New Hampshire Senate Votes Down Cannabis Legalization Bill

The New Hampshire state Senate on Thursday voted down a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, with senators on both sides of the aisle citing concerns for children’s safety. The measure, which was passed by the New Hampshire House of Representatives last month, was rejected in the Senate by a vote of 14-10 on May 11.

Republican Senator Jeb Bradley, the president of the New Hampshire Senate, said that as the state combats a drug addiction and overdose crisis, it is not the right time to legalize marijuana.

“Recreationalizing marijuana at this critical juncture would send a confusing message, potentially exacerbating the already perilous drug landscape and placing more lives at risk,” Bradley said in a written statement cited by the Coast Reporter.

Had the measure been passed by the state Senate and signed into law by Republican Governor Chris Sununu, House Bill 639 would have legalized the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. If adopted, New Hampshire would have been the 22nd state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, making it the last in New England to end the prohibition of cannabis.

The legislation would have renamed the New Hampshire Liquor Commission as the Liquor and Cannabis Commission, which would have been tasked with regulating the commercial cultivation, processing, safety testing and distribution of cannabis. The measure also included a 12.5% tax on cannabis cultivation, with revenue raised by the tax dedicated largely to the state’s pension liability and New Hampshire’s education trust fund. Revenue raised from cannabis taxes would also have been used to fund substance misuse programs and law enforcement training.

Under current New Hampshire law, simple possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of cannabis is a civil offense subject to a fine of up to $100. Possession of cannabis in amounts greater than ¾ of an ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $350.

Opponents Cite Youth Safety in New Hampshire

Senator Lou D’Allesando, the lone Democrat in the Senate to vote against the legalization bill, noted that he spent 50 years of his life as a teacher and coach. Also a grandparent, he said that he was opposing the bill to protect kids.

“It would say to our children that marijuana is safe and could be used without harmful consequences,” D’Allesandro said, “and nothing could be further from the truth.”

With the exception of D’Allesandro, all Democratic senators voted in favor of the bill, while all but one Republican voted against the measure. Democratic Senator Becky Whitley refuted claims that legalizing marijuana for adults would cause the rate of use by young people to rise dramatically.

“Youth already use marijuana right now in our state; it’s undeniable,” said Whitley. “What I want to see is a decrease in that use, and if we legalize, that’s what I’m hearing will happen.”

House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm said that legalizing marijuana has significant public support in New Hampshire, adding that regulating cannabis could have a positive impact on public health.

“Every day that New Hampshire remains an island of prohibition, more voluntary tax revenue from our residents flows to surrounding states to fund programs and services benefitting their residents,” Wilhelm said in a press release.

Frank Knaack, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, criticized senators who failed to vote in favor of the legalization bill.

“These lawmakers are willing to ignore the will of their own constituents and are okay with continuing to needlessly ensnare over a thousand people — disproportionately Black people — in New Hampshire’s criminal justice system every year,” said Knaack.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed the legislation on April 7, but approval became unlikely in the Senate after a key committee recommended against passing the measure. Previous attempts to legalize recreational marijuana in New Hampshire have also seen success in the House of Representatives but failed to gain approval in the state Senate. Supporters of HB 639 had hoped that legalization efforts would finally see success in 2023.

“New Hampshire remains the only state in New England that has failed to legalize cannabis, while our neighbors benefit from increased revenue and their cannabis users benefit from safer testing and regulation of the product,” Democratic Representative Matt Wilhelm, a co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives, said in a statement after the bill succeeded in the lower chamber of the legislature last month. “Legalization of adult possession of small amounts of cannabis is the right thing to do for New Hampshire and we must get it done in 2023.”

The post New Hampshire Senate Votes Down Cannabis Legalization Bill appeared first on High Times.

Illinois House Considers Bill Banning Vehicle Searches Based On Weed Odor

Members of the Illinois House of Representatives are considering a bill that would ban police searches of vehicles based solely on the odor of cannabis. The measure, Senate Bill 125, has been assigned to two House legislative committees after gaining the approval of the Illinois Senate in a 33-20 vote late last month.

Democratic Senator Rachel Ventura, the lead sponsor of the legislation, said that SB 125 will help people who use cannabis legally avoid searches by law enforcement simply because police perceive the odor of marijuana.

“People—especially people of color—are unnecessarily pulled over far too often,” Ventura said about the legislation in a statement. “The odor of cannabis alone shouldn’t be one of those reasons (for their car to be searched). Cannabis is legal in Illinois and it’s a pungent scent that can stick to clothes for extended periods of time.”

