Portland City Council Approves Over $630k In Cannabis Equity Grants

Portland City Council Approves Over $630k In Cannabis Equity Grants

Original Post: High Times: Portland City Council Approves Over $630k In Cannabis Equity Grants

[Canniseur: This is what we love to see! Cannabis equity. The emerging cannabis market is a perfect opportunity to make right the multitude of wrongs that our government has perpetrated on people of color. This is a great but small step to right the wrongs of the past. Our society needs lots more of these steps.]

Portland, Oregon took a big step towards properly funding its social equity in cannabis program on Wednesday. Its city council earmarked $631,000 in grants to go to the grant program that has been established to ensure that people who have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs have a place in the marijuana industry.

The decision comes in the midst of a growing cannabis tax revenue windfall for Oregon. During the 2019 fiscal year, the state’s Department of Revenue took in over $102 million. That money comes from a 17 percent tax on marijuana sales, with cities and counties permitted to add an extra three percent should they see fit. It’s expected to amount to $284.2 million during 2021-2023.

Typically, 40 percent of that money goes to schools, 25 percent to various mental health and addiction services, and 35 percent to different law enforcement agencies. But a report by the Portland city auditor found that in the state’s largest city, 79 percent of cannabis tax revenue was being channeled into transportation and law enforcement.

The People’s Voice Has Been Heard

The city council members’ vote on Wednesday was an attempt to redistribute funds according to Oregon voters’ wishes. In 2016, cannabis tax measure 26-180 was passed, declaring that a three percent tax on cannabis sales could go to supporting social equity measures within the marijuana industry. Voters approved the measure, which included support for women and persons of color-owned businesses, safety measures against unsafe drivers, and addiction services.

One of the qualifying factors for the entry of small businesses into the program is that people with a prior cannabis conviction comprise either at least 25 percent of ownership or 20 percent of staff hours.

The recently approved $631,000 will go to support retroactive justice for the negative effects of cannabis prohibition. Similar funding has been used to help level the cannabis industry playing field in a variety of ways.

“You already have hundreds of Portlanders who have been directly benefiting from this tax funding,” said Brandon Goldner, who is a supervisor of the city’s Cannabis Program. “Whether it’s people getting workforce development, help getting education in the construction field, or whether it’s people who are helping – getting help clearing their records and expunging their records.”

Given Portland’s history of racially biased cannabis-related policing, the programs seem particularly crucial.

“Many studies have shown that adults across races use cannabis at similar rates,” POC cannabis advocate Jeanette Ward Horton shared with the attendees of the council meeting on Wednesday. “However, we can see […] the disproportionate targeting first of African American communities. Second, native American communities.”

Horton’s organization the NuLeaf Project was established to support cannabis business owners of color, and runs a mentoring program, gives out grants, and runs a business accelerator program that aims to build technical skills in future entrepreneurs.

Portland City Council Approves Over $630k In Cannabis Equity Grants was posted on High Times.

New Mexico May Start Allowing Texas Residents Access to Medical Marijuana

New Mexico May Start Allowing Texas Residents Access to Medical Marijuana

Original Post: High Times: New Mexico May Start Allowing Texas Residents Access to Medical Marijuana

[Canniseur: Good news for medical cannabis cardholders around the U.S. who would like to visit New Mexico, but don’t want to go through airport security. Many states have reciprocity with other medical legal states, Michigan included. New Mexico has been a holdout. Perhaps now it will change.]

A New Mexico judge has ruled that recent changes to the regulations affecting the state’s medical marijuana program mean that out of state residents will now qualify to buy cannabis at government-run dispensaries.

“The [word] replacement is a clear sign of legislative intent to widen the reach of eligibility for the New Mexico medical cannabis program,” wrote Santa Fe Judge Bryan Biedscheid, who presided over the proceeding.

