Montana GOP Lawmaker Wants To Eliminate Recreational Dispensaries

More than two years after voters approved a measure legalizing recreational cannabis, and more than a year after the launch of the state’s regulated marijuana market, a Montana lawmaker wants to undo all of that. 

Last week, Republican state Sen. Keith Regier introduced a bill that includes a slate of reforms to Montana’s cannabis policy, most notably “eliminating adult-use dispensaries.” 

According to Montana Free Press, the bill “additionally raises the state tax on medical marijuana from 4% to 20% and puts significant limits on medical marijuana potency and allowable amounts for possession,” and although it would once again prohibit recreational cannabis, it would not “re-criminalize marijuana possession for adults.”

Regier’s bill states plainly its objective: “reduce the demand for marijuana sales.”

Montana Free Press has more background on the proposal:

“If passed into law, the bill would drastically reduce the potential consumer base for existing marijuana businesses and eliminate a significant source of revenue for state coffers. Since adult-use sales began in January 2022, Montana has generated $54 million in tax revenue from the industry. Less than one-tenth of that revenue came from medical marijuana taxes. Currently, recreational customers pay a 20% tax to the state; some counties add an additional 3% local tax.

The outlet reported that the bill will be the subject of a hearing on Wednesday in the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee.

Nearly 57% of Montana voters approved Initiative 190 in 2020, which legalized marijuana for adults aged 21 and older, and also laid the groundwork for cannabis sales to be taxed. 

Recreational cannabis sales launched last year, bringing in more than $200 million to the state in 2022.

According to the state, recreational marijuana sales amounted to $202,947,328 in 2022, while medical cannabis sales totaled $93,616,551. (Voters in Montana legalized medical marijuana treatment in 2004.)

The two combined to generate a grand total of $303,563,879 in marijuana sales last year. 

Montana generated $41,989,466 in tax revenue off recreational pot sales, according to the Department of Revenue, and $3,744,662 in taxes from medical cannabis sales. Combined, the state pulled in $45,734,128 in tax revenue from marijuana sales in 2022.

Marijuana reform has been a hot topic in Montana’s legislative session this year. 

Earlier this month, the Business and Labor Committee “heard testimony on two marijuana-related bills,” according to local news station KTVH –– one of which “would prohibit marijuana businesses in Montana from promoting their business or brand in print, over TV and radio or using a billboard,” while the other “would revise the required warning labels that marijuana businesses must put on their products, to say that marijuana use during pregnancy could result in ‘congenital anomalies, and inherited cancers developed by a child later in life.’”

The station reported that the proposed ban on advertising “drew opposition from marijuana businesses and from the Montana Newspaper Association,” with opponents saying that “most people in the industry have gone to great lengths to make sure their advertising follows the current rules, and most of the issues people are concerned about have come from a few bad actors.”

There have been debates over other cannabis bills, too, including one that “would require marijuana growers and manufacturers of marijuana products to install air filtration systems to address concerns about odor,” according to KTVH, as well as several proposed bills to change how the state distributes the marijuana tax revenue.

“In particular, they propose removing a section in state law that directs a percentage of taxes from marijuana sales toward Habitat Montana – a program that uses state funds for wildlife habitat conservation projects. Gov. Greg Gianforte has said the program has more than enough funding and no longer needs the marijuana revenue,” the station reported.

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Hawaii Cannabis Bill Fails, Ending Legalization Hopes for 2023

Hawaii will have to wait at least another year before marijuana legalization comes to the islands, after a legislative proposal stalled in the state House of Representatives. 

Earlier this month, the Hawaii state Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill, which would legalize adult-use cannabis and establish the regulatory framework for a recreational marijuana market. 

But that bill “was not scheduled for a state House hearing before a key legislative deadline,” according to MJBizDaily, which means that the proposal is likely dead for 2023. 

It is a familiar outcome for marijuana advocates in Hawaii, where Democrats control both chambers of the legislature. The state’s governor, Josh Green, is also a Democrat.

