Tax and Regulate

Governors Urge Trump Administration to Respect State Marijuana Laws

April 6th, 2017 4 Comments Mason Tvert

Governors of the first four states that legalize marijuana for adults sent a letter to Trump administration officials this week asking them to respect their states’ marijuana laws.

In the letter, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to adhere to Department of Justice’s 2013 Cole Memorandum and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance, which were distributed under the previous administration.

Some key excerpts are below, and you can read the full letter here.

As governors of states that have legalized marijuana in some form, we ask the Trump Administration to engage with us before embarking on any changes to regulatory and enforcement systems. The balance struck by the 2013 Department of Justice Cole Memorandum (Cole Memo) has been indispensable – providing the necessary framework for state regulatory programs centered on public safety and health protections.

[W]e have committed to implementing the will of our citizens and have worked cooperatively with our legislatures to establish robust regulatory structures that prioritize public health and public safety, reduce inequitable incarceration and expand our economies.

The Cole Memo and the related Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance provide the foundation for state regulatory systems and are vital to maintaining control over marijuana in our states. Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences. Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.

The Cole Memo and FinCEN guidance strike a reasonable balance between allowing the states to enact reasonable regulations and the federal government’s interest in controlling some of the collateral consequences of legalization.

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Prohibition

Kansas City Voters Approve Initiative to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

April 5th, 2017 1 Comment Marijuana Policy Project

Voters in Kansas City — the largest city in Missouri and the sixth largest city in the Midwest — overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure on Tuesday to reduce the city’s penalties for marijuana possession.

The Kansas City Star reports:

The measure lowers the maximum fine for marijuana possession in city court to $25 from $500 and eliminates jail time as a penalty. Under the old ordinance, a sentence of 180 days was possible.

The change applies only to cases in Kansas City Municipal Court in which defendants possessed 35 grams or less of marijuana — about 1 1/4 ounces.

The issue landed on the ballot through a petition drive led by the Kansas City chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Jamie Kacz, executive director of NORML KC, said residents who signed the petitions sent a message that they don’t want people jailed or fined heavily for marijuana offenses.

 

The ballot measure also eliminates city charges for possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia, which carried penalties of 15 days to six months in jail and fines from $100 to $500.

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Medical Marijuana

West Virginia House of Delegates Approves Medical Marijuana Bill With Amendments

April 4th, 2017 1 Comment Marijuana Policy Project

A bill that would allow patients with certain debilitating conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it was approved by the West Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday. SB 386 passed 76-24 on third reading after being revised on second reading.

SB 386 was originally introduced by Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) in the Senate, where it was approved 28-6 last week. The House version of the bill, which is titled the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, would charge the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries, while the Senate version would set up a 16-member independent commission. Under the amended House bill, patients with specifically listed qualifying medical conditions could use extracts, tinctures, and other preparations of marijuana, but not marijuana in flower or leaf form. This differs from the Senate version of the bill and most of the other state medical marijuana programs.

MPP issued the following statement in a press release:

“The Legislature has answered the prayers of many seriously ill West Virginians and their families,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “This could be life-saving legislation for some patients. We commend House members for working diligently to make sure it passes this year, but we urge the Legislature to continue efforts to make sure the program truly works for the seriously ill and to ensure it does not unnecessarily drive up costs.”

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Prohibition

Texas Marijuana Penalty Reduction Bill Advances

April 4th, 2017 5 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

A proposal to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in Texas received bipartisan approval from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Monday and will soon be scheduled for a full vote in the House. The measure passed by a vote of 4-2, receiving support from two Democrats and two Republicans.

HB 81, authored by committee Chairman Joe Moody (D-El Paso) and Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) with 37 co-authors, would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250. Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

“This is a bipartisan proposal that represents a moderate shift in how Texas manages low-level marijuana offenses,” said Heather Fazio, a spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy in a press release. “The state’s current policy of arresting and jailing people for simple marijuana possession is completely unwarranted. Law enforcement officials’ time and limited resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes.”

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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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