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MA Drug Courts Agree to Allow Medication-Assisted Treatment, CT Psychedelic Treatment Bill Advances, More... (3/28/22)

Illinois Senate Democrats roll out a pair of bills to fight the opioid overdose crisis, South Dakota's governor vetoes a bill removing old pot charges from public background checks, and more.

Buprenorphine. This and other Medications for Opioid Use Disorder will now be allowed in Bay State drug courts. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Governor Vetoes Bill to Automatically Remove Old Marijuana Charges from Background Checks. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has vetoed Senate Bill 151, which would have automatically removed marijuana charges and convictions more than five years old from public background checks. The bill also required that past offenders have fulfilled their sentences and have no later arrests. In her veto statement, Noem said, "It also essentially codifies a convicted person's ability to be dishonest about their previous arrest and conviction by not requiring disclosure of the prior drug conviction." The bill did not pass with veto-proof majorities.

Psychedelics

Connecticut Lawmakers Advance Psychedelic-Assisted Treatment for Veterans. A bill that would allocate $3 million to help veterans and other disadvantaged people gain access to psychedelic-assisted therapies is advancing. House Bill 5396 passed the Public Health Committee on a unanimous vote last Friday and has now been referred to the Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysisprior to a House floor vote.

Drug Courts

Feds Reach Settlement with Massachusetts Drug Court Over Discriminating Against People with Opioid Use Disorder. The US Attorneys Office in Boston announced last Thursday it had reached an agreement with the Massachusetts Trial Court to resolve charges its drug court discriminated against people with Opioid Use Disorder, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Federal prosecutors argued that the drug court discriminated against people taking Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD), such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone, by barring or pressuring them to stop using those medications in order to participate in the drug court program. Under the new agreement, all 25 state drug courts will allow the use of MOUDs, with decisions about their use taken only by licensed practitioners or licensed opioid treatment programs. "The opioid crisis has impacted nearly every household and family unit in the Commonwealth. My family is no exception. Sadly, in Massachusetts per capita rates of opioid-related deaths are above the national average. To combat this public health crisis we need to be doing everything possible to save lives. That includes ensuring access to all forms of medical treatment for OUD," said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. "We commend the Massachusetts Trial Court for working with us to implement a policy that sets a standard for other state courts across our country to follow. This policy helps ensure that the court system leaves MOUD treatment decisions to trained and licensed medical professionals."

Harm Reduction

Illinois Democrats Roll Out Pair of Bills to Address Overdose Crisis. Senate Democrats last Thursday unveiled a pair of bills that take aim at the state's opioid overdose crisis, where deaths related to synthetic opioids have increased nearly 25-fold since 2013. Sen. Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) is the Senate sponsor of House Bill 17, a Good Samaritan law that would grant immunity from prosecution for possession of small amounts of fentanyl that for people suffering from an overdose or for people seeking to aid them. And Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago) is the Senate sponsor of House Bill 4556, which would allow pharmacists and medical professionals to dispense fentanyl test strips and other drug-testing supplies to anyone who wants them. adulterant testing supplies to any person without persecution for possessing drug testing supplies.

Senate Approves Marijuana Research Bill, UT Governor Signs Psychedelic Research Bill, More... (3/25/22)

A bill to establish the East Coast's first psychedelic medicine center is moving in Connecticut, Utah's Republican governor signs a psychedelic research bill, and more.

The Nebraska medical marijuana initiative campaign has taken a big fund-raising hit, but will soldier on.
Marijuana Policy

Senate Unanimously Approves Marijuana Research Bill. The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill that aims to promote research into marijuana, the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act (S. 253). Sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the bill would ease the application process for researchers who want to study the plant. The bill also clearly states that doctors are allowed to discuss the pros and cons of marijuana with patients and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to report on potential health benefits of marijuana.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Campaign Takes Big Hit as Two Major Donors Die Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the group behind an ongoing medical marijuana initiative campaign, has been wounded by the sudden death of one major donor in a plane crash and the diagnosis of terminal cancer in another major donor. The campaign described the losses as a "huge setback." The group has a $500,000 fund-raising goal by May 1, and as of the end of February, it had only $30,000 in the bank. In 2020, the group managed to raise $2.5 million for the signature drive and general election campaign, which it won, only to see the victory overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Psychedelics

Connecticut Bill to Create Psychedelic Medicine Center Advances. A bill that would create the first psychedelic medicine center on the East Coast has advanced in the House. The measure, House Bill 5396, which assumes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soon approve MDMA and psilocybin as treatments for PTSD and depression, respectively, aims to provide those drugs for medicinal use to "qualified patients," which includes veterans, retired first responders, direct care health care workers, and people from "historically underserved communities." The bill passed out of the Joint Health Care Committee last week and is now before the Office of Legislative Research and Fiscal Analysis.

