Cannabis legalization bills filed in six red States ahead of 2019 legislative sessions

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Cannabis legalization bills filed in six red States ahead of 2019 legislative sessions

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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A nickname that has caught on in the new legal market of cannabis is the “green rush” and quite rightly so.

Cannabis legalization is spreading, with 33 U.S. states legalizing the plant for medical use, and a further 10 States and Washington D.C. legalizing the plant for recreational purposes.

Even in the red zones whereby cannabis remains illegal for sale, production, consumption, and possession, cannabis legalization bills have already been introduced. To be precise, bills have been put forward in six conservative states for the 2019 sessions.

On Wednesday, January 9, lawmakers in Kentucky and West Virginia introduced chunks of cannabis legalization bills. These two states follow in the footsteps of an ever-growing list of states where the idea of complete cannabis legalization seemed downright absurd just a few years back.

Cannabis legalization bills are also expected to be voted on in Indiana, Missouri, Texas, and Virginia at some points during 2019. The level of support that each bill gained has not yet been determined.

Anti-legalization governors could pose a problem for states that filled cannabis legalization bills

Certain obstacles are likely to face lawmakers on the road to U.S. cannabis reform, such as the opinions of anti-legalization governors in some states.

On the exact same day that West Virginia Sen. Richard Ojeda (D) initiated a cannabis bill that would permit adults aged 21 and above in the state to cultivate, consume and possess weed for personal use, Gov. Jim Justice (R) emphasized that he is “adamantly, adamantly, etched-in-stone, adamantly against recreational [cannabis],” amidst a State of the State address.

Unfortunately for cannabis advocates in West Virginia, pro-cannabis politician Ojeda has revealed that he will be resigning from his position as state Senate. Instead, he will channel all of his energy into the looming 2020 presidential run.

Then there are the other pro-pot politicians, like Sen. Dan Seum, who recently filed for cannabis legalization in Kentucky. Retail cannabis sales would be taxed under Seum’s proposal, which is quite different to the lack of commercial emphasis on West Virginia’s cannabis bill. During a floor speech, Seum suggested that the state could earn tax revenue and minimize prison overcrowding if cannabis was legalized. In addition to this, he believes that the state of Kentucky can better address racial disparities in cannabis enforcement.

According to Seum, Kentucky  “grows the best” and boasts an agricultural landscape that would enable the ‘Bluegrass State’ to “double up on this revenue.”

Cannabis legalization bills could enhance public safety

At the beginning of January, lawmakers in Virginia introduced cannabis legalization bills, which were separated into two different proposals. Those proposals were selected from around a dozen cannabis-related bills that have, thus far, been filed in the state during this session.

Cannabis decriminalization in Virginia would “ease overcrowding in our jails and prisons, and free up our law enforcement and court resources for offenses that are a true threat to public safety,” according to Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Full legalization has gone full steam ahead in Missouri, with Rep. Brandon Ellington (D) pushing for complete legalization by pre-submitting a cannabis bill at the start of December last year. Wellington’s bill would legalize cannabis possession, use, and cultivation.

Then, over in Texas, a constitutional amendment to legalize the plant was proposed along with various cannabis-associated bites of legislation.

Lawmakers in New Jersey are also contemplating numerous cannabis legalization bills, one of which was approved by legislative committees in late 2018.

“Lawmakers are increasingly finding ways to support legalization, regardless of their political ideology,” said NORML’s state policies coordinator, Carly Wolf, during a recent interview with Marijuana Moment. “The debunked stigma of ‘Reefer Madness’ is rapidly falling by the wayside and politicians of all stripes can now support establishing a commercial cannabis marketplace in a manner that is consistent with their worldview.”