Texas Committee Unanimously Votes to Pass Decriminalization Bill

Last week, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee voted 9-0 to pass a bill that would decriminalize small amounts of cannabis. This was the first hearing for House Bill 218, which is sponsored by Rep. Joseph Moody (who is also chair of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee) as well as Rep. Harold Dutton, Rep. Charlie Geren, Rep. Rafael Anchia, and Rep. Briscoe Cain.

“I’ve been on a journey with this one. The essence of this bill is really simple even though the language may be a little bit confusing,” Moody said at the hearing on March 7, according to the Dallas Observer. “There are tens of thousands of arrests for personal use possession in Texas annually and those cost our state hundreds of millions of dollars every single year, not to mention countless hours of law enforcement and prosecutor time. They also tag people, mostly young people, with criminal records that create life-long obstacles to jobs, education, housing and other opportunities. That’s an awful investment and an awful outcome any way you slice it.”

If passed into law, HB-281 would lessen penalties for cannabis possession. According to the bill text, a Class C misdemeanor applies to possession of one ounce or less (and wouldn’t lead to arrest), a Class B misdemeanor applies to possession of two ounces or less, but more than one ounce, and a Class A misdemeanor covers the possession of four ounces of cannabis, but more than one ounce. Moody explains that these changes will help prevent people from getting arrested for small amounts of cannabis. “House Bill 218 changes that system to right-size the penalty,” he said.

Additionally, an individual convicted of one of these misdemeanors will be required to be placed on deferred adjudication community supervision. After completing the requirements of that, their record can be expunged of the conviction.

“Basically, the person [who] is given a ticket goes to court, they’re assessed a fine, then the court tells them, ‘You’ve got six months to pay and you need to stay out of trouble during that time,’” Moody explained. “If the person does their part, the court dismisses the charges, and on a request of the individual, deletes the entire record of it.”

“The person walks away lighter in the wallet, but without any criminal record whatsoever,” Moody continued. “The only difference between this and previous versions of this bill is that it incorporates another effort that we’ve been working on side by side to create parity between leaf cannabis and concentrates. In other words, when someone has a joint or a vape pen we’re going to treat them the same, which isn’t the case under the current law.”

Advocates are optimistic that the bill will continue to progress, but it still needs to be scheduled for a hearing in the full Texas House of Representatives, followed by the Senate. Previously, similar bills such as HB-63 in 2019 and HB-441 in 2021 passed in the House but were not passed in the Senate.

There’s a lot of hope for Texas on the cannabis front. A 2022 summertime poll showed that 55% Texans support cannabis legalization, and 72% support medical cannabis. Last November, residents in five Texas cities, including Denton, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin, and Harker Heights, voted to approve decriminalization efforts. Recently in January, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced that it is taking applications to possibly expand the number of medical cannabis dispensaries in the state. Only three medical cannabis dispensaries have been licensed over the past three years.

At the end of February, there were reports of law enforcement officers ignoring a cannabis decriminalization ordinance in the city of Denton.

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U.S. Virgin Islands Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis

On Jan. 18, a signing ceremony was held to document Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signing The Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act (Act 8680), and proclaiming that anyone who has been convicted with simple cannabis possession is invited to apply for a pardon.

“From the beginning of the Bryan-Roach Administration, we have worked towards the legalization of the adult use of cannabis, and today, with the hard work of the members of the 34th Legislature and prior Legislatures and the efforts of my team, we are finally here and finally signing into law the Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act,” Bryan said in a press release. “This Act incorporates key aspects of my original proposal, such as one streamlined regulatory scheme for both medicinal and adult use, enforcement powers for the Office of Cannabis Regulation, entrepreneurship and job opportunities for Virgin Islands residents, and the creation of a revenue stream to help fund critical Government initiatives and operations.”

The law allows adults over 21 to possess up to two ounces of cannabis, 14 grams of concentrates, and one ounce of cannabis products (defined as edibles, ointments, or tinctures). It also includes the requirement to create an Office of Cannabis Regulation, limitations on business licenses and permits, allowances for those who use cannabis as a sacrament, direction for cannabis sales tax funds to benefit community programs, and more.

At the ceremony, Bryan mentioned his experience traveling to Colorado in November with a number of other lawmakers to see firsthand how the cannabis industry thrives. “By traveling to Denver and meeting and speaking with individuals involved in all aspects of the industry from regulators, to law enforcement officers, to cultivators, manufacturers and dispensary owners, it is my hope that the individuals involved with the roll-out of this industry have learned best practices and what to avoid as we work to create this industry in the Virgin Islands,” Bryan continued.

