Vermont Governor Phil Scott OKs Bill Creating Regulated Cannabis Market

VERMONT: Governor Phil Scott today announced action on a range of bills, including the Legislature’s bill to create a regulated cannabis market in Vermont, which will be allowed to go into law without his signature.

Throughout the Legislature’s four-year push to create a regulated cannabis market, Governor Scott has consistently called for any legislation to include a plan and funding for expanded education and prevention programs for Vermont kids, a plan for highway safety and the ability for communities to prohibit retail cannabis businesses. Governor Scott said the Legislature has moved slowly toward his position in these areas.

“This new bill requires cities and towns to authorize these businesses before retail establishments may open. It ensures local zoning applies to cannabis cultivation and production. It dedicates 30% of the excise tax, up to $10 million per year, to education and prevention efforts. And the sales and use tax on cannabis would fund a grant program to expand after school and summer learning programs,” the Governor said. “Additionally, the FY21 budget includes language I proposed to move toward a universal after school network, which is based on a successful model from Iceland and is focused on preventing drug use and improving academic and social outcomes.”

The Governor also highlighted several new provisions to enhance safety on the roadways, including allowing testimony of trained officers and Drug Recognition Experts regarding impairment to be presumed admissible in court, and accepting saliva testing as evidence if performed.

Though these provisions addressed many of Governor Scott’s longstanding concerns, he also called for additional action from the Legislature to address remaining deficiencies in the bill.

“Their work is not done,” he said. “The Legislature needs to strengthen education and prevention – including banning marketing that appeals in any way to our kids – otherwise they are knowingly failing to learn the lessons of the public health epidemic caused by tobacco and alcohol.”

While recognizing that some social justice elements are included in the bill, Governor Scott also noted concerns from communities historically most negatively affected by cannabis enforcement that the bill did not do enough to ensure more equity in this new market. He encouraged legislators to revisit these concerns and work with his Administration and these communities to address them in January.

His letter to the Legislature outlines specific areas for consideration on racial equity, changes to the board appointment timeline and accountability structure, creation of a special fund for education programming and a ban on the sale of vaping products and marketing that appeal to kids.

“This has been a top priority for the majority in the Legislature for four years, but their work is not complete. They must ensure equity in this new policy and prevent their priority from becoming a public health problem for current and future generations. For these reasons, I am allowing this bill to become law without my signature,” concluded Governor Scott.

Click here to view the Governor’s letter to the Legislature regarding S.54.

Governor Scott also allowed S.119 to go into law without his signature, noting he agreed with the goals of the legislation but urged lawmakers to revisit the hastily drafted bill with additional input from marginalized communities and public safety officials.

Click here to view the Governor’s letter to the Legislature regarding S.119.

In addition, Governor Scott signed several other bills today:

  • S.24, An act relating to a report on racial equity and bias in the Department of Corrections, which accelerates work to develop a racial equity plan that will include data collection, employment and supervision of people under the custody of the Department of Corrections;
  • S. 124, An act relating to governmental structures protecting the public health, safety and welfare, which makes changes to law enforcement training and policy;
  • S.234, An act relating to miscellaneous judiciary procedures, which orders the expungement of all criminal records relating to the possession of cannabis in amounts that have been decriminalized; and
  • S.352, An act relating to making certain amendments to the Front-Line Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program, which updates the hazard pay program passed earlier this year.

To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2020 legislative session, visit https://governor.vermont.gov/governor-scotts-blog/2020-legislative-session.

From Niche To Normal – Cannabis Use Becoming More Accepted In The United States

NEW YORK: Growing numbers of consumers support the legalization of cannabis in some form and a majority believes it has a positive impact on the economy, according to the newly released 2018 Fall Cannabis Culture Poll, developed jointly by leading global communications agency BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), PSB Research and Civilized, a premium media and lifestyle brand that embraces and highlights modern cannabis culture. A full 83 percent of the poll’s respondents (U.S. adults, cannabis consumers and non-consumers) say they support some form of legalization of cannabis. Sixty-three percent of non-consumers, and 95 percent of cannabis consumers, say legalization has had a positive economic effect on the states where use has been made legal.