MJBizDaily reported that senior leadership in the state House also “killed off three earlier legalization proposals introduced in that chamber in February when those bills were also not scheduled for hearings.”

Despite its smooth passage in the state Senate, the legalization bill was also bound to encounter obstacles in the state House.

One of the leaders in that chamber, House Speaker Scott Saiki, has “said that he thought it best for the state to wait on approving recreational marijuana use,” according to the outlet Civil Beat, and that he “would rather see a working group analyze the idea over the summer.”

The bill sailed out of a pair of state Senate committees earlier this month, with one of the legislative panels adding a host of amendments to the measure.

According to local news station KHON2, those amendments included: “1. Language was added to establish civil penalties for unlicensed cannabis growth and distribution activities; 2. Language was added that protects employers who seek to prohibit cannabis use amongst their employees; 3. Prohibition of advertising within 1,000 feet of any youth-centered area; 4. Proposed licensing of cultivation, manufacturing, testing and retail facilities that ensure a properly regulated industry while also preventing future consolidation and monopoly control of cannabis dispensaries.”

The bill was approved by the full state Senate by a vote of 22-3.

Green, who was elected as governor last year, has expressed his support for marijuana legalization.

“I think that people already have moved past that culturally as a concern,” Green said during a gubernatorial debate last year. “But here’s what I would do. First of all, if marijuana is legalized, it should be very carefully monitored, and only done like cigarettes, or I’ve been very careful to regulate tobacco over the years. We should take the $30 to $40 million of taxes we would get from that and invest in the development and recreation of our mental healthcare system for the good of all.”

As the bill made its way through the state Senate this month, an adviser for the governor made it clear that the measure would likely receive his signature.

“Governor Green supports legalized use of cannabis by adults, providing that any legislation that emerges protects public safety and consumers, and assures product safety with testing and tracking. The Governor also seeks to ensure the continued viability of our medical cannabis industry. Because these are complicated issues, he has encouraged his departments to state their concerns, and to make suggestions if there are ways to mitigate them. If a bill passes the legislature that accounts for his primary concerns, he has indicated he will likely sign it,” the adviser said at the time.

There is also public backing for legalization to couple with the political support. A poll released earlier this year found that 52% of Hawaiians are in favor of legalization adult-use marijuana, while only 31% are opposed. 

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UN Warns Adult-Use Cannabis in US States Violates International Treaty

The United Nations agency tasked with monitoring drug enforcement said in a recent report that non-medical (adult-use) cannabis legalization in some US states is a violation of international drug treaties established more than 60 years ago. In its 2022 annual report, the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) wrote that America’s federal government isn’t complying with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs by passively allowing states to legalize adult-use marijuana within their borders.

The INCB has regularly criticized countries that have allowed territories within their borders to legalize cannabis because of the obligations of member states under the 1961 Single Convention, according to a report from Marijuana Moment. But in its 2022 annual report released earlier this month, the independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations’ international drug control conventions appeared to take aim at cannabis policy reforms at the state level in the US.

“In States with a federal structure, a special issue may arise with respect to whether the Federal Government may be held accountable if a federated entity implements legalization, which violates the conventions, while the Federal Government does not have the power to compel the federated entity to fulfill the treaty obligations,” the INCB wrote.

The INCB added that member states are required under the 1961 treaty to “give effect to and carry out the provisions of this Convention within their own territories,” even in nations with a federal system of government such as the United States. The convention states that “unless a different intention appears from the treaty or is otherwise established, a treaty is binding upon each party in respect of its entire territory.”

“The internal distribution of powers between the different levels of a State cannot be invoked as a justification for the failure to perform a treaty,” the INCB maintains.

INCB Offers Reasons to Maintain Prohibition

The agency offered several reasons for continuing the prohibition of cannabis under the 1961 convention, including the treaty’s view that cannabis is a highly addictive drug that is subject to abuse. The report also notes that legalizing the use of adult-use cannabis lessens the perception of risk and leads to higher rates of consumption.

