Tax and Regulate

Making Marijuana Legal is #2 Issue in Rhode Island

The news blog GoLocalProv just ranked the bills being considered in the Rhode Island General Assembly as the “most likely to have a swift and immediate impact on residents throughout the Ocean State and the ones most likely to take up the majority of the General Assembly’s time.”

Naturally, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, or H 5274, came in at Number 2 on the list!

From GoLocalProv:

Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, said legalizing marijuana has been met with “more public support than ever before,” and praised Rhode Island for considering the measure.

“Most Americans are fed up with laws that punish adults simply for using a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol,” he said earlier this month. “The bill introduced in Rhode Island presents a smarter, more responsible approach to marijuana.”

State Senator Donna Nesselbush, meanwhile, said she intends on introducing the measure in the Senate.

“Taxing and regulating the sale of marijuana will rob drug dealers of one of their reasons for being,” she said. “Taxing and regulating would also create the potential for much-needed state revenue that could be used for treatment and education about the consequences of drug use and the promise of healthful living.”

[caption id="attachment_5922" align="alignright" width="160"]ajello Rep. Edith Ajello[/caption]

There will be a hearing on this bill Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee at the State House in Providence, featuring House sponsor Rep. Edith Ajello and MPP’s Robert Capecchi, in addition to representatives of the Coalition for Marijuana Regulation.

If (and ONLY if, please!) you are a Rhode Island resident and would like to help end marijuana prohibition in the Ocean State, please contact your legislators and ask them to support H 5274, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act.

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Research||Tax and Regulate

More Americans Support Taxing Marijuana Than Junk Food

A national Rasmussen poll released today indicates that 47% of American adults answered "yes" to this question: "To help solve America’s fiscal problems, should the country legalize and tax marijuana?" Forty-two percent disagreed, and a whopping 10% were undecided.

Forty-seven percent is impressive, especially when one considers that this figure could grow to 57% if we're able to persuade the undecided folks to come to our side through positive news coverage, paid advertising, and person-to-person contact.

The 47% is a national figure, which means support for taxing marijuana is surely higher in states like Colorado and Washington, both of which will have marijuana-taxation initiatives on their ballots this November 6. (And, of course, support would necessarily be lower than 47% in states like Alabama and Mississippi.)

The same Rasmussen poll also indicates that only 42% of Americans "favor so-called 'sin taxes' on sodas and junk food."

In case you're thinking that the 47% figure is a decrease from previous polling ... it's not. The national Gallup poll, released in October, found that 50% of American adults "think the use of marijuana should be made legal."

So, these are two different marijuana questions. It makes sense that (slightly) more people are comfortable with the simple use of marijuana than the overall legalization and taxation of marijuana — which would involve retail establishments, large-scale grow operations, and maybe even advertising.

I'm very excited about the 47% figure, and I'm looking forward to working with our allies to pass the Colorado ballot initiative in just seven months.

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Medical Marijuana

National Cannabis Industry Association, Rep. Jared Polis Lobby Congress On Behalf of Medical Marijuana Industry

From today's press release:

The National Cannabis Industry Association, the first national organization dedicated to advancing the interests of cannabis-related businesses, today discussed the federal legislative needs of the industry at an event at National Press Club. Prominent leaders in the industry joined Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), as well as the manager of See Change Strategy, an independent firm that, on March 23, released the first-ever financial analysis of the legal medical cannabis industry in the U.S. This report, based on interviews with more than 300 individuals involved in the industry, projected the total legal medical cannabis market at $1.7 billion in 2011.

"Coloradans have known the positive economic benefit of the cannabis industry for quite some time," said Congressman Polis. "Thanks to the voters of Colorado and the regulations established by the General Assembly, we have a vibrant new legal industry. Colorado's entrepreneurial spirit is strong and our local and state governments are enjoying both the increased revenues from the taxation of the sale and production of medical marijuana as well as the reduced human and financial cost of fighting crime. This report should serve as an important signal to all states considering reforming marijuana laws as well as to the federal government that in a comprehensive regulatory environment, the cannabis industry — like any other industry — can provide jobs, revenue for government and most importantly keep this substance out of the hands of children and vulnerable populations."

"This is not an industry looking for special treatment but an industry looking to be treated on par with other small businesses,” said Polis. “We in Congress need to ensure that this industry can access banking, be treated like any other business under the tax code and has regulations to ensure the safety and efficiency of the market."

