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.

Fewer regulatory measures as Colorado’s pot industry matures

The strides in regulating Colorado’s burgeoning marijuana industry look more like baby steps through the first quarter of the legislative session.

In 2014, legislators took up 31 bills that dealt directly with marijuana. Last year’s session produced a law that authorized a banking services cooperative for pot businesses that big banks won’t serve, and another that created sweeping changes on how potent edible pot products can be and how they are labeled.

But since this year’s session began on Jan. 7, only eight bills dealing specifically with marijuana have been introduced, and two have already been killed in committees. Another was withdrawn for bipartisan work. Though that’s the same number that had been filed at this point a year ago, no one who closely follows the issue expects major moves this session.

Legislators and lobbyists who most often deal with marijuana issues say regulation has hit a plateau that requires more time and data to see which are the real problems and which are conjecture.

“I don’t know if there are any really big bills coming,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, an influential lobbying arm for many of the state’s pot businesses. “I think we’re down to the nuanced stuff.”

The most watched bill so far appears to be the reauthorization of Colorado’s medical marijuana rules, which have a sunset provision that would cause them to expire in July.

While it’s unlikely the rules would go away, legislators could use the opportunity to make other changes.

Lawmakers have voiced concerns in hearings that some people are getting medical marijuana licenses to avoid taxes that apply to recreational pot, but no one has yet unveiled a remedy for tax evaders.

Another bill would toughen registration requirements on marijuana caregivers — those who grow pot for patients. Supporters say the legislation would help law enforcement more easily spot those who might be growing for the black market using the camouflage of caring for patients.

Jeanne Pratt, a medical marijuana activist from Lakewood, has been attending legislative hearings on pot for six years and said this session, so far, seemed to be the “most boring.”

“They’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit the past two years, and now they’re trying to figure out what to meddle in next,” she said.

Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, who has been the Democratic point man on pot, said the slowdown represented a more thoughtful approach.

Singer sponsored legislation last year that resulted in the restrictions on edibles — cookies, candies and other products that could have been mistaken for the sober version — that took effect Feb. 1.

Singer and pot lobbyists were concerned last week about a bill Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, has introduced to move authority over labeling from the Department of Revenue to the legislature.

Pros and consOpponents say it would nullify the rules that were passed last year, since they are overseen by the Department of Revenue, and would make managing the future labeling issues cumbersome because they could be shaped only during the busy four months of the legislative session.

Hill called that “hyperbole and an inappropriate reading of the bill.”

He said the Department of Revenue faces a Jan. 1 deadline for new rules and that moving rule-making back to the legislature buys more time.

A Republican bill to warn women that using pot while pregnant could endanger their babies was scrapped during a House committee this week, when it was evident it didn’t have the votes to pass as it was written. Democrats vowed to work with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, to make it more specific.

“It was really opening the door to relitigate even things like abortion,” said Singer, who opposed it. “Well, it had the word fetus in there.”

Rep. Tim Dore of Elizabeth, viewed as pot’s hawk for the Republicans, said marijuana isn’t a true partisan issue, and lobbyists say there are nearly as many Democrats who take a stern view as those who are more liberal, while there are libertarian-leaning Republicans who see it as a free-market issue.

Dore saw his bill to create a grant program with 30 percent of the pot revenue to help 46 rural counties killed in committee.

Representatives of larger, urban counties wanted their districts to get a cut of the grant money, too, while state agencies testified that losing 30 percent off the top would cripple current and future statewide programs.

“We’ve been given the task as a legislative body to address this,” Dore said of pot’s impacts. “How we address it? That takes a healthy debate.”

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.


USAToday.Com – Edibles potency meeting in Colorado today

Colorado is reviewing how much pot is a reasonable amount to have in edible marijuana products, such as candies, cookies and beverages.

A statewide working group is meeting Wednesday for a fourth and final time before proposed rules on the issue are made public, most likely in the next couple of months, according to Natriece Bryant, spokeswomen for the Colorado Department of Revenue, tasked with marijuana oversight in the state.

Currently, a serving of a pot-infused edible can contain no more than 10 milligrams of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and a product cannot contain more than 10 servings, or a total of 100 milligrams of THC.
However, Colorado marijuana laws do not dictate what constitutes a serving size.

The potency of marijuana edibles gained prominence recently when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about her scary experience after eating a pot candy bar.

Moreover, marijuana edibles have gotten more scrutiny in recent months from state regulators after two deaths in Denver. In April, a woman was shot in the head by her husband while she was on the phone with 911.

The woman had told the dispatcher that her husband was hallucinating and may have consumed a marijuana-infused edible and painkillers.

A month before that, a 19-year-old student fell to his death from a hotel balcony after eating six servings of a pot cookie. It’s unclear the precise role of marijuana in the two deaths.

Eric Holder would be ‘Glad to work with congress’ to reschedule marijuana

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration would be willing to work with Congress if lawmakers want to take marijuana off the list of what the federal government considers the most dangerous drugs, Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday.

“We’d be more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled, as I said there is a great degree of expertise that exists in Congress,” Holder said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. “It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made.”

Several members of Congress have called on the administration to downgrade cannabis on its own without waiting for congressional action. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the attorney general has the authority to “remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule.” Holder didn’t indicate Friday that he would be willing to do that unilaterally.

Although there haven’t been any documented cases of deaths from overdosing on marijuana, the federal government treats it as a Schedule I drug with a “high potential for abuse,” along with heroin, LSD and Ecstasy.

Re-categorizing marijuana would not legalize the drug under federal law, but it could make research into marijuana’s medical benefits much easier and allow marijuana businesses to take tax deductions.

Several Republican lawmakers at the hearing questioned Holder’s decision to allow Colorado and Washington to legalize and regulate marijuana and to take the states’ actions into consideration when prioritizing federal marijuana prosecutions. But Holder said that he was “not sure that you’re going to see a huge difference” between the cases the Justice Department was bringing before and after guidance went out to U.S. attorneys on which cases to prioritize.

“We’re not blazing a new trail,” Holder said of the decision to prosecute only certain cases based on the department’s limited resources, noting that much of marijuana law enforcement happens on the state and local levels.

Any move to reschedule marijuana would probably face resistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which Holder oversees. DEA chief Michele Leonhart said this week that the growing acceptance of marijuana only makes her agents “fight harder.”

Wondering who received licenses in Colorado?

The State of Colorado mailed 348 retail marijuana business licenses out on Monday, jumpstarting them to open once the businesses get approved licenses from the local city or county.

The state licenses went to 136 retail stores, 178 retail marijuana growing operations, 31 products manufacturing facilities (which make edibles) and three testing facilities, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 in November 2012, which legalized the use, possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21-years or older. State law gives existing medical-marijuana dispensaries first chance at applying for retail licenses for the first two years of sales, either changing a dispensary to a retail operation or adding a retail marijuana business on the side. Legal Sales begin on January 1st!

Click here to see the full list!!