“The most concerning effect of cannabis legalization is the likelihood of increased use, particularly among young people, according to estimated data,” the UN wrote in a statement about the INCB report. “In the United States, it has been shown that adolescents and young adults consume significantly more cannabis in federal states where cannabis has been legalized compared to other states where recreational use remains illegal. There is also evidence that general availability of legalized cannabis products lowers the perception of risk and of the negative consequences involved in using them.”

The report adds that policy reforms have failed to meet the objectives of states that have legalized adult-use cannabis, including the desire to reduce criminal activity and protect public safety. The agency noted the persistence of illicit markets in jurisdictions that have legalized adult-use cannabis, including Canada, Uruguay and parts of the US.

“Evidence suggests that cannabis legalization has not been successful in dissuading young people from using cannabis, and illicit markets persist,” said INCB president Jagjit Pavadia.

Jason Adelstone, an associate attorney at the cannabis law firm Vicente LLP, wrote in an article about the INCB report that the evidence cited by the agency doesn’t support its conclusions on the success of cannabis legalization, including data that show a significant reduction in the illicit market in jurisdictions that have ended the prohibition of adult-use marijuana. He also notes that the report is calling on member nations with jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis to prioritize INCB policy over their own laws.

“Basically, INCB is saying that no matter what the federal government’s constitutional limitations are, signatories with strong federalist systems, such as the US, must violate their constitution in favor of drug treaty requirements to ensure local jurisdiction comply with the drug treaties,” Adelstone wrote in an email to Cannabis Now.

Adelstone says the agency’s narrow interpretation of the 1961 convention requires member states that don’t have the authority to force their territories to comply with the requirements of the treaty to nonetheless take such action.

“This position is unworkable, incompatible with law and practicality and dangerous,” Adelstone continued. “If a signatory’s constitution prohibits the federal government from enforcing requirements on local jurisdictions, or its citizens, then the federal government will not, and should not, enforce such requirements. Pushing any other narrative is dangerous, risking the stability of constitutional governments.”

Despite the International Narcotics Control Board’s continued criticism of member states that have allowed adult-use cannabis legalization measures to take effect, the agency hasn’t assessed any penalties against nations that have allowed policies contrary to the 1961 convention.

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UN Issues ‘Warning’ to U.S. Over Adult-Use State Laws, Suggesting Repeal

The United Nations’ (UN) narcotics watchdog issued a press release on March 9, saying that U.S. adult-use cannabis laws are out of sync with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, (with roots in Reefer Madness) and that the “trivialization” of youth harms from cannabis is a major cause for concern.

The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said that it is “warning” in its Annual Report 2022 that the wave of adult-use efforts in U.S. states “contravenes the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs” and sends the wrong message to youth.

“The most concerning effect of cannabis legalization is the likelihood of increased use, particularly among young people, according to estimated data,” the INCB wrote. “In the United States, it has been shown that adolescents and young adults consume significantly more cannabis in federal states where cannabis has been legalized compared to other states where recreational use remains illegal.”

The UN 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs states that UN member States must carry out the provisions of the Convention within their territories. U.S. state laws don’t appear to carry much weight. “The internal distribution of powers between the different levels of a State cannot be invoked as justification for the failure to perform a treaty,” the Convention reads. 

The INCB continued, saying, “There is also evidence that general availability of legalized cannabis products lowers the perception of risk and of the negative consequences involved in using them. New products, such as edibles or vaping products marketed in appealing packaging have increased the trend. INCB finds that this has contributed to a trivialization of the impacts of cannabis use in the public eye, especially among young people.”

“The expanding cannabis industry is marketing cannabis-related products to appeal to young people and this is a major cause for concern as is the way the harms associated with using high-potency cannabis products are being played down,” said INCB President Jagjit Pavadia.

Pavadia continued, “Evidence suggests that cannabis legalization has not been successful in dissuading young people from using cannabis, and illicit markets persist.”

