Massachusetts

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.

Vermont: Senate Passes Compromise Marijuana Bill, House Extends Session

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont's Senate passed a compromise bill on marijuana legalization Friday which could be taken up by the House on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. Two versions were passed last week-- the House version would allow adult possession and cultivation, while the Senate version would implement a taxed and regulated regime.

The legislature had planned to adjourn on Saturday, leaving both bills hanging, but Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said the chamber would reconvene on Wednesday. The compromise legislation would legalize possession of small amounts and limited home grows by adults beginning in July 2018, but at present it is not clear if the House will take the legislation up. A commission would develop a tax-and-regulate scheme and present it to the legislature next year.

Sen. Dick Sears, a Democrat who advocates legalization, said the compromise is “a way for Vermont to join two other New England states (Massachusetts and Maine) to have a legalized, regulated seed-to-sale system at some point in the hopefully near future.”

The measure passed the chamber 20-9. But Republican Governor Phil Scott has not supported any plan legalizing marijuana and there is no guarantee he will sign the measure if it makes it to his desk.

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: Lawmakers Back Off Plan To Legalize Social Cannabis Clubs

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Lawmakers in Colorado have backed down from a plan that would have legalized social cannabis clubs after Governor John Hickenlooper expressed disapproval, saying that the move could attract a crackdown from the Trump Administration, according to an Associated Press report.

The proposal was approved last month, after it originated in the Colorado Senate with bipartisan support. House lawmakers ultimately turned down the measure, however.

Gov. Hickenlooper said last month that he would veto any cannabis club measure allowing indoor smoking that came across his desk, saying that “given the uncertainty in Washington … this is not the year to be out there carving off new turf and expand markets and make dramatic statements about marijuana.”

There currently are about 30 cannabis clubs operating in Colorado, all private clubs operating under local laws.

The social use measure would have been the first statewide acceptance of social cannabis clubs.

The legislature's retreat demonstrates the uncertainty felt by lawmakers in legalized states about the Trump Administration, who has so far refrained from making a firm statement one way or another about its stance on the marijuana legalization laws that have been passed in Alaska, California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and Washington D.C.

Rhode Island: Legalizing And Regulating Marijuana Would Yield Nearly $50 Million In New Tax Revenue

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

According to a report issued this week by the advocacy coalition Regulate Rhode Island, legalizing, regulating, and taxing the state's marijuana market would result in the generation of nearly $50 million in new annual tax revenue.

Commercial sales of cannabis are estimated to reach $161 million by 2020, according to the report. Taxing this retail market at rates comparable to those in Colorado or Washington would yield $48.3 million per year.

The Adult Use of Cannabis act is legislation pending in the Rhode Island House and Senate to regulate the commercial production and sale of marijuana to adults. Connecticut has similar legislation pending.

Similar legislation was approved by voters in Massachusetts in November.

Connecticut: Marijuana Legalization Hearing Draws Conflicting Testimony

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A hearing on legalizing marijuana for adults in Connecticut Wednesday produced plenty of conflicting testimony about risks and benefits associated with the plant. Topics of concern ranged from health concerns to the state's need for tax revenue.

Very different attitudes toward recreational marijuana were expressed by members of the General Assembly's judiciary committee. Some lawmakers opposed cannabis legalization, while some strongly supported it.

Supporters of marijuana legalization argued that the plant is less addictive than alcohol or nicotine, and that millions of dollars of illegal cannabis is currently being sold in Connecticut every year. Marijuana legalization "would take control of the marijuana market out of the hands of drug dealers," said Joseph LaChance, a medical marijuana patient from Milford.

Martin M. Looney, the Senate's top Democratic leader, testified that prohibiting marijuana use in Connecticut has been as ineffective as alcohol Prohibition was in the 1920s and 1930s.

Looney and others argued that the tax revenue generated by legal marijuana sales could help solve Connecticut's fiscal crisis. Currently, medical marijuana can be sold to patients with a few certain qualifying conditions in Connecticut, but the sales are not taxed.

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.: New Report Shows Marijuana Could Be Legal In All 50 States By 2021

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A new report suggests that every state in the nation could have legal marijuana for medical or recreational use by 2021.

The latest research by GreenWave Advisors shows the marijuana legalization movement is expected to expand into a significant number of states in the next few years. There is already momentum to get marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballots in 2018 and 2020, which could lead to marijuana being legal in some form in all 50 states, the Motley Fool reports.

Last year should be noted as one of the biggest ever in the history of marijuana law reform with voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada voting to legalize recreational cannabis. These states joined Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington in legalizing recreational marijuana and running a regulated and taxed cannabis trade.

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.

Virginia: Jeff Sessions Says Marijuana Is "Only Slightly Less Awful" Than Heroin

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

In prepared remarks for a speech to law enforcement in Richmond today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said "dependency" on marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin.

Sessions addressed the group: "I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable. I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life."

He said he supports a renewed drug awareness campaign on the "terrible truth about drugs" much like the ones started decades ago.

He continued: "In the ’80s and ’90s, we saw how campaigns stressing prevention brought down drug use and addiction. We can do this again. Educating people and telling them the terrible truth about drugs and addiction will result in better choices. We can reduce the use of drugs, save lives and turn back the surge in crime that inevitably follows in the wake of increased drug abuse."

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.

Massachusetts: Senator Patricia Jehlen To Lead Committee On Marijuana Policy

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Massachusetts Senator Patricia Jehlen has officially been named as leader of the new Committee on Marijuana Policy, according to The Common Wealth Magazine. The lawmaker will be in charge of the Senate side of the state Congress, and charged with looking at how to ‘revamp’ the new marijuana law.

Senator Jason Lewis, Vice Chair of the committee, has been an opponent of marijuana legalization in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reported that his concerns arise from being a father as well as a public official.

“I am opposed to the likely ballot question because this is the wrong time for Massachusetts to go down this road, and a commercial, profit-driven market is the wrong approach to take,” Sen. Lewis said in the Boston Globe report.

The House Chair has not been named at this point, but the duo will handle issues such as taxes on retail sales of marijuana, the local control over dispensary locations, and the potency of edibles.

Nearly two million voted 'yes' to Question 4 on Election Day, making Massachusetts one of the first states on the East Coast to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult use.

Despite vigorous campaigning against marijuana legalization from Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo,

Massachusetts: State Treasurer Seeks Clarity From Trump Administration On Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Massachusetts State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who's in charge of implementing the new recreational marijuana law in the state, wrote Tuesday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions seeking guidance on federal enforcement of marijuana.

"In recent weeks, comments from the Trump Administration suggest that the [Department of Justice] may be considering a change [in enforcement]," Goldberg wrote to Sessions. "I would greatly appreciate your prompt response to clarify whether this is true — and if so, what changes we should prepare for before we commit significant public resources to implementing Massachusetts' recreational marijuana laws."

In a briefing last month, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he believes "you'll see greater enforcement of [recreational marijuana]," drawing a distinction between medical and recreational cannabis.

State Attorney General Maura Healey said the Justice Department is sending "mixed messages" around marijuana policy.

"I certainly would like to get some clarity and some certainty on that, and that's just one example of an area where we need more information," she said in a Herald Radio interview on Monday.

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.

Massachusetts: Million-square-foot Marijuana Growing Facility To Open This Fall

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A million-square-foot facility for growing marijuana is scheduled to open this fall in a small town in Bristol County, Massachusetts.

The Freetown, MA property will feature a state-of-the-art medical cannabis cultivation facility known as the Massachusetts Medical Cannabis Center.

The center will be one of the largest marijuana cultivation facilities in the United States.

The first phase of construction will begin in March and will include a 130,000 square-foot facility for the cultivation and processing of marijuana plants and a 30,000 suare-foot space for the research and development of marijuana goods.

AmeriCann, a publicly traded company based in Denver, purchased the land this fall for $4,475,000 from Boston Beer Company, the makers of Samuel Adams.

"This is a project that has been in the works for quite a while," said AmeriCann CEO Tim Keogh.

All marijuana cultivated in the Freetown facility will be available for sale only in Massachusetts, as required by state law.

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.

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: Governor Signs Measure To Delay Opening Of Retail Pot Shops

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a measure Friday that delays the opening of marijuana retail outlets by six months in the state. Groups of protesters gathered outside the State House in protest of the move.

Retail dispensaries were supposed to be allowed to open in January 2018, but that won't happen.

The bill was proposed by lawmakers earlier this week. It will not affect the new laws on possession or growing at home, but the openings of retail pot shops will be delayed, as well as the deadline for regulations from the Cannabis Control Commission.

The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition reacted strongly to the governor's decision. In a statement, it said it was "appalled at this arrogant and cowardly move, whose effect will be to give the black market another six-month monopoly." It added that the delay would deprive Massachusetts "of the considerable revenue that it might generate in taxes from January to July."

Coalition members and supporters protested outside the State House Friday, urging Baker to not sign it.

"This bill, S2524, not only flies in the face of the will of the voters who voted for the January 2018 deadline, it shows contempt for the legislature itself," the coalition wrote online.

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.

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.

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