Attorney James Mertes will keep fighting at the appellate level if the ruling is appealed. He represented a local man arrested for possessing 2.6 grams of cannabis.

It's a potential historic ruling that resulted from a simple traffic stop. 

Local attorney James Mertes knows it has the chance to be overturned, but he plans to keep on fighting the idea that the smell of marijuana isn’t reason enough to conduct an unwarranted search of a car in Illinois alone.

“Ultimately this case is at the forefront of reshaping the law,” says Mertes.

He was the attorney who represented Vincent Molina, the man at the center of this case. 

Recreational marijuana has been legal in Illinois since the beginning of 2020, but since then officers have still used the smell of cannabis as a reason to search a car during traffic stops. A judge in Whiteside County has now ruled that is no longer allowed.

“How on earth could an officer be justified in their search of a motor vehicle based on probable cause that a crime is afoot when the odor that the officer is relying upon to justify the search is the odor of something that is no longer illegal,” Mertes said.

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"Goes to show that lawmakers don't have to agree on everything to find common ground on solutions to the challenges facing everyday Americans."

Drug war foes welcomed the introduction Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives of a bipartisan bill to help states expunge cannabis convictions by reducing costs and red tape through a new federal program.

"There is no justification for continuing to prevent tens of millions of Americans from fully participating in their community and workforce simply because they bear the burden of a past marijuana conviction."

Reps. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) teamed up to introduce the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act. If passed, the measure would create a new federal initiative—the State Expungement Opportunity Grant Program—through which the U.S. attorney general could dispense funds to state and local governments "to reduce the financial and administrative burden of expunging convictions for cannabis offenses that are available to individuals who have been convicted," according to Ocasio-Cortez's office.

"Goes to show that lawmakers don't have to agree on everything to find common ground on solutions to the challenges facing everyday Americans," tweeted Joyce, who earlier this year co-sponsored the first GOP-led legislation to federally decriminalize cannabis.

"Having been both a public defender and a prosecutor, I have seen firsthand how cannabis law violations can foreclose a lifetime of opportunities ranging from employment to education to housing," he continued. The collateral damage caused by these missed opportunities is woefully underestimated and has impacted entire families, communities, and regional economies."

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Democrats on the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday encouraged President Joe Biden to take stronger action to limit oil and gas production, while Republicans said reducing domestic production would only increase global emissions from overseas suppliers.

In a hearing less than a week after the U.S. Interior Department released a report that called for fiscal updates to the federal oil and gas leasing programs but offered little to lessen the industry’s climate impacts, Democrats said the administration left a critical gap that would hamper efforts to meet Biden’s climate commitments.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, a California Democrat who chairs the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee, said the proposals, which include raising rates for royalties and bonding, were welcome but insufficient.

“These changes are long overdue,” Lowenthal said. “But a glaring omission of the report was any discussion on the emissions that result from oil and gas drilling on public lands. In my view, this was a missed opportunity, and it’s a critical issue that we must address.”

Lowenthal said the report’s recommendations were “minor reforms” that would not put the U.S. on a path to meeting its climate pledges.

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Medical marijuana business license applications are now available in Aberdeen. 

The application forms went live on the city's website Tuesday. As of late Wednesday afternoon, City Attorney Ron Wager said, no applications had come in.

Given the track record of other cities like Sioux Falls, the dispensary spots might get taken quickly. In Aberdeen, the city council has set a maximum of six dispensary licenses.

Here are five things to know about applying for a medical marijuana business license in Aberdeen.

It's going to be a lengthy process

The application lists the steps and documentation needed in order for it to be considered complete. 

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The Minnesota Department of Health said Wednesday it’s not approving anxiety disorders as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, unlike neighboring North Dakota and three other states.

State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said there’s not enough scientific evidence of benefits of medical cannabis use when compared to the possibility of “unintended consequences.” No new conditions will be added to the existing list of 17 qualifying health issues.

“We received many comments from health care practitioners treating patients with anxiety disorder, and they urged us to not approve it as a qualifying medical condition,” Malcolm said.

North Dakota added anxiety disorders to its accepted uses two years ago, when it immediately became the most commonly cited condition.

