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 marijuana businesses and consumers.
Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) has introduced the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act which would basically codify the protections that were outlined in the now-rescinded Cole Memo. Essentially, the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act would give peace of mind to lawmakers, regulators, 149,000 workers, and the millions of patients and consumers who are dependent on the normalization of lawful marijuana markets. The most essential component in creating a stable business environment to meet consumer demand is certainty and that is what states would have with Rep. Correa’s legislation to protect state-lawful programs from militant marijuana prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Click here to send a message to your Representative in support of the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act.
Also, earlier this week, bestselling guidebook author and travel host Rick Steves held two briefings on Capitol Hill to address marijuana prohibition to a gathering of members of Congress and their staff. Steves serves as a member of the board of NORML and has advocated extensively in support of the successful legalization efforts in Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and his home state of Washington.
At the state level, the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee voted unanimously to pass HB 1251, to expand the state’s medical CBD law, amended to include a new emergency enactment clause requested by Governor Ralph Northam, and will now go into effect immediately upon his signature. Enactment of this historic legislation would make Virginia the first state with a hyper-restrictive program to adopt such a broad expansion.
Also, Pennsylvania medical cannabis sales began on Thursday as the state’s first dispensary opened its doors.
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.
Democratic Representative James Albis, along with over 20 co-sponsors, has introduced legislation — HB 5112 and HB 5111 — to regulate and tax the retail sale of marijuana to adults.
The tax revenue raised by commercial retail sales would be used to fund substance abuse treatment, prevention, education and awareness programs.
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.”
Update: Similar legislation has also been introduced to regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana, House Bill 4491.
Legislation is pending, HM 67 and SM 55, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy as an alternative to opioid treatment.
Update: HM 67 was approved unanimously by the House, and SM 55 was approved by the Senate with a 36-1 vote.
Legislation is pending, HCR2037, to put the issue of legalizing the adult use of marijuana before voters this November.
The resolution seeks to place a question on the 2018 ballot regarding the adult use, possession, and retail sale of cannabis.
Legislation is pending, HB 268 and SB 181, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.
Update: A hearing was held on February 15 on SB 181.
Legislation is pending, HB 1893, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.
Update: HB 1893 was heard by the Health and Human Services Committee on February 15.
Additional Actions to Take
Legislation is pending, HB 1477, to permit those convicted of past marijuana convictions to seek expungement.
If passed, HB 1477 would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting that the court annul any past marijuana violations involving the possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana.
Update: HB 1477 was approved by The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee by a vote of 14-4.
Newly proposed legislation, The Marijuana Consumer Employment Discrimination Protection Bill, seeks to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination.
This bill would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test. It would also require employers to provide objective evidence that an employee is unable to perform their job adequately because of marijuana use prior to taking any punitive action.
Senator Tom Begich has introduced legislation, SB 184, to seal the convictions of past marijuana possession offenders.
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.
Legislation is pending, House Bill 698 to expand the state’s nascent industrial hemp pilot program.
The bill seeks to “authorize and facilitate the research of industrial hemp and any aspect of growing, cultivating, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, transporting, marketing, or selling industrial hemp for agricultural, industrial, or commercial purposes.”
Update: A hearing was held for HB 698 on February 14.
Legislation is pending, 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.
Update: HB197 was passed by the House by a vote of 38-32 on February 13, after it died on a narrow vote last week and was resurrected on Tuesday. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Check back next Friday for more legislative updates!