Legalization Amendment To Be Added to Missouri Constitution

Missouri’s state constitution will have a new entry this week, with the voter-approved recreational cannabis amendment slated to be added on Thursday. 

The Springfield News-Leader reports that while Amendment 3, which was approved by Missouri voters in last month’s election, will be added to the state constitution this week, “Missourians won’t be impacted by the majority of its legislation until next year.”

“At the earliest, recreational marijuana will be available for purchase in February. And though some non-violent marijuana offenses will be automatically expunged this week, this isn’t the case for all,” according to the News-Leader.

Voters in Missouri approved Amendment 3 last month by a vote of 53% to 47%. 

The leadup to the vote was shrouded in uncertainty for supporters of the amendment. It wasn’t until August that Missouri’s secretary of state confirmed that Amendment 3 had qualified for the ballot. 

There were questions in the summer surrounding the petitions submitted by Legal Missouri 2022, the group behind the amendment. 

State law requires a petition to include signatures from 8% of registered voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts.

The state’s secretary of state, Jay Ashcroft, confirmed in August that Legal Missouri had easily cleared the signature threshold. 

“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit,” John Payne, campaign manager of Legal Missouri 2022, said in a statement at the time. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference. We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

But even after the amendment qualified, it appeared far from a sure thing that it would pass in November. Polls in the weeks leading up to Election Day painted a messy picture. One survey conducted in September found 48% of voters in Missouri supported Amendment 3, while 35% of voters in the state were opposed, and another 17% were unsure.

But another poll conducted around the same period showed that 43% of respondents were in support of Amendment 3, while 47% were opposed, and 10% were unsure.

In the end, however, the amendment prevailed, and now Missouri is slated to become the latest in a growing number of states to legalize recreational pot use for adults and establish a regulated retail market.

The Springfield News-Leader provided a rundown of what the amendment will accomplish: “Remove state prohibitions on purchasing, possessing, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing and selling marijuana for personal use for adults over 21; Require a registration card for personal cultivation with prescribed limits; Allow persons with certain marijuana-related non-violent offenses to petition for release from incarceration or parole and probation and have records cleared; Establish a lottery selection process to award licenses and certificates; Issue equally distributed licenses to each congressional district; and Impose a 6% tax on the retail price of marijuana to benefit various programs.”

The newspaper said that the “earliest recreational marijuana will be available to Missourians who are 21 and up is February 2023.”

“Pre-established medical marijuana facilities will have the opportunity to convert their licenses to comprehensive marijuana facility licenses, meaning they can cultivate or sell both medical and recreational marijuana. The Department of Health and Senior Services must begin awarding these license conversions by Feb. 6, 2023,” the News-Leader reported. “Aside from medical marijuana facilities that are converted to comprehensive marijuana facilities, DHSS must license at least two comprehensive marijuana dispensaries in each of the state’s eight congressional districts, initially. These dispensaries will begin receiving licenses to sell recreational marijuana on Sept. 4, 2023.”

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Recreational Pot Sales Begin in Rhode Island

Licensed sales of adult-use cannabis began in Rhode Island on Thursday, only six months after Governor Dan McKee signed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. Five stores began selling adult-use cannabis on December 1, with more licensed retailers expected to begin business operations in the coming weeks.

The five retailers who launched adult-use cannabis sales on Thursday were all already licensed to sell medical marijuana to patients registered with the state’s medicinal cannabis program. By the end of next month, two additional so-called hybrid retailers will add recreational marijuana sales to their existing medical cannabis operations. 

Last week, the governor marked the impending launch of adult-use cannabis sales as the December 1 launch date approached.

“This milestone is the result of a carefully executed process to ensure that our state’s entry into this emerging market was done in a safe, controlled and equitable manner,” McKee said in a November 22 statement from the governor’s office. “It is also a win for our statewide economy and our strong, locally based cannabis supply chain, which consists of nearly 70 licensed cultivators, processors and manufacturers in addition to our licensed compassion centers. Finally, I thank the leadership of the General Assembly for passing this practical implementation framework in the Rhode Island Cannabis Act and I look forward to continuing our work together on this issue.”

Recreational Marijuana Legalized In May

Matt Santacroce, chief of the Rhode Island Office of Cannabis Regulation and interim deputy director of the Department of Business Regulation, noted the speed with which state regulators had authorized the launch of recreational marijuana sales after McKee signed legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis in May.

“We were pleased with the quality and comprehensiveness of the applications we received from the state’s compassion centers, and we are proud to launch adult use sales in Rhode Island just six months after the Cannabis Act was signed into law, marking the Northeast’s fastest implementation period,” said Santacroce. “We look forward to continuing to work with the state’s cannabis business community to ensure this critical economic sector scales in compliance with the rules and regulations put forward by state regulators.

