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.

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.”

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.

Source

Washington State Court of Appeals bans medical marijuana stores

Source: Samefacts.Com

By Mark Kleiman

I completely failed to see this one coming.

A brief history lesson:

Washington State has had a medical marijuana law since 1998. In 2011, the legislature passed a bill allowing the creation of “collective gardens” (aka stores) to grow cannabis for patients registered with the state, and regulating those outlets in various ways: all members of the collectives would have had to register with the state. The governor used her line-item veto to take out major provisions of that bill, including the part that would have created the patient registry.

Until now, the prevailing view has been that the permission to open stores was valid law even though the regulations designed to control them had been zapped, leaving Washington with a booming, and virtually unregulated and untaxed, medical cannabis industry; a everyone says, Seattle has more “medical outlets” than it does Starbucks locations. Some players in that industry were among the strongest opponents of the I-502 initiative that legalized non-medical sales.

Once I-502 had passed, its proponents and administrators started to worry about how a regulated and taxed commercial market could compete with a wide-open, but untaxed and unregulated, quasi-medical system. There were efforts in the legislature this year to rein in the “gardens,” but the industry (speaking, of course, in the name of “the patients”) and a partisan split in the legislature made it impossible to pass anything. Battle was expected to be joined again in January, with the threat of federal intervention lurking in the background.

In the meantime, the town of Kent had passed a local ordinance banning medical outlets. Various industry players sued, citing what was left of the 2011 law. But now the Washington State Court of Appeals (the second-tier court) has ruled that the governor’s partial veto makes all the collective gardens illegal, because a legal collective garden must serve registered patients and there is no patient registry. Therefore, Kent is at liberty to ban what was – according to the court – an illegal activity in the first place. All that’s left of the medical marijuana law is permission for individuals with medical recommendations to grow their own: if charged with a violation of state law for production or possession (but not, apparently, sale), a medical recommendation creates an affirmative defense.

Presumably most of the localities that have collective gardens, including Seattle, will continue to let them operate, especially since the commercial outlets won’t even start to open until sometime around the end of June or early July.

There may be an additional layer of complexity: the Liquor Board planned to allow newly-licensed growers to bring some of their existing cannabis plants into the legal system, since otherwise there would be nothing for the new stores to sell. If newly-licensed growers have to grow new product from seed starting late this spring, the shelves will be bare until fall at the earliest. Whether the new ruling puts a monkey-wrench in that machinery remains to be seen, as does the effect of the ruling on the bargaining over a new law next year. (Or will the governor call the legislature into special session to give it another try this year?)

Never a dull moment.

New Jersey lawmaker plans to introduce bill to legalize marijuana

(Reuters) – A top New Jersey legislator on Monday said he planned to introduce a bill to legalize recreational marijuana use in the state, setting the stage for conflict with Governor Chris Christie, who is a staunch opponent.

State Senator Nicholas Scutari said he plans to introduce a bill to legalize the sale of pot to adults over 21, following the lead of Washington state and Colorado, which last year legalized marijuana use by adults.

“The drug laws in this country prohibiting the use and possession of marijuana have failed miserably,” said Scutari, a Democrat.

His move flies in the face of the position of Christie, a Republican, who just last week voiced opposition to the idea at a meeting with voters.

“What I’m not willing to consider is decriminalization, legalization or recreational use,” said Christie, a likely 2016 White House contender who is in the first year of his second term as governor.

Democrats control both chambers of the New Jersey statehouse.

Christie last year signed a bill making medical marijuana available in some circumstances. About 20 U.S. states allow marijuana to be prescribed for medical purposes, typically pain relief.

Two Rhode Island lawmakers last month introduced a bill to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Scutari’s bill would provide for possession of up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana and permit growing up to six marijuana plants.

“It will bring marijuana out of the underground market where it can be controlled, regulated and taxed, just as alcohol has been for decades,” Scutari said.

He said his system could raise considerable revenue for the state, noting that Colorado could get $107 million in taxes from pot sales this year, and would save millions in enforcement costs.

“We spend over $100 million a year enforcing these failed laws,” he said.

(Reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)

Recreational Marijuana Business Licensing Process Begins in Washington

By Charlie Bermant
(ASSOC.PRESS NEWSWIRE)

PORT TOWNSEND — The state Liquor Control Board on Monday began the licensing process for recreational marijuana businesses, setting the stage for the establishment of enterprises that will grow, process and sell the legalized drug.

“This is a chance to participate in a major policy change,” said Nicole Black, a Brinnon resident who drove to Olympia on Monday to file the initial paperwork to open a retail outlet.

“This is exciting, brand new uncharted territory, and is super cool.”

The state Department of Revenue said that by 2 p.m. Monday, it had received 299 completed online applications, and more were pouring in.

Many others applied in person in Olympia.

The state is accepting the applications for the next month.

Black — who was among the North Olympic Peninsula’s first to seek a retail license — is looking to open a retail establishment at 91 Corey Lane.

She hasn’t developed a business plan, saying many of those details are yet to be determined.

“There are a lot of things that we still need to figure out, like what things will cost and where the inventory will be coming from,” Black said.

The names of applicants for the apportioned licenses will be posted each Tuesday on the Liquor Control Board’s website, liq.wa.gov. beginning Nov. 26, according to spokesman Brian Smith.

License application details can be found at http://bls.dor.wa.gov/marijuana.aspx.

Of the details to be determined, the financial structure of such businesses is one of the most important, Smith said.

Under the structure determined by the Liquor Board, Jefferson County will be allowed four retail marijuana outlets: one inside the Port Townsend city limit and three in unincorporated areas of the county.

Clallam County will be allowed six retail outlets: two in the city of Port Angeles, one in the city of Sequim and three elsewhere.

Applicants must go through background checks, be residents of Washington state and will have to have their potential grow or retail areas inspected by state representatives.

They also have to pay a nonrefundable $250 for every application.

The state has said it will cap the number of retail stores at 334 statewide, which probably will prompt a lottery for those licenses.

Last year, voters in Washington passed Initiative 502, which made the recreational use of marijuana legal for adults older than 21.

Three separate licenses are available: for growing, processing or selling the drug.

No single entity can hold all three types of licenses, although it is acceptable for one company to grow and process the drug, Smith said.

Full article here