Montana Lawmakers Approve Cannabis Tax Bill

Montana lawmakers on Monday passed a bill to allocate revenue from taxes on recreational marijuana, sending the bill to the desk of Republican Governor Greg Gianforte for his consideration. The legislation, Senate Bill 442, was approved in a final vote by the Montana Senate on Monday after the state House of Representatives passed an amended version of the bill last week.

Montana voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2020 with the passage of Initiative 190, a ballot measure that passed with nearly 57% of the vote. Under the initiative, a tax of 20% was levied on recreational marijuana products, with revenue generated by the tax reserved for Habitat Montana, a 30-year-old wildlife habitat acquisition initiative often described as Montana’s “premiere habitat program,” according to a report from the Montana Free Press.

Governor Sought Reallocation Of Cannabis Taxes

Before the start of this year’s legislative session, the governor revealed his desire to reallocate the state’s recreational marijuana taxes away from habitat purchases and instead spend the money on law enforcement resources related to legalizing marijuana. Lawmakers responded with several new proposals, arguing that reallocating recreational marijuana taxes would allow the state to meet other pressing budgetary needs and give the legislature more control of the revenue.

In the original version of Senate Bill 442, which was introduced in February by Republican state Senator Mike Lang, a portion of cannabis tax revenue was diverted away from the habitat fund and instead allocated to funding for county roads. Supporters of the proposal maintained that the bill would support access to rural areas and open spaces. But wildlife advocates balked at the proposal, claiming it defied the will of the voters as expressed through Initiative 190.

Lang then amended the bill to divide the bulk of cannabis tax revenue among the state’s general fund, funding for county roads and a new Habitat Legacy Account, which would be used for wildlife improvements on public and private land. Smaller allocations would also be made to fund substance misuse programs, veterans services and funding for state parks and trails.

“I think we’ve made some pretty smart changes here that are intended to invest in rural Montana’s roads, lands and hunting opportunities while providing support for our veterans and a growing need for drug treatment,” Lang said after revising the bill. “At the end of the day we want to give our local counties and local people the tools and resources they need to improve the conditions of the land and be good stewards of Montana.” 

The amended bill received support from state lawmakers and groups representing business interests including the Montana Stockgrowers Association and the Montana Petroleum Association, and conservation organizations such as Wild Montana, Helena Hunters and Anglers and the Citizen’s Elk Management Coalition, all registered support for the proposal. Many county commissioners and the Montana Association of Counties also indicated their approval of the measure.

“Our county roads are being used more than ever now,” said Roman Zylawy, president of the Montana Association. “Recreation and agriculture are part of our Montana way of life and this bill recognizes the importance of — and the need for — integration of all through an investment in our county roads. … The Montana Association of Counties thanks you all and we encourage, with the utmost respect, Gov. Gianforte to sign SB 442 and provide ongoing investment in our county roads.”

Competing Bill Dies In Senate

A separate bill that would have directed all cannabis tax revenue to the state’s general fund passed in the House of Representatives last month. Proponents of the measure, House Bill 669 from Representative Bill Mercer, argued that lawmakers would be able to control the allocation of tax revenue and direct it to state budget priorities.

“Under 669, it would simply say that that revenue should go to the general fund and the Legislature as a whole should decide how it wishes to spend that revenue,” Mercer told members of the House Appropriations Committee last month. “One of the reasons that I wanted to bring this bill is that I fear that, when you essentially begin to earmark dollars for special revenue accounts, they evade review on an ongoing basis. Every time we have a diversion into a special revenue account, I worry that it doesn’t get the same sort of scrutiny that it does in the general fund.”

But Jim Vashro, president of Flathead Wildlife Inc said that the will of Montana voters as expressed in the 2020 ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana should prevail.

“We would hope that the Legislature would listen to the voice of the people,” Vashro said. “We are trying to protect the Habitat Montana funding, which was the stated intent of Initiative 190.”

House Bill 669 was tabled by a Senate committee late last month. Senate Bill 442 has been sent to the governor’s desk and awaits action from Gianforte. On Monday, a spokesperson for Gianforte said that the governor “has substantial concerns” about Senate Bill 442 but did not provide further details on his position. 

The post Montana Lawmakers Approve Cannabis Tax Bill appeared first on High Times.

Minnesota Senate Approves Cannabis Legalization Bill

The Minnesota Senate last week voted to approve a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, only days after the House of Representatives passed a companion adult-use cannabis legalization measure. The bill, Senate File 73, was approved by the Senate on Friday with a vote of 34-33 that saw all senators from the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) voting in favor of the bill and all Republicans opposed.

The bill would legalize the possession and use of cannabis by adults aged 21 and older and establish a regulatory framework for the production and sale of recreational marijuana. Adults would be permitted to purchase up to two ounces of cannabis, 8 grams of cannabis concentrates or edibles with up to 800 milligrams of THC. Home cultivation of marijuana would also be allowed, with adults permitted to grow up to eight cannabis plants at home.

DFL Senator Lindsey Port, the lead sponsor of the bill, said that it is time to change Minnesota’s marijuana policy.

“The prohibition of cannabis is a failed system that has not achieved the desired goals and has had incredible costs for our communities, especially for communities of color,” she said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press.

