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Here Are The Full Details Of The New Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill From Chuck Schumer And Senate Colleagues

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The first draft of a long-anticipated Senate bill to federally legalize marijuana has been released—and its sponsors are asking for public input to further improve the legislation before it is formally introduced.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are unveiling the draft at a press conference on Wednesday. It’s an extensive bill, titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, that weighs in at 163 pages.

The main features of the legislation largely align with what advocates and stakeholders expected. It would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge prior convictions, allow people to petition for resentencing, maintain the authority of states to set their own marijuana policies and remove collateral consequences like immigration-related penalties for people who’ve been criminalized over the plant.

“Cannabis prohibition, a key pillar of the failed war on drugs, has caused substantial harm to our communities and small businesses, and especially for communities of color,” Wyden said. “It’s as simple as this: Senators Booker, Schumer and I want to bring common sense to the federal government, end prohibition and restore the lives of those hurt most and set them up for opportunity.”

“The War on Drugs has too often been a war on people, and particularly people of color,” Schumer said. “Not only will this legislation remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances, but it will also help fix our criminal justice system, ensure restorative justice, protect public health, and implement responsible taxes and regulations.”

Booker, for his part, said that for decades, “our federal government has waged a War on Drugs that has unfairly impacted low-income communities and communities of color.”

“While red and blue states across the country continue to legalize marijuana, the federal government continues to lag woefully behind,” he said. “It is time for Congress to end the federal marijuana prohibition and reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.”

The bill would also impose a federal tax on marijuana products and put some of that revenue toward grant programs meant to support people from communities most impacted by prohibition who want to participate in the industry.

Further, the legislation would transfer regulatory authority over cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

There’s a lot of ground to cover on the proposal. And while the senators are confident that it addresses key concerns from stakeholders, advocates, public health officials and law enforcement alike, they recognize that this is not the final form the bill will take. To that end, a public comment period is open until September 1.

“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act aims to end the decades of harm inflicted on communities of color by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and empowering states to implement their own cannabis laws,” the senators said in a summary of the bill that was shared with Marijuana Moment. “Descheduling cannabis is a critical step towards achieving justice for those targeted and hard hit by the War on Drugs. But that alone is not enough.”

The bill is multifaceted and deals with a large number of complex issues that have arisen under the umbrella of federal prohibition.

The basic components

Perhaps the most immediately consequential provision would be a requirement that the attorney general to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act within 60 days of the bill’s enactment.

But it’s important to keep in mind that this legislation—like other federal legalization bills moving through Congress—would not make it so marijuana is legal in every state. The proposal specifically preserves the right of states to maintain prohibition if they way. It stipulates, for example, that shipping marijuana into a state where the plant is prohibited would still be federally illegal.

However, the measure would make it clear that states can’t stop businesses from transporting cannabis products across their borders to other states where the plant is permitted.

FDA would be “recognized as the primary federal regulatory authority with respect to the manufacture and marketing of cannabis products, including requirements related to minimum national good manufacturing practice, product standards, registration and listing, and labeling information related to ingredients and directions for use,” according to the summary.

Meanwhile, TTB would have jurisdiction over marijuana tax and trade practices. That would include cannabis tax revenue collection, tax law enforcement and tracking and tracing of marijuana products.

“The agencies would have dual jurisdiction related to certain aspects of cannabis product labeling and packaging, advertising, and other consumer information,” the document says.

Social equity

As promised, the senators are including language into the bill that would promote social justice for those who’ve been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

“Communities that have been most harmed by cannabis prohibition are benefitting the least from the legal marijuana marketplace,” the findings section of the bill says, noting that a “legacy of racial and ethnic injustices, compounded by the disproportionate collateral consequences of 80 years of cannabis prohibition enforcement, now limits participation in the industry.”

“Historically disproportionate arrest and conviction rates make it particularly difficult for people of color to enter the legal cannabis market- place, as most States bar these individuals from participating,” it says.