He also addressed President Joe Biden’s announcement from October 2022 regarding expungement for citizens who were convicted of simple cannabis possession. “Today, I proclaim that all criminal convictions for the simple possession of marijuana under the Virgin Islands Code are fully and completely pardoned,” Bryan announced. “My office estimates that approximately 300 individuals have been convicted of the simple possession of marijuana in the last 20 years.”

Anyone convicted with simple cannabis possession in the U.S. Virgin Islands may now apply for a pardon with the Depart of Justice. For those who were convicted of up to two ounces of cannabis, the Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act and the Expungement Act automatically expunges their record. However, Bryan recommends that the best way to ensure that the expungement goes through is to apply anyway. “Don’t wait for the opportunities to come to you, go out and grab them,” he said.

Like many states, it has taken some time for the U.S. Virgin Islands to establish both a medical and adult-use program. While residents voted to legalize medical cannabis in 2014, it wasn’t until 2019 that Bryan signed the act into law. Draft rules for the territory’s medical cannabis program were published in August 2022.

On Dec. 30, 2022, the U.S. Virgin Islands Senate passed Act 8680 bill in a 11-1 vote. The bill made its way to Bryan’s desk on Jan. 9, allowing him 10 days to make a decision to sign the bill, veto it, or to let it take effect without his signature. Bryan signed the bill just one day before the deadline.

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Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf Pardons Over 2,500, Nearly 400 for Nonviolent Cannabis Offenses

Many Pennsylvania residents with nonviolent cannabis offenses will be given a second chance, and the most recent batch of pardons is a promising and much-needed signal of relief.

In a Jan. 12 announcement, Gov. Tom Wolf granted 369 additional pardons, bringing his total to 2,540. Nearly 400 of those pardons were provided under an expedited review process for nonviolent cannabis-related offenses.

“I have taken this process very seriously—reviewing and giving careful thought to each and every one of these 2,540 pardons and the lives they will impact. Every single one of the Pennsylvanians who made it through the process truly deserves their second chance, and it’s been my honor to grant it,” said Gov. Wolf. 

“A record prevents positive forward motion in a person’s life, and can spark a repetitive cycle of defeat. I firmly believe that with restored rights, pardoned Pennsylvanians prove themselves by stepping up and giving back to our communities.”

These 2,540 pardons are the most granted by a governor in the history of Pennsylvania. Before Gov. Wolf, Gov. Ed Rendell held the record with 1,122 pardons granted.

Among Gov. Wolf’s pardons, 395 of those were part of the expedited review process for nonviolent cannabis-related offenses and 232 were a part of the PA Marijuana Pardon Project.

In 2019, the Board of Pardons introduced and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman authorized the Expedited Review Program for Nonviolent Marijuana-Related Offenses, a program to speed up the pardon application process for people with nonviolent cannabis possession or paraphernalia convictions. 

PA Marijuana Pardon Project is a one-time, large-scale pardoning project for people with select minor, non-violent cannabis criminal convictions. The project is spearheaded by Gov. Wolf and former Lieutenant Gov. Fetterman, and was announced on Sept. 1, 2022, providing a faster way of the process.

“Nobody should be turned down for a job, housing, or volunteering at your child’s school because of some old nonviolent weed charge, especially given that most of us don’t even think this should be illegal,” Fetterman said at the time. Fetterman now serves as U.S. senator from Pennsylvania after assuming office on Jan. 3.

In legal terms, a pardon constitutes total forgiveness by the state for a ​criminal conviction, regardless of whether ​the sentence included time in prison, and allows for expungement of the related criminal record. Applying for a pardon is free for individuals seeking clemency, and the change was made during the Wolf Administration. Under the administration, the pardons process was modernized so that the application process is more streamlined, and the application fees are now waived. The application can be downloaded online and the process does not require a lawyer.

A report released in 2020 by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia—analyzing 10 years of pardons data—found that pardons contributed $16.5 million to Pennsylvania’s economy over the past decade at “no cost to anyone.”

The governor has shown consistent support for cannabis over the past several years, after coming around to it more recently. On Twitter in 2021, Gov. Tom Wolf reiterated his call to end pot prohibition in Pennsylvania. It’s a change in tune for Wolf, who in 2017 said that Pennsylvania wasn’t ready to legalize recreational pot use. Two of Pennsylvania’s neighbors, New Jersey and New York, helped push the state into adopting its own cannabis market.

