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

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 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

South Australia welcomes cannabis industry leaders

Medicinal cannabis professionals are in Adelaide today for a conference exploring the industry’s future in South Australia.

The Future of Medicinal Cannabis symposium features a series of national and global speakers who will discuss the challenges and opportunities of the medicinal cannabis trade including regulation, launching a global business and defining the cannabis pharmacopeia.

Minister for Industry and Skills, David Pisoni who will be among the key speakers, said business opportunities for medicinal cannabis are significant and extend far beyond cultivation.

“It’s not just about growing cannabis but more about South Australia being perfectly placed to engage in the sophisticated production, processing, manufacturing and commercialisation of a pharmaceutical-grade product,” he said.

“Our state has the right blend of strengths in advanced horticulture, research and specialised manufacturing to have a real competitive advantage in this space.”

Minister Pisoni said South Australia should have access to an optimal range of treatments and services to promote the best health outcomes for patients and the community.

“There is significant public interest and support for the medicinal use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products arising from reports of symptomatic benefit in a range of medical conditions,” he said.

“Clinical trials are underway to further develop evidence about the use of medicinal cannabis across a range of health conditions that will contribute important knowledge and understanding of these medicines.    

“The Marshall Liberal Government supports the development of this industry within the existing Commonwealth regulatory framework and licencing regime.”

Event organiser LeafCann Group has also announced the launch of subsidiary Alchemy Bioservices to oversee the training and management of the emerging medicinal cannabis workforce.

LeafCann CEO Elisabetta Faenza says Australia is missing out on billions of dollars in export income by being slow to build capacity in the medicinal cannabis sector.

“Our vision is to establish South Australia as the centre of excellence for education, research, industry innovation and development for the global cannabis sector,” she said.

“LeafCann has plans to recruit up to 40 local people in its current facility before the end of 2019 and together with our partner operations, will require more than 250 employees by 2020.”

For more information on medicinal cannabis in South Australia, visit the Office of Industrial Hemp and Medicinal Cannabis website.

Trying cannabis for the first time

As cannabis stigma dissipates into a cloud of fragrant vapor, young adults to seniors are coming out of the woodwork to finally try, or in some cases come back to, marijuana. There was even a Utah senator who filmed himself consuming an edible gummy in Nevada (where cannabis is legal) as a precursor to the midterms, so that “at least one Utah state senator that actually has tried cannabis before we had this big debate.”

The senator had the right idea, not just to give something a try that he’d never experienced before, which takes at least a little chutzpah, but to start with a low dose edible to see how the herb would affect him without going overboard and being overwhelmed.

The key for new users is to start slow and level up from there. You could start with a 5 mg edible, a few puffs of flower, a half dropper of tincture or some other product you’re comfortable with. But choosing the right type of cannabis can be just as important. If you’re naturally an anxious person, a sativa-heavy hybrid with more CBD in it than average is your best bet. If you’re looking to really experience a high, go with highly concentrated forms of THC, but remember to go slow so you don’t overshoot your target.

If you have the privilege of being the person introducing another to the herb, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure the space you’re in is a comfortable one. Maybe incorporate some throw pillows, an afghan blanket and a good movie for the first round. That way everyone’s comfy, there’s a film that everyone can focus their high minds toward.

Music is just as good if not better idea than a movie, which could be hit or miss. Cannabis is nothing if not an enhancement drug, and hearing your favorite band high for the first time can totally change your perspective on the intricacies of music.

Remember to not outright laugh at any of the experiences the newbie is going through, unless a shared belly laugh is exactly what’s called for. Anxiety is a common side effect for first-time users, mostly because they don’t have the benefit of experimentation to see which cannabinoid ratios work best, or if sativas, indicas or specialized hybrids work better with their systems.

Be sure to have healthy, delicious snacks at the ready for when the munchies kick in. Also remember to relax into the experience, whether the newly initiated or the one doing the initiating. Just remember, it’s all good, even if someone gets a little too high. Cannabis is non-toxic and will safely wear off if one overindulges on their first time out the gate.

Source: The Growth Op

Look Inside Massachusetts’ First Two Recreational Marijuana Shops

Two marijuana stores in Massachusetts were given the green light Friday to begin selling to recreational customers next week, making them the first commercial pot shops in the eastern United States.

Both stores, one located in Northampton and the other in Leicester, said they would open Tuesday morning after the Cannabis Control Commission, the state’s marijuana regulatory agency, authorized them to begin operations in three calendar days.

The announcement ends a long wait for commercial sales to begin in Massachusetts. The state’s voters legalized the use of recreational marijuana by adults 21 and older in 2016, but it’s taken more than two years for state legislators and regulators to reach the point where the first stores can finally open.

The target date for retail sales had been July 1.

The “commence operations” notice from regulators requires the stores to wait three days before opening so they can coordinate with local officials and law enforcement. The openings are expected to draw big crowds, based on the experiences of other legal U.S. states and Canada when they first launched recreational sales.

