Pennsylvania Aims To Move Forward Both On Medicinal & Adult Use Cannabis Programs

Pennsylvania Aims To Move Forward Both On Medicinal & Adult Use Cannabis Programs

Pennsylvania Considers New Recreational Cannabis Legislation

A new effort to legalize recreational cannabis is coming to the Keystone State. Pennsylvania lawmakers Daylin Leach and Sharif Street are hoping to build support for their latest proposal, Senate Bill 350 which they introduced on October 15th. The bill would allow for both home delivery and the automatic expungement of many previous criminal convictions related to marijuana. The bill’s supporters estimate it will generate $500 million in tax revenue within twelve months.

In contrast to the approach of many other states, Senate Bill 350 contains a provision allowing homegrower permits for personal use. The bill also envisions “use lounges” where individuals can legally consume marijuana brought from outside the establishment.

“An end to the prohibition of cannabis is overdue,” Senator Street said in a release. “It is time for us to join the emerging cannabis economy with the legalization of the Adult Use of Cannabis in PA., which should not be a crime when responsibly used by adults nor mandate medical oversight.”

“Pennsylvania’s cannabis policy is cruel, irrational and expensive,” Senator Leach said. “Prohibition has destroyed countless lives and has cost taxpayers millions.”

“We need to stop arresting our kids and funding violent drug cartels,” Leach continued. “This is going to be a tough battle, but so was passing medical marijuana. We did that, and we’ll do this too. The stakes are too high for us to fail.”

Senator Leach released a press release identifying several key points in the proposal:

  • A system of permits for industry participants with low barriers to entry in order to allow people with limited resources to enter the cannabis industry.
  • Automatic expungement of previous criminal convictions, dismissal of pending charges, and commutation of sentences.
  • Tax revenue collected pursuant to the bill—an estimated $500 million in the first full fiscal year of operation—will be appropriated to school districts using the 2016 fair funding formula (Act 35). School districts have total discretion over the funding; they may choose to invest in their schools, hire more teachers, or even provide local tax relief to homeowners in their districts.
  • Use of cannabis will be permitted by adults over 21 years of age.
  • Home delivery of cannabis will be permitted. The bill’s language allows deliverers, who may start their own company or work for dispensaries, to use any form of transportation—from cars to bicycles to public transportation—to deliver cannabis.
  • People will be permitted to grow up to ten plants for personal use in their own homes.

While public support for legalization appears to be increasing, Senate Bill 350 likely faces an uphill battle. On the other side of the Delaware River, New Jersey’s much-anticipated legalization bill never even made it to the floor for a vote. Despite widespread optimism and strong support from Governor Phil Murphy, New Jersey cannabis reform advocates now appear resigned to wait for a ballot initiative.

The political landscape is even less favorable for reform in Pennsylvania. Across the nation, many more states have legalized cannabis through ballot initiatives than legislative action. In Pennsylvania, previous attempts to legalize recreational cannabis have failed due to a lack of bipartisan support.

Also…

Pennsylvania Expands Medical Marijuana Program

In July, Pennsylvania significantly expanded its medical marijuana program. The state now includes anxiety and Tourette’s on the list of qualifying conditions for enrollment. The move by the Pennsylvania Health Department now allows medical marijuana for conditions beyond cancer, epilepsy, seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder, and terminal illness. Similar decisions in other states have led to rapid increases in enrollment.

Pennsylvania has nearly 116,000 patients certified for participation in its medical marijuana program. The program is relatively new, coming online in February 2018.

“The first year that the state’s medical marijuana program has been operational tells us that this program is working to help Pennsylvanians in need of this medication,” Governor Wolf said. “Patients are realizing the benefits and there has been steady, positive progress that I am pleased to report.”

In its first full year, Pennsylvania collected $2 million in tax revenue from growers and processors. Dispensaries reported $132 million in sales. The program has also expanded to allow patients to purchase marijuana is dried leaf form. Initially only pills, liquids, or topical ointments were permitted.

“Our goal for the next year and beyond is to increase the number of grower/processors and dispensaries operating, to register even more physicians and to continue the growth of our scientific, medically based program,” said Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said.

