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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Rhode Island Erases 23,000 Cannabis Possession Records

Here’s your weekly cannabis news update: Rhode Island expunged over 23,000 cannabis possession records, House lawmakers introduced a bill to support cannabis research, and Alabama issued its first medical cannabis licenses.

Rhode Island expunges cannabis records
Rhode Island State Capitol building. PHOTO Arthur Hamling

Rhode Island Expunges Over 23,000 Cannabis Possession Records

The judiciary system in Rhode Island has successfully expunged more than 23,000 records related to cannabis possession. This marks the completion of the initial phase of cannabis relief mandated by the state’s legalization law and a Supreme Court executive order.

In a press release, the judiciary announced that 3,015 cases were expunged in the Superior Court, 10,650 cases in the District Court, and 9,952 cases in the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.

Through collaboration between courts and law enforcement, automated relief was provided following the state’s enactment of adult-use legalization last year. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Suttell further facilitated the process by issuing an executive order outlining the procedures for mass expungements in January.

“The automatic expungement of marijuana charges has been an impressive achievement,” said State Court Administrator Julie Hamil. “The Judiciary has demonstrated coordination at all levels to ensure the timely and comprehensive execution of this process.”

The second phase of the expungement process will focus on clearing cannabis possession records related to cases with multiple criminal violations. Planning for this phase is underway and must be completed by July 1, 2024.


Bill Introduced to Promote Cannabis Research

Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV) and Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced a House bill aimed at promoting responsible research on cannabis. The Higher Education Marijuana Research Act would allocate up to $150 million in federal funding for university-sponsored medical cannabis research.

“The legal, responsible use of cannabis has been a major economic driver in Nevada and across the country and deserves further research,” said Rep. Titus in a press release. “Most of that research will come from academia, where right now too many universities and researchers do not have robust protections for even possessing what they are researching. As a former professor, I’m introducing this commonsense legislation to support their work and help us all learn more about the effects and potential uses of cannabis.”

Rep. Titus, a member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, supported the Medical Marijuana Research Act in the previous session of Congress. She also included language in last year’s appropriations package to prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with the implementation of legal marijuana programs in any state. In the current Congress, she is a co-sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, which aims to provide cannabis businesses with access to banking services similar to other small businesses.

Morgan Fox, Political Director for NORML, acknowledges that significant federal barriers still exist in conducting further research, particularly in relation to clinical trials and products available in state-legal markets.

“We are grateful to Rep. Titus for introducing this legislation at a time when state cannabis laws are rapidly changing,” Fox said. “This bill will facilitate trusted university partners to engage in the kinds of research that will best equip state and federal lawmakers and regulators to develop effective cannabis policies based on public health and safety, will allow consumers to make more informed choices, and will help train the next generation of cannabis researchers.”

Alabama State Capitol. PHOTO SkyBlodgett

Alabama Grants First Medical Cannabis Licenses

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) announced the issuance of the first round of licenses for medical marijuana businesses on June 12. After reviewing 90 applications for cannabis business licenses, the commission awarded 21 permits to companies that will serve registered medical cannabis patients in the state.

According to the state’s medical cannabis law, the commission can grant a maximum of 12 cultivator licenses, four processor licenses, four dispensary licenses, five integrated facility licenses, as well as an unspecified number of secure transporter and laboratory licenses.

MCC Vice Chairman Rex Vaughn expressed the state’s intent to initiate a second round of license applications for cultivators, transporters, and laboratories. He stated, “These businesses will not only serve the patients of Alabama but provide business and job opportunities for local communities.”

Evaluators with relevant experience, recruited by the University of South Alabama, assessed the applications. The scoring was based on various factors including financial capability, management approach, operational plans, personnel, and security measures. Two evaluators independently reviewed each exhibit to determine the applicant’s solvency, stability, suitability, capability, projected efficiency, and experience. These assessments considered the commission’s criteria and a comparison with other applicants.

Alabama’s medical marijuana law, enacted in 2021, is considered one of the strictest cannabis programs in the country. Licensed dispensaries have the legal authority to sell specific forms of medical cannabis, such as inhalers, suppositories, topicals, lozenges, and edibles. However, the law prohibits patients from purchasing, growing, or smoking flowers and other inhalable combustibles.

The recently finalized guidelines from the AMCC introduce additional regulations focused on preventing accidental consumption of cannabis gummies by children. Producers of edibles are strictly prohibited from using cartoons, realistic or fictional characters, language that may attract minors, or images of fruits, children, or animals on their products. Furthermore, imitations of existing candies targeted at children are strictly forbidden.

While child safety rules of this nature are standard in other states with legalized medical or recreational cannabis, Alabama has gone one step further. The AMCC requires edibles to be produced as “gelatinous cubes,” ensuring a distinct shape that sets them apart from children’s candy. Other acceptable shapes include “rectangular cuboids” or similar variations. In an additional precaution, all gummies must be peach-flavored, as the AMCC was concerned about the attraction of flavoring and sugars to children.

Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers is an accomplished writer and cannabis enthusiast. With a Ph.D. in Botany and years of experience as a researcher, she brings a scientific perspective to her captivating articles on cannabis news, recipes, and the fascinating world of psychedelics.

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