Connect with us

Politics

Lawmakers And Advocates React To Historic House Passage Of Marijuana Banking Bill

Published

on

The House passed a standalone marijuana reform bill for the first time ever on Wednesday, and the development has sparked widespread excitement among lawmakers and advocates.

Following the chamber’s 321-103 passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, lots of members of Congress shared their support on Twitter and in press releases. The bill was approved by all but one Democrat and garnered support from nearly half of the chamber’s Republicans.

Here’s how lawmakers and advocates are reacting to the bill’s passage.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), lead sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act: 

“Thousands of employees, businesses and communities across this country have been forced to deal in piles of cash because of the conflict between state and federal law. After six years of working on this bill, the SAFE Banking Act will go a long way in getting cash off our streets and providing certainty so financial institutions can work with cannabis businesses and employees. I appreciate the partnership of Reps. Heck, Stivers and Davidson and the input and support from several others including Chairwoman Waters for their help passing this bill in the House. I look forward to working with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Crapo, Ranking Member Brown, and the entire Senate as they take up this important issue.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ): 

“As the SAFE Banking Act now heads to the Senate, we can and we must do more. With this legislation, we can both address the pressing need for cannabis businesses to access financial institutions and provide real restorative justice for those most harmed by the failed War on Drugs. It’s simply not enough as it stands without reinvestment in communities most hurt by the failed drug war and while people of color are left to languish in federal prisons for marijuana-related offenses. Low-income Americans and communities of color have been devastated by the War on Drugs – we should be repairing the damage inflicted on these communities. The end we seek is not just legalization or access to financial institutions, it’s justice.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA):

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO): 

“The lack of access to banking services for marijuana businesses is a public safety issue in Colorado and across the country. This common-sense bill would allow our banking system to serve marijuana businesses the same way they serve any other legal places of business. I’m grateful to Congressman Perlmutter for his leadership in pushing this bill across the finish line. We will continue our efforts to move this bill in the Senate.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO):

“Today Congress began to take its head out of the sand and recognize that states are moving forward with their own cannabis policies and the federal government is holding them back. The conflicting federal and state marijuana laws make it difficult for legitimate businesses to use basic financial services, and this bipartisan legislation gets Washington out of the way and gives them the access they need to do business and pay taxes. Today’s historic action in the people’s House adds to the momentum the SAFE Banking Act gained following the Banking Committee’s hearing in July. The Senate should move forward with the SAFE Banking Act and deliver it to the President for his signature.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR):

“Forcing businesses to operate in cash is an invitation to crime, money laundering, and robbery. Whether you’re for or against legal cannabis, we can all agree that we want our communities to be safe from fraud and crime. Today we saw overwhelming support in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the SAFE Banking Act and get this common-sense fix into law. Now it’s time for the Senate to act. While we continue to work to address broader issues related to the harmful legacy of cannabis prohibition across the country, I am hopeful that we can get the SAFE Banking Act moving quickly through committee, to the Senate floor, and ultimately, to the President’s desk.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV):

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV):

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ):

“Not only will the SAFE Banking Act ensure that marijuana businesses operating legally are treated like any other legal small business when it comes to accessing essential banking products—including in New Jersey, which has taken bold steps to expand medical marijuana—I am pleased that the House-passed bill also includes key provisions of my CLAIM Act to allow these business owners to obtain insurance coverage so they can protect their property, employees and customers. I would urge the full Senate to pass this common sense legislation that levels the playing field in the banking space by ensuring more equal access to capital.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): 

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA): 

Rep. Don Young (R-AK):

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA): 

Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA): 

“Today’s passage of the SAFE Banking Act is a major milestone. When we began this journey over six years ago, we knew that the changes in state laws around cannabis meant that the federal government would have to act to address public safety. Time kept passing, even as the bill did not, and that confirmed the need for this legislation. More and more states changed their laws with regard to marijuana, and the need to get cash off the streets kept growing.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL):

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR): 

“Today’s vote is historic. The House of Representatives took the most significant step thus far in addressing our outdated and out-of-touch federal cannabis laws. It never made any sense to deny state legal cannabis businesses access to banking services. It not only seriously disadvantaged these businesses, but it also was an open invitation to theft, tax evasion, and money laundering. Congressmen Perlmutter and Heck have fought tirelessly to bring their bill to the floor, and I applaud Chairwoman Waters and House leadership for their support. States have outpaced the federal government on this issue, and state-legal cannabis industries and their employees have suffered. There is much more to be done to end this senseless prohibition. This is just the beginning.”

Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY): 

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN):

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR):

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT):

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN):

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME):

Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA):

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL):

Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK):

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL): 

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM): 

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO): 

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV): 

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA): 

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL):

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI): 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY): 

Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA): 

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA): 

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA):

Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA):

Rep. David Joyce (R-OH): 

“The current federal approach to cannabis policy not only infringes on the rights of states to implement their own laws (as the vast majority have done), but also hurts legitimate businesses. Currently, cannabis companies are not afforded the same access to financial services as every other legal business in our country. With banks refusing to accept their money out of fear of federal forfeiture or regulatory retaliation, these businesses are forced to operate in all-cash ¾ pay their workers in cash, store cash in vaults on-site, hire armored trucks to transport cash to pay taxes ¾ which makes this a public safety issue.”

Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA): 

Rep. Katerine Clark (D-MA):

Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA):

Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX): 

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH): 

“The SAFE Banking Act defends civil liberties. Passing this bill keeps the right perspective: No federal regulator should block Americans’ lawful access to the financial system. This principle holds true, whether you are talking about firearms or cannabis. I was an original cosponsor of this bill and welcome its passage. It is incumbent on the Senate to join the House and accomplish this important legislative task.”

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV):

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA):

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA):

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV):

Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO): 

Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI):

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA):

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH): 

“Today is a step forward for a common-sense bill that will make communities across the country safer. For me this has nothing to do with the larger debate about marijuana, instead it’s about legislating for the world we live in, and that reality includes legal businesses being forced to assume the huge risks that come from operating exclusively in cash. I’m grateful that my colleagues, especially Representatives Perlmutter, Heck, and Davidson, have seen the importance of providing access to our banking system, and I look forward to the SAFE Banking Act passing the Senate and being signed into law.”

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR): 

Rep. Mark Amondei (R-NV): 

 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D):

“This is an important step in building an accessible, inclusive and socially diverse industry that recognizes the past harms of marijuana prohibition and the disproportionate impact laws governing marijuana have had on communities of color. I commend all the members of the New York Congressional delegation who supported this bill for honoring the laws of the states that are working to safely and fairly legalize and regulate cannabis. It is now time for the Senate to recognize the importance of this emerging sector of our economy and pass the bill immediately.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D): 

Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D):

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (D):

Illinois Treasurer Michael Freichs (D):

Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH): 

“The SAFE Banking Act will make our communities safer, allow state and local governments to collect taxes more efficiently and transparently, and increase access to capital for small businesses. Today’s vote is a signal that Washington is beginning to catch up with the states and the fastest growing industry in our country.”

Law Enforcement Action Partnership: 

“Prohibiting banking access means hundreds of millions of dollars in legal marijuana markets are exchanged in cash rather than with credit or debit cards, which make them more difficult to track. Keeping tabs on those transactions is part of how police are able to catch serious criminals, but our ability to do that right now is limited. The longer we wait to fix this, the more vulnerable the industry becomes to infiltration by organized crime.”