Utah Governor Signs Psychedelic Study Bill into Law. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) has signed into law House Bill 167, which will create a task force to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic potential of psychedelics and possible regulations for their legal use. The bill had strong support in the legislature, passing each chamber with only one no vote. The bill will create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Taskforce to "study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness." The drugs the panel will consider are controlled substances "not currently available for legal use."

House to Vote on MORE Act Next Week, PA Psilocybin Bill Stalled by Worries Over Mushroom Overdoses, More... (3/24/22)

A spate of fatal pot shop robberies in Washington is leading to calls to pass the SAFE Act, the Mexican military sends reinforcements to Nuevo Laredo amidst continuing clashes, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms. Considered very non-toxic despite the worries of a Pennsylvania politician. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Set for House Floor Vote Next Week. Congressional leadership confirmed Thursday that the House will vote next week on whether to approve House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler's (D-NY) Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617). The House passed an earlier version of the bill last year, only to see it go nowhere in the then Republican controlled Senate. Pressure to get a House floor vote on the bill, which passed out of committee last September, has been mounting.

Washington State Marijuana Regulators to Host Roundtable on Retailer Safety in Wake of Three Deaths in Four Days in Pot Shop Robberies. The state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has announced that it will hold an online roundtable on marijuana retailer safety in the wake of a spate of deadly armed robberies at pot shops that have left three people dead in a four-day span. The LCB will meet with shop owners, elected officials, federal SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996)advocates, and others to discuss the public safety crisis. The marijuana industry nationwide has been clamoring for passage of the bill, which would give it access to banking and financial services and alleviate the need for marijuana retailers to deal exclusively in robber-tempting cash. There have been more than 50 robberies of marijuana businesses in the state so far this year, more than in all of 2021.

"The tragic events of the last week and the escalation of armed robberies over the last several months have demonstrated the urgent need for Congress to act," the LCB said. "The lack of banking services has become a catalyst for a very real public safety crisis in Washington State. Due to their forced reliance on cash transactions, cannabis retailers have increasingly become targets for armed robbers."

Psychedelics

Pennsylvania Psilocybin Research Bill Stalled as Committee Chair Worries About Mushroom Overdoses. A bill that aims to promote research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms is in doubt after House Health Committee Chair Rep. Kathy Rapp (R) expressed concerns about magic mushroom overdoses. The measure, the Psilocybin Data Act (House Bill 1959), had already been amended to address Rapp's reservations, but bill sponsor Rep. Tracy Pennycuik (R) said Rapp "Shifted course due to an overdose death in her district" allegedly involving magic mushrooms. But magic mushrooms "are considered to be among the least toxic drugs known."

International

Mexico Sends Reinforcements to Nuevo Laredo After Continuing Clashes. Clashes between Gulf Cartel gunmen and the Mexican military that broke out last week after the arrest of cartel leader Juan Gerardo Trevino Chavez, "The Egg," have rocked the border town of Nuevo Laredo with explosions and machine gun fire have now prompted the military to send in reinforcements. Trevino Chavez was deported to the US and faces drug trafficking and money laundering charges. 

Executions of Drug Offenders Surged Last Year, Pot Industry Push for SAFE Banking Act, More... (3/21/22)

A suburban Atlanta prosecutor's big to clamp down on Delta-8 THC products runs into a judicial roadblock, the University of Michigan SSDP chapter is spearheading a municipal drug decriminalizaiton resolution, and more.

