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Marijuana News in Arizona and World

NH Marijuana Legalization

State representatives in New Hampshire have filed three separate recreational marijuana bills for the 2016 legislative session. Each bill legalizes marijuana in different degrees. Officials believe that recreational legalization will help end federal prohibition, especially as more states bring the same issues up for voting this year.

The first bill, HB1675, is outlined to regulate and tax marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol regulation. It would also allow persons 18 years old and older to possess 2.2 pounds of marijuana for personal use.

Additional inclusions to this bill are:

  • Create a structured licensing process
  • Create a tax scheme for legal marijuana sales
  • Create testing facilities

The second bill, HB1610, would make marijuana legal for persons 21 years of age and older. In this bill, it would allow for legal possession up to 2 ounces of marijuana plus marijuana use accessories.

This bill also includes provisions for:

  • 3 mature/flowering plants
  • Up to 6 total plants growing
  • Transfer up to 1 ounce of marijuana to those 21 years of age and older.

The third bill, HB1694, is quite similar to HB1610, with a lesser amount of possession listed at just 1 ounce. The age requirement listed in this bill is 21 years of age and older.

Additional inclusions in HB1694:

  • Structure for marijuana sales
  • Legalize industrial hemp farming

The passage of any one of these three bills would make New Hampshire the first state to pass recreational marijuana through state legislature procedures. Other recreationally legal states have achieved this status via popular vote.

Founder and executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center, Michael Boldin, believes that, “The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats.”

Each bill must be approved by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee prior to a full vote being allowed.

Oregon Dispensary

Those interested in opening a marijuana business in Oregon were able to submit applications. 70 of the 142 total applications submitted were received by the state before noon on the very first day. 75 of the total applications submitted were from growers.

A breakdown of the applications submitted before noon:

  • 36 from producers
  • 18 for retail locations
  • 8 for growers
  • 8 for wholesalers

The State of Oregon expects to issue approximately 850 recreational marijuana licenses between now and the end of 2017. The state has also said, as reported by Oregon Live, that it will not limit the number of licenses issued.

The county with the most applications recorded thus far is Multnomah County with 30 total applications. With application numbers in the teens, Clackamas, Jackson and Lane counties follow with the next highest number of applications received to date.

Licenses for research will also be issued. The areas of study must be marijuana related. According to the liquor commission spokesperson, the proposal has to pass “established scientific criteria and rigor” to be approved for research purposes. Laboratories can also apply for a license for testing and research purposes. Research applications have another step to take. They also need approval from the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Agriculture along with the liquor commission’s approval.

 

Marijuana Breathalyzer

Colorado passed a THC driving bill in 2013 which says that more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood constitutes marijuana intoxication. Detecting marijuana intoxication has only been possible via blood testing, but that may soon change. Marijuana reacts differently within each user, making a roadside breathalyzer a controversial topic of discussion.

Hound Labs is in the developmental stages of a roadside marijuana breathalyzer to detect marijuana intoxication. According to Westword, Hound Labs has used enhanced technology and science to develop a device that measures THC levels in as little as one to two breaths.  The device uses an extraction method to measure levels of THC intoxication to levels as low as 500 picograms.

Hound Labs claims that, “No hand-held device has been able to measure the actual levels of THC, which is critical to developing standards for breath that ultimately correlate with impairment.”

Standards regarding THC intoxication have not yet been developed. Blood testing only tells law enforcement that someone has used marijuana, not how long ago they used it; marijuana can stay in blood for up to three weeks. The breathalyzer claims to be able to detect THC in a person’s breath, which is detectable for a few hours after use.

Controversy lies among the general public and law enforcement officials in regards to the accuracy of the device’s results. One expert, a professor at Columbia University, Carl Hart, calls the entire concept a “dumb idea.”

Marijuana Testing

Current Arizona statutes do not require medical marijuana dispensaries or caregivers to test marijuana for toxins, such as pesticides, herbicides, and molds. Dispensaries are only required to include information on labels of what chemicals may be in or used to grow their marijuana.

Arizona marijuana legalization supporters are pushing for testing because of the many recalls on marijuana products in Colorado due to the presence of toxins. Chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Arizona, JP Holyoak, tells Tucson News Now that, “Wouldn’t we rather have something that’s tested and we know it’s a safe product and isn’t laced with any other materials?”