With the bill, Port said that lawmakers have an “opportunity to undo some of the harm that has been done and create a unique system of regulation that works for Minnesota consumers and businesses, while ensuring an opportunity in this new market for communities that have been most affected by prohibition.”

Port added that the measure was considered carefully by lawmakers, who made several amendments to the legislation as it worked its way through the legislative process.

“Minnesotans are ready. Attitudes are changing,” she told Minnesota Public Radio. “Now is our time to undo decades of ineffective and damaging prohibition.”

After the bill was passed by the state Senate, Democratic Governor Tim Walz said that he would approve the legislation, which would make Minnesota the 23rd state in the nation to end the prohibition of marijuana.

“Legalizing adult-use cannabis and expunging cannabis convictions is good for our economy and the right move for Minnesota,” Walz wrote on Twitter on Friday. “When the bill reaches my desk, I’ll be proud to sign it into law.”

The bill also includes measures to address the harms caused by decades of cannabis prohibition, including a provision to expunge convictions for many marijuana-related offenses. DFL Senator Claire Oumou Verbeten said that the legislation is needed to end the racial disparity repeatedly seen in the enforcement of the nation’s drug laws.

“We owe this to the people who have been impacted the most by this prohibition. It’s our communities of color. It’s Black Minnesotans, especially Black men,” said DFL Senator Claire Oumou Verbeten. “We owe this to them. We can legalize this. We can regulate it. We can expunge,” she said. “Because we have to and because it’s a racial justice issue.”

Minnesota House Also Passes Legalization Bill

Also last week, a companion bill to the Senate measure was passed by the Minnesota House of Representatives, setting the stage for a conference committee to rectify inconsistencies between the two pieces of legislation. After the conference committee resolves differences between the bills, the House and Senate will vote on the final version of the bill. 

Key differences between the separate versions of the legislation include a possession limit of two pounds of cannabis in the House bill, while the Senate version allows adults to possess up to five pounds of marijuana, including no more than two pounds from a source other than home cultivation. The Senate bill allows local governments to cap the number of cannabis retailers. The House bill does not include such limits, although both versions do not allow cities and counties to enact an outright ban on dispensaries. Additionally, the Senate version levies a tax on cannabis products of 10%, while the House version sets the tax rate at 8%.

Both bills establish an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the licensing and regulation of cannabis companies. Ryan Winkler of the MN is Ready coalition, a group that has advocated for the legislation and assisted in its development, said that there could be “a few bumps in the road” as regulations to enact the legislation are drafted by the new agency.

“As we’ve seen in every other marketplace – and I suspect any market where you’re creating a new product and there’s large consumer demand – it’s difficult to match supply and demand initially and there typically is a market shakeout after the initial exuberance happens,” Winkler said. “We’re seeing that in other states as well. There’s been a lot of consolidation of cannabis companies in other states. So we are anticipating the challenges.”

All 33 Senate Republicans voted against the bill, with senators citing concerns over public safety, substance abuse and controlling the illicit marijuana market. 

“What we’ve come down to after our analysis is this bill simply isn’t enough – not enough public safety, not enough or not enough for public health,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson. “And our local governments are really, really at the bottom of the stick of this.”

The post Minnesota Senate Approves Cannabis Legalization Bill appeared first on High Times.

New York City Officials Pledge Crackdown on Illicit Pot Shops

New York City officials announced this week that they would take new steps to address the city’s growing number of unlicensed cannabis retailers in a bid to bolster the rollout of the regulated market for recreational marijuana. At a press conference in Manhattan on Tuesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. said they would also target the landlords of retailers selling weed without a license from the state.

New York’s mayor and leading prosecutor noted that the district attorney’s office had filed complaints against four unlicensed shops selling cannabis in Manhattan. The complaints allege that an NYPD officer had observed the shops selling cannabis to underage individuals and that the city is moving to shut down the shops for making illegal sales of cannabis and operating without a license.

“Legalizing cannabis was a major step forward for equity and justice — but we’re not going to take two steps back by letting illegal smoke shops take over this emerging market,” Adams said in a statement from the mayor’s office. “Today, we are proud to announce we are taking direct action against four unlicensed smoke shops in the Ninth Precinct, which will complement our efforts with District Attorney Bragg to hold these illegal businesses accountable. We are laser-focused on protecting the health and well-being of New Yorkers and ensuring this emerging industry delivers equity to those who deserve it the most.”

Last month, city leaders pledged to take action against the multitude of illicit marijuana retailers that have set up shop in New York City since the state legalized marijuana for adults last year. In December, New York City Mayor Eric Adams launched a pilot interagency task force to address the growing number of unlicensed retailers. The task force, which includes the Sheriff’s Office, the NYPD, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, and the Office of Cannabis Management, has identified at least 1,200 unlicensed marijuana shops in the city. An analysis by city council staff revealed 11 unlicensed shops selling cannabis within a 10-block radius of the city’s first licensed retailer.