The legalization of adult-use cannabis—not candy-flavored Adderall, sometimes used by six-year-olds, or six-digit overdose deaths from fentanyl in 2022—is the UN’s cause of concern in the U.S. Edibles and vape pens with candy and cereal flavors also raise an alarm at the INCB.

Ironically, the 1961 Single Convention can be traced to the Reefer Madness era in the U.S., and shouldn’t be used as any real metric, according to NORML. 

“Cannabis policy reform advocates have been readily vexed by the United Nation’s extreme anti-cannabis advocacy and propaganda since the 1970s, and arguably after America’s original drug czar Harry J. Anslinger, in his last act as a life-long anti-cannabis zealot and 30-year plus federal drug czar, he watched President John F. Kennedy commit the world and then American-dominated United Nations to America’s Reefer Madness via the signing of the Single Convention Treaty in 1961,” wrote former NORML executive president, Allen St. Pierre.

The report then says that the U.S. should decriminalize and depenalize cannabis alternatively instead of legalizing adult-use.

According to the INCB, the UN provides more than enough leniency: “The convention-based system offers significant flexibility for States to protect young people, improve public health, avoid unnecessary incarceration and address illicit markets and related crime.”

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Delaware House Approves Legalization Bill

Lawmakers in the Delaware House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill to legalize adult-use marijuana in the state––but the governor’s veto pen continues to loom over the effort.

The bill passed the chamber on a bipartisan vote of 28-13, according to Delaware News Journal, which noted that the measure picked up two votes from Democratic lawmakers who had not previously supported cannabis legalization. 

The lone Democrat to vote against, according to the newspaper, was the party’s leader in the chamber, House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf.

Schwartzkopf is not the only senior Delaware Democrat to break from his party in opposing cannabis legalization––a policy that is supported by a large majority of Democratic voters nationwide, and that has become a virtual mainstream position among Democrats in Washington and state Houses across the country.

Delaware’s Democratic governor, John Carney, has been firm in his opposition to marijuana legalization. 

Last year, after a similar bill was passed by both chambers of the Delaware general assembly, Carney vetoed the measure, and lawmakers were unable to generate enough votes to override the veto.

“[The legalization bill] would, among other things, remove all penalties for possession by a person 21 years of age or older of one ounce or less of marijuana and ensure that there are no criminal or civil penalties for transfers without remuneration of one ounce or less of marijuana between persons who are 21 years of age or older,” Carney said in his veto statement at the time.

“I recognize the positive effect marijuana can have for people with certain health conditions, and for that reason, I continue to support the medical marijuana industry in Delaware,” the governor continued. “I supported decriminalization of marijuana because I agree that individuals should not be imprisoned solely for the possession and private use of a small amount of marijuana—and today, thanks to Delaware’s decriminalization law, they are not.”

“That said, I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people,” Carney added. “Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”

Undeterred, Democrats, who continue to hold majorities in the general assembly, renewed their legalization drive in January.

“My hope is that with continued open dialogue with the governor’s office, that will help alleviate a veto,” State House Rep. Ed Osienski, a Democrat who is sponsoring the new bill, said earlier this year. “I have more support from my members … for a veto override, but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.”

Early signs are not great, as a spokesperson for the governor said earlier this year that his position on marijuana remains unchanged.

But still, the Democrats press on. According to Delaware News Journal, “the bill now makes its way to the Senate, where it is expected to pass, the looming question is if Democrats have the political support this time around to override another possible Carney veto.”

The newspaper has more details on the latest legalization proposals in the general assembly:

“House Bill 1 would remove all penalties for possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana for those ages 21 and older. This legislation required a simple majority of 21 votes. As of now, marijuana is decriminalized in Delaware. The second bill, HB 2, would create a framework to regulate the growth, sale and possession of weed. Lawmakers say marijuana would be regulated and taxed the same way alcohol is. This legislation requires a three-fifths vote because it deals with revenue and taxation. This is expected to be voted on soon.” 

