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Minnesota recreational cannabis bill clears first hurdle

Minnesota recreational cannabis bill clears first hurdle

Minnesota recreational cannabis bill has passed through its first committee

House Majority Leader Winkler’s adult-use cannabis bill would legalize marijuana in Minnesota and set up a framework for regulation, production and sales.

ST PAUL, Minn — The latest effort to legalize recreational pot in Minnesota got through its first committee Wednesday afternoon, once again highlighting the political divide on marijuana at the State Capitol.

All 10 yes votes on the adult-use cannabis bill came from the DFL members of the House Commerce Committee while all seven no votes came from the Republicans on the panel. The Labor and Industry Committee will be the next stop for the measure on its journey to a vote in the full House.

The bill is an effort by House Majority Ryan Winkler to put in a regulatory framework for growing, processing, retailing and taxing marijuana in this state.  It will also set up an expungement process for those who were convicted of marijuana possession, something proponents say is essential due to racial disparities in enforcement in the past.

Supporters say it will also connect medical marijuana patients with more effective treatment options. They also assert it will create jobs and new small business opportunities for budding entrepreneurs.

“Nationally we know the industry added 77,000 jobs last year despite the COVID pandemic,” Anthony Newby, a longtime Minneapolis neighborhood organizer who works for a CBD company, told lawmakers during Wednesday’s hearing.

“This is an opportunity in the age of COVID and political and racial disruption and economic uncertainty to open the doors to grow our local economy and bridge the outrageous racial disparities in our state.”

Rep. Winkler said he’s trying to get ahead of the curve as a growing number of states legalized marijuana for recreational use, something South Dakota voters did in 2020. The drug will become legal there in July, pending the outcome of a lawsuit brought by that state’s governor to try to undo it.

“It is coming. It is time for us to get it right and that’s what this bill represents,” Winkler told his colleagues.

“It becomes too easy to get it from too many places that are legal where they purchase it.”

N.J. cops filed 6,000 charges for weed since voters passed legalization initiative

N.J. cops filed 6,000 charges for weed since voters passed legalization initiative

New jersey still charging citizens with cannabis

Police across New Jersey have filed more than 6,000 charges for minor marijuana possession in the three months since 2.7 million voters said yes to legalizing weed in the Garden State.

The arrests continue as lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy work on a last-minute compromise for stalled marijuana legalization and decriminalization bills — and as people mistakenly believe that state has already reformed its laws prohibiting marijuana.

Police filed 2,378 charges for possessing less than 50 grams of marijuana during the month of January, according to a report from the state judiciary.

That’s lower than the pre-election average of arresting 100 some people a day, but higher than in November and December, when police across the state filed 2,125 charges and then 1,703 charges, respectively.

Many thought marijuana would be legal by Jan. 1. — and some argue it is.

But ongoing debate on two bills — one to launch a legal marijuana industry and another to end arrests for possessing small amounts — has left laws barring the drug’s use on the books.

“We’re in a terrible limbo,” said Chris Goldstein, of the cannabis activist group NORML.

“It is a huge concern,” he said. “I think the confusion — the dangerous confusion — isn’t among consumers. I think there’s a dangerous confusion among the police and prosecutors out there. The problem is police are still enforcing prohibition. I think they need a clearer directive.”

New Jerseyans voted 2 to 1 to legalize marijuana, but that didn’t overhaul prohibition immediately. Instead, it gave lawmakers a mandate to create a framework for a legal marijuana industry and to pass a bill to stop arrests.

They did that in mid-December, thinking Murphy would sign it by the start of 2021.

Jamaica faces marijuana shortage as farmers struggle

Jamaica faces marijuana shortage as farmers struggle

Jamaican cannabis industry struggles due to supply and demand

Jamaica is running low on ganja.

Heavy rains followed by an extended drought, an increase in local consumption and a drop in the number of marijuana farmers have caused a shortage in the island’s famed but largely illegal market that experts say is the worst they’ve seen.

“It’s a cultural embarrassment,” said Triston Thompson, chief opportunity explorer for Tacaya, a consulting and brokerage firm for the country’s nascent legal cannabis industry.