American Bankers Association: 

“Today’s overwhelming, bipartisan House vote in support of the SAFE Banking Act is a significant step forward for public safety, transparency and common sense. By helping to provide clarity for the financial sector in those states where cannabis is legal, this bill will help banks meet the needs of their communities while reducing cash-motivated crimes, increasing the efficiency of tax collections and improving the cannabis industry’s financial accountability. It will also ensure that businesses with indirect ties to the cannabis industry—including vendors, utility companies and law firms—won’t be needlessly forced out of the financial system.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried: 

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President Vanita Gupta: 

“The failed War on Drugs policies have disproportionately impacted communities of color – particularly African Americans, Latinos, and those who are economically vulnerable. These policies have contributed directly to mass incarceration. The SAFE Banking Act does not holistically repair the current harms posed by prohibition, nor does it invest in communities directly impacted by discriminatory criminalization. We urge the Senate to include provisions in its bill that will forge a more equitable path for communities that remain excluded from the booming marijuana industry. We thank Leader Hoyer and Chairs Nadler and Waters for their commitment to ensuring that the House takes up a comprehensive, broad, and bold approach to marijuana reform. We implore the Senate to follow their lead.”

Center for American Progress Senior Policy Analyst Maritza Perez: 

“Today’s vote may be a release valve for financial institutions, but it does nothing to relieve the decades of harm caused to communities of color affected by the drug war. Following today’s vote, we call on Congress to collectively turn its efforts to equitable marijuana legislation that should include removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and making way for the expungement and resentencing of marijuana convictions. Congress must also consider using marijuana tax revenue to bring services to communities most affected by the drug war, as well as grant programs supporting underrepresented business owners in the cannabis industry as modeled in the MORE Act. Congress has the opportunity to pass comprehensive marijuana legislation that leads with social justice and equity with the MORE Act. We urge Chairman Nadler and House leadership to promptly mark up the MORE Act and bring it to the floor for a vote.”

Veterans Cannabis Project Executive Director Doug Distaso:

“Today’s historic House passage of the SAFE Banking Act is an important first step toward eliminating the stigma around an industry that is providing essential medical treatment options for veterans. This legislation will ensure protections for veterans’ GI Bill benefits and allow them to seek well-paying jobs in a rapidly growing industry. I will be working diligently with my fellow veterans in the coming weeks to ensure the Senate understands the positive impact that cannabis has on veterans’ lives. As service members return with issues ranging from chronic pain to PTSD, many are finding cannabis is a treatment option that improves their quality of life and reduces their symptoms, without the negative side effects of opiates and other prescriptions.”

The Arcview Group CEO Troy Dayton:

“We are extremely encouraged by these cannabis reforms passed by the House. It would be a game changer for this developing industry and we are hopeful that the Senate follows suit. Legal cannabis businesses, which employ more than 165,000 people, would finally be able to operate safely, develop and grow their businesses. This step forward begins to pave the way for legal, regulated cannabis businesses to open up a plethora of opportunities, which were previously unavailable. The measure would also have a profound, positive impact on the investment landscape, patients and consumers. For years, Arcview has been working towards and supporting this moment. We applaud the progress taken by our regulators and industry and look forward to more reforms being fully enacted.”

Credit Union National Association President Jim Nussle: 

“Today’s landmark vote will help credit unions keep communities across the country safe and serve those state-legalized businesses previously left in the lurch. We offer our congratulations and appreciation to Representatives Perlmutter, Heck, Stivers, Davidson and others who have worked on this critical issue for so long. Our work is not done: We are ready to work in the Senate to advance legislation on this issue to the President’s desk.”

Independent Community Bankers of America President Rebeca Romero Rainey: 

“The conflict between state and federal law on cannabis-related businesses has created significant legal and compliance concerns for financial institutions that could provide needed banking services to these companies. This uncertainty has forced cannabis-related businesses to operate mostly in cash, which presents a significant public safety risk. The bipartisan SAFE Banking Act would help eliminate this risk in states where cannabis is already legal.”

House Approves Marijuana Banking Bill In Historic Vote

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.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

New Mexico Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization Bill, Making State Third To Enact Reform Within Days

Published

on

The governor of New Mexico on Monday signed a bill to legalize marijuana in the state, as well as a separate measure to expunge records for people with prior, low-level cannabis convictions.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) gave final approval to the legislation, a key accomplishment for her administration after she listed legalization as a 2021 priority. Although lawmakers failed to pass a legalization bill before the regular session’s end last month, the governor convened a special session to ensure they got the job done.