Minnesota did agree to add infused edibles in the form of gummies and chews to a list of approved products that includes pills, vapor oil, liquids, topicals, powdered mixtures, and orally dissolvable medicines like lozenges.

“Expanding delivery methods to gummies and chews will mean more options for patients who cannot tolerate current available forms of medical cannabis,” Malcolm said.

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With the legal sale of recreational marijuana set to begin Jan. 1 across Montana, Lake County residents are being asked to weigh in on whether to impose a local tax to benefit county and city governments.

Lake County commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a resolution to hold a special election to determine whether a local-option tax of 3% will be implemented beginning in July. Commissioners produced the resolution after the county’s three municipal governments — Polson, Ronan and St. Ignatius — agreed to hold the vote and contribute to the cost of the election.

The county estimates local governments could collectively take in $180,000 annually if voters approve the tax. That number was derived by taking a Missoula estimate and adjusting for population, so actual revenue could be much higher or lower.

The county will hold a public hearing on marijuana sales in January, and the special election is expected to occur in early April. If approved, the tax would go into effect July 5 to coincide with the start of a new fiscal year.

After deciding to seek approval for a local marijuana tax, commissioners also had to decide whether to apply the same tax to recreational and medicinal sales. They settled on a ballot with separate questions regarding medicinal and recreational sales. Commission Chairman Bill Baron said he favored addressing the two types of sales as one. However, commissioners Gayle Decker and Steve Stanley supported the two-question ballot.

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The feds have a vested interest in allowing marijuana businesses to access banking, if for no other reason than to more effectively collect taxes from them.

In a bid to see marijuana banking reform passed as part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), vocal members of labor and financial organizations penned a letter to Senate leadership imploring them to afford legitimate cannabis businesses with banking services, which would also give them access to essential insurance products and protections that are given to other industries. Marijuana Moment recently reported that the letter included contributions from the  American Bankers Association (ABA), Credit Union National Association (CUNA), United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), as well as 11 other organizations, asking members to adopt language protecting banks that work with state-legal cannabis businesses.

The member-backing of these organizations is enormous and far-reaching. CUNA alone has over 120 million members.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which is intended to create protections for financial institutions that provide banking services to legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers for such businesses, has been approved in the House five times, yet on each occasion has fizzled out in the Senate.

Of course, many large financial institutions are reticent to embrace cannabis businesses due to the plant’s designation federally as a Schedule 1 controlled substance alongside heroin and LSD. That makes it a risky business for some commercial interests.

The recent letter from powerful labor and financial groups impacted by the laws was written to express dissatisfaction by leaders of the organizations who believe that pending marijuana banking reform language may be in jeopardy again through the final processes of the NDAA passing this month or next.

“Our organizations have banded together because the status quo is untenable for workers, communities, ancillary businesses and law-abiding financial institutions … SAFE Banking is germane to NDAA because it bolsters national security by keeping bad actors out of the cannabis industry and the financial system, while also supporting the thousands of veterans who rely on the cannabis industry for medical treatment, employment, or entrepreneurial opportunities,” the letter reads.

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A marijuana safety lab is suing the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) over a recall that impacted nearly $230 million worth and 64,000 pounds of marijuana products in the state, mostly flower.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Christopher M. Murray on Monday seemed to scold MRA for its lack of clear communication related to the matter.The marijuana recall, issued on Nov. 17, was so vast that more than 400 retail shops, and their customers, were impacted in some way.

Viridis Laboratories, which operates two separately licensed labs under similar ownership -- one in Bay City and another in Lansing -- claims the recall is politically motivated. Because Viridis is so successful, handling up to 70% of all marijuana testing in the state, the MRA wants to “level the playing field,” according to the Viridis lawsuit filed in the Michigan Court of Claims on Nov. 22. The lawsuit also alleged the recall may be retribution for a formal administrative complaint Viridis filed Oct. 25 against the MRA, in part, for questions Viridis faced over its testing methods that regularly produce THC potency results in excess of 30%. Marijuana with higher potency generally fetches higher prices from retail customers.

