Legislative Roundup: States Considering Marijuana

Legislative

As we have mentioned numerous times this year, 2015 is going to be a huge year for the marijuana industry. The victories won in the 2014 election have sent a signal to legislators across the country that marijuana is coming and many lawmakers want to get ahead of the trend before a ballot initiative beats them to it.

Because there are so many states considering marijuana bills right now, we have compiled a list of states currently considering marijuana reform in the legislature. As lawmakers are constantly introducing legislation, this list should not be considered comprehensive, but it will provide you with a good lay of the legislative landscape for the year to come.

 

New York

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. That’s the motto of New York Sen. Liz Krueger. Last year Krueger submitted a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in the Empire State. Although that bill died a quiet death, Krueger has once again submitted a bill to the legislature to legalize marijuana.

The bill isn’t promising, but the electoral victories won by the marijuana industry last year may improve chances for this proposed legislation. New York legalizing recreational marijuana would be a huge victory for the industry; even if the odds are stacked against it, it’s still worth keeping an eye on.

 

Florida

Although the Sunshine State narrowly rejected medical marijuana in 2014, that does not mean it’s going away. Proponents plan on bringing a recreational and medicinal marijuana bill to the ballot in 2016, and legislators have expressed the desire to head them off at the pass.

Since the state has already passed a narrow version of medical marijuana legislation, chances are lawmakers will simply expand upon the already existing law. Although no official bill has been introduced, most people expect the Florida’s legislature to act.

 

Pennsylvania

Polls in Pennsylvania show popular support for medical marijuana, but getting it legalized is proving to be difficult. Last year a medical marijuana bill only allowing edible marijuana died in committee. Undaunted, marijuana advocates are trying once again.

Introduced by Republican state Sen. Donald White, Senate Bill 3 would legalize medical marijuana in edible and vapor form. Smoking marijuana would not be legal. Prospects for this bill are also grim, but then again, few expected Alaska to legalize marijuana so Pennsylvania may surprise us as well.

 

Arizona

Facing a $1 Billion shortfall, Arizona state Rep. Mark Cardenas thinks that legalizing recreational marijuana can help offset the state’s budgetary woes. House Bill 2007 would legalize recreational marijuana for those 21 years or older, expand the state’s medical marijuana program, create a recreational market and allow residents to grow up to five marijuana plants.

Polls seem to indicate a slight majority in favor of recreational marijuana so the odds of this bill are not too far from the realm of possibility.

 

Nevada

Sin City might get a little more sinful if the legislature acts this year. There are currently no bills making their way through the legislature, but like Florida, it is highly anticipated that lawmakers in Nevada will act. The reason is that Democratic Sen. Harry Reid will be up for re-election in 2016.

A recreational marijuana bill will also be on the ballot for 2016; with 54 percent of Nevadans in support, it’s expected to pass. Republican lawmakers think that if they pass marijuana reform in 2015, they’ll draw independent support away from Reid. Only time will tell if the tactic works; regardless, expect changes for Nevada in 2016.

 

Nebraska

Despite suing Colorado over its recreational marijuana market, Nebraska is getting in on marijuana reform. The Cannabis Compassion and Care Act will legalize medical marijuana for patients with debilitating diseases like cancer, glaucoma or HIV.

We cannot predict the likelihood of this bill passing, but given the drain marijuana enforcement has on state resources, one can assume lawmakers may be more amenable to marijuana reform.

 

Kentucky

Southern states are notoriously anti-marijuana, but that didn’t stop state Rep. Greg Stumbo from introducing legislation to legalize medical marijuana. Last year, Kentucky was one of the many states that legalized CBD-only marijuana; hopefully, they can go fully medicinal in 2015.

A majority of Kentuckians support medical marijuana so there is a possibility of Stumbo’s bill getting some attention, although how much remains to be seen.

 

Georgia

A broad-based medical marijuana bill is currently working its way through Georgia’s state legislature. Last year a CBD-only medical marijuana bill died after an unpopular rider was attached to it; and in similar fashion, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal cut a deal with lawmakers and limited another CBD-only bill.

Like most of the states on our list, most Georgians support medical marijuana, but their representatives keep messing it up. Will the broader medical marijuana bill suffer the same fate? Only time will tell.

 

Texas

A majority of Texans support medical marijuana. Taking a hint from the masses, the Texas branch of the Marijuana Policy Project has drafted a bill which it plans on submitting to the Texas legislature no later than March of this year.

In addition, a bill aimed at decriminalizing marijuana in the Lone Star State has also been filed with the legislature. Although the people support such policies, it still faces a sea of opponents like the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas. Can the power of the people trump the good ol’ boy system in Texas?

In this year’s coming legislative session, we will find out the fate of marijuana in Texas and the other states on our list. Keep your eyes peeled because legalization can happen in unexpected places.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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