A long-shot marijuana legalization bill is filed in Florida, a fentanyl test strip decriminalization bill gets a hearing in Arkansas, and more.
Florida Marijuana Legalization Bill with Home Grow Filed. State Sen. Victor Torres (D-Kissimmee) has filed a marijuana bill that includes both home cultivation and social consumption spaces. The measure, Senate Bill 1576, would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces and allow for home grows of up to six plants. Usage would be allowed in a "non-public space" with violators subject to a $100 fine. A "Division of Cannabis Management" within the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would regulate legal marijuana commerce. The bill has not yet received a committee assignment, and its prospects are dim in the Republican-controlled legislature. On a different track, a marijuana legalization initiative campaign is in the midst of signature gathering.
Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Votes. A marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 669, is advancing in the Senate, having been approved by both the Consumer Protection and Ways and Means committees last Thursday. It now heads for a Senate floor vote. The bill emphasizes small operations, limiting grows to no more than 5,000 square feet. It includes a home grow provision, allowing for up to six plants, of which three can be flowering. The bill is expected to pass the Senate this week, but faces an obstacle in the House. House Speaker Scott Saiki (D) says the state is not ready for marijuana legalization and he plans on asking House committee chairs to work on it this summer—after the current session has ended. "It’s not as easy as just flipping a switch and saying marijuana is now legal," Saiki said. "There are a lot of issues related to how you set up the system how do you regulate the system."
Washington Senate Approves Bill Upping Drug Possession Penalties. After hours of contentious debate, the Senate voted last Friday night to approve Senate Bill 5536, which increases penalties for drug possession. The bill is a response to a 2021 state Supreme Court ruling striking down the state's felony drug possession law because people could be prosecuted for unknowingly possessing drugs. Lawmakers responded by temporarily making drug possession a misdemeanor, but that measure expires in July. With this bill, drug possession remains a misdemeanor, but moves from a plain misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, meaning violators face stiffer penalties than under the current system. The bill includes options for diversion out of the criminal justice system at each stage of the judicial process, but also includes mandatory minimum sentences of 21 days for a second offense and 45 days for a second offense if the person "willfully abandoned" or consistently failed to apply with treatment. The measure passed on a 28-21 vote and now heads to the House.
Arkansas Fentanyl Test Strip Bill Gets Hearing Today. A bill to clarify that fentanyl test strips are not classified as drug paraphernalia, Senate Bill 40, is set for hearing today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Under current state law, possession of fentanyl test strips is a felony. That has not stopped groups like Northwest Arkansas Harm Reduction from distributing hundreds of the test kits, but harm reductionists are seeking formal legal protections.