Last week, the United States made a great deal of progress in the realm of marijuana reform. Perhaps the biggest news came from Alaska and the District of Columbia, both of which officially implemented voter approved initiatives to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. In other parts of the country, lawmakers introduced a variety of proposals ranging from the facilitation of cannabis oil for epileptic children to legislation aimed at establishing full-blown cannabis markets.
Read all about what went down last week in the High Times Legislative Roundup for March 2.
Alaska: Marijuana Is Now Legal
Alaska became the third state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana. Voters approved an initiative to establish a recreational pot market last November, which went into effect on Tuesday… sort of. Although it is legal to possess and use the sweet leaf in non-public places, there are no regulations in place to facilitate a legal market. The rules for the retail trade are expected to be announced later this year with pot shops opening up sometime in 2016.
Missouri: Medical Marijuana Gets House Hearing
A bill aimed at legalizing medical marijuana in Missouri received a hearing last week. State Representative Dave Hinson brought his proposal (House Bill 800) to the committee on Monday to discuss moving forward with plans to establish a statewide medical marijuana program. Celebrity Montel Williams joined the lawmaker, speaking out about how cannabis has eased the symptoms of his multiple sclerosis, while others, including veterans, provided testimony pertaining to post traumatic stress disorder.
In addition, Missouri is about to begin cannabis oil production. Last year, Governor Nixon signed a law that would allow a non-intoxicating strain of marijuana to be cultivated in the state for people suffering from epilepsy. It was announced last week that two licenses were granted to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, and cultivation is set to begin in the summer. Patients who qualify for this program are expected to have access to medicine in the fall.
Utah: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced
State Senator Mark Madsen has introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Utah. Senate Bill 259 would allow patients suffering from specific debilitating conditions, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, to have access to the herb. The lawmaker said he felt compelled to submit the proposal after a recent trip to Colorado to explore the effects of medicinal cannabis on his back pain. After experiencing a great deal of relief, he decided to make a move to bring the benefits of cannabis to patients all across Utah. Reports indicate the bill has been given fast track status on the Senate floor, and it appears to have the support of law enforcement agencies.
District of Columbia: Recreational Pot is Legal
Marijuana is officially legal in the nation’s capital. At 12:01 a.m. last Thursday, the District of Columbia implemented the voter approved Initiative 71, which legalized the possession and cultivation of cannabis. Although Congress threatened city leaders with prison if they moved forward with legalization, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the city would uphold the will of the voters.
“In November, residents of the District of Columbia voted to legalize small amounts of marijuana by adults for personal, in-home use in the District,” Bowser said. “We will uphold the letter and the spirit of the initiative that was passed last year, and we will establish the Initiative 71 Task Force to coordinate our enforcement, awareness and engagement efforts and address policy questions as they arise.”
Kansas: Cannabis Oil Bill Makes It Out of Committee
A proposal to legalize cannabis oil has managed to make it out of committee. House Bill 2282, which would allow parents with epileptic children to have access to a non-intoxicating strain of cannabis oil, known as CBD, was approved earlier last week. This marks the first time legislation of this kind has made it out of committee alive.
Hawaii: Decriminalization Gets a Hearing
Marijuana supporters in Hawaii showed up last week at the Capitol building to discuss a bill aimed at decriminalizing the possession of marijuana. Senate Bill 596 aims to strip away the criminal penalties associated with this offense by replacing them with a $100 fine. The measure was passed by the committee but only after a few amendments were made.
Florida: Bill Introduced to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Senator Dwight Bullard has introduced a piece of legislation that aims to legalize recreational marijuana in Florida. Senate Bill 1176 would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of weed and cultivate up to 6 plants. This bill is identical to a proposal introduced by Bullard in 2014, which did not receive any consideration from the committee.
West Virginia: Medical Marijuana Legislation Introduced
Senator Mitch Carmichael has introduced a proposal to legalize medical marijuana in West Virginia. Senate Bill 546 would allow patients with certain debilitating conditions to have access to cannabis. The bill has attracted some support and has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources.
Ohio: Recreational Marijuana Proposal Rejected
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a proposal last week to legalize recreational marijuana. The initiative submitted by ResponsibleOhio was denied because only 883 of the required 1,000 signatures were verifiable. In a letter to the organization, DeWine wrote, “Because your submission did not contain the verified signatures of at least one thousand qualified electors, we must reject it. Due to your failure to meet the signature threshold, I have not made any determination concerning the fairness and truthfulness of your proposed summary.”
A representative for ResponsibeOhio said the group will collect the required signatures again within the next few weeks and resubmit it to the attorney general’s office.