Vermont Legislators Will Begin 2015 Session with Report on Marijuana Legalization

In January, Vermont’s lawmakers will receive a detailed report analyzing many of the issues surrounding the possibility of making marijuana legal in the state.

The report will not make any recommendations either for or against making marijuana legal in Vermont. It will, however, provide data that will help policymakers understand the issue, and it will prepare legislators for the vigorous debate over marijuana regulation that is expected during the 2015 session.

Beau Kilmer
Beau Kilmer (Photo courtesy of the RAND Corporation)

The co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corporation, Beau Kilmer, is working with Vermont’s Secretary of Administration to prepare the report. In a recent presentation, Kilmer said the first section of the report would be an examination of what he called “Vermont’s marijuana landscape.” In other words, how many people currently use marijuana in Vermont?

“And so we’re able to kind of cobble together information from surveys what we know about misreporting, information we have about total amount consumed, we’re able to put that together to come up with a range,” said Kilmer. “So I’m optimistic about the future of marijuana market studies.”

In addition to determining how many people use marijuana in Vermont, Kilmer said the report will analyze health and safety issues, various potential regulatory models, and projections of the expected impacts of reform, including tax revenue.

The Secretary of Administration is expected to present the finished report to the legislature by January 15.

Speaker of the New York City Council Supports Making Marijuana Legal

Melissa Mark-Viverito

Just days ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio overhauled the city’s marijuana policy by instructing law enforcement officers to issue tickets for marijuana possession instead of arresting offenders. Now, the City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is going a step further and calling for making the substance legal.

“It’s not something we can just do randomly, but with a thought process, and looking how it’s being implemented in other areas. But I do support the legalization of marijuana,” she said at City Hall.

Mark-Viverito’s stance makes her the highest-ranking city official to support adopting such a policy, although it puts her at odds with Mayor de Blasio who does not support making marijuana legal in New York.

“States are speaking,” Mark-Viverito said. “Based on the conversations that we see happening nationally, and how people feel about it, I think that it’s just something that is appropriate at this time.”

The Drug Policy Alliance, a leading advocacy group based in New York City, praised the city council speaker’s stance:

“Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito’s announcement further proves that marijuana legalization is a mainstream issue,” said Kassandra Frederique, the group’s New York policy manager. “It is especially important that elected officials of color lead and frame this conversation as the harms of marijuana prohibition and criminalization overwhelmingly affect their communities,” she added.

State Lawmakers Reveal New Medical Marijuana Bill in Augusta, Georgia

Georgia state lawmakers revealed what the state’s new medical marijuana bill will look like after last year’s proposed bill failed.

Medical marijuana cultivation centers and immunity from prosecution for the families of patients who legally obtain it from other states and bring it back to Georgia are two elements of the new medical marijuana bill that state lawmakers will debate in January.

Rep. Allen Peake

State Rep. Allen Peake, the bill sponsor, said that Georgia’s lawmakers have learned a lot over the past year and hope to pass a better bill this year that would allow private entities to grow medical marijuana in the state.

Peake also said that the medical marijuana grown in Georgia would contain very low THC so that patients would not be able to get high from it.

“If what we’re going to do is legalize a product that is so low in THC that there’s no way to get high off of it, why not provide it as an alternative for other diagnoses — cancer, glaucoma, ALS?” Peake stated.

However, low or no THC medical marijuana laws leave most patients behind. While THC does cause the “high” associated with the substance, patients use medical marijuana for relief, not for euphoria. It has also been shown to have many medical qualities itself.

Georgia’s medical marijuana legislation should not be so restrictive as to leave behind patients who could benefit from access to a variety of medical marijuana strains with different chemical compositions.

UN Official Criticizes U.S. for Breaking the Marijuana Laws That it’s Forced the World to Live By

Marijuana is now legal for adult use in Colorado and Washington and will be joined by Alaska and Oregon, in addition to Washington, D.C. — but it turns out that the four states and nation’s capital are all breaking international law.

Yury Fedotov

According to the executive director of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov:

“I don’t see how (the new laws) can be compatible with existing convention.”

Apparently, he has a point; by allowing legal marijuana sales within its borders, the U.S. is technically in violation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The major UN convention, which was signed by the U.S., prohibits countries from creating regulated markets for the cultivation, sale, purchase, distribution, and possession of marijuana.

Historically, the U.S. has pressured other countries in the convention to adopt measures that enforced American-style prohibition, which has led some to criticize the federal government for being hypocritical by allowing implementation of state marijuana regulations to proceed.

According to Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“The United States has largely dictated international drug laws for decades, and now that it’s becoming clear that Americans will no longer stand with these failed drug policies, we see other countries moving ahead as well.”

“Fedotov’s statements may make it awkward for the federal government, but they won’t stop the momentum toward ending marijuana prohibition.”

The Initiative Petition to Make Marijuana Legal in Nevada Makes Its Deadline

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, an initiative petition that would make the adult use of marijuana legal in Nevada could come to fruition if signatures presented to county offices are valid.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Nevada have “unloaded much more than the 101,667 registered voter signatures needed to qualify the petition,” said Joe Brezny, spokesman for the coalition.

The deadline to submit signatures for the petition was Wednesday. In Clark County alone, more than 145,000 signatures were submitted.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Nevada is now working to present signatures to county offices in rural Nevada and Washoe.

If county officials deem the signatures valid, the Nevada State Legislature could possibly pass the initiative as early as the spring. Approval would take a two-thirds vote in both chambers, due to the petition’s tax component. The petition would also need the signature of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to become law. Rejection within the Nevada State Legislature, however, would set it up for a popular vote in 2016.

Marijuana Policy Project