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New Hampshire Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization

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The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to legalize marijuana on Tuesday, just five days after the Trump administration moved to rescind federal guidelines protecting state cannabis laws.

Under the bill, which now moves to the state Senate, people over 21 years of age would be allowed to legally possess three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana and grow up to three mature cannabis plants at home. Retail sales locations would not be allowed.

The noncommercial approach is similar to a bill advancing in neighboring Vermont. There, the¬†House passed a legalization measure on Thursday¬†— the same day U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions tore up Obama-era marijuana guidance.¬†That state’s¬†Senate, which previously OKed similar legislation, is expected to give its final approval on Wednesday, and Gov. Phil Scott (R) has pledged to sign legalization into law.

The swift action by the two states represents a stunning rebuke to the Trump administration’s anti-cannabis move, which was also¬†roundly slammed by dozens of members of Congress¬†from both parties.

In New Hampshire, the House voted to amend a broader bill that would have allowed legal, taxed and regulated marijuana sales. The legislation, as introduced, was defeated in committee in November. Opponents argued that because a legislative study commission is currently examining how legalized marijuana commerce might work in the state, passing the bill now would be premature.

On Tuesday, supporters successfully moved a floor amendment to scale the proposal back to only legalize possession and home cultivation.

The vote on¬†overturning the committee’s recommendation to kill the bill¬†was 183 to 162. The body then amended the¬†proposal to remove the commercialization provisions via a voice vote. Passage of the revised legislation was approved by a¬†tally of¬†207 to 139.

While advocates had anticipated that the bill would move directly to the Senate after the House vote, leadership unexpectedly referred the legislation to the House Ways and Means Committee. Now, supporters must wait to see whether the panel will opt to hear the bill. It is possible that they may decline to do so, since it no longer contains provisions concerning regulations or taxes. If the committee takes action on the legislation it would necessitate another House floor vote before being sent to the other chamber.

Either way, the bill will face a tougher road to passage in the Senate, which has been where House-approved cannabis legislation has gone to die over the course of several years.

The House repeatedly approved bills to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in a number of sessions, for example, only to see those proposals consistently defeated in the other chamber. It wasn’t until last year that the support of newly elected Gov. Chris Sununu (R) provided a boost to the decriminalization effort and the bill passed both chambers and was enacted into law.

Now, advocates are working to expand on that victory by removing the fines that are assessed to adults possessing small amounts of marijuana, and add in legal home cultivation.

However, Sununu said on Tuesday that he doesn’t support the new proposal.

“Are you kidding?” he¬†said. “We’re in the middle of one of the biggest drug crises the state has ever seen. To go to a full recreational¬†marijuana when other states that are seeing all the problems it has in other states and seeing the issues¬†it’s bearing, it’s definitely not something that I’m supportive of right now.”

Former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand (D), who is running for governor this year,¬†called Sununu’s comments “deeply disappointing.”

“When I am Governor in 2019, I will advocate for the legalization, regulation and taxation of cannabis for adult recreational use,” he said in a¬†statement. “Doing so will lower costs for incarceration, courts and law enforcement.”

In 2014, the New Hampshire House became the first legislative chamber in U.S. history to approve a marijuana legalization bill, but it later died in the Senate.

A poll from the University of New Hampshire conducted last year found that 68% of New Hampshire adults support legalizing marijuana.

Next door, in Vermont, Scott vetoed a marijuana legalization bill last year. But he then laid out a few small revisions he wanted legislators to make in order to garner his signature. The Senate quickly acted to make the requested changes, but the House wasn‚Äôt able to overcome procedural hurdles to pass the revised bill in time during a short special session over the summer. When lawmakers reconvened for the regular 2018 session last week, the House passed the bill and made another small change, necessitating Wednesday’s expected final Senate vote on sending the measure to Scott.

Advocates believe that New Jersey is also poised to end marijuana prohibition via the legislature this year as well. Phil Murphy (D), who will be sworn in as governor later this month, campaigned on full-scale commercial legalization, and the Senate president says he is ready to pass a bill.

A number of other states are expected to vote on ballot initiatives to legalize recreational or medical cannabis later this year.

This piece was first published by Forbes.

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.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

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California Governor Signs Marijuana Tax Fairness Bill But Vetoes Cannabis In Hospitals

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced on Saturday that he signed several marijuana-related bills into law‚ÄĒincluding one that will let legal businesses take advantage of more tax deductions‚ÄĒbut also vetoed another measure that would have allowed some patients to use medical cannabis in health care facilities.

Under a section of current federal law known as 280E, marijuana growers, processors and sellers are unable to deduct expenses from their taxes that businesses in any other sector would be able to write off. Until now, California policy simply mirrored the federal approach.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo courtesy of Carlos Gracia.

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Former FDA Head Floats Federal Marijuana Regulation ‘Compromise’ To Address Vaping Issue

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Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb seems to propose changing the scheduling status of marijuana under federal law as a “compromise” to provide limited regulations and promote research.

In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal on Friday, Gottlieb said the recent spike in vaping-related lung injuries involving contaminated THC cartridges demonstrates the need for federal regulations.