If passed by the House and signed into law by Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker, Senate Bill 125 would amend the Illinois Vehicle Code to state that “the odor of burnt or raw cannabis in a motor vehicle by itself shall not constitute probable cause for the search of the motor vehicle, vehicle operator, or passengers in the vehicle,” provided that the vehicle is operated by an individual at least 21 years old. 

At a press conference on April 11, Democratic Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth said that Senate Bill 125 is needed to fully implement Illinois’ recreational marijuana legalization bill, which was passed by state lawmakers and signed by Pritzker in 2019. Under the legislation, adults 21 and older are permitted to possess up to 30 grams (just over one ounce) of cannabis and up to five mature cannabis plants. Non-residents of Illinois at least 21 are permitted to possess up to 15 grams.

“It was incredibly important as we were looking to legalize this product that has clearly demonized so many communities,” said Jehan Gordon-Booth.

Weed In Cars Must Be Inaccessible

Senate Bill 125 also requires that cannabis possessed by drivers or passengers in motor vehicles driven on state roadways be kept in a sealed or resealable, child-resistant container in a secure location not accessible.

An amendment to the original bill limits the protection from vehicle searches based on the odor of marijuana to autos operated by adults 21 and over. When the change was made to allow searches of vehicles operated by younger drivers, the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) dropped its support of the bill and instead adopted a neutral stance on the legislation.

“We do have concerns that the amendment to the bill creates a workaround, or a loophole, that could have the effect of incentivizing police to target youth for unnecessary traffic stops or vehicle searches,” Atticus Ballesteros, an attorney with the ACLU of Illinois, told the Rockford Register Star.

Ballesteros added that the ACLU of Illinois originally supported the bill because there are numerous reasons a vehicle may smell of cannabis.

“And to us, that applies irrespective of age,” Ballesteros said.

Bill Opposed By Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officials including Illinois Sheriff’s Association executive director Jim Kaitschuk oppose Senate Bill 215 and are calling on lawmakers in the House to reject the measure barring vehicle searches based solely on the odor of weed.

“You can’t have endless marijuana in a vehicle,” Kaitschuk told The Center Square. “It’s only legal to a certain amount. Are we also going to inhibit the ability to intervene when the smell of burnt cannabis may be coming from the vehicle, when the motorists may actually be impaired?”

Kaitschuk added that he is concerned that if passed, the legislation could make it more difficult for law enforcement officers to address the illicit market for cannabis and other drugs.

“I think this bill will have the ability to impact illicit markets in terms of people being able to carry more of the drug than they should,” he said. “Plus, folks may traffic marijuana cannabis to mask other drugs that may illegally be in the vehicle.”

Kaitschuk added that he thinks the bill is a solution to a problem that does not exist.

“We’re not just stopping people because we smell cannabis,” he added. “That’s not a probable cause to stop a car. There has to be some other action or activity that occurred in terms of violation of the Vehicle Code that got us there.”

Senate Bill 125 was passed by the Illinois Senate on March 30 and is now pending in the state House of Representatives, where it has been assigned to the Rules Committee and the Executive Committee. A hearing on the legislation has been scheduled by the Executive Committee to be held at the state capitol in Springfield on April 19.

The post Illinois House Considers Bill Banning Vehicle Searches Based On Weed Odor appeared first on High Times.

Maryland Lawmakers Pass Recreational Marijuana Sales Bill

Lawmakers in Maryland passed legislation over the weekend to regulate commercial cannabis production and sales after months of negotiation on issues including social equity and taxation. The bill, which sets the stage for regulated recreational marijuana sales to begin on July 1, now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Wes Moore.

The Maryland Senate passed the bill with amendments on Friday by a vote of 30-12. The House of Delegates, which originally approved the measure on March 10, passed the amended version of the legislation on Saturday with a 104-35 vote, sending the bill to Moore for consideration. The governor, who supported efforts to legalize cannabis for adults in Maryland, is expected to sign the bill, according to a report from the Washington Post.

After the bill’s passage, lawmakers said that they drew on Maryland’s experience legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis and regulatory efforts in other states to draft the legislation to legalize the production and sale of recreational marijuana.

“We’ve been talking with our counterparts in other states saying, ‘If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently? What did you wish you had known when you set up your program?’” Democratic Senator Melony Griffith, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said at a press conference. “We have great expertise here in Maryland, with our medicinal cannabis program, and have had tremendous success. So all of those ingredients, if you will, have been rolled into our cannabis framework.”

