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Oklahoma cannabis legalization may be on November ballot

Oklahoma cannabis legalization may be on November ballot

Oklahoma cannabis legalization petition getting signatures

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has approved plans for Oklahoma cannabis legalization to move forward in the state. The plan’s organizers can now begin collecting signatures.

There are currently two separate proposals for Oklahoma cannabis legalization, and both would need to gather enough signatures to end up on the ballot this November.

The approved plans, State Question 819 and State Question 818, would make an amendment to the state’s Constitution to protect the right of residents age 21 and older to use cannabis.

SQ 818, known as the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Enforcement and Anti-Corruption Act, would expand the state’s medical cannabis program. It would establish a new state agency known as the Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission (OSCC).

This agency would replace the current Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) and oversee the entire cannabis industry including hemp.

This bill replaces the excise tax on medical cannabis with a 7% retail tax. Revenue would be used to support cannabis research, rural impact and urban waste remediation, agriculture development, mental health response programs, substance misuse treatment and more.

SQ 819, otherwise known as the Oklahoma Marijuana Regulation and Right to Use Act, would legalize possession of up to eight ounces of cannabis for anyone over the age of 21.

Adults could purchase cannabis from a retail store, or grow up to 12 plants for personal use. Any home grower is legally allowed to possess however much they harvest from their 12 plants.

Recreational cannabis sales would be taxed at 15%. A number of state initiatives would receive a portion of the tax funds collected from Oklahoma cannabis legalization. These include water-related infrastructure, disability assistance, substance misuse treatment, law enforcement training, cannabis research and more.

Lastly, SQ 819 would open up pathways for resentencing and expungements for those with prior and current cannabis convictions.

If passed, Oklahoma would become the 19th state in the US to legalize cannabis recreationally. In order to make it onto the ballot, supporters are going to need to gather about 178,000 signatures in the next 90 days.

Despite being on of the reddest states in the country, Oklahoma cannabis legalization isn’t a very far fetched idea for the state. In fact, nearly 10% of Oklahoma’s 4 million residents have qualified a medical cannabis card, the highest in the country.

“Whether we’ll get on the November ballot this year remains to be seen,” said Jed Green, a longtime Oklahoma cannabis activist behind the plans. “We’re going to push, push and push to get it done, and hopefully we do, but … we’ll get our signatures.”

A separate adult-use proposal, State Question 820, already has been cleared by the high court and because it would only amend state statute, requires only about 95,000 signatures. Supporters of that plan can begin gathering signatures on May 3.

New Jersey recreational cannabis sales finally begin

New Jersey recreational cannabis sales finally begin

New jersey recreational cannabis sales have started

Thursday April 21, 2022 marks the first day that recreational cannabis can be sold to consumers in New Jersey. Doors opened at the first dispensaries at 6 AM, with lines wrapping around the block.

“It’s a huge event. It’s a moment in time in American history where prohibition 2.0 is lifted,” said Ben Kovler, the chairman and CEO of Green Thumb Industries, which has two facilities opening Thursday, one in Bloomfield and another in Paterson.

However the industry isn’t fully taking off just yet. Just over a dozen “alternative care providers” in the state that were already providing medical cannabis to patients were given permission to sell adult-use cannabis on opening day.

It is still unclear when the hundreds of other cannabis business applicants will get their licenses and be allowed to open their doors, but it will likely start with social equity applicants first.

State regulators say dispensaries in New Jersey are allowed to sell up to the equivalent of 1 ounce of cannabis, which means an ounce of dried flower, or 5 grams of concentrate or 1,000 milligrams of edibles, like gummies. However perishable edibles like cookies and brownies will not be available.

Recreational cannabis sales will still apply the state 6.625% sales tax, with 70% of the proceeds going to areas disproportionately affected by marijuana-related arrests.

New Jersey is the first among several neighboring states to launch recreational cannabis sales. New York legalized cannabis in 2020 but has yet to implement a recreational market. Pennsylvania has a successful medical cannabis industry, with advocates and even legislators pushing for full legalization this year. Connecticut also legalized cannabis but has yet to implement any marketplace for consumers.

Virginia recreational cannabis could be going up in smoke

Virginia recreational cannabis could be going up in smoke

Virginia recreational cannabis dispensaries

When Glen Youngkin was elected Governor of Virginia after a heated race in 2021, many cannabis advocates began to question the future of Virginia recreational cannabis. Despite legalizing cannabis for recreational use earlier in the year, the state has yet to get the industry rolling in any real way.

