The effort to legalize marijuana in the United States is gaining support from the American public. There are presently 23 states and the District of Columbia with polls that indicate the majority of citizens in those states support legal weed, according to Just Say Now.
A recent Gallup poll shows that nearly 60 percent of the United States population is in favor of eliminating prohibition -- 14 percent more than just a decade ago. Considering the trend, there is reason to expect that public opinion in favor of legalization will increase to between 70-75 percent by 2023. Some experts claim that once 65 percent of the population favors a particular issue, changes are soon to follow.
State lawmakers all over the country are working to make those changes, mostly in the realm of medical marijuana. Here is a closer look at what your pot-friendly lawmakers were up to last week:
California: Bill to Return Stoner Property
California law enforcement agencies may soon be forced to return marijuana and related items back to the people after their cases are dismissed or acquitted. Senator Noreen Evans says her bill, Senate Bill 1193, would force police departments to be accountable for the marijuana they seize and destroy, as well as force them to reimburse people for pot-related items, such as bongs and pipes. The measure would also serve to limit the amount of seized marijuana police departments are required to store as evidence.
"This bill serves the dual purposes of assisting law enforcement at a practical level with marijuana storage and securing the rights of individuals who are following the law," said Evans in a press release. "It's not too often we have the collaboration of peace officers and the medical marijuana industry on legislation. Clearly this bill is a solution that reflects good policy for California as we come to terms with some of the more practical and logistical concerns of medical marijuana in the state."
Illinois: Medical Marijuana Amendment Approved
The Illinois House approved a measure last week to allow the use of CBD oil by epileptic children under the age of 18. This measure, which will serve as an expansion to the state’s medical marijuana program, was passed in a vote of 98-18 and now heads to the state Senate. Although the bill previously reached the Senate in April, it had to be amended to show that patients could not smoke marijuana -- only consume edibles and extracts.
New York: Medical Marijuana Approved
Last week, the New York state Senate Health Committee narrowly approved the first-ever medical marijuana bill in the state’s history. The measure earned a win after Republican Senator William Larkin sided with the Democrats, swaying the vote 9-8 in favor of the bill.
“In my district, I had several people come to me with their child or their grandchild,” said Larkin. “You can see the tears in their eyes. They’re stymied. There’s nothing they can do.”
“I voted my conscience,” he added.
The bill must now go before the state Finance Committee before it can be reach the full Senate.
North Carolina: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced
Representative Kelly Alexander filed a bill last week aimed at legalizing medical marijuana in North Carolina. Alexander said that cannabis does have medicinal applications that could be greatly beneficial for veterans suffering from chronic pain. He also indicates that a legal pot market would serve the financial interests of the state -- projecting $100 to $200 million in tax revenue.
"Salary increases for teachers,” said Alexander. “You're talking about salary increases for state employees. There's a whole litany of things that we have been discussing."
Wyoming: Lawmaker Not Giving Up
Although a measure to decriminalize marijuana was rejected this legislative session, Representative James Byrd, the sponsor of the bill, says he will make marijuana legislation one of his top priorities if he is re-elected in the upcoming November election.
South Carolina: Medical Marijuana Moving Forward
Last Tuesday, the House passed the Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Treatment Research Act, which must now go before the Senate for final approval. If it passes, the state will embark on a research program to explore the use of marijuana extracts. In addition, the South Carolina House of Representative recently voted in approval of a measure that legalize industrial hemp.
However, the issue of medical marijuana was not as fortunate. The Put Patients First Act, which would have made marijuana legal for patients with debilitating conditions, did not manage to receive approval and will not be up for discussion again until sometime next session.
New Mexico: Higher fees for Pot Producers
New Mexico is flirting with legislation that will impose a $50 yearly registration fee for medical marijuana users as well as triple the annual licensing fees of producers to $90,000. Producers are worried that the increase will force them to raise prices and encourage patients to seek black-market sources.
The Health Department argues that the increase will serve to expand the overall supply and only producers concerned about growing additional plants will need to be concerned about higher fees.
Colorado: Edibles Research Bill Signed
Governor Hickenlooper signed a measure into law last week that could eventually limit the sale of edibles. The bill serves as a push by state regulators to research marijuana edibles in an attempt to establish THC limits. Those recommendations are due in November.
Washington DC: Decriminalization Snag
Earlier last week, a statement released on behalf of US Attorney Ronald Machen said that although the District of Columbia passed a measure to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, anyone caught with weed on federal land will still be prosecuted.
“Individuals arrested for merely possessing, but not using, less than one ounce of marijuana on federal property would be presented to our office for potential prosecution under federal law,” said William Miller, the public information officer with the U.S. Attorney’s office in DC.
“We will assess each case on an individualized basis, weighing all available information and evidence, consistent with Justice Department enforcement priorities and the need to use our limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats to public safety. We rely heavily on diversion programs in our local marijuana prosecutions, and would likely do the same with respect to federal offenses.”
As of the now, even though the decriminalization bill was passed, it is still lingering in Congress for their final approval. It could be the end of summer before the measure goes into effect.