Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!
I first want to bring your attention to a key development at the federal level. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that he will introduce a bill to legalize industrial hemp next month. The legislation will not only change hemp’s status under the law but will also set aside federal funds to support its cultivation.
At the state level, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has made dramatic changes to the state’s regulatory program. Changes include: reduced cost of the medical marijuana registry for patients by 50%; reduced cost for veterans, seniors, and those on disability by 90%; expanded the qualifying conditions list to include Tourette syndrome, chronic pain, and other conditions; and other much needed technical fixes.
Also at the state level, Iowa regulators offered medical cannabis dispensary licenses to five businesses, and North Dakota activists say they’ve collected more than half the signatures they need to qualify a marijuana legalization ballot measure.
At a more local level, New Orleans, Louisiana marijuana arrests are dramatically down following the enactment of an ordinance that allows police to issues summonses for low-level possession.
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.
The Connecticut Legislature is considering several bills to to regulate and tax the retail sale of marijuana to adults. HB 5111 and HB 5112 are still pending in the Joint Committee on General Law, and HB 5458 died in a House committee last week.
Update: The General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee held a hearing on 3/28 on another proposal, HB 5394, to develop a plan to legalize and regulate the retail sale of marijuana in the state and to provide for substance abuse treatment, prevention, education and awareness programs and measures.
Legislation is pending, H 3521 and S 212: 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.
Update: The Senate Medical Affairs Committee approved S 212 on 3/29 on an 8-6 vote, after it was approved by the subcommittee on a 3-2 vote last week. H3521 was tabled after the House Medical, Military, and Public and Municipal Affairs Committee held a hearing, but the Chairman didn’t put the bill on the agenda.
State Representative Jeremy Faison (R) and State Senator Steve Dickerson (R) have introduced legislation, SB 1710 and HB 1749 to establish a limited medical marijuana access program in Tennessee.
The measure permits qualified patients to possess marijuana-infused oil products, as well as other non-herbal forms of cannabis, from state-licensed dispensaries. Both patients and physicians would be required to participate in a state registry.
Update: HB 1749/SB 1710 was significantly amended at the request of the sponsor. As amended, the measure depenalizes the possession of CBD extracts by qualified patients, and also provides protections to those from out of state. It does not provide an in-state regulated supply system for CBD products. Members of the House Criminal Justice Committee approved the amended bill on 3/28.
HB 1749 will be heard by the Health Committee on 4/3, and SB 1710 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee also on 4/3.
Legislation is pending, HB 830 and SB 1119, to establish a medical marijuana access program.
The bill would provide qualified patients with access to cannabis therapy through licensed dispensaries or pharmacies, under the supervision of a certified practitioner. The bill would also prohibit employers from discriminating against individuals solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient.
Legislation is pending, S2426 and A3740, to further expand the state’s medical marijuana law.
The measures provide doctors the discretion to recommend medical marijuana to any patient for whom they believe it will provide a benefit.
Legislation is pending, SB 388, to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.
The bill 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. Currently there are only four licensed dispensaries operating across the state to serve an estimated 3,500 patients.
Update: SB 388 passed the Senate on 3/22, and now awaits action in the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.
Additional Actions to Take
Legislation has been introduced by Sen. Bob Hertzberg [D], SB 930, to assist financial institutions to safely conduct transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.
Update: SB 930 will be heard by the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee on 4/18 at 1:30pm in Room 112.
Legislation is pending, HB 2729, to allow for out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders to access medical cannabis while visiting Hawaii. It already passed the House earlier this month.
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: HB 2729 will be heard by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday 3/29 at 10:50am in Conference room 211.
HB 2913 is pending: The Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program. If passed, this bill would allow universities to cultivate hemp for research and development purposes. It already passed the House unanimously earlier this month.
Update: HB 2913 was approved by the Senate Agriculture and Wildlife Committee on 3/27, and is now awaiting action from the Appropriations Committee.
Legislation is pending, SB 263, to establish a state-licensed industrial hemp research program. It was already approved by the Senate last month.
Update: SB 263 was approved by the House on 3/28 by a 123-1 vote. It now awaits action from the Governor.
That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!