On Tuesday, New York legislators decisively voted to pass a bill legalizing recreational marijuana for adults in the Empire State.
In a show of overwhelming support, the state senate passed the bill 40-23 before handing it off to the assembly, where it was approved in a 100-49 vote. Despite the bill being released a short three days prior, Tuesday’s approval process took only a matter of hours.
Today the legislation then headed to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) desk, where within hours he signed the bill into law.
“Legalizing adult-use cannabis isn’t just about creating a new market that will provide jobs and benefit the economy—it’s also about justice for long-marginalized communities and ensuring those who’ve been unfairly penalized in the past will now get a chance to benefit. I look forward to signing this legislation into law,” the governor said in a statement signaling his support for the bill.
Restorative justice and equity have been critical points in the discussions between the governors’ office and legislators during the past weeks. As it stands, New York’s legalization bill will do more than simply legalize marijuana. Senate Majority Leader and co-sponsor of the bill, Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D), said,
“There were many important aspects of this legislation that needed to be addressed correctly—especially the racial disparities that have plagued our state’s response to marijuana use and distribution as well as ensuring public safety—and I am proud that through strong collaboration, we have reached the finish line.”
Equity Provisions In MRTA
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) will also immediately expunge prior marijuana convictions from New Yorker’s records as well as create protections for cannabis workers against discrimination in housing, educational access, and parental rights. In addition, marijuana odor will no longer be sufficient enough reason for police to conduct a search.
It seems the governor has also acquiesced on another sticking point during preliminary discussions—the reinvestment of marijuana tax revenue in minority communities most affected by prohibition.
With the MRTA Bill, legislators aim to issue 50% of cannabis business licenses to social equity applicants. Additionally, 40% of cannabis tax revenue will go into a minority reinvestment fund, another 40% would be allocated to public schools, and 20% would fund drug rehabilitation programs.
“My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has taken such a toll on communities of color across our state, and to use the economic windfall of legalization to help heal and repair those same communities,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Liz Krueger (D) who co-sponsored the bill alongside Stewart Cousins. “I believe we have achieved that in this bill, as well as addressing the concerns and input of stakeholders across the board.”
Other Provisions In MRTA
The other major hurdle stalling progress on legalization efforts regarded whether driving while impaired by marijuana would remain a misdemeanor offense or be reduced to a traffic violation.
For now, driving under the influence of cannabis will continue to be a misdemeanor, though the Department of Health will begin a study searching for technology that can more accurately determine if a driver is under the effects of marijuana while operating the vehicle.
Other provisions in the MRTA include allowances for adults to cultivate up to six cannabis plants for personal use with a maximum of twelve plants per household, allowances for marijuana delivery services, and the creation of a new Office of Cannabis Management that would operate within the umbrella of the New York State Liquor Authority.
“After years of tireless advocacy and extraordinarily hard work, that time is coming to an end in New York State,” said Governor Cuomo.
Ohio’s recreational cannabis initiative has been delayed due to coronavirus social distancing measures, and the petition’s language is also undergoing revisions at the request of Ohio’s Attorney General. Despite these setbacks, the movement is not dead in the Buckeye State.
During the election season, petitioners rely on interaction with the public to inform voters on ballot initiatives and to collect signatures. Without that in-person mechanism, all ballot initiatives and petitions could be delayed indefinitely. Tom Haren, Spokesperson for Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has indicated the group is taking social distancing measures seriously during the pandemic.
“We made the decision early on that the health of our volunteers, supporters, medical marijuana patients, and the general public would be our primary concern,” he said. “As Ohio begins the process of re-opening, we are evaluating our options and hope to have more to share soon.”
Being unable to exercise democracy through legislation and proposed ballot measures has First Amendment implications, and addressing this in court has already been problematic. Earlier this month, a judge in Ohio’s Franklin County said he lacked the ability to make alterations to the state’s constitution that would allow fewer signatures to be collected during the pandemic. Freda Levenson of ACLU Ohio, who is representing Ohioans for Fair and Secure Elections, has concerns about what this could mean for election laws.
“The First Amendment says any infringement on speech, even if it’s temporary or brief is a violation of your rights,” she said. “They can’t say ‘you can talk later.’ You have a right to say it.”
But coronavirus is only part of the petition’s setbacks. In March, the Attorney General of Ohio informed the petitioners by letter that proposed legislation, which would amend the state’s constitution in order to legalize recreational cannabis, was insufficient and required additional information.
