It will be a happy day in Colorado this September, and policy changes across the world are paving the way for more happiness to come. Delaware’s House just voted in favor of decriminalization, Pennsylvania voters are giving their so-called “representation” a wake-up call, and Costa Rica is investigating the possibility of legal medical cannabis and hemp. All that and more in this week's cannabis legalization update — check it out!
A little bit of bad news: the Arizona Republican Party has vowed to fight marijuana legalization efforts in Arizona. With two possible legalization measures that have been filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, 2016 has looked promising for cannabis advocates seeking legalization. That is, until the GOP decided to jump in and allocate resources towards defeating the possible measures. Boo! Don’t think red, think green!
California legislature will be considering yet another bill to regulate the medical cannabis industry. Assembly Bill 266 is a merger of two previously introduced bills that would create the Governor’s Office of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which would oversee everything from cultivation to the testing of cannabis products. The bill was authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and is currently in the process of being amended.
Mark your calendars, cannabis-loving Coloradans! On September 16th, due to a quirk in Colorado’s constitution, there will be one day of tax-free sales on all cannabis. That’s right, the already bountiful plenty coming from these glorious recreational shops will be sold without any of the 10% sales tax for one day only.
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Why, you ask? Colorado had originally worded the legalization bill to repeal state taxes in 2017, but due to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, state taxpayers must approve new taxes based on spending and estimated collections. The state estimates now that they’ll lose $100,000 from the one day of tax-free sales, but are more concerned about the future of the revenue overall. Remember, tax-free retail cannabis will happen in Colorado on September 16th, so don't forget to get it while it’s hot!
The Delaware House voted to approve a piece of legislation that would reduce the penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis down to a simple fine of $100. The bill passed with a vote of 24-14 and is now headed to the Senate before continuing on to Governor Jack Markell, who has said in the past that he favors decriminalization. The major complaint with the bill is that it punishes minors more harshly than adults, putting vulnerable youths at further risk. Those under the age of 18 would still be eligible for criminal charges, and those between the ages of 18 and 21 would face charges upon their second offense.
A legislative committee has rejected a bill that sought to legalize cannabis for recreational use in Maine, but the real fight has hardly even begun. After hours of negotiations, the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee voted to reject L.D. 1380, which would have created a regulatory framework for cannabis. The bill's sponsor, Representative Diane Russell (D-Portland) was disappointed by the act and argued that her bill was better suited for the state than two referendum campaigns because of the control given to policy makers over the design of the regulatory system. Cannabis advocates in Maine are expecting a major showdown at the ballot box during the 2016 general election, and with multiple contenders in the arena, it would be surprising if the election came and went without a major change to cannabis legality.
At the last minute, Governor Larry Hogan vetoed a bill that would have removed criminal penalties for the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, including jail time. The bill also altered public marijuana consumption to be considered a civil offense punishable by a fine, an addition to last year’s decriminalization bill to lower penalties for possession of small amounts of cannabis. The bill had gained widespread support, having been approved by both the Senate and the House of Delegates, so when the veto came at the last minute, supporters were surprised and disappointed.
Senator Jamie Raskin (D-MD) expressed his disappointment in the decision, saying aptly, “It’s like we repealed alcohol prohibition, but left in place a law against wine glasses…I don’t quite get the logic of the governor’s veto.”
Neither do we, Senator Raskin. Neither do we.
The Missouran group Show-Me Cannabis will be conducting a poll of registered voters to see if the state is ready for marijuana legalization. Missouri’s Secretary of State has already given the go-ahead for two cannabis legalization initiatives to be added to the 2016 general election ballot, but that depends on the responses collected from this upcoming survey. They’ll be using the responses to determine whether they will be pushing for full legalization, a lofty goal for the admittedly conservative state, or whether to narrow the scope and focus on a medical cannabis bill. Either way, the initiatives are getting some major financial support, which could also increase in the event of favorable survey results. Survey says? “Future unclear, ask again later.”
In light of some very heavy and divisive votes in the Nebraska legislature recently, including a repeal of the death penalty, Senator Tommy Garrett (R-Bellevue) decided to pull a proposal seeking to legalize medical marijuana. The move came just one day after the Omaha chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws filed a petition to put medical marijuana on the ballot for voters to decide. Nebraska’s constitution would require the gathering of signatures from at least 7% of all registered voters to change a state law, and 10% if they want to amend the state constitution. The signatures must be submitted by July 5, 2016 to be placed on the 2016 November general election ballot, and supporters are confident that Nebraska voters will come around to the idea of medical cannabis by then. Plant some ideas and watch them grow!
New Hampshire’s Senate blocked a critical vote on a widely supported cannabis decriminalization bill. Despite the support of more than 80% of the New Hampshire House, the Senate voted House Bill 266 down. The bill would have reduced the charges for the possession of small amounts of marijuana down to a simple civil fine of $100. Under the current law, possession of even a small amount of cannabis is punishable by up to one year in prison with a fine of $2,000. More than 61% of New Hampshire residents support the decriminalization of cannabis, which equates to nearly three in five adult voters. Why are you ignoring the will of your constituents, New Hampshire senators?
The constituents have spoken and they are not happy with their representation. An online petition was started by Pennsylvania constituents calling for the resignation of Representative Matt Baker (R-Tioga) after he blocked a vote for Senate Bill 3, a measure to legalize medical marijuana. The bill passed through the Senate with overwhelming support and 88% of Pennsylvanians support medical marijuana. Rep. Baker’s vote shows that he does not support the will of his constituents, which is precisely what he was elected to do.
The petition states, “Matt Baker has clearly shown he is not capable of representing the state of Pennsylvania. Mr. Baker has shown that he will vote for his own interest which goes against the very title he has been trusted with… he has violated the trust between him and the people of the state of Pennsylvania.”
Hear hear! Politicians, ye be warned! Represent your voters or they will kick you to the curb!
The Costa Rican Health Ministry outlined the implementation on a pending bill to legalize marijuana and hemp for medical and industrial use. The ministry warned that recreational use will remain illegal, that the bill would prohibit smoking as a legal consumption method, would not allow for the creation of dispensaries, and that patients could only be approved for medical marijuana as a “last resort” after exhausting all other courses of treatment. While this bill sounds a little strict, if it passes, Costa Rica could become the first country in Central America to legalize medical marijuana. CannaCosta15, an upcoming cannabis conference, will explore medical legalization in San Jose on June 6-7, bringing physicians, politicians, and everyone in between together in for the discussion. ¡Pura vida!
Freshman MK Yinon Magal of the Jewish Home party was just elected into office and he’s already making waves. He just introduced legislation to legalize marijuana in Israel and things are looking good for support from his constituents. Magal famously admitted to using cannabis during an interview and believes that the “legalization of cannabis is connected to the freedom of the individual,” an opinion we can wholeheartedly get behind.
This news comes on the heels of a proposal from Israel Police Chief Insp. Gen. Yohanan Danino, who has decided to establish a professional committee to investigate whether it is time for Israeli cannabis laws to get an update. We say there’s no time like the present!