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CA Assembly Approves Marijuana Cafes, MD Governor Signs Psychedelic Task Force Bills, More... (5/21/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on

A Louisiana bill to prepare for marijuana legalization is killed, a New Hampshire bill to legalize marijuana is facing objections in the House, and more. 

Magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics will be the subject of a Maryland task force studying how to make them available. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Assembly Approves Revised Bill to Legalize Marijuana Cafes. The Assembly on Monday approved a bill to allow marijuana cafes in the state, Assembly Bill 1775. The measure passed on a vote of 58-6 and now heads to the Senate. 

Passage of the bill comes months after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed an earlier version of it, saying that while he understood the effort to bolster marijuana retailers in the state, he was "concerned this bill could undermine California’s long-standing smoke-free workplace protections."

Assemblyman Matt Haney (D), the sponsor of both bills, said he addressed the governor's concerns and that "we’ve already taken a number of amendments."

But Haney also stressed the necessity of getting the bill passed. 

"The illicit illegal market is continuing to grow and thrive while our legal cannabis market is struggling," he said. "Small businesses and local governments that want to authorize simply allowing existing cannabis lounges—which already exist in law—to be able to serve food should be able to do so."

Louisiana House Rejects Bill to Prepare for Marijuana Legalization. The House on Monday voted to kill a bill that would have created a regulatory framework for legal marijuana in the state, House Bill 978. The bill from Rep. Candace Newell (D) would not have legalized marijuana but would have started the process of setting up a regulatory system that would take effect if either the state or the federal government legalized it. 

"The bill does not legalize recreational marijuana," Newell said, describing the legislation as a sort of trigger law. "This is a regulation structure that I would like to see Louisiana put in place in preparation for having recreational marijuana legalized on the federal level or on the state level."

"Oftentimes," she added, lawmakers "have put in place regulation structures—trigger laws—that have been in place just in case our federal government does make some changes."

But she was up against conservative legislators, including Rep. Laurie Schlegel (R), who said she did not vote for because "just to be transparent because I do not believe in legalizing recreational marijuana."

Similarly, Rep. Polly Thomas (R) warned that passing the bill could lead the way to broader reform. "Are you familiar with the phrase ‘the camel’s nose under the tent’?" she asked Newell.

New Hampshire House Members Threaten to Vote Against Marijuana Legalization Bill After Senate Amends It. The state's path to marijuana legalization remains as convoluted as ever after the Senate for the first time approved a marijuana legalization bill, but only after amending the House-approved version of the bill, House Bill 1633, enraging some House members and leading to threats from the House that it will just kill the bill. 

"I already know of 50 Democrats who are going to nonconcur, and I think that’s the tip of the iceberg," said key bill sponsor Rep. Anita Burroughs (D) on Monday. 

But first, the Senate has to finish up with it. Although the Senate approved the bill once, it now has to go back to the Senate Finance Committee today, and if it passes there, must be voted on again by the full Senate. Only then, will the House have a chance to act. 

The Senate version of the bill would legalize marijuana use and possession for people 21 and over and would allow only 15 retail marijuana franchisees. It would also require a vote of approval from residents of a locality before a pot shop could be established. 

Gov. Chris Sununu (R), a long-time opponent of legalization who finally said last year he would not veto a bill if it met his requirements, generally likes the Senate bill. 

"Overall, the bill that came out of the Senate is the closest that we’ve seen of any piece of legislation to meeting most of our principles," his spokesman said.

Sununu has demanded strong state control over the legal marijuana industry, keeping pot shops away from schools, and blocking concentrations of pot shops in "marijuana miles."

But House members are balking at the Senate changes Sununu likes. 

Rep. Burroughs said a provision giving the Liquor Control Commission broad enforcement powers would be "basically establishing another police force." She also complained that while the Senate version creates a marijuana control commission, it has sparse industry representation, and that allowing pot shops to also sell medical marijuana would undercut the state's existing alternative treatment centers. 

"I’ve been fighting for this for a lot of years, and I never imagined a day where I would vote against a bill that I’ve been sponsoring and working on," she said. "But it’s like a bridge too far."

Republican bill sponsor Rep. JR Hoell said he, too, would vote against the bill if it returns to the House. There is no provision for home cultivation, he noted. And he objects to the 15-license limit across the state with one business owner able to own up to three licenses, saying it would be oligopolistic. 

"I voted against casinos for that same reason years ago," Hoell said. "I think a free market does a better job of managing sales and cost distribution, and it solves problems that government can’t even anticipate. And this is definitely not a free-market model at this point." 

Stay tuned. 


Maryland Governor Signs Psychedelic Task Force Bills. Gov. Wes Moore (D) has signed into law a pair of bills, House Bill 548 and Senate Bill 1009, to create the Task Force on the Responsible Use of Psychedelic Substances. The task force will consist of 17 members and will review multiple aspects of natural psychedelics, such as psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, and mescaline (but not peyote).

Recruitment for the task force will start July 1, and its members will be tasked with recommending how to build a program that "enables broad, equitable, and affordable access to psychedelic substances." The task force will also assess high-quality research to understand the public uses and benefits of natural psychedelics. 

The task force will also study barriers for healthcare providers and practitioners, such as insurance, licensing restrictions, zoning, advertising, and financial services. And it will study how to create civil penalty punishments for "the planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, or possessing of or other engagement with natural psychedelic substances." 

The 17-member task force will include the following: a Senator representative, a House representative, the Secretary of Health (or Secretary’s designee), the Secretary of Disabilities (or a designee), the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (or a designee), the Director of the Maryland Cannabis Association (or a designee), a representative from either the University System of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, or Sheppard Pratt (a private, nonprofit healthcare provider), a representative from a Native American tribe with experience in religious and/or spiritual use of psychedelics, a behavioral health expert, a substance use disorder expert, a chronic pain treatment expert, a psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy expert, a psychedelic researcher, an expert regarding care in underserved communities, a drug policy reform expert, a law enforcement expert, a patient suffering from conditions in which psychedelics can help treat, and finally a physician who has experience with the "appropriate use" of psychedelic substances.

The task force must create a report and submit it to the legislature by July 31, 2025. 

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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