Politics  The latest in cannabis legalization including laws and policies, legislators’ views, election coverage, and more.

Cannabis Legislation 2017: We’re Tracking All Legalization Bills

Most state legislatures reconvene in early January, and by February they’re in full swing, moving some bills forward and killing others in committee. This year 27 state legislatures are considering bills pertaining to cannabis in some form. (Well, okay: 26. Mississippi had two medical marijuana bills, but they’re already dead.) Some states are pushing full adult-use legalization. Others are pulling back on medical legalization measures adopted by voters last November. We’ll keep tracking them as they live and die. Most state legislatures adjourn by early June. Stay tuned.

 

Arizona

House Bill 2003 – Would legalize the use, possession, and sales of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults over the age of 21.

  • Likelihood of passing: Arizona came within a hair’s breadth of passing Proposition 205 last year and this bill is sure to see some traction. But do lawmakers prefer to leave it up to the voters?

Arkansas

House Bill 1400 – Would ban the smoking of medical cannabis and remove a portion of the law that allows landlords to permit patients to smoke on a leased property.

House Bill 1391 – Would allow cities and towns to ban medical dispensaries and cultivation sites.

House Bill 1392 – Would ban the production and sale of edibles for medical use.

  • Likelihood of passing: All three bills are fairly likely to pass, as the Arkansas Legislature is Republican-controlled, with a majority holding an anti-cannabis stance, including the governor and the surgeon general.
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California

Senate Bill 175 – Would prohibit cannabis businesses from using the name of a county unless the cannabis was produced in that county.

  • Likelihood of passing: Almost certain to pass. California has a reputation for embracing all things cannabis and this bill in particular would help protect the livelihood of certain cannabis businesses.

Colorado

Senate Bill 17-017 – Would allow medical marijuana for patients suffering from stress disorders, including PTSD and acute stress disorder.

  • Likelihood of passing: This is the fifth petition to add PTSD to Colorado’s medical marijuana program, and while this has advanced further than the previous attempts, it’s still a toss-up.

Senate Bill 17-192 – Would allow medical and adult-use cannabis shops to apply for a permit to make home deliveries of cannabis.

  • Likelihood of passing: This has considerable support from the legislature and the community. Seems like cannabis delivery services could be coming soon to Colorado.

Connecticut

House Bill 5539 – Would legalize and regulate the retail sale, personal growth, and recreational use of marijuana in order to raise revenue for the General Fund and for substance abuse treatment, prevention, education, and awareness.

Senate Bill 11 – Would legalize and tax the sale of marijuana.

  • Likelihood of passing: Connecticut is a fairly liberal little state, and now that the dominoes have fallen around them with the legalization of Massachusetts and Maine, there’s a much greater chance that Connecticut could legalize cannabis this year. The House bill has much more support and is a more comprehensive proposal than SB11, giving it a higher chance of making it through the Legislature.

Georgia

House Bill 65 – Would remove requirements that patients be in the end stages of a disease to qualify for medical cannabis and would also add several new qualifying medical conditions, including PTSD and autism.

  • Likelihood of passing: Fairly slim, unfortunately. Lawmakers have been trying to pass a similar bill for the last two years and the Legislature fears that medical legalization is a slippery slope to adult use. HB65 will likely die on the House floor.

Senate Bill 16 – To lower the percent of THC allowed in MMJ from 5% to 3%.

  • Likelihood of passing: This has already passed through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and will likely pass through the House and Senate, despite the fact that there is no scientific reasoning to lower the amount of THC permitted.
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Hawaii

Senate Bill 548 – Would legalize the personal use, possession, and sale of cannabis for adult use, and license and regulate retail marijuana establishments.

  • Likelihood of passing: This bill has a better than chance than many legalization measures this year, but since they are still dealing with the dispensary licensing process, they may want to wait until dispensaries are open and firmly established before moving on to legalization.

Senate Bill 16 – Would decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis unless on school property or in a school zone.

  • Likelihood of passing: This has a pretty high likelihood of passing and would, in essence, create a barebones legalization. Possession would be unpunishable, but sales would still be prohibited. The bill makes a legal exemption for MMJ patients, but curiously, makes no mention of age limits, effectively allowing anyone to possess cannabis, including children. This will likely be amended before passing, but the Legislature will surely want to address that.