Marijuana industry execs are swarming Capitol Hill in a last-ditch bid to win passage of the SAFE Banking Act. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Industry Pushing Hard to Get Banking Measure Passed Before Midterms. More than 20 head executives of major marijuana companies have unleashed a lobbying blitz on Congress in a bid to get the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996) passed before the November midterms. They worry that if Republicans take over after the November elections, passage of the bill would be doomed. Passage of the bill has been blocked by the Democratic Senate leadership, which is holding out for a yet-to-be finalized marijuana legalization bill from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The marijuana companies say that while they also support legalization, they do not see the votes to pass it this year. "We want comprehensive reform, but we also recognize that with the potential for the House and Senate to change hands, we have an opportunity now to pass impactful legislation, and if we fail to do that, it could be years until we get something done," said Jared Maloof, CEO of Ohio-based medical marijuana company Standard Wellness.

Georgia Judge Blocks DA's Efforts to Ban Delta-8, Delta-10 Cannabis Extracts.  Suburban Atlanta Gwinnett County District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gaston has been blocked from enforcing a ban on cannabis extracts contained Delta-8 and Delta-10 by an order from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall. Last Friday, Schwall issued a 30-day restraining order barring Gwinnet County from prosecuting people for possessing or selling the extracts. The two cannabinoids are similar to THC (Delta-9 THC), but have less powerful psychoactive effects, and they inhabit a hazy legal status. In January, Austin-Gaston said that possessing, selling, or distributing such products are felony offenses and raided two distributors, seizing millions of dollars worth of product, charging at least one person with a felony. Her actions are blocked as part of a lawsuit brought by two owners of a Gwinnet County vape story chain, who are seeking to have the extracts declared legal in the state.

Drug Policy

University of Michigan Students Push Ann Arbor Drug Decriminalization Resolution. The university chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy has launched a campaign to decriminalize the possession of drugs and their small-scale distribution. After consulting with community members, the group has drafted the Ann Arbor Resolution to Advance Sensible Drug Policy, which will be put before the city council. After consultation with stakeholders, the resolution sets a suggested permitted amount of 15 grams of any drug, much higher than other decriminalization measures. While drug laws are generally set by the state and federal governments, the resolution, if adopted, would make drug possession the lowest law enforcement priority and ban the use of city funds to enforce the prohibition on drug possession.

International

Executions for Drug Convictions Surged in 2021; Most Are Kept Secret. According to a new report from Harm Reduction International, The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview 2021, at least 131 people were executed for drug offenses last year, but "this number is likely to represent only a fraction of all drug-related executions carried out globally." Even so, it is nearly four times the number of executions reported in 2020. HRI named Iran and China as definitely carrying out drug executions last year, and it suspects that Vietnam and North Korea did as well, but cannot confirm that because of government secrecy. The report identifies "High Application States" where "executions of individuals convicted of drug offenses were carried out, and/or at least 10 drug-related death sentences per year were imposed in the past five years." Along the countries mentioned above, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Singapore all make this rogue's gallery. At least 3,000 people are on death row for drugs worldwide, the report found, with at least 237 drug death sentences issued last year in 16 countries. 

CA Psilocybin Legalization Initiative Falls Short on Signatures, Ukraine War Deepens Suffering of Drug Users, More... (3/18/22)

Medical marijuana bills advance in Georgia and Kentucky, Honduras' former "narcopresidente" is a step closer to being extradited to the United States on drug charges, and more. 

Fomer Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez can be extradited to face US drug charges, a court there ruled. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Governor Has "Concerns" About Marijuana Legalization Bill's Cannabis Control Commission. Gov. Dan McKee (D) has "significant constitutional concerns" with Senate Bill 2430, the marijuana legalization bill backed by House and Senate leadership. The concerns are around the proposed three-member cannabis control commission's members are to be appointed—and removed if necessary. The governor's office argues that the bill would give the Senate "unfettered discretion" on whether to remove a commissioner, which is says is a violation of the separation of powers. But one of the key sponsors of the bill, which was crafted after long deliberation, Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston), said the governor's objection is not an insurmountable obstacle. "It’s not a big impediment," said Miller. "It’s solvable." 

Medical Marijuana

Georgia House, Senate Pass Separate Medical Marijuana Bills. The House approved a bill to revamp the state's dysfunctional medical marijuana system, House Bill 1425 on Tuesday. The bill would allow the provision of low-THC cannabis oil "from any available legal source" by August 1 and begin providing it to patients now on the state registry by August 15. The state had passed a low-THC cannabis oil law in 2015, but legal challenges have left Georgians without any legal supply. The Senate, meanwhile, approved its own medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 609, which would require the medical cannabis commission to issue its initial licenses by May 31. Tuesday was the last day for bills to pass their original chamber, so both bills remain alive.

