Cannabis Regulatory Update: Connecticut, Kansas, North Dakota, Virginia

Connecticut House Votes For Cannabis Legalization, Social Equity

Connecticut Labor Public Employees Committee approved cannabis legalization bill on Thursday in a 9 to 4 vote, reported Marijuana Moment.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Robyn Porter (D), who chairs the labor panel, and is praised by the supporters for its social equity clauses.

It varies from Gov. Ned Lamont’s legalization proposal, which is characterized as “inadequate.”  The measure also proposes enabling home grow of up to six cannabis plants and licensing of social consumption sites.

Porter noted that terminating cannabis prohibition is “needed because of the disproportionate impact and damage that it has done to black and brown and poor communities, and it does need to be regulated in a way that provides equity to those who have been harmed the most.”

“The train has left the station, and I feel like Connecticut is actually playing catch up,” she said. “Our surrounding states are on board, and there are states across this nation that have done it already.”

After the voting, Porter concluded that “cannabis legalization will bring high paying union jobs, community investment and economic opportunity to our communities of color, but only if we do it right by starting with equity on day one.”

Kansas Lawmakers Review Proposed Medical Cannabis Legalization Bill

Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee held several meetings this week to review many amendments to the proposed medical cannabis legalization bill, wrote Marijuana Moment.

While Chairman John Barker expected for the legislators to examine the changes and vote on Thursday, too many proposed amendments have slow down the process, having the voting postponed.

This week, House members successfully reviewed and approved only one amendment, and commenced analyzing a second one.

That second amendment deals with changing offenses for violation of the cannabis law to a felony from a misdemeanor, shortening the time patients need to have a relationship with their doctor to obtain a recommendation, enabling counties to choose will they have dispensaries, allowing out-of-state registered medical marijuana patients to have cannabis while traveling in Kansas, etc.

Barker said he would ask the House speaker to have more meetings for the evaluation of the cannabis legislation next week, reported the outlet.

There’s a chance that the panel can’t complete the process by then, which would result in a potential veto session or a new proposal in 2022.

The measure that was presented In February in the committee would create a medical cannabis program for qualified patients. Among the health issues that would qualify patients for the treatment with medical cannabis are – PTSD, HIV, and chronic pain. The bill doesn’t support smoking, vaping, and home growing.

Amendments that are yet to be looked at and examined are centered on child-proof packaging, workplace issues, social equity, licensing, etc.

“I think we’ve made fairly good progress today,” Barker said. “We may have another period next week to hopefully either finish this up, or not.”

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has pushed for medical marijuana legalization. She argued that the revenue and taxation from medical cannabis sales could be used to finance much-needed Medicaid expansion.

North Dakota Adult-Use Cannabis Bill Fails

North Dakota’s efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state continue to fail.

First, back in 2018, an adult-use cannabis initiative was turned down, and now, the state Senate rejected House Bill 1420 in a 37 to 10 vote, after only 30 minutes of discussion, reported Marijuana Business Daily.

The bill was first approved by House lawmakers in February in a 56 to 38 vote.

Even though this ends legalization actions in the state for 2021, the reform seems to be “inevitable” seeing both the neighboring states and the overall legalization moves across the country, writes the outlet.

“Is it better to let it happen as it likely will eventually, or should we provide some guideposts which would contain its evolution?” Sen. Judy Lee, a Republican from West Fargo, said.

“North Dakota is surrounded by three states and Canada who have opened up their marijuana laws, and being an island of resistance is probably unsustainable.”

On the other hand, North Dakota is not the only state whose endeavors to legalize cannabis have recently gone to the wall. Just last week, Maryland adult-use legalization failed and both Wyoming and Hawaii have seen their bills to end cannabis prohibition rejected.

Virginia Governor May Speed Up Cannabis Legalization Process

Virginia lawmakers approved cannabis legalization last month, which is scheduled to take effect in 2024, which many cannabis advocates in the state don’t appreciate.

The state governor Ralph Northam is supposed to ask the legislature to allow the adult possession of one ounce or less of cannabis starting July, according to VPM.

In an interview with VPM on Wednesday Northam insinuated he would push for some measures to be approved quicker.

“I personally don't think we should be arresting or penalizing somebody for something we're getting ready to legalize,” Northam said. “I plan to place a number of amendments in front of the legislature and hopefully we’ll be able to move those forward.”

Northam must meet the deadline of sending those changes back to the legislature before March ends, as the two chambers are supposed to review those amendments on April 7th.

While the penalty for possession of one ounce or less of cannabis was lowered to a $25 civil fine last year in Virginia, with racial discrimination ongoing, criminal justice supporters demand for the fine to be removed completely, reported VPM.

Whichever amendments Northam proposes they would have to be voted for by Democratic majorities in the legislature.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, head of the advocacy group Marijuana Justice, commented on the 2024 date saying that was “a slap in the face of racial justice.”

“With this new change of political will, it shows that the people’s voices do matter and can influence us for the better.” 

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