More than 50 bills to legalize marijuana have already been introduced in state legislatures across the country for 2019 sessions. These far-reaching pieces of legislation typically generate the biggest headlines and attract the most attention, but outright legalization efforts are far from the only cannabis-related proposals that lawmakers are considering in 2019.
Less wide-ranging, but also important, marijuana reform bills are cropping up by the day. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting cannabis legislation filed this year that you might have missed:
In Colorado, a bill would give large marijuana companies a boon by repealing provisions that require background checks on initial investors and allowing publicly traded companies to obtain cannabis licenses.
Connecticut lawmakers are looking at a bill that would protect veterinarians from punishment if they discuss using cannabis therapeutically for pets. Another piece of legislation, which many legalization advocates are likely to oppose, would protect employers who terminate or decline to hire workers because they tested positive for marijuana from being sued.
Health insurers would be required to cover hemp-derived CBD oil under legislation introduced in Hawaii this month. Another bill would let Hawaiian medical cannabis patients bring transport their marijuana from island to island.
Maine lawmakers are pushing a bill that would create an open container policy for marijuana similar to laws that are already in effect for alcohol. Individuals would not be allowed to keep an open container of cannabis in the passenger seat; instead, it would have to be secured in a trunk, behind the last upright seat of the vehicle or somewhere else “not normally occupied by the operator or passenger.”
A bill that would allow medical cannabis patients to purchase, possess and carry firearms is making its way through the Maryland legislature. Prospective firearm buyers still have to submit a federal application that inquires about the use of cannabis, and federal law prohibits marijuana consumers from purchasing guns regardless of state law, however. Lawmakers in Oklahoma and Colorado are considering similar bills.
Child adoptions wouldn’t be delayed or denied just because a prospective adoptive parent has a medical marijuana card or works in the cannabis industry under legislation introduced in Missouri earlier this month Another bill would allow individuals enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to maintain their benefits even if they’re registered medical cannabis patients.
New Mexico senators filed a bill that would allow the government to “enter into an intergovernmental agreement with any sovereign Indian nation, tribe or pueblo located in New Mexico that elects to implement the provisions of the medical cannabis program.”
New York lawmakers introduced legislation that would require insurers to cover medical cannabis like any other prescription drug.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 500 cannabis 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.
We followed more than 900 pieces of cannabis legislation in 2018. Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.
In Oregon, a Senate bill would grant the governor authority to enter into an agreement with another state “for purpose of cross-jurisdictional coordination and enforcement of marijuana-related businesses.” Separately, lawmakers in the state want to prohibit transplant centers from denying organ donations to medical cannabis patients simply because they test positive for marijuana metabolites.
In Texas, one representative filed a bill to replace instances of the word “marihuana” in state laws by using “cannabis” instead.
Licensed marijuana businesses would be allowed to deliver cannabis products to adults 21 and older in Washington state under a House bill filed earlier this month.
These are just a small handful of the more than 500 cannabis-related bills that have already been filed for 2019 legislative sessions that in most cases began less than a month ago.
Find out more about what marijuana reform proposals lawmakers in your state are considering with Marijuana Moment’s bill tracker and hearing calendar.
Cory Booker Endorses Bill To Legalize Marijuana In New Jersey
Efforts to legalize marijuana in New Jersey received a high-profile endorsement on Friday, with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) voicing support for the bill in a statement.
The senator, who is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and also sponsored congressional legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition, is the latest in a growing list of political leaders who’ve advocated for the bill, which was approved by state Senate and Assembly committees earlier this week and is expected to receive floor votes in both chambers on Monday.
“New Jersey is the first state in the country to couple decriminalizing marijuana with strong criminal justice reform measures to redress the decades of immense harm inflicted by an unfair system,” Booker said. “All too often, communities of color and low-income individuals are unjustly impacted by our broken drug policies, but by including measures to expunge records and reinvest in the communities most impacted, our state has the opportunity to lead in prioritizing social justice.”
NJ is set to vote on a marijuana legalization bill that has strong measures to reverse the damage of the War on Drugs.
I hope this bill passes & NJ can lead the nation on this. Marijuana legalization & social justice *must* go hand in hand. We can’t have one without the other.
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) March 22, 2019
The bill’s focus on social equity provisions has been critical in shoring up support as the legislature gets closer to a vote. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has been putting out calls to advocates and lawmakers to get the legislation advanced, which would fulfill a campaign promise of his.
“With this bill, New Jersey legislators can send a strong message to the country that marijuana legalization and social justice must be inextricably linked,” Booker said. “I’m hopeful our state will succeed in setting this example.”
It’s been a complicated process to form a coalition united around passing legalization in New Jersey. Disagreements between the governor and lawmakers about certain aspects of the bill such as tax rates and regulatory structures were finally resolved earlier this month when a compromise was reached. And amendments to expand expungement provisions gave the mayors of the state’s two largest cities proper assurance to back the legislation.