Jamaica, which foreigners have long associated with pot, reggae and Rastafarians, authorized a regulated medical marijuana industry and decriminalized small amounts of weed in 2015.

People caught with 2 ounces (56 grams) or less of cannabis are supposed to pay a small fine and face no arrest or criminal record. The island also allows individuals to cultivate up to five plants, and Rastafarians are legally allowed to smoke ganja for sacramental purposes.

But enforcement is spotty as many tourists and locals continue to buy marijuana on the street, where it has grown more scarce — and more expensive.

Heavy rains during last year’s hurricane season pummeled marijuana fields that were later scorched in the drought that followed, causing tens of thousands of dollars in losses, according to farmers who cultivate pot outside the legal system.

“It destroyed everything,” said Daneyel Bozra, who grows marijuana in the southwest part of Jamaica, in a historical village called Accompong founded by escaped 18th-century slaves known as Maroons.

Worsening the problem were strict COVID-19 measures, including a 6 p.m. curfew that meant farmers couldn’t tend to their fields at night as is routine, said Kenrick Wallace, 29, who cultivates 2 acres (nearly a hectare) in Accompong with the help of 20 other farmers.

He noted that a lack of roads forces many farmers to walk to reach their fields — and then to get water from wells and springs. Many were unable to do those chores at night due to the curfew.

Wallace estimated he lost more than $18,000 in recent months and cultivated only 300 pounds, compared with an average of 700 to 800 pounds the group normally produces.

Activists say they believe the pandemic and a loosening of Jamaica’s marijuana laws has led to an increase in local consumption that has contributed to the scarcity, even if the pandemic has put a dent in the arrival of ganja-seeking tourists.

“Last year was the worst year. … We’ve never had this amount of loss,” Thompson said. “It’s something so laughable that cannabis is short in Jamaica.”

Tourists, too, have taken note, placing posts on travel websites about difficulties finding the drug.

Read the Full Story from AP

Idaho Senate Passes Measure To Block Marijuana Legalization

Idaho Senate Passes Measure To Block Marijuana Legalization

Idaho cannabis legalization blocked by state senate

The Idaho Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution to amend the state Constitution to prevent marijuana or other drugs from being legalized.

If the House follows suit, the action could create serious complications for activists who are seeking to put cannabis reform measures on Idaho’s 2022 ballot.

The Senate State Affairs Committee approved the resolution along party lines last week, and the full chamber has now passed it 24-11. If it gets a two-thirds majority in the House as well it will be placed before voters on the midterm election ballot.

The measure stipulates that “the production, manufacture, transportation, sale, delivery, dispensing, distribution, possession, or use of a psychoactive drug shall not be permitted in the state of Idaho.”

It would make an exception for substances that are approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it would effectively kneecap efforts to establish a medical cannabis program that looks anything like those implemented in other legal states.

What makes the measure problematic for advocates is that, should the legislature ultimately approve it, the resulting constitutional initiative on ballot would take precedence over any statutory legalization measures that appear alongside it, regardless of the margin that any measure ultimately gets approved by.

Activists are dealing with this development as they work to collect signatures on an initiative to legalize medical cannabis and while a separate group is preparing to place adult-use legalization before voters.

The Senate-approved resolution says that the “normalization of illicit drug use is having a profound negative impact on Idaho citizens” and, therefore, it is “reasonable and necessary” to enact the constitutional change.

Activists say the proposal is anything but reasonable and is intended to undermine the democratic process, misleading voters by neglecting to directly explain how the measure would impact medical cannabis reform efforts and instead referring broadly to “psychoactive drugs.”

Here’s the language of the constitutional amendment that the lawmakers hope to place before voters: 

“Shall Article III of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a new Section 30 to provide that the production, manufacture, transportation, sale, delivery, dispensing, distribution, possession, or use of certain psychoactive drugs shall not be lawful in the State of Idaho unless such drugs are: (a) approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration and permitted by the state; (b) lawfully prescribed; and (c) lawfully dispensed?”

If approved, that would mean that Kind Idaho’s medical cannabis legalization measure and another initiative in the works to legalize for recreational purposes would be rendered null and void, regardless of whether a majority of Idahoans passed either of them.

