As Americans begin to embrace the idea of marijuana legalization, pot laws around the country are slowly beginning to reflect the changing national sentiment. While poll after poll – regardless of source – continues to show a majority of thoughtful, well-educated Americans supporting the idea of marijuana legalization, right wing bastions like Fox news Channel have sponsored polls that showed an 85% support rate for legalizing medical marijuana throughout the US.
Seeing the national trend, and understanding their job is on the line, politicians have drafted medical marijuana bills in 30 states, the District of Columbia, and two US territories to either cultivate new medical marijuana laws, to “decriminalize” personal possession of small amounts of marijuana, or to tax and control recreational pot sales for adult consumption. 2013 was a high watermark for medical marijuana – as two beneficial MMJ bills were given the green light in New Hampshire and Illinois, in addition to germinating a research focused medical marijuana bill for the state of Maryland.
As states seek to defend their state-sanctioned marijuana patients, some have modified legislation to provide clarity and definition to their existing medical marijuana laws, some even passed. State regulated marijuana collectives will soon be allowed to open their doors in Oregon and Nevada, and post-traumatic stress disorder was added as an acceptable condition that would qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation in Maine and Oregon. And last but not least – in the aloha State of Hawaii – the medical marijuana program was transferred to its health department, while increasing the quantity of medical marijuana a patient can possess for personal use.
Bills to Create New Medical Marijuana Laws
Alabama — Rep. Patricia Todd introduced HB 2, which would have allowed patients with qualifying conditions and physicians’ certifications to cultivate medical marijuana or designate a caregiver to do so. They would have also been allowed to purchase it from a dispensing center or delivery service. On February 6, the House Health Committee voted against advancing the bill to the floor. On February 21, Rep. Todd introduced a second medical marijuana bill, HB 315, which was also referred to the House Health Committee. The legislature adjourned on May 20 without having voted on either bill.
Florida — SB 1250 and HB 1139 sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens and Rep. Katie Edwards, would have created the “Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act.” The bills would have allowed qualifying patients with physicians’ certifications to cultivate medical marijuana or designate a caregiver to do so. They would also have allowed for regulated dispensaries and growers. The legislature has adjourned, and both bills are dead.
Illinois — On August 1, 2013, Gov. Pat Quinn signed Illinois’ medical marijuana legislation, which was sponsored by Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang and Sen. Bill Haine. HB 1 creates a four-year pilot program that will allow patients with qualifying conditions and physicians’ certifications to obtain marijuana from medical marijuana dispensaries. It also allows up to 22 cultivators, who will sell marijuana to the dispensaries. The Illinois House of Representatives approved HB 1 on April 17 in a 61-57 vote, and the Senate approved it in a 35-21 vote on May 17. More information about the bill is available here.
Iowa — Rep. Bruce Hunter and Sen. Joe Bolkcom introduced HF 22 and SF 79, which did not receive a floor vote before the legislature adjourned. The bills would have allowed patients with qualifying conditions and physicians’ certifications to cultivate medical marijuana or designate a caregiver to do so. Patients would also have been allowed to purchase their medicine from nonprofit dispensaries. SF 79 was approved by a subcommittee on March 4 and sent to the full Senate Human Resources Committee. HF 22 was voted down in a subcommittee.
Kansas — On January 14, Sen. David Haley introduced SB 9, which would have allowed patients with serious medical conditions and their physicians to obtain, use, and cultivate marijuana with their doctors’ approval. Patients would also have been allowed to purchase it from a dispensary, called a “compassion center.” The bill was referred to the Committee of Public Health and Welfare, where Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook said she would not grant it a hearing. Sen. Haley announced plans to introduce a medical marijuana amendment to another bill, SB 39, which will go to Judiciary Committee instead. The House Standing Committee on Vision 2020 also introduced medical marijuana legislation, HB 2198, which was referred to the Committee on Federal and State Affairs. Neither bill advanced before the deadline for the bills to pass the legislative chamber they were introduced in.
