US Attorney General Eric Holder told America to expect a decision "soon" on how he'll respond to the recent legalization of pot by Colorado and Washington state. Legislative committees in New Mexico and Hawaii approved bills to decriminalize marijuana possession and Oregon lawmakers introduced a legalization bill. Rhode Island legislators held a hearing on a bill to legalize and tax marijuana. In California, where Holder's Justice Department has spent months trying to shut down respected medical-pot dispensaries, a Field Poll showed that 67 percent of state voters oppose the move.
What Colorado will look like with legal marijuana became significantly clearer when the state task force proposing rules for that new world finished its work. Under proposals endorsed by the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force, recreational marijuana in Colorado would be heavily taxed. It would be grown only indoors. It would not be allowed to be smoked at bars, restaurants or even social clubs.
The Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force regulators are working out the details of exactly how to tax legalized marijuana, so the benefits are shared statewide in the form of increased revenue. The task force meets Thursday to draft final recommendations based on the voter-approved marijuana legalization question that asked for excise taxes up to 15 percent to fund school construction. Besides schools, the taxes must fund marijuana safety enforcement and drug education measures. (See also: Tax, legal issues on tap at last Colorado marijuana task force meeting)
A record but still narrow majority of California voters, or 54 percent, favor legalizing marijuana for personal, recreational use with age limits and other restrictions like those placed on alcohol, a new Field Poll showed. The support was the highest since the FieldPoll first asked about pot legalization in 1969, when 13 percent of California voters were in favor. In 2010, the last time Field Poll asked voters about the issue, 50 percent favored legalization.
Rules for Colorado's recreational-marijuana industry have begun to take shape after a marathon meeting of the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force, which recommended marijuana purchasing caps. Adults over 21 in Colorado are allowed up to an ounce of weed, but the task force recommended that a single transaction at a pot shop be capped at a lower amount. Regulators did not agree what the smaller cap should be, punting that decision to the state Legislature, which will decide on Colorado's marijuana rules. (See also: Colorado task force says marijuana should be in child-proof packages)
A whiff of change is in the air regarding drug control policy. Officials in two American states, Colorado and Washington, are pondering how to implement their voters’ decisions last November to legalise cannabis. One immediate consequence is that the United States will be in breach of the UN Convention. Good. It should now join Latin American governments in an effort to reform that outdated document to allow signatories room to experiment. Imposing a failed policy on everybody benefits nobody.
The cannabis industry is an easy target for legislatures to saddle with heavy taxes. In Washington State for instance, there is a 25% tax at three different stages of cannabis production: from the grower to the processor, from the processor to the retailer, and the retailer to the customer. These taxes are in addition to any other state or local sales taxes that might apply. Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, for instance, has introduced marijuana reform legislation that would enact a 50% excise tax on production.
Colorado's Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force is wading through the weeds of marijuana legalization, creating regulations to take pot from the shadows out into the open. In the wake of the decision by voters in Colorado last November to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, the question of how to integrate legal pot into the practical bureaucratic realities has fallen on two dozen Coloradans. By the end of the month, the Task Force must submit a report to the Colorado Legislature that lays out its suggestions for how the state should regulate legal marijuana.
Two marijuana-related bills advanced in Olympia, with legislative committees giving their OK to one measure that would block police from arresting medical marijuana patients and another that would let people have misdemeanor pot convictions erased. After Initiative 502 passed, allowing adults over 21 to have up to an ounce of marijuana under state law, thousands of people still have criminal records for activity that is now legal - criminal records that can keep people from getting jobs, housing or loans.
State Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) was joined by Rep. Aaron Libby (R-Waterboro) at a press conference to unveil the details of her new bill that would make Maine the third state in the nation to make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed like alcohol. The bill would remove criminal penalties for possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana, direct a state agency to license and regulate marijuana commerce, create a $50 an ounce excise tax on wholesale sales, and allow localities to not allow marijuana commerce.
Lawmakers from opposite ends of the political spectrum unveiled a bill Thursday that would give Mainers the chance to legalize marijuana for recreational use in a statewide referendum. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, and co-sponsored by Rep. Aaron Libby, R-Waterboro, would make vast changes in Maine’s drug law, ranging from making possession of up to 2.5 ounces of pot legal to imposing a tax of $50 per ounce.
In his final state of the city address as Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, announced that anyone caught in possession of marijuana would no longer have to spend a night in jail. Effective next month, anyone who is arrested for marijuana possession will still be taken to the police station, fingerprinted and so on, but if there are no pending warrants, they will be released with a summons to appear in court. This is a small step in the right direction.
Members of a task force proposing regulations for recreational marijuana in Colorado approved recommendations that would allow for marijuana tourism but block out-of-state pot shop owners. The Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force voted to allow people from outside of Colorado to shop in forthcoming retail marijuana stores, though the amount they could purchase at any one store would be limited. (See also: Pot tourism in Colo.? Marijuana regulators OK idea)
As the push to legalize pot migrates from the margins to the mainstream, it is mellowing some Republicans in the process. “If it was a secret ballot, the majority of Republicans would have voted to legalize marijuana a long time ago,” says GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who opposes the “monstrous” war on drugs.
Advocates for the legalization of marijuana plan to step up their political giving and lobbying efforts now that members of Congress are taking an interest in changing federal drug laws. The lobbyists say lawmakers who wouldn’t give them the time of day are suddenly interested in meeting with them and introducing legislation following the approval of ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington that legalized recreational use of the drug.
The Denver City Council will vote in April on whether the state's largest city will opt out of licensing recreational marijuana sales — a move that could dramatically affect legalization efforts in Colorado. City leaders are wrestling with how to implement Amendment 64, which legalized recreational use and possession, cultivation and distribution of limited quantities of marijuana.
A handful of legislators recently drew up a letter raising questions and concerns about the law, including whether it can be implemented by December as required under voter-approved Initiative 502. Alison Holcomb, drug-policy director for the ACLU of Washington and one of the law’s sponsors, defended it in a point-by-point response to the letter. Holcomb also implied that some of Hurst’s concerns could lead to a “Big Marijuana” industry whose advertising targets young people.