In November, Maryland voters legalized recreational marijuana with the passage of Question 4, a state referendum that was approved with nearly two-thirds of the vote. The bill passed by the legislature on Saturday sets the stage for legalization to take effect, allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to two cannabis plants at home, beginning on July 1. 

Under the legislation, a new regulation and enforcement division would be created within the state’s existing Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, which would be renamed the Alcohol, Tobacco and Cannabis Commission. The legislation includes provisions to guide the regulation of cannabis production and sales and sets a 9% tax on recreational marijuana purchases. 

Lawmakers Block New Amendment To Further Restrict Dispensaries

Before the bill was passed in the House, Republican Delegate Wayne A. Hartman proposed an amendment that would increase the mandatory minimum distance separating cannabis dispensaries from 500 feet to one mile. The proposal also would have required dispensaries to be at least one mile away from schools, parks, playgrounds and libraries.

“So, we couldn’t put a dispensary anywhere in Ocean City because there’s nowhere that spans a mile between any of these things?” asked House Economic Matters chair C.T. Wilson.

“I can’t tell you I’m heartbroken by that,” Hartman replied.

But Wilson said that the residents of Hartman’s district might feel differently, noting that voters approved the referendum to legalize adult-use cannabis in Maryland with more than two-thirds of the vote statewide.

“They asked us to do this,” he said. “They asked us to do this in a fair and equitable way. They asked us to make sure we didn’t stick them all in one place and to make sure that anybody who wanted to buy does have access.”

Social Equity A Priority

To help promote equity in the cannabis industry and ownership by those negatively affected by marijuana prohibition, the first licenses awarded in Maryland will be reserved for social equity applicants. To qualify, an applicant must have at least 65% ownership by an individual who lived in a “disproportionately impacted area” for five of the last 10 years or attended a public school in such an area. The bill also creates a new Office of Social Equity in the cannabis division to promote participation by “people from communities that have previously been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs,” Wilson said at a committee hearing for the bill last month.

Brian Vicente, founding partner at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, lauded the approval of the cannabis commerce legalization bill by the Maryland legislature.

“Maryland continues its charge towards legalization with the House and Senate sending a regulatory bill to the governor’s desk to establish a robust, adult-use licensing structure,” Vicente wrote in an email to High Times. “This law will increase the number of cannabis businesses, and the first round of new business owners will be social equity applicants. Since state voters passed legalization by almost 70%, it’s unsurprising that the Maryland legislature is moving quickly to implement the voter’s will. They remain firmly on target to begin adult-use sales by July 1.”

The post Maryland Lawmakers Pass Recreational Marijuana Sales Bill appeared first on High Times.

Bill To Dismantle Montana Adult-Use Weed Market Goes Down in Flames

You are still free to get high in the “Big Sky.” That is because last week, lawmakers in Montana voted to table a bill that would have effectively dismantled the state’s new adult-use cannabis program.

Republican state Sen. Keith Regier introduced Senate Bill 546 in Montana last month that would have eliminated recreational marijuana dispensaries in Montana.

Almost 60 percent of voters in Montana approved a ballot initiative in November 2020 to legalize weed for adults aged 21 and older, which set up a regulatory framework for a state-sanctioned recreational cannabis market.

Recreational cannabis sales launched last year, ultimately bringing in more than $200 million to the state in 2022.

The Montana Department of Revenue reported in January that sales of adult-use marijuana amounted to $202,947,328 in 2022, while medical cannabis sales came to $93,616,551. (Montana voters legalized medical cannabis in 2004.)

But Regier’s bill never made it out of the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee, which held a hearing on the measure on March 29.

“I just think it’s good not to make voters think that their voice doesn’t count. Then they really turn away from this whole process,” Kate Cholewa, who represents the trade group Montana Cannabis Industry Association, said at last week’s hearing for the bill, as quoted by Montana Free Press.

Per the outlet, Regier addressed that objection during his opening remarks at the hearing, saying that there “have been several examples of the will of the voters being reversed.” (“Two of the three examples he cited involved voter initiatives being overturned by courts, not lawmakers,” Montana Free Press noted.)

Regier’s bill would have also raised “the state tax on medical marijuana from 4% to 20% and puts significant limits on medical marijuana potency and allowable amounts for possession,” Montana Free Press reported last month.

The issue of marijuana potency was raised at last week’s committee hearing.

