Legalization

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.

U.S.: Sen. Elizabeth Warren Works To End Banking Limbo For Pot Shops

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

As more marijuana shops open in states that have legalized the drug, they struggle with no access to the banking services that other businesses routinely enjoy.

Democratic Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is leading an effort to make sure legal marijuana businesses don't have their banking services taken away.

Warren and other leaders are working to bring the growing $7 billion marijuana industry in from a fiscal limbo in which they deal solely in cash, making them easy targets for criminals.

After voters in Warren's home state of Massachusetts approved a measure to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over, she and nine other senators sent a letter to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, asking it to issue additional guidance to help banks provide services to marijuana shop vendors.

Warren, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said there are benefits to letting marijuana-based businesses move away from a cash-only model.

"You make sure that people are really paying their taxes. You know that the money is not being diverted to some kind of criminal enterprise," Warren said recently. "And it's just a plain old safety issue. You don't want people walking in with guns and masks and saying, 'Give me all your cash.'"

Massachusetts: Legislature Delays New Legal Marijuana Law

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Several provisions of the new law that legalized recreational marijuana in Massachusetts were delayed for six months by the Legislature on Wednesday, angering backers of the measure approved by voters last month.

The bill was passed by both the House and Senate without a public hearing and without debate.

The ballot initiative making pot legal for adults over 21 took effect on December 15, and that does not change. The action taken by lawmakers yesterday will delay the opening of marijuana retail stores from the beginning of 2018 until the middle of that year.

For the moment, it's only legal to sell marijuana in Massachusetts to registered medical marijuana patients.

“The Legislature has a responsibility to implement the will of the voters while also protecting public health and public safety,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg.

A joint statement from Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo said that delaying key deadlines for six months will give legislators more time to “improve” the current law by considering issues that were not included in the ballot question.

The group that sponsored the ballot measure, Yes On 4, said it was “very disappointed” in the Legislature’s vote, noting it came with little advance notice or public input.

Canada: Next Step Taken Towards Legalizing Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Canadian leaders have started moving closer towards legalizing marijuana.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau created a committee in the summer of 2016 to look into the possibility of making recreational marijuana use legal for the entire country.

The panel, chaired by former Canadian Deputy Primate Minister Anne McLellan, recently submitted its findings. The panel calls for a tightly regulated recreational market for adults while cracking down on the black market.

The report said their recommendations will “strike a balance between implementing appropriate restrictions, in order to minimize the harms associated with cannabis use, and providing adults access to a regulated supply of cannabis while reducing the scope and scale of the illicit market and its social harms.”

Trudeau has said he expects to file legislation based on the recommendations of the panel in the spring of 2017.

The Canadian Liberal Party website states: “We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.”

“Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work,” the site states. “It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug.”

Recommendations of the report include:

Montreal: 'Prince Of Pot' Arrested When Police Raid Cannabis Culture Stores

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A day after opening, some Cannabis Culture stores selling recreational marijuana were raided last Friday, resulting in the arrest of owner Marc Emery. The British Columbia-based self-described 'Prince of Pot' was expanding his chain of of dispensaries, despite the fact that pot is still illegal.

The Mount-Royal store had sold out its stock, leaving only cash for the authorities to find.

“It’s despicable and it’s an injustice, but we will win,” Emery said while being escorted to a police cruiser. “This arrest is wrong and prohibition is wrong. The prime minister is a disgrace and so is the mayor,” he said.

Hundreds of clients had showed up at the Mount-Royal location to make their first weed purchases.

Police say that they have made 10 total arrests so far, none of which were clients. They also seized 40 pounds of cannabis at other Cannabis Culture locations.

Guam: Governor Wants Territory To Legalize Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Guam voters legalized medical marijuana in 2014. Governor Eddie Calvo (R) now wants the island territory to look at legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use.

“We’re talking about cutting what would be red tape and concerns about funding for required enforcement on the new marijuana legislation that became law” Governor Calvo said in a Faceook post made Monday. “I want us to look at how states navigated into recreational marijuana; let’s figure it out and then tax the heck out of it and use those taxes to help fund our hospital, public safety and education.”

A poll conducted earlier this year by Pacific Daily News found that 80 percent of Guam citizens support pot legalization, but the poll's validity can be questioned because it was conducted online with little safeguards in place to ensure accuracy.

Maine: Marijuana Legalization Is Finally Confirmed

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The opposition for Maine's measure to legalize recreational marijuana, Question 1, finally dropped their request for a recount last weekend, meaning Maine residents can look forward to enjoying the plant legally.

According to the Press Herald:

“Unofficial results of the vote released on Election Day showed the measure passed by 4,073 votes, 381,692 to 377,619. The anti-legalization campaign gave notice to the director of the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections on Saturday afternoon to end the recount, which was on hold for a holiday break until January. Under the measure, the Legislature has nine months to establish rules to deal with such issues as child-proof packaging, restricting advertising to minors, and licensing.

Officials on both sides of the recount were critical of their opponents during the process, with Yes on 1 accusing opponents of slowing down the recount by not providing enough volunteers. No on 1 criticized legalization proponents of rushing to enact the law.”

The approval of Question 1 makes it legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana, purchase marijuana at retail outlets, and grow a limited number of plants at home.

Colorado: Governor Has Advice For Other States About Legalizing Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Four years ago Colorado became one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use by adults. Governor John Hickenlooper opposed the law, but voters overwhelmingly approved the measure.

Now the Democratic governor finds that he is the first one other governors call for advice on pot. “You don’t get to choose what your legacy is,” he said.

California Governor Jerry Brown, who opposed his state's measure to legalize recreational marijuana, called Hickenlooper in the weeks before that measure was voted on.

Hickenlooper said he gives the same, specific advice to anyone who calls him. "We didn’t regulate edibles strongly enough at first,” he said in an interview this week at a gathering in Coronado of the Western Governors’ Assn. He referred to a spike in emergency room visits by children who had eaten marijuana products.

“Ingestion of edible products continues to be a major source of marijuana exposures in children and poses a unique problem because no other drug is infused into a palatable and appetizing form,” wrote Dr. Sam Wang, a physician at Children’s Hospital Colorado and the lead author of a report about the increased number of emergency room visits published in July.

Massachusetts: Marijuana Legal At Midnight Tonight

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

It will be legal for adults 21 and over in Massachusetts to possess marijuana and to grow the plant at home starting at midnight tonight. The Governor's Council recently certified the results of the November election.

“This is a historic day for Massachusetts,” said Jim Borghesani, who was the spokesman of the Yes on 4 campaign. “[W]e urge all residents intending to use or grow marijuana to educate themselves regarding what is and isn’t allowed under the new law.”

Borghesani also argued against changing the law, as some officials have said they intend to do next year. “This law was written with great deliberation and care, and it requires no legislative fixes or revisions. It would be unwise to extend the period where possession is legal but retail sales aren’t in effect. We hope that the Cannabis Control Commission is appointed by the March 1 deadline and that they begin the crucial work of writing the regulations that will control the new industry,” he said.

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