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States Updates: Arkansas, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine and North Dakota

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Back in November, voters in eight states approved ballot measures to liberalize their states’ cannabis laws. Half a year later, how’s that working out? Here’s a look at how lawmakers are regulating their newfound legal cannabis in five states:

In Arkansas, where Issue 7 legalized medical marijuana, advocates have been generally pleased with how state lawmakers have handled the issue.

Efforts to roll back the initiative stalled in the legislature, including one bill to prohibit patients from smoking and another that would delay implementation until the federal government legalizes medical cannabis. The state Board of Health approved rules for the program in April.

Lawmakers in Florida, however, modified the Amendment 2 initiative, which passed with 71% of the vote, to ban smoking. An earlier version of the bill would have also prohibited edibles and vaping, but those provisions were deleted after public outcry. The bill passed in a special session June 9 leaves much to be desired: It allows only seven licenses for a state of 21 million people, and recognizes just 10 qualifying conditions. Orlando lawyer John MOrgan, Amendment 2’s chief architect, says he will sue the state to allow smoking. “There are four places in the amendment that call for smoking,” he states.

In Massachusetts, the state legislature delayed implementation of Question 4 for another six months, until July 2018, without public hearings or a vote. Several bills intended to limit it have been introduced, including one for a 16.75% excise tax that would bring the total taxes on cannabis purchases to 28%. After that proposal was widely criticized, state leaders postponed a vote on it.

Another bill would remove authority over recreational cannabis from the Cannabis Control Commission, similar to the panel that regulates alcohol. But state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, who would appoint the three members, warned in April that creating a new regulatory body would cause even further delays. However, “the Legislature appears likely to strip Goldberg of her authority,” the Boston Globe reported.

While recreational marijuana hasn’t encountered the same level of pushback compared to Massachusetts, lawmakers are considering delaying a key part of the Question 1 initiative: social use. No other state has provisions for cannabis clubs.

“We see social clubs as part of Question 1,” says David Boyer, who helped lead the effort. “We see this as the will of the voters.”

State lawmakers cited reservations about becoming the first state to allow it. But advocates said that would push smoking establishments underground.

State-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are asking lawmakers to let them sell recreational weed before licensed stores debut next year. Lawmakers are likely to consider bills to allow this, the Portland Press reported. Colorado and Oregon instituted similar measures after they legalized recreational use.

In North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation Apr. 17 to regulate the state’s medical-marijuana program, established by the Measure 5 initiative.While its rules are nowhere as restrictive as New York’s or Minnesota’s, they prohibit smoking, except when a doctor or nurse practitioner recommends it, and limit medical marijuana for pediatric patients to 6% THC.

Rilie Ray Morgan, the advocate who spearheaded the measure, told the Bismarck Tribune that the list of 17 qualifying conditions is “fairly comprehensive.”

Meanwhile, North Dakota’s successful medical-cannabis initiative is inspiring its neighbors in South Dakota.

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