The Texas House gives preliminary approval to a marijuana decriminalization bill, Senate Republicans block a veterans' medical marijuana bill, and more.
California Bill to Crack Down on Illegal Marijuana Grows Advances. The Senate Public Safety Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 820, which would authorize law enforcement to seize cultivation and manufacturing equipment from unpermitted marijuana operations. The bill from Sen. Marie Alvarado-Gil would not only allow for asset forfeiture; it would also invest the proceeds in the Cannabis Control Fund to support equity programs.
"It is critical to ensure that the limited resources used to enforce against unlicensed cannabis operations be impactful, and removing the equipment they use is a big step towards that goal," said Alvarado-Gil. "We must support those cannabis manufacturers who operate in a lawful manner and adhere to producing a safe consumable product." The bill comes as the state's legal marijuana industry struggles to compete with the illicit market.
Texas House Gives Initial Approval to Marijuana Decriminalization Bill. The House on Wednesday gave initial approval to a marijuana decriminalization bill, House Bill 218. The bill now heads for a second, final vote in that chamber. The bill would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor, removing the risk of jail time and instead imposing a maximum fine of $500. It also specifies that possession of up to two ounces of marijuana would not result in arrest and that people with simple marijuana convictions could seek to have their convictions expunged after paying a small fee.
Senate Republicans Block Veterans' Medical Marijuana Bill from Advancing. After a "spirited debate" in the Senate Republican policy lunch shortly before a vote to advance S. 326 -- a bipartisan bill that would have the Veterans Affairs Department do studies and clinical trials on the use of medical marijuana to treat veterans'' chronic pain and PTSD -- a group of those Republican senators voted against allowing the bill to move forward, at least for now. The bill needed 60 votes to advance, but with the Republican defections, it failed 57-42.
Republicans cited several reasons for the "no" vote, including that passage of the bill could be seen as a win for Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, who is up for reelection next year in red state Montana. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), ranking minority member on the committee, said negotiations on the bill will continue and described Wednesday's vote as "hitting the pause button."
Minnesota House Passes Omnibus Health Bill That Includes Creation of Psychedelic Task Force. After an omnibus health passed the Senate earlier this session, it was amended in the House to include a provision creating a task force to prepare the state for the possible legalization of psychedelic substances. Now, the House has also approved that omnibus health bill with the psychedelic task force provision intact. Since it was amended in the House, the bill will now go to conference committee, where members will attempt to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Pennsylvania Bill to Criminalize Safe Injection Sites Advances. A bill that would make it a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison for people operating safe injection sites, Senate Bill 165, is advancing in the Republican-controlled legislature. The bill would make it a crime for any clinic or other establishment to allow people to "inject, ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce into the person's body a controlled substance" and also includes a $500,000 fine for individuals and $2 million for establishments.
The bill advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and is now before the Senate Appropriations Committee. The ACLU of Pennsylvania notes that the criminal penalties in the bill "EXCEED the statutory maximum penalties for a first-degree felony. In other words, the penalty for providing a space that can save people from deadly overdoses is more severe than the punishment for murder."
Federal Smart Sentencing Adjustments Act Filed. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Tony CÃ¡rdenas (D-CA) have introduced the Smart Sentencing Adjustments Act in the Senate and House. The bill would provide federal funding as an incentive to state governments to reduce incarceration while reducing crime. State prisons hold 87% of the nation's prison population. The Smart Sentencing Adjustments Act would provide funding for states to identify and address the sources of unnecessary incarceration in their systems, while investing in ways to lower crime and keep people safe.
The act would create a $2 billion grant program to reward states that shrink their prison populations by 20% over three years. It would offer participating states a wide variety of policies and programs for supporting people who have been in prison so they don't return, making communities safer, providing alternatives to incarceration, and more. For the length of the funding period, the bill would prohibit participating states from enacting excessively punitive sentencing legislation, such as mandatory minimums, truth-in-sentencing laws, and habitual offender laws.