Sunday, July 21, 2024

The Fresh Toast Marijuana Legislative Roundup: Feb. 19

Last week was a busy time for those fighting in legislatures across the nation for cannabis reform. In Berkeley, the city council passed legislation to make the liberal college town a “sanctuary city” for marijuana. Find out about that more in our weekly marijuana legislative roundup.


On Thursday, Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) introduced the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would essentially enshrine the recently-rescinded 2013 Cole Memorandum in federal law by prohibiting the Department of Justice from prosecuting individuals engaged in state-legal use of cannabis for recreational or medical purposes.

The Cole Memorandum, which formed the foundation of the Obama administration’s hands-off policy toward state legalization efforts, instructed federal prosecutors to refrain from prosecuting those engaged in state-legal uses of marijuana and outlined eight public health and safety priorities with which states were expected to comply in exchange for the federal noninterference. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memorandum in another memo circulated to U.S. Attorneys last month, which instead left enforcement of federal marijuana prohibition to the discretion of federal prosecutors.  


Lawmakers in the Connecticut House General Law Committee voted last week to hold a hearing on a marijuana legalization proposal in the coming months, though a hearing date has not been set. The topic of cannabis legalization has traditionally been handled by public health and judiciary committees in the state, but no legalization bill has made it past a committee vote in past years. Supporters hope that legalization will have a better chance of passage in the General Law Committee. However, the issue is unlikely to come to a vote during the election year.  


On Monday, the Virginia Senate voted 38-2 in favor of legislation that would allow people to expunge some marijuana offenses. If enacted, the bill would allow first-time offenders convicted of possession of small amounts of cannabis to later have their convictions expunged. Those seeking expungement would be required to pay a fee, which would be used to create a database to prevent people from using the expungement process multiple times. Two more far-reaching marijuana decriminalization bills failed to make it out of committee in January. 


On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved legislation to make Berkeley a “sanctuary city” for marijuana. The measure will prohibit city employees from assisting federal law enforcement in arresting or prosecuting individuals for cannabis-related activities that are legal under state and local law. The legislation is modeled after similar laws in place in numerous cities nationwide that bar public employees from assisting federal immigration enforcement in rounding up undocumented immigrants. Similar “marijuana sanctuary state” bills are being considered by lawmakers in Washington, California, and Colorado. 



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