Tax and Regulate

Massachusetts Lawmakers Delay Regulation of Marijuana

December 29th, 2016 5 Comments Mason Tvert

massachusetts-flagMassachusetts lawmakers passed a measure Wednesday that would delay the full implementation of Question 4, the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, which voters approved in November.

The Boston Globe reports:

It took less than an hour, and only about a half-dozen state legislators, to approve a bill that would overturn significant parts of a marijuana legalization law that 1.8 million voters approved just last month.

With no public hearings and no formal public notice, the few lawmakers on Beacon Hill passed a measure on Wednesday to delay the likely opening date for recreational marijuana stores in Massachusetts by half a year — from January to July 2018.

The move was met with criticism from Question 4 supporters, who pointed out that Colorado lawmakers were able to effectively implement a similar initiative in a timeframe that is similar to the one stipulated in Question 4.

The Yes on 4 campaign issued the following statement:

We are very disappointed that the Legislature has decided to alter Question 4 in an informal session with little notice regarding proposed changes. We are willing to consider technical changes to Question 4 so that the new law is implemented in a timely and responsible manner. However, our position remains that the measure was written with careful consideration regarding process and timelines and that no major Legislative revisions are necessary. Further, the voters of Massachusetts approved Question 4 by a significant margin, and any alteration of the law deserves a transparent, deliberative legislative process.

As MPP’s Mason Tvert pointed out, the reasoning behind the delay is not particularly sound.

“The Legislature has a responsibility to implement the will of the voters while also protecting public health and public safety,” [Senate President Stanley] Rosenberg said. “This short delay will allow the necessary time for the Legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law.”

But Mason Tvert, a national advocate for legalization at the Marijuana Policy Project, scoffed at the premise of the Senate president’s statement.

“The will of the voters was to protect public health and public safety by regulating marijuana,” Tvert said. “By delaying the regulation of marijuana, lawmakers are delaying the protection of public health and public safety.”

Question 4 officially took effect earlier this month, at which time it became legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana.

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Tax and Regulate

Colorado Sees More Than $1 Billion in Marijuana Sales in 2016

December 20th, 2016 3 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

picstateflag_1Legal marijuana businesses in Colorado made more than a billion dollars in sales during the first 10 months of 2016, exceeding sales numbers from last year.

The Cannabist reports:

Recreational and medical cannabis shops in America’s first 420-legal state have sold nearly $1.1 billion of marijuana and related products in 2016, according to the new October data from the state’s Department of Revenue.

When 2015’s year-end marijuana tax data was finally released in February, Cannabist calculations showed $996,184,788 in sales at Colorado marijuana shops that year — spurring a leading industry attorney to tell us at the time, “I think it’s ethical to round that up to a billion.”

That same lawyer, Vicente Sederberg partner Christian Sederberg, celebrated the billion-dollar news on Monday by also pointing to the Colorado cannabis industry’s increasing economic impact and skyrocketing tax revenues for the state as well as numerous cities and counties throughout Colorado.

“We think we’ll see $1.3 billion in sales revenue this year,” said Sederberg, “and so the economic impact of this industry — if we’re using the same multiplier from the Marijuana Policy Group’s recent report, which is totally reasonable — it suddenly eclipses a $3 billion economic impact for 2016.”

In addition to creating economic benefits, including state and local tax revenue and thousands of jobs, this legal market is on pace to continue stripping billions of dollars a year from the criminal market.

 

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Medical Marijuana

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Legislation to Be Introduced

December 20th, 2016 3 Comments Kate Bell
Last week, Tennessee State Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-11) and Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-20) announced that they are introducing a medical marijuana bill to bring meaningful access to many patients in Tennessee.1280px-flag_of_tennessee-svg
While the full text of the bill is not yet publicly available, the legislators’ plan allows patients with a doctor’s recommendation and a $35 ID card to purchase medicine at one of 150 dispensaries across the state. They also noted that their proposed program could help address the opioid epidemic; studies have shown a 25% drop in opioid overdoses in states with effective medical marijuana programs.
If you are a Tennessee resident, please request that your legislators support the plan, and stay tuned for more information about this bill.

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Tax and Regulate

Marijuana Now Legal In Massachusetts

December 20th, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Massachusetts residents are allowed to legally possess and grow marijuana as of December 15, ending the state’s 100-year prohibition era marked by vast social injustices, wasteful government spending and ineffective public policyyes_on_4_logo_header

Persons age 21 and older are allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana on their person up to 10 ounces in their homes, and are permitted to give an ounce or less of marijuana to others. Any quantity above one ounce in the home must be under lock and key. Residents will also be allowed to grow six plants per person in their homes, with a maximum of 12 plants per household.

