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Arizona: 4th of July Themed Billboard Highlights Benefits of Marijuana Legalization

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Backers of the ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Arizona have launched an Independence Day-themed billboard to highlight the benefits of regulating and taxing marijuana.

“If Arizona regulates marijuana,” the billboard reads, “adults could buy American,” instead of buying marijuana that has been illegally smuggled across the Mexican border into Arizona. The ad also notes that revenue from regulated marijuana sales would “support schools, not cartels.”

The proposed initiative would initially generate an estimated $64 million in annual tax revenue, including $51 million for K-12 education and all-day kindergarten programs, according to an independent study conducted by the Grand Canyon Institute.

Arizona: Congressman Ruben Gallego Endorses Initiative To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

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Congressman Ruben Gallego on Monday announced that he is endorsing an initiative poised for the November ballot that would end marijuana prohibition in Arizona and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

“Forcing sales of this plant into the underground market has resulted in billions of dollars flowing into the hands of drug cartels and other criminals,” Rep. Gallego said. "We will be far better off if we shift the production and sale of marijuana to taxpaying Arizona businesses that are subject to strict regulations. It will also allow the state to direct law enforcement resources toward reducing violence and other more serious crimes.

“I am proud to support this initiative, as it represents a far more sensible approach to marijuana for our state,” Gallego said. “It will make Arizona communities safer, while also generating some much-needed tax revenue for our schools.”

Gallego, a Democrat who represents Arizona’s 7th Congressional district, which includes central and south Phoenix as well as western Maricopa County communities, announced his endorsement at a news conference on the House Lawn of the Arizona State Capitol. He was joined by leaders of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is supporting the initiative.

Arizona: Drive For Initiative To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Reaches 200K Signatures

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The campaign needs to collect 150,642 valid signatures of Arizona voters to qualify for the November ballot

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on Tuesday announced it has collected more than 200,000 signatures in support of a proposed initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Arizona. The campaign needs to collect 150,642 valid signatures of registered Arizona voters to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.

“Voters want to have their say on whether Arizona should end marijuana prohibition,” said Campaign Chairman J.P. Holyoak. “It’s appearing more and more likely that they are going to have that opportunity. We’re finding that most Arizonans agree marijuana should be regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.”

The proposed initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana, establish a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol, and enact a 15 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, from which a majority of the revenue would be directed to Arizona schools and public education programs.

Rhode Island: House Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Bill

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The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and replace it with a system in which adults can purchase marijuana from licensed businesses, similarly to alcohol.

Shortly before the hearing, marijuana market researchers, business owners, and entrepreneurs joined Regulate Rhode Island for a news conference to discuss the legislation’s potential to foster new businesses and create thousands of jobs in Rhode Island.

“This bill would provide a tremendous economic boost for our state, which is one of several reasons why our state legislators should not delay voting on it,” said Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat. “This proposal would create dozens of new businesses and thousands of new jobs across Rhode Island. Our state’s unemployment rate is still significantly higher than our neighbors’, and this legislation will put many Rhode Islanders back to work.”

H 7752, known as the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, would make possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older, and it would establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores.

Canada: Medical Cannabis Tax Petition Gains Momentum With Diverse Support

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Almost 7,000 Canadians who share the view that medical cannabis should not be subject to taxation have signed a petition in Parliament urging the federal government to address the unjust tax burden medical cannabis users pay on a daily basis.

With broad support from non-government organizations in the health sector, compassion clubs, marijuana dispensaries, clinics, and federally licensed producers, Petition e-190 has galvanized all corners of a diverse industry, according to supporters.

The petition is open for signature until June 14.

At present, cannabis is the only physician-authorized medicine subject to sales tax. Without insurance coverage, patients already pay for their medication out of pocket.

Adding another cost is a prohibitive barrier that affects Canadians' ability to choose the medical therapy that best manages their symptoms, according to Hilary Black, the petition's founder.

"The diversity of the organizations promoting this petition shows how important this issue is," said Black. "There is a very simple fix and I hope our new federal government will act swiftly to treat cannabis the same way it treats other prescription medications."

Organizations supporting this effort are as diverse as the Canadians who are prescribed marijuana by their doctors. These organizations include:

Dravet Syndrome Foundation
BC Compassion Club Society
Emerald Health Botanicals

Massachusetts: Lawmakers Plan To Ban Home Cultivation If Marijuana Legalized

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Massachusetts voters haven't even legalized marijuana yet, and already state lawmakers are planning how to gut important parts of the law, in case it passes.

A sharply worded Senate report released on Tuesday says that if voters legalize recreational cannabis in the state, lawmakers should promptly cancel their wishes by outlawing home cultivation, imposing high taxes, and prohibiting most edible products, reports Joshua Miller at The Boston Globe.