State officials are not expecting a surge in cannabis use because medical marijuana has been legal since 2006 and recreational cannabis is available in neighboring states. 

“It’s a good opportunity for Rhode Islanders to buy safe, regulated cannabis products in the convenience of their own town or area of the state,” Santacroce told the Boston Globe. “If you are used to going to Massachusetts or wherever, you can save time and gas. We will generate state and local tax revenue that didn’t exist before. And we have the opportunity to capture value in our market, in our industry, in our supply chain. That’s a big deal.”

Under state law, adults are permitted to smoke cannabis wherever tobacco smoking is allowed, unless the use poses potential harm to children. The legislation passed in May also includes provisions to expunge prior cannabis possession offenses no longer illegal under current law.

Taxes On Recreational Weed Total 20%

Taxes on recreational sales include a 10% state cannabis excise tax in addition to the 7% state sales tax, plus an additional 3% local tax for the city or town in which the sale takes place. Taxes on recreational marijuana sales are expected to generate about $15 million in tax revenues in the first full fiscal year of sales. State officials project regulated marijuana sales to generate about $7.5 million in state excise tax revenue, $5.2 million in state sales tax revenue, and $2.2 million in local excise tax revenue.

Cannabis retailer Mother Earth Wellness in Pawtucket opened three hours earlier than its normal 8:00 a.m. opening time to get a jump on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales, and the shop’s first recreational marijuana transaction was rung up at 5:18 a.m. The dispensary saw about 300 customers visit the dispensary by mid-morning, about 80% of whom were recreational buyers.

“We’ve had a very successful day,” Mother Earth Wellness co-owner Joe Pakuris told the Associated Press. “I think it has been a smooth transition and the state has done an excellent job of rolling out this program. Everything’s great.”

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Nevada Officials Award Final 20 Licenses for Cannabis Lounges

State officials in Nevada have announced the final 20 applicants who will receive licenses authorizing them to run cannabis consumption lounges.

The Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board conducted a digital drawing on Wednesday “via a random number selector to determine the issuance of independent cannabis consumption lounge licenses for non-social equity applicants and social equity applicants,” the agency said.

State law opened the door for the board to “issue 20 independent cannabis consumption lounge licenses, half of which (10) are designated for social equity applicants.”

The board has said that the lounges are expected to open next year. 

On Wednesday, the regulatory board announced the following social equity applicants will receive licenses to open a lounge where cannabis consumption is allowed: NV Cloud 420 Lounge LLC (City of Las Vegas); GGCPA SE Inc (Nye County); MEDSnSIN (City of Las Vegas);

Sunflower Compassionate Company (City of Las Vegas); Lyxe Consulting LLC (City of Las Vegas); Greenwood Investment Group, LLC (City of Las Vegas); N&D Enterprises LLP (City of Las Vegas); City Lights Production LLC (Unincorporated Clark County); Royal Tree TLC LLC (City of Las Vegas); and GGCPA SE 3 Inc (Unincorporated Clark County).

The following non-social equity applicants were also selected via the random draw: FCWC Operations LLC (City of Las Vegas); Shanghai Lounge LLC (Unincorporated Clark County); Higher*Archy LLC (City of Las Vegas); The Limo Joint LLC (Unincorporated Clark County);

KV Group, LLV (Nye County); The Standard Lounge, LLC (Unincorporated Clark County); La Lounge LLC (Unincorporated Clark County); Cafecito SW LLC (Unincorporated Clark County)

Las Vegas Cannabis Industry Leaders (City of Las Vegas); and Rolling Cloudz LLC (Unincorporated Clark County).

Lawmakers in Nevada last year signed off on funding for the Cannabis Compliance Board to hire the necessary staff and support in order to implement the framework for the consumption lounges.

In June, the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board signed off on the final round of regulations for the consumption lounges.

“In addition to outlining the licensing and operation of consumption lounges, regulations approved today lay the groundwork for greater inclusion within Nevada’s cannabis industry,” the board said in the press release at the time. “All applicants must submit a diversity plan, summarizing actionable steps and goals for meaningful inclusion. Additionally, half of the independent consumption lounge licenses in the initial round must be awarded to social equity applicants.”

“Prior to an open licensing period, the [Cannabis Compliance Board] plans to roll out tools and resources including worksheets, video tutorials and live webinars in order to ensure interested parties have access to the same information and are able to successfully submit an application,” the release continued. “The CCB expects to open the first licensing round for consumption lounges in the Fall, allowing for the first consumption lounges to open as early as the end of the year.”

