fbpx
Virginia Marijuana Laws Might Be Changing

Virginia Marijuana Laws Might Be Changing

When you think of cannabis friendly, Virginia definitely isn’t one of the states that comes to mind. But that could be changing.

The state House on Monday passed HB 972, a decriminalization bill, with bipartisan support. Delegates voted 64-34 for the measure, with a number of Republicans joining Democrats in favor. The state Senate is expected to pass its own version shortly.

If passed, the legislation would scrap criminal charges for possessing marijuana and replace them with small fines. Supporters have argued the measure is needed in part because African Americans are disproportionately charged with drug crimes.

Virginia Marijuana Laws

Virginia marijuana laws have always been strict, with the most minor offense having the potential of jail time for possession of a half ounce. Right now, a person who is found with half an ounce of the drug can be jailed for up to 30 days and/or be fined $500. The second time it happens, jail time is increased up to a year and the fine increases up to $2,500.

To make matters worse, the state has a proven track record of negatively impacting minority communities with Virginia marijuana laws, specifically people of color. In fact, people of color are currently three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people. But the reality is that no matter their skin color, people arrested for cannabis in Virginia are less likely to find jobs and housing.

If the new bill passes through the State Senate, it will be a big step in the right direction for the state after killing a full-blown legalization bill in 2019.

What is HB972?

House Bill 972 is a very simple bill. All it would do is decriminalize possession of a half ounce of cannabis, resulting in just a $25 fine if caught. With a simple, straight forward goal, it’s easy to see why the bill was able to garner bipartisan support.

Of course there are those who are against the bill, some of whom are surprisingly pro-legalization groups. The ACLU for example claims the bill doesn’t do enough, and that more people will be incarcerated for not being able to pay the $25 fine. Frankly this is asinine. If you can afford to buy a half ounce of cannabis, you can afford a $25 fine, or you shouldn’t be buying cannabis because you don’t have your priorities straight.

So the question that is being asked now that decriminalization seems likely is, when can we expect legalization?

Virginia Cannabis Legalization

It’s probably safe to say right now that Virginia marijuana laws won’t be moving toward legalization in 2020. Right now, Virginia lawmakers sent the idea of legalization to a non-partisan committee to study, they say that the study could take a year. The results may give lawmakers guidance on whether they want to re-visit legalization in 2021.

In the meantime, Virginians trying to access cannabis medically are in for quite a struggle. Virginia technically doesn’t even have a functioning medical marijuana program. What they do offer is an Affirmative Defense clause for patients who given permission by their physician to use cannabis.

However, not many doctors are prescribing cannabis because of the legal risk and lack of incentive. Not that patients would really benefit from permission anyway.

All Virginia marijuana laws allow currently are CBD oil and THC-A oil, neither of which are psychoactive or regulated. This leaves patients who are given permission very few options, including traveling across state lines to states like Maryland to obtain medical cannabis with the risk of getting arrested upon re-entry to Virginia.

Suffice to say Virginia won’t be turning into a cannabis haven any time soon, but residents can hopefully rest easy soon knowing they’ll no longer risk jail time for half a little bit of cannabis.

New York Cannabis in 2020: Will the state legalize?

New York Cannabis in 2020: Will the state legalize?

New York cannabis legalization could be bigger than California. But it all depends if the state Governor’s promise holds true.

New York tried and failed to legalize cannabis in 2019 even with broad support for legalization in the state. But now Governor Andrew Cuomo is promising 2020 will be the year it finally happens.

New York cannabis legalization would change the entire cannabis industry landscape, with such a huge population there’s no doubt a legal industry would succeed. But it all depends on the laws that pass, regulations and restrictions that the state puts on the new market that could damage it before it takes off.

New York Cannabis History

New York has always had a patchy relationship with cannabis and crime in general. The state received national backlash when the police department’s Stop-and-Frisk program was revealed to target minority communities, with most busts being for small amounts of cannabis possession, typically an eighth or less. Despite the state decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis possession in 1977, a loophole in the law allowed police to still unfairly arrest people.

In 2013, the Stop-and-Frisk law was found unconstitutional and was ended. Ever since then, the underground cannabis culture and industry has been slowly building in New York. Similarly to D.C. which legalized cannabis in 2017 but banned any dispensaries from opening, the decriminalization of cannabis in New York has led to rise in discreet delivery service, corner shops and other services for New Yorkers to get their cannabis with ease.

