Vermont legislature approves recreational marijuana use

A measure legalizing marijuana use in Vermont cleared the state’s legislature on Wednesday.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has said the legislation is not “a priority for Vermont” and has not made a final decision as to whether he will sign it. The measure makes Vermont the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana use among adults and the first to legalize through a legislative process. Other states have approved recreational marijuana use through ballot initiatives.

“Vermont lawmakers made history today,” said Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a marijuana policy group. “The legislature has taken a crucial step toward ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.” Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized the possession and use of marijuana, though each state has its own rules and regulations. For example, in Washington — one of the first states to legalize pot — only individuals using the drug for medical purposes can grow it, though any adult is allowed to possess and use it.

In Washington, D.C., marijuana can be used and “gifted,” but not bought, sold or exchanged for other goods or services.

Marijuana use is illegal according to federal policy, and President Trump’s opposition to legalization has created uncertainty for some states seeking to regulate the industry.

If signed by the governor, the Vermont measure would remove civil penalties for possessing one ounce of marijuana or less and would allow adults to keep up to two mature pot plants. It would also create a commission to develop a plan for taxing and regulating the drug.

Washington state growers struggling to sell legal marijuana

SEATTLE – Washington’s legal marijuana market opened last summer to a dearth of weed. Some stores periodically closed because they didn’t have pot to sell. Prices were through the roof.

Six months later, the equation has flipped, bringing serious growing pains to the new industry.


A big harvest of sun-grown marijuana from eastern Washington last fall flooded the market. Prices are starting to come down in the state’s licensed pot shops, but due to the glut, growers are — surprisingly — struggling to sell their marijuana. Some are already worried about going belly-up, finding it tougher than expected to make a living in legal weed.

“It’s an economic nightmare,” says Andrew Seitz, general manager at Dutch Brothers Farms in Seattle.

State data show that licensed growers had harvested 31,000 pounds of bud as of Thursday, but Washington’s relatively few legal pot shops have sold less than one-fifth of that. Many of the state’s marijuana users have stuck with the untaxed or much-lesser-taxed pot they get from black market dealers or unregulated medical dispensaries — limiting how quickly product moves off the shelves of legal stores.

Officials at the state Liquor Control Board, which regulates marijuana, aren’t terribly concerned.

So far, there are about 270 licensed growers in Washington — but only about 85 open stores for them to sell to. That’s partly due to a slow, difficult licensing process; retail applicants who haven’t been ready to open; and pot business bans in many cities and counties.

The board’s legal pot project manager, Randy Simmons, says he hopes about 100 more stores will open in the next few months, providing additional outlets for the weed that’s been harvested. Washington is always likely to have a glut of marijuana after the outdoor crop comes in each fall, he suggested, as the outdoor growers typically harvest one big crop which they continue to sell throughout the year.

Weed is still pricey at the state’s pot shops — often in the $23-to-$25-per-gram range. That’s about twice the cost at medical dispensaries, but cheaper than it was a few months ago.

Simmons said he expects pot prices to keep fluctuating for the next year and a half: “It’s the volatility of a new marketplace.”

In Washington, many growers have unrealistic expectations about how quickly they should be able to recoup their initial investments, Simmons said. And some of the growers complaining about the low prices they’re getting now also gouged the new stores amid shortages last summer.

Those include Seitz, who sold his first crop — 22 pounds — for just under $21 per gram: nearly $230,000 before his hefty $57,000 tax bill. He’s about to harvest his second crop, but this time he expects to get just $4 per gram, when he has big bills to pay.

“We’re running out of money,” he said. “We need to make sales this month to stay operational, and we’re going to be selling at losses.”

Because of the high taxes on Washington’s legal pot, Seitz says stores can never compete with the black market while paying growers sustainable prices.

He and other growers say it’s been a mistake for the state to license so much production while the rollout of legal stores has lagged.

“If it’s a natural bump from the outdoor harvest, that’s one thing,” said Jeremy Moberg, who is sitting on 1,500 pounds of unsold marijuana at his CannaSol Farms in north-central Washington. “If it’s institutionally creating oversupply … that’s a problem.”

Some retailers have been marking up the wholesale price three-fold or more — a practice that has some growers wondering if certain stores aren’t cleaning up as they struggle.

“I got retailers beating me down to sell for black-market prices,” said Fitz Couhig, owner of Pioneer Production and Processing in Arlington.

But two of the top-selling stores in Seattle — Uncle Ike’s and Cannabis City — insist that because of their tax obligations and low demand for high-priced pot, they’re not making any money either, despite each having sales of more than $600,000 per month.
Full article here

Santa Ana – Dispensary Applications are now being accepted!

