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New York Lawmakers File Marijuana Legalization Bill For 2021 Session

New York Lawmakers File Marijuana Legalization Bill For 2021 Session

New York cannabis legalization could passed in the 2021 session.

New York lawmakers representing nearly a third of the state Senate on Tuesday prefiled a bill to legalize marijuana.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has emphasized the need to enact the reform in 2021, arguing that it could help offset economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic and promote social equity. And now there’s a new potential vehicle for legalization to happen.

Sen. Liz Krueger (D) and 18 cosponsors filed the legislation, which is identical to a bill she sponsored last year and has now been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. It would make it so adults 21 and older would be able to purchase cannabis and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

This is the fifth version of the legalization bill that the senator has introduced since 2013. But advocates are hopeful that, given the evolved marijuana policy landscape in the region and nationally, as well as the governor’s embrace of reform, this year will see the measure advance.

“It is long past time for New York State to catch up with our neighbors and legalize, tax, and regulate adult-use marijuana,” Krueger told Marijuana Moment. “To my mind the most compelling reason for doing so has always been to end the unnecessary and destructive impact of the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ on communities of color.”

“But now, faced with the impacts of the pandemic, the potential for legalization to create new jobs, economic growth, and out-year tax revenue for the state is more important than ever,” she said. “I am cautiously optimistic about the chances of getting this done and done right—in a way that ensures that resources are directed to communities most directly impacted by the failed policies of prohibition.”

An 18 percent tax would be imposed on cannabis sales. After covering the costs of implementation, revenue from those taxes would go toward three areas: 25 percent for the state lottery fund, so long as it’s designated for the Department of Education; 25 percent for a drug treatment and public education fund and 50 percent for a community grants reinvestment fund.

The bill could finally give advocates the legislative win they’ve been working towards.

Cuomo has attempted to enact legalization through the budget for the past two years—and he’s expected to give it another try in 2021, based on recent comments from an aide and the governor—but it hasn’t come to fruition. That’d due in large part to disagreements over certain provisions such as the tax structure and where to allocate the resulting revenues

“I look forward to working with the governor and my legislative colleagues to finally make legalization a reality for New Yorkers,” Krueger said of the renewed effort for 2021.

Lack of standards, dubious business practices threaten to upend cannabis testing industry

Lack of standards, dubious business practices threaten to upend cannabis testing industry

cannabis testing labs are suffering from issues.

A lack of standards is among the factors plaguing the cannabis testing industry, threatening to undermine consumer confidence in marijuana products and making it harder for some testing businesses to operate, according to industry insiders.

But the problems don’t stop there, testing lab officials and regulators contend.

Some marijuana businesses – such as growers, processors and manufacturers – are shopping around for labs that will give them the results they want to see in the way of THC potency and contaminants, according to industry officials.

Other cannabis businesses are said to be sending in samples of their marijuana that have been adulterated with spray-on cannabis oil or dusted with THC crystals to give the impression of a higher THC content, among other practices.

Regulators, meanwhile, are shuttering testing labs for allegedly reporting results that don’t match up with audits.

Earlier this month, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) suspended the license of Praxis Laboratory for allegedly falsifying testing data on more than 1,200 samples of cannabis by providing higher THC numbers than tests actually found.

As it stands now, the Centralia, Washington-based lab is suspended for 180 days effective Dec. 10. While the lab is shuttered, state regulators will seek to permanently revoke its license.

According to an LCB release, “during the investigation the lab owner attempted to destroy evidence of falsified data in an effort to obstruct (the agency’s) ability to conduct a complete investigation.”

Praxis said in a statement to Marijuana Business Daily that the LCB’s decision was “in error and based on inaccurate information.” The lab is appealing the ruling.

In a separate statement to the Washington state cannabis community that was shared on social media, the company said, “This is a clear cut case of agency overreach and libel and we will be pursuing legal action immediately.”

The statement also noted that a disgruntled former employee stole data from the lab, then contacted the regulators.

Regulators elsewhere have shuttered cannabis labs for inaccurate or misleading test results.

In September 2019, the Nevada Tax Commission launched an investigation into marijuana testing labs in the state.

In February 2020, state regulators suspended the license of Certified Ag Labs and fined the business $70,000 for what was described as “inaccurate and misleading” potency in cannabis products that boosted THC levels by as much as 10%.

