• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 6, 2020

    Senate-backed legislation to regulate retail sales of marijuana to adults continues to advance in Vermont.

    Members of the House Ways and Means Committee voted 7 to 3 this week in favor of the bill, S. 54. The proposal now awaits consideration from the House Appropriations Committee. If approved, it will go before the full House for a vote.

    Senate lawmakers have already approved a version of the bill by a veto-proof supermajority.

    As approved by House lawmakers, the measure would establish tax rates and other regulatory measures on the sale of commercially marketed cannabis products. In 2018, lawmakers approved legislation legalizing the personal possession and private cultivation of marijuana by those ages 21 and older. However, that law did not establish a structure for the retail production and sale of marijuana.

    To date, only one state — Illinois — has taken legislative action to authorize adult-use cannabis sales.

    It remains uncertain where Republican Gov. Phil Scott stands on the bill. In the past, he has expressed skepticism toward the notion of legalizing marijuana sales, but some insiders indicate that he has softened his stance in recent months.

  • by Empire State NORML

    Governor Andrew Cuomo has included a plan to “regulate, restrict, and control” the responsible adult use of cannabis in New York, known as the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (“CRTA”). A complex and comprehensive plan laid out in over 200 pages of legislative text, the CRTA would implement one of the most tightly regulated, highly taxed and heavily controlled legal cannabis markets in the world.

    Under the CRTA, adults possessing any amount of untaxed “illicit cannabis” are guilty of an automatic misdemeanor. Adults patronizing the adult-use market will be able to buy (per day) and possess (at any time) up to one ounce of flower and five grams of concentrated cannabis. Possession of over 2oz and 10 grams will still be a misdemeanor criminal offense.

    The plan would create an Office of Cannabis Management (“OCM”) that would be composed of a 5 member board and an executive director, all of whom are Governor appointees without any legislative oversight. The office is given a vast amount of power and leeway to dictate what this industry will look like in practice, from what forms will be available to the consumer, to what license will be available to applicants and what the potency of products can be.

    The CRTA transfers authority over the Medical Cannabis Program from the Department of Health to the OCM, and in process overhauls some aspects of the program. The explicit language barring patients from “smoking” would be removed. Patients and their caregivers could also apply for a permit to cultivate and process their own cannabis for their own personal medicinal use, with undetermined restrictions to be left to regulations put forth by the OCM. Medical home cultivation patients would be subject to registration requirements as well as warrantless searches by the authorities.

    This new OCM also would assume authority of the Hemp & CBD industry in New York while making big changes in this sector of the cannabis industry as well. It will put a stop to the proliferation of so-called “gas station CBD stores” by requiring all CBD vendors to apply for retail licensing and subject themselves to the lengthy application process and undetermined regulations/restrictions to be promulgated by the OCM.

    One of the better aspects of this legislation is the explicit ban on vertical integration of the “adult-use” industry for all market participants, aside from those businesses licensed as a cooperative and currently vertically integrated registered organizations. It also creates on-site consumption licenses for retail facilities to apply for. A framework for an ambitious social and economic equity program aimed to right the wrongs of the war on drugs is partially laid out in the CRTA. Those who would qualify would be eligible for some or all of the following benefits: Prioritized and expedited license approval; Deferred of Reduced application fees; Among the first licences to operate; Priority market access in certain areas affected by the war on drugs; Access to low and 0% interest loans; Access to the “Incubator program”; and for those who aren’t applicants, they’ll be eligible for workforce development and hiring programs.

    The CRTA also proposes one of the highest tax rates in the country on cannabis, with the product being taxed during each step of the manufacturing process, combined with the local, sales and excise taxes, the overall rate is well in excess of 40%; in some cases it could be as high as 60%. This weight based multi-tiered tax is not only detrimental to enticing the consumer into buying the product, but it also stands to ruin the industry completely in the event of a massive price drop as seen in other states.

    The Executive and Legislative chambers now must deliberate the proposal over the coming months, with multiple revisions expected to be published between now and April 1st when the budget is due. There is still a chance that sensible and responsible recommendations can improve this plan.