“The legalization of adult-use cannabis paves the way for the creation of a new economic driver in our state with the promise of creating thousands of good paying jobs for years to come,” the governor said in a press release. “We are going to increase consumer safety by creating a bona fide industry. We’re going to start righting past wrongs of this country’s failed war on drugs. And we’re going to break new ground in an industry that may well transform New Mexico’s economic future for the better.”

“As we look to rebound from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic,” she said, “entrepreneurs will benefit from this great opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises, the state and local governments will benefit from the added revenue and, importantly, workers will benefit from the chance to land new types of jobs and build careers.”

Provisions of the legalization bill and expungements legislation were initially included together in the same package that passed the House during the regular session but later stalled on the Senate floor. When the special session started, however, supporters split up the legislation to win favor from Republicans and moderate Democrats who expressed opposition to the scope of the original proposal.

With Lujan Grisham’s action, New Mexico is the third state to formally end cannabis prohibition within the span of days. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a marijuana legalization bill into law late last month, just hours after lawmakers sent it to his desk. In Virginia, lawmakers last week accepted amendments to a legal cannabis bill that were suggested by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), giving final passage to the bill that they had initially approved in February.

Here are some of the main components in the New Mexico legalization bill the governor signed:

-Adults 21 and older can purchase and possess up to two ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of cannabis concentrates and 800 milligrams of infused edibles. All products will be tested by licensed laboratories for contamination and potency.

-Home cultivation of up to six mature cannabis plants will be allowed for personal use, provided the plants are out of public sight and secured from children. Households will be limited to 12 total plants. Marijuana grown at home cannot be sold or bartered.

-Legal retail sales won’t begin for another year or so, with a target date of April 1, 2022 or earlier. Final license rules will be due from the state by January 1, 2022, with licenses themselves issued no later than April 1.

-Advertising cannabis to people under 21 are prohibited, with the use of cartoon characters or other imagery likely to appeal to children forbidden. Advertisements will also be barred from billboards or other public media within 300 feet of a school, daycare center or church. All products will need to carry a state-approved warning label.

-There is no limit on the number of business licensees that could be granted under the program, or the number of facilities a licensee could open, although regulators could stop issuing new licenses if an advisory committee determines that “market equilibrium is deficient.”

-Small cannabis microbusinesses, which can grow up to 200 plants, will be able to grow, process and sell cannabis products all under a single license. The bill’s backers have said the separate license type will allow wider access to the new industry for entrepreneurs without access to significant capital.

-Cannabis purchases will include a 12 percent excise tax on top of the state’s regular eight percent sales tax. Beginning in 2025, the excise rate would climb by one percent each year until it reached 18 percent in 2030. Medical marijuana products, available only to patients and caretakers, would be exempt from the tax.

-In an effort to ensure medical patients can still access medicine after the adult-use market opens, the bill allows the state to force licensed cannabis producers to reserve up to 10 percent of their products for patients in the event of a shortage or grow more plants to be used in medical products.

-Local governments cannot ban cannabis businesses entirely, as some other states have allowed. Municipalities can, however, use their local zoning authority to limit the number of retailers or their distance from schools, daycares or other cannabis businesses.

-Tribal governments can participate in the state’s legal cannabis industry under legal agreements contemplated under the bill.

— With certain social justice provisions expected to be repackaged into a separate bill, the legalization measure retains only some of HB 12’s original equity language, primarily focused on enacting procedures meant to encourage communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs to participate in the new industry.

-The new industry will be overseen by a newly created Cannabis Control Division, part of the state Regulation and Licensing Department. Medical marijuana will also be regulated by that division, although the Department of Health will control the patient registry.

-By September of this year, the state will establish a cannabis regulatory advisory committee to advise the Cannabis Control Division. The committee will need to include various experts and stakeholders, such as the chief public defender, local law enforcement, a cannabis policy advocate, an organized labor representative, a medical cannabis patient, a tribal nation or pueblo, various scientists, an expert in cannabis regulation, an environmental expert, a water expert and a cannabis industry professional, among others.

