In the dynamic year of 2023, the American cannabis legalization landscape experienced a significant rebuild as state legislators embraced many, rather-large changes. Responding to the ever-loud voice of the public, lawmakers across numerous states embarked on multifaceted reforms that transcended mere legalization. These comprehensive shifts encompassed a spectrum of initiatives, from the groundbreaking strides in adult-use legalization to the crucial expungement of past marijuana-related offenses, further extending to the expansion of medical marijuana programs.
Expanding Consumer Rights:
In a wave of progressive reforms, several states have championed the rights of cannabis consumers by enacting laws that shield them from workplace discrimination. They’re also tackling the consequences of past marijuana-related offenses. Ohio, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C., have stood out for their groundbreaking initiatives, leading to the monumental vacating of an estimated 1.7 million criminal records. These laws have not only symbolized a shift in attitudes towards cannabis but have also had tangible impacts on individuals’ lives.
Moreso, these states have taken a firm stance against employer discrimination based on off-hours cannabis consumption. Prohibiting employers from penalizing individuals for consuming cannabis outside of work hours reflects a growing acknowledgment of personal liberties. While also allowing for the separation of private life from professional responsibilities. These policies represent significant strides toward social justice. It grants individuals a chance to reintegrate into society without the burden of past convictions while safeguarding their rights in the workplace. They underscore a more inclusive and equitable approach to cannabis laws. Which recognizes the need for fair treatment and second chances for those previously penalized for marijuana-related offenses.
Adult-Use Legalization Highlights:
- In April, Delaware lawmakers passed House Bill 1 and House Bill 2, decriminalizing personal use quantities of cannabis for individuals aged 21 and older.
- House Bill 2, known as the Delaware Marijuana Control Act, establishes a regulatory framework for marijuana production and retail sales, issuing licenses for retail, manufacturing, cultivation, and testing.
- In May, Governor Wes Moore signed Senate Bill 516 into law, implementing a voter-approved referendum for adult-use cannabis.
- Retail cannabis sales commenced on July 1, accompanied by increased possession limits for registered patients and the legalization of home cultivation.
- Governor Tim Walz signed legislation in May allowing adults to purchase, possess, and home-cultivate cannabis.
- In November, Ohio voters approved Issue 2, permitting adults to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants in a private residence.
- The law also establishes a licensed system for commercial cannabis production and retail sales.
- New York: In a surprising move, New York unveiled a fresh round of adult use cannabis licenses in the waning months of the year, sparking renewed interest and anticipation among enthusiasts and entrepreneurs eager to enter the burgeoning industry, Brining in over 7,000 applications!
- Governor John Bel Edwards signed House Bill 286 in 2023, streamlining the expungement process for marijuana possession convictions.
- The new law allows first-time offenders to request expungement within 90 days of conviction, reducing the waiting period from five years.
- New Mexico:
- House Bill 314, signed into law in March, facilitates a process for individuals with past cannabis convictions to verify and expedite automatic expungement.
- Senate Bill 288, signed by Governor Mike DeWine in January, amends state law to exclude marijuana paraphernalia possession from a person’s criminal record.
- The legislation also provides pathways for the sealing of misdemeanor marijuana convictions within one year.
- Washington, DC:
- Mayor Muriel Bowser signed The Second Chance Amendment Act into law, allowing for the automatic review and expungement of convictions related to marijuana offenses that have been decriminalized or legalized.
- The new law also facilitates record expungement for individuals previously convicted of certain marijuana-related offenses.
Advancements in Medical Marijuana:
- Senate Bill 302, known as Ryan’s Law, was signed into law in October, allowing older patients in private hospitals to access certain cannabis products.
- Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 387 in June, permitting physicians to issue medical cannabis authorizations via telehealth appointments.
- The law also grants medical marijuana treatment center licenses to Black farmers, promoting equity in the industry.
- Senate Bill 47, signed into law in March, directs the state to implement a medical cannabis access program.
- The law provides protections for qualified patients in various areas, including organ transplants, child visitation, and school enrollment.
