Weekly Legislative Roundup 4/01/17
Happy April Fools Day – unfortunately I have no light-hearted gag for you today as marijuana prohibition is still very much in effect with thousands of people a week arrested throughout the country for mere possession of the plant.
Nationwide, we have topped 1,600+ bills being filed throughout the country pertaining to marijuana. From new efforts in the Senate to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to tax and regulate marijuana to tax reform that would treat marijuana businesses just like every other industry through 280E reform, a new found pressure is now felt for reform on Capitol Hill.
At the state level, we have seen a range from legislative progress on social clubs in Colorado to the prohibitionists on the verge of a victory on rolling back local progress in Tennessee on decriminalization.
Below are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.
Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.
Thanks for all you do and keep fighting,
Regulate and Tax: Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis have introduced legislation in the House and Senate — The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act — (SB 776 and HB 1841 / HB 1823) to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. In addition to removing marijuana from the United States Controlled Substances Act, this legislation also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matter concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit. An additional excise tax would be levied on the sale of marijuana.
Join The Caucus: With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) have formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.
Colorado State Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Dan Pabon have introduced legislation, SB 184, The Marijuana Membership Clubs and Public Use Bill, will provide Colorado municipalities with the regulatory framework needed to allow responsible adults the option to socially consume marijuana in a membership club away from the general public.
Update: The House Second Reading for SB 184 was laid over to 4/03.
Legislation, HB 110, has been officially filed and introduced to regulate the adult use and sale of marijuana on March 30.
Senator Henry, the author of the state’s medical marijuana legislation said at a recent Medical Marijuana Act Oversight Committee meeting, “Education is suffering. Revenue from legalizing marijuana could help struggling schools and seniors, among other causes and close major budget deficits in Delaware.” The legislation is expected to be introduced in January.
According to recent polling data compiled by the University of Delaware, sixty-one percent of state voters favor legalizing marijuana.
A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers has reintroduced marijuana legalization legislation in the House, H. 5555: The Adult Use of Cannabis Act
The bill will allow adults 21 and older to possess cannabis and will establish a framework for businesses to cultivate and distribute marijuana. While the language is similar to that of previous bills that have failed to come to a vote, lawmakers this year believe that Rhode Island is ready to catch up to its northeast neighbors.
Update: House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s office says it is unlikely that the legislations would get a floor vote in the House.
Legislation is before the Governor, HB 173, to nullify the enactment of citywide marijuana decriminalization ordinances and to prevent additional municipalities from enacting similar marijuana reform measures.
The intent of the bill is to override the passage of recent citywide measures in Nashville and Memphis — both of which passed local ordinances last year making minor marijuana possession offenses a non-arrestable citation.
By contrast, state law classifies marijuana possession as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.
Update: Members of the Senate passed HB 173 on March 28. It now goes to the Governor.
A coalition of Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation, SB 386, which seeks to establish the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act — a state-sponsored program that will permit qualified patients to obtain medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries. A House version of the bill, HB 2677, is also pending.
Passage of the bill establishes a commission tasked with developing “policies, procedures, guidelines, and regulations to implement programs to make medical cannabis available to qualifying patients in a safe and effective manner.”
Update: SB 383 passed the senate by a vote of 28-6 and will now head to the House.
Other Actions To Take
The Small Business Tax Equity Act (SB 777 and HB 1810) is pending in the House and Senate to amend the federal tax code so that state-licensed, marijuana-related businesses are no longer unduly penalized by federal laws. NORML supports these legislative efforts.
These measures amend Section 280E of the Federal Income Tax Code so that state-compliant marijuana operators for the first time can take business deductions for standard expenses such as rent and employee compensation and benefits — just like other legally licensed business entities.
According to a 2017 report, over 120,000 workers are now employed full time in the legal cannabis industry. Allowing deductions for rent and employee costs would help these businesses grow economically and would provide incentives for hiring additional employees.
House Bill 1580 imposes a special eight percent statewide tax upon medical marijuana sales. This tax would be in addition to the imposition of existing state and local taxes.
While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of fair and reasonable sales taxes on the commercial sales of cannabis for recreational purposes, we do not support such excessive taxation on medical sales. Most other states that regulate medical cannabis sales do not impose such taxes and Arkansas patients should not be forced to pay these excessive costs.
Update: HB 1580 was returned by the Senate committee, with recommendation that it Do Pass.
Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 1578, to try and limit potential federal interference in the state’s marijuana regulatory laws.
The bill states, “This bill would prohibit a state or local agency, as defined, from taking certain actions without a court order signed by a judge, including using agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by law in the State of California and transferring an individual to federal law enforcement authorities for purposes of marijuana enforcement.”
The majority of Californians desire a legally regulated marijuana market. Passage of this act will limit state or local agencies from working with the federal government to undermine these regulations.
State officials in Colorado are considering legislation, SB 192, to protect the state’s adult use marijuana industry in case of a potential federal crackdown.
The bill would permit adult use growers and sellers to instantly reclassify their recreational marijuana inventory as medical marijuana “based on a business need due to a change in local, state, or federal law or enforcement policy.” In recent weeks, officials from the Trump administration have indicated that they may consider taking action against recreational marijuana providers, but that they will not likely move against state-licensed medical marijuana providers.
Update: The bill passed 4-1 committee in the Republican Senate
Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 1087, to expand the state’s medical marijuana law by removing the existing prohibition on herbal cannabis preparations.
Under existing law, qualified patients are forbidden from obtaining whole-plant cannabis. Instead, they are required to access only cannabis-infused oral products such as oils, pills, or extracts prepared from the plant. “Smoking” or inhaling herbal cannabis is not defined as a “certified medical use.”
These restrictions unnecessarily limit patients’ choices and deny them the ability to obtain rapid relief from whole-plant cannabis in a manner that has long proven to be relatively safe and effective.
Senate Bill 1087 amends the law so that the possession and inhalation of herbal cannabis is no longer illegal.
Legislation is pending in the Senate, SB 863, to limit the federal government from acquiring data regarding adults and patients who legally purchase marijuana under state law.
The emergency legislation, which would take immediate effect, mandates that retailers and dispensaries do not maintain customers’ purchase and/or personal identification records beyond 48 hours.
Sponsors of the bipartisan measure say the privacy protections are in response to recent statements by the Trump administration with regard to a possible enforcement crackdown in adult use marijuana states.
Update: SB 863 cleared the Senate and is now headed to the House.
State Senator Jose Menendez has filed Senate Bill 269, currently making its way through committee, to protect qualified patients who consume cannabis and to provide for the state-licensed production and distribution of the plant.
Update: A bipartisan House version of SB269 to legalize medical marijuana in the state of Texas has just been introduced by Representative Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, titled HB 2107.
April 1, 2017