-The bill as amended now includes language that will allow medical marijuana patients who are registered in other states to participates in in other states to access, a proposal that failed to pass during the regular session.

“Today, New Mexico seized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish a multi-million industry with a framework that’s right for our state and will benefit New Mexicans for generations to come,” Rep. Javier Martínez (D), who sponsored the legalization bill, said. “Not only are we launching a burgeoning industry that will strengthen our economy, create jobs and generate tax dollars, but we are doing so in an equitable way that will curb the illicit market and undo some damage of the failed war on drugs.”

Rep. Andrea Romero (D), who also led the charge to get the reform bills to the governor’s desk, said, “For decades, our communities of color have been discriminated against for minor cannabis offenses, so we must ensure that those who would not be arrested today do not continue to be incarcerated or held back by criminal records for acts that are no longer crimes.”

“By ensuring equity and social justice in our cannabis legalization, we are saying ‘enough’ to the devastating ‘War on Drugs’ that over-incarcerated and over-penalized thousands of New Mexicans,” she said.

Polling indicates New Mexico voters are ready for the policy change. A survey released in October found a strong majority of residents are in favor of legalization with social equity provisions in place, and about half support the decriminalization of drug possession more broadly.

Lujan Grisham included cannabis legalization as part of her 2021 legislative agenda and has repeatedly talked about the need to legalize as a means to boost the economy, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. She said during a State of the State address in January that “a crisis like the one we’ve experienced last year can be viewed as a loss or as an invitation to rethink the status quo—to be ambitious and creative and bold.”

Additional pressure to end cannabis prohibition this year came from neighboring Arizona, where sales officially launched in January after voters approved a legalization ballot initiative last year. To New Mexico’s north is Colorado, one of the first states to legalize for adult use.

New Mexico’s House in 2019 approved a legalization bill that included provisions to put marijuana sales mostly in state-run stores, but that measure died in the Senate. Later that year, Lujan Grisham created a working group to study cannabis legalization and issue recommendations.

In May of last year, the governor signaled she was considering actively campaigning against lawmakers who blocked her legalization bill in 2020. She also said that she was open to letting voters decide on the policy change via a ballot referendum if lawmakers didn’t send a legalization bill to her desk.

Texas Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Decriminalization Bill In Committee

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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.
Continue Reading

Politics

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Sails Through Fifth Committee, With Floor Vote Expected Next Month

Published

on

A bill to legalize marijuana in Minnesota advanced again on Monday, passing a fifth House committee as it moves closer to floor action.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D), Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) and other lawmakers filed the measure in February. It would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and cultivate up to eight plants, four of which could be mature.

The House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee approved the bill, which it amended, in a 11-7 vote on Monday.

“This bill, first and foremost, is a recognition of the major racial disparities in how our current drug laws are enforced,” Winkler told the panel prior to the vote. “We have similar cannabis use rates across populations in Minnesota, but we have disproportionate policing and enforcement as applied to African Americans in Minnesota—anywhere from four to 10 times greater arrest rates. We have whole communities that have been adversely affected by the war on drugs.”

The majority leader added that “we have an opportunity to create the kind of new industry that can be a model for not only how to be inclusive and how to repair past wrongs, but also to do so in a way that upholds very high environmental standards.”

Members adopted a number of changes to the proposal. For example, it now stipulates that members of a cannabis advisory council established under the bill could not serve as lobbyists while on the panel and for two years after they end their service.

Other provisions of the amendment stipulate that marijuana products cannot be flavored to taste or smell like anything but the plant itself. Regulators could also adopt rules to “limit or prohibit ingredients in or additives to cannabis or cannabis products.”

Another change lays out rules for marijuana delivery services, including requiring that they verify that a customer is at least 21 years old.

The revised legislation also creates a substance use disorder treatment and prevention grant funded by marijuana tax dollars.

This latest vote comes about three weeks after the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee passed the legislation. Before that, it’s moved through the Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee, the Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee and the Commerce Finance and Policy Committee.

The bill’s next stop is the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee, which is scheduled to take up the measure on Wednesday.

