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Bipartisan Pennsylvania cannabis legalization bill emerges from Senate

Bipartisan Pennsylvania cannabis legalization bill emerges from Senate

Bipartisan Pennsylvania cannabis legalization bill has been introduced

A bipartisan duo of senators introduced a measure Wednesday to legalize adult use cannabis in Pennsylvania.

It’s the first time a Republican member of the chamber has cosponsored the proposal – typically endorsed solely by Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

“That’s kind of the elephant in the room, if you will,” said Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie. “I believe in solving problems, and adult use cannabis is no more harmful than liquor. I’m not afraid to run a bill that doesn’t fit our party’s stereotype.”

In addition to regulating and taxing the drug for public consumption, Laughlin and co-sponsor Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, said their proposal includes a provision that would erase nonviolent cannabis convictions and decriminalizes the drug “up to a certain point” – an important step forward for social justice.

“Ordinary folks of color know they are more likely to get prosecuted for doing this,” Street said. “And yeah, it is making history if people won’t [be prosecuted] anymore.”

An analysis from the American Civil Liberties Union concluded that cannabis arrests account for more than half of all drug-related arrests in the county. Eight in 10 of the 8.2 million arrests studied between 2001 and 2010 were for possession of small amounts. Black users are also nearly four times more likely than white users to be arrested for cannabis, the ACLU said.

“This has been a 180 change in opinion for me,” Laughlin said. “I’m not a fan of the product. I don’t use it. I don’t think it’s great if people use marijuana. I know that seems a little odd … [but] I’ve realized some of the social damage we’ve done to communities of color over these minor offenses, and that really got my attention.”

Laughlin also said testimony from the Independent Fiscal Office last week that estimated tax revenues from cannabis sales could approach $1 billion further piqued his interest. 

“The final straw was a conversation I had with one of my kids … he told me he could have a bag of weed delivered to the house in under an hour and that’s better service than Amazon,” he said. “I realize anyone in Pennsylvania that wants to smoke marijuana is probably already doing it, so regulating it is the responsible thing to do.”

Florida Marijuana Sales Ranks Third In Country for 2020

Florida Marijuana Sales Ranks Third In Country for 2020

Florida marijuana sales rank third in the country for 2020
Florida’s medical cannabis marketplace generated an estimated $1.3 billion in sales last year, ranking third in the country for 2020 cannabis sales.

Although Florida has just a medical cannabis system, the state emerged as one of the nation’s most active cannabis markets in 2020, according to the recent cannabis jobs report by Leafly and Whitney Economics.

Florida ranked third in the country for cannabis sales in 2020 with an estimated total reaching $1.3 billion, only behind Colorado and California, which both have adult-use cannabis markets and have had medical cannabis systems since the 1990s.

Home to 331 dispensaries spread across the state, Florida added 170,000 patients in 2020, bringing the total of registered patients to nearly a half million at 485,693. The state also added roughly 15,000 cannabis jobs in 2020, bringing the total number of Floridians employed by the medical cannabis sector to 31,444. The report suggests Florida’s cannabis receipts could easily double if the state adopted adult-use cannabis, estimating the potential for up to $2.1 billion in sales, $800,000 per month in taxes, and up to 80,000 local jobs by 2025.

“With a state population of nearly 22 million, Florida could reasonably double its current total of cannabis jobs if it chose to legalize for all adults.” — Excerpt from the Leafly and Whitney Economics job report

Despite the high sales numbers, Florida’s medical cannabis structure has led to some issues. Additionally, there are a handful of adult-use and medical cannabis reform bills currently stalled in the Florida legislature.

Currently, a case working its way through the courts seeks to overturn the state’s vertically integrated regulatory structure on grounds that it is unconstitutional, The Center Square reports. Already having won its challenge in Tallahassee District Court, the case will be considered next by the Florida Supreme Court on March 1.

At least one bill seeking to limit THC levels in medical cannabis products will reach committee consideration, however, setting up a potential contest between the growing cannabis prevention movement, a tax-hungry state budget, and medical cannabis patients.

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.

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