Marijuana legalization outlook: CT, RI weigh adult use; Texas passes expansion bill

(MJBizDaily takes a weekly look at marijuana legalization and reform efforts across the U.S. while state legislatures are in session.)

Connecticut lawmakers are expected to consider a recreational marijuana legalization bill this week as a June 9 deadline for passing the measure looms.

In Rhode Island, a House lawmaker introduced an adult-use legalization bill that would allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to begin recreational sales as soon as this summer.

Mississippi’s top election official won’t challenge a state Supreme Court ruling that voided a 2020 voter-approved medical marijuana initiative. The question now is whether the governor will call a special session for lawmakers to consider the issue.

In Texas, lawmakers passed a medical marijuana expansion bill. However, the measure is a slimmed-down version of the initial legislation, with a lower THC cap and fewer new medical conditions approved for treatment.

Connecticut

Lawmakers will consider recreational marijuana legalization this week, as the June 9 deadline for passing and sending a bill to Gov. Ned Lamont creeps up, New Haven TV station WTNH reported.

Lamont’s legalization proposal, SB 888, currently is before the Senate Appropriations Committee after having been advanced in April by the Judiciary Committee.

Negotiations have been ongoing between key lawmakers and the governor’s office over the bill, according to the Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project.

Here are key elements of Lamont’s original version, according to MPP:

  • Regulators could begin accepting license applications from social equity applicants and existing medical marijuana operators as early as July 1.
  • MMJ dispensaries would be required to pay a $250,000 license conversion fee and producers a $750,000 fee to expand into adult use. Proceeds would go into a social equity account.
  • A social equity applicant is defined by various criteria, including local residency, those disadvantaged by the war on drugs, those from disadvantaged communities as well as residents of tribal lands.
  • Lamont’s bill would impose an excise tax on the first sale or use of marijuana.

Rhode Island

House Rep. Scott Slater introduced a bill last week that would allow regulators to begin issuing 15 adult-use retail licenses as soon as July 1, with five of those permits set aside for social equity applicants and another for a worker-owned cooperative.

The other nine licenses would be issued to three existing MMJ dispensaries and six proposed MMJ dispensaries, according to the Providence Journal.

Most other retail stores would be delayed from opening until 2025.

A hearing on the measure is expected in the next week or so.

The bill aims to address concerns raised about social equity provisions in alternative adult-use proposals offered by Gov. Dan McKee and Senate leaders.

The governor’s proposal calls for 25 stores to be licensed annually for three years through a state-run lottery. The measure also calls for 20% of the new licenses to go to minority-owned businesses.

The Senate bill could create up to 150 store licenses, but the timing would depend on the creation of a new Cannabis Control Commission.

The legislative session is scheduled to end June 30.

Mississippi

The state’s top elections official said last week that he won’t ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to reconsider its 6-3 ruling that overturned a 2020 voter-approved medical marijuana initiative.

“Rather than giving a sense of false hope and spending taxpayer dollars to no avail, I strongly encourage the governor to reconvene the Legislature in an effort to quickly preserve the will of Mississippians on a few important issues,” Secretary of State Michael Watson said.

Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, hasn’t said whether he will do so.

The state Supreme Court ruled in mid-May that the medical marijuana referendum was invalid because it didn’t meet a constitutional provision for the initiative process. That provision is impossible to meet because it’s based on an outdated congressional districting formula.

Texas

Texas lawmakers passed a watered-down medical marijuana expansion bill that would raise the THC cap from 0.5% to 1% and add all types of cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as qualifying conditions.

The Texas House approved the amended Senate version on May 28 and sent it to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature.

Senate lawmakers watered down a measure that the state House had overwhelmingly passed in late April.

The Senate-amended measure lowered the THC cap from the House version of 5% and eliminated chronic pain as a qualifying condition. Chronic pain generally is one of the leading conditions that qualify to be treated with MMJ.

MJBizDaily currently doesn’t recognize Texas as having a viable MMJ program, and it’s unclear whether the minor reforms will be enough to make it so.

The number of MMJ patients in Texas stood at only 5,413 as of April, according to state data.

Jeff Smith can be reached at jeff.smith@mjbizdaily.com.