Passage of Vermont’s legalization bill, H. 511, was a huge step forward for the state — and the nation. Now that Gov. Scott has signed this bill allowing personal possession and cultivation, effective on July 1, it’s time for the legislature to begin moving forward with plans to regulate and tax marijuana production and sale for adults 21 and older.
Some legislators who voted NO on H. 511 have already said that they support regulating and taxing marijuana. Others are reconsidering their positions now that it’s clear that marijuana will soon become legal. A bill on this issue, H. 490, is still active in the House after being carried over from last year.
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.
Maryland’s comprehensive medical marijuana law took effect on June 1, 2014. Over 23 months later, no patients have been registered, no ID cards have been issued, and dispensary licensees are not expected to be announced until this fall.
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC), the state agency in charge of establishing Maryland’s medical marijuana program, announced another delay Tuesday in implementation of the medical marijuana law enacted over two years ago. While this delay is only a few additional months, it is the latest in a series of delays that will result in medical marijuana not being available until 41 months after the law’s enactment, giving Maryland among the slowest rollouts of a medical marijuana program in the nation.
While we appreciate that the commission is regulating an industry that is new to Maryland, this delay is unreasonable and unnecessary, and every day it continues is another day patients must suffer. Nine states were able to issue patient ID cards in less than one year, with the average being less than seven months.
Although Maryland law requires patients to obtain medical marijuana from a medical dispensary, an ID card would help patients use the existing affirmative defense, protecting them if they are arrested with their medicine. Please ask the commission to issue ID cards NOW and to make sure there are no more delays in getting patients the medicine they need.
California Democrats approved adding a position in support of taxing and regulating marijuana to the party’s platform Sunday, despite opposition from Gov. Jerry Brown (D). This is a major shift in the Democratic Party stance on legal marijuana use in the Golden State, and was spearheaded by long-time activist Lanny Swerdlow and the Brownie Mary Democratic Club.
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.
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.
Last week, Alabama joined the growing list of states considering taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol this year. Sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), HB 550 would remove all criminal penalties for possession of marijuana by adults. The proposal was referred to the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Rep. Todd’s bill, the Alabama Cannabis and Hemp Reform Act of 2013, would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to 12 plants in a secure space. It would tax marijuana similarly to alcohol and would task the Alabama Department of Revenue with licensing retail outlets and regulating the cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana to adults 21 and over.
In addition to allowing a regulated and taxed marijuana industry, HB 550 would also set up a medical marijuana program. The bill would authorize the medical use of marijuana for qualifying patients who have been diagnosed with serious medical conditions by their physicians.
If you are an Alabama resident, please contact your legislators now and ask them to support HB 550!
The Maryland House of Delegates will debate whether or not the state should permit the establishment of a legal market for businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older. Delegate Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore City) introduced H.B. 1453 on Thursday. If passed, the bill would make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed like alcohol. The proceeds from the bill’s stipulated excise tax will be used to offset implementation and fund treatment programs to prevent alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse.
“It is time for a new, more sensible approach to marijuana in Maryland, and that is what this bill proposes,” said MPP deputy director of government relations Dan Riffle.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Maine unveiled the details of a new bill that would make Maine the third state in the nation to make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed like alcohol.
If approved during this session, the “Act to Tax and Regulate Marijuana,” formulated by state Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) and supported by Rep. Aaron Libby (R-Waterboro), will be referred to voters in the upcoming November election. If the measure gets carried over and approved during the next legislative session, it will be placed on the November 2014 ballot.
“When it comes to keeping marijuana away from teens, keeping marijuana in an unregulated underground market is the worst possible policy,” Rep. Russell said. “Instead, marijuana should be sold by legitimate, taxpaying businesses in a tightly regulated market.”
Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach, a long-time supporter of marijuana reform and previous sponsor of several medical marijuana bills, announced Monday that he will introduce a bill that would make adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana legal and would tax and regulate the substance. According to The Times Herald, the latter policy is what may eventually swing lawmakers in his state:
But money, more than moral appeals or anything else, might talk the loudest in the drive to decriminalize marijuana in Pennsylvania, particularly in the current era of budget shortfalls and lingering economic uncertainty. And with financial concerns helping to fuel the passage of historic pot legalization laws in Colorado and Washington State in November — as well as the introduction of a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday that would legalize and levy an excise tax on the sale of the drug — perhaps now is a better time than ever to convince skeptical state lawmakers of the cash benefits of getting into the marijuana business.
Sen. Leach truly believes in this issue, and he wants people to start talking about it more. He tells Raw Story:
“This is inevitable. This will pass. It may take two, it may take four years,” Leach added. “A majority of people don’t support marijuana legalization simply because they haven’t really had cause to revisit the issue in their minds. Once you sit down with people and explain the harm it does in a wide variety of ways, and the be[ne]fits(sic) we can accrue through legalization, I think that people will very quickly change their minds.
… So there’s many who won’t put their name out front on an issue until it gets [mainstream] in their minds. If there was a secret ballot, I predict legalization would pass.”
If you want to help start this conversation with your members of Congress, it has never been easier.
At a press conference Wednesday, Rhode Island State Rep. Edith Ajello (pictured at right) and State Sen. Donna Nesselbush announced the introduction of a bill to make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. So far the bill has 19 sponsors, including Republican House Minority Leader Brian Newberry.
Under the Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, criminal penalties for the private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and for the home growing of up to three mature marijuana plants would be removed; a tightly regulated system of marijuana retail stores, cultivation and research facilities would be established; and the Department of Business Regulation would establish rules regulating security, labeling, health and safety requirements.
A story about the event in the Pawtucket Times conveyed Sen. Nesselbush's strong case for the bill:
"Marijuana, like alcohol, has long been with us and is widely used,” Nesselbush told reporters at an afternoon news conference. “The question is: how are we going to deal with it?
"Will the state determine the time, place and manner or will we leave it up to criminals to sell it anywhere at any time to anyone? Will the state act boldly to create a legitimate industry that creates jobs and generates legitimate tax revenue or will we continue to unwittingly support gangs and cartels? Are we going to spend the hard-earned tax dollars from hard-working taxpayers to punish and incarcerate individuals for consuming a substance that appears to be less harmful than alcohol?”
The Rhode Island bill was rolled out just one day after members of Congress introduced historic legislation to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol at the federal level. If you have yet to do so, please contact your represenative totday and encourage them to support an end to federal marijuana prohibition.
(Photo courtesy of Rebecca McGoldrick, Coalition for Marijuana Regulation)