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Nebraska Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill Stalls In Legislature Amid Filibuster

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Nebraska’s unicameral legislature on Wednesday debated a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state. But following hours of discussion, it failed to advance past a filibuster because the body didn’t have enough votes to overcome it.

Despite pleas from supporters to vote in favor of at least moving the bill to the next stage of the process to continue debate, the measure is effectively dead this session. Now it seems the best chance to enact reform will be through the ballot next year—a route that pro-legalization advocates pledged they will pursue if the legislature did not act.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Anna Wishart (D), would have allowed patients with certain qualifying conditions to purchase and possess cannabis from a licensed dispensary. It wouldn’t have allowed patients to smoke marijuana, however.

To advance, the the bill would have first had to overcome a filibuster with a vote for cloture. Supporters needed backing from 33 senators to do that, but only 31 members were on board.

For now this means, Nebraska will remain one of the final states without any legal medical cannabis access.

Wishart emphasized on the floor that residents in the state back legalizing medical access, evidenced by a successful signature gathering campaign to place medical cannabis legalization on the 2020 ballot that she and advocates ran. And while that initiative was quashed in the state Supreme Court following a lawsuit, she said that if lawmakers failed to act, activists would pursue a modified measure for 2022, and it will pass “overwhelmingly.”

“No amount of money or opposition is going to silence the people of Nebraska on this issue,” Wishart said on the floor. “You would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know a person who has benefited from having access to cannabis for medical purposes.”

The senator also talked about the history of the medical use of cannabis and the racist and political origins of federal prohibition.

In order to get to the governor, the bill would have had to go through another round of debate where additional amendments could be filed and then finally go through a third reading on the floor. Because there was an emergency clause attached to the measure, it would have required a 33 vote supermajority for final approval.

While the bill originally would have generally allowed patients to access marijuana for any condition that the plant may treat, it was revised by the body’s Judiciary Committee in March to include a specific list of 17 qualifying conditions, including cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.

Wishart and Sen. Adam Morfeld (D) have been consistent champions of cannabis reform, and while this bill is a fairly limited proposal to legalize medical marijuana, the pair announced in December that they’re also working to put the question of legalization for adult use before voters in 2022.

If activists do collect enough signatures to qualify either the medical or recreational cannabis measure, they will still likely face a challenge at the polls, as midterms generally see lower turnout as compared to presidential election years.

Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) is an adamant opponent of marijuana reform, so it seems likely he would have vetoed any medical cannabis bill that lawmakers sent to his desk. Overriding a gubernatorial veto would’ve required 30 votes, meaning at least some members of his own party would have had to move to reject the governor’s action.

Under last year’s blocked Nebraska medical cannabis initiative, physicians would have been able to recommend cannabis to patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions, and those patients would then have been allowed to possess, purchase and “discreetly” cultivate marijuana for personal use.

For what it’s worth, Nebraska’s attorney general said in an opinion in 2019 that efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would be, therefore, unconstitutional.”

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Sponsor Expects GOP Support In House Floor Vote This Week

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Rhode Island Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill

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The Rhode Island Senate on Tuesday approved a bill to legalize marijuana.

The legislation, which cleared the chamber’s Judiciary Committee last week, passed in a 29-9 vote.

Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D) and Health & Human Services Chairman Joshua Miller (D) are the lead sponsors of the measure, which they introduced in March, days before Gov. Dan McKee (D) came out with his own legalization proposal.

“It is a historic day, as it is the first time a bill to legalize and regulate cannabis has reached the floor of either legislative chamber in Rhode Island,” Miller said before the vote.

“It is important that we act expeditiously to enact a regulatory framework,” he added, noting policy changes in surrounding states such as Connecticut, where the state’s governor signed a legalization bill into law earlier on Tuesday.