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Pennsylvania Governor Proposes Taxes on Pot—But No Legalization Bill

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro on Tuesday unveiled his proposed budget for the state, which included a plan to levy a tax on marijuana sales.

The sale of cannabis is, notably, still illegal in Pennsylvania. 

But Shapiro’s proposal is a nod toward a weed-friendly feature in the Keystone State.

The first-term governor’s budget “proposes an adult use cannabis tax that would be imposed on the wholesale price of products sold through the regulated framework of the production and sales system, once legalized.” 

“The proposed rate is 20 percent of the wholesale price of cannabis products sold through the regulated framework,” the budget reads.

The proposal includes an estimate that “sales would commence January 1, 2025, with initial revenue collections realized in 2024-25.”

But as the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, Shapiro’s budget “does not include any proposed policy changes in the budget.”

According to the Inquirer, Shapiro’s “proposal includes estimates that assume adult-use sales would begin in January 2025 and bring in about $16 million in tax revenue that year … [and] tax revenue [would] increase to $64.1 million in 2026, $132.6 million in 2027, and $188.8 million in 2028.”

Shaprio, who was elected as governor last year, and other Pennsylvania Democrats have made it known that they want to legalize marijuana in the state.

“Legalize marijuana. Regulate it. Tax it,” Shapiro said on Twitter in 2021.

He also emphasized the importance of any new cannabis law to include social equity provisions to right previous wrongs of the Drug War.

“But let me be clear: legalization must include expungement for those in jail or who have served time for possessing small amounts of marijuana,” Shapiro continued in the tweet. “Our Black & brown communities have been disproportionately impacted by this for far too long.” 

A pair of Pennsylvania lawmakers filed a memo earlier this year stating their desire to pass a cannabis legalization bill this year.

“It’s time to regulate and tax this major crop product in service of the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians,” state House Reps. Dan Frankel and Donna Bullock, both Democrats, said in the memo, which was released in January. “Soon we will be introducing legislation to do just that.”

Frankel and Bullock highlighted the ubiquity of cannabis use in Pennsylvania––both through the state’s established medical marijuana program, and the illicit market.

“Pennsylvanians are using cannabis,” they wrote in the memo. “Some of that cannabis is sold legally to patients through the medical cannabis program. Those products are regulated for safety and producers pay for the costs of managing the program.”

Cannabis is also sold illegally in Pennsylvania,” the lawmakers continued. “We have no idea what’s in it, how it was produced or where it comes from. We do know that it gets into the hands of young people, and we get no tax benefit to support our communities; meanwhile, the enforcement of our cannabis laws has not affected all communities equally – far from it. Although white people and people of color use cannabis about equally, black Pennsylvanians are about 3.5 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis use as their white counterparts, according to Pennsylvania State Police data compiled by NORML.”

They said that their proposal “will create a legal and regulatory framework structured to control and regulate the cultivation, processing, transportation, distribution, delivery and sale at retail of cannabis and cannabis products with the following central goals in mind: Consumer Safety; Social Justice; Economic Equity; Prevention of Substance Use Disorder; Revenue.” 

But the prospects for legalization in Pennsylvania remain unclear. 

“Since late last year, several lawmakers have filed memos about legalization proposals that give an idea of what an adult-use market could look like — though it’s unclear if or when a legalization bill will be passed,” the Inquirer reported.

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Illinois Extends Craft Grower Deadline

Regulators in Illinois have extended the operational deadline for some craft cannabis growers in the state. 

The state’s Department of Agriculture said that its administrative rules “allow for craft growers to receive an operational extension for good cause shown, at the Department’s discretion,” and as such, it “has granted an operational extension to all craft grower license holders due to a number of factors, including ongoing Covid-19 impacts and supply chain issues.”

