HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: February 15

It was a busy week in the fight to reform the ridiculous laws against marijuana that continue to plague United States. Some of the biggest news comes from Rhode Island, where lawmakers are hoping to finally come together on a plan to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Another major highlight includes the introduction of a bill in the U.S. Senate that would prevent college students with drug convictions from being denied financial aid.

Read all about this and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for February 15:

Federal: Bill Would Prevent College Drug Offenders From Losing Financial Aid
A group of Senators have introduced a bill called the Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act, or SUCCESS Act, that would stop college kids with drug convictions from losing federal financial aid. The measure would repeal a nearly 20-year-old law that forces financial aid applicants to divulge their drug convictions when filling out a FAFSA form. Reports indicate that more than 200,000 students over the past 18 years have had their financial aid eligibility revoked because of a drug conviction.

Rhode Island: Recreational Marijuana Being Discussed
The Rhode Island General Assembly will once again open up the discussion on whether the state should allow marijuana to be legalized for recreational purposes. Representative Scott Slatter will submit a bill to the House, while Senator Joshua Miller will file a similar measure in the Senate. Both of these proposals seek the creation of a taxed and regulated cannabis market similar to what is happening in Colorado. Supporters believe the time is right for such a plan, especially since the state is considering a scheme to tax the medical marijuana community for growing pot at home. A recent budget plan backed by Governor Gina Raimondo would hit patients and caregivers with a cultivation fee between $150-$350 in an attempt to generate an estimated $8 million for the state. However, supporters argue that more revenue would be possible through full legalization.

Hawaii: Lawmakers Attempt to Legalize Industrial Hemp
State lawmakers are considering a couple of proposals this session that could lead to the legalization of industrial hemp. House Bill 2555 would allow the research, cultivation and sale of industrial hemp, while a similar measure – Senate Bill 2659 – would create a pilot program that would simply study the potential economic benefits for the state. Both bills are play.

Florida: Bill Resurrected to Provide Marijuana for the Terminally Ill
A proposal seeking to legalize full strength marijuana for the terminally ill was resurrected last week in the state legislature. The House Appropriations Subcommittee put their stamp of approval on House Bill 307, a measure that would give those with a year or less to live access to medical marijuana. Basically, the proposal suggests an extension of the state’s Right to Try Act, a law that gives dying patients the freedom to use experimental medication that hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It would also expand the number of cannabis producers allowed to operate in the state. The bill must now pass the Health and Human Services Committee.

Iowa: Medical Marijuana Expansion Legislation Introduced
Representative Peter Cownie introduced a proposal last week aimed at expanding Iowa’s current medical marijuana law. The bill would increase the number of qualified conditions, while also establishing room for home cultivation. As in stands, Iowa only allows epilepsy patients to have access to cannabis oil. Cownie’s bill would drastically change the state’s program by creating a comprehensive medical marijuana program that comes complete with a cultivation and distribution system. The bill will need to pass out of committee by February 19 to have at chance at making it through this year.

Georgia: Medical Marijuana Bill In Trouble
Representative Allen Peake is working to push through his latest proposal aimed at creating a cultivation and distribution system for the state’s medical marijuana patients. But committee members are concerned about the language of portion of the bill, specifically when it comes to “intractable pain,” because they are worried that pot use would become problematic in the workforce. Peake is still confident the bill has a fighting chance of receiving approval during this session, but time is running out. In order for the measure to make good, it will need to clear the House before the end of February.

South Dakota: Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced
A couple of bills have been filed in the South Dakota legislature aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. Senator Angie O’Donnell recently submitted Senate Bill 167, which states, “the compassionate use of medical cannabis is permitted and the use shall be regulated.” Another proposal – Senate Bill 171 – backed by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, would create a full-blown medical marijuana market that would cater to patients with a variety of conditions. Both bills must receive approval from the Senate Health & Provider Services Committee before advancing to the full Senate.

Arizona: Marijuana Legalization Bills Being Considered
Representative Mark Cardenas has introduced two bills intended to reform the marijuana laws in Arizona. House Bill 2006 would create a taxed and regulated cannabis industry that would allow adults 21 and older to purchase weed from retail outlets in a manner similar to beer. House Bill 2007 is a simple decriminalization proposal – begging to strip away the criminal penalties associated with minor possession by replacing them with a $100 fine. Both bills will likely meet a great deal of resistance, but the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona is reportedly on track to put an initiative on the ballot this November that would do away with prohibition across the state.

Oregon: Bill Approved to Allow Outside Investors
The Oregon legislature is considering a bill that would allow out-of-state investors. House Bill 4014 would strip away the state’s two-year residency rule, which would allow cannabis producers to find money anywhere outside the state. Of course, this is a controversial issue because small organizations worry the amendment will force larger companies to come in and stomp them out. The bill also comes with provisions that would reduce registration fees for veterans as well as provide marijuana companies with the ability to deduct business expenses. A public hearing has been set.

Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Mayor Plans to Decriminalize Marijuana
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse recently announced that he would introduce a “three-strike” program that would allow small time pot offenders to simply pay a ticket rather than face criminal charges. The proposal gives first and second time offenders the freedom to simply pay a fine between $100-$200, while a third offense would be misdemeanor. The goal is to reduce the number of incarcerations throughout the city and allow police to focus on violent crime. The mayor will need to gain the support of the City Council before his plan could be set into motion. The Council is requesting public comment before giving the measure further consideration.

Wyoming: Marijuana Legislation Dies
A couple of proposals that would have reformed the marijuana laws in Wyoming have been shot down in the state legislature. One would have decriminalized up to an ounce of marijuana by making the offense a civil infraction, punishable with fine between $50-$100. The second would have allowed out-of-state medical marijuana patients to be in possession of the herb. Both measures failed by a substantial margin.

North Dakota: Recreational Marijuana Petition
Marijuana activists in North Dakota have filed a petition with the state in an attempt to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016. Eric Olsen and a 27-member team recently submitted the necessary paperwork with the Secretary of State in hopes of being approved to launch a signature collecting campaign. Their proposal would create a fully legal cannabis industry that would allow adults 21 and over to purchase marijuana from retail outlets across the state. If approved, the organization would need to secure 13,452 signatures by July 11 in order to get the measure on the November ballot.

California: Medical Marijuana Tax Proposed
A proposal was introduced last week that could lead to a new 15 percent tax on medical marijuana. Senator Mike McGuire, who authored the bill, predicts the Marijuana Value Tax Act could generate in upwards of $100 million annually, with the funds being used to combat the negative effects that cultivation has brought to the environment. Interestingly, the proposed tax rate is right in line with the tax scheme included in several initiatives aimed at legalizing a recreational sector later this year.

New Mexico: Marijuana Legalization Progressing Through Legislature
Marijuana legalization is progressing in New Mexico. Last week, the Senate Rules Committee approved a joint resolution that could lead to the creation of a taxed and regulated cannabis market similar to Colorado. The proposed constitutional amendment needs to receive approval from both chambers of the state legislature in order to put in front of voters in the November election. [link: ]

Tennessee: Legal Weed Coming to the Knox County Ballot
A man from Knox County, Tennessee plans to put the issue of marijuana legalization on the ballot in the upcoming election. Because the county allows residents to put any issue they want on the ballot, Steve Cooper told WVLT last week that he would soon submit a proposal aimed at asking the voters whether Knox County should legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. But first, the Knox County Election Commission must approve the language of the measure. Cooper would then need to collect around 20,000 signatures. If voters approve marijuana legalization, the measure would need to go before the state legislature before it could be made official.

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