This Sunday, Nevada will become the seventh US state to eliminate criminal penalties specific to the adult possession and personal use of cannabis.
“What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “Voters in the western region of the United States are leading the way toward the eventual nationwide re-legalization of marijuana by responsible adults. Federal laws need to reflect this reality, not deny it.”
On Election Day, 55 percent of Nevada voters approved Question 2, the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The law permits adults who are not participating in the state’s existing medical cannabis program to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and/or up to 3.5 grams of cannabis concentrates. An adult may also lawfully grow up to six plants in their home if they reside 25 miles or more away from a marijuana retailer. Provisions in the law also permit for the possession and sale of marijuana-related paraphernalia as well as the gifting of small amounts of cannabis for no financial remuneration. Public use of the plant remains a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $600.
Separate provisions in the statute also license the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis, which will be subject to a 15 percent excise tax. Those regulations do not take effect until January 1, 2018.
Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington have previously adopted voter-initiated laws legalizing the private consumption of cannabis by adults. The District of Columbia also permits adults to legally possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana in private residences. Similar legislation in Maine is anticipated to go into effect later next month.
The vote sets the stage to delay the establishment of state-licensed marijuana retail facilities from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018. Governor Charlie Baker, who campaigned against the initiative, must still sign off on the law change. [UPDATE: Gov. Baker signed the language into law on Friday, December 30.] Separate provisions in the law eliminating penalties for adults who privately possess or grow personal use quantities of cannabis took effect on December 15.
According to The Boston Globe, the “extraordinary move” by lawmakers took place in an “informal” legislative session with “just a half-dozen legislators present.”
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri called lawmakers’ decision a “slap in the face” to the nearly two million Massachusetts voters who decided in favor of Question 4 on Election Day.
“The arrogance and hubris lawmakers are showing toward voters is remarkable,” he said. “The voters have spoken and it is incumbent on legislators to carry out their will. Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to impose criminal penalties on marijuana – doing so in 1914. After more than a century of this failed policy, it is time to bring prohibition to an end in Massachusetts.”
The move by lawmakers to delay aspects of the law’s implementation is not altogether surprising, as politicians and bureaucrats had previously discussed restricting home cultivation as well as raising the proposed sales taxes rate on marijuana sales.
The passage of medical marijuana legalization is associated with reduced traffic fatalities among younger drivers, according to data published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Public Health.
Investigators from Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Davis analyzed traffic fatality data from the years 1985 to 2014.
They reported that states with medical cannabis laws had lower overall traffic fatality rates compared to states where cannabis is illegal, and that there was an immediate decline in motor vehicle deaths following the establishment of a legal cannabis market – particularly among those under 44 years of age.
Authors concluded: “[O]n average, MMLs (medical marijuana laws) states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-MML states. …. MMLs are associated with reductions in traffic fatalities, particularly pronounced among those aged 25 to 44 years. … It is possible that this is related to lower alcohol-impaired driving behavior in MML-states.”
An abstract of the study, “US traffic fatalities, 1985-2014, and their relationship to medical marijuana laws,” appears online here.
The group opposing Maine’s marijuana legalization initiative has withdrawn its recount effort.
Last month, representatives from ‘No on 1’ requested a recount of the vote totals specific to Question 1: The Marijuana Legalization Act. On Saturday, the campaign conceded that the recount would not impact the Election Day result, which estimated Question 1 winning by slightly over 4,000 votes.
The measure is now expected to be enacted 30 days after Gov. Paul LePage affirms the result.
The Act permits adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program to possess personal use quantities of marijuana (up to two and one-half ounces and/or the total harvest produced by six plants). The measure also establishes regulations for the commercial cultivation and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Regulations governing marijuana-related businesses are scheduled to be in place by August 8, 2017.
Speaking live on WGAN radio last week, Gov. LePage criticized the measure, stating, “If there was ever a bill that the legislature should just kibosh, that’s it.” The Governor further suggested increasing the retail sales tax rates associated with the measure, as well as abolishing the state’s medical cannabis program, which has been in place since 1999.
Results from the 2016 edition of the Monitoring the Future survey find that marijuana use by 8th-graders and 10th-graders is declining year by year. Further, a greater percentage of younger teens now say that their ability to obtain marijuana is more difficult than ever before.
Marijuana use patterns among 12th-graders have held steady since 2011, the survey reported.
Approximately 50,000 students are surveyed annually as part of the University of Michigan study.
Since the mid-1990s, self-reported lifetime use of cannabis has fallen 44 percent among 8th-graders, 30 percent among 10th-graders, and ten percent among 12th-graders. Twenty-nine states have legalized the medical use of cannabis, and eight of those states have also regulated the adult use of marijuana, since that time.
Overall, teens’ self-reported use of alcohol and/or any illicit substance aside from marijuana is at a historic low.