Tag: Legalization

New Jersey Holds Hearing on Marijuana Legalization

In May, New Jersey State Senator Nick Scutari (D-Union) introduced a recreational marijuana plan that aimed to tax and regulate the plant. Today, Scutari is leading a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Trenton on Bill S3195, including sessions with medical professionals and members of law enforcement from both sides of the debate.

Scutari, who is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has long been a proponent of ending cannabis prohibition in New Jersey. With legalization opponent and current Governor Chris Christie on his way out of office in January, Scutari wants to establish a solid knowledge base among his voting peers ahead of a crucial November election.

“Now is the time to begin shaping New Jersey’s recreational marijuana program,” Scutari explained in a statement. “We will have a new governor next year and we should be prepared to move forward with a program that ends the prohibition on marijuana and that treats our residents fairly and humanely.”

In less than five months, New Jersey voters will decide whether current Republican Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, who sides with Gov. Christie on marijuana, or Democratic nominee Phil Murphy, a legalization supporter, will be the next Governor of New Jersey.

The monumental bill introduced to the New Jersey legislature is built on the same framework as the laws in Colorado, where Sen. Scutari visited on multiple occasions to gain insight on best practices. Some of the more notable objectives of Bill S3195 include:

  • Legalizing the possession of one ounce of marijuana flower, seven ounces of concentrate, 16 ounces of medicated edibles, and 72 ounces of infused liquid for adults over 21 years of age. The possession of up to 50 grams of cannabis would be instantly decriminalized regardless of the official implementation date of legalization in New Jersey.
  • Replacing the current sales tax levied on medical marijuana sales with one on transactions of the recreational variety. The initial tax rate would be set at seven percent the inaugural year of legalization, rising to 10 percent in year two. The tax would increase by five percent each year until it maxes out at 25 percent.
  • Allowing those with prior charges for marijuana possession to expunge their criminal record.
  • The establishment of a Marijuana Enforcement Division within the Attorney General’s Office to oversee the state’s legal cannabis market.

One major point of contention among legalization advocates is that Scutari’s bill doesn’t include provisions for home cultivation.

“I’m not saying I would be against something in the future,” Scutari stated about legalizing residential grows. “I understand the frustration for people who say this is a plant and they should be able to grow it. But we don’t want these additional policing concerns. It creates an entire whole set of issues I don’t want to see us tackle when we are creating a new industry.”

Another primary concern ahead of a possible legalization vote is ensuring the legal cannabis industry is equally accessible to all prospective business owners, regardless of race. Though research has shown that Blacks and Whites use marijuana at comparable rates, a study released last Thursday by the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed that Blacks were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than Whites. Some believe that Scutari’s proposed legislation doesn’t go far enough in ensuring that the communities hit hardest by cannabis prohibition have an equal opportunity to reap the benefits of regulation.

“It is imperative that any legislation to legalize marijuana include policies that encourage full participation in the industry by communities disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and invests some of the revenue generated by legalization back into those communities,” said Richard Smith, president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference.

According to the ACLU study, New Jersey is arresting more people for marijuana offenses than ever before, spending an estimated $143 million annually in their War on Weed. The money being spent on enforcing cannabis laws may be justified if New Jersey was putting away the more dangerous characters in the black market marijuana trade, but the report claims that 90 percent of marijuana arrests in the state involve users, not dealers.

Another recent study, conducted by New Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, estimated that cannabis legalization and a recreational market would generate over $300 million in additional tax revenue for the state.

“We know that legalizing marijuana will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, the creation of thousands of jobs and a substantial increase in economic activity. It will also mean savings for law enforcement, safer streets, and importantly, a fairer way of treating our residents,” Scutari said. “The benefits are clear, but as part of our work towards legalization, we want to have a robust dialogue … about creating a marijuana program that is best suited for our state.”

Cover Image Courtesy of Allie Beckett

 

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Rebel With a Cause: The One Conservative Who Voted For Legal Pot

The legalization of marijuana in Canada has brought about many questions throughout the process. What will the final age limit be? Where will marijuana be sold? And will there be restrictions on advertising for pot companies?

The only aspect of this enigmatic experience that we have been able to predict is where the political party lines have been drawn on the issue.

The Liberals, of course, want to pass their bill and make marijuana legal for all adults. The New Democrats (NDP) want to do the same, but also eliminate arrests and convictions for possession immediately. The Conservative Party has been historically predictable, not wanting to legalize at all.