Kentucky — Sen. Perry Clark sponsored SB 11, which would have created a comprehensive medical marijuana law, allowing qualifying patients with their doctors’ recommendations to cultivate medical marijuana or designate a caregiver to do so. Patients could also have obtained marijuana from a registered dispensary. SB 11 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but did not receive a hearing or vote before the legislature adjourned its regular session. Though the session has ended, Sen. Clark announced plans to pre-file a bill for 2014, and the bill received a hearing before members of the Health and Welfare Committee on August 21.
Maryland — This Spring, Gov. O’Malley signed three bills to improve medical marijuana policies. Two of the measures — HB 180/SB 580 — were same-as bills that allow patients’ designated caregivers to raise an affirmative defense for possession of marijuana. The defense was already available to qualifying patients. The third measure — HB 1101 (summary available here) — allows teaching hospitals to apply to an independent commission to run medical marijuana programs. Two other proposals that would have set up broader medical marijuana programs with patient access and protections from arrest were withdrawn. Del. Glenn’s HB 302 would have allowed home cultivation and dispensary-access by patients. Del. Morhaim’s HB 1100 would have allowed patient access through dispensaries.Minnesota — Twin bills have been introduced to allow seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes and to purchase medical marijuana from dispensaries. Patients who live more than 15 miles away from a dispensary could also cultivate their own supply under the bills, HF 1818 (sponsored by Rep. Carly Melin) and SF 1641 (sponsored by Sen. Scott Dibble). In addition, a bill to allow a medical necessity defense, HF 508, was introduced and referred to Public Safety Finance and Policy. HF 1818 was referred to the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee, and SF 1641 was assigned to the Senate Health, Human Services, and Housing Committee. The legislature has adjourned for the year, but Minnesota has a two-year legislative session, and they can be taken up next year.
Mississippi — SB 2369, sponsored by Sen. Deborah Dawkins, would have allowed patients to use, possess, and grow medical marijuana with their doctors’ recommendations. The bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Missouri — Rep. Mike Colona sponsored HB 688, which would have allowed qualified patients and their caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for patients’ medical use. It would also have allowed registered organizations to dispense marijuana. The bill did not advance before the legislature adjourned on May 22.
New Hampshire — In New Hampshire, the House and Senate passed different versions of Rep. Donna Schlachman’s medical marijuana bill, HB 573. A committee of conference came up with a single compromise bill, which Gov. Maggie Hassan signed on July 23. The new law is far more restrictive than the House bill was, at Gov. Hassan’s insistence. It does not include home cultivation or protections while patients wait up to 19 months for ID cards to be available, and it does not include PTSD. A summary is available here.
New York — In New York, the legislature adjourned on June 22 without the Senate voting on medical marijuana legislation the Assembly overwhelmingly approved on June 3 (99-41). The bill has not yet gotten a vote in committee. Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried sponsor twin bills —S4406 and A6357 — which will carry over to 2014. The bills would allow qualifying, registered patients to purchase marijuana from registered organizations. S4406 was referred to the Senate Health Committee, but it never received a committee hearing or vote. In addition, Sen. Velmanette Montgomery sponsors a similar bill, S1682, which is pending in the Senate Health Committee.
North Carolina — H84, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Alexander, would have allowed qualified patients and their caregivers to possess, cultivate, and purchase marijuana for patients’ medical use. The House Rules Committee gave the bill an unfavorable report, killing the bill. On April 11, Rep. Alexander introduced another bill – H941 – that would have required the legislative research commission to study medical marijuana related issues. It did not advance before the legislature adjourned.
Ohio — On May 2, Rep. Robert Hagan introduced HB 153, which would allow qualifying patients and their caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for the patients’ medical use. HB 153 was referred to the House Health and Aging Committee, where it received a hearing on May 29.
Oklahoma — Sen. Constance Johnson sponsored SB 710, which would have allowed patients whose doctors recommend medical marijuana to use, cultivate, and purchase it. Sen. Johnson also filed SB 902, legislation that called upon the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision to establish a medical marijuana program. Unfortunately, that bill referred to the “prescription” of marijuana, making it ineffective. SB 710 was referred to the Health Committee, which voted 6-2 to kill the bill. SB 902 did not advance out of committee before the crossover deadline and is also dead.
