[Canniseur: New Mexico rocks!!! I already knew that, but as the state legislature moves forward to create a legal adult-use cannabis market, it seems like they’re serious about making it happen. Certainly, the tax revenue won’t hurt the state at all. Will it keep people from driving to Colorado to purchase their cannabis? Who knows. A lot will depend on the tax structure and the quality of New Mexico weed.]
New Mexico lawmakers discussed the potential economic impact of legalizing marijuana in the state during a committee hearing on Wednesday.
The meeting of the legislature’s interim Economic and Rural Development Committee, which featured testimony from the chair of a governor-appointed cannabis working group, focused on issues such as a tax scheme for legal marijuana sales and the allocation of the resulting revenue.
While Pat Davis, the working group chair, touted the economic potential of the industry, he also recognized that “getting a business in marijuana is expensive—it costs about half a million to $1 million to open.” Given that, he said it was important to use revenue from cannabis sales to start a venture capital fund that could provide low-interest loans to disadvantaged communities to launch marijuana operations.
The committee convened one month after the Cannabis Working Group, formed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), released recommendations for a legal marijuana market. The governor aims to have a reform plan in place for the short 30-day legislative session starting in January 2020, meaning that New Mexico is positioned to potentially become the next state in the U.S. to legalize.
The working group’s report said New Mexico would gain 11,000 jobs and sales would reach $620 million annually within five years of implementation. Combined tax revenue from adult-use and medical cannabis sales would earn the state $100 million a year, they estimated.
Other recommendations included ensuring that prior marijuana convictions are expunged and prohibiting or restricting home cultivation.
Davis, who also serves as a member of the Albuquerque City Council, touched on a variety of these recommendations and emphasized that the working group wanted to incorporate law enforcement into conversations about legalization as legislative efforts move forward. He also said that marijuana would be “larger than most agricultural industries” once it’s legal in the state.
“New Mexico is ready for this,” he said. “We found that New Mexico has been doing this for 10 years already [with medical cannabis], and this is just a multiplier in terms of regulation and infrastructure. This is a real opportunity.”
Lawmakers also heard from Public Safety Department Secretary Mark Shea and University of New Mexico economics professor Sarah Stith.
Shea discussed the need to fund efforts to train officers as drug recognition experts and said agencies are looking forward to having field testing options to detect impaired driving.
[Canniseur: If you travel you should know the cannabis laws in adult-use legal states. This is a pretty good guide for understanding what is actually legal. For example, if it is legal to carry 28 grams, you should know this when you’re in that state. Pay attention so you don’t get in trouble! Someone needs to create a comprehensive guide to what cities or counties across the country allow cannabis retail.]
The last few years have seen dramatic changes in the way North America treats cannabis. Acceptance for legalization is at an all time high, and the trend of recreational, adult-use marijuana being approved doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
With that said, the legal discrepancies between jurisdictions can often make it difficult for both observers and users to keep track of what’s going on. This is certainly true on a province-by-province basis in Canada (underscored by Quebec’s recent raising of the consumption age).
But it’s especially true in the US, where cannabis is still technically a Schedule 1 drug with no federal oversight.
Here’s everything you need to know, on a state-by-state level, about recreational cannabis laws in America.
As one of the first states to fully legalize, residents (and as of 2016 tourists) of Colorado over the age of 21 are allowed to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of cannabis at any given time. They’re also allowed to grow up to 6 plants for personal use.
While use on private property and establishments is legal in Colorado, all public use is prohibited, as is use on any federal land such as a national park. Private sales are legal, and all businesses wishing to sell cannabis flower and other THC-containing products (edibles, concentrates and topicals) must obtain a state-issued license.
Colorado has also introduced strict packaging and sale requirements. Retail establishments can only operate between the hours of 8:00am and midnight, and all products must come in child-resistant packages with the THC logo clearly marked.
In November 2013, a Colorado ballot initiative was passed adding a 15 percent excise tax to all wholesale sales, as well as a 10 percent sales tax.
Washington fully legalized recreational pot in 2012. The industry is regulated by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, which issues licenses for growers, processors and retailers. Vertical integration is effectively banned in the state, as retailers are prohibited from obtaining growth and processing licenses.
As one of the most long standing and well-established cannabis markets in the country, many of Washington’s laws are quite similar to those in Colorado – residents and tourists aged 21 and up can purchase up to 28 grams of flower, edibles, concentrates and topicals are all fully legal, public consumption is banned and strict packaging rules apply (Washington has, however, banned cultivation for personal use).
