Cannabis reform across America: a look at pot legislation in 26 states

Let me grow.

The movement to reform our failed cannabis policies has grown tremendously in recent years and months. It’s not slowing down anytime soon. Cannabis reform is a mainstream issue, and frankly, there’s no denying it. A majority in the county support legalizing cannabis, and 81% support its legalization for medical purposes.
On top of this, a majority of states in our country (27 in total) have either decriminalized cannabis possession (14), or legalized it for medical and/or recreational purposes (18). The remaining states are hard at work towards reform, and advocates in the states mentioned above are vehemently trying to improve their situation. For those who have been on the line about getting involved in helping bring cannabis law change, now is absolutely the time to jump in.
Below is a breakdown of efforts going on around the country:

In Alabama, the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition has announced that they’re working on 5 cannabis-related bills; everything from simple (though substantial) patient protections, to full legalization. The first of these five to be filed, House Bill 315, has been assigned to the House Committee on Health. The bill would provide prosecution protection for patients who possess and cultivate cannabis, as long as they get a recommendation from a doctor, and then a license from the state’s Department of Health (which will determine the possession limits).

In Arizona, Republican representatives are attempting to repeal the state’s medical cannabis laws, by putting it, once again, to a vote of the people. Arizona residents should be prepared to once again have to defend their right to use this safe and non-lethal medicine.
Last year Issue 5, which would have legalized medical cannabis in the state, lost 49% to 51%, surprising many in the political world that it had such a strong showing.
Just last week, proponents of this effort have filed a new initiative, aiming for the 2014 ballot.
In California, activists are working towards the Regulation of Medical Cannabis Act, an act that would expand upon California’s current medical cannabis law and is being worked on for the 2014 election.
Beyond this, some activists will begin collecting signatures starting in May for the California Cannabis Hemp and Health Initiative, which would legalize cannabis in the state, including possession of up to 12 pounds, and the home cultivation of up to 99 plants. Richard Lee, the proponent of Prop 19, is working on an initiative aiming for the 2016 ballot.

Regulations are currently being established for legal cannabis retail outlets after the passage of Amendment 64 in November. If the federal government minds their own business, and all goes as planned, cannabis stores will be opening in the state either by the end of the year, or early next year. Cannabis clubs have already began to spring up, with more in the works.
All the clutter aside, here’s what’s important: If you’re 21 or older in the state, and possess an ounce of cannabis and are growing 6 plants at home, you’re not breaking state law.
Recent polling has shocked many in the state, finding that 70% support legalized medical cannabis, with less than 1 in 4 being in opposition.
In the state’s legislature, both the Senate and House are currently discussing bills to legalize cannabis. Florida Senate Bill 1250 has been assigned to the state’s Health Policy Committee; its companion bill in the House is House Bill 1139.
These measures would allow qualified patients to possess up to 4 ounces of cannabis, grow up to 8 plants, and directs the state to license and regulate medical cannabis dispensaries.
Page down for more states with pending cannabis legislation.

Although the state’s politicians don’t seem willing to budge anytime soon on cannabis law reform, a group named the Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform and Education (Georgia C.A.R.E. Project), has set out to change that, and to change cannabis laws in the state.

Recent polling shows that over 80% in Hawaii support medical marijuana use, 58% support decriminalization, and 57% support legalization, taxation and regulation.
Just this week, Hawaii’s Senate voted unanimously to decriminalize up to an ounce of cannabis, sending it to the House. Legalization discussions have stalled.
Compassionate Idaho, a non-profit, grassroots group, announced yesterday that they’re running an initiative – with signature gathering beginning Friday – to legalize cannabis in the state for medical purposes. They’re aiming for the 2014 ballot.
The measure would allow for possession of up to 2.5 ounces, and the cultivation of up to 12 plants if the individual is 15 or more miles from one of the dispensaries that the initiative would establish.

Illinois lawmakers have recently approved House Bill 1, which would legalize medical cannabis, out of its initial committee. The bill would legalize the possession by qualifying patients of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, and would establish state-licensed and regulated cultivation and distribution centers.
Here’s an update in the state from Neal Smith, the Chairman of Indiana NORML:
State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) has introduced S.B. 0580. This bill would decriminalize two ounces, to a $500 fine. The bill would also relegalize industrial Hemp. It has been sent to the Corrections and Criminal Law committee. Chairman Michael Young has not set the bill for a committee hearing, saying he is still “Evaluating” it. We have information about contacting Senator Young at You can read the bill at [the state legislative site]. There is also S.B. 196 that would reduce the Habitual Offender status in Marijuana cases. You can read that bill online at the state legislative site.
A bill to legalize medical cannabis in the state recently passed out of a Senate subcommittee, but appears dead for the session.
Page down for more states with pending cannabis legislation.

