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

State of the Leaf: Nevada Might Let You Light Up

US News Updates

 Arkansas

The Arkansas Senate has rejected a proposal that would have prohibited smoking medical cannabis anywhere in the state and allowed landlords to set even further restrictions. Senate Bill 357 was cosponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway), who argued that smoking of any type is harmful to public health. Senators voted 15-10 to reject the bill. Lawmakers also voted 15-11 to strike down another measure that would have banned the production and sale of cannabis-infused edibles. The bill’s opponents said the change would undermine the will of Arkansas voters, who voted to pass the medical marijuana amendment in November.

Colorado

In an attempt to rein in home growing and prevent diversion to the black market, the Colorado House Finance Committee is considering a bill that would cap the number of plants at 12 per residential property, with no more than six being mature. House Bill 1220 would alter the current law, which allows medical patients to grow up to 99 plants, and allows adult consumers to grow cooperatively by grouping their six personal plants at much larger cultivation sites. Rep. KC Becker (D-Boulder) introduced the bill, arguing that cannabis from larger grows are not subject to tracking, taxing, or other regulatory standards and thus could be diverted to the black market.

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Connecticut

The Public Health Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly is considering the first of several measures to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. House Bill 5314 would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over, with a regulatory structure for sales and cultivation overseen by the Department of Consumer Protection. The Department of Revenue Services would administer a tax structure for the new industry. Three other similar proposals are also on the table in Connecticut. Lawmakers in favor of legalization say they’ve agreed to work together to support whichever bill moves forward.

Nebraska

With a CBD-only medical cannabis bill at the state Capitol, patient advocates are urging the Nebraska Senate not to confirm Dr. Thomas Williams as the state’s chief medical officer. Williams has been the acting chief medical officer since November and has written a letter to the state Judiciary Committee stating his opposition to Legislative Bill 167, introduced by Sen. Laura Ebke (L-Crete). The bill would reschedule cannabidiol to Schedule V under the state’s controlled substances law, meaning CBD would be available for medicinal use and prescription by physicians. The Judiciary Committee passed the bill unanimously, and it now awaits a vote from the full Legislature.

Nevada

A new proposal in the Nevada Senate would allow local jurisdictions to issue licenses to allow the public consumption of cannabis, meaning tourists could potentially puff vape pens legally one day on the Las Vegas Strip. Sort of. Senate Bill 236, sponsored by noted legalization supporter Sen. Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) would allow local governments to create safe spaces for cannabis use. Municipalities could issue licenses to businesses such as bars, dispensaries, or yoga studios. They could also allow open consumption at events, such as the recent Cannabis Cup, hosted in Las Vegas. Consumption is currently allowed only in private residences, and public consumption carries a hefty fine. Segerblom argues that there needs to be a place where tourists can legally consume.

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New Hampshire

The state House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve House Bill 640, a cannabis decriminalization measure. The bill, introduced by Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton), would reduce the penalty for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis down to a civil fine of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and $350 for the third and any subsequent offenses. Under current law, possession of an ounce of cannabis can land you in jail for up to a year with a fine of up to $2,000.

New Mexico

The New Mexico State House passed a bill that would create an advisory council to review research proposals on the use, production, effects, and efficacy of medical cannabis. House Bill 155 would establish a fund in the state treasury specifically for medical cannabis research. It would also extend protections from state prosecution and criminal liability to include researchers. The measure now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Oregon

A group of Oregon lawmakers charged with overseeing cannabis regulation in the state have drafted legislation to protect the personal information of cannabis consumers and patients. Current law allows retail shops and dispensaries to collect personal information, including registry identification numbers, birthdates to offer perks such as a free gift on one’s birthday, driver’s license numbers, or a record of every item purchased by a customer. Senate Bill 863 would require retailers and dispensaries to delete all personally identifying information from their system within 48 hours of purchase. This legislation was drafted in the event that the federal government decides to step up enforcement actions in legal states, in order to protect adults and patients from federal prosecution.

