It is the beginning of a new year, and lawmakers are not wasting any time filing measures to legalize the leaf in their neck of the woods. While 2015 is predicted to bring about legislative efforts to establish taxed and regulated pot markets in Rhode Island and possibly even Nevada, both state representatives and cannabis coalitions have taken it upon themselves to ensure Maine legalizes a recreational marijuana market in 2016. It is also exciting to see Kentucky lawmakers stepping up to the plate again this year with a bill aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. After the success the movement experienced in 2014, we feel confident the realm of reefer reform this year will be a huge step forward.
Read about all of this and more in this week’s High Times Legislative Roundup: January 5.
Maine: Four Bills to Legalize Marijuana
There will be at least four bills introduced in the Maine legislature this year pertaining to marijuana, including one to legalize it for recreational purposes and another to define a limit in which a person could be considered under the influence.
Representative Diane Russell announced last week that she plans to file a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in hopes of getting the advantage over ballot initiatives supported by the Marijuana Policy Project and Legalize Maine. Her concern is that if both initiatives pass in 2016, it will be up to the legislature to sort out the details, which would “be a real mess for 2017.” In addition, Russell plans to introduce a proposal to eliminate the list of qualified conditions from the medical marijuana program, which would then leave it up to physicians to decide if patients could benefit from medicinal cannabis.
“This would allow the provider to make the best decision about what medical marijuana should be used for,” Russell told The Portland Press Herald. “I don’t think politicians are qualified to decide.”
The Department of Public Safety is also proposing a measure to establish a limit for which police officers can use to determine if a person is under the influence of marijuana. All of these bills are expected to receive attention in 2015, as Maine is one of the next states expected to legalize a cannabis market.
Kentucky: Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana Introduced
Although the issue of medical marijuana did not have much luck in Kentucky last year, House Speaker Greg Stumbo plans to make ever attempt to change that in 2015. The lawmaker recently announced plans to file a bill in the upcoming session that would legalize a statewide medical marijuana program. While he admits the bill may be a lost cause, he believes the issue will be met with more enthusiasm this year than in times past.
“I think it’s going to get some play this session; I don’t know how much,” Stumbo told The Courier Journal.
For the past two years, Kentuckians have supported measures to legalize medical marijuana, but those efforts have died or been voted out.
Kansas: Wichita on the Road to Decriminalization
Kansas for Change, the coalition fighting to decriminalize marijuana in Wichita, announced last week that they finally have enough signatures to get their initiative on the ballot in April. If passed, the new law would strip away the criminal penalties associated with possession of up to 32 grams of marijuana and replace it with a $50 fine. The offender would then have to stay out of trouble for a term of one year in order to have the citation removed from their criminal record. Second offenses would result in misdemeanor charges and a third offense would be considered a felony.
Arizona: Bill Introduced to Legalize Marijuana
Lawmakers in Arizona hope to push the state towards legalizing marijuana in 2015. Reports indicate that State Representative Mark Cardenas recently introduced legislation to establish a taxed and regulated cannabis market. House Bill 2007 would make it legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana purchased from a state-licensed retail pot shop at a tax rate of $50 per ounce. In addition, the legislator filed House Bill 2006, which is essentially a backup measure aimed at decriminalizing pot possession, making it a civil infraction instead of a criminal offense. Both bills are expected to be heard during the upcoming legislative session, which gets underway in two weeks.
Hawaii: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Approved
Although Hawaii has had a medical marijuana program in place for years, patients have not been able to reap the benefits because there are no available dispensaries. However, that could soon change as the state’s Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force announced earlier last week that it is recommending dispensaries be allowed to set up shop on the island.
The task force was asked last year to determine whether it was necessary for the state to allow dispensaries, and in turn create a functional medical marijuana program. Reports indicate that patients in Hawaii could now have access to medical marijuana around July 2017. “The reason for the two-year delay is that we’re going to have to ramp up with rules,” Representative Della Au Belatti told KHON-TV. “Even these production centers and dispensaries are going to have to identify locations, put together their business plans and get financing.”