Legalization

Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott Vetoes Social Cannabis Bill, Offers ‘Path Forward’

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By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

MONTPELIER, VT. - Gov. Phil Scott announced Wednesday he is vetoing a bill that would have made marijuana legal for adults in Vermont, but offered “a path forward” for passing it later this year. He specified a handful of changes that would need to be made for him to support the measure and said he believes the legislature has time to incorporate them and enact a revised version during the summer veto session.

Vermont: Cannabis Regulation Bill Reaches Governor's Desk

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Governor Scott has until Wednesday to sign or veto S. 22, the bill to legalize cannabis in Vermont for adults over 21 before it automatically becomes law

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

The Vermont Legislature sent its cannabis regulation bill to the desk of Republican Gov. Phil Scott this past Thursday, initiating a five-day countdown during which Scott will have to decide whether to sign the legislation, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

If passed, the measure would allow possession of up to an ounce, two mature plants, and four immature plants, starting in July 2018. A commission would develop a proposal to tax and regulate cannabis for the Vermont Legislature to consider next year.

United Kingdom: Liberal Democrats Add Marijuana Legalization To Platform

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Liberal Democratic leaders in the United Kingdom announced Friday that they plan on pushing for marijuana regulation and taxation as part of their political platform. Research by the liberal Democrats revealed that 87,247 police caseloads related to cannabis were opened in 2015, equaling an estimated 1,044,180 police hours and £31 million (more than USD$40 million) in enforcement, the Independent reports.

“The honest and pragmatic response is to take responsibility for this situation and regulate the market,” the manifesto states. “Liberal Democrats will take back control from the criminal gangs and protect young people by introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis.”

Marijuana is a Class B substance in the U.K. and possession carries a five-year jail term. Dealers can be sentenced to up to 14 years.

The party's plan would legalize cannabis use for adults 18 and over, would limit THC content, and would require that all marijuana products contain CBD. The party says that "skunk" (marijuana that has been bred to remove most, or all, CBD) is responsible for harming the “mental and physical health” of youth.

“The current approach is a disaster for young people…There are no age checks, and no controls on quality or strength,” the party contends. “‘Skunk’ is widespread and the only ID you need to buy it is a £20 note.”

New Jersey: Bill To Legalize Recreational Marijuana Set To Be Unveiled

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A New Jersey lawmaker will unveil legislation on Monday that would legalize, tax, and regulate recreational marijuana in the state.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) plans to formally announce the Democratic-sponsored measure at a noon news conference at the Statehouse in Trenton.

If the bill becomes law, New Jersey will be the ninth state to legalize adult-use, recreational marijuana, joining Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

"The national trend is toward legalization," Scutari told NJ Advance Media on Friday. "It's absolutely necessary to save our neighborhoods from drug dealers. And we can use the tax revenue. And people are smoking it anyway."

The bill will need to be passed by both houses of the Democratic-controlled state Legislature and signed by the governor to be enacted.

Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, strongly opposes marijuana, arguing that it's a "gateway drug" that can lead users to try harder substances.

Earlier this month, he said that Democrats who want to pass such legislation are willing to "poison our kids" to receive "blood money" from the tax money it will bring in.

"This is beyond stupidity," he said during a speech in Princeton.

Florida: Lawmakers Fail To Reconcile Medical Marijuana Implementation Bills

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Florida lawmakers failed to enact legislation this legislative session establishing rules for the implementation of Amendment 2, a voter-initiated measure that legalizes the use, production, and dispensing of medical marijuana. The constitutional amendment was approved in November, passing with the support of more than 70 percent of voters.

Unless lawmakers convene a special legislative session to address the issue, Department of Health staff will be responsible for establishing regulations for the program. Those rules are due by July 3. The amendment calls for the program to be operational by October.

Mexico: Lawmakers Approve Legislation To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Lawmakers in Mexico have approved the legalization of medical marijuana products. President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has spoken in favor of the measure, must sign it to make it official.

The measure authorizes the Health Ministry to design regulations for the use, importation, and production of pharmaceutical products derived from CBD-dominant/low-THC cannabis. Presently, CBD-infused products may be imported into the country on a case by case basis.

The personal possession of up to five grams of cannabis was decriminalized by Mexican lawmakers in 2009. President Nieto proposed legislation last year to increase this threshold to one ounce.

In 2015, Mexico's Supreme Court ruled that federal anti-drug laws should not trump individuals' rights to grow and consume marijuana for their own personal use.