Today, officials for the City of Santa Ana began accepting applications from people interested in opening up medical marijuana shops.

Measure BB, which voters approved, allows for the legal sale of medical cannabis in Orange County.

Santa Ana was the first city to accept these applications in Orange County and they will be available for the next 30 days.

The applications will be screened for a period of time, before about 12 or so will be selected to open for business. It has been reported that more than 75 people lined up at City Hall to apply for licenses today, and in the coming days dozens more are expected.

“The voters passed this overwhelmingly with 75 percent approval,” said Vincent Sarmiento, Santa Ana Mayor pro tem. “Many of those voters have family members, or themselves, who are suffering with illnesses and hope that medicinal marijuana will be able to give some relief to them.”

The rules about where the collectives can operate are strict.

They will be zoned and regulated to operate in the southern and eastern parts of the city. The collectives must also be at least 1,000 feet from parks, schools and residential areas, similar to rules in Riverside County.


Congress Hands A Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana movement, plus a painful setback

For the marijuana legalization movement, 2014 ends the way it began: with legal changes that showcase the movement’s momentum alongside its problems.

Tucked into the 1,603-page year-end spending bill Congress released Tuesday night were a pair of provisions that affect proponents of cannabis reform. Together they form a metaphor for the politics of legal cannabis—an issue that made major bipartisan strides this year, but whose progress is hampered by a tangle of local, state and federal statutes that have sown confusion and produced contradictory justice.

First the good news for reformers: the proposed budget would prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funds to prosecute patients or legal dispensaries in the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that passed some form of medical-marijuana legalization. The provision was crafted by a bipartisan group of representatives and passed the Republican-controlled House in May for the first time in seven tries. If passed into law, it would mark a milestone for the movement, restricting raids against dispensaries and inoculating patients from being punished for an activity that is legal where they live but in violation of federal law.

“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana, and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement to TIME. The California Republican’s work on the issue reflects the strange coalition that has sprung up to support cannabis reform as the GOP’s libertarian wing gains steam and voters’ views evolve.

At the same time, the House chose to overrule Washington, D.C., on the issue. Last month voters in the District chose to liberalize its marijuana laws, passing an initiative that legalized the possession, consumption and cultivation of recreational marijuana. The move, which was supported by about 70% of the capital’s voters, paved the way for D.C. to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State by establishing a tax-and-regulatory structure for cannabis sales in 2015.


Lawmakers take first look at implementing marijuana law

At the end of a legislative meeting with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission on Wednesday, one thing was clear to the lawmakers involved: There is a lot of work to be done before recreational marijuana sales start in January 2016.

“The seed has just been planted,” Rep. Margret Doherty, D-Tigard, said.
Oregon voters approved the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana 56 percent to 44 percent this November, but the ballot initiative’s 36 pages left a lot of the regulatory details up to the OLCC to figure out by January 2016.

That’s left some of the state’s lawmakers wondering whether they should step in during the 2015 legislative session to modify the law or create additional statutory requirements.

“Can we do away with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program if we are going to legalize marijuana?” Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, asked Jesse Sweet, a policy analyst with the OLCC.

Measure 91 states that it makes no changes to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, but nothing prohibits the legislature from making changes.
Girod doesn’t see why the state would need to spend the money on two separate regulatory systems with two sets of personnel. He thinks recreational stores could sell medical marijuana strains.

He’d also like to lower the amount of marijuana a household could possess. Measure 91 set that limit at 8 ounces, which is about 224 joints.
And Girod wants to make sure that giving someone a marijuana infused product, like a cookie or brownie, without their knowledge is a criminal offense.
“I like brownies. I like cookies,” Girod said. “I would hate to think at the staff lounge we could have brownies and cookies that are laced with marijuana.”
Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, asked the OLCC representatives to develop a list of changes it would like to make to the law and to bring them back to the committee.

“Keep in mind this is a statute, and statutes can be changed,” Beyer told the audience gathered to watch the hearing.

He took November’s vote in favor of marijuana to mean that Oregonians support recreational usage and not that they support the specific details of Measure 91.

His assumption is that most voters “didn’t pay a heck of a lot of attention” to or read all the fine print in the proposal.

One area that interested all the lawmakers on the joint interim task force was that Measure 91 sets no legal limit for driving under the influence. Instead, it tasks OLCC with figuring one out.

The trouble with cannabis is that unlike alcohol a person can test positive for THC, the psychoactive composite in marijuana, days after he or she got high.

Washington and Colorado set their DUI limits at 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

The framers of Measure 91 didn’t include that standard because the scientific community is divided over whether that’s an accurate assessment of a person’s impairment, Sweet said.