“Cannabis legalization is as much about reconciliation as it is revenue,” McCaffrey said in a press release. “[P]olicies of prohibition have disproportionately impacted communities of color, and I believe we must ensure any effort to legalize cannabis recognizes and rectifies those wrongs. Low barriers to entry, expungement reform, and broad access to programs designed to increase access for individuals and communities impacted by the failed War on Drugs are an important and necessary component.”

A third Rhode Island legalization measure was also recently filed on the House side by Rep. Scott Slater (D) and several cosponsors.

But while the Senate moved forward with the leaders’ bill, House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D) recently signaled that legalization wouldn’t be taken up until the summer or fall.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D) said in a press release on Tuesday that he wants to work with the governor and the House to get the reform done this year.

“Under the status quo, with cannabis readily available, Rhode Island must address all the societal costs, but we have no regulatory framework and no associated revenue stream. The longer we wait to open a cannabis marketplace, the further behind we fall from a competitive standpoint,” he said. “I encourage our partners in government to continue to work with us to bring this needed legislation over the goal line.”

McKee, for his part, told reporters earlier in the day 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 the House Finance Committee discussed the governor’s proposal to end prohibition at a hearing in April.

The bill approved in the Senate on Tuesday would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis. They could also cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

A Cannabis Control Commission would be established to regulate the market and issue business licenses. Marijuana would be subject to the state’s seven percent sales tax, in addition to a 10 percent special tax and a three percent local tax for jurisdictions that allow cannabis firms to operate in their area.

Under a substitute amendment approved by the Judiciary Committee last week, the bill stipulates that there “shall be no new cannabis cultivators’ licenses issued prior to July 1, 2023.” Regulators would also be tasked with reviewing data annually to “determine the maximum number of licenses that shall be issued to meet the production demands.”

It was also changed from its original form to require labor peace agreements for marijuana businesses—a provision that could bolster support among progressives.


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.

Driving while under the influence would be prohibited, but people can’t be considered impaired “solely for having cannabis metabolites in his or her system” under the bill. That also represents an expansion, as the initial proposal would have only applied that protection to medical cannabis patients.

People with prior convictions for possession of up to two ounces of cannabis could have their records expunged, whereas the previous version capped that threshold at one ounce. But courts would have 90 days, instead of 60, to act on expungement petitions.

In addition to expungements, the bill also now includes provisions to provide for record sealing.

People or entities cannot own more than one marijuana business license, but the substitute version now clarifies that people would be able to invest in multiple operations.

Each municipality could have at least three cannabis retailers operating in their jurisdiction, but the population threshold for additional licensees was increased, making it so additional retailers could be approved for every additional 20,000 residents above a baseline 30,000. The original bill placed the threshold at every 10,000 people over the 30,000 baseline, so this would have the effect of limiting the number of retailers.

The bill’s passage in the Senate comes in contrast to recent comments from House leadership, with the speaker saying last week that it’s “possible we will return some time in the summer or fall” to tackle legalization. He said the priority is to pass the budget this month.

The governor also said this month that he “wouldn’t be surprised if this is something that gets carried over maybe to a fall session.”

Meanwhile, the Senate majority leader recently said that, unlike Slater and the governor, he doesn’t want to have the market regulated through the state Department of Business Regulation; rather, he feels it’s important to “have a separate commission in one form or another.”

As lawmakers have worked to pass a budget, there have been outstanding questions about whether there’s sufficient support for legalization. The House speaker has been relatively quiet on cannabis reform, so his recent comments on tackling the issue as early as this summer are notable.

The speaker said recently that he views legalization as “inevitable,” but he told Politico that there are “many pressing matters before us” and he’s not sure if the chamber will have time to consider the cannabis measure.

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 Rhode Island Senate approved a bill in March that would 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.

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.

Connecticut Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization Into Law

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Louisiana Governor Signs Bill To Legalize Smokable Medical Marijuana

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The governor of Louisiana on Tuesday signed a bill to let patients in the state’s medical cannabis program legally smoke whole-plant marijuana flower.

