Delaware House panel approves marijuana legalization bill

DOVER, Del. – (AP) – A bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Delaware has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The legislation, which was released Wednesday by a House committee and now goes to the full House for a vote, regulates and taxes marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.

The bill doesn’t allow people to grow their own marijuana but allows adults over age 21 to legally possess less than an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

The legislation would create a commission to regulate, license and tax the marijuana industry, allowing licenses for up to 40 retail stores.

Consumers would pay an excise tax of $50 an ounce, while businesses would pay an application fee of $5,000 and a $10,000 licensing fee every two years.

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.

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Houston police chief sounds off on pot arrests

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland is making national headlines after indicating it may be time for marijuana use to be legalized not only in Texas but across the country.

“We cannot criminalize such a large population of society that engage in casual marijuana use,” the chief said in the radio interview. The topics were wide-ranging — but the chief was largely asked about marijuana use. McClelland made it clear he believes enforcing marijuana laws is wasting time and other valuable resources.

“Taxpayers can’t afford to build jails and prisons to lock up everyone that commits a crime,” said McClelland. “We must put more money into crime prevention, treatment, education, job training.”

The chief also took aim at the decades-long war on drugs, saying mandatory sentencing policies have had a disproportionate impact on young minorities.

“A lot of young men who are minorities in their early 20s have a felony conviction on their resume and now they’re unemployable,” said McClelland. “We wonder why they don’t have jobs, why they’re not contributing to society.”

Many smoke shop managers like John Sroujr are welcoming the chief’s comments, believing they could greatly increase profits if marijuana was ever legalized in Texas.

“You can look to Colorado and it’s plain to see,” said Sroujr. “It’s become a billion dollar industry, a multibillion dollar industry and I believe if we legalize in Texas it’s going to do good things for society.”

The chief didn’t call for outright legalization, but said he and other local leaders plan to soon reveal the results of a pilot program for first-time offenders.

“We’re going to be able to make some good recommendations to our state lawmakers and other elected officials on where we need to go in the state of Texas,” said McClelland.

Although marijuana is legal in several states and more prevalent in the treatment for cancer and other conditions, many doctors said there’s still not enough research on long-term health effects.

Santa Ana, California – Passes Measure BB to regulate dispensaries, collectives and cooperatives

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) — More than 14,000 Santa Ana residents voted to approve Measure BB on Tuesday, passing the measure regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, collectives and cooperatives. This will mean big changes for medical marijuana pot shop owners, as well as their customers.

“The voters have spoken. It will give a lot of clarity as to what is allowed, what isn’t allowed, and where they’re allowed,” said Karen Haluza, interim executive director of the Santa Ana Planning and Building Agency.

Even though they’ve been banned for several years, as many as 100 pot shops exist in Santa Ana. The city says under Measure BB, that number could drop to as few as eight next year.

The city expects to collect 5 percent of gross-sales receipts, about $1.5 million per year, money it plans to put into enforcement to try to keep rogue pot shops closed.

Tighter regulations will keep legal dispensaries at least 500 feet from each other and 1,000 feet from a school, home or park.

They must be located in one of two industrial areas where the city will allow dispensaries after voters passed Measure BB.

After applying to the city and undergoing background checks, an independent company will choose the businesses by lottery.

“Overall, people, I think, will feel better knowing they’re going to a location where the city permits it, knows that they’re there, pays taxes,” said Kandice Hawes, principal officer with the Committee to Support Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative.

Park Allenbach is proud of the medical marijuana dispensary he manages, Orange County’s Patient Care in Santa Ana.

“Most of our clientele is well over 21 years old and that’s why they come to us, because we’re trustworthy and they know we’re professional,” said Allenbach.

In business for four years, the shop sits in one of the two approved industrial areas.

“When this location was chosen, it was chosen very carefully,” said Allenbach.

Despite careful planning, Allenbach’s shop is not guaranteed a spot due to the lottery.

“I’m not really in favor of a lottery process,” said Kandice Hawes. “There’s a lot of people that put tens of thousands of dollars into these locations. I liked the process that we had that was just first-come, first-served.”

South Portland, Maine votes in favor of legalizing marijuana, while Lewiston residents reject a similar ordinance

A push to legalize recreational marijuana in two Maine cities ended in a split result Tuesday, with voters in South Portland narrowly approving an ordinance in support of legalization and Lewiston residents soundly rejecting the idea.

In South Portland, residents voted 6,326 to 5,755 in favor of an ordinance that declares it legal for adults to possess small amounts of the drug. Lewiston residents rejected a similar ordinance by a vote of 7,366 to 6,044.

Citizen-initiated referendum questions in both cities asked voters to pass ordinances declaring it legal for adults over 21 years old to possess small amounts of marijuana for private, recreational use.

The Lewiston and South Portland votes are seen largely as symbolic because marijuana possession remains illegal under state and federal law, and local police say enforcement won’t change. But the outcomes will serve as indicators of the state’s appetite for legalization, and whether a future statewide referendum on the question might add Maine to the legalization movement.

Measure 91 -Oregon

Oregon: Passage of Measure 91 will make the Beaver State the third to legalize marijuana for adults outright. Like the historic laws adopted in Colorado and neighboring Washington two short years ago, this initiative would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older and create a statewide system to regulate production and sales. And similar to Colorado’s law, Measure 91 would allow adults to cultivate small amounts of marijuana under controlled circumstances. In this entirely vote-by-mail election, the initiative has already been endorsed by the Pacific Northwest’s largest daily paper and would likely boost efforts across its southern border to end marijuana prohibition in California two years from now. (HuffingtonPost.Com)

Maine – York and Lewiston -legalization still a possibility

An ordinance to legalize recreational marijuana in York may still go before voters in November, even though the Board of Selectmen voted not to put it on the ballot Monday night.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Maine state law allows a notary public to put a question on the ballot if enough signatures are collected. The organization already collected the number of signatures required, so it is pursuing that option to get the issue on the ballot in York.

“Clearly a lot of York voters think that adults shouldn’t be punished for using marijuana, and they have a right to express that via the ballot initiative process,” David Boyers of the Marijuana Policy Project said.

Some selectmen said recreational marijuana legalization is not an issue that should be voted on locally before state lawmakers take action. They voted 3-2 not to put the question on the November ballot.

“If it had been legalized in the state and then the towns were given the option, I would have put it on even though I don’t like it,” said Board Chairwoman Mary Andrews.

The issue will go before voters in South Portland and Lewiston in November.