Legalized in 2014 by ballot measure (Alaska Measure 2), Alaska allows for the possession of up to 28 grams of flower and the cultivation of 6 plants for personal use. Public use is prohibited, as is transporting cannabis both out of state and on Alaska Ferries. The state makes use of private retail sales through regulated stores.
While Alaska has banned public consumption, it is unique in that it’s the first state to approve and issue licenses for on-site consumption, allowing customers to use cannabis in the same dispensaries they bought them in.
With the passing of Oregon Ballot Measure 91, possession of up to 226 grams of cannabis in-home and 28 grams in public is legal in the state. Oregon also allows residents to grow up to 4 plants for personal use, and like most legal states, bans public use.
Private retail sales are legal in Oregon, with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission issuing licenses for production and processing, as well as wholesale and retail (vertical integration is permitted in Oregon, and there is no restrictions on businesses holding all four types of license).
As the first US state to legalize medical marijuana back in 1996, full legalization in 2016 combined with its population of over 39 million has made California the largest cannabis market in the world. Possession of up to 28 grams and the cultivation of up to six plants is legal, and private sales and licensing of cannabis businesses began in 2018 under the regulation of the Bureau of Cannabis Control.
Like most states, public consumption and use on federal land is illegal in California. Edibles and infused-products are legal in the state, however, there are regulations surrounding THC content. California is unique in that it’s the only state with laws effectively legalizing cannabis delivery services across the entire jurisdiction.
Legalized via ballot initiative in 2016 with laws having gone into effect in January of 2017, Nevada allows possession of up to 28 grams. Cultivation for personal use however is banned unless you live more than 25 miles from a cannabis retailer.
Cannabis in Nevada is subject to a 15 percent excise tax for wholesale sales and 10 percent for retail, and in 2019 the state set a record for collecting over $100 million in tax payments from the industry.
Although recreational cannabis has been legal in Maine since 2016, the city of Portland voted to legalize back in 2013. Possession of up to 70 grams is legal, along with the cultivation of up to three “mature” and 12 “immature” plants. Public consumption is illegal.
Although cannabis was legalized via ballot initiative, the state’s Marijuana Legalization Act has been continuously delayed by Governor Paul LePage. The governor vetoed a bill establishing recreational cannabis sales, however, the veto was overturned by Maine’s legislature last year. The state is currently still waiting to see retail cannabis sales be implemented, however, officials are hoping to move forward with them in 2020.
Legalized via ballot initiative in 2016, possession of up to 28 grams of cannabis in public and 280 grams in home is legal (although any amount greater than 28 grams must be locked up). Growing up to six plants per household is allowed, and up to 12 is permitted if there’s more than one adult living there. Public consumption and use on federal land is illegal.
After some delay, recreational cannabis retail took effect in the state towards the end of 2018, with sales reaching $140 million in June of this year.
Vermont, Michigan and Illinois
In July 2018, Vermont officially made it legal to possess up to 28 grams of cannabis and to cultivate up to 2 plants, removing all state penalties. Michigan followed in November of 2018, approving possession of up to 70 grams in public, 280 grams in home and the growth of 12 plants. And in 2019, Illinois became the first state to legalize through its state legislature rather than by ballot initiative, allowing possession of up to 28 grams (cultivation for recreational use is still illegal).
However, as newcomers to the legalization game, these three states (along with Maine) have yet to implement a retail system, with sales expected to start in 2020 in Illinois and Michigan and in 2021 in Vermont.
[Canniseur: It’s disappointing that communities are disallowing cannabis businesses from operating in their towns. But at the same time, the communities allowing cannabis business are being set up to leverage the situation. Ann Arbor, MI comes to the forefront of cities poised to take advantage of legalized cannabis sales.]
It was not a good night for marijuana businesses in Michigan Tuesday with voters in three of four metro Detroit communities voting against proposals to allow legal weed into their towns.
Voters in Keego Harbor, Walled Lake and Allen Park defeated proposals by wide margins that would have allowed marijuana businesses into their towns.
Lincoln Park was the exception approving a proposal to allow all cannabis business categories into their town.
In six other communities across the state, four communities said no to marijuana. Proposals to allow marijuana businesses failed in Hudson and Mt. Pleasant, while voters approved ballot issues to ban marijuana businesses in the Upper Peninsula’s Marenisco Township and South Haven in southwest Michigan.
There was some good news for marijuana that happened in mid-Michigan’s Crystal Township and Northfield Township, north of Ann Arbor, where residents gathered petition signatures to ban pot shops, but voters rejected those measures.
Last year, statewide voters approved a ballot proposal that legalized marijuana for adult recreational use by a 56-44% margin. And while local leaders can decide to allow or ban cannabis businesses, they can’t stop residents from possessing, using or growing marijuana in their homes.