That said, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka (D) and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (D) continue to push for automatic expungements, as opposed to virtual expungements. Murphy said that automatic expungements is not a feasible policy.
“Now more than ever, we must work together,” the mayors said in a statement on Friday. “Again, we stand in unison in support of this legislation that could potentially become New Jersey’s law. We should aim to become a model state from which other states can clearly follow. We should address these issues in a manner that protects our communities and the people that live here.”
Mayors @rasjbaraka & @StevenFulop announce support of the proposed cannabis legislation after assurance from state leaders that they will continue to seek full automatic expungement. https://t.co/QN1LeDt6wl pic.twitter.com/bJFbTHOR0a
— City of Newark (@CityofNewarkNJ) March 22, 2019
On Thursday, the governor’s office also released a list of quotes from lawmakers, activists and spiritual leaders voicing support for the legalization legislation.
“If we have learned anything at all, it is that the status quo has been disproportionately unfair to minority communities,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) said. “This bill is a step in the right direction to correct that inequality.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) agreed, saying the legalization bill will “advance social justice, legal justice and economic justice in meaningful ways.”
“This is an opportunity for continued progress as we strive for a society that respects the rights of everyone,” he said.
Whether the legislation will be approved is yet to be seen. NJ.com is keeping track of where lawmakers currently stand on the bill, and as of Friday afternoon their online whip count shows that a majority in the Senate plan to vote against it, while votes allocated so far in the Assembly are roughly even.
Photo courtesy of Jamelle Bouie.
Connecticut Lawmakers Hold Two Simultaneous Hearings On Marijuana Legalization Bills
Two Connecticut committees held hearings on bills to legalize marijuana and expand the state’s medical cannabis program on Friday.
The proposed legislation would permit adults 21 and older to possess, purchase and consume certain amounts of marijuana for personal use. The House bill also includes a number of social equity provisions that are meant to encourage people from communities that were disproportionately impacted by prohibition to participate in the legal industry.
While reform advocates generally support the bills, they’ve also made a series of recommendation to increase the focus on restorative justice and to include policies such as allowing home cultivation.
In the legislature’s General Law Committee, witnesses including a commissioner for the state’s medical cannabis program and social equity advocates testified about HB 7371. That bill would establish a governor-appointed commission to regulate the industry, give licensing priority to individuals from communities most impacted by the drug war and require the commission to conduct a study on permitting a home grow option and microbusinesses.
“The time has come to move this forward. We think this is a fantastic start [and] there is definitely some amazing language in here,” Jason Ortiz, president of Connecticut United for Reform and Equity (CURE), said at the hearing. “There’s just some other pieces that we think undermine the really good parts that we can strike out and maybe amend and move the basic ideas forward.”
“Marijuana prohibition was borne of misinformation and racism and it continues to be enforced unequally to this day,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), testified.
Over in the Judiciary Committee, experts dedicated significant time to testimony about the public health and safety impacts of cannabis legalization. Lawmakers pressed the witnesses on issues such as labeling requirements, what kinds of edibles should be allowed, impaired driving and the mental health affects of consuming high-THC marijuana varieties.
The bill before that panel, SB 1085, would also legalize cannabis for adult use. But the legislation has a focus on expungements for individuals with prior marijuana convictions for possession of 1.5 ounces or less.
As with the House bill, advocates are supportive of the spirit of the legislation but feel certain provisions fall short. For example, MPP said that expungements should apply to convictions for any kind of cannabis conviction. The organization also called for a home grow option, which is not included in either legalization bill under consideration.
Two other pieces of cannabis legislation were discussed at the Judiciary committee hearing. One would create a misdemeanor penalty for driving while consuming marijuana and provide $500,000 in funding for law enforcement to train officers as drug recognition experts. The other bill specifies that employers don’t have to provide special accommodations for employees who use cannabis while working.
As one of the states considered most likely to legalize cannabis in 2019, the hearings offer another example of how the conversation around reform has shifted from “should it be legal” to “how should it be legal,” with the hearings largely concentrated on defining and promoting social equity provisions.
If either bill makes it through the legislature, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) is expected to sign.
It's time for #CT to legalize marijuana for recreational use. We should expunge criminal charges for simple possession. This will lead to a safer market, and some of the proceeds can be used to correct historical wrongs and support addiction services. https://t.co/BruJ1l1TY6
— Gov. Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) March 22, 2019
Committee votes are expected on Monday.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
GOP Lawmakers Want Marijuana Banking Vote Delayed In Congress
A key congressional committee is scheduled to vote on far-reaching legislation that would expand marijuana businesses’ ability to store their profits in banks on Tuesday.
But key Republican lawmakers on the panel are now asking Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) to delay the vote.
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Read the full letter seeking a delay in the marijuana banking vote below:
GOP seeks delay on marijuan… by on Scribd