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Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas announced a proposal on Monday that would legalize medical marijuana to raise the revenue required to expand the state’s Medicaid program. Under the proposal, nearly 200,000 state residents who do not currently have health insurance would gain eligibility for coverage.
“After nearly a year of challenges brought on by COVID-19, we need to use every tool at our disposal to protect the health of our workforce and our economy,” Kelly said in a statement from the governor’s office. “Getting 165,000 Kansans health care, injecting billions of dollars and thousands of jobs into our local economies, and protecting our rural hospitals will be critical to our recovery from the pandemic. By combining broadly popular, commonsense medical marijuana policy with our efforts to expand Medicaid, the revenue from the bill will pay for expansion.”
Obamacare Includes Medicaid Expansion
Under the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, Congress authorized an expansion of the Medicaid program to provide health insurance for more low-income families, with the federal government covering 90% of the cost and the states responsible for 10%. Kansas is one of 12 states who have not implemented the expansion, with leaders of the GOP-led legislature citing the costs of the program.
“You have heard many of the comments coming from the opposition have been [that] we can’t afford it,” Kelly said in a press conference on Monday. “We have just designed a bill that pays for itself and more.”
“There’s never been any good argument against expansion other than we can’t afford it,” she added.
In virtually every corner of Earth the cannabis reform movement is making strides.
Sure, only 2 countries have legalized cannabis for adult use (Uruguay and Canada).
However, several nations have legalized cannabis for medical use.
At least two countries, Mexico and Israel, are expected to legalize cannabis for adult use in 2021, and this year will no doubt see several countries move forward with implementing medical cannabis reform.
With momentum for cannabis reform seemingly increasing across the globe, there is one country that may be moving in the opposite direction.
THREE people were recently sentenced to 30 years in prison in Tunisia for using cannabis and this verdict has ignited public debate in the country to the point of causing Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi to react on February 1.
The conviction for the consumption of cannabis has sparked a heated debate in the country around its legislation. The judgment, handed down on January 20 by a court in Kef (north), “does not relate only to the consumption of narcotics but also to the use of a sports field for the consumption of drugs,” specified on January 31 to the AFP.
A spokesman of the court, Mohamed Faouzi Daoudi said Tunisian law provides for a severe penalty for the consumption of narcotics in the public space, citing “law 52 and chapters 7 and 11”.
On social media, using the hashtag in Arabic “#prison-no, change 52”, many users protested against the verdict and called for a demonstration.
The director of the regional office of Amnesty International, Amna Guellali, described the decision made by the courts as “unacceptable” rejecting “all the [prison] sentences issued concerning the consumption and possession of narcotics”.
“This shows what can happen when politics override the will of the people and causes a stalemate in the rollout of voter-favored programs,” says one industry expert.
Four of the five states that passed cannabis-centric ballot initiatives on Election Day 2020 have since run into hurdles.
The pathway from ballot question to implementation has only been smooth for one of the five states to pass measures recently — Arizona. Adult use sales began on Jan. 22, with many medical dispensaries expanding to adult use to accommodate the newly opened market.
The Copper State sets a new bar by opening its market just a couple months after passing an initiative. Lawmakers from the other four states, however, are stalling the process.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem issued a January executive order showing that she ordered a lawsuit to overturn the adult use portion of its result
An influential group of Minnesota legislators is renewing a push to legalize recreational marijuana this year, as more neighboring states allow and reap the financial windfall from legalized cannabis sales.
"The ability for Minnesotans to drive across the border to get cannabis is going to increase significantly," House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said at a news conference on Monday. "People are willing to drive to Wisconsin in order to buy fireworks. They're sure as heck going to drive to South Dakota to get cannabis."
Fifteen states, including South Dakota and Illinois, have voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and supporters in North Dakota are trying to get legalization on the 2022 ballot.
Republicans who control the Minnesota Senate remain opposed, saying the state is facing far more serious problems with the COVID-19 pandemic, balancing the budget and reopening schools. "I would not consider legalizing recreational marijuana as a Minnesota priority," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said in a statement. "Just because it's legal, doesn't mean there aren't consequences. We're just starting to learn about legalization's adverse effects in other states like Colorado and Washington. There is no reason to rush this in Minnesota without learning more."
A Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll a year ago found that 51% of registered Minnesota voters support legalizing the drug.
Exciting times have arrived in Arizona’s cannabis industry! The Arizona Department of Health Services (the “Department”) (1) released final interim rules for recreational licensees, and (2) issued new recreational licenses. As noted by Marijuana Moment’s Kyle Jaeger, the marks the fastest transition from voter approval to sales implementation of any state that has legalized marijuana to date.
Specifically, on January 22, 2021, the Department issued 86 new licenses for adult use or recreational use marijuana (CLICK HERE for the list). By happenstance, I drove by the Harvest dispensary in North Scottsdale on Friday (January 22), and the lines were literally around the building! So, it appears that recreational sales have started out strong in Arizona.
The Department also released final interim rules for adult use establishments in January 2021, that were effective as of January 15, 2021 (CLICK HERE to view the regulations). Unfortunately, it does not appear that the Department released a redline of the regulations that show the changes from the draft rules to the interim final rules. However, I will discuss a few of the more important changes below.
It’s worth noting too that the Department did not make changes to certain rules notwithstanding public requests to do so. For example, certain commenters requested that the license fee be reduced for initial licensees. The Department decided to stick with its original proposal, so the initial licensing fee remains a pretty steep $25,000.
One change made to the rules is with regard to the financial conditions that must be satisfied by a licensee. Under the draft rules, the applicant had to demonstrate it had “at least $500,000 in funds available” and a financial institution had to provide evidence of same within 60 days of the application. Under the interim final rule, while there is still a requirement for at least $500,000 in available funds, there are now a few other requirements. A.A.C. R9-18-303(A)(6).
“The ability for Minnesotans to drive across the border to get cannabis is going to increase significantly,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “People are willing to drive to Wisconsin in order to buy fireworks. They’re sure as heck going to drive to South Dakota to get cannabis.”
However, while democrats and cannabis advocates keep pushing, and 51 percent of registered voters in the state support legal cannabis, the republicans, who control the Senate in Minnesota, are mainly anti-cannabis.
“My main concerns are the unintended consequences of recreational pot similar to the concerns we all have about tobacco, drinking, or prescription drug abuse,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. “Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. We’re just starting to learn about legalization’s adverse effects in other states like Colorado and Washington. There is no reason to rush this in Minnesota without learning more.
Pot’s Got A Fighting Chance
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last December to federally legalize marijuana, but it failed to garner any consideration by the then Republican-controlled Senate.
Democratic Senate leadership has a plan to legalize marijuana at the federal level at some point this year.
In a joint statement released Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and Senator Cory Booker detailed how the Democratic-controlled upper chamber will prioritize federal marijuana legalization in the new Congress. They plan to introduce legislation in the coming weeks designed to establish a taxed and regulated cannabis market.
“Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country,” Senators Booker, Wyden, and Schumer said in a statement. “We are committed to working together to put forward and advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but also undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory policies,” the lawmakers continued. “The Senate will make consideration of these reforms a priority.”
Ever since the Democrats won the majority in the Senate, there has been a lot of speculation on exactly how the course of federal marijuana legalization would pan out. Schumer himself said last week that marijuana reform would be a priority. Still, he stopped short of saying that it would include full-blown legalization.
The Alabama Legislature goes into session tomorrow, but already lawmakers are not shying away from controversial topics. State Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, is bringing back his medical marijuana legislation for 2021.
The legalization of medical marijuana is an issue that Melson brought up in 2019 and in 2020. Both times, the Alabama Senate narrowly passed the legislation and both times, the decriminalization of medical marijuana failed to get out of committee in the Alabama House of Representatives. This year, Melson’s bill has been pre-filed in the state Senate as Senate Bill 46.
For Alabamians with a medical affliction that they think might be treated with medical cannabis, there are no legal options other than to move to another state. SB46 would create the Compassion Act. It would authorize certain residents of Alabama diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition and designated caregivers to be registered and obtain a medical cannabis card, thereby authorizing the patient to use cannabis for medical use.