Kentucky House Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The House on Thursday approved House Bill 136, which would legalize medical marijuana in the state. The legislation now heads to the Senate. This is the third try for bill sponsor Rep. Jason Nemes (R), who got a similar bill through the House in 2020 only to see in die in the Senate and whose 2021 effort got nowhere in the midst of the pandemic. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield (R) says he will back it despite personal reservations.

Psychedelics

California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative Falls Short on Signatures. Decriminalize California, the group behind a psilocybin legalization initiative campaign, announced Wednesday that it had failed to gather enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The all-volunteer effort faltered during the winter outbreak of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. "We were doing great there collecting and then in mid-December just about everyone of our core volunteers got COVID and most of the events we were scheduled at either closed, postponed or had an extremely weak turnout," campaign manager Ryan Munevar said in an email to supporters. The group will now do fundraising in coming months to determine whether it is feasible to start a second effort in either June or October of next year for 2024.

International

At Urging of US, CND Acts Against Precursor Chemical Used to Produce Illicit Fentanyl. The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted Friday to control three chemicals used by drug traffickers to produce illicit fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is driving overdose deaths in the United States. At the request of the United States, and with the recommendation of the International Narcotics Control Board, the Commission’s Member States voted unanimously to take international action and control the acquisition, production, and export of three precursors used to manufacture illicit fentanyl and its analogues. "President Biden has made clear that ending the overdose epidemic is a top priority. As part of the Administration’s efforts to reduce the supply of illicit fentanyl driving overdose deaths, the United States called on the global community to regulate three chemicals commonly used to produce it, and today that call was answered," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). "This new action makes it more difficult for drug traffickers to obtain and use these chemicals for illicit purposes. It will also help disrupt synthetic drug trafficking that not only leads to deaths caused by overdose, but also corruption, drug-related violence, and insecurity. The collective work of the international community to address global drug-related challenges has never been more important. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to building on today’s progress."

Honduran Judge Okays Extradition of Former President to Face US Drug Charges. A judge in Honduras has ruled the former President Juan Orlando Hernandez can be extradited to the United States to face drug charges. Hernandez was president from 2014 until last month, after he lost an election, and was considered a US ally even though federal prosecutors alleged he was involved in drug trafficking throughout his presidency. He was detained last month by the new government at the request of the US. The "narcopresidente" has until Saturday to appeal the Wednesday ruling, after which he could be extradited. Meanwhile, he remains in prison in Honduras.

War Deepens Suffering for Ukraine's Drug Users. Drug users in the country are facing shortages of methadone and street drugs as the Russian military campaign in the country disrupts daily life. "Today, I went around five pharmacies where I used to get methadone on prescription. None were open. Another place was open today, but there was a queue of at least 200 people and I didn’t want to go into withdrawal right there, and so I went home," one drug user said. In the city of Kyiv, there were 45 fee-based centers serving opioid-dependent patients each; now they are all closed after the doctors evacuated. Similar clinics in the Crimean Peninsula were shut down when Russian forces took over in 2014; since then, of approximately 800 Crimean methadone patients, at least 80 have killed themselves, died of fatal overdoes, or died of other narcotic causes. 

Rhode Island Marijuana Legalization Bill Rolled Out [FEATURE]

Rhode Island took a big step toward marijuana legalization this week as a long-awaited compromise marijuana legalization bill rolled out. On Tuesday, Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston, Providence) and Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence) introduced identical House and Senate bills to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana in the state.

The bill, the Rhode Island Cannabis Act (Senate Bill 2430 and House Bill 7593) would legalize the sale of up to one ounce of marijuana for those age 21 and up, with no more than 10 ounces for personal use kept in a primary residence, effective October 1. It would also allow Rhode Islanders to grow three plants at home.

And this looks like the year it could actually get done. Democratic Gov. Dan McKee (D) is down for legalization and included a proposal to end cannabis prohibition as part of his annual budget plan in the form of House Bill 7123 in January.