A key barrier for such individuals is that fact that people from communities of color have been most targeted by cannabis criminalization, despite the fact that use is comparable across races. The bill seeks to repair that harm by mandating each federal district to expunge arrests and convictions for non-violent marijuana offenses within one year, and it also allows people who are still under a criminal sentence for cannabis to obtain a resentencing review hearing.

Grants

There would be three grant programs established under the bill.

One would “fund nonprofits that provide services to individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, such as job training, reentry services and legal aid, among other services,” according to the summary. It would be distributed through a new Cannabis Justice Office under the Justice Department.

Another would “provide funding to eligible states and localities to make loans to assist small businesses in the cannabis industry owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Finally, the Equitable Licensing Grant Program would “provide funding to eligible states and localities to implement cannabis licensing programs that minimize barriers for individuals adversely affected by the War on Drugs.”

“To be eligible for these SBA grants, states and localities must take steps to create an automatic process to expunge criminal records for cannabis offenses and violations for individuals under criminal supervision for cannabis offenses,” the summary says.

Consumers’ rights

People could not be denied federal benefits due to the use or possession of marijuana or for a conviction for a cannabis offense. That includes preventing the revocation of security clearances for federal employees.

However, one component of the new bill that advocates have taken issue with—which has been previously included in past reform legislation—would let agencies “continue to include cannabis for purposes of drug testing of Federal employees.”

Additionally, the measure would authorize physicians with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to issue recommendations for medical cannabis to veterans. That’s another topic that’s been the focus of separate, standalone legislation in recent sessions.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Taxes and permits

A gradual federal tax rate would be imposed on marijuana sales, starting at 10 percent for the first year after the bill’s enactment and the first, subsequent calendar year. Then it would be increased annually, rising from 15 percent to 20 percent to 25 percent. Starting in the fifth year post-enactment, the tax would be a “per-ounce or per-milligram of THC amount determined by the Secretary of the Treasury equal to 25 percent of the prevailing price of cannabis sold in the United States in the prior year.”

In an effort to support small cannabis enterprises, the legislation says that “small cannabis producers with less than $20 million in sales annually would be eligible for a 50 percent reduction in their tax rate, via a tax credit.”

“Producers with more than $20 million in sales would be eligible for a tax credit on their first $20 million of cannabis sold annually, with sales above that amount subject to tax at the full rate. Similar to the reduced rates for alcohol producers, certain anti-abuse rules would limit the tax benefit only to products produced or substantially modified by the small producer, in order to limit the benefit received by large producers and to prevent a double-benefit.”

The legislation also lays out a structure for how marijuana businesses will be approved and regulated. For example, companies selling taxable marijuana products, or cannabis at the wholesale level, would require Treasury Department approval. Marijuana producers would further need to be registered with FDA.

A cannabis permit “may be denied or revoked if the premises is inadequate to prevent tax evasion or diversion, operation of the premises do not comply with federal or state law, or an applicant fails to disclose material information or makes a false statement,” the summary says. “In addition, a cannabis permit application may be denied if the applicant has been convicted of a disqualifying offense.”

“For these purposes, a disqualifying offense is a felony criminal offense that occurred after enactment of this Act and within the preceding three years related to cannabis diversion or cannabis tax evasion. An applicant may apply to the Cannabis Products Advisory Committee for a waiver with respect to a disqualifying offense if the Committee finds that the applicant has established sufficient evidence of mitigation or rehabilitation and fitness to maintain cannabis operations in compliance with state and federal law.”

FDA would have “authority over cannabis products in intrastate commerce,” the summary says. Under the agency, a new Center for Cannabis Products and a Cannabis Products Regulatory Advisory Committee would be created.

Cannabis products would not be regulated as dietary supplements, but the bill would “authorize manufacturers of cannabis products to make claims about the benefits of their products in the same manner that manufacturers of dietary supplements do today.”

