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House Panel Removes Ban on DC Pot Sales, SD Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in November, More... (6/4/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on

House and Senate conferees in New Hampshire are trying to hammer out a compromise to save a marijuana legalization bill, Ohio prepares for its first legal pot shop applicants, and more.

Could the longstanding congressional ban on DC pot sales be coming to an end? (Creative Commons)

Marijuana Policy

House Panel Votes to Remove DC Marijuana Sales Ban, Add Banking Protections in Key Spending Bill. In a surprise move, the GOP-led House Appropriations, Financial Services, and General Government Subcommittee (FSGG) posted a large-scale spending bill Tuesday that does not include a longstanding rider barring the District of Columbia from moving ahead with legal marijuana sales but does include new protections for banks working with the legal marijuana industry.

The panel is now being led by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), who is co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. He is also the sponsor of standalone marijuana banking legislation.

With the rider barring DC pot sales removed from the bill, the rider's author, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), or other foes of legal weed will have to try to get it back in via the amendment process.

"As subcommittee chairman, I ensure the provisions in this bill only take strides to make our communities safer," Joyce said Tuesday. "I appreciate that a few of my colleagues have concerns with the safety of readily accessible cannabis products -- I share these, but blocking their regulation only exacerbates these issues."

The spending bill is being marked up in committee today.

New Hampshire Conference Committee on Marijuana Legalization Bill Comes Up with Plan. The seven members of the House and Senate charged with finding a compromise that can get a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 1633, across the finish line came up with a plan on Tuesday.

The bill has passed the House and Senate, but was restrictively amended in the Senate, leading the House to reject those changes. Now, the House and Senate members have only until Thursday to approve the bill and send it to Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who had demanded some of the changes.

House conferees said they would agree to the Senate version of the bill if the Senate accepted four changes: Lowering the proposed state surcharge on marijuana sales, giving existing medical marijuana dispensaries priority in licensing, adjusting the rules about passengers in vehicles smoking weed, and immediately decriminalizing the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. (The Senate had delayed the legalization of possession until 2026, and decriminalization would effectively provide the same results.

"Ball's in your court now," Rep. John Hunt (R), one of four House members on the committee, said to his three Senate counterparts.

The conferees did not reach final agreement Tuesday and are meeting again today to try to get the job done.

"Today's committee of conference meeting was encouraging," said Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. "I'm hopeful conferees will negotiate revisions that can get legalization past the finish line and end the Live Free State's embarrassing status as an island of prohibition."

Stay tuned.

Ohio Officials Announce Pot Shop Applications Will Begin This Week. State Division of Cannabis Control Superintendent James Canepa said Tuesday the state will open applications for existing medical marijuana dispensaries to start selling to the adult-use market by this Friday.

But how quickly they will be able to begin sales will depend on whether they have satisfied a list of conditions. Canepa had said earlier that businesses with dual licenses for medical and adult-use sales could be open as early as this month, but on Tuesday he declined to commit to any specific timeline.

He said it will most likely be a "trickle in the beginning" as the newly-hybrid shops meet requirements such as enhanced security and updated point-of-sale systems that can differentiate between medical and adult-use sales.

"Everybody keeps trying to get me to circle a day, and it's impossible because like with liquor, you have to process the applicants as they are," said Canepa. "You have to take them as they come to you. And there's a whole checklist that they have to meet."

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot. The secretary of state's office has announced that the marijuana legalization initiative from South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws has handed in enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

It will be Measure 29.

South Dakota voters approved a legalization initiative in 2020 only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court at the behest of Gov. Kristi Noem (R). They then rejected a second attempt in 2022. Backers of this initiative are hoping this time is the charm.

"Heading into a presidential election with far more voters participating we’re confident if we do our jobs well we can get that victory in November," the group's Executive Director, Matthew Schweich, said last month.

The initiative would legalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and the home cultivation of up to six plants but does not address legal marijuana commerce. That would be up to the legislature.

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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