- B. Winslow
In a narrow vote, the Utah State Senate approved a bill that would clear the way for medical marijuana in Utah.
The Senate voted 15-13 to pass Senate Bill 73, which allows qualifying medical patients to use marijuana in edible, extract and oil form to treat ailments. SB73 faces one more vote in the Senate, which could happen as early as Wednesday. The Senate voted 18-8 to pass Senate Bill 89, a competing bill that would allow for an extract to treat medical conditions. That bill now goes to the House for consideration.
In emotional remarks, SB73 sponsor Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, pleaded with his colleagues to pass the bill -- naming patients who were hoping to use medical marijuana to treat their pain.
"I don't want to let them down. Please help Doug and Ashley and Adam and Carter, please help hundreds of patients who anxiously await our action today. Don't let them down!" he cried.
Madsen watered down his bill after opposition from Senate colleagues and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Monday, the LDS Church softened its opposition to SB73, but still didn't give its blessing to the legislation.
Senators were divided on the bill.
"I encourage my colleagues to stand up for the many people who are desperate," said Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City.
Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, pressed Madsen on dosages and expressed concern for youth.
"To say there is no harm? Is not true. It's just not. It simply isn't true," she said.
Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, said there was a lot of unknowns about the bill's potential consequences, but said the best one to make the decision was a doctor working with a patient. Sen. Allen Christensen, R-Ogden, said he would vote no on it.
"There exists absolute evidence that whole plant marijuana cures everything from ingrown toenails to cancer. Of course, all of this evidence is anectodal. Nothing is scientifically proven," he said.
With such a close vote on SB73, backers of medical marijuana said they were planning to push ahead with a ballot initiative, taking it out of the hands of lawmakers and putting it before voters.
"It's looking like we may have to," said Christine Stenquist, a medical marijuana patient and supporter of the ballot initiative. "Because we're not getting much of our voices heard right now."
Meanwhile, Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, was asked if his SB89 could combine with Sen. Madsen's SB73.
"Could we ever merge them? In theory, yes. It's true. In practicality? I'm not sure," he said.
- M. Walker
Bills to eliminate residency requirements for pot business ownership, give lenders legal protections and combine medical and recreational cannabis retail outlets all moved forward easily in the Oregon Legislature last week, though none have yet become law.
While all relate to cannabis, the three bills seek to achieve a variety of outcomes for the young industry.
House Bill 4094 aims to address the "duffel bag full of cash" conundrum that plagues the legal marijuana industry. Due to the substance's federal illegal status, many lenders are wary of providing financial services to cannabis companies. The bill explicitly exempts lenders from state criminal liability under Oregon law.
If passed, it's unclear whether lenders will begin offering services due to the federal legal situation. HB 4094 passed the Oregon Senate by a 56-3 vote. It will now head to the Oregon House.
More medical options
Oregon first legalized medical marijuana in 1998, creating a network of patients and clubs that defined the state's above-board cannabis identity until recreational use was legalized in 2014. Lawmakers made several changes to the medical program in 2015 to adapt to the new, broader legality of cannabis.
Now, Senate Bill 1511 aims to further combine the two laws, clearing the way for recreational outlets to sell tax-exempt cannabis to card-holding medical marijuana patients. SB 1511 will likely receive a Senate vote this week.
House Bill 4014 eliminates a requirement that cannabis business owners in Oregon need to have at least two years of state residency. The requirement initially intended to favor and protect small, locally owned operations at the beginning of recreational legalization.
As the industry grows, however, many business owners have called for an end to the rule as it blocks them from landing outside equity investment to help grow their companies. HB 4014 passed both the House and Senate and will head to the desk of Gov. Kate Brown to be signed into law.
Other efforts to amend Oregon's recreational and medical cannabis laws will likely continue in future legislative sessions. In an analysis of legal marijuana, research firm Arcview Group predicted Oregon's industry could reach $1 billion in sales by 2020.
- D. Richards
A Georgia House committee has gutted a bill that would have allowed in-state cultivation of medical marijuana. The cultivation provision of the bill was removed from the bill Monday in the face of stubborn opposition from Gov. Nathan Deal and state law enforcement.
Last year, the General Assembly passed a bill allowing the use of cannabis oil for the treatment of certain ailments – many of them related to childhood seizures. Gov. Deal signed that law after persistent lobbying by patients and their families.
The sponsor of that bill, Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), said the cultivation was the logical next step. Peake said he filed the follow-up bill this year because legal users of medical marijuana could need legally buy it nor import it from other states without violating federal law.
Monday, Peake said he was "disappointed" that the cultivation language was eliminated. He vowed to keep the issue alive in coming years.
The House Judiciary (Non-Civil) Committee may pass the revised bill Wednesday.