“There is no need to have 90% potent marijuana products unless you’re trying to addict kids,” 

Said Dr. Kevin Sabet, co-founder and president of the national anti-marijuana organization Safe Approaches to Marijuana, as quoted by Montana Free Press. “That’s simply the only reason to do it. Or addict (sic) people in the workplace and cause crashes on the road.”

But on Thursday, members of Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee decided they had heard enough, and voted 6-4 to table the bill.

According to Montana Free Press, “three Republican committee members—Senate President Jason Ellsworth, Committee Chair Jason Small and Sen. Walt Sales—joined with all three Democratic members to oppose the bill,” before the “committee subsequently tabled the bill unanimously.”

It might not be the Montana legislature’s last word on cannabis reform.

Last month, that same committee in the state Senate “heard testimony on two marijuana-related bills,” according to local news station KTVH, including one that “would prohibit marijuana businesses in Montana from promoting their business or brand in print, over TV and radio or using a billboard.”

The other proposal “would revise the required warning labels that marijuana businesses must put on their products, to say that marijuana use during pregnancy could result in ‘congenital anomalies, and inherited cancers developed by a child later in life,’” KTVH reported.

Tax revenue from marijuana sales in Montana are used to support a number of programs in the state, including the HEART Fund, which provides money for substance abuse treatment in Montana.

“Funding a full continuum of substance abuse prevention and treatment programs for communities, the HEART Fund will offer new support to Montanans who want to get clean, sober, and healthy,” the state’s Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, said in 2021.

The post Bill To Dismantle Montana Adult-Use Weed Market Goes Down in Flames appeared first on High Times.

Maryland Adult-Use Cannabis Plan Advances

Maryland is inching closer to a plan to set up its adult-use cannabis market, after a few amendments were made to iron out potential issues.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot referendum last year, legalizing possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis for adults, which will become legal July 1. But the state has yet to implement final rules regarding how the market will be regulated.

On Monday, Maryland’s Senate Finance Committee approved their chamber’s version of Senate Bill 516, a bill to establish the state’s adult-use market, with several amendments. The planned administrative body, for instance, will no longer be combined with the state’s alcohol and tobacco regulatory body.

The committee voted to create an independent Maryland Cannabis Administration to regulate the adult-use industry. It would operate separately from the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. Both the original Senate and House bills proposed including the Cannabis Commission as a division within the already existing Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, but that plan fell through.

Lawmakers also tweaked the tax plan. Instead of implementing a graduated sales tax, starting at 6% and eventually growing to 10% by 2028, growing 1% each year incrementally, the state would implement a flat 9% sales tax once cannabis becomes legal for adults on July 1. 

The Baltimore Sun reports that the bill is moving towards its final steps before it can be sent to the governor.

Lawmakers need to approve the bill before the state’s annual 90-day session ends on April 10. “We need to get something along to the governor,” Senate Finance Committee Chair Melony Griffith said at the committee meeting.

The House version of the bill, House Bill 556, advanced earlier this month, which now awaits a full vote by the Senate.

DCist reports that both the House and Senate versions aim to address the problems associated with the rollout of the state’s medical cannabis industry. Maryland legalized medical cannabis in 2014, but it was hammered with a series of setbacks. When the industry was finally operational, not a single Black-owned business was included in the first round of licenses, even though Black residents make up nearly one-third of the state’s population.

Maryland’s March to Adult Use Cannabis

Voters approved Question 4, or the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, on Nov. 8, 2022. 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 instructed the Maryland General Assembly to “provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis within the state.”

Two companion pieces of legislation to award licenses, regulate the sale of cannabis, and set tax rates were filed Feb. 3 in both Maryland’s House and Senate. Maryland Delegates Vanessa Atterbeary (D-District 13) and C. T. Wilson (D-District 28) sponsored the House bill and Sens. Brian Feldman (D-District 15) and Antonio Hayes (D-District 40) sponsored the Senate version.

An upcoming round of new licenses for growers, processors and distributors would roll out on Jan. 1, 2024 for social equity applicants, defined as those who have lived in or attended school in an area disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. Another round of licenses would roll out after May 1, 2024.

The plan would allow for licenses for up to 300 dispensaries, 100 processors, and 75 growers. Smaller micro operations would be afforded additional licenses for 200 dispensaries, 100 processors, and 100 growers.

Now, the Senate’s version of the bill will move to the Budget and Taxation Committee, before reaching the full Senate for a vote.

The post Maryland Adult-Use Cannabis Plan Advances appeared first on High Times.