Critics argue that the 5 nanogram level means most medical marijuana patients would fail a sobriety test.
OLCC plans to work with the Oregon State Police and the Department of Justice to come up with an impaired driving level for Oregon.

The committee plans to meet again in December.

Desert Hot Springs CA

I grew up in the Coachella Valley, so I just had to share this story!!

DESERT HOT SPRINGS – Medical marijuana collectives are on track to be legalized in Desert Hot Springs after the City Council voiced unanimous support Tuesday and directed staff to draft an ordinance by June 5 to regulate dispensaries.

While some city council members disagreed on the regulatory details, all agreed that marijuana could be an opportunity to bring in much-needed revenue to the cash-strapped city.
If passed, Desert Hot Springs would become the second city in Riverside County that allows dispensaries to operate within its limits. Palm Springs currently is the only one.

“I believe this would be good for our city,” resident Larry Buchanan told the council. “There are some people who are too poor to go outside of town.”
Not allowing marijuana collectives also allows the illegal sale of “marijuana to flourish and helps keep the gangs going,” Buchanan said.

City Attorney Steve Quintanilla said he will present the council with a draft that includes all the items agreed on, while leaving enough wiggle room to amend the items debated.
The consensus among council members included a tax of some sort and limiting the number of collectives in the city.

However, some debated how the dispensaries should be audited, whether they should have 21-and-over age restriction and if they should be required to have a security plan.
Councilman Scott Matas wants a security plan and the city to audit and regulate them.

“It just gives the city a tool, if needed,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Russell Betts disagreed, saying there are already regulations at the state level and he doesn’t want the city to get bogged down with its own.

“We don’t have the staffing to do that,” Betts said. “Piggybacking off of what Palm Springs is doing doesn’t work for me.”

Councilman Joe McKee disagreed with Matas on the security issue.
The city didn’t have to tell banks to have security, McKee said. “They did that on their own.”

As far as the auditing is concerned, McKee said the city can do “the same auditing we do for hoteliers” and treat collectives just like any other business.

Councilwoman Jan Pye said the records that would be requested during the auditing process would be for “identification of the caregiver and the recommendation.”
“It’s not that we are checking anyone’s diagnosis,” she said.

Pye and Matas also said that a special marijuana commission should be formed that reviews applicants and recommends action to the city council.
McKee and Betts disagreed, saying that collectives should be reviewed by the city’s planning commission.

An audit conducted last year by Palm Springs of its three legal dispensaries revealed they combined garner $4.5 million in sales annually. In February, the Palm Springs City Council approved a fourth dispensary, which is expected to open in July.

Palm Springs has a 10 percent sales tax on its three legal marijuana dispensaries, which is expected to generate $450,000 yearly.

In Riverside, medical marijuana advocates turned in signatures to place a measure on the June 3 election ballot that would rescind the city’s ban on medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana was approved by California voters under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. However, it is still federally illegal.

U.S. Says Legal Marijuana Growers Can’t Use Federal Irrigation Water

Marijuana growers operating legally in Colorado and Washington state took another hit from the federal government on Tuesday when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that pot growers are (still) not allowed to use federal irrigation waters.

Since 1902, the bureau has been charged with maintaining dams, power plants and canals in the 17 “western states” — from North Dakota, Nebraska and Texas to Washington, Oregon and California.

As such, the agency also provides irrigation for millions of acres of agriculture in Washington and Colorado, the two states that recently made recreational marijuana legal for adults.

But the bureau wants weed growers to know that, at least at the federal level, the times they aren’t a-changing.

So, on Tuesday it reclarified a law that has been in place for decades.

“As a federal agency, Reclamation is obligated to adhere to federal law in the conduct of its responsibilities to the American people,” Dan DuBray, chief of public affairs, said in a statement to NBC News.

The bureau says it had been fielding questions from all points west on the use of water in pot operations.

On Tuesday, in what’s called a “temporary policy” decision, the bureau reiterated that federal law still rules.

“Reclamation will operate its facilities and administer its water-related contracts in a manner that is consistent with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, as amended. This includes locations where state law has decriminalized or authorized the cultivation of marijuana. Reclamation will refer any inconsistent uses of federal resources of which it becomes aware to the Department of Justice and coordinate with the proper enforcement authorities,” it said.

That last line means that the bureau won’t actually be enforcing the law so much as letting the Justice Department know when it believes marijuana growers are using federal water. It’s also the responsibility of local bureaus and state offices to regulate who gets approved to use federal irrigation.

The decision is termed “temporary” because a permanent policy decision would require a lengthy process that includes public hearings.

According to the bureau, it delivers water to about 1.2 million acres of irrigated land each in Colorado and Washington.