Similarly, House Speaker Joe Shekarchi (D), who has been working with the governor and lawmakers to find a compromise between differing approaches, is now on board and calls legalization "inevitable." Likewise, Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D-Warwick) is fully supportive.

"We've been working hard since the end of last session to establish consensus on the details, but our efforts to address the issue have been going on for many years, during which time our neighboring states have already made this move ahead of us. Rhode Island is now behind them from a competitive standpoint, since it's fairly easy for most Rhode Islanders to cross the state line to make a legal purchase," McCaffrey said in a statement on Tuesday. "The truth is, legal cannabis is already widely available to Rhode Islanders, but the resulting revenue is not. With this bill, we will create jobs, revenue and control in our own state, and help address some of the inequities that have resulted from prohibition."

The main bone of contention had been who would regulate the legal market, and this legislation addresses that with a sort of hybrid consisting of a new independent Cannabis Control Commission and a Cannabis Office within the Department of Business Regulation. The two agencies, along with a new advisory board, would share responsibility for overseeing the operation of the market.

The bill would allow up to 33 retail pot shop licenses distributed in six zones statewide, including nine compassion centers that could potentially be hybrid recreational and medical retailers. It addresses social equity concerns by requiring that 25 percent of new retail licenses go to applicants who qualify as social equity businesses and another 25 percent of licenses go to worker-owned cooperatives. There is also a funding stream for social equity grants and job training to be generated by fees.

Retail marijuana could be taxed at up to 20 percent via a sales tax of 7 percent, a local sales tax of 3 percent, and an excise tax of 10 percent. State tax revenues would go to the general fund and could be used to pay for expenses related to running a legal marijuana system.

"The time for Rhode Island to move forward with cannabis legalization is now. This historic shift in public policy will create a vibrant new marketplace in our state and end the failed practice of prohibition, which has caused such harm to so many in our communities. To help address those past wrongs, and to ensure all Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to share the economic benefits associated with legalization, equity is a central focus of this legislation," said Sen. Miller chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, in his statement announcing the legislation.

"It is the right public policy for Rhode Island to make cannabis possession and sales legal. We have been studying legalization proposals here for many years, and we now can look to our neighboring states' experiences and see that taxing and regulating cannabis makes sense," said Rep. Slater. "I'm especially proud that we have made a very deliberate effort to address social equity through this bill. We have to recognize the harm that prohibition has done to communities, particularly minorities and poor, urban neighborhoods, and ensure that those communities get the support they need to benefit from legalization."

At the Tuesday rollout, legislative leaders made it clear that while the bill is the result of months of negotiations, it is only at the beginning of the legislative process, and the sausage is about to be made.

"I want to emphasize that the bill introduced today is not the final product -- rather, it is the beginning of the public process of legalizing cannabis for recreational use in Rhode Island," Shekarchi said in a statement during the rollout. "We welcome input from the public as to whether or how we should implement recreational usage, and I expect robust discussions with House membership as well."

Still, it seems like the stars are aligning for marijuana legalization this year in the Ocean State. Stay tuned.

J&J and Drug Distributors Settle Opioid Lawsuits, SD Gov Cool to MJ Legalization Bill, More... (2/25/22)

An Idaho legislator worried that substitute teachers are selling drugs to kids gets a teacher testing bill out of committee, Tennessee is the latest state to see a fentanyl test strip legalization bill, and more.

Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Governor Suggests Possible Veto of Marijuana Legalization Bill. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) sounded skeptical of a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 3, which has just passed the Senate, at a Wednesday press conference. Noem did not give a direct answer when asked about the issue, saying "it's hard to talk in hypotheticals," and she's "not in favor of recreational marijuana." She added that, "I still believe I haven't seen anybody get smarter from smoking dope." Voters approved marijuana legalization in 2020, only to see their decision overturned by the state Supreme Court. The activists behind the 2020 campaign are now signature gathering for a new initiative, but say they will desist if a workable legalization bill becomes law.

