While the week of July 16 brought little in the way of notable developments, last week saw a flurry of legislative activity with regard to recreational and medical marijuana, with proposals under consideration that would allow marijuana use by federal employees, a series of measures to tighten up regulations in Oregon and Vermont, and the delay of ballot referenda in Oklahoma.
A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives Thursday would essentially make it legal for federal employees to use marijuana in states where the plant is legal under most circumstances. At present, federal employees who consume marijuana are subject to termination, irrespective of where the consumption occurred and any differences in state and local law. The bill would not cover those applying for high-level clearances.
On Monday, the Office of the Vermont Attorney General issued a legal advisory designed to address efforts by some businesses to circumvent the state’s prohibition on selling marijuana by taking advantage of a seeming loophole in the recreational cannabis legalization measure enacted in April.
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While any transfer of money, services, or anything else of monetary value in exchange for marijuana remains illegal, the law allows adults 21 and older to “gift” up to an ounce of cannabis products to other adults for free. This has resulted in the emergence of businesses specializing in such “gifts,” providing “free” cannabis to adults in exchange for delivery fees roughly equal to the street value of the plant. Under another model mentioned in the document, businesses sell a bracelet or beverage for at a marked-up price that includes the “free gift” of marijuana of equal value. Such advisories are often released by state or federal regulatory or law enforcement agencies to make the government’s interpretation of the law clear in advance of taking any potential action against those responsible for perceived violations.
Oklahoma Secretary of State James Williamson told Tulsa World Monday that it is unlikely that either of two proposed marijuana reform measures are likely to make the November ballot this year due to time constraints and a likely legal challenge. One measure would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older and task the legislature with writing more detailed regulations. The other proposal would essentially transform the medical marijuana program approved by voters during the June 26 primary election from a mere statute to a constitutional amendment.
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The legislation would protect the law, among the most permissive in the country, from significant alteration by the legislature. The latter proposal is in part a response to efforts by lawmakers to impose much tighter restrictions on medical marijuana than was envisioned by voters, including an attempt to require a licensed pharmacist in each dispensary and a ban smokable forms of cannabis altogether, which were later abandoned following the state Attorney General’s opinion that the restrictions were unconstitutional. Williamson noted that the deadline to submit the more than 120,000 signatures necessary is April 9, and then governor would have to review and approve it. That process usually takes around 60 days under normal circumstances, and with the expected legal challenge to the state Supreme Court it could take considerably longer.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission last week imposed tough new restrictions on legal cannabis businesses that are intended to curtail the flow of cannabis from legal growers onto the black market. Almost since its inception, Oregon’s recreational cannabis market has suffered from a supply glut that has made it exceedingly difficult to sell all of their supply. Consequently, there has been a steady stream of marijuana produced by licensed growers ending up on the black market, creating fears that cannabis is being grown legally and ultimately being sold to children. Growers will now be required to inform the Commission prior to harvesting their crops, and anyone caught selling to a minor will have their license revoked.