Local television station KTNV reported that a “handful of applicants gathered at Mariposa Restaurant [in Las Vegas on Wednesday] to watch the virtual drawings unfold.”

Tyler Kilmas, the executive director of the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board, told the station what now awaits the selected applicants. 

“We will do sit down interviews and make sure we understand their ownership structure and their business plan and then they will come in front of the board and the board will determine them suitable or not to proceed to perfecting their license,” says Kilmas.

According to the station, “the state opened an application period [in October], and in total 99 applications for a license were submitted.”

Voters in Nevada approved a ballot measure in 2016 that legalized recreational cannabis use in the state. 

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Illinois Governor Appoints New Top Cannabis Regulator

Illinois has a new top cannabis regulator following an appointment from Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday. 

Pritzker announced that Erin A. Johnson will now serve as the state’s Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer. Johnson replaces Danielle Perry, who left the role earlier this year.

“Erin Johnson’s commitment to equity will serve Illinois well as she takes the reins as the state’s Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer,” Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a statement on Monday. “From serving as the Chief of Staff at the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice to working as Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer, Erin has the experience, education, and expertise to thrive in this role while advancing cannabis equity throughout Illinois. I can think of no better person than Erin to serve as our Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer and I wish her all the best in this new position.”

The Cannabis Regulation Oversight Office is “a part of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and is responsible for coordinating with numerous state agencies to direct the regulation and taxation of Illinois’ cannabis industry,” according to the governor’s office. 

“This work is done to ensure Illinois’ social equity goals are met through expungements, community reinvestment, and the diversification of the state’s cannabis industry,” said the press release from Pritzker’s office.

Johnson’s appointment must be confirmed by the Illinois state Senate.

“I am incredibly thankful to Governor Pritzker for trusting me to lead the administration’s cannabis regulation efforts,” Johnson said in Monday’s press release. “Together we will move Illinois forward and continue to build a cannabis industry that is driven by social equity, providing opportunities and righting generations of wrongs.”

Courtesy of Crain’s Chicago Business

Pritzker, who won re-election earlier this month, signed the bill that legalized recreational cannabis in Illinois in the summer of 2019. In the three years since, the governor has made the new adult-use marijuana program a centerpiece of his tenure.

Earlier this month, Pritzker announced that the state was earmarking $8.75 million in loans to “all conditionally-approved social equity loan applicants in order to provide immediate access to capital.”

“Equity has always been at the core of our cannabis legalization process. It’s why we expunged hundreds of thousands [of] low-level cannabis charges and instituted the Cannabis Social Equity Loan Program. But I know that if we want to create a truly equitable cannabis industry in Illinois, we must give our business owners the resources they need to grow—both figuratively and literally,” said Pritzker. “That’s why we are launching this Direct Forgivable Loan Program to provide a much-needed jumpstart for social equity applicants who’ve faced hurdles in pursuit of capital funding. This $8.75 million will help our social equity licensees open their doors for business—a major step towards creating a prosperous cannabis industry here in Illinois.”

The governor’s office explained that the program “is a first-of-its-kind program that launched in the summer of 2021 with the goal of providing low-interest loans to social equity licensees through a partnership with lending institutions,” and that participants in the program “have encountered significant delays in receiving capital through financial institutions due to the complexities of navigating a new industry that remains illegal under federal law, as well as institutions’ fiduciary, regulatory responsibilities and underwriting standards that are set independent of the program.”

“The new Direct Forgivable Loan Program fully financed by the State offers funding for all eligible program participants upon the submission of required documentation,” Pritzker’s office explained. “Because [the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity] has already received significant documentation from program participants, the additional documentation requirements for a direct forgivable loan are minimal to allow for prompt disbursal of funds. The forgivable loan has an 18-month grace period with no payments or interest accrued to provide businesses with flexibility.”

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South Dakota Gov. Noem Says She’ll Implement New Weed Law If Passed By Voters

After leading a successful legal challenge against a voter-approved recreational pot amendment, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says she won’t stand in the way the second time around. 

Voters in the state will decide next week on Initiated Measure 27, a proposal to legalize personal possession of marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. 

Noem, a Republican who is up for re-election this year, remains opposed to marijuana legalization. But at a campaign town hall in Rapid City on Thursday, the governor said she would uphold the will of voters if they pass Measure 27.

“If it passes, it’s going to be implemented. That’s just the facts,” Noem told voters, as quoted by the Rapid City Journal.