It would, however, stipulate the FDA must create a regulatory pathway for CBD to be marketed as a dietary supplement.

The bill would further require “owners and operators of establishments that are engaged in the manufacture, preparation, compounding, or processing of a cannabis product to register their establishments with FDA upon first engaging in such activities and annually thereafter.” The agency would “issue regulations pertaining to distribution of cannabis products and good manufacturing practice.”

Another provision would mandate that FDA create a program to “expedite the development and review of applications for drugs containing cannabis that are manufactured by a small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals that operate in the cannabis industry.”

Under the legislation, the Treasury secretary would be compelled to establish a track-and-trace regime to prevent illicit distribution of cannabis products. And the official would also be mandated to start a program to facilitate “the lawful delivery of hemp that inadvertently exceeds the permissible THC limitations for hemp to a permitted cannabis enterprise for the proper processing of such products.”

The Consumer Product Safety Commission would be authorized to issue regulations setting standards for special packaging of cannabis products.

Federal law would be amended to explicitly state that SBA programs and services available to marijuana businesses and companies that work with them.

Although the bill does not specifically mention banking, its provisions ending the federal prohibition of marijuana would automatically remove any penalties that financial institutions currently potentially face as a result of working with licensed cannabis businesses because those operations would no longer be federally illegal.

Federal studies

The bill further directs  the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to facilitate a number of studies into marijuana policy.

The office must conduct a “review of federal laws, regulations, and policies, to identify additional areas in need of change, including a study on replacing the term ‘marijuana’ and ‘marihuana’ with ‘cannabis’ through the U.S. Code and regulations,” the summary says. It must also study the demographics of those with federal cannabis convictions.

GAO would also have to evaluate the “societal impact of legalization” in states with recreational marijuana laws on the books.

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) would need to compile demographic data on “business owners and employees in the cannabis industry.” Those figures could help inform social justice efforts, as there’s been widespread criticism of the industry over a lack of diversity despite advocates’ push for equity.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be required to work with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on ways to promote research into cannabis impacts. And meanwhile, HHS would be mandated to collaborate with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on data collection for marijuana-impaired driving while also supporting research into “an impairment standard for driving under the influence of cannabis.”

More details

The senators’ bill would establish a federal standard to make it so only those 21 and older can purchase recreational marijuana products. Each state that currently allows adult-use cannabis maintains that age restriction.

In order to reduce illegal diversion, the legislation would cap cannabis sales, stating that adults could only buy up to 10 ounces at a time.

Vaping delivery system products that contain added natural or artificial flavors would be banned under the proposal.

A newly created definition of “cannabis” would be created under federal law, but it would retain the exception for hemp that now exists.

The senators want feedback on the draft bill

Here’s an overview of some of the main points that the are seeking comment on: 

-Measuring the potency of cannabis products, the overlap of definitions for hemp and marijuana, regulations for synthetic THC, regulatory responsibilities for various federal agencies and FDA funding.

-Coordinating federal and state law enforcement responsibilities for cannabis, state “primacy regarding cannabis regulation” and interstate commerce.

-Balancing efforts to reduce barriers to entry to the marijuana industry while mitigating the influence of illicit cannabis operators.

-Determining whether cannabis products should go through a premarket review before being marketed.

-How to deal with international treaty obligations with respect to marijuana.

Interested parties are encouraged to submit comments on these and other issues to [email protected] by September 1.

The bill has been highly anticipated

Advocates have been anxiously awaiting this legislation, which Schumer has repeatedly said was coming “soon” after he, Wyden and Booker first pledged in February that it would be ready “in the early part of this year.”

Since then, the majority leader has been making the case for reform everywhere from the Senate floor on 4/20 to a cannabis rally in New York City.

The three senators formally started their efforts on the legalization bill by holding a meeting earlier this year with representatives from a variety of advocacy groups to gain feedback on the best approach to the reform.

