There has been a lot of movement on cannabis reform across the United States this year. Legislative sessions are ending, meaning there is precious little time left to pass meaningful cannabis legislation for many states. At the federal level, Congress members continue to attempt to muster enough support for the SAFE Banking Act. The scientific community is also making headlines, bolstered by more states’ legalization of cannabis. New studies highlight breakthrough scientific and medical applications for cannabis.
Across the board, cannabis reform measures and scientific studies are moving in progressive new circles. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some hurdles left to overcome. This “state of the states roundup” highlights the strides the cannabis industry is making and what’s ahead for cannabis reform.
Colorado Bolsters Worker Protections
One of the most significant pieces of cannabis news comes from a state that has already legalized marijuana within its borders. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed new legislation protecting Colorado workers. The measure means regulators cannot deny or revoke professional licenses, certifications, or registration from individuals based on prior civil or criminal cannabis violations. The new legislation also prevents regulators from denying someone a license because of past cannabis-related professional disciplinary actions that occurred anywhere in the U.S.
The California Senate recently passed similar worker protections in the form of a bill that would prevent employers from asking job candidates about prior marijuana use and consumption. It is illegal for California employers to discriminate against an individual in the hiring or termination process for off-duty marijuana use.
Florida Could Send Marijuana Reform to the Voters
Marijuana reform is one step closer to making it to the 2024 ballot in Florida. A proposed ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana has gained enough signatures to put the question on the 2024 ballot. Supporters and activists gathered more than 70,000 valid signatures, above the state’s requirement, to ensure the measure would have a chance to be on the upcoming ballot. While the campaign is thrilled at reaching this milestone, it’s not all smooth sailing. The Florida Supreme Court must review the measure. It is also likely that the proposed legislation could face a challenge from conservative state Attorney General Ashley Moody, who has opposed similar marijuana legislation as recently as 2022.
New Jersey Is Open for Business
It’s an exciting social media announcement from the governor of New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) says the state’s first recreational-only cannabis retailers are open for business. Currently, there are 38 operating dispensaries in New Jersey. Most started as medicinal dispensaries before expanding into recreational cannabis businesses. In April, the state regulatory board approved 98 annual awards, including an additional 51 for retailers looking to open recreational-only dispensaries.
Minnesota Makes It Official
Minnesota joins the recreational-marijuana legalization club as the latest state to pass a cannabis reform measure. A handful of Republicans joined the overwhelmingly united Democrats to pass a cannabis reform bill in early May. The measure finally reached Gov. Tim Walz’s (D) desk for his signature. The bill dramatically changes the state’s drug policy by decriminalizing cannabis and allowing for the home cultivation of cannabis plants. It also establishes a retail framework.
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura was on hand for the monumental signing moment. Ventura championed cannabis reform and first proposed legalization back in the 1990s.
The state also passed a health finance package that established a Psychedelic Medicine Task Force. This body will advise the legislature on the viability of legalizing psychedelics and the medical and policy issues associated with drugs like LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and MDMA.
The SAFE Banking Act Gains Supporters
The SAFE Banking Act gained co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate. The roster of co-sponsors of the measure increases to 34 congress members in the House. At the same time, the Senate adds one new co-sponsor bringing the total number of Senators sponsoring the legislation to 40.
The SAFE Banking Act has stalled several times in recent years. However, there is renewed hope that a consensus can be reached, finally giving cannabis businesses access to vital banking services. The measure aims to address the safety concerns of running an all-cash business by giving cannabis retailers in legalized states access to banking services. In part, it would prevent the government from prohibiting, penalizing, or discouraging a bank from conducting business with a legitimate marijuana retailer or business.
Cannabis May Help Ease Pain Associated with Multiple Sclerosis
New scientific research suggests that cannabis may help alleviate the pain and insomnia experienced by people living with multiple sclerosis. MS is a debilitating disease that affects the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Although the cause is unknown, scientists know that something triggers the body’s immune system into attacking the central nervous system.
In addition to easing the pain caused by the disease, cannabis may also alleviate spasticity or the abnormal stiffening and tightening of the muscles. The study indicates that MS patients taking medicinal cannabis experienced muscle stiffness relief at nearly twice the rate as those taking a placebo.
More Evidence to Support the Use of Cannabis as an Epilepsy Treatment
Numerous studies indicate that cannabis may be an effective treatment option for those with epilepsy, especially children. Now a new medical study supports many of those previous findings, suggesting that CBD may provide a favorable long-term effect in patients with epilepsy who may experience convulsive and nonconvulsive seizures.
In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration even approved a refined plant-based cannabinoid oil to treat two rare forms of childhood-onset epilepsy. By 2020, the administration approved the drug to treat a rare genetic condition that causes tumors to grow on the brain, leading to seizures, lending support to the theory that cannabis may be a beneficial medicinal treatment for different forms of epilepsy.
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