President Obama said last week that as long as states continue to legalize marijuana, Congress will have no choice but to consider downgrading its Schedule I classification to a Schedule II – the most likely first step toward ending federal prohibition. If this is the case, the nation could be inching its way toward this level of reform in the near future. Not only is there currently a measure in Congress, which proposes rescheduling, it seems that more states than ever have already come forward in 2015 with plans to legalize the leaf in some fashion.
Find out what went down last week in the High Times Legislative Roundup for March 23:
Federal: CARERS Act Gets New Sponsor
The CARERS Act (Senate Bill 683) has signed two new sponsors. Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Dean Heller of Nevada announced last week that they were joining forces with Senators Rand Paul, Cory Booker and Kristen Gillibrand in the fight to pass legislation aimed at legalizing medical marijuana nationwide.
New Mexico: Decriminalization Bill Approved by the Senate
New Mexico’s State Senate voted to pass legislation to decriminalize the possession of marijuana across the state. In a narrow vote of 21-20, Senate Bill 383, which would make the possession of an ounce or less of pot punishable with a $50 fine rather than a criminal charges, was advanced to the House. The bill also strips away the potential for felony charges for any amount under eight ounces. Recent polls indicate that nearly 60% of New Mexico residents are in support of this type of legislation.
Hemp Bill Heads to the House
A proposal to legalize the production of industrial hemp in New Mexico now heads to the House floor for a vote. Senate Bill 94 would allow farmers to cultivate industrial hemp under the guidance of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture. It was approved by the Senate earlier this month, and will now go before the House for final approval before landing on Governor Susana Martinez’s desk for a signature.
Nevada: Medical Marijuana for Pets
Under a new measure, pets would be allowed access to medical marijuana. Senator Tick Segerholm introduced Senate Bill 372, a measure aimed at giving people with pets the right to possess medical marijuana as long as they have a certification from a veterinarian. The state is currently working to implement a medical marijuana program for humans and a recreational initiative will be on the ballot in November 2016.
Tennessee: CBD Bill Passes House Committee
Earlier last week, the House Criminal Justice Committee approved a measure to legalize cannabis oil in Tennessee. House Bill 197, a move to make CBD oil available for seizure patients, will now go before the full Health Committee before it can advance to the full House for further consideration. A companion bill is currently working its way through the Senate.
Texas: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced
Texas lawmakers have filed legislation in the both chambers of the State Legislature aimed at legalizing a comprehensive medical marijuana program. House Bill 3785, which is companion measure for a bill proposed in the Senate, would allow patients suffering from a variety of conditions to obtain medicinal cannabis. The latest proposal goes a step further than a previous measure by pushing for full plant legalization instead of CBD only.
Idaho: Futile CBD Bill Passes Senate Committee
The Senate Affairs Committee narrowly approved a bill last week to legalize cannabis oil for seizure disorders. The bill would simply provide a defense for people caught in possession of CBD without actually decriminalizing the substance. Basically, a patient would be allowed to use the medical marijuana defense in court, but they would still be charged. The bill must now survive both chambers of the Legislature and the Governor’s office before becoming law.
North Dakota: Senate Votes to Legalize Industrial Hemp
North Dakota’s Senate voted 46 to 1 to pass a measure to legalize industrial hemp. House Bill 1436 would allow farmers to produce hemp without having to receive approval from the federal government – yet it would require the state to obtain a license from the DEA. Once the bill is transmitted from the legislature, Governor Jack Dalrymple will have three days to either veto or sign it into law.
House Kills Medical Marijuana Research
Last week, the North Dakota House voted 61 to 32 against a proposal to study medical marijuana. The House previously voted against a measure to legalize medical marijuana, and now it is apparent that lawmakers do not have any interest in pursuing research to explore the benefits of legalization. The research bill would have examined a statewide medical marijuana program to determine its viability.
Washington: Senate Approves PTSD as a Qualified Condition for Medical Marijuana
Post-traumatic stress disorder could soon be added to the list of qualified condition for the state’s medical marijuana program. The State Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 5379 last week, which aims to add PTSD to the list. It now heads to the House for further consideration.
Louisiana: Bill Introduced to Legalize Medical Marijuana
Lawmakers have filed legislation aimed at legalizing medical marijuana in Louisiana. State Representative Dalton Honore recently submitted House Bill 6 to the state legislature, which serves to provide cannabis for patients suffering from a variety of conditions ranging from glaucoma to cancer. The bill is currently in the Committee on Health and Welfare where it is awaiting a hearing. If it passes, the law would take effect at the beginning of January 2016.
Kansas: Bill to Lessen Marijuana Penalties Stalls in the House
A measure aimed at lessening the penalties associated with marijuana-related offenses has stalled in the Kansas Legislature. The House recently decided to sandbag a marijuana bill that would reduce the penalties for first time convictions pertaining to marijuana possession. Representative John Rubin, who drafted the legislation, said the House has delayed the issue until after Wichita votes next month on decriminalization.
Georgia: Medical Marijuana Research Bill Approved
The Georgia Senate voted 54 to 1 last week in approval of a measure to allow cannabis research. Senate Bill 185 would allow patients under the age of 21 to participate in clinical trials involving cannabidiol or CBD. The bill would establish a five-year study on seizure disorders using cannabis oil with less that .03% THC. The House passed a more comprehensive measure earlier this month. The two bills are expected to be merged.