Much ado on both Federal and state cannabis politics this past week. On the federal level, the US Senate rebuked Sessions’ push to undo state protections, and a federal law suit has been filed to down-schedule cannabis. Massachusetts still trying to get it straight while Michigan goes for records on possession limits. Check it out.

1. Senate advances state protections amendment

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to a budget bill to protect medical marijuana programs from federal interference in states that have legalized the drug for medical use.

The amendment to the 2018 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill passed by a voice vote and prohibits the Justice Department from using funds to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, originally known as Rohrabacher-Farr, has been adopted by Congress through budgetary actions every year since 2014. It prevents the Department of Justice from using any funds to undermine state medical marijuana laws.

The amendment still must pass as part of the final appropriations bill, but the Appropriations Committee vote is seen as a strong signal that Republican leaders are dismissing Sessions’ request that leaders reject the amendment.

2. Federal law suit seeks down-scheduling of marijuana

A federal lawsuit has been filed by a group of cannabis advocates, challenging the constitutionality of the drug’s current classification as a Schedule I substance. The 89-page complaint claims that the federal government does not believe and never has believed that cannabis meets the three Schedule I requirements: high potential for abuse, no medical use in treatment, and no ability to be used or tested safely, even under medical supervision. They also point out that “the Federal Government has exploited cannabis economically for more than a decade by securing a medical cannabis patent and entering into license agreements with medical licensees.”

The group contends that the 1970 CSA classification was enacted and enforced in a discriminatory manner, historically targeting populations of colour (so that African Americans and Vietnam war protesters could be raided, prosecuted and incarcerated without identifying the actual and unconstitutional basis for the government’s actions), and today prevents them from participating in the legal cannabis industry.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the CSA is unconstitutional; a ruling in the plaintiff’s favor would not nullify the law, but instead put a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law as it pertains to marijuana. It would also aid in the restoration of communities most affected by the War on Drugs.

3. Mass lawmakers reach compromise

Massachusetts lawmakers have been trying to get a bill through the state legislature to settle on, among other things, a tax rate, a strategy on local bans, and regulatory framework. After weeks of persistent advocacy from Massachusetts residents, the Senate and House have reached a compromise that largely respects the will of the people.

The legislation adjusts the local control policy, allowing local government officials in towns that voted ‘no’ on the 2016 ballot initiative to ban marijuana businesses until December 2019. For towns that voted ‘yes’ in 2016, any bans must be placed on a local ballot for voters to approve. Therefore, if a town wants to ban cannabis sales, they need to bring it to a vote for the people to decide. 72% of the population voted in favor of the ballot initiative.

4. Michigan initiative aims for highest possession limits

A ballot initiative to legalize marijuana would give Michigan the highest possession limits in the nation, allowing residents to legally carry 2.5 ounces of marijuana on their person and have 10 ounces at home. This would tie Michigan with Maine, which allows 2.5 ounces on your person, for the personal possession limit, and with Massachusetts, which allows the possession of 10 ounces at home, for the limit on at-home possession. But neither of those states allows as much as Michigan in the other category, meaning Michigan has the highest possession limits overall.

In addition to harvested marijuana, Michigan would join states like Maine and Massachusetts in allowing unlimited possession of what citizens grow in the form of their own, limited number of legal plants. Most states with legalized recreational marijuana use cap the amount somebody can have on their person at 1 ounce. Some think the proposed 2.5 ounce limit is excessive.

The ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan is still being circulated. It’s a legislative initiative, meaning it would need 252,523 valid signatures to get on the ballot and then be subject to an up-or-down vote from Michigan citizens on the November 2018 ballot.

5. High Times, they are a changing

High Times is seeking a public listing through a business combination with already listed Origo Acquisition Corp. OACQ, +0.09% High Times’ existing equity is valued at approximately $250 million in the merger. Origo will acquire 100% of the equity of High Times in exchange for 23.5 million shares of Origo. Following the transaction, High Times will become a publicly-traded company under the Origo ticker, with High Times controlling 83% of the company. With the legal marijuana industry gaining traction, High Times is looking to diversify its business and capitalize on the industry.

Trending Cannabiz News

Record sales for Nevada RMJ

Nevada continues to report record recreational sales entering week four of its RMJ rollout, with most dispensaries reporting the ability to restock for consumer demand. Demand continues to drive wholesale pricing. Cannabis Benchmarks’ estimates reporting a per-pound price of $2,280 (national average at $1,560/pound) in mid-June rising dramatically to $2,600 per pound (or $5.79/gram) by mid-July, and an average purchase of eight pounds per wholesale transaction.

Riverside, CA wants no MMJ nor RMJ

City councilors in Riverside, California want to keep their local ban on MMJ, and extend it to potential RMJ applicants. The large Southern California city’s leaders expect to continue a ban on beginning any sales or grows in the city, with observers expecting a possible two-year moratorium to allow city government time to assess the statewide RMJ rollout which will begin January 2, 2018.

CO DA, May asked to retract ridiculous homicide claim

Colorado District Attorney Dan May has caused controversy after claiming that marijuana leads to homicides, after more than a dozen people were arrested on federal charges, reportedly operating an illegal marijuana business. The Southern Colorado Cannabis Council responded: “Study after study has shown that there is no correlation between cannabis use and violent crime.” They are asking May to retract his statement or prove there’s a connection between marijuana and homicides.

LA proposals push concentrates production ban and muni. bank

Rulemaking for Los Angeles’ planned RMJ policies will conclude with public comment in late August, including reaction to a proposal to ban in-city production of MJ concentrates.  Estimates say as much as 60 percent of the current MMJ market in Southern California is made up of concentrates, and the rule might also impact production of MJ edibles.

Elsewhere, LA city council chair Herb Wesson wants the city to consider backing the creation of a municipal bank which would provide banking services to legal pot concerns, as well as service to the city’s affordable housing community and to small businesses.

NCIA’s Taylor West stepping down

On a disappointing industry note, NCIA deputy director Taylor West will be leaving the trade association on August 5th. No replacement for the NCIA spokesperson and number 2 NCIA exec has been announced for West, who helped build the trade association to over 1400 members over the past four years.

Poland law puts MMJ in drug stores

President Andrezej Duda of Poland signed into law a program to access MMJ in drug stores, offering several forms of cannabis to relieve chronic pain, MS, epilepsy, and side effects from chemotherapy.

Vancouver activist in 5-million-seed giveaway

In Vancouver, BC, activist Dana Larsen will attempt to organize a doubling of a program he says will help normalize cannabis optics. Through project Overgrow Canada, Larsen hopes to give away some 5 million marijuana seeds, up from last year’s estimated public donation of 2.5 million seeds.

This article includes contributions from staff writers Lloyd Covens and Orion Pond.