State lawmakers warm up to weed

The acceptance of legal weeds by governors and state lawmakers in 2021 – without the explicit blessing of voters – marks a turning point. As of that year, only two states had legalized marijuana recreational programs through law: Illinois in 2019 and Vermont in 2020.

“Heaven did not fall in the states that legalized,” said Karen O’Keefe, state policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which campaigns for legalization. “It doesn’t hurt that these laws are generating a lot of economic growth in terms of new jobs, new small businesses, and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that states could really take advantage of when they recover from Covid.”

While not all legislative efforts have been successful and legalization bills have died in Maryland, Hawaii, and Wyoming in recent months, the rapid spread of legalization across the country will further exacerbate the tension between state and federal laws. Marijuana continues to be classified as an illegal drug with high potential for abuse and no medical use under federal law. This split will no doubt put pressure on Congress and the White House to take steps to ease federal marijuana restrictions.

With some lawmakers continuing to debate the issue this spring, take a closer look at government legalization efforts across the country:

Virginia

The state made history as the first in the Old South to pass a law legalizing recreational activities in February. But it also sparked sharp criticism from both supporters and opponents of legalization by delaying implementation until 2024.

Last Wednesday, Democratic Governor Ralph Northam urged lawmakers to speed up the legalization timeline and proposed changes to allow home ownership and cultivation from July 1.

“Governor Northam’s changes will stop unequal enforcement of marijuana laws starting this summer while focusing on public safety and educating our youth,” said Del. Charniele Herring, Legalization Bill sponsor and Democratic Majority Leader at Virginia House. “This is a very important step for equity.”

The legislative requirements have been taken into account in the proposed changes both sides of the aisle. Despite the decriminalization of marijuana last year, blacks are still disproportionately fined for simple possession. Democrats wanted unequal enforcement to end sooner rather than later, and Republicans expressed dismay that the three-year deadline would confuse Virginians and lead to people being punished for conduct they believed to be legal.

Northam also proposed increased occupational health and safety and increased driving disorder funding for law enforcement agencies. The legislature will take up its proposals on April 7th. Leisure sales are not expected to begin until 2024.

– Mona Zhang

new York

After years of near misses, New York legalized adult cannabis last week. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the The Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act was passed just hours after the legislature passed it. New Yorkers 21 and older can now legally own and use cannabis. However, the pharmacies are not expected to open until at least 2022 under the new regulatory structure.

“Today we are lifting the 90-year ban,” Congregation Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement from the congregation. “The last time New York State did something like this was when we lifted the ban.” from alcohol: that was in 1933. Here we are in 2021 – almost 100 years of marijuana bans – and we’re removing it. “

The legislation sets the Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the New York recreational, medicinal, and agricultural cannabis market. Forty percent of sales are used to reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by state drug laws. 40 percent assume it will for public education and 20 percent for drug treatment and prevention.

Legislation allows three mature and three immature plants to be grown at home, ends penalties for possessing less than three ounces of cannabis, and requires automatic deletion of records for those convicted of activities that are no longer illegal.

The adult use program, when fully implemented, is expected to generate $ 350 million annually in tax revenue and an estimated 30,000 to 60,000 new jobs. Cities and villages would have the option to turn down marijuana deals in their communities.

– Shannon Young

New Mexico

New Mexico needed a special session to get marijuana legalization legislation across the finish line after three years of trying, but both legislatures finally passed legislation last Wednesday. The debate over abolishing old marijuana-related convictions and limiting the number of plants dominated the discussions, and Republicans dug on their heels at the end of the regular legislature – which ultimately led to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham calling the special session, to deal with weeds.

In the end, two bills were passed: one to legalize and regulate the adult cannabis industry and one to clear records of previous convictions related to marijuana. The legalization law temporarily limits the number of crops a grower can grow each year in hopes of avoiding some of the oversupply problems that have plagued other markets like Oregon. It prohibits local jurisdictions from deregistering from legalization and allows home growing.

“This is a major win for New Mexico and my pen is ready.” Lujan Grisham tweeted shortly after the bill passed.

Sales are scheduled to begin on April 1, 2022 at the latest. Existing medical pharmacies are not allowed to begin selling to non-medical customers until new licensees are acquired. This will slow down the schedule for starting adult sales. However, some proponents argue that this will create a fairer rec market where everyone can start on an equal footing.

– Natalie done

New Jersey

Voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum to legalize marijuana in November. However, lawmakers had yet to pass legislation to create a market for recreational marijuana – and the process proved chaotic. After efforts repeatedly got out of hand, lawmakers eventually passed a series of laws legalizing cannabis for adults ages 21 and up and decriminalizing possession of up to six ounces of the drug.

The malfunction that plagued the legalization efforts soon bled into implementation. The laws, signed by Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, created a penal system for underage property that prohibited police officers from informing parents or guardians of a minor’s first offense. Republicans beat down the Democrats for the snafu until a purge bill was signed late last month.

“The trial was a debacle,” Senator Paul Sarlo said in an interview in early March As a democratic legislator, he prepared the legislation to clean up the new law’s prohibition on notifying parents. “We’ll fix it less than a week later.”

Meanwhile, Murphy and lawmakers have chosen the state The Cannabis Regulatory Commission – a five-person body tasked with setting rules for the emerging industry – did not meet the requirement that at least one member represent a civil rights organization. The state’s NAACP leadership threatened to complain of the nudge, forcing Murphy to shuffle his picks.

Even then, Murphy’s estimate is that New Jersey pharmacies are at least six months away from completing their first adult cannabis sales. Significantly, the governor’s proposed budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022 does not include any income from the still young market.

– Sam Sutton

Connecticut

Legislators are weighing two competing proposals to legalize marijuana – one from the Ned Lamont Democratic government, the other from Democratic Legislation. The biggest battle is likely to be fought over efforts to ensure communities disproportionately affected by law enforcement can benefit from legalization. Democratic MP Robyn Porter and advocates of legalization criticized the governor’s proposal not to do enough to address this issue, despite changes to the bill introduced Tuesday to address this criticism.

New York’s acceptance of legal weed will continue to put pressure on Connecticut to act. Lamont and other state officials have previously expressed dismay at local residents crossing the border to shop at pharmacies in Massachusetts. Tax churn will only increase as recreational stores open in New York.

“Connecticut is most comfortable following and learning from its neighbors rather than pioneering,” said legalization attorney Adam Wood. “We like security in numbers.”

The legislature is to be postponed on June 9th. If legalization doesn’t come through this year, House spokesman Matt Ritter has announced that he will push for a referendum on the issue, although that is unlikely to happen until 2024.

– Paul Demko

Rhode Island

Three big changes in the political landscape have increased the chances that Rhode Island will pass adult legalization this year. Former Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo’s support for state pot shops has complicated the problem in the past, as most proponents of legalization opposed the proposal. But when Raimondo leaves to serve as trade secretary in the Biden administration, that idea is off the table.

Second, the former State House spokesman, seen as an opponent of legalization, lost his re-election offer in November. After all, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey is carrying a legalization bill that was first endorsed by the legislative leadership.

The Democratic Governor Daniel McKee has come up with his own legalization proposal. The biggest wildcard is the new House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, who has not spoken out on legal weeds. Most observers do not expect any clarity as to whether there is political will to pass a law by the end of May or June.

– Paul Demko

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