Indiana

Senate Bill 255 – Would legalize the use and possession of up to eight ounces of cannabis for medicinal use with a physician’s recommendation.

  • Likelihood of passing: This is the seventh time this medical marijuana bill has been introduced in Indiana, and it is fairly unlikely to succeed.

Senate Bill 15 – Would legalize hemp oil for the treatment of children with epilepsy.

  • Likelihood of passing: This is more likely to pass than Senate Bill 255; however, if it does pass, it is unlikely to provide safe access to state-produced legal hemp oil, even for patients who qualify.

Kansas

Senate Bill 187 – Would enact the Kansas Safe Access Act to allow for the safe, legal, humanitarian and therapeutic use of cannabis for medical conditions, as well as establishing compassion center, a compassion board and the issuance of identification cards for patients.

  • Likelihood of passing: This bill is thorough and well-written, but, unfortunately, the Republican-controlled Congress is pretty unlikely to give this bill the time of day.

Kentucky

House Bill 411 – Would create a new section of the Kentucky Revised Statutes to allow physicians to recommend cannabis for medical purposes, and hold physicians harmless for making the recommendation.

  • Likelihood of passing: Kentucky has never had much luck when it comes to passing cannabis-related measures, but this one is barebones enough that it just might move forward.

Maryland

Senate Bill 928 – To repeal civil and criminal prohibitions of the use and possession of cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older.

  • Likelihood of passing: This bill is not particularly likely to pass, as the state is still struggling to get their medical marijuana program up and running.

Senate Bill 798 – Would reduce the penalties for the use and possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis for the first and second offense to a civil fine of no more than $100.

  • Likelihood of passing: This is far more likely to pass and would be an improvement overall for the state. With a significant minority population, reducing the number of cannabis-related arrests would definitely assist with race relations and the law enforcement community.
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Minnesota

H.F. 927 – Would legalize the use, possession, cultivation, distribution, and sales of cannabis for adults over the age of 21.

  • Likelihood of passing: Very unlikely. Minnesota has one of the strictest medical cannabis programs in the country and the likelihood of the Legislature passing a full legalization measure is almost nil.

Mississippi

Senate Bill 2378 – Would allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis as a treatment option for patients who qualify, and patients could possess up to three mature plants, four immature plants, and up to 30 grams of cannabis from each plant.

  • Likelihood of passing: Pretty slim. Mississippi is notoriously conservative and do not have anything even remotely resembling an MMJ program.
  • Update: Died in committee on January 31, 2017.

Senate Bill 2379 – Would remove marijuana and hashish from the state list of Schedule 1 controlled substances, as well as all criminal penalties.

  • Likelihood of passing: Fairly unlikely. This has a better chance of passing through the Legislature, but a decriminalization measure to reduce penalties to a civil fine (rather than removing penalties completely) would stand a much stronger chance.
  • Update: Died in committee on January 31, 2017.

Nebraska

Legislative Bill 622 – Would allow qualifying medical patients to access cannabis for medicinal purposes with the recommendation of a physician.

  • Likelihood of passing: This one’s a toss-up. On the one hand, Nebraskans are known for their “nice” nature, including compassion, hence the “compassion centers” outlined in the law. The bill has a better chance of being approved than a voter initiative, but with the Midwest, it’s anyone’s guess.

New Hampshire

House Bill 640 – Would reduce the penalty for the possession of to to one ounce of cannabis for adults to a $100 fine for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and $350 for any subsequent offenses.

  • Likelihood of passing: This bill has already advanced through the committee, which means it has a fighting chance.

Senate Bill 233 – Would legalize the use and possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use by adults.

  • Likelihood of passing: This bill is not quite as likely to pass as the decriminalization measure, as this is the first measure to legalize cannabis that has been introduced in New Hampshire.

New Mexico

Senate Bill 8 – Would presume eligibility for those applying to be in the medical marijuana program. This has widely been reported as allowing veterans to automatically qualify for the MMJ program, but it appears more aimed at cutting down the application process time, which has plagued New Mexico in recent months.

