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.

Arizona lawmaker proposes legalizing marijuana

PHOENIX — Recreational marijuana use could be legal in Arizona by this summer if the Legislature and new Gov. Doug Ducey approve a plan introduced by a Phoenix lawmaker.

The legislation will be a long shot under the conservative-led Legislature. But state Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix, said he has some strong arguments. Among them is the possibility of nearly $50 million in potential tax revenue that could offset a looming $1 billion budget shortfall.

Proponents of legalizing marijuana are expected to try to get a measure on the 2016 Arizona ballot, following similar successful efforts in Colorado, Washington and Oregon. Cardenas said polling in Arizona shows such a ballot measure would probably pass, as medical-marijuana legalization did in 2010.

For a variety of reasons, Cardenas said, it would be better if the Legislature passed its own version of the law first.

“We’ve seen issues with our medical-marijuana system … but it’s nearly impossible to come back at the Legislature and adjust it because we need 75% of the Legislature (to approve any changes to a voter-approved measure),” he said. “This would give us more leeway. If there were unforeseen consequences, we could easily come back and adjust it the next year.”

House Bill 2007 would legalize the purchase, possession and consumption of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. It would expand the current medical-marijuana system under the Arizona Department of Health Services, and create a process for dispensaries to serve the general public. It also would allow adults age 21 and older to grow up to five plants for personal consumption.

“We have a rough framework to work off of, which would be Colorado,” Cardenas said. “We would like to start with a discussion and work towards creating the same system here. They’ve gained a lot of revenue from that.”

HB 2007 would levy a new tax against marijuana, at $50 an ounce. Thirty percent of the revenue would go to education; 10% to treatment programs for alcohol, tobacco and marijuana abuse; 10% for public-education campaigns educating youth and adults about the risks of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana; and the rest would go into the general fund.

The proposed tax rate is lower than that in Colorado, but higher than in Oregon. Oregon taxes marijuana at $35 an ounce. Colorado has a 15% excise tax, plus a 10% sales tax on marijuana, plus regular state and local sales taxes.

HB 2007 will need several legislative committee hearings and votes before it could become law. Even getting a first committee hearing could prove challenging.

A similar bill introduced last session by former Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, now a U.S. congressman, was never assigned to a committee. Without that assignment, it got no hearings or votes.

Cardenas introduced a bill last year that would have lowered the penalties for marijuana possession. It was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, but it was never scheduled for a hearing.

“The possibility of it passing is not good, but we need to start looking at new and exciting ways to fill our budget gap if the governor is taking a ‘no new taxes’ stance.”

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.


MMJ ARIZONA – Marijuana DUI update

Arizona medical marijuana users can face jail time or have their licenses suspended for driving with cannabis in their system even if they are not impaired, according to a series of court decisions including a new one from the state Court of Appeals.

The ruling stems from a case involving Travis Lance Darrah, a medical marijuana cardholder, who was pulled over in 2011 and charged with DUI.

The Mesa jury acquitted Darrah of DUI but found him guilty of a misdemeanor charge of driving with an illegal substance in his system.

John Tatz, Darrah’s attorney, said his client faces a day in jail, $1,500 in fines, required substance abuse help and a one-year suspension of his driver’s license for the conviction.

Darrah has appealed the ruling contending being an authorized cannabis user under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act protects him from such prosecution.

Two Arizona trial courts — and a new decision from the Arizona Court of Appeals — disagree.

They ruled there is nothing in the voter-approved state medical marijuana law that exempts legalized users from DUI laws.

John Balitis, an attorney with the law office of Fennemore Craig PC in Phoenix, said there are all kinds of protections built in the state marijuana laws.

“The act includes all sorts of workplace protections and protections for people leasing properties,” he said.

There just aren’t legal exemptions or protections when it comes to DUIs and driving with active marijuana ingredients in the operator’s system.

“The proposition just doesn’t say that,” Balitis said. He said that creates a big legal issue for authorized cardholders.

The trial judge would not even allow the jury to hear testimony that Darrah was a state authorized medical marijuana user.

“That just doesn’t seem right,” Tatz said of the court rulings and interpretations of DUI and medical marijuana laws.

