The marijuana legalization battle made strides last week in the nation’s capital with a series of bills introduced. Meanwhile, legislators in Delaware, West Virginia, Tennessee and Colorado made headway.
On Thursday, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) introduced a bill that would make cannabis legal under federal law and permit it to be regulated like alcohol.
Under the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, marijuana would be removed from the list of banned substances under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, and allow adults 21 and older to buy, possess, and consume the plant legally. Cannabis advertisements would face similar restrictions to those of alcohol products, and the task of regulating marijuana would fall to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The bill is one of three pieces of marijuana-related legislation introduced by members of the Cannabis Caucus. Other sponsors of the legislation include Oregon Democratic Reps. Ron Wyden and Earl Blumenauer.
The Small Business Equity Act would permit state-legal cannabis businesses to claim tax credits and deductions available to other legal businesses. Such businesses are currently treated as illegal drug traffickers and are subject to exorbitant tax rates.
The Addressing The Marijuana Policy Gap Act would “exempt any person acting in compliance with state marijuana law from criminal penalties” under the Controlled Substances Act and create an expungement process for people convicted for possession of less than one ounce of cannabis or for other activities that were state-legal at the time the crime was committed.
The bill also includes a number of other provisions to reduce federal penalties for certain marijuana offenders, make federal law more compatible with state marijuana laws, and permit healthcare professionals at the Department of Veterans Affairs to make “recommendations and opinions” regarding medical marijuana.
On Thursday, the West Virginia House of Delegates held its first reading and debate on a bill to legalize medical marijuana for patients suffering from seizures, chronic pain, PTSD, anxiety, and other conditions to be determined by a new medical cannabis commission.
Related Story: Medical Marijuana Is Almost Legal In West Virginia
In a highly unusual move, legislators voted 50-40 to bypass the committee process and the House leadership in order to bring the bill directly to the chamber floor. Such legislation has invariably died in committee over the years, and proponents of the legislation argue that as a result, state law has failed to keep pace with the growing support for medical marijuana among West Virginians.
As we reported in our previous Legislative Roundup, Tennessee legislators recently passed a measure to nullify local ordinances allowing police to issue civil citations for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Last week, a spokeswoman for Republican Governor Bill Haslam told reporters that the governor would defer to the legislature on the issue. Once enacted, the bill will override measures in the state’s two largest cities, Nashville and Memphis, imposing civil fines for cannabis possession in lieu of criminal charges.
On Thursday, Delaware lawmakers unveiled a measure that would permit adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Production and retail operations would be licensed and regulated by the state.
The bill’s sponsors say that they have enough votes to pass the law. However, Democratic Gov. John Carney does not support legalization for his state, preferring to focus on finally achieving full implementation of the state’s six-year-old medical marijuana law and a decriminalization measure approved in 2015. The governor has stated that he wants more time to study the impact of legalization in the eight states and D.C. that have previously approved such legislation.
A new Colorado legislative proposal would protect state-licensed recreational marijuana growers from a potential future federal crackdown on legal cannabis. The measure would pre-qualify such growers for reclassification as medical marijuana producers should a legitimate business need arise. This would make it nearly impossible for the federal government to target recreational marijuana producers, but could carry a high cost for state revenue because medical marijuana is taxed at a much lower rate than recreational marijuana.