Schumer made a point in March to say that it will specifically seek to restrict the ability of large alcohol and tobacco companies to overtake the industry. Instead, it will prioritize small businesses, particularly those owned by people from communities most impacted by prohibition, and focus on “justice, justice, justice—as well as freedom,” he said.

He also urged voters to reach out to their congressional representatives and tell them that “this is long overdue.”

Activists are encouraged by the introduction of the lengthy and detailed proposal.

“The days of federal prohibition are numbered,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a press release. “These actions by Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Senators Booker and Wyden reflect the fact that the supermajority of Americans are demanding that Congress take action to end the cruel and senseless policy of federal prohibition.”

“It is time for legislators to comport federal law with the laws of the growing number of states that have legalized the plant, and it is time for lawmakers to facilitate a federal structure that allows for cannabis commerce so that responsible consumers can obtain high-quality, low-cost cannabis grown right here in America without fear of arrest and incarceration,” he said.

Shaleen Title, CEO of the Parabola Center, said that the bill’s filing “sends a clear signal to the states to keep making progress on cannabis policy.”

“We’re encouraged by the senators’ inclusive process and intend to join other equity advocates in offering ways for the federal government to protect and build on the states’ progress toward social justice in cannabis policy,” she said. “Millions of people fought for an end to prohibition. We see this as an opportunity to stop the arrests and to shape the national marketplace for legal marijuana to be open to all, not just a wealthy few.”

Meanwhile, a separate House bill to federally legalize marijuana and promote social equity in the industry was reintroduced in May.

The legislation, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), was filed with a number of changes compared to the version that was approved by the chamber last year.

The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act passed the House but did not advance in the Senate under GOP control. But this time around, advocates are optimistic that the policy change could be enacted now that Democrats run both chambers and the White House, and as more states are moving to enact legalization.

President Joe Biden, however, is an outlier within the Democratic Party, maintaining an opposition to adult-use legalization despite the widespread and increasingly bipartisan public popularity of the reform. It remains to be seen whether the president—who campaigned on more modest pledges to decriminalize cannabis possession, expunge prior records and respect state legalization laws—would stand in the way of a comprehensive policy change by threatening to veto the bill that’s ultimately produced.

Wyden, who under the chamber’s new Democratic majority assumed the top spot on the Senate Finance Committee—where the new legislation is likely to be referred once formally introduced—recently said his goal will be to “end the prohibition and come up with sensible tax and regulatory oversight at the federal level.”

He said in February that “it’s not enough in my view to just end cannabis prohibition,” and “I think we need to restore the lives of people who’ve been hurt most by the failed war on drugs and especially black Americans.”

All three senators—Schumer, Wyden and Booker—have in past years introduced marijuana legalization bills that never got hearings or votes.

Separately, a proposal to federally deschedule marijuana that does not include social equity components was recently filed by a pair of Republican congressmen.

Read the full text of the new federal marijuana legalization bill below:

Cannabis Administration and… by Marijuana Moment

Biden Selects White House Drug Czar Who Helped Implement State Marijuana Program And Touted Medical Benefits

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Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

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California Senator Seeks Federal Clarification On Medical Marijuana Use In Hospitals

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A California senator is asking the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide clarification on whether hospitals and other healthcare facilities in legal marijuana states can allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis without jeopardizing federal funding.

State Sen. Ben Hueso (D) on Thursday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure inquiring about the policy. Confusion about possible implications for permitting marijuana consumption in health facilities led pro-legalization Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to veto a bill meant to address the issue in 2019.

Hueso refiled a nearly identical version of the legislation for this session, and it’s already passed the full Senate and one Assembly committee. It’s now awaiting action on the Assembly floor before potentially being sent to Newsom’s desk.

