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A preview of this fall’s legislative and initiative reforms for cannabis is both promising and vexing.

At the federal level, while no legislation is expected to move in the Republican-controlled House and Senate on the nearly twenty bills pending (ranging from legalization to sentencing reforms to industrial hemp to medical cannabis), there are outside chances that 1) a hearing in the Senate will be held before 2016 on medical access to cannabidiol (CBD) and domestic plant production and 2) the Obama Administration might set into motion the administrative law process that will compel the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institute for Health (NIH) to reschedule cannabis from I to at least II or lower.

As has been the case since the 1970s, and most acutely since the mid 1990s, most all cannabis law reform continues at the state level. The two most important developments at the state level regarding cannabis law reform for the year is the just-passed medical cannabis ‘reform’ legislation in the nation-state of California (that establishes legal market, regulation and taxation for medical use-only) and in the state of Ohio, where a group of well funded and politically resourceful investors have gathered the necessary number of signatures to place a binding legalization measure on the ballot (Issue 3).

In both instances while these individual states’ efforts will move the legalization needle in American politics, they both offer cannabis conundrums where the new California laws were written and discussed outside of public (and cannabis industry) view and were only made possible by Governor Brown coming down from his Mt. Olympus to divine a political agreement to pass the once bogged-down legislation to, according to Brown’s office, ‘reign in the wild west for medical marijuana’.

Ohio’s legalization ballot initiative—the first legalization ballot initiative not funded by a civil justice-oriented non-profit—is predicated on ‘control side production’ model (a.k.a, ‘monopoly’ model on Ohio where only ten producer licenses will be issued…to the initiative’s investors). While there will be over one thousand retail sellers (and other cannabis-related businesses), the inherent lack of competition on the producer side limits consumer choice and does not inhibit high, prohibition-like prices.

Also, the Ohio initiatives organizers, who, while well skilled in the state’s politics and initiative processes, are less than a year into trying to negotiate the choppy waters of the politics of pot. An odd-looking green mascot named ‘Buddie’ seemed to draw more ire than praise, even from die-hard cannabis law reformers; legal challenges to the ballot language approved by the state that deem the proposed system a ‘monopoly’ (which is being challenged by legalization initiative organizers Responsible Ohio); a competing (and potential higher priority) initiative placed on the same 2015 ballot by a hostile legislature and governor that will largely nullify a successful cannabis legalization initiative all make for a most interesting political outcome to anticipate.

Lastly, at the behest of the state legislature, Oregon has bumped up the first day that average cannabis consumers over the age of 21 can legally purchase cannabis to October 1st. Having recently traveled to POTland, Oregon in the last week, it is hard not to observe that cannabis retail sales are about to pop there, providing not only obvious economic benefits to producers, retailers, consumers and state/local governments, but a palpable degree as well of personal freedom.

Allen St. Pierre is the executive director of NORML in Washington, D.C.,

Allen St. PierreAllen St. Pierre

Allen St. Pierre

Allen St. Pierre is the vice president of communications for Freedom Leaf, a partner in the investment firm Sensible Alternative Investments and a NORML board member. In 1997, St. Pierre founded the NORML Foundation and was executive director for both NORML and NORML Foundation from 2006-2016.

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