Governor Wolf: Legalization Of Adult-Use Cannabis Can Lead To Economic Gains And Restorative Justice For Pennsylvanians

PENNSYLVANIA:  Governor Tom Wolf visited The Mountain Center in Tobyhanna, Monroe County today to talk about the economic growth potential and restorative justice benefits of legalizing adult-use cannabis, something the state General Assembly has not yet done despite multiple requests from the governor and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman to take up legislation this fall.

“This year, I again went to the General Assembly and asked them to make legalizing adult-use cannabis a priority for the fall as we work to find ways to overcome the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Wolf said. “To date, there has been no movement to advance legislation. So, I’m here today to ask again, and to focus on two particular benefits of legalization – potential economic growth and much-needed restorative justice.”

The governor described how legalizing adult-use cannabis offers the same potential for economic growth that the historic farm bill of 2018 did for hemp farming after decades of government prohibition of the industry.

Hemp was once a widespread crop in Pennsylvania, cultivated in the commonwealth for more than 250 years and grown for seeds, fibers and extracts. Though they look similar, the governor was quick to point out that hemp is not marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are two different varieties of the same plant species, but hemp does not contain high levels of THC, the chemical that makes marijuana a controlled substance.

“Much of our knowledge about how to grow, process and use hemp was lost after industrial hemp was regulated and banned along with marijuana in the 1930s,” Wolf said. “And Pennsylvania lost the benefits of an industry with a long history of providing jobs and resources here in the commonwealth. When hemp and marijuana were banned, we didn’t just lose jobs, we lost decades of research opportunities, innovation and economic growth.”

The governor was joined by Representative Maureen Madden and hemp farmer Eric Titus White.

White described how his hemp farm has provided him with economic opportunities along with a chance to literally put down roots in his home state of Pennsylvania.

“The cannabis plant is capable of stimulating our economy, healing our soil, and bringing the focus back to natural medicine and natural farming,” White said.

“I fully support the administration’s efforts to introduce the legalization of adult recreational cannabis in such a way that invests much-needed financial resources in our underserved communities and enacts restorative justice programs throughout the Commonwealth,” Rep. Madden said.

Monroe County Senator John Blake offered his support for adult-use cannabis legalization.

“I appreciate the work of the Governor and the Lt. Governor to gauge public support for the legalization of adult use cannabis and also to weigh the potential economic benefit of legalization in PA,” Blake said. “Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program has proven to be among the best in the nation and I believe strongly that many of the protocols, regimens and controls could be replicated to ensure positive economic benefit and proper regulation of adult-use cannabis in our Commonwealth.”

Along with stressing that legalizing adult-use cannabis will create economic growth opportunities, the governor focused on how cannabis criminalization laws have disproportionately harmed minority communities in Pennsylvania, and contributed to economic harm and trauma in historically disadvantaged areas of the state.

“Every year in Pennsylvania, another 20,000 people get cannabis-related criminal charges that can keep them from getting the jobs and housing they want,” said Lt. Gov. Fetterman. “It’s time we stop ruining people’s futures over something that’s already legal in several states and something that most Pennsylvanians don’t even think should be illegal.”

“We are taking steps to reverse the injustices caused by marijuana criminalization,” Gov. Wolf said. “In 2018, I signed the Clean Slate bill, which allows for the sealing of records for certain low-level offenses if a person has been free from convictions for ten years. That law can be applied to certain marijuana-related offenses, and the Board of Pardons has expedited pardons for low-level marijuana offenses. But there is much more that needs to be done to reverse decades of injustice. And we need to start by decriminalizing cannabis and legalizing it for adult use.”

Office of Marijuana Policy Unveils New Details On Planned Launch Of Adult Use Marijuana In Maine

Retail sales to the public permitted to begin on or after October 9, 2020.

MAINE: The Office of Marijuana Policy, a part of the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, unveiled plans for the issuance of Maine’s first active licenses for adult use marijuana establishments. The Office intends to issue the first active licenses to recreational cannabis businesses on Tuesday, September 8, 2020. Retail sales of adult use marijuana to consumers 21 years of age or older will be permitted starting on Friday, October 9, 2020.

The issuance of active licenses will continue the Office of Marijuana Policy’s structured rollout of Maine’s nascent adult use industry, which had been indefinitely postponed in April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The public’s health and safety are at the forefront of every decision we make at the Office of Marijuana Policy,” said OMP Director Erik Gundersen. “While we were poised to launch this new industry earlier this year, we were unwilling to sacrifice the high standards we have set for this program by launching during an emerging public health pandemic and in the absence of a testing facility. With the support of the public health community, municipalities across the state, and the industry we regulate, we have used the last few months to ensure this new industry is introduced to Maine consumers in a manner that is as responsible as possible.”

