Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Federal Lawmakers Introduce Sweeping Marijuana Policy Legislation

March 30th, 2017 28 Comments » Marijuana Policy Project

Legislation was introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday that would end marijuana prohibition at the federal level and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

Bills filed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, leaving states to determine their own marijuana policies, and impose federal regulations on marijuana businesses in states that choose to regulate marijuana for adult use. Wyden’s bill would also enact a federal excise tax on marijuana products. In the House, the tax is being proposed in a separate bill introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

Wyden and Blumenauer also filed marijuana policy “gap” bills that would eliminate many of the collateral consequences associated with federal marijuana convictions without removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.

An additional bill filed by Wyden with Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Michael Bennett (D-CO) would reform section 280E of the U.S. Tax Code to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses from their federal taxes. A companion bill was filed in the House by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Rep. Blumenauer.

MPP Director of Federal Policies Robert Capecchi issued the following statement in a press release:

“This is commonsense legislation that will eliminate the growing tension between federal and state marijuana laws. Voters and legislatures are rolling back antiquated state marijuana prohibition policies, and it’s time for Congress to step up at the federal level. States are adopting laws designed to improve public safety by replacing the illegal marijuana market with a tightly regulated system of production and sales. The federal government should be working to facilitate that transition, not hinder it. It’s time for Congress to come to grips with the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol, and most Americans think it should be treated that way.

“We commend Sen. Wyden and Reps. Polis and Blumenauer for proposing a sensible path forward. We hope their colleagues will take an objective look at the benefits of replacing prohibition with a system of regulation. There will surely be some members on the fence about this legislation, but consider it unthinkable that we would return to alcohol prohibition. They need to ask themselves why they are still clinging to the prohibition of a less harmful substance.”

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Tax and Regulate

Bill to Regulate Marijuana Introduced in Delaware

March 30th, 2017 1 Comment » Maggie Ellinger-Locke

After years of advocacy on the part of MPP and our local partners, Delaware Rep. Helene Keeley and Sen. Margaret Rose Henry introduced HB 110, the Delaware Marijuana Control Act. The bill seeks to legalize and regulate cannabis for adults 21 years of age or older. The marijuana tax revenue would be used to fund education, public health campaigns, and to support re-entry campaigns for ex-offenders, among other programs.

An October 2016 poll by the University of Delaware found that 61% of state residents favor this important policy change. Now it is up to voters to let their lawmakers know they want to see them vote in favor of this bill!

In a press briefing to announce the bill’s introduction, sponsors of the bill — which enjoys bipartisan support — spoke about why they see this topic as a social justice issue, and how the failed “reefer madness” policy views of the past should come to an end.

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Medical Marijuana

West Virginia Senate Approves Medical Marijuana

March 30th, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

The West Virginia Senate has voted to approve a medical marijuana bill Wednesday. SB 386, sponsored by Sen. Richard Ojeda, passed the Senate in a 28-6 vote! The bill will now move to the House.

In the past, House Speaker Tim Armstead has not been willing to allow medical marijuana bills to be considered. However, if enough delegates are willing to stand up and support this critical reform, it will be possible to overcome the speaker’s opposition.

“We applaud the Senate for standing up for seriously ill West Virginians and giving them hope with this much-needed legislation,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “For many patients, medical marijuana is a far safer alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs. Any delegates who are serious about addressing the opiate crisis in West Virginia need to consider the substantial benefits this law could have on that front.  We hope Speaker Armstead will review the facts and give this bill a fair shake in the House.”

If you are a West Virginia resident, please call your delegates’ offices right now, and urge them to support allowing medical marijuana in West Virginia.

It’s also imperative that you call House Speaker Tim Armstead’s office at (304) 340-3210, and urge House leaders to stop stonewalling on this important issue.

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Prohibition

Vermont House Moves Legalization Bill Back to Committee

March 30th, 2017 No Comments Matt Simon

On Tuesday, the Vermont House of Representatives appeared to be ready to pass H. 170, which would legalize marijuana possession and cultivation for adults. Unfortunately, instead of calling for a vote on the floor, House leaders decided to send the bill to the Human Services Committee for further consideration.

If you are a Vermont resident, it is critically important that the House speaker’s office hear from you on this issue. Please call the speaker’s office now at (802) 828-2245, and urge House leaders to bring H. 170 to the floor for a vote as soon as possible and pass it on to the Senate.

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Tax and Regulate

Illinois Lawmakers Introduce Proposal to Regulate Marijuana for Adult Use

March 23rd, 2017 7 Comments » Marijuana Policy Project

Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sen. Heather Steans introduced bills Wednesday that would finally end cannabis prohibition in Illinois. Identical bills, one introduced in the House and one in the Senate, would allow adults to use, possess, and cultivate limited amounts of cannabis with no penalty, and would set up a taxed and regulated market for cannabis production and sale.

MPP issued the following statement in a press release:

“People are fed up with laws that punish adults for using a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol,” said Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The time is right for the Illinois General Assembly to re-examine marijuana prohibition and consider the potential benefits of a thoughtfully crafted regulatory system. The sky has not fallen in the eight states that have made marijuana legal for adults. It’s time for Illinois to move past prohibition and stop missing out on the jobs and revenue other states are already getting.”

If you are an Illinois resident, please urge your state legislators to support HB 2353 and SB 316.

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Prohibition

Key Committee Approves Marijuana Possession Bill in Vermont

March 23rd, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

The Vermont House Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 to approve H. 170, a bill that would eliminate penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and a small number of plants. Additionally, an independent poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project and conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 57% of Vermonters support H. 170.