Winkler recently said that he expects the legislation to go through any remaining panels by the end of April, with a floor vote anticipated in May.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 900 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.

“Minnesotans are ready for cannabis, and we will keep pushing until it gets done,” he said.

Still, even if the legislation does make it all the way through the House, it’s expected to face a significant challenge in the Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers have signaled that they’re more interested in revising the state’s existing medical cannabis program than enacting legalization of adult use.

After the New York legislature approved a recreational cannabis legalization bill—which the governor promptly signed into law—Winkler said that Minnesota is “falling behind a national movement towards progress.”

“MN has some of the worst criminal justice disparities in the country, and legalizing cannabis & expunging convictions is a first step towards fixing that,” he tweeted.

The majority leader’s bill as introduced was identical to a proposal he filed last year, with some minor technical changes. The majority leader, who led a statewide listening to gather public input ahead of the measure’s introduction, called it the “best legalization bill in the country” at the time. It did not advance in that session, however.

Under the legislation, social equity would be prioritized, in part by ensuring diverse licensing and preventing the market from being monopolized by corporate players. Prior marijuana records would also be automatically expunged.

On-site consumption and cannabis delivery services would be permitted under the bill. And unlike in many legal states, local municipalities would be banned from prohibiting marijuana businesses from operating in their areas.

Retail cannabis sales would be taxed at 10 percent. Part of that revenue would fund a grant program designed to promote economic development and community stability.

The bill calls for the establishment of a seven-person Cannabis Management Board, which would be responsible for regulating the market and issuing cannabis business licenses. It was amended in committee month to add members to that board who have a social justice background.

People living in low-income neighborhoods and military veterans who lost honorable status due to a cannabis-related offense would be considered social equity applicants eligible for priority licensing.

Cannabis retails sales would launch on December 31, 2022.

Gov. Tim Walz (D) is also in favor of ending marijuana prohibition, and in January he called on lawmakers to pursue the reform as a means to boost the economy and promote racial justice. He did not include a request to legalize through his budget proposal, however.

Walz did say in 2019 that he was directing state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of legalization passing.

Winkler, meanwhile, said in December that if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the policy change legislatively, he said he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Heading into the 2020 election, Democrats believed they had a shot of taking control of the Senate, but that didn’t happen.

The result appears to be partly due to the fact that candidates from marijuana-focused parties in the state earned a sizable share of votes that may have otherwise gone to Democrats, perhaps inadvertently hurting the chances of reform passing.

In December, the Minnesota House Select Committee On Racial Justice adopted a report that broadly details race-based disparities in criminal enforcement and recommends a series of policy changes, including marijuana decriminalization and expungements.

Four More States Could Still Legalize Marijuana This Year After New Mexico, New York And Virginia

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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.
Continue Reading

Politics

Four More States Could Still Legalize Marijuana This Year After New Mexico, New York And Virginia

Published

on

With New Mexico, New York and Virginia legalizing marijuana in recent days, one might think the cannabis reform movement has already achieved its high water mark for 2021. But the fact is, legalization bills are still moving forward in several other states across the country this session.

From Delaware to Minnesota, lawmakers are still working to end prohibition by the year’s end. While there’s no guarantee that they’ll be successful, there’s growing momentum for legalization with top lawmakers and governors on board, and each state that enacts the policy change adds pressure on those around them to follow suit.

If two more states get legal marijuana bills signed this session, 2021 would set a record for the highest number of new legalization laws enacted in a single year. And if just one more state were to adopt legalization this session, 2021 would tie 2016 and 2020 as a year with the most number of states to legalize cannabis—quite remarkable given that no states are putting the issue directly to voters on the ballot this year.

Here’s a look at the states that could still legalize cannabis this session:

Connecticut

There are two legalization proposals being considered in the Connecticut legislature, including one that’s backed by Gov. Ned Lamont (D).

The governor’s bill cleared the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday after being amended to more comprehensively address issues of social equity. A competing measure from Rep. Robyn Porter (D) was approved in the Labor and Public Employees Committee last month.

