March 7, 2020
Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!
Following are the bills that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check NORML’s Action Center for legislation pending in your state.
Don’t forget to sign up for our email list, and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and U.S. Congress.
Actions to Take
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3884 / S. 2227) is bipartisan legislation that removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus decriminalizing the substance at the federal level and enabling states to set their own policies.
Senate Bill 267 would reduce the penalty for the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of $6,000, to a non-criminal violation punishable only by a maximum fine of $250.
The bill would also remove the threat of jail time for any amount of marijuana possession exceeding two ounces. Further, the bill allows individuals convicted of marijuana possession to get their records expunged after a 5 year, conviction free waiting period.
Legislation is pending, HCR 2045, that seeks to arbitrarily cap the potency of cannabis flowers at two percent THC. NORML opposes the passage of this legislation.
Update: HCR 2045 was approved by the House Rules Committee on 2/27/20.
Legislation is pending, House Bill 2049, that would expand the pool of individuals eligible for medical cannabis.
The measure would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder as well as opioid use disorder.
Update: HB 2049 is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Rules Committee at 1pm on 3/9/20.
Legislation is pending, House Bill 2359, to reduce barriers to employment for those harmed by the War on Drugs.
The bill would prevent applicants from being denied occupational licenses for having previous drug charges, including for cannabis.
Update: HB 2359 is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee at 10am on 3/12/20.
A proposal being considered by House lawmakers seeks to arbitrarily cap the potency of cannabis flowers at ten percent THC. NORML opposes the passage of this legislation.
Update: The bill including the amendment to limit THC content was approved by the House.
Legislation is pending, House Bill 268 and House Bill 528, to allow those convicted of simple marijuana possession to petition the court to restrict access to their records.
Update: HB 528 is scheduled for consideration by the Subcommittee of Judiciary on 3/9/20.
Legislation is pending, House Bill 847, that seeks to criminalize the possession and transportation of hemp flower in the state.
This bill comes after lawmakers passed legislation in 2019 that allows the growing and production of hemp and hemp-derived products, as long as the THC concentration is below 0.3%. This created issues for law enforcement and testing facilities in determining the difference between legal hemp and illegal marijuana.
Update: HB 847 was approved by the House on 3/5/20. The bill now heads to the Senate.
Senate Bill 2543 would prohibit an employer from discriminating against a person in hiring, termination, or condition of employment based on the person’s status as a medical cannabis cardholder or a positive drug test for THC.
Update: SB 2543 was approved by the Senate on 3/3/20. The bill now heads to the House.
Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 2787, to regulate medical cannabis delivery services.
The bill allows the department of health to issue permits to medical cannabis dispensaries for the delivery of medical cannabis and cannabis products to qualifying patients or primary caregivers if certain conditions are met.
Update: SB 2787 was approved by the Senate on 3/3/20. The bill now heads to the House.
Legislation is pending to reduce marijuana possession penalties for first time offenders.
House Bill 49 removes the threat of jail time for first-time offenders who possess no more than 14 grams of marijuana (about half an ounce).
Legislation is pending that would expand the pool of individuals eligible for medical cannabis access.
House Bill 158 authorizes the recommendation of medical marijuana in treating certain neurodegenerative diseases and conditions.
House Bill 330 adds chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia to the set of conditions qualifying a patient for treatment with medical marijuana.
House Bill 455 authorizes recommendation of medical marijuana by physicians for patients in hospice or palliative care.
Legislation is pending, House Bill 550, to expand the state’s marijuana decriminalization law.
If passed, the bill would amend penalties so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is classified as a civil rather than a criminal offense, rather than the current threshold of ten grams.
Update: HB 550 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on 3/9/20.
Legislation is pending, House Bill 83, to automatically expunge certain prior cannabis convictions.
The bill would require all court records and police records relating to certain charges of possession of marijuana to be automatically expunged if the possession charge is the only charge in the case. If marijuana possession was not the only charge, one must wait four years before becoming eligible for automatic expungement.
Update: HB 83 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on 3/9/20.
Legislation is pending to remove the restrictions on formulations of medical cannabis available for patients to use and purchase.
Senate File 4059 would allow patients to inhale herbal, whole-plant medical cannabis.
SF 3551 / HF 3439 would allow children who are registered medical cannabis patients to be administered medical cannabis on school grounds.
House Bill 2674 prohibits employers from terminating, disciplining, or refusing to hire an employee for state-lawful medical cannabis use off the job.
Legislation is pending, House Bill 2715, to protect the rights of parents participating in the state’s medical cannabis program from discrimination from the courts.
The measure would prohibit family courts from denying or restricting parental and/or custody rights to parents based solely on their status as a medical cannabis patient.
Amendments were made on the House floor to House Bill 1896, which if passed would prevent medical cannabis patients from receiving recommendations to use medical marijuana from a physician via telehealth (video conferencing) appointments.
Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 420, permit qualifying patients to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.
The measure would permit patients to grow up to three mature plants and 12 seedlings, and to possess up to eight ounces of home-grown medical cannabis.
Update: SB 420 is scheduled for a Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Work Session at 11am on 3/18/2020 in Legislative Office Building 104.
Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 697, to expand access to medical marijuana.
The bill would allow qualifying patients to access all the alternative treatment centers instead of having to designate just one.
Update: SB 697 was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on 3/5/20.
H7878 would prohibit employment discrimination by the state of Rhode Island against medical marijuana users. The act also requires reasonable accommodations be provided by the state employer.
Update: H7878 is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Labor Committee on 3/11/20.
House Bill 972 is pending, reducing penalties for offenses involving the possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana to a civil violation — punishable by a maximum $25 fine, no arrest, and no criminal record.
Similar legislation, SB 2, is pending in the Senate.
Update: HB 972 and SB 2 have been reconciled into one compromise bill that will now go to the governor for his approval.