The state senator who sponsored the legislation that changed the language of the bill, Democrat Jerry Ortíz y Pino, said that the revision was originally due to a desire to cover individuals who had their medical marijuana cards in other states, or “reciprocal patients.”

But Biedscheid said that the current language means that it is a violation for the state’s Department of Health and its Medical Cannabis Program to even require a New Mexico ID card in registering for the medical marijuana program. The judge suggested that college students and visiting professionals would be the beneficiaries of the expansion of access.

But the apparent policy shift has raised alarms in some of New Mexico’s neighboring states, and particularly in Texas, whose medical marijuana program is strictly limited to cannabis oil with a THC content of .5 percent or less.

“The law in Texas is clear, possession of any amount of marijuana is illegal without ambiguity and any violations are enforced accordingly,” the El Paso Police Department said in a statement to the NM Political Report. That publication also raised the issue that the expansion in access could affect New Mexico’s cannabis supply, particularly as residents of the area of the state closest to the Texas and New Mexico borders have already complained of insufficient supplies of cannabis.

Law enforcement agents are not the only ones concerned that the policy shift could lead to medical marijuana patients illegally crossing state lines with their medicine. “While we want patients to have access to medical cannabis, it is problematic that they would have to cross state lines,” NORML Texas executive director commented. “This would lead them to break federal law.”

Texas is also in the process of reconsidering its marijuana laws, and in June passed HB 3703, which will expand the list of qualifying conditions to include epilepsy, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, and other health issues. The Senate surprisingly passed the legislation unanimously, but did greatly reduce its scope before giving it the go-ahead, maintaining the state’s ban on any medical marijuana product that exceeds the .5 percent THC limit.

New Mexico’s legalization mission has been quite eventful in 2019, its House of Representatives having passed HB 356 regulating recreational cannabis just last March before the Senate finance committee declined to give the legislation a hearing during the last days of its session. That bill would have authorized the right of adults 21 years old and over to possess one ounce of weed, which is available via retail stores that are operated by the state government.

The state did grow its 73,000-patient medical marijuana program in June with the addition of six more qualifying health conditions, among them opioid dependency, autism, and Alzheimer’s. That expansion brings the list of qualifying conditions in the state up to 28.

New Mexico May Start Allowing Texas Residents Access to Medical Marijuana was posted on High Times.

Lansing Officials Report Medical Marijuana Program is Operating at a Loss

Lansing Officials Report Medical Marijuana Program is Operating at a Loss

Original Post: High Times: Lansing Officials Report Medical Marijuana Program is Operating at a Loss

[Canniseur: The author may have the city of Lansing confused with the state capitol of Michigan. It doesn’t diminish the fact that the city revenues are down from previous years. Yes, the nascent cannabis industry (even though medical cannabis was passed 2008. There were certain people who fought tooth and nail against implementing regulations to control the industry and by the time they got around to sensible regulation of the industry, it was already a mess. Very interesting read though.]

In the midst of the state’s medical marijuana regulatory chaos, the capital of Michigan has announced that it will not be seeing any profit from this operating year of its medical marijuana program.

Lansing city administrators say that excise taxes will not be bringing in as much money as previously estimated, given language of last year’s bill establishing the state’s recreational marijuana industry. That recreational cannabis licensing law stated that the excise tax that had been put in place for the medical marijuana industry would terminate within three months of the beginning of the recreational industry — even though now some of the bill’s very sponsors say they can’t remember why they wrote in that stipulation at all.

The loss of the excise tax was a letdown for many Michigan towns and cities, who were to have shared an estimated $24 million in excise tax from medical cannabis. Some authorities went so far to say that the excise tax was the reason why they agreed to have medical dispensaries in their jurisdiction in the first place.

“The fact that the tax revenue from medical has been taken away and repealed makes it where, now that we’re in the industry, the only option we have for revenue is if we’re in on recreational as well,” the town of Adrian’s city attorney Tamaris Henagan told The Detroit News.

