New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Heading to Final Vote by Lawmakers

New Jersey moved closer to becoming the 11th U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana use after legislative committees approved bills to end the prohibition and wipe out the criminal records of some drug offenders.

The action puts the bills on track for all-but-certain passage by the Assembly and Senate on Dec. 17. While Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, campaigned in part on easing marijuana laws, he has criticized the legislation’s tax rate of 14 percent, which would be among the lowest in the U.S., making it unclear whether he will sign the bills or send them back to lawmakers with suggested changes.

New Jersey moved closer to becoming the 11th U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana use after legislative committees approved bills to end the prohibition and wipe out the criminal records of some drug offenders.

The action puts the bills on track for all-but-certain passage by the Assembly and Senate on Dec. 17. While Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, campaigned in part on easing marijuana laws, he has criticized the legislation’s tax rate of 14 percent, which would be among the lowest in the U.S., making it unclear whether he will sign the bills or send them back to lawmakers with suggested changes.

Murphy and the Democrat-controlled legislature are eager to make New Jersey the first state in the New York City region to fully legalize the drug, a step that has widespread support from residents and would provide a new source of needed revenue.

The bills received approvals Monday by a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly budget and appropriations panels in Trenton. The Senators voted 7-4, with two abstaining, and the Assembly members, 7-3, with one abstention.

New Jersey moved closer to becoming the 11th U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana use after legislative committees approved bills to end the prohibition and wipe out the criminal records of some drug offenders.

The action puts the bills on track for all-but-certain passage by the Assembly and Senate on Dec. 17. While Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, campaigned in part on easing marijuana laws, he has criticized the legislation’s tax rate of 14 percent, which would be among the lowest in the U.S., making it unclear whether he will sign the bills or send them back to lawmakers with suggested changes.

Murphy and the Democrat-controlled legislature are eager to make New Jersey the first state in the New York City region to fully legalize the drug, a step that has widespread support from residents and would provide a new source of needed revenue.

The bills received approvals Monday by a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly budget and appropriations panels in Trenton. The Senators voted 7-4, with two abstaining, and the Assembly members, 7-3, with one abstention.

“We have seen billions of dollars wasted on enforcement,” said Senator Nicholas Scutari, the bill’s sponsor and a Democrat from Linden. Cannabis prohibition flopped, he said, just like the U.S. ban on alcohol from 1920 to 1933.

Opponents included Democrats and Republicans alike, with even Senator Paul Sarlo, a Democrat who heads the chamber’s budget committee, abstaining over concerns about use by children. A warning about the marijuana lobby’s power came from Patrick Kennedy, the former U.S. congressman from Rhode Island and son of the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.

“What you’re really after today is a quick fix,” Kennedy, now a Brigantine resident, told lawmakers during public testimony. “As a former addict myself, I can tell you that quick fixes don’t work.”

Senator Gerald Cardinale, a Republican from Cresskill, said traffic fatalities increased in Colorado and Washington after those states legalized the drug. New Jersey’s automotive insurance premiums were highest in the U.S. for five straight years, averaging $1,264 in 2014, the most recent year analyzed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a Kansas City, Missouri-based research and lobbying group.

“Insurance rates on our drivers are going to have to go up,” Cardinale said.

The move to legalize and tax marijuana is part of Murphy’s efforts to create jobs and boost the economy. The state’s finances have been strained by growing pension and debt bills that are projected to consume a third of the budget by 2023. His $37.4 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that started July 1, his first, contained more than $1 billion in new or higher taxes on sources including corporations, residents who earn at least $5 million a year and ride-sharing services.

The governor had asked for a tax of about 25 percent on marijuana. The bill approved on Monday falls well short of that by setting the rate at 12 percent, with another 2 percent paid to municipalities where cannabis businesses operate.

New Jersey’s marijuana tax, as proposed, would be among the lowest. Washington’s sales tax is highest, at 37 percent. Colorado’s combined taxes total 30 percent; Nevada’s, 25 percent; and Oregon’s, 17 percent. Michigan voters this month approved 16 percent total taxes.

