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Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!
Let’s talk about Congress. Earlier this week, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) cosponsored the Marijuana Justice Act! Sen. Harris announced in a video message that she will be joining Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden in promoting this important legislation. This comes just a week and a half after California senior Senator Diane Feinstein (D) told reporters that she has dropped her opposition to ending the federal prohibition of marijuana. And U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he is cosponsoring Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) hemp legalization bill.
Additionally, in a historical first, a Congressional committee has advanced marijuana law reform legislation; one that would encourage the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct more studies on cannabis’ medical benefits.
At the state level, Michigan Senate Republicans are expected to discuss whether to enact marijuana legalization instead of allowing the question to appear on the ballot, with the fear that a ballot question would turn out hundreds of thousands of democratic voters. The New Jersey Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee will hold a Saturday hearing on marijuana legalization, and county prosecutors across Vermont are looking at ways to expunge prior marijuana convictions.
Also, Connecticut’s legislative leaders said marijuana legalization is off the table for this session. As more state legislatures are adjourning for the session, more and more bills are dying, and therefore there are not as many legislative updates as we’ve been seeing earlier in the year.
At a more local level, The Allentown, Pennsylvania City Council gave initial approval to a proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance, and also adopted a resolution calling on state lawmakers to end cannabis criminalization. The Milwaukee County, Wisconsin County Board’s Judiciary Committee voted in favor of placing a nonbinding marijuana legalization on the November ballot, and Denver, Colorado is planning to use marijuana tax revenue to fund public housing.
Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.
Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.
End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.
The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.
House Bill 579 would expand the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis by permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, severe muscle spasms or glaucoma.
Update: HB 579 was approved by the Senate 25-9 on 5/9. The bill now heads back to the House for review of Senate changes. A separate measure, HB 627, to permit patients with autism to be able to qualify for medical cannabis access, also passed the Senate and awaits reconsideration by the House.
Assembly Bill 2069 seeks to strengthen employment rights for medical cannabis patients. The bill would explicitly bar employers from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test.
Update: AB 2069 will be heard by the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee on 5/16 at 9am in State Capitol, Room 4202.
Additional Actions to Take
Senate Bill 1098 seeks to establish an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program.
The program is designed to research the “growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp” by licensed providers. Lawmakers acknowledge that “developing and using industrial hemp can improve the economy and agricultural vitality” of Arizona.
Update: SB 1098 passed the Senate on 2/15 and passed the House on 5/3. It now awaits action from Governor Ducey.
Senate Bill 2298 seeks to expand the state’s hemp law.
The bill provides for the ability of individuals to cultivate hemp with a state license even if they are not part of the state’s Agriculture Department pilot program. That program only permits hemp cultivation as part of a state-sponsored research program.
Update: SB 2298 was heard by the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee, and then approved by the committee on 5/8.
Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.
Update: SB 930 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 5/22.
Assembly Bill 3157 seeks to temporarily reduce tax rates imposed on the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis.
Update: AB 3157 was heard by the Assembly Committee on Business and Professions on 5/8, and then approved by the committee on 5/9. The bill will be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 5/16.
That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!