New York Considers Medical Marijuana and Iced Cannabis Coffee: The State of The Buzz

It's been a busy time for Mary Jane. The Republican-controlled House shocked everyone last Thursday by passing a bill that would basically allow states to craft their own marijuana laws without federal interference. It was a landmark achievement for the legalization movement, and was complimented by a vote the same day by the New York state assembly to legalize medical marijuana in the Empire State. And in Washington, one company will soon be selling marijuana-infused, cold-brewed coffee, which sounds, umm, delicious and dangerous.

It’s been a busy time for marijuana across the country. Let’s take a look at the state of our buzzed union.

New York Votes

New York made moves toward medical marijuana when the legalization bill sailed through the state assembly with two-thirds support. It's the fifth time in seven years that this bill has passed the assembly; in the past, it's died at the hands of Republicans in the state senate, and the bill has less than two weeks to avoid the same fate before the end of the legislative session.

Legalization Advocates Shocked By Own Victory

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a historic bill that would ban federal marijuana raids and prevent the Justice Department from interfering with state marijuana policy in general. The bill has some limits — its protections don’t extend to future medical marijuana states, for example, only states that have already legalized it — but still, this is huge. It’s the first time Congress has ever approved a major marijuana reform law, and it’s a pretty liberal one. The victory caught everyone completely off-guard, including the bill's supporters.

"Quite frankly, many of us who were sponsors of this amendment… didn't expect to win and were surprised by the margin of that victory this morning," Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said at a press conference Friday morning. The bill passed with 49 Republicans voting alongside 172 Democrats, a level of bipartisanship that's unheard of in the current congress. Perhaps even more surprisingly, at least some credit for bill’s passage goes to anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who supported it and brought a lot of libertarian-leaning Republicans along with him.

It's nothing short of astonishing that this bill managed to pass the GOP-controlled House, and so easily.

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California Fights Over Regulations

California, which legalized medical marijuana almost 20 years ago, is stuck in a legislative back-and-forth over whether to regulate the industry at the local or state level. The senate voted unanimously last Wednesday for a more local-centric approach; a day later, the assembly rejected a competing bill that would have given regulatory and licensing responsibilities to the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The assembly will most likely take up the senate bill and try to craft a compromise, but it’s not at all clear yet if that’s possible.

This was the first time the California Police Chiefs Association has ever endorsed marijuana regulation bill — they went for the local measure — which is big. Sure, some local law enforcement departments could use the law as an excuse to crack down harder on marijuana offenses, but the fact that the overall legal status of marijuana in the state isn’t being challenged (except by groups demanding Colorado-style legalization) says a lot about California’s approach to marijuana relative to most of the rest of the country.

San Jose Promotes Civic Participation ... With Free Pot

You know what else says a lot about California’s approach to marijuana? The fact that a couple of pot shops around San Jose are giving free weed to people who vote in Tuesday’s election. Only licensed medical marijuana patients are eligible, and all they have to do is present an “I Voted” sticker.

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It’s not exactly a rare thing for a dispensary in California to have a free weed promo for patients, but the gambit is nevertheless a high-risk venture: Federal law makes it illegal to induce people to vote on a ballot that includes a federal contest, and Tuesday’s ballot had congressional candidates on it. Even Starbucks couldn’t get away with giving out free coffee to voters when it tried to in 2008, so it seems unlikely that the Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition, which is holding this promotion, will be allowed to keep it up for much longer.

Crime in Colorado

In Colorado, the New York Times concluded that there’s “scant hard data” to support claims that the state’s lax marijuana laws have caused a public health hazard. Violent crimes, including assaults and robberies, have fallen since the first legal recreational pot shops in the country opened in January 2014, and the state has raked in $12.6 million in new revenue so far.

Cannabis Cold Brew

A cannabis-infused cold brew is coming to Washington, which, to be fair, is known for both its coffee and weed. Called Legal, product developer Adam Stites told The Huffington Post "It’s an alert, creative high," and is "the wake and bake drink." Why don't we live in Seattle, again?

Image: Mirth Provisions