Delaware Senate Approves Cannabis Legalization Bills

The first measure, House Bill 1, which would legalize cannabis for adults, passed the Senate with a vote of 16-4, while House Bill 2, legislation to set up a framework for regulated recreational marijuana sales, was approved by a vote of 15-5. If they become law, the bills will make Delaware the 22nd state in the union to legalize adult-use cannabis.

The bills now head to the desk of Delaware Governor John Carney, who last year vetoed legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis, making him the only Democratic governor in the nation to make such a move. The state House of Representatives then failed to override the veto, leaving lawmakers to try again during the current legislative session. This year, however, both houses of the Delaware legislature have passed the bills with a veto-proof majority, making final passage of the bills with or without Carney’s signature all but guaranteed.

Cannabis Policy Reform Marches Forward

The neighboring states of New Jersey and Maryland have also passed legislation to legalize cannabis for use by adults, making Delaware one of the few holdouts in the Northeast left to end the prohibition of marijuana. After Tuesday’s Senate votes to legalize the bills, Brian Vicente, founding partner at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, hailed the new progress for the cannabis policy reform movement in the United States.

“The impending passage of legalization in Delaware is a historic and important step towards establishing the Atlantic Seaboard as ground for legal adult cannabis regulation,” Vicente wrote in an email to High Times. “For many years, legalization was considered a West Coast phenomenon, but the East Coast is now following suit. While we are still a ways away from having cannabis legal from Florida to Maine, Delaware further cements the East Coast as an area turning its back on marijuana prohibition.” 

Neither of the bills passed on Tuesday, however, include restorative justice provisions to expunge past convictions for cannabis-related offenses like those included in the marijuana legalization plans of many states in recent years. Natalie Papillion, chief operating officer of the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to the release of all cannabis prisoners, called out the lack of expungement measures in Delaware’s marijuana legalization plan.

“Legalization alone cannot heal the wounds of prohibition. True justice demands legislation that provides record clearance and resentencing for those affected,” she wrote in a statement to High Times. “It’s disheartening that Delaware has ignored the opportunity to start repairing these harms by failing to incorporate retroactive relief measures into this bill.”

Legalization Has Broad Public Support in Delaware

Polling in Delaware shows that nearly three-quarters of adults in the state support legalizing marijuana, while only 18% said that cannabis should remain illegal. Nearly nine out of 10 Democratic respondents said they approve of cannabis legalization, while 73% of independent voters also said they support ending the prohibition of marijuana in the state. Less than half (47%) of Republicans said cannabis should continue to be against the law, while 42% of GOP respondents support legalization.

“With this latest vote, the fight to legalize cannabis in Delaware is nearing the finish line. Cannabis policy reform has garnered widespread support among Delawareans for years. Meanwhile, neighboring states have already made the move to legalize cannabis,” Olivia Naugle, senior policy analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement from the cannabis reform group. “It’s encouraging to see the legislature advance these bills with veto-proof majorities. We hope Gov. Carney will heed the will of the people and allow Delaware to become the 22nd state to legalize cannabis. Any further delay to cannabis legalization would be a detriment to the state.”

Attorney Vicente said that the legalization of cannabis in Delaware could also give additional support to the effort to legalize cannabis at the federal level, noting that state lawmakers are increasingly in favor of reform.

“Importantly, after this law passes, Delaware will send two U.S. Senators and one House member to Washington, D.C., with a clear mandate to pass federal reform,” he said. “Delaware is an example of a relatively new trend in cannabis reform, with its adult-use law passing through its legislature instead of by a popular vote.”

The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk for his consideration. Before Tuesday’s vote in the Senate, Carney spokeswoman Emily Hershman said in a statement that the governor “continues to have strong concerns about the unintended consequences of legalizing marijuana for recreational use in our state, especially about the impacts on our young people and highway safety.”

“He knows others have honest disagreements on this issue,” she added. “But we don’t have anything new to share today about how the Governor will act on HB 1 and HB 2 if they reach his desk.”

The post Delaware Senate Approves Cannabis Legalization Bills appeared first on High Times.

Kansas Senate Panel Tables Medical Cannabis Legalization Bill

A Kansas state Senate committee on Thursday voted to table a bill to legalize medical marijuana, likely killing the measure for the remainder of the year. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee voted to table the measure, Senate Bill 135, after hearing from advocates on both sides of the issue at a pair of hearings last week. Republican state Representative Mike Thompson, the chair of the panel, said later that he has no plans to bring the bill up for consideration again during the current legislative session, according to a report in local media.

