California – Taxes and More

Seller’s Market

While you’ve been able to light up legally since November 2016 (not just anywhere, though; for more on that, keep reading), you haven’t been able to saunter into a shop and buy the stuff over the counter for expressly recreational (officially called “adult-use”) purposes. To sell pot and its products legally, retailers need to have a license issued by the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (formerly known as the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation) as well as permission from local authorities to operate. Alex Traverso, the bureau’s chief of communications, says his department “won’t know until the time comes” how many applicants there’ll be by New Year’s Day (although a 2016 California Department of Food and Agriculture survey found 2,718 companies interested in seeking licenses in L.A. County). The state is also prepping temporary licenses, good for four months, to go to existing dispensaries that can prove they’re in compliance with local regulations. In the city of Los Angeles, applications from existing medical marijuana dispensaries will get priority, provided they’re submitted within 60 days of when licenses become available (the city hasn’t yet determined when it will start issuing them). And, under proposed guidelines released in September, cannabis delivery will be available.

Corner Shop

As for what types of stores you can expect to see, Josh Drayton, the communications and outreach director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, says to think more boutique and less neon-and-bong head shop. “The consumer has changed,” he notes, “and modern brick-and-mortar dispensaries are turning into well-organized showrooms and lounges. My marker has always been, ‘Would I bring my mother into this space?’ ”

Adult Use Vs. Medical

In June 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill making regulations the same for recreational and medical marijuana. But distinctions between the two will remain. Beginning with cultivation, cannabis will be slapped with either an A for adult-use or an M for medical use, and all businesses involved in the cannabis industry will receive an A license or an M license; retailers have the option of being dual licensees. People with a medical card should hang onto it because medical marijuana will still be available to patients 18 and older. Plus, says Jolene Forman, a staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance , some strains and some shops will continue to cater specifically to patients’ needs. “That will ultimately be really good for medical patients because it preserves strains that are meant to alleviate symptoms,” she notes. “For instance, for the most part you’re probably not going to see a lot of topical remedies in the A category, but topical remedies for muscle spasms or chronic pain are common.”


Whether your purchases are to ease pain or boost pleasure, they’re likely to be in cash for the near term: Since the federal government deems pot illegal, banks have been loath to provide cannabis-related operations credit. Recreational users in L.A. will pay a 15 percent state excise tax as well as a 9.5 percent county sales tax. Some areas will charge an additional business tax, and there are taxes associated with growing, distributing, and selling, too. (Patients with a valid medical card will be exempt from sales tax. ) Economists estimate that those fees could bring $1 billion in revenue to the state, and according to City Controller Ron Galperin, L.A. could bring in at least $50 million in tax revenue next year.

After the government takes a piece of that cash to cover its costs, the money will be spread around, including:

• $2 million to the UC San Diego Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research

• $3 million a year for five years to the California Highway Patrol to establish DUI protocols

• $10 million every year until 2028 to a California public university for legalization-related research

• $10 million in 2018 to areas disproportionately affected by criminalization. The figure will grow by $10 million a year and remain at $50 million in 2022 and beyond

Of any remaining funds, 60 percent will go toward drug education, treatment, and prevention for youth; 20 percent will be distributed to state and local law enforcement; and 20 percent will be put toward cleaning up environmental damage caused by pre-regulation grow operations.

Fines and Penalties

As of November 9, 2016, the fine for driving with an open cannabis “container” (what defines a container is anybody’s guess) is up to $250. In September 2017, Governor Brown took it a step further by signing a bill that specifies a $70 fine for smoking or consuming marijuana while driving. And those people you see vaping on the sidewalk? They are indeed breaking the law. Smoking in public carries a $100 fine that jumps to $250 for smoking in places where tobacco is banned (think: restaurants and offices, in front of certain buildings). Selling weed without a license or having more than the allowable amount of cannabis carries a penalty of $500, six months in jail, or both. Finally anyone caught selling to a minor faces three to seven years.

Michigan 2016 Update! Get ready! 

LANSING, MI — Two Michigan marijuana legalization committees racing to the 2016 ballot cleared an early hurdle Thursday in Lansing, although one of the groups faced a bit of pushback in the process. The Board of State Canvassers on Thursday approved the form of separate petitions from the Michigan Cannabis Coalition (MCC) and the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee (MCCLRC). That means both committees can begin circulating petitions for their initiated legislation and attempt to collect the 252,523 signatures required to make the ballot in 2016. MCCLRC, a group led by marijuana activists and attorneys, faced some criticism from canvassers for squeezing the language of their proposed initiative on the back of a single petition sheet, which canvassers said made it hard to read.