The Viridis complaint was filed a day before MRA inspectors were expected to begin on-site audits at the Viridis lab locations.
Viridis founders include three former Michigan State Police Forensic Division employees: Greg Michaud, Todd Welch and Michele Glinn.

The MRA issued a recall on most marijuana products Viridis labs tested between Aug. 10 and Nov. 16, calling the labs results “inaccurate” or “unreliable,” but provided no reasoning for the determination. It said the products must undergo new microbial testing, which looks for pathogens, yeast and mold. Not included in the recall were product made from THC extracts, which are not required to undergo microbial testing.

Glinn, who is also Viridis’ chief science officer, testified Wednesday and said there was mass confusion after the recall. Her office was initially told they were cleared to retest recalled product, but the MRA was telling customers the opposite. Glinn said her staff later worked through Thanksgiving weekend to comply with a checklist of demands from the MRA to improve the lab testing methods and get full clearance to continue operations.
 
Exhibits filed in the Court of Claims by Viridis, including emails exchanges with the MRA and results of on-site audits, identified significant procedural flaws in past testing methods. Viridis failed to keep logs necessary to validate test procedures, passed moldy samples that auditors identified as contaminated, failed to calibrate equipment as regularly as required and possessed untagged samples.
 
In order to test for the presence or growth of certain yeast, molds or pathogens, samples are placed in incubators for various lengths of time, usually between 24 and 72 hours, within designated temperature ranges.
The MRA audit found that Viridis labs weren’t using logs to track when samples were placed into and removed from incubators. It also found incubators weren’t keeping samples at the proper temperatures.
 
The lab personnel confirmed there were no logs, which Viridis argues are not required. Without logs, it’s impossible to tell when a sample was placed in the incubator, and a sample is more likely to pass testing if it is not stored for the full incubation period.
 
The recall occurred three weeks after the audits were conducted.
 
The MRA provided three options to retailers, growers and processors with recalled marijuana, none of them cheap: Destroy the product, have the product retested or send the product back to the license source so they may destroy or retest the marijuana. In the meantime, all of the recalled marijuana was placed on hold and unable to be sold.
 
Companies scrambled to get product retested and back on shelves. At the time, it wasn’t clear if the MRA was allowing Viridis to continue testing, or allowing the labs to conduct retests on the recalled products. MLive asked about Viridis’ status multiple times since the Nov. 17 recall announcement.
 
MRA spokesman David Harns cited an ongoing investigation and, -- after Viridis filed its lawsuit -- litigation, as reasons he could not disclose details. The MRA would not reveal how much of the recalled product was sold to customers, the full scope of the recalled product or how much has since been destroyed or retested and cleared for sale.
 
As of Wednesday’s Court of Claims hearing, Viridis attorney Kevin Blair said the company’s ability to conduct all marijuana safety testing has been fully restored.
 
“We were told in a very unclear way and it took three or four days to get confirmation that they were saying we could retest,” Blair said in his opening statements.
 
Judge Murray questioned what benefit Viridis would receive if he were to order the recall be retracted.
 
The MRA recall and the testing holds that followed equated to a “de facto summary suspension” without due process, Blair, a Viridis attorney, argued Wednesday. He said the judge’s order would stop the MRA from further deviating from their own rules.
 
“Their recall notice says: Investigation still ongoing, all marijuana products are being recalled and, blah, blah, blah, all in written form that was for the public view, and now what we have, as far as I know, is emails telling (Viridis) it’s A-OK now,” Judge Murray said, speaking candidly after the first witness left the stand.
 
He wondered why the MRA hasn’t issued a follow-up notice letting the public know that Viridis is currently in compliance and cleared for all testing.
 
“The evidence and common sense tells you that when a state agency in charge of this issues a recall like that, customers are going to say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’” Murray said. “And if the state tells them on Thanksgiving morning -- credit to the state for working Thanksgiving morning -- that it’s A-OK, why don’t they broadcast it.
 
“It’s just like the newspapers. You know, Chris Murray commits a felony is on the front page and then when they find out Chris Murray hasn’t committed a felony, it’s on the third page.”
 