Warnings Sent To 400 Smoke Shops

In addition to the four complaints against unlicensed shops, Adams and Bragg said that the district attorney’s office had sent letters to the more than 400 smoke shops in Manhattan, warning them that the city could initiate eviction proceedings for unlawful cannabis sales. The letter specifically informs commercial entities that the city is prepared to use its authority under New York real estate law “to require owners and landlords to commence eviction proceedings of commercial tenants who are engaged in illegal trade or business, and to take over such eviction proceedings if necessary.” The letter also noted that within five days of written notice that prosecutors would “take over such eviction.”

“For nearly two years, we’ve seen a proliferation of storefronts across Manhattan selling unlicensed, unregulated, and untaxed cannabis products. It’s time for the operation of unlicensed cannabis dispensaries to end,” said Bragg. “Just as we don’t allow endless unlicensed bars and liquor stores to open on every corner, we cannot allow that for cannabis. It’s not safe to sell products that aren’t properly inspected and regulated for dosage, purity, and contaminants. And it certainly isn’t fair to competing businesses.”

Mark Sims, the CEO of cannabis investment firm RIV Capital, said in an email that the proliferation of unlicensed businesses hurts both the newly licensed adult-use cannabis retailers and existing medical marijuana firms including Etain Health, a chain of New York medical marijuana dispensaries operated by RIV, and called for more action from the state.

“While we commend Mayor Adams’ actions to combat the illicit market—it’s a positive step forward—the problem of illicit smoke shops cannot be viewed or solved in isolation,” Sims wrote in an email. “With more than 1,200 illicit shops (which is double the number of Starbucks in New York) suspected to be trafficking in illicit cannabis products, products that have been shown to be unsafe for human health, a more holistic approach must be taken to successfully combat the steady flow of illicit market product.”

The post New York City Officials Pledge Crackdown on Illicit Pot Shops appeared first on High Times.

Oregon Cannabis Industry in ‘Weakest Economic Position’ Since Launch in 2016

The recreational cannabis industry in Oregon is in its “weakest” economic position since the legal market launched in 2016, according to a new report released by state regulators.

The report, released last week by the Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission, detailed that, after a “banner sales year” in 2020, cannabis producers in the state “entered 2021 exuberant and optimistic about the future of the market – and made their planting decisions accordingly.”

“However, the fading of demand as 2021 progressed, exacerbated by a record outdoor harvest in October 2021, set off a slide in prices that put the entirety of the supply chain under pressure in 2022,” the report said. “The overabundance of supply throughout 2021 and 2022 resulted in historically low wholesale and retail prices for both usable marijuana and concentrate/extract products. The declining prices, in combination with a tempering in the growth of quantities purchased, resulted in the first-ever decrease in annual sales (from $1.2 billion in 2021 to $994 million in 2022).”

That combination of overabundant supply and fading demand, the commission said in the report, has left the Oregon recreational cannabis market in perhaps its most precarious state since it opened for business about seven years ago.

“Previous market cycles have been buoyed by large annual increases in consumer demand, and Oregon’s recreational marijuana market has successfully transitioned most in-state consumers to the legal market. However, the Oregon recreational marijuana market is in arguably the weakest economic position it has been in since the inception of the program in 2016 due to a decrease in the growth of demand in Oregon, a production cycle that responds to market signals on a lag, and increasing stockpiles of inventory,” the report said. 

The post-pandemic sales dip has become a troublesome trend for Oregon’s cannabis producers. 

Last fall, the state’s Liquor & Cannabis Commission sounded the alarm on year-over-year sales numbers in Oregon, noting that sales in October 2022 declined by about $15 million from October 2021.

In the commission’s latest report released last week, the regulators “[m]arket dynamics on the demand side also point to a turbulent 2023.”

“Overall, consumer demand since 2021 has been at a lower rate than prior years, and there has been a notable shift down in the demand trend line. Moreover, the distribution of demand is shifting away from usable marijuana – both as an intermediate and final product. In previous years, OLCC Processors have proven to be a ‘safety net’ for Producers by purchasing large amounts of usable marijuana and giving Producers an additional outlet for their product,” the report said. “However, just like usable marijuana inventory, stocks of concentrate and extract products are at all-time highs and Processors are less likely than in the past to turn to Producers for new inventory. This also comes at a time when consumers are shifting towards other product types (particularly edibles) and away from usable marijuana. These factors all point in the same direction: fewer outlets for usable marijuana, and lower prices for licensees.”

The commission said that, although the state’s recreational cannabis market “has proven resilient…two fundamental facts remain unchanged” until the federal government takes action and reschedules pot: “in-state supply is boundless, while in-state demand can only grow so much,” according to the report.

“Oregon’s extremely competitive marketplace features low prices for consumers that have positioned the state’s legal market to compete successfully with the illicit market. The corollary, however, is that these low consumer prices force businesses to operate under low margins and extreme pressure. The narrowness of those margins, and the ability for Oregon cannabis businesses to operate under them, remains to be seen as we enter 2023,” the report said.

The post Oregon Cannabis Industry in ‘Weakest Economic Position’ Since Launch in 2016 appeared first on High Times.

Upstate New York Officials Clash Over New Cannabis Regulations

City and county officials in upstate New York are at odds over the implementation of rules governing the sale and cultivation of marijuana in the community. 