Holyoak goes on to say, “They’re using regulation to make sure the consumers are receiving a safe product. We don’t have that in Arizona today. We don’t have that on the streets today.”

As Arizona prepares to vote for recreational marijuana legalization in November 2016, this issue remains prominent. Colorado bans the use of some pesticides. This is a measure that supporters also want to see put in place in Arizona to ensure that medical and recreational marijuana users obtain a safe product.

Gordie Bufton, a sober coach and author, agrees that testing should be completed on marijuana products. He says that “it is common for manufacturers to use pesticides to protect their crops, but he is concerned about their effects.” He went on to say, “Do you treat the pot, but with what you’re treating it, you don’t know how it’s going to affect you when individuals smoke it?”

The ballot measure for Arizona recreational marijuana legalization does include language that would require testing of all shelf products at dispensaries.

NY Dispensary Open

New York dispensaries officially opened on January 7, 2016. A total of 8 dispensaries opened on the first day of permitted sales, and only 51 patients have been approved for medical marijuana cards in the state. A total of 20 dispensaries will be available throughout the state. Many argue that this is not enough locations to serve a state as large as New York.

Arguments go further to claim that the list of qualifying conditions needs to be expanded.

The current list of qualifying conditions in New York is:

  • Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Cancer
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Neuropathy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Intractable spasticity

Patients must obtain certification from an approved physician. The physician must be registered with the state in order to submit a recommendation for the use of medical marijuana.

As the New York Times reports, a provision of the law signed by Governor Cuomo allows for the state to stop the medical marijuana program at any time if public health and safety are at risk.

Hillary Peckham, chief operating officer of Etain, says that the typical patient could spend an average of $300 – $1,200 per month on medical marijuana products. She looks forward to business growth and stated, “I always wanted to make an impact on people’s lives. But I never thought it would be this.”

New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed into law the use of medical marijuana products for qualifying patients in 2014. The law is quite strict. Smoking of medical marijuana is not permitted in New York State. Alternative forms, including tinctures and vaporizer options, must be used. Medical marijuana businesses must process the plant into a different form such as oils and edible products.

Marijuana Banking

Fourth Corner Credit Union was established in order to provide a banking solution for legally operating marijuana businesses. This has been an ongoing problem for these businesses given that marijuana is still illegal federally. A district judge dismissed a lawsuit against the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank because of it.

Lawyers for the Federal Reserve claim that, “Access to the nation’s banking system would be too dangerous.”

The argument raised by the Federal Reserve claims as long as marijuana is illegal federally, monies from its sales should not be permitted into the nation’s banking system. This causes marijuana dispensaries to have to continue working with cash only.

Colorado marijuana business owners fear that having so much cash on-hand may lead to robberies. Colorado authorized Fourth Corner Credit Union to operate in 2014, 2 years after recreational marijuana became legal in the state. Credit union attorney, Mark Mason, says that “a cannabis bank would, in fact, keep a better eye on the drug money,” according to International Business Times.

Changes to federal laws and an end to prohibition will likely have to take place before marijuana businesses are permitted to use the banking system. This leaves them having to pay all of their bills, including taxes, in cash.

The executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, Aaron Smith, said that, “Forcing cannabis businesses to operate without banking access is a crisis, affecting public safety, law-abiding businesses, and the state officials in charge of regulating them.”

Marijuana Drinking

A recent study conducted by RAND Drug Policy Research Center and the University of California, Irvine concludes that people mixing marijuana and alcohol is rather uncommon. Individuals ranging from 18 to 91 years of age were surveyed in four states for the study.

The study’s author stated that, “Fewer than one in five recreational users report simultaneous use of alcohol and cannabis most or all of the time and less than three of medicinal users report frequent simultaneous use of alcohol and cannabis,” reports AlterNet.

Among those studied, the preference to not mix marijuana and alcohol simultaneously exists for both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana users. The subjects included in the study reside in Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. Only those that use marijuana medicinally were surveyed in New Mexico as recreational marijuana use remains prohibited in that state.

There are conflicting studies reporting that marijuana has been a substitution for alcohol. Some also claim that the two are complementary to each other in some settings.