Gov. Wolf has served for two terms in his leadership role. The governor’s Priorities for Pennsylvania is helping to fuel Pennsylvania’s economic comeback, and the latest round of pardons is helping to further improve his image.

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Legalization Initiative Passes in Maryland with Question 4

Voters approved Question 4, also called the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, in Maryland on Nov. 8. The passage of this initiative amends the Maryland Constitution with Article XX which allows cannabis possession and consumption for adults 21 and older, starting on or after July 1, 2023. The amendment also instructs the Maryland General Assembly to “provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis within the state.”

Companion legislation known as House Bill 837 has also become law, now that voters passed Question 4, possession of cannabis up to 1.5 ounces of flower and 10 grams of concentrate, is immediately decriminalized after Jan. 1, 2023, and will become legal after June 30, 2023. The bill permits residents to grow two cannabis plants at home, and immediately expunges anyone with cannabis convictions on their record, if their crimes are made legal by the passing of Question 4 and HB-837. It also permits the creation of the Cannabis Business Assistance Fund (to assist minority- and women-owned cannabis businesses) and Cannabis Public Health Fund (a collection of legislators and other important industry members who will enact change based on studies of youth impact, reporting data, public health campaigns, and more).

The “Yes on 4” campaign led the charge with this initiative, which is chaired by former NFL athlete Eugene Monroe. The initiative’s success can also be attributed to donors such as SunMed Growers, Trulieve Medical Cannabis Dispensary, Curio Wellness, Marijuana Policy Project, and Green Thumb Industries.

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U.S. Sentencing Commission Estimates That 6,577 People Could Receive Pardons

President Joe Biden announced on Oct. 6 that he would be pardoning people across the country who currently have cannabis convictions on their record. According to the official White House press release, this means the pardon covers “…all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act…”

The statement also made it clear that only “simple” convictions would be pardoned. “My intent by this proclamation is to pardon only the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of Federal law or in violation of D.C. Code 48–904.01(d)(1), and not any other offenses related to marijuana or other controlled substances,” Biden said.

Since the announcement was made, there has been no further announcements about the number of people who are to be pardoned, or their names. However, estimates provided by the U.S. Sentencing Commission provides insight into how many people could potentially receive a pardon.

Founded in 1984, the U.S. Sentencing Commission was created “to reduce sentencing disparities and promote transparency and proportionality in sentencing.” As an independent agency, its purpose is to collect and analyze data in regard to information related to federal sentences, and creates guidelines for crime policy in multiple branches of government.

In a report published on Oct. 13, the commission shows a chart featuring “The number of federal offenders convicted only of 21 U.S.C. § 844 Involving Marijuana” which covers the range of years between 1992-2021. An analysis of each year breaks down the number of U.S. citizen offenders, with a total of 6,577. The report notes that no offenders are in Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), as of Jan. 29, 2022.

In a total of all of these offenders who have at least one count of simple possession (as defined by 21 U.S.C. 844) 78.5% of offenders were male, and 21.6% were female. In regards to race, 41.3% were White, 31.8% “Hispanic,” 23.6% Black, and 3.3% Other.

Another chart shows that offenders with convictions “Involving Marijuana and Other Drugs” includes a total of 415 people within the same time frame, and an additional chart shows 555 offenders “Involving only marijuana who also have other convictions.”

A breakdown of each Court of Appeals Circuit and its respective jurisdiction shows that the highest percent of regional offenders came from “Virginia East” at 9.7% (covering courts in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia), “Texas West” at 8.8% (covering courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas), “Arizona” at 16.7% and “California South” at 15% (both of which are included in United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which includes courts in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State). All other district percentages range from 0.1% to 4.3%.

Many states have already created programs to assist residents in expunging, vacating, or sealing cannabis convictions. According to Reuters, these efforts have helped over 2 million people clear their records.

In June, the American Medical Association adopted a cannabis expungement resolution. Expungement clinics also recently were held in Buffalo, New York in August. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee advanced two pieces of legislation in September that would provide relief for individuals with cannabis convictions. 

Biden’s initial pardon announcement urged state governors to issue pardons as well. Most recently though, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb stated that he would not be pardoning anyone for cannabis convictions, and instead recommended that people seeking expungement use state programs that are already in place.

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Poll: Majority Backs Biden’s Cannabis Pardons

The country overwhelmingly supports President Biden’s historic moves on U.S. marijuana policy, according to a survey released on Tuesday.

The new poll, which comes via Politico and Morning Consult, found that 40% of Americans “strongly support” the president’s actions, while 25% “somewhat support” them.

