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Marijuana News Roundup: 7 Marijuana-related Bills Introduced in US Congress

Paul Ausick

A total of seven bills that would support the marijuana industry were introduced in Congress last Thursday, three in the Senate and four in the House. The Senate bills were all sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), including one co-sponsored by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Michael Bennet (D-CO). The House bills were introduced by Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and Jared Polis (D-CO). The new bills seek similar, but not identical, changes to U.S. laws related to the cannabis industry.

Both houses of Congress will consider legislation that would allow industry businesses in states where marijuana is legal to deduct costs of doing business from their taxes. If passed and signed by the President, legal marijuana businesses would be treated like any other U.S. business for the purposes of tax filing.

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The House and Senate are also considering reforming banking laws that would guarantee cannabis industry participants access to banks, provide for bankruptcy protection, and prohibit civil forfeiture against legal businesses, among many other. One bill was introduced in the Senate and two in the House related to these changes.

Finally, both houses will consider removing marijuana from the list if federally controlled substances and establish an excise tax on cannabis not to exceed 25% of the sale price.

DEA Asks Colorado AG's Office for Info on Marijuana Crimes, "for the new administration"
Amid speculation about how the Trump administration will confront marijuana legalization in states such as Colorado, a Drug Enforcement Administration supervisor has sent an e-mail to a prosecutor in the state attorney general's office seeking information, "for the new administration."

The e-mail was sent early last month by a supervisor on the financial investigations team in the DEA's Denver field office to Michael Melito, a senior assistant attorney general. The e-mail asks for Melito to provide case numbers for several prosecutions relating to marijuana, including one that involved multiple people charged with growing pot illegally in Colorado and then shipping it out of state.

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The e-mail was first reported by the International Business Times, which obtained it through an open records request.

"Some of our intel people are trying to track down info regarding some of DEA's better marijuana investigations for the new administration," the e-mail states. "Hopefully it will lead to some positive changes.

Read more at The Denver Post.

Argentina Legalizes Medical Cannabis, Creates Research Program with Free Access
Argentina's Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill legalizing the use of cannabis oil and other marijuana derivatives for medicinal purposes, and setting up a regulatory framework for the state to prescribe and distribute them to patients.

The legislation approved by senators Wednesday also creates a medical marijuana research program at the Health Ministry, which must "guarantee free access" to cannabis oil and other derivatives to patients who join the program. The legislation was passed by the Chamber of Deputies earlier.

"In history, the big things always come in small steps," said Valeria Salech, president of a private pro-medical marijuana group called Mama Cultiva Argentina, which has argued that cannabis can radically change the quality of life for children suffering everything from HIV to epilepsy.

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Her group is already lobbying to push the legislation further, to permit the families of patients to grow their own marijuana.

Under the new legislation, government agencies will be authorized to grow marijuana for research purposes and to produce cannabis oil and derivatives for patients. The state can import cannabis derivatives until they can be produced locally.

Read more at The Cannabist.

Gov. John Kasich Says Medical Marijuana Plays No Role in Fighting Ohio's Opioid Crisis
Gov. John Kasich said Thursday he doesn't think Ohio's new medical marijuana program will help mitigate the state's opioid crisis, though recent studies indicate otherwise.

Kasich was asked at a news conference announcing new opioid prescription limits what role medical marijuana might play in addressing the growing number of opiate overdose deaths in Ohio. Kasich said telling kids not to do drugs but that marijuana is OK sends a mixed message.

"I know it's not recreational marijuana, not recreational use, but I don't see a role for it in this at all," Kasich said.

A handful of studies in recent years have shown opioid overdoses and deaths have decreased in states that allow medical marijuana, which is far less addictive and lethal. Additional research has shown marijuana can alleviate pain. And Republicans and Democrats cited the opioid crisis as a reason to pass Ohio's medical marijuana law last year.

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Read more at Cleveland.com.

Canadian Government Aims to Legalise Marijuana by 1 July 2018
The Canadian government is scrambling to craft legislation to legalise recreational marijuana by 1 July 2018 – a move that would fulfill a campaign promise by the prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

The Liberal government will reveal the legislation in the second week of April, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, putting Canada on course to become the first G7 country to fully legalise marijuana use.

Since becoming the Liberal leader in 2013, Trudeau has spoken out about the need to decriminalise and regulate recreational marijuana, arguing that it would help ensure that marijuana is kept away from children and that profits don't end up in the hands of what he has described as "criminal elements".

Shortly after taking power, his government signalled that legalisation remained a priority, promising to unveil legislation by spring. Medical marijuana is already legal in Canada.

The federal legislation is expected to task Ottawa with licensing producers and ensuring the safety of the marijuana supply, in keeping with the recommendations of a government-appointed taskforce. Canadians who want to grow their own marijuana will be limited to four plants per household.

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Read more at The Guardian.

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