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New Massachusetts bill would legalize cannabis lounges

New Massachusetts bill would legalize cannabis lounges

Cannabis lounges could be legal as soon as 2022 in Massachusetts

Buying legal marijuana has become a convenient reality in Massachusetts but finding someplace to legally smoke it is a different story.

A bill aims to address that predicament by authorizing licensed cannabis lounges.

State Sen. Julian Cyr, who represents the Cape and Islands, proposed the bill that he believes is a practical concept.

Cyr told Boston 25 News the current situation is comparable to the state allowing liquor stores but banning bars. He said it makes sense for the state to come up with a solution that would give marijuana users designated places to legally smoke or consume cannabis.

“If we don’t address it, it’s going to become a really big headache for law enforcement and for business owners in places like Provincetown or near Fenway,” Cyr said.

Cyr said the concept particularly applies in areas that attract a lot of visitors. His district includes Provincetown. The tourist destination on the tip of Massachusetts is home to three dispensaries, and more are set to open there soon.

“I think of folks getting off the ferry, going to a dispensary and then really being faced with a conundrum that they’re not able to use the substance anyplace legally,” Cyr explained. “So, you got a problem of people ducking into alleyways, going to the beach, really creating a nuisance.”

If the bill passes, it would start as a pilot program. Licensed cannabis lounges would only be authorized in a maximum of six communities. The state would potentially consider expanding it further based on feedback from local leaders, residents and businesses.

“In those communities, I think it benefits everyone to have a place where people can gather and consume cannabis,” said Mike Ross, former Boston city councilor and attorney. “I think people have to start thinking of it and get ahead of it.”

Communities in several other states, including Colorado and California, have already moved forward with permitting social consumption venues.

It’s unclear how long it will take for the bill proposed by Cyr to move through the Massachusetts legislature. He predicts the earliest it will see traction is in the second year of the legislative session in 2022.

Areas With More Marijuana Dispensaries Have Fewer Opioid Deaths

Areas With More Marijuana Dispensaries Have Fewer Opioid Deaths

States with legal cannabis have seen decreases in opioid related deaths

Increasing access to marijuana dispensaries is associated with a significant reduction in opioid-related deaths, according to a new study.

“Higher medical and recreational storefront dispensary counts are associated with reduced opioid related death rates, particularly deaths associated with synthetic opioids such as fentanyl,” the paper, published on Wednesday in the British Medical Association journal’s BMJ, concluded.

It’s a finding that “holds for both medical and recreational dispensaries,” the study says.

Researchers looked at opioid mortality and cannabis dispensary prevalence in 23 U.S.states from 2014 to 2018 and found that, overall, counties where the number of legal marijuana shops increased from one to two experienced a 17 percent reduction in opioid-related fatalities.

Increasing the dispensary count from two to three was linked to an additional 8.5 percent decrease in opioid deaths.

Further, the study found that this trend “appeared particularly strong for deaths associated with synthetic opioids other than methadone, with an estimated 21 percent reduction in mortality rates associated with an increase from one to two dispensaries.”

“If consumers use cannabis and opioids for pain management, increasing the supply of legal cannabis might have implications for fentanyl demand and opioid related mortality rates overall.”

“While the associations documented cannot be assumed to be causal, they suggest a potential association between increased prevalence of medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries and reduced opioid related mortality rates,” the researchers wrote. “This study highlights the importance of considering the complex supply side of related drug markets and how this shapes opioid use and misuse.”

This is far from the first piece of research to draw a connection between legal cannabis access and reduced harms from opioids. Multiple studies have found that marijuana effectively treats conditions like chronic pain for which opioids are regularly prescribed, and surveys show that many patients have substituted addictive painkillers with cannabis.

“Cannabis is generally thought to be a less addictive substance than opioids,” the new study says. “Cannabis can potentially be used medically for pain management and has considerable public support.”

“Our findings suggest that increasing availability of legal cannabis (modeled through the presence of medical and recreational dispensary operations) is associated with a decrease in deaths associated with the T40.4 class of opioids, which include the highly potent synthetic opioid fentanyl,” it continues. “This finding is especially important because fentanyl related deaths have become the most common opioid related cause of death.”

Earlier this month, a separate study determined that medical cannabis use is associated with significant reductions in dependence on opioids and other prescription drugs, as well as an increase in quality of life.

Read the full story from Marijuana Moment

New Mexico legalization bill moves into the Senate

New Mexico legalization bill moves into the Senate

Will New Mexico legalization happen in 2021?

“It being exactly 4:20 (p.m.), we go to House Bill 12,” Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, quipped Friday, Feb. 26, to begin the debate over legalization of marijuana.

Hours later, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed marijuana legalization for the second consecutive time in a 60-day session. HB 12 passed on a 39-31 vote Friday, a wider margin than the two-vote victory in 2019.

It now moves to the Senate, which will have more than three weeks left in the session to consider the bill. The 2019 bill reached the Senate Finance Committee with two days left in the session, but never made it to a vote of the full Senate.

New Mexico legalization bill

HB 12 would legalize the sale and possession of marijuana to those age 21 and older. It is estimated that by the third year, sales would produce more than $44 million in state revenue and nearly $24 million in local revenue.

