The number of states granting at least some measure of approval for marijuana sales, possession and use may soon increase, as several bills were recently introduced by state lawmakers in various pushes across the country.
It seemed unfathomable just a few years ago that the majority of states would someday allow the cultivation and distribution of marijuana, particularly given the fact the drug remains illegal at the federal level. But today, there are 23 states that allow medicinal marijuana and four – plus the District of Columbia – that have approved recreational use of the drug.
Currently, there are varying marijuana legalization measures pending in Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont and Texas. Each is different in nature and in scope, but collectively, these measures reflect the turning tide of acceptance when it comes to marijuana, both as medicine and as an acceptable form of recreation, akin to alcohol.
In Georgia, the state senate overwhelmingly approved marijuana bill that would make it legal for parents with epileptic children to bring cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive marijuana derivative, into the state to treat their children. The measure still would not allow children or adults access to the drug for any other diseases. Lawmakers say medical evidence hasn’t clearly established the benefits in those cases. However, there has been discussion of broadening the Senate’s measure in combination with another bill approved by the state House. Others argue the bill is far too narrow to have any real effect.
In North Carolina, a bill has been introduced that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. If approved, it would make the state the first in the South to do so. It’s the fourth time the bill has been introduced in the state, and the 14 backers say it could lead to $100 million in annual revenue for state coffers.
Meanwhile, in Tennessee, a Republican-backed bill that would legalize cannabis oil for medicinal purposes was approved by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, though lawmakers added the caveat that a doctor’s letter would be required for patients asking for the treatment. Another bill would authorize schools to develop low-THC strain marijuana for use in four-year medical research by a number of state universities, though doctors would not be permitted to prescribe the drug to anyone outside the scope of the study.
Lawmakers in Texas, too, have introduced a comprehensive medical marijuana law that would grant relief to those suffering from a range of severe medical conditions, including seizure disorders and cancer, so long as they had a doctor’s prescription. A poll conducted last year found three-fourths of Texans believe people who are seriously ill should have access to the drug for treatment.
In Ohio, a ballot measure that would legalize cultivation and possession of the drug for adults, and medicinal use for minors, has cleared a major legislative hurdle. After receiving certification from the governor’s office, supporters must now gather 306,000 valid voter signatures by July 1 in order to put the issue to a vote in November.
In Vermont, a bill is pending that would not only make recreational marijuana legal in the state, it would be the first to do so through the state legislature. Adults over 21 would be permitted to possess up to one ounce of the drug, and regulation of cultivation and sales would be overseen by a newly-formed state agency.
Lastly in Massachusetts, where medical marijuana is already legal, a new measure would legalize recreational marijuana, allowing for the drug to be taxed and regulated the same way as alcohol. Advocates hope to have the measure ripe for the ballot next year.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Georgia Senate passes narrow medical marijuana bill, March 13, 2015, Atlanta Business Chronicle
Bill Would Let Marijuana Be Sold, Taxed In Mass., March 13, 2015, WBUR News
ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization amendment clears initial hurdle, March 13, 2015, By Jackie Borchardt, Northeast Ohio Media Group
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Sheriffs File Lawsuit Against Colorado Over Legal Marijuana, March 9, 2015, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog