Legalization

Massachusetts: State Expects To Make $300M From Marijuana Sales Tax By 2020

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Recreational marijuana sales will start in Massachusetts in July 2018, but the state expects to collect as much as $172 million each year just from sales taxes.

The number was calculated by the Department of Revenue, which assumes marijuana will be taxed at a rate of 12 percent. A 3.75 percent excise tax is expected to be added to the state's 6.25 percent sales tax, and another 2 percent cities and towns can impose if they host a cannabis shop.

If the 12% total remains, Massachusetts would have the lowest marijuana tax rate of any state that has legalized recreational marijuana, except for Maine, where the tax rate is 10%.

Washington has the highest tax at 37%. Colorado has a 29% tax on marijuana, followed by Alaska at 25% and Oregon at 17 percent. Oregon municipalities can enact an additional tax of up to 3 percent with the approval of voters.
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U.S.: Jeff Sessions Makes New Controversial Statements About Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to make statements that upset marijuana advocates and business investors, but it is remarks he recently didn't say that has mostly interested journalists covering the marijuana industry.

In prepared remarks, Sessions had planned to repeat a line he had used earlier when addressing a group in Virginia, saying that marijuana was only "slightly less awful" than heroin. He chose not to repeat the line, however.

He did question the current situation when it comes to abiding by the Cole memo, as the Obama administration had done.

“The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states, and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,” Sessions replied to a question as to whether his Department of Justice (DOJ) would sue states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

“I may have some different ideas myself in addition to that,” Sessions said, “but essentially, we’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that police and sheriffs have been doing for decades.”

According to Marijuana Business Daily, there are two main points to take away from Sessions' remarks for marijuana businesses.

Massachusetts: Hearings On Recreational Marijuana Begin In Statehouse

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Hearings on recreational marijuana in Massachusetts began today, March 20, in the Statehouse in Boston, where lawmakers are considering changes in the voter-approved legislation legalizing marijuana.

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, a Democrat, supported legalization, and has said he intends to respect voters' wishes while considering changes, including a significant increase in the proposed 3.75 percent sales tax, decreasing the number of plants citizens are allowed to grow, and increasing the legal age for purchase past 21.

Governor Charlie Baker opposed legalization and signed a bill that will likely delay the opening date of marijuana shops from January to July 2018.

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, a Democrat, also opposed legalization.

The joint House-Senate committee beginning its hearings in the Statehouse today was created by DeLeo and Rosenberg.

According to the Associated Press, members of the "Yes on 4" group that helped lead the ballot initiative legalizing marijuana are expected to testify.

The group has been defending its victory since Election Day, when 54 percent of state voters approved marijuana legalization, responding to lawmakers attempts to weaken, delay or substantially change the law.

Connecticut: Lawmakers Debate Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Connecticut lawmakers debated Tuesday on recreational marijuana legalization, and found only disagreement.

“It is time to consider legalizing marijuana for adults,” said State Rep Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, and sponsor of a bill to legalize recreational use during testimony before the General Assembly public health committee.

“I realize this is a difficult issue for many,” Ziobron said. “But legal marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana has never caused a fatal overdose in the 7,000 years of reported human use.”

Carolyn Dennis of Milford told the committee she opposes legalizing marijuana, especially under the guise of raising revenue.

"Do not threaten our state’s future by endangering the future welfare of our citizens’ health for a dollar,” Dennis said. “I expect that unlike the supporters of this proposed bill, you will not let budget woes take a front seat over the health of the residents and workers, children and adults in the state.”

Massachusetts and Maine voters last year authorized recreational use and the sale of weed is expected to begin next year. Weed is also legal for recreational use in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, California, Nevada and Oregon.

Pennsylvania: Auditor General Supports Legalizing Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (D) said Monday he strongly supports legalizing marijuana in the state, and said it is a taxable asset the state needs.

"Cities in Pennsylvania and some towns have started their own decriminalization process," DePasquale pointed out.

He cited states that have legalized marijuana and have been reaping the benefits of legalizing and taxing the plant.

"The regulation and taxation of marijuana train has rumbled out of the station across the United States," DePasquale said. "The question is whether Pennsylvania is going to miss its stop as the train moves its way across the country and allow other states to pick up the business opportunities."

"I'm a hundred percent behind him," Dan Skaggs of Lords Valley told WNEP16. "Looking at the revenue that alone Colorado has generated, we could get Pennsylvania out of bankruptcy."

