Two lawsuits filed in federal court Thursday aim to shut down Colorado’s regulated marijuana industry, claiming that the state’s recreational marijuana laws are in violation of federal law. The suits, filed by the anti-drug group Safe Streets and three other plaintiffs, target a number of Colorado lawmakers, including Gov. John Hickenlooper. They allege that by allowing for a regulated marijuana market, these lawmakers are breaking federal law, which considers the plant illegal. But going a step beyond simply suing the state, the plaintiffs are also going after participants in Colorado’s commercial marijuana industry. Citing federal racketeering laws, the plaintiffs are seeking damages due to alleged injury brought on by legalization. The suits argue that under the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, which states that federal law generally takes precedence over state law, Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana is unconstitutional, because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.
Two separate — and potentially competing — groups are laying the groundwork for 2016 ballot proposals that would seek to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in Michigan. Jeffrey Hank, an attorney who spearheaded a still-pending legalization effort in East Lansing last year, filed paperwork with the state on Tuesday to form the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee. The activist community has long discussed a potential statewide proposal, but the effort has taken on a new urgency in recent weeks with formation of a new group they fear will put a more restrictive legalization measure on the ballot. Suzie Mitchell, President and CFO of the East Lansing-based Mitchell Research & Communications firm, filed paperwork with the state last month to create a new nonprofit corporation called the Michigan Responsibility Council. Sources familiar with the effort believe the Michigan Responsibility Council will be well funded and may seek to create a tightly regulated industry.
Two types of medical marijuana extracts would be legal to possess and recommend for epilepsy treatment in Virginia under legislation passed by the state Senate on Wednesday and sent to the governor for his signature. The Senate voted 37-1 in favor of HB 1445, which would allow Virginians suffering from epileptic seizures relief in the form of Cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil, two marijuana derivatives. The Virginia House had unanimously passed the bill on Feb. 10. The bill would provide an “affirmative defense” for sufferers of intractable epilepsy. This means that if patients happened to be arrested and charged with possession of marijuana, they could produce their certificate to the courts at least 10 days before trial and walk without any charges. IF Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signs the legislation, Virginia would join a national trend of 11 states that have passed so-called CBD-only laws.
North Dakota’s Republican-led House Wednesday rejected a measure to legalize medical marijuana, citing concerns about public safety and the burden on law enforcement. The House voted 67-26 to kill the bipartisan measure. The bill would allow up to 2 ounces of cannabis-infused products for medical use. The measure was amended from an earlier version that would have allowed people to smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes and grow up to six marijuana plants in home pot gardens. The measure would let someone who suffers from cancer, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and other debilitating illnesses use marijuana if a doctor recommends it. Only products derived from pot such as oils, ointments, beverages and edible products could be used. At a hearing before the House Human Services Committee earlier this month, people suffering chronic pain and parents of critically ill children made emotional pleas to legalize medicinal marijuana products.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s interest in running for U.S. Senate has encountered strong resistance from a traditional ally of her party: medical marijuana activists. Because of her congressional votes and her criticisms of a Florida medical marijuana initiative last year, four political groups that advocate prescription cannabis and drug decriminalization vowed to campaign against the Florida representative if she were to seek a Senate seat in 2016. “She’s voted repeatedly to send terminally ill patients to prison. And we’re certainly going to make sure Floridians know that — not to mince words,” said Bill Piper, national affairs director with the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance, which has received funding from liberal luminaries such as George Soros. The threats from Piper’s group — echoed by People United for Medical Marijuana in Florida and the national Marijuana Policy Project and Americans for Safe Access — marked the only major public reaction to the news.