Lansing officials say they will have taken in $200,000 in cannabis business fees by the end of the fiscal year, in comparison with the $735,000 that was reaped during the city’s first year with a medical marijuana program. The city’s executive budget proposal states that it expects to take in $500,000 in the 2020 fiscal year.

The announcement is somewhat astounding from the outside, given the fact that the capital charges $5,000 in initial licensing fees to marijuana businesses, with an additional $5,000 renewal payment each year. (That’s on top of the state licensing process through which all cannabis enterprises must also pass.)

The city clerk estimated that 7,500 staff hours were spent overseeing the medical marijuana program this year. Next year, the city budget allows for the hiring of a new employee that will be dedicated to managing elections and marijuana licensing.

Of course, the way the numbers are being tallied is political. Should Lansing officials show that the medical marijuana program is turning a profit, all licensing payments would become taxes, rather than their current designation as a fee. What’s the big deal? In Michigan, taxes require approval from the state’s voters — a process that could severely hold up the program’s implementation and by extension, patients’ access to cannabis.

The big payoff for the state will likely happen when taxation begins on recreational cannabis, which the Senate Fiscal Agency has predicted could result in $35.5 million in sales tax and $53.8 million in excise tax in its first year.

And for many of the town’s cannabis advocates, the lack of funds that the beginning of the medical marijuana program brought in was besides the point — and that all vetting of potential cannabis distributors was well founded.

“People are looking to (dispensaries) for relief for some pretty serious medical issues so we need to make sure the product is the safest product,” said at-large city council member Patricia Spitzley. “Those were the projections and that was the hype.”

Spitzley added that there is the potential for the town to benefit financially in indirect ways, like raised property values and new job opportunities.

Lansing Officials Report Medical Marijuana Program is Operating at a Loss was posted on High Times.

Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Headed to Texas House Floor

Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Headed to Texas House Floor

Original Post: High Times: Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Headed to Texas House Floor

[Canniseur: Texas is trying to get in on the cannabis movement, even if they’re a bit draconian. Apparently you will be able to ingest cannabis that has measurable amounts of THC in it as well. The bill also authorizes consumption in all sorts of methods, except the oldest method of all; Smoking whole flower. None of that for Texas. No siree.]

Texas may see the expansion of its medical marijuana program beyond its current restriction to low THC cannabis oil for those with severe forms of epilepsy. A bill is waiting to be scheduled for floor vote in the House that would add qualifying conditions to the program, in addition to forms in which patients are able to access the drug.

Among the conditions that House Bill 1365 would authorize for entry into the program include PTSD, Alzheimer’s, cancer, less severe forms of epilepsy, and tendency to be nauseous with other forms of treatment. It would also authorize the use of cannabis via vaping, creams, and oils — though smoking will still be off the table should it pass. It would also establish more opportunities to conduct research on cannabis.

“Texans with debilitating conditions deserve treatments that improve their quality of life,” commented the bill’s sponsor Rep. Eddie Lucio in a Facebook post announcing the proposed legislation. In a press release announcing the proposed legislation he noted that 33 states in the country allow medical cannabis, and that taxes associated with such programs can have “a vital impact to our economy.”

The legislation is supported by 56 state legislators from both sides of the aisle, despite the concerns that were raised over its language that doctors “prescribe” cannabis. Some think the wording could expose medical professionals to potential issues with the federal government.

Although the Compassionate Care Act that took effect in 2016 does allow people with intractable forms of epilepsy to access cannabidiol oil of with .5 percent THC or below, marijuana is mostly far from legal in Texas. There are only 600 patients enrolled in the statewide program. Cannabis advocates in the state have been eagerly tracking the progress of not just the medical program expansion, but several other bills that would widen access to cannabis and decriminalize its possession.

Representative Tracy King’s bill to legalize hemp and its products is scheduled for a floor debate next week in the House. At the start of the month, the state’s Department of Health announced that it would be removing hemp from its list of controlled substances to clear the way for any future legalization of hemp production.

