Politics

Which States will Legalize Cannabis in 2017?

November saw the passing of legalization of marijuana in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine (recreational), and Montana, North Dakota, Florida and Arkansas (medical).

So who’s next?

Delaware – Legalization of recreational marijuana should be discussed by the state legislature in early 2017.

Medical cannabis bill drafter Sen. Margaret Rose Henry plans to introduce the recreational legalization bill, and a University of Delaware poll shows 61 percent of residents support the idea. Cannabis possession is currently decriminalized in Delaware.

“It’s time to certainly look at it,” Henry said in October.

Rhode Island – State Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, who cosponsored 2016’s cannabis legalization bill has indicated that as soon as the right “restrictions” are in place, recreational cannabis legalization is a given.

“To be clear, new jobs and tax revenue are not our primary motivations. Improving public health and safety by replacing an illicit market with a responsibly regulated legal market is our goal,” wrote Sen. Josh Miller and Rep. Scott Slater in a recent editorial. Possession in small amounts is already decriminalized.

New Jersey – Gov. Chris Christie might be entirely opposed to any form of cannabis, but not all Garden State lawmakers agree.

Bills to tax and regulate marijuana were introduced by both sides of the aisle in 2016.

“I am absolutely sold that this industry can be regulated,” Stephen Sweeney, the Senate President, said after fact-finding missions to Colorado. “It’s safe, it’s well managed.” Sweeny promised the legislature intends “to move quickly” to pass legalization as soon as Gov. Chris Christie (and his promise of a veto) leaves office.

Nearly 60 percent of New Jersey residents want legalization in their state.

Texas – Perhaps surprisingly, Texas makes this list for the baby step of potential decriminalization. Lone Star State officials will consider reducing charges for simple possession to a $250 fine, with no criminal record.

Several pieces of legislation which will reduce penalties and increase access to medical cannabis will be on the table in Texas this session, but perhaps the most comprehensive will be changes to the 2016 Compassionate Use Act, which allowed low-THC cannabis for those with intractable epilepsy.

Senator José Menéndez has pre-filed SB 269, which would allow cannabis with any amount of THC, and expands qualifying conditions.

“Compassion should not be exclusive. Twenty-eight states have recognized the medical benefit of cannabis, including conservative states like Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota … It is time Texas steps up to the plate on behalf of our sickest patients,” Menéndez said.

Kentucky – Hot on the heels of 2016’s defeated Cannabis Freedom Act, Kentucky State Senator Perry Clark has pre-filed the Cannabis Compassion Act which essentially empowers registered physicians to prescribe cannabis for “debilitating medical conditions.”

Kentucky’s measure may not have simply the goal of helping patients, but the economy as well.

“The time of laughing and snickering about marijuana and marijuana cigarettes is over. We’ve got serious businessmen who have approached me on this now and say they are taking it to the governor,” said Sen. Perry Clark.

New Mexico – Another state seeking to cash in on the green rush is New Mexico, which currently suffers from a roughly $600 million deficit. More than 60 percent of voters support legalizing recreational cannabis, and a newly-elected Democratic House and Senate has many expecting several bills in support of legalization.

Last year State Representatives Bill McCamley and Javier Martinez introduced the Cannabis Revenue And Freedom Act, aimed at reducing the stronghold of Mexican drug cartels to “put profits in the hands of legitimate business people and the government,” McCamley said.

A hemp measure put forth by State Sen. Cisco McSorley would create a New Mexico industrial hemp research and development fund.

Vermont – The home state of Bernie Sanders nearly passed adult-use legalization in 2016 and the measure will likely be brought back this year.

Although the last effort failed in the House, Vermont’s neighbors of Massachusetts and Maine having legalized might convince new Republican governor Phil Scott to support legalization (especially since research shows the shift could result in up to $75 million in tax revenue each year).

Missouri – Two separate medical marijuana initiatives were filed for Missouri’s 2017 session.

Jason Holsman’s Senate Bill 56, and Rob Schaaf‘s Senate Bill 153 have been pre-filed, in spite of a Republican super-majority.

Missouri already has a two-year-old limited medical cannabis bill which allows some patients with intractable epilepsy access very low-THC cannabis.

Polling indicates that 62 percent of Missouri voters support medical cannabis.

Arizona – After the very narrow defeat (52 percent to 48 percent) of 2016’s Yes on 205 campaign, which sought to legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona, expect organizers to come back with a renewed fervor, while learning from the mistakes of last year, although no particular plan for legislation has been released.

“We intend to continue fighting in support of sensible marijuana policy reform,” Bill organizer J.P. Holyoak said in a statement.

Wyoming – The state currently has five marijuana- and hemp-related bills proposed in the state legislature. Two will relax penalties for marijuana possession, one will allow the use of hemp extracts to be used as medicine. HB-0247 would grant “reciprocity” by making it lawful for a person to possess marijuana for those with out-of-state medical cards. Another bill would legalize industrial hemp farming for research.

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