The Northampton store, operated by New England Treatment Access, said it would open for recreational sales at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. Cultivate Holdings, which operates the Leicester store, said its doors would open at 10 a.m. the same day.

“This signal to open retail marijuana establishments marks a major milestone for voters who approved legal, adult-use cannabis in our state,” said Steven Hoffman, chairman of the cannabis panel, in a statement. “To get here, licensees underwent thorough background checks, passed multiple inspections and had their products tested, all to ensure public health and safety as this new industry gets up and running.”

Legal marijuana advocates, who had complained about the slow pace of regulatory approvals in the state, cheered the news Friday.

“We can rightfully squawk about state delays and problematic local opposition, but the fact remains that we’re the first state east of the Mississippi to offer legal, tested cannabis to adult consumers in safe retail settings,” said Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the group that led the ballot question to legalize recreational pot.

Borghesani called it a “historic distinction” for Massachusetts.

Recreational marijuana is currently sold in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California and Nevada. Maine voters also approved a legalization question in 2016, but stores in that state are not expected to open until next year at the earliest.

The first Massachusetts stores are in the central and western part of the state, but there are currently no stores approved to open in the greater Boston area. That means that, for now, more than half of the state’s population will not have easy access to recreational marijuana.

Many cities and towns in Massachusetts have resisted cannabis businesses, with some imposing outright bans and others making it difficult through zoning restrictions or other conditions.

The stores opening next week currently operate as medical marijuana dispensaries and have pledged to continue serving their registered patients.

New England Treatment Access “looks forward to providing legal marijuana to our customers, but we want our patients to know that we will never waver from our commitment to them and their needs,” said Norton Albaraez, a spokesman for the company.

The store has a separate area for medical marijuana patients, and they will not have to wait in the same lines with recreational customers to enter the facility.

The company has already had ongoing discussions with local officials about traffic, parking and other public safety issues and is confident of a smooth opening, Albaraez added.

Recreational Marijuana Expected to be Legal in Michigan December 6

One month after Michigan voters approved a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, the law is expected to take effect Dec. 6.

On Nov. 26, the Board of Canvassers is expected to meet and certify election results.

Recreational marijuana is expected to be legal 10 days after, according to ballot language.

Proposal 1 legalized the recreational use and possession of marijuana in Michigan for those 21 and older and will enact a tax on marijuana sales.

Nurses Help Canadians Explore Medical Marijuana

Gordon Bennett

Gordon Bennett, 96, has been using cannabis oil to treat his arthritis pain. (CTV News)

Following the legalization of recreational marijuana, a growing number of Canadians are looking to experiment with cannabis for its medicinal properties. But with some doctors unwilling to prescribe the once-illicit drug, many patients are seeking clarity in the hazy world of weed by turning to nurses.

Like thousands of other Canadians, Gordon Bennett was prescribed opioids to ease his arthritis pain. But the problem, the 96-year-old says, was that they just didn’t work.

“I could hardly get out of bed,” Bennett told CTV News from his Ottawa home. “It was hell… I had pain in my back, I had pain in my neck, I had pain in my legs — every part of my body suffered.”

Wanting to see if medical cannabis could be more effective, Bennett hired registered nurse Susan Hagar of Nurse on Board — a group that bills itself as a “nurse-led health care navigation and patient advocacy service” — to help him find the right strain and dose.

“I thought it may have been possibly addictive, but I had the courage to go through it and I found that it was not in the least bit addictive,” Bennett, who is currently using cannabis oil, stated.

Having previously resided in a nursing home, Bennett has now regained much of his independence.

“I’m living again,” he said. “Right now, I am looking after myself in a big home, I have no trouble getting around, my walking has improved and I have no pain whatsoever.”

Cannabis has been legal for medical use in Canada since 2001. And while Health Canada warns of the negative side effects of smoking marijuana, patients have reportedly successfully used products like cannabis oils, edibles and vaporizers to treat everything from arthritis to anxiety to epilepsy.

But some doctors are still uncomfortable with medical marijuana and its limited scientific backing. That’s why nurses like Hagar are increasingly taking time to learn about how marijuana works to help guide cannabis-curious patients like Bennett.

“Nurses are on the frontline with cannabis these days because we are situated closest to the patients… We have that little bit of extra time to spend with them, to help them,” Hagar told CTV News from Ottawa.

“It is my sincere hope that cannabis and the use of cannabis becomes normalized, that we sort of get over the hangover that I believe people have from the past.”

Replacing Opioids With Cannabis

Anita Rosenfeld of Ottawa also hired Hagar to help her get off opioids and treat the “unbearable” pain she experiences from arthritis and spinal compression fractures caused by osteoporosis.

“The pain was excruciating to the point where I was in bed crying all day long,” the 59-year-old told CTV News. “Basically, I did nothing. I was housebound… It was totally encompassing and I had discussed medically-assisted death.”