No plants can be visible by neighbors or from a public place and all growing areas must be under lock and key. Landlords have the right to prohibit smoking or growing of marijuana in their properties.

Public consumption of marijuana remains prohibited under the new law, as does the unlicensed sale of any amount.

MPP and our allies will continue to work with the state government to ensure that the rest of the law is implemented effectively so that the regulated adult market is on its feet as soon as possible.

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Medical Marijuana

Proposed Ohio Medical Marijuana Regulations Released

December 16th, 2016 No Comments Chris Lindsey
flag_of_ohio-svgProposed rules were published yesterday governing both dispensaries and physicians operating in the emerging medical marijuana program in Ohio. Both sets of proposed rules are available online. Members of the public are invited to review and comment on them before January 13, 2017.
Most of the proposed rules are sensible, but there is room for improvement. One area of concern is the state’s initial proposal to limit the total number of dispensaries to 40. Given the state’s population and the likely size of the program, such a low number could create significant access problems for patients.
In addition to the newly proposed rules, the state also published a revision to its cultivation rules, available here. While still short of ideal, the state made several major improvements, including doubling the number of smaller, Level II licenses, increasing the square footage limits for all cultivators, and lowering the financial burden.
If the dispensary or physician rules could affect you, please take a moment to review and comment. The rules and instructions for commenting are available here. A more detailed analysis of the rules and how the program could be impacted will be published on our website in the coming weeks.

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Research

Annual Study Shows Teen Marijuana Use Stable, Accessibility Decreasing

December 13th, 2016 No Comments Morgan Fox

The results of an annual survey of U.S. middle and high school students released Tuesday invalidate claims that reforming marijuana laws and debating legalization will lead to increased marijuana use among teens.mtf-logo-high-res-300x194

According to the Monitoring the Future Survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

•    Among 8th-graders, the rate of past-year marijuana use dropped significantly from 11.8% in 2015 to 9.4% in 2016, its lowest level since 1993. Past-month marijuana use also dropped significantly, from 6.5% in 2015 to 5.4% in 2016, and daily use dropped from 1.1% in 2015 to 0.7% in 2016.

•    Among 10th- and 12th-graders, rates of past-year, past-month, and daily marijuana use remained relatively stable compared to last year.

•    Rates of use among 12th-graders appear to be higher in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without them, but previous studies have found that rates of use were already higher prior to the adoption of such laws.

•    Students’ perception of risk surrounding marijuana remained relatively stable from 2015 to 2016. The perception that marijuana is very easy or fairly easy to access declined slightly for 8th- and 10th-graders, and it increased slightly for 12th-graders.

Since 2012, eight states and the nation’s capital have adopted laws that make marijuana legal for adult use. Since 1996, 28 states have adopted laws that make marijuana legal for seriously ill patients whose doctors recommend it.

MPP’s Mason Tvert sees this as more evidence that one of the more popular claims by prohibitionists is simply a scare tactic:

“Every time a state considers rolling back marijuana prohibition, opponents predict it will result in more teen use. Yet the data seems to tell a very different story. There has been a sea change in state marijuana laws over the past six years and teen usage rates have remained stable and even gone down in some cases.

“The best way to prevent teen marijuana use is education and regulation, not arresting responsible adult consumers and depriving sick people of medical marijuana. It is time to adopt marijuana policies that are based on evidence instead of fear.”

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Medical Marijuana

Congress Extends Budget Protecting Medical Marijuana Programs Though April

December 13th, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project
State medical marijuana patients can breathe a sigh of relief … for now. Congress just passed a spending bill that will keep the Department of Justice’s budget intact until April 28, 2017.united_states_capitol_-_west_front
This bill temporarily renews a spending provision that protects medical marijuana patients and businesses from being targeted by the DOJ as long as they follow state law.

When Trump’s pick for attorney general, anti-marijuana Senator Jeff Sessions, steps into office, he will not be able to go after lawful medical marijuana patients and entities for several months (if he opts to do so at all).

Since these protections are only temporary, we must push strongly to keep intact the current federal policy that allows states to regulate marijuana without intrusion by the federal government.