Under the state’s adult-use cannabis program, a “craft grower license allows the holder to cultivate, dry, cure and package cannabis,” according to Illinois Cannabiz Attorneys, which offers a primer on the license:

“To apply for this license, one must submit a completed application to the Department of Agriculture. The amount of cannabis a license holder can grow is limited by square footage. A craft grower may have up to 5,000 square feet of canopy space for marijuana plants in the flowering stage. It should be noted that this space only includes the space occupied by the plants and does not include any aisles or walkways in between the plants. This amount may be increased over time in increments of 3,000 square feet based on the department’s determination of market need, capacity, and the license holder’s history of compliance. The largest space that will be allowed by the Department will be 14,000 square feet for plants in the flowering stage.”

The Department of Agriculture said that it had “previously authorized an operational deadline extension for 2021 Craft Growers which required them to become operational by March 1, 2023,” but that it “is now authorizing an additional extension applicable to all 2021 Craft Growers, extending their operational deadline to February 1, 2024.”

Legal adult-use cannabis sales took effect in Illinois in 2020, the result of a bill signed by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker the previous year.

“As the first state in the nation to fully legalize adult-use cannabis through the legislative process, Illinois exemplifies the best of democracy: a bipartisan and deep commitment to better the lives of all of our people,” Pritzker said at the time. “Legalizing adult-use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do. This legislation will clear the cannabis-related records of nonviolent offenders through an efficient combination of automatic expungement, gubernatorial pardon and individual court action. I’m so proud that our state is leading with equity and justice in its approach to cannabis legalization and its regulatory framework. Because of the work of the people here today and so many more all across our state, Illinois is moving forward with empathy and hope.”

The state hasn’t looked back ever since. In his “state of the state” address last month, Pritzker said that marijuana legalization “has created more than 30,000 jobs since 2020, and Illinois is home to the country’s most diverse cannabis industry and some of the largest companies.” 

In January, Pritzker’s administration touted a record-setting year for cannabis sales in 2022, saying that “adult use cannabis dispensaries sold $1,552,324,820.37 worth of product, an increase of more than 12% from 2021 and 131% from 2020, the first year cannabis sales were first legally allowed in Illinois.”

“When I signed the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act into law in 2019, we set out on an ambitious goal: to create the most equitable and economically prosperous cannabis industry in the nation. Our data from 2022 shows that we are well on our way towards making that idea a reality,” Pritzker said in a statement in January. “Not only did we break our previous sales record by more than 12% with a total of more than $1.5 billion, we also saw the first of our social equity adult use cannabis dispensaries open their doors for business—paving the way for an even stronger 2023.”

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New York Will Double Number of Cannabis Retailer Licenses

Regulators in New York announced this week that the state would double the number of cannabis retailer licenses, bringing the total number of Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) Licenses for recreational marijuana dispensaries to 300 instead of the 150 originally planned. The new licenses, which will be selected from an existing pool of qualified business applicants, will be issued proportionally throughout New York, doubling the number of licenses in each of 14 regions of the state.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Cannabis Control Board and the Office of Cannabis Management announced that increasing the number of licenses “will further advance New York State’s Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which provides for the state’s first legal adult-use retail dispensaries to be operated by those most impacted by the prohibition of cannabis or by nonprofit organizations whose services include support for the formerly incarcerated.”

“With this expansion, more entrepreneurs will be able to participate in the first wave of this industry, allowing them to capitalize on the growing demand for cannabis products,” said Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board. “As more businesses enter this market, the innovation and competition will increase, leading to better quality experiences for consumers. The expansion of New York’s cannabis market will benefit everyone involved in this exciting industry.” 

New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) received about 900 applications for CAURD licenses from prospective business owners. To date, the Cannabis Control Board has issued 66 provisional CAURD licenses, with the first shop opening in late December. In April, the OCM will make recommendations to the board on the majority of the remaining applications in the areas of the state not impacted by a November court injunction blocking the agency from awarding retail dispensary licenses in five regions of the state.

