On Friday, May 3rd, Maine’s Joint Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety will be holding the first public hearing on LD 1229, the Marijuana Regulation Act. If passed, the measure would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, as well as the private cultivation of up to 6 plants. In addition, it would direct the state to license and regulate retail outlets which would sell marijuana to adults in the state – the measure would also allow farmers to begin cultivating hemp.
As marijuana legalization – whether for medical or recreational purposes – becomes more mainstream, more people are realizing that the conflict between state and federal law is nothing short of a clusterfuck, which results in confusing tax issues for those who are distributing marijuana legally under state law – such as medical marijuana dispensaries in California. Harvard professors have started to take note, recently offering a tax seminar that explicitly covered how to handle taxes – specifically obtaining tax deductions – even if you’re running a federally illegal marijuana business.
The seminar was presented yesterday, April 24th, by Professor Benjamin Leff of American University’s Law School. Professor Leff was presenting information from a paper he authored, titled, Tax Planning for Marijuana Dealers.
The Hamilton County, Tennessee, Grand Jury has recommended that the state’s legislature legalize the possession of marijuana.
“In order to reduce the number of cases heard by the Grand Jury, and reduce the number of cases proceeding to Criminal Court, the State Legislature should consider legalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana, which is not packaged for resale”, stated Judge Rebecca Stern in a recent report released by the panel.
If politicians in Tennessee take this advice to heart, and legalize marijuana, not only would it free up courts, it would free up police resources and manpower to focus on violent criminals, rather than persecuting people for possessing and consuming a non-lethal plant – this will simultaneously free up prison space, and will bring the state much needed tax revenue, if retail sales are also legalized.
Currently in Tennessee, possessing a half an ounce or less of marijuana is punishable by up to a year in prison – anything over half an ounce is considered distribution, and carries a prison sentence of up to 6 years.
Today, Oregon’s full Senate voted in favor of two measures which would significantly reduce the penalties associated with possessing, and even manufacturing marijuana. The Senate voted 22-7 to approve Senate Bill 40, and voted 18-11 to approve Senate Bill 82. Both measures now head to the state’s House of Representatives for consideration.
If Senate Bill 40 becomes law, some of the primary changes would be:
- Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana would be reduced to a Class B violation, punishable by a fine of $260 (currently it’s a misdemeanor that carries with it a fine of $1,000).
Medical marijuana may be one of, if not the best medicine for children with epilepsy – though unfortunately studies are few and far between, given its federal illegality. Epilepsy is a severe disorder that leads to potentially hundreds of seizures a day, which often has a permanent effect on the psychological capability and welfare of those who have the disorder – it can also be intensely difficult for the parents, both financially and emotionally.
In a report published today by the Washington Post, a pair of families are examined which have found relief for their children through the use of medical marijuana, in one instance dropping one of the child’s seizure rates from 300-400 seizures a day, down to 0.
For years advocates have been fighting to allow those who can benefit from it to use marijuana legally for medical purposes in the State of New York – those efforts may finally be paying off. Recently New York’s Assembly Health Committee approved a measure to legalize medical marijuana, establishing state licensed dispensaries, and authorizing qualified patients, who become licensed through the state, to legally possess, consume and purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The measure is expected to pass the full House.
Once it passes the House, it will head to the Senate – the farthest a medical marijuana bill has ever made it in New York. In a recent press conference the prime sponsor of the bill, Senator Diane Savino, stated that there are 38 senators planning to vote for the measure. It needs 31 to advance.
Among those who support marijuana law reform, many advocates support, and are working towards, decriminalizing marijuana – making it no longer a criminal offense, without legalizing its sale, and in many instances maintaining a civil infraction (such as a traffic ticket). Although this is a great starting point, some see it as the endgame. In the public, this is the same; support for decriminalization – such as in this recent poll out of Washington D.C. – is typically 10%-20% higher than support for legalization. The reason isn’t hard to understand – people realize that marijuana isn’t worthy of jail time, and don’t want people’s lives ruined for its usage, but they’re worried about the potential ramifications of legalization (likely because of propaganda), or if they’re advocates of marijuana, maybe they’re worried of a government takeover, or just feel it shouldn’t be so out in the open.
In reality, whether as a consumer or a member of the general public who’s never consumed and never will, decriminalization has no where near the positive benefits of legalization, or a full repeal of cannabis prohibition for adults (including cultivation and sale).
Earlier this month we posted about an unscientific DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) bill advancing in Colorado, which would find someone guilty based on having an arbitrary amount of THC in their system, which would be determined through a blood draw – this is the 4th year such a measure has been discussed in Colorado’s Legislature. The measure passed through the House earlier this month, but is now officially dead, as it was voted down in the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 4-1.
This is a strong victory for civil liberties and sanity in Colorado, as the proposed 5 ng/ml limit for THC has no scientific basis, and would lead to unimpaired drivers being found guilty as even active THC can linger in the body for days – not to mention that there’s nothing wrong with current DUID laws, which requires proof of impairment for a prosecution to take place.
Puerto Rico Senator Miguel Pereira has filed legislation which would explicitly legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older. Senator Pereira is a former police chief, as well as a former federal prosecutor. Currently in Puerto Rico, those possessing even small amounts of marijuana can face up to 3 years in prison, in addition to a $5,000 fine.
Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, during a press conference this week, stated that he was entirely open to a debate on the issue, stating, “I don’t have a problem with an open debate about the possibilities, benefits or drawbacks of such a measure”. This is important, because if the measure passes the Senate, and then House, it would go to the governor for final approval.
It’s that time of the year again – April 20th – and cannabis consumers around the world are preparing to celebrate. As we enter this holiest of days, us here at TheJointBlog want to send a big HAPPY 4/20 to our readers, and everyone else across the globe!
As you enjoy this day, remember to keep in the back of your mind just how ridiculous it is that this plant that we’re celebrating is illegal, and people continue to be thrown in prison, and have their lives destroyed, for its usage.