Fifty-four percent of South Dakota voters approved an amendment in 2020 that would have legalized recreational marijuana in the state. But Noem helped lead a legal challenge that ultimately led to the state Supreme Court striking down the amendment. 

At the campaign stop last week, Noem defended her actions, saying that the law would have run afoul of the state constitution. 

“I raised my right hand and said that I would uphold the state Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. The basis of every decision comes from that,” Noem said, according to the Rapid City Journal.

Advocates were confident that Measure 27 could match the showing of the 2020 amendment, but polling has indicated that its passage is anything but a certainty.

In August, a Mason-Dixon poll found that 54% of South Dakota voters are against legalization, while 44% are in support.

A South Dakota State University poll released earlier this month found that 47% of voters in the state are opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana, while 45% support the idea and another eight percent are unsure. A poll from Emerson College released last week painted an even bleaker picture, showing 50% of voters intend to vote no Measure 27 compared with about 40% who intend to vote yes. 

Noem is facing a challenge from Democrat Jamie Smith, who has frequently criticized the governor for overturning the 2020 amendment. The poll from Emerson College showed Noem with a large lead over Smith heading into Election Day. 

The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled last November that the 2020 proposal, Amendment A, violated the constitution’s single subject requirement. (The amendment sought to legalize recreational and medical marijuana, along with hemp.)

“This constitutional directive could not be expressed more clearly—each subject must be voted on separately—and simply severing certain provisions may or may not reflect the actual will of the voters,” said Chief Justice Steven Jensen in the majority opinion. “Therefore, we cannot accept Proponents’ suggestion that excising the medical marijuana and hemp provisions from Amendment A in favor of retaining the provisions regulating and legalizing recreational marijuana is an appropriate remedy. Amendment A is void in its entirety.”

Noem celebrated the ruling.

“South Dakota is a place where the rule of law and our Constitution matter, and that’s what today’s decision is about,” she said at the time. “We do things right—and how we do things matters just as much as what we are doing. We are still governed by the rule of law. This decision does not affect my Administration’s implementation of the medical cannabis program voters approved in 2020. That program was launched earlier this month, and the first cards have already gone out to eligible South Dakotans.” 

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Cannabis Leaders and Politicians to Join Forces in New York

Business of Cannabis, the host of quarterly events and annual cannabis conferences in North America and a premier publication of cannabis news, is gathering an esteemed group of leaders, policymakers, industry pioneers and investors for its second annual Business of Cannabis: New York conference. The one-day event will take place at the New York Academy of Medicine on November 3, just as New York’s Office of Cannabis Management is to begin distributing cannabis retail licenses.

Delays for New York’s Adult-Use Cannabis Market Launch

New York’s recreational cannabis market is still not off the ground 18 months after the passing of the state’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which is touted as one of the most equitable and robust programs in the US. The bill prioritizes racial equity, reinvesting 40% of tax revenue from adult-use cannabis sales into minority communities most impacted by the War on Drugs and automatically expunging or resentencing people with previous marijuana convictions that are no longer criminalized. The law also sets a goal of awarding 50% of all adult-use cannabis licenses to social equity applicants, which includes but is not limited to BIPOC, women and veterans.

However revolutionary, the rollout has proven burdensome. Originally expected to launch in the spring of 2022, bureaucratic delays have pushed back New York’s timeline. As voters in seven states get ready to vote on cannabis legislation, all eyes are focused on whether New York will remain a model for others to follow, or become a cautionary tale.

Residents of legal age in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma will vote on the legalization of adult-use cannabis while those in Maryland, North Dakota and South Dakota will vote on decriminalizing cannabis. Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen recently ordered a recount of the petition signatures acquired for the ballot proposal to legalize medical marijuana in the state. If all of these ballots are passed in November, it will represent a huge step forward for sensible drug policies which defend the rights of patients and users in the country. It would also mean a large influx of addressable consumers for the adult-use cannabis industry.

New York’s Cannabis Future

Business of Cannabis: New York will bring together 400+ leaders focused on creating the most successful cannabis market in the US. With a focus on three core pillars—social equity, policy and retail—curated content sessions will cover:

  • The effectiveness of Governor Hochul’s $200M social equity fund
  • New York’s Cannabis Control Board license application process
  • The habits and preferences of the modern cannabis consumer
  • Building an ethical and socially responsible industry that protects consumers
  • Technology innovations on the horizon and how they will shape how cannabis companies do business
  • The future of New York’s medical marijuana program
  • New Jersey’s adult-use market roll-out and performance, and how it might impact New York’s industry

“The program at this year’s Business of Cannabis: New York is designed to challenge leaders on the best route forward while educating, connecting and motivating delegates to shape the future of New York’s cannabis industry,” said Stephen Murphy, co-founder of Prohibition Partners. “We’re approaching an important election season that will significantly impact the cannabis industry. I look forward to engaging with key industry stakeholders to discuss the future of New York’s promising market and the significant impact it will have both in the US and around the world.”

