Welcome to the 4/20 edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!
Today’s the day. The High Holy Day for cannabis consumers everywhere. Happy Holidaze, my people! Check out all the 4/20 events happening around the country, and remember to be safe and smoke responsibly!
There have been lots of significant developments in the marijuana space recently, specifically at the federal level. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced his intention to sponsor a bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.
Republican Senator Cory Gardner (CO) says that he has received a verbal commitment from President Donald Trump specifying that the administration will not take action to disrupt marijuana markets in states that legally regulate it. Also, Senator Bernie Sanders signed on as a co-sponsor of The Marijuana Justice Act. Yesterday, Sen. Sanders joined Senator Cory Booker on a live stream for a conversation about ending prohibition and co-sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act.
Additionally, legislation was introduced this week to facilitate federally-sponsored clinical research into the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis among veterans, HR 5520: The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018.
At the state level, Pennsylvania’s health secretary approved a recommendation from the medical cannabis law Advisory Board to allow sales of medical cannabis in flower form and to add new qualifying conditions to the list. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill into law that includes expungement for prior marijuana convictions. And unfortunately, South Dakota’s secretary of state rejected a proposed medical cannabis ballot measure because there were not enough valid signatures in a random sample.
At a more local level, Los Angeles, California’s top marijuana regulator said the city is considering allowing consumption lounges, and Denver, Colorado’s mayor is proposing raising the city’s marijuana sales tax from 3.5% to 5.5% to fund affordable housing.
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.
House Bill 274 seeks to entirely decriminalize the possession and distribution of marijuana, contingent on the creation of a sales tax system that would regulate the legal sale of marijuana.
Update: HB 274 was heard by the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice on 4/17.
Legislation is pending, LD 1539, to greatly expand patients’ access to medical cannabis. Among changes proposed by the bill: Physicians would be able, at their sole discretion, to recommend cannabis therapy to any patient for whom they think it would benefit; Caregivers would be able to manage more than five patients at one time; Regulators would increase the total number of licensed dispensaries from eight to 14.
Update: The Senate voted 25-10 to pass LD 1539 on 4/18, and it now heads to Governor LePage for his signature or veto. He has 10 days to act on the bill, but is expected to veto it.
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.
Update: The House Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs held a hearing on H 3521 on 4/19, and then approved the bill by a 14-3 vote.
Senate Bill 388 would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a second dispensary location in the geographic area that includes Carroll, Coos, and Grafton counties for therapeutic cannabis.
Update: SB 388 was unanimously approved by the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee on 4/18, after holding a public hearing and then an executive session on the bill.
Assembly Bill 1793 would “allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.
Update: The Assembly’s Public Safety Committee unanimously approved AB 1793 on 4/17 after a hearing was held. The bill now heads to the Appropriations Committee.
Senate Bill 184 prohibits the release of past records for any marijuana offense that is no longer defined as a crime under state law. The bill’s intent is to reduce barriers to employment for people who have been convicted of low-level marijuana possession crimes that would be legal under today’s laws, and to make it more likely that people convicted of only low-level crimes will become contributing members of society.
Update: The House of Representatives approved similar legislation by a 30-10 vote on 4/15, HB 316, which restricts the release of certain records of convictions to the public. The bill now heads to the Senate.
House Bill 2729, 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.
Update: The Senate approved HB 2729 with amendments on 4/10, but the House disagreed with the proposed amendments. Both Chambers will have to work to come up with a satisfactory compromise.
Additional Actions to Take
Democratic Representative Mickey Dollens introduced HB 2913: The Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program. The bill would allow universities to cultivate hemp for research and development purposes.
Update: HB 2913 was approved by the Senate by a 39-1 vote on 4/16, and now awaits action by Governor Mary Fallin.
Senate Bill 547 seeks to modify provisions relating to industrial hemp. It would allow the Department of Agriculture to issue a registration or permit to growers and handlers of agricultural and industrial hemp. It would also create an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture to study the growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp.
Update: SB 547 was approved by the House Rules Legislative Oversight Committee on 4/18 after holding an executive session. It’s on the calendar to be considered by the full House on 4/23.
Senate File 2398 would establish The Iowa Industrial Hemp Act. The bill would allow the Department of Agriculture to establish a research pilot program that engages in the licensed cultivation, production, and marketing of industrial hemp. SF 2398 was already unanimously approved by the Senate earlier this month.
Update: The House Ways and Means Subcommittee approved SF 2398 on 4/11.
Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.
Update: SB 930 was unanimously approved by the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee on 4/18 after a public hearing was held.
That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates, and I wish everyone the happiest 4/20!