by Phillip Smith, March 06, 2013, 07:09pm, (Issue #774)Posted in: 
Legislatures are in session across the land, and that's reflected in our update this week. Bills are moving, generally, though not always in the right direction. Meanwhile, Arkansas looks ahead to 2014, and Oakland wants back in the Harborside case. Let's get to it:


Last Monday, activists submitted a medical marijuana ballot initiative to the state attorney general's office. Arkansans for Medical Cannabis plans to try again in 2014 after their 2012 initiative surprised just about everybody by coming up just short with 49% of the vote.


Last Wednesday, the city of Oakland filed notice that it will appeal a federal magistrate's decision to dismiss its lawsuit in support of Harborside Health Center in its ongoing battle with the federal government. Oakland sued after federal prosecutors moved to seize the property where Harborside is located.

Also last Wednesday, Butte County prosecutors dropped charges against a dispensary operator in the wake of Fourth District Court of Appeal's reversal of the conviction of San Diego dispensary operator Jovan Jackson. That decision held that members of a collective do not need to actually work growing plants. Prosecutors said they were dropping a case against dispensary operator Rick Tognoli because the Jackson ruling "has made it almost impossible to prosecute dispensaries that are disguised as collectives and making supposedly no profit."


On Tuesday, the House passed two medical marijuana bills. House Bills 667 and 668 are designed to improve the state's existing medical marijuana program. They now go before the state Senate.


On Monday, a medical marijuana bill was pronounced dead even though it was approved by a Senate subcommittee. The chairman of the subcommittee, Sen. Joe Bolkom (D-Iowa City), said the bill is unlikely to advance because it lacks support in the full committee. A similar bill was rejected by a House subcommittee earlier this session.


On Wednesday, a medical marijuana bill won a House committee vote. The bill, House Bill 1, passed the House Health and Human Services Committee on an 11-4 vote and now goes before the full House. Qualified patients would be able to obtain marijuana from one of up to 60 dispensaries, which would acquire marijuana from up to 22 cultivation centers. The Illinois Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, and Department of Financial & Professional Regulation would regulate the cultivation, acquisition, and distribution of marijuana.


Last Thursday, two minor players in a dispensary were sentenced to time served by a federal judge. Doran Leslie Hewitt had kept patient records and Travis Birdinground had delivered medical marijuana to patients. They had worked for Eastern Montana Cannabis. The judge in the case has sentenced all five Eastern Montana Cannabis defendants to terms shorter than the federal guideline ranges.

New Jersey

On Monday, a Senate committee approved a bill to protect medical marijuana patients on organ transplant lists. The bill would ensure that a person's use of medical marijuana would not prohibit him from receiving needed medical care, including organ transplants. It was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. The bill, S-1220, would provide that a registered, qualifying patient's authorized use of medical marijuana would be considered equivalent to using other prescribed medication rather than an illicit substance and therefore would not disqualify the person from needed medical care, such as an organ transplant. It now heads to floor vote in the Senate.


Last Thursday, a bill that would add PTSD to the list of qualifying debilitating medical conditions passed the Senate Health and Healthcare Committee. It now goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 281 passed out of committee on a 4-1 vote.

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