The legislation also directs the court system to expedite criminal expungements to address the disproportionate impact that drug laws have had on minorities. Assemblyman Jamel Holley, a Democrat from Roselle and member of the Black Legislative Caucus, said it was pointless to study expungement further when federal statistics reflect racial disparities in arrests.

“People who look like me don’t have relief,” he said.

The legislation also puts the cannabis industry in the hands of a commission appointed by the governor and lawmakers.

Other legislation, approved by the Senate health committee, would broaden access to medical marijuana, which New Jersey has allowed since 2010. New Jersey is playing catch-up to other states in that area because Republican Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor who was governor for eight years, was slow to implement policy for fear of violating U.S. laws that prohibit the drug.

Marijuana will be legalized in Michigan in December

Marijuana will be legal in Michigan in December.

The state board of canvassaers has unanimously certified the Nov. 6 election results Monday afternoon, ending a four-year effort  for marijuana legalization.

Marijuana will be legal in the state on Dec. 6, 2018.

Residents 21 years of age and older will be allowed to buy, possess and use up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.

They will also be able to grow up to 12 plants per household for personal use.

However, cannabis won’t be commercially available for sale until the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs comes up with the rules and regulations that will govern the adult recreational use market and begins licensing businesses.

That won’t happen until the end of 2019.

It is also illegal to carry cannabis when crossing the Canada and U.S. border.

Source: CTV

Marijuana, mountains and money: How Lesotho is cashing in

Lesotho is aiming to make money from the booming medicinal marijuana industry, but the BBC’s Vumani Mkhize says the southern African nation already has an unheralded illicit trade in the drug for recreational use.

Green dust swirls around Mampho Thulo as she uses her hands to scoop dried marijuana leaves from a massive heap on the floor of her home into a big linen bag.

She has been cultivating the prized crop in her scenic village of Mapoteng for as long as she can remember.

Seventy kilometres (43 miles) north-east of the capital, Maseru, her land lies in a lush valley surrounded by the mountains that the country is well known for.

It is in this breath-taking scenery that people have been illicitly growing marijuana for recreational use for decades.

The high altitude combined with fertile soils, untainted by pesticides, enables growers to produce a high-quality crop, valued all over the world.

Last year, Lesotho became the first African country to legalise the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes, spawning a new sector in a country where the economy struggles to create employment opportunities.

But these two worlds are unlikely to meet, as the small-scale farmer cannot afford the infrastructure and licensing costs that the legal trade requires.

‘At the mercy of smugglers’

Nevertheless for Ms Thulo, who has five children, marijuana is a valuable cash crop.

“This is how we earn a living… [as] the few jobs that are available are for educated people. So we rely on marijuana because we don’t have an education,” she told the BBC.

Despite the lifting of the restriction on growing medicinal marijuana, what Ms Thulo does – growing it for recreational drug use – is still illegal.

  • Known as the “Kingdom in the Sky” because the landlocked constitutional monarchy is located on highlands entirely surrounded by South Africa
  • It has the highest ski resort in Africa
  • Traditional dress includes the Basotho blanket and a conical hat symbolising the shape of the country’s many mountains
  • Over the decades thousands of workers have been forced by the lack of job opportunities to find work in South Africa
  • Diamonds and water are Lesotho’s main export earners.

The threat of arrest does not deter the 48-year-old.

“Yes I know it’s illegal to plant marijuana,” she concedes.

But with a note of defiance in her voice she adds, “My children are in school because of marijuana. When I sell some, I’m then able to pay school fees.”

She has become accustomed to the occasional police raid, which usually results in the authorities confiscating some of her crop.

The inaccessibility of some of Ms Thulo’s land, perched on steep mountain slopes, ensures that it is not all taken.

When it comes to selling, she is at the mercy of the smugglers who, she complains, offer only a fraction of what it is worth.

