1. Recreational Pot in Illinois
Advocates want Illinois to be the first Midwest state to permit recreational pot. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Heather Steans (D-Chicago) introduced SB 316 and Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) sponsored HB 2353 to allow adults to possess, grow, and purchase marijuana in limited amounts.
The legislation would create a structure to license and regulate businesses in the cultivation, testing, and sales of cannabis products along with strict testing and labeling regulations. Advocates predict a $350 million tax revenue flow.
The Marijuana Policy Project also notes that the Illinois medical cannabis program has been extended to 2020, and they have added PTSD and terminal illnesses as qualifying conditions. Still, the program excludes severe and chronic pain.
2. Arkansas 91st General Assembly
The Arkansas 91st General Assembly continues to juggle scores of cannabis-related bills. Some of the more striking actions follow here:
- HB1026 is signed into a law that pushes the deadline for state agencies to publish marijuana rules by May 8th.
- HB1049, which would define excluded felonies barring people from operating dispensaries or cultivation facilities, has been approved by the House on its way to the Senate.
- HB1051, adding the licensing process for marijuana transporters, distributors, and processors, is headed to the Senate floor.
- HB1058 was signed into law as Act striking language the requires doctors to weigh benefits and risks of medical marijuana when certifying a patient’s qualifying medical condition.
- HB1371 mandates that Arkansans hold 60% ownership in cannabis dispensaries and farms and that licenses be issued to individuals not corporations. And, requires any Medical Marijuana Commission to run criminal background screenings on marijuana business owners, board members, and officers. HB1371 is approved by the House and, then, assigned to Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee.
- HB1391, allowing city councils and quorum courts to ban dispensaries and farms, has been sent to House Rules Committee.
- HB1451, prohibiting members of the Arkansas National Guard and U.S. military from participating in Arkansas’ medical marijuana program, has been sent to Governor for signing.
3. Home Grow Pot in Colorado
On April 3, 2017, a Colorado legislative House Committee moved 11-2 to revisit the allowances for growing pot at home.
The state has lived with permission to medical patients to grow up to 99 plants and recreational users to combine their permitted six plants into communal co-ops.
The suggested bill would restrict authorization to 12 marijuana plants in an attempt to discourage black-market pot farmers.
4. Medical Marijuana in Tennessee
The Tennessean reports, “The landmark legislation that would have made medical use of marijuana legal in Tennessee is officially dead for the year.”
Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) saw his HB0495 removed from the current legislative calendar and referred to a task force established by House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. Faison said, “The Senate, bless their heart, are just scared to death of their voters."
Citing polls in favor of the legislation, conducted by the Tennesseans for Conservative Action, MTSU, and Vanderbilt, he remarked, “Tennessee is there, my constituents are there, their constituents are there, I just have to get the Senate there.”
5. Recreational Shops in Nevada
Nevada’s Clark County (Las Vegas) sees a delay in licensing retail marijuana sales outlets. As of April 3, 2017, the Nevada DOJ expects to grant temporary licenses allowing medical dispensaries to sell July 1 or sooner.
But, Clark County’s Green Ribbon panel announced a revised schedule for issuing retail licenses not sooner than September.
Considering the voter-approved ballot initiative of 2016 requires Nevada to permit recreational marijuana sales and operations by Jan. 1, 2018, this rescheduling costs the state tax income and risks not meeting the voter mandate.
6. West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act
On March 29th, the West Virginia Senate voted overwhelmingly (28-6) to allow certified patients to access medical marijuana.
The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act (SB 386) forms a 16-member WV Medical Cannabis Connection to include medical practitioners, law enforcement, and WV government agency representatives. Their task is to design ID cards, define regulations, and name eligible medical conditions.
In the West Virginia system, the next step is approval by the House of Delegates where another effort died in committee last year.
7. South Carolina State Representative Eric Bedingfield
South Carolina State Representative Eric Bedingfield, a former opponent of marijuana use, now champion’s passage of a medical marijuana law – since losing his eldest son to an opioid overdose.
The Boston Globe reports, “This year’s renewed push in South Carolina is bolstered by some of the state’s most conservative legislators, whose opinions have shifted because of personal losses or the pleadings of parents and pastors in their districts.”
8. Reform Federal Marijuana Policy
On Capitol Hill, the United States Congressional Cannabis Caucus moved to reform federal marijuana policy and protect marijuana laws where it is legal.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Rep. Jared Polic (D-CO) brought three bills to the Capitol corridors to address asset forfeiture, banking, protections, regulation, research, and taxes.
- The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act (Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act) would drop marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and allow for the permitting for marijuana businesses, regulating marijuana alcohol sales.
- The Small Business Tax Equity Act hopes allow businesses compliant with state laws to claim deductions and credits associated with the sale of marijuana. (Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has cosponsored Wyden’s Senate bill, and Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) will sponsor companion legislation in the House.)
- Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act will address a number of cannabis-related problems, including the removal of federal penalties and asset forfeiture for individuals and businesses complying with state law, permitting banking, bankruptcy protection, research and advertising; voiding criminal records for certain marijuana-related offenses, and eliminating requirement for residents of marijuana-legal states to drug test for positions in the federal civil service.
9. Delaware’s Senator Margaret Rose Henry
Delaware’s Senator Margaret Rose Henry (SD 2) will bring a bill to the Delaware Legislature that would tax and regulate marijuana sale and possession.
Delaware does not permit state initiative referendums. And, even with the apparent support of law enforcement, the Rose-Henry bill faces a tough road. Democratic Governor John Carney has repeatedly said that Delaware must wait on the experience of the states where marijuana has been legalized.
Rose Henry’s strategy has been to design a bill with the public safety measure that the Governor has identified. She remarks, somewhat deferentially, "I think our governor is being cautious. We had the same thing with the previous governor when I did medical marijuana it takes a while because of the federal laws, and I think that's his concern."