Biden announced last week that he is issuing pardons to all individuals who have previously been convicted of a marijuana-related offense under federal law, a move that will impact thousands of Americans. Perhaps just as significantly, Biden said that he has asked “the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law,” a signal that the era of federal weed prohibition could be coming to an end.

That is welcome news to the vast majority of the country, according to the new poll.

Politico reported that almost “two-thirds of voters indicated that they support issuing pardons to people with nonviolent federal marijuana convictions,” compared with “fewer than one in four respondents [who] expressed opposition to pardoning marijuana offenders.”

The poll also suggests that Biden’s announcement last week broke through the ultra-saturated news cycle, with Politico reporting that more than “two thirds of respondents said they had heard a lot or some about the executive actions, while just 32 percent said they hadn’t heard much or anything about them.”

While Biden’s pardons only apply to individuals with federal pot convictions, the president urged “all Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses.”

“As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in his announcement last week. “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

He also framed the announcement as a significant first step toward decriminalization.

“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances.  This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic,” Biden said.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” the president continued. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

With the midterm elections a little less than one month away, Democrats are hoping that Biden’s actions provide them with a lift. 

On Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris touted Biden’s moves as a difference between the two parties, while also calling on both Congress and state elected officials to follow the administration’s lead.

“Let me just start with saying this. I strongly believe, and the majority of Americans agree, nobody should have to go to jail for smoking weed, right?” Harris said during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. “We’re urging governors and states to take our lead and to pardon people who have been criminalized for possession of marijuana. And ultimately though, as with so many issues, if Congress acts, then there is a uniform approach to this and so many other issues. But Congress needs to act.”

“We’re 29 days away from the midterms,” the vice president added. “Ask who you’re voting for where they stand on this, and I encourage you to vote accordingly.”

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Former NBA Player Iman Shumpert Arrested in Texas for Cannabis Possession

Former NBA athlete Iman Shumpert, known for playing on teams such as the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, and Brooklyn Nets, and also the Dancing With the Stars Season 30 champion was arrested for cannabis possession last week while traveling.

Shumpert was in possession of 6.2 ounces of cannabis in his luggage on July 30 while going through security at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) on his way to Los Angeles. According to the Associated Press, the DFW Airport Department of Public Safety, this was a “sizeable amount of marijuana.” The police also reported that Shumpert had a Glock magazine with 14 nine-millimeter rounds, but no firearm, in his bag as well, however this is not currently a part of the charge.

The police report stated that Shumpert told officers that he had cannabis in his bag, and “asked if there was any way he could make his flight” so he could arrive on time and pick up one of his daughters.

However, police told him no, and arrested him for felony possession instead.

In Texas, recreational cannabis is illegal and medical cannabis is only permitted under specific circumstances. Currently, possession of more than four ounces (but less than five pounds) of cannabis is a state jail felony. If Shumpert is convicted, the charge could net him up to two years imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.

It’s a cautionary tale for anyone planning to travel with cannabis. Many airports in legal states have loosened restrictions for cannabis possession. Earlier this year in Canada, one airport was considering allowing a cannabis dispensary on-site. Airports in Chicago installed cannabis amnesty boxes in 2020 for travelers to drop their cannabis in prior to their flights. In 2018, Los Angeles International Airport changed its policy to allow cannabis possession at the airport—but not on an actual flight.

Earlier this year in January, rapper Vic Mensa was caught with 124 grams of psilocybin capsules, 178 grams of psilocybin gummies, six grams of psilocybin mushrooms, and 41 grams LSD, while at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia after returning from Ghana. He was charged with felony narcotics possession. Despite this, Vic Mensa recently launched his own cannabis brand in Chicago, Illinois called 93 Boyz.

Traveling with cannabis abroad has proven to be dangerous, such as the case of WNBA athlete Brittney Griner, who was detained in Russia in February for possession of vape cartridges. Although she claimed the cannabis was being used for medical purposes, and she holds a medical cannabis card in the U.S., Russian judges concluded on August 4 that she is guilty of her charges and has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison. Reports have shared that the U.S. is in talks with Russian officials for a potential prisoner swap in order bring Griner home. Last week, the Biden administration made an offer to exchange Russian prisoner Viktor Bout for Griner, as well as another American, Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned on espionage charges since 2018.

“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them,” Griner said after the charge was issued, according to the Associated Press. “I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.”