“Ryan’s Law would require that hospitals and certain types of healthcare facilities in the State of California allow a terminally-ill patient to use medical cannabis for treatment and/or pain relief,” the senator wrote in the letter to the federal officials, with whom he is asking to meet to discuss the issue. “Currently, whether or not medical cannabis is permitted is left up to hospital policy, and this creates issues for patients and their families who seek alternative, more natural medication options in their final days.”

Hospitals that receive CMS accreditation are generally expected to comply with local, state and federal laws in order to qualify for certain reimbursements. And so because marijuana remains federally illegal, “many healthcare facilities have adopted policies prohibiting cannabis on their grounds out of a perceived risk of losing federal funding if they were to allow it.”

But Hueso said that his office received a letter from CMS several months ago stating that there are no specific federal regulations in place that specifically address this issue and that it isn’t aware of any cases where funding has been pulled because a hospital allows patients to use medical cannabis.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Additionally, because the Justice Department has been barred under annually renewed spending legislation from using its funds to interfere in the implementation of state-level medical marijuana programs, the senator said, “we believe the risk of federal intervention is little to none.”

“This confirmation from CMS been quite a breakthrough and we are optimistic it will alleviate the Governor’s concerns,” the letter continues. “However, I want to underscore that, prior to receiving this response, even the Governor of California was under the impression that CMS rules prohibited hospitals and healthcare facilities from allowing medical cannabis use.”

“Undoubtedly other states are struggling with this issue, too,” it says. “As more states decriminalize cannabis and even create recreational markets, we must not forget to also update the books for the most important consumers of all—patients.”

“While ideally the federal government will remove cannabis from its Schedule I designation, I appreciate that this is a lengthy and complex process. In the interim, it would be extremely helpful if you could provide clarification that assures Medicare/Medicaid providers that they will not lose reimbursements for allowing medical cannabis use on their premises. This clarification would go a long way to help hospital staff, security, above all, patients.”

Becerra, while previously serving as California attorney general and as a member of Congress, demonstrated a track record of supporting marijuana law reform.

Meanwhile, there are efforts in both chambers of Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are currently soliciting feedback on draft legalization legislation they introduced this month.

Meanwhile, a separate House bill to federally legalize marijuana and promote social equity in the industry was reintroduced in May.

The legislation, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), was filed with a number of changes compared to the version that was approved by the chamber last year.

Read the letter from the California senator to Becerra below: 

Marijuana hospital letter t… by Marijuana Moment

Rhode Island House Speaker Says ‘No Consensus’ On Marijuana Legalization, But It’s ‘Workable’

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Rhode Island House Speaker Says ‘No Consensus’ On Marijuana Legalization, But It’s ‘Workable’

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A top Rhode Island lawmaker says that while there’s not yet a consensus among legislators and the governor on a bill to legalize marijuana, it’s still a “workable” issue and would be prioritized if a special session is convened this fall.

House Speaker Joe Shekarchi (D) told The Public’s Radio that it’s “possible” that a special session will be held later in the year after lawmakers failed to reach a deal on competing reform proposals.

“It really depends if we can come to some kind of resolution of consensus on a couple of major bills,” he said, referring to cannabis and a handful of other issues. “If we can, we certainly would come back.” But if not, members will continue to discuss the proposals and prepare to take them up at the start of the next session in January.

“Unfairly, sometimes I have or the House gets blamed for stopping the legalization of recreational use of marijuana, when in reality there is no consensus,” he said. “If we can come to some closeness, in the several different proposals, then we’ll move some kind of legislation. But if not, it just needs more work—and it’s very workable, so it’s very much something that can happen, we just have to put the effort in and make it happen.”

Listen to the speaker discuss the marijuana legalization plan, about 1:00 into the audio  below: 

Shekarchi similarly told Marijuana Moment in an email earlier this week that he’s “not opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana,” but “there have been very divergent proposals offered by Representative Scott Slater, the Senate, the governor and various advocacy groups.”

