While the federal government continues to pour kerosene into the fire of the drug war, lawmakers across the United States are looking toward the East in hopes of extinguishing this inferno at the source. It is reassuring that although prohibition remains alive and well in most of the nation, the spread of Uncle Sam’s propaganda in regards to marijuana seems to have been contained. Of course, this is due to the tireless efforts of activists and progressive lawmakers.
Read all about what your pot-friendly legislators have been up to over the past week in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for May 18:
Federal: Bill to Legalize CBD Strains Introduced in US Senate
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that aims to legalize CBD nationwide. The measure, which is called the Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act, would remove medical marijuana strains containing less than 0.3% THC (for example: Charlotte’s Web) from the Controlled Substances Act—making them legal to distribute all across the country.
Kansas: House Approves Bill to Reduce Penalties & Allow CBD Oil
The Kansas House recently approved a bill that would reduce the penalties associated with marijuana possession, while also creating a research program for industrial hemp. House Bill 2049 was passed in a vote of 81 to 36, and will now head to the Senate for further consideration. If passed, the measure would reduce the sentences for first and second time pot offenders and eliminate the potential for a felony charge. However, offenders busted three or more times would still be prosecuted under the terms of the old law and would likely face prison time. The bill would also establish an industrial hemp study to explore the benefits of cannabis oil for seizure patients.
Wisconsin: Milwaukee May Lower Fine for Pot Possession
A proposal to reduce the fine for possession of marijuana is being considered by the Milwaukee Common Council. The measure aims to decrease the fine from $500 to $50 for anyone caught in possession of less than 25 grams. The Safety Committee, which already rejected a similar effort this year, is expected to consider the proposal later this week. Updated reports indicate that the Common Council has voted to delay the issue.
California: Another Initiative Filed to Legalize Marijuana in 2016
Another proposal aimed at legalizing a cannabis industry in California has been submitted. The 2016 California Bipartisan Decriminalization of Cannabis Act, which would allow adults 21 and over to posses up to five pounds of weed and cultivate 500 square feet of plants, was recently filed by Jason and Lara Collinsworth. The bill imposes a 15 percent special excise tax in addition to state and local taxes, with half of the revenue going to fund schools. Supporters must now collect about 365,880 valid signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot.
Colorado: New Law Allows People on Probation to Use Medical Marijuana
Individuals on probation can now consume medical marijuana. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has signed a piece of legislation into law that makes it perfectly legal for people on probation or parole to use cannabis for medicinal purposes. With the passing of Amendment 20, back in 2000, anyone under the watchful eye of a probation or parole officer was excluded from the medical marijuana program. House Bill 1267, which became effective upon it’s signing, makes Colorado the third state in the nation to allow cannabis use for paroled patients.
Maine: Bill Aims to Test People for Stoned Driving
Lawmakers in Maine are attempting to establish guidelines to police stoned driving. Earlier last week, a bill was introduced that would allow law enforcement to give breath tests to drivers in order to determine whether they are under the influence of THC. According to LD 1320, anyone with 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood would be charged with a criminal offense, including the immediate suspension of their driver’s license. Many have disputed the science behind this bill, arguing that the same perimeters should be placed on people who drive under the influence of prescription painkillers.
Maine: Legislative Committee Approves Children Taking Medical Marijuana In School
A bill aimed at allowing schoolchildren to have access to medical marijuana on campus has received approval from a key legislative committee. LD 557 is a “carry in, carry out” method for allowing children to consume cannabis (edible forms only) during school hours without forcing nurses employed with the educational system to store or administer a substance that remains illegal under federal law. The measure passed 10-1 in committee and now heads to the full legislature for consideration.
Utah: The Return of Medical Marijuana
Senator Mark Madsen recently announced plans to reintroduce legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in the state of Utah. The bill was killed earlier this year in the state Senate, mostly because lawmakers complained about not having a sufficient amount of time to fully consider the measure. The goal this time around, according to Madsen, is to eliminate key issues by holding community forums and providing expert testimony. If this bill makes it through the legislature, it stands a good chance of becoming law. Governor Gary Herbert recently indicated that he is prepared to support a measure to legalize medical marijuana.
Texas: Three Bills Cleared for House Consideration
The Lone Star State is taking the issue of marijuana reform by storm. Three bills have been approved in committee and have since been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. House Bill 507 aims to decriminalize up to an ounce of marijuana by stripping the criminal penalties associated with this offense and replacing them with a $250 fine. Another proposal, House Bill 2165, looks to legalize recreational marijuana in a manner similar to what is currently underway in Colorado and Washington by regulating the herb the same as tomatoes. The third measure, House Bill 892, hopes to legalize a restrictive medical marijuana program that will allow patients suffering from epilepsy and other chronic conditions to have access to CBD oil. If passed, patients would have access to cannabis oil by 2018. Although all three proposals are a long shot, they are expected to receive a vote before the end of the session.
Pennsylvania: Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill
Last Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Senate voted 40 to 7 in approval of a bill to legalize medical marijuana. Senate Bill 3, which will give patients suffering from a variety of conditions access to medicinal cannabis, now advances to the House of Representatives for further consideration. The bill has been amended to include a few more qualified conditions, in addition to allowing the use of vaporizers. The wording of this proposal now simply prohibits the smoking of raw cannabis. A similar bill failed in the House last year.
Nebraska: Medical Marijuana Bill Advances
The Nebraska Senate voted 27 to 12 last week in approval of a bill that would legalize medical marijuana for patients with specific conditions. LB 643 would allow cannabis consumption in all forms other than smoking. Vaporizers were initially prohibited under this bill, but have since been included. If passed, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services would oversee the program, with some dispensaries opening in 2016. The bill will soon advance for a second debate and another vote.
Louisiana: Reduction of Penalties for Marijuana Possession Considered
Louisiana lawmakers are considering the reduction of penalties associated with those who have multiple convictions for marijuana possession. House Bill 149, which has been approved by the House floor, would lower the current 20-year penalty for pot offenders with more than three strikes to eight years. A second offense would be reduced from five to two years, while a third would be brought down from 20-years to five. The bill would also decrease the fines from $2,000 to $500 for a first offense and $5000 to $2,000 for subsequent offenses. Unfortunately, the penalties for a first time possession charge would not be changed. It is estimated that the passing of this bill will save taxpayers $12 million over the course of the next five years.
New York: Bill Submitted to Allow More Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried has introduced legislation aimed at increasing the number of dispensaries allowed in accordance to New York’s medical marijuana program. Under the current law, the state will only allow 20 dispensaries to supply all of its medical marijuana patients. This bill proposes a significant increase. In addition, the measure also seeks to allow patients to smoke marijuana instead of limiting their consumption to edibles and oils.
Ohio: Ballot Initiative Cleared to Begin Collecting Signatures
Better for Ohio, a group attempting to legalize a statewide cannabis trade, was approved last week to begin collecting signatures to get its initiative on the ballot in 2016. The Ohio Ballot Board reportedly signed off on the organization’s campaign last Thursday, which means they must now collect over 300,000 valid signatures to get a voice in the next presidential election.
(Photo Courtesy of Salon)
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