Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!
A lot has happened in Congress this week. US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) succeeded in inserting hemp legalization language into the wide-ranging Farm Bill – must-pass legislation that is approved by Congress every five years. The bill was then approved by the US Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.
The US Senate Appropriations Committee, for the first time ever, included protections for state medical marijuana laws in base Justice Department funding legislation. On the other hand, the US House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment to protect banks that work with marijuana businesses from being punished by federal authorities.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced The “RESPECT Resolution: Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades” to elevate the importance of equity within the legal cannabis marketplace.
To all of our surprise, President Donald Trump expressed verbal support for recently introduced, bi-partisan legislation that seeks to codify legal protections for state-sanctioned marijuana-related activities. Similarly, members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently announced their support for marijuana law reforms to keep the federal government out of the business of prohibition and related law enforcement of marijuana.
At the state level, South Carolina voters approved a medical marijuana advisory question on the Democratic primary ballot by a margin of 81% – 19%. And The Maine Supreme Court ruled that employers don’t need to pay for medical cannabis under the state workers’ compensation system.
At a more local level, the St. Louis, Missouri circuit attorney will no longer pursue cases for marijuana in the amount of less than 100 grams. And Denver, Colorado is using marijuana tax revenue to fund after-school and summer programs.
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.
Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced bipartisan legislation, The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales. A bipartisan House companion bill has been introduced by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
This marks the first bicameral, bipartisan legislation to end the federal enforcement of prohibition in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, along with Sen. Nicholas Scutari, introduced legislation, S2703, to legalize adult marijuana sales and further expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.
The legislation permits those age 21 and older to legally possess and/or purchase up to one ounce of cannabis. It also permits the licensing of 218 retail dispensaries — 120 of which would provide marijuana to adults while 98 would provide marijuana to authorized patients. At present, one half-a-dozen medical dispensaries are operating in the state.
Other provisions in the measure seek to protect adults who consume cannabis from employer and/or housing discrimination, and permits certain retailers to establish on-site consumption areas.
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
SB 20-62 seeks to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
If passed, the bill would legalize the personal use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for adults age 21 or older, and establish a licensing scheme for its commercial production and retail sale. The tax revenue would be used to fund the implementation of the program and other government services.
Update: SB 20-62 was on the House’s agenda for a vote on 6/12, but was instead was referred back to the Committee on Judiciary & Government Operations.
House Bill 110 seeks to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use.
Update: An amendment to HB 110 was filed on 6/11. The wide-ranging amendment addresses packaging and labeling, safe cultivation, tracking of sales, random testing and safeguards for the consumer. Employer protections are clarified as well.
Senate Bill 197 seeks to permit those convicted of past marijuana possession convictions to seek expungement.
The measure would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting the expungement of any past marijuana possession violations that are no longer defined as a crime under state law.
Update: SB 197 was unanimously passed by the Senate on 6/12.
House Bill 374 seeks to expand the state’s medical cannabis access program.
The measure would expand the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis by permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from: chronic debilitating migraines, pediatric autism spectrum disorder, and pediatric sensory processing disorder.
Update: HB 374 was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Children & Social Services Committee on 6/6.
A. 9016 and S. 7564 seek to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.
Update: A. 9016 came out of the Health Committee without a vote and was referred to the Rules Committee.
Assembly Bill 1793 seeks “to 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. The bill was approved by the Assembly last month.
Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee on 6/26 at 8:30am in Room 3191.
Senate Bill 1127 will help students with severe medical disabilities attend school by allowing a parent or guardian to come on campus to administer medical cannabis to them in non-smoking and non-vaping forms. The bill was approved by the Senate last month.
Update: SB 1127 was heard on 6/13 in the Assembly Education Committee, and then approved by the Committee. The bill will be heard by the Judiciary Committee on 7/4.
Compassionate Care Programs
Senate Bill 829 would exempt compassionate care programs from paying state cannabis taxes when they are providing free medical cannabis to financially disadvantaged people living with serious health conditions. The bill was approved by the Senate last month.
Update: The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions is holding a hearing on SB 829 on 6/19.
Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses. The bill was approved by the Senate last month.
Update: The Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee is holding a hearing on SB 930 on 6/26 at 9am.
That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!