“As I have done with other issues, my role will be to bring the parties together and see if we can reach a consensus,” he said. “I will be working on the issue this summer and fall, and if an agreement can be reached, it is possible that one piece of legislation will be brought before the legislature for future consideration. But there is a lot of work to be done to reach consensus.”

Shekarchi and other top lawmakers have previously said they will work this summer to try to reach a compromise on the differing provisions of the competing legalization plans.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D) said earlier this month that he’s not disappointed the House hasn’t advanced legalization legislation yet and that “what we really wanted to do was send it over and have them take a look at it” when his chamber passed a cannabis reform measure last month.

Shekarchi previously said that he feels reform is “inevitable.”


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

A key disagreement between the House, Senate and governor’s office concerns who should have regulatory authority over marijuana. Ruggerio was pressed on the issue during the recent interview and said members of his chamber agree that “a separate commission is the way to go with respect to this.”

The House and Gov. Dan McKee (D), on the other hand, want the program to be managed by the state Department of Business Regulation (DBR). Ruggerio noted that “it was difficult to negotiate on a bill when the House bill really didn’t come until late in the session.”

Asked whether he felt the legislature and governor could come to an agreement despite the differences, Senate Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey (D) said this month that “that’s what our goal is.”

“Obviously there’s some issues that different people have relative to different categories of licenses and things like that and how we’re rolling them out,” he said. “Are we going to limit them? what type of equity are you going to give to the different people in different communities so that they can get into the business? And social equity and things of that nature.”

McCaffrey was also asked about provisions related to allowing local municipalities to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses to operate in their area. He said “once the legislation is passed and whatever form is passed in, the communities have an opportunity to opt out.”

“They have an opportunity to opt out if the community doesn’t want to participate in it,” he said. “That’s their decision—however, they don’t get the funds that would come from the sales in that community.”

The majority leader also noted that neighboring states like Connecticut and Massachusetts have enacted legalization, and that adds impetus for the legislature to pursue reform in the state. .

Shekarchi, meanwhile, said this month that he doesn’t intend to let regional pressure dictate the timeline for when Rhode Island enacts a policy change. But it is the case that legalization has now gone in effect in in surrounding states like Connecticut and Massachusetts.

“I’m not in any hurry to legalize marijuana for the sake of legalizing it. I want to do it right,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to me if we’re the last state in the union to legalize it or we never legalize it, but I need to do it right.”

Social equity, licensing fees, labor agreements and home grow provisions are among the outstanding matters that need to be addressed, Shekarchi said.

These latest comment come weeks after the state Senate approved a legalization bill from McCaffrey and Health & Human Services Chairman Joshua Miller (D), which was introduced in March. The governor also came out with his own legalization proposal shortly thereafter.

A third Rhode Island legalization measure was later filed on the House side by Rep. Scott Slater (D) and several cosponsors. The House Finance Committee held a hearing on the measure last month.

The governor, for his part, told reporters that while he backs legalization it is “not like one of my highest priorities,” adding that “we’re not in a race with Connecticut or Massachusetts on this issue.”

“I think we need to get it right,” he said, pointing to ongoing discussions with the House and Senate.

The House Finance Committee discussed the governor’s proposal to end prohibition at an earlier hearing in April.

Both the governor and the leaders’ legalization plans are notably different than the proposal that former Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) had included in her budget last year. Prior to leaving office to join the Biden administration as commerce secretary, she called for legalization through a state-run model.

McKee gave initial insights into his perspective on the reform in January, saying that “it’s time that [legalization] happens” and that he’s “more leaning towards an entrepreneurial strategy there to let that roll that way.”

Shekarchi, meanwhile, has said he’s “absolutely” open to the idea of cannabis legalization and also leans toward privatization.

Late last year, the Senate Finance Committee began preliminary consideration of legalization in preparation for the 2021 session, with lawmakers generally accepting the reform as an inevitability. “I certainly do think we’ll act on the issue, whether it’s more private or more state,” Sen. Ryan Pearson (D), who now serves as the panel’s chairman, said at the time.