IL Dispensary Sales

Illinois medical marijuana sales began on November 9, 2015, and within just two months the total amount of marijuana sold reached nearly $1.7 million.

As 2015 came to an end, 20 Illinois dispensaries gained licenses to operate. Since opening day, a total of 2,815 patients have been helped.

Wholesalers reported an approximate $1.5 million of medical marijuana sold to dispensaries. Combined with tax revenue of $107,000, the medical marijuana industry took in $1,607,000.

James Wright, the program director for Illinois medical marijuana pilot program, released these figures, reports Sun Times Network.

In Illinois, the average price of medical marijuana is roughly $14 to $15 per gram.

California Marijuana Legalization

If California legalizes recreational marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older, it is estimated that the state could receive $1 billion per year in tax revenue. Those tax dollars would be divided amongst several state agencies, including the public school system.

Voters will have an opportunity in November 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana in California.

On December 21, 2015, the Department of Finance released a report outlining the estimated tax revenue potential. Quoted from the report completed by Michael Cohen and Mac Taylor, “In total, our best estimate is that the state and local governments could eventually collect net additional revenues that could range from the high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually.”

According to SFGate, recreational marijuana legalization can actually save the state $100 million per year in criminal justice costs due to the prosecution of misdemeanor marijuana violations.

These tax revenues are expected to be allocated to the following agencies:

  • $2 million annually to research the usefulness and side effects of medical marijuana
  • Upwards of $50 million for substance abuse and mental health programs
  • $3 million annually to research stoned driver interdiction for the California Highway Patrol
  • $10 million to study and research the impact of legalization

It is also stated that leftover tax monies would be allocated for teen marijuana use prevention, treatment programs, road safety and environmental restoration.

San Francisco supervisor, Fiona Ma, is in agreement with the taxes being needed. During an interview in October 2015, she claimed, “The biggest underground economy in the state is the cannabis industry. The cannabis industry wants to come out of the shadows, become legal, be law-abiding and pay their taxes. It could be five to ten billion taxable dollars per year.”

Marijuana Law

Prior to an annual Chamber of Commerce meeting on January 6, backers of a 2016 ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Arizona will encourage business leaders to consider the economic benefits of regulating and taxing marijuana in the state.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. MST outside the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry Legislative Luncheon in Phoenix (northeast corner of N. 3rd and E. Van Buren streets). Campaign leaders will have a sign and distribute handouts that invalidate opponents’ claims that regulating marijuana for adult use will be bad for business in Arizona.

“Regulating marijuana like alcohol would bolster our state’s economy with new tax revenue, new jobs, and new business opportunities,” said campaign chairman J.P. Holyoak. “Business leaders typically recognize the value of a legal and regulated alcohol market for adults. Our initiative would establish a similar system but for an objectively less harmful product.

“Since Colorado made marijuana legal for adults, its economy has improved dramatically and at a far greater rate than most other states,” Holyoak said. “Opponents of that law claimed it would be bad for business, and that claim has proven to be entirely unfounded.”

The following facts will be included in the handout distributed to attendees:

  • Adult marijuana sales during FY 2014-2015 generated nearly $80.5 million in state tax revenue, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue, and marijuana-specific taxes raised approximately $28 million more than alcohol-specific taxes.
  • As of June 2015, there were more than 21,000 Colorado residents with valid occupational licenses to work in marijuana-related businesses, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. Marijuana businesses also retain workers and utilize services from a wide variety of collateral sectors, such as construction, engineering, security, legal, insurance, real estate, and retail.
  • The Forbes list of 190 “best places for business” included five Colorado cities in the top 50, including Denver at #1 and Fort Collins at #10. Two of the cities where marijuana cultivation and sales have been most prominent rose significantly in the ranking since 2011: Denver moved to from #9 to #1, and Boulder jumped from #44 to #26. (Phoenix, ranked #44, is the only Arizona city in the top 100; Tucson is ranked #103.)
  • Colorado had the fastest-growing state economy in 2014 and the #3 best state economy in the nation in 2015, according to Business Insider. Home prices also increased at some of the fastest rates in the country over the past two years.
  • Colorado tourism reached record highs in 2014, and tourism in the state is outpacing national growth rates in every tourism category, according to the Colorado Tourism Office.