“Upon reviewing Section (A) of the proposed amendment and comparing it to the summary language, I am unable to certify the summary as a fair and truthful representation of the proposed amendment,” wrote Attorney General Dave Yost in the rejection letter. “Section (A) of the proposed amendment lists several findings and declarations that the amendment proposes to be made by ‘the people of the state of Ohio.’ The summary makes no mention of these findings and declarations. Thus, it completely fails to inform a potential signer that the amendment elevates these ‘findings and declarations’ to a constitutional standard.”
Haren has said that the group will continue to revise their proposed amendment based on the Attorney General’s notes.
Ohio is one of several states who have a strict medical cannabis program that is largely unsuccessful due to overregulation and lack of available products. Of patients who are qualified and enrolled in the program, thirty percent have not made a single purchase.
“If you’re a patient in Ohio, it’s hard to participate in Ohio’s medical marijuana program,” Haren said. “We were promised a program that worked.” Ohio’s state medical cannabis business association is currently not supporting the bill.
Up to an ounce of cannabis for recreational use would be allowed under the proposed legislation, along with up to six plants for personal use. The state would establish a regulatory body that would oversee production, quality control, licensing, and retail distribution of cannabis along with a proposed sales tax structure, 25% of which would go towards social equity programs.
When the recreational possession and use of cannabis is legalized, but a regulated retail market is not, people are forced to think of creative ways to obtain and provide weed. In this case, though, the creativity comes from a cute canine named Sudo.
While a regulated recreational market has not been established in Washington D.C., the transfer of up to one-ounce of cannabis, from one of-age adult to another, is permitted. This hand-off is known as “gifting.” As a result, several creative businesses have popped up, operating in the grey area of the law, to meet the distribution needs for District residents.
In 2016, adults living in the nation’s capital could get free weed delivered with the purchase of fresh juice. Now, a pair of entrepreneurs have finally figured out what the people really want: to receive their free gift of cannabis by purchasing a painting made by an adorable Alaskan Klee Kai called Sudo.
District Derp is the Washington D.C. brand that is marketing “exceptional art for elevated minds,” and providing cannabis gifts in the form of dried flower, edibles, and vape cartridges to adults who buy one of Sudo’s paintings. Identification is required to make a purchase if you want the free “token of appreciation,” but the artwork alone is also for sale to those under the age of 21 or anyone living outside of Washington D.C..
Artwork orders can either be picked up or delivered. There is a minimum purchase amount of $40 required for pickup orders, and $80 for delivery. Orders are placed through the brand’s website, and a user account must be set up first for identity verification purposes. Once the account is created, customers have access to the art gallery offerings and corresponding gifts. Assuring that customers are 21 or older, the team requires that the name on an order match the valid identification shown at the time of hand-off.
Rather than a menu, since District Derp is not a licensed dispensary, there is a “gift guide” which details the different kinds of appreciative tokens available at the time the painting is purchased.
Flower offerings on the gift guide include strains like Pink Cookies, Papaya Dream, and Big Mac 11. Tahoe OG, White Widow, and Skywalker OG are available in vape cartridges, and edibles include a variety of chocolates, gummies, and an oat bar ranging in potency from 20mg to 65mg.
The star of the edibles has to be the 100mg Atomic Derps, which are described as “a brownie of epic proportions” that include a “cookie layer topped with Oreos, brownies and chocolate ganache.”
The plants harvested to make the tokens of appreciation come from seeds provided by the brand owners that are cultivated off-site by a licensed-caregiver. The edibles are created by the team in their home with extensive product testing and sampling to ensure that the goods are customer-ready before they are ever given out.
Overall, District Derp’s business model seems to value the important things when it comes to distributing cannabis. The brand’s website says that they focus on product quality and customer service. Most importantly, though, there is a cute dog who paints!
The brand also donates to charity. An appropriate choice, a portion of the revenue from selling Sudo’s paintings is donated to Homewards Trails Animal Rescue.
Due to the restrictions placed on nonessential businesses in Washington D.C., District Derp will remain closed until at least June 8. According to the brand’s website, they do plan to reopen when the stay-at-home orders are lifted.
How did Sudo learn to paint?
