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.


California Moves One Step Closer To Ending Medical Marijuana ‘Chaos’


A bill that would provide order to California’s muddled medical marijuana program cleared a major hurdle Friday, when the state Assembly’s Appropriations Committee moved it forward for a full Assembly vote next week.

Authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the measure, AB 1894, would create uniform rules to govern the state’s multibillion-dollar medical marijuana industry. Although California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medicinal use in 1996, the state has yet to establish a set of standards guiding the cultivation, production and sale of the plant, which has led to what Ammiano described to The Huffington Post as “chaos.”

“I am optimistic that we can continue to work with all parties to finally create regulation that will satisfy all needs,” Ammiano said in a statement Friday, “from federal law enforcement down to the very sick patients who depend on the health benefits only marijuana can provide.”

California currently leaves it up to local governments to decide how they want to implement the state’s medical marijuana law. As a result, some cities, like San Francisco and Oakland, have established clear-cut systems that dictate where dispensaries can operate and impose fees that directly enrich their coffers. Other places, like San Diego and Los Angeles, remain largely unregulated, with very little control over where pot-related businesses can operate.

LA, for example, has been called the “poster child of chaos” for the medical marijuana industry, after clusters of dispensaries began popping up in close proximity and doctors handed out medical marijuana prescriptions to anyone who complained of a headache. In 2012, the city council voted to ban pot shops outright, and the case has been winding its way through the court system ever since. Meanwhile, lawmakers in San Jose are in the process of considering a similar ban.

“Marijuana has never been regulated by the state as any other business,” Ammiano told HuffPost last year after introducing similar legislation. “Cities and counties don’t know what to do or what they can do. Police are unsure how to respond.”

AB 1894 would create a division within California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to regulate all medical marijuana-related entities throughout the state, from the farmers that cultivate the plant to the storefronts that sell it. The proposal would allow the agency to impose fees on marijuana businesses in order to raise revenue for the state, and local municipalities would also be allowed to impose additional taxes.

“Without regulation, there’s no way to capture any of the income that could go toward our infrastructure or other worthy causes,” Ammiano told HuffPost last month.

California’s lack of statewide regulations over its pot program has left it vulnerable to federal interference, as the drug is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance (along with heroin and LSD) in the eyes of the national government. In 2011, a coalition of U.S. attorneys launched an aggressive crackdown on medical marijuana operations throughout the state under the guise that the industry had spiraled out of control. Since then, hundreds of businesses related to the drug have closed, and thousands of people have lost their jobs. Last month, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided several dispensaries in Los Angeles, and a pot shop in Mendocino, closed by federal authorities earlier this year, only recently reopened.

By contrast, the Obama administration has been less combative in states with more comprehensive regulations. Colorado, for example, has faced fewer DEA raids and has been allowed to implement its groundbreaking recreational, adult-use law largely in peace. Late last year, Attorney General Eric Holder indicated that the federal government would not intervene in states that had “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems.”

“While statewide regulations won’t change federal law, it does seem to be the case that states that have uniform, clear regulations are less likely to be interfered with by the feds,” Tom Angell, the head of weed advocacy group Marijuana Majority, told HuffPost last mont. “It’s very confusing in California right now: a patchwork of regulations city to city and county to county.”

Ammiano has made many attempts to create statewide medical marijuana regulations over the past few years, but each piece of legislation stalled or was defeated by opponents who argued the measures didn’t address key issues like the environmental implications of growing cannabis or the criteria for doctors to make recommendations to patients. He’s confident his current bill addresses every concern and more.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he told HuffPost last month. “People have seen that the more regulation you have, the less chaos you have.”

Meanwhile, marijuana reform advocates believe a measure like Ammiano’s is the key to paving the way for a law that would allow recreational use by adults in the state. Recent polls have suggested a majority of Californians support legalizing pot for recreational purposes, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has joined an effort to place a legalization initiative on the 2016 ballot.

But first, “we need to show that California has the ability to regulate marijuana,” Angell said. “This would help further demonstrate how tax revenue can be generated and put into needed programs.”

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