Pennsylvania — Sen. Daylin Leach’s SB 770 and Rep. Mark Cohen’s HB 1181would create the Governor Raymond Shafer Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which would allow qualifying patients and their caregivers to cultivate and possess marijuana. Patients could also purchase it from regulated compassion centers. SB 770 was referred to the Public Health and Welfare Committee on April 7. HB 1181 was referred to the House Health Committee on April 15.
South Dakota — HB 1227, sponsored by Rep. Dan Kaiser, would have provided patients an affirmative defense they could raise in court to avoid a conviction for medical marijuana possession and use. While this would have been a dramatic improvement for patients, it was not considered a comprehensive medical marijuana bill since it would not have provided a means of access. On February 5, the House Health and Services Committee voted 7-6 to kill the bill.
Texas — Rep. Elliott Naishtat introduced HB 594, which would have given patients whose doctors recommend medical marijuana a defense in court. The bill did not advance before a crossover deadline and is dead.
West Virginia — HB 2230 and HB 2961, sponsored by Del. Mike Manypenny, would have allowed qualifying patients to possess and cultivate marijuana for their medical use. They could also have obtained marijuana from a compassion center (dispensary) or a caregiver. Both bills were referred to the House Health and Human Resources Committee. Del. Manypenny also sponsored a medical necessity bill, HB 2063. None of the bills advanced out of committee before the legislature adjourned.
Bills to Revise Existing Medical Marijuana Laws
In addition to the bills to create new medical marijuana programs, legislation to modify existing laws was proposed in several states, some of which has been signed into law. Two more states added regulated dispensaries to their medical marijuana laws, meaning 15 of the 20 medical marijuana states and Washington, D.C. will have either state-regulated medical marijuana retailers, regulated marijuana stores for adults, or both. In Nevada, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed S.B. 374, which will provide for a regulated dispensary program, fulfilling the nearly 13-year-old state constitutional mandate that the legislature provide “appropriate methods” of access to medical marijuana. In Oregon, Gov. John Kitzhaber signedHB 3460, which adds regulated dispensaries to the state’s existing law.
In addition, two states added PTSD to their medical marijuana laws. Oregon’sSB 281, adds PTSD to the state’s list of qualifying conditions, as does Maine’sLD 1062. In Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed two bills to modify the state’s medical marijuana program. H.B. 668, C.D. 1 will transfer jurisdiction of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Public Health, and S.B. 642, C.D. 1 will expand the amount of medical marijuana patients can possess, while allowing only primary care physicians to sign certifications for medical marijuana. In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage has several bills to modify the state’s medical marijuana law on his desk. A summary of those bills is available here.
Bills to Fine, Not Jail, Simple Possession of Marijuana
Indiana — SB 580, sponsored by Sen. Karen Tallian, would have made possession of less than two ounces of marijuana a class C infraction punishable by a fine only with no possibility of jail time. The bill, which was referred to the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law, would also have made other reforms to Indiana’s marijuana laws, including allowing hemp. The bill did not advance before the crossover deadline.
Hawaii — Sen. Kalani English sponsors SB 472, which would punish possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine. In addition, Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz sponsors SB 739, which would impose a civil fine of up to $100 for no more than an ounce of marijuana. The Senate unanimously approved SB 472 on March 5. Both bills are dead for the year, but they will carry over to the second year of the state’s two-year session.
Maryland — SB 297, sponsored by Sen. Robert Zirkin, would have reduced the maximum penalty for possession up to 10 grams of marijuana to a $100 civil fine. The Senate approved the bill in a 30-16 vote on March 19, but it did not get a vote in the House Judiciary Committee before the legislature adjourned on April 8. Another bill sponsored by Sen. Zirkin — SB 394 — would have made the maximum fine for marijuana possession a $100 civil fine. That bill was withdrawn.
Michigan — HB 4623, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Irwin, would replace possible jail time and criminal penalties with civil fines of $25, $50, or $100, depending on the number of prior convictions the person has for marijuana possession. The bill was introduced on April 24 and was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.
