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Murphy signs N.J. legal weed bills, ending 3-year saga

Murphy signs N.J. legal weed bills, ending 3-year saga

New Jersey finally legalizes cannabis officially.

More than three years after he took office with hopes of legalizing marijuana in 100 days, Gov. Phil Murphy signed three bills that together launch a marijuana industry in New Jersey and put an end to thousands of arrests.

 

But it took more than a marijuana-friendly governor to make reform a reality. There were years of failed legislative attempts, a ballot question that garnered more than 2.7 million votes in favor and three months of negotiations on tax revenue, licensing rules and the ultimate hangup that nearly killed the effort: penalties for those under 21 caught with marijuana.

Murphy signed the bills Monday morning without the usual fanfare, putting his pen to paper just before the deadline to take action struck. If he had done nothing, two measures seeking to launch a legal marijuana industry and to end arrests would have become law without his signature.

“As of this moment, New Jersey’s broken and indefensible marijuana laws which permanently stained the records of many residents and short-circuited their futures, and which disproportionately hurt communities of color and failed the meaning of justice at every level, social or otherwise — are no more,” he said Monday afternoon during his briefing on the coronavirus in Trenton.

The governor signed the bills after both the Senate and Assembly held last-minute voting sessions Monday morning to pass a third bill establishing civil penalties for those under 21 caught with marijuana. Protracted debate drew the voting sessions out, and the bill passed both chambers with only 20 minutes left for Murphy to act on the first two measures.

The legalization and decriminalization bills languished on Murphy’s desk for more than two months awaiting the proposal. The governor said he would not sign them until lawmakers made penalties clear, but refused to issue a conditional veto calling for the change.

As the bills awaited action in 2021, police issued more than 2,000 charges for minor marijuana possession.

And a few plans developed and collapsed In that time. Lawmakers extended the deadline for Murphy to sign the bills by more than two weeks and the lengthy, sometimes tense, negotiations continued.

They finally proved fruitful Monday morning.

Dozens of companies apply for six Georgia medical marijuana licenses

Dozens of companies apply for six Georgia medical marijuana licenses

Dozens of applicants apply for just six Georgia marijuana licenses

From nearly 70 applicants, six companies will be chosen to begin manufacturing medical marijuana oil for Georgia patients.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission announced this month it will review the proposals and then award licenses to six companies, possibly in late spring or early summer.

The winning companies will then have one year to begin operations, according to state law, providing medicine for 14,000 registered patients for conditions including seizures, terminal cancers and Parkinson’s disease. Though they’re allowed to consume the medicine, there’s no legal way to buy it until the companies come online.

“The goal is to ensure that patients have access to the highest-quality medicine that we can arrive at in our state with these production facilities,” said Andrew Turnage, the commission’s executive director. “I’m very impressed with the quality and caliber of applicants.”

Licenses will be awarded based on criteria set in a state law creating the cannabis oil program in 2019. Companies submitted plans for production, business operations, facilities and seed-to-sale tracking, Turnage said.

Under the law, six companies will be licensed to cultivate medical marijuana, which can have no more than 5% THC, the compound that gives marijuana users a high. They’ll be allowed to grow the drug on a total of 400,000 square feet of indoor growing space statewide.

“The only thing we should be thinking about is how we can get the safest oil and the best medicine to Georgia patients,” said state Rep. Micah Gravley, a Republican from Douglasville who sponsored legislation starting the program. “The licensees should be the six companies who are capable of creating a lab-tested, trusted, safe oil, and have a tested and proven product in other states.”

Lawmakers limited the number of licenses as part of a compromise between House and Senate leaders who had struggled to strike a balance between providing access to legitimate patients while preventing illegal marijuana distribution.

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.

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