“I think this is a terrible disservice to people reading this petition,” said Julie Matuzak, a Democrat appointed to the four-member board, who nonetheless voted to approve the petition because it technically met current rules.
Jeffrey Hank, a Lansing-area attorney and chairman of the ballot committee, downplayed the critique and said the group would begin collecting signatures in the next few weeks. “We think it’s perfectly readable. Our language is publicly available and has been for some time. We’re confident the voters will understand the options we provide,” he said.

Both potential ballot proposals would legalize the possession or use of recreational marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older and allow for sales at retail shops, but they would go about it in different ways. MCC, a Pontiac-based group that has hired a former Republican legislative staffer to serve as its public face, wants to give lawmakers a role in the legalization process. Under the proposal, the Legislature would have authority to set the marijuana tax rate, but any revenues would be reserved for use on education, public safety and public health. Lawmakers could also require licensing of marijuana facilities, which would be overseen by a new Michigan Cannabis Control Board.

“I think that we have a perfectly good group of individuals that is elected and are perfectly capable of deciding what a fair tax rate is to establish on an agricultural product,” said spokesman Matt Marsden, indicating that the group plans to begin collecting signatures as soon as this weekend. By dedicating some of the potential tax revenue to public safety, MCC is hoping to minimize opposition from law enforcement groups that have traditionally fought marijuana legalization efforts.

“I don’t expect them to come out and say, ‘Hey, we’re behind this,'” said Marsden. “But I think what this does do is allow them to say, ‘You know what, we’re going to have the first revenue stream in the state budget that we’ve ever had for public safety. What’s that going to allow us to do?'”
MCCLRC, meanwhile, is proposing its own tax rate for marijuana sales — a 10 percent excise tax on top of the state sales tax — with revenue going to roads, schools and local governments.BThe activist-led group would allow residents to grow up to 12 marijuana plants at home. The proposal would let local communities prohibit marijuana facilities but give local voters the chance to overturn a local ordinance by a public vote.

“We believe we have more of a small-business friendly model and a model that will give Michigan farmers and families and businesses more freedom to operate, yet still with some fairly robust regulations,” said Hank. Those regulations include child-resistant packaging on retail marijuana and labeling that references the current laws against driving under the influence of the drug.

“We believe we’ve crafted the best law there is — better than the Legislature would create,” said Hank, noting that board members have led local decriminalization efforts around the state. Voters in Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon have already chosen to legalize marijuana, and groups in a number of other states are pursuing ballot proposals. Recent polling suggests roughly 50 percent of Michigan voters support the concept of legalization and taxation of marijuana sold through state-licensed stores. A third group, the Michigan Responsibility Council, is also considering a petition drive that may propose a three-tier regulatory system like the state currently has for alcohol production, distribution and sales.

“We are continuing to do our due diligence on this,” said Paul Welday, a high-profile Republican operative from Oakland County who is involved the planning. He suggested the group could finalize plans later this summer.
“We’ve said all along, you don’t necessarily have to be the first to the gate, but you have to get it right. We’re crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s.”

Texas decriminalization measure moves forward!!!!!!!

AUSTIN, TEXAS (NBC) – The Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence approved a bill Monday that would reduce state penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The measure will now advance to the House Calendars Committee.

HB 507, authored by committee vice-chair Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250. Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

“Texas cannot afford to continue criminalizing tens of thousands of citizens for marijuana possession each year,” Rep. Moody said. “We need to start taking a more level-headed approach. It is neither fair nor prudent to arrest people, jail them, and give them criminal records for such a low-level, non-violent offense.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 72,150 arrests or citations issued for marijuana-related offenses in Texas in 2012, 97% of which were for simple possession. That same year, nearly 90% of all burglaries, including home invasions, and 88% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved. “This is a change that Texas needs, and it’s a change that Texans wants,” said Ann Lee, executive director of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. “We hope our elected officials will do the right thing here and listen to their constituents. Our state needs to get out of the business of arresting and criminalizing people for possessing marijuana.”

According to a poll conducted by the University of Texas in February 2015, 76% of likely voters in Texas favor reform of marijuana laws.