Active licensure is the culmination of a three-step application process which also includes conditional licensure and local authorization, respectively. An active license is required for adult use establishments to come into possession, process and sell adult use marijuana, including initiating plant transfers from Maine’s existing medical marijuana program.

It is expected adult use licensees will utilize the time between active licensure and Maine’s retail sales launch date to harvest and process marijuana, ensure those products satisfy the mandatory testing requirements, and move product through the supply chain to stock retail store shelves. Additionally, businesses which will conduct retail sales will prepare to implement and support social distancing and other public health guidance at a time when public interest may attract a significant consumer presence to their retail locations.

“Today’s announcement is a major milestone in honoring the will of Maine voters and a significant step toward launching a new industry in the state,” added Gundersen. “Many of the business owners we have spoken with during the application process are ready and eager to commence operations.”

The application process required by the adult use law requires state regulators to review application materials for form and substance, with an eye toward details such as ensuring that all applicants have completed their required state and federal criminal history record checks; that the establishment’s operation, facility, and security plans satisfy the requirements of both the Marijuana Legalization Act and the adult use program rule; and that the designated host municipality has provided the applicant with authorization to conduct business in their community.

OMP expects to issue licenses in each of the four categories of adult use establishments: cultivation, products manufacturing, retail sale, and testing. Information on the specific number of licenses issued and the identities of active licensees will be made available on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

The Mills Administration created OMP within DAFS in February 2019. The Office is responsible for the oversight of all aspects of legalized marijuana, including Maine’s existing Medical Use of Marijuana Program.

New York: Cuomo Administration To Back Adult Use Marijuana Bill

NEW YORK: A spokesperson for Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that creating a framework for legalizing adult marijuana use is among the administration’s 2019 legislative priorities.

“The goal of this administration is to create a model program for regulated adult-use marijuana – and we determined the best way to do that was to ensure our final proposal captures the views of everyday New Yorkers,” said Tyrone Stevens, a spokesperson for the Governor. “Now that the listening sessions have concluded, the working group has begun accessing and reviewing the feedback we received and we expect to introduce a formal comprehensive proposal during the 2019 legislative session.”

In July, a Health Department study commissioned by the Governor’s office recommended legalizing adult marijuana use and commerce. It concluded: “A regulated marijuana program enjoys broad support and would have significant health, social justice, and economic benefits. … Regulating marijuana enables public health officials to minimize the potential risks of marijuana use through outreach, education, quantity limits at point of sale, quality control, and consumer protection. … The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in New York State outweigh the potential negative impacts.”


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500 or visit Empire State NORML.

New Hampshire: Taxing, Regulating Adult Use Cannabis Market Would Yield $58 Million In New Annual Revenue

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Regulating New Hampshire’s existing adult use cannabis market would yield as much as $58 million per year in new annual revenue, according to an analysis authored by the state’s Department of Revenue.

Analysts’ estimates are based upon the application of a 15 percent tax rate on commercial transactions. The Department’s report was provided to the state’s Commission to Study the Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana – which is preparing to make recommendations to the legislature this November.

Members of the New Hampshire House initially voted in favor of legalization legislation in January by a vote of 207 to 139 before ultimately deciding in favor of appointing an interim study committee in March. Lawmakers decriminalized low-level marijuana possession offenses last year.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

 

NY Governor Cuomo Forms Workgroup To Draft Legislation for Regulated Adult-Use Marijuana Program

NEW YORK: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today appointed a workgroup to draft legislation for a regulated adult-use marijuana program for the legislature to consider in the upcoming session based on the findings of a multi-agency study he commissioned in January. The study, led by the Department of Health, concluded that the positive impacts of a regulated marijuana market in New York State outweigh the potential negative impacts, and that areas that may be a cause for concern can be mitigated with regulation and proper use of public education that is tailored to address key populations.

“I have reviewed the multi-agency report commissioned last January and have discussed its findings with Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker,” said Governor Cuomo. “The next steps must be taken thoughtfully and deliberately. As we work to implement the report’s recommendations through legislation, we must thoroughly consider all aspects of a regulated marijuana program, including its impact on public health, criminal justice and State revenue, and mitigate any potential risks associated with it. I thank the members of the workgroup for their time and expertise as we work to craft a model program.”

Seal_of_New_YorkIn January of 2018, Governor Cuomo directed the DOH to conduct a study of a regulated marijuana program in New York State to determine the health, economic and criminal justice impacts of a regulated market and the consequences to New York State resulting from legalization in surrounding states. The DOH report, issued on July 13, concluded that the positive impact of a regulated marijuana market in New York State outweigh the potential negative aspects.

