HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: August 1

It seems the fight to legalize marijuana across more of the United States has taken a bit of a backseat recently due to the chaos, conspiracy, and overall political reverberations of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. But this racket did not stop Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner from stepping up last week to sign a significant marijuana reform measure that will allow minor pot possession to be treated as a civil infraction. In Massachusetts, the Secretary of State officially announced that a recreational marijuana initiative was fit for the November ballot, while in Texas, there is talk of a decriminalization bill being introduced next session.

Read all about these developments and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for August 1:

National: Democrats and Republicans Differ Significantly on Marijuana
Over the past couple of weeks we have learned that, for better or worse, the nation will be choosing between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump for the next President of the United States. However, while neither candidate is very appealing to a significant majority of the cannabis reform community, the official campaign platforms for the for their respective parties could help provide you with some insight on where these politicians currently stand on the issue of legalization. In short, the Democrats want to create “a reasoned pathway to legalization,” while the Republicans refuse to take even a modest stance on medical marijuana.

Democratic Party’s Cannabis Platform:
“Because of conflicting federal and state laws concerning marijuana, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of ‘Schedule 1’ federal controlled substances and to appropriately regulate it, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization. We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize it or provide access to medical marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact in terms of arrest rates for African-Americans that far outstrip arrest rates for whites, despite similar usage rates.”

Republican Party’s Marijuana Platform:
None. However, Donald Trump says he supports marijuana for medicinal purposes “100 percent,” while his selection for Vice President, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, is staunchly opposed.

Illinois: Governor Rauner Signs Decriminalization Bill
Illinois just became the 21th state in the nation to eliminate the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession. A spokesperson for the office of Governor Bruce Rauner said last week that the administration was in the process of reviewing Senate Bill 2228 with the Illinois State Police to make sure everyone involved was on the same page with the newly proposed decriminalization policy. Rauner signed the bill into law a few days later. Now anyone caught holding up to 10 grams of marijuana will simply be fined between $100 and $200 – No arrest, no jail time. The law is effective immediately.

Texas: Lawmakers Plans to Introduce Decriminalization Bill Next Session
The topic of marijuana decriminalization is expected to grace the halls of the Texas Legislature once the session resumes in 2017. State Representative Joe Moody recently told My Statesman that he plans to introduce a bill next year aimed at doing away with the criminal penalties for minor pot possession. Right now, anyone caught holding up to 2 ounces can be charged with a misdemeanor, which is punishable with 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000. Moody’s goal is to simply make this a ticketed offense.

California: Los Angeles Cancelling Initiative to Use Pot Taxes for Homeless
The concept of helping the homeless problem in Los Angeles using tax dollars generated from the sale of marijuana is no more. County supervisors made the decision last week to cancel an initiative that was projected to raise $130 million per year to build housing projects for the homeless. But there were concerns that proposal was not in the right place at the right time to focus resources into getting it passed. There is a possibility that this issue could come up again in 2017 after the outcome of the AUMA in the upcoming November election.

Massachusetts: Recreational Marijuana to Appear on the Ballot
Massachusetts voters will get to decide this November whether the state should legalize marijuana for recreational use. The Secretary of State’s office announced last week that an initiative supported by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has enough signatures to proceed to the ballot. If voters approve, Massachusetts will establish a full legal cannabis trade similar to the one currently underway in Colorado.

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