Earlier this week, the City Council of Lewiston, Maine voted unanimously to send an initiative that would make possession of marijuana legal for adults to the voters.
Citizens for a Safer Maine submitted more than 1,250 signatures to get the measure in front of the council, which had the options of adopting it or placing it on the ballot. Just 859 valid signatures of registered city voters were required. A similar measure will appear on the November ballot in South Portland, and the group has submitted more than the number of signatures required to place one on the ballot in York.
The initiative would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It would remain illegal to consume or display marijuana in public. The measure also includes a statement in support of regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at the state level.
According to the Denver Post, for-profit companies will not be awarded funding for state-supported medical marijuana research, under the terms of the grant program released Wednesday. However, for-profit firms will be approved as subcontractors on grant proposals.
In the official request for applications, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment indicates that only certain institutions are qualified to apply as primary recipients for the $9 million in available research grant money to study the benefits of medical marijuana, including “not-for profit organizations, health care organizations, governmental entities and higher education institutions.” In addition, there is no requirement for eligible applicants to be based in Colorado.
Although Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) already signed a bill in May allowing the state to fund up to $10 million for research into the medical efficacy of marijuana, health department officials are still hoping that researchers will be allowed, for the first time, to conduct clinical or observational trials using the kinds of marijuana products that are already available in Colorado’s medical-marijuana system.
“Colorado is a national leader in the development of new strains of marijuana and its component parts that appear to have promising therapeutic effects,” the application request states.
According to a Denver Post story, Colorado is scheduled to begin administering significant funding for the largest ever state-supported medical marijuana research grant program starting in early 2015. It is anticipated that Colorado’s health department will release the program’s official request for applications sometime this week. The state expects to deliver $9 million geared towards research on the medical effects of marijuana. There is, however, skepticism over who will be able to accept funding for the research program due to marijuana’s federally illegal status.
At a recent meeting, several members of the health department questioned whether or not university-based researchers would be able to participate in the research program without first receiving approval from the federal government. Some members fear that the university review boards may disapprove of projects that are seen as being too controversial or as threats to the university’s federal funding, regardless of state-funded approval for the research.
As stated by the health department’s executive director, Dr. Larry Wolk, “It’s going to be a challenge for the applicant.” Although, Dr. Paula Riggs, a council member who is an addiction medicine specialist at the University of Colorado, said researchers can reduce that concern by getting approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration, but such approval typically takes a long time. “You can do it,” she said, “but you have to jump through hoops.”
Tuesday, September 9, is Primary Election Day in Rhode Island. With an open race for the top slot in the state, all eyes are on the gubernatorial primary races. Next year, the legislature will continue discussing whether Rhode Island should replace marijuana prohibition with sensible regulations, so it is important to know how the candidates for governor view the issue.
Democratic primary gubernatorial candidates: When asked in March, all three major candidates — Gina Raimondo, Angel Taveras, and Clay Pell — indicated that they are monitoring the effects of regulation and taxation in Colorado and Washington. However, all indications are that Taveras is the least open to marijuana regulation — he stated that he is “not currently supportive of legalization.” This is not too surprising considering Taveras has received public support from prominent marijuana prohibitionist and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
Republican primary gubernatorial candidates:On the Republican side of the coin, Ken Block has said he will withhold judgment until he can “see the results in Colorado and Washington.” His opponent, Allan Fung, not only opposes “the legalization of marijuana for recreational use,” but also makes no mention of even being interested in results from Colorado and Washington.
Currently in Santa Fe, first-time offenders in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana are charged with a petty misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50 to $100 and imprisonment of not more than 15 days. The proposal calls for possession to be treated as a civil infraction, requiring no jail time and punishable by a fine of no more than $25.
State and federal law would be unaffected by the change, if it were approved. Police officers would have discretion as to whether to charge violations under a city ordinance, handled in municipal court, or under state statute, adjudicated in magistrate court.
However, the petition called for possession of small amounts of marijuana and instruments used to ingest it to be considered “a lowest law enforcement priority.”
In Albuquerque, supporters were unable to get enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, but the city council included a similar provision in a package of local legislative bills. The mayor has voiced his opposition and threatened a veto, but it is unclear if he has the legal authority to do so.