The opportunity of New York’s cannabis market is staggering. The state’s recreational market is projected to be worth $4.4B by 2025, overcoming Colorado’s established market that is estimated to reach $3.8B that same year. Approximately 19.41 million people live in the state of New York, with 8.9 million—nearly half of the state’s population—living in Manhattan. Cannabis has been an established part of New York’s culture for years, making for a potentially massive addressable market.

Tremaine Wright, Chairwoman of the New York State Cannabis Control Board, spoke to the injustices from cannabis prohibition they are now striving to correct.

“For decades, an unjust cannabis prohibition depleted this country of opportunity and denied communities access to resources,” Wright said.  “We have set our sights on demonstrating how an equity-driven market reinvests in all communities creating the most inclusive cannabis industry possible. I’m excited to update attendees at Business of Cannabis: New York on our efforts in the Empire State to build a cannabis market that works for all New Yorkers.”

About Business of Cannabis

Since 2017, Business of Cannabis has highlighted the companies, brands, people and trends driving the cannabis industry in North America. Powered by Prohibition Partners, the Business of Cannabis team brings over 30 years of public and strategic communications, content and campaign creation, and deep sector expertise, relationships and insight.

For tickets and more information on sponsorship and speaking opportunities at Business of Cannabis: New York this year, visit: cannabisnewyork.liv

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Recreational Pot Presents Opportunities for Missouri’s Medical Cannabis Biz

In less than two weeks, voters in Missouri will decide on an amendment to legalize recreational pot in the state, a prospect that has some established medical cannabis businesses eyeing expansion.

The St. Louis Business Journal has a report out this week on the ballot proposal, known as Amendment 3, which is “projected to create a significantly larger market for the companies that have already emerged as major players in the state’s legal medical marijuana market.”

The outlet highlighted “Proper Cannabis, a St. Louis-based medical dispensary that opened a $20 million facility in Rock Hill last year, operates three dispensaries in the St. Louis region,” which has recently expanded “its existing facility by 25,000 to 30,000 square feet in preparation for a drastic increase in demand.”

“It’s both exciting and needed,” Proper Cannabis CEO John Pennington told the Business Journal. “What you have in Missouri is two to three times the number of people who are likely already consuming, who will now have safe, compliant and enjoyable places to shop with reliable quality products and medicine.” 

Medical cannabis opened for business in Missouri in the fall of 2020 after voters there passed a measure legalizing the treatment in 2018. 

A year after the medical marijuana program launched, the state reported that the industry had grown to more than 140 dispensaries employing about 5,000 people.

The St. Louis Business Journal also reported on “BeLeaf Medical, an Earth City-based medical cannabis firm, made a notable change as it prepares for the possibility of a market expansion into recreational cannabis.”

According to the outlet, the company recently hired Jason Nelson as its new CEO. Nelson “joined the company three and a half months ago from Chicago-based Cresco Labs, where he was the cannabis firm’s senior vice president of horticulture,” and where he “helped the company expand into 10 states, including five that made the transition from medical to recreational sales.”

Amendment 3 officially qualified for the Missouri ballot in August, when Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said that the group behind the proposal, Legal Missouri 2022, had submitted a sufficient number of valid signatures.

“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit,” Legal Missouri campaign manager John Payne said in a statement at the time. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference. We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

If it is approved by voters, Amendment 3 will allow “Missourians 21 years and older to possess, purchase, consume and cultivate marijuana,” and “Missourians with nonviolent marijuana-related offenses to automatically expunge their criminal records.”

The initiative would also create a legal marijuana market that would impose a six percent sales tax on weed.

“Beyond covering administrative expenses and the costs to process automatic expungements, any remaining surplus will be split equally between veterans’ healthcare, drug addiction treatment, and Missouri’s underfunded public defender system,” Legal Missouri explains on its website.

In addition, it would allow local governments in Missouri to levy their own sales taxes of up to three percent. According to the group, state officials “project additional annual revenue of at least $40.8 million and additional local government revenues of at least $13.8 million.”

The amendment’s prospects are difficult to gauge, with polling on the proposal all over the map.

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Five States To Vote on Recreational Cannabis This Election Season

Currently, adult-use cannabis is legal in 19 states, two territories and Washington, D.C., with medical cannabis legal in 37 states, three territories and D.C. If all five states approved adult-use cannabis, nearly half the U.S. population would reside in a jurisdiction where the possession and use of cannabis is legal for adults.