  • Likelihood of passing:  If the New Mexico Department of Health can skip even one step towards processing MMJ applications, it could cut wait times down significantly, as well as allowing better access, which means it would be in the best interest of the state government for this bill to pass. That being said, there will likely be some pushback from those concerned about ineligible residents taking advantage of the system.

Senate Bill 177 – Would increase the number of plants producers can grow depending on the number of patients, and would add 14 new medical marijuana conditions to the state’s MMJ program.

  • Likelihood of passing: So far, this bill has been sailing through the Legislature with flying colors. It would significantly increase the number of patients who qualify for the program, but would also help address the issues with supply and demand.

House Bill 102 – The Marijuana Tax Act would legalize the use, possession, and sales of cannabis for those over the age of 21.

  • Likelihood of passing: This may have a better chance of passing than SB8, as New Mexico has a strong MMJ program and has considered adult use legalization for several years now.
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New York

Bill No. S03040 – Would enact the “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act” to legalize the growing, possession, and use of cannabis for adults 18 years of age and older.

  • Likelihood of passing: Slim to none. This bill has been introduced four years running and has been shot down every time. Aside from that, it seems more pertinent to improve the barely-functioning medical marijuana program before dipping into the waters of adult use legalization.

A. 2142 – Would seal the criminal records for those who have been convicted of simple possession of cannabis in public.

  • Likelihood of passing: This bill has already gained traction and would be keeping in line with the newly implemented cannabis policy of no longer arresting individuals for the simple possession of cannabis in a public place.

North Dakota

Senate Bill 2344 – Would significantly alter the recently passed Compassionate Care Act to reduce the amount of cannabis patients may possess, eliminate any option of home cultivation, and to cap the number of dispensaries and cultivators.

  • Likelihood of passing: There’s been enough pushback from advocates and even within the Legislature that it is unlikely that this bill will pass in its current form. The Legislature may, however, pass a similarly-worded bill in the future.

Oklahoma

House Bill 1877 – Would protect any qualifying medical marijuana patient from arrest or prosecution, so long as they qualify with the recommendation of a physician. A Medical Marijuana Commission would be charged with creating and overseeing dispensary and cultivation facilities.

  • Likelihood of passing: Pretty slim chances here. Oklahoma’s a strong Bible Belt state, and conservative legislators are unlikely to consider an MMJ push too seriously, even with 71 percent of Oklahomans in support.

Oregon

Senate Bill 301 – Would prohibit employers from requiring employees to refrain from using state-legal substances on their days off work.

  • Likelihood of passing: This is a fascinating bill, but it’s a long shot. State legalization laws generally allow employers to call the shots on employment practices, particularly related to cannabis usage. If this passes, it could set a new precedent and inspire similar laws in other adult-use states.

Rhode Island

H. 5274 – Would legalize the use, possession, and regulated sales of cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older.

  • Likelihood of passing: This has a very good chance to pass. Because Rhode Island does not allow voter initiatives, and their best chance for legalization is through the Legislature. Rhode Island has come close to legalization in the past few years – could 2017 be their year?
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South Carolina

S. 212 – The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act would legalize cannabis for use by qualified patients with the recommendation of a physician.

  • Likelihood of passing: This bill has a better chance than it would have even just a few years ago. There is a great deal of support for medical marijuana in South Carolina, but it may need to be enacted through the voters, rather than the Legislature.

South Dakota

Senate Bill 129 – Would remove a longstanding state law that places a cannabis user at risk of legal prosecution if they have ingested cannabis, whether or not they have cannabis on their person.

  • Likelihood of passing: This outdated law should have been removed from the books years ago. SB 129, which would do that, will hopefully pass with flying colors. This is a terrible law that should be removed.

Texas

Senate Bill 269 – Would allow patients with certain debilitating conditions to receive medical cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation.

  • Likelihood of passing: It is fairly unlikely that this medical marijuana bill will have a fighting chance in the Legislature. The state legalized low-THC cannabis oil in 2015, but they have yet to create the infrastructure for the program. It may be some time before MMJ makes its way to Texas.

House Bill 81 – Would reduce criminal penalties for individuals who possess an ounce or less of cannabis to a civil fine.

Senate Bill 170 – Would reduce the penalties for the possession of a small amount of cannabis to a civil fine.