Nebraska Senators debate legalizing for medical use

LINCOLN, Neb. – 

Nebraska senators will debate whether to legalize medical marijuana under a bill proponents say is aimed at residents struggling with debilitating seizures. A legislative committee voted 7-1 Monday to advance a measure to create cannabis centers where marijuana would be produced and dispensed. Patients and caregivers could register with the state to obtain the drug for treatment.

“If it gets legalized, I will be a very happy person,” said Maria Vavra, who uses marijuana as treatment for MS. “I have MS and if I did not smoke marijuana daily, I would be using my walker again and I would probably be in a wheelchair today.”

“I use it for the spasms in my leg,” said Dennis Pyle. “It seems to work better than the pills that I take.”

The committee advanced a version allowing a limited number of manufacturing centers and specifying that patients could not ingest the drug by smoking it.

The bill by Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue is the second of two medical marijuana bills up for debate this year. Last month the committee advanced a measure creating a pilot study of cannabidiol, a marijuana derivative, to gauge its effectiveness in treating seizures.

“If the legislative body feels they are not ready for that, then will go with what we can get,” Garrett said.

“I am still concerned where this takes us long-term,” Sen. Matt Williams said.

Williams, the only judiciary committee member to vote against Garrett’s bill, said he wants proof of marijuana’s medical benefits.

“I support Sen. Crawford’s bill that does the research on this at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, to find and determine if this does help and benefit people,” Williams said.

Some patients said that wait is too long.

“If I get caught, it will be worth every day that I spend in jail,” Vavra said.

With 24 days left in this legislative session, some worry there won’t be time to debate the bill. But Sen. Sue Crawford, whose medical marijuana research bill made it out of committee, asked to be scheduled second for debate on the floor, giving Garrett’s bill a fighting chance.

New Jersey adds PTSD to list of qualifying conditions 

TRENTON — Post-traumatic stress disorder would be added to the list of illnesses that would qualify a person for New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, and growers would be permitted to share excess cannabis with their competitors under legislation the state Assembly passed Thursday. The Assembly also started a process to challenge rules the Christie administration created that dispensary owners say discourage people from participating in the medical marijuana program. Sponsors said the rules were not included in the law that was signed by former Gov. Jon Corzine just before Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010.

The resolution (ACR-224) approved in a 44-20 vote, with eight abstentions, would reverse the requirement that a list be made public of all physicians willing to recommend patients to the program — a step that has kept some doctors from joining out of fear they will alienate other patients or partners.

It would also eliminate the requirement that minors must have recommendations from as many as three doctors, including a psychiatrist, before they may enroll in the program. Parents say few pediatric specialists are registered, all but excluding their children’s involvement. The resolution also would eliminate the state ban on home delivery.

“The purpose of this entire program is to provide relief to critically ill patients, not impose additional burdens on those who are already suffering. Instead, many of these regulations have proven counterproductive because they unnecessarily restrict access to medical marijuana for those who need it most,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), a sponsor of the legislation and the chairman of the Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee that solicited public comment on how the program is working. 

“They have resulted in a shortage of physicians, a lack of necessary strains to combat certain illnesses, and limited the ways to provide relief to minors,” Gusciora added. “The state needs to start working with patients, not against them.” 

As of March 2, three dispensaries were serving 4,284 patients and 379 physicians registered with the program, according to the health department. 

The Legislature can invalidate state rules and regulations created by the executive branch if two resolutions are approved. The first one gives the Health Commissioner 30 days from the date the resolution is transmitted to change the rules. If the commissioner does nothing, the legislature may pass another resolution to strike down the rules.

The Assembly action on the bill adding PTSD to the list of debilitating conditions (A-3726) passed with a vote of 53-13-7. The disorder can be triggered by exposure to combat, childhood abuse or neglect, among other traumatizing events. 

“For many veterans, the effects of PTSD can be profound and are not always healed by time,” said Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union), one of the bill’s sponsors. “Like many other illnesses and conditions that are not easily treatable with traditional medication, medical marijuana holds the promise of providing significant relief for those suffering from PTSD.”

Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd recently turned down a request from registered nurse and founder of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey Ken Wolski to add PTSD to the list. 

The law says the health department to consider adding illnesses to the list two years after the law’s enactment. 

The Assembly also approved (A4286) by a 57-11 vote with five abstentions to allow the dispensary operators to share excess inventory of seeds, seedlings and plants among each other, in cases where one grower is running short and patients needs won’t be met. Patients must register and buy from one dispensary, or alternative treatment center.