But State Representative Sid Kavulich, a fellow Democrat, says the state shouldn't be so quick to follow Colorado's lead.

"It's still too early, Colorado certainly," said Kavulich, who represents the 114th District. "Let's wait a few years, see what kind of revenue comes in, what develops over a few years with the general legalization."

Israel: Cabinet Makes Move To Decriminalize Recreational Marijuana Use

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Israeli cabinet took a major step toward decriminalizing recreational marijuana use on Sunday, approving a plan that would impose fines rather than criminal penalties on those caught using the drug in public.

Growing and selling marijuana, widely used here both recreationally and medicinally, would remain illegal.

“On the one hand, we are opening ourselves up to the future,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet. “On the other hand, we understand the dangers and will try to balance the two."

The decision must still be approved by Israels' Parliament, the Knesset.

Prior to Sunday, people charged with marijuana use could face heavy fines and even incarceration. Under the new rules, people caught using marijuana publicly a first time would face a fine of about $270 rather than criminal charges. Charges would increase with repeated offenses, with criminal charges filed after a fourth offense.

The new rules were drafted by Gilad Erdan, the public security minister. “The government’s approval is an important step on the way to implement the new policy, which will emphasize public information and treatment instead of criminal enforcement,” he said after the cabinet’s decision on Sunday.

Colorado: Governor Hickenlooper Invokes States' Rights On Recreational Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper appeared on NBC's "Meet The Press" with Chuck Todd Sunday, where he invoked states' rights when asked if Attorney General Jeff Sessions might enforce federal law against the recreational use of marijuana.

Hickenlooper told Todd that he opposed recreational marijuana in 2012, when 55 percent of Colorado voters made personal use of the substance legal for adults 21 and over.

"It's in our constitution," Hickenlooper said on Sunday. "I took a solemn oath to support our constitution. So, I am -- and it's interesting, it's the sovereignty -- the states have a sovereignty just like the Indian tribes, just like the federal government does. So, it's an interesting--"

"You don't think it's clear that the federal government could stop you? You don't think it's a clear-cut case?" interrupted host Chuck Todd.

"Exactly. I don't think it is," Hickenlooper replied. "And I think it's certainly -- it's never my choice to be in conflict with federal law. Let's make that clear.

California: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom Asks Trump To Cooperate With State On Marijuana Regulation

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a letter to President Trump on Friday asking him to not increase federal enforcement of laws against recreational marijuana use.

The letter was copied to Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, and follows yesterday's comments made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who told reporters, "I do believe that you'll see greater enforcement” against recreational-use marijuana.

“The war on marijuana has failed,” Newsom wrote in the letter. “It did not, and will not, keep marijuana out of kids’ hands.”

“The government must not strip the legal and publicly supported industry of its business and hand it back to drug cartels and criminals,” Newsom wrote to Trump. “Dealers don’t card kids. I urge you and your administration to work in partnership with California and the other eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adult use in a way that will let us enforce our state laws that protect the public and our children, while targeting the bad actors.”

Newsom was a leading supporter of Proposition 64, approved by voters last November, which made recreational marijuana use legal in California for adults 21 and over. The state plans to begin issuing licenses to growers and sellers early next year.

Newsom also had an issue with comments made by Spicer linking marijuana use to opioids.

U.S.: New Poll Shows Americans Want Feds To Respect State Marijuana Laws

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

According to a Quinnipiac University Poll released Thursday morning, a vast majority of U.S. citizens believe in legalizing marijuana, and think the federal government should respect state marijuana laws.

Ninety-three percent of Americans surveyed in the poll support legal medical marijuana, and 59 percent support legalizing recreational marijuana use.

Majorities of Republicans, Democrats, independents, and all age groups are opposed to the government enforcing federal prohibition laws in states where marijuana is legal for medical or adult use.

Recreational marijuana is now legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

The nationwide survey included 1,323 voters. The results reflected trends similar to those indicated in national polls released by Gallup and the Pew Research Center in October.

Washington, DC: Spicer Says Expect To See 'Greater Enforcement' On Recreational Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday that states should expect to see greater federal enforcement of laws against the use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

While taking questions from reporters at the daily briefing, Spicer was asked if the government would take action on recreational marijuana use. Spicer replied: "Well I think that's a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe you'll see greater enforcement of it. Because again there's a big difference between the medical use ... that's very different than the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into."

President Donald Trump “understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them,” he said, also noting previous action by Congress not to fund the Justice Department “go[ing] after those folks.”