As amended by the committee, H. 170 would eliminate penalties for adults 21 and older who possess one ounce or less of marijuana, two mature plants, and four immature plants — as well as the marijuana produced by those plants, if stored properly in accordance with the law. Possession of between one and two ounces would become a civil violation punishable by a fine.

“Today’s vote shows just how far this issue has advanced in just this past year,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a press release. “Most Vermonters agree it makes no sense to continue punishing adults for consuming a less harmful substance than alcohol — especially now that it is legal for adults in Massachusetts and Maine. Vermonters are ready to close the book on marijuana prohibition.”

If you are a Vermont resident, it is critically important that you call or email your representatives today and urge them to vote YES on H. 170.

 

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Tax and Regulate

Nevada Considers Social Consumption Bill

March 23rd, 2017 1 Comment » Marijuana Policy Project

Nevada Sen. Tick Segerblom has introduced a bill that would allow social use of marijuana in certain venues, such as lounges, bars, and coffee shops, as well as at special events. SB 236 would allow local governments to issue permits to businesses and licenses for special events allowing marijuana consumption in designated places.

Social use would be monitored locally and would only allow adults aged 21 and over to publically consume marijuana. SB 236 outlines clear regulatory instructions that social use venues cannot exist within 1000 feet of a school, public park or playground, church, or anywhere that is otherwise viewable from a public place. If passed, SB 236 would become the first state law to address public consumption of marijuana. With legal sales expected to begin soon, SB 236 is increasingly important to ensure consumption can take place in a safe and legal environment.

Fifty-five percent of Nevada voters approved Question 2, legalizing adult use and possession of small quantities of marijuana, and state regulators are demonstrating their commitment to immediately begin complying with the wishes of Nevada citizens by creating rules to establish retail sales by July 1, 2017.

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Tax and Regulate

Push to Regulate Marijuana for Adult Use Picks Up Steam in Connecticut

March 13th, 2017 1 Comment » Marijuana Policy Project

The newly formed Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana (CCRM) held a press conference March 7 to rally support for legislation that would regulate and tax marijuana for adult use in Connecticut.

The event was held just prior to a committee hearing on H.B. 5314, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Ziobron (R-East Haddam), which directs the Department of Consumer Protection to establish a regulated system of marijuana cultivation and sales for adults 21 years of age and older. It also directs the Department of Revenue Services to create a tax structure that would generate revenue for the state and certain municipalities.

“I feel that the legalization of marijuana is inevitable and, as such, Connecticut should be at the forefront of the movement in order to set the standard for effective policy,” Ziobron said in a CCRM news release.

Ziobron and the sponsors of three similar proposals — Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven) and Reps. Juan Candelaria (D-New Haven) and Toni Walker (D-New Haven) — have agreed to work together to end marijuana prohibition in Connecticut and ensure whichever bill moves forward will create the best system possible for regulating and taxing marijuana.

“The vast majority of voters in Connecticut think it is time to end marijuana prohibition and start regulating it similarly to alcohol,” CCRM Director Sam Tracy said in a statement to the media. “Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society. It should be produced and sold by tightly regulated, taxpaying businesses, not by criminals in the underground market.”

Nearly two-thirds of Connecticut voters (63%) support making possession of small amounts of marijuana legal for adults, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll conducted in March 2015.

If you live in Connecticut, contact your elected officials today and ask them to support the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adult use.

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Prohibition

South Dakota Lawmakers Considering Marijuana Bills

March 10th, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Last week, the South Dakota State Senate passed Senate Bill 95, which would remove cannabidiol, or CBD oil, from the definition of marijuana and make it a Schedule IV controlled substance under state law. However, the bill included a requirement that CBD oil be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which would indefinitely curtail access to CBD oil in South Dakota.

On March 2, the House Health and Human Services Committee approved SB 95 by a vote of 7-3 and added an amendment eliminating prior FDA approval with the goal of increasing access for patients. MPP is closely monitoring SB 95 for potential problems, since pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists are pushing the South Dakota Legislature to keep the FDA approval requirement in the bill.

Additionally, Senate Bill 129 was introduced with a total of 15 sponsors. This legislation would revise the penalty for ingestion of marijuana, which would undo South Dakota’s uniquely severe law of criminalizing internal possession. However, the sponsors have unambiguously stated this is not a first step toward legalizing marijuana. Nonetheless, if enacted, this bill demonstrates a step toward reasonable regulatory laws relating to possession.

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Prohibition

New Hampshire House Approves Decriminalization Measure

March 10th, 2017 1 Comment » Matt Simon

The New Hampshire House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved HB 640 on Wednesday (318-36), bringing New Hampshire one step closer to becoming the final state in New England to decriminalize marijuana possession. The bill will now be considered by the Senate.

HB 640, sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) and a bipartisan group of 10 co-sponsors, would reduce the penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, which is currently punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000, to a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense within three years, and $350 for a third or subsequent offense within three years of two previous offenses.

HB 640 has faced much less opposition than similar bills that failed in recent years. Only one person testified against it at a public hearing on February 1, and the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which voted 7-6 last year to kill a similar measure (HB 1631), approved HB 640 14-2. Additionally, Gov. Chris Sununu has consistently said he supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, whereas previous governors have been opposed.

More than seven out of 10 Granite Staters (72%) would like to see the Legislature decriminalize or legalize marijuana, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in July 2016.

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