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How Nevada Native American Tribes are Entering the Cannabis Industry

How Nevada Native American Tribes are Entering the Cannabis Industry

Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom has introduced SB 375, a bill that would authorize “agreements between the Governor and Indian tribes in this State relating to the regulation of the use of marijuana.”

And a lot of tribal leaders are showing interest, many making the trip to the state legislature last week to make their voices heard.

“The tribes would oversee what is happening on their reservation, but when they participate in the system they would have to follow the state rules,”

Segerblom said.

Like most Native American reservations around the U.S., those in Nevada suffer from chronic poverty and unemployment. Many tribal leaders see legal cannabis as a great opportunity to create jobs.

Since a 2014 Department of Justice announcement that seemed to allow tribes leeway in legalizing and regulating marijuana, attempts to do just that have not gone well. But for many tribes, there is no other option. They need marijuana legalization to work on their lands.

“We lack a tribal court system, we lack a police department, we lack health services – this may help create those services,”

said David Decker, Chairman of the Elko Band Council for the Te-Moak Tribe of the Western Shoshone, when he testified before the State Senate Judiciary Committee. “Just to pay for dispatch, this is very expensive. This could help us pay for all those economic securities that we currently can’t provide.”

In light of the history between authorities in the U.S. and Native American tribes, it seems like a small concession to allow tribes to grow and sell marijuana and generate some economic activity on their lands…those that remain, at least. Given the uncertainty surrounding the marijuana industry, tribes are taking quite a risk to go on this path. Hopefully politicians in Nevada will give them the tools they need to get an industry off the ground.

“They are sticking their necks out on this one, but at some point you have to say, ‘We can’t sit around and twiddle our thumbs,’”Sen. Segerblom said.

“I think the tribes – because they’re sovereign nations – they will have a better leg to stand on [if they are challenged by the feds].”

In the end, of course, marijuana should be legal on all lands. And if adult use marijuana is legal in Nevada – which it is – there is no reason to keep Native American tribes from participating and benefitting from that fact.

 

Originally published: The Marijuana Times

Is the IRS Ready for Cash Payments from Cannabis Businesses?

Is the IRS Ready for Cash Payments from Cannabis Businesses?

The federal prohibition of cannabis creates many problems for those who work in state-legal cannabis industries around the country, whether they are part of a medical or adult use market. One of the biggest problems affecting all cannabis businesses is a lack of banking services – less than 30% of all businesses working in the legal marijuana industry are actually able to obtain a bank account of any kind – which leaves the majority of the industry dealing in cash only.

Since the IRS is required to take any form of legal tender, this generally means that come tax time, they are sifting their way through extremely large sums of cash from these businesses. In the past, not as many medical cannabis businesses would file taxes due to the conflict with state and federal laws, but as the years have gone by more and more have been complying with all state laws and filing their taxes – a way to prove the legitimacy of the growing industry.

Unfortunately, these businesses can be taxed at up to 70% because they can’t take normal tax cuts – like writing off expenses – that normal businesses would. This has led to more cash than ever coming into the IRS, especially in states with legally operating recreational dispensaries like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. In Oregon alone, there has already been $43 million paid in cash to the IRS, who doesn’t have the manpower needed to quickly and efficiently count all the money.

In response to this they have set up two locations – one in Denver, Colorado and one in Seattle, Washington – where they will be specifically counting cash tax payments made by cannabis businesses in these states. These locations opened up on April 10th and will remain open through the 18th, the last day the IRS is receiving on-time payments for this year’s taxes. Unfortunately, this will not be enough to cover all the businesses, and only makes a significant difference in the states where these locations have been set up.

“I’m happy about anything that smoothes relations with the IRS, but practically speaking, this doesn’t really do anything,”

said Todd Arkley, a Seattle-based accountant and board member of The Cannabis Alliance.

“It’s nice that the IRS is opening this window, but it’s more of a gesture to me than anything.”

Along with setting up these money counting locations, the IRS has also partnered with OfficialPayments.com and a company called PayNearMe to allow both businesses and individuals to make cash payments to the IRS at some 7-Eleven locations in 34 states. Sadly these payments can only be made in increments of up to $1,000 per day – and in the amounts that some cannabis businesses owe the IRS it could take years to make the full payment for a single tax year. So while they are working to try and find a solution, this particular solution is only really helpful to smaller businesses and individuals.