As for “recreational marijuana, that’s a very, very different subject,” Spicer said.

Ignoring recent studies which suggest marijuana can help ease the opioid addiction crisis affecting some areas, Spicer went on to actually connect marijuana to the opioid crisis.

New Mexico, Hawaii: States Pass Bills To Decriminalize Industrial Hemp

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Both New Mexico and Hawaii overwhelmingly passed bills earlier this month to decriminalize industrial hemp. Passage of the bills into law would set the stage for the people there to nullify federal prohibition of the plant.

Rep. Rick Little (R-Chaparral) introduced New Mexico's House Bill 166 (HB166) on Jan 18.

A coalition of eight Democrat representatives introduced Hawaii's House Bill 773 (HB773) on Jan. 20.

The new legislation will remove industrial hemp from each state's list of controlled substances. Both bills will require no license and will create no state regulatory structure. Industrial hemp would be treated like any other plant, such as corn, in both states. Residents of the states will now be able to start farming industrial hemp should they be willing to risk violating ongoing federal prohibition.

The New Mexico House passed HB166 by a 53-13 vote on Monday, February 18, and Hawaii's House Agricultural Committee passed HB773 by a 7-0 vote on February 8.

Virginia: Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam Publicly Announces Support For Marijuana Decriminalization

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam wrote on Medium and in a press release yesterday afternoon that he supports decriminalization of marijuana.

Northam, a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk and hopeful candidate for Governor wrote in Medium, "As a doctor, I’m becoming increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD, By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”

“We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana,” he wrote. “African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement—money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.”

Missouri: New Medical Marijuana Law Submitted

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A bill has been filed in Missouri to allow access to medical marijuana throughout the state. House Bill 437 was introduced yesterday by Republican Jim Neely. The initiative would add marijuana to a list of experimental drugs, products and devices that can be prescribed to eligible terminally ill patients under the “Right to Try Act.”

Missourians fighting for their lives don’t have time to wait for the FDA to approve investigational treatments that contain cannabis,” said Neely, a Republican Representative and physician who lost his daughter to stage four cancer in 2015.

Missouri attempted to get medical marijuana on the ballot in November 2016 with an initiative backed by New Approach Missouri. The initiative fell short of making it on the ballot by 23 signatures.

Vermont: Governor Pardons 192 Marijuana Offenders

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont governor Peter Schumlin (D) announced pardons Tuesday for 192 people with former convictions for marijuana possession. All but 15 of those pardoned were residents of Vermont.

The state decriminalized pot in 2013, but has not yet legalized and regulated the plant as eight other states have, including Vermont's neighbors Massachusetts and Maine.

Although laws and attitudes toward marijuana have changed a lot in the past several years, few governors have issued pardons to marijuana offenders.

“What he’s [Governor Shumlin] doing is, it’s almost unimaginably safe [from criticism] if you think in terms of 40 years ago,” P.S. Ruckman, Jr., a professor of political science at Rock Valley College in Illinois, told The Christian Science Monitor in an interview. “It’s highly significant. I think it’s likely we'll see more of it.”

Gov. Shumlin’s pardon applied only to people convicted of possessing less than an ounce of pot who had no violent criminal histories, felony convictions, or record of driving under the influence or reckless driving.

“When you look at the Vermonters who are sitting out there with criminal records because they had an ounce or less of marijuana — could have happened in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s – there’s thousands of them,” he said in early December.

Washington, D.C.: Marijuana Legalizations Supporters To Hand Out 4,200 Joint At Trump Inauguration

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Marijuana legalization activists plan to hand out thousands of joints during President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration to raise awareness about the fragility of legal marijuana under his administration.

The advocacy group behind the ballot initiative that legalized marijuana in Washington, DC in 2014 plans to take to the streets to hand out 4,200 joints on January 20, or roughly 40 ounces of weed.

“We are forced to do this type of publicity stunt because the Trump administration hasn’t mentioned marijuana once since he was elected,” said DCMJ founder Adam Eidinger. “It reminds people that the public wants change, and the politicians aren’t doing it.”

Despite the fact that voters legalized marijuana in D.C. in 2014, it remains illegal to buy or sell the drug in the nation’s capital because of action taken by Congress that bans local lawmakers from passing new marijuana laws. Activists hope to align with Trump supporters who also support marijuana legalization in their home states so they can work together to push the Republican administration to expand legalization.

Eidinger said the marijuana protests are not meant to shut down the celebration or to alienate Trump supporters.

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