PSB Research, in partnership with BCW and Civilized, conducted online interviews between September 26 and October 4, 2018 with 1,200 U.S. adults aged 21 and older to explore views on cannabis and its usage and to determine general habits and behaviors of those who use and those who do not use cannabis. Respondents are defined here as consumers and non-consumers.

While consumers and non-consumers say legalization has benefitted local economies, cannabis purchases continue to be interpersonal transactions. Currently, 46 percent of consumers say they buy cannabis from friends or family, while just 30 percent patronize dispensaries. However, 84 percent of consumers who do not purchase cannabis at a dispensary say they would be willing to consider doing so. Thirty-eight percent of non-consumers say they would consider spending money with a cannabis-related business if it were legal where they live.

Use of cannabis in the U.S. is primarily recreational, but medical use is also popular. One in five (19 percent) of Americans currently consume cannabis, and more than half of those consumers say they use it at least a few times a week. More than four in five self-reported cannabis consumers use it for recreation, while about half of consumers report using cannabis for medical purposes. Cannabidiol (CBD) use among self-reporting consumers is also fairly common — about one in three cannabis consumers also report using CBD for medical or other purposes.

The amount of dried and cured cannabis that consumers buy varies; while about one in 10 consumers buy one gram or less per month, about one third of consumers buy at least a quarter of an ounce every month. Thirty-five percent of cannabis consumers say they spend at least $100 per month cannabis or cannabis-related products.

“The 2018 midterm elections just confirmed the data from The Cannabis Culture Poll – cannabis is moving from niche to normal across the U.S.,” said Chris Foster, President, North America, BCW. “Michigan voters just made their state the tenth in the U.S. to legalize recreational cannabis, and Missouri and Utah passed initiatives to legalize medical marijuana, making medical use legal in 33 states.

“However, as legalization continues to spread across the U.S. and create new market opportunities, it won’t be long before the government begins to establish standards for production, distribution and consumption,” Foster continued. “Entrepreneurs and business owners will need to be prepared to navigate what is sure to become a complex regulatory environment.”

Consumers and non-consumers already see the need for some level of regulation and oversight of the industry. About half of non-consumers and over two-thirds of consumers would view the industry more favorably if it partnered with organizations to develop medical standards and regulations, increased industry funding for research on cannabis’ effects from medical and recreational use, and/or developed public education campaigns to support responsible legal use of cannabis and its derivatives.

“We’re excited to see the strides business leaders and voters in the U.S. are making to normalize cannabis,” says Derek Riedle, Publisher of Civilized. “There is incredible potential for this industry as cannabis sheds its taboo, shadowed past. We’re proud to be part of the movement as the industry brings cannabis out of the dark and into more lives across North America.”

PA Representative Wheatley To Introduce Legislation To Legalize Marijuana

PENNSYLVANIA:  Pointing to the success similar programs are having in other states, Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, said he plans to introduce legislation which would legalize the sale of marijuana in Pennsylvania.

“States from coast to coast have embraced legalization and those states are reaping the economic and criminal justice benefits,” Wheatley said. “It is time Pennsylvania joins with those states in leaving behind the ugly stigma of marijuana.”

A recent report by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale estimated that legalizing marijuana could generate more than $580 million in annual tax revenue for Pennsylvania. Nine other states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana for adult use, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue while reducing spending and criminal justice costs.

“This is why it comes as no surprise that recent polling shows that a majority of Pennsylvanians support legalization,” Wheatley said. “This is an idea whose time has come.”

Wheatley’s legislation would further establish a retail market for marijuana and expunge criminal records for any marijuana-related conviction that would be considered lawful under the act.