Opiates and Opioids

Johnson & Johnson, Drug Distributors Reach Settlement Over Opioid Lawsuits. Three of the country's largest drug distributors -- McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen -- and drug maker Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that they had reached a settlement with the vast majority of states and localities that had sued them over their role in the nation's early-century opioid crisis. The companies have agreed to pay out $26 billion to settle those thousands of claims, with the first checks set to go out in April with at least 85 percent of the payments dedicated to addiction treatment and prevention services. The distributors and Johnson & Johnson released statements Friday morning, noting that the deal is not an admission of wrongdoing and that they strongly dispute the allegations. The distributors said in a joint statement that they believed that "the implementation of this settlement is a key milestone toward achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid claims and delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States that have been impacted by the epidemic."

Drug Testing

Idaho House Committee Advances Bill Requiring Drug Testing for Substitute Teachers. Ignoring the objections of state school officials, the House Education Committee voted 8-7 Thursday to approve a bill requiring mandatory pre-employment drug testing of all substitute teachers, at a time when school districts are scrambling for substitute teachers. School officials called the proposed law unworkable and noted that districts already have their own drug testing policies. "It is unnecessary, and further, we have a policy at the local level," Karen Pyron, superintendent of the Butte County School District, told the committee. "It adds cost and inconvenience and an additional burden to our rural schools," she said. But bill sponsor, Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) retorted that she had "tremendous concerns." Substitute teaching "is a very easy way to access children and sell drugs to them," she claimed. Her reasoning prevailed in the narrowly divided committee, and House Bill 651 now heads for a House floor vote.

Harm Reduction

Tennessee Fentanyl Test Strip Bill Filed State Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) has filed a bill to legalize fentanyl testing strips, Senate Bill 2427. They are currently considered drug paraphernalia under state law. "SB 2427 is very important for Tennessee, especially East Tennesse, where we've had a very large number of deaths from drug overdoses," said Briggs. "This bill legalizes a tool that can help save lives from drug overdoses in our state." The bill would sunset after three years unless it was renewed. The House Criminal Justice Committee is set to discuss the bill on March 2.

Where Marijuana Legalization Could Win at the Statehouse in 2022 [FEATURE]

Nearly a decade after voters in Colorado and Washington led the way, marijuana is now legalized for adult use in 18 states, the District of Columbia, and the territory of Guam. In nearly every state where it is not yet legal, there are efforts underway to change the status quo. With support for marijuana legalization at a record high 68 percent in the most recent Gallup poll, one would be forgiven for thinking that more states are ready.

In some states, activists following the well-worn path of the voter initiative to free the weed; in others, legislators are pursuing a hybrid strategy combining legislative and voter approval. See our earlier rundown of initiative and hybrid efforts here.

But in a number of remaining pot prohibition states, it is up solely to the legislature to get legalization done, whether directly via legislation or by initiating a voter referendum. While legalization bills have been filed in most, if not all, prohibition states, many will fail to pass the legislature, win a chamber floor vote, or even get a committee vote. So, who is going to get it done in 2022? With a big tip of the hat to Ballotpedia, Marijuana Moment, and NORML, who are all keeping an eye on the action, here are some of he states where the odds are best:

Delaware

Last week, a marijuana legalization bill cleared the last hurdle before a House floor vote when the House Appropriations Committee advanced House Bill 305. The bill would allow legal personal possession of 1 ounce of marijuana for adults ages 21 or older and set up a framework for its taxation and sale. It allocates 30 retail sale licenses, 30 manufacturing licenses, 60 cultivation licenses and five testing licenses to be issued within 16 months of the bill's approval.

The committee "walked the bill," which allowed it to advance without a public hearing. The bill had already been approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee. The last time a legalization bill got a House floor vote, back in 2018, it lost by four votes.

This time, the Democrats control both the House and the Senate, as well as the governorship. In the House, Democrats have 26 seats to the GOP's 15, while in the Senate, Democrats have 14 seats to the GOP's seven. And they are going to need virtually all of them to get the bill through owing to a 60 percent super-majority vote requirement because the bill deals with licensing and fees. That same super-majority for legalization may be needed to get the bill past Governor John Carney, who publicly opposed marijuana legalization last year and reiterated that last month,

Maryland

Delegate Luke Clippinger (D), chairman of legislative group studying the issue of marijuana legalization, has filed House Bill 1, which, if passed, would place before voters the following question: "Do you favor the legalization of adult -- use cannabis in the State of Maryland?" If voters approved it, the General Assembly would then be charged with writing the rules covering "use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis."

