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VA Lawmakers Seek MJ Sales Compromise, AR MedMJ Expansion Init Approved for Signature-Gathering, More... (2/21/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1205)

Marijuana Policy

Fentanyl test strips could soon be legal in Idaho. (Creative Commons)
Arizona Marijuana Interstate Commerce Bill Filed. The three West Coast legal marijuana states have already adopted bills into law that would allow for interstate commerce in marijuana with the removal of the threat of federal prosecution, and now Arizona could be the next to get onboard that train. Lawmakers there have filed a bill to allow pot grown in the state to be sold across state lines, House Bill 2770.

"What this measure is trying to do i… get Arizona to that point to where they can be at the start line so that when the feds wave the flag they can start competing and start selling immediately across state lines," said Rep. Justin Wilmeth (R), the bill's sponsor and chair of the state House Commerce Committee.

In 2019, Oregon became the first state to pass an interstate commerce bill, followed by California in 2022, and Washington last year.

Virginia Lawmakers Seek Compromise on Competing Marijuana Sales Bills. A House panel has put its consideration of a Senate-approved legal marijuana sales bill, Sen. Aaron Rouse's (D) Senate Bill 448, on hold after the sponsor of a competing House bill, House Bill 698, announced that backers of the two bills are now trying to reach a compromise.

"We're working with Sen. Rouse right now on coming up with a compromise retail cannabis bill," said Del. Paul Krizek (D), sponsor of HB 698 and the chair of the House General Laws Committee. "To that end, we would like to have a motion to pass by for the week."

Stakeholders will be meeting Thursday to discuss a compromise bill, which could be before a Senate panel by Friday and a House panel by early next week.

"What we want is consensus," he said. "We want to be all on the same page."

At this point, both houses have passed a marijuana sales bill and sent it to the other chamber. While broadly similar, there are differences over issues such as the timeline for licensing and when sales begin, social equity provisions, tax rates, and whether outdoor marijuana cultivation will be allowed.

"Certainly the idea here is we are negotiating to come up with a consensus bill that both the House and the Senate can approve and we can avoid going into conference," said Krizek. "The most important part for my caucus -- for the House caucus -- is going to be on making sure the bill recognizes the decades of harm done to African American communities by the so-called war on drugs. Sen. Rouse is working to achieve pretty much the same goals as we are, which is really to combat the illegal cannabis market," he said. "We're in a good place. We're working towards that consensus."

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Attorney General Okays Medical Marijuana Expansion Initiative for Signature-Gathering. State Attorney General Tim Griffin (R) on Tuesday gave the official go-ahead for a medical marijuana initiative, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2024, to begin signature-gathering in a bid to appear on the November ballot.

The measure would expand the state's existing medical marijuana program by allowing more healthcare providers to recommend the drug to patients and vastly expanding the number of conditions for which it could be used. It would also recognize patients from other states and make patient cards good for three years instead of the current one year. And it includes a provision that would legalize adult-use marijuana if federal pot prohibition ends.

Griffin rejected an earlier version of the initiative, saying there ambiguities and "misleading" language, but the initiative backers have now satisfied his concerns.

They have until July 5 to collect 90,704 valid voter signatures from registered voters to qualify for the November ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Poll Has Support for Medical Marijuana at 70 Percent. A new poll from the Neilan Strategy Group has support for legalizing medical marijuana at 70 percent in the Cornhusker State. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, which has been trying for years to get a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot, is trying again this year.

"Nebraskans are clearly ready to legalize medical marijuana," said Perre Neilan of Neilan Strategy Group.

Crista Eggers of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana said Monday the poll results are similar to what they've seen in recent years and is not surprised "whatsoever."

"Nebraskans are obviously ready to legalize medicinal cannabis," she said.

The group needs valid voter signatures from about 86,000 state voters and they need at least 5 percent of voters from 38 of the state's 93 counties. Eggers said Monday that they already had 32,000 signatures and have qualified in 24 counties already and that they are "much farther ahead" than in 2020 or 2022.

"We're very excited about where we're at," she said. "This time, we're going to get it done or it is not going to happen."

Harm Reduction

Idaho House Approves Bill to Legalize Fentanyl Test Strips. Just days after lawmakers attempted to address the state's fentanyl crisis by passing new mandatory minimum sentences for some fentanyl offenses, the House took another tack Wednesday: It approved a bill to legalize fentanyl test strips, House Bill 441.

The bill would legalize the strips by removing them from the state's definition of drug paraphernalia.

"Considering that there were 188 lives lost last year in Idaho to fentanyl, if we're able to mitigate just one of those with this product and allowing it to get across the board, we've done our job here in this Legislature," said bill cosponsor Rep. Marco Erickson (R-Idaho Falls).

The House vote was 69-0 with one absence. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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