A new state agency called the Cannabis Control Division would be created to regulate the new industry. It would also take over management of the existing medical marijuana program and establish cannabis education and training programs that are required under the bill.

The law would allow consumers to purchase up to two ounces of cannabis plant and up to 16 grams of extract each day. They would also be allowed to grow their own plants. There would be a limit on how many mature plants a private person could have, but no limit on commercial growers.

Local governments would be able to regulate conditions, such as hours of operation or store location, but would not be allowed to pass a local ban. There would be an 8 percent excise tax that would go to the state, and local governments would have the option of an additional tax up to 4 percent.

There is also a provision in the bill for expungement of past criminal convictions for offenses that would be legal under the new law. But there would be new penalties for those selling to or employing anybody under the age of 21.

Revitalizing local economies

In the fiscal impact report on the bill, the state Economic Development Department estimates that nearly 1,600 new jobs would be created if the bill becomes law. But it also notes that many of the provisions of the bill are in direct violation of existing federal law.

“We are embarking on the creation of a brand new multi-million-dollar industry,” sponsor Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said. He described marijuana legalization as a snowball rolling downhill, with 14 states now included and more joining every year.

But Martinez said his motivation was not the money that could potentially be made in both tax revenue and tourism, but rather stopping the harm that has been done to minority communities by the enforcement of marijuana laws, both in the Albuquerque neighborhood where he grew up and along the southern border.

“When you get to the core of why I’m doing this, it’s because I have seen the faces of the people who have most been impacted by this fake and terrible and un-winnable war on drugs,” he said.

Martinez said HB 12 would protect the existing medical marijuana program, ensure equity and diversity in the new industry and set tax and licensing rates that would generate new revenue but still allow local entrepreneurs to participate.

Virginia Becomes 16th State to Legalize Cannabis

Virginia Becomes 16th State to Legalize Cannabis

Virginia legalized cannabis marijuana joining 15 other states in the United States

The Virginia Legislature approved adult-use marijuana legalization Saturday in a historic vote marking the first state in the Old South to embrace full legalization.

The House passed the measure in a 48-43 vote, and the Senate approved it in a 20-19 vote. Not a single Republican voted for the bill in either chamber.

 

“This, to me, is a justice bill,” Del. Charniele Herring, a sponsor of the legalization bill and the Democratic majority leader said on the floor. “While it has its flaws and it’s not the perfect bill…I think this moves us a step in the right direction.

The vote came after a conference committee struck a deal on Saturday to reconcile different versions of the bill that passed in both chambers earlier this month.

The impact: Virginia is the 16th U.S. state to pass an adult-use marijuana legalization law, though sales would not start until 2024. Only two other states — Illinois and Vermont — have passed legislation to legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana through the legislature.

The move puts pressure on neighboring states such as Maryland, where an adult-use legalization bill got its first hearing this month. New Jersey also recently enacted legalization, after voters overwhelmingly backed a referendum in November.

What’s next: Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has championed legalization as a racial justice issue.

Under the compromise legislation, marijuana possession would not become legal until January 2024, when regulated sales are scheduled to start. The state would start setting up a marijuana regulatory agency this July.

The

North Dakota House passes joint bills to legalize and tax marijuana

North Dakota House passes joint bills to legalize and tax marijuana

North Dakota house has passed a bill to legalize and tax cannabis
​North Dakota’s House of Representatives has given the green light to recreational marijuana.

The Republican-controlled House on Tuesday passed House Bill 1420 to legalize and restrict recreational marijuana on a 56-38 vote.

Representatives also passed House Bill 1501 to implement a related tax policy on a 73-21 vote. The joint bills now go to the Senate.

Reps. Jason Dockter, R-Bismarck, and Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, who said they are personally opposed to recreational marijuana, respectively brought the bills to head off citizen-initiated efforts to legalize marijuana through the constitution, after South Dakota voters did just that last year.

North Dakota voters defeated a measure to legalize marijuana in 2018. Two measure efforts in 2020 fell short of signatures for ballot placement. But backers already are gearing up for a 2022 measure to plant marijuana legalization in the state constitution.

Dockter’s bill to legalize and restrict recreational marijuana mirrors much of the state’s medical marijuana program, which the 2017 Legislature implemented after voters approved it in 2016.The bill would restrict recreational marijuana to people 21 and older, limit possession to 1 ounce, limit and track purchase amounts, limit use to private property and ban home growing.

“You can’t be walking down the street smoking a joint,” said Rep. Robin Weisz, R-Hurdsfield, who chairs the House Human Services Committee, which handled the bill.The bill also would limit the number of growers to seven and dispensaries to 18, all registered with the state.Opponents said marijuana isn’t safe, would set a poor example for children and would result in negative, long-term effects on behavior.

“To me, to surrender is not to win. It’s to give in to the wishes of the other party or the other people that you’re disagreeing with,” said Rep. Chuck Damschen, R-Hampden.Rep. Bill Tveit, R-Hazen, said “Our youth only mirror what they see in the adults around them,” citing North Dakota binge-drinking statistics for adults and teenagers.Supporters said the bill is a proactive approach to legalizing marijuana before a measure group might succeed.

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.”

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