Lawmakers reintroduce recreational Minnesota cannabis legislation

Lawmakers reintroduce recreational Minnesota cannabis legislation

Minnesota cannabis legalization bill introduced again

On Monday, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and other Democrat lawmakers reintroduced recreational adult-use cannabis legislation that addresses criminal justice inequities created by the current system and also allows law enforcement to focus on more serious issues, according to the bill.

The DFL says the adult-use cannabis bill is based on conversations with Minnesotans during the statewide “Be Heard on Cannabis” tour, which hosted town hall meetings in 15 communities spanning urban, suburban and rural parts of the state. Additionally, meetings were held with more than 30 organizations and associations, as well as consulting with Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and 13 state agencies. A House of Representatives spokesperson said 250 meetings were held with individuals and groups.

“The failed criminalization of cannabis has resulted in a legacy of racial injustice that can no longer go unaddressed,” Winkler, the bill’s chief author, said. “Adults deserve the freedom to decide whether to use cannabis, and our state government should play an important role in addressing legitimate concerns around youth access, public health, and road safety. Veterans and Minnesotans with serious illnesses like PTSD deserve better access to our medical program, which is not working well for most people. It’s time to legalize, expunge, and regulate.”

The proposal would “create a responsible regulatory structure focused on developing micro-businesses and a craft market; expunge most cannabis convictions; fund public health awareness, youth access prevention, and substance abuse treatment; provide grants, loans, technical assistance, and training for small businesses; require testing and labeling of products; restrict packaging based on dosage size; and allow limited home grow abilities.”

“It’s clear that our current cannabis laws aren’t working for Minnesota,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman said in a statement. “Smart, sensible legislation can address racial inequities in our criminal justice system, tackle the harms caused by cannabis, and ensure better outcomes for communities.”

According to the House, Black and white Minnesotans consume cannabis at very similar rates, yet Black Minnesotans make up 30% of cannabis arrests while representing just 5% of the population.

“The legalization of adult use-cannabis will result in health, economic, criminal justice, and civil rights benefits for Minnesotans, benefits already experienced by those in other states that have eliminated the criminal prohibition,” said Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul). “Minnesotans, especially those from Black, Indigenous, and communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted will have an opportunity to live better lives and contribute to society by participating in the workforce. People have made their voices clear across the state, and it’s time to end our current harmful policies on cannabis.”

As of Nov. 4, 2020, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota approved measures to regulate cannabis for adult-use. That brings the total to 15 states and three territories. A total of 36 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have approved comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana/cannabis programs.

“I remain committed to supporting a path forward for a responsible framework to legalize cannabis in our state. For too long we have turned a blind eye to the effects that prohibition has had on many of our communities of color,” said Sen. Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina). “As more states continue to remove barriers to embark in this industry, Minnesota must not be left behind. We should lead the way toward ensuring public health and safety considerations are at the forefront of any legislation.”

The next steps, following the bill’s introduction Monday, will be a series of public hearings that allow residents to ask questions and provide input on the matter.

Pennsylvania governor makes budget pitch for legal cannabis in 2021

Pennsylvania governor makes budget pitch for legal cannabis in 2021

Pennsylvania cannabis legalization could happen in 2021

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, as expected, has made legalizing recreational cannabis one of his administration’s top legislative priorities this year.

Wolf highlighted recreational marijuana in his budget proposal Wednesday and mentioned the urgency given adult-use legalization in neighboring New Jersey and the legalization push in New York.

“Now as our neighbors move toward legalizing recreational marijuana, we cannot afford to be left behind,” Wolf said in a news release laying out his legislative plan.

The plan didn’t provide licensing details.

But it did note that part of the revenue generated from legalization would be used for grants to support historically disadvantaged small businesses.

Marijuana Business Daily projects that an adult-use market in Pennsylvania would generate $800 million in sales in the program’s first full year and $1.8 billion in annual sales by the fourth year.

Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Senate is seen as the biggest obstacle to legalization.

Wolf, a Democrat, emphasized the issue’s bipartisan support among residents and the bipartisan support that occurred when Pennsylvania lawmakers legalized medical cannabis in 2016.

Pennsylvania’s MMJ market, by most accounts, has been a success since sales began in 2018, which could help persuade lawmakers to pass a recreational marijuana program.

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