As of April 2015, 23 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) currently has laws legalizing marijuana in some capacity. According to a press release by the D.C. mayoral office, on February 26, 2015, D.C. passed a law allowing the possession of small amounts of marijuana in some circumstances for adults ages 21 and older.
In addition to D.C., currently, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado are the only states where marijuana is legal for recreational use.
Furthermore, the governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro J. García Padilla signed an executive order on May 3 that would allow for the legal use of medical marijuana in U.S. territories. Before that date, marijuana was classified as illegal under the Puerto Rican Controlled Substances Act.
In a press release, the governor mentions research that confirms the pain-relieving benefits of marijuana for diseases such as multiple sclerosis, AIDS, glaucoma and a host of other illnesses.
According to a report from Marijuana Business Daily, the U.S. marijuana industry will funnel $10 billion into state and local economies in 2015 by way of dispensaries and recreational cannabis stores. The information from the report comes from the publication’s “Marijuana Business Factbook 2015,” which was compiled from survey data from 1,000 business owners and their financial backers.
The report also claims that expected revenue for the industry is predicted to reach $30 billion by 2019 as more states legalize marijuana and the industry continues to expand.
Medical Marijuana At The State Level
Despite the promising financial outlook, there have been quite a few regulatory setbacks in states where legalization once seemed promising. For example, Senate Bill 528, or “The Florida Medical Marijuana Act,” died in the Senate this May. The bill would have allowed registered patients and caregivers to purchase and possess medical-grade marijuana in Florida.
Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah and West Virginia are the remaining states that proposed and were denied legislation in 2015 related to legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.
However, there are currently seven states with pending legislation in 2015 for medical marijuana, which include Alabama, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.
In Georgia, HB 1, also known as Haleigh’s Hope Act, was signed into law this April, and allows the creation of a registration within the Department of Public Health for authorized persons to possess a low THC oil for medical use.
This law does not legalize the use of marijuana and it requires more regulation than states where medical marijuana is legal, due to the fact that it only allows processed cannabis oil extract with a THC content of 5 percent or less.
Tennessee and Virginia have also signed similar laws early this year that would allow the use of a cannabinoid oil; however, Tennessee’s law requires that the oil be purchased in another state for legal use.
At the federal level, several bills are currently awaiting action including the bipartisan bill HR-1094, or the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015,” which would prevent federal prosecutions of state-compliant marijuana consumers and businesses. The bill was assigned to the congressional committee on April 22, and is still awaiting approval before it moves to the House or Senate.
Another federal bill, House Bill 525, which would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp, has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee of Energy and Commerce, and currently has 49 co-sponsors.
For more detailed information on pending legislation at both the federal and state level, visit Norml.org/act.
Sources: Norml, Marijuana Business Daily