Around the country, state lawmakers are gearing up for the new legislative sessions, and some are already making marijuana policy reform a top priority.
In Wisconsin, Rep. Melissa Sargent plans to reintroduce legislation that would end Wisconsin’s criminalization of adult marijuana consumers in exchange for taxing and regulating it like alcohol. Her proposal would also permit seriously ill Wisconsinites — both adults and minors — to access medical marijuana.
As Pennsylvania works to implement its new medical marijuana program, lawmakers plan to reintroduce legislation that would stop jailing marijuana consumers and instead impose a civil fine. Currently, an individual arrested for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana can still be sentenced to as much as 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Last year, Rep. Ed Gainey introduced HB 2706, a bill that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana. He is expected to introduce similar legislation this year.
In Rhode Island, advocates will once again be pushing legislators to end marijuana prohibition after voters in neighboring Massachusetts passed an initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in November.
Last month, Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison (R) and Sen. Steve Dickerson (R) announced that they are introducing a medical marijuana bill to bring meaningful access to many patients in Tennessee and establish 150 dispensaries throughout the state.
Texas Senator José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) pre-filed SB 269, a comprehensive medical cannabis bill, in early December. If passed, this legislation will bring safe and legal access to Texas patients with debilitating medical conditions like cancer, PTSD, chronic pain, and Crohn’s disease, among others. Advocates expect another bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana to be introduced soon.
The year is still early, and there will likely be many more marijuana policy reform bills introduced in the coming weeks. If you would like to find out what is happening in your state, please click here. MPP will continue to follow marijuana-related legislation in all 50 states and DC as it develops.
Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent (D – Madison) is asking her colleagues to sign on to her bill to replace Wisconsin’s marijuana prohibition with a system that regulates marijuana for adults’ use. If you are a Wisconsin resident, email your state representative and senator today and ask them to sign on as co-sponsors!
Rep. Sargent’s proposal is similar to the measures voters in Colorado and Washington overwhelmingly approved of in November 2012. The bill would allow individuals 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana. It would also create a system of regulated marijuana production and retail sales. This sensible approach to marijuana would let law enforcement focus on more serious crimes. It would also create thousands of new, legitimate jobs and raise millions of dollars in revenue for the state each year.