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is noteworthy for its promotion of scientific testing. As part of the program, the state certifies eight academic clinical research centers. The mission of the clinical program is to conduct, “Research on the therapeutic or palliative efficacy of medical marijuana limited to the serious medical conditions defined by the act and the temporary regulations.” The state also has four approved laboratories for quality testing and sampling.

Reprinted from Cannabis Law Report.

Mid-Atlantic States Enact Historic Reforms, But Remain Stalled on Legalization

Mid-Atlantic States Enact Historic Reforms, But Remain Stalled on Legalization

New Jersey May Renew Push to Legalize Marijuana in 2019

Recent comments from Governor Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney suggest one final legislative effort to legalize marijuana in 2019.

“I think I’ve been consistent that I hoped we could have one more shot at this,” Murphy told reporters last week. “Getting something to happen sooner, if we have a real shot at that, I’d be all in. … Count me all in to try and work toward that.”

The Governor’s promised to legalize marijuana within his first 100 days in office. That was nearly two years ago. The following year and half have been a rollercoaster of rising and falling expectations for reform advocates. After Murphy and Sweeney came to an early 2019 agreement regarding how recreational marijuana would be taxed, the stage appeared finally set for a legislative vote.

In a surprise decision, the vote was called off at the last minute due to a lack of support. Sweeney then announced the measure would be on hold until it could be presented as a ballot initiative for voters to decide in 2020. The legislative effort to legalize marijuana thus appeared on indefinite hiatus. Both leaders’ recent comments indicate otherwise.

Shortly after the New Jersey bill was tabled earlier this year, Illinois passed a legalization bill through its legislature. Perhaps more important for economic considerations in the northeast, the State of New York decriminalized marijuana in July. New Jersey politicians may now feel in danger of losing a first-mover advantage in the region.

Governor Murphy has been more successful in expanding New Jersey’s medical marijuana program through executive action. In July he also signed a new bill to further loosen restrictions and increase access to the program. Enrollment has increased from 15,000 to nearly 50,000 patients since Murphy took office.

 

New York Decriminalization Bill Signed Into Law

The New York legislature passed a decriminalization bill in June. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law in late July. The law both expunges many past convictions for marijuana possession and reduces penalties in the future. Advocates initially proposed full legalization but shifted strategy after it became clear they lacked enough votes.

“It does do two good things,” said Emma Goodman, a staff attorney in Legal Aid Society’s special litigation unit. Goodman worked with legislators to lobby for legalization.

“It makes something that was a misdemeanor now a violation, and it automatically expunges old misdemeanor convictions,” Goodman said. “That’s more than a lot of states have done. The problem is that it’s just getting rid of one very small amount of low-level offenses and it’s not actually legalizing marijuana … violations are still arrestable offenses in New York.”

New York’s medical marijuana program has approximately 102,000 patients. Some Empire State doctors have begun advocating for expanding the program as a safer alternative than opiates for treating chronic pain.

 

Pennsylvania Expands Medical Marijuana Program

Pennsylvania now includes anxiety and Tourette’s on the list of qualifying conditions for enrollment in its medical marijuana program. The recent move by the Pennsylvania Health Department will allow medical marijuana for conditions beyond cancer, epilepsy, seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder, and terminal illness. Similar decisions in other states have led to significant increases in enrollment.

The Keystone State currently has nearly 116,000 patients certified for participation in its medical marijuana program. The program is relatively new, coming online in February 2018.

“The first year that the state’s medical marijuana program has been operational tells us that this program is working to help Pennsylvanians in need of this medication,” Governor Tom Wolf said. “Patients are realizing the benefits and there has been steady, positive progress that I am pleased to report.”

In its first full year, Pennsylvania collected $2 million in tax revenue from growers and processors. Dispensaries reported $132 million in sales. The program has also expanded to allow patients to purchase marijuana is dried leaf form. Initially only pills, liquids, or topical ointments were permitted.

“Our goal for the next year and beyond is to increase the number of grower/processors and dispensaries operating, to register even more physicians and to continue the growth of our scientific, medically based program,” said Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said.