Not to mention that New York already has a medical cannabis program that could easily expand into a recreational market. In other words, the state is ripe for a legal market to explode.

Will 2020 Be The Year?

In early January of 2020, Governor Cuomo highlighted adult-use cannabis legalization as one of his 2020 priorities. His proposal includes forming an Office of Cannabis Management to regulate medical, adult-use and hemp programs; ensuring that social equity and social justice needs are met; working in concert with neighboring states; and creating a cannabis and hemp research center at the State University of New York.

New York is already a very expensive state, especially for those living in the city. It’s possible New York follows in the foot steps of California or Illinois and puts exorbitant taxes on cannabis goods while also allowing local municipalities to add their own taxes on top. If this happens, a legal industry could be extremely hindered (just look at California’s first year of legal cannabis).

The light at the end of the tunnel

One of the main reasons New York has put so much urgency into legalization is because of the so-called “vape epidemic” that struck the country in 2019. In case you missed it, hundreds of people became very sick from using private market vape cartridges that contained dangerous chemicals not typically found in legal products. The epidemic winded down at the end of 2019, but not until close to 50 people died from the illness.

While some states took the opportunity to use this epidemic as an excuse not to legalize, New York recognized that legalizing would open up a safe-access market for consumers that could prevent another epidemic. The Governor has already been meeting with fellow governors from Pennsylvania and Connecticut to discuss ideas as all three states move closer to legalization in 2020.

Cuomo said he wanted to legalize in 2019, and even with strong public support, wasn’t able to get it done. 2020 might just be another broken promise to try and stay in office, or a legal New York cannabis market could come and change the whole industry in a span of 12 months. We all have to stay tuned to see.

Illinois Recreational Cannabis: What to know for January 1st

Illinois Recreational Cannabis: What to know for January 1st

As soon as the clock hits midnight on January 1st, Illinois recreational cannabis sales are set to begin.

Illinois has been setting up regulations and requirements for recreational cannabis businesses over the last year, and it is all leading up to the first day of legal sales on January 1, 2020. The people are excited, and the state is ready to start pulling in those tax dollars.

However there are plenty of differences in the Illinois recreational cannabis laws and regulations for consumers that any would be dispensary-goer should know.

Who can buy Illinois recreational cannabis?

Just like every other recreational cannabis state, you must be 21 to purchase cannabis legally in Illinois. Out-of-state visitors will also be more limited in how much they can purchase compared to state residents, however there is no difference in price for in and out of state customers.

Illinois residents age 21 and over may possess 30 grams of cannabis flower, 500 mg of THC in a cannabis-infused product like edibles, and 5 grams of cannabis concentrate in total. These amounts are halved for non-residents. 

The totals are cumulative, so an Illinois resident could have 30 grams of flower, 500 mg of infused product and 5 grams of concentrate all at the same time. The same goes for nonresidents and their limits.

Where can I buy legal cannabis?

On January 1st, there are only going to be 37 Illinois recreational cannabis dispensaries open for business. If you’re in Chicago or the surrounding area you’re in luck, because that is where 24 of the dispensaries are located.

Champaign-Urbana, Peoria and Springfield all have two dispensaries nearby, and Carbondale, Effingham, Ottawa, the Quad Cities, Quincy and Rockford will each have one dispensary. Unfortunately, the state won’t begin reviewing applications for more dispensaries until March 15. Once approved, licenses will be distributed starting May 1st. On July 1st, up to 40 grower and infuser licenses will be issued along with an unlimited number of transportation licenses for in-state transport.

In other words, it’s going to be a slow start with limited access to Illinois recreational cannabis for most residents. The state will examine the progress through 2020 to determine whether or not more licenses need to be issued.

What about the taxes?

Like any recreational cannabis industry, Illinois is collecting some hefty taxes off the sale of legal cannabis. A good way to put it is, the higher you get, the higher the tax. For example, cannabis products with a THC level of 35% or less will only have a tax of 10%, and products over 35% will have a 25% tax. Basically, flower will have a 10% tax and concentrates will have a 25% tax. All infused products including edibles will have a 20% tax.