The report found that regulation of marijuana benefits public health by enabling government oversight of the production, testing, labeling, distribution, and sale of marijuana. The creation of a regulated marijuana program would enable New York State to better control licensing, ensure quality control and consumer protection, and set age and quantity restrictions. Moreover, the report found that a regulated program would reduce racial disparities in criminalization and incarceration rates and recommended sealing the criminal records of individuals with prior low-level marijuana-related offenses. The report also specifically recommended the creation of a workgroup of subject matter experts to make recommendations to the State.

The workgroup will be overseen by Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David, who will work with members to provide them with information and support and coordinate among the Executive Branch and stakeholders. It will consist of individuals with specialized knowledge, including experts in public health, public safety and economics, and the leaders of relevant state agencies.  Further the workgroup will be tasked with engaging with the leadership of both the State Senate and the State Assembly, as well as bill sponsors of medical and regulated marijuana legislation (Senator Diane Savino, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Crystal Peoples Stokes), advocates, and academic experts with experience from other states including Mark Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management, and Beau Kilmer, Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation.

The workgroup will consist of the following members:

  • David Holtgrave, PhD, Dean, School of Public Health, University at Albany
  • R. Lorraine Collins, PhD, Associate Dean for Research, University at Buffalo
  • Jeff Reynolds, PhD, CEO, Family and Children’s Association of Long Island
  • Brendan Cox, former Albany Police Chief
  • Angela H. Hawken, PhD, Professor of Public Policy, NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management
  • Natasha Schüll, PhD, Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU Steinhardt
  • Tracie Gardner, Associate Director at the Legal Action Center
  • Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, MS, Professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  • Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David
  • Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker
  • Budget Director Robert Mujica
  • Chief Diversity Officer for New York State Lourdes Zapata
  • Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan
  • Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez
  • Office of Children and Family Services Acting Commissioner Sheila Poole
  • Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul Karas
  • New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II
  • Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion
  • New York State Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball
  • Empire State Development Corporation Commissioner Howard Zemsky

The regulated adult-use marijuana program will build on Governor Cuomo’s commitment to reducing the number of nonviolent individuals who become needlessly entangled in the criminal justice system and record of expanding access to medical marijuana. Since 2012, the Governor has twice proposed legislation to ensure that possession of a small amount of marijuana, whether public or private, is treated as a violation and not as a misdemeanor, but the legislature has failed to adopt the proposal. In 2014, Governor Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act into law, establishing New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program. Since then, the Governor has continued to advance improvements to the program to better serve patients.

Vermont: Adult Use Marijuana Law Enacted

VERMONT: Legislation permitting adults to legally possess and grow set quantities of cannabis for their own personal use took effect on Sunday, July 1.

Vermont joins Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington in legalizing the adult possession and use of marijuana. It is the first state to enact legalization via an act of the legislature rather than by the passage of a voter initiative.

The new law, which Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed in January, legalizes the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, as well as the private cultivation of six marijuana plants (two mature and up to four immature). Those who cultivate marijuana for their own personal use may possess at home the total quantity of their harvest. The measure also imposes new civil penalties with regard to the consumption of cannabis while driving, and imposes additional penalties for those who operate a motor vehicle impaired with a minor in the vehicle.

summary of the law is available online.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

District Attorney Vance to End the Prosecution of Marijuana Possession and Smoking Cases

New Manhattan D.A. “Decline to Prosecute” Policy Effective August 1st

NEW YORK:  Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced a new effort to reduce inequality and unnecessary interactions with the criminal justice system. Beginning August 1st, the D.A.’s Office will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases. The District Attorney’s Office has invited the City of New York to recommend limited exceptions to this policy grounded in demonstrated public safety concerns before the policy becomes effective in August. Under one analysis by the D.A.’s Office, the policy is expected to reduce Manhattan marijuana prosecutions from approximately 5,000 per year to approximately 200 per year, a 96% reduction.

“The dual mission of the Manhattan D.A.’s Office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system,” said District Attorney Vance. “The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals. Effective August 1st, my Office will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases. We are in discussions with the Mayor and Police Commissioner to consider limited exceptions to this policy, the goal of which is to radically reduce the criminal prosecution of these offenses.”

Today’s announcement marks the culmination of six months of research and policy analysis, including extensive, in-person interviews with law enforcement officials in jurisdictions where marijuana is no longer criminally prosecuted. The D.A.’s Office today released a report publicizing its findings, which helped to inform the Office’s new policy. The report is available here.