“This change would address recent issues that have been reported at certain alternative treatment centers, which have been unable to meet current patient demand because of difficulties in producing sufficient quantities of medical marijuana in a form that meets both state Health Department standards and patient treatment needs,” said Assembly Tim Eustace (D-Bergen), a sponsor. “Permitting the transfer of excess inventory may help alleviate these issues and ensure that patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions receive needed medication.”

The bills and the resolution await action in the Senate.

For more information about the state’s medicinal marijuana program, call 609-292-0424 or visit the home page.

FLORIDA CBD law update 

TALLAHASSEE — The Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Tuesday is expected to take up a plan that would try to move forward with the state’s new medical-marijuana industry.

The agenda for the committee meeting indicates it will take up a cannabis bill (SPB 7066), though the detailed proposal had not been posted online as of Saturday. Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, told The News Service of Florida on Thursday he expects the measure would set up a structure for nurseries to grow, process and distribute non-euphoric cannabis.

The Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott approved a law last year that allows types of marijuana that are low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD. Doctors will be able to order the low-THC pot for patients who suffer from severe muscle spasms or have cancer.

But the Department of Health has been delayed in carrying out the law because of legal challenges to its regulatory proposals, frustrating lawmakers.

Bradley on Thursday said he expects the committee meeting to include “a serious discussion and possible consideration of legislation that puts an end to the delays and makes sure that we get this substance in the hands of suffering families as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth McArthur has scheduled an April 14 hearing in a legal challenge to a proposed regulatory framework for Florida’s new medical-marijuana industry, according to a document posted on the state Division of Administrative Hearings website.

The case challenges a proposed Department of Health rule for carrying out a 2014 law that would make available a limited type of medical marijuana. A Jacksonville attorney filed the challenge on behalf of 4-year-old Dahlia Barnhart, who has an inoperable brain tumor.

The challenge alleges the department did not follow the law in drawing up the rule. In part, it takes issue with the way the department proposes selecting five “dispensing organizations,” which would grow, process and dispense the cannabis.

In November, another administrative law judge rejected the department’s first attempt at a rule to carry out the law.

North Carolina – HB78 Details

A North Carolina bill would legalize medical marijuana in the state, effectively nullifying the unconstitutional federal prohibition on the same.

Introduced by State Rep. Kelly Alexander, House Bill 78 (HB78) would allow medical marijuana to make its way into the hands of the qualified patients after receiving ID cards issued by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; something that unconstitutional federal law says is illegal.

Under HB78, a qualified patient would be defined as someone who “has been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition.” There is no specific or finite list of specific conditions necessary to qualify. Patients would be allowed to keep a 24 ounce supply.

The bill also specifically protects caregivers from “arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner,” and prohibits the denial of any “right or privilege, including imposition of a civil penalty or disciplinary action…for the possession or purchase of cannabis for medical use by the qualified patient if the quantity of cannabis possessed or purchased does not exceed an adequate supply for the qualified patient, as determined by the qualified patient’s physician.” Similar protections are also in place for physicians who recommend it to qualified patients.

Additional provisions make it illegal for a person to be denied entry to a school, a job position, visitation or child custody rights, or a lease with a landlord due to their use of medical marijuana.

HB78 protects the confidentiality of patients whose information is kept by the state Department of Health and Human Services by making it a Class 1 misdemeanor.


The federal government currently lists marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic and attempts to prohibit it for any purpose. Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey says this clearly violates the Constitution.

“The Constitution delegates no power to the federal government to prohibit marijuana in the states. This power remains with the state governments and the people. Doubt me? Then ask yourself why it required a constitutional amendment to prohibit alcohol. There is no fundamental difference,” Maharrey said.

As more states take marijuana policy into their own hands, defying the federal prohibition, the federal government has become increasingly incapable of enforcing its unconstitutional prohibition. They simply lack the resources to stop the tidal wave. For those concerned about the health care and personal choices of people living in Virginia, this cannot come too soon.

Medical marijuana is an incredibly important issue pertaining to nullification and states’ rights. Because it is so overwhelmingly popular, medical marijuana can act as a metaphorical ‘gateway drug’ to the idea of state and local resistance to onerous federal laws. With this issue, it is possible to show the residents of your state that local control better serves the needs of the people than the top-down federal approach that has failed for so many decades.

Although it draws a legal distinction between recreational and medical marijuana, HB78 marks an enormous step in the right direction for both medical marijuana supporters and advocates of decentralized government in the state of North Carolina. It signals that the public is ready to throw off the shackles of ‘federal supremacy’ and take lawmaking into their own hands.