U.S. News Updates
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge is set to hear oral arguments on Aug. 12 in a lawsuit by legalization opponents. The anti-legalization group, led by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, argues that the explanation on the signature-gathering sheets doesn’t properly explain the proposal, which could put in jeopardy approximately 250,000 signatures in favor of the initiative. An attorney for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, Kory Langhofer, defended the initiative petition, saying “[They] say that the 100-word summary was misleading because it doesn’t describe everything in a 30-page initiative. … There’s plenty of case law in Arizona that says it doesn’t have to describe everything, it just has to give them a rough idea of what the 30 pages do.” Election officials are still determining whether the campaign submitted 150,000 validated signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Colorado is on track to set a sales record in 2016, with nearly half a billion dollars in receipts during just the first five months of the year. The state Department of Revenue released the figures showing that the month of May saw $98.6 million in sales, bringing the total tally for the year to just over $486 million. Year-to-date numbers were boosted significantly by the month of April, which boasted a record $117.4 million, thanks mostly to the 4/20 holiday. If sales continue at the current pace, Colorado cannabis sales could easily top $1 billion for the year.
Florida just celebrated their first legal cannabis harvest of its long-behind-schedule medical cannabis program. The specialized cannabis was harvested from two production facilities operated by Surterra Therapeutics, one of six companies awarded a coveted production license for the two types of cannabis allowed in the state: a low-THC, non-euphoric strain of cannabis and full-strength medical cannabis available only to patients considered terminally ill. There is a measure slated for the November ballot, Amendment 2, that would expand the medical cannabis program significantly. The opposition group helped defeat a similar amendment in 2014, but their support is waning; in the month of June, the Vote No on 2 campaign received exactly $0 in donations. If all goes according to plan with Surterra’s harvest, medical cannabis could be available in the state as early as next week!
July 15, the day Hawaii officials set as the day medical marijuana dispensaries could open, came and went without a single storefront opening its doors. That’s because licensed dispensaries are still waiting for a state-certified testing lab to open. Chris Garth of the Hawaii Dispensary Alliance voiced the frustration of the cannabis companies in limbo, saying, “Until those products can be tested in a clinical capacity, no dispensary will be able to open their doors, no matter how perfect their product is.” One of the biggest hurdles is a complete lack of qualified applicants. Spectra Analytical Lab is the only laboratory seeking to apply, but the certification process is fierce, as the lab must meet international standards.
A Maryland lawmaker is getting into the medical cannabis industry after leading the effort to pass an MMJ bill in the state. Delegate Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) is the clinical director for Doctors Orders, a company under consideration for a license to grow, process, and sell medical marijuana. Delegate Morhaim is now facing public scrutiny for not disclosing his personal interest in entering the cannabis industry. He claims to have cleared the decision with Dea Daly, the General Assembly’s ethics adviser. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has been reviewing applications since the submission deadline last November, but the timeline has been delayed repeatedly. The commission may issue licenses for processing companies as early as their next meeting, on Aug. 5 in Ellicott City.
Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill into law that will expunge nearly all cannabis convictions in state and municipal courts. Nixon quietly signed Senate Bill 558, which raises the surcharge fee for record expungement from $100 to $250, but also allows many nonviolent, nonsexual offenses to be expunged. Individuals convicted of a felony must wait seven years after completing their sentences to apply for expungement, and those with misdemeanor offenses must wait three years. The law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
International News Updates
One of the oldest Dutch cities just loosened its restrictions on cannabis for the first time in 40 years. Utrecht, a city about 50 kilometers south of Amsterdam, just increased the amount of cannabis that coffeeshops are allowed to stock, doubling the limit from 500 grams to 1 kilo. This is just one more sign of the times evolving towards easing cannabis restrictions. In 1999, there were 20 cannabis coffeeshops, while there are just 10 today. Then, in July, the city agreed to increase the number of coffeeshops to 17 in an effort to combat the black market and alleviate crowds in existing shops.
Uruguay hosted its annual Cannabis Cup last weekend, awarding strains in categories such as best self-grown outdoor crop at the festival held in Montevideo. The contest included rock bands, booths for food, and cannabis paraphernalia, and competitors were given various samples to try. Notably, alcohol was banned while open consumption of cannabis was permitted. Uruguay legalized the sale and recreational use of cannabis in 2013, and celebrated its first legal harvest last month. Three strains will be available for purchase in Uruguay pharmacies as early as August.