$200 Million Fund To Support New York Licensees

The CAURD program, which provides licenses to justice-involved individuals, initially allowed for up to 150 businesses to receive a provisional CAURD license. This effort was enhanced through the creation of the New York State Social Equity Cannabis Fund, a $200 million public-private partnership providing renovated, ready-to-open retail locations to the 150 licensees. The OCM characterized the fund as a first-of-its-kind effort in the nation designed to help reduce the barriers independent entrepreneurs face in raising capital to launch a business in the cannabis industry.

“Doubling the amount of available Conditional Adult-Use Dispensary Licenses will help kickstart the growth of New York’s cannabis industry,” said Damian Fagon, the OCM’s chief equity officer. “More stores means more locations for New York farmers to sell their harvests, more convenience for New York customers to make the right decisions and purchase safer and legal products, and twice as many opportunities for New Yorkers harmed by over-policing during cannabis prohibition.”

In December, the OCM announced that CAURD licensees would also be allowed to secure their own business locations without seeking support from the social equity fund, potentially freeing up resources for some of the newly authorized CAURD licenses announced today. The initial 150 approved CAURD licensees will be prioritized to receive resources if they choose a location supported by the fund. Applicants chosen for the additional 150 CAURD licenses announced this week will be given access to any remaining fund resources.

“New York is doing something special when it comes to launching our cannabis industry, and now we’re doubling the impact of our Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary program,” said Chris Alexander, executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management. “It’s been truly exciting to see the positive energy around our efforts to support entrepreneurs who previously suffered at the hands of New York State. We will continue creating real opportunities for qualified applicants who’ve been shut out from legal cannabis markets across the country.” 

Michelle Bodian, a partner at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, said that Thursday’s announcement offers new opportunities for entrepreneurs eager to enter New York’s cannabis industry.

“Doubling the number of available CAURD licenses drastically changes the calculus for hopeful CAURD applicants,” Bodian wrote in an email to High Times. “As only a limited number of licenses have been awarded to date, this expansion provides a huge first mover advantage for the remaining approximate 230 licenses to be awarded.”

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Oklahoma Legalization Campaign Releases New Video To Educate Voters

Oklahoma voters could be making history next month if they pass a legalization ballot for adult-use cannabis. In preparation for this, advocates have begun to increase their efforts to educate residents and boost awareness with a new internet and TV ad campaign.

“Get the facts about State Question 820. The law will regulate and tax marijuana for adults 21 and up,” the new Yes on 820 video states. “It has strict safety requirements for labeling, childproof packaging, and quantity limits to keep us and our kids safe. Plus, it will generate millions for schools and health care, and free up police resources to focus on serious violent crime to make our communities safer. It’s working in other states. It’s time for Oklahoma.”

State Question 820 is the only question on the ballot, and volunteers with Yes on 820 have been out spreading the word. “Shoutout to our awesome volunteers for a huge Saturday canvass! We’re knocking on doors all across our great state reminding folks to vote YES on #SQ820 on March 7, 2023. #YesOn820 #LegalizeIt #Oklahoma #OKC #Tulsa #Norman #Lawton #Stillwater #Edmond #Vote #Election,” the campaign wrote on its Twitter page on Feb. 18. Another post shared the perseverance of volunteers. “Our volunteers knock doors through rain, snow, and injury.”

Campaign Director Michelle Tilley wrote an opinion article for Tulsa World explaining her personal motivation for supporting cannabis legalization, and why others should vote for it as well. “I am a lifelong Oklahoman and a mom of teenaged children. I want my kids to come of age in a prosperous state with good jobs, safe communities and adequately funded state services,” Tilley wrote. “I want to retire here, close to them. For all those reasons I have spent the last 14 months leading the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Oklahoma.”

Tilley continued to explain how legalizing cannabis can improve public safety and protect children across the state. “As a mother, I don’t want my children using marijuana. As someone who remembers being a teenager, I also don’t want my kids—or any kids—to have their lives permanently altered if they make a mistake,” Tilley continued. “A criminal arrest for having a small amount of marijuana can make it hard to go to college or get a job.”