While the report from the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana claims not to take an official stance on the proposed ballot question to legalize, it repeatedly, and even shrilly, warns of legalization's supposed dangers. The authors claim that legalization could make it easier for children to access marijuana -- despite the fact that it would be limited to adults 21 and older, and black market drug dealers certainly aren't asking for ID currently.

The bipartisan 118-page propaganda piece, I mean "analysis," comes the same week Gov. Charlie Baker, Atty. Gen. Maura Healey, and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston published a scathing op-ed in The Boston Globe opp=osing legalization, and the Massachusetts Legislature's judiciary committee heard testimony on the ballot measure.

Colorado: Regulated Marijuana System Generated More Than $135 Million In Revenue For State

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Revenue Includes More Than $35 Million for School Construction Projects

Total revenue raised from 2015 surpassed original projections and far exceeded the costs associated with regulating the system

Colorado’s regulated marijuana system generated more than $135 million in revenue for the state in 2015, including more than $35 million for school construction projects, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

There were just under $588 million in adult-use marijuana sales in Colorado from January-December 2015, producing approximately $109.1 million in tax revenue in addition to $4.7 million in license and application fees. The state’s regulated medical marijuana system produced more than $11.4 million in tax revenue and $9.8 million in license and application fees.

In 2014, the state’s regulated marijuana system raised just over $76.1 million in total revenue, including about $56.2 million from adult-use marijuana tax revenue and fees and $19.9 million in medical marijuana tax revenue and fees.

“There are hundreds of millions of dollars in marijuana sales taking place in every state,” said Mason Tvert, the Denver-based director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Colorado is one of the few where those sales are being conducted by licensed, taxpaying businesses.”

Adult-use marijuana sales in Colorado are subject to the state’s standard 2.9 percent sales tax, plus a 10 percent special state sales tax. Additionally, wholesale transfers of adult-use marijuana are subject to a 15 percent state excise tax.

Vermont: Governor Calls For Marijuana Legalization In State of the State Address

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Gov. Peter Shumlin Declares Drug War a Failure and Calls for Expanded Overdose Prevention and Treatment Access

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin on Thursday, in his final State of the State address, called on lawmakers to pass legislation legalizing and regulating marijuana.

The Governor also declared the Drug War a failure and expressed desire to continue emphasizing a health-based approach to drug policy by expanding treatment and overdose prevention programs, as well as by removing the stigma associated with drug use and addiction.

"The outdated war on drugs has also failed," said Shumlin, "and there is no greater example than our nation’s marijuana laws."

“Pete Shumlin is providing just the sort of leadership we need to see from other governors around the country,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Indeed, it’s a bit surprising, with a majority of Americans in favor of marijuana legalization, that he’s the only sitting governor to actively call for it. I’m hopeful this is the start of a new trend.”

Gov. Shumlin stressed that a marijuana legalization measure should contain the following:

• A legal market to keep marijuana and other drugs out of the hands of underage kids;
• Tax imposed must be low enough to wipe out the black market and get rid of illegal drug dealers;
• Revenue from legalization must be used to expand addiction prevention programs;
• Strengthened law enforcement capacity to improve our response to impaired drivers

Kentucky: Cannabis Freedom Act Filed To Legalize Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

State Senator Perry B. Clark of Louisville on Friday said he has pre-filed the Cannabis Freedom Act, which would legalize and regulate the use of marijuana in Kentucky similarly to alcohol.

The bill would repeal the Commonwealth's current prohibition on cannabis cultivation, possession and sales, according to a press release from Senator Clark, reports Lex18.com.

Clark said the bill would replace prohibition with a framework that would "promote public safety and responsible cannabis consumption by persons over 21 years of age."

"No one has adequately answered the question as to why cannabis is illegal," Sen. Clark said. "We were sold a bill of goods. We were bamboozled.

"It is abundantly clear to me that cannabis, while being much less harmful, should be treated the same as alcohol," said Sen. Clark. "The Cannabis Freedom Act is an outline on how to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older in Kentucky. It is time for this discussion in our Commonwealth."

"Few believe that anyone should be incarcerated where the cannabis plant is involved," Clark said. "Most of my life we have expended tax dollars pursuing a ban on a plant. Wasted dollars they were.

Washington: King County Sheriff Says Canada Should Use State's Legalization Lessons

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

If Canadian Prime Minister designate Justin Trudeau intends to follow through on his promise to legalize marijuana, he might want to start by learning from Washington state, where recreational marijuana stores have been operating for more than a year, according to the sheriff of Washington's most populous county.

King County Sheriff John Urquhart said the biggest lesson learned in Washington is that once marijuana becomes legal, cities shouldn't have the power to use zoning bylaws to completely ban pot stores, reports CBC News.

