There were some interesting proposals introduced last week aimed at reforming the marijuana laws in the United States. The legislation that, perhaps, attracted the most attention was a federal bill, which attempts to stamp out prohibition in America by allowing cannabis to be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol. Other measures that will be exciting to watch unfold, include a couple of initiatives in Michigan to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016 and an organization in New Jersey lobbying for proposals to legalize the leaf in the very near future.
Read all about these and more in the High Times Legislative Roundup for February 23:
Federal: Two Bills Introduced to End Prohibition
A couple of congressional representatives have taken steps to end prohibition across the United States. Representative Jared Polis of Colorado and Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon filed two pieces of legislation (the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act” and the “Marijuana Tax Revenue Act”) last Friday, which would essentially remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and allow it to be regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The bill, however, would not force individual states to legalize the leaf; it would only provide a legal framework for a national pot market.
“While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters in states like Colorado and 22 other jurisdictions to move forward, small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration – or this one – could reverse course and turn them into criminals,” said Polis in a statement. “It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”
Similar proposals have been introduced in the past, but have not had much luck getting a hearing.
Ohio: Initiative Revised to Include Home Cultivation
ResponsibleOhio, the organization working to legalize marijuana in 2016, recently announced an amendment to their initiative that would allow residents to grow their own weed. In addition, they are also changing the language of the proposal to include a 5 percent tax on retail marijuana.
“After extensive conversations with experts and concerned citizens across the state and nation, ResponsibleOhio has decided to include regulated and limited home growing as a part of our amendment,” said a ResponsibleOhio representative. “Combined with a lower tax rate for consumers, these changes will make our communities safer by smothering the black market.”
There were some concerns over the original draft of the initiative, specifically the fact that it only permitted 10 grow operations to supply the state’s cannabis market. However, there is hope that the amended proposal will attract additional support.
Vermont: Bill Filed to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Senator David Zuckerman has introduced a bill aimed at legalizing a taxed and regulated cannabis industry in Vermont. Senate Bill 95 would legalize the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and over at a tax rate of $40 per ounce. In addition to retail sales, the bill also allows for home cultivation, but unlike similar measures, the bill restricts the amount of weed that can be purchased by tourists. Unfortunately, there is not much hope of the bill passing this year, but there is speculation that it could gain stronger support in 2016. [link:
Maryland: Set of Bills Introduced to Legalize Marijuana
Joint legislation has been filed in Maryland aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana. House Bill 911 and Senate Bill 531 would allow adults 21 and over to posses up to an ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants at home. The bill would also open the door for a taxed and regulated pot market, which would be overseen by the Maryland Comptroller. Marijuana activists are enthusiastic about the passing of this legislation. Both proposals are set for a hearing within the next couple of weeks.
Tennessee: Decriminalization Bill Introduced
Companion bills have been introduced in the state legislature aimed at decriminalizing the possession and “casual exchange” of marijuana. House Bill 873 and Senate Bill 1211 would amend the current criminal statutes by downgrading the current Class A misdemeanor for first time possession of a half ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C – making the offense punishable with a $100 fine instead of jail time. Although no one is certain if these bills will survive, more legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.
Iowa: Bill to Reduce Pot Penalties Advances
A measure aimed at downgrading the penalties associated with marijuana possession has advanced through a key Senate committee. Senate Study Bill 1121, which would make the possession of no more than five grams a misdemeanor with a maximum prison sentence of 30 days, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 13 to 1. If the bill passes, minor pot possession would no longer lead to the current maximum penalty of six months in jail.
New Jersey: Campaign to Legalize Marijuana
New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform announced last week that it plans to push for legislation this year to legalizing recreational marijuana. The group is comprised of prosecutors, health officials and civil rights activists, which intend to lobby for a taxed and regulated cannabis industry in manner similar to what is currently underway in Colorado and Washington. However, it is still too early to tell how much support the coalition will receive. Governor Chris Christie has indicated that he will veto any measure aimed at legalizing cannabis.
Texas: CBD Oil Legislation Introduced
Texas lawmakers have introduced companion bills in the state legislature that would legalize cannabidiol for people suffering from seizures. Senate Bill 339 and House Bill 892 would give patients with epilepsy access to CBD oil, the non-intoxicating derivative of the cannabis plant. If this legislation passes, it would come with regulations to grow and dispense CBD oil in Texas, which would greatly benefit the 150,000 people currently residing in the state who suffer from this condition.
Michigan: Initiatives in the Works to Legalize Recreational Marijuana in 2016
Two Michigan groups have filed the necessary paperwork to begin collecting signatures to get initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana on the ballot in 2016. The Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee submitted documents last Tuesday, while the Michigan Responsibility Council, the group predicted to have the strongest financial backing, filed a proposal last month. The overall goal is to establish a taxed and regulated retail pot market in Michigan similar to what is happening in Colorado and Washington. No other details have been released.