Nearly 60% of the U.S. population now resides in states with reformed marijuana laws, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. In addition, a whopping 86% of the country reportedly supports efforts to legalize medical marijuana. There is no doubt the opinions surrounding cannabis have changed drastically within the past several years, which is beginning to force more of the stubborn lawmakers to reconsider their position on the herb, as well – that is, if they want to remain in office. Last week, we saw a surge in marijuana legislation filed across the country, with more of America looking to legalize the leaf for medicinal and recreational use.
Read all about what went down in the High Times Legislative Roundup for January 26.
New York: Bill Filed to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Although she admitted last year that she does not expect the bill to pass, New York State Senator Liz Krueger introduced legislation last week aimed at establishing a taxed and regulated pot market. Senate Bill 1747 would legalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and allow for its cultivation. In addition, adults 21 and over would be allowed to purchase pot from state-licensed retail outlets. Previous reports indicate that weed would be taxed at a rate of $50 per ounce. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee and currently awaiting a hearing.
Virginia: Marijuana Decriminalization Bills
Members of Virginia NORML introduced Senate Bill 686, which would strip away the criminal penalties associated with the possession of small amounts of marijuana and replace them with a $100 fine. “Senate Bill 686 is a fiscally sensible proposal that will enable Virginia to better allocate its limited law enforcement and judicial resources towards combating violent crime. Ending the arrests of 18,000 individuals a year for the non-violent offense of marijuana possession will save over $67 million annually and provide a new approach to marijuana in the Commonwealth that is both smart on crime and smart for Virginia,” said Ed McCann, a spokesperson for VA NORML.
South Carolina: Medical Marijuana and Decriminalization Bills Introduced
A measure has been introduced in the state legislature aimed at establishing a functional medical marijuana program in South Carolina. House Bill 3140 would allow patients the right to possess and cultivate medical marijuana, as well as purchase it through licensed dispensaries. Also, Representative Mike Pitts filed a piece of legislation aimed at decriminalizing marijuana in the state – making the possession of small amounts of cannabis a civil infraction instead of a criminal offense.
Vermont: Study Finds Legal Weed Will be Profitable, Legislation Expected
A study commissioned by the state last year has determined that a legal marijuana industry could bring in around $50 million in tax revenue. Although it is not known just how quickly the state will move in its effort to legalize weed, Governor Peter Shumlin said it is about timing. “I think we should do it at whatever we feel is the right time,” he told WPTZ. “Having said that, there’s no question if Vermont were to legalize it would help skiing and tourism—those sectors of the economy—because a lot of young people are obviously going to Colorado now, for skiing and other recreational activities.”
Senator David Zuckerman says they will likely have a bill on recreational marijuana ready to file in the winter of 2015.
Wyoming: Decriminalization Killed by Legislature
Representative James Byrd recently introduced a measure aimed at decriminalizing the possession of marijuana in Wyoming. However, while the bill received approval from the House Judiciary Committee, it was killed in the state House of Representative. The House voted 38-22 against the measure.
Kentucky: Decriminalization Bill Introduced
Senator Perry Clark filed a measure in the state legislature aimed at decriminalizing marijuana in Kentucky. The bill would make the possession of two ounces of marijuana or less a civil infraction with a fine of $75. It would also make certain cultivation offenses a Class B misdemeanor rather than a felony.
Tennessee: TN NORML Sues to Make Online Signatures Count
Tennessee NORML filed a lawsuit against the Davidson County Election Commission last week in hopes of being granted permission to use signatures they obtain online to count towards their ballot initiative. The group recently began collecting signatures for an initiative aimed at eliminating the use of local funds for the prosecution of minor pot offenders in Nashville. The hearing is set for February 2, with the city election to happen in August.
Indiana: Two Bills Aimed at Legalizing Medical Marijuana
Senator Karen Tallian and Representative Sue Errington have introduced legislation to legalize medical marijuana. Senate Bill 284, which is sponsored by Tallian, would establish a pilot program for which patients with a recommendation from a doctor could receive medicinal cannabis. Errington’s measure, House Bill 1487, would allow patients suffering from qualified conditions ranging from glaucoma to AIDS to be allowed access to medical marijuana. Both lawmakers are hoping to get a hearing this session.
Hawaii: Marijuana Access Bills Introduced
Senator Will Espero is currently drafting a bill aimed at decriminalizing marijuana in Hawaii. The bill would make the possession of small amounts of weed a civil infraction as opposed to a criminal offense. Last week, the lawmaker introduced Senate Bill 190, which would allow medical marijuana growers the ability to serve three patients at a time rather than the current limit of one, and House Bill 31, which would allow medical marijuana patients to use medicine in condominiums.
Nebraska: Medical Marijuana Legislation Introduced
Senator Tommy Garrett introduced a measure last week that would make medical marijuana available to patients with certain conditions. If passed, the program would be overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services and allow patients to possess up to 12 plants and six ounces of marijuana.