After the committee voted to table the bill, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly expressed her frustration at the development. The Democratic governor, who has previously called on state lawmakers to pass a medical marijuana legalization bill, also urged residents who support cannabis policy reform to contact state lawmakers and call on them to revive the proposal.

“I am disappointed that some legislators are saying they don’t want to move forward with legalizing medical marijuana this year – effectively turning their backs on our veterans and those with chronic pain and seizure disorders,” Kelly wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “If they get their way, for yet another year thousands of Kansans will be forced to choose between breaking the law and living without pain. I encourage Kansans to call their state legislators and tell them to legalize medical marijuana this session.”

If the measure is eventually passed, Senate Bill 135 would legalize the use of cannabis for patients with one or more of 21 serious medical conditions including cancer, epilepsy, spinal cord injuries and chronic pain. Patients would be required to have a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana and pay $50 for a state identification card to participate in the program. Patients would also pay a 10% excise tax on medical cannabis purchases. 

The bill would also regulate the cultivation, processing, distribution and sale of medical marijuana. Four different state agencies—the Department of Health and Environment, the Board of Healing Arts, the Department of Revenue’s Alcohol and Beverage Control (which would be renamed to Alcohol and Cannabis Control) and the Board of Pharmacy—would be tasked with oversight of the medical marijuana program. The legislation is slated to go into effect starting in July 2024, according to the text of the measure.

Kansas Activists Call On Lawmakers To Pass Legislation

Prior to Thursday’s vote to table the bill, several witnesses testified before the committee about the legislation at a pair of hearings held last week. Mandy Sohosky, who identified herself as a private citizen, said that cannabis is the best option to treat the chronic migraines that she endures. A host of traditional and alternative therapies including medication, therapy and acupuncture failed to help her, prompting her doctors to prescribe opioids and powerful muscle relaxers. But after trying cannabis in a legal state, she said the pain was gone in 10 minutes. 

“There is a solution for my migraines,” Sohosky told lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday. “It’s not a perfect solution, but it would help me be a more present parent for my kids. I could attend karate practice, go to choir concerts. I could be there for family movie night. There is a solution for my pain. Please allow me to use it while my kids are still young, and my parents are still alive. I have so many memories left to make. Please allow me to make them.”

Supporters of the legislation also noted that the bill would reduce the suffering of thousands of Kansans with serious medical conditions. Appearing before the committee, Alejandro Rangel-Lopez noted that 17 residents of Ford County were arrested for marijuana possession between November and February.

“These are folks my age. I recognize a lot of those names from elementary school, from high school. I graduated with a lot of them,” Rangel-Lopez said. “And it’s heartbreaking because you know what’s going to happen. They get sucked into the criminal justice system, and they end up in parole for years, if not decades. And it ruins their lives. And for what? For what? I don’t think we have anything to show for the criminalization of marijuana. So I’m tired of seeing folks suffer needlessly due to inaction from our lawmakers.”

Senators on the legislative panel also heard from groups on the other side of the issue at a second hearing on Thursday. Representatives of state law enforcement organizations including the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association, the Kansas Association of the Chiefs of Police and the Kansas Peace Officers Association attended the hearing to express opposition to the medical marijuana legalization bill. 

Activist Lee Bretz, whose father was issued a ticket by police while in a hospital for terminal cancer, said the committee’s decision is only delaying the inevitable.

“It’s gonna happen, you know, in a matter of time,” Bretz said. “I just don’t know why they keep delaying it.”

The post Kansas Senate Panel Tables Medical Cannabis Legalization Bill appeared first on High Times.

Kentucky Senate Passes Medical Pot Legalization Bill

The Kentucky Senate on Thursday passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana after years of work by lawmakers and activists. The Senate approved the measure, Senate Bill 47, by a bipartisan vote of 26-11. The legislation will now head to the state House of Representatives, where similar bills to legalize medical marijuana were passed twice in recent years.

Republican Senator Stephen West, a lead sponsor of the bill who has worked to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky for five years, said that the legislation will give patients with serious medical conditions new options in treatment.

“It’s time for Kentucky to join the other 37 states that allow medical marijuana as an option for their citizens,” West said, adding that those who use cannabis medicinally should be able to do so “without being considered a criminal.”

