Maine !!

Maine lawmakers this week wrapped up their efforts to rewrite the state’s marijuana laws for adult-use recreational sales and for medical use.

The legislative outline of Maine’s adult-use cannabis market was finalized last month when lawmakers overturned a gubernatorial veto and paved the way for adult-use sales in 2019. And late Tuesday night, lawmakers adopted a sweeping medical cannabis reform bill that now sits on Gov. Paul LePage’s desk for review. LePage, whose sharp criticism of Maine’s medical use of marijuana program was oft-repeated as he voiced his opposition to commercial adult-use sales, has 10 days to decide if he will sign, veto or allow the medical marijuana reform bill to become law without his signature. On Wednesday, the morning after the bill’s late-night approval, LePage remained silent on his plans. Together with the law passed last month, the votes this week – if they become law – will change how people can legally grow, sell, manufacture, authorize and consume all forms of cannabis. Here is a look at what is in store for all of them.

RECREATIONAL MARKET

After lawmakers shot down a bill Tuesday that would have forced another statewide vote on legalization, Maine is still on track to ramp up its recreational marijuana marketplace. Since voters embraced legalization in a 2016 referendum, lawmakers have rewritten the law to make it more palatable to the 49 percent of Mainers who voted against legalization and to gain the support of a supermajority of legislators needed to override a likely LePage veto. That meant taking the bill that failed in 2017 and making it more conservative. Lawmakers abandoned the idea of social clubs where people could consume pot to win over those who worried it could fuel a spike in impaired driving. They killed the plan to share cannabis tax revenues with host towns out of fear of incentivizing the spread of the industry. And they set a 20 percent effective tax , double that approved by voters. It remains legal for Mainers 21 and older to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana and use it in their homes, but buying it legally from a recreational marijuana storefront won’t be a reality for a while. The new law, which went into effect May 3, puts the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services in charge of licensing all cannabis grows, testing labs, manufacturing plants and stores, as well as enforcement of both adult-use and medical program rules. Maine still must hire a consultant to write the technical rules, which likely will take nine months to produce and would be subject to review by the next Legislature. Once the rules are approved, Administrative and Financial Services must hire its full enforcement staff and begin processing adult-use cannabis applications and issuing licenses. The first recreational sales are likely to occur late in 2019. Best guess? If you want to use recreational marijuana in Maine, plan on growing and harvesting your own until at least next fall.

GROWING YOUR OWN FOR ADULT USE

The law passed in May will change how Mainers can grow recreational marijuana at home, starting later this year. Home growing had been the only part of the citizen referendum law that Maine put into effect immediately. The state initially allowed adults to grow as many as six flowering plants in their homes, on their land, or on someone else’s land with permission. But after Colorado shared its concerns about runaway home grows, Maine lawmakers cut the home grow limit to three mature plants. The state is giving home growers a six-month grace period, or until November, to shrink their personal gardens down to three plants.

GIFTING

The recreational-use law closes the so-called gifting loophole in the citizen initiative that allowed online companies to give recreational marijuana to anyone willing to pay a comparable amount for another item, like a gift jar, a painting or delivery.

Maine law still allows someone to give marijuana to another person, but it now prohibits remuneration of any kind, even indirectly. Nevertheless, some companies continue to advertise commercial gifting services.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA CAREGIVERS

The bill passed Tuesday would crack down on medical marijuana caregivers – the people who supply marijuana to qualified medical patients – by authorizing unannounced state inspections.

It also would require explicit approval from the host towns before they can open shops outside their homes.

Boston, Mass. Update for retail stores

BOSTON — Prospects for retail pot shops opening for business in Massachusetts by a July 1 target date appear to be dimming.

The state’s Cannabis Control Commission met Thursday without issuing the first commercial business licenses under the state’s voter-approved recreational marijuana law. Steven Hoffman, the commission chairman, told reporters that regulators hope to begin issuing licenses ‘‘shortly,’’ but added he couldn’t offer a specific date. Hoffman described the July 1 date for retail sales given in the law as an ‘‘arbitrary deadline’’ and not a mandate. He also said regulators are still awaiting background checks and other information on the more than two dozen entities that have applied for retail or other types of marijuana business licenses.

Hoffman also said he would be OK with having no retail shops open for a few weeks after the July 1 target date if it means avoiding a problematic rollout.

‘‘We are going to do this right,’’ he said. “If that means we have few or no stores on July 1 and it takes a few more weeks, I hope and expect that everybody in the state believes that’s the right thing to do. We certainly believe that’s the right thing to do.”

Hoffman said he expects the commission will begin taking up license applications “soon.” When asked if July 1 could still be the first day of legal marijuana sales in Massachusetts, he said, “It could be.”

Already, 28 entities have applied for 53 business licenses and the CCC has begun to review those applications. The review process includes a background check and a 60-day window during which the municipality in which the business hopes to locate must certify that the applicant has met all local requirements.

