Bill to Regulate and Tax Marijuana for Adult Use in Vermont Passes in Senate With Veto-proof Majority

Feb 28, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project

MONTPELIER, Vt. — A bill to regulate and tax marijuana for adult use in Vermont passed on second reading in the state Senate Thursday with a veto-proof majority (23-5). It will receive one more vote in the Senate, which is expected tomorrow, before heading to the House of Representatives for consideration.

S. 54, sponsored by 15 of the state's 30 senators, would create a system of regulated marijuana production and sales for adult use in Vermont. Retail sales would be subject to a 10 percent tax, and municipalities could establish a 1 percent local option tax if they host a retailer. Under the proposal, oversight of the medical cannabis program would be shifted from the Department of Safety to a new independent commission beginning January 1, 2021. It would also change the word “marijuana” to “cannabis” throughout state statutes. A detailed summary of S. 54 is available at http://bit.ly/Vermont-S54.

Laws regulating and taxing cannabis for adult use have been enacted in nine states and the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands. Vermont and D.C. are the only two U.S. jurisdictions where cannabis is legal but not regulated for adult use.

Statement from Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which is leading a coalition in support of the legislation:

"We applaud the Senate for its overwhelming approval of this commonsense legislation. We hope members of the House will agree that regulating and taxing cannabis is in Vermont's best interest. Most importantly, this legislation will make the state safer by creating a safe and legal market through which adults can access cannabis products. It will also have the added benefit of generating new tax revenue for the state, as well as local governments.

"Cannabis is legal for adults in Vermont, and it's time for it to be treated like other products that are legal for adults. That means regulating its production and sale to address public health and safety concerns and keep it out of the hands of minors. While some adults would prefer to grow their own cannabis, many would prefer to access it safely and legally from licensed stores. They should have the choice, and that is what this bill will provide."

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Bill to End Marijuana Prohibition in New Hampshire Passes in House With Strong Majority

Feb 27, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from MPP New England Political Director Matt Simon

CONCORD, N.H. — A bill to end marijuana prohibition and regulate cannabis for adult use in New Hampshire passed in the state House of Representatives Wednesday with a strong majority (209-147). HB 481 will now be referred to the House Ways and Means Committee for further consideration of the proposed regulatory system and tax structure. A summary of HB 481 is available at http://bit.ly/NH-HB481.

Granite State polls conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center have repeatedly shown a strong majority of New Hampshire residents support legalizing cannabis. Four consecutive polls found at least 60 percent support for legalization, and its most recent poll on the subject, which was conducted in February 2018, found more than two-to-one support for legislation considered last year that would have legalized possession and limited home cultivation without regulating production and sales. Only 25 percent of residents said they were opposed.

Nine states have enacted laws regulating and taxing cannabis for adult use. In addition, Vermont and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws making possession and cultivation legal for adults, and their governments are now considering proposals to regulate commercial production and sales.

Statement from Matt Simon, New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project:

"The House vote highlights just how little support remains for maintaining marijuana prohibition in the Granite State. Most New Hampshire residents agree it is time to legalize and regulate cannabis. There is no reason to continue punishing adults for consuming a substance that is less harmful than alcohol, and it is counterproductive to force them into a potentially dangerous illegal market to access it.

"Cannabis prohibition has been just as big of a failure as alcohol prohibition, causing many of the same problems. It ensures cannabis remains entirely uncontrolled and that all of the revenue from its sale goes into the pockets of criminals. HB 481 offers New Hampshire a sensible alternative, and we will continue working to build support for the bill in the House as it is considered by the Ways and Means Committee."

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New Hampshire House Committee Approves Bill to End Marijuana Prohibition

Feb 21, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

An 'ought to pass' recommendation was approved 10-9 by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which voted against recommending similar legislation in past years

Statement below from MPP New England Political Director Matt Simon 

CONCORD, N.H. — The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Thursday recommended passage of legislation that would end marijuana prohibition in New Hampshire and regulate cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older.

The committee's 10-9 vote in favor of HB 481 marked the first time it has approved such legislation. It issued negative recommendations of similar bills in 2018 (HB 656) and 2014 (HB 492), which had to be overturned by the full House before it approved them.

A summary of HB 481 is available at http://bit.ly/NH-HB481.

