Cannabis Legislative Recap: March 7th, 2024

In the last week of February, two countries made international cannabis news as Spain and the Philippines both passed laws to legalize medical cannabis countrywide. Meanwhile, in the US, Virginia’s legislators came to a long overdue agreement on adult-use cannabis legislation to send to the governor’s desk. Maryland lawmakers continued debate over worker’s rights and vehicle searches related to cannabis. Some states struggled with cannabis legislation as Ohio attempted to replace K-9 dog units trained to detect cannabis, and a Florida bill to cap THC potency stalled out.

Read more about each of these stories below as we help you stay up to date on cannabis news around the globe.

International Cannabis News 

Both foreign and domestic legislation surrounding the commercial cannabis industry continues to evolve every passing week. Let’s start by taking a look at what’s happening overseas.

Philippine Senators Sign Their Approval of Medical Cannabis Legislation   

Last week, the Senate of the Philippines took one step closer to legalizing medical cannabis. After a review of Senate Bill 2573, or the “Cannabis Medicalization Act of the Philippines,” by joint senate committees, 13 senators signed off on the report to progress the bill for sponsorship and debate in the Senate. The senate committees that reviewed SB2573 included the Committees on Public Order, Dangerous Drugs, Finance, and Health and Demography, as reported by MMJ Daily.

If passed, the bill would legalize medical cannabis to be prescribed by physicians for patients with debilitating or terminal illnesses. Non-medical use of cannabis would remain illegal and be penalized.  

Spanish Ministry of Health Asks for Public Input on Medical Cannabis Legalization  

The Spanish Ministry of Health is asking the public for input on developing a Royal Decree to legalize cannabis for medicinal use. Spain’s Ministry of Health has called on “the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products to prepare a roadmap to approve the regulation” in a translated press release.

The proposed national medical cannabis program shares similarities with other European countries like Norway and Portugal, which have created limited medical cannabis programs with stricter regulations than most medical cannabis programs in the United States. 

US Cannabis News 

While events progressed in the Philippines and Spain, states such as Virginia, Maryland, Florida, and Ohio saw various layers of progress. Let’s dive into several states where citizens continue to press their cannabis legislature forward.

Long Awaited Cannabis Bill Heads to Virginia Governor Youngkin’s Desk — Pharmaceutical Processor License Applications Open Up

Virginia legalized adult-use cannabis for limited cultivation and personal use in 2021, but the regulatory framework required to allow retail sales has struggled to see the light of day. After three years of proposals and political back and forth, legislators in the Virginia House of Representatives and Senate have come together to approve identical bills implementing legal adult-use cannabis sales on May 1st, 2025.

The last hurdle for implementing this legislation sits at Governor Youngkin’s desk. Youngkin made headlines at the beginning of this year for his open lack of interest and support for approving legislation related to cannabis.  

Virginia Application Details

The Virginia Cannabis Control Authority announced they are accepting the first applications to obtain a Health Service Area 1 pharmaceutical processor license. This license would permit the cultivation, production, and retail dispensation of medical cannabis to qualified patients.

The application fee for the license is $18,000, and the initial permit cost is $165,000 if the application for the license is approved. There is an additional $132,000 renewal fee required annually to operate.  All fees are non-refundable. The application window closes on April 30th, 2024.

Maryland Legislators Debate Cannabis Laws for Vehicle Searches and Worker’s Rights  

Identical bills have been proposed in the Maryland Senate and the House of Representatives to implement protection for workers who use cannabis for medical or recreational purposes off-duty.

Currently, employers in Maryland can discriminate against employees in their hiring and firing practices based on past cannabis convictions or current cannabis use. If passed, this legislation would “prohibit an employer from discriminating against an individual because of the individual’s use of cannabis products” and require that employers prove the employee’s impairment while on the job.   

Maryland’s House Bill 525 and Senate Bill 513 both made it through initial approval by the respective legislative bodies and have been referred to the committee for review. The Senate Finance Committee and the House Economic Matters Committee have not commented on the state of these bills. 

Meanwhile, debate continues over Maryland HB 320 and SB 396, which would repeal current legislation that prohibits a law enforcement officer from stopping or searching a vehicle based “solely on the odor of burnt or unburnt cannabis.”

This Republican-led bill was introduced in November 2023 and has not progressed beyond lively debate between legislators attempting to identify the need for the bill. Driving under the influence of cannabis and driving while consuming cannabis both remain illegal and set precedence for the stop and search of a vehicle. 

Ohio Introduces Legislation to Help Replace Current Police Dogs 

Nearly 300 K-9s are set to retire in Ohio after the recent legalization of cannabis for adult use, as reported by 13 News Ohio. The current drug-sniffing dogs have been trained to alert their human partners to the smell of cannabis along with a list of illegal narcotics. Unfortunately, man’s best friend cannot be untrained to alert their handler when they smell cannabis, legal or illegal.

Ohio police are scrambling for the resources to decommission and replace their current K-9s with new pups without a cannabis bias. Representatives Brennan and Williams proposed HB 396, which would allocate $20,000 per K-9 retiree for the acquisition and training of their replacement. 

Proposed Potency Cap on THC Will Not Move Forward in Florida 

In our first legislative recap, we covered the progress of Florida’s SB 1698, which would put a THC potency cap on cannabis products. The bill is unlikely to progress this session as it was not included in the final meeting agenda of the Fiscal Policy Committee. Bill sponsor Florida Representative Ralph Massullo (R) stated to Marijuana Moment, that he believes the legislation will not become law.

Growing Our Knowledge Together

Make sure to check back next week as we continue to cover important legislative happenings in the cannabis industry. Three months into 2024, we have already seen a lot of (mostly) positive developments in cannabis legislation.

We can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings and encourage you to stay up-to-date on industry progress in your area. If you have news to share surrounding the cannabis industry in your state, feel free to drop a comment below!

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