The chairman said he does not want the commission to rush through its review of applications to approve them ahead of July 1 in hopes of avoiding problems that have cropped up in other states as they have launched their own legal pot industries.

“Other states that rushed to hit an arbitrary deadline ended up with no inventory in some cases, ended up with no licenses in place, no background checks being done, no online inventory being done. We are not going to do that,” Hoffman said.

Executive director Shawn Collins said Thursday that the pending pile includes 18 applications to cultivate marijuana, 17 applications for retail licenses, 12 applications to produce marijuana-infused products, three research laboratory applications, two applications from microbusinesses, and one application to transport marijuana. He said the applications have come in from 36 registered marijuana dispensary companies, four applicants who are part of the CCC’s economic empowerment program and 13 applicants that did not receive priority review status from the commission.

”That’s kind of the universe we’re managing with applications and we are reviewing them all substantively or reviewing for completeness at some stage,” Collins said.

Instead of considering license applications at its meeting Thursday, the commission instead discussed the metrics it will publicly report as a way to assess the commission’s performance, guidance the panel will issue to businesses to clear up questions around some of the commission’s regulations, and its agenda for researching the public health, public safety, and societal effects of marijuana legalization.

The panel’s next meeting is Tuesday, and officials could consider license applications at that time. An agenda for that meeting will be available at least 48 hours beforehand.

Did JEFF Sessions kickstart congress’ effort to legalize ?!?!

(vía LA times)

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legalize cannabis.

Last week Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) introduced a bill that would essentially end the federal prohibition in states that have chosen to permit medical or recreational marijuana under their own laws. In an unexpected boost for the bill, President Trump said he probably would support it. The States Act, as it is known, would amend the Controlled Substances Act so that it would no longer be a crime for people to buy or sell marijuana, as long as they were following state laws. It also would extend the right to legalize marijuana to U.S. territories, federally recognized tribes and to Washington, D.C. — where voters passed an initiative to allow adult recreational use of marijuana but Congress has blocked the district from permitting its sale. This isn’t the first bill in Congress proposing to ease federal restrictions on marijuana. It is, however, the first that has a chance of passing and the potential support of the president. It’s the most promising effort to date to do away with the contradiction between federal law and the laws passed in recent years by California and other states to move marijuana sales from the black market into a legal, regulated and taxed system. That would be an extraordinary step forward. And for this, we can thank Sessions.

In January, Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy memo that outlined a hands-off approach to states that had legalized marijuana. The memo said federal law enforcement agencies should not interfere with states that allowed the commercial sale of marijuana as long as there are were strict regulations in place, including rules to prevent sales to minors and to block criminal enterprises from participating.

Instead, Sessions said, federal prosecutors would have discretion to go after marijuana businesses. That has left the nascent legal market in a legal limbo, making it harder to move pot out of the shadows and into a controlled system.

For instance, it has stymied attempts to provide banking services to the cannabis industry. Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, banks and financial services companies won’t serve pot companies for fear of being penalized for handling money from drug sales. As a result, companies are forced to do business and pay their taxes in cash, which is hard to track and makes their businesses targets for robberies. That’s dangerous, and it’s bad public policy.

The States Act is designed to counteract the Sessions crackdown, letting states decide if they want to legalize marijuana or not without federal interference. Trump last week said he “probably will end up supporting” the bill, after some hardball tactics by Gardner. The president did say on the campaign trail that legalization should be decided by the states. And it doesn’t hurt that Trump is still mad at Sessions over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

It would be ironic if Trump’s irrational anger at the attorney general is what finally pushes the federal government to adopt a rational policy on marijuana. Whatever the motivation, Congress ought to take advantage of the moment.

Michigan Senate votes to ban marijuana beer

Lansing — The Michigan Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to ban marijuana-infused beer and wine, a pre-emptive strike ahead of possible legalization of the drug. Legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, would prohibit the possession or sale of marijuana beer, wine, spirits or mixed drinks — regardless of whether they contain alcohol.

The former Eaton County Sheriff said he was inspired to draft the legislation after hearing about similar products in places like Colorado, where Blue Moon’s brewer recently announced it would launch a non-alcoholic beer infused with marijuana.

“If we don’t ban it, we’re going to have it, and it is a recipe for disaster,” Jones said. “If you want it, go to Colorado or Canada. We don’t need it here.” Marijuana advocates say the proposal is a solution in search of a problem, but approval comes as Senate Republicans consider whether to take up a pot legalization proposal by early June or let the citizen initiative advance to the November ballot.