Statement from Matt Simon, New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project:

"We applaud the committee for recognizing that marijuana prohibition is an outdated and increasingly unpopular policy that has failed to accomplish its public health and safety objectives. It's time for New Hampshire to adopt a more sensible system in which cannabis is legal for adults 21 and older and regulated in order to protect consumers and the public.

"We are very pleased that the committee tasked with overseeing criminal justice and public safety has recommended the passage of this legislation. The goal of HB 481, after all, is to create a more just marijuana policy and make New Hampshire safer by removing cannabis production and sales from the unregulated, underground market. Passage of this bill would be terrible news for illicit drug dealers and good news for proponents of smarter, more effective drug policies."

 

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Maryland Lawmakers Introducing Legislation to End Cannabis Prohibition in Maryland

Feb 06, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

SB0771 and HB0656 would regulate and tax cannabis for adults 21 and older; a separate proposed constitutional amendment to create a similar system, HB0632, would require voter approval

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — State lawmakers in both chambers filed legislation Wednesday that would end cannabis prohibition in Maryland.

SB0771, sponsored by Sen. William C. Smith, Jr., and HB0656, sponsored by Del. Eric Luedtke, would make cannabis legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which cannabis is regulated and taxed for adult use. Past convictions for cannabis possession and cultivation would be automatically expunged. A summary of the legislation is available at http://bit.ly/HB0656-SB0771.

Del. David Moon filed a constitutional amendment, HB0632, which would establish a similar system. If enacted, it would be placed on the ballot and decided by Maryland voters in November.

“A strong and steadily growing majority of Marylanders think it is time to end cannabis prohibition,” said Olivia Naugle, legislative coordinator for the Marijuana Policy Project. “One way or another, cannabis is going to become legal for adults in Maryland.

“These bills propose a sensible system in which cannabis is regulated, taxed, and treated similarly to alcohol,” Naugle said. “They would bring cannabis production and sales above ground so that they can be conducted by licensed, taxpaying businesses rather than criminal enterprises. Most importantly, this legislation would improve public health and safety, but it would also have the bonus of generating significant new tax revenue for the state.”

A September 2018 Goucher Poll found 62 percent of state residents support making cannabis legal for adult use, up from 58 percent in 2017 and 54 percent in 2016. Only one-third of residents are opposed, according to the 2018 poll.

“States around the country are rolling back prohibition and finding that regulating cannabis works,” Naugle said. “Maryland has the opportunity to learn from other states, determine what has worked and what can be improved, and develop a system that can serve as an example for the rest of the country.”

Nine states have enacted laws regulating and taxing marijuana for adult use. In addition, Vermont and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws making marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, and their governments are now considering proposals to regulate commercial production and sales.

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Nebraska Medical Marijuana Campaign Submits Constitutional Ballot Initiative Language

Feb 05, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, led by State Senators Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld, takes the next step towards placing an initiative on the 2020 ballot


Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, a campaign committee working to reform the state’s marijuana laws, has submitted its proposed medical marijuana initiative to the Nebraska Secretary of State for official review.

The initiative, if approved by voters in the November 2020 election, would amend Nebraska’s state constitution to protect the right of Nebraskans with serious medical conditions to access medical marijuana.

“We are excited to file this proposed initiative and begin the process of qualifying for the 2020 ballot,” said Senator Anna Wishart, campaign co-chair. “This constitutional amendment is concise and effective, and represents a positive step forward for public health policy in Nebraska.”

Lawmakers in Lincoln are currently considering legislation introduced by Wishart to establish a fully regulated medical marijuana law.

“My preference remains the legislative process. My hope is that my colleagues will see the strong support among Nebraska voters for medical marijuana and act upon that support by passing a law this year,” said Wishart.

The proposed initiative, which can be viewed below, establishes constitutional protections for patients and caregivers.

“Our proposed constitutional amendment will protect patients and establish the foundation upon which a medical marijuana program will be built,” said Senator Adam Morfeld, campaign co-chair. “After we enact this constitutional amendment, access to medical marijuana will become a constitutional right, and the legislature will need to enact detailed regulations into law.”

PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT:

Section 1. At the general election in November 2020, the following proposed amendment to the Constitution of Nebraska shall be submitted to the electors of the State of Nebraska for approval or rejection:

To add a new section xx to Article xx:

xx-xx The people of Nebraska, if recommended by a physician or nurse practitioner, have the right to use, possess, access, and safely and discreetly produce an adequate supply of cannabis, cannabis preparations, products and materials, and cannabis-related equipment to alleviate diagnosed serious medical conditions without facing arrest, prosecution, or civil or criminal penalties. A minor with a serious medical condition only has the right to use cannabis if recommended by a physician or nurse practitioner and with the consent of a custodial parent or legal guardian.

