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Virginia Lawmaker Introduces Bill To Legalize Marijuana In 2021

Virginia Lawmaker Introduces Bill To Legalize Marijuana In 2021

Virginia cannabis legalization bill is introduced for 2021

A Virginia lawmaker has filed a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use in the state.

The move comes one month after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) included provisions to lay the groundwork for cannabis legalization in a budget proposal that also calls for millions of dollars to support expungements.

The bill from Del. Steve Heretick (D) is the first of what could be several proposals to end marijuana prohibition that the legislature sees this session.

The new legislation would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to an ounce of cannabis. It calls for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to regulate the marijuana program, as it currently does for hemp.

Adults could also grow up to three mature and three immature plants for personal use under the bill.

“This bill is built upon the lessons of other states throughout the country which have enacted similar reforms,” Heretick said in a press release.

A 9.6 percent tax would be imposed on cannabis sales under the bill, which was first reported by WTKR-TV, though local jurisdictions could tack on their own taxes for a maximum total of 15 percent. The municipalities would also be allowed to dictate whether marijuana businesses can operate in their area.

Most of the tax revenue from cannabis would go to the state’s general fund (67 percent) while the remaining 33 percent would be invested in a fund meant to promote public education about marijuana.

“With the support of Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, and a growing consensus of bipartisan support from legislators and local leaders around the Commonwealth, and now Virginia Governor Northam and key members of his administration, this is legislation which has now matured for enactment,” Heretick said. “I look forward to a robust and inclusive conversation about the manner in which Virginia will act on this legislation this year.”

New York Lawmakers File Marijuana Legalization Bill For 2021 Session

New York Lawmakers File Marijuana Legalization Bill For 2021 Session

New York cannabis legalization could passed in the 2021 session.

New York lawmakers representing nearly a third of the state Senate on Tuesday prefiled a bill to legalize marijuana.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has emphasized the need to enact the reform in 2021, arguing that it could help offset economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic and promote social equity. And now there’s a new potential vehicle for legalization to happen.

Sen. Liz Krueger (D) and 18 cosponsors filed the legislation, which is identical to a bill she sponsored last year and has now been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. It would make it so adults 21 and older would be able to purchase cannabis and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

This is the fifth version of the legalization bill that the senator has introduced since 2013. But advocates are hopeful that, given the evolved marijuana policy landscape in the region and nationally, as well as the governor’s embrace of reform, this year will see the measure advance.

“It is long past time for New York State to catch up with our neighbors and legalize, tax, and regulate adult-use marijuana,” Krueger told Marijuana Moment. “To my mind the most compelling reason for doing so has always been to end the unnecessary and destructive impact of the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ on communities of color.”

“But now, faced with the impacts of the pandemic, the potential for legalization to create new jobs, economic growth, and out-year tax revenue for the state is more important than ever,” she said. “I am cautiously optimistic about the chances of getting this done and done right—in a way that ensures that resources are directed to communities most directly impacted by the failed policies of prohibition.”

An 18 percent tax would be imposed on cannabis sales. After covering the costs of implementation, revenue from those taxes would go toward three areas: 25 percent for the state lottery fund, so long as it’s designated for the Department of Education; 25 percent for a drug treatment and public education fund and 50 percent for a community grants reinvestment fund.

The bill could finally give advocates the legislative win they’ve been working towards.

Cuomo has attempted to enact legalization through the budget for the past two years—and he’s expected to give it another try in 2021, based on recent comments from an aide and the governor—but it hasn’t come to fruition. That’d due in large part to disagreements over certain provisions such as the tax structure and where to allocate the resulting revenues

“I look forward to working with the governor and my legislative colleagues to finally make legalization a reality for New Yorkers,” Krueger said of the renewed effort for 2021.

Montana Recreational Cannabis Officially Legal

Montana Recreational Cannabis Officially Legal

Montana legal cannabis became official on New Years day 2021

Once the clock struck midnight and 2021 began, marijuana became legal for recreational use in the state of Montana – but this new law does not come without some caveats.

“I imagine people… we’ll probably have some amount of people coming to all the stores ready to buy. But you know, we can’t do that,” said Joshua Gosney, the owner of Infinity Wellness.

While marijuana is now legal for recreational use, only two things have immediately taken effect. “Any individual will be allowed to grow a certain number of plants in their house and have a certain amount of product on them at all times,” Gosney said.

So you can grow it and possess it — but a lot goes into growing the cannabis plant.

“In Montana, you’re going to be primarily in an indoor situation, especially in the wintertime, so you’re going to need things like supplemental high-intensity lighting or LEDs, some type of watering apparatus. It’s some work,” explained Ryan Saghatelian, one of the owners of Greener Pastures.

It could be a while, though, before you can legally buy marijuana in Montana.

“Probably not going to be until 2022 when the licensing goes into play, so we’re kind of in a weird area right now where it’s legal to possess, but it’s not legal to purchase, so there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Saghatelian said.

And with new laws comes new responsibilities: “There will be limitations to what people can do. It’ll be up to the Legislature to make sure that they effectively regulate that in order to maximize tax revenue and public safety and public benefit without risking the public’s health,” Gosney said.

Smoking marijuana in public is not allowed, and Montana statute says no one can drive under the influence of any substance, according to Lt. Brandon Wooley with the Billings Police Department. He also noted: “We still will be involved in, let’s say, if you got four or five pounds on you and you’ve got evidence of trafficking and distribution. We’re still going to seize everything and we’re still going to forward through for the County Attorney’s office for prosecution.”

Supporters say legalizing recreational marijuana will generate much-needed tax revenue. A study by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business & Economic Research estimated recreational marijuana could generate more than $43 million a year for the state.

