After a string of statewide election day victories, lawmakers are increasingly signaling that they see legalization as inevitable, either to capitalize on the movement’s momentum or to get ahead of activists who are forcing policy changes through ballot measures.
This week has been particularly active for cannabis and the broader drug reform legislation. At the committee level, legalization proposals have been filed in Hawaii, Minnesota, New Mexico and North Dakota. In addition, lawmakers in Washington State have passed a comprehensive drug decriminalization measure, and the Governor of Wisconsin has introduced a proposal to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use.
And that’s only part of what happened.
Here’s a list of this week’s votes to legalize marijuana:
The Hawaii Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee has approved legislation allowing adults 21 and older in Hawaii to possess and purchase cannabis from licensed dealers. It would also allow adults to grow up to three plants for their own use. The vote was 4 to 1.
The same committee separately approved a bill to expand the state’s decriminalization law, raising the possession limit from three grams to one ounce. Anyone caught with an ounce or less risks a $130 fine with no jail time. The measure passed unanimously with a 5-0 vote in favor.
The legalization bill will go to a joint hearing in the Senate Judiciary and Goods and Services Committees. Then he gets transferred to a full cell. Meanwhile, decriminalization legislation is pending before the Judiciary Committee.
A bill to legalize cannabis in Minnesota passed the Chamber of Commerce Finance and Policy Committee by a 10-7 vote. This is the first of a dozen groups expected to tackle law reform in the coming weeks before the vote.
Earlier this month, the measure was approved by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D), Speaker Melissa Ortman (D) and other lawmakers. This would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and grow up to eight plants, four of which may be adults.
Under the approved measure, adults 21 and older would be allowed to possess at least two ounces of cannabis and grow up to six mature and six immature plants for personal use. It would also set up a system for regulating and taxing the sale of cannabis.
The bill has the support of reform advocates because, unlike other measures in the House and Senate, it would specifically use marijuana tax revenues for reinvestment in communities hardest hit by the war on drugs. This is also illustrated by the inclusion of provisions for the automatic exclusion of prior cannabis-related convictions.
A measure to legalize cannabis use by adults was narrowly approved Wednesday by the North Dakota Social Services Commission. It is sponsored by a Republican lawmaker who opposes the policy change, but wants the legislature to dictate how the legal marijuana market should work instead of adopting a system created by supporters of the ballot initiative.
Committee members voted 7 to 6, with 1 abstention, to approve a bill that would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to 1 ounce of cannabis for personal use. It is expected to be referred to the Committee on Appropriations before being discussed in plenary.
And here’s what else happened this week:
Although it has not yet been voted on, a group of California lawmakers introduced a bill Wednesday that would legalize the possession of psychedelics such as psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and DMT. The decision comes after two cities in the state, Oakland and Santa Cruz, passed local measures to decriminalize entheogenic plants and fungi.
The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Monday on a revised marijuana bill setting rules for the market after voters approved a referendum on legalization in November. But the Commission President cancelled the vote, which was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Although it appears that the decision to end the vote means that Phil Murphy’s (Ph.D.) administration only has to pass the legislation that the legislative assembly had previously sent it, with a new session on the cleanup bill scheduled for Friday afternoon. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will accept the revised proposal, which is intended as a compromise with the governor, who raised the issue of youth protection rules.
Both houses of the Virginia legislature passed bills to legalize marijuana during this session. Last week, each House passed the other’s bill with amendments that included its own text. The House and Senate formally rejected their respective bills this week. This is the latest initiative to set up a bicameral conference committee to iron out the differences in one bill supported by the Ralph Northam (D) government.
Washington’s Public Safety Committee has approved a bill that eliminates penalties for personal use of marijuana and all illegal drugs and expands coverage and rehabilitation services. The House voted 7 to 6 on Monday.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) released a budget proposal Tuesday that would legalize medical and recreational marijuana in Wisconsin. This would allow adults 21 and older or qualified patients to purchase, possess and grow cannabis for their own personal use.
But the plan is facing strong opposition from Republican lawmakers.
U.S. governors push for marijuana reform in 2021 with speeches, budget plans