These rights include accessing cannabis, cannabis preparations, products and materials, and cannabis-related equipment from state-legal private entities in Nebraska, subject only to reasonable laws, rules, and regulations that promote the health and safety of patients, ensure continued access by patients to the type and quantity of cannabis they need, and prevent diversion without imposing an undue burden on patients or providers or compromising patients’ confidentiality. A person who has been recommended medical cannabis may be assisted by a caregiver in exercising these rights.

This section shall not be construed to allow the smoking of cannabis in public or possession of cannabis in detention facilities, nor shall it allow driving while impaired by cannabis or otherwise engaging in conduct that would be negligent to undertake while impaired by cannabis. This section does not require an employer to allow an employee to work while impaired by cannabis, nor does it require any insurance provider to cover medical cannabis.

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Baltimore State’s Attorney Will No Longer Prosecute Marijuana Possession Cases

Jan 29, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from the Marijuana Policy Project

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Tuesday her office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases, regardless of the amount or the individual’s criminal history.

Statement from Olivia Naugle, legislative coordinator for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“We applaud State’s Attorney Mosby for making the fair and just decision to no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases. Decades of arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana possession did not make Baltimore any safer, and it had a dramatically disproportionate impact on communities of color. Countless individuals have been branded with convictions and subjected to life-altering collateral consequences that cause them more harm than marijuana ever could. Unfortunately, this has continued to be the case in Baltimore City even after decriminalization in 2014.

“We hope the rest of the state will follow the lead of State’s Attorney Mosby and strongly consider a more sensible and evenhanded approach to marijuana. The General Assembly can and should put a stop to marijuana possession arrests and their harmful fallout by ending marijuana prohibition once and for all. It is time for Maryland to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older and expunge criminal records for past possession convictions. The sooner lawmakers act, the sooner these needless possession arrests will come to an end, not just in Baltimore City but across the state.”

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Minnesota Legislature to Consider Ending Marijuana Prohibition, Regulating and Taxing Marijuana for Adult Use

Jan 28, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Legislation will be introduced Monday in the House and Senate that would allow adults 21 and older to purchase marijuana in licensed, taxpaying businesses

Statements below from the bill sponsors, Sen. Melisa Franzen and Rep. Mike Freiberg, and the Marijuana Policy Project

ST. PAUL, Minn. — State lawmakers will introduce legislation Monday that would end marijuana prohibition in Minnesota and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed for adult use. 

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina) and Scott Jensen (R-Chaska) in the Senate and Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley) in the House, would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of marijuana. The state would license and regulate businesses to cultivate, process, test, and sell marijuana to adults, and it would create and enforce strict health and safety regulations, such as testing and labeling requirements and restrictions on marketing to teens.

“Minnesota's outdated prohibition policy has become more of a problem than a solution,” Freiberg said. “It is forcing marijuana into a shady underground market, which creates more potential harm for consumers and communities than marijuana itself. Regulating marijuana would make our state safer by removing the criminal element and empowering our state and local governments to start controlling production and sales.”

Among other things, the proposed legislation would:

  • Empower the Minnesota Department of Health to regulate marijuana dispensaries and direct regulators to develop a “seed-to-sale” system that tracks marijuana from cultivation to sale.
  • Allow local governments to regulate the production and sale of marijuana in their communities.
  • Prohibit retailers from marketing in a manner that targets teens.
  • Allow for the expungement of certain marijuana-related crimes from the records of previously convicted persons.
  • Dedicate $10 million annually to impoverished communities, many of which have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition; additionally, millions of dollars will be directed each year to mental health services, efforts to combat impaired driving, and teen drug education.

Based on current usage rates and the market price of marijuana being sold for adult use in Colorado, the Marijuana Policy Project estimates regulated marijuana sales could generate between $200 million and $300 million per year in new tax revenue for Minnesota.

“Our focus in drafting legislation to end the prohibition of cannabis in Minnesota is to ensure we have a responsible regulatory model for consumer access that still provides for public health, safety and welfare,” Franzen said. “The time has come for us to have this debate.”

A September 2018 KSTP/SurveyUSA poll found 56 percent of Minnesota voters — including 67 percent of voters under age 50 — think the state should legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.