- Governor John Bel Edwards signed House Bill 460 in June, expanding the number of state-licensed cannabis pharmacies for a more equitable distribution.
- New Hampshire:
- House Bill 611, signed in August, removes restrictions on accessing medical cannabis products, allowing patients with various conditions to use them as a treatment option.
- North Dakota:
- Senate Bill 2068, signed into law in March, increases the allowable quantity of THC-infused products that patients can possess.
- Governor Spencer Cox signed Senate Bill 46 in March, limiting punitive actions against public employees who consume medical cannabis at home in compliance with state law.
- Another bill, House Bill 230, allocates funding for the creation of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research.
- House Bill 270, effective in June, increases the quantity of plants patients can home-cultivate, expands qualifying conditions, and removes registration fees for caregivers.
Workplace Drug Testing Reforms:
In a significant stride toward protecting employees’ rights, several states made substantial reforms in workplace drug testing policies. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of Senate Bill 700 in October marked a pivotal moment, rendering it illegal for employers to inquire about an applicant’s previous cannabis usage. This law not only expands worker protections but also prevents discrimination rooted in off-duty cannabis use. Similarly, Michigan witnessed a notable shift in policy when the state’s Civil Service Commission, in July, eliminated pre-employment marijuana screening for the majority of state workers, with exceptions remaining intact for roles considered safety-sensitive. Meanwhile, in Washington, Governor Jay Inslee endorsed Senate Bill 5123 into law, curbing employers’ ability to take adverse actions against new hires following a failed marijuana drug test. These measures collectively signify a significant move toward safeguarding employee rights and diminishing discriminatory practices linked to cannabis use outside the workplace.
Industry and Economic Implications:
Recent legislative movements in several states have significantly impacted the operational landscape for cannabis businesses. California saw Governor Gavin Newsom approve Assembly Bill 128, empowering state regulators to issue licenses to ‘Cannabis Event Organizers. This move is poised to enhance the organization and management of cannabis-related events, fostering a more regulated and structured industry. In Colorado, House Bill 1279, signed into law, revolutionized retail by enabling licensed retailers to accept online payments for marijuana sales, ushering in greater convenience and modernization within the market.
Connecticut’s HB 6491 marked a significant step in reducing the tax burden on state-licensed cannabis businesses. By allowing them to deduct ordinary business expenses, this legislation aims to create a more equitable financial environment for these entities. Illinois followed suit with Governor JB Pritzker’s signing of House Bill 3817, providing licensed marijuana businesses with the ability to claim state-level tax deductions, fostering an environment more conducive to business growth and sustainability.
Maine and Nevada also contributed to this landscape shift. Legislative Document 1063 in Maine opened doors for state-licensed cannabis businesses, to avail themselves of state tax deductions. This promotes economic stability within the industry. Nevada’s Senate Bill 277, signed into law by Governor Joe Lombardo, expanded legal purchase and possession limits for adults while providing individuals with prior convictions an opportunity to work in the licensed cannabis sector, signaling a commitment to inclusivity and growth.
Other Legislative Adjustments:
New Jersey and New York rounded off these advancements. NJ A5323 in New Jersey allowed licensed marijuana businesses to deduct specific expenses on state tax returns, easing financial strains. Meanwhile, in New York, legislation such as S 7508 provided licensed cannabis businesses with access to local tax deductions. While S 1047 fostered improved relationships between banks and these cannabis entities, potentially enhancing financial services within the industry. These legislative changes collectively reflect a concerted effort to fortify and support the expanding cannabis market. While at the same time addressing financial and operational challenges faced by businesses in this sector.
In 2023, the United States witnessed a significant stride towards progressive cannabis policies. State lawmakers responded to public sentiment. With the passing of multifaceted legislation that expanded consumer rights, facilitated expungement, broadened medical access, and reformed workplace practices. These changes reflect a growing understanding of the need for comprehensive cannabis reform and signify a promising trajectory for the future. Stay up to date for more Cannabis & CEA news via our website, https://freshalternative.farm