Murray said his concern is “more of a practicality as to what the state should be doing to tell the truth now.”
 
The motion hearing didn’t conclude Wednesday. It’s scheduled to resume with a MRA witness at 10 a.m. Thursday. The hearing may be viewed live on the Court of Claims YouTube page, and past recordings are archived.
 
It’s not clear when Murray may issue his written opinion. If he sides with Viridis, it could mean that unknown amounts of marijuana currently being held pending retesting or destruction could be released back into stores for sale.
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According to police a search of a residence on Brattle Street, in Brattleboro, turn out several containers that contained marijuana suspected to be laced with fentanyl. Police say the marijuana was sent to a lab for further analysis.

Queensbury woman arrested for stealing thousands of dollars from golf course 

On November 30, the Brattleboro Police Department assisted by the Drug Enforcement Agency and Department of Homeland Security executed a narcotics search warrant of the residence. Police said three people were arrested.

Charges:

Gregory Larose, 50, of Brattleboro – Possession of fentanyl and contempt of courtLindsi Houle, 38. of Brattleboro – Possesion of fentanylSteven Miller, 34, of Brattlebore – Possession of fentanyl and contempt of court

Police: Man arrested for burglary after allegedly breaking into residence 

Police say all three were processed and released on an appearance ticket. All will be due to appear in court on January 4, 2022, to answer their charges.

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As deputies went to investigate a fight in rural Oklahoma, they said a man was found being held against his will for three months at an illegal marijuana operation, according to media reports. It led to charges against three individuals, who Garvin County officials say would not let the victim leave on his own. “He claimed to fear for his life,” Garvin County Sheriff Jim Mullett told the Pauls Valley Democrat. “He claimed they had kidnapped him and forced him to keep working.” Several people called 911 on Nov. 29 about a man being dragged on the road in Elmore City, which is about 65 miles south of Oklahoma City, according to KWTV. The victim was trying to escape the facility with a bag of personal items, KXII reported. “They’re in the middle of the road, they’re fussin’,” one called told dispatchers, KWTV reported. “They’re trying to drag him back in the yard.” Cyber Monday Sale Unlimited digital access - $6 for 6 months CLAIM OFFER When deputies entered the residence, they found nearly $2 million worth of marijuana, along with firearms and cash, KXII reported. It was deemed an illegal operation, as it was not properly registered with the state, the TV station reported. The victim said he was forced to stay at the facility so the three suspects could “extort money from a wealthy family,” KWTV reported. He was not allowed to leave unless he was with someone else, the Pauls Valley Democrat said. Xiaobing Chen, Xuechun Ruan and Quan Zhao each faces charges of kidnapping, illegal drug trafficking, possession of guns while committing a felony and other drug charges, according to media reports. They are being held at the Garvin County jail without bond, jail records show.

 

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Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC), Redwood Region Audubon Society (RRAS), Citizens for a Sustainable Humboldt (CSH), and neighbor Mary Gaterud have been forced to file a second lawsuit challenging Humboldt County over the Rolling Meadow Ranch, LLC (RMR) industrial scale cannabis project located in a remote rural neighborhood.

In this additional lawsuit, the groups ask the Court to:

(1) suspend all County decisions approving the Project Changes pending trial,

(2) issue an order vacating all post-approval Project Changes, and suspending all Project activity that could result in any change or alteration to the physical environment until the County and the Project applicant have taken actions that may be necessary to bring the Project Changes into compliance with CEQA,

(3) require the County to prepare, circulate, and consider a new and legally adequate EIR and to comply with CEQA in any subsequent action taken to approve the Project.

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Three employees at a Garvin County marijuana grow operation, later determined illegal, were arrested after dragging an employee on a rural road.

Xiaobing Chen, 34, Xuechun Ruan, 22, and Quan Zhao, 25, were arrested Monday by deputies at the Garvin County Sheriff’s Office.

Just after 5 p.m. Monday, deputies were dispatched to a home in the in the 27000 block of East County Road 1650 after receiving multiple 911 calls a man was being dragged on the road.

“We’ve got some guys in our yard fighting,” one caller told dispatchers. “We need help now!”

