From the end of February to the beginning of March, U.S. state governments, under the influence of the new Biden administration policy, gradually opened up the process of marijuana legalization, accelerated the legislation, and successfully signed several marijuana legalization bills. The U.S. cannabis industry generally believes that under the general environment-friendly conditions, the U.S. marijuana legalization process will show explosive development.
Virginia Legislature Passes Bill to Legalize Adult Use of Marijuana
Virginia lawmakers passed a marijuana legalization bill late last month, becoming the first state in the South to approve the reform, which will take effect in 2024 under the law. The bill, which will go to Governor Ralph Northam for his signature, was expected.
NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini called the approval “another historic step for cannabis justice in Virginia.”
“Stakeholders, the administration, and the legislature have spent hundreds of hours crafting a fair and equitable legislation that replaces failed prohibitionist marijuana policies with policies that promote Virginia’s economy and the public health and safety of Virginians.” –Pedini said in a statement.
The bill does not immediately legalize marijuana, but rather begins to be enforced when sales begin in three years. Last year, the state approved a marijuana decriminalization measure that reduced the penalty for possession of a half-ounce of marijuana to $25. Previously, possession charges could result in a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
New Mexico House Votes to Legalize Marijuana
Lawmakers in the New Mexico House of Representatives introduced legislation late last month that would legalize adult marijuana use, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
The proposal in House Bill 12 includes an 8% tax rate, but the city and county rates could add up to 4%. The highest possible marijuana tax rate in the state would be 21.4%. Under the proposal, adults would be allowed to buy and possess marijuana products and residents would be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants in their own homes. If approved, the new law would allow certain medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to people 21 years of age or older beginning Jan. 1, 2021. “
This bill has been passed. This is a big deal, as it should be. ” – Rep. Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque), co-sponsor, via the Albuquerque Journal Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe) said legalizing marijuana would help eliminate inequalities created by the war on drugs that disproportionately target people of color. She said, “This type of drug has become a pathway to deportation, expulsion, arrest, criminalization of addiction and so on.”
House Republicans widely opposed the bill and advocated unsuccessfully to allow local municipalities to withdraw from marijuana sales. “I don’t think New Mexico is in the habit of forcing communities to do things against their will,” said Rep. Randal Crowder (R-Clovis).
The New Mexico House previously passed a legalization bill in 2019, but the bill ultimately failed in the Senate. Supporters of House Bill 12 believe things may be different this year because the House has new senators and the issue of marijuana legalization continues to gain popularity among Americans of all stripes.
North Dakota House Approves Adult Use Marijuana Bill
On February 23, the North Dakota House of Representatives passed three bills that would amend marijuana laws and legalize adult-use marijuana: House Bill 1420, House Bill 1501, and House Bill 1201.
House Bill 1420, which passed by a vote of 56 to 38, would allow adults 21 and older to purchase or possess up to one ounce of marijuana every 14 days; however, it would still be illegal to grow marijuana for personal use.
The bill’s proposal also limits the number of registered dispensaries assigned to 18 and growers to seven and calls for adult-use marijuana sales to begin on July 1, 2022.
The bill will now go to the Senate for the second round of votes. If approved, it will be sent to Gov. Doug Burgum for his final signature.
Lawmakers also approved House Bill 1501, which passed by a vote of 73 to 21, setting the stage for a tax structure for the adult-use marijuana market.
As stated in the House Bill 1501 proposal, the bill would “impose a 15% tax on gross receipts of adult-use marijuana products” and “impose a 10 % excise tax on sales of usable marijuana and adult-use marijuana products from manufacturing facilities to dispensaries.
Also, the House voted 58 to 36 to pass House Bill 1201, which builds on the original decriminalization law introduced in 2019 by decriminalizing possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and reducing the penalties for possession of large amounts of marijuana.
A person with less than one ounce of marijuana would be considered decriminalized and could be fined up to $50. The proposal states that a person who possesses one ounce but no more than 250 grams is in violation of the law.
It also specifies that a person weighing 250 grams but less than 500 grams is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor and a person weighing 500 grams or more is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. The bill is now before the Senate for consideration.
New Jersey legalizes marijuana
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy officially signed a recreational marijuana legalization bill into law in late February, making New Jersey the largest marijuana market on the East Coast with an estimated value of $1 billion. The bill, which was successfully passed by a vote of 49 to 27, allows adults over the age of 21 to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana, eliminating all criminal penalties for possession of six ounces of marijuana and 170 grams of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. Governor Phil Murphy said New Jersey will create a regulated marijuana market, restrict the use of “ex-conviction” marijuana products and give adults maximum rights in the use and possession of marijuana. Meanwhile, the House voted 22 to 12 to pass a bill previously introduced by the state Legislature on measures related to discipline for underage marijuana and alcohol use.
Majority of Texas Voters Want Marijuana Legalization
A recent poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune shows a significant rise in support for marijuana legalization in the state.
The survey asked Texans if they supported legalizing marijuana, giving respondents a choice between four options: “never,” “only for medical purposes,” “a small amount for any use ” or “any amount for any purpose. Overall, 60% of Texans support legalizing the possession of small amounts or any amount of marijuana for any purpose.
Only 13% of respondents said marijuana should “never” be legal, while 28 % said possession should only be allowed for medical purposes.
The largest group of supporters for full legalization was the 30-44 age group, at 69%. The least supportive age group was the older Texas population, but a significant number of older Texans (53%) said they supported the right to possess “a small amount” or “any amount for any purpose.
According to the Tribune, a May 2010 poll showed that 54% of Texans oppose legalizing marijuana, while 27% prefer medical marijuana. The same poll found that only 42% of Texans support legalizing marijuana.
In an interview with The Cannabis Hour, Heather Fazio, Texas’ director of responsible marijuana policy, said, “The current marijuana laws are draconian, irrational and unpopular. Thank goodness both Democratic and Republican legislators have introduced bills to change the way marijuana is handled in Texas. “
Alabama Senate Committee Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Measure
The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday passed a measure to decriminalize first-time offenders for possession of fewer than 2 ounces of marijuana, which would reduce penalties from a misdemeanor penalty of up to one year in jail to a $250 fine.
The bill was sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D) and sent to the full House for consideration. Singleton introduced more comprehensive decriminalization legislation in 2019 that would have applied to all possession charges – not just first-time offenders – but the measure died in the Judiciary Committee.
A recent report found that black Alabamians are 4.1 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
In 2018, decriminalization legislation was introduced in both legislatures, but neither made progress. The House bill died in committee, while the Senate bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but did not receive a vote by the full House.