“They are the ones who set the price, because they know we are desperate.

“The buyer will say I will take $36 [for a 50kg sack]. I’m hungry, I don’t have food, the house is empty. I’ll usually take it for that amount.”

Africa’s marijuana pioneer

The new medicinal marijuana industry is set to dwarf the money that the illicit small-scale farmers earn.

Globally, medicinal marijuana is big business.

The market for legal marijuana is set to be worth $146bn (£114bn) a year by 2025 with medicinal marijuana set to make up more than two-thirds of that, according to consultants Grand View Research.

As the first mover on the continent, Lesotho aims to capitalise on its green bounty by encouraging international investment not only in cultivation but also processing.

“We want to export finished products. So the plan is to cultivate and manufacture pharmaceutical products, nutritional products, cosmetics, and extraction of active pharmaceutical ingredients,” says Masello Sello, legal adviser at the health ministry, the department responsible for issuing licences.

Lesotho’s entry into the medicinal marijuana market has encouraged other countries to get involved. Zimbabwe has also legalised its cultivation and a number of other African governments are considering it as well.

In South Africa, the Constitutional Court legalised the growing and smoking of marijuana for personal consumption in a landmark ruling earlier this year.

Media captionMarijuana-derived medicines: What you need to know

The government of Lesotho has already granted a number of international companies licences to grow, distribute and to export marijuana-based products.

The country has managed to attract Canadian investors, who have found the climate and low labour costs ideal for expanding their businesses.

This year, the Toronto-based Supreme Cannabis Company invested $10m into Medigrow Lesotho, giving it a 10% share of the business.

Medigrow’s sprawling medicinal marijuana farm, in Maseru’s Makarabei district, brings the hope of job opportunities to the impoverished local community.

‘Green medicine’

Greenhouses dot the mountainside, and the rumble of tractors and pneumatic drills reverberate as the plant nears completion.

“We are already employing 400 people, and we are projected to increase our head count to about 3,000 people,” says Medigrow Chief Operating Officer Lebo Liphotho.

Map of Lesotho

“Traditionally the [marijuana] plant has been doing well in Lesotho, so obviously you’d want to put around a proper business structure to what has already been done naturally. Where we are, it’s also about 2,000m [6,561 ft] above sea level, which is a very good environment for the plant to produce high-quality CBD [cannabidiol] oil,” Mr Liphoto adds.

CBD oil is essentially what all medicinal marijuana farmers are after.

This is the compound which is extracted from the plant and then used in medicines to treat a variety of conditions.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is what recreational users of marijuana are after as it is the psychoactive ingredient.

All of the plants at the Medigrow farm have had THC bred out of them, Christo Moller, a grower at the facility says.

“We are only after the medicine, green medicine,” he adds.

‘Licences too expensive’

Medigrow was granted permission by the Lesotho government to begin cultivation in 2016, a year before the state legalised medicinal marijuana for all companies.

In just 15 months it has made a lot of progress: it has built a road, set up communication towers and is currently applying the finishing touches to staff quarters and the CBD oil processing plant.

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But what about small-holder farmers?

Fruit farmer Mothiba Thamae was excited about potentially expanding his business through growing medicinal marijuana on his farm. But the $10,000 growing licence has put him off the idea.

“Since the government has legalised marijuana in Lesotho, we thought that maybe on a certain plot we can plant marijuana in order to diversify what we are producing, but we noticed that it’s difficult to get a licence for people like us because the licence is expensive,” Mr Thamae told the BBC.

The government has broken down marijuana licences into different categories ranging from the main operating license, to growing, research and transportation. But these licenses are too expensive for the ordinary farmer.

For the time being Ms Thulo will continue growing her illicit crop and she does not know anything about the medicinal business.

“This is all I know,” she chuckles as she finishes packing her giant bag of marijuana.

“There’s no other way I could earn a living.”