"There are several cities in the state and in King County that have outlawed marijuana stores, and that's a big problem as far as I'm concerned," Urquhart said. "One of the premises of legalized marijuana is to get the gray market and criminals out of it.

"If someone has to drive 30 miles to buy their joint, they're not likely to do that," Urquhart said. "They're going to buy it from their old dealer who's not licensed, who's not paying taxes."

Urquart, a former narcotic investigator, says he supports legalization because "the war on drugs just wasn't working." And, so far, he said, none of the negative scenarios of increased crime and addiction have come true.

Colorado: Marijuana Sales Top $100 Million In August

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Cannabis sales surpassed the $100 million mark in August for the first time ever in Colorado, according to recreational and medical marijuana sales data released on Friday by the state Department of Revenue.

Marijuana sales once again eclipsed the previous month's numbers, with recreational cannabis racking up $59.2 million in sales and medical marijuana getting $41.4 million, reports Elizabeth Hernandez at The Denver Post.

The combined $100.6 million in cannabis sales continues the 2015 trend of month-to-month record-setting.

"It means that $100 million is going to licensed, taxpaying businesses, creating jobs and helping to build new schools, instead of going to cartels and drug dealers -- as is the case in the 46 states that don't regulate marijuana," said Dan Riffle, director of federal polices for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

Legal recreational cannabis sales began on January 1, 2014, in Colorado, which was the first state to launch a retail cannabis program. There were $46.4 million in total sales that month, with $14.7 million in recreational and $32.2 million in medicinal sales. August 2014 was the first month when recreational sales exceeded medical sales.

Arizona: Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Reaches 75,000 Signatures

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Backers of an initiative to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Arizona announced Thursday that their petition drive has surpassed the 75,000-signature mark and is one-third of the way to its goal of 230,000 total signatures.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol launched its petition drive in May and needs 150,642 valid signatures of registered Arizona voters to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

“We’re finding that more than one out of every two registered voters we ask to sign is happy to do it, so that’s a good sign,” said campaign chairman J.P. Holyoak. “People recognize that marijuana prohibition has been just as big of a mess as alcohol prohibition was 80 years ago. It’s time for a more sensible approach.”

The proposed initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana; establish a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol; and enact a 15 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, from which a majority of the revenue would be directed to Arizona schools and public education programs.

“Most voters seem to recognize that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and that we’d be better off if we started treating it that way,” Holyoak said. “It makes little sense to criminalize adults for choosing to use a product that is safer than one you can currently buy in a grocery store. Regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol just makes sense.”

Arizona: Marijuana Legalization Backers Outraged By Erroneous Op-Ed On Tax Revenue

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Backers of a plan to legalize marijuana in Arizona are outraged over an unsigned editorial in the Arizona Republic published on August 21 using inaccurate tax revenue figures to back its claim that campaign leaders are lying.

After being notified of the error by the Phoenix New Times, the Republic later issued a correction, reports Ray Stern.

The op-ed was responding to a claim made by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol's message from August 19 at the state Capitol that its planned November 2016 ballot measure, if passed, could bring in $40 million or more annually to Arizona public schools.

The measure in question would create a system of retail cannabis stores where adults 21 and older would pay a 15 percent tax on marijuana sales. After taking the money needed to run a new bureaucracy to oversee that system, 80 percent of the remaining tax revenue would go to funding kindgartens and public schools.

The unsigned editorial claims the legalization campaign's figure is a "lie," suggesting that backers of the measure might be so high on weed that they'd try to deposit the fake check they used for a prop.

Massachusetts: Ballot Initiative Filed To Legalize Marijuana

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A statewide ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Massachusetts was filed on Wednesday with the office of state Attorney General Maura Healy. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) is behind the measure.

“Next year, voters will have the opportunity to end the failed policy of prohibition and replace it with a more sensible system,” said CRMLA director Will Luzier, a former assistant attorney general who previously served as executive director of the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention. “Marijuana is significantly less harmful than alcohol, and our laws should reflect that.”

In summary, the proposed initiative would:

· allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes, similar to home-brewing;

· Create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail outlets, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities, which will be overseen by a commission similar to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC);

· Provide local governments with the authority to regulate and limit the number of marijuana establishments in their city or town; and

U.S.: Federal Appeals Court Says Marijuana Businesses Cannot Deduct Expenses

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In a huge blow to the newly legal marijuana industry, the IRS has convinced the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that marijuana dispensaries can't deduct business expenses, and must pay taxes on 100 percent of their gross income, reports Robert W. Wood at Forbes.

Almost every business in the United States pays taxes only on net profits, after expenses. But marijuana businesses are different -- they must pay taxes on gross profits, according to a Ninth Circuit federal court decision on Thursday, reports Paul L. Caron at the TaxProf Blog.

