The New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee voted to amend HB 492, which would make marijuana legal and regulate it like alcohol, in order to simplify the tax structure and regulatory language. The committee then voted 14-5 to recommend that the House not pass the bill, which would also allow people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. The House is not bound by this recommendation, and will vote on whether the bill should progress to the Senate soon.
The committee’s amended bill taxes and regulates marijuana by imposing a standardized $60 per ounce tax on growers. Advocates claim the tax will generate approximately $25 to $30 million annually.
MPP’s Matt Simon commented that, “Even with a negative recommendation, this thoughtful amendment will make it much more likely that the bill will receive continued support from the rest of the Legislature. We are optimistic that New Hampshire lawmakers will recognize that their constituents do not want to see adults arrested for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.”
California was the pioneering state for medical marijuana, which was made legal in 1996, but since then has stalled on creating a regulatory structure for cultivation or sales, and the legislature has been unwilling to seriously consider making marijuana legal for adults.
Leading up to the party shift this weekend, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, formerly the mayor of San Francisco, made the case for marijuana, swaying moderate Democrats by reassuring them, “You can be pro-regulation without being an advocate for drug use.”
Newsom’s advocacy was contrary to Gov. Brown’s interview on “Meet the Press” the last week, in which he voiced peculiar concerns over marijuana’s effect on alertness. “The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive,” Brown said. “I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”
The platform language specifically calls on Democrats to “support the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol.” The tipping point in this shift may stem from Colorado’s preliminary tax revenue generation of $2 million dollars for the month of January. However, revenue clearly is not the only factor; a recent Field Poll found a 55% majority of voters support legalization.
A recent investigation into drug treatment centers in southern California found rampant financial corruption and inflated reporting of patient attendance.
The investigation, conducted by the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN, found that dozens of clinics showed signs of deception and questionable billing practices. The two worst offenders, Able Family and GB Medical Services, were virtually empty storefronts run by convicted criminals that bribed clients and submitted fake names to a government insurance provider in order to collect millions in taxpayer money. Over the past two years alone, the clinics indicted by the investigation received $94 million in public funds.
According to CNN’s interviews with former state officials, California’s Department of Health Care Services has “fielded concerns about rehab clinic fraud for at least five years yet has done almost nothing to combat it.”
While these findings demonstrate the need for reform in California’s regulation of drug treatment centers, they also provide additional evidence that the number of people in treatment for marijuana use is inflated.
A 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that a majority (57%) of participants in drug treatment programs for marijuana were referred there by the criminal justice system. In other words, users who were arrested for simple possession were offered the choice of “treatment” or jail time.
With all of the money to be made from these programs – through forced attendance or unscrupulous government agencies forking over taxpayer money for fake clients – it is of little surprise that some of the most vocal critics of marijuana policy reform own and operate treatment clinics.
Pennsylvania recently joined the growing list of states considering taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol this year, when Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17) introduced SB 528. The proposal was referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee on April 3.
Sen. Leach’s bill, the Regulate Marijuana Act, would allow adults 21 and over to possess, grow, process, or transport up to six marijuana plants (three or fewer being mature) and possess the marijuana produced by those plants where they were grown, provided that the growing takes place in a secure location. In addition, adults would be allowed to give away up to one ounce of marijuana to other adults who are 21 or older.
SB 528 would task the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board with licensing marijuana-related facilities and regulating the cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana to adults 21 and over. In terms of taxation, the bill calls on the General Assembly to enact an excise tax on marijuana sold or transferred.
If you are a Pennsylvania resident, please contact your legislators now, and ask them to support taxing and regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.