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How The Largest Marijuana Retail Space In The U.S. Plans To Revamp A District

For a while it looked like the best thing to bring to a neighborhood was a new Whole Foods grocery store. One study showed that homes in these neighborhoods would appreciate at a much faster rate than if they were near a Trader Joe’s (and both were better than a Starbucks). Another sign a neighborhood is on the cusp of revitalization is when the yoga studios start vying for space with the arthouses. Usually, it is not long after that the expensive coffee shops and cupcake stores start showing up at street level. But now that so many states have passed laws favorable to the marijuana movement, the next big thing to bring a neighborhood back from the brink just might be the increasing number of organizations that work in the industry.

Downtown Los Angeles could be the first case study to see this phenomenon in action. Next month, a seven-story building in the heart of Los Angeles’ Jewelry District will open up, filled with tenants who all have cannabis somewhere in their job description. The 67,000-square-foot Green Street Building (the name is in reference to its anchor tenant, the Green St. Agency, which works solely with clients in the marijuana industry) will house everything from co-working spaces to an art gallery, dispensary, restaurant, law firm, luxury spa and lounge. Real estate investment company Bow West Capital purchased the property last year for a reported $14 million. Once open it will be the largest retail space dedicated to cannabis in the U.S.

“The buildings in [the Jewelry District] have not received the proper upkeep, allowing for low sale prices of the buildings but also requiring full renovations,” said lead architect behind the project, Matthew Rosenberg of M-Rad, Inc. “With the prosperity and funding in the cannabis industry on the rise, this is a perfect combination for this exciting new industry to make this area their home, with Green St. being the catalyst.”

While there are not many residential properties for sale within the Jewelry District itself, data from Realtor.com shows the few that are on the market have a median asking price of $525,000. Surrounding neighborhoods vary quite a bit with the neighborhood of Florence-Graham about five miles away to the southwest seeing median list prices of $440,000 compared to Greater Wilshire a few miles to the northeast seeing median list prices of $1.7 million. 

M-Rad took the 1913 building and completely renovated the interiors to create mixed-use spaces that cater both to the requirements of offices and restaurants as well as the unique needs of cannabis users. They needed to create the right proportion of an open-plan design matched with a set of cloistered, secluded rooms for those who want privacy. Here are some images of the interior provided exclusively to Forbes.

For example behind the hidden door of the library bookshelf lies the Bud Bar, which features this custom-designed rolling table with grooves designed at the right depth for rolling a joint. Staff is on hand to help customers learn the art of rolling. (Interested? This year’s Forbes Gift Guide includes some of the most unique marijuana rolling papers, with some that are made from gold and others that look like money.)

The lounge, MOTA—which if, like me, you didn’t know is a Spanish slang term for marijuana (at least one dispensary out there has ascribed the words Medicine Of The Angels to the letters, but the term doesn’t have its origins as an acronym)—will complement the restaurant which will prepare cannabis-infused menu items and have a U-shaped bar designed specifically for cannabis tastings. It will also have fully transparent windows into the kitchen so guests can see the food being prepared. Sound-proof rooms are also available for private meetings and the Flower Room is a designated smoking area.

“The companies who are part of the building are some of the biggest players in the industry,” says Rosenberg. “Which will bring in high-level clientele and investors who may feel encouraged to invest in the development of the area. The building itself will host a number of cannabis-related programs such as cultural activities and gastronomic experiences which will attract new clientele.” Some of the big names affiliated with the project are prolific investor Gary Vaynerchuck, who is a 50% stakeholder in Green Street Agency, and Vicente Sederberg LLC, dubbed The Marijuana Law Firm, is one of the tenants. 

Typically neighborhood revitalization follows the pattern of stores opening up on a neglected city block one retail space at a time. But this model is different. By bringing a critical mass of companies to the neighborhood all at once, the sudden influx could accelerate the resurgence all the more quickly. Los Angeles’ Jewelry District could become a major player in a matter of months, not years.

Sourse: Forbes

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