Nevada: Retail Marijuana Sales Begin In July

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Marijuana dispensaries in good standing with the state of Nevada will be able to begin retail sales of recreational marijuana to adults on July 1. They will be able to apply for "early start" licenses on May 15. The rules were approved by the Nevada Tax Commission on Monday in a 6 to 1 vote.

Last November a majority of voters passed the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, a voter-initiated measure regulating the commercial marijuana market.

Criminal penalties for simple possession of marijuana were eliminated in Nevada effective on January 1, 2017. Initially, provisions in the measure regulating the commercial production and sales of marijuana were initially slated to take effect on January 1, 2018.

Several other states which have passed laws to legalize adult-use marijuana, such as Maine and Massachusetts, have made moves to delay the implementation of legal adult-use marijuana laws.

Washington, DC: Congress Reauthorizes Protection For State Medical Marijuana Programs

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

State-sanctioned medical marijuana and industrial hemp programs are safe for now as Congress has approved spending legislation which the President has signed into law that reauthorizes language protecting those programs. But the President issued a signing statement expressing his personal opposition to the measure, saying that those provisions could interfere with his constitutional authority. Signing statements are often issued by presidents, but they do not carry the weight of law.

Section 537 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, states that no federal funds may be appropriated to "prevent any [state] from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana." That language is now known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, passed in 2014.

State-sponsored hemp programs were also reauthorized, thanks to a similar amendment.

Both amendments will remain in effect until September 30, 2017; at that time members of Congress will once again need to either reauthorize the language or let the provisions expire.

Forty-six states presently acknowledge the therapeutic use of marijuana and various marijuana-derived products. Thirty states recognize hemp as an industrial crop.

Colorado: New Cannabis Sales Record Set In March

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Colorado set a new record in cannabis sales in March, with a total in combined medical and recreational sales of $132 million, according to state Department of Revenue figures outlined by the Cannabist. March was the tenth consecutive month that had sales totaling more than $100 million.

Adult use sales made up $93.3 million of March’s record-breaking sales, while medical cannabis sales totaled $38.4 million.

Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research for the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, estimates that by the end of the year Colorado’s sales could reach $1.6 billion.

At ten months into the state’s fiscal year, licenses and application fees for medical cannabis businesses have fallen 8.5 percent, and 25.4 percent for retail businesses, according to the Department of Revenue. Miles Light, an economist with the Marijuana Policy Group, said the decline “shows that fewer new firms are entering and… sales should be tapering off or declining.” However, he was surprised that sales “continue to grow so quickly.”

“We are not surprised that almost all of the sales growth is in the retail marijuana space,” he said.

Delaware: Bill Approved By Legislative Committee For Legalized Adult-use Marijuana, Moves To House

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A bill to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over and to create a taxed-and-regulated marijuana market in Delaware has passed the House Revenue and Finance Committee and will now move to the House floor for a full vote. The legislation would regulate and tax cannabis “in the same manner as alcohol,” allowing adults to purchase marijuana products, but makes no provisions for growing at home.

State Rep. Helene Keeley, a Democrat and sponsor of the bill, said she believes the measure will pass the House, which will likely take up the legislation after the legislature’s June recess.

“The numbers that we’re getting, about $22 (million) and $25 million on the conservative side that’s just off the sale,” Keeley said in a WMDT report. “If we actually look at this as an economic driver it makes perfect sense.”

Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, a supporter of the measure, spoke out about it recently at a Medical Marijuana Act Oversight Committee meeting.

“Education is suffering," she said. "Revenue from legalizing marijuana could help struggling schools and seniors, among other causes and close major budget deficits in Delaware.”

The measure would allot 20 percent of tax revenues collected from legal cannabis sales to go to the Department of Education.

California: Attorney General Becerra Vows To Fight Feds On Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he would “probably be the 1 millionth person in line” to fight Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he tried to crackdown on California's legal marijuana industry in a recent interview with Politico.

“Cannabis is last century’s argument. We’re beyond that,” Becerra said in the interview. “I suspect if you took a real quick poll here, I bet if we took a poll, who has got cannabis, it’d be pretty — you don’t have to raise your hand, but you know what I’m saying.”

The former Democratic Congressman admitted that he had tried it “at a younger time” when asked by reporter David Siders about his own marijuana use.

“So then it was illegal?” Siders asked the Attorney General.

“I also drive over the speed limit periodically, so,” Becerra responded.