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Prohibition

Louisiana Man Serving 13 Years for Two Joints Has Sentence Reduced

December 9th, 2016 8 Comments Marijuana Policy Project
bernard-noble
Bernard Noble

Simply being arrested for marijuana possession is bad enough, and can have life-long consequences. But imagine spending 13 years in prison for a small personal amount of a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol. That’s what Bernard Noble, a Louisiana man with a history of minor non-violent drug possession offenses, has been subjected to since being convicted in 2010. Now, thanks to the tireless work of his family, his defense attorney, advocates around the country, he will free in 2018.

Huffington Post reports:

Bernard Noble, a 50-year-old father of seven, has spent the last six years in prison in Louisiana serving out a sentence of 13 and a half years for possession of what was the equivalent of two joints’ worth of marijuana.

Noble’s case was a rallying cry for those seeking reform of harsh sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders. And Monday, after years of litigation, multiple articles on his case (including from The Huffington Post), documentaries, podcasts, rallies and petitions, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro agreed to resentence Noble to eight years, Noble’s attorney Jee Park announced in a statement. That means he could be free in less than two more years given the time he’s already served behind bars.

“To me, eight years is still too long for Bernard and his family,” Park said, “but the prospect of going home and being reunited with his children in less than 2 years brought relief to Bernard.”

Park said she’s hopeful that Noble, who she described as a “caring and responsible father, successful entrepreneur, [with] no violence in his past” might be paroled and released even sooner. Noble’s previous sentence did not include the possibility of parole.

Noble was caught with the equivalent of two joints’ worth of marijuana in 2010. At first, Noble was sentenced to five years in prison. But the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office appealed that ruling and took the case all the way to the state Supreme Court.

Noble had seven prior convictions on his record, stretching back to 1989. All were convictions for possession of small amounts of drugs; two were for cocaine and the rest were for marijuana. All were nonviolent, and four were misdemeanors and three were felonies. The state used two of the felony charges in their branding of Noble as a “habitual offender” under Louisiana law. That allowed them to apply the maximum possible sentence against Noble, without a chance of parole.

Read HuffPost’s full interview with Noble from 2015 here.

MPP would like to congratulate Mr. Noble on this victory and thank all the people whose efforts are helping bring him home.

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Medical Marijuana

Montana Court Rules Medical Marijuana Providers Can Start Helping More Patients Immediately

December 8th, 2016 No Comments Chris Lindsey
In an important new development in Montana, District Court Judge James Reynolds ruled Wednesday that medical marijuana providers may serve more than three patients starting immediately. This is welcome news to over 11,000 patients who may now re-establish critical access to medical marijuana. Without the ruling, severe limitations for patients would not have been removed until July of 2017. Following today’s decision, there is no need for delay.2000px-flag_of_montana-svg
Voters in Montana adopted I-182 in November, undoing many harmful provisions in the state medical marijuana law and creating new protections for businesses. Unfortunately, a typo contained in the measure suggested that providers could not re-establish their relationship with patients well into next year. The state would not simply correct the error, so the Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA), which supported the measure, sought relief in state court. Today’s ruling is yet another victory for patients and those who provide to them.
Special thanks to the MTCIA and their supporters for their hard work in support of the measure, and for taking the matter to court when relief was critical to thousands.

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Tax and Regulate

Maine Initiative Recount Wasting Time and Taxpayer Money

December 8th, 2016 3 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Last week, the group opposing the successful initiative to make marijuana legal in Maine moved forward with a recount, despite the cost to the taxpayer and the very slim chances of overturning Question 1.yes1

“We respectfully ask the No on 1 Campaign to follow the lead of the No on 2 Campaign and withdraw their recount request,” said David Boyer, Campaign Manager for the Yes on 1 Campaign. “There is no evidence that a recount would change the result of Question 1. At the same time, $500,000 would be wasted on the process of recounting ballots. That’s half a million taxpayer dollars that should be spent on heating homes and funding schools.”

The most recent statewide recount in Maine was the 2010 Oxford Casino initiative, when the opposition campaign demanded a recount. The Yes campaign won the original vote by 4,723 votes, and after roughly 20% of the recount was complete, the margin of victory actually increased.

Not satisfied with simply wasting taxpayer money, the prohibitionists couldn’t even be bothered to show up to the first day of counting with the legally required number of people to count the votes!

David Boyer, campaign manager for Yes on 1, said volunteers with his campaign pitched in to count for the “No” side to keep the process going on Monday and Tuesday.

“That is, quite frankly, silly. The whole point is to ensure the integrity of the vote and they can’t be bothered to do that,” he said. “What are we doing here?”

Boyer said the No on 1 campaign’s “lack of organization is costing taxpayers more money because it’s going slower.”

 

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