  • Likelihood of passing: These decriminalization measures have a higher likelihood of passing. Texas is a cannabis curious state, but the state’s officials are cautious when it comes to making any sudden moves on cannabis in the Legislature.

Utah

House Bill 130 – Would allow universities to study the medicinal benefits of cannabis and cannabinoid products.

  • Likelihood of passing: This actually has a decent chance of passing, mostly because it will do very little to change the actual availability of medical cannabis in Utah. However, with the advancement of positive research, it will give pro-cannabis lawmakers ammunition for future MMJ endeavors.
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Virginia

House Bill 2135 – Would allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis for the treatment of any medical condition.

  • Likelihood of passing: Very unlikely. Although it has a progressive law on the books allowing an affirmative defense in court if caught with CBD oil, Virginia has proven reluctant to pass any fuller medical marijuana legislation.
  • Update: Died in the Courts of Justice

House Bill 1635 – Would allow Virginians suffering from Crohn’s disease to use non-psychoactive oil derived from CBD and THC-A cannabinoids.

  • Update: Died in the Courts of Justice

Senate Bill 1452 – Would legalize physician-prescribed CBD and THC-A oil for patients who suffer from cancer or epilepsy.

Senate Bill 1298 – Would provide an affirmative defense for the possession or distribution of marijuana for medical purposes.

  • Likelihood of passing:Virginia is notoriously anti-cannabis and although these bills resort to the most basic affirmative defense for a very small percentage of patients who may potentially qualify, in the event that they are caught with cannabis oil, it’s highly unlikely that Virginia will take this baby step.

Senate Bill 1027 – Would permit the pharmaceutical processing of cannabidiol and THC-A oil for the treatment of intractable epilepsy.

  • Likelihood of passing: This bill is  ahuge step forward in simply being introduced the Virginia Legislature, in that it would allow in-state production and access to cannabis-based medicines. That being said, that doesn’t increase its chances of making it out of committee.

Vermont

S.16 – Would expand the list of qualifying medical conditions, increase the number of dispensaries from four to eight, and increase the amount of cannabis patients can possess from two ounces to three ounces.

  • Likelihood of passing: It has already advanced through the Vermont Senate with no opposition and seems all but a sure thing.

H. 170 – Would remove all criminal and civil penalties for the possession of two ounces or less of cannabis and the cultivation of two mature and seven immature cannabis plants for adults over the age of 21. It would not create a regulatory structure for retail sales.

  • Likelihood of passing: Vermont officials have been studying Colorado’s legalization for years. They came so close to legalizing in 2016, but were foiled at the last minute by fears about the opioid crisis. One year later, politicians and the public are more aware of studies showing that cannabis actually helps alleviate that crisis. This could be the year in Vermont.

Washington

House Bill 1092 – Would legalize the home cultivation of cannabis for personal use by adults over the age of 21.

  • Likelihood of passing: This bill is a toss-up. There’s no doubt that cannabis consumers in Washington want home cultivation, but the Washington Legislature has been skittish about making too many changes to adult-use measures as they stand.

Wisconsin

Senate Bill 10 – Would allow for the use and possession of cannabidiol oil for medicinal purposes with the recommendation of a physician (only if and when cannabidiol is rescheduled at a federal level).

  • Likelihood of passing: This is not particularly likely to pass, and even if it did, it is unlikely that the state would make any moves to enact it. Part of the bill specifies a requirement that CBD would have to be rescheduled at a federal level for the law to be workable, so it’s really just a good faith measure.

Assembly Bill 49 – Similarly, this bill also requires federal rescheduling to be workable, but would allow for the use of cannabidiol oil for medicinal purposes.

  • Likelihood of passing: Both laws require some kind of federal policy reform in order to be workable, and the Republican-controlled Legislature has proved time and again that they are unwilling to consider cannabis in any form medicine.
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Wyoming

House Joint Resolution 11 – Would amend the Wyoming Constitution to allow the cultivation, use, possession, and regulated sales of cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older.

  • Likelihood of passing: It’s a great first step, but super unlikely to make it very far. The resolution is barebones, with almost no detail. It will likely take a back burner and die before reaching the House floor.