The dispute is between the Niagara Falls City Council and members of the Niagara County Planning Board, and it centers around how the community will enforce the sale of recreational marijuana, which was legalized by the state of New York in 2021. 

The Niagara Gazette reports: “The Niagara County Planning Board unanimously decided to disapprove a zoning text amendment the Niagara Falls City Council approved a month ago, which allows for the cultivation, production and sale of recreational cannabis within the city. Despite this decision, the members knew their actions would have little effect on the city’s implementation. The county board members’ objections ranged from not being specific on locations to the city seeing little financial benefit from having these businesses operate in the Falls.”

Under the ordinance that was approved by the Niagara Falls City Council last month, “cannabis dispensaries engaging in sales only can operate between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m., those that allow on-site consumption may operate from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m., and may not operate more than 70 hours a week,” and retail “dispensaries may not be located within 500 feet of a community facility while consumption dispensaries may not be within 200 feet of a house of worship, 500 feet of a school or ‘community facility,’ and 1,000 feet of similar operations,” according to the Niagara Gazette.

New York’s Office of Cannabis Management issued 36 recreational marijuana dispensary licenses to various businesses and nonprofits in the state in November, but so far, only two retailers––both located in Manhattan––have opened to customers.

The Office of Cannabis Management says that cities, towns, and villages could have opted out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses from operating within their jurisdictions, but those municipalities needed to “pass a local law by December 31, 2021 or nine months after the effective date of the legislation.”

The agency explains: “If a municipality does not opt-out by December 31, 2021, the municipality will be unable to opt-out at a future date. However, a municipality may opt back in, to allow either, or both, adult-use retail dispensary or on-site consumption license types by repealing the local law which established the prohibition. All local laws passed by municipalities opting out of allowing adult-use retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses are subject to a permissive referendum as outlined in section twenty-four of the Municipal Home Rule Law. This creates a process allowing voters of the municipality to petition the outcome of a local law, which if successful, will trigger the question of whether or not to approve the local law, to be placed on the ballot at the next general election of state or local government officials for the municipality.” 

No municipality can “opt-out of adult-use legalization,” according to the Office of Cannabis Management.

According to the Niagara Gazette, Kevin Forma, the city planning director of Niagara Falls, “said the directions that all municipalities received from the state are similar to liquor ordinances and the requirements for having a bar,” and that the “state was also restrictive in what the city can do for allowing and disallowing uses.”

“The state is telling us that we cannot restrict this,” Forma said during the planner’s meeting on Monday, as quoted by the Gazette. “We’re developing this to the best of our ability, managing this in conjunction with the state rules and regulations.”

The post Upstate New York Officials Clash Over New Cannabis Regulations appeared first on High Times.

Ohio Lawmakers File Medical Cannabis Revamp Bill

Two Republican state lawmakers in Ohio have introduced a bill to revamp the state’s medical marijuana laws that would create a new state agency to oversee the program and allow more patients to use cannabis medicinally. The measure, Senate Bill 9, was introduced by state Senators Steve Huffman and Kirk Schuring on January 11 and on Tuesday was referred to a legislative committee for consideration. The bill is similar to another proposal from the last legislative session, Senate Bill 261, that failed to gain approval in the Ohio House of Representatives after passing in the Senate in December 2021. 

Both pieces of legislation attempt to update Ohio’s medical marijuana law, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law in 2016. Under the new bill, a new state agency, the Division of Marijuana Control, would be created as part of the Ohio Department of Commerce to regulate the state’s medical marijuana program. The legislation also creates a 13-member commission responsible for oversight of the new agency and the medical program. Under current law, the state’s medical marijuana program is overseen by the Ohio Department of Commerce, the State Medical Board of Ohio and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. 

“What we’ve found is that many of the growers want to expand and grow more,” Huffman said in a statement quoted by local media. “There’s more growers, there’s more demand. They put an application into the Department of Commerce, and it sits there for 18 months, two years. Hopefully this takes the bureaucracy out of this and streamlines things and make it a better-functioning industry.”

Ohio Bill Adds New Qualifying Conditions

Senate Bill 9 would also add autism spectrum disorder, arthritis, migraines, chronic muscle spasms and opioid use disorder to the state’s list of medical conditions that qualify a patient to use cannabis medicinally. Currently, the list of qualifying conditions includes more than two dozen serious medical conditions including cancer, chronic pain, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD and terminal illnesses.

The measure also allows medical marijuana use by patients who have other debilitating medical conditions that can be treated with medicinal cannabis, as determined by their physician. The earlier bill had a similar provision, allowing patients to use medical cannabis if a doctor decides that “the patient’s symptoms may reasonably be expected to be relieved from medical marijuana.”

In a committee hearing on Senate Bill 9 held on Tuesday, Huffman and Schuring told their colleagues that many medical marijuana patients in Ohio are crossing state lines to obtain cannabis from neighboring states with more liberal marijuana laws. As of Januray 1, ore than half of the more than 320,000 patients who have registered in the history of Ohio’s medical marijuana program, only about 164,000 had an active doctor’s recommendation and patient registration, according to information from state regulators.

“The largest dispenser for Ohioans is in Michigan,” Huffman said in testimony Tuesday. “We need to turn that around, and make it more friendly, so people come here and they have a safe, viable product.”

