The fight to legalize marijuana in the United States made some significant strides last week; reclassification is back on the table, West Virginia approves medical marijuana, and more.
In the House of Representatives on Thursday, lawmakers introduced legislation that would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule III substance, a move that would significantly loosen federal restrictions on the plant. Currently, cannabis faces the same restrictions as cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy, among other drugs prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act. The new classification would place marijuana in the same category as anabolic steroids, Tylenol with codeine, and other drugs with accepted medical uses and less risk of dependence. The bill is designed to make it easier for doctors, patients, and researchers to access cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. The legislation comes on the heels of a bill introduced the prior week that would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances altogether.
On Wednesday, the West Virginia legislature approved legislation to legalize certain forms of cannabis for medical purposes. The compromise legislation is much more restrictive than the initial Senate version of the bill, which included marijuana flower on the list of acceptable forms of medicinal cannabis, allowed for patients to grow the plant at home, and gave doctors discretion in prescribing marijuana for a wider variety of diagnoses. The legislation passed by both chambers and sent to the governor’s desk allows only cannabis in the form of tinctures, capsules, extracts, and oils to be prescribed for an enumerated list of conditions. This list includes epilepsy, PTSD, cancer, AIDS, and some other conditions. Governor Jim Justice is expected to sign the legislation, making West Virginia the 29th state to legalize medical marijuana.
Governor Jerry Brown proposed legislation last week to streamline the state’s legal marijuana regulatory system. The measures would reconcile California’s robust medical marijuana industry with the new recreational system to be enacted in 2018. Under the legislation, businesses would be permitted to hold multiple licenses to grow, process, distribute, and sell cannabis products. Some critics fear this could allow criminal enterprises to consolidate control over an industry expected to grow to $7 billion annually following legalization. The California Growers Association is also concerned that this proposal would facilitate the formation of mega-corporations that would dominate the marijuana industry from production to retail. However, the measure would prohibit one business from owning more than three retail stores and pot farms larger than four acres. The goal of the legislation is to harmonize many aspects of the medical and recreational statutes while maintaining the two systems as separately-regulated industries.
Rep. Marie Dunwell (D-Helena) introduced a bill in the Montana House of Representatives on Thursday that would create a committee to study the impacts of recreational marijuana and present a report to the legislature in 2019. The committee would explore the regulation, taxation, legalization, and public safety aspects of legalizing recreational cannabis in the state and finalize its report by late September 2018.
North Dakota lawmakers this week gutted the medical marijuana measure passed by an overwhelming 64 percent of voters in November, which permitted the use of cannabis to treat several enumerated medical conditions. The new legislation bans edibles, restricts THC content in all cannabis products to 6 percent, and prohibits the smoking of marijuana flower unless specifically prescribed by a doctor. The legislation will now go to a conference committee to finalize the details of the bill before it is sent to the governor’s desk.
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