If passed, Senate Bill 47 would permit patients aged 18 and up with certain qualifying medical conditions including cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder to obtain a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana. The new Kentucky Center for Cannabis at the University of Kentucky, which opened in September of last year, can add additional qualifying conditions if it determines through data and research that patients with the condition are “likely to receive medical, therapeutic, or palliative benefits from the use of medicinal cannabis.”

The bill does not allow patients to smoke cannabis, although it does allow for the sale of raw cannabis flower for vaporization. Other cannabis formulations including capsules, tinctures and topical products are also authorized by the bill. 

Bill Contains Medical Cannabis Regulation Provisions

SB 47 tasks the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services with drafting and implementing regulations to enact the legislation and regulate the production and sale of medical marijuana in the state. The legislation does not include provisions allowing patients to cultivate medical marijuana at home. 

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer was one of eight senators on the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee who voted in favor of advancing Senate Bill 47 on March 14. Previously a staunch opponent of legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky, Thayer recently suggested that his views on the issue are evolving after hearing testimonials from constituents. He told his colleagues on the committee that he voted “for the sake of those who suffer.”

“It’s not very often I change my mind,” Thayer said after the committee voted to advance the bill. “I did on industrial hemp and I did today on medical marijuana. I’m just trying to be a little more empathetic in my old age.”

Senate Bill 47 now heads to the Kentucky House of Representatives, where lawmakers have approved previous measures to legalize medical marijuana twice since 2020. If passed by the full legislature, the bill will be sent to Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, who has repeatedly called on the state legislature to pass medical marijuana legislation.

In June 2022, the governor announced that he was establishing a medical cannabis advisory committee to explore creating a path to legalization. In November, Beshear issued an executive order that decriminalized medical marijuana for patients with specified qualifying conditions. And in January, he repeated his call for state lawmakers to send him a medical marijuana legalization bill in 2023.

Eric Crawford, an activist who has worked to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky for a decade, shared his surprise after Thursday’s vote by the Senate.

“I’m shocked,” said Crawford. “Now it’s time for the House.”

Under the bill, Kentucky’s medical cannabis program would launch by January 2025. Crawford, who was paralyzed in a vehicle accident 30 years ago, says that cannabis is the only medicine that effectively treats the pain and muscle spasms he endures as a result of the catastrophic injury. Although he has nearly two years before Senate Bill 47 goes into effect, Crawford said that he understands the delay.

“I figured it was gonna take that long to set up the system that we didn’t have,” Crawford said. “Yeah, it’s a long hard wait, but I’m doing what I gotta do.”

The post Kentucky Senate Passes Medical Pot Legalization Bill appeared first on High Times.

Medical Cannabis Bill Passes in Kentucky Senate Committee

On March 14, Senate Bill 47 was reviewed in the Senate Licensing & Occupations Committee voted 8-3, which will now move forward to the Senate floor.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Stephen West, spoke at the meeting. “I didn’t intend to ever get into medical marijuana or take a look at the issue,” West explained. He added that two advocates from Mason County, Eric and Michelle Crawford, inspired him to look closer into medical cannabis and its potential benefits.

West reviewed the bill in its current version, which would allow medical cannabis for patients with “any type of cancer regardless of stage, chronic, severe, intractable, or debilitating pain, epilepsy or any other intractable seizure disorder, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms or spasticity, chronic nausea or cyclical vomiting, post-traumatic stress disorder, and then we added one recently, any other medical condition or disease for which the Kentucky Center for Cannabis finds appropriate.”

Although smoking cannabis would be prohibited, raw cannabis would be permitted for vaping purposes. Cultivating cannabis for personal use would not be permitted either. The program would be managed by The Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and regulations would be finalized by Jan. 1, 2025.

“I know it’s been a long road to this committee and I want to commend you for your vigilance and on this bill,” committee chair John Schnickel said in reply. “I have been working with you and people who have carried this bill before you for years. And you are an example to us all of in class and the way to handle yourself on a controversial issue which people feel passionately about in both directions.”

The committee also heard from longtime advocate Eric Crawford, who became a quadriplegic in the 1990s when he was involved in an automotive accident that broke his neck in three places. Crawford attested to the power and necessity of cannabis to improve his quality of life. “Here I am at the Kentucky state capitol, wearing a tie, trying to get medical cannabis legal for sick people. Medical cannabis relaxes my continuous, uncontrollable, violent muscle spasms. Medical cannabis relieves my constant, never-ending pain. Cannabis helps me. I’ve been crippled for almost 30 years, I know what is best for me. I don’t want to be high, I just want to feel better,” Crawford told the committee.

