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POT TOPICS: Florida ban on smokeable medical marijuana deemed unconstitutional

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POT TOPICS is a weekly collection of cannabis-related news curated by the Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s this week’s top stories:

Florida ban on smokable medical marijuana ruled unconstitutional

Last week, a Florida judge ruled that the state’s ban on smokeable medical pot is unconstitutional.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled in favor of People United for Medical Marijuana and two patients challenging the ban, according to USA Today.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 allowing the use of medical marijuana through vaping and in food, oils, sprays and tinctures. The Legislature last year included a provision banning it from being smoked, and Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure into law in June.

The plaintiffs argued that because the amendment’s language only mentions smoking in public, users should be allowed to smoke in private.

California Senate supports state-backed bank for pot money

The California Senate voted Wednesday to create a state-backed bank to handle the billions of dollars flowing from the newly-legal recreational marijuana market.

The world’s largest legal recreational marijuana economy, created under a law that took effect this year, is projected to grow to $7 billion, according to the Associated Press.

The bill approved by a bipartisan 29-6 state Senate vote is designed to help pot entrepreneurs who usually deal in cash because most banks won’t accept money from a product that remains illegal under federal law.

The measure now goes to the Assembly for consideration.

It would permit charter banks and credit unions regulated by the state Department of Business Oversight to provide limited banking services to pot-related businesses. They could use the banks to pay rent, state and local taxes and fees, vendors within California for goods and services related to the cannabis business and to buy state and local bonds and other investments.

State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, urges lawmakers to approve his measure Wednesday to create a state-backed bank to handle the billions of dollars from the newly legal recreational marijuana market. | AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, urges lawmakers to approve his measure Wednesday to create a state-backed bank to handle the billions of dollars from the newly legal recreational marijuana market. | AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

“We’re not using the federal system, we’re not using the federal wire,” Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys said of his proposal. “This is a short-term creative approach to deal with this extraordinary problem.”

Some Michigan Republicans want to legalize recreational pot before voters can

Michiganders might have the opportunity to vote on a measure to legalize recreational cannabis this fall, but some Republican lawmakers want to pass it first to make it easier to change later.

Nevertheless, passage in the Legislature remains a longshot. Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard said it would take a “marijuana miracle” for the House to vote on it by a June 5 deadline. Republicans, who control both chambers, are divided on the issue and Democratic leaders want voters to decide, according AP.

The proposal would let people age 21 or older possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana outside their home and grow up to 12 plants at home. A 10 percent excise tax on marijuana would be assessed at the retail level on top of the 6 percent state sales tax. Businesses would need a state license to grow, sell, transport, process or test marijuana. Local governments could ban marijuana businesses or impose additional regulations.

Experts say glut of marijuana in Oregon is cautionary tale

When Oregon lawmakers created the state’s legal marijuana program, they had one goal in mind above all else: to convince illicit pot growers to leave the black market.

That meant low barriers for entering the industry that also targeted long-standing medical marijuana growers, whose product is not taxed. As a result, weed production boomed — with a bitter consequence. Now, marijuana prices here are in freefall, and the craft cannabis farmers who put Oregon on the map decades before broad legalization say they are in peril of losing their now-legal businesses as the market adjusts, according to AP.

AP file photo
AP file photo

Oregon regulators on Wednesday announced they will stop processing new applications for marijuana licenses in two weeks to address a severe backlog and ask state lawmakers to take up the issue next year.

Oregon has nearly 1 million pounds of marijuana flower — commonly called bud — in its inventory, a staggering amount for a state with about 4 million people. Producers told The Associated Press wholesale prices fell more than 50 percent in the past year; a study by the state’s Office of Economic Analysis found the retail cost of a gram of marijuana fell from $14 in 2015 to $7 in 2017.

Cannabis-based autism treatments front and center at suburban conference

Parents of children diagnosed with autism recently sat in the ballroom of suburban Chicago hotel listening attentively as a renowned neurologist extolled the benefits of using cannabis to treat the disorder.

During his May 25 speech, Ronald Aung-Din, M.D. made clear that non-psychoactive Cannabidiol, or CBD, was a viable treatment for the disorder during his presentation at the AutismOne Conference at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard.

Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders, affecting 1 in 68 children in the United States. Given that every autism diagnosis is unique, the disorder has been difficult to treat using traditional drugs, according to Aung-Din.

“The pharmaceutical industry has not met the needs of some of these patients, and as a traditional physician I was very much dependent on pharmaceuticals,” said Aung-Din, one of the few doctors in the country licensed to prescribe medical cannabis.