The federal budget includes an amendment that prevents the Department of Justice from using federal funds to interfere with state-legal medical marijuana regimes and hemp programs but it does not include language preventing a crackdown on recreational programs. Donald Trump recently included a statement in an omnibus spending bill that could allow him to ignore the amendment.

“I would love to see Jeff Sessions come to California and tell us we’re not going to move forward on cannabis,” Becerra said. “Something tells me that it’s not gonna happen.”

Vermont: Legislature First To Pass Marijuana Legalization Measure

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont's legislature has approved a bill that would legalize marijuana possession and small grows for adults and would create a Marijuana Regulation Commission that will draft legislation for a tax-and-regulate system.

The passage of this bill makes Vermont's legislature the first one to approve ending marijuana prohibition.

If Republican Governor Phil Scott signs the bill, adults 21 and over would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and grow up to two mature and four immature plants beginning on July 1, 2018.

“Vermont lawmakers made history today,” Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a report from The Hill. “The legislature has taken a crucial step toward ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.”

The measure was a compromise between the House -- who passed their own bill last week to legalize possession and small grows -- and the Senate, who passed a tax-and-regulate measure last week.

The Hill reported that the governor has not indicated whether he will sign the measure and has previously said cannabis legalization was not “a priority.”

New Jersey: Gov. Christie Calls Marijuana Legalization 'Beyond Stupidity'

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called the push for cannabis legalization “beyond stupidity,” adding that it’s “not time for use to be cool and say, ‘Pot’s OK,’” during a forum on substance abuse hosted by the New Jersey Hospital Association, NJ.com reports.

“We are in the midst of the public health crisis on opiates,” Christie said during his remarks. “But people are saying pot’s OK. This is nothing more than crazy liberals who want to say everything’s OK. Baloney.”

Christie rallied against pro-legalization politicians, including Democrat Phil Murphy who is the favorite in this year’s gubernatorial campaign in the state.

“People like [Rep.] Nick Scutari and [Senate President] Steve Sweeney and Phil Murphy want to bring this poison, legalized, into this state under the premise that, well, it doesn’t matter because people can buy it illegally anyway,” Christie said in the report. “Then why not legalize heroin? I mean, their argument fails just on that basis. Let’s legalize cocaine. Let’s legalize angel dust. Let’s legalize all of it. What’s the difference? Let everybody choose.”

Democrat Scutari is the main sponsor of legalization legislation expected to be introduced in the legislature next year. Sweeney has indicated he would support the bill.

Alaska: Feds Block Rainforest Farms From Paying Taxes

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Rainforest Farms, Juneau's first legal marijuana retailer, was turned away late last month by the U.S Postal Service when one of its owners attempted to mail a regularly scheduled tax payment to Anchorage. Anchorage is the only place in the state equipped to take cash deposits.

“Any proceeds from the selling of (marijuana) is considered drug proceeds under federal law, so you can’t mail that,” Postal inspector Aaron Behnen told the Empire from Anchorage.

Ken Alper, Alaska Department of Revenue Tax Division Director, said in an interview that the state needs to find a way for “these legitimate businesspeople to pay their taxes. We thought we had done that, and this throws a tremendous wrinkle into our processes.”

Even though eight states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, cannabis businesses remain mostly locked out of the banking system.

Marijuana is still illegal federally, so any business that deals with it is in violation of federal law. The U.S. Department of Justice stated in a 2013 memo that it would not interfere with states that have legalized marijuana, but that policy could change at any time.

Colorado: Gov. Hickenlooper Meets With AG Sessions, Hopeful Administration Will Maintain Status Quo

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and came away with the feeling that a federal crackdown on states with legalized marijuana is not likely, the Denver Post reports. Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff Doug Friednash indicated that Sessions is more focused on other priorities, such as the proposed border wall, than he is with legal marijuana markets.

Friednash said that Sessions viewed the 2014 Cole memo as “not too far from good policy.” The Cole memo directs the Department of Justice to not interfere in state-sanctioned cannabis programs.

Hickenlooper pointed out to the attorney general that since legalization there has been no rise in teenage cannabis use in the state, and that emergency room visits have steadily decreased as officials have enacted laws to better regulate cannabis-infused edibles.

Colorado lawmakers backed off a plan earlier this month to legalize cannabis social clubs, after Hickenlooper indicated he did not support the plan due to fears that it could attract federal intervention.

Washington, DC: Garrett Announces Press Conference On Federal Marijuana Deregulation Legislation

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A press release was issued today by 5th District Congressman Tom Garrett announcing details for a press conference highlighting H.R. 1227 - the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017.

