Federal and state lawmakers made a push to reform the marijuana laws in the United States last week, introducing a variety of measures to legalize the leaf for both medical and recreational purposes. Perhaps the biggest news to unfold was the announcement of a federal bill that would allow physicians at the VA to begin giving veterans recommendations for medical marijuana. We also saw a major effort by some states that are getting serious about establishing a taxed and regulated pot market, as well as bills to decriminalize and provide patients access to cannabis oil.
Read the latest in legislative news in the High Times Legislative Roundup for February 9:
Federal: Legislation Would Allow VA to Recommend Medical Marijuana
Lawmakers in Washington D.C. have introduced a piece of legislation to the House of Representatives that would allow doctors employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana as a treatment option. It is called the Veterans Equal Access Act, and if passed, it would allow patients the opportunity to explore the health benefits of medical marijuana for severe conditions, like chronic pain and PTSD.
“The men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have made tremendous sacrifices for our country,” Dan Riffle, with Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “They deserve every option available to treat their wounds, both visible and hidden. If VA doctors are confident that medical marijuana would improve their patients’ quality of life, they should be able to recommend it to them in states where it’s legal.
Massachusetts: Bill Introduced to Legalize Marijuana
State lawmakers have stepped up in an attempt to legalize a recreational marijuana market in Massachusetts. It is called the “Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016,” and it would allow retail marijuana to be sold to adults 21 and over. In addition, the bill would also legalize cannabis cafes.
The measure would allow people to possess up to ten ounces of weed, or ten pounds in edible form outside the home. No possession limits would be set for inside the residence. There does not appear to be a great deal of confidence that this measure will pass, but it is likely voters will have a voice on the issue in 2016. One way or another, Massachusetts is on the road to repeal prohibition.
Oregon: Allows Industrial Hemp
State officials in Oregon announced last week that farmers could begin planting industrial hemp in the spring. Agriculture Department manager Ron Pence says farmers can proceed with growing hemp after paying the $1,500 licensing fee and provide proof that their crop does not contain enough THC to get people stoned. Yet, many farmers appear to be worried about federal prosecution because, so far, no one has applied for a license. However, for those farmers that do move forward with growing hemp, they will be required to dedicate three years to the program.
Oklahoma: Legislation Filed Could Legalize Cannabis Oil
State Representative Jon Echols has introduced a bill aimed at legalizing cannabis oil in Oklahoma. The lawmaker, who asserts he is not trying to legalize marijuana, wants parents with epileptic children to have access to the non-intoxicating strain without being forced to move to a legal state. House Bill 2154, which would legalize CBD oil with .03 THC, passed the House committee earlier last week and now moves to the House floor for a vote.
Hawaii: Bill Introduced to Legalize Marijuana
Lawmakers in Hawaii have filed legislation to fully legalize recreational marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. Senate Bill 873 states “personal use of marijuana shall not be the basis for arrest, seizure, or forfeiture of assets,” and “the possession, use, display, purchase, transfer, or transport of marijuana, marijuana accessories, or marijuana paraphernalia for personal use shall be immune from criminal prosecution.”
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee.
Washington: Bill Introduced to Repeal Legal Marijuana and Replace w/ Pill
A lawmaker in Washington has introduced legislation that would eliminate the current legal structure of recreational marijuana by making cannabis consumption only acceptable in pill form. House Bill 1461, introduced by law enforcement officer turned State Representative, Christopher Hurst, would repeal all of the state’s current pot laws by establishing a new system that would only make cannabis legal if it is sold, bought, and consumed in a capsule. This measure is part of an 18 proposal packed aimed at overhauling the entire marijuana regulatory system.
Kansas: Reduction of Penalties Bill Introduced
Lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at decriminalizing marijuana in Kansas. House Bill 2049 was approved unanimously by the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice and will be heard soon by the full House. If passed, it would reduce the penalties associated with marijuana possession: first time offenders would face a maximum jail sentence of six months, while subsequent offenses would be considered a felony with a maximum sentence of three and a half years. This move is predicted to eliminate over 400 marijuana possession cases from the court dockets and save the state $1 million.
Virginia: Restricted Medical Marijuana Bill Passed
The Virginia Senate has passed a measure that would allow parents with epileptic children to have access to cannabis oil. Senate Bill 1235 received final approval on Thursday, but it will first have to make it through the House and then Governor Terry McAuliffe before it becomes law. If all goes well, the bill would become effective immediately after the governor’s signature.
Illinois: Bill Filed to Legalize Marijuana
Two bills were filed in Illinois last week aimed at legalizing marijuana. House Bill 218, which was introduced by Representative Kelly Cassidy, looks to eliminate the criminal penalties associated with pot possession and replace them with a $100 fine. In addition, the bill would also make any amount over 30 grams, but under 500, a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The second measure, Senate Bill 753, which was filed by Senator Michael Noland, would allow residents to legally possess up to 30 grams of marijuana and cultivate five plants.
Connecticut: Bill Introduced to Legalize Marijuana
House Deputy Majority Leader Juan Candelaria has introduced a bill that would establish a recreational marijuana market in Connecticut. If passed, House Bill 6703 would allow taxed and regulated marijuana market similar to what is currently underway in Colorado and Washington. “We have done it for medicinal purposes, and we need to have a broader conversation about recreational uses,” Candelaria told the Hartford Courant
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