Under existing law, unlawful possession of marijuana in the first degree is a Class C or Class D felony, and unlawful possession of marijuana in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor. Even marijuana legally prescribed by a doctor in another state is a violation of the Alabama criminal code. While dozens of states have legalized medical marijuana, if citizens of those states visit an Alabama beach or to even drive through the state with their legally prescribed medical marijuana, they are committing a crime and could potentially do jail time if caught.
SB46 would tightly regulate medical marijuana from seed to the final end-user:
Lawmakers in New Jersey late last week moved forward on legislation designed to clear up penalties for underage cannabis use.
Characterized as a “cleanup bill,” the legislation “would revise the consequences associated with the underage possession or consumption of illegal marijuana or hashish, or legalized cannabis items which may only be lawfully possessed by persons 21 years of age or older,” after the first attempt at a compromise bill unraveled earlier this month.
That previous bill, according to NJ.com, “fell apart when Black lawmakers came together in opposition, arguing that the penalties it set forth for those under 21 would disproportionately affect Black and Brown youth,” although the follow-up legislation that was introduced last week “is not so different from that prior attempt.”
“The main change on penalties is the lowering of fines those 18 to 20 could face for possessing marijuana,” NJ.com reported.
As for the new bill’s prospects, NJ.com said this: “If the full Legislature passed the cleanup bill, [New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy] could sign it and the two other bills legalizing (S21) and decriminalizing (S2535) marijuana into law together. He has said he cannot sign the other two as is, citing conflicting language that both legalizes possession of marijuana for those under 21 and makes it a disorderly persons offense.”
Quick—name the first cannabis industry unicorn.
If you said Canopy Growth, or GW Pharmaceuticals, or a marijuana company currently in business, you’ve forgotten the amazing rise and fall of Medbox.
The first publicly traded “cannabis company” to exceed $1 billion in value (at least on the exchanges, “real” enough by our rational market’s standards) way back in 2012, Medbox wasn’t a company at all so much as it was a stock-selling scheme as the Securities and Exchange Commission discovered, a hustle that took advantage of irrational hype cycles to bamboozle ill-informed retail investors.
Hmm. Does this sound at all familiar, in early 2021? It’s worth revisiting the Medbox story in the context of the still-ongoing GameStop stock Armageddon, since it’s happening at the same time marijuana legalization, in part inspired by the COVID-19 economic disaster, is having its biggest-yet moment.
NEW YORK, USA - JANUARY 28: A group of demonstrators are gathered by the New York Stock Exchange ... [+]
Even though the state’s decriminalization model won’t eliminate all problems associated with drug abuse, it could help chip away at it while saving law enforcement resources.
Oregon decriminalized the possession of all drugs in the November 2020 election. The law officially goes into effect on February 1, 2021. This means, from this point forward, those caught holding what the state considers a “small amount” of any illegal substance, including cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin, will no longer be charged with a crime and fed to the wolves of the criminal justice system. Instead, the offender would have to pay a small fine. No jail, no lengthy court battle.
The state is also putting a renewed focus on drug rehabilitation by allotting more than $100 million in cannabis taxes for those services. This concept might sound groundbreaking, but it is actually nothing new. Drug decriminalization has been successful for decades in Portugal. But will the United States government take notice of this policy and make a similar shift in the coming years?
The new drug decriminalization law in Oregon eliminates the criminal penalties associated with the possession of illicit substances and makes it a civil infraction. Anyone caught holding personal amounts of illegal drugs will be given the option of paying a $100 fine or participating in a health assessment. The goal is to provide addicts with a pathway to recovery rather than treat them like criminals.
According to the Oregon Criminal Justice System, the new law will decrease the number of convictions for possession of controlled substances by more than 90%. In addition to using cannabis funds to finance addiction services, the state says it will save millions by not locking up drug offenders. This money will also be put toward harm reduction programs.
