It was a bittersweet week in the realm of American pot reform. Several pieces of legislation were embraced with open arms, while many others were cast out and left to rot under the legislative heat. Nevertheless, the successes were significant, including the passing of a historical medical marijuana bill in the United States Senate, as well as the approval of reduced penalties for pot offenders in the state of Louisiana.
Read all about what went down last week in the High Times Legislative Roundup for May 25:
Federal: Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana for Veterans
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 18 to 12 last Thursday to allow physicians working with the Veterans Administration to recommend medical marijuana to their patients. This marks the first time in history that the U.S. Senate has cast a favorable vote for marijuana reform. The bill will now head to the Senate floor.
Texas: Marijuana Bills Die in State Legislature
Two bills aimed at decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes have died in the state legislature. House Bill 507, which proposed to strip the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession by replacing them with a $250 fine, and House Bill 2165, an attempt at establishing a statewide cannabis industry, were not granted a review by the full House. This was due to House Calendar Committee chairman Todd Hunter’s failure to schedule this legislation for consideration. Sadly, these bills are officially dead.
Texas: Worthless Medical Marijuana Passed
The Texas House of Representatives gave their preliminary approval on a measure intended to allow patients suffering from epilepsy and other chronic conditions to have access to CBD oil. Senate Bill 339, which was introduced by Senator Kevin Eltife, was passed in a vote of 96 to 34. It now heads to Governor Gregg Abbott’s office for a signature or veto. However, supporters of pot reform say the measure will do nothing to help patients because it forces physicians to “prescribe” the herb rather than offer recommendations. Federal law prohibits doctors from prescribing cannabis, and failure to adhere could result in their prescription license being revoked.
Pennsylvania: Medical Marijuana Bill Blocked
The current state of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is bleak, to say the least. This is because House Health Committee chair Representative Matt Baker said he has no intention of allowing any bill associated with marijuana to enter the House of Representatives. Senate Bill 3 was approved several weeks ago by the Senate, but is not being pushed through in the House simply because Baker does not want it to go up for a vote. Some reports have suggested that lawmakers are working on a secondary proposal that may be able to bypass Baker’s committee.
Missouri: Hemp and CBD Bills Die
A couple of marijuana-related proposals have died in the state legislature. Reports indicate that House Bill 830, which would have legalized industrial hemp, and Senate Bill 386, a measure aimed at expanding the CBD program, died due to the House losing several days of session over a scandal involving House speaker Representative John Diehl. The two proposals never even had a chance to be put up to a vote.
Colorado: Medical Marijuana in Schools Bill Signed By Governor
Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law last week that allows children who use medical marijuana to bring their medicine to school. In addition, Senate Bill 14 set some new guidelines for physicians who offer medical marijuana recommendations for severe pain, as well as obligates caregivers to disclose the inconsistencies in their medicine to patients.
Oregon: Sales Tax on Recreational Marijuana
Although Oregon does not have a sales tax, lawmakers are working toward imposing a toker tariff, of sorts, on the recreational marijuana industry. Lawmakers revealed a proposed retail tax earlier last week that would serve as a replacement for the harvest tax that was approved with the passing of Measure 91. Calling it a “point of sale tax,” some lawmakers are convinced this tax would be better than the flat-rate of $35 that voter’s approved with the initiative.
Nevada: Proposal Reallocates Unused Medical Marijuana Licenses
Lawmakers have approved a proposal that will allow unclaimed medical marijuana licenses to be reallocated. Senate Bill 276, which was introduced by Senators Tick Segerblom and Patricia Farley, received approval from the Senate Finance Committee early last week. The bill would allow 11 medical marijuana licenses to be redistributed, most of which would go to Clark County.
Nebraska: Senate Supports Medical Marijuana Study
The Nebraska Senate voted 33 to 1 last week in support of a measure that would allow the state to research the benefits of cannabis oil on patients with seizure disorders. The state would study the cannabis-based medicine “Epidiolex,” which is manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, to test the effectiveness of the drug on patients suffering from epilepsy. If passed, the law would become effective immediately.
Louisiana: Penalty Reduction for Pot Offenders Receives Approval
The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would reduce the sentences for habitual pot offenders. House Bill 149 would provide a second chance for first timers busted for pot, while reducing the penalties for those with multiple convictions to ensure that no one ever serves longer than eight years in prison. The current maximum is 20 years. The full Senate is set to hear the proposal.
Illinois: Senate Passes Decriminalization
The Illinois Senate voted 37 to 19 in favor of a proposal to decriminalize the possession of marijuana statewide. The House of Representatives approved the bill earlier last month, but it is not being sent to Governor Bruce Rauner until after some tweaking is done to the language. If signed into law, the criminal penalties surrounding possession of 15 grams or less would be replaced with a maximum fine of $125. This law would take effect at the beginning of 2016.
Ohio: Attorney General Rejects Third Proposal to Legalize Marijuana
Attorney General Mike DeWine has rejected a third proposal aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in Ohio. The “Cannabis Control Amendment” was denied because DeWine said the proposal was not clear in regards to restrictions involving minors. However, there are two other groups currently collecting signatures to get their initiatives on the ballot in 2016: ResponsibleOhio and Better for Ohio.
Arizona: Ballot Initiatives Filed to Legalize Marijuana in 2016
Campaign to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana submitted a proposal last week aimed at legalizing a statewide cannabis industry. They will need to collect 150,642 signatures before July 7, 2016 to earn a spot on the ballot. A similar initiative, Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which has the support of the Marijuana Policy Project, has also been filed. The two are essentially in competition with one another for the same cause.
Tennessee: Nashville Fails to Decriminalize Pot Possession
A move to decriminalize marijuana possession in Nashville has failed. Reports indicate that a vote on the issue will not even be possible this year after organizers fell short of collecting the required 6,845 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.