Additionally, state and local taxes will also apply, and the state law allows for municipalities to tax up to 3%. And if that isn’t enough taxes for you, local sales taxes also apply. The Illinois sales tax is currently 6.25%.

With limited access and extremely high taxes, it’s safe to say that Illinois recreational cannabis is not going to be cheap. But if there’s anything we can take away from other legal markets with high taxes, it’s that people are willing to pay for safe, legal access to cannabis.

Lastly, consumption

One thing that Illinois holds over other recreational cannabis states is its consumption laws. While public consumption is still prohibited, and smoking indoors was banned in the states in 2008, the Illinois cannabis laws allows on-site consumption at dispensaries, as well as cannabis smoking lounges. While no lounges have yet to open, some dispensaries and growers have applied to have lounges built in their existing facilities or separately attached for consumers.

An issue that will remain prevalent in every state that bans public consumption of cannabis is the impact it has on those in public housing or those living under a landlord that does not permit cannabis consumption. While a private homeowner can do whatever they please in the house they own, a renter is limited by what their landlord allows. This will continue to be problematic, especially for medical patients that need cannabis for serious ailments.

Since repetition is key, like any recreational cannabis state, Illinois has done some stuff well and some other stuff not so well (looking at those 37 dispensaries for the first year). But the trend of starting small and slow isn’t anything new when it comes to cannabis. States want to get their feet wet before diving into the deep end and that typically means more strict regulations that will ease up over time. For now, if you’re in one of the towns with a dispensary, check it out! And if not, plan a New Year’s trip to Chicago and check out a lot more options, and probably cheaper prices.

Hemp Industry Win: Farmers Might Finally Get Bank Access

Hemp Industry Win: Farmers Might Finally Get Bank Access

Banking has been an issue for cannabis and hemp businesses alike due to federal banking restrictions for years. But for hemp, that all could be changing very soon.

It’s safe to say that the hemp industry and cannabis industry don’t have the best relationships with banks. Because most banks are federal institutions, they have to follow federal law. This is why despite cannabis being legal in multiple state, businesses have a lot of difficulty finding a bank that will work with them.

While this will remain the case for the cannabis industry unless the SAFE Banking Act passes, the legal hemp industry has achieved another milestone in regards to banking for legal hemp businesses.

Hemp Industry Banking

Currently, the banks that actually work with legal hemp businesses could be counted on one hand. Due to strict requirements that come with loads of paperwork, most banks just avoid hemp businesses all together. But that is all about to change.

Federal and state bank regulators announced Tuesday that they were scrapping a burdensome requirement that banks said kept them away from the hemp business. With the requirement scrapped, banks no longer have to treat their hemp customers as suspicious and file reams of paperwork to anti-money-laundering authorities for each interaction.

In other words, with less paper work and red tape surrounding the legal hemp industry, banks are about to feel a lot safer about working with hemp businesses. And it’s not like the demand isn’t there either.

In November of 2019, the American Banking Association surveyed 1,800 agriculture-focused banks in the country and found that almost half had gotten questions from their farmer-customers about whether they would still do business with them if they started growing hemp.

Hopping on a moving train

Banks have been sitting on the sidelines of the legal hemp industry and legal cannabis industry for a while now, and the industry has progressed just fine without the financial institutions up to this point. Even though banks have been slow to embrace the cannabis industry, investors have been geared up to profit from it.

Analysts tracking publicly traded companies have added pot producers to their portfolios, in order to help investors decide where best to maximize their exposure to the industry. Ultra-rich venture capitalists have begun to treat pot businesses like tech start-ups. While some stocks have had their hiccups, the industry is looking strong and projected to continue growing through 2020 and beyond.

While banks have been slow to get onboard the legal hemp industry train, hemp businesses will likely be happy to work with them now that the requirements have been lessened. Even though hemp flower producers may still find it difficult having a product so similar to federally illegal cannabis, other businesses in hemp clothing and manufacturing should start finding it much easier to find a bank that will work with them.

Is cannabis banking next?

The hemp industry is making strides on strides in terms of legalization and banking access, whereas legal cannabis industries have been inching along slowly year over year. Progress has been exponential since Colorado first legalized in 2012, with multiple states following suit in the years after. But with federal law remaining the same regarding cannabis, progress has been slow with legal cannabis businesses still lacking banking access, despite state law.

