Cannabis Legislative Recap: March 22nd, 2024

The White House created a lot of cannabis buzz last week. Following the State of the Union Address in which Biden called for “Marijuana Reform,” his running mate, Vice President Kamala Harris, made her own public comment on cannabis legalization and held a roundtable last week with cannabis activists.

In the same week, multiple states across the US clamped down on hemp-derived, intoxicating cannabinoids, including Arizona, Florida, and Iowa. In two more mature cannabis states, Oregon and Massachusetts, politicians called for improvements to cannabis legislation. 

Continue reading to take a deeper dive into cannabis news across the U.S.

Vice President Kamala Harris Calls on DEA to Reschedule Cannabis ASAP

Late last week, Vice President Kamala Harris made headlines within the cannabis community. Before sitting down with cannabis activists in a roundtable, Harris made a public statement calling for the DEA to move forward with cannabis rescheduling. After her statement, the Vice President sat down with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, rapper Fat Joe, and three individuals who received federal pardons for their cannabis convictions from President Joe Biden in October 2022.

Unfortunately, the meeting between these cannabis minds took place behind closed doors. One attendee revealed to Marijuana Moment that the Vice President said, “We need to legalize marijuana.”

This roundtable comes on the heels of President Biden’s State of the Union Address. There, he asserted, “No one should be jailed for simply using or having it [cannabis] on their record.” This is the first time that a president has mentioned cannabis in their state of the union address since President Ronald Reagan publicly declared his war on drugs in 1988. Following these events, many are speculating that Kamala and Biden will include cannabis legalization as a key point of their re-election platform heading into the 2024 primaries.

Sale of Hemp-Derived Intoxicating Cannabinoids Deemed Illegal in Arizona  

Last week, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes released a fourteen-page legal opinion. It stated that the current sale of delta-8 and other hemp-derived intoxicating cannabinoids in smoke shops and convenience stores in the Grand Canyon State is unlawful. The 2018 Farm Bill unintentionally opened a federal loophole for the cultivation, production, and sale of hemp-derived cannabinoids. Attorney General Kris Mayes insists that the current Arizona law closes this loophole.

Under Arizona law, hemp-derived, intoxicating cannabinoids must be regulated by the Arizona Department of Health Services. To remain compliant, these intoxicating cannabinoids would have to be sold at licensed cannabis dispensaries. This opinion from the Attorney General is not legally binding. Therefore, it is unlikely that these products will be removed from smoke shops and gas station shelves based solely on Mayes’ opinion. That said, Arizona legislators will likely craft bills to address the sale of intoxicating cannabinoids.

Delta 8 Ban Bill Sent to Florida Governor DeSantis

In early March, both Florida legislative bodies passed Senate Bill 1698 and sent the law to the governor’s desk for his signature. If DeSantis signs the bill, Florida will become the 25th state to restrict or ban the sale of delta-8 products. The law would go into effect on October 1st, 2024.

This was an unforeseen turn of events. We reported in a previous legislative recap that the bill’s sponsor, Florida Representative Ralph Massullo (R), stated that he believed the legislation would not become law. Now, it has one last stop at Governor DeSantis’ desk before becoming Florida law.

The bill would ban delta-8 THC along with other intoxicating cannabinoids, including delta-10 THC, THCV, THC-O, and HHC. Additionally, the bill would set limits for delta-9 THC potency in hemp products and set an age requirement of 21 for the purchase of hemp extracts. It would also outlaw food products containing intoxicating hemp cannabinoids that resemble snacks or candy that could be considered “attractive to children.” 

Bill Approved to Implement Changes to the Iowa Hemp Act 

The Iowa House of Representatives approved an amendment to the Iowa Hemp Act. The amendment, House File 2605, would place a cap on consumable hemp products and set an age requirement of 21 years for purchasing hemp products that contain THC. The cap would set a per-serving maximum of 4 milligrams of THC and 10 milligrams of THC per container

The bill passed with a 78-16 vote in the House and was sent to the Senate for consideration. For this amendment to become law, legislators will have to act quickly. The deadline for the Iowa 2024 legislative session is set for mid-April. 

Massachusetts Governor Looks to Pardon Tens of Thousands with Cannabis Convictions

On Wednesday, March 13th, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey announced she is seeking to issue pardons for those convicted of misdemeanor cannabis charges. If approved by the Governor’s Council, it is estimated that over one hundred thousand people would receive immediate pardons. Pardons do not immediately expunge or seal these criminal records and updating the criminal records of those pardoned would take some time.

Those ineligible for the pardons include people convicted of greater cannabis convictions, including:

  • Possession with intent to distribute
  • Distribution
  • Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of cannabis
  • Trafficking of the plant.

People eligible for the pardon require a conviction of a misdemeanor cannabis charge from as early as the 1970s up until March 13th, 2024.

Cannabis Licensing Cap Amendment Passes the Oregon Senate

When Oregon legalized adult-use cannabis, the state decided not to limit the number of cannabis licenses available in the Beaver State. This led to an immense influx of license applications. Eventually, the cannabis market became oversaturated, and Oregon is still recovering. House Bill 4121 attempts to reign in the number of cannabis license applications available in Oregon. 

If the amendment becomes law, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission would not be able to accept applications for new retail licenses unless “there is not more than one active license per 7,500 residents who are 21 years old and older for production,” as reported by local Oregon news outlet KOIN. The amendment would set an application cap on processors and wholesalers as well. It states, “OLCC cannot accept new applications unless there is more than one active license per 12,500 residents who are 21 years old and older.”

If Governor Tina Kotek were to sign the bill into law, it would take effect in January 2025.

Taking Cannabis in a Positive Direction

As spring gets into full swing, we will keep you up to date on the latest legislative news. Make sure to check back next week for more cannabis industry updates. And feel free to leave a comment below, letting us know your thoughts on these changes in the cannabis industry.

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