Lamont said on Wednesday that if lawmakers fail to pass a marijuana reform bill, he expects voters to decide on the issue via referendum.

House Speaker Matthew Ritter (D) said last year that if the legislature isn’t able to pass a legalization bill, he will move to put a question on the state’s 2022 ballot that would leave the matter to voters. Ritter put “50-50” odds on lawmakers getting the job done this year themselves, however.

If cannabis does end up on the ballot, though, it would likely prove popular, as a poll released last month found that 66 percent of Connecticut adults favor legalization, and the same percentage of respondents back expunging prior cannabis records.

Delaware

A bill to legalize marijuana for adult use in Delaware was approved in its first House committee late last month.

The legislation, filed by Rep. Ed Osienski (D), passed the House Health and Human Development Committee in a 10-5 vote despite vocal opposition from some Republican members of the panel.

The bill as introduced would establish a regulated commercial cannabis system and tax sales at 15 percent. Home cultivation for personal use, however, would remain illegal.

The sponsor has stressed that the proposed legislation is “the first step,” and it will be subject to revisions in its next panel, the House Appropriations Committee.

Osienski was the chief sponsor of an earlier reform bill that cleared a House committee in 2019 but did not advance through the full chamber. One major difference between this latest bill and the last version is that HB 150 would not allow existing medical cannabis dispensaries to start selling marijuana during the transitional period between enactment and full implementation, as the previous bill would have done.

That led four of the state’s six medical cannabis operators to testify against the legislation—a decision that’s prompted certain advocates and patients to mount a boycott, accusing the companies of being profit-minded while standing in the way of broader reform.

Minnesota

Four House committees have already approved a bill to legalize marijuana in Minnesota. And Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D), sponsor of the reform legislation, said last week that it will move through its remaining committee stops by the end of April, setting the stage for action in the full chamber in May.

Winkler, Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) and other lawmakers filed the measure in February. It would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to eight plants, four of which could be mature.

The House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee was the latest panel to advance the bill on Monday.

Before that, the Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee, Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee, Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee and Commerce Finance and Policy Committee approved the proposal.

Its next stop will be the Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee on Wednesday.

Still, even if the legislation does make it all the way through the House, it’s expected to face a significant challenge in the Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers have signaled that they’re more interested in revising the state’s existing medical cannabis program than enacting legalization of adult use.

The majority leader’s bill as introduced was identical to a proposal he filed last year, with some minor technical changes. The majority leader, who led a statewide listening to gather public input ahead of the measure’s introduction, called it the “best legalization bill in the country” at the time. It did not advance in that session, however.

Gov. Tim Walz (D) is also in favor of ending marijuana prohibition, and in January he called on lawmakers to pursue the reform as a means to boost the economy and promote racial justice. He did not include a request to legalize through his budget proposal, however.

Walz did say in 2019 that he was directing state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of legalization passing.

Winkler, meanwhile, said in December that if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the policy change legislatively, he said he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Rhode Island

A pair of Rhode Island Senate committees held a joint hearing on two marijuana legalization proposals this month—including one proposed by the governor.

The Senate Judiciary and Finance Committees heard testimony from administration officials on Gov. Dan McKee’s (D) budget measure as well as legislative leaders sponsoring the competing bill. While the panels did not immediately vote on either proposal, members generally discussed legalization as an inevitability in the state, especially with neighboring states enacting the reform

Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D) and Health & Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D) are leading the separate legalization measure.

“We know there’s going to be a lot of input from different organizations and different individuals—and we hope over the next couple of months that we’re able to come up with a final piece of legislation,” Miller said. He added that enacting legalization this year is a priority for the Senate and administration.

Both plans allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. However, only the lawmakers’ bill provides a home grow option, with the governor’s stipulating a series of fines and penalties for personal cultivation of any number of plants.

The proposals 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.

House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D) has said he’s “absolutely” open to the idea of cannabis legalization and leans toward a private model.

Texas Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Decriminalization Bill In Committee

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.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Marijuana Moment