Wheatley said marijuana legalization is the natural path forward given Pennsylvania’s successful medical marijuana program, for which more than 52,000 patients have registered. Passed in 2016, the state’s medical marijuana law provides for the use of marijuana to treat serious medical conditions such as seizures, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease, among others.

“I am pleased to see that many of our most in-need residents are able to improve their health, but I believe we can do more,” Wheatley said. “The time has come for Pennsylvania to move forward with full legalization.”#MJNews

Giambra Will March In NYC Cannabis Parade On Saturday

NEW YORK:  It was back in January in frigid Buffalo that former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra called for the “toughest, tightest regulated” legalized marijuana bill in the United States as a way to raise billions of dollars in tax revenue to fix New York State’s crumbling infrastructure.

Giambra called taxing legalized recreational marijuana “a much more appropriate way to solve our problems than raising new taxes,” the first gubernatorial candidate this year to propose legalizing cannabis.  But within days, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed in his budget plan a study to look at the impact of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The tidal wave had begun.

On Saturday (May 5), Giambra, who is seeking the support of the Reform Party in his bid to replace Cuomo, will lead a group of supporters in New York City’s annual cannabis parade down Broadway to Union Square Park where he will be among the speakers addressing the gathering.

“It is time we join with the other states that have moved to legalize marijuana and take advantage of the enormous opportunity we have to raise money to deal with our very serious infrastructure problems, including the subway system in New York City,” said Giambra.  “We don’t need any more studies. We need to act, and act now, for the benefit of the people of the great state we call home.”

NYC Cannabis Parade is May 5

NYC Cannabis Parade is May 5

The annual event is dedicated to ending cannabis prohibition, stopping racially motivated arrests, and improving the state’s medical marijuana program.  In March, Giambra released results of a detailed financial analysis, saying it showed that marijuana tax revenues could equal $500 million a year.

“That’s about half a billion dollars a year that’s making its way through the underground black market economy which to me makes no sense,” Giambra said at the March press conference, talking about how New York is losing funds that could be put to use helping the state address its very serious problems maintaining roads, bridges, and subways.

“I’ll be marching in the rally with several of my supporters and will address the crowd at Union Square Park as a sign of my commitment to this effort,” said Giambra.  “This state needs to finally join the nine other states that have recognized the great benefits that can be achieved by legalization and begin the road down that path sooner rather than later.  Let’s hope this year’s rally will help stimulate the momentum needed to get our lawmakers to act.”

Giambra, who grew up in a Buffalo housing project, was one of the city’s youngest council members and served for nine years as Buffalo comptroller.  He also won two terms as Erie County executive, running as a Republican in a heavily Democratic stronghold.

“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth and I have worked very hard to try and help others through my political efforts,” said Giambra.  “I believe we can help a broad section of our population by legalizing recreational marijuana, both medically and financially, and that’s why I’m going to be there Saturday adding my support to the effort.”

A New Day In The Garden State

By Stu Zakim

Today, long suffering New Jersey residents got a breath of fresh air when new Governor Phil Murphy presented his first budget for fiscal 2019 to the members of the NJ Senate and Assembly in Trenton.

After years of Chris Christie and his archaic views of Cannabis, both as Governor and State Attorney General, we now have a Governor who understands how legalizing adult use Cannabis can bring enormous benefits to the Garden State in many areas.

Among the highlights

“I advocate for legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana sales to adults.”  Murphy wants New Jersey to “join other progressive states such as California, Massachusetts, Washington, and Colorado by legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana.”

“According to research, New Jersey spends upwards of $140 million per year adjudicating low-level marijuana possession offenses. And, marijuana-related arrest rates are tilted three-to-one against African-Americans, even though rates of marijuana use are similar among races. These resources must have a better use, whether to tackle the trafficking of illegal guns, provide stronger community policing, or to crack the back of our opioid epidemic, which was devastating our urban centers long before it made headlines.”