That goes for all Conservatives except one.

During the second reading of Bill C-45, Conservative MP Scott Reid was the only outlier among the group, voting in favour of legalization. This change is a refreshing outlook amongst a sea of unsurprising dissension from Reid’s party on the issue.

“We have a policy as a party that possession of marijuana should be a ticket offense,” said Reid in an interview with Marijuana.com. “There’s what the party supports, and there are my own views, which are two separate things.”

Reid goes on to explain that he has been of the mind for quite some time that marijuana should be legal for adults. “I’ve been an advocate of marijuana legalization since before the beginning of my political career. My own view is based on being a libertarian and believing that we should not have victimless crimes. Also, having a safe supply and ending the existence of revenue sources for organized crime is a good thing.”

Regardless of Reid’s difference in opinion with his party, he has never received any pressure from them to change his mind and join their ranks on the issue. “This is not new for me, I published a paper in 2001. Within a year of my first election, it was widely known that I was an advocate of marijuana legalization. Not decriminalization but of full legalization. People have respectfully disagreed, but [other than that] it has never been a problem.”

Now that the bill has passed the second reading with the help of Reid, he will be developing a questionnaire for his constituents to ask how they feel he should vote in what will be the third and final reading of the bill. “In the third reading, you have the bill in its final form. That is the appropriate point at which to say to your constituents, is it what you want, is it good enough?”

Even before posing the question to the citizens Reid represents, he is already unsatisfied with some points of the bill. “Right now the contemplative legislation proposes the age of 18 as the age at which it will be legal to consume cannabis. Others have proposed a higher age, including myself. I’ve proposed 21 as being preferable.” Reid added that he also feels that liquor and cannabis should not be sold together, which was an option that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne supported. “They are not products that should be sold [together]for public health reasons.”

Despite the challenges Reid has with the bill, the Conservative Member voted for C-45 because he believes in the bigger picture. Seemingly, the most challenging part for Reid was not voting for what he believed in, but being applauded by the Liberals when doing so. “Having voted against my party on a number of occasions, I never enjoy [applause from the opposition],” he said. “I’ve talked to people from multiple parties who have voted against party lines and it is always an uncomfortable feeling when it happens, just because of the partisan nature of the House.”

As the Trudeau government steamrolls forward with its plan to change the history of prohibition, it’s clear that the issue of pot legalization creates strange bedfellows. But amongst the exciting and chaotic times we Canadian pot lovers live in, one thing is clear. Marijuana is going to be legal in Canada thanks to the powers that be and people like MP Scott Reid, who stood up in a sea of Conservatives and voted against their collective mindset.

Well done Scott Reid, well done.

Cover Image Courtesy of CBC

 

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Canadian Government Debates the Cannabis Bill

The Canadian Government has begun the debate for legalized adult-use cannabis. Up until this point, citizens waited to hear from the feds as progress inched forward, but now, we can watch history being made in real time.

Not surprisingly, the major criticism of Bill C-45 is coming from the Conservative party.

The bill received its second reading in the House of Commons yesterday and Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Nicholson suggested to forgo the second reading altogether. This motion was due to the bill’s allowance for Canadians to grow up to four plants per household. “Get rid of that whole thing. Get the plants out of people’s houses here. Nobody wants that,” Nicholson demanded.

Another Conservative MP, Marilyn Gladu, said that Canadian adults who grow at home could turn their kids into “drug mules” at school, as they will have easy access to the plant. Another concern from the Conservative Party included the effect it will have on Canadians crossing the border into the United States.

Liberal MP Bill Blair, who is also Canada’s point-man on pot, tried to offer some logic by stating his view of the facts. “It’s a fact our kids are using cannabis at a higher rate than any other country in the world, and the cannabis that they’re using they’re getting from organized crime.”

Thus far, the parties are taking their usual default positions on pot. The Conservatives are completely against legalization because they think it will increase use and availability. The New Democratic Party (NDP) is willing to go along with the bill but they want complete decriminalization immediately and pardons for those with criminal records of possession.

The deluge of comments regarding the legislation did not just remain in our hallowed halls of government. Last Monday, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published an editorial stating that the bill does not protect young people. The article criticized the minimum age of 18 and proposed a ban on homegrown plants.

The debate will continue in House of Commons in the coming days.

 

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