Marijuana Policy Reform is Heating Up in Texas

As Texas lawmakers prepare for the state’s next legislative session, marijuana policy reform advocates are already pushing for the introduction of several bills that would drastically improve current policies.

According to the San Antonio Current:

Harold Dutton

On December 2, Houston Representative Harold Dutton, D-142, filed a bill seeking to reduce certain penalties for marijuana possession.

As explained by the Marijuana Policy Project’s Texas Political Director, Heather Fazio, who briefly looked at a copy of the bill (H.B. 414), it would classify a conviction for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C Misdemeanor instead of a Class B. However, if a person is convicted three times it would be bumped back to a Class B Misdemeanor.

Moreover, while the bill would allow for cite-and-release, a suspect may also be arrested. If convicted, the fine would be $500.

There are downsides to the bill though, Fazio said. She explained that arrest is traumatizing and may result in negative consequences regarding family and employment. She also thinks the $500 fine is rather excessive. Furthermore, there is the criminal record that comes with a conviction, which for a small-time marijuana charge, results in unnecessary harm to education, employment, and housing.

 We are proposing an alternative. [MPP emphasis added] Our bill will make the possession of 1 oz. or less a civil penalty, removing the opportunity for arrest, jail time, and a criminal record. The fine would cap at $100,” Fazio stated, adding the El Paso Representative Joe Moody, a former prosecutor who serves on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, would introduce the bill in approximately two weeks.

The Marijuana Policy Project and our allies are working to introduce a variety of marijuana policy reform legislation in Texas over the next few years. With all the current excitement and national interest in marijuana policy reform, hopefully Texas lawmakers will join in implementing more sensible marijuana laws when the legislative session convenes.

Uruguay’s Marijuana Marketplace Still Safe With the Re-election of Ex-President, Tabare Vazquez

According to Yahoo News:

Tabare Vazquez

Tabare Vazquez, who served as president of Uruguay from 2005-2010, easily won Uruguay’s presidential election against rival, center-right candidate Luis Lacalle Pou, returning to power a left-leaning coalition that has helped legalize gay marriage and moved to create the world’s first state-run marijuana marketplace.

The runoff vote counted Vazquez to have 53 percent in support of his reelection. Lacalle Pou, on the other hand, who promised to undo much of the plan to put Uruguay’s government in charge of regulating the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana on a nationwide scale, garnered only 40 percent in support of his election.

Vazquez, who previously served as President of Uruguay, belongs to the Broad Front coalition, which has been in power for a decade and has passed laws supporting same-sex marriage and a nationwide marijuana marketplace, among many other social issues.

Therefore, Vazquez’s popularity and experience, coupled with current President Jose Mujica’s popularity, as well as the country’s strong economy that remained consistent during Mujica’s tenure, aided in propelling Vazquez’s reelection into office.

This is good news for the marijuana policy reform movement. Hopefully, Vazquez’s tenure in the world’s first state-run marijuana marketplace will demonstrate the successes of regulating marijuana on a nationwide scale and influence other countries around the world to implement sensible marijuana policies.

Marijuana Credit Union Could be Open in Colorado by January 1 Under State Charter

Colorado marijuana businesses may soon be able to move away from using cash-only systems.

According to The Denver Post:

The Colorado Division of Financial Services … issued Fourth Corner Credit Union an unconditional charter to operate, the first state credit-union charter issued in nearly a decade.

The next hurdles will be obtaining insurance from the National Credit Union Administration, the federal regulator of credit unions, and getting a master account from the Federal Reserve System.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office called the charter “the end of the line” for the state’s efforts to solve the marijuana industry’s nagging problem: obtaining banking services. Although the NCUA insurance is not guaranteed — sale and consumption of marijuana remain illegal under federal law — Fourth CornerFourth Corner can operate until NCUA makes its decision.

“A Colorado law of 1981 allows a credit union to open its doors while an application for share-deposit insurance is pending,” said attorney Mark Mason, one of Fourth Corner’s key organizers.

Currently, many banks and other financial service providers have been unwilling to work with the marijuana industry out of fear of violating federal law. Some lawmakers have been trying to address this issue with the help of the National Cannabis Industry Association, but until they are successful, such credit unions may be the only solution available to marijuana businesses.

Report Shows Arizona Could Gain $48 Million In Taxes Annually From Regulating Marijuana

According to a report acquired by the Phoenix New Times, Arizona stands to gain $48 million in tax revenue annually by regulating marijuana like alcohol:

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee produced a report in September on the estimated impact of legal marijuana, but didn’t release the data publicly. New Times obtained a copy of the report this morning.Arizona

Prepared in response to a legalization bill proposed earlier this year by a group of Democrats, the JLBC report shows that Arizona could enjoy a large boost in revenue for schools, health care and other services simply by taxing people who already use marijuana.

The Democrats’ bill would have made marijuana legal for adults 21 and older, and would have allowed the plant to be sold in retail shops with an added $50-per-ounce tax.

The bill died in committee back in April, but a similar measure could be revived when the legislature reconvenes in January. Whether or not lawmakers do anything, Arizona voters are likely to see a legalization initiative on the ballot in 2016. Coordinated by the Marijuana Policy Project, the initiative is still in the drafting stage but will almost certainly include a tax-collection scheme.

To learn more about MPP’s efforts in Arizona, make sure to sign up for email alerts.

ALASKA RESIDENTS: North Star Borough Officials To Consider Marijuana Regulations TODAY

On Nov. 4, 53% of Alaska voters approved Measure 2 to legalize and regulate the cultivation, possession, and sale of marijuana in Alaska. Tomorrow, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, City of Fairbanks, and City of North Pole city councils will hold a special public forum to discuss potential marijuana regulations at the local level.

Local governments have authority under Measure 2 to impose reasonable regulations, such as limitations on business hours and zoning. If you are a Fairbanks North Star area resident, please let your local elected representatives know you appreciate them taking this new law seriously and expect sensible regulations.

Please attend the hearing and testify in favor of allowing licensed cultivation centers and retail stores to do business. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014
6 p.m.
Pioneer Park Civic Center
2300 Airport Road
Fairbanks, Alaska

Comments are limited to three minutes. Here are suggested talking points to incorporate into your testimony:

  • Thank you for being proactive, and inviting input from the public.
  • It is early in the process, but deliberate and thoughtful rulemaking is appreciated.
  • Reasonable regulations should protect public safety, but also allow the industry to exist.
  • Local lawmakers should continue studying to prepare for this new industry.

Nearly 60% of voters in the Fairbanks North Star Borough voted for Measure 2. Make sure elected officials hear from that sensible majority.

Marijuana Policy Project