FL Judge Says MMJ Can Be Smoked, NC Mulls Decriminalization, CA To Keep Taxes High

A Florida judge ruled medical marijuana can be smoked, a North Carolina bill seeks to decriminalize the personal possession of less than 4 ounces, and California’s legal marijuana industry will be challenged by high taxes and fewer protections for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma residents can look forward to casting their ballots for or against medical marijuana on State Question 788 June 26.

Florida Judge OKs Smoking Medical Marijuana

A Florida circuit court judge ruled that the Legislature’s ban on smokeable cannabis violated the state Constitution. Amendment 2, approved by 71.32 percent of voters in 2016, amended the Florida constitution to permit the use of medical marijuana. Legislators, though, excluded smoking as a permissible means to consumption.

In this May 16, 2018 photo, Cathy Jordan, right, who has been suffering from ALS since 1987, looks on after completing testimony in Tallahassee, Fla., that would declare a smoking ban on medical marijuana unconstitutional in Florida. A Florida judge on Friday, May 25, 2018, ruled that the ban is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Joe Reedy)

In her ruling Friday, May 25, 2018, Leon County’s Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers noted:

“Having considered the relevant testimony and other evidence and the witnesses’ demeanor, credibility, frankness, and lack of frankness, and based on the finding herein, the court finds that the statute is invalid because it conflicts with the Florida constitution and prohibits a use of medical marijuana that is permitted by the amendment: smoking in private.”

Medical marijuana was legalized in Florida with the help of attorney John Morgan in 2016. Allowed to consume medical marijuana via vaporization, edibles, sprays or tinctures, many felt the legislatures ban on smokable medical marijuana was unconstitutional, including Gievers.

Jon Mills, the attorney for the plaintiffs, asserted the definition approved by voters included all forms of medical marijuana – including those you can smoke. Gievers ruled in his favor, but the state has appealed the decision. The ruling, however, is stayed until Florida appellate judges review the case.

North Carolina Bill Would Decriminalize Less Than 4 Ounces

A bill introduced by lawmakers in Raleigh, North Carolina, would eliminate penalties on possession of small amounts of cannabis and allow drug convictions to be wiped out for a fee.

Introduced by Democratic Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr. on Thursday, May 24, 2018,  HB 944 proposes to not fine or penalize individuals found in possession of up to 4 ounces, or about 113.4 grams, of marijuana.

Passage of H.B. 944 would not only remove all criminal penalties small quantities of marijuana, it would also allow anyone with prior convictions for the possession of less than 4 ounces pay a $100 fee to have their past convictions expunged from their criminal record.

California Marijuana Taxes to Remain High

A bill that would have dramatically reduced taxes on legal marijuana in California for three years was snuffed out Friday, May 25, 2018. AB 3157, the legislative effort to discourage black market participation, would have reduced the 15 percent cannabis excise tax to 11 percent until 2021.

Also shelved on Friday, AB 2069 would have provided critical employment protections to qualified medical marijuana patients. Opposed by the state Chamber of Commerce, representatives from Quest Diagnostics and Personal Insurance Federation of California, they argued that the bill’s proposed protections for workers were too broad and threatened the employer’s authority to maintain a drug-free workplace.

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