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is noteworthy for its promotion of scientific testing. As part of the program, the state certified eight academic clinical research centers. The mission of the clinical program is to conduct, “Research on the therapeutic or palliative efficacy of medical marijuana limited to the serious medical conditions defined by the act and the temporary regulations.” The state also has four approved laboratories for quality testing and sampling.

Efforts to legalize recreational marijuana have struggled to gain traction. In July, a county judge made headlines when he predicted legalizing marijuana would produce “carnage” on Pennsylvania roadways.

“Marijuana is an hallucinogen,” said Dauphin County Judge William T. Tully. “The idea of legalizing it given the carnage that is likely to result is incomprehensible to me.”

Governor Wolf and Lieutenant Governor Fetterman have expressed their support to “take a serious look” at legalizing recreational marijuana.

Republished from cannabislaw.report.

AUTHOR: Patrick McKnight
PUBLISHER:  CANNABIS LAW REPORT

August 16, 2019

Veterans Struggle To Gain Access To Medical Marijuana

Veterans Struggle To Gain Access To Medical Marijuana

By Patrick McKnight

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted medical marijuana programs. Despite this expansion military veterans often face greater obstacles to gaining access to medical marijuana than other groups. Veterans suffer widespread health problems including chronic pain, traumatic brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder at a rate higher than the general population. When veterans seek medical care from the federal Veterans Administration health system, they not only lack access to medical marijuana but may fear jeopardizing all federal benefits if they admit to personal use. Notwithstanding the rapid spread of medical marijuana across the United States, many veterans report feeling left behind.

Read the full story at Liberty 2.0. Originally posted on The Cannabis Law Report on May 2, 2019.

Another Delay for New Jersey Cannabis Legalization

Another Delay for New Jersey Cannabis Legalization

An ongoing political saga took another unpredicted turn last month. After over a year of building momentum, hopes for a legislative vote on legalizing the adult-use of recreational cannabis have once again faded. Senate President Steve Sweeney announced he is no longer working towards a legislative solution, instead proposing a ballot referendum in 2020. In the meantime, he pledged to continue efforts to expand the Garden State’s medical marijuana program. He also expressed his support for an expungement bill.

On May 15, 2019, Sweeney tweeted “We will move forward with the expansion of our medical cannabis program as well as the progressive social justice reforms in the expungement legislation. We will not, however, pursue the legalization of adult use marijuana at this time.”

Although a ballot measure is considered likely to pass due in part to a larger youth turnout during the presidential election year, New Jersey’s meandering path towards reform has often defied expectations. Ballot questions also involve millions in dollars in spending by interest groups on both sides of an issue. With projected annual revenues of $1 billion, a cannabis legalization ballot question would likely be no exception.

Sweeney’s announcement represented another setback for Governor Phil Murphy. The Governor ran on a promise to legalize cannabis in his first 100 days. This window has long since passed as Murphy has struggled to find common ground with members of his own party on legalization issues including taxes and expungements. After Murphy and Sweeney agreed to a flat tax on recreational cannabis sales, legislators scheduled a March vote on the proposed legislation. At the last minute the vote was delayed indefinitely due to a lack of support. Now Sweeney’s surprise announcement has once again dashed hopes for legislative action anytime soon.

New Jersey CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA) President Scott Rudder issued the following statement on May 15th, 2019, on adult-use cannabis legalization:

“While clearly disappointed that adult-use legalization has been put on the backburner, we are thankful that medical cannabis reform is moving forward and patients will finally have greater access and be able to participate in a more affordable program. We look forward to continuing to work with the State as it develops and expands its medical program and we will continue to advocate for full legalization and the social justice reforms it brings.”

Republished from Liberty 2.0

New Jersey Moves Closer to Legalization

New Jersey Moves Closer to Legalization

New Jersey took another big step towards legalizing the recreational adult-use of cannabis last week, but legislators stopped short of taking the historic vote. After a breakthrough in negotiations over taxes and regulatory oversight between Governor Murphy and Senate President Sweeney in February, the scene appeared to be set for legalization. A vote was scheduled for Monday, March 25 but was postponed due to a lack of support. Leaders now hope to work out remaining sticking points and pass legislation before June.