While he expressed frustration over the “federal government‚Äôs decade-long refusal to challenge state laws legalizing pot,” he also recognized that enforcing prohibition in legal states isn’t politically practical and floated a “feasible compromise” that would “require Congress to take marijuana out of the existing paradigm for drug scheduling, especially if Congress wants to allow carefully regulated access for uses that fall outside FDA-approved drug indications.”

That language leaves room for interpretation, but he goes on to say that the “ship has probably sailed on legalization for recreational use” and that “regulation of the potency of THC compounds, the forms they take, how they‚Äôre manufactured, and who can make purchases ought to be possible.”

Gottlieb stopped short of explicitly backing descheduling, which would represent a formal end to federal prohibition. Still, his recommendation that the government control aspects of legal marijuana markets like THC potency is a more concrete position than he’s taken in recent weeks, where he’s repeatedly bemoaned the lack of regulations and the gap between state and federal cannabis laws as contributing to vaping issues without endorsing a specific policy to correct it.

It’s clear in the editorial that the former commissioner feels Congress has missed its opportunity to prevent the proliferation of state-legal cannabis programs. And he criticized the Obama administration for issuing guidance that offered states some assurances that the Justice Department wouldn’t interfere in their markets, as well as congressional riders barring the department from using its funds to enforce prohibition against medical cannabis patients and providers following state laws.

“The result is an impasse,” he wrote. “Federal agencies exert little oversight, and regulation is left to a patchwork of inadequate state agencies. The weak state bodies sanction the adoption of unsafe practices such as vaping concentrates, while allowing an illegal market in cannabis to flourish.”

One area where FDA might be able to exercise its regulatory authority in this grey space would involve oversight of vaping hardware. Because the agency is able to regulate the “components and parts” of vapes for tobacco use‚ÄĒand because companies generally market those products as being intended for the use of vaporizing herbs and concentrates generally‚ÄĒit could be argued that FDA has jurisdiction over regulating the devices. However, that would still prove challenging “without clear laws and firm political support,” Gottlieb said.

“THC is currently illegal under federal law,” he said. “Right now there‚Äôs no middle ground allowing federal agencies to scrutinize these compounds for their manufacturing, marketing and safety.”

Again, it’s not exactly clear what kind of federal regulation Gottlieb is proposing to Congress. He spends part of his op-ed noting the difficulties scientists face in obtaining high quality cannabis for research purposes‚ÄĒan issue that policymakers have indicated rescheduling could resolve‚ÄĒbut he also said the government should ensure that any reform move is “backed up with oversight and vigorous enforcement to keep a black market from continuing to flourish and causing these lung injuries.”

That’s led some to assume he’s talking about descheduling and providing for broad regulations, as regulating the market is largely viewed as a primary means of disrupting the illicit market and enforcing safety standards for marijuana products. But the continued ambiguity of his position raises questions about whether he’s actually proposing Congress should go that far.

“The protracted hand-wringing over federal cannabis policy must stop,” he said. “The tragic spate of fatalities related to vaping of pot concentrates means the time has come for Congress and the White House to stop blowing smoke and clear the air.”

Leading Civil Rights Group Calls On Lawmakers To Support Comprehensive Marijuana Legalization Bill

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Mexican Senate Committees Will Introduce Marijuana Legalization Bill Next Week

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Mexican Senate committees will introduce an updated proposal to legalize marijuana for adult use within days.

During a meeting on Thursday, members of the Health, Justice, Public Security and Legislative Studies Committees announced that they would remain in permanent session as they go through various legalization bills that lawmakers have already filed and present a comprehensive new piece of legislation on Thursday.

Sen. Miguel √Āngel Navarro Quintero of the ruling MORENA party, who is a cosponsor of one existing reform bill, said the development “is a positive step to regulate‚ÄĒit is definitely a positive step,” according to TV Aztecha.

The primary focus of the committees will be on legislation introduced by Interior Secretary Olga S√°nchez Cordero last year, senators said. However, there are about a dozen other legalization bills on the table, including one to have the federal government control the marijuana market, and they said provisions of each proposal would be taken into consideration.

The panels will also look at public input and expert testimony‚ÄĒincluding a panel led by a former White House drug czar‚ÄĒthat were gathered as part of a weeks-long series of cannabis events that the Senate organized.

“It is a backbone that we are taking into account,” Sen. Julio Menchaca of the MORENA party said of S√°nchez Cordero’s bill, which the cabinet member filed while previously serving as a senator, adding that “each of the initiatives that different senators have presented are also very important.”

Quintero said “if we are committing an open parliament, all opinions must be taken into account, because if not, we would be simulating a process.”

If the committees are successful in advancing the legislation, that would put the chamber one key step closer to meeting a deadline imposed by the Supreme Court last year. After ruling that the country’s ban on possession and cultivation of cannabis by adults is unconstitutional, it gave lawmakers until the end of October to change federal drug policy.

The leader of the MORENA party in the Senate, Sen. Ricardo Monreal, said earlier this month that the chamber was on track to vote on a legalization bill ahead of that deadline.

Separately, the chairman of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, Sen. Jos√© Narro C√©spedes, said on Thursday that legalization will be an economic boon for farmers and must be implemented in a way that disrupts the illicit market.

Mexican Cabinet Member Accepts Lawmaker’s Marijuana Gift During Legislative Meeting

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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