And, while many of these states have a reputation for leaning more conservative, this year also shows the progress behind cannabis reform, with political parties slowly becoming less and less relevant.

As Americans collectively look ahead to midterms, let’s take a closer look at the cannabis policy these states will consider this year:

Arkansas – Issue 4

Back in 2016, Arkansas voters legalized medical cannabis, by a vote of 53.11% to 46.89%, winning in 38 of the state’s 75 counties. This November, Arkansans will vote on Arkansas Issue 4, or the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment.

What it does: The amendment would authorize the possession, personal use and consumption of cannabis by adults who are at least 21 years of age. Residents would be allowed possession and use of up to one ounce of cannabis. The amendment would also come with a 10% tax on cannabis states, requiring the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division to develop rules to regulate cannabis businesses. 

The amendment that legalized medical cannabis in the state allowed for a maximum of 40 dispensaries and eight cultivators; this year’s recreational amendment would increase the maximum number of cultivation facilities to 20 and the maximum number of dispensaries to 120.

What the polls say: The last poll of Arkansas voters on this initiative was back in September, finding that voters backed the initiative by a 2-to-1 margin. The Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of 835 likely Arkansas voters was conducted September 12 and found that 58.5% were for the initiative, 29% were against it and 12.5% were unsure.

The same organization ran a similar poll back in February, surveying 961 likely Arkansas voters, and still found that a majority of voters supported adult-use cannabis: 53.5% said they supported adult-use cannabis, 32% said they supported medical cannabis only, 10.5% said cannabis should be illegal and 4% said they were unsure.

Maryland – Question 4

Maryland legalized medical cannabis in 2014, facilitating sales since 2017, and the momentum for reform has grown in the state since. Medical usage is booming: As of November 2021, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission reported nearly 150,000 state-registered patients and about $600 million in sales, according to state regulators—a huge leap from 2020’s $423 million and 2019’s $255 million in revenue.

Now, voters decide whether or not to keep the cannabis train moving, with Maryland Question 4, or the Marijuana Legalization Amendment.

What it does: The amendment legalizes cannabis for adults 21 and older beginning July 2023, directing the Maryland State Legislature to pass laws for the use, distribution and taxation of cannabis.

The General Assembly also passed companion legislation that would become effective upon 4’s passing and provide additional clarity around the implementation of the amendment. House Bill 837 clarifies that, should Question 4 pass, the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis or 10 grams of cannabis concentrate would immediately be decriminalized, only subject to small administrative fines. After June 30, 2021, possessing these amounts of cannabis would be completely legal.

HB 837 also notes that residents would be allowed to cultivate up to two cannabis plants per household. All prior cannabis possession convictions that would be legal under the new provisions will also automatically be expunged, with those currently serving time allowed to apply for resentencing of possession convictions. 

What the polls say: Polling has shown consistent support for cannabis over the years among Maryland residents. The two most recent polls from Goucher College and Washington Post/The University of Maryland both took place in September. 

The Goucher poll ultimately found that 59% indicated they would vote to approve the question, with 34% against and 7% undecided. The Post poll shows even more support, with 73% in favor of legalizing adult-use cannabis, with 23% against and 4% stating “no opinion.” 

Support has been consistent, with a 2019 Post-UMD poll finding that 66% of Maryland residents supported legalizing cannabis and using its tax revenue for educational programming and another Goucher poll from March 2022 finding 62% of Maryland residents supported legalizing recreational cannabis. Ultimately, many experts expect voters will likely pass the bill.

Missouri – Amendment 3

Four years following a successful public initiative to legalize medical cannabis in Missouri, and just two years after sales officially launched across the state, Missouri voters are revisiting cannabis at the ballot box with Missouri Amendment 3.

What it does: A yes vote for Amendment 3 amends the Missouri Constitution to legalize the purchase, possession, consumption, use, delivery, manufacture and sale of cannabis for personal use for adults over 21 years of age. The amendment would also allow people with certain cannabis-related offenses to petition for release from prison, or parole and probation, and have their records expunged. Additionally, it would enact a 6% tax on the retail price of recreational cannabis.

The petition also outlines a system that would grant 144 additional licenses for “microbusiness facilities,” comprised of six dispensaries and 12 wholesale facilities in each of Missouri’s congressional districts. The licenses will be selected through a lottery process, and licensees would be allowed to manufacture and cultivate cannabis products.