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Austin Voters Approve Measure to Decriminalize Pot

Voters in Austin, Texas over the weekend approved a ballot proposition that decriminalized cannabis and prohibited the practice of “no-knock warrants” by police. 

A little more than 85% of voters on Saturday approved Proposition A, according to local television station KXAN, which said that the measure will “formalize a city policy put in place in 2020, when then-police chief Brian Manley announced his officers would no longer cite or arrest those accused of misdemeanor pot offenses.” That change in policy came as a result of a unanimous vote by the Austin City Council at the time, KXAN reported. 

Per local TV station KVUE, the measure does not legalize cannabis in Austin, but “ultimately forbids police officers from ticketing and arresting people on low-level marijuana offenses, like possession of small amounts of weed or related paraphernalia, unless tied to a more severe crime.” Additionally, the city “would also not pay to test substances suspected to be marijuana, which is an important step in substantiating drug charges,” according to the station. 

Under the newly passed ordinance, cops in Austin “will not be allowed to issue citations for most Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession offenses,” according to KVUE.

“In Texas, a Class A misdemeanor is possession of 4 ounces or less but more than 2 ounces. A Class B misdemeanor is possession of 2 ounces or less,” according to the station, which said the ordinance takes effect immediately. 

The ordinance, as written, says that Austin police officers will only be permitted to issue citations or make arrests for such Class A or B misdemeanors if it is part of “the investigation of a felony level narcotics case that has been designated as a high priority investigation by an Austin police commander, assistant chief of police, or chief of police,” or if it is part of an investigation of a violent felony.

The new local ordinance is the result of efforts by a group called Ground Game Texas, which led the campaign to get Proposition A on the Austin ballot this year. 

In January, the Austin City Council approved the ballot proposal for the city’s special election that was held on May 7. 

Ground Game Texas collected more than 33,000 signatures––well above the necessary threshold of 20,000 signatures––from Austin voters in order for the measure to qualify for the special election ballot. 

The group celebrated Saturday’s resounding victory, saying that it serves as evidence that voters in the Lone Star State are ready for cannabis reform.

“This lays down an extremely clear marker for the rest of Texas that one, this is something that’s possible. That a city can decide to end marijuana enforcement,” said Ground Game Texas co-founder Mike Siegel, as quoted by Texas public radio station KUT. “And two, that it’s extremely popular.”

The station reported that Ground Game Texas is currently “working on similar ballot items in other Central Texas cities, including San Marcos and Elgin.”

Medical cannabis is legal in Texas, but recreational pot use for adults is not. 

Last year, Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that expanded the number of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis treatment in the state.

Abbott is up for re-election this year, and there are signs that cannabis legalization could emerge as a major issue in the campaign. The incumbent’s Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, has repeatedly voiced his support for ending the prohibition on pot throughout the race.

“Legalizing marijuana is the right thing to do. We can stop locking Texans up for a substance that’s legal in much of the rest of the country and allow police to focus on violent crime. And it’ll bring in nearly $1 billion a year in new state revenue and taxpayer savings,” O’Rourke said on Twitter in January.

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Virginia Senate Votes Against Governor’s Amendment to Criminalize Possession of Cannabis

The Virginia Senate recently sent Senate Bill 591 to the Rehabilitation and Social Services committee, and will not be considered further now that the 2022 legislative session concluded, as of March 12. A final vote was made on April 27, with a 20-20 vote, and a tie-breaker vote from Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears.

If passed, the bill would have prohibited cannabis edibles “in the shape of a human, animal, vehicle, or fruit,” as well as ban Delta-8 THC products. Additionally, the bill included penalties for anyone who was in possession of more than two ounces of cannabis.

Former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation to legalize cannabis in April 2021, which went into effect starting July 1, 2021. Northam ended his run as governor in January 2022, and was replaced by current Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

SB-591 was introduced by Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. which initially received support, especially in relation to preventing cannabis edibles from being appealing to children. “It was the right thing to do,” supporter Senator Adam Ebbin said about the bill’s original text.

However, ARLnow reported that when the bill was sent to Youngkin’s desk for a signature, he sent it back with numerous amendments that altered the bill’s regulations regarding CBD, Delta-8 THC products and adding penalties for possession over the legal limit. “The governor’s amendments were ill-constructed, poorly thought out, and left lots of loopholes,” Ebbin said. “The original bill was better.”

“The government’s proposed penalties for personal possession of two ounces of marijuana were more punitive than the laws that were in place prior to Virginia’s enactment of decriminalization in 2020,” he added.

