This Weed In News: Pennsylvania Introduces Legalization Bill; Travel Host Joins Michigan Pro-Weed Effort; Jamaica to Export Oil to Canada

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It’s not a question that with marijuana legalization, new opportunities arise for patients, consumers and entrepreneurs. But what about those already affected by cannabis criminalization? That appears to be the central theme regarding this week’s news.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker introduced legislation to legalize recreational marijuana; travel show host Rick Steves heads to Michigan to discuss the benefits of legalizing, taxing, and regulating the use of recreational cannabis; and Jamaican officials announced they’ve made their first shipment of extracted medical marijuana oil to Canada.

But as savvy investors eye Jamaica’s budding marijuana industry, one question looms large for residents of the tiny island country: Will the industry be exploited by wealthy foreigners and exclude the island’s cash-strapped farmers?

Pennsylvania Bill May Legalize Marijuana, Expunge Records

Pennsylvania Democratic state Rep. Jake Wheatley introduced legislation to legalize, tax, and regulate adult-use cannabis. Introduced on Sept. 24, 2018, HB 2600 would also mandate the expungement of any past marijuana offenses and require the state to immediately release individuals incarcerated for past marijuana crimes, according to a press release from Rep. Wheatley released the same day.

“My bill would immediately release people jailed for crimes associated with cannabis,” Wheatley wrote in the press release. “Those who have criminal histories related to cannabis would be expunged, and professional and driver’s licenses that were revoked or suspended due to cannabis-related crimes would be reinstated. For far too long, the criminal justice system has unfairly punished Pennsylvanians, especially minorities, who are caught with cannabis.”

As of Sept. 28, 2018, 13 Democrats have co-sponsored Wheatley’s legislation. Additionally, a May 2017 Franklin and Marshall poll found that 56 percent of registered voters support marijuana legalization.  

Despite Wheatley’s effort and Pennsylvania voters’ support, the Republicans in control of the state legislature seem to have little appetite for recreational marijuana legalization. As for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, while he’s defended the state’s medical marijuana program, he appears to believe his constituents are not “ready for recreational marijuana,” according to the Philly Voice.

But attitudes about marijuana have changed dramatically over the past several years. Democrats in Pennsylvania have learned to not only embrace marijuana legalization but believe it may be the key to victory in November 2018. On Sept. 11, 2017, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party announced it was adopting the marijuana legalization issue as part of its policy platform, according to the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML).

If voters turn out as Democrats anticipate on Nov. 6, 2018, and retake the state legislature, the probability of recreational marijuana becoming a reality would likely improve dramatically for voters in the Keystone State. “At the moment, more Democrats (60 percent) than Republicans (53 percent) or independents (33 percent) say they are ‘very interested,’ ” in participating in the 2018 midterm elections, according to an Aug. 30, 2018 report by Political Wire.

Michigan: Rick Steves Talks Yes On 1 and Legalization

Rick Steves is known for two things: his love of travel, and his passionate belief that marijuana should be legalized, taxed, and regulated for adult use.

Steves has already helped Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Maine legalize recreational marijuana, and has now focused his attention on helping Michigan pass Proposal 1. A former board member of NORML, Steves will be speaking at two events — the first in Grand Rapids on Oct. 2, 2018, and the second in Ann Arbor on Oct. 3, 2018 — to discuss the merits of legalizing recreational cannabis.

Hosted by MILegalize and Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the events will be free and open to the public, according to a post on Facebook.  

Michigan legalized medical marijuana in 2008. Despite that progress, the possession of any amount of cannabis for recreational purposes is still considered a misdemeanor with a potential for up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Ostensibly decriminalized in Ann Arbor in 1972 and by Grand Rapids in 2012, both cities have proactively replaced their stiff fines and potential jail time with a nominal fine for a first offense. Additionally, another 14 cities, including Detroit and Lansing, have since passed decriminalization laws.

The passage of Michigan’s Proposal 1 would finally bring a standardization to the state’s marijuana law for both recreational and medicinal use. In addition to creating greater legal continuity between neighboring cities and counties, legalizing recreational marijuana could potentially allow for the vertical integration of marijuana micro-businesses, generate new revenue for K-12 education, and legalize the cultivation, processing, and distribution of industrial hemp.

That would be a win-win for the state’s economy and civil liberties; individuals would be allowed to possess no more than 2 ½ ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants at home.

Jamaica Exports First Shipment of Medical Marijuana Oil to Canada

Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Audley Shaw, announced on Sept. 27, 2018, that the country has made its first legal export of medical marijuana oil to Canada. Jamaica’s newest legal export was authorized through an import permit issued by Health Canada for Jamaica and an export permit issued by Jamaica’s Ministry of Health, according to a same-day press release from Shaw’s office.

“Jamaica is uniquely positioned to be a global player and we are committed to providing the leadership and resources required for opening the international markets including Canada and Europe for our licensed and regulated Jamaican companies,” Shaw wrote in the press release.

But as Jamaica’s traditional cannabis farmers try and cash in on legal cannabis, some within the Rastafarian community want local farmers to get more than a spiritual high from the newest opportunity.

“I want to see economic benefit coming from the ganja industry back to the community,” said Ras Iyah V, a Rastafarian board member of the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA).

While police are no longer allowed to arrest those found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana, Iyah V told Public Radio International that “educating sustenance farmers about government regulations is difficult.” As a member of the CLA, Ras Iyah V wants the local farmers to understand Jamaica’s CLA can help. In addition to waiving fees for small farmers until their crops are sold, the CLA has also cultivated a pilot program to let farmers share of the cost of growing the country’s newest crop.

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