The SAFE Banking Act is currently the best hope legal cannabis businesses have to achieve banking access in the near future. While the bill has already passed through the House of Representatives with large support from the banking industry. However not many are hopeful of the bill surviving the republican controlled senate headed by Mitch McConnell.

The irony of the whole situation is that McConnell is largely responsible for the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill the federally legalized hemp across the country, yet he will also be the reason that legal cannabis businesses may not get the access to banks they desperately need. Only time will tell, and for, all the wires are silent.

Illinois Cannabis is Legal? Why You Probably didn’t Hear about It

Illinois Cannabis is Legal? Why You Probably didn’t Hear about It

A major issue in the cannabis legalization movement is that every state can do it differently. Illinois cannabis legalization definitely did it different, and not for the better.

A lot of states that legalize cannabis add something new to their industry. Whether that’s limiting licensing because Oregon didn’t, or lowering regulations like Oklahoma did because California’s are so strict. Illinois is no different.

In June, Illinois became the first state in history to legalize the recreational possession and sale of cannabis entirely through the legislative process, whereas every other state has legalized through state-wide ballots. They also took a huge step in expunging the criminal records of nearly 800,000 residents in the state who possessed or purchased up to 30 grams of cannabis and were prosecuted.

With the state set to begin adult recreational sales in January 2020, all seems well and good. That is until you look a little closer at the legislation.

The Illinois Cannabis Crunch

Some states choose to be very lax with their regulations, like Oklahoma or Oregon. Both states have booming cannabis economies with Oklahoma’s in particular taking off faster than any other medical industry in the country. But both states are also facing serious over-supply issues.

Oregon has already taken the brunt of the surge, with so much more cannabis in the state than its residents consume that they had to pass a law permitting cross-border sales of cannabis to try to get rid of the excess. Oklahoma is following a similar path, with over 4,000 licensed growers and only 1,400 dispensaries for a state that is highly interested in cannabis. On top of that, there is roughly one dispensary for every 70 Oklahomans, which is not ideal for continued business traffic.

To avoid making the same mistakes, Illinois put a cap on how many dispensaries are allowed to open in order avoid cities filling up with pot shops too quickly. However at the end of 2019, the state only has 113 permitted dispensaries for recreational sales. Remember how Oklahoma had a dispensary for every 70 people? Illinois hardly has one for every 100,000.

An Attempt to Keep Big Business Out

It’s fair to say that Illinois’ cannabis legalization intentions were pure enough. The purpose of the dispensary cap is to prevent chains from taking over. The legislation limits chains to no more than 10 locations in the state, and limits the entire state to only 500 dispensaries, total.

That may sound like a lot of dispensaries, but 500 dispensaries is just enough for every 200 people to have a shop to visit. Additionally, the state won’t be adding any new dispensary licenses until May 2020, leaving four months of extremely limited supply. Even then, the state is only issuing 75 more licenses, leaving less than 200 dispensaries by the end of May at the earliest.

Also being a more conservative state, it is expected that a good bit of Oklahoma jurisdictions will ban retail dispensaries altogether, and a lot of people are concerned that the efforts to keep big business out will result in even more solicitation of private market cannabis.

A Slow and Steady Approach

Recreational cannabis sales are set to begin in less than 2 months in Illinois. With a little more 100 dispensaries to serve the entire state on January 1, it’s going be very difficult to get everyone taken care of for some time. But the Illinois cannabis industry doesn’t appear to be in a rush.

To put it all in perspective, by the end of 2020 Illinois is only projected to have about one tenth of the amount of dispensaries as Oregon has, with the maximum allowance of the legislation only being equivalent to one quarter of the Oregon cannabis industry when the Illinois cannabis industry is fully up and running in what will most likely be a few years.

This might not be a bad thing for Illinois though. Being a more conservative state outside of Chicago, demand for cannabis likely won’t be as high as other states that have legalized. Also with homegrowing allowed under the new law, residents that can’t find a nearby dispensary will either not participate in the industry, or start growing their own.

While the latter could lead to a rise in private market distribution, it isn’t very likely due to what most are projecting will be low demand outside major metropolitan areas, where dispensaries are most concentrated. This is why the industry hasn’t sparked a lot of interest nationally. A lot of people aren’t expecting any big developments for at least two years, and even then the Illinois cannabis industry will still be a small player compared to other states that have legalized cannabis.

