Welcome to this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!
First, I’d like to highlight a key development at the federal level pertaining to established medical marijuana businesses and consumers.
The protections for lawful medical marijuana patients and businesses from the Department of Justice provided by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer budget amendment was temporarily extended through March 23rd and we are working to ensure that it will be a part of any budget deal for the rest of the fiscal year. In the last week alone, NORML members sent thousands of messages to members of Congress and we plan to keep the pressure up. If you have not already, send a letter to your elected officials in support of extending these important protections.
At the state level, legislators in New Jersey will holding hearings on marijuana legalization next month, with the first one scheduled for March 5th, and activists in Maryland lobbied state lawmakers in the capital to in favor of legislation that would put legalization before voters on this year’s November ballot.
Additionally, at the state level, an Indiana medical marijuana bill is dead for this session.
Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.
Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.
End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.
The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.
Legislation is pending, House Bill 3035, to regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana.
The bill states that “In the interest of allowing law-enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes, generating revenue for education and other public purposes, and individual freedom, the Legislature of the State of West Virginia finds that the use of marijuana should be legal for a person twenty-one years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.”
Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 1557 to legalize adult use marijuana possession and to provide for record expungement for certain past marijuana offenses.
The bill would legalize marijuana by removing all criminal liability associated with marijuana from the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. With respect to criminal or disorderly persons offense convictions pre-dating marijuana legalization that relate to marijuana possession, use or being under the influence of marijuana, or failure to make lawful disposition of marijuana, these convictions would be expunged in an expedited process.
Unlike Assembly Bill 1348 and Senate Bill 830, this measure does not establish a regulated commercial market governing the production and retail sale of marijuana.
The New Hampshire Legislature is considering HB 656, a bill which would legalize and regulate the personal use of marijuana by persons 21 years or older.
The bill also allows the cultivation, possession, and use of hemp, and calls for retail sales and generation of state revenues through taxation, as well as authorizes the licensing of marijuana wholesale, retail, cultivation, and testing facilities.
Update: a public hearing is happening on 2/13 at 10:00AM in Legislative Office Building 210-211.
Senator Wishart has introduced a constitutional amendment, LR293CA, to put this issue of medical marijuana legalization to a direct vote on this year’s November ballot.
Update: LR293CA was heard by the Judiciary Committee on 2/8/18.
Representative Mark Cardenas (D) has introduced legislation, House Bill 2014, to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses.
House Bill 2014 reclassifies minor marijuana possession offenses from a felony to a civil offense, punishable by a maximum $100 fine only — no arrest, no criminal prosecution, and no criminal record.
Senator Sara Kyle and Representative Larry Miller have introduced legislation SB 2320 and HB 2391, seeking to place a ballot initiative before voters with regard to the legalization of medical marijuana.
If passed, these bills would place the following advisory question on the November 2018 ballot:
Should the Tennessee legislature approve the use of medical marijuana?
Republican State Senator Dick Brewbaker has introduced Senate Bill 251, which seeks to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. By contrast, the measure also enhances penalties for offenses involving the possession of marijuana over one ounce.
Senate Bill 251 reduces penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $6,000 fine, to a non-criminal violation and punishable by a fine of no more than $250 — no arrest and no criminal record.
However, provisions in the bill also reclassify offenses involving quantities of marijuana above one ounce as felonies.
Legislation is pending, H 3521: The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, to allow for the physician-authorized use of marijuana for patients with specific debilitating medical conditions.
If passed, the bill would provide patients with regulated access to medical cannabis via licensed providers.
Legislation is pending to provide “for the lawful use and possession of Cannabidiol Oil (CBD), if prescribed by a (licensed) practitioner.”
Similar legislation seeking to provide qualified patients with CBD access was vetoed by Gov. Otter in 2015.
Update: The bill, RS25862, was approved for consideration by the Idaho House Health & Welfare Committee.
Additional Actions to Take
Legislation is pending, H.865, to permit those convicted of past marijuana convictions to seek expungement.
If passed, H.865 would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting expungement for any past marijuana violation that is no longer defined as a crime under state law.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) has introduced legislation, AB 2069, to strengthen employment rights for medical cannabis patients.
The bill would explicitly bar employers from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test.
Legislation is pending, SB 263, to establish a state-licensed industrial hemp research program.
Federal law explicitly authorizes states to engage in the state-authorized cultivation of hemp for research purposes. Over two dozen states have enacted legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with federal law.
Legislation is pending, SB 336, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy as an alternative to opioid treatment.
Update: SB 336 passed the Senate Executive Committee on February 7 by a vote of 16-1.
Legislation is pending, HB 300, to make Alaska a so-called ‘sanctuary state’ for licensed marijuana operators, prohibiting “the expenditure of state or municipal assets to enforce federal marijuana laws.”
With US Attorney General Jeff Sessions having recently rescinded federal guidance memos protecting state-licensed, marijuana-related activity, passage of this legislation is more crucial than ever.
Democratic State Representative John Mizuno has introduced legislation, HB 2740, to allow for out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders to access medical cannabis while visiting Hawaii.
Other provisions in the bill prohibit employers from either discriminating against or taking punitive actions against employees solely based on their medical cannabis use or patient status.
Republican Brad Draw has introduced legislation, HB 197, “to ensure the cultivation and processing of cannabis in the state for academic or medical research purposes.”
If passed, this bill mandates the Department of Agriculture to engage in the cultivation, processing, and distribution of marijuana for the purposes of engaging in academic or medical research.
Check back next week for more legislative updates!