Senate Bill 261 also would have allowed the state’s licensed medical marijuana cultivators to expand their growing operations. Although the provisions to increase the square footage of allowable cultivation space are not included in the new bill, Huffman said he is open to amending the legislation to add the increased growing area.

“In my discussions with Sen. Schuring, we felt this would be a positive move and positive change for the industry,” Huffman said. “At the same time hopefully members of the House will be comfortable with it.”

Recreational Marijuana Proposal Under Consideration

Ohio lawmakers are also considering a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Frank LaRose reintroduced the proposal, which would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older and levy a 10% tax on commercial cannabis products. Activists had hoped the measure would appear on the ballot for the November midterm election, but legal challenges caused delays that led to an agreement with state officials to revisit the issue this year. If the state legislature does not approve the measure within four months, the Coalition To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group spearheading the legalization effort, can collect signatures to put the proposal before the voters in the fall.

Despite the adult-use cannabis legalization bill, Huffman, who is a physician, said that he is still interested in improving the state’s medical marijuana program. If recreational marijuana is legalized, he said it would create an environment without “much of a medical marijuana industry.”

“This bill, to me, is not so much about the ballot initiative, but to make the industry as best as we can,” Huffman said.

Trent Woloveck, the chief strategy officer of Jushi, a vertically integrated, multistate cannabis operator that last week opened Beyond Hello Cincinnati, the company’s first medical marijuana dispensary in Ohio, called on state lawmakers to approve Senate Bill 9 in a statement to High Times.

“If passed, SB 9 will make safe, tested medical cannabis products accessible to more Ohioans by expanding qualifying conditions, authorizing additional administration forms and codifying mechanisms to allow responsible, incremental industry growth,” said Woloveck. “Ultimately, the changes proposed in SB 9 will facilitate a stable supply chain, reduce product prices and generally benefit Ohio patients.”

Senate Bill 9 has been referred to the Senate General Government Committee for consideration. At a hearing on Tuesday, the Republican chair of the panel, Senator Michael Rulli, said that the committee would move quickly on the bill.

The post Ohio Lawmakers File Medical Cannabis Revamp Bill appeared first on High Times.

Tennessee Lawmakers Unveil Cannabis Legalization Bill

A pair of Democratic state lawmakers in Tennessee this week introduced a bill to legalize both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis in the state. The bill, known as the “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act” (HB0085), was introduced in the House by Representative Bob Freeman—supported by fellow Democrat Senator Heidi Campbell—on Tuesday.

“This bill will support medical and recreational cannabis use because many other states already have recreational use,” Campbell said in a statement quoted by local media.

Bill Legalizes Possession Of Up To 60 Grams Of Weed

If passed, the bill would legalize the possession, use, and transportation of up to 60 grams of marijuana or up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates for adults aged 21 and older. The measure also legalizes the home cultivation of up to 12 cannabis plants by adults in a secure location at home. Under the bill, parents and legal guardians would also be permitted to administer medical cannabis products to their minor children with a doctor’s authorization.

“It’s a full legalization of cannabis across the state,” Freeman noted in a statement last month.

The bill also legalizes commercial cannabis activity and tasks the Tennessee Department of Agriculture with drafting regulations to govern the cultivation, processing, and sale of cannabis and cannabis products in the state. The measure notes that more than three dozen states have legalized marijuana in some form and that Tennessee should follow suit “in order to remain competitive nationally and globally in the burgeoning cannabis industry.” The lawmakers also note that legal cannabis is readily available in five states that border Tennessee.

“If people can drive across the border to Indiana to get cannabis, then it doesn’t make any sense that we in Tennessee would be missing out on that economic advantage,” Campbell said.

Tennessee Still Prohibits All Marijuana

Tennessee is one of the few states that have yet to pass legislation to legalize marijuana, even for medicinal use. Freeman said that legalizing recreational marijuana would put an end to the disproportionate enforcement of laws that prohibit the possession and use of cannabis.

“If you live in a wealthy part of the state and a wealthy community in our city, and you get picked up using some cannabis for personal consumption, the odds of you getting a slap on the wrist and nothing happening is pretty high,” he said last month. If you live in a poorer neighborhood and you get picked up with cannabis, you’re going to jail.”

Three states bordering Tennessee—Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama—have legalized medical marijuana, while neighboring Missouri and Virginia have legalized both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis. Proponents of legalization argue that Tennessee is missing out on tax revenue from the money residents spend on cannabis in neighboring states.

“Let’s not delude ourselves that people aren’t crossing the border and getting cannabis from other states. Of course they are,” Campbell said. “So, that’s just income we’re missing out on.”

Tennessee Democrats Support Legalization

Freeman and Campbell’s proposal is supported by fellow Democratic lawmakers in the Tennessee legislature. House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons praised the bill last month after they announced their plan to introduce the legislation.

“The legalization of cannabis in Tennessee is long overdue. For too long, much of the TN GOP has stood in the way,” Clemmons wrote in a tweet. “Let’s do this in 2023!”