Full article here

Tucson, Arizona -MMJNEWS- Cultivation zoning restrictions lifted!

The Tucson City Council has voted to lift zoning restrictions on medical marijuana cultivation sites. Advocates and council members say this can benefit the city’s economy.

Vicky Puchi-Saavedra, owner of dispensary Earth’s Healing in Tucson’s south side, said Tuesday night’s decision will help create jobs and fuel great revenue for the city. Now that cultivation facilities can be bigger than the previous 3,000 square-feet limit, dispensaries are set to expand.

“It is like trickle down economics, you don’t just hire a grower, you hire bookkeepers, you hire warehouse managers…” Puchi-Saavedra said. “Aside from the sales tax we are paying, city sales tax, so we are helping the city instead of moving our warehouse out of Tucson, back into Phoenix.”

Like Puchi-Saavedra, many local dispensary owners had to buy their medical marijuana from cultivation sites in Phoenix, where there is no zoning restrictions for these sites, then ship it to Tucson.

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich said patients were suffering the consequences of strict regulations. Puchi-Saavedra pointed out dispensaries were having to buy medical marijuana nearly at retail price, making it nearly impossible to offer customers lower costs.

“Most of the product was being cultivated in Maricopa County and in the Phoenix area, which added cost to patients in our area,” Uhlich said. “And so we are really monitoring what is happening across the state as the law gets implemented and recognizing that being overly restrictive simply ads cost to patients in Tucson.”

She also agreed the local economy can boost thanks to the council’s decision.
“Any time we can produce anything locally, it does create jobs and reduce costs,” Uhlich said.

A main concern in Uhlich’s ward was the potential impact lifting zoning restrictions would have in residential areas.

“We wanted to emphasize this is governing industrial zones, which are typically well buffered from residential areas, so I think those concerns were addressed,” she said.

Puchi-Saavedra said dispensaries will also be able to keep up with demand. Before, they ran out of certain strains of medical marijuana quickly and couldn’t replenish until the next Phoenix trip.

“We (Earth’s Healing) already have a building, now what we are going to do is get it equipped, get it ready to grow…we hope to have a lot more products for our patients…home-grown v. choosing from other cultivation centers,” she said. “We will be able to have a steady stream of most popular strains available.”

The council also voted to let patients get home-delivered medical marijuana, to extend hours of operation for dispensaries and allow for marijuana infusion kitchens at dispensaries and off-site cultivation facilities.

TUCSON, ARIZONA-City Planning Commission recommends lifting medical marijuana grow house restrictions

By Christina Pae
The debate over how extensively medical marijuana can be grown and delivered to patients within Tucson city limits was discussed at a public meeting in City Hall Wednesday. The city’s Planning Commission approved to recommend several amendments to the city’s current medical marijuana regulations, including a proposal to lift floor-space restrictions for off-site cultivation houses in industrial zones. The current ordinance states these grow houses are limited to a maximum of 3,000 square feet of floor space. Those advocating medical marijuana growers in Tucson have said this is not enough space and not business-friendly. “We needed to get an expansion of the grow size, the expansion of grow opportunities, in order to keep that business back here. It means investment capital stays here, it means jobs stay here,” said Demitri Downing. Supporters who attended Wednesday’s meeting saw the commission’s approvals as a positive sign, arguing that the proposals will keep the growing medical marijuana industry in Tucson and not be lost to surrounding municipalities like Phoenix, which has no grow house space limit. The Planning Commission approved other proposed revisions, including a proposal to expand medical dispensary operation hours to 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. There was also discussion and subsequent approval of an amendment that would let dispensaries deliver medical marijuana to patients at hospices, state-licensed institutions and patients in their private homes. Other approved recommendations include allowing a minimum setback of 500 feet for off-site cultivation houses from schools, and allowing infusion kitchens within dispensaries and off-site cultivation houses. Proposals to allow expansion of medical marijuana dispensaries themselves, was not recommended by the Planning Commission. Another amendment that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries and off-site cultivation houses in C-1, or more condensed commercial zones, was also not approved by the commission. The Planning Commission will forward their recommendations to the mayor and council, which will make a final decision expected in September, according to Planning and Development’s deputy director.