With the 2021 state legislative sessions in full swing, legislation to enact a comprehensive medical cannabis program or to significantly expand an existing law are pending in at least a dozen states. As state lawmakers actively consider and advance medical cannabis-related proposals forward, here’s a breakdown of progressing legislative efforts thus far and where they stand in key states across the country.
Legislation is pending in Alabama to establish a medical cannabis access program for qualified patients via licensed retailers, after obtaining a physician’s recommendation. Senate Bill 46 would not allow patients to smoke herbal marijuana or vape, but would allow forms including pills, oils, lozenges patches, nebulizers and inhalers. This bill is based on recommendations from a commission that was appointed in 2019 to study the issue more closely. The measure was approved by the Senate last month and is awaiting action by the Alabama House Judiciary Committee after a public hearing on Wednesday 3/10/21.
Senator Anna Wishart’s (D) legislation to allow qualifying patients with certain debilitating conditions to use and safely access medical cannabis is pending. If passed, LB 474 would allow registered patients to purchase and possess up to two and a half ounces of medical cannabis via licensed providers, with a doctor’s recommendation. The measure would prohibit home cultivation and smoking herbal cannabis. The bill is currently awaiting action by the Judiciary Committee after a hearing on Wednesday 3/10.
Legislation is pending in the state House and Senate to allow qualified patients access to medical cannabis via licensed retailers. House Bill 2184: The Kansas Medical Marijuana Regulation Act is also pending to allow qualifying patients to purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces of medical cannabis. This measure would prohibit smoking and vaping.
House Bill 2184 was heard by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee on 2/24/21, but no action has been taken yet. The two Senate Bills are still awaiting action from two separate committees.
Also pending is Senate Bill 92: The Kansas Equal Access Act, which would allow medical cannabis access for qualifying patients and offers broad patient protections in schools, at work, and for parents. Patients would be permitted to cultivate up to four cannabis plants for therapeutic use and possess four ounces of medical cannabis. At the request of Governor Laura Kelly, Senate Bill 287 was also introduced, a separate medical cannabis legalization proposal that would fund Medicaid expansion.
Legislation is pending to permit physician-authorized access to medical cannabis for qualified patients in South Carolina.
H. 3361 / S. 150: The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act would allow qualifying patients to use, purchase, and possess medical cannabis. The Senate measure is slightly more restrictive than the House measure, regarding the types of products available for patients, the qualifying medical conditions eligible for a recommendation, possession limits and patient protections. The two measures differ slightly. H. 3174: The Put Patients First Act is also pending, which would allow registered patients to use and possess up to two ounces of marijuana, and cultivate up to 6 plants (up to 3 mature).
S. 150 is scheduled for its first public hearing in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee on Thursday 3/18.
Multiple pieces of legislation are pending related to medical cannabis access in Tennessee.
House Bill 621/Senate Bill 854 would establish a comprehensive program, allowing qualifying patients to legally purchase, possess, and use medical cannabis from a licensed retail outlet, with a recommendation from a medical provider. SB 854 was already approved by the Senate Government Operations Committee earlier this month, and now awaits action from the Judiciary Committee.
Separate pending measures are much more limited in scope. House Bill 239/Senate Bill 1209 would allow certain cancer patients to possess and use full extract cannabis oil that is intended to be ingested orally or used topically. Both measures are scheduled to be taken up in committee in their respective chambers on Tuesday 3/16/21.
House Bill 666/Senate Bill 1493 would allow disabled veterans with quadriplegia to possess and use liquid extract cannabis if certain criteria are met. Both measures still await action in committee.
SB 667/HB 880, to request a study on the licensure and regulation of cannabis for medical use and report findings to the general assembly’s health committees, is scheduled for consideration in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on 3/17/21.
Legislation is pending to significantly expand the state’s medical cannabis program by easing the restrictions on formulations of medical cannabis available for patients to use and purchase.
Senate File 803, which would have allowed patients to smoke herbal, whole-plant medical cannabis, was amended and incorporated into SF 1179, and approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee earlier this month. The measure, as amended, would also allow doctors to recommend cannabis as an alternative to opioids in addition to allowing patients to smoke herbal, whole-plant medical cannabis.
House lawmakers approved House Bill 2004, sending the measure on to the Senate. The bill would: increase the number of plants patients may grow for therapeutic use, reclassify the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana by someone without a patient license as an offense not subject to imprisonment and punishable by a fine and court costs not to exceed $400; provide tax waivers and reduced patient license application fees for certain disabled veterans; and allow out of state patients to access their medicine while visiting Oklahoma after paying a fee.
Members of the Oklahoma House also approved legislation, House Bill 2272, which seeks to limit the number of medical cannabis dispensaries permitted to operate in the state of Oklahoma.
House Bill 645 was approved by the Georgia House of Representatives last week. The measure, if enacted, would allow patients to access low-THC products other than oil to the state’s limited medical cannabidiol (CBD) law. The bill would also provide clarity to the state’s medical cannabis commission’s powers and duties to facilitate the in-state production and dispensing of low-THC products to patients, and allow designated colleges and universities to conduct research related to medical cannabis.
Legislation is awaiting action from Governor Cox, which if enacted, would expand Utah’s medical cannabis program. Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 170, which would expand the pool of medical professionals who can recommend medical cannabis to patients, and allow patients to access their medicine while their application is being reviewed. Senate Bill 192, also approved by the legislature, would authorize DOH to issue an additional medical cannabis pharmacy license to dispense medical cannabis to patients in a specific geographic region.
Gov. Cox has until March 25, 2021 to take action on these measures.
Multiple medical cannabis expansion measures are already awaiting action from Governor Northam. Lawmakers approved SB 1333 and HB 2218, to permit pharmaceutical processors to produce and distribute cannabis products other than cannabis oil, such as whole-plant botanical medical cannabis.
The legislature also approved HB 1988, which seeks to ensure that those in hospice, nursing, and assisted living facilities are able to safely access medical cannabis, and that the continued allowance of telemedicine for patient certifications is maintained post-pandemic. Lastly, HB 1862 is pending before the governor which would prohibit an employer from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an employee for such employee’s lawful use of medical cannabis pursuant to a valid written certification issued by a practitioner
Gov. Northam has until March 31, 2021 to take action on these measures.