HILO, Hawaii – A Hawaiian marijuana activist is suing the state over its proposed medical marijuana licensing scheme, claiming it breaks federal drug laws and is a scheme to fleece patients. Mike Ruggles, who is facing criminal charges regarding his operation of a now-defunct medical marijuana collective, alleges that the state is in violation of racketeering laws. Ruggles also alleges the dispensary licensing program will deprive patients of medicine, since it phases out the existence of caregivers and the right to home grow over the next two years. Hawaii would add just eight dispensaries under the proposal, owned by just four companies. Ruggles argues that he should not be facing the possibility of life in prison for his three Class A marijuana felony charges, when the state will be licensing four companies to profit from doing exactly what he did, in violation of federal law.
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania – Activists gathered at the statehouse steps to criticize a proposal to increase fines for marijuana possession. The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on a bill, HB 1422, that downgrades 30 grams of marijuana or less from a misdemeanor to a summary, which ends arrests but still results in a criminal record. The current law says punishment for possession shall not exceed $500; HB 1422 makes $500 the minimum fine, with $750 for second offenses and $1,000 for every other offense, in addition to up to thirty days in jail. Currently, jail time is rare for possession, as is the maximum $500 fine. Pennsylvania’s two major urban areas have decriminalization; Philadelphia has a code violation of $25 and Pittsburgh has a $100 ticket. Pennsylvania recently passed a limited medical marijuana law but it will not be up and running until 2018.
ALBANY, New York – Too few patients are able to access medical marijuana in New York, according to a report from the Drug Policy Alliance. Since the rollout of the program in January, more than half the patients DPA surveyed had been unable to find a doctor to certify them, and 60 percent of them have been waiting over three months. Doctors in New York must undergo a state training course and register with the state to recommend medical marijuana for patients suffering from any of ten serious medical conditions. Patients reported their doctors were reticent to recommend medical marijuana for legal concerns, while some doctors just didn’t believe marijuana was medical. New York’s program does not allow patients to grow their own medicine or even have any marijuana plant material. The cannabis oils they are allowed are expensive, leading over three-quarters of those surveyed unable to afford it.
MEAD, Colorado – The tiny Colorado town of Mead has decided to table a proposal to repeal its ban on marijuana businesses. TimesCall.com reports that about 100 people gathered for a city council meeting where the repeal was tabled, effectively ending any chance of bring the Colorado green rush to Mead any time soon. Some locals in attendance cited the family atmosphere of Mead and how marijuana would bring nothing but problems. But others looked to the example of Garden City, another nearby small town, where marijuana sales have helped to quadruple the town’s budget since 2008. Mayor Pro Tem Herman Schranz pleaded in vain that “We need to jump-start Mead’s economy,” but city trustees like Terri Hatch were not swayed, saying, “It’s a moral issue for me.”
OAKLAND, California – The NBA Finals featured a bit of garbage time in Game 5 as the Cleveland Cavaliers cruised to a road victory, but buried within may have been a first for the marijuana industry – an ad during a major sports championship telecast. Leafly reports that a commercial for Black Magic potting soil appeared in the fourth quarter and featured visuals of people growing plants indoors in closets and under very stealthy conditions. The plants weren’t cannabis, of course, but the framing and visuals of the ad clearly were appealing to indoor cultivators looking to increase their yields. Further confirming the true nature of the ad is that it only ran on the West Coast and Rocky Mountain time zone feeds, regions of the country where recreational marijuana growing is legal. “They seek perfection on a level that would drive lesser souls to madness,” says the narrator, closing with the catchphrase, “Black Magic: Yield to no one.”