As details of the legislation emerge some controversial provisions have given both supporters and critics pause. These wrinkles include the extent of expungements, public safety concerns, and set asides for minorities, women, and disabled-veteran business owners. These set asides are considered essential “social justice” provisions by many supporters but may have made public policy considerations more complicated for legislators sitting on the fence. Over 60 New Jersey municipalities have already voted to ban retail cannabis establishments in anticipation of statewide legalization.

In 2017 Governor Murphy ran on a promise to legalize cannabis within his first 100 days in office. Hopes for swift action ran high in early 2018 but stalled leading into a summer stand-off over the state budget. After a near-government shut down, tensions emerged between the State Legislators and the Governor’s Office. Momentum was further stymied into the fall due allegations of improprieties on the Governor’s campaign team.

New Jersey’s medical marijuana program continues to expand rapidly. A recent state Health Department report indicates the Garden State will need to quadruple the number of medical marijuana growers to meet increasing demand. There are currently 44,000 patients enrolled in the program, over double the 18,000 participating in January 2018. In early 2018 the Murphy Administration expanded the list of treatable conditions and streamlined regulations. These executive actions led to an immediate expansion in participation. The Health Department report suggests up to 180,000 patients could participate in the program by 2022.

Republished from liberty2point0.com.

2018 Year in Review: Steady Progress Toward Legalization in NJ, NY & PA, Massachusetts Opens Recreational Dispensaries

2018 Year in Review: Steady Progress Toward Legalization in NJ, NY & PA, Massachusetts Opens Recreational Dispensaries

Despite the progress and widespread optimism surrounding Garden State cannabis reform in 2018, politics has once again proven to be the biggest obstacle. On November 26th, New Jersey made headlines when bill S2703 left legislative committees and seemed destined for a quick approval vote by the Assembly and Senate. The committees also submitted legislation to further expand New Jersey’s medical cannabis program and develop a process for criminal expungements.

Shortly thereafter momentum abruptly stopped. Disagreements over the details of S2703 have apparently exacerbated a rift between Governor Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney. The remaining issues include the proposed tax rate and finalizing the regulatory scheme. The current legislation employs a 12% rate. Murphy wants a higher 25% tax rate which Sweeney is concerned will encourage a black market. The earliest the bill could move forward is now January 2019.

As 2018 comes to an end it may be helpful to review the winding path of events that brought this legislation to its current impasse. When the year began cannabis reform advocates were buoyed by newly-elected Governor Murphy’s campaign promise to sign legislation within his fist 100 days. Although this window came and went, the new administration did take executive action to loosen restrictions on New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. These changes doubled enrollment in just six months.

Momentum seemed to be building for legislative action through the spring until contentious debates over the State budget threatened a government shutdown in June. Several cannabis legalization bills were drafted and support seemed to be coalescing around a single proposal, however the near-shutdown of the state government gave the first indication all was not well between the Governor and legislative leadership.

Over the summer State Attorney General Grewal temporarily encouraged local prosecutors to pause the prosecutions of non-violent cannabis offenders. Though this was widely reported as the state “decriminalizing” the possession of cannabis, in fact it was only an interim measure intended partly to reassert state jurisdiction after Jersey City attempted to take unilateral action to decriminalize cannabis. Since late August municipal prosecutors have been allowed to resume cannabis prosecutions, although Attorney General Grewal has encouraged them to use their discretion.

In the fall momentum towards legalization renewed with positive comments coming from legislative leadership. This optimism came to fruition on November 26th when S2703 was approved to leave committee and proceed to a full vote. Many lawmakers openly discussed their desire to enact the legislation before the end of the 2018 session, but this date came and went without an agreement between Sweeney and Murphy.