It isn’t uncommon for a state to take more than a year or two to establish their regulatory framework and begin adult-use sales. However in Virginia’s case, cannabis was legalized by a Democrat governor, who was soon replaced by a Republican.

Youngkin holds a different view on cannabis compared to his predecessor, and now those views have begun impacting the future prospects of a recreational cannabis industry in Virginia.

On April 7, 2021, Virginia became the first state in the South to begin the process of legalizing adult-use cannabis. HB2312 (Herring) and SB1406 (Ebbin; Lucas), introduced by Governor Northam and passed by the 2021 General Assembly, lay out a three year process to legalize cannabis and create a regulatory framework for the sale of the product.

However while a recent General Assembly session saw lawmakers increase accessibility for medical cannabis patients, it failed to expedite Virginia recreational cannabis sales, and added new penalties for cannabis possession. So what happened?

The original bill as previously mentioned included a three-year timeline to implement regulations and framework for a recreational cannabis industry. The latest General Assembly session was voting on whether to shorten this timeframe, which would have expedited retail cannabis sales to this September.

However with the latest amendments to the original bills, it is unlikely that a Virginia recreational cannabis industry will be open by the original 2024 deadline.

Lobbyists influenced Virginia legislators into believing that it is safer for several large corporations to produce the products rather than having hundreds of small batch operations, according to Happy Trees co-founder Josiah Ickes. Happy Trees is a garden store supplying cannabis growers in the state.

“We have all these small breweries in Richmond,” Ickes said. “It would be kinda like if we said: ‘Oh, well look at all these small breweries, they need to go away because we don’t know if they’re creating safe beer.’”

Virginians will still be able to possess up to two ounces of cannabis flower for personal use without penalty. For comparison, in Colorado where cannabis has been legal since 2012, consumers are only allowed one ounce in their possession at a time.

Those who aren’t waiting for a legal cannabis industry to open up also have the option to grow their own cannabis. With the current framework and delay of a recreational industry, it is likely that a gift/donation industry will begin to develop in Virginia.

Coincidentally Virginia borders Washington, D.C., where cannabis is also legal but has no established industry. DC now has a thriving gift/donation industry where consumers will donate a certain amount in exchange for a gift (in the form of cannabis), creating a loophole where technically there isn’t a “sale” of cannabis happening.

There have been plenty of efforts to shut down this grey area industry, but efforts thus far have failed. With a successful market right next door, Virginians are likely to replicate these practices so people can still buy and sell their cannabis without technically breaking the law.

One of the positives to come out of the latest General Assembly meeting was regarding medical cannabis patients and their access to the products they need. Governor Youngkin recently signed new legislation which eliminated the requirement to register with the state Board of Pharmacy before being approved to purchase medical cannabis products.

Would be Virginia medical cannabis patients already have to get a referral from a medical provider in order to get access to cannabis. The latest amendment would appear to be simply removing an unnecessary step for patients.

When lawmakers originally approved the sale of low-concentration THC oil for medical patients in 2019, the Board of Pharmacy issued just 1,377 medical cannabis cards. That number grew to 7,135 in 2020, and ballooned to over 33,000 in 2021. The Board has issued over 10,000 cards from January to April 2022 already.

Brandy, a resident of Richmond, VA began smoking cannabis at age 15. Now 37, she grows plants in her home. Citizens can grow up to four plants legally per household.

Brandy has a state-approved prescription for cannabis to treat anxiety and bipolar disorder, but said she prefers growing cannabis as opposed to going to a dispensary, because it’s cheaper. Health insurance does not cover medical cannabis.

“In Virginia, it really sucks,” Brandy said. “You go in and they have the little half gram carts, and it’s $65.”

With a retail market still not established, Brandy said she prefers growing her own supply versus buying illegally from a dealer.

“This way I know exactly what goes in it,” Brandy said. “It’s all organic product, there isn’t chemicals in it.”

Currently there are only four state-licensed medical cannabis companies that can provide cannabis to patients in five health districts across Virginia. There are still several health districts that don’t have a single dispensary, making patients have to travel long distances to get their medicine.

Limited access, expensive pricing and the lack of a legal industry has put Virginia on a path that is leaving many unsure of the future of Virginia recreational cannabis. One can safely assume that there won’t a regulated, adult-use cannabis industry in the state until at least 2024.

However one can also expect to start seeing some semblance of an underground, grey market cannabis industry develop as consumers find ways to sell and purchase recreational cannabis without breaking the specific rules of the law.

