An Updated, State-By-State Look at Cannabis Reform Across the U.S.
On the first day of this month, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a proposal into law which legalized medical cannabis, including up to 60 state-licensed dispensaries. Although the passage of this law is a giant step forward, advocates continue to fight for further reform, as the restrictive law is only a 4-year starter program.
Senate Bill 0580 – which would have decriminalized the possession of 2 ounces of cannabis – was filed earlier this year by Senator Karen Tallian, though unfortunately no significant progress was made on it in the Senate. However, Senator Tallian plans to refile the proposal next session, and advocates will continue to push for its passage.
H.F. 22, introduced this session, would have legalized the possession and state-licensed sale of medical marijuana to qualified patients, though it was eventually voted down in committee. Regardless of the vote, the bill started a conversation in the state which was much-needed.
Earlier this month a bill to legalize medical cannabis was filed in the Kansas Senate, titled the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act. The measure has been referred to the Public Health and Welfare Committee.
Last month State Senator Perry Clark introduced a medical cannabis legalization proposal, which had a public hearing on August 21st. This legislation, according to polling released this month, is supported by an overwhelming 78% of Kentucky residents.
A measure designed to drastically reduce the penalties – and remove mandatory minimums – for cannabis charges was approved in May by the state’s full House, but unfortunately ended up being narrowly rejected by the full Senate the following month. The fight, however, is far from over, as those behind the proposal plan to continue working towards its passage in the upcoming legislative session.
In June, legislation to add post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying medical cannabis conditions officially became law in Maine.
Last month, an initiative to legalize cannabis was officially sent to the November ballot in Portland, Maine, giving voters the opportunity to reform their city’s marijuana laws
In May the state’s governor signed legislation to allow medical cannabis distribution to occur at certain authorized academic medical centers that become licensed with the state. The passage of the proposal drew mixed reactions, with some calling it a step forward, and others calling it a farce.
The State of Massachusetts is moving forward with implementation of its 2012-approved medical cannabis law, and has recently begun accepting applications from those interested in receiving a license to open a medical cannabis dispensary.
In May, the Michigan Supreme Court made an important ruling which protects medical cannabis patients from the state’s zero-tolerance THC driving policy.
In June, the nonprofit medical cannabis organization Michigan Compassion became the first cannabis-related organization to receive a Google Grant; the group will be awarded $240,000 in free advertising. Also in June, activists in the cities of Ferndale and Jackson submitted the required number of signatures to put their cannabis decriminalization proposals to a vote this November.
In August, a medical cannabis review panel gave preliminary approval to the addition of PTSD as a qualifying medical cannabis condition; a public hearing will be held before a final vote occurs.
Earlier this week an initiative to legalize cannabis possession was officially verified for this November’s ballot in Lansing, Michigan’s capital.
In may legislation was introduced in Minnesota to legalize medical cannabis. The proposal is sponsored by over 40 lawmakers, and although it was filed too late to be approved in 2013, proponents are preparing for a huge push in 2014.
In St. Louis a proposal decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis officially became law on June 1st.
In July, a state lawmaker announced that he will be filing two cannabis-related bills in the 2014 session; one to decriminalize up to 35 grams, and one to legalize cannabis similar to Colorado’s Amendment 64.
Nebraska NORML is currently running an an initiative to legalize cannabis, with the hopes of putting the proposal to a vote in 2014. Those interested in getting involved should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
In June Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed a proposal into law which legalizes medical cannabis dispensaries throughout the state, fixing a huge hole in the law; up until the passage of this proposal, dispensaries were entirely illegal, despite medical cannabis being a constitutional right since 2000, leading most patients to rely on the black-market to obtain their medicine.
- New Hampshire
Last Month New Hampshire officially became the 20th state to legalize medical cannabis, after the governor signed legislation into law.
- New Mexico
Earlier this year the state’s House of Representatives approved a measure which would decriminalize up to a quarter pound of cannabis, making it a simple $100 ticket. Although the measure has stalled in the Senate, it has been an inspiration to activists, and lawmakers will continue to discuss the issue in the next session.
- New York
In June New York’s Assembly approved a measure legalizing medical cannabis; the approval now sits in the Senate, where, according to the bill’s primary sponsor, it has enough support to pass.
Earlier this month a federal judge ruled that New York City’s ‘stop-and-frisk’ policy is “unconstitutional”.