Ebbin’s own bill, Senate Bill 391, was also proposed in the 2022 legislative session, and was passed in the Senate but did not pass in the House. His bill opened up regulations for current medical cannabis dispensaries to begin selling recreational cannabis. He’s also the chair of the Cannabis Oversight Commission, which will review both SB-591 and SB-391 for discussion in 2023.

“I’ve learned not to be overly optimistic in this field,” Ebbin said. “This is a product that’s now legal for adults 21 and older. So, it’s in our best interest to make sure this is a tested, regulated product.”

NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, JM Pedini, shared in a statement that he is glad that SB-519 wasn’t passed with its current amendments, but disappointed that Virginia regulation will have to wait another year to be discussed. His statement also suggested that the governor “should actually serve his constituents” with the implementation of strong regulations for the cannabis industry.

“Sending SB-591 back to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee is not in the interest of public health or safety,” Pedini said. “By failing to take legislative action, unregulated products containing synthetically-derived THC will continue to be sold at retail and wholesale outside of the strict regulatory oversight currently required for legally produced cannabis products. Consumers deserve to know what they’re purchasing, and far too often what’s on the label is not what’s in the package when it comes to unregulated products.”

Youngkin recently took action on medical cannabis in April, and signed legislation that no longer requires medical cannabis patients to register with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy when they are certified by a medical provider.

NORML shared that the state is home to more than 47,000 medical cannabis patients, with an estimated 8,000 waiting to be approved. “These legislative improvements will bring great relief to the thousands of Virginians waiting to access the medical cannabis program,” said Pedini. “We hear from dozens of Virginians each week who are struggling with the registration process and frustrated by the 60-day wait to receive their approval from the Board of Pharmacy.”

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis Grants Slew of Pardons

Colorado Governor Jared Polis rang in 2022 with a pardon party.

Last Thursday, the governor’s office announced that he had “granted three commutations, 15 individual pardons, and signed an executive order granting 1,351 pardons for convictions of possession of two ounces or less of marijuana.”

The move was made possible by legislation that Polis signed in May, which “authorized the Governor to grant pardons to a class of defendants who were convicted of the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana.”

“Adults can legally possess marijuana in Colorado, just as they can beer or wine. It’s unfair that 1,351 additional Coloradans had permanent blemishes on their record that interfered with employment, credit, and gun ownership, but today we have fixed that by pardoning their possession of small amounts of marijuana that occurred during the failed prohibition era,” Polis said in a statement.

Signed into law by Polis on May 20 of last year, the bill increased “the amount of marijuana that adults 21 and older in Colorado can legally possess from one ounce to two ounces,” and built upon the 2012 voter-passed constitutional amendment legalizing recreational cannabis, which gave the governor such authorization.

The governor’s office said in a press release that individuals “who are unsure whether a conviction on their record has been pardoned may fill out a form to request confirmation of a pardon on the Colorado Bureau of Investigations website.”

Colorado has been a trailblazer for the legalization movement in the United States, becoming the first state (along with Washington) to end the prohibition on pot in 2012. Since then, restorative justice measures have become a fixture of new cannabis laws, with previous low-level offenders receiving pardons.

The governor’s office said that the cannabis pardon “applies to state-level convictions of possession for two ounces or less of marijuana, as identified by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI),” and that “individuals who have these convictions did not need to apply for pardons, and the Governor’s Office has not conducted individual assessments of the people who have been pardoned through this process. Individuals convicted of municipal marijuana crimes, or individuals arrested or issued a summons without a conviction, are not included in the pardon.”

The new year will bring some tighter restrictions to Colorado’s medical cannabis laws, however. The Denver Post reported in November that the state’s Department of Revenue “will limit the daily purchase to two ounces of flower and eight grams of concentrate such as wax and shatter for medical marijuana patients,” and that it will drop two grams per day for patients aged 18 to 20.

Per the Denver Post, the Department of Revenue unveiled the rules after “several months of deliberation over how to execute a new state law meant largely to limit young people’s access to and abuse of high-potency THC products.”

The newspaper reported that there are exceptions to the new rules, but they apply “to a patient whose doctor affirms in writing that the patient has a physical or geographic hardship that should allow them to exceed the daily purchase limits, and that the patient has designated a store as the primary place they get their medicine.”

The limits were made possible after lawmakers passed a bill that created a task force to produce new rules.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic state House Representative Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician, who said that she wanted to ensure that young people cannot “get their hands on an incredible amount of products and very concentrated products that they can then give or sell to people their age or younger who don’t yet have access to legal market because they’re not 21.”

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