“Legalization will allow us to reinvest directly in our communities – especially the urban neighborhoods hardest hit by the misguided War on Drugs – in their economic development, in health care and housing, child care and after-school programs, and other critical areas. These investments will pay dividends far greater than the cost of mass incarceration.”

The Governor plans to legalize adult-use marijuana by January 1, 2019 and projects $80 million in related revenue in the first fiscal year.  We can only hope.

Canada Union Head Calls For Marijuana Sales Through LCBO

CANADA:  Marijuana should be sold in LCBO stores if Ottawa goes ahead with plans to legalize the drug, according to the head of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the Ontario liquor stores are already well-equipped to handle marijuana sales responsibly and safely.

“There would not be any need to reinvent the wheel,” Thomas told CBC News.

“For one thing they have the social responsibility part covered — they do age checks, they do refusals if somebody’s intoxicated.”

 

Voices: Oregon Legalizes Pot, And Nobody Cares

OREGON: What if we legalized marijuana and no one really cared?

That’s the overwhelming feeling I get standing inside Zion Cannabis in downtown Portland as customers buy marijuana from the friendly staff  five days after legalized marijuana legislation went into effect Oct. 1.

No muss, no fuss.

Oregon is the third American state to legalize recreational marijuana sales, following neighboring Washington, where legal pot debuted in the summer of 2014, and Colorado, where cannabis has been legal since Jan. 1, 2014. Hardly anyone is paying attention.

Portland Projects 480 New Marijuana Businesses, $1.4 Million In Revenue From City Fees

OREGON: Portland wants to charge retail marijuana stores up to $3,750 to open their doors, fees city officials say will help recoup costs associated with regulating the industry.

With $890,000 in estimated annual expenses, the hefty fees proposed on marijuana businesses are meant to offset the city’s costs, officials said.

So how many marijuana stores, processors, wholesalers and dispensaries does the city expect? Try 480, according to projections provided to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

LA Times Editorial Gov. Brown, sign the medical marijuana bills

CALIFORNIA: Nearly 20 years after voters legalized medical marijuana, California lawmakers have finally passed legislation to regulate the growth and distribution of cannabis for patients’ use. In the final hours of their session last week, legislators passed three bills that together establish a system to license, test and track medical marijuana from “seed to sale.” Gov. Jerry Brown, who helped craft the deal, should not only sign the bills into law, but he should stay focused on ensuring their smooth, effective implementation.

California was the first state to allow medical marijuana, but the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 provided little guidance on how the state could help ailing patients get the drug — or how to keep it out of the hands of those who weren’t entitled to it. Legislators repeatedly failed to develop rules, so cities and counties adopted a patchwork of policies, which triggered a series of lawsuits and judgments that created a confusing mess for patients, law enforcement, cannabis growers and dispensary operators.

These bills are an attempt to turn that chaotic quasi-legal, supposedly nonprofit system into a transparent, legitimate commercial industry. Anyone working in the cannabis business would need to be licensed, and the state would regulate each step in the growth and distribution chain. The Department of Food and Agriculture would oversee indoor and outdoor marijuana cultivation. The Department of Public Health would set rules for marijuana processing and testing by third-party laboratories to ensure products are checked for quality and safety, as well as packaged and clearly labeled as cannabis. A newly created Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation would regulate the transportation, distribution and sale of pot.

Teen Marijuana Use Not Linked To Later Depression, Lung Cancer, Other Health Problems, Study Finds

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Chronic marijuana use by teenage boys does not appear to be linked to later physical or mental health issues such as depression, psychotic symptoms or asthma, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Rutgers University tracked 408 males from adolescence into their mid-30s for the study, which was published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

“What we found was a little surprising,” said lead researcher Jordan Bechtold, PhD, a psychology research fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “There were no differences in any of the mental or physical health outcomes that we measured regardless of the amount or frequency of marijuana used during adolescence.”