In metro Detroit:
The Keego Harbor City Council adopted an ordinance prohibiting legal weed shops from locating in the city, but citizens gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. The proposal would allow four medical marijuana dispensaries and four recreational retail stores. But voters defeated the measure by a 163-309 vote margin.
In Walled Lake, the city council had approved an ordinance that would allow three recreational marijuana stores, but the ballot proposal bumped that up to eight retail stores. Voters said no by a 596-886 vote margin. The city has already passed an ordinance that will allow three growing operations, three processors, three transporters and two testing facilities.
In Allen Park, a proposal to allow three marijuana retailers and three micro businesses — which allow for growing, processing and selling up to 150 plants — as well as licenses for consumption spaces and special events where marijuana can be consumed was defeated by a 1,921-3,051 margin.
And in Lincoln Park, voters said yes by a 1,751-1,374 vote margin, to a proposal that will allow for two medical and two recreational marijuana shops and one license each for growers, processors, testing facilities, secure transporters and micro businesses.
Most of the communities that have already had ballot proposals on marijuana proposals — Highland Park, Royal Oak Township, Crystal Lake and Vanderbilt — have voted to prohibit the businesses. The city of Pontiac was the exception when voters last year passed a proposal by one vote that would allow up to 20 marijuana dispensaries and an unlimited number of other marijuana businesses into the city.
Roughly 1,368 communities across the state have told the state that they are opting out of marijuana businesses, although some of those communities have said that they will reevaluate that decision after seeing how the state rules develop and how the marijuana market shakes out.
[Canniseur: I would love to know what the real THC level was in this cannabis. Perhaps the farmer was sold bad seed? Or if the THC level was pretty low, perhaps the hemp crop was irrigated poorly. Either way, it’s an unfortunate situation. That’s a lot of cannabis/hemp to destroy!]
A tip about supposedly legal hemp production led California investigators to fields of marijuana plants. About 10 million of them.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office — with the help of the FBI and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife — executed search warrants on 11 fields in the Arvin area, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles.
From the 459 acres of land, authorities destroyed about 10 million marijuana plants — a value of approximately $1 billion on the black market, the sheriff’s office said.
“These illicit marijuana gardens were grown under the guise of legitimate hemp production,” the sheriff’s office said. The Food and Agricultural Code and Health and Safety Code define industrial hemp as containing less than 0.3% THC content.
Tests showed THC levels in those fields were much higher than the legal limit, the sheriff’s office said. THC is the psychoactive substance within cannabis.
[Canniseur: Is it tea? Is it cannabis? Frequently the police in all parts of the country want to think they’re invincible. They’re not. The police are supposed to protect and serve. In this case, it appears they did neither. “Oops, sorry” is not enough of an apology from any police department to cover what these people were forced to go through. P.S. Hey police…loose leaf tea neither looks or smells like cannabis. There’s no comparison between the two.]
On April 20, 2012, Kansas sheriff’s deputies raided the home of Adlynn and Robert Harte, hoping to bust a secret cannabis grow-operation and show the public how they were winning the War on Drugs. Deputies armed with assault rifles swarmed the family’s home, forcing the couple’s two young children to watch as they tore the house apart looking for weed.
The cops, however, were wrong. There was not a trace of cannabis at the Hartes’ home. The couple filed a federal lawsuit against the police, but lost the case after a jury trial in 2017. The couple appealed, and this month, the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled that they were wrongly denied the chance to pursue three separate claims against the police.
The story began in 2011, when a Missouri cop staking out a local garden store on a hunt for weed growers noticed Robert Harte shopping at the store. The cop decided this activity was highly suspicious, and notified Kansas police that Harte could be a potential weed kingpin. Kansas cops, hoping to launch a publicized series of raids against local weed growers on 4/20, decided to investigate the Hartes. After digging through the family’s trash, deputies turned up wet loose-leaf tea, which they mistook for marijuana.
“The deputies did not photograph any of the substances, nor did they send them to a crime lab for testing,” wrote Judge Joel Carson in the 10th Circuit court’s decision, Reason reports. “If the deputies would have sent the wet vegetation to a crime lab for testing, they would have discovered that the wet vegetation was not marijuana but instead was Addie’s loose-leaf tea. Rather than conducting further investigation, the deputies prepared a search warrant affidavit relying solely on the loose-leaf tea found in the garbage and Bob’s shopping trip to a garden store eight months earlier.”
Police used a field test on the tea leaves, which indicated that they were marijuana. However, the label on the test kit clearly stated that its results were not entirely accurate, and should be confirmed by a proper laboratory test. In the ruling, Judge Carlos Lucero cited a study that “found a 70% false positive rate using this field test, with positive results obtained from substances including vanilla, peppermint, ginger,” various teas and herbs, as well as “a strip of newspaper, and even air.”