Industry leaders highlighted the unique problems they confront as businesspeople. In particular, they described the looming challenge presented by Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code, which, according to the IRS, prevents them from deducting legitimate business expenses.

“We do not believe 280E, which was intended to apply to individuals who were clearly engaged in illegal behavior, should be applied to legal, licensed organizations like Harborside Health Center,” offered Steve DeAngelo, the executive director of the dispensary by that name in Oakland, California. “Harborside is not a drug trafficking organization, we are a community service organization. Standards that were intended for street dealers of harmful drugs should not be applied to those easing the suffering of seriously ill patients.”

Another member shared the ongoing ordeal many organizations face as they attempt to secure and maintain accounts at financial institutions fearful of violating federal law.

“To say that it is frustrating having one bank account after another shut down is an understatement,” said Jill Lamoureux, managing member of Colorado Dispensary Services. “Access to banking is crucial for this emerging alternative healthcare industry. The capital-intensive nature of start-ups calls for traditional banking services, including credit facilities and equipment leasing options. And as the State of Colorado implements the first statewide regulatory system for medical marijuana, electronic banking and recordkeeping is essential for audit and tracking purposes.”

Meanwhile, Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, touted the economic benefits of the industry and conveyed the mission of the organization.

“The nation's legal medical cannabis market is now worth nearly $2 billion annually and supports hundreds of small businesses and thousands of jobs,” said Smith. “All indications point to significant expansion of this sector of the U.S. economy in the years to come and the National Cannabis Industry Association was formed to provide the industry with a voice on the national stage along side other legitimate business interests.”

Other members of the National Cannabis Industry Association present at the event were Brian Cook, founder and president of Altitude Organic Corporation; Tripp Keber, managing director and sole owner of Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, LLC in Colorado; and Michael Backes, a member of the board of directors of Cornerstone Research Collective in Los Angeles, California.

The mission of the National Cannabis Industry Association is to defend, promote, and advance the interests of the cannabis industry and its members. NCIA publicly advocates for the unique needs of the emerging cannabis industry and defends against those aiming to eliminate the legal market for cannabis and cannabis-related products. For more information, please visit www.TheCannabisIndustry.org.

 

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Prohibition||Video

DEA is On the Warpath

This week has seen a sudden explosion in DEA raids of medical marijuana businesses, leaving patients, caregivers, and activists reeling.

On Monday, 26 medical marijuana businesses throughout Montana were raided by task forces comprised of federal and local law enforcement. As usual, some arrests were made and anything of value seized as evidence under sealed warrants. Interestingly, these raids began within minutes of a vote that stalled the bill to repeal Montana’s voter-approved medical marijuana law. Patients and employees of medical marijuana businesses have been mobilizing with the help of Americans for Safe Access to respond to these strong-arm tactics.

This travesty was repeated Tuesday when the DEA and local law enforcement raided two West Hollywood dispensaries. This occurred shortly after a measure to tax medical marijuana businesses in Los Angeles passed, adding even more legitimacy to the industry there. (A video about the raids is at the bottom of this post, courtesy of ReasonTV.)

It should be noted that the Justice Department “Ogden Memo” instructs federal law enforcement not to spend resources going after medical marijuana businesses as long as they are following state law. Of course, the Justice Department thinks all these businesses were violating state law, but is that for them to decide, or the states?

From all accounts, the California dispensaries that were raided were model businesses. Unfortunately, Montana’s medical marijuana law is vague when it comes to dispensaries, but there are several bills currently being considered by the state legislature that would establish their legality and a system of tight controls. For the DEA to go in now like angry thugs, when the exact extent of the law is in a state of flux, is unacceptable.

The manner in which these raids are taking place is equally unacceptable. These businesses are trying to follow every law and pay their taxes like any other legitimate business. Yet, when their compliance is in question, the federal government attacks them with threats and violence, taking money and destroying property. Where else does this happen? If an automobile manufacturer accidentally miscalculates its taxes or unintentionally steps outside of an unclear law, charges are filed and the issue is dealt with in court peacefully. Federal agents don’t kick down the factory doors, destroy all the cars on the lot, or sell off the factory equipment. They don’t handcuff the autoworkers and force them to lie on the ground with guns in their faces.

This aggression toward medical marijuana businesses must stop.

Please click here to ask President Obama to stand by his promises and end the raids.

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