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.


Riverside County Update

RIVERSIDE – Proposed tax levies on medical marijuana dispensaries were approved in two Riverside County cities, while a similar measure in a third city was defeated.

Blythe, Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs each had ballot measures targeting cannabis collectives. Desert Hot Springs had two such proposals — Measures HH and II — both of which were approved by voters Tuesday.

Under Measure HH, the financially troubled city will impose an annual tax of $25 per square foot on the first 3,000 feet of any establishment that distributes marijuana products. Under the measure, the balance of available space will be taxed at a rate of $10 per square foot.

“The tax will help fund basic city services such as street sweeping, public parks, building and maintenance, public safety, youth and adult programs and public infrastructure,” according to a campaign statement by supporters.

They noted the city’s revenue needs will “become ever more pressing” over the next two fiscal years, despite a 70 percent cut in municipal staffing and other recent austerity actions to balance the budget.

Measure II will impose a 10 percent tax on “any person or entity legally selling or providing marijuana for medical and casual use.”

Local resident Robert Bentley blasted both proposals, saying they will only affect “good law-abiding people.”

“Don’t get between a doctor and patient. Never tax medical items,” Bentley said. “This revives the War on Drugs — aimless, ever-expanding enforcement and costs.”

In nearby Cathedral City, Measure N was easily approved by voters. The measure will impose a “Cannabis and Marijuana Tax” on medical marijuana collectives, at a maximum rate of 15 cents of every $1 of proceeds. In campaign statements, backers said the new tax will support “general municipal services,” including public safety and recreational programs.

According to city leaders, Palm Springs is raking in around $1 million annually thanks to a tax on medical marijuana dispensaries, so why shouldn’t Cathedral City enjoy the same revenue potential?

Supporters emphasized that the tax will not in any way authorize or condone “the conduct or continuance of any illegal business, or a legal business (being conducted) in an illegal manner.”

About 113 miles to the east, Blythe’s Measure Z was defeated. The measure would have restricted the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city to three, all of which would have been required to have special permits — costing up to $10,000 — that mandate on-site security, the maintenance of written records related to transactions and the prohibition against any drugs being used on the premises.

According to the proposal, a dispensary would have had to pay the city a maximum monthly fee of 15 cents for every $1 in proceeds and $10 for every square foot of space utilized for cannabis cultivation.

“For many in Blythe, it’s a considerable hardship to travel 100 miles to Palm Springs, where the closest dispensary is located,” according to a statement in support of the measure. “The alternative is to buy in the black market. The best solution for all is a well-regulated commercial establishment, where patients can purchase their medicine.”

Measure Z opponents complained in campaign literature that “marijuana purchased from dispensaries in other cities continues to show up at Palo Verde High School,” and permitting distribution outlets in Blythe would only invite trouble.

Under the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996, also known as Proposition 215, the possession and cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes is legal. However, localities can regulate the type, location and hours of operation of any dispensary.

Long Beach – Proposed Medical Marijuana Ordinance

The Planning Commission this week will hash out more details this week of a proposed medical marijuana ordinance, including whether to allow up to five dispensaries per council district and no more than 18 citywide.

A draft of the law features “cascading” zoning standards requested in July to prevent marijuana selling locations from being concentrated in industrial zones that are prevalent in less-affluent areas of Long Beach.

Under the zoning scheme, the preferred location for collectives would be industrial zones, officials said, with a limit of four businesses permitted in such areas per council district. If those zones are unavailable, planners would progress to selecting regional-highway districts, then community-oriented highway districts, with only one allowed in each type per council district.

Residential zones and institutional zones with schools, libraries and parks are excluded in the ordinance.

Other controls placed on medical marijuana operators include stringent permitting, records, security and packaging requirements, along with buffers of 1,000 feet or more between medical marijuana business locations and schools and parks.

The City Attorney’s Office will request further direction from the Planning Commission regarding the new law during its 5 p.m. Thursday meeting in Council Chambers at City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd.

Long Beach banned collectives of more than three persons in February 2012 after an appeals court struck down the city’s medical marijuana regulations in 2011 due to conflicts with federal law prohibiting the sale and distribution of the drug. The ban was fully implemented in August of that year.

The City Council has directed planning commissioners to come up with new rules that balance patient access and neighborhood safety.

Voters in April passed a measure allowing Long Beach to tax medical marijuana sales and businesses if the city rescinds its ban and adopts new regulations.

