The State of Cannabis Laws, Fall 2017

Marijuana laws have changed significantly in the last five years at the state level. According to Governing, 29 states and the District of Columbia have legislation legalization some form of marijuana use. Seven states, including Nevada, and the District of Columbia, now allow recreational cannabis use.

Yet the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, legally equating the plant to heroin and opioids.

This article gives a fall update on what’s happening legislatively at the state and federal level with marijuana legislation. What can we expect for 2018?

Recent Changes to Marijuana Laws

On September 25, the FBI reported that they are still arresting people for marijuana offenses under federal law. Roughly 653,249 people were arrested in 2016 for pot possession. That was one person every 48 seconds that year. This, despite the fact that the public support for legalization of cannabis is the highest that it has ever been.

On October 24, Maine appears to be moving forward to implement the voter’s mandate to legalize pot. It’s been a year since the majority of Maine citizens voted to legalize marijuana. The Maine legislature has lagged behind in creating policy initiatives to tax and regulate the sale of the plant. The political director of the Marijuana Policy Project said, “It is time to start working toward that goal of getting the marijuana market out of the hands of criminals and under the control of the state and legitimate businesses.”  In a contrary move, the Maine Governor announced legislation that would further delay implementation of “the will of the people,” in 2019.

On October 25, a new Gallup Poll was released showing support for marijuana is nationally at an all-time high. Sixty-four percent of Americans support the elimination of marijuana prohibition. For the first time in history, the majority of voters who identify as Republican (51%) agree. Marijuana advocates say that arresting Americans for pot use is a waste of resources. The Director of the Marijuana Policy Project stated, “Adult-use marijuana laws create jobs, generate tax revenue, and protect consumers while taking the marijuana market out of the hands of criminals.”

In the meantime, in Nevada, the state legislature has been busy working on laws to regulate marijuana, which was legalized by voters earlier in the year. According to the Las Vegas Sun, some of the pending regulations include:

  • Assembly Bill 259 would remove the crime of pot possession from those convicted for carrying the same amounts of marijuana that are now legal under today’s law.
  • Assembly Bill 422 would lessen the costs of medical marijuana cards to $50.
  • Assembly Bill 48 would require a 10% excise tax on recreational marijuana sales. The funds raised would go toward the state’s rainy day fund.
  • Senate Bill 344 requires opaque, childproof packaging on marijuana edibles and restrict the amount of TCH in the food.

Pot Laws in 2018

The High Times is predicting that eight states will move to fully legalize marijuana, even for recreational use. They also see another dozen states that will move to remove restrictions on medical marijuana.

In 2016, businesses tied to legal cannabis production were part of a $6.5 billion industry and that volume is expected to expand.