The bill is moving, pushed along by powerful legislators. It was House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) who formed the marijuana working group, and Clippinger is not only chairman of the group but also chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which advanced the bill to the House floor this week. There, it passed a second floor reading and is now headed for a final House floor vote as early as Friday.

Also headed for a final House floor vote is an accompanying bill sponsored by Clippinger, House Bill 837, that includes measures to implement legalization if voters approve it. It sets 1.5 ounces as the legal possession limit for adults and decriminalizes between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces, as well as automatic expungement for past conduct made legal by the law.

If passed by the House, the measures would still have to be approved by the Senate. Senate President Bill Ferguson (D), though, seems more inclined to support getting a straight legalization bill passed before November than going down the referendum route. One bill that would do that, Senate Bill 692, from Sen. Jill Carter (D), would legalize up to four ounces and allow home cultivation of up to six cannabis plants. Possession in excess of those limits would carry no more than a $150 fine, and past criminal records would be cleared for certain cannabis-related charges.

But there is also a Senate bill that parallels the House measure by seeking voter approval of a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment. That bill, Senate Bill 833, would allow home grows of up to four plants. Either way would work.

Minnesota

After a torturous process that saw it move through a dozen House committees, a marijuana legalization bill, House Fill 600, passed the House in May 2021, only to be stalled in the Senate. It is still alive in this, the second year of the bicameral session, and the House may even revisit it for refinements, but the question is whether the GOP-controlled Senate will be more eager to engage this year.

So far, there is little sign of that, as even Democratic legislative leaders concede. As for the companion to the House bill, Senate File 757, the legislative website reports that "No Senate Committee Hearing or Action has Been Recorded." Still, it ain't over until it's over.

New Hampshire

In January, the Republican-dominated House passed a bill, House Bill 629-FN, that would legalize the possession and unremunerated gifting of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana but would not allow commercial production and sales. That vote came after defeating a broader legalization bill that would have allowed such commerce.

And then this month, the House approved another marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 1598, that would legalize the possession of up to four ounces and allow for sales through state-run pot shops but not allow for home cultivation. But because that bill has fiscal components, it must go back to the House Finance Committee and then be approved once more by the House before heading to the Senate.

The Senate, though, is where New Hampshire legalization bills go to die. That has been the fate of all four previous legalization bills passed by the House, but with the state surrounded by legal marijuana states and the issue garnering overwhelming popular support in the Granite State, this year could be different. But the legislature would have to pass any bill with a veto-proof majority, given the longstanding opposition of Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is close. The Senate passed a legalization bill last June, Senate Bill 568, and Gov. Dan McKee (D) included legalization in his budget proposalin the form of House Bill 7123. Lawmakers are reportedly working on a compromise between the Senate bill, which envisioned up to 150 retail outlets, and the governor's initial plan, which called for only 25 retail licenses. Both the Senate bill and the governor's plan include social equity provisions.

A key player, House Speaker Joe Shekarchi (D) says there is only one issue holding up a final agreement: who will regulate the legal marijuana market? Will it be an independent commission or the State Bureau of Business Regulation? But Shekarchi also said the issue now is not whether to legalize but how to, and that legalization is "inevitable."

NY Governor Signs Bill to Let Hemp Growers Grow Marijuana, Avocado Imports Resume After Cartel Threat, More... (2/23/22)

A new poll finds three out of four Floridans are ready to legalize marijuana, the Supreme Court asks the Justice Department to file a brief in a pair of medical marijuana workmen's compensation cases, and more.

Marijuana. It is popular in Florida. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Poll Finds Floridians Ready for Marijuana Law Reform. A new poll from the University of North Florida's Public Opinion Research Lab revealed three in four Floridians are ready to legalize pot. Some 76 percent of respondents supported allowing people to legally possess small amounts of marijuana, with just 20 percent oppose. That same 76 percent support figure came among Democrats, while even among Republicans, support was at 64 percent. Among independent voters, support was at 90 percent. Despite strong support for legalization, there is no sign the GOP-dominated state legislature is ready to embrace it, leaving a 2024 initiative campaign as the most likely path to progress.