Nebraska – MMJnews – concerning CBD OIL for patients w/severe forms of epilepsy

OMAHA, Neb. –
Nebraskans may not be allowed to smoke marijuana, but some might be allowed to ingest it if a group of Nebraska lawmakers get their way.

They want to legalize oil from the plant for patients with severe forms of epilepsy.

Many parents have shared stories about their families picking up and leaving Nebraska to help their children cope with severe seizures. They think cannabidiol oil sold legally in Colorado is the answer.

Some Nebraska lawmakers agree and want to craft a bill legalizing the plant here so other families don’t have to leave.

“I am a seizure victim myself. It’s been 20 years since I had my last one. Always had an interest in epilepsy and trying to deal with solutions to it,” said state Sen. Al Davis.

Davis just returned from Colorado on a medical marijuana research trip with his colleagues Sens. Sue Crawford and Tommy Garrett. The Gillen family joined them.

“It has come full circle. I feel like the more that we’ve been educating legislators and the public of the better accepted it is,” said Shelley Gillen, mother for legal medical marijuana.

They want the marijuana extract cannabidiol oil legalized in Nebraska for their son Will. He suffers from severe epilepsy. Now more than ever, the Gillens think lawmakers will legalize it.

“I really think they will be able to present a positive argument for why this is a good thing,” said Dominic Gillen, father for legal medical marijuana

“I think it will be a easier to sell them then it was a year ago,” said Davis.

In Colorado, Davis said he saw how cannabidiol oil dramatically reduced seizures in children with epilepsy.

“I think we will prevail this next year. I just can’t imagine anybody who meets these parents and sees what they are going through and what these children are going through as far as the disease concerns would ever say no to this,” said Davis.

“When people realize this is not about getting high, I understand that it is the oil in the process can be done in a safe way it’s very hard to find people that are against it,” said Dominic Gillen.

“We are realistic about it. We know that maybe it might not help him. It’s definitely worth a try and he deserves to have that chance at a better quality of life,” said Shelley Gillen.

Davis said crafting the bill will be difficult.

Buying, selling and crossing state lines with cannabidiol oil is a federal offense.

However, last session Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill that allows growing industrial hemp for research.

Pot smokers sue San Diego, say long drives to dispensaries pollute air

Medical marijuana smokers in San Diego say the city has forced their pot shops to locate in remote areas and that means the drives to and from will increase air pollution — and ultimately, harm their lungs.

The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients has filed a lawsuit, saying the city is violating the California Environmental Quality Act, United Press International reported.

The suit names as defendants the Coastal Commission and the city of San Diego and claims the zoning laws put in place for marijuana dispensaries means patients have to actually get in their cars to drive to the remote locations — and the additional drive times will only increase the city’s air pollution levels.

On top of that, some patients, perhaps those without cars, will now have to grow their own marijuana plants, an activity that further contributes to global warming, the suit says, UPI reported.

“The ordinance caps the total numbers of cooperatives at 36 and places a limit of four per Council District,” UMMP claims in the lawsuit. This “extremely restrictive approach” will require “thousands of patients to drive across the City of San Diego to obtain their medicine because cooperatives are only allowed in certain limited places in the city, which will create traffic and air pollution.”

The suit seeks to remove the zoning ordinance until the defendants can devise a new approach that meets the CEQA, UPI reported.

San Bernardino City Attorney plan on enforcing ban

SAN BERNARDINO City Attorney Gary Saenz called Monday for a council committee to immediately begin studying alternative ways to enforce its medical marijuana dispensary ban, including allowing — and regulating — a small number of dispensaries. “We will present a plan which essentially acknowledges the futility and high cost of attempting to completely eradicate marijuana dispensaries with our current system, by which we will continue to spend hundreds of thousands and eventually millions but will never significantly achieve success,” Saenz said, reading from a prepared statement. “Instead, by conceding to California’s policy of allowing marijuana use for medical purposes, and permitting dispensaries that are highly regulated, we can move the distribution of medical marijuana from the black market to the regulated market.”

Alongside that, Saenz had a message for illegal medical marijuana dispensary owners, operators, employees “and, most importantly, real property owners who persist in defiantly allowing their property to be used in violation of San Bernardino’s land-use regulations.”

“Know that it is now time for you to leave the city of San Bernardino,” he said. “… Know that formulating a new plan to effectively eliminate the operation of illegal medical marijuana dispensaries in this city has become a top priority of this city attorney.”

Penalties, fines and liens against property owners and landlords “will not be reduced, but instead aggressively imposed, enforced and collected by all appropriate legal actions,” Saenz said.

