Washington and Colorado passed legislation legalizing recreational cannabis in 2012. They were the first states in the country to pass such measures. Since then, 21 states, including Washington D.C. and three U.S. territories legalized marijuana for recreational use. Another 37 states, including four U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, allow medical cannabis use.
Although marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, many state lawmakers are taking steps to decriminalize the drug and allow eligible individuals to purchase it for medical or recreational purposes. Last April, the House passed a bill to decriminalize marijuana. Several U.S. Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
As the stigma around cannabis seems to fade throughout much of the country, more lawmakers are trying to move toward full legalization, states are creating new bills, and Congress is passing new legislation. Here are the latest developments in the cannabis industry.
Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the law for legalizing marijuana created over 30,000 jobs in Illinois since passing in 2020. He also mentioned the positive effect legal cannabis had on the economy.
Last year, sales reached over $1.5 billion, crossing the $1 billion mark two months earlier than the same milestone the year before. The $1.5 billion in marijuana sales for the 2022 fiscal year achieved $445.3 million in collected tax dollars. That represents a 50% increase compared to the previous fiscal year.
In Hawaii, Senate committees approved a pair of bills last week legalizing marijuana. A house panel also advanced separate legislation to promote MDMA and psilocybin research.
One of the proposed bills from Senator Joy San Buenaventura passed with a 3-0 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The decision occurred days after the Committee received testimony on the reform in a hearing.
A joint meeting of the Commerce & Consumer Affairs Committee (C&CAC) and the Senate Health & Human Services (SH&HS) approved another bill that was sponsored by Senator Chris Lee. The C&CAC voted 3-1 in favor of the bill, while the SH&HS voted 2-1 in favor.
Each legislation aims to end the prohibition of cannabis and create a system to regulate the drug for commerce by eligible adults at least 21 years old.
SB 669 addresses primary issues, including:
- Authorizing adults 21 and older to buy and possess up to six plants and no more than 30 grams of marijuana for personal use
- Subjecting marijuana products to a 10% tax paid into the state treasury
- Prohibiting marijuana vaping products
- Establishing an independent Hawaii Cannabis Regulatory Authority to regulate the industry
- Launching the market through a pilot program for current medical marijuana dispensaries to acquire dual licensing for selling recreational and medical products to consumers
SB 375 contains provisions such as:
- Allowing the state attorney general to identify cannabis-related cases eligible for expungement by December 31, 2025, and automatically expunge those cases by January 1, 2026
- Authorizing the legal possession of up to four ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older
- Prohibiting landlords from banning residents from consuming or possessing non-inhaled marijuana, with some exceptions
- Allowing existing medical marijuana dispensaries to apply for dual licenses to start selling to consumers on January 1, 2024
- Authorizing adults to gift cannabis without remuneration and purchase no more than four ounces from licensed retailers every fifteen days
- Prompting regulators to create technical assistance, loan, and grant programs to support applicants disproportionately harmed by the drug war
- Establishing a nine-member Hawaii Cannabis Authority to implement rules for issuing cannabis business licenses and the adult-use program
- Allowing businesses without a licensed dispensary to apply for adult-use distributor and cultivator licenses beginning on January 1, 2024
- Amending state medical marijuana laws for out-of-state patients to access dispensaries in the state
- Permitting cannabis businesses to deduce business expenses at the state level
- Prohibiting delivery services
- Authorizing marijuana businesses to establish lounges where social consumption could occur
- Lifting the criminal prohibition of cannabis paraphernalia
- Gradually increasing the sales tax on marijuana from 5% next year to 15% by 2028
Democratic Representative Jessica Gonzalez introduced House Bill 1937 to allow municipalities and counties in Texas to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The measure directs the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation to assume the rules for administering and enforcing the bill, including testing standards, licensing, transportation, and regulation.
If passed, the measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess no more than 2.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. It would also allow adults to legally possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their private homes. However, any amount over 2.5 ounces requires secure storage.
The bill would also assess a 10% tax on cannabis products and direct the revenue toward funding local oversight, testing and quality control, and the regulation of marijuana. The remaining revenue would go to a state fund public school districts use as the primary revenue source.
Last week, a hearing took place with the Courts and Criminal Code Committee regarding the proposed House Bill 1297 to decriminalize marijuana in Indiana. If passed, the legislation would allow eligible individuals to possess up to two ounces of cannabis. The possession limit would also include legal edibles.
Additional bills involving legalizing marijuana include Senate Bill 70, Senate Bill 82, and House Bill 1263.
SB 70 would decriminalize marijuana possession up to one ounce. SB 82 would create a defense for people operating a boat or vehicle with cannabis in their system if they were not intoxicated. HB 1263 would legalize marijuana for medical use.
Democratic Governor Tony Evers proposed a state budget to legalize recreational and medical marijuana in Wisconsin. However, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos explained how including an adult-use legalization law in the budget could prevent a medical program from getting the support it needs from the Senate and Assembly, which are controlled by Republican lawmakers.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu suggested that a medical marijuana program for individuals suffering from chronic pain is nearing support from his caucus. Vos approves the measure to assist those with chronic diseases but doesn’t support laws allowing recreational cannabis use.
Vos believes his caucus would not approve of that type of legislation, and legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes would not benefit the state. He also warned the governor that including adult-use legalization in the budget could result in lost support for legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.