    Send a message to the Governor and your lawmakers asking them to support amending this piece of legislation and urge them to make a market that isn’t built to fail.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 3, 2020

    Activities involving the personal possession and/or cultivation of cannabis in private are no longer subject to either criminal or civil penalties in the Australian Capital Territory, in accordance with legislation that took effect last week.

    Under the new law, those age 18 or older may possess up to 50 grams of cannabis and cultivate up to four plants per household without penalty. The use of marijuana in public remains prohibited.

    The ACT’s policy conflicts with Australian federal law, which defines cannabis-related activities as criminal offenses. Between 2017 and 2018, Australian police made over 72,000 marijuana-related arrests – 92 percent of which were for personal possession.

    The ACT is the first Australian territory to eliminate penalties specific to marijuana possession.

    Additional information about the new policy is available online here.

  • by NORML January 15, 2020

    Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health today held a legislative hearing, “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade,” during which they considered multiple legislative bills aimed at amending federal cannabis laws. This marks the first time that members of the Energy and Commerce Committee have debated issues specific to marijuana policy reform.

    However, during the three-hour hearing, members declined to explicitly discuss the merits of any specific cannabis measure before the committee.

    “At a time when nearly 70 percent of all Americans want to end our failed federal policy of blanket cannabis criminalization, it is unfortunate to see so many participants at this hearing advocating largely for business as usual,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. He continued: “The fact of the matter is that legalization and regulation work. Eleven states regulate the adult use of marijuana and 33 states provide for medical cannabis access. The time for federal policy to reflect this political and cultural reality is now, Congress should promptly approve the MORE Act and put the failed legacy of marijuana criminalization behind us.”

    NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano expressed disappointment that Committee members failed to advance any of the bills before it, but was not surprised. “Many of these proposals, like The MORE Act, seek to fundamentally change federal marijuana policies,” he said. “However, the witnesses before the committee are proponents and purveyors of the status quo.”

    He added that a key-word search on PubMed, the repository for peer-reviewed research, identifies some 32,000 studies specific to cannabis and its constituents. “While additional research is always welcome, it is not accurate to claim that we do not already have ample data to make evidence-based decisions with regard to marijuana policy,” he said.


    Marijuana Research Studies

    Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) stated, “I’m pleased Chairman Pallone and Health Subcommittee Chair Eshoo made this hearing a priority. It was important to hear a number of senior members of Congress affirming the change that is taking place at the state level and affirming the contradictions that are created by the federal government being out of step and out of touch. It’s past time for Congress to catch up with the American people.”

    Six cannabis-related bills are currently before the committee, including HR 3884, the MORE Act, which recently was approved in the House Judiciary Committee by a bipartisan vote of 24-10 and waived by the House Small Business Committee.

    Committee members announced their intent to hold a follow up hearing in the future.

    Witnesses at today’s hearing were:
    Matthew J. Strait, Senior Policy Advisor, Diversion Control Division, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
    Douglas Throckmorton, M.D., Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
    Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse National Institutes of Health (NIDA)

    The text of NORML’s written testimony to the committee is available online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 6, 2020

    marijuana plantA proposed measure legalizing and regulating the adult use and retail sale of marijuana in South Dakota has qualified for the 2020 ballot.

    The South Dakota Secretary of State’s Office acknowledged Monday that the proposed constitutional amendment will appear on the November ballot. The measure permits individuals 21 and older to possess and purchase up to an ounce of cannabis and creates a system to license and regulate retail marijuana businesses. Limited home cultivation is also permitted under the measure.

    The proposal is the second marijuana-specific initiative to be approved by the Secretary of State’s office. Last month, officials similarly certified Measure 26, which legalizes patients’ access to medical cannabis, for the November ballot.

    “South Dakota will become the first state in American history to vote on both medical marijuana and adult-use legalization initiatives on the same ballot,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told the website Marijuana Moment, which first broke the news. MPP and the New Approach PAC are actively backing both proposals. South Dakota is one of only three states that has not enacted any legislation providing some form of medical cannabis or CBD access.

    Eleven states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana by adults. In December, New Jersey lawmakers also decided to place an adult-use legalization question on the November 2020 ballot.

    Additional information on the pending South Dakota initiatives is available from South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws.

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