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Legalization Bills Moving Forward for Many States

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This year was expected by many cannabis legalization proponents to be a big one for changes in cannabis legislation, and so far, lawmakers in many key states are living up to expectations. In fact, February alone saw legalization bills move forward in four states.

New Mexico:

Three committees within the state legislature have passed two legalization bills recently. The two bills differ in the logistics of delivery to consumers. One would allow for legal private businesses to sell cannabis – such as in the model in states like Washington and Colorado, and the other would only allow state-run stores to dispense product to consumers – similar to the way Florida’s law works. The first bill passed in New Mexico’s House Health and Human Services and Judiciary committees, while the second was passed by the State Senate’s Public Affairs Committee.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Jujan Grisham (D) is in favor of legalization and has indicated she would sign a legalization bill as long as public health and safety are protected.

New Hampshire:

A bill advancing marijuana legalization passed the state House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee last week. The bill will now advance to the full state House for a full floor vote this week.

Though New Hampshire’s Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has promised to veto any legalization legislation, leaders in both the state House and Senate are confident that they have the votes needed to override the veto.

Hawaii:

On Feb. 7th, the state Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill legalizing cannabis. No floor action has been scheduled thus far, but the president of the body has stated that the issue is a priority for this year.

Despite optimism in the legislature, however, Hawaii’s Governor David Ige (D) doesn’t necessarily support cannabis legalization. It remains unclear whether he would be open to signing a bill for full legalization, so legislators are also working on a more subtle bill that would decriminalize possession in small amounts, but not necessarily allow for full legalization.

Vermont:

Last year Vermont legislators passed a law to decriminalize possession in small amounts and home grows, but this month three separate state Senate committees voted to advance a bill that would incorporate legal cannabis sales into the state. A floor vote is scheduled for this week.

The governor of Vermont, Phil Scott (R), has said he is reluctant to sign a full legalization bill until concerns over impaired driving are addressed. Still, the bill has a lot of support among legislators, so there may be enough votes to override a veto, or Scott may feel the political pressure and decide to sign the measure rather than veto it. Regardless of the outcomes of any or all of these specific bills, the fact that each is advancing through its respective state legislative system is a good sign of forward progress for legalization advocates and investors alike.

On the Federal Level:

Marijuana Moment reports that among state and federal lawmakers, there are currently over 750 bills dealing with marijuana regulation (or de-regulation) for the 2019 legislative sessions. Not all of those bills are legalization bills, of course. Many deal with specific tweaks to existing laws or fringe issues, such as whether insurance companies should cover medical marijuana, or if veterinarians can prescribe cannabis to pets. Still, momentum toward the mainstreaming of cannabis into American culture is speeding up at state and federal levels.

U.S. House lawmakers discussed in a hearing last month a bill that would open up banking access to cannabis businesses that are operating in compliance with state laws. This has long been an issue for marijuana businesses, who have to operate on a cash basis because FDIC insured banks won’t do business with them for fear of legal ramifications. This particular legislation is moving along, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), said that it is just one part of what he refers to as a “blueprint for how Congress can end federal marijuana prohibition in 2019.”

It should also be noted, though with a grain of salt, that Oregon lawmakers – both Blumenauer and his Senatorial counterpart Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) – introduced cannabis legislation with the cheekily-numbered “H.R. 420” and “S. 420” respectively, in a nod to cannabis culture.

As measures continue to advance state by state, federal lawmakers are likely to be emboldened in their own efforts to move toward national decriminalization. The increase in momentum in the public’s support for legalization is also making itself known to federal representatives and senators, who may now feel more at ease with supporting legalization.

On the international stage, the World Health Organization recently released a recommendation affirming the rescheduling of cannabis about international treaties. Additionally, the European Parliament is expected to pass a medical cannabis bill this month.

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