To further complicate matters, the Governor’s office is now embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal involving former staffers. This scandal has resulted in a legislative investigation which threatens to deepen the divide between Murphy and the State House. The future remains unclear, especially as neighboring states such as New York threaten to deprive New Jersey of its lucrative first-mover advantage in the tri-state area. Some experts forecast the legalization of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey could generate $1 billion in twelve months.

Legalization efforts in New York increased after Governor Andrew Cuomo dramatically expanded his support last year. “The fact is we have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well-off, and one for everyone else,” Governor Cuomo said before recently introducing his plan to legalize the adult use of cannabis. He went on to note that prohibition had “for too long targeted the African-American and minority communities.”

“Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” he added.

Pennsylvania has not approved recreational cannabis, but Governor Tom Wolf recently made headlines on December 19th when he tweeted:

More and more states are successfully implementing marijuana legalization, and we need to keep learning from their efforts. Any change would take legislation. But I think it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at recreational marijuana. https://t.co/LHOmYKzMyp

— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) December 19, 2018

The City of Philadelphia decriminalized cannabis in 2014. Pittsburgh followed with a similar measure in 2016. Medical cannabis was signed into law in 2016 and the first dispensaries opened in 2018.

Elsewhere in the Northeast cannabis reform continues to accelerate. Massachusetts was the first state to prohibit cannabis in 1911, but voters elected to legalize recreational adult use in 2016. The first two recreational dispensaries opened on November 20, 2018 with more coming soon. These were the first legal retail sales of recreational cannabis in the eastern half of the United States. Massachusetts voters approved medical cannabis use in 2012.

  • Vermont legalized the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis on January 22, 2018. The new law took effect on July 1, 2018 but did not contain a “tax-and-regulate” system. Only medical users are currently permitted to purchase from dispensaries. Vermont’s legalization was the first time legalization was enacted by a state legislature rather than a ballot initiative. Vermont approved medical cannabis in 2004.
  • Maine legalized adult use in 2017 and the first recreational retail sales are expected in 2019. Maine decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis back in 1976 and legalized medical use in 1999.
  • New Hampshire approved a relatively limited medical cannabis law in 2012 and decriminalized possession in 2017. The governor has vowed to “absolutely” veto any legalization bills.
  • Connecticut decriminalized cannabis in 2011 and approved medical use in 2012. Legalization legislation has been approved by an Assembly committee but has not gone forward for a final vote. Governor-elect Ned Lamont has expressed his support for legalization.
  • Rhode Island approved the medical use of cannabis in 2006 but recreational use remains illegal. Delaware approved medical cannabis in 2011 and decriminalized possession in 2015. It has not approved recreational adult use.

Given the drama of 2018, making predictions about the timetable of future political developments has proven to be a fool’s errand. It seems clear that both New Jersey and New York are on the path to fully legalize the adult use of cannabis, potentially in 2019. The optimistic forecasts of impending action in New Jersey have been thwarted again and again by the realities and in-fighting of local politics. In Pennsylvania, it is too early to tell whether Governor Wolf’s recent comments represent mere rhetoric or a more substantive change in direction.

Republished from cannabislaw.report.

New Jersey Moves Toward Marijuana Legalization

New Jersey Moves Toward Marijuana Legalization

The state of New Jersey could soon become the tenth state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, further nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in effect.

New Jersey cannabis reform advocates began 2018 with high hopes. Newly elected Governor Murphy pledged to legalize the recreational use of marijuana within his first 100 days. Several pieces of legislation were introduced in the State House but stalled over the summer due to debates over the budget. Still, the Murphy administration was able to loosen restrictions on medical cannabis and order a temporary halt to cannabis-related prosecutions, even though the 100-day window came and went without legislative action.

Now legislators have resumed work on comprehensive reform bills and want a vote by the end of September. While many of the details still need to be ironed out, several provisions of the new proposal are being discussed publicly. These include the possibility of delivery for both medical and recreational cannabis, expungement of prior convictions, removing a previously proposed cap on the number of licenses, the creation of a cannabis policy advisory commission, micro-licenses for small businesses, and allocating an unknown percentage of licenses for minorities, women, and communities with high unemployment.

Read the rest at blog.tenthamendmentcenter.com.

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