Previous attempts to legalize marijuana in Tennessee have met stiff opposition from Republican lawmakers, who enjoy a solid majority in both the state Senate and the House of Representatives. Republican state Senator Richard Briggs said that he opposes both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis, noting the federal law has already made CBD legal nationwide.

“I’m not in favor at all of recreational marijuana and I have a lot of concerns about medical marijuana until we know more about it,” Briggs said. “I don’t think that it should be generally available. And at least at this point until something changes.”

Despite Republican opposition, Freeman rates the chance that the Tennessee legislature will legalize marijuana this year as “a solid 7, 7.5,” on a scale of one to 10. But Campbell expressed far less optimism.

“Pretty low—I won’t give you a number,” she said, “but I have no delusions we’re going to pass it this session.”

But Campbell added that introducing the legislation is still important to keep the conversation about cannabis policy reform moving forward.

“We ran it last session, and I think it’s important to run it so that we keep the issue alive, we keep the messaging going,” she said. “Obviously, at some point, that’s going to happen, so we’re just going to keep knocking on that door until somebody opens it.”

The post Tennessee Lawmakers Unveil Cannabis Legalization Bill appeared first on High Times.

New Mexico December Cannabis Sales Total More Than $40 Million

Regulated sales of cannabis in New Mexico topped more than $40 million for the month of December, with recreational marijuana sales setting a new record of $28 million for the month. Sales of medical marijuana totaled about $15.1 million for the last month of 2022, up from about $14 million in November, according to data released this week by the state’s Cannabis Control Division. The increase over the previous month reverses a trend of declining medical marijuana sales posted over the preceding four months, going back to August.

Andrew Vallejos, the acting director of the Cannabis Control Division (CCD), said that the record-breaking month for adult-use cannabis sales coupled with an increase in medical marijuana purchases was a welcome surprise for the state’s cannabis industry and regulators.

“I don’t know exactly what attributed to certainly the increase both in medical and recreational, as a bump up in December, but it was kind of surprising to us to see how robust those numbers were,” Vallejos said in a statement quoted by the Albuquerque Journal, adding “The sales (numbers) are interesting in and of themselves, but what I’m encouraged by is the fact that it means a steady cash flow for (businesses) to stay open and to make a profit.”

Recreational Marijuana Sales Launched In April

In April 2021, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Cannabis Regulation Act into law, legalizing the use of marijuana for adults and creating a framework for regulated sales of adult-use cannabis. Only a year later, in April 2022, licensed sales of recreational marijuana began at regulated dispensaries in the state.

Since the April launch, sales of recreational marijuana in New Mexico totaled more than $214 million in 2022. For the same time period, medical marijuana sales totaled about $144.2 million, according to state data. At the current rate of sales, recreational marijuana sales in New Mexico are likely to top $300 million in the first full year of regulated adult-use cannabis sales.

Ben Lewinger, the executive director of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said that December’s recreational sales numbers illustrate how small towns are taking advantage of the economic opportunities associated with the state’s newest industry.

“This is very impressive on a statewide, macro level, but I think what’s more indicative of the early success of this industry is when you look at smaller, rural communities,” Lewinger said. “Places like Alto, Cloudcroft, Raton and Tularosa each boast more than 10,000 total transactions for the month of December. That’s tax revenue for those municipalities and their counties, as well as for the state.”

New Mexico’s small towns, particularly those that are near the Texas border, have shown strong gains in monthly recreational marijuana sales since the April launch. Sunland Park had its best month so far in December, eclipsing $2 million in recreational marijuana sales for the first time. Hobbs also posted strong numbers, with a record-breaking $1.7 million in recreational marijuana sales last month. Nearly $832,000 in recreational cannabis sales were rung up in Clovis in December, the highest ever reported in the town of 38,000.

Albuquerque leads the state in recreational cannabis sales, posting about $8.4 million in sales for December, a new record for the city. Medical marijuana sales added another $6 million to the city’s overall total for December, bringing it to more than $14 million. Two cities saw about $2 million in recreational cannabis sales in December, with Santa Fe posting the strongest showing to date and Las Cruces seeing its second-highest monthly total.

Sales of recreational marijuana have dominated New Mexico’s cannabis industry since the April launch, representing about 65% of total sales dollars and about 68% of all dispensary transactions. But medical marijuana patients spend more money per visit, with the average medical cannabis transaction in the state coming to $52.57. By comparison, the average recreational marijuana sale came to $45.31 over the past nine months.

CCD director Vallejos said last month that recreational marijuana legalization in New Mexico is not just about destigmatizing the use of the plant. More importantly, cannabis policy reform presents new economic opportunities for the state.

“I think there was a push by the people who wanted to have legalized, adult-use cannabis,” Vallejos said. “But there was also opportunity for economic growth. … I don’t want to pretend like cannabis is going to be oil and gas — the state isn’t going to rely on cannabis profits to fund massive amount[s] for schools — but as we diversify our economy, it’s just another arrow in the quiver.”

The post New Mexico December Cannabis Sales Total More Than $40 Million appeared first on High Times.