Sudo’s teammates say that it all started because she had a natural affinity for carrying sticks. She would often carry the stick of her choice, in her mouth, while on walks. Inspired by this, and a challenge from a friend, they created a special stick-like-prototype designed just for her. Sudo’s special doggy paintbrush is a “T-shaped brush that she can hold comfortably and naturally [to] look straight at the canvas while she paints.”
Why doesn’t Washington D.C. have recreational dispensaries?
Voters in Washington D.C. overwhelmingly approved Initiative 71 in November of 2014, effectively ending the prohibition of marijuana in the nation’s capital. The measure did not, however, include a framework for licensing dispensaries or commercial cultivation centers. Despite efforts from local leaders, like city council members and even the mayor, Congress blocked cannabis dispensaries from being allowed in the District. The Congressional block remains in place until at least September of this year.
Medical marijuana is a different story in the District, however, as there are currently seven medical dispensaries open to serve registered patients. Medical dispensaries were deemed essential businesses and have remained operational during the stay-at-home orders of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Conditions which qualify a person to apply for a medical marijuana card in Washington D.C. include:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as multiple sclerosis
Certain cancer treatments also qualify a person for medical marijuana. These include:
In a joint effort, two state representatives submitted legislation to legalize, regulate, and tax a recreational cannabis market in Florida.
Rep. Michael Grieco, D-Miami Beach, and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, co-sponsored the 58-page proposal, known as HB 1117, which was filed in the Florida House Tuesday, February 26.
“With bipartisan efforts in criminal justice reform reaching new levels this year, it is the right time for Florida to start having a real conversation about legalizing marijuana for adult use,” Grieco said in a statement. “It’s coming one way or another, either by a 2020/2022 ballot measure or from us here in the legislature. Colorado has collected over one billion dollars in taxes from marijuana sales since 2014, so imagine what bigger, sunnier Florida could do.”
What would legalization look like under HB 1117?
If approved, HB 1117 would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess, use, and transport up to two-and-one-half ounces of cannabis at a time. Adults would also be permitted to cultivate their own cannabis at home for personal use.
Consumption would be restricted to private spaces as public use would remain illegal. Public consumption would be punishable with up to a $100 fine.
“Continuing to criminalize responsible adult use of cannabis just doesn’t make any sense,” Smith said. “No one is dying from cannabis overdoses but they are getting arrested and being given criminal records for no good reason. A majority of Floridians support legalizing adult-use cannabis, so let’s do this already.”
Separately, Grieco filed HB 1119, which aims to establish a method of taxation for cannabis sales so that the state would benefit from such transactions.
While these proposals are not expected to be approved this session, the sponsors expect it to continue the legalization conversation in the Sunshine State.
Medical cannabis was legalized by voters in 2016, and patients are currently fighting for the right to be able to smoke dried cannabis flower, a method of consumption that is currently illegal in the state.
Colorado can do a lot more to make its legal marijuana market more open, transparent and equitable, a coalition of criminal justice reform advocacy groups said in a recent letter outlining regulatory recommendations.
The coalition, led by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), put forward 12 recommendations—ranging from the revocation of an industry-specific vertical integration requirement to the establishment of a micro-licensing program. The proposals were submitted to the state’s Department of Regulatory Affairs.
“Since Colorado became the first state to legally regulate marijuana, the national conversation has shifted from whether we’ll legalize to how we should do it,” Art Way, DPA Colorado state director, said in a press release.
“Colorado can do much more to address the lasting impacts of decades of mass criminalization. Given the current lack of diversity in Colorado’s legal marijuana market, we urgently need to follow the lead of other states and cities that are implementing policies to reduce barriers to entry in the industry.”
While one of the main objectives of cannabis reform has been to resolve the socioeconomic and racial injustices brought about by the war on drugs, excess regulations of Colorado’s legal system has created a new set of barriers—particularly financial—for communities that have been most impacted by prohibitionist policies, the coalition said.
With that said, the coalition is promoting a series of reforms in order to address concerns about “who can work in the industry” and “how the industry itself is regulated.”
Signees on the recommendation letter include DPA, Black Lives Matter 5280, Cannability Foundation, Cannabis Consumers Coalition, Cannabis Global Initiative, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Colorado Latino Forum, Denver NORML, Denver Relief Consulting, kindColorado, Minority Cannabis Business Association, NAACP of CO, MT and WY, Sensible Colorado, Servicios de la Raza and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
You can read the full recommendation letter below.