The North Dakota Senate voted Jan. 28 to kill Sen. Oley Larsen’s S.B. 2234, legislation that would have allowed registered medical cannabis patients and caregivers to grow up to eight cannabis plants, according to The Bismarck Tribune.
Larsen told the news outlet that the bill was meant to improve medical cannabis access in the state for patients who have trouble visiting dispensaries.
Opponents of the legislation, including law enforcement officers, expressed concerns about how growing operations would be regulated, The Bismarck Tribune reported.
Other medical cannabis-related bills currently pending in the state legislature would allow patients to access edibles, as well as restructure the state’s medical cannabis advisory board, according to the news outlet.
It's not easy being a marijuana activist in Idaho. The only state in the country with no favorable cannabis laws - recreational, medical, CBD or hemp - Idaho appears to be heading in the wrong direction.
The Republican legislature there is pushing a state Constitutional ban on legalizing "certain psychoactive drugs," such as marijuana. This would prevent medical or recreational legalization from happening in Idaho.
First the legislature has to pass Senate Joint Resolution 101. Then Idaho citizens would get to vote on the measure in the 2022 election.
This is nothing new for Idaho. Former NORML outreach coordinator Russ Belville, who lives in nearby Ontario, Oregon, tells CelebStoner:
"In 2013, the Idaho Legislature voted in a resolution that medical marijuana, which was already illegal, should never be legal. In 2015, the governor vetoed a low-THC CBD oil bill for epileptic kids because of concerns for 'public safety.' In 2019, the legislature tried hiking the initiative petition gathering requirements from 6%-10% of last elections' voters in six months instead of 18, until conservative groups killed it. So, in 2021, their last gasp Hail Mary play is to put a ban on medical marijuana in the state constitution, so it's out of reach through an initiative. Our polls show 78% of Idahoans support."
In 2020, the number of states that ended pot prohibition reached 15 (and the District of Columbia), as voters in four states—Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota—legalized marijuana through the initiative process. Since 2021 is not an election year, any states that attempt to legalize marijuana this year will have to go through the much more cumbersome legislative process, but at least a handful of them are poised to do so.
It is no coincidence that the early progress toward state-level legalization has been led by states that allow for voter initiatives. State legislatures badly trail public opinion on the issue, and beyond that, the legislative process itself is messy, beset with horse-trading, and progress of a bill is beholden to key legislative gatekeepers—the committee chairs and majority leaders.
And because crafting legislation is a complex process, getting a legalization bill through both chambers and signed by a governor generally takes not one, but two to three or even more years.
Legalization bills are likely to appear in nearly every state that has not already freed the weed and are expected to be an uphill struggle in 2021 for most of them.
But the five states listed below have already been grappling with marijuana reform for years, have governors who are backing legalization, and will only be emboldened by the Democrats’ majorities in the U.S. House and Senate (which could pass federal legalization in 2021) to push these bills forward. If all goes well, by the end of 2021, the number of legal marijuana states could reach 20.
Lawmakers on Friday advanced a new compromise on penalties for underage marijuana use, hoping to pass something that will make Gov. Phil Murphy agree to sign big bills to legalize and decriminalize weed into law.
It’s the Legislature’s second shot at a “cleanup bill” this month. The first fell apart when Black lawmakers came together in opposition, arguing that the penalties it set forth for those under 21 would disproportionately affect Black and brown youth.
But this measure is not so different from that prior attempt. The main change on penalties is the lowering of fines those 18 to 20 could face for possessing marijuana.
The bill, introduced Thursday evening, was approved by Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee Friday afternoon in a 4-2 vote.
“Many issues that I think we missed, unfortunately, came back,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, D-Passaic, who sponsored the latest bill. He said the measure represents “what the voters of New Jersey asked for when we came to this, but protecting our youth.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called on state lawmakers to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults in a list of goals for the new year released on Thursday. In the statement of his priorities for the 2021 legislative session, Wolf said that it is time to continue the state’s reform of cannabis policy.