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Pennsylvania

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale estimates that the state could rake in $200 million a year in tax revenue by legalizing cannabis for adult use. DePasquale borrowed from Colorado’s model for his projections, noting that state, which has a population less than half of Pennsylvania’s, generated $129 million in a single year. “I wasn’t necessarily convinced that Pennsylvania should be the first, but now that we have actual results and data from other states, the evidence is clear that this can be both good socially and fiscally,” DePasquale said at a Capitol news conference this week. As other lawmakers pointed out, the state only last year passed a medical marijuana measure, and the framework for that program is still being implemented.

South Carolina

A group of medical professionals is testified Wednesday in favor medical marijuana legislation currently before the South Carolina Medical Affairs subcommittee. S. 212 would allow patients with certain debilitating conditions to access medical cannabis with the recommendation of a physician. Leaders of Compassionate South Carolina were joined by researchers, physicians, and nurses who traveled to speak in support of the measure, including Dr. Sue Sisley, renowned for her extensive research into the effects of cannabis as treatment for PTSD.

South Dakota

The South Dakota House voted 54-13 to pass a bill that would allow the use of cannabidiol products. Senate Bill 95 was originally written in such a way that the company GW Pharmaceuticals product Epidiolex, which is scheduled for review by the FDA this summer, would be the only product allowed under the measure, thus effectively giving GW a monopoly in the state. However, the bill has since been amended to exclude all forms of CBD from the definition of marijuana and reclassify it under state law as a Schedule IV controlled substance available for medicinal use.

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Tennessee

The Tennessee Judiciary Committee rejected a measure, 6-3, that would have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis. Senate Bill 265 was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) and would have reduced penalties for the possession of up to an eighth of an ounce of cannabis down to a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a civil fine of no more than $50. Memphis and Nashville each enacted local decriminalization measures last year, state law still lists possession as a Class A misdemeanor that carries penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

Wisconsin

There are four cannabis-related bills being considered this legislative session, but it looks as though only two will be moving forward. Senate Bill 84, known as the “right to try” bill, which would allow access to investigational drugs, including cannabis, sailed through the state Assembly. As did Assembly Bill 49, introduced by Rep. Scott Krug (R-Neskoosa), which would legalize the possession of CBD oil. Two other medical cannabis legalization bills have received support from only Democratic lawmakers, and are seen as unlikely to move forward in the Republican-controlled congress.

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International News Updates

Canada

The lawmaker tasked with implementing legalization across the country, former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, will be coming to Parliament this spring. It’s the first in a long line of steps towards the ultimate goal of opening a legal, regulated market; regulations and quality assurance measures are still planned for to lengthy discussion. Blair declined to give a timeline on crafting regulations and getting the market up and running. “We will take as much time as it takes to do it right,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg. “I’m pretty reluctant to suggest a specific time frame, frankly, because I don’t know how long this will take each of our 10 provinces and three territories.” The federal government is searching for the best ways to control production, distribution, consumption, and quality testing while ensuring cannabis stays out of the hands of minors.

Ireland

Health Products Regulatory Authority Chief Executive Lorraine Nolan recommended that limited access to medicinal cannabis be granted under a monitored five-year program. Nolan told the Oireachtas Health Committee in an expert report to Minister for Health Simon Harris that although the authority cannot recommend widespread access to cannabis, cannabis can, under certain circumstances, be controlled for patient safety. Three conditions are likely to be considered for the pilot program, including spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy. Officials are still mulling legislation needed to create the program, but one license has already been granted for a patient to access cannabis—and a second application is pending.

Zambia

Home Affairs Minister Steven Kampyongo released a ministerial statement announcing that the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes will now be allowed under the national Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. The minister of health will be responsible for issuing licenses to those who seek to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes. Cultivation is subject to strict conditions, and a  obtaining license requires paying a fee.