Last week in marijuana legislative news, Vermont took another big step toward legalization, a bill to regulate cannabis was introduced in New Jersey and, in California, laws were eased to assist those with previous marijuana convictions on their records. Read all about these developments and more in The Fresh Toast’s Marijuana Legislative Roundup for Jan. 16.
On Friday, 69 members of Congress released a letter urging lawmakers to include a measure known as the McClintock-Polis amendment in any future appropriations legislation to protect state-legal cannabis from federal law enforcement action. The amendment states, “None of the funds made available by this act to the Department of Justice may be used with respect to any of the [50 states], to prevent them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana on non-Federal lands within their respective jurisdictions.”
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The proposed amendment is similar to the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which protects state-legal medical marijuana from federal law enforcement and has been included in every spending bill enacted since 2014. The letter comes in response to a memo circulated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions the prior week, in which he rescinded the hands-off federal policy toward state legalization efforts outlined in the 2013 Cole Memorandum.
On Wednesday, the Vermont Senate passed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana a week after the same bill passed the state House, sending the legislation to the governor’s desk for signature. If enacted, the bill would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home, with a limit of two mature plants and four immature seedlings per household. Governor Phil Scott announced on Thursday that he will sign the legislation, which will make Vermont the first state to legalize recreational cannabis through the legislature, rather than a ballot referendum. However, the bill does not provide for marijuana business licensing or retail sales.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in the New Jersey Senate introduced legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The bill would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of edibles, or 7 grams of concentrate. Home cultivation would be prohibited, and a tax of between 7 percent and 25 percent would be levied on marijuana sales. The bill is identical to one introduced last year, which was fiercely opposed by Governor Chris Christie. Incoming governor Phil Murphy has been an outspoken supporter of recreational marijuana, and has said that he hopes to sign legalization into law in his first year.
On Tuesday, California lawmakers introduced legislation making it easier for those with prior marijuana convictions to have their records expunged or reduced. The bill would require county courts to automatically expunge convictions for offenses made legal by the recreational cannabis law passed by voters in 2016. The ballot measure retroactively legalized some marijuana offenses and reduced others from felonies to misdemeanors. However, those seeking to expunge their records are currently required to petition the courts.