The City Council agreed to have the legislative review committee — three council members who make recommendations to the full council — discuss details of Saenz’s plan and any other input at a meeting Monday, then have the full council consider it at the next meeting, Aug. 4.

Establishing a medical marijuana dispensary has been illegal in the city since 2007, when a temporary moratorium was passed and followed by an extension of the moratorium and then a series of ordinances passed as recently as 2011.

Violators were assessed fines of $1,000 a day, but those weren’t collected and the ban wasn’t enforced its constitutionality was uncertain alongside state voters’ approval of medical marijuana use — until last year.

Only days after the state Supreme Court’s unanimous decision that cities could ban dispensaries through land-use bans such as San Bernardino’s (and Riverside’s, the city that went to the state Supreme Court), San Bernardino began raiding dispensaries and then-City Attorney James F. Penman announced an intention to shut them all down.

Administrative, criminal and civil remedies continue, Saenz said.

“Civil injunctions have been used effectively to end dispensary operations at specific locations,” he said. “However, the injunction process is the most costly for the city to pursue, and therefore, can have little effect on the entire city unless we are willing to commit substantial resources in an extensive city-wide pursuit… We continue to expend valuable and limited police, code enforcement and attorney resources with frustratingly insignificant results.”

Three members of the public spoke after Saenz’s report, two in favor of limited legalization in the city and the third asking to be on the committee. (He was told the committee consists of council members but he was welcome to attend.)

Allowing some highly regulated dispensaries — as cities including San Diego, San Jose and Palm Springs do — is just one recommendation, Saenz said.

A statement sent after the meeting on Saenz’s behalf by Westbound Communications, which the city hires for public relations, on Saenz’s behalf didn’t mention the possibility of allowing some dispensaries except with a link to a report he wrote.

That statement, which is also posted on Saenz’s Facebook page, instead emphasized the get-tough portion of Saenz’s proposal and dispensary’s connection to gangs.

“Our message is loud and clear,” the statement said. “It is time for illegal operators to leave San Bernardino – this City’s leadership and Police Department view these dispensaries as a public nuisance and an obstacle to our efforts to build a prosperous city. I will work closely with the Council, Mayor and Police Chief to develop an effective plan that will eliminate the operation of illegal dispensaries. This will include the liberal use of penalties, fines and liens against irresponsible property owners that will be aggressively imposed, enforced and collected. Beginning August 18, illegal pot shops will no longer be welcome in San Bernardino.”

The push to legalize in the Green Mtn State

Supporters of marijuana gathered in Burlington Saturday to talk about the future of legalization in Vermont. Supporters and users of medical marijuana, crowded in the basement of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Burlington, to talk about marijuana.

“I feel like people think it’s about getting high and it’s really not about that,” said Colchester resident Jessie Builta-Paradise.

Builta-Paradise was born with epilepsy and has been using cannabis therapy for 10 years and knows the benefits first hand.

“Now I’ve gone from 30 seizures a month, sometimes 30 in a week, to having one seizure every 2-3 months,” Builta-Paradise said.

It’s one of many reasons she wants the state to take current marijuana laws a step further. She wants full legalization.

But not everyone in the Green Mountain State agrees. The organization behind the meeting, BTV Green, says in 2012, 30% of Burlington voted against legalization.

“In reality, there are harms associated with marijuana but its much less harmful than we’ve been led to believe. It’s much less harmful than alcohol for the people who use it and for the society at large,” said Matt Simon. He is New England Director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Vermont State Senator Dave Zuckerman is working to draft one bill with many goals.

“Bringing drug use and something thats being done all the time anyway, out into the open, destigmatizing it but also respecting what drugs can do and making sure they’re being used responsibly,” Senator Zuckerman said.

Supporters at Saturday’s Legalization and Beyond event also stressed the positive economic impacts of cannabis.

“We argue that marijuana should best be produced in a regulated environment by small businesses rather than by gangs and cartels that currently supply marijuana for Vermont,” Simon said.

Opponents say crime and increased drug use, especially among kids, are reasons not to to move forward with making marijuana legal.

But despite the critics, Simon announced a statewide coalition Saturday–to support legalization.

“Our coalition builders will be reaching out to various organizations and individuals. Seeking to meet with opinion leaders, anybody that has a strong opinion about this, we want to find out what people’s concerns are,” Simon said.

Supporters also want Vermonters convicted of cannabis-only crimes to get a clean slate, and more scientific research dedicated to facts. But it’s a process that they acknowledge will take time.

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