HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: January 4

Despite the downtime of the holiday season, cannabis activists have not stopped working to legalize the leaf in more parts of the United States. Some of the biggest news of the week comes from the eastern part of the nation, where lawmakers in Vermont have submitted a measure that could make the state the first in the nation to end prohibition by way of the State Legislature. Out west, lawmakers in New Mexico are grinding away at a measure to legalize a full-scale recreational market in 2016.

Read all about this and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for January 4:

Michigan: Bill Introduced to Protect Medical Marijuana Workers
Representative Sam Singh has introduced a bill that would prohibit employers from firing workers simply because they hold a medical marijuana card. This piece of legislation is in response to cases heard from states like Colorado, where the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of companies terminating employees for participating in programs authorized under state law. Although the bill would not provide blanket protection against termination – employees whose pot consumption interferes with their job performance could still be fired – it would provide protection for those patients caught in situations where their participation in the program was revealed – random drug screens, for example. The bill is scheduled to be brought up when the next legislative session begins later this month.

Michigan: Third Recreational Marijuana Initiative to Collect Signatures
While the majority of Michigan’s marijuana legalization efforts have been on MILegalize, a group working to establish a taxed and regulated pot market similar to what is currently underway in Colorado, another group has been cleared to begin its signature collecting campaign. Abrogate Prohibition Michigan was recently cleared by state officials to begin collecting the 315,000 signatures needed to put their ballot measure in front of voters in 2016. Unlike the MILegalize initiative, the APM proposal seeks to establish a cannabis industry for both the medicinal and recreational sector without creating a system of excise taxes or regulations.

Vermont: Bill Introduced to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Senator Jeanette White announced that she would introduce a bill later this month to legalize a recreational marijuana market in the state of Vermont. The bill, which was revealed earlier last week, would allow people 21 or over to begin growing marijuana for personal use by July 2016, with a retail market scheduled to open the following year. Senator White and the rest of the Senate Government Operations Committee have been working all summer to devise a bill with the power to reach final approval. The guts of this legislation come with some restrictions, like marijuana edibles would not be allowed, retail shops would be permitted to sell only up to an ounce to residents and a quarter ounce to tourists, yet the state would allow for a number of cannabis cafes – serving weed in a manner similar to how beer is sold at bars. If the bill receives approval in both the Senate and the House, it would be sent to Governor Peter Shumlin for a signature. 

Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession
The Pittsburgh City Council recently passed a measure to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in small amounts. In a vote of 7 to 2, an ordinance was passed giving local police the discretion to issue fines of up to $100 to anyone caught in possession of up to 30 grams of weed. However, those caught in possession of any amount of weed by a state cop could still face prosecution because marijuana possession remains a criminal offense in the eyes of the state. Governor Tom Wolf has expressed interest in this level of reform for the entire state since being elected, but the issue has not been well received in the State Legislature. 

New Mexico:  Bill Filed to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Representative Bill McCamley has pre-filed a measure aimed at establishing a taxed and regulated cannabis industry in New Mexico. The bill would essentially allow people 21 or over to purchase weed in a manner similar to what is currently underway in Colorado. It would also legalize industrial hemp production across the state. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much of a chance for McCamley’s proposal making it out of the State Legislature alive. Republican forces are reportedly already disregarding any measure that has to do with marijuana. Nevertheless, the bill will be discussed, perhaps only briefly, in the upcoming legislative session.

Georgia: Lawmaker Submits Proposal to Expand Medical Marijuana
Representative Allen Peake has submitted a measure that could establish a cultivation and distribution system for medical marijuana in the state of Georgia. As it stands, patients suffering from a handful of conditions can register with the state for permission to possess cannabis oil. Yet, without a cultivation provision built into the law, patients have been forced to break federal statutes by smuggling medicine in from legal states. Peake’s latest bill would allow cannabis production to take place in Georgia, giving qualified patients a legal means for securing oils. This measure will be discussed in the upcoming legislative session.


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