H.R. 1227 seeks specifically to remove marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols from the federal schedule of controlled substances, thereby leaving regulation up to the states.

In a February 27 press release, Garrett stated:

"I have long believed justice that isn't blind, isn't justice. Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California."

The press conference will be held on May 17, 2017 at 2:00 PM at House Triangle, just outside the U.S. Capitol (back-up rain location to be determined).

Speakers planned for the conference are U.S. Congressman Tom Garrett, parents of Haley Smith, Sophia Miller, and Jennifer Collins (children with medical conditions such as epilepsy who are benefiting from medical marijuana), and several other bipartisan members of Congress that have cosponsored this legislation who have sent in tentative confirmations, such as U.S. Congressman Scott Taylor.

Georgia: Study Shows Medical Marijuana Legalization Leads To Lower Medicaid Costs

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Patients use fewer prescription drugs in states where medical marijuana is legal, according to data published in the journal Health Affairs.

Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the association between medical marijuana regulations and the average number of prescriptions filled by Medicaid beneficiaries between the years 2007 and 2014.

Researchers reported, "[T]he use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws in five of the nine broad clinical areas we studied." They added, "If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion."

The team previously published a report in 2016 that medical cannabis access was associated with significantly reduced spending by patients on Medicare Part D approved prescription drugs.

Other studies have reported that patients with legal access to medical marijuana reduce their intake of opioids, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, migraine-related medications, and sleep aids, among other substances.

Washington, DC: Activists Arrested Again At Pro-cannabis Rally

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

At least four activists were arrested yesterday at a "smoke-in" at the Capitol held by members of D.C. Marijuana Justice, a pro-cannabis activist group. DCMJ co-founder Adam Eidinger was among those arrested, the Associated Press reports. He also was one of eight arrested during last week’s Apr. 20 joint giveaway at the Capitol, in which only two were charged.

Ricardo Harven had a message during the smoke-in for the more than 20 Capitol Police who came to crackdown on the event.

“Congress approved our federal law, it is federally legal [to possess] marijuana in the District of Columbia,” Harvin said, “So remember that as you come in to arrest us.”

Capitol Police Spokesperson Eva Malecki said that the four people charged with possession, two women and two men, were violating federal law.

Eidinger said the activists are urging lawmakers to reject an amendment introduced by Republican Rep. Andy Harris that would prevent the city from passing local laws to legalize marijuana regulation and sales.

“One of the reasons we are fighting so hard to overturn this Andy Harris rider is because there’s unfinished business here in the nation’s capital,” Eidinger said in a Washington Post report. “Basically, we have legalization without commercialization.”

Switzerland: Advocates Renew Push For Legal Adult-use Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Swiss advocates are renewing their push to legalize marijuana consumption and cultivation for adults. Possession of marijuana was decriminalized in Switzerland in 2013, when laws were relaxed and criminal penalties for possessing 10 grams of cannabis or less were reduced to a fine of 100 francs (about USD$100).

An initiative to legalize marijuana failed in Switzerland in 2008. That initiative would have legalized marijuana cultivation and use for everyone, including minors, and didn’t provide for any government tax.

Nine Forrer of Legalize It, the group behind the campaign, argued that legalizing cannabis would help curtail the informal market.

“The ban on cannabis is wrong from a social perspective, wrong from a legal point of view and simply stupid from an economic point of view.” Forrer said in a report by Tages-Anzeiger, a Swiss German-language newspaper published in Zurich.

The Swiss government is presently considering a trial program that would allow state-controlled marijuana sales in cannabis clubs in four cities and another trial that would allow cannabis sales in selected pharmacies.

Vermont: Senate Votes To Legalize Adult-use Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont State Senators have voted in favor of a bill that would legalize the possession, use, and distribution of marijuana for adults 21 and over for the second year in a row.

The bill, which passed with a 21-9 vote, is an amended version of the legalization measure that Vermont Senators approved last year, which failed to pass in the House.

“We know that prohibition has not worked,” said Sen. Jeanette White, a Democrat from Windham. “Let’s make it safer, less accessible to kids.”

The proposal would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, legalize the home cultivation of the plant, and would establish a regulatory licensing system similar to that found in states that have already legalized it.

Senators who oppose the bill have argued that adult-use legalization would be a bad idea because there is no reliable method of checking drivers for cannabis intoxication. Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, has also expressed concern about intoxicated drivers, but it is unknown if he would veto a legalization bill if it came across his desk.

The bill moves next to the Vermont House, who turned down a similar proposal last year.

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