We always keep an eye on developments as various states grapple with legalizing cannabis. Here’s what’s happening in the eastern half of the country recently:
As we reported here a few weeks ago, a legalization measure, one of five competing bills this session, cleared the House in Maryland. Now the Senate has it under consideration, and the main issue seems to be whether to present legalization to voters as an amendment to the state constitution or simply to pass a statute. Maryland’s Senate President believes a bill will get done one way or another, but time is short … the legislative session ends on April 11.
In neighboring Delaware, the news is not so good. A bill to legalize recreational marijuana there was defeated in the House. While a majority voted in favor (a final tally of 23-14), the bill required a two-thirds majority, or 25 votes. This leaves Delaware as the only state with a Democratic governor and a Democrat-controlled legislature where recreational cannabis remains illegal. Supporters say they’ll try again.
There’s a new wrinkle a little further north in New York, where recreational cannabis has already been legalized. Many bills, including several failed attempts in Congress, have included a social justice provision in an attempt to right some of the wrongs done by the War on Drugs. In New York, the first 100 to 200 retail cannabis licenses will go to those who’ve had marijuana-related convictions in their past, including businesses and nonprofits with leaders linked to a marijuana conviction. Some expect that retail sales will be a reality before the end of the calendar year.
And in Congress? Mixed messaging at best. There are perhaps bigger fish to fry given the current economy and world events, and so there’s been no recent progress on lifting the federal cannabis prohibition. Legislators did somehow find time to add to a spending bill a rider prohibiting recreational sales in Washington, DC, while simultaneously protecting state medical cannabis laws from federal interference. Say what?