“They’re in the middle of the road, they’re fussin’,” another called said to dispatchers. “They’re trying to drag him back in the yard.”

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A group of Missourians have launched a campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.

Legal Missouri 2022 is working to get a measure on next year’s ballot to legalize recreational marijuana. At least 18 states, including Illinois, have legalized recreational marijuana.

Medical marijuana is legal in Missouri. Currently, more than 146,000 Missourians have patient or caregiver licenses for medical marijuana.

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“There’s a Republican bill in the House. There’s a Democratic bill in the House. There’s a state ballot initiative. There is a yearning for this to happen in the state of Ohio”.

State Representative Terrence Upchurch lays it out plainly. He co-sponsored the Democratic bill that’s been introduced in the House. He says it’s a great opportunity for Ohio, but there’s also a threat if the state doesn’t join the 19 others that have reaped the benefits.

“What I don’t want to see happen is we begin to lose business, our population continues to decrease, and we lose out on huge economic opportunity because we’re still lagging behind.”

Thirty cities in Ohio have taken a step forward by decriminalizing misdemeanor cannabis possession. That means having smaller amounts is no longer an arrestable or fineable offense.

“It’s really no different than somebody going in a store and buying alcohol and going home and consuming. We’re not saying you can drive. We’re not saying you can sell it. We’re literally saying misdemeanor amounts should not be punished,” says Pricilla Harris, a cannabis activist who’s helped in the efforts.

Decriminalization is not new or innovative. Twenty-seven other states have done this. The maneuver protects users, but it doesn’t do anything to regulate or monetize the usage.

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Law enforcement can't keep up with drug traffickers growing marijuana in national forests, who poison wildlife, siphon water, and risk wildfire.

After a two-and-a-half-mile trek through thick brush, Mourad Gabriel stepped into a small clearing. A month earlier, this half-acre swath of the Cleveland National Forest, nearly invisible from the air, had been an illegal marijuana grow worth more than an estimated $1.2 million. The Forest Service’s law enforcement officers had hacked down the plants, but Gabriel and his team were there to cart out nearly 3,000 pounds of trash, and to clean up something else the drug traffickers left behind: poison. 

Gabriel, a regional wildlife ecologist for the Forest Service, spooned swabs of pesticide into a military-grade testing device to identify chemicals used by illicit farmers, which kill the forest’s wildlife.

“We had a dead bear,” he said, recalling a past bust, “a turkey vulture that was dead consuming that bear, and then another turkey vulture that was dead consuming that turkey vulture and that bear.”

“We call it ‘The circle of death.’”

But another looming danger to animals — and to the human residents of one of the most populous areas in America — is fire. Just over the mountains from this grow is the sprawl of greater Los Angeles and its 19 million people. Advocates estimate California’s national forests, four of which ring the L.A. basin, are home to 80 to 85 percent of the nation’s illegal marijuana grows on public land. Every time traffickers start a grow on California’s drought-stricken federal forests, they put millions of people at risk. They use scarce water and sometimes set bone-dry woodlands ablaze. At least 13 wildfires in the past dozen years have been linked to grows.

The Forest Service has long struggled to keep up — the agency has roughly one law enforcement officer for every 300,000 acres of forest — but since the pandemic started, it’s gotten even harder.

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Wisconsin lawmakers recently unveiled a bipartisan bill to decriminalize marijuana statewide. The bill is not the first of its kind, but it benefits from the exceedingly rare support of some Republican politicians, setting it apart from the usual Democrat-led initiatives shunned by the Republican legislature.

Under this bill, possession of a personal-use amount of marijuana would be subjected to a fine of $100 for possessing 14 grams of marijuana or less. Municipalities would have some discretion, but they cannot enact a penalty lesser than $100 or greater than $250, or up to 40 hours of community service. Any amount greater than 14 grams could still be subjected to the current law.

Currently, Wisconsin law states that a first offense of possessing personal use amounts of marijuana can incur a fine up to $1,000 and six months of incarceration. A repeat offense is a felony and can be punished with three and a half years in prison and a $10,000 fine. This makes Wisconsin one of the worst locations in the United States in terms of personal use of marijuana.