With the help of Hagar, Rosenfeld — who had never dabbled with marijuana before — was eventually turned on to cannabis oil.

“As I started to take it in the proper fashion and up to the appropriate level, then I just started getting better and better and better,” Rosenfeld said.

“I’ve done more in the last two weeks than I probably did in two years. I have a fuller schedule. I have a life. I have happiness. I have joy… I am able to enjoy my life I am able to contribute in a way that I haven’t been able to for five years.”

Nurses are also behind a new online service called O Cannabis, where nurse practitioners can authorize medical cannabis use and offer patients ongoing guidance and support via video link or telephone from the comfort of their homes.

Morgan Toombs, who serves as the company’s CEO, says they have already helped nearly 10,000 Canadians.

“The feedback that we’ve been getting is just extraordinary,” Toombs told CTV News from O Cannabis’ Oakville, Ont. headquarters

“This is really why we all do the work that we do. People are getting better with medical cannabis and it’s so rewarding to hear their stories. It’s incredible!”

Finding the right product

Nurses like Hagar and Toombs insist their forays into the field of medical marijuana are by no means a bid to replace physicians, but a way to fill a gap created by a new medical tool and serve the patients who want to try it.

“Patients who have tried everything, and they’ve had a really hard time finding the right medicine for them, will have often approached their doctors and are not able to get access,” Toombs claimed. “Many physicians are uncomfortable prescribing medical cannabis and so they’ll come to a clinic like ours and they’ll get the care and the help that they need.”

What’s more, Toombs added, is that nurses can take the time to help patients sort through the myriad cannabis products to find one that works best for them.

“With medical cannabis, there is a lot of follow-up care that’s required for a patient to find their right dose, to find the right products for them,” Toombs added. “And so we all know how busy doctors are… We can help take the load off the physicians.”

Source: CTV News

New Bills Filed for Marijuana Decriminalization in Texas

Decriminalization of marijuana in Texas is back on the table as nearly a half dozen bills related to the drug’s use were filed on Monday for the 86th legislative session.

Recreational and most medical uses of marijuana are still prohibited in the state, the exception being low-THC cannabis for qualifying intractable epilepsy patients under the Texas Compassionate Use Program.

Marijuana advocates, who have been pushing for decriminalization and an expansion to the medical program, have gained greater bipartisan support in recent years, said Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

Lawmakers filed hundreds of bills Monday in advance of the deadline.

Cannabis advocates championed two bills in particular: House Bill 63, which proposes a civil penalty for less than an ounce of marijuana possession instead of arrests, convictions or a criminal record; and Senate Bill 90, which aims to allow more medical conditions to qualify for the state’s medical program, as well as offer greater protections to registered medical professionals prescribing the drug.

Rep. Joe Moody (D-78) who authored House Bill 63 noted the “swell of bipartisan support” for decriminalization of marijuana in the state.

“I’m optimistic that this will be the session we finally see smarter, fairer marijuana laws in Texas,” Moody said in a statement.

Earlier this year the Republican Party of Texas updated its official platform to support making it a civil rather than criminal offense to possess less than an ounce of marijuana. They called for a fine of up to $100, without jail time. And during a debate with Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez this year, Gov. Greg Abbott said he was open to dropping the punishment of 180 days of jail and a $2,000 fine to just a $500 fine for possession of less than 2 ounces.

The public Republican shift towards more lenient marijuana laws has some advocates feeling confident in efforts to protect recreational use of the drug as well as those who rely on it for medicinal purposes.

State Sen. Jose Menendez (D-26), who authored Senate Bill 90, said “doctors, not politicians, should determine what is best for Texas patients.”

In his bill, Menendez calls for a major expansion of the state medical cannabis program to include diagnoses such as PTSD, cancer, multiple sclerosis and more.

“Patients should not be arrested for using a medicine that is legal in every state that borders Texas, including conservative states like Oklahoma and Arkansas,” Menéndez said in a statement.

Yet Abbott has been less supportive of expanding the existing medical cannabis program, expressing concern over abuses of an expanded program.

Jackson County Sheriff, A. J. Louderback, who serves as the legislative director for the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, echoed Abbott’s concerns arguing that medical programs in other states, and marijuana legalization in general, has led to spikes in crime and “devastating social losses.”

Since 2014, around the time Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use, crime in the state has increased. In Denver in particular, the 2016 crime rate increased 4 percent, with violent crime up 9 percent.

Yet Colorado and Denver law enforcement officials can’t say whether the crime hike is tied to marijuana legalization.

“[Property crime is] the biggest driver of our [overall] crime, and of our increases. So, can you attribute that to marijuana? I don’t think you can,” Denver Police Commander James Henning, told CNN.

For her part, Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, remains undeterred in her optimism for significant marijuana reform in Texas next year.

“The time has come for prohibition to be repealed,” Fazio said.

The 86th Legislative session begins Tuesday, Jan. 8.

Source: Houston Chronicle 

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