The Hartes filed a federal lawsuit in 2013, but a judge dismissed all of their claims. The couple appealed, and in 2017, the 10th Circuit Court ruled that they were allowed to pursue one solitary federal claim. This claim, which hinged on whether or not the deputies lied about the field test, went to trial in 2017, but the jury found there was not enough evidence to prove that the cops deliberately lied.
This month, the 10th Circuit ruled that the earlier decision to limit the family to only one claim was made in error. The current decision allows the Hartes to pursue three separate charges: “(1) whether Defendants properly executed the warrant; (2) whether the deputies exceeded the scope of the warrant by searching for evidence of general criminal activity; and (3) whether the deputies prolonged Plaintiffs’ detention, thus subjecting them to an illegal arrest.”
“The defendants in this case caused an unjustified governmental intrusion into the Hartes’ home based on nothing more than junk science, an incompetent investigation, and a publicity stunt,” Lucero wrote in 2017. “There was no probable cause at any step of the investigation. Not at the garden shop, not at the gathering of the tea leaves, and certainly not at the analytical stage when the officers willfully ignored directions to submit any presumed results to a laboratory for analysis. Full stop.”
[Canniseur: The Senate passing anything that protects states from the wrath of the feds is almost a miracle in itself. This bill doesn’t quite go far enough, but it’s a start. It does not cover adult use cannabis states. And it doesn’t include the banking provisions so dispensaries don’t have to deal only with cash like the old dope dealer days, which is the situation they’re currently in.]
The Senate approved spending legislation on Thursday that extends a provision protecting medical marijuana states from federal interference—but the question remains as to whether a House-passed version with broader protections for all state cannabis programs could still be adopted in the final bill that’s sent to the president.
The so-called “minibus” appropriations legislation covers funding for Commerce, Justice, Science, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development for the 2020 fiscal year.
The vote on the bill, which also includes new hemp and CBD-related language, was 84 to 9.
The medical cannabis provision in question prohibits the Department of Justice from using its resources to prosecute individuals acting in compliance with state laws. The rider has been in place and renewed each year since 2014.
But after the House passed a Justice Department spending bill in June that for the first time would extend those protections to all state cannabis programs, including those allowing recreational use and sales, some advocates hoped the Senate would follow suit. In the lead up to a committee markup where that would have happened, however, several senators told Marijuana Moment that the prospects were unlikely, as congressional leaders made a bicameral agreement not to add new policy riders in the appropriations process unless agreed to by leadership on a bipartisan basis.
Now the only chance that Congress will send the broader provision to President Trump’s desk for 2020 is if negotiators on a bicameral conference committee agree to put the House language in the final package, though there is a chance that the larger chamber could simply approve the bill as passed by the Senate in an effort to avoid a government shutdown that would occur if no spending legislation is signed into law by November 21.
“It’s our hope that the House will insist that today’s minibus appropriations package include the provision to restrict the Department of Justice from interfering with state-legal marijuana programs that passed with bipartisan support,” said Justin Strekal, political director for NORML.
The medical marijuana protections language isn’t the only cannabis-related rider that has advanced via the spending process this year. The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved legislation that includes existing policies barring Washington, D.C. from using its local tax dollars to implement a legal marijuana market, in addition to a provision providing funds to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enact regulations for a legal hemp program.
The latter language is included in the minibus the Senate approved on Thursday, as are report provisions urging the Food and Drug Administration to issue enforcement discretion guidelines for CBD, encouraging the Farm Credit Administration to provide services to hemp businesses and supporting “competitive USDA grants for hemp projects.”
The hemp riders are timely given that USDA unveiled draft rules for hemp, which was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, on Tuesday. The interim final rule will be formally adopted following a 60-day public comment period.
Another House-passed appropriations bill also includes protections for banks that work with the marijuana industry, and the rider preventing D.C. from establishing a cannabis market was removed from the chamber’s version of the legislation.
While the Republican-controlled Senate is mostly sticking to the agreement not to add new policy riders to appropriations legislation, it could soon take up a separate, standalone marijuana bill: the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would allow banks to service cannabis businesses without being penalized by federal regulators.
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announces his plan to legalize cannabis in the U.S. One America’s Salina Arredondo breaks down the proposal.
Senator Bernie Sanders will legalize Cannabis within his first 100 days in office, if elected. His plan includes expungement, reinvesting revenue into struggling communities, and ensure the cannabis industry doesn’t turn into something like the tobacco industry.
[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.