There has never been better odds for significant marijuana reform in the United States. Because the current President has repeatedly shared his support for decriminalization and legalization of medical marijuana, as well as seeking expungements for people with prior cannabis convictions – and with Democrats who tend to support the issue in control of Congress – the future may be bright for the 91% of adults who support marijuana legalization.
Although federal support may be forthcoming – Texas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are the real frontlines now for potential change. They have demonstrated the power of community as the first step towards major marijuana reforms. This is what you should know:
Today more than ever, Texans support making cannabis legal “for any use.” According to the February 2021 University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls, 60% of respondents supported legalization for small amounts of marijuana for both medical and recreational use. This was well represented with the latest bill passed by the Texas House; in June 2021, HB 1535 was signed into law to raise the THC limit from 0.5% to 1% and expand coverage to include all forms of cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In other news, Texans are making local modest steps towards decriminalizing marijuana – Ground Game Texas, led by former Democratic congressional candidates, is raising awareness on marijuana reform. The progressive non-profit has made the case that making local laws would help with further state-wide reforms.
The next step in mind is the “Austin Freedom Act,” which seeks to end arrests and citations for misdemeanor marijuana possession within the city of Austin. In order to qualify for the November 2021 ballot, it needs to collect at least 20,000 valid signatures by July 20.
Georgia, one of the most conservative states in terms of marijuana reform – is also making small local steps. Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed legislation into law expanding access to low-THC Medical Cannabis, permitting the establishment of up to 30 state-licensed retailers of high-CBD/low-THC oil products to qualified patients. Senate Bill 195 will favor about 15,000 Georgians who are registered under the law to qualify for the use of high-CBD/low-THC oils. The new law took effect on July 1, 2021.
Another key state is Florida – although medical marijuana is legal, voters have been actively collecting signatures – aiming for a modest marijuana reform. The last attempt was recently killed, making it the second citizen initiative this year that would have established a regulated marijuana market in the state.
Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly surprised us with a near-unanimous medical marijuana win. Although Senate Bill 711 would still have to go through the senate and the House of Representatives – it’s still a good first step, and hopes are high to see the bill pass this year.Public polling shows that a slim majority of North Carolinians support fully legal marijuana, and nearly 75% support medical marijuana – adding to this, voters have seen a large influx in money for the state budget in taxes and fees. In sum, cards seem aligned, and with the support of experienced politicians – seems like it’s North Carolina’s year for decent marijuana reform.
Pennsylvania is a good example of local-based marijuana laws that have been introduced in major cities, as marijuana is illegal for recreational use statewide. As mentioned above, pushing legislation on major cities can lead to major reforms, as it was the case in Pennsylvania.
5 years after medical marijuana was legalized, Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation that will provide important updates to Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act to give broader and better access to patients. House Bill 1024 aims to improve patient safety and pay more attention to medical marijuana products, and expand eligibility.
Recreational use of marijuana is illegal in Wisconsin, however, hope has risen among the community as the city of Milwaukee has reduced the fine for marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession of 25 grams or less to $1. This was the result of the efforts of community groups – as Legalize MKE and the Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network, making the case of the power of local push as little steps towards major state-wide reforms.
As two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization and President Biden has shared his support – hopes are high for a federal reform. However, these 6 states have proven once again the power of local communities as the first step towards marijuana legalization.