A broad range of marijuana-related legislation is pending in at least 13 states. The flurry of new bills includes efforts to legalize, expand, or repeal medical marijuana; protect workers using prescription marijuana; restrict the sale of medical marijuana in food; make driving under the influence of marijuana a crime; decriminalize small amounts of marijuana; or legalize, tax, and regulate its sale.
Proposals to Legalize Medical Marijuana
Hawaii is considering legalizing medical marijuana distributed through “compassion centers” under a proposal that would create three classes of licenses and make the drug subject to income, sales, and excise taxes.
Similar proposals are also being considered in Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, and Maryland. The sponsor of the Kansas bill said it was not likely to pass; in Maryland, a state delegate proposed amending the medical marijuana bill to disallow smoking marijuana for medical purposes – all other methods of ingestion would be legal.
Indiana took a step closer toward proposing to legalize medical marijuana when a state senate panel backed a bill that would assign a state commission the task of studying and making policy recommendations on the issue. The panel made its decision after hearing testimony from a state senator with multiple sclerosis who said he wished he could legally use the drug to alleviate his pain.
Plans to Change or Repeal Medical Marijuana Laws
A number of states that had previously legalized medical marijuana are considering changes.
A Colorado bill would make it illegal to sell edible marijuana – currently dispensed in baked goods, beverages, and lollipops — because of concerns about safe dosage control for patients, and ease of access for minors. Under a different bill, drivers under the influence of marijuana could be charged with a DUI.
A state representative for Rhode Island wants to stop allowing individual “caregivers” to grow marijuana for others and switch exclusively to government controlled dispensaries instead.
Montana lawmakers are juggling four different bills that would repeal or change its medical marijuana law. One proposal would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of medical conditions for which marijuana can be prescribed. The House of Representatives voted in favor of repealing Montana’s medical marijuana bill altogether.
Representative Diane Sands (D-Missoula) and Senator Dave Lewis (R-Helena) have each proposed alternatives to repeal that would tighten regulation, the Ravalli Republic reported Feb. 11. Sands’ bill had not yet been voted on.
Lewis, in a surprise move, introduced a new version of a bill he introduced earlier in the session. His original bill proposed a ten percent tax on growers that would have “raised an estimated $36.8 million in 2012 and 2013 and $49.1 million the next two years and attracted millions of additional matching federal money for services for the elderly,” according to the Ravalli Republic.
The revised version would eliminate the tax on growers, replacing it with licensing fees that Lewis said would funnel $1 million annually to local governments and $3 million to seniors. The Ravalli Republic noted that the text of the revised bill did not support his statement. The revised bill said that funds from licensing fees would go to “educational programs for schools and the public on physician prescription and recommendations.”
Lewis said the new version of his bill had been written by the Montana Medical Growers Association.
A California bill would make it illegal for employers to take medical marijuana use into account when hiring or firing employees, though employees would still not be allowed to use marijuana during work hours, and employees in “safety-sensitive positions” would be exempt from the new law, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Jan. 29. In 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that employers had the right to fire employees for using marijuana, even if they had a medical marijuana card.
“The bill simply establishes a medical cannabis patient’s right to work,” said the bill’s sponsor, Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).
Wyoming — which has not legalized medical marijuana itself – will not recognize medical marijuana cards from other states if a proposal currently before lawmakers passes into law.
Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana would no longer be a crime in Connecticut, Hawaii and Rhode Island under proposals being considered there, though details varied. A similar proposal was killed in committee in Virginia.
Legalizing the Sale of Marijuana in Liquor Stores
Lawmakers in the state of Washington are weighing a bill that would make it legal to sell marijuana to adults 21 and over in liquor stores. According to a Feb. 15 editorial in The Seattle Times, the state could reap about $300 million a year in taxes and profits on the sales.