Hey everyone! I have two weeks of cannabis news here for you. Washington D.C. continues to be busy with federal marijuana reform legislation, most of which will go nowhere, but seeing Capitol Hill focused on cannabis is very promising. The NFL drug policy might get revised in terms of penalties for players that choose to consume cannabis medicinally or recreationally. Smokable marijuana may be available for medical marijuana patients in Florida by March 15th and New Mexico is very close to passing recreational marijuana legislation. Kentucky lawmakers are trying to push through medical marijuana legislation too. Also, vacationing in Hawaii just got much more interesting for medical marijuana patients. Let’s go!
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act and more…
That’s right, over the last two weeks four different pieces of marijuana reform legislation were introduced in Congress. Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Barbara Lee reintroduced The Marijuana Justice Act which would not only remove marijuana from the list of banned substances in the Controlled Substance Act, but it would also force the federal government and states to expunge records for people convicted or marijuana possession crimes. States that failed to correct racial disparities in marijuana related arrests and convictions would see federal funds withheld. Rep. Lee also introduced the Restraining Excessive Federal Enforcement & Regulations of Cannabis (REFER) Act. This piece of legislations is similar to the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment that kept federal funds away from the Justice Department to pursue state legal marijuana for many years, but the REFER Act would permanently keep funds from the Justice Department or any federal agency looking to interfere with state legal marijuana business. Rep. Lee also introduced the Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades (RESPECT) Resolution which would force states to keep cannabis licensing fees low and to put no cap on how many licenses would be available in a state so that communities that have been adversely affected by prohibition will have a fair opportunity to benefit from marijuana legalization.
However, the biggest piece of legislation came this week from the Hawaiian Rep. Tulsi Gabbard who introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. We actually had the opportunity to sit down in her office during the NCIA Lobby Days event last summer when she was working on one of the most compelling pieces of marijuana related legislation, The Marijuana Data Collection Act. The idea that Washington D.C. might actually act on factual data to steer their decisions on cannabis rather than their assumptions is a very progressive concept. The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act though would also remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances in the CSA, but as opposed to the Marijuana Justice Act, states would be free to create laws they see fit around marijuana legalization. Why is this the biggest piece of legislation to be introduced in the last two weeks? Well, republicans are big fans of states rights and don’t want the federal government getting any more involved than necessary. Due to the states rights aspect of this legislation, the bill has been co-sponsored by three republicans; Rep. Don Young of Alaska, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan have all signed off on the bill. Bipartisan support is pretty much essential for a bill to have any real chance of being considered. This bill is very similar to The STATES Act which has bipartisan support as well from R-Sen. Cory Gardner and D-Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but their bill would not remove marijuana from the CSA.
Since we are discussing Rep. Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii, I also have to bring up the fact that this week Hawaii created a new policy honoring reciprocity. In other words, if you are a licensed medical marijuana patient anywhere in the United States, you can go to Hawaii now and buy medical marijuana. You need to fill out a form that you can find right HERE, 60 days or more before you arrive in Hawaii and pay a $49.50 fee. You will then be issued what is called a 329-V electronic registration card. Once you land. take the electronic card to any state licensed medical marijuana dispensary and I am sure you will know what to do from there.
New Mexico Makes Further Push to Legalize Recreational Marijuana and Florida’s Senate Lifts Ban on Smoking Medical Marijuana
I have reported in some detail about how convoluted Florida’s medical marijuana program is and that Florida’s new governor, Ron DeSantis, threatened to remove the state’s appeal on a judge’s decision that the ban on smoking is unconstitutional unless his state’s lawmakers amended the current law to allow smoking marijuana flower. Florida’s Senate passed a new piece of legislation yesterday allowing the sale and smoking of marijuana flower for medical marijuana patients whose doctors authorize it. The deadline that Gov. DeSantis gave is March 15th, so it is expected that the House of Representatives will sign off on it as well if for no other reason just to have some sort control over the sale of marijuana flower in the state. Medical marijuana flower could be available in Florida in just a little over a week’s time.
I also wrote earlier this week that New Mexico is working on legislation to legalize adult-use marijuana in their state. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grishamin is a pro-cannabis governor that has already forced state lawmakers to expand their medical marijuana program. This week the New Mexico House of Representatives passed H.B. 356 by a vote of 36-34 and it is now on its way to the Senate. Gov. Grishamin said she will sign off on adult-use legislation as long as safety protocols are in place. If New Mexico legalizes adult-use marijuana, they would become the 11th state to do so even though we are all waiting on New York and New Jersey to push through legislation as well.
Marijuana in the NFL Drug Policy could See Some Positive Revisions in the Next 2 Years
Of the two most aggressive and physically violent professional team sports in the United States, hockey and football, the NHL is much more progressive. The NHL does not punish its players for testing positive for THC. They will offer their players rehabilitation if they think they need help, but the player does not need to accept. The NFL on the other hand can issue fines after repeated failed drug tests that can cost a player millions of dollars potentially, and possibly their entire career. Both sports are brutal to the players’ bodies and can lead to a life of chronic pain or even CTE that medical cannabis has shown real abilities to help players with. The NFL may be getting the message now though. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported this week that the NFL could be open to completely doing away with marijuana consumption restrictions during their next meeting with the NFL Players Association for the collective bargaining agreement. Granted. their next meeting to discuss the collective bargaining agreement is not for another two years, but all the same it is something for players to look forward to. 82% of all the professional sports teams in the NHL, NFL, NBA & MLB play in cities where either recreational or medical marijuana is legal. According to a recent poll done by Quinnipiac University, 93% of people in the U.S. support medical marijuana legalization.
New Hampshire is Pushing to Legalize Recreational Marijuana and Their Supreme Court Decides Worker’s Compensation Insurance Should Cover Medical Marijuana Costs
House Bill 481 passed in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives this week by a vote of 209-147 which would legalize the sale and purchase of recreational marijuana to anyone over the age of 21. New Hampshire is part of the growing number of states in the Northeast looking to reform their marijuana laws considerably. The bill still has a ways to go before it officially becomes law, but in the meantime the New Hampshire Supreme Court also made an interesting ruling this week. A Mr. Andrew Panaggio was hurt on the job in 1991 and became a medical marijuana patient in 2016. He asked the labor appeals board to force workers’ compensation insurance to cover the costs of his medical marijuana, but they ruled against it due to the Schedule I status of marijuana federally. This week though, the Supreme Court saw it differently, ruling that Mr. Panaggio be fully reimbursed for his medical marijuana expenses. We will have to see how the ruling impacts other states and federal law.
After 4 Months, Medical Marijuana Sales Reach $42 Million in Michigan
Michigan voters legalized recreational marijuana in November making it the first Midwest state to take such a leap. The commercial sale of cannabis though may still be far off if their medical marijuana program is any sign of how long it takes Michigan to finalize rules on cannabis sales. Voters approved medical marijuana in 2008 but dispensaries never opened until November of last year. In the four months since the medical marijuana dispensaries opened their doors to patients, $42 million dollars worth of cannabis has been sold beating most expectations.
That’s it for this week everyone. Remember to follow our Youtube channel, The National Marijuana News, along with our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages @NationalMJNews. I hope everyone enjoys the weekend.