In March 2022, the Kentucky House passed House Bill 136, which would have legalized medical cannabis. However, it stalled in the Senate, and so advocates decided to start in the Senate for this session. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer has been opposed to medical cannabis for some time, and remains an obstacle for the movement. In January, he expressed that medical cannabis is a gateway to recreational legalization. “I’ve been hearing about it for years. I know my constituents are for it, but this is a republic, and they elect us to go to Frankfort and make decisions on their behalf,” Thayer said. “If they don’t like it, they can take it out on me in the next election.” Recently, NORML called out Thayer, asking him to support the will of the people and “do the job you were elected to do.

Back in November 2022, Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order that allowed patient access to medical cannabis and delta-8. His order went into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, but only through legislation can full medical cannabis legalization become reality. “The executive order isn’t going to make it convenient for anyone on the medical marijuana front. What it will ensure is that they’re not a criminal,” Beshear said in January. “And that’s the limitations that I have in executive power and the limitations that other states have set if we don’t have our own full program. And it’s why it’s so important that the legislature go ahead and pass medical marijuana.”

The post Medical Cannabis Bill Passes in Kentucky Senate Committee appeared first on High Times.

Hawaii Senators Pass Adult-Use Cannabis Bill

On March 7, the Hawaii Senate voted to pass an adult-use cannabis bill in a 22-3 vote. Also referred to as SB669 SD2, the bill would set up a framework for cultivation, manufacturing, sales, and taxes. It would allow residents to possess up to 30 grams, cultivate up to six plants for personal use, and also decriminalize small amounts of cannabis as well.

The bill was first introduced by Sen. Joy A. San Buenaventura, Sen. Stanley Chang, Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, and Sen. Angus LK McKelvey on Jan. 20, and has consistently worked through numerous committee hearings. Sen. Keohokalole chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection, where amendments were addressed, including establishing penalties for unlicensed cultivation, protecting employers who want to prohibit employee cannabis use, preventing any cannabis business from opening within 1,000 feet of youth-related areas, and other changes to address cannabis licensing that does not allow monopolies to develop. 

“Today marks a significant step forward in the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Hawaiʻi. These amendments are reflective of the Senate’s commitment to ensuring a fair and well-regulated cannabis market that provides safe access to both adult consumers and existing medical patients,” said Keohokalole. “If legalization of adult-use cannabis is something that is supported by the Governor, we hope his administration, which has thus far opposed every proposal to legalize adult-use cannabis, will work with us to bring this to fruition.” 

After passing in the Senate with amendments, it was sent to the House for consideration on the same day.

On Jan. 11, a different adult-use cannabis bill, HB-237, was introduced by Rep. Hawaii Rep. Jeanné Kapela. This bill would establish a regulatory framework for legalization as well, but would also include language to allow out-of-state patients to benefit from medical cannabis law, and would make medical cannabis sales exempt from being charged with the general excise tax. Additionally, Kapela introduced HB-283, which would prohibit employers from discriminating against potential hires or current employees for their medical cannabis consumption. Neither HB-237 and HB-238 have progressed past hearings, which were held in late January.

A recent poll published by the Hawaii Cannabis Industry Association at the end of January found that 86% of adult Hawaiian residents are in favor of legalizing adult-use cannabis, with only 9% in opposition, and 5% saying that they don’t know. The poll also found that adult-use was slightly more popular than medical, in a 45% to 41% comparison. Overall, the state could collect up to $81.7 million in taxes and $423 million in gross revenue if cannabis legalization was passed. 

An additional report from the Dual Use Cannabis Task Force also published its findings in January, and shared that cannabis tax revenue could reach between $34 million to $53 million. 

Kapela focused on the data provided by that task force report to create the bill she introduced. “We all know, and Hawaii’s people know, that it is high time to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults in Hawaii. This year we stand on the precipice of history,” Kapela said. “Following the recommendations of a task force devoted to addressing cannabis policy, we now have a roadmap for legalizing recreational cannabis in our islands.”

Aside from the pace of support for cannabis legalization from legislators, efforts to legalize therapeutic psilocybin have also become popular. One such bill, SB-1454, was introduced in January, and unanimously passed in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on Feb. 6. It aims to establish regulations to create a “therapeutic psilocybin working group” to examine the medical benefits of psilocybin for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and end-of-life psychological distress.

The post Hawaii Senators Pass Adult-Use Cannabis Bill appeared first on High Times.