What the polls say: A number of new polls shed light on the potential outcome of the vote, though they might leave folks with more questions than definitive answers.

One mid-September poll by Remington Research Group, commissioned by Missouri Scout, found that just 43% of respondents supported Amendment 3, with 47% against and 10% unsure. Results from another poll, from Emerson College Polling and The Hill, were shared at the end of September, finding that 48% of respondents back the legalization proposal, while 35% were opposed and 17% were unsure.

Another poll, conducted in mid-September by SurveyUSA, complicates things further: It found that 62% of voters are “certain to vote yes” on Amendment 3, with 22% opposed and 16% unsure. With the available data and time ticking away until Voting Day, many have indicated that this specific vote is a toss-up.

North Dakota – Statutory Measure 2

North Dakota voters passed Measure 5, the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, back in 2016, authorizing the sale of medical cannabis. It took two years for the North Dakota Legislative Assembly to create regulations, and in 2019, Governor Doug Burgum reduced cannabis possession penalties and expanded the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis patients.

This year, voters will decide whether or not the state will go a step further, with Statutory Measure 2.

What it does: The measure would create a new chapter of the North Dakota Century Code, legalizing the production, processing and sale of cannabis and the use of “various forms of cannabis” for adults 21 years old and up. Specifically, it would legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, four grams of concentrate and 500mg of THC in an infused product. Adults in the state who are of age would also be allowed to grow up to three cannabis plants, and the measure requires the Department of Health and Human Services to establish rules regulating the market by October 1, 2023. 

Under the measure, the department could also license seven cultivation facilities and 18 cannabis retailers.

What the polls say: North Dakota is a fairly conservative state, where voters rejected a similar ballot measure in 2018 to legalize cannabis 59.45% to 40.55%.

One July poll from The Dickinson Press looked specifically at southwest North Dakota readers, finding that 39% supported the measure, 43% were opposed and 18% didn’t have a preference. The paper also suggested that opinions may have shifted in the area over time, as a similar 2018 poll found southwestern North Dakotans supported that year’s legislation 60% to 40%, despite the outcome.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any other publicized and recent polls on the issue. However, one key difference this year, versus 2018’s effort, that could push the conversation in another direction is money, U.S. News and Associated Press reports. Four years ago, cannabis advocates had little money for their efforts, but this year, the North Dakota legalization group has received more than $520,000.

Additionally, the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which helped fund opposition to the measure in 2018, will not contribute to the fight against cannabis legalization this time around, according to the group’s president Ron Ness. 

There are several factors that could spell success for the effort, but unfortunately without more concrete polling data, it’s tough to anticipate where the vote could go.

South Dakota – Initiative Measure 27

After passing the state’s medical cannabis legalization initiative in 2020, with the state’s first licensed dispensary opening its doors July 2022, South Dakota voters will once again vote on cannabis with Initiative Measure 27. The state has a storied history with cannabis, leaving the vote this year a bit different than some of the other states posing similar questions.

What it does: A yes vote for Initiative Measure 27 supports the legalization of possession, distribution and use of cannabis for people 21 years old or older. The measure does not address licensing, taxation, local government regulations of cannabis or hemp regulations.

In 2020, along with medical cannabis, voters approved Amendment A. The amendment would have legalized recreational cannabis; authorized the State Department of Revenue to issue cannabis-related licenses for cultivation, testing, manufacturing, wholesale and retail; imposed a 15% tax on cannabis sales; authorized local governments to enact regulations for licensees in their jurisdictions; and required the state legislature to pass laws providing a program for medical cannabis and hemp.

Voters approved the measure 54% to 46% in the November 3, 2020 general election, but the Supreme Court overturned the measure February 8, 2022, with Judge Christina Klinger ruling it was unconstitutional for violating South Dakota’s single-subject rule (state law says constitutional amendments can only cover a single issue) and because it was a revision of the constitution rather than an amendment.

This time around, advocates aren’t risking invalidation, instead moving forward to strictly enforce legalization. Cannabis sales could come at a future date, if separate laws are passed by lawmakers or voters.

What the polls say: While voters just approved a similar initiative two years ago, with even more directly attached to it, recent polls show that South Dakotans are split on the issue.

South Dakota State University released results of their survey of South Dakota voters earlier this month, finding that 45% supported the measure, 47% were against and 8% were not sure. Another poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy of Florida, conducted in July, found that 43.8% of respondents supporting legalization of recreational cannabis, while 54.4% opposed it. 

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We can theorize all we want, but of course we’ll have to collectively hang tight to witness the final outcomes in these states. While we might not see all five states enacting cannabis reform this year, we’re likely to escape election season with a little more state support for recreational cannabis.