The legislation marks a notable expansion of the state’s limited medical marijuana program. As it stands, patients are able to vaporize cannabis preparations via a “metered-dose inhaler,” but they cannot access whole-plant flower and smoking is not allowed.

This is the second piece of marijuana reform legislation that Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has signed this month. Last week, he gave the green light to a measure that decriminalizes possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis.

But while the governor has made clear his willingness to approve more modest reforms, he predicted he would not be the one to sign adult-use legalization into law before he leaves office in early 2024—even though he does expect the policy change to happen in his state at some point.

An effort in the legislature to pass a bill to legalize recreational cannabis stalled in the House this session after the chamber failed to pass a complementary measure on taxing adult-use marijuana. Edwards also said last month that he believes the reform “is going to happen in Louisiana eventually.”

“It’s on the march, and that certainly might happen here in Louisiana,” he said last week. However “I would be surprised if there’s a consensus in the legislature to do that while I’m governor.” (Edwards is term-limited and cannot run again in 2023’s upcoming gubernatorial election.)


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.

In April, the governor also said that he had “great interest” in the legalization proposal, and he pledged to take a serious look at its various provisions.

Last year, the Louisiana legislature significantly expanded the state’s medical marijuana program by passing a bill that allows physicians to recommend cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit instead of from the limited list of maladies that’s used under current law.

Edwards signed the measure in June 2020 and it took effect weeks later.

The developments on various cannabis-related legislation come after recent polling showed that constituents in some of the most firmly Republican districts in the state support legalizing marijuana.

Two other recent polls—including one personally commissioned by a top Republican lawmaker—have found that a majority of voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis for adult use.

Connecticut Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization Into Law

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Mexico’s Supreme Court Moves To End Marijuana Prohibition Itself After Lawmakers Fail To Act

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Mexico’s Supreme Court has taken a step toward ending marijuana prohibition nationally after the legislature failed to enact the policy change by a court-imposed deadline.

Minister Norma LucĂ­a Piña Hernández, who serves on the high court, recently filed a general declaration of unconstitutionality with respect to Mexico’s cannabis laws. And the body is expected to take up the issue on Monday.

This comes nearly three years after the Supreme Court first deemed the prohibition on personal marijuana possession and cultivation unconstitutional, ordering lawmakers to institute a change. But while lawmakers have advanced legalization legislation in the years since, they have yet to approve a final bill.

Advocates are encouraged that the court is taking this action, which would nullify parts of the Mexico Constitution that criminalize people over cannabis. But they’ve emphasized that this does absolve legislators of their responsibility to develop regulations for a program of adult-use marijuana production and sales.

“The step the Court is taking increases the responsibility of the legislative branch in this matter,” #RegulationPorLaPaz said in a press release on Tuesday, according to a translation. “It is necessary to continue the legislative process so that the work that has been invested to date is consolidated in the modifications necessary to guarantee the rights of citizenship.”

Eight ministers on the Supreme Court will have to vote in favor of passing the declaration of unconstitutionality in order for prohibition to be overturned.

This is far from an abrupt move on the court’s end. When it ruled that marijuana criminalization unconstitutionally infringed on the rights of adults in October 2018, it set an initial deadline for lawmakers to change laws accordingly within a year. Then, at the request of lawmakers, it approve extensions, setting deadlines for April 2020, December 2020 and finally April 30, 2021.

The Congress was unable to settle the matter by that latest deadline, despite having made progress in drafting and advancing legalization legislation.

This latest session, it seemed like the reform would finally be achieved. The Senate approved a legalization bill late last year, and then the Chamber of Deputies made revisions and passed it in March, sending it back to the originating chamber. A couple of Senate committees then took up and cleared the amended measure, but leaders quickly started signaling that certain revisions made the proposal unworkable.

