According to a recent Harris Poll, more lawmakers than ever are getting behind efforts to legalize marijuana in some form. The survey finds that nine out of 10 Democrats favor the legalization of medical marijuana, while such like-minded enthusiasm is shared by nearly 70% of their Republican counterparts. This is good news for lawmakers in states like Louisiana and Texas who are fighting against some seemingly powerful forces in hopes of passing legislation in 2015 to bring medicinal cannabis to their neck of the woods. Interestingly, even though there is not as much support for the legalization marijuana for recreational use (58%-D 27%-R), last week proved that anything was possible in the world of pot politics when a key Texas House committee put their stamp of approval on a bill to establish a state-run cannabis market.
Read about this and more in the High Times Legislative Roundup for May 10:
Pennsylvania: Medical Marijuana Passes Final Senate Committee
Medical marijuana is a step closer to becoming a reality in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 3 was approved by the final committee needed before it heads to the Senate floor. It is expected to receive a vote sometime this week. If approved, it will go before the House of Representatives before being sent to Governor Tom Wolf for a signature. A similar measure was approved last year, but it failed in the House. Proponents of the bill do not expect it will not suffer the same fate this year.
Alaska: Marijuana Control Board Signed Into Law
Alaska Governor Bill Walker has signed a bill into law that creates a Marijuana Control Board, the agency in charge of drafting regulations for the state’s cannabis industry. The five-member board will work with the staff of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to address issues ranging from THC levels in edible pot products to business licenses.
Texas: Committee Salvages Proposal to Reduce Pot Penalties
Although a measure to reduce the penalties associated with marijuana possession failed two weeks ago, Texas lawmakers managed to revive the proposal last week in a vote of 4 to 2. House Bill 507 would strip away the criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and replace them a fine of $250. The measure is in the process of being scheduled for a vote in the Texas House. Unfortunately, the deadline for all bills to proceed to the full House is Monday May 11, which will likely kill this concept until 2016.
Recreational Marijuana Bill Approved
The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee has voted in approval of a measure to establish a taxed and regulated cannabis industry. Last Wednesday, House Bill 2165 not only survived the chopping block, but it did so in a surprising vote of 5 to 2. The bill now heads to the committee in charge of scheduling issues to go before the House, which could ensure it receives a vote before the end of the legislative session this summer.
Restricted Medical Marijuana Bill Approved By Senate
A bill aimed at legalizing non-intoxicating cannabis oil has advanced in the Texas Senate. Last week, lawmakers voted 26 to 5 in favor of legislation that would allow people suffering from epilepsy and other chronic conditions to have access to cannabidiol or CBD. If it passes the House and gets signed by the governor, the state would begin distributing CBD by 2018.
Louisiana: Senate Approves Restricted Medical Marijuana Bill
The full Louisiana Senate has put their seal of approval on a proposal aimed at legalizing a statewide medical marijuana program. Senate Bill 143, which would allow patients to consume marijuana in all forms, with the exception of smoking, received a favorable vote of 22 to 13. The bill now heads to the House for approval. If it passes, it will head to the office of Governor Bobby Jindal for a signature. Reports indicate that Jindal will likely support medical marijuana, as long as the program is tightly regulated.
Illinois: More Qualified Conditions Approved
A number of additional qualified conditions have been approved for Illinois’ medical marijuana program. The state Department of Health has voted to include 11 more conditions, while denying several others, including Anxiety, Diabetes, and Essential Thrombcythemia with a JAK 2 mutation.
This is what has been added: Anorexia Nervosa, Chronic Post-Operative Pain, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Migraine, Neuro-Behcet’s Autoimmune Disease, Neuropathy (peripheral and diabetic), Osteoarthritis, Polycystic Kidney Disease, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Superior Canal Dehiscence Syndrome.
Decriminalization Passes Final Senate Committee
A bill aimed at decriminalize small amounts of pot possession cleared its final committee hearing earlier last week. The Illinois Senate Criminal Law Committee voted 9 to 3 in approval of House Bill 218, which aims to create a uniform cannabis ticket that would punish offenders caught with 15 grams of marijuana or less with a fine of no more than $125. The House of Representatives has already approved this bill. It is now slated for its second and possibly third debate in the Senate.
Extension to Medical Marijuana Program Heads to Senate Floor
Legislation to expand Illinois’ medical marijuana pilot program past the 2017 cutoff has advanced to the Senate floor. House Bill 3299 received a favorable vote last week in committee, which pushes it to the Senate floor for a vote. The House of Representatives has already given their approval, so depending on the outcome of the vote, it could be sent to the governor’s office for a signature very soon. Unfortunately, Governor Bruce Rauner has said that he does not support expanding the program to 2018.
Tennessee: Governor Sings CBD Bill
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has officially signed a bill into law that will allow patients suffering from seizure disorders the right to possess cannabis oil. The bill, which was signed last Monday, does not come with provisions for cultivation or distribution, but it will allow patients who need the medicine (no more that 0.09% THC) to bring it into the state without facing criminal prosecution. An emergency clause was attached to the measure, making the law effective immediately.
Hawaii: Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill Advances
After 15 years, Hawaii could finally see medical marijuana dispensaries in 2016. House Bill 321, which would give permission for 8 dispensaries to open up shop on the island, passed House-Senate conference earlier last week. It was then met with a favorable vote of 38 to 13 in the Senate, earning it a trip to the governor’s office for a signature or veto. Previous reports indicate that Governor David supports having medical marijuana dispensaries on the island.
Florida: Medical marijuana Initiative Advances
In an effort to combat the lack of interest state lawmakers have in supporting a medical marijuana program, advocates have announced that they will be working diligently towards passing a ballot measure aimed at getting the question of medicinal cannabis on the ballot again in 2016. United for Care, which is overseen by attorney John Morgan, said that while he was hoping for some progress in the state legislature, it is apparent that it is now up to his team to put the issue up to voters in the next presidential election.
Delaware: Decriminalization Bill Is Approved
An effort to decriminalize marijuana in Delaware is making some progress. Last week, the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee narrowly approved a proposal that would remove the criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and replace them with a $100 fine. Anyone caught smoking weed in public would face a $200 fine and up to five days in jail. The bill is now on its way to the House floor for consideration.
Michigan: East Lansing Legalizes Marijuana
Possession of marijuana is now legal in East Lansing. Voters took to the polls last Tuesday in support of a ballot initiative aimed at eliminating all penalties for anyone caught holding small amounts of weed. Essentially, it legalized the use, possession and transfer of up to an ounce of pot for adults 21 and over. Of course, public consumption remains illegal. The new law, however, only applies to East Lansing and will not prevent state or federal officials from enforcing laws against marijuana.
Missouri: Hemp Bill Advances
A bill to legalize industrial hemp in Missouri passed its final committee last week, which means the state Senate could vote on it before the end of the legislative session. The House of Representatives has already given their approval on House Bill 830, which means it must now go before the Senate for its third reading. It is expected to pass before the end of the week.
Ohio: Ballot Initiative Approved
A ballot initiative submitted by Better for Ohio aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016 has been approved by the state. Last week, the Ohio Attorney General’s office approved the organization’s initiative, which must now go before the Ohio Ballot Board before it can begin collecting signatures. The proposal is similar to the one introduced by ResponsibleOhio, with the exception of including more cultivation centers.