Study Shows Youth Increasingly Choosing Cannabis Over Alcohol

A study of cannabis use among young people in the US has increased by 245% since 2000 while youth use of alcohol decreased over the same period, according to the results of a study published this week. The study, which was posted online by the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Toxicology, tracked the incidence of misuse and abuse of alcohol, cannabis and other substances by young people reported to the National Poison Data System (NPDS) from 2000 through 2020. An analysis of the data identified 338,000 instances of intentional abuse or misuse of all substances among American children aged 6 to 18 during the period studied by researchers.

More than 80% of the reported ingestions of substances occurred among youth from 13 to 18, with a majority (58.3%) of cases reported among males. More than 32% of instances resulted in “worse than minor clinical outcomes.”

The research shows the changing trends in substance misuse and abuse among young people over time. In 2000, the largest number of alcohol misuse cases was reported, with the total steadily decreasing year over year since then. In contrast, the prevalence of reported cannabis exposure cases remained relatively stable from 2000 to 2009, then steadily increased starting in 2011, with a more dramatic spike in cannabis exposure cases between 2017 and 2020.

“Ethanol abuse cases exceeded the number of marijuana cases every year from 2000 until 2013,” Dr. Adrienne Hughes, one of the authors of the study and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, said in a statement.

However, after that point, the apparent relative popularity of the two substances among young people had reversed.

“Since 2014, marijuana exposure cases have exceeded ethanol cases every year, and by a greater amount each year than the prior,” Hughes said.

The research showed that all types of cannabis have become more popular among young people. Marijuana edibles showed the highest monthly increase in use compared to other forms of cannabis, suggesting that many young people are eschewing smoking marijuana and switching to alternative cannabis products. 

“These edible and vaping products are often marketed in ways that are attractive to young people, and they’re considered more discrete and convenient,” Hughes said.

The researcher noted that young people may also perceive alternate forms of cannabis consumption as safer than smoking, but some studies have shown that this perception may not necessarily be accurate.

“Compared to smoking cannabis, which typically results in an immediate high, intoxication from edible forms of marijuana usually takes several hours, which may lead some individuals to consume greater amounts and experience unexpected and unpredictable highs,” said Hughes.

Spike In Cannabis Use Concurrent With Legalization Efforts

The spike in youth cannabis use since 2017 coincided with continuing successful marijuana policy reform efforts across the US. Including the results of the 2022 midterm elections, when Maryland and Missouri voters opted to legalize recreational marijuana, a total of 21 states have legalized adult-use cannabis. The authors believe that while these legalization efforts have been restricted to adults 21 and older, the increased availability of a variety of cannabis products may make it easier for young people to access marijuana and may have contributed to the perception that cannabis is safe.

“Our study describes an upward trend in marijuana abuse exposures among youth, especially those involving edible products,” Hughes says. “These findings highlight an ongoing concern about the impact of rapidly evolving cannabis legalization on this vulnerable population.”

The study also identified high levels of over-the-counter medication abuse among young people. Between 2001 and 2016, the highest number of drug abuse cases related to dextromethorphan, a commonly used over-the-counter cold and cough medicine. Oral antihistamines were also among the most misused substances in the study. Deaths from drug misuse were rare, occurring in only about 450 cases (about 0.1%) identified by the study. Substance misuse deaths were most common among teenagers 16 to 18 and occurred more often among males than females. Deaths from substance use among young people were most common following the use of opioids. 

The researchers also identified 57,488 incidents of substance misuse involving children aged 6 to 12. However, these cases didn’t usually include over-the-counter or illicit drugs but instead involved substances such as vitamins, plants, melatonin, hand sanitizers and others.

In their conclusion, the authors of the study wrote that the data from the NPDS “highlight an ongoing concern about the impact of rapidly evolving cannabis legalization on this vulnerable population.”

Limitations of the research include the data set being restricted to exposure cases classified as abuse or misuse. “It’s possible that additional misuse or abuse cases were classified otherwise and thus were missed,” the authors wrote.

The study states: “Trends in intentional abuse and misuse ingestions in school-aged children and adolescents reported to US poison centers from 2000-20,” was published online by the journal Clinical Toxicology on December 5.

The post Study Shows Youth Increasingly Choosing Cannabis Over Alcohol appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Breaking: Maryland and Missouri Vote to Legalize Cannabis

Voters in Maryland and Missouri voted to legalize recreational marijuana in Tuesday’s midterm elections, bringing the total number of states that have legalized cannabis for use by adults to 21. Ballot measures to legalize marijuana failed to win a majority of votes in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota, however, with voters in those states instead opting to maintain nearly a century of cannabis prohibition. 

Maryland Approves Question 4

In Maryland, voters approved Question 4, a referendum that amends the state constitution to legalize marijuana and directs the state legislature to pass legislation to regulate commercial cannabis activity. With 82% of the votes counted on Wednesday afternoon, Question 4 was on its way to approval with nearly two-thirds (65.5%) of the vote, according to data from The New York Times. Troy Datcher, the CEO of California-based The Parent Company (TPCO), said that he is encouraged by the passage of Question 4 in Maryland, noting that the measure mandates expungement for eligible cannabis convictions and includes resentencing provisions for other offenses. He also noted the high level of support for legalization in the state. In July, TPCO, the home of Jay-Z’s luxury cannabis brand Monogram, announced that it would be entering Maryland’s medical marijuana market through a partnership with Curio Wellness. 