Jones opposes legalization but believes voters would approve the proposal, so he supports a push to adopt the legislation and then amend it later this year. The Senate is unlikely to vote without a clear sign House Republicans would follow suit, a scenario Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, has called unlikely. Jones warned that marijuana beer could be sold at bars, creating liability for owners who sell an “edible” product that may take longer to intoxicate a user than alcohol and have a stronger effect. Bars are not supposed to allow patrons to leave and drive if they appear inebriated. But the legalization proposal would not allow bars to sell marijuana products, said Josh Hovey, a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Alcohol Like Marijuana. The drug could only be sold through state-licensed dispensaries, which would need to be stand-alone entities. “So once it passes, people won’t be seeing bars or liquor stores, or even convenience stores for that matter, selling cannabis products — just dispensaries,” Hovey said.

Communities would also need to opt in and could set their own zoning and local licensing regulations, he added.

Still, Jones predicted recreational marijuana could open the door to unexpected products the state has never before considered regulating.

“When the November ballot passes … bar the door, it’s going to be the wild, wild West,” Jones told reporters after Thursday’s state Senate vote on marijuana beer. Hovey disputed that characterization, saying the legalization proposal would create a “highly regulated licensing structure just like the medical marijuana system the Legislature passed in the fall of 2016.”

That law, passed with bipartisan support in the Republican-led Legislature, created new regulations separate from the medical pot law approved by voters in 2008.

“We followed the licensing structure almost to the letter,” Hovey said.

The only difference, he said, is licensing would be processed by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs rather than the “politically appointed” Medical Marihuana Licensing Board.

Kevin Sabet, president of the Smart Approaches to Marijuana advocacy group, praised the Senate legislation. Marijuana beer presents a “double whammy” because it’s appealing to kids and is dangerous, he said.

“It should not be legal for medical use or recreational use,” Sabet said.

If Michigan voters see a legalization proposal on the ballot in November, they won’t just be voting on marijuana, Sabet said. “They’re voting on things like (marijuana-infused) candies, ice cream and cookies. Those are very attractive to kids.” Michigan’s 2008 medical marijuana law does not allow bars or liquor stores to sell marijuana products, and dispensaries are not allowed to sell liquor, said Rick Thompson of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“This seems a lot like a rhetorical legislative exercise because this bill would effect zero people in Michigan,” Thompson said last week in committee testimony. “There’s zero market for this.”

Thompson argued the proposal could also limit entrepreneurs who want to brew beer with Cannabidiol and other parts of the marijuana plant used by medical patients that do not have the same psychoactive effects like Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical commonly associated with a “high.”

Ontario, Canada, recently awarded a $300,000 grant to help a firm develop marijuana-brewed beer, and California wine makers are experimenting with marijuana-infused wine, according to media reports.

“I’m so happy that instead of becoming stoners in Michigan, they’ll go to Canada or they’ll go to California,” Jones said at the hearing. “Thank goodness.”

Louisiana expands medical marijuana program

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s medical marijuana program would be available for more diseases and disorders, under a bill that is steps from final passage.

Senators voted 25-9 Wednesday for Rep. Ted James’ proposal to include glaucoma, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease on the list eligible for medicinal pot.

They then voted 21-10 for a separate measure by Harvey Rep. Rodney Lyons to add autism spectrum disorder.

Both bills head back to the House for review of Senate changes. The proposals earlier won passage there.

Supporters say therapeutic marijuana could help people.

Opponents said lawmakers should wait until the medical marijuana program begins before expanding eligibility.

 

House Bills 579 and 627: http://www.legis.la.gov

Lansing, Michigan

LANSING – The battle to free the weed officially started Thursday when the State Board of Canvassers ruled that a group pushing a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use got enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.

The 4-0 decision by the board was met with cheers by advocates for the proposal.

“The people of Michigan deserve this. They earned it,” said Rick Thompson, a board member of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws or NORML. “We’ve faced many trials and tribulations. We’ve had so many stop and go signs from the federal government. That’s why states have to take the reins on the issue and really be the crucibles of democracy that they’ve always been intended to be.”

It was the second time that the coalition had turned in enough signatures to get on the ballot. The last time, however, it didn’t get the signatures in a state-mandated 180-day window and the petition was thrown out. But the coalition didn’t have the same problem this time around. “We expected this,” said John Truscott, spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “Now, we’ll be out and about talking to people and educating them about the issues.”

Scott Greenlee, executive director of the Healthy and Productive Michigan political action committee, which opposes the ballot proposal, urged the Board of Canvassers to keep the issue off the ballot because marijuana is still considered an illegal drug by the federal government.

“By putting this on the ballot, you’re disregarding federal law,” he said. “I recognize that other states have done it, but like my mom always told me, ‘Just because your friends jump off a bridge, doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing.’

“We’re picking and choosing which laws to follow and that’s no way to live,” he said, adding he’s not sure whether his group will continue to fight the Board of Canvassers’ decision in court.

