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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.”

Illinois cannabis tax revenue nearly surpasses alcohol

Illinois cannabis tax revenue nearly surpasses alcohol

Illinois cannabis taxes

The nearly $23 million in revenue was just a few million less than what the sale of alcohol brought in last month.

Amid skyrocketing demand for legal weed in Illinois, statewide tax receipts from recreational pot sales are now rivaling those from booze.

November’s tax revenues from adult-use cannabis, which reflect the record $75.28 million in sales tallied in October, reached nearly $22.88 million, according to figures released by the Illinois Department of Revenue.

That’s less than $3 million shy of the roughly $25.74 million in taxes collected through alcohol sales last month. That’s the smallest deficit since recreational marijuana was legalized in January.

Pot sales have skyrocketed in the 11 months since the drug was fully legalized, resulting in an almost steady increase in monthly returns for the state, according to a Sun-Times analysis. Taxes have pumped nearly $153 million into the state’s cash-strapped coffers, including nearly $100 million in the past five months.

Why have weed sales — and taxes — increased so much?

First of all, state levies on cannabis are far higher than those tacked on the price of booze (not including local or federal taxes).

On pot sales, the state charges a 6.25% sales tax and an excise tax of up to 25%, depending on the amount of mind-altering THC in what’s being sold.

While there’s no apples-to-apples comparison, alcohol is also subject to the general sales tax of 6.25% and an excise tax of 23 cents per gallon of beer, $1.49 per gallon of wine and $8.55 per gallon of liquor.

That means the state’s share of the price of a joint is much more than its share of the cost of a six-pack of beer. A $15 six-pack, for example, would net 69 cents for the state, while two high-potency joints priced at $16 would generate $5 for the state.

What’s more, pot sales have steadily increased since the program launched Jan. 1 — which was to be expected. But COVID-19 has also played a role, experts said.

The pandemic has “had a big impact on sales numbers,” said Alyssa Jank, an analyst at the Brightfield Group, a Loop-based firm that researches the cannabis industry.

“People have been at home more. People are looking for things to do [and] people don’t have to worry about being functional or capable to go and do stuff. So I think that’s part of it,” said Jank. “I think another part of it is that people have been way more stressed out and anxious this year, so they’re looking for something as a solve for that.”

Meanwhile, tax revenues from alcohol sales have fluctuated and returned to pre-pandemic levels. Though some research suggests consumers are spending less overall because they aren’t paying for the markup at restaurants and bars, total alcohol sales still trump the state’s pot sales totals.

Arizona Recreational Cannabis Marijuana Regulations Draft Released

Arizona Recreational Cannabis Marijuana Regulations Draft Released

Arizona recreational cannabis regulation drafts have been released

One month after Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for adult use, regulators have already put forward draft regulations to implement the program.

They’re working on a tight schedule to develop rules for the recreational cannabis market, as the measure stipulates that license applications must be accepted starting January 19. But industry stakeholders are optimistic that they will be able to accomplish that given experience in the existing medical marijuana program.

The new draft regulations cover licensing fees, the timeline for license approvals, the structure of the regulatory body, product labeling, public safety protocols and other technical matters. This is the first of what’s expected to be at least one if not more versions of draft regulations that the Arizona Department of Health Services will put out before finalizing rules.

Arizona’s secretary of state officially certified the Election Day results on November 30, which initiated the process of putting these regulations together. Now that they’ve been released in their initial form, stakeholders can use an online survey to submit feedback that regulators can use to amend the proposal. Responses are being accepted through December 17.

Samuel Richard, executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association, told Marijuana Moment that medical cannabis operators have an “open and collaborative” relationship with regulators and they expect that the department will be receptive to their input.

“Just a week and a half after Governor Ducey officially certified the will of Arizona voters, the Department is already hard at work to ensure the smoothest transition possible to adult-use in Arizona,” he said.

But again, this is a preliminary step and the provisions outlined in the draft rules are likely to be amended. Richard said he anticipates the department will put out at least one more proposal based on feedback they get and that the rules won’t be finalized until early January.

“They just want to give operators a sense of what the program will look like” before applications go live, he said.

Under the new legalization law, adults will be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a time and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

The Future of Legal Cannabis in Florida

The Future of Legal Cannabis in Florida

legal cannabis in Florida

The passing of the MORE Act in the House has gotten Floridians talking about their future.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday voted to decriminalize marijuana. Most Democrats supported the bill that would enact that change. Most Republicans did not. The bill is unlikely to gain traction in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Was Congress’ historic vote an early sign of momentum to legalize marijuana across the United States? Or is was it a low-stakes move on a splashy issue that’s unlikely to go anywhere?

Florida is home to plenty who are interested in the answer.

“We talk all the time on the right about the need to empower people and empower states,” U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said in an impassioned speech on the House floor in support of the bill, the MORE Act. “Right now, the federal policy on cannabis constrains our people. It limits our states.”

Gaetz, who helped author Florida’s very first medical marijuana program as a state representative in 2014, was one of just five Republicans to support the bill. Another Florida Republican, Brian Mast, R-Palm City, also voted for the measure. Mast’s office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

In addition to essentially legalizing marijuana at the federal level, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act establishes a federal tax on cannabis products. That tax money would be set aside in a trust fund for people and businesses that have been affected by the federal war on drugs. A 2020 study by the American Civil Liberties Union showed that Black Americans are nearly four times more likely than white Americans to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite using the drug at a similar rate.

The MORE Act, if signed into law, would also start a formal process for expunging federal marijuana convictions. People serving federal sentences for cannabis-related crimes would get review hearings.

It’s unclear how many Floridians are in federal prison for marijuana-related crimes. But FBI data showed that in 2018, 40 percent of all state and local drug arrests were for marijuana-related offenses. More than 90 percent of those arrests were for possession, according to the Pew Research Center.

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