It’s yet again another week in the quest for federal marijuana legalization. The past week was one for the records. From Washington acting in untypical fashion by re-criminalizing drug possession to Republican lawmakers moving to legalize weed nationwide, this week has been both unusual and thrilling. Once again, we’ve gathered the updates from across the industry.
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The following highlights the top activities from last week, especially those that are likely to either promote or discourage cannabis legalization.
Lawmakers in Minnesota Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill
The Minnesota House of Representatives last Thursday approved a marijuana legalization bill (House File 600). The approved bill aims to legalize cannabis across the state and will now proceed to the Senate. The approved bill was approved by the House via a 72–61 vote which included support from some republican Representatives. Although the bill might expectedly be amended or improved upon by the Senate, it is expected to legalize weed and address the racial injustices from the war on marijuana possession and use.
However, some leaders in the GOP majority have vowed to derail the bill. If the legislation pulls through, it would allow adults 21 and over to legally purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to 8 plants (4 mature) at home. House File 600 will also expunge records related to past marijuana convictions across Minnesota if it’s passed.
Colorado Records $500 Million in Marijuana Sales in First 3 Months
Colorado’s Department of Revenue has just disclosed that marijuana sales across the state crossed $560 million in the first quarter of 2021. Over $10 billion worth of marijuana has been sold in the state since medical cannabis was first legalized statewide in 2014. This has ultimately resulted in tax revenue of nearly $2 billion. In March alone, marijuana sales eclipsed $200 million.
Colorado’s marijuana legalization continues to have a positive effect across the state year after year. Most of the marijuana tax revenue in Colorado is redistributed towards the Health and Education sector, and abuse prevention schemes. Statutorily, 71% of the cannabis tax revenue is remitted to the marijuana tax cash fund to fund these sectors.
Washington Re-criminalizes Drug Possession
In a move that has left many legalization advocates feeling lost, Washington has re-criminalized drug possession statewide. This comes months after the U.S. Supreme Court had initially struck the state’s felony drug possession law as unconstitutional. The state has now created new legislation to reestablish criminal penalties for drug possession. However, there are some positives. Firstly, simple possession is now a misdemeanor, not a felony. Secondly, the new law requires individuals to be referred to a health evaluation or treatment for their first two violations.
This move will ultimately reduce unnecessary arrests and help violators avoid a criminal record as much as possible. While speaking at the signing ceremony, Governor Jay Inslee called the legislation “a much more appropriate and successful way to address the needs that underlie drug abuse”.
Republican Lawmakers File Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill
Two Federal Republican Lawmakers have introduced a bill seeking to legalize cannabis and protect banks that serve cannabis-related businesses in states where it is legal. The bill will also specifically ensure that military veterans are allowed to use marijuana in line with state laws. Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Don Young (R-AK) jointly sponsored the Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Medical Professionals Act.
While this new proposal will de-schedule cannabis and mandate federal studies into medicinal cannabis, advocates will be disappointed that it makes no provisions for addressing the harm caused by racial injustices in the war on cannabis possession nationwide.
Schumer Believes That Federal Marijuana Legalization Must be Passed Before Cannabis Banking Reform
Top U.S. Senator and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently suggested that it’s impossible to truly pass laws regarding cannabis reforms without first legalizing it. The lawmaker repeated this suggestion recently during an interview last week with The Ringer. He indicated that he and his colleagues will be introducing their bill shortly to end cannabis prohibition. Schumer also stated that the SAFE Banking Act will have to hold on in light of this. Recall that the House has already passed the SAFE Banking Act.
While it would seem like Federal Lawmakers keep going in circles regarding marijuana legalization, some progress has been recorded. For instance, more Republican lawmakers are now open to the idea of legalizing cannabis nationwide. Also, states, where marijuana has already been legalized, continue to set good examples for the rest of the country. It’s perhaps only a matter of time before more significant changes are made at the federal level.