As the month of May come to a close, marijuana legislation continues to make headlines. In Vermont, the governor vetoed a bill that would have made adult use of cannabis legal. But lawmakers are back at work hoping for a compromise measure that the Gov. Phil Scott will sign. Meanwhile, on the other coast, Washington become the first state to create a certification for organic cannabis. Read all about these developments and more in The Fresh Toast’s Marijuana Legislative Roundup for May 30.
On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott vetoed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Vermont. The bill would have allowed adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home starting in July of 2018. A commission would have been created to study the social and fiscal impacts of recreational marijuana in states such as Washington and Colorado, and make recommendations as to how Vermont should proceed in implementing cannabis legalization.
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In vetoing the measure, Scott made several suggestions to “improve” the bill. These included harsher penalties for smoking while driving or in the presence of children. The state legislature will convene for a special “veto session” in June to try to reach a compromise.
On the 17th, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate to undermine a memo issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier in the month. The Sessions memo instructed prosecutors to seek the most severe provable charges against drug offenders. This effectively overturned a previous memo issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder, instructing prosecutors to avoid seeking charges that could result in lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent drug offenders.
The Justice Safety Valve Act was introduced in the Senate to give judges more leeway in sentencing drug offenders. The bill would allow judges to hand down sentences below mandatory minimums in certain cases where the mandatory sentence would contradict other federal provisions. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House. The Act was previously introduced in 2013 and 2015.
On the 16th, Governor Jay Inslee signed a marijuana omnibus bill making a variety of changes to the state’s recreational and medical marijuana laws. Starting on July 28th, adults will be permitted to share up to a half ounce of cannabis flower so long as money is not exchanged in the process. Currently, it is illegal to share or gift marijuana to another person under any circumstances. Another provision will permit medical marijuana patients to purchase seeds directly from dispensaries, and instruct the state to study the idea of allowing all adults to grow cannabis at home.
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An organic marijuana certification system will also be created, although the word “organic” will not be used to avoid conflict with U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations. The reform package includes several other measures, including one that places new limits on advertising for marijuana businesses in the state.