“In 2017, Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana through bipartisan legislation,” Wolf’s office wrote in an announcement of his 2021 agenda. “Now as our neighbors move toward legalizing recreational marijuana, Pennsylvania cannot afford to be left behind. Legalizing adult-use cannabis has strong bipartisan support among Pennsylvanians.”
Wolf’s call for the legalization of recreational marijuana noted that tax revenues raised by regulated cannabis commerce could be used to help advance social and economic change.
“The revenue generated from legalization will be used to support historically disadvantaged small businesses through grant funding and provide them the assistance they need to build back from the economic crisis and strengthen our economy,” the announcement continued. “Additionally, a portion of the revenue will support restorative justice programs to help the individuals and communities that have been adversely harmed by the criminalization of marijuana.”
Recovering From COVID-19’s Economic Fallout
Wolf’s agenda also included several additional priorities for Pennsylvania for 2021, including calls for lawmakers to raise the state’s minimum wage, increase taxes on natural gas, and invest in school buildings and other infrastructure. The changes are part of a plan to help Pennsylvania recover from the continuing economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Democrats are definitely going to attempt to pass marijuana reforms, but those moves have to coincide with the president’s agenda.
Cannabis advocates are eager to watch the course of federal marijuana reform in 2021. One way or another, it’s coming. Newly positioned Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier this week that the issue is still a top priority for Democrats as they advance through the session. Only nobody really has any idea what to expect from the 117th Congress concerning cannabis.
Schumer has suggested the reform might be part of a racial justice bill, while more optimistic outsiders believe that full-scale legalization is just around the bend. There are just so many variables that could affect the outcome of the marijuana movement this year on Capitol Hill. But that doesn’t mean the industry doesn’t have some predictions for what America can expect.
If you’re anticipating full blown marijuana legalization soon, don’t hold your breath. That’s probably not going to happen, at least not this year. Instead, Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy believes it will take the new Democratic-controlled Congress a couple of years to gain the support needed to take marijuana reform all the way. “I expect that pressure from the North and the South will ultimately lead the U.S. to implement a federal program here at some point in the next 18 to 24 months,” Kennedy said during a recent interview on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”
Others aren’t convinced that federal marijuana legalization isn’t possible this year. But they believe the pathway will probably start out slow and progress into more widespread reform. “Full legalization is possible, but moving any major legislation through Congress is challenging,” Steve Fox, strategic adviser to the Cannabis Trade Federation, told Marijuana Business Daily. “And I’d expect it might be an uphill fight during the current session, but not impossible. I’m very optimistic.”
Marijuana decriminalization is sure to be met with a signature if Congress can manage to get a bill on Joe Biden’s desk.
Nationwide marijuana reform will get some attention in 2021.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the new king of Capitol Hill, says cannabis will get a fair shake this year once the session gets moving. Although the Senate has experienced a few hiccups so far as Schumer and minority leader Mitch McConnell have attempted to negotiate a power-sharing agreement, those issues appear to be resolved for the most part, and the upper chamber is finally going to work. Although there’s a lot of crucial issues that must be dealt with early on, Schumer says marijuana reform continues to be a high priority for Democrats in 2021.
During a recent interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Schumer alluded that this reform would be a part of a much larger racial justice initiative. “There’s lots to do, and we have to succeed,” he said. However, contrary to Schumer’s comments last year, the legislation probably will not call for full steam ahead marijuana legalization. Instead, it will likely follow the Democratic Party’s platform, which states that they “will decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level.” It also says they will get behind the legalization of medical marijuana and continue to allow states to do their thing with respect to adult use.
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
After weeks of fruitless negotiations on penalties for underage marijuana use and with a deadline to sign two marijuana reform bills looming, Gov. Phil Murphy and lawmakers inched closer to a compromise Thursday.
Talks resulted in a new cleanup bill to address the issue and discussions are continuing, according to two sources with knowledge of the negotiations. But they are far from becoming a done deal.
Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, D-Passaic, plans to introduce the bill dealing with underage penalties Friday to be heard in a Community Development and Affairs Committee hearing at 2:30 p.m.
“Productive talks took place today,” according to a legislative source who was not authorized to speak publicly about the new bill. “This was a result of that.”