New York Governor Signs Bill Allowing Hemp Farmers to Grow Marijuana This Season. Governor Kathy Hochul (D) on Tuesday signed into law S08084A, which will allow existing licensed hemp farmers to grow and process marijuana for the adult market this year. Hochul said the bill would help establish a safe, equitable, and inclusive new industry. It creates a new Conditional Adult-Use Cannabis Cultivator license for hemp farmers who want to make the transition. Licensees will be required to create "safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly cultivation practices, participate in a social equity mentorship program, and engage in a labor peace agreement with a bona fide labor organization."

Medical Marijuana

Supreme Court Asks Feds to Weigh in on Medical Marijuana Workers Compensation Cases. The Supreme Court has asked the Justice Department to submit a brief in a pair of workmen's compensation cases revolving around medical marijuana. The question is whether federal law protects employers who do not cover medical marijuana costs for workers injured on the job even in states that require it. The answer will depend on an interpretation of the constitution's supremacy clause. The cases involve Minnesota workers who sought workers compensation for medical marijuana expenses after being hurt on the job. The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that the claims were invalid because marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

International

US Resume Avocado Imports from Mexico, Paused by Potential Cartel Threat. Guacamole lovers, take heart! A week-long shutdown of avocado imports from Mexico prompted by threats to US Department of Agriculture inspectors in the state of Michoacan has ended. "The safety of USDA employees simply doing their jobs is of paramount importance," the agency said. "USDA is appreciative of the positive, collaborative relationship between the United States and Mexico that made resolution of this issue possible in a timely manner." The threats are being blamed on the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which is fighting local cartels for control of not only drug trafficking but also control over the lucrative avocado crop in the area.

NY Marijuana Licensing and Equity Bill Goes to Governor, Italian High Court Throws Out Plants Referendum, More... (2/17/22)

An Alabama marijuana decriminalization bill advances, so does a Hawaii bill that would legalize marijuana for people over 65, and more.

There are moves afoot to ease access to medical marijuana for senior citizens. (Sandra Yruel/DPA)
Marijuana Policy

Alabama Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 160 on a 5-4 vote. The bill, filed by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D), would decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces and make possession of more than two ounces a misdemeanor punishable only by a maximum fine of $250. A second offense would net a $500 fine, while a third offense would be considered a Class D felony, but still punishable only by a $750 fine. The bill also provides a mechanism for expungement of past offenses. A similar measure passed the committee last year, only to die without a floor vote.

New York Legislature Approves Marijuana Licensing and Equity Bill. The Senate and the Assembly have both approved Assembly Bill 1248, the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act. The measure provides provisional marijuana cultivation and processing licenses for existing hemp businesses if they take steps to promote equity in the nascent industry. The measure passed the Senate on a 50-13 vote Tuesday and passed the Assembly on a 99-43 vote Wednesday. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Kathy Hochul (D).

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Senate Committee Approves Bill to Legalize Marijuana for People 65 and Over. In a bid to ease access to medical marijuana for senior citizens, the Senate Health Committee approved a bill that would allow people 65 and over to automatically qualify for medical marijuana regardless of whether they have a qualifying condition, in effect legalizing possession for seniors. The bill passed the committee on a 3-0 vote. It would alter the state's medical marijuana law by adding to the language requiring that patients be diagnosed "as having a debilitating medical condition" that medical marijuana will be available to anyone "who has reached the age of sixty-five."

DC Mayor Signs Bill to Let People Over 65 Get Medical Marijuana Without a Doctor's Recommendation. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has signed into law the Medical Marijuana Patient Access Extension Emergency Amendment Act of 2022, which will allow people 65 and over to self-certify their eligibility for medical marijuana without getting a doctor's recommendation. The bill also creates a medical marijuana tax holiday coinciding with 4/20 and extends the registration renewal deadline for patients.

International

Italian Constitutional Court Vetoes Plants Referendum. The Constitutional Court on Wednesday threw out a proposed referendum to decriminalize marijuana, psilocybin and some other plants, with cultivation legalized, saying that it included other substances considered to be hard drugs. "This is enough to make us violate multiple international obligations," said Giuliano Amato, the Constitutional Court president. The decision prompted the ire of referendum advocates, who had gathered more than half a million signatures in just about one week to place the measure before voters. The decision was "a terrible blow to democracy," said lawmaker Riccardo Magi, a leading advocate.

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