February 25, 2019
Just about two months into the 2019 legislative session, legalization proposals are swiftly moving forward in states across the country. Irrespective of geographic location or political ideology, lawmakers everywhere are beginning to realize that now is the time to take action on marijuana reform. Here is the latest on key states from coast to coast:
Senate Bill 686 seeks to legalize the use, possession, cultivation, and retail sale of small amounts of marijuana for adults. The measure would allow adults 21 and over to purchase one ounce of cannabis and grow up to six cannabis plants in their own home.
On January 31, the Senate Committee on Judiciary held a public hearing on SB 686 where they heard testimony for and against the bill. Then on February 7, the Committee unanimously approved the bill with amendments. This marked the first time a legislative committee in Hawaii moved a legalization proposal forward. The bill must still be approved by two more Senate committees before reaching the Senate floor for consideration by the full chamber.
While Hawaii’s legislature is controlled by Democrats, Governor David Ige has expressed skepticism toward full legalization in the state.
House Bill 481 seeks to allow for the use, possession, and retail sale of marijuana by adults. The pending measure permits adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and/or up to five grams of concentrate, and to grow up to six marijuana plants. The bill would also provide for the expungement of certain cannabis related offenses and establish a Cannabis Control Commission to oversee the regulated market.
On January 16, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee heard testimony for and against HB 481 during a public hearing. On February 21, despite some members of the committee bringing up concerns over public health, the committee approved the bill by a narrow 10-9 vote.
While Republican Governor Chris Sununu has expressed opposition to the measure, legislators have speculated that ample support exists among lawmakers to potentially override a veto.
Statewide polling data shows that 68 percent of New Hampshire adults support “legalizing [the] possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal recreational use.” Seventy-four percent of respondents endorse marijuana being sold at state-licensed outlets and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.
House Bill 356 seeks to permit the use, possession, cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis for adults 21 and over. Under this proposal, adults would be allowed to possess up to two ounces of cannabis, and cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis plants in their homes if they are licensed to do so by the state. Adults would also be able get certain cannabis related offenses expunged from their record.
On February 9, the House Health and Human Services Committee heard public testimony for and against HB 356, and two days later voted to approve the bill by a 5-2 vote. The bill was then heard by the House Judiciary Committee on February 23. The committee voted to approve a substitute bill that would give employers the ability to take adverse action against an employee or applicant for their off the job cannabis use. The bill will now go to the House floor for consideration by the full chamber.
A separate proposal is also pending to permit adult use marijuana sales, Senate Bill 577. Under this proposal, retail stores would be regulated and operated by the state government as opposed to being privately operated. This bill does not allow for home cultivation or expungement of prior convictions.
On February 23, the Senate Public Affairs Committee voted unanimously to approve SB 577.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is supportive of legalization, having campaigned and won on the issue.
Statewide polling data shows that 60 percent of likely voters support legislation to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana sales to adults 21 and over.
Senate Bill 2703 and Assembly Bill 4497: The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act seeks to regulate the adult use marijuana market.
Senate and Assembly lawmakers voted to advance the bills out of the Joint Committee on Appropriations back on November 26, 2018. Since then, lawmakers have been negotiating key provisions of the bill with Governor Phil Murphy. After months of debate since the last vote, it was announced last week that state lawmakers have come to an agreement with Governor Murphy regarding retail marijuana tax rates, settling on charging sales tax by weight as opposed to a specific percentage.
Governor Phil Murphy campaigned and won on a legalization platform, having pledged to legalize cannabis within his first 100 days in office.
Fifty-eight percent of voters support “completely legalizing the possession and personal use of recreational marijuana,” and 79 percent support “allowing an individual to clear their record” of a past marijuana possession conviction,” according to an October 2018 Rutgers-Eagleton poll.
In 2018, Vermont became the first state to pass legislation through the legislature to legalize the personal possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana. S. 54 seeks to expand upon that law by establishing a regulatory framework for the regulation of a commercial, adult use marijuana market. The bill was introduced with over half of Vermont’s Senate members adding their names as cosponsors.
On February 19, the Senate Committee on Judiciary approved S. 54 with amendments after hearing public testimony on the bill. Then, the measure went to the Committee on Finance where it was approved on February 22. The bill will need to pass through the Appropriations Committee before heading to the Senate floor.
Governor Phil Scott has expressed doubts about signing retail market legislation into law, citing concerns about driving while impaired.