The sequential strategy will look familiar to Coloradans: first, pass a medical-marijuana law; then put dispensaries in place; then go for recreational legalization. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is pushing medical-marijuana laws in New York, Illinois and New Hampshire, along with contemplating a ballot initiative in Idaho. The true test for marijuana activists will come in 2016, the next presidential election year. That is when MPP hopes to run legalization initiatives in California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Maine.
Four California-based U.S. attorneys have announced their intent to prosecute the medical-marijuana dispensaries, growers and delivery services that are breaking state and federal laws. What constitutes violations of law, however, is murky — and may put the very existence of the dispensaries at risk. "California law says that it's essentially O.K. to grow, have and transport marijuana if you're a patient authorized by a doctor or if you're the patient's primary caregiver and if you're providing the marijuana not for profit," a spokesman for the U.S. attorney says. "Stores are violating California law because they're operating at a profit and they're not a primary caregiver. It's very clearly laid out."
According a recent CBS News poll conducted at the end of October, a slim majority of 51 percent continues to think that marijuana use should be illegal. But support for specifically allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for serious medical conditions - or legalized "medical" marijuana - is far stronger: 77 percent Americans think it should be allowed.
In California, cradle of the marijuana movement, a new poll has found a majority of voters do not support legalization, even as they overwhelmingly back medicinal use for "patients with terminal and debilitating conditions." Eighty percent of voters support doctor-recommended use for severe illness, a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found. But only 46% of respondents said they support legalization of "general or recreational use by adults," while 50% oppose it.
This fall, Arkansas will be the first Southern state to ask voters whether to legalize medical uses for pot, a move that offers supporters a rare chance to make inroads in a region that has resisted easing any restrictions on the drug. The state's top elected officials and law enforcement agencies oppose the idea, but legalization groups hope the referendum shows that medical marijuana is no longer solely the domain of East Coast or Western states.
After struggling for years to regulate storefront pot shops, the Los Angeles City Councilretreated Tuesday, voting to repeal the carefully crafted ban on medical marijuana dispensaries it approved a few months ago. The move shows the political savvy of the increasingly organized and well-funded network of marijuana activists who sought to place a referendum overturning the ban on the March ballot, when the mayor and eight council seats will be up for grabs.
A committee of the Seattle City Council grappled Wednesday with a proposed ordinance for medical-marijuana cooperatives. It would be much easier for Seattle to ban them, as some suburban cities have done — and it would be wrong. Ultimately, marijuana prohibition has to end. The next step is to defend the providers of medical patients. Seattle's job will be to set up a system of regulation that is so clearly reasonable, and supported by people here, that prosecution of licensed suppliers will be a risk the federal government chooses not to take.
The uncertainty comes after lawmakers worked for months on a plan that would help clear up the state's medical marijuana laws. The Legislature approved a plan that would have created a system to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. But Gregoire, citing fears that state workers could face federal prosecution for participating in the licensing scheme, vetoed much of it. The remaining parts of the law allow collective marijuana grows with up to 45 plants, serving up to 10 patients.
The Obama administration's crackdown on California's highly profitable medical marijuana industry represents a dramatic departure from the low-key approach it has long pursued. California's four U.S. attorneys said that they are taking aim at large-scale growers and dispensary owners who are raking in millions of dollars while falsely claiming that their medical marijuana operations comply with state law, which does not allow for-profit sales.
Marijuana activists in California are gearing up this week for a flurry of statewide protests during President Obama's October 25 visit to the Bay Area, and then again for the election in the first week of November. The recent federal crackdown, in other words, is galvanizing the weed community. "We're pushing them back," said Stephen DeAngelo, founder of Harborside Health Center in Oakland. The medical cannabis club has started a legal defense fund to fight a recent $2.5 million IRS bill. "We're already beginning to regain momentum from this outrageous travesty of a federal assault."
In a decision that could have immediate fallout for medical marijuana dispensaries, a state appeals court has ruled that California law allows cities and counties to ban the stores. The contentious issue has bounced through the state courts for years, but the opinion issued Wednesday is the first published one that directly tackles it and does so in unambiguous language. The decision could embolden more cities and counties to enact their own. It also could spur those that have bans to be more aggressive about seeking court orders to close defiant dispensaries.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee have filed a petition with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration asking the agency to reclassify marijuana so doctors can prescribe it and pharmacists can fill the prescription. The governors want the federal government to list marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug, allowing it to be used for medical treatment. Marijuana is currently classified a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it's not accepted for medical treatment and can't be prescribed, administered or dispensed.
A quarter-century after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first prescription drugs based on the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, additional medicines derived from or inspired by the cannabis plant itself could soon be making their way to pharmacy shelves, according to drug companies, small biotech firms and university scientists.
A disabled veteran has told an appeals court that the department of veteran affairs policy on medical marijuana has caused him pain and significant economic harm, in a development campaigners say is a positive step in the battle to push for the drug's reclassification. Michael Krawitz, one of five plaintiffs involved in a legal case before the court of appeal for the District of Columbia Circuit, told the Guardian that the VA denied him pain treatment after they discovered he had been prescribed medical marijuana while abroad.
A federal magistrate judge ruled that a medical-marijuana dispensary that bills itself as the world's largest can continue to operate, at least for now, in Oakland and San Jose despite a bid by federal prosecutors to shut it down. The ruling marks the latest move in a tug-of-war between local and federal authorities over medical marijuana dispensaries. The judge ruled that the government, not the landlords, must move to evict Harborside for its alleged violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act. (See als: Landlord can’t shut down nation’s largest pot shop, judge says)
The 43-year-old war on drugs had never seen such a barrage of opposition as it did in 2014, with successful marijuana legalization initiatives in several U.S. states, California’s historic approval of sentencing reform for low level drug offenders and world leaders calling for the legal regulation of all drugs — all of which cement the mainstream appeal of drug policy alternatives and offer unprecedented momentum going into 2015.
A Montana medical marijuana law does not shield cannabis dispensers from federal prosecution, a district court has ruled. The ruling will decrease the number of doctors willing to recommend medical marijuana to patients, as well as the number of entities that distribute medical cannabis, said Timothy Baldwin, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "The way the federal government has treated the industry in Montana and other states, it has caused people to become scared of being targeted [for prosecution]. That would include doctors," he said.
Connecticut lawmakers' approval of the use of medical marijuana includes strict regulations for the cultivation and distribution in an attempt to avoid problems other states have run into when legalizing the plant for medical use. The bill, passed by the state Senate, is headed to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who said in a statement that he plans to sign it, as he believes the law would "avoid the problems encountered in some other states."
The nation's top medical organization released a major series of papers on medical cannabis last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in a move that constitutes a small step for the AMA, but a giant leap in cannabis medical history.
Weed is legal in at least some form in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Most allow it for medical use only. Colorado and Washington this year enacted laws that allow recreational use by adults. But more than two dozen states are considering new or expanded marijuana reform legislation, including complete legalization for adults, medical marijuana, hemp use and decriminalization. Which are the next five states likely to legalize marijuana?