“The fact that Question 4 garnered more support than any adult-use cannabis ballot measure in the country’s history speaks to the shared support that Americans of all political stripes have for moving past the unjust cannabis laws that have criminalized Americans for nearly a century,” Datcher said in an email to Cannabis Now. “Tuesday’s vote also reflects the massive potential of adult-use legalization to stimulate Maryland’s economy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs for its residents and generating considerable tax revenue for the state.”

Missouri Voters Say Yes To Legalization

In Missouri, Amendment 3 was projected to be approved by voters, tallying more than 53% of the votes on Wednesday afternoon with 89% of ballots counted. The successful amendment to the state’s constitution legalizes the possession, use, sale and delivery of marijuana for personal use and sets a 6% tax on commercial cannabis sales. Additionally, the amendment includes provisions for the expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions. Jeffrey M. Zucker, vice chair of the Marijuana Policy Project board of directors and president of the consulting company Green Lion Partners, praised the work of activists who campaigned to make legal recreational marijuana part of the state’s constitution.

“It is an exciting time for the people of Missouri as their state legalizes adult-use cannabis,” Zucker said in an emailed statement. “I am in awe of the hard work that cannabis activists have done in Missouri, and I look forward to seeing how both established medical marijuana dispensaries and new players in Missouri’s regulated cannabis industry grow and begin to thrive over the coming months.”

With the approval of the cannabis legalization measures, Maryland and Missouri have become the 20th and 21st states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. Mason Tvert, communications adviser for the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente Sederberg LLC, noted that in addition to ending the criminalization of cannabis, the successful ballot measures in Maryland and Missouri will spur economic development and create new jobs.

“With legal cannabis in these two states comes new economic opportunity. Expansion of the regulated cannabis market will result in new businesses, more jobs, and significant tax revenue,” Tvert wrote in an email. “There is still plenty of work to be done when it comes to implementing the new law and ironing out all the rules. Marijuana-related policy discussions will become the new norm in state and local governments, much like we see with alcohol. Ending prohibition is just the beginning.”

Three States Decline To Legalize Weed

Despite the strong showing for cannabis policy reform in Maryland and Missouri, voters in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota rejected ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana. Arkansas voters said no to Issue 4, with more than 56% of the electorate voting against the measure. In South Dakota, cannabis legalization initiative Measure 27 only garnered 47% of votes, with 53% voting against it. And in North Dakota, where voters approved a 2020 ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana that was invalidated by the state Supreme Court, voters declined to repeat their previous approval of reform. Measure 2, which would have legalized the possession and use of cannabis for adults, received the approval of 45% of voters, with nearly 55% voting against the measure.

Other Races Bode Well For Continued Reform

Although marijuana legalization measures were only on the ballot in five states on Tuesday, other races in this week’s midterm elections are likely to foster progress on cannabis policy reform efforts. In Minnesota, control of the state Senate was won by Democrats, giving the party control of both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office. With the new majority in the Senate, lawmakers are likely to advance legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis, according to a report from Marijuana Moment.

“We are excited about the prospects for full legalization, but Minnesotans who want to see legalization will still have work to do,” said Maren Schroeder, coalition director for the MNisReady Coalition. “We’re optimistic that we’ll get it across the finish line in 2023.”

In Pennsylvania, voters elevated Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, an outspoken advocate of cannabis policy reform, to the US Senate, where he will be a new voice for progress on the issue at the federal level. Voters also selected fellow Democrat Josh Shapiro as governor over Republican Douglas Mastriano, who characterized recreational marijuana legalization as a “stupid idea,” according to a report from Marijuana Moment. Tracey Kauffman, founder and chairperson of cannabis consulting firm Cannaspire, says that the results in her home state of Pennsylvania indicate a willingness among voters to support candidates who are in favor of cannabis policy reform.

“Yesterday was a huge victory for cannabis in Pennsylvania. Both John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro support legalizing adult-use cannabis and expungement, so hopefully we will see swift changes in our state,” Kauffman wrote in an email. “I would like to see a cannabis task force organized so we can analyze key learnings from how our neighbors in New York and New Jersey have approached legalization and translate them into what will be successful in Pennsylvania.”

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) lauded the approval of cannabis legalization measures in Tuesday’s election, noting in a statement on Wednesday that in addition to the successes in Maryland and Missouri, marijuana decriminalization measures were passed by voters in several cities located in states that maintain prohibitions on adult-use cannabis, including Texas and Ohio.

“While this year’s mid-term elections may not have been a ‘clean sweep’ for reform advocates, our momentum continues unabated,” NORML deputy director Paul Armentano said in a statement from the advocacy group. “Are we in a stronger place today than we were yesterday? Of course we are. Two more states, Maryland and Missouri, have wisely elected to legalize and regulate cannabis — policies that will expand the freedoms and civil liberties of over 7 million Americans. In addition, voters in cities across this country — including over 400,000 Texans — acted to end the senseless and counterproductive policy of arresting and prosecuting those who possess and use cannabis.”

The post Breaking: Maryland and Missouri Vote to Legalize Cannabis appeared first on Cannabis Now.