Marijuana reform slowed to a crawl last week in Massachusetts and Florida. In Massachusetts, negotiations between the state House and Senate to reconcile cannabis bills were suspended. And in Florida, a lawsuit was filed challenging the state’s ban on smoking marijuana for medical patients. Read all about this and more in our weekly marijuana legislative roundup,
On Wednesday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo temporarily suspended negotiations between members of the state House and Senate to reconcile the recreational marijuana bills passed by the two chambers. In June, the state House of Representatives passed legislation to repeal and replace the recreational marijuana law passed by voters in November.
The House bill would effectively raise taxes on marijuana sales from 12 percent to 28 percent, remove the authority of municipal voters to regulate the opening of cannabis retailers, and impose more stringent regulations on recreational cannabis than the ballot measure intended.
The Senate bill, meanwhile, would change the way marijuana is regulated at the state level, require municipal referenda on the opening of recreational retailers, and expunge past convictions for marijuana possession. With lawmakers close to a deal on the state’s budget, negotiators hope to resume talks in the near future.
On Thursday, the Oregon Senate passed a bill to modify the state’s recreational marijuana system. If signed by Governor Kate Brown, H.B. 2198 would create an Oregon Cannabis Commission to oversee the state’s medical and recreational cannabis regulations. The OCC would be comprised of representatives from various stakeholder groups and would operate under the Oregon Health Authority.
The bill would also allow thousands of Oregon medical marijuana dispensaries to sell a maximum of 20 pounds of excess product each into the recreational marijuana market. Additionally, the measure would allow cannabis retailers to operate within 1,000 feet of schools if a physical barrier exists to prevent children from wandering onto the premises.
On Thursday, a lawsuit was filed that challenges Florida’s ban on smoking medical marijuana. In June, Governor Rick Scott signed a bill to implement the constitutional amendment passed by voters in November allowing patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to seek treatment with cannabis. Among other restrictions, the bill forbids patients from smoking marijuana.
- Related Story: Fail: Florida Medical Marijuana Bill Bans Smoking, Discourages Doctors From Participating
Critics say that smoking may be the easiest and most effective means of consuming cannabis for patients with ALS and other severe conditions. The suit was brought by a trial lawyer named John Morgan, who was also the leading backer of the 2016 ballot measure.
On Wednesday, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission approved the first medical marijuana dispensary license in the state. The move allowed the Wellness Institute of Maryland to open its doors effective immediately, though it is not expected to have any product in stock for several months while licenses for growers and distributors are awarded.
Last year, the state awarded 15 preliminary grower licenses and 15 preliminary processor licenses. However, if the state does not provide final licenses by August 15, the Commission could revoke their permission to operate in Maryland. The Wellness Institute began taking pre-orders on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan overhauled the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission by appointing 10 new members to the 16-member panel. The Commission has been criticized for failing to get the state’s medical cannabis system off the ground and potentially abusing taxpayer funds while awarding contracts to outside consulting groups.