It is readily apparent that the federal government is grasping at straws, reduced to propaganda-laced scare tactics aimed at preventing the population from siding with the legalization of marijuana. Last week, special agent Matt Fairbanks with the Drug Enforcement Administration testified before a Utah Senate panel that legalizing cannabis would cause an uprising of stoned rabbits, which would cause them to lose their natural fear of human beings and retaliate against the food chain. However, regardless of the potential for stoned animals to take over the United States in the wake of legalization, lawmakers from all across country still felt comfortable enough to file proposals to legalize the leaf for both medical and recreational use.
Read all about what went down last week in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for March 9:
Utah: Medical Marijuana Bill Advances In the Senate
A measure to legalize medical marijuana in Utah is gaining some real momentum in the Senate. Earlier last week, Senate Bill 256 was approved 16 to 13 and forwarded to the House of Representatives. The bill, which was introduced by Senator Mark Madsen, would allow patients suffering from specific debilitating conditions to have access to medicinal cannabis. In addition, the bill would also force the state to issue licenses for cultivation centers and dispensaries.
New Mexico: Industrial Hemp Farming Act Passes Senate
For the first time ever, New Mexico will be allowed to cultivate industrial hemp. Last week, the state Senate voted 33 to 8 in favor of Senate Bill 94, a measure that would allow the Department of Agriculture to facilitate industrial hemp cultivation. The bill must now go before the House of Representatives to be assigned to a committee. If it passes a vote, New Mexico farmers would be able to obtain a license from the state to cultivate this crop.
“Today’s vote shows that New Mexicans across the political spectrum are ready for hemp to be an option for the agricultural sector and to improve our economy,” said Emily Kaltenbach with the Drug Policy Alliance. “Our elected officials are finally recognizing that federal drug laws are outdated and have created unnecessary barriers for our farmers.”
Missouri: Bill Introduced to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal has introduced legislation aimed at legalizing a recreational marijuana market in Missouri. Senate Bill 560 would establish a taxed and regulated cannabis industry in the Show-Me State, allowing for cultivation centers and retail pot shops.
“After much thought, deliberation, and research, I have concluded that Missouri must begin the process of legalizing marijuana in order to reap the multiple associated economic and societal benefits,” she said in a statement. The proposal calls on the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control to oversee the state’s newfound cannabis market.
Rhode Island: Bill Introduced to Legalize Cannabis Industry
Senator Joshua Miller has introduced a bill that would allow Rhode Island to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. It is called the “Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act” and it would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over. The bill would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of weed and the cultivation of one mature plant.
“It’s time to regulate and tax marijuana in Rhode Island and treat it similarly to how we treat alcohol,” said Miller in a statement. “Marijuana prohibition is an ineffective and wasteful policy, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer. The legislature is perfectly capable of creating a system that will work for Rhode Island."
Although it is hard to determine right now if the bill stands a chance, Governor Gina Raimondo has said that she supports the legalization of marijuana as long as it can be done safety and benefits Rhode Islanders.
Hawaii: House Committee Approved Measure to Legalize Dispensaries
Hawaii could be on its way to finally having access to medical marijuana. The state’s House Finance Committee approved a bill last week that would allow dispensaries to open in the state. House Bill 321 would give way to a minimum of 21 dispensaries, with each county having at least one dispensary in operation. Although medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii since 2000, there was nothing written in the law to allow the presence of cannabis dispensaries. This measure now goes to the House of Representative for a full vote.
Georgia: Constitutional Amendment Introduced to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Although the state cannot seem to agree on legislation for medical marijuana, Senator Curt Thompson stepped up last week with a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at legalizing a recreational cannabis industry. The proposal would allow retail outlets to sell no more than two ounces of weed at a time to adults over the age of 21. In addition, the measure would also establish a medical marijuana program, “so that there would be one format that would address everything,” said Thompson.
Of course, this proposal does not stand much chance of being approved. Yet, Thompson argues that while the measure is a long shot, he would not have submitted the proposal if he thought it was hopeless.
Iowa: Bill Introduced to Expand Qualified Conditions
A proposal was introduced last week aimed at expanding the list of qualified conditions under the state’s medical marijuana program. Lawmakers want to include the following conditions: cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, AIDS, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Crohn’s Disease, colitis, ehlers-danlos syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, there is some resistance from the Republican-dominated House, who are apprehensive about passing legislation to increase the number of conditions.
Texas: Bill Introduced to Legalize Marijuana
State Representative David Simpson has introduced a piece of legislation aimed at eliminating prohibition in the state. House Bill 2165 would eliminate the mention of “marijuana” in all parts of Texas law and legalize the substance in every form.
"I am proposing that this plant be regulated like tomatoes, jalapenos or coffee," said Simpson said in a statement. "Current marijuana policies are not based on science or sound evidence, but rather misinformation and fear." Interestingly, Simpson’s co-pilot on this measure is God. "All that God created is good, including marijuana,” he said. “God did not make a mistake when he made marijuana that the government needs to fix.”
Michigan: Decriminalization in Montrose Fails
The small town of Montrose, Michigan, which has a population of 1,615, recently voted on a measure to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. The measure failed to pass by a margin of 88 to 120. Supporters argue that if this issue would have been up for a vote in November, it would have passed without any issue. As it stands, 23 communities across the state have voted in favor of marijuana reform on some level.
Pennsylvania: Bill Introduced to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Lawmakers have introduced legislation that would legalize a cannabis industry in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 528, which was proposed by Senators Daylin Leach and Larry Farnese, would establish a regulatory framework for marijuana to be cultivated and sold to adults 21 and over. Although the bill limits the number of plants allowed for cultivation, it does not put any restrictions on possession limits, and allows adults to transfer up to an ounce of weed to another person.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
New Hampshire: Decriminalization Bill Up for Vote in the House
A proposal aimed at decriminalizing the possession of marijuana is now headed to the House floor for a vote. House Bill 618 would eliminate the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession and replace them with a $100 fine. In addition, the cultivation of up to six plants would be stricken from its felony status and charged as a Class A misdemeanor. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee approved the bill last week by a vote of 12 to 3, and it now heads to the House floor for a vote. A similar measure was passed last year, but it failed to gain support from the Senate.
Virginia: CBD Defense Bill Signed
Earlier last week, Virginia became the twelfth state in the nation to protect patients against the legal ramifications as a result of cannabis extracts. Governor Terry McAuliffe signed House Bill 1445 into law on Thursday, which prevents patients caught in possession of CBD oil from being prosecuted under state law. Yet, the bill does nothing to assist patients with obtaining medicine from the Commonwealth, so they will still be forced to get their hands on CBD illegally by smuggling it in from another state. This sets patients up for federal prosecution, despite the passing of this new law.
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