Missouri — Rep. Rory Ellinger introduced HB 512, which would have reduced the penalty for possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana from up to a year in prison to a fine of no more than $250 and a suspended sentence. The bill did not advance before the legislature adjourned on May 22.
New Mexico — HB 465, sponsored by Rep. Emily Kane, would have reduced the penalty for first offense possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to a $50 civil fine. A second offense would have been a petty misdemeanor carrying a $100 fine. It would have also imposed fines for up to eight ounces of marijuana. On March 11, the House approved the bill in a 37-33 vote. The legislative session ended before the Senate was able to vote on the bill.
New Hampshire — Rep. Kyle Tasker proposed HB 621, which would have imposed a fine on simple possession of marijuana. On March 21, the House of Representatives amended the bill to apply only to a quarter of an ounce of marijuana and to impose a fine of up to $200. It then approved the bill in a 214-115 vote, sending it to the Senate. On April 16, the bill received a negative recommendation in the Senate Judiciary Committee. On May 5, the full Senate approved the recommendation, killing the bill.
New Jersey — S. 1977, sponsored by Sen. Nicholas Scutari, would impose a $50 fine on up to 50 grams of marijuana (about 1.5 ounces). A. 1465, sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, was introduced in 2012 and passed the Assembly. The bill would impose civil fines starting at $150 on possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana. Both bills are pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Northern Mariana Islands — House Bill 18-42, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Leon Guerrero, would impose a $50 fine on marijuana possession in the U.S. territory.
Texas — Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr. proposed HB 184, which would have made possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine. It was referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which approved an amended version of the bill on April 23. As amended, HB 184 would have applied only to persons under 21. The bill did not get a full House vote before the crossover deadline and is dead for the year.
Vermont — On June 6, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Vermont’s decriminalization bill, H. 200, a tripartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Pearson and 38 co-sponsors. H. 200 passed the House April 16 in a 92-49 vote and was approved 24-6 by the Senate May 7. Beginning on July 1, it will impose a civil fine on adults who possess up to an ounce of marijuana or up to five grams of hash. The maximum fines are $200 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense, and $500 for a third offense. For those who don’t contest the charge, the fine will probably be half those amounts. Minors under 21 will usually be sent to diversion for substance abuse screening and possible education or counseling. In the Senate, Sen. Joe Benning sponsored another decriminalization bill — S. 48.
Washington, D.C. — A majority of the D.C. Council, led by Councilman Tommy Wells, has introducedB20-0409. The proposal would provide for $100 civil fines – no arrests and no criminal charges – for possession of under an ounce of marijuana.
Meanwhile, in New York, S3315 and A6716 would have eliminated the “public use” exception to the state’s decriminalization law, a reform supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Assembly approved its bill 80-60 on May 29, but the Senate bill did not receive a vote before the legislature adjourned. In North Carolina, Rep. Kelly Alexander sponsored H637, which would have downgraded the penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana from a misdemeanor that does not carry jail time to a civil infraction. Finally, HB 2332 was introduced in Illinois to impose a civil fine on possession of a tiny amount of marijuana — 0.1 gram. It did not advance before the deadline.
Bills to Regulate and Tax Marijuana for Adults’ Use
Alabama — HB 550, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd, would have allowed adults 21 and older to possess or grow limited amounts of marijuana. It would also have allowed a regulated and taxed marijuana industry, in addition to setting up a medical marijuana program. The bill received a hearing in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, but it was not voted on before the legislature adjourned for the year.
Hawaii — Speaker Joe Souki has introduced HB 150 and HB 699, which would have allowed the taxed and regulated sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older. Both bills would also have allowed adults to cultivate marijuana in a locked, secure facility. Two similar bills were also introduced. Sen. Kalani English sponsored SB 467, and Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz sponsored SB 738. All of the bills were similar to Colorado’s Amendment 64. On February 12, the House Judiciary Committee deferred action on HB 699, killing the bill for the year. Because of legislative deadlines, the other tax-and-regulate bills were also unable to advance in 2013, the first year of Hawaii’s biennial legislative session.