The Michigan marijuana ballot proposal would:

Legalize the possession and sale of up to 2½ ounces of marijuana for personal, recreational use.
Impose a 10% excise tax on marijuana sales at the retail level as well as a 6% sales tax. The estimated revenues from the taxes are at least $100 million.
Split those revenues with 35% going to K-12 education, 35% to roads, 15% to the communities that allow marijuana businesses in their borders and 15% to counties where marijuana business are located.
Allow communities to decide whether they’ll permit marijuana businesses.
Restrict purchases of marijuana for recreational purposes to 2½ ounces but an individual could keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana at home.
Allow the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), and not the politically appointed licensing board that will regulate the medical marijuana side of the market, to regulate and license marijuana businesses, ranging from growers, transporters, testers and dispensaries.
Set up three classes of marijuana growers: up to 100, 500 and 2,000 plants.
Michigan voters have already weighed in on marijuana once, approving cannabis for medical use in 2008 by a 63%-37% margin. As of March, 1, 277,752 people are medical marijuana cardholders and 43,131 people are caregivers who can grow up to 72 plants for up to five cardholders. The state is in the process of vetting applications of people who want to get into the medial marijuana business, which is expected to generate at least $700 million in sales.

That financial prediction is estimated to grow to more than $1 billion a year if voters pass the ballot proposal and Michigan becomes the ninth state to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

In Colorado, the oldest recreational marijuana market in the nation, sales in 2017 were $1.5 billion.

But getting the ballot proposal passed is not a foregone conclusion, despite recent polls showing more than 60% support for legalizing marijuana.

Healthy and Productive Michigan has $215,286 for the battle ahead, primarily from Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a Virginia-based organization that supports cannabis for medical, but not recreational, uses.

“We’ll continue to press forward with education and explain to the public the problems that recreational marijuana will cause in our state,” Greenlee said. “And once it’s certified for the ballot, we’ll have a number of people from Michigan who will come in and support us.”

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol has raised more than $1 million, but spent the vast majority on paying the firm that collected petition signatures. According to campaign finance reports filed this week with the Secretary of State, the coalition has only $17,326 in available cash for the upcoming campaign.

The action taken by the Board on Thursday will trigger a large fund-raising effort, Truscott said.

“We expect to have quite a bit coming in now that it’s all approved,” he said. “There have been a number of meetings in the last few weeks about that.”

With the Board of Canvassers’ approval, the state Legislature has several options: it could consider the measure and pass it, in which case it would automatically become law; it could offer a competing proposal for the ballot or it could do nothing and let the issue go to the Nov. 6 ballot.

While Republicans might want to keep the issue off the ballot in November — because it’s expected to increase voter turnout that could be more beneficial for Democrats — it would also be a very difficult vote for Republican lawmakers to take as many of them face elections in the fall.

Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt, seemed to take the legislative vote option off the table on Thursday.

“I don’t anticipate it happening. There’s not much support in the caucus for it and I personally do not support it,” he said. “I think it’s something that the voters are going to have to ultimately decide.”

Michigan Senate panel wants to ban marijuana-infused alcoholic beverages

LANSING – The production, sale and use of marijuana-infused beer, wine and spirits would be banned under a bill that unanimously passed the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee on Wednesday.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said the bill is necessary as Michigan voters may soon vote on whether to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

“This is happening in Colorado and should the ballot proposal pass in November, we’re going to end up with it here,” Jones said. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

More: Detroit named among world’s Top 50 cities for nightlife

More: How ‘dank’ became a compliment for both beer and marijuana

Colorado is the only state that allows for marijuana-infused beer, but it’s only a nonalcoholic version made by the inventor of the popular Blue Moon beer. There is also nonalcoholic wine that has been infused with marijuana.

There are a wide variety of marijuana-infused edible products on the market, including gummies, baked goods, juices, gum, even dog treats. There are some marijuana-infused craft beers and wines that contain cannabidiol for flavor, but not the THC, which produces the “high” that attracts many marijuana users.

Under Jones’ bill — SB 969 — no part of the marijuana plant could be infused into beer or other alcoholic drinks for sale in Michigan.

Jones cited liability for bars and restaurants who might serve marijuana infused alcohol without knowing the effects. And he said that Michigan has a zero-tolerance policy for people who are found to be driving under the influence of marijuana.

But Rick Thompson, a board member of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws or NORML, said the proposed law is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist in Michigan because state law is clear that marijuana dispensaries can’t sell alcohol and party stores aren’t allowed to sell marijuana.

“This would affect zero people in Michigan,” he said, adding that Canada and California are taking a more progressive approach by funding research on cannabis-infused drinks.

Which prompted Jones, who doesn’t support legalization of marijuana, to quip: “I’m so happy that instead of becoming stoners in Michigan, people will go to Canada or California instead.”

Michigan voters approved medical marijuana in 2008 and are poised to consider a ballot proposal to fully legalize marijuana for adult recreational use during the Nov. 6 general election.