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San Francisco to Vote on Drug Screening Welfare Users, Hawaii Legal Weed Bill Advances, More... (3/4/24)

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Marijuana Policy

Congressional negotiators have come up with a spending bill that includes marijuana riders, a medical marijuana expansion bill is filed in Kentucky, and more. 

Overlooking San Francisco from the Marin Highlands. The city votes tomorrow on screening welfare recipients for drugs. (Creative Commons)
Bipartisan Congressional Spending Bill Includes Medical Marijuana Rider. The House and Senate appropriations committees announced Sunday that they had reached an agreement on an appropriations bill covering Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS). The idea is to get the measure passed before the expiration of a continuing budget resolution on Friday. 

The measure includes a longstanding rider barring the Justice Department from going after medical marijuana programs in states where it is legal. Efforts to expand that rider to include adult-use marijuana did not succeed. 

The measure also includes language urging Justice, the Treasury Department, and other government agencies "to coordinate an assessment of the adequacy of State marijuana regulatory frameworks, including commonalities and novel approaches to enforcement and oversight" and an update on Justice's "progress toward expanded researcher access to samples and strains of marijuana for scientific purposes."

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 3335, is moving in the Senate and now awaits a Senate floor vote after being approved in the Senate Ways and Means and Commerce and Consumer Protection committees on Friday.

The measure faces a crossover deadline of Thursday. Bills that have not moved out of their originating chamber by that dead are dead for the session, so a vote is anticipated before then. 

The bill would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of weed and grow up to six plants at home with the ability to legally harvest up to 10 ounces from the plants. 

It will also create a Hawaii Cannabis Authority to supervise licensed and regulated marijuana commerce. The Authority would be overseen by a Cannabis Control Board consisting of five members with experience in public health or marijuana regulation. 

Adult-use marijuana would be taxed at 14 percent at the point of sale and tax revenues would be divided between a law enforcement-focused fund and a separate fund that would promote "cannabis social equity, public health and education, and public safety."

The Senate approved a marijuana legalization bill last year, only to see it die in the House. This year, Gov. Josh Green (D) has indicated he is interested in seeing it pass. 

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky GOP Bill Would Expand Medical Marijuana Eligibility. State Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris) last week filed Senate Bill 337, which would increase the number of conditions for which patients could seek medical marijuana from six to 21. The new list closely matches the recommendations of Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and two legislative committees working on the issue. 

Sen. West, who last year sponsored the bill authorizing the use of medical marijuana, said he had been working with the new Kentucky Medical Cannabis Program on expanding the list. 

"They were working in conjunction with us," West said. "We had multiple meetings during the interim. It's with our blessing. I mean, it's kind of a joint effort."

The original bill named cancer, severe pain, epilepsy or other seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis or muscle spasms, chronic nausea, or post-traumatic stress disorder as qualifying conditions. The new bill adds HIV and AIDS, ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease, Arthritis, Cachexia or wasting syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Glaucoma, Hepatitis C, Huntington’s disease, Irritable bowel syndrome, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis; Muscular dystrophy, Neuropathies, Parkinson’s disease, Sickle cell disease, and any terminal illness.

The bill is now before the Senate Health Services Committee. There are 11 members on the committee; six voted last year for the original medical marijuana bill. 

Drug Policy 

San Francisco Votes Tomorrow on Measure Mandating Drug Screening for Welfare Recipients. City residents will be voting on several municipal ballot measures, including Measure F, which would mandate drug screens for all recipients of cash welfare, with any found to be drug users required to undergo drug treatment to continue to receive benefits. Polling has the measure set to pass with around 60 percent of the vote. 

Measure F asks: "Shall the City require single adults age 65 and under with no dependent children who receive City public assistance benefits and whom the City reasonably suspects are dependent on illegal drugs to participate in screening, evaluation, and treatment for drug dependency for those adults to be eligible for most of those benefits?"

It comes amid rising public concern in the city about crime, disorder, and homelessness. 

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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