posturing over big issues like text books and transgender bathroom rights. This marks their territory for those folks back home.

There is little hope for proposals to decriminalize or legitimize marijuana use. And, they have been reluctant to move on emotional appeals for medical marijuana treatments for children with severe autism. The Dallas Morning News reports on the legal bind that threatens parents.

While Texas is under the arch-conservative Governor Greg Abbot, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton competing for any vote outside Austin, there is little hope for change in this legislature.

3. Oregon’s Senate Bill 863 would protect Oregon cannabis users and medical marijuana patients against federal access.

The Bill would make retailers purge patients’ personal information and prohibit dispensaries from storing such info. Other states already purge such personally identifiable data. This bill would also prohibit dispensers from requiring any proof of identification other than already defined identification forms like a medical marijuana card.

It’s not clear if this state attempt to bar cooperation with federal investigation will supersede federal law, but it did pass the Oregon Senate on March 20, 2017.

4. Massachusetts’ Legislature Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy met for the first time on Monday, March 20, 2017. In the meeting, Mass revenue officials estimated a tax windfall of $100 million/year from marijuana sales.

The State Attorney General pressed for clarification of how cities and towns can regulate pot stores. The Boston Globe confirmed, “At the core of questions from lawmakers was how to balance their competing responsibilities: respecting the voice of the voters, while adjusting the cannabis law to best protect public health and maintain order.”

5. Florida is moving too slow in enabling the regulation and sale of medical marijuana approve last November. In fact, some of the evolving rules make it more difficult to buy. According to Miami New Times, a poll by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates found “a solid majority of the state is pretty upset with them today. Four months after that overwhelming vote, Tallahassee looks far away from passing the rules that will let dispensaries open up shop around the state.”

6. CDOT and Lyft launched an initiative, its 320 Plan, to discourage cannabis consumers from smoking and driving. To promote the Denver service with its distinctively green-wrapped cars starting April 20th, Lyft will offer $10 discounts at 3:20 PM every Sunday starting March 26th.

Illinois Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353 were posted March 21, 2017 by Sen. Heather Stearns (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago). The almost identical proposals would legalize usage and tax sales of medical marijuana.

7. ABC Chicago reports, “The bill also calls for marijuana to be regulated in similar ways as alcohol, thus requiring purchasers to show proof of age, sales to anyone under 21 would be illegal, driving under the influence would remain a crime and any marijuana sold in the state would be testing, labeling and regulation as a consumer protection measure.”

8. Arkansas House Bill 1371 would clarify Amendment 98 passed and approved last November. This Bill requires that 60% of ownership in medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities must be held by Arkansans.

HB 1371 cleared its Senate committee on March 22 over objections that it infringes on rights of investors. 

9. Oakland, CA City Council voted 6-2 on March 22 to overturn its own recently approved rule requiring proof of residence to secure a dispensary license. The misconceived and unconstitutional original plan sought, according to MerryJane.com, “to provide reparations for the city’s largely minority population that for so long been unfairly persecuted for cannabis related crimes.”

10. District of Columbia Council Ward 7 or 8 will soon host the District’s sixth medical marijuana dispensary. Approval came March 21 as council members sought to add a dispensary to improve accessibility to medical marijuana patients.