The lab was allowed to reopen.

A Certified Ag representative told MJBizDaily the company “had some bumps, but our data was plus or minus 10% and we stand behind it.”

Lab shopping

The practice of lab shopping – where cannabis growers or product makers look for a facility that will provide favorable results – has almost put Keystone State Testing out of business, said Dr. Kelly Greenland, CEO of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based marijuana testing lab.

“We have clients who test with us and never come back because their numbers are higher elsewhere,” she said.

In addition to higher potency levels, some cannabis businesses also seek favorable results for contaminants, including microbials and heavy metals.

“There are a few labs out there saying, ‘Tell me what you want it to say, and I’ll put it on the label,’” Greenland said.

Pennsylvania’s regulations are adequate, she said, but they’re not being enforced.

“If you want to make sure this market is safe, you need to have safe regulations and you need to have your enforcement enforce the regulations that you’ve made,” Greenland said.

Testing labs promising quick turnaround times – less than 48 hours, for example – might be cutting corners. Greenland said it’s normal for a lab to take up to 72 hours to return results.

Growers and processors don’t have to try that hard to find good testing labs, according to Greenland.

But she added that often it doesn’t make good business sense to play by the rules, “as messed up as this sounds.”

Montana Recreational Cannabis Officially Legal

Montana Recreational Cannabis Officially Legal

Montana legal cannabis became official on New Years day 2021

Once the clock struck midnight and 2021 began, marijuana became legal for recreational use in the state of Montana – but this new law does not come without some caveats.

“I imagine people… we’ll probably have some amount of people coming to all the stores ready to buy. But you know, we can’t do that,” said Joshua Gosney, the owner of Infinity Wellness.

While marijuana is now legal for recreational use, only two things have immediately taken effect. “Any individual will be allowed to grow a certain number of plants in their house and have a certain amount of product on them at all times,” Gosney said.

So you can grow it and possess it — but a lot goes into growing the cannabis plant.

“In Montana, you’re going to be primarily in an indoor situation, especially in the wintertime, so you’re going to need things like supplemental high-intensity lighting or LEDs, some type of watering apparatus. It’s some work,” explained Ryan Saghatelian, one of the owners of Greener Pastures.

It could be a while, though, before you can legally buy marijuana in Montana.

“Probably not going to be until 2022 when the licensing goes into play, so we’re kind of in a weird area right now where it’s legal to possess, but it’s not legal to purchase, so there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Saghatelian said.

And with new laws comes new responsibilities: “There will be limitations to what people can do. It’ll be up to the Legislature to make sure that they effectively regulate that in order to maximize tax revenue and public safety and public benefit without risking the public’s health,” Gosney said.

Smoking marijuana in public is not allowed, and Montana statute says no one can drive under the influence of any substance, according to Lt. Brandon Wooley with the Billings Police Department. He also noted: “We still will be involved in, let’s say, if you got four or five pounds on you and you’ve got evidence of trafficking and distribution. We’re still going to seize everything and we’re still going to forward through for the County Attorney’s office for prosecution.”

Supporters say legalizing recreational marijuana will generate much-needed tax revenue. A study by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business & Economic Research estimated recreational marijuana could generate more than $43 million a year for the state.

However, some law enforcement, medical, and professional groups oppose the measures. They argue legalized marijuana will add to the state’s growing drug addiction problems, create safety concerns in the workplace, the risk of unintentional exposure to children, and increased marijuana use in adolescents.

Read Full Story from 3KRTV

New Jersey cannabis legalization approved by state legislature

New Jersey cannabis legalization approved by state legislature

New jersey legislature passes legal cannabis

​The measure now heads to Gov. Phil Murphy, who is expected to sign the legislation

Recreational adult-use marijuana is just a signature away from becoming legal in New Jersey after both houses of the state legislature passed legislation on Thursday to decriminalize and legalize the industry.

The measure now heads to the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill creates the organizational and regulatory system needed to oversee the industry in New Jersey. It will direct 70% of all sales tax revenue generated and all “social equity excise fees” on cultivators toward communities that have been most adversely-impacted by drug laws.

