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Five States to Vote on Recreational Marijuana this November

The November elections are rapidly approaching, and marijuana industry entrepreneurs are watching closely the results of initiatives in five separate states that would pave the way for recreational marijuana dispensaries and more widespread cannabis cultivation. Voters in Arizona, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusettes will decide whether or not marijuana possession, cultivation, and retail recreational marijuana dispensaries will become legal just as they are in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Washington D.C. Here is an overview of the different recreational marijuana legalization intitiatives for 2016 that will be decided on this November.

Arizona: Despite many challenges and obstacles along the way, Proposition 205 which would legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona has made its way onto the November ballot. A lawsuit that sought to block the measure from placement on the ballot was dismissed by the Superior Court of Maricopa County, and the Arizona Supreme Court upheld this decision after the challengers appealed. If voters approve the proposition, Arizona residents who are of adult age would be allowed to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana, consume marijuana privately, and grow up to six marijuana plants. The proposition would also pave the way for retail recreational marijuana sales, imposing a 15% tax on cannabis sold at adult use marijuana dispensaries. The vote on the proposition is likely to be a close one. While a July poll showed only 39% of Arizona voters in support of marijuana legalization, the campaign in favor of Proposition 205 has raised a lot more money than the oppossition groups. The campaign for voting “yes” on Proposition 205 has amassed over three million dollars in donations, while the opposing campaign has raised less than one million. If Proposition 205 passes, revenues from taxes placed on retail marijuana sales will be utilized in part for education and public healthcare initiatives.

California: This November, California voters will decide on Proposition 64, titled the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The proposition would allow for recreational marijuana sales and establish the right of citizens age 21 and over to grow up to six plants and posess up to an ounce of marijuana. A15% retail tax on recreational cannabis would be established, and a system for expunging the records of past non-violent marijuana convictions would be put into place. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, way back in 1996. If aproved, the taxes imposed on marijuana cultivation and sales could bring in over a billion dollars each year to California's strained budget, and could save the state millions by forgoing the expense of keeping non-violent marijuana offenders in prison. With millions more in fundraising donations raised by supporters and an August poll showing over 61% of California voters in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, Proposition 64 is very likely to pass.

Maine: It was a rocky road, but Question 1 which would legalize recreational marijuana sales, possession, and cultivation within the state of Maine will be put into the hands of voters this November. When supporters of the measure first submitted the signatures required to place Question 1 on the ballot, over half of the signatures were invalidated which left the group falling short of requirements. They challenged the decision and the ruling was overturned. When the signatures were reexamined in April, it was found that there were enough valid signatures to get Question 1 on the November ballot. If Question 1 passes, Maine residents age 21 and older will be able to purchase or possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana and grow up to 6 flowering marijuana plants at a time. It would also impose a 10% sales tax on recreational marijuana sales. With a March poll indicating only a little over 53% of voters in Maine in favor of legalization, the fate of Question 1 is unclear, but it's likely to be a close call whichever way voters decide.

Massachusetts: Voters in Massachusetts will decide on Question 4, which would legalize the possession of an ounce of marijuana, allow for the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants, and establish a sales tax for recreational marijuana sales. Although Massachusetts approved medical marijuana in 2012, the first medical marijuana dispensary in the state didn't open its doors until June of this year. That doesn't give voters much time to see the marijuana industry in action and gauge its potentials, so it may be tough for some people to make a decision on Question 4. While an April poll conducted by Western New England University found 57% of Massachusetts voters in favor of recreational marijuana legalization, a poll conducted in July by Gravis Marketing showed only 41% of Massachusetts voters in support of making recreational cannabis legal. If campaign finance is any indication of who the winning team is, Question 4 has a really good shot of passing. Supporters have raised nearly half a million, while the oppossition has collected virtually nothing. River Rock Wellness of Colorado is one of the top contributors to the campaign, donating $10,000 in support of Question 4.

Nevada: In Nevada, voters will decide on Question 2, would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and allow adults to cultivate up to six marijuana plants. A 15% sales tax on recreational marijuana sales would be imposed, and consumption would be restricted to private areas which could include retail marijuana dispensaries. The tax revenue would be earmarked for use in the k-12 public education system. A poll conducted in July by a local news station found 50% of voters in support of Question 2, 41% oppossed, and 9% undecided, so it could really go either way and at this point, it's too close to call.

New Opportunities for Marijuana Businesses

The growing trend towards legalization opens the way for more marijuana businesses to thrive and profit. Entrepreneurs who are contemplating opening a marijuana dispensary, grow house, or other marijuana business in one of the five states who  are voting on recreational cannabis should look closely at each state's laws now to get an idea of all the details and regulations, and how to start the process of applying for a marijuana business license. States like Nevada will limit the number of marijuana establishments that can open up in any municipality if their legalization initiative passes, so business owners wishing to cash in will need to be ready to act quickly once the votes are counted. CannaSaver will keep you informed of the latest updates and elections results, so stay tuned.

 

 

Countinue Reading

States across the US are changing their views on cannabis, and they have been doing so for some time. That’s why it was monumental to see movement at the federal level, and not just the state. On December 4, 2020, the US House of Representatives passed H.B. 3884, titled the “Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2020”, or the MORE Act for short. But when will weed be federally legal?