That’s where the situation stood for weeks as the court’s latest April 30 deadline approached. There was an expectation that the Senate would again ask the court for an extension, but that did not take place. Instead, lawmakers have begun floating the idea of holding a special legislative session in order to get the job done this year.

After the Chamber of Deputies approved the Senate-passed legalization bill, senators said that the revised proposal was critically internally conflicted—on provisions concerning legal possession limits, the definition of hemp and other issues—and lawmakers themselves could be subject to criminal liability if it went into effect as drafted.

But Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal Avila said in April that if the court were to make a declaration of unconstitutionality before a measure to regulate cannabis was approved, it would result in “chaos.”

The top senator also talked about the importance of lawmakers taking their time to craft good policy and not rush amidst lobbying from tobacco and pharmaceutical industry interests.

“We must not allow ourselves to be pressured by interests,” he said. “The Senate must act with great prudence in this matter.”

Sen. Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar of the ruling MORENA party said in April that “at this time, it is important to legislate in the terms that are presented to us” and then consider additional revisions to cannabis laws through subsequent bills.

That’s the position many legalization advocates took as well, urging lawmakers to pass an imperfect bill immediately and then work on fixing it later.

Under the proposal, adults 18 and older would be allowed to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants for personal use. The deputies made changes that principally concern the regulatory structure, rules for the commercial market and licensing policies.

One of the most notable changes made by the Chamber of Deputies was that the revised bill would not establish a new independent regulatory body to oversee the licensing and implementation of the program as was approved by the Senate. Instead, it would give that authority to an existing agency, the National Commission Against Addictions.

Deputies also approved additional revisions to increase penalties for unauthorized possession of large amounts of cannabis, prevent forest land from being converted to marijuana growing areas and to require regulators to “coordinate campaigns against problematic cannabis use and…develop permanent actions to deter and prevent its use by minors and vulnerable groups.”

Advocates had hoped for more. Throughout this legislative process, they’ve called for changes to further promote social equity and eliminate strict penalties for violating the law.

While the bill would give priority for licenses to marginalized communities, advocates are worried that there might not be strict and specific enough criteria to actually ensure that ends up being the case. They also pushed for an amendment to make it so a specific percentage of licenses would be set aside for those communities, but that did not happen.

Monreal Avila, the Senate majority leader, said ahead of the Chamber of Deputies vote that there “is no problem if they modify the cannabis law, we have no problem.”

“That is their job and their function. And on the return we will review whether or not they are appropriate,” he said, according to a translation. “The idea is to regulate the use of cannabis and not ignore a prohibitionist approach that generated a great social problem in the country.”

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, for his part, said in December that a vote on legalization legislation was delayed due to minor “mistakes” in the proposal.

The legalization bill cleared a joint group of Senate committees prior to the full floor vote in that chamber last year, with some amendments being made after members informally considered and debated the proposal during a virtual hearing.

Members of the Senate’s Justice, Health, and Legislative Studies Committees had approved a prior version of legal cannabis legislation last year as well, but the pandemic delayed consideration of the issue. Sen. Julio Ramón Menchaca Salazar of the MORENA party said in April that legalizing cannabis could fill treasury coffers at a time when the economy is recovering from the health crisis.

As lawmakers work to advance the reform legislation, there’s been a more lighthearted push to focus attention on the issue by certain members and activists. That push has mostly involved planting and gifting marijuana.

In September, a top administration official was gifted a cannabis plant by senator on the Senate floor, and she said she’d be making it a part of her personal garden.

A different lawmaker gave the same official, Interior Ministry Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero, a marijuana joint on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies in 2019.

Cannabis made another appearance in the legislature in August, when Sen. Jesusa Rodríguez of the MORENA party decorated her desk with a marijuana plant.

Drug policy reform advocates have also been cultivating hundreds of marijuana plants in front of the Senate, putting pressure on legislators to make good on their pledge to advance legalization.

NYPD Marijuana Arrests Persisted Along Racially Biased Lines In Final Quarter Of Prohibition

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