However, some law enforcement, medical, and professional groups oppose the measures. They argue legalized marijuana will add to the state’s growing drug addiction problems, create safety concerns in the workplace, the risk of unintentional exposure to children, and increased marijuana use in adolescents.

Read Full Story from 3KRTV

Illinois starts new year by expunging nearly 500,000 marijuana arrest records

Illinois starts new year by expunging nearly 500,000 marijuana arrest records

Illinois expunges over 500,000 marijuana arrest records to start 2021

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said in an announcement hours before the start of the new year that his state had expunged nearly 500,000 marijuana-related convictions.

The move follows Pritzker signing legislation in 2019 legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state starting in 2020. The expansive legislation also paved the way for 770,000 state residents to be eligible for expunging marijuana-related offenses.

Pritzker initially estimated it would take four years to start getting records expunged, but announced on Thursday that nearly 500,000 had already been tossed going into 2021.

“We reached this milestone one year into what will be an ongoing effort to correct historic wrongdoings fueled by the war on drugs,” he tweeted.

“We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of the damage in communities of color, who have disproportionately shouldered this burden. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past — and the decency to set a better path forward.”

Illinois joins more than a dozen states in recent years that have legalized marijuana recreationally and sought to address convictions related to the drug.

California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington have each enacted legislation to explicitly expunge or seal the records of those convicted of low-level marijuana crimes.

Original Story from The Hill

How state marijuana legalization became a boon for corruption

How state marijuana legalization became a boon for corruption

Bribery and corruption in the cannabis industry

By making local officials the gatekeepers for million-dollar businesses, states created a breeding ground for bribery and favoritism.

Jasiel Correia’s star was rising.

The son of Cape Verdean immigrants in the working-class Massachusetts port city of Fall River — famed as the home of Lizzie Borden — Correia was a home-grown prodigy. At 23, he was elected mayor, fielding congratulatory calls from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Joe Kennedy.

That was in 2015. Four years later, just a week before his reelection race, federal agents ignominiously led him away from his home in handcuffs and charged him with attempting to extort cannabis companies of $600,000 in exchange for granting them lucrative licenses to sell weed in his impoverished city.

“Mayor Correia has engaged in an outrageous brazen campaign of corruption, which turned his job into a personal ATM,” declared U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling during a press conference announcing the charges.

The downfall of Fall River’s young mayor wasn’t just a tragedy for the thousands of people who invested their hopes in him: It was emblematic of a rash of cannabis-related corruption across the nation, from Massachusetts to California to Arkansas and beyond.

In the past decade, marijuana legalization for adults over 21 has been passed in 15 states, and another 17 have legalized medical marijuana. But in their rush to limit the numbers of licensed vendors and give local municipalities control of where to locate dispensaries, they created something else: A market for local corruption.

Almost all the states that legalized pot either require the approval of local officials — as in Massachusetts — or impose a statewide limit on the number of licenses, chosen by a politically appointed oversight board, or both. These practices effectively put million-dollar decisions in the hands of relatively small-time political figures — the mayors and councilors of small towns and cities, along with the friends and supporters of politicians who appoint them to boards. And these strictures have given rise to the exact type of corruption that got Correia in trouble with federal prosecutors. They have also created a culture in which would-be cannabis entrepreneurs feel obliged to make large campaign contributions or hire politically connected lobbyists.

For some entrepreneurs, the payments can seem worth the ticket to cannabis riches.

For some politicians, the lure of a bribe or favor can be irresistible.

Correia’s indictment alleges that he extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana companies in exchange for granting them the local approval letters that are necessary prerequisites for obtaining Massachusetts licenses. Correia and his co-conspirators — staffers and friends — accepted a variety of bribes including cash, more than a dozen pounds of marijuana and a “Batman” Rolex watch worth up to $12,000, the indictment charges.

Read the full story on Politico

60 Los Angeles cannabis businesses losing licenses on New Year’s Day

60 Los Angeles cannabis businesses losing licenses on New Year’s Day

los angeles cannabis businesses are losing their licenses after New Year's

At least 57 licensed cannabis companies in Los Angeles are poised to see their business permits yanked by city authorities at the end of the year – with no obvious way to get the licenses reinstated.

The licensees in question – which appear to be a mixture of retailers, distributors and perhaps other business types – represent roughly 14% of the 418 marijuana business permits issued to date by the city, according to the L.A. Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR).

Although the City Council has a motion pending to give the 57 companies a lifeline, the council is in recess until Jan. 8.

So it’s unclear if the Council would be able to act in time to save the businesses. But even the Council motion itself warns that all of the companies might be forced “out of business” next month.

The situation has many business owners “frantic,” said Jerred Kiloh, president of the L.A.-based United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA).

The situation

At issue is those companies’ annual license renewal applications and fees for 2021, which were due Nov. 2.

The vast majority of licensed cannabis companies in the city paid and got their paperwork in on time, but at least 57 failed to do so.

Under current city law – which was put in place in July 2020 – there’s no way to grant the businesses extra time, a DCR spokesperson noted in an email to Marijuana Business Daily.

“(City code) does not permit DCR to waive late renewals or allow reinstatements,” the spokesperson wrote.

After Dec. 31, 2020, according to the DCR website, all 57 licensees “will be required to cease operations and will not be allowed to engage in commercial cannabis activity until a new application is submitted to DCR and a new temporary approval or license is issued.”

So it appears all 57 will have to start from square one in applying for both local and state permits, a process that could take months, or even years, before those businesses can reopen.

At the moment, there appears to be little that can be done to avert the closures.

“Late renewals and/or reinstatement would require the City Council to amend the Los Angeles Municipal Code,” the DCR spokesperson wrote.

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