Various decriminalization bills have also been introduced this year. Rep. Joe Moody’s HB 63 has also been sent to the calendars committee to be scheduled for a floor vote. That bill would remove the threat of jail for people charged with their first cannabis possession fine and reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce from a maximum of $2,000 to $250.
Not all jurisdictions, however, are waiting on state legislators to reduce the penalties for small time cannabis charges. Dallas attorney general John Creuzot announced sweeping plans last week to overhaul the way such crimes are dealt with by police officers, including a resolution to longer prosecute people for their first marijuana misdemeanor.

Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Headed to Texas House Floor was posted on High Times.

North Carolina Democrats File Bill to Decriminalize Small Amounts of Marijuana

North Carolina Democrats File Bill to Decriminalize Small Amounts of Marijuana

Original Post: High Times: North Carolina Democrats File Bill to Decriminalize Small Amounts of Marijuana

[Canniseur: Another ‘it’s about time’ states. North Carolina has long ignored the learning from other states. It would be too easy to blame the republicans, but they are the ones who enacted SB1, which was called the bathroom bill about 3 years ago. Will the republicans in North Carolina ever wake up to 2019? Hard to tell. They are kind of retro though.]

It’s hard to ignore the rumblings for legal marijuana in North Carolina. This week, some policymakers are focusing first on decriminalization measures. On Monday, four state representatives filed as primary sponsors for HB 766, which would erase penalties for possessing four ounces or less of cannabis, making it “no longer unlawful.”

The bill would make the cut offs for drug offenses that qualify as misdemeanors and felonies higher. Under current law, possession of more than a half ounce makes your crime a misdemeanor. A felony awaits those convicted of more than one and a half ounces. Under the new bill, you would have to be convicted of possession of more than four ounces to get a misdemeanor, and more than a whopping 16 ounces for it to qualify as a felony.

HB 766 would also compel the Department of Justice to review court records and expunge all possession charges of less four ounces of marijuana, allowing individuals to file their own petition with the court system before the DOJ’s deadline of July 1, 2020. It’s not the most agile system that has been proposed for such a process of retroactive justice — for each expungement, a hearing would be required to make the petition a success.

The bill has been passed to the Senate’s committee on rules and operations, where it will await its legislative fate. Its sponsors include 12 Democrats, including State Representatives John Autry, Allison Dahle, Pricey Harrison and Zack Hawkins, who are its primary sponsors.

Cannabis legalization has been a legislative issue in North Carolina for at least a decade, but this year has seen concentrated effort on behalf of lawmakers to get something passed that would widen legal access to cannabis. In November, state representative Kelly Alexander announced that he would be beating the bushes for cannabis legislation plans in 2019. In October, a consortium of the News & Observer, the Herald-Sun, and the Charlotte Observer newspapers published a survey of 60 North Carolinian leaders. Most all of them said they wanted to make at least some form of marijuana legal.

HB 766 does not even qualify as the most dramatic proposal for cannabis possession that has been filed in this year’s legislative session. In February, state senator Paul Lowe filed SB 45, a measure that would legalize possession of up to three ounces of weed. That bill was also sent to the committee on rules and operations, but has yet to see any further movement.

Certainly, some officials are hedging their bets that legal cannabis will be present in North Carolina’s future. Asheville Alcohol Beverage Control Board general manager Mark Combs told CBS17 in February, ““The states that are legalizing it, we’re talking. We’re asking questions. We’re curious as to what they’re doing. What’s working? What’s not working? What are best practices? So that we have a working knowledge of what we could expect, whether it’s an ABC system, or whether it’s franchised, or whether it’s state-operated. It’s good to have that base knowledge so that we can go from there, and not be surprised.”

North Carolina Democrats File Bill to Decriminalize Small Amounts of Marijuana was posted on High Times.

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