“It is time for Minnesota to recognize that, like alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, its prohibition of marijuana does not work,” said Jason Tarasek, Minnesota political director for the Marijuana Policy Project and co-founder of Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation. “By legalizing marijuana and carefully regulating its sale, we can keep it out of the hands of teens without needlessly arresting responsible adult consumers. This would allow law enforcement to spend more time addressing serious crimes, while also creating a significant new revenue stream for our state.”

Nine states have enacted laws regulating and taxing marijuana for adult use. In addition, Vermont and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws making marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, and their governments are now considering proposals to regulate commercial production and sales.

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U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Signs Medical Marijuana Bill Into Law

Jan 19, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from the Marijuana Policy Project

U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signed the Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act into law Saturday, making the territory the latest U.S. jurisdiction to adopt an effective medical marijuana law. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Positive T.A. Nelson, received final approval from the Legislature on December 28.

Effective medical marijuana laws have been adopted in 32 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Seventeen other states have adopted medical marijuana laws that are ineffective because they are either unworkable or exceptionally restrictive. Idaho is the only state and American Samoa is the only U.S. territory without any form of medical marijuana law.

Statement from Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:

"We applaud Gov. Bryan and the Virgin Islands Legislature for enacting this sensible and compassionate legislation. Medical marijuana is widely recognized as an effective treatment for a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. This new law offers the prospect of relief for countless patients, and it will do so for generations to come.

"Most U.S. states and territories have enacted effective medical cannabis laws, and those that have not are giving them increasingly stronger consideration. There is no reason why patients in 18 states and American Samoa should continue to be deprived of this medical treatment option that is now accessible to so many of their fellow Americans."

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Attorney General Nominee Says He Would Respect State Marijuana Laws

Jan 15, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project

WASHINGTON — Attorney general nominee William Barr said during a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday that he would refrain from targeting businesses that are operating in compliance with state laws regulating marijuana for adult or medical use.

If confirmed, Barr said his “approach to this would be not to upset settled expectations and the reliant interests that have arisen as a result of the Cole memorandum.” He later added that he “is not going to go after companies that have relied on the Cole memorandum.”

The Cole memorandum was issued in 2013 by then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole and provided marijuana enforcement guidance to U.S. attorneys. It stated that the Justice Department would not enforce federal marijuana prohibition laws in states that have legalized marijuana for adult or medical use as long as certain federal priorities are addressed, such as preventing interstate trafficking and sales to minors.

Barr also expressed frustration with the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws, calling the current situation “untenable.”

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project:

“We are pleased to hear Mr. Barr intends to respect state marijuana laws if he is confirmed as our next attorney general. His reference to the Cole memo suggests that he will maintain the policy of non-interference that has existed since August 2013. This is not only a sensible decision, but is one supported by a vast majority of Americans.

“We are also sympathetic to Mr. Barr’s call for a more consistent federal approach, provided it is one that respects the will of the people. To that end, it is time for Congress to pass a law that either removes marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act or formally exempts state-legal cannabis activity from its provisions.”

 

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Ohio Medical Marijuana Sales to Begin Wednesday, But Delays Continue

Jan 15, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from the Marijuana Policy Project, which led the 2016 ballot initiative effort that galvanized state lawmakers to enact a viable medical marijuana law


Medical marijuana sales will begin in Ohio Wednesday, according to news reports, but product types and supplies will be limited and delays with implementation will continue for most of the state.

Effective medical marijuana laws have been adopted in 32 states, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Seventeen other states have adopted medical marijuana laws that are ineffective because they are either unworkable or exceptionally restrictive. Idaho is the only state without any form of medical marijuana law.

Statement from Chis Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, which led Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, the 2016 ballot initiative effort that galvanized state lawmakers to enact a viable medical marijuana law:

“Patients in Ohio are finally going to begin accessing medical marijuana safely and legally in licensed dispensaries. While this is historic, it is also bittersweet, as implementation of the law continues to be delayed in most parts of the state. Countless Ohioans could benefit from medical cannabis, but only a limited number will gain access to it this week.

"While the state created a very functional program, the delays it experienced should serve as a lesson for states that are considering adopting medical cannabis laws this year. States that create a high regulatory hurdle need to be ready for the additional burdens it places on state agencies and applicants as programs get off the ground. Otherwise, a lot of the patients these laws were created to help won’t experience the benefits until several years after they are enacted.”

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