Kentucky advocates have been working hard to legalize hemp in the state, and it’s been paying off. Senate Bill 50, to legalize hemp, has passed out of the state’s Senate by a vote of 31-6, and just this week passed out of its initial House committee. It now awaits a vote of the full House.
Recent polling shows that 65% in the state support legal hemp, 60% support legal medical cannabis, and 40% support legalized recreational cannabis.

Legislation has been filed in the state which would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces, a small amount of plants for private cultivation, and would legalize state-licensed retail outlets.
In Maryland, legislation has been introduced to legalize cannabis for those 21 and older.
In Michigan, legislation is being considered that would expand upon and improve the state’s medical cannabis law, by explicitly allowing medical cannabis dispensaries. The bill currently sits in the House.
In Minnesota, bipartisan legislation has been filed in the state’s House that would legalize hemp.

The organization Show-Me Cannabis, which sponsored a legalization initiative this past year, has announced that they will be running another statewide initiative, and are trying to decide whether to run in 2014, or 2016.
New Hampshire:
A group of bipartisan lawmakers have introduced a bill to legalize cannabis for those 21 and older. Recent polls have shown that more than 50 percent of New Hampshire residents support legalization.
New Jersey:
In New Jersey the legislation A1465 is pending, although in all political reality likely won’t pass this year. This bill would reduce the penalties for possession of 15 grams or less to a simple ticket.
As recently reported here on Toke of the Town, legislators are also discussing legislation to protect patients from being denied organ transplants.
Page down for more states with pending marijuana legislation.

New Mexico:
New Mexico is working towards becoming the next state to decriminalize cannabis. Decrim legislation has recently passed out of its initial House committee. The bill would make possession of up to 4 ounce no longer an arrestable misdemeanor offense, but instead a civil infraction. It would also significantly reduce the penalties for those possessing 4-8 ounces.
The state’s Senate also just passed legislation that creates a study to examine the economic impact that legalization would bring to the state. It is now goes before the House for final approval.
New York:
Mayor Bloomberg in an announcement last month stated that starting soon, the city will no longer hold people a night in jail for simple cannabis possession. Beyond that, elected officials continue to discuss medical cannabis, refusing to react time and time again.
Although the state is one of the worst in the nation in regards to cannabis laws (you can get life in prison for hash….), movement is being made to at least reduce the penalties associated with cannabis possession. House Bill 1835 has passed unanimously out of its committee, moving towards a full House vote. The measure would get rid of the law that makes a subsequent cannabis possession charge a guaranteed felony of 2-10 years. It also makes it so that simple cannabis possession on the first offense is just a misdemeanor, whereas now you can be charged with a felony.
Those behind last year’s Measure 80 have announced that if the legislature doesn’t act on legalization this session, they’ll be running initiatives aiming for the 2014 ballot; they’re currently doing polling on these measures, and will be filing one as a statutory law change, and one as a constitutional amendment.
The state’s legislature is currently discussing House Bill 3371, which would legalize the possession of up to 24 ounces, and the home cultivation of up to 6 plants, for those 21 and older.
A legalization bill has recently been introduced in the state. However, the state’s Governor, Tom Corbett, has stated in the past that he would veto any legalization legislation whether for recreational or medicinal purposes. Please make sure to let him know how you feel about that ridiculous overplay of power.

Proponents are still fighting for medical cannabis during this year’s legislative session, as well as working towards lowering the penalties for possession of an ounce or less (changing it from a Class B felony to a Class C felony).
Vermont lawmakers are currently discussing multiple bills to either decriminalize or legalize cannabis.
In Washington, possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is legal, and the Liquor Control Board is working on regulations for cannabis retail outlets that, baring federal interference, will start opening next year. In the legislature this session, multiple cannabis-related bills have moved forward.
As we recently reported on, House Bill 1661 would clear the record of those with a cannabis possession misdemeanor. It’s passed out of its first two committees, and now awaits a full House vote. House Bill 1888 would ensure hemp’s legality in the state, adding legal safeguards like expanding the 0.3% THC standard set by Initiative 502 to be 1% THC. It passed out of its initial committee unanimously. Senate Bill 5528, which would finally add arrest protection for patients in the state (who right now have just an “affirmative defense”), has also passed unanimously out of its initial committee, and is heading towards a full Senate vote.
Anthony Martinelli is the founder of and a regular contributor to Toke of the Town.