The post Five States To Vote on Recreational Cannabis This Election Season appeared first on High Times.

North Carolina Governor Urges State Lawmakers To Legalize Pot

Taking a cue from President Joe Biden, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday urged state lawmakers to decriminalize marijuana.

“Conviction of simple possession can mar people’s records for life and maybe even prevent them from getting a job,” Cooper, a Democrat, said during a task force meeting on racial equity and criminal justice, as quoted by the Associated Press.

Cooper noted that the state General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans, failed to act on the task force’s recommendations in the previous session, but he said he “believe[s] they should.”

“North Carolina should take steps to end this stigma,” the governor said.

According to the Associated Press, the task force that Cooper addressed on Friday was established “by Cooper in June 2020 after George Floyd’s murder,” and it consists of a “24-member panel of law enforcement officers, attorneys, civil rights advocates and state officials.”

The AP reported that the task force “recommended in a 2020 report that state lawmakers replace the misdemeanor charge for possessing up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana with a civil offense on par with a traffic infraction.”

Along with Cooper, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, also a Democrat, urged lawmakers in the state to move forward with cannabis reform.

Their call came a day after Biden said that he will issue pardons to individuals with federal convictions of simple marijuana possession.

In his announcement on Thursday, the president called on “all Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses.”

“As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates,” Biden said in a statement.

Crucially, Biden’s announcement was also framed as a first step toward decriminalizing cannabis under federal law, with the president saying he has asked “the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”

“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances.  This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic,” Biden said.

The president added: “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

North Carolina is one of the few remaining states where neither medical nor recreational cannabis use is legal.

Lawmakers in the state considered a bill earlier this year that would have legalized medical cannabis treatment, with the bill easily earning approval in the state Senate.

But the legislation stalled in the state House of Representatives.

Had it passed, it would have created one of the most restrictive medical cannabis laws in the United States.

Despite the lack of action by elected officials, there is broad support among North Carolina voters for both medical and recreational cannabis.

A poll in April found that 72% of voters in the Tar Heel State support legalizing medical cannabis, while 57% said they also support making recreational pot use legal.

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New York Recreational Sales On Track To Start By Year’s End, According to Gov. Hochul

The clock may be ticking on 2022, but New York is still on track to open its first recreational marijuana dispensaries by the end of the year.

That is according to the state’s Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul, who said Wednesday that she expects the first official cannabis retailers to open their doors before 2023.

“We expect the first 20 dispensaries to be open by the end of this year,” Hochul told the Advance Media New York editorial board. “And then every month or so, another 20. So, we’re not going to just jam it out there. It’s going to work and be successful.”

The application period for the first round of adult-use cannabis dispensary licenses just ended last week after it began on August 25.

State officials said that around 500 applications had been submitted, and that hundreds of other applicants had been deemed ineligible and were rejected.

The first round of dispensary licenses will be awarded to individuals who have previously been convicted of a pot-related offense, or a family member of someone who has, a policy that was announced by Hochul back in March.

“New York State is making history, launching a first-of-its-kind approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step forward in righting the wrongs of the past,” Hochul said in the announcement at the time. “The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind. I’m proud New York will be a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building.”

In her interview with the editorial board on Wednesday, Hochul echoed those sentiments, saying that New York is striving to be “a model for the rest of the nation – especially with our desire to make sure that people who’ve been affected by the criminal justice system adversely … have the opportunity to work in this area.”

Hochul, who is heavily favored to win re-election this year, took over as governor in August 2021 following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, who stepped down as New York governor amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

It was Cuomo who signed the bill legalizing recreational pot for adults in March 2021, but the state’s cannabis program did not begin to take shape until Hochul took office.

Within a month of taking over last year, Hochul completed two key appointments to the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, the agency charged with overseeing and regulating New York’s cannabis industry.

“New York’s cannabis industry has stalled for far too long—I am making important appointments to set the Office of Cannabis Management up for success so they can hit the ground running,” Hochul said at the time.

In her interview with the editorial board this week, Hochul touted her efforts to get the state-regulated marijuana program off the ground.

“Talk about the rollout being jammed up,” she said. “When I became governor, nothing had happened. Nothing. It was shut down because there was a battle between the administration and the legislature over who would be the executive director and the chairs of the cannabis review boards,” she said. “So, I was given a lot of credit because within one week, I named people. I got things going. So, when I speak to people about being part of this industry, the first thing they say is ‘thank you.’ Because otherwise we could still be waiting and waiting and waiting, even for the most basic steps to be taken. So we’ve been moving along quickly.”

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