Illinois cannabis legalization is a great thing for the state and the country. They may be moving more slowly than other states, but they may also just be more cautious and hoping to avoid the mistakes made by Oregon or California. Unfortunately it’s much too soon to say how the Illinois industry will perform, but usually where there is legal weed, there is prosperity.

Jamaican Cannabis Rundown: Laws and Culture Explained

Jamaican Cannabis Rundown: Laws and Culture Explained

It’s likely the most well known cannabis culture in the world. But it wasn’t always that way.

Jamaican cannabis has always been notorious. The stereotypes of the “Rasta Man” puffing on his joint with a beanie and long dreadlocks probably come to most people’s minds when you mention Jamaica. But why?

Jamaica has an interesting and relatively brief history with cannabis compared to other countries in the Middle East and Asia. Yet other than it’s clear water and beautiful beaches, cannabis is one of Jamaica’s biggest attractions.

Jamaican Cannabis Quick History

Cannabis has been in Jamaica since the mid 1800s, brought to the island by indentured servants from India while both Jamaica and India were under British rule. In fact, the word ganja used by most in Jamaica to describe cannabis stems from Hindu origins.

Believe it or not, cannabis was actually banned in Jamaica under the 1913 Ganja Law, which was supported by the European elites and Council of Evangelical Churches in Jamaica (side note, Jamaica has more churches per square mile than any other country). This law would be made even more strict over time, especially during times of civil unrest during the 1940s and 60s.

Despite the laws in place, cannabis was still a customary herb in Jamaica for over 100 years. After the 1960s, farmers in Jamaica saw opportunity to take advantage of the growing demand for cannabis in Europe and North America. This resulted in even more enforcement from police, but the resulting trafficking industry made enough money for many in the political and legal systems to look the other way.

It wouldn’t be until February 2015 that Jamaica actually moved to change their cannabis laws for the better.

Cannabis Decriminalization/Legalization in Jamaica

Taking the same name from the oppressive original law, the Ganja Law of 2015 reversed the rules of the 1913 law, and added new, more progressive amendments in their place. To start, Jamaica decriminalized small amounts of cannabis for personal use, if you consider two ounces to be a small amount.

The new Ganja Law also allowed the cultivation of up to five plants, both only resulting in a petty offense instead of a criminal record. Practitioners of the Rastafari religion were also given permission to use cannabis for religious purposes. All of these amendments were put in place not only to reduce harsh punishments for cannabis use, but to pave the way for a new, legal, medical cannabis industry.

Most notably, the 2015 Ganja Law included special amendments that aimed to help indigenous farmers get a step up in the new medical industry, including government subsidies for land and equipment, plus assistance with licensing to enter the medical industry from the private market.

While these new amendments were passed in 2015, it wouldn’t be until early 2018 that the first medical cannabis dispensary opened in Jamaica. Now while the medical industry is slowly growing, the private market has exploded, especially when it comes to cannabis tourism.

ganja culture in Jamaica

Jamaican Cannabis Culture

It only takes one visit to Jamaica to recognize that “decriminalization” means two different things in Jamaica and the United States. While the applications of decriminalization are the same — getting caught with small amounts of cannabis results in a fine and no criminal record — the degree of enforcement is vastly different.

In other words, there is almost no enforcement on the private cannabis market in Jamaica compared to the United States. While it is extremely uncommon to see someone smoking cannabis publicly in a decriminalized state of the U.S., it is much more normalized in Jamaica.

The vast difference in acceptance of cannabis all has to do with the culture surrounding cannabis. While Jamaica may have banned cannabis for some time, it never had the massive propaganda machine that the United States had to push the drug war agenda, turning millions of people against cannabis for decades.

Also having cannabis as part of the island’s main religious sacrament exposed many more to the plant from a young age where it became more normalized, and seen more as a potentially useful plant than a dangerous narcotic like how it was viewed in the states.

Due to the country’s overall embrace of cannabis since its arrival in Jamaica, the industry is thriving, and is only going to continue to grow, both legally and illicitly.

Hear more about what smoking Jamaican ganja is actually like right here.

Social Share Buttons and Icons powered by Ultimatelysocial
error

Like The Real Dirt? Please spread the word :)