The other 30 percent of all sales tax revenue generated will go toward the operations of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, as well as to support state, county and municipal law enforcement.

The five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be tasked with governing the industry in New Jersey. It will include three members appointed by Murphy and one each nominated by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.

The measure will cap the number of statewide cannabis facilities at 37 for the first two years. Towns will be allowed to prohibit marijuana businesses in their communities, and those who choose to allow such businesses to operate will be permitted to collect and keep a 2% tax.

The legislation will provide for certain criminal and civil justice reforms, including the elimination of criminal penalties for marijuana possession. It will also regrade the unlawful distribution and possession of less than five pounds of marijuana or less than one pound of hashish.

Law enforcement officers across the state made over 24,000 arrests, or one every 22 minutes, for cannabis possession in 2012, which was more than in the previous 20 years. Marijuana possession arrests also made up for three out of every five drug arrests that year, according to Assembly Democrats.

Distribution of less than five pounds, but at least one ounce or more, of marijuana or distribution of less than one pound, but at least five grams or more, of hashish is punishable as a crime of the third degree under current law. Offenders can face imprisonment of 3-5 years and/or a fine of up to $25,000.

Smaller distribution amounts of less than one ounce of marijuana or less than five grams of hashish is punishable as a crime of the fourth degree under current law. Offenders can face up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

The bill also includes business incentives for minorities, women and disabled veterans to help them partake in the industry. 

Mexico puts legalization of marijuana on hold

Mexico puts legalization of marijuana on hold

Mexico cannabis legalization gets delayed until 2021

Mexican president says delay is matter of “form, not substance” and expects approval in early 2021

The Chamber of Deputies last week put the brakes on the legalization of marijuana in Mexico. However, that country’s president on Tuesday said he expects approval in early 2021 of legislation decriminalizing possession and consumption of small amounts of marijuana.

“They asked the (Mexican) Supreme Court for an extension because the two chambers could not come to an agreement and they were running out of time to make revisions. But it’s an issue of form, not substance. I believe this will be resolved” in the next session, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in his daily news conference.

The Mexican Senate last month approved a landmark bill decriminalizing the possession of up to 28 grams (1 ounce) of the drug, allowing individuals to grow up to six plants and licensing production and sales. It also created a commission within the Health Department to regulate the cannabis law.

The Chamber of Deputies was under a Dec. 15 Mexican Supreme Court deadline to approve the law, but deputies asked for and got an extension through the end of April. The deputies are expected to pick up the discussion in early February.

​“There is no opposition to what the Senate authorized regarding the medicinal and limited use of marijuana. It’s just a matter of errors, lack of precision about the amounts and other contradictions in the law itself, and that’s what will be resolved,” Lopez Obrador said.

If that happens, Mexico would be the second country in Latin America – after Uruguay – to decriminalize recreational use of small amounts of marijuana.

The premise might seem odd in a nation plagued by drug cartel violence and with rising rates of addiction in northern border cities. But experts say it reflects a change of attitude in Mexican collective thought and won’t necessarily fuel more violence or addictions.

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association launches

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association launches

The Mississippi medical marijuana association launched this week

The Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association (3MA) is now accepting membership applications from business owners in the medical marijuana industry.

“We are so excited to officially launch this association,” said Ken Newburger, Executive Director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association. “We already have over 50 members, and our goal is to make sure we give these businesses access to tools and information to give Mississippi a top-tier medical marijuana program. Our team worked so hard alongside Mississippi voters to pass Initiative 65 at the polls, and now we want to do all we can to assure the program operates in the best way possible for patients in Mississippi.”

The primary focus of the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association is to monitor legislative and regulatory activity, to advocate for its members, and to be a single and coherent political voice representing the interests of the industry. Membership provides access to educational and informational resources, networking opportunities, and governmental affairs representation.

The association is holding its first event for members, the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Convention, on February 19, 2021.

“We worked tirelessly for two years educating voters to help get Initiative 65 passed,” said Newburger, “and now our team is moving forward to make sure patients who qualify to be treated with medical marijuana can get it in the safest and most secure way possible through prepared, reliable businesses. We have assembled a team of experienced professionals in the legal and communication industries, who also worked closely with the Initiative 65 campaign, to help assure that medical marijuana businesses in Mississippi are set up for success right from the beginning.”

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