Tag: Law & Politics

Massachusetts Senate Passes Opposing Legalization Bill to House

A showdown is brewing in Massachusetts, with legislative deadlines for marijuana legalization looming and voters left wondering if lawmakers in the House and Senate will be able to get on the same page in time for their will to become law.

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill aiming to end cannabis prohibition in the Commonwealth, an outcome the voters indicated their desire for last November when they approved the initial ballot question. The amended bill passed in the state Senate Thursday by a count of 30-5 and with far more support from legalization advocates than when the House passed a drastically modified piece of legislation, replacing much of what voters approved with remarkably different language and guidelines regarding taxes, local controls, and zoning among other points of contention.

“We are not starting from scratch,” Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) told colleagues Thursday morning. “We are starting from a law passed by the voters.” State Sen. Jehlen, Co-Chair of the Marijuana Policy Committee in Massachusetts, added in reference to the House bill, “We should not repeal and replace any of the referenda that have been passed, as others have recommended. We should amend and improve.”

While the House bill almost triples the voter-approved tax rate from 12 percent to 28 percent and removes the common voter’s direct power to control their local cannabis market, the Senate bill takes a more conservative approach to amending certain aspects of the ballot question. Whereas the House aimed to scrap most of the defining characteristics of the voter-approved Question 4, the state Senate set out to amend specific areas of concern while leaving the overall intentions of the law intact.

“This legislation sets up an improved governance structure for the oversight of the industry, ensures access to the market for communities who have been disproportionally affected by the war on drugs, and keeps the tax rate at a level that we hope will eliminate the black market,” Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg explained after the bill passed.

A 28 percent tax may seem like a great idea if you want to fill the Commonwealth checking account with haste, but what will stop a cannabis consumer from taking a short drive to neighboring states like Connecticut and Rhode Island that are both working diligently toward ending prohibition and opening retail markets of their own? Or worse yet, what will stop those consumers from texting their black market dealer in Massachusetts to avoid paying the 28 percent surcharge? The Massachusetts Senators recognize that there is an appropriate tax rate zone where both consumers feel comfortable paying a small fee for a safe and regulated industry and the state still collects enough revenue to sustain the market and maintain optimal public health and safety.

The two sides will have to convene and hammer out the differences in their contradictory bills before submitting one all encompassing solution to the governor for review by the state’s self-imposed deadline next Friday. Representatives from the Senate and House will now hold a conference committee this coming week to find common ground ahead of the cutoff so that recreational sales can begin when they are supposed to on July 1, 2018.

Cover Image Courtesy of Allie Beckett

 

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Santa Ana, California: City Supports Marijuana Free-Market Principles

“Underlying most arguments against free-market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” ~ Milton Friedman

Cognizant of that vital philosophy, the city of Santa Ana made some thought-provoking changes to their marijuana policy this week.

On June 20, the Santa Ana City Council voted 5 to 0 on critical changes to the city’s medical marijuana ordinance – Measure BB.

According to the OC Register, the city has amended their marijuana ordinance to allow home delivery of medical marijuana to “qualified patients, caregivers, or testing and research facilities.” Additionally, Santa Ana will now allow their dispensaries to operate between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily and increase their shop’s signage.

A significant change, the old hours previously restricted Santa Ana’s dispensaries to operate between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

“The sign allowance was broadened from one non-illuminated wall sign up to 10 square feet in size, to allow wall signs to be installed in compliance with the city’s standard sign code.”

Santa Ana City Councilman, Juan Villegas, explained the city’s adoption of these free market policies. “For the record, I’m not a fan of the marijuana industry, but as a professional we need to be fair to all legal establishments.”

Underscoring the discrepancy between old socially acceptable legal entities and Californian’s new legal marijuana industry, the OC Register noted, “Santa Ana has shown that the competitive pressures of the free market incentivize businesses to behave appropriately — something those who advocate for free markets should have already known.”

Indeed.

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New York State Senate Passes PTSD Bill

On Tuesday, the New York State Senate passed legislation that adds Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the state’s list of qualifying conditions for their medical marijuana program.

Passed by the Republican-controlled state Senate by a decisive 50-13 vote, New York State Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein noted on the state’s website, “This bill will bring relief to many New Yorkers suffering from PTSD.”

Now headed to Gov. Cuomo’s desk for his signature, the bill’s ultimate outcome is still questionable. Sponsored by Sen. Diane Savino (D- Staten Island), the Sen. thanked her fellow policymakers for passing Senate Bill S5629 on a bipartisan basis.

Provided Gov. Cuomo puts pen to paper and signs this valuable bill into law, vets and “victims of violent crime” could soon find they have a new option for treating their debilitating condition, according to the state website.

“Police and firefighters and others can all potentially benefit from PTSD being added to the list of medical conditions eligible for the state’s medical cannabis program. This will help to ensure that more of those suffering are eligible to become certified medical cannabis patients, and will allow each doctor to treat their case in as they see fit.”

Estimated to benefit approximately 19,000 New York State residents currently suffering from PTSD, the Assembly version of the bill easily passed in the Democrat-controlled body in early 2017.

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Now up to Gov. Cuomo to either sign or veto the PTSD bill, Dan McSweeney, a veteran’s advocate and founder of the We Are Listening Campaign explained the significance of the legislation, “This is a sensible step forward for New Yorkers who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress. Veterans in this population could now discuss this option with caregivers attuned to their needs. Medical marijuana and other emerging treatments continue to provide options for ensuring that those who have sacrificed for our country are offered the best options.”

 

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