It’s only January, and lawmakers in four states have already filed legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis as a new legislative season kicks off.
Kentucky, which legalized medical use last year, has two bills to legalize adult use. Medical marijuana states New Hampshire and West Virginia filed bills that would legalize adult use.
Wisconsin, which already had a Democrat-led bill to legalize that likely will not get off the ground, saw legislators submit three bills for a more restrictive adult-use program, to decriminalize possession and legalize medical use.
Meanwhile, Virginia, which allows possession and personal cultivation, has a new bill to establish a legal marijuana marketplace.
In the Bluegrass State, HB 90 was introduced by Rep. Rachel Robert, Democrat minority whip, on Jan 3. It would establish a full program to legalize possession, cultivation, distribution, sales and taxation. An Adult Use Cannabis Control Board would have “broad authority” to regulate and oversee all aspects of cannabis, from possession to product sales. A new Department of Cannabis Control would administer the program. The bill establishes a 9% excise tax for the first year and allows local governments to tax up to an additional 5%.
The bill would limit a person to holding two different license types. And it requires seed to sale tracking. The excise tax would take effect July 1, 2025, and sales could begin a year later.
On the lighter side is HB 72, introduced by Democrat Reps. Nima Kulkarni and Beverly Chester-Burton. It would legalize possession and personal use of up to one ounce of flower, 5 grams of concentrate or resin, and products with up to 1000 mg of delta-8 or delta-9 THC. Individuals could grow up to five plants. It would take effect Jan. 1, 2025.
Meanwhile, medical marijuana regulations under the new law are due by July 1, with the program taking effect January 2025.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said he would prefer to see state-operated retailers for adult-use sales, similar to how alcohol is regulated in the state, and signed legislation last year to create a commission to study the idea. But, reportedly, his last-minute demands left the commission to adjourn empty handed.
On Jan. 3, HB 1633 was introduced to continue the idea of an adult-use program regulated similar to alcohol. A public hearing in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee was held Jan. 17. The bill would allow for licensed cannabis stores and cultivation centers regulated by a Cannabis Advisory Board that reports to the liquor commission. Voters would decide whether their city will allow cannabis establishments during biennial elections beginning in 2024.
Personal possession would be limited to 4 ounces of flower, 10 grams of concentrate and 10 grams of THC in products. Medical marijuana patients would be allowed to cultivate.
A couple of other new bills would permit patients and designated caregivers to cultivate and would double the amount of medical marijuana a patient could possess to 4 ounces.
Wisconsin is one of a handful of states where marijuana remains completely illegal.
Democrat-led AB 506, and its companion SB 486, to legalize adult-use with a full cultivation and sale program has been languishing without a hearing in the Republican-controlled legislature. Instead, a Republican-led proposal to legalize medical use of non-smokable products sold by state-run stores is circulating for co-sponsors.
AB 861 would reduce the penalty for possession of up to 14 grams to a $100 fine.
HB 4873, introduced Jan. 17 in West Virginia, would allow adults to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis and cannabis products. Individual counties can decide whether to allow production and sales via a voter-approved referendum. Facilities would be regulated by the Bureau of Public Health. The bill imposes a 15% state sales tax plus a 6% local sales tax for counties and cities.
West Virginia legalized medical marijuana in 2021 and has 104 active licenses for cultivation, retail sales, manufacturing and testing, according to the CRB Monitor database as of Jan. 18.
Virginia sales and distribution
Virginia legalized recreational possession and cultivation of up to four plants in 2021. HB 698, introduced Jan. 10 by Democrat Delegate Paul Krizek, would create a legal cannabis marketplace. A new Virginia Cannabis Control Authority Board of Directors would regulate and control the possession, transportation, sale and delivery of marijuana products. It would also license cannabis businesses. Localities that wanted to ban cannabis facilities would have to pass a referendum to do so.
States continue to lead on hemp regulation
As states continue to wait for clarity and enforcement from federal regulators on hemp-based cannabinoids, four more have introduced bills to regulate products or outright ban hemp-derived THC.
After enacting a law last year regulating hemp packaging and marketing to children, Florida seeks to restrict the amount of THC in products with new bills in the House and Senate. The legislation limits delta-9 THC to 2 mg per serving or 10 mg per container and would prohibit any other THC derivatives.
Missouri’s Intoxicating Cannabinoid Control Act would regulate hemp-derived cannabinoids as marijuana under the Department of Health and Senior Services. This would require the same growing, testing and marketing rules as in the state’s adult-use program. Products would have to be sold in one of the state’s 206 licensed dispensaries.
Both Nebraska and New Hampshire would like to ban hemp-based cannabinoids. Nebraska’s LB 999 would amend the Hemp Farming act to eliminate protections for all cannabinoids, including non-intoxicating CBD. It changes the definition of legal hemp to a delta-9 THC concentration of “not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis for raw hemp and not more than 0.3 percent on a percentage by weight basis for processed hemp.”
New Hampshire’s SB 180 passed the Senate in February 2023, but it has been sitting in the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs committee since then. It would prohibit products containing virtually any natural or synthetic THC (no more than 0.03% THC on a dry weight basis) including delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC and other THC variants. The committee on Jan. 3 referred the bill for an interim study, a report that should reflect the majority decision of the committee.
Other bills to regulate cannabis commerce
In other legal states, bills have already been introduced to expand and support cannabis businesses.
After a veto by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year, California Assemblymember Matt Haney has reintroduced a bill to legalize cannabis cafes. He said AB 1775 will be amended to address the governor’s concerns about protecting employees from smoke inhalation.
New Jersey lawmakers reintroduced bills to allow for interstate commerce, protect financial institutions and insurance companies, establish a state bank for handling marijuana-related funds, and exempting medical marijuana from sales and use taxes.
New Jersey and Washington also have bills that would allow limited home cultivation.