Meanwhile, the governor this month signed a historic bill to allow safe consumption sites where people could use illicit drugs under medical supervision and receive resources to enter treatment. Harm reduction advocates say this would prevent overdose deaths and help de-stigmatize substance misuse. Rhode Island is the first state to allow the facilities.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing in March on legislation that would end criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of drugs and replace them with a $100 fine.

Ohio Lawmakers Officially File Marijuana Legalization Bill In Historic First For The State

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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Ohio Lawmakers Officially File Marijuana Legalization Bill In Historic First For The State

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Ohio lawmakers on Friday formally introduced a bill to legalize marijuana possession, production and sales—the first effort of its kind in the state legislature. This comes as activists are pursuing a separate ballot initiative that would effectively force the legislature to consider similar cannabis reforms.

Reps. Casey Weinstein (D) and Terrence Upchurch (D) filed the legislation, weeks after circulating a co-sponsorship memo to colleagues to build support for the measure.

The 180-page bill would legalize possession of up to five ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older and allow them to cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use. It also includes provisions to expunge prior convictions for possession and cultivation activities that are being made legal under the measure.

A 10 percent excise tax would be imposed on marijuana sales, with revenue first going toward the cost of implementation and then being divided among municipalities with at least one cannabis shop (15 percent), counties with at least one shop (15 percent), K-12 education (35 percent) and infrastructure (35 percent).

“It’s time to lead Ohio forward,” Weinstein said in a press release. “This is a big step for criminal justice reform, for our veterans, for economic opportunity, and for our individual liberties.”

The state Department of Commerce would be responsible for overseeing the program and issuing cannabis business licenses.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Individual municipalities could restrict the type and number of marijuana that operate in their area. The bill specifically states that the state’s existing medical marijuana program would not be impacted by the establishment of an adult-use market.

“This bill is much needed in Ohio, and it’s time for Ohio to become a national leader in marijuana decriminalization and legalization,” Upchurch said. “This bill is more than just about legalization, it’s about economic and workforce development, it’s about decriminalization, and it’s about healthcare! The time is now, and I look forward to getting this done in a bipartisan fashion.”

Gov. Mike DeWine (R) is likely to oppose the effort given his record, but activists have effectively demonstrated through local initiatives that voters in the state broadly support enacting a cannabis policy change.

A newly formed organization called the the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) is also actively collecting signatures for a statewide ballot measure that would separately force lawmakers to consider taking up legalization legislation once a certain signature gathering threshold is met.

“I’m glad to see it! It’s added momentum toward legalization,” Weinstein told Marijuana Moment earlier this week of the ballot effort. “And hopefully a looming ballot initiative will add some incentive for my Republican colleagues to work with me on my bill.”

Meanwhile, 22 jurisdictions have adopted local statues so far that reduce the penalty for low-level cannabis possession from a misdemeanor punishable by jail time and a fine to the “lowest penalty allowed by state law.” And activists are pursuing similar policy changes in dozens of cities this year.

Don Keeney, executive director of NORML Appalachia, told Marijuana Moment that local officials have so far certified decriminalization initiatives in five cities they were targeting this year: Laurelville, McArthur, Murray City, New Lexington and New Straitsville.

Ohio activists had hoped to place a cannabis legalization initiative on the statewide ballot last year, but that effort stalled as the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting public health restrictions made signature gathering all but impossible.

Local advocates sought relief through the court system to make it so they could collect signatures electronically for 2020 ballot initiatives, but the lawsuit was repeatedly rejected—most recently by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which ruled on Wednesday that the challenge was no longer relevant because last year’s election has passed and the case was therefore moot.

Read the text of the Ohio marijuana legalization bill below: 

Ohio marijuana legalization… by Marijuana Moment

GOP Senator Sponsoring Marijuana Banking Bill Proposes Controversial Welfare Restrictions For Cannabis Purchases

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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