Remove the Threat of Prison

Most importantly, the bill in question would eliminate counting for the purpose of determining whether there has been a repeat violation in cases where the amount seized is 28 grams or less. This would remove the threat of prison entirely from most low-level marijuana cases, statewide, and would turn thousands of serious offenses every year into slaps on the wrist.

As such, this proposal seems appealing, especially for Wisconsinites who live outside of the main centers of population, many of which have already enacted some form of decriminalization. As more and more localities have taken the initiative to enact cannabis reform without waiting for the regressive legislature, this bill aims to harmonize the law across the state. Co-author Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez has argued in a press conference that marijuana laws in Wisconsin are “a patchwork,” which confuses residents who expect rules applied in Milwaukee and Madison to be applied elsewhere.

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Despite a high rise in Michigan’s marijuana business, Delta Township does not have a dispensary — and township officials don’t expect that to change any time soon.

According to Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency, more than 700 dispensaries opened in the state of Michigan since 2021.

In 2019, the township board voted against allowing dispensaries within Delta Township’s borders. Since then, this issue hasn’t been revisited, while nearby cities such as Lansing and East Lansing are dabbling into Michigan’s now multimillion-dollar business.

Township resident Amy Zander, owner of Zeedia Media, said Delta should stay current and competitive with other communities.

“The money it could bring to the community and adding more businesses to the Delta Township community will make our economy stronger,” Zander said. 

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"Would be great to hear from you," the police service tweeted.

There was nothing sweet at all about cannabis-infused treats found hidden inside a hedge that could have proved dangerous if discovered by children.

A treasure trove of cannabis sweets was found in a suspicious package tucked away in the hedge on a residential street in Ivybridge by a citizen. The person then handed in the cannabis products to the Devon and Cornwall Police in the U.K.

The assortment of goodies prompted PS Watkins, a police constable with the police service, to post a cheeky tweet for the owner. “Have you lost your ‘sweets’?” asks the tweet this weekend. “Would be great to hear from you.”

Each packet reportedly had a cannabis warning. The treats contain cannabis that has “been through a distillation process,” notes another tweet by Watkins.

Distillation and isolation is a process that “take place in the final stages of creating a cannabis oil extract,” notes Alberta-based Maratek, a company that engineers solvent recycling and cannabis/hemp extraction technologies.

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If cannabis reform is an incremental process, and it is, then this past year has shown the industry just how much can be accomplished in state-level legislation.

Following the watershed election in 2020, state legislators across the U.S. got down to business this year. As detailed in a new report from NORML, state legislatures have passed and enacted more than 50 cannabis reform laws since January. 

At the top of the list: Virginia, Connecticut and New Mexico, which passed adult-use legalization measures. New York and New Jersey also crossed that line by passing the laws that would enact voter-approved adult-use measures passed last November.

Beyond that, state legislators drafted, debated and passed laws to further expungement efforts, broaden the parameters of “diversity” in the cannabis industry and expand medical cannabis access.

If cannabis reform is an incremental process, and it is, then this past year has shown the industry just how much can be accomplished in state-level legislation. No doubt, there’s more to come.

“State lawmakers took unprecedented steps this year to repeal marijuana prohibition laws and to provide relief to those millions of Americans who have suffered as a result of them,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a public statement.

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Retail marijuana will not be coming to Greenport in the near future.

Village trustees voted 3-2 Monday night to opt out of allowing on-site marijuana consumption and retail dispensaries within village boundaries, ahead of the state’s Dec. 31 deadline. The village may choose to opt in later, reversing the decision, but it will never again have the opportunity to opt out. 

Mayor George Hubbard, Deputy Mayor and Trustee Jack Martilotta, and Trustee Mary Bess Phillips voted in favor of the opt out, emphasizing regulatory concerns. Trustees Julia Robins and Peter Clarke voted against.

“I’m not opposed to it either way, I just think that we’re really not prepared for this,” Mayor George Hubbard said. The village can choose to opt in six months from now with more research after seeing “what the state is going to do.”  

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips took a similar stance, emphasizing that whether residents smoke marijuana is not the issue.

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