Maine — Rep. Diane Russell’s LD 1229 would have allowed voters to decide whether they wanted to set up a system to regulate and tax commercial marijuana-related activities and to allow adults 21 and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana. The legislature defeated the bill 71-67 in the House and 24-10 in the Senate.
Maryland — HB 1453, sponsored by Del. Curt Anderson, would have provided for a taxed and regulated marijuana industry. It would have also allowed adults 21 years of age and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. HB 1453 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which heard testimony on the bill on March 19. The bill did not advance out of committee before the deadline to pass the House.
Massachusetts — Rep. Ellen Story sponsors HB 1632, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess and cultivate marijuana. It would allow a regulated, taxed marijuana industry once it is legal under federal law. HB 1632 was referred to the Joint Committee on Judiciary.
Nevada — AB 402, sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Hogan, would have allowed adults 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. It would also create a taxed and regulated legal marijuana industry. AB 402 was referred to the Committee on Judiciary, but it did not advance before the deadline.
New Hampshire — Rep. Steve Vaillancourt proposed HB 492, which would tax and regulate marijuana for adults’ use. It would also allow adults 21 and older to cultivate up to six plants. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee retained HB 492, meaning it will study the issue this fall. In addition, Rep. Mark Warden introduced HB 337, which would have made marijuana legal without imposing regulations. HB 337 received 112 votes on March 13, including from 52 Republicans. 239 representatives voted against the bill, so it is dead for the year.
Ohio — Rep. Robert Hagan’s HJR 6 would allow voters to decide whether to allow adults 21 years of age and older to purchase, grow, and possess limited amounts of marijuana. The proposed constitutional amendment is based on the amendment approved by Colorado voters in November 2012. It was referred to the House State and Local Government Committee.
Oregon — The House Committee on Revenue introduced HB 3371, which would have allowed persons 21 and older to grow and possess marijuana. It would also have set up a system of taxation and regulation for the commercial production and sale of marijuana, similar to alcohol. The House Committee on Judiciary approved the bill on April 2, but it did not receive a floor vote before the legislature adjourned on July 8.
Pennsylvania — SB 528, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach, would regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. It would allow adults 21 years of age or older to purchase, cultivate, and possess limited amounts of marijuana. On April 3, the bill was referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
Puerto Rico — Sen. Miguel Pereira has introduced a bill, SB 517, which would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess marijuana but would not provide for regulated distribution or cultivation. The bill received a committee hearing.
Rhode Island — Rep. Edith Ajello and Sen. Donna Nesselbush sponsored H 5274 and S 334, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, which was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. The twin bills would have taxed and regulated marijuana sales for adults’ use and would have allowed adults to cultivate up to three mature marijuana plants. The bills each received a hearing in their chambers’ Judiciary committees, but they were not called to votes in committee before the legislature adjourned for the year on July 3.
Vermont — Rep. Susan Davis’ H. 499 would have allowed adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and to grow up to three plants. It would have required the Department of Liquor Control to regulate marijuana wholesalers, retailers, and labs and impose a $50 per ounce tax at the wholesale level. The bill did not advance before the crossover deadline. In addition, Sen. Jeanette White’s S. 160 would create a Study Committee on the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana, which would be a legislative committee that would study a process for licensing marijuana businesses along with a taxation and regulatory structure.
Washington, D.C. — Councilman David Grosso is introducing a bill, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and up to six plants. It would direct the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to regulate the sales and distribution of marijuana to adults. Marijuana would be taxed at a rate of 15%.
In New York, Sen. Liz Krueger announced her plans to introduce a bill to tax and regulate marijuana and to allow the cultivation of up to six plants. However, the bill was not introduced before the legislature adjourned for the year. In addition to the states and U.S. territory that have considered or are considering bills to allow adults to use marijuana, one additional state considered a study bill. In New Mexico, Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino introduced Senate Joint Memorial 31, which would have directed the state’s Economic Development Department to study the budgetary implications of a legal marijuana industry. The legislative session ended without SJM 31 receving a floor vote.