Marijuana, Fairness and Public Safety: A Report on the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana in the United States

As described in the Report’s Executive Summary, “our office has, over the past several months, gathered data and conducted interviews with dozens of prosecutors, regulators, and law enforcement representatives from states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana. Our purpose was to understand the challenges that will need to be anticipated by lawmakers in our state. This work has yielded valuable insights into how responsibly to frame any future laws and regulations to avoid negative impacts on public safety.” The D.A.’s Office “stand[s] ready to advise and assist any participant in the important ongoing discussions about legislative reform of our state’s marijuana laws.”

The Report further notes that black and Hispanic individuals in neighborhoods of color continue to be arrested for marijuana offenses at much higher rates than their similarly situated counterparts in predominantly white communities. Such arrests can significantly impact job searches, schooling, family members, immigration status, and community involvement. Yet, sanctions imposed after arrest, fingerprinting, and court appearances are almost always minimal or non-existent. As a result, large numbers of New Yorkers become further alienated from law enforcement and removed from community participation at an enormous cost to the criminal justice system, for virtually no punitive, rehabilitative or deterrent purpose.

Preexisting Marijuana Policy

Recognizing the racial disparities inherent in enforcement and negative collateral consequences for those charged, District Attorney Vance has vocally advocated for the statutory decriminalization of marijuana possession since 2012. In 2017, D.A. Vance issued one of the most lenient marijuana policies in New York State, under which individuals accused for the first time of smoking in public receive a 90-day Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (“ACD”), and those accused for the second time receive a 180-day ACD. If these individuals remain arrest-free for the duration of these periods, their cases are dismissed and records are sealed.

Michigan: Adult Use Legalization Measure Certified For November’s Ballot

MICHIGAN: Election officials have confirmed that proponents of a statewide ballot measure, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, have gathered a sufficient number of signatures from registered voters to place it on the electoral ballot this November.

Proponents of the voter-initiated measure, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, submitted more than 360,000 signatures in an effort to qualify it for the November 2018 ballot. The initiative permits those over the age of 21 to grow and possess personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to the commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales.

According to statewide polling commissioned by Michigan NORML, which is a member of the Coalition, 61 percent of voters say that they intend to vote yes on the measure.

Voters in other states will also be deciding on marijuana-related ballot questions later this year. Oklahomans will decide in June on State Question 788, which permits qualified patients to access and cultivate marijuana for therapeutic purposes. Utah voters are also expected to decide on a narrower medicalization measure in November, though officials have yet to officially certify that measure for the ballot. Proponents of a medical marijuana measure in Missouri have surpassed the number of signatures required to place it on the November ballot, well ahead of the state’s May 6 deadline. In South Dakota, officials have confirmed that proponents of a 2018 medical use initiative failed to gather the necessary number of signatures to qualify for November’s ballot.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

The Green Earth Farmacie Los Angeles Opens To Recreational Cannabis Consumers

CALIFORNIA:  The Green Earth Farmacie, leading cannabis dispensary specialists, announced they are now open for adult use recreational customers. The Green Earth Farmacie is one of the first dispensaries in Los Angeles to officially open their doors to the general public. To participate, customers must be adults 21 years and over, with a valid ID to verify legal age.

“This is an exciting time for us, and quite frankly, it’s exciting for the people of L.A.,” said Mo Anouti, Founder and CEO. “I feel like this has been a long time coming and I can’t wait to provide our high-quality cannabis to people who have otherwise had their access restricted for far too many years.”

The announcement comes on the heels of the implementation of Proposition 64, a California State initiative passed in 2016 that saw voters legalize the sale of recreational marijuana used by adults. The measure also calls for taxation on the cultivation and retail sale of cannabis. Revenue generated from these taxes are set to go to drug research and treatment, youth programs, and various health and safety grants.

“It’s the dawning of a new era for Californians, and for Angelinos in particular,” continued Mr. Anouti. “We’re still going to continue proudly serving our medical cannabis patients, but we are happy that we now have the opportunity to provide the same great service and high-quality cannabis options to the public, too.”

Philadelphia: District Attorney To Cease Prosecuting Marijuana Possession Offenders

PENNSYLVANIA: Newly elected District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced that his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession offense violations.

Although city policy has already decriminalized most minor marijuana possession offenses, police have continued to make several hundred possession arrests annually. Going forward, the DA’s office will drop these charges. Krasner said that the change in policy is “the right thing to do.”

His actions come days after Seattle city officials announced their intentions to vacate the criminal convictions of minor marijuana possession offenders. In recent days, city officials in both San Francisco and in Alameda County, California have also announced plans to automatically reduce or expunge thousands of past marijuana convictions.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.