“I want Oklahoma kids to thrive in safe, vibrant communities,” Tilley concluded. “Despite what our opposition says, there is no evidence that legalizing recreational marijuana will harm any children anywhere.”

Originally the legalization initiative was supposed to be on the ballot in November 2022. Advocates collected more than enough signatures, but the initiative wasn’t approved in time. The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied the petition in September 2022. In October, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced that he would be placing State Question 820 on the ballot for a special election to be held on March 7.

If passed, the initiative would legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, and allow residents to grow up to six mature plants for personal use. Cannabis products would include a 15% excise tax, and the law would create an Oklahoma Marijuana Revenue Trust Fund, which would fund the program, public education, and more. Any residents who are currently serving prison time for cannabis would be able to file for a petition for resentencing, and those who have already served their sentence would be able to apply for expungement.

Yes on 820 recently released a report, produced by Vicente Sederberg LLP and the Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Association, which projects that if Oklahoma legalizes adult-use cannabis, it could potentially collect up to $821 million in combined medical and recreational cannabis tax revenue.

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New Jersey AG Releases Revised Drug Testing Policy for Law Enforcement

It’s been nearly a year since New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis program went live in April 2022. Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin revised his Law Enforcement Drug Testing Policy document to reflect this change for officers across the state. “Due to the complex nature of the law, and in order to provide uniformity in State employee drug testing as it pertains to the use of cannabis, it is necessary to revise this policy,” the document states in its introduction.

The revision also includes a section explaining the differences between drug testing for reasonable suspicion and probable cause. “Agencies must undertake drug testing when there is reasonable suspicion to believe a law enforcement officer is engaged in the illegal use of a controlled dangerous substance, or is under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance, including unregulated marijuana, or cannabis during work hours,” the policy states. It adds that this requires objective facts to lead a person to conclude that drug-related activity has taken place.

The policy for reasonable cause is described as “less demanding” than establishing probable cause because 1) more is required to satisfy the probable cause standard and 2) the “type of information” for reasonable suspicion is “less reliable than that required to show [probable] cause.”

Being found under the influence of cannabis or consuming cannabis “at work or during work hours” is prohibited. Reasonable suspicion in testing officers for cannabis use will be required if there is reasonable suspicion of the individual’s use of cannabis during work, or “observable signs of intoxication.”

Platkin initially released a memo one day after legal sales began in April 2022, stating that police can use cannabis while off duty. At the time, some senators penned a letter to Platkin with concerns about how it “fails to mention that marijuana users are federally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, an omission that may put officers unknowingly at risk of criminal prosecution.”

In October 2022, just after Platkin was sworn in as attorney general, he issued a directive that required law enforcement agencies to conduct two random drug tests for “at least 10 percent of the total number of sworn officers within the agency, and every officer must have an equal chance of selection during each test.”

Within the first 10 weeks of sales following the launch of adult-use cannabis in April 2022, New Jersey collected nearly $80 million in sales. “The market is improving. It is performing as we expect with the current number of dispensaries, the spread of locations, and the high prices,” said New Jersey Regulatory Commission Executive Director Jeff Brown. “As more cannabis businesses come online, consumers won’t have to travel as far to make purchases, and prices will fall with increased competition. The market will do even better.”

More recently, sales reached more than $100 million. “New Jersey is only seeing the beginning of what is possible for cannabis,” said Brown last month in January. “We have now awarded 36 annual licenses for recreational cannabis businesses to New Jersey entrepreneurs, including 15 for dispensaries. Those businesses alone will be a significant growth of the market. With more locations and greater competition, we expect the customer base to grow and prices to come down.” New Jersey’s cannabis industry continues to thrive, attracting big celebrities such as Raekwon and Ice-T to open a dispensary in the state.

Next up, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission is establishing a plan to permit public cannabis lounges. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the agency released draft rules at the end of January, which would allow cannabis dispensaries to have indoor or outdoor spaces for legal consumption.

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