The court affirmed than the Internal Revenue Service's Section 280E prevents a San Francisco medical marijuana dispensary from deducting ordinary or necessary business expenses because its Vapor Room is a "trade or business ... consist[ing] of trafficking in controlled substances ... prohibited by Federal law." [Olive v. Commissioner, No. 13-70510 (July 9, 2015)

Oregon: Possession, Home Cultivation of Marijuana Become Legal For Adults July 1

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Oregon to End Wasteful and Racially Disproportionate Marijuana Possession Arrests; State Expects Significant Fiscal Benefits

Beginning July 1, adults 21 and older in Oregon will be able to legally possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana in their home and up to 1 ounce of marijuana outside their home. Adults may also grow up to four plants as long as they are out of public view. The regulatory structure allowing for commercial retail sales is still in the works and will not be implemented until next year.

Oregon voters passed Measure 91 last November with 56 percent support. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana but did not address its taxation and sale due to D.C. law.

Alaska’s law started to take effect earlier than Oregon’s, with Alaska officially ending the criminalization of marijuana possession and cultivation in February. Thus Oregon is now the 4th U.S. state to begin implementing its marijuana legalization law.

Rhode Island: Lawmakers Fail To Act On Widely Supported Marijuana Legalization Bill

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The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act had bipartisan backing in both chambers, and an April poll found 57 percent of Rhode Island voters in favor of such a measure

Rhode Island state lawmakers late Thursday recessed the legislative session leaving hundreds of bills, including a widely supported proposal to make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol, pending action. Legislative leaders have indicated they may call a special session in the fall to finish their agenda.

“Lawmakers’ decision to recess without voting on this widely supported legislation is disappointing, to say the least,” said Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat. “We believe we have the votes needed to pass the measure this session, and we’re optimistic that we’ll still have the votes if and when they come back for a special session.

"We hope to work with leaders in both chambers over the summer to ensure lawmakers are given a chance to cast them,” Moffat said.

Rhode Islanders Call On House Speaker, Senate President To Pass Marijuana Legalization Bill

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Representatives of Regulate Rhode Island will be joined by legislative supporters at a Wednesday news conference at 11 a.m. ET in front of the Rhode Island State House to call on House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (D-Cranston) and Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Newport) to support the bill to regulate marijuana like alcohol and allow House and Senate members to vote on it before the session ends this month.

Immediately following the news conference, the group will deliver nearly 500 postcards to Speaker Mattiello’s office. Each postcard is signed by one of his constituents and urges the speaker to support the bill.

“We hope the House Speaker and Senate President will agree with the majority of voters that it’s time to start regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol in Rhode Island,” said Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat. “At the very least, they should allow a vote on the bill before the session ends.”

A record-high 57 percent of Rhode Island voters support changing state law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, according to a survey conducted in April by Public Policy Polling. Only 35 percent were opposed. The full results are available at http://bit.ly/1IiFCNt.

Rhode Island: Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Bill

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The Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a Tuesday hearing regarding a bill that would make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol. Supporters of the bill, including a policy expert with experience in implementing and analyzing marijuana regulations in Colorado, are expected to testify.

The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, or S 510, would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space. It would create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities and direct the Department of Business Regulation to create rules regulating security, labeling, and health and safety requirements.

It would also establish wholesale excise taxes at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store, as well as a special sales tax on retail sales to consumers.

One of the expected speakers, Jordan Wellington, worked closely with the Colorado state government to establish the systems called for by the 2012 passage of a ballot initiative, Amendment 64, which made retail marijuana legal for adults there. In 2013, Wellington served as the sole legislative staffer assigned to shepherd the legislation relating to the implementation of Amendment 64 and the legalization of marijuana through the Colorado General Assembly.

U.S.: Increasing Percentages of Americans Ready For Legal Marijuana

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A new Harris Poll finds that the growing acceptability of marijuana among state lawmakers reflects attitudinal shifts amongst the general American public since 2011. Support for the legalization of marijuana for both medical treatment and recreational use has increased by seven percentage points over the past four years.

Currently, four in five adults (81 percent) favor legalizing marijuana for medical use, up from 2011 when three quarters of Americans (74 percent) indicated the same. Meanwhile, according to Harris, half of Americans are supportive of legalizing marijuana for recreational use (49 percent), up from the two fifths (42 percent) who felt that way in 2011.

• Nearly nine in ten Democrats and Independents are in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical treatment (87 percent & 86 percent, respectively) and over half support recreational use (58 percent & 55 percent, respectively)
• While a majority - albeit a slimmer one - of Republicans also support the legalization medical marijuana (69 percent support, 23 percent oppose), a similar majority opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use (27 percent support, 65 percent oppose).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,221 U.S. adults surveyed online between February 11 and 17, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

Federal law or each state for itself?

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