First New York cannabis dispensaries to open on tribal land

First New York cannabis dispensaries to open on tribal land

New York cannabis dispensaries

The New York legal cannabis industry may be delayed by politicians and bureaucracy, but that isn’t stopping Native tribes from rolling out their own markets.

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe based in Akwesasne will be the first to launch a regulated cannabis market in New York state. Beginning April 15, several Tribal businesses will open their doors to sell cannabis flower, edibles and other cannabis products to consumers.

The Tribe is able to do so thanks to their Adult Use Cannabis Ordinance. The ordinance states that adults 21 years old or older can transport, possess, and use up to three ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis.

Once New York legalized cannabis officially in 2020, the option to legalize the plant on tribal lands became more enticing. Not beholden to state laws and regulations regarding the plant, the Tribe was free to establish their own regulatory framework to permit sales and possession.

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is also the first in the country to regulate and license tribal member-owned businesses for cannabis.

According to the Tribe, licensing fees collected from legal cannabis operations will be used to keep community members employed and fund a wide range of community services. Additionally the funds will help support educational scholarships, public safety, road maintenance, elder assistance, health care, and community organizations.

Tribal Chief Michael Conners said he believes the system will benefit the community while providing a safe product for consumers.

“We are confident that the hard work of the tribally licensed cannabis business owners will result in loyal customers from beyond Akwesasne,” Conners said. “We know that it took a while, but we are confident that our system is designed to provide quality product, in a regulated system, with Compliance oversight and a qualified Board of Managers to see that all regulations are followed for the safety of our community and consumers.”

Montana recreational cannabis sales top $43 million in first quarter of 2022

Montana recreational cannabis sales top $43 million in first quarter of 2022

Montana recreational cannabis dispensary sales

In its first three months of operation, Montana recreational cannabis sales have surpassed $43 million, resulting in nearly $9 million in tax revenue for the state.

According to the state’s Department of Revenue, Montana recreational cannabis produced $43,537,110 in sales, compared to medical cannabis which generated $29,373,731 in sales during the same period.

Voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize Montana recreational cannabis in 2020, the same year three other states — Arizona, South Dakota and New Jersey — passed similar measures. However state officials wouldn’t approve regulations for a legal cannabis marketplace until October 2021.

This late action created a short deadline for the state’s Department of Revenue Cannabis Control Division to build out the framework for legal sales in Montana.

“The deadlines are aggressive,” Kristan Barbour, administrator of the Department of Revenue’s Cannabis Control Division, said at the time. “Really, the rules are our biggest challenge.”

“Our focus was really to be business-friendly and to try to work with the industry in a fashion that makes the rules adaptable to their current business structure and that they’ll be able to evolve into without a whole lot of pain,” Barbour added.

However despite the delays and tight deadlines, the Montana recreational cannabis market opened right on time, New Years Day 2022. On January 1 an estimated 380 dispensaries opened their doors in 29 counties across the state.

The state brought in an estimated $1.5 millions in adult-use sales in the opening weekend, a number that would snowball over the next couple months. While money isn’t the only reason a state like Montana would legalize cannabis, it is at the top of the list.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, states have generated over $11 billion in tax revenue through legal cannabis. On average, a state with adult-use cannabis sales generated more than $3.7 billion in total revenue in 2021.

However another growing reason for multiple states legalizing cannabis is the failing War on Drugs. In 2018, 40% (yes, 40%) of all drug arrests in the US were for cannabis, typically possession. Think about the resources and dollars that go into arresting, processing, and housing all of these mostly non-violent offenders.

In March the Montana Supreme Court issued temporary rules for procedures that would allow those with past cannabis-related convictions to have them expunged. The state’s new cannabis law says “anyone convicted of an offense that would now be legal in the state can petition to have their conviction removed from their record, get a lesser sentence for it or reclassify it to a lesser offense,” according to local television station KPAX.

Just for comparison, Oklahoma, an equally red state with just a medical cannabis program that launched in 2019 brought in nearly $500 million in its first year of sales. Then the state nearly doubled that number in 2020.

Comparatively Montana recreational cannabis sales seem pretty miniscule. However it has only been three months. Should the trend continue, the state could easily see over $200 million in sales its first year.

Why you should stop calling it “marijuana”

Why you should stop calling it “marijuana”

history of the word marijuana

The majority of Americans now approve of cannabis legalization on the federal level. Yet the majority of the country still refers to the plant by much different name: marijuana.

If you walked up to someone in their mid-forties and asked them their opinion on cannabis, there’s a chance they wouldn’t know what you were talking about. However if you asked them if they supported the legalization of marijuana, there’s a higher likelihood of them supporting it than not.

