The fight to legalize marijuana in the United States made some significant strides last week. Michigan moved one step closer to placing an initiative on the 2018 ballot. And a legalization bill is currently sitting on the desk of Vermont Gov. Phil Scott. Read all about these developments and more in The Fresh Toast’s Marijuana Legislative Roundup for May 22.
Two Colorado congressmen introduced legislation on Thursday that seeks to prevent federal law enforcement from cracking down on states where cannabis is legal for recreational or medical purposes. The Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017 would insert a provision into the Controlled Substances Act stating that the act shall not be construed to preempt state marijuana laws.
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Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I substance under the CSA, placing it in the most tightly-restricted category of narcotics along with drugs such as heroin and MDMA. The bill comes in response to threats from the Trump administration to crack down on state-legal marijuana businesses, and was previously introduced in 2012, 2013, and 2015.
On Thursday, legislation landed on Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s desk that would legalize recreational cannabis for adults. Under the bill, adults 21 and older could possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow a total of six plants at home beginning in July of 2018. The measure would also create a commission to study marijuana tax and regulatory systems implemented in other states, and make recommendations as to how Vermont should proceed.
The bill does not specifically provide for any such system, which would require further legislative action based on the commission’s report. Governor Scott is expected to neither sign nor veto the measure, allowing it to become law by default after five days.
On Thursday, the Delaware state Senate unanimously approved a revised bill that modestly loosens the restrictions on medical marijuana for PTSD patients. The original legislation, which failed to pass on Tuesday, would have added debilitating anxiety disorders to the list of conditions eligible for treatment with cannabis. In the end, the measure passed by Senators will merely allow any physician to prescribe marijuana to treat PTSD. Currently, only psychiatrists can authorize PTSD patients to use medical cannabis.
On Thursday, advocates of marijuana legalization in Michigan moved one step closer to placing an initiative on the ballot in 2018. The Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved language for a measure that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older. If backers of the legislation are able to gather 252,000 signatures within six months, the state legislature with have the option of either voting on the bill or sending it to the ballot for voters to decide.
If enacted, the measure would legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and cultivation of up to 12 plants. The Republican-controlled legislature is generally seen as unlikely to vote on the measure if presented.
On Wednesday, members of the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved legislation to form a commission to study marijuana legalization. If enacted, H. 5551 would create a 15-member commission tasked with studying the effects of recreational marijuana in states where legalization has been implemented, such as Washington and Colorado. The study commission would produce a report providing recommendations on how best to implement cannabis legalization in Rhode Island. The bill will now go to the floor for a vote of the full House of Representatives.
On Monday, New Jersey state Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Under the legislation, adults would be able to legally possess up to an ounce of cannabis flower, 16 ounces of edibles, and seven grams of concentrates. A new Division of Marijuana Enforcement would be tasked with regulating the recreational system, and a sales tax of no more than 25 percent would be phased in over the course of five years if the legislation is enacted.
Governor Chris Christie has recently made his stark opposition to marijuana legalization known, so the measure is unlikely to become law under his administration. However, the governor is up for reelection in November and the frontrunner in the race, Phil Murphy, has expressed support for the idea.