When will weed be federally legal

While it is likely to be blocked in the Senate, the passage at the House of Representatives comes after 50+ years of strict federal prohibition of marijuana. While it may have taken a lifetime, and we still are not there yet, this is hopeful - and not just because it would make marijuana federally legal. 

The bill is loaded with resolutions that reach across political parties and offers some compassion for the mistakes and tragedies our criminal justice system has placed on consumers, growers, and non-malicious purveyors. 

Let’s take a look.

50 Years in The Making: Removing Cannabis From The Controlled Substances Act of 1970

The Wall Street Journal reports “The vote was largely along party lines. Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan and five Republicans voted in favor of the bill, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.) who was a cosponsor. Six Democrats voted against the bill, all centrist lawmakers.” 

The bill passed the House with 228 Congressperson's voting in favor and 164 votings against the Bill, marking the first time since 1970 a measure for reforming cannabis laws that make marijuana federally legal was passed by either chamber of Congress.

What Would The MORE Act of 2020 Change?

There are several high-impact components in the Bill, most of which can stunningly reduce the past, existing, and future harm individuals and communities have faced from criminalization. 

Given these harms are and have always disproportionately impacted minority communities, the push to right the wrongs of our systems is front and center in the minds of many voters - and it seems most US House representatives support change as well. See some of their remarks below.

  1. The MORE Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act

If signed into law, the MORE act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively leaving it to states to determine how they want their residents to engage with the plant.  

“Across this nation, thousands of men and women have suffered needlessly from the federal criminalization of marijuana, particularly in communities of color and have borne the burden of collateral consequences for those ensnared in criminal legal systems that have damaged our society across generations.” - Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)

  1. Like the states already do, The MORE Act would allow the Federal government to tax cannabis

The legislation would impose a five percent federal tax on cannabis products. These funds would be used by programs in communities hurt by the war on drugs.

According to Marijuana Moment, “As now structured, the MORE Act would make it so cannabis would be federally taxed at five percent for the first two years after implementation and then increased by one percent each year until reaching eight percent. After five years, taxes would be applied to marijuana products based on weight rather than price.”

If passed, the MORE Act would both make cannabis federally legal - or at least states can choose without fear of a federal crackdown - and would create a Community Reinvestment Grant Program. 

The program would use tax dollars for job training, literacy programs, and youth recreation and mentoring services, and numerous other community services and organizations.

“This is about allowing states and localities to self-determine what their marijuana policies should be.” - Justin Strekal, political director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, to WSJ.

weed federally legal

  1. The MORE Act expunges criminal records for most offenders

Within the bill, there are measures to resentence individuals currently incarcerated for criminal offenses related to cannabis. While ‘resentence’ means that the individual may still be sentenced for a crime, under the MORE Act, a majority of low-level cannabis offenses will be expunged. 

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2020 clarifies that not all marijuana offenses are eligible for expungement. More specifically, violent marijuana offenders and “kingpins” will be barred from resentencing/ expungement under the MORE Act. 

Under the rules making cannabis federally legal, the number of incarcerated individuals for nonviolent marijuana charges would see a substantial drop. 

  1. The MORE Act does not require that federal positions be tested for THC or other cannabis-derived compounds, except in limited circumstances

The rules go on to say that the Transportation Department and Coast Guard may continue to include marijuana in drug testing programs, but most federal employees (and applicants) would no longer be ineligible for work because they got high on holiday. Hurray!

If you didn’t know, marijuana testing was a federal employee requirement. And since THC can be detected in urine for 2-4 weeks, people seeking federal employment had to worry about their employment, and their activities outside of the office would collide in a negative way. The MORE Act would allow this anxiety to disappear. 

  1. Immigrants would have broader marijuana protections under the MORE Act

The bill, passed Dec. 4, 2020, aims to further protections for immigrant individuals and families. With regard to immigration laws, the MORE Act, in making marijuana federally legal, states the following:

....an alien may not be denied any benefit or protection under the immigration laws based on  any event, including conduct, a finding, an admission, addiction or abuse, an arrest, a juvenile adjudication, or a conviction, relating to cannabis, regardless of whether the event occurred before, on, or after the effective date of this Act.

BONUS: The MORE Act minimizes barriers to entry for small business owners through loan program access

Under the MORE Act, a Cannabis Justice Office would be started. The Office would have appointees under the Justice Department. This individual or office would be responsible for distributing funds provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that provide loans for small cannabis businesses owned and controlled by socially and/ or economically disadvantaged individuals. These loans seek to reduce inequality by minimizing any existing bias or discrimination in current borrowing practices. 

federally legal weed

Making Marijuana Federally Legal: What’s Next?

While the MORE Act passed the House of Representatives, the Senate is less favorable. The reasons for this are largely political and civil. However, since criminal penalties are being discussed, it is likely to cause a bit of frothy conversation first. 

The passage of the MORE act in Congress marks a first, but also a half-way point. There is more political and social support for changing the law than ever before, but it is not yet enough. When will weed be federally legal?

Not yet, but we're almost there.

Countinue Reading

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