So where is the confusion?

When we have been referring to cannabis as “marijuana” for nearly a century, it isn’t as easy to telling people that the name has changed. But the reality is that cannabis was always, well, cannabis.

Origins of cannabis

Cannabis has been a known and used plant for medicine and recreation for centuries. With use dating back to 8,000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, those studying medicine throughout the generations have had plenty of time to learn about the origins of the cannabis plant.

Through these studies, this is where the plant’s name originates. Actually, it has several names for the various types of cannabis that can be found across the globe.

Cannabis Ruderalis (northern/central Asia), Cannabis Sativa (Eastern Europe/Central Asia), and Cannabis Indica (China, Korea, Southeast Asia, Himalayas, Middle East) are the most studied and well known biotypes of cannabis. These are the scientific names for the plant. Notice that none of them have the word “marijuana” or anything close to it in their title.

So if cannabis had held that name for centuries of scientific study, what changed?

The answer to this question is why you should stop using the word “marijuana” when talking about cannabis.

Origins of “marijuana”

The origins of the word “marijuana” or “marihuana” are debated among the cannabis community. But one thing is inarguable; the word is racist.

Cannabis,  AKA hemp, was a major cash crop in the United States for decades, with the government even requiring its production by farmers during the Revolutionary War. Now, why cannabis became illegal in the first place is highly debated.

Many argue that cannabis became illegal because major paper manufacturers and big cotton producers partnered together to phase out hemp as a material for paper. However there is very little historical information to back this up. The more recognized and historically traced reason for the criminalization of cannabis goes back to the introduction of Mexican immigrants to the United States.

Prior to their arrival, recreational use of cannabis was not widely accepted. The plant’s main uses were medicinal and manufacturing. Hash and concentrated forms of cannabis were commonly used by doctors to treat a variety of ailments. The fibers of the hemp plant were great not only for creating boat sails which were vital to the war effort, but hemp was also a vital material in clothing and paper for decades.

However it was when Mexican immigrants arrived and brought their preferred method of cannabis consumption with them that the plant would begin to gain notoriety. Opposed to consuming it in a medicinal form such as a tincture which was common in the country at the time, the immigrants would roll up loose cannabis flower into cigarettes or pack it into pipes and smoke it.

Just like today, immigration of Mexicans to the United States stirred up xenophobia. In the 1930s a man named Henry Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotic (now the DEA), made a distinct effort to link cannabis use to Mexican immigrants to stir up fear in the community and build support for prohibition.

Keep in mind this is the 1930s, and alcohol prohibition had already been in effect for almost a decade. So the idea of banning a substance through provoking fear in the public was by no means a new concept.

Anslinger would coin the term “marihuana” to replace cannabis. He chose the word because of its foreign sounding nature that could be attached to Mexican immigrants. But Mexicans weren’t the only victims of Anslinger’s racist campaign against cannabis.

Henry Anslinger held such views on cannabis as, “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men,” and, “Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing.​” One of his most famous quotes is as revealing as we need it to be to recognize the racist intentions of the word “marijuana”:

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.​​”

Need I say more?

In the end as we all know, Anslinger’s plan would be a success. In 1937 the United States passed the Marihuana Tax Act which would be the basis for criminalizing the plant nationwide in the years to come.

After the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 went into effect, the Bureau of Narcotics arrested Moses Baca for marijuana possession. Baca was a Mexican-American and was the first victim of the federal government’s war against drugs.

It’s time to move on

To make a long story short, the only reason the word “marijuana” even exists in the first place is because of racism. And that same racism has fueled the drug war that has plagued the United States for decades, with that word being at the forefront of the campaign.

Does this make everybody who calls cannabis marijuana a racist? Of course not. Don’t attribute malice to that which can be explained by ignorance.

It’s not like the history and prohibition of cannabis is taught the same way prohibition of alcohol is in high school. Politicians don’t want to talk about the dark, tattered history of the plant and why it became illegal in the first place. Anybody who wanted to know the history of cannabis had to seek it out themselves, and in most cases still do!

Let’s not forget that cannabis is still illegal on the federal level, all because of the racist campaign Henry Anslinger started in the early 20th century. Well, we’re in the 21st century now, and it is time to move on from the outdated, racist terms used to describe a plant that thousands use as medicine and recreation.

It isn’t snobby to call cannabis by its proper name to combat the decades of racism its former helped promote. It isn’t elitist or trying to be cool to use the proper terms for a plant that the majority of us want to be legal.

How can we expect legalization of cannabis when we can’t agree on what to call it?