State of the Leaf: Michigan Asks, ‘What Counts as a Cannabis Plant?’

Legalized Marijuana

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Written by Lisa Rough
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U.S. News Updates


Anti-legalization group Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy went to court last week seeking to bar Proposition 205, an upcoming legalization initiative, from appearing on November’s ballot. The leaders of the group include Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, two prominent prohibitionists in the state. The suit claims that the 100-word summary on the petition sheets does not fully explain the proposal. “This is about the integrity of the initiative process,” Polk said/ Advocates see the move as a desperate attempt to keep voters from making the final decision on legalization.


A bill to limit property seizures by law enforcement passed through the Assembly with a bipartisan 66–8 vote. The measure, Senate Bill 443, would restrict police from seizing less than $40,000 unless the owner is has been convicted of a crime. Civil asset forfeiture is a controversial tool for law enforcement, in no small part due to the fact that a portion of assets seized are allotted to local agencies. However, the average value of a state seizure in California in 2013 was $5,145 and many of the targets of these seizures are small-time, low-level offenders who can’t afford to fight the seizure in court. The bill still requires approval from the state Senate and the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown to become law.


After more than two years, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission finally took a big step toward implementing the state’s long-awaited medical marijuana program. The commission announced the top applicants for 15 cultivation licenses and 15 processor licenses. The applicants have not quite won the battle yet, however; they’ll still to win final approval. Applicants have 365 days to complete all of the necessary next steps, including raising capital, acquiring real estate, securing local zoning approval, constructing facilities, installing equipment, and hiring and training staff. Stage two reviews and final inspection will continue on a rolling basis before the licenses will be officially issued. The top applicants for dispensary licenses are expected to be announced later this year.


The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in a Kent County case that marijuana cuttings, no matter how small, still count as plants so long as the roots are attached. The case arose out of the arrest of Lorenzo Ventura, a medical marijuana caregiver who was licensed to have up to 24 plants. In May 2014, law enforcement raided the house of Ventura and seized 21 plants as well as 22 clones. Under Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act, caregivers may grow up to 12 plants per patient, with no more than five clients per caregiver. Ventura was a registered caregiver for one patient, as well as a patient himself, which means that he could legally possess no more than 24 plants. Ventura was convicted of the charges and sentenced to two years of probation and 120 hours of community service.


Legalization opposition group Safe Montana is claiming that thousands of signatures in support of an initiative that would undo the state’s medical marijuana law were lost or wrongly rejected by county officials. The initiative would repeal Montana’s MMJ law and align Montana’s drug policy with that of the federal government. The change would effectively ban cannabis possession and use, even for the 13,170 registered medical marijuana patients in the state. Safe Montana, led by Billings used car salesman Steve Zabawa, is planning to present Secretary of State Linda McCulloch with more than 3,500 signatures that the group says were wrongfully rejected, plus an addition 2,588 signatures that they claim were lost by Flathead County officials. The ballot measure came up 4,137 signatures short after officials rejected 8,000 signatures as invalid.


Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid expressed doubts about Nevada’s upcoming ballot proposal to legalize marijuana for adult use, saying he would not support it if he had to vote today. Reid told reporters after an event in Las Vegas that, although he supports medical marijuana because he has had friends who have benefited greatly from it, he’s still unsure about legalizing cannabis outright. He said he would like to see more debate on the topic before making any decisions come November.

New Jersey

A bill to expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program to include PTSD as a qualifying condition has been sitting on the desk of Gov. Chris Christie since it passed through the House and Senate with flying colors on Aug. 1. Unfortunately, Christie’s reputation as a staunch prohibitionist makes it unlikely he will sign the bill into law — but as it turns out, he may not have to. The New Jersey Department of Health has the authority to make changes to the state’s medical marijuana law, including oversight on which illnesses are considered qualifying conditions. The bill gained massive support from the Legislature on both sides of the aisle, including a strong show of support from New Jersey Republicans. Will it be enough?

North Dakota

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced this week that the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act had garnered enough signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot. The measure needed 13,452 signatures in order to qualify, and Jaeger said the group behind the campaign submitted more than 17,200 valid signatures. The act would allow qualified patients to possess up to three ounces of cannabis for medicinal use and would create a state-licensed system of dispensaries and allowing home cultivation.


The Ohio Supreme Court is hoping to clarify whether or not attorneys may provide services to clients seeking to enter the new medical marijuana industry. The court’s Board of Professional Conduct recently said that attorneys could neither provide services to the fledgling businesses nor use medical cannabis themselves, as the plant is still illegal under federal law. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said that the court is hoping to address concerns and possibly amend ethics rules to clarify the role of attorneys.

International News Updates


Health Canada has announced new revisions to the country’s medical marijuana program, which take effect Aug. 24. Under the new program, patients may cultivate a limited number of plants for personal, medical use. That’s in addition to the option of purchasing cannabis through Health Canada’s mail-order system of licensed producers. Dispensaries and compassion clubs, however, will remain illegal despite protest from advocates.

United Kingdom

The National Health Service has been consulting pharmacists and production specialists in evaluating a new vaporizer known as the MediPen, which contains cannabidiol (CBD) extracts. MediPen has been on the market for about a year now, with positive reviews from patients who have used it to treat a variety of medical ailments, including pain, depression, anxiety, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. MediPen is the first consumer cannabis product to be tested by the NHS and, with an endorsement from the leading healthcare system, could help break the stigma of cannabis use and solidify the use of CBD as medicine in the U.K.

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