Hopefully, the IRS sees a new found importance for banking services in the cannabis industry. These businesses are already going above and beyond to comply with their state’s regulations, and even pay extremely high federal income taxes – so the least the government could do is allow these businesses access to banks, which would not only make the industry safer all around, but would benefit them as well.

 

Originally published: The Marijuana Times

Connecticut Lawmakers Decide Against Legalization

Connecticut Lawmakers Decide Against Legalization

Legalizing cannabis for adult use in Connecticut has been discussed multiple times in committee hearings – at one point about a month ago for much longer than anticipated – but it still has not received the support it needs to make it out of committee hearings and drafted as a bill to be heard by the General Assembly. It is not expected to be heard during this week’s judiciary committee hearing, which would be the last chance for lawmakers to push the bill through during this session, effectively letting the prospect die until lawmakers inevitably pick up the issue again during the next legislative session.

“There certainly was more people who felt more strongly about it this year than I’ve ever seen,”

Klarides said.

“But I don’t think there was ever an appetite to actually do it this year.”

It doesn’t appear that lawmakers were very convinced from the start that legalization would actually happen – this seems to have been just another chance to get the conversation rolling when it comes to the possibility of legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis.

“I believe that Connecticut is ready for a rational, common-sense approach to the legalization and regulation of marijuana,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.

“States across the country are reaping the financial benefits of marijuana regulation. With our neighbor Massachusetts poised to be the next state to implement a legalization plan, Connecticut is in danger of being left at a financial disadvantage.”

In a state where funding is short by $1.7 million already, legalizing cannabis seems like the perfect way to not only generate that needed revenue, but to implement a law that the citizens approve of and that would benefit far more than just the state’s general fund. Legalization creates jobs, both on an entrepreneurial scale and on an entry-level and hourly level as well by introducing an entirely new industry. It also frees up lots of time and resources for law enforcement and the court system, who can focus on real crimes instead of misdemeanor marijuana possession charges that cause more damage to an individual’s life than could possibly be necessary in most cases.

It’s unfortunate that Connecticut lawmakers are not quite ready to have a real discussion on cannabis – one that would lead to a vote one way or the other – but it has been an opportunity for many people to come out and speak on behalf of the pro-cannabis legislation. Now that the discussion is open, and neighboring states like Massachusetts are working on implementing taxation and regulation laws of their own, maybe there will be more motivation to actually have something pushed through during the next legislative session.

 

Originally published: The Marijuana Times

Massachusetts Approves $300K to Launch Cannabis Industry

Massachusetts Approves $300K to Launch Cannabis Industry

Things might finally be underway to start getting Massachusetts’ cannabis industry up and running – but not without another unique delay. Last Tuesday, the governor signed a budget that allowed $300,000 for the initial funding to get the Cannabis Control Commission in place. Originally Deb Goldberg, who is in charge of getting the commission started, asked for $500,000, but legislature eventually approved only $300,000 instead. The funds have been released now that the budget is in place, but they were allocated incorrectly. Instead of being released to the Treasurer’s office where Goldberg would be able to have access to the funds, they were released to the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.

Realizing that this will delay any further action to implement the Cannabis Control Commission, Goldberg wrote a letter to the Executive Branch of Administration and Finance on Tuesday asking that those funds be released correctly so that they can begin hiring staff and obtaining an establishment, among other things that need to get done to get things off the ground.

“This funding is critical to the continued and timely implementation of (recreational marijuana). Without sufficient resources, I am concerned that the Commonwealth may not be able to meet the various extended deadlines,”

Goldberg wrote in the letter.

Currently there is question among lawmakers on whether or not Goldberg will continue to oversee the commission – as was in the initiative passed by voters – or if the Cannabis Control Commission should be an independent body once it has been formed. Regardless of the eventual decision, Goldberg is the one tasked with getting the commission up and running and those funds are a necessary part of doing so.

Of course, there is also concern that there won’t be enough applicants interested in being on the commission, and that even once funding is released it could be a while before the full commission is actually in place. It is supposed to consist of three individuals, all appointed by the Treasurer, who would then report to the Treasurer in the same way that the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission does.

Sarah Finlaw, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, said, “We’re going to work with the treasurer’s office and transfer the funds over to them.”

Luckily, from the statement from the Executive Office of Administration and Finance we can gather that they are not in any way planning to delay this next move to get the legal cannabis industry running. Even once the commission is in place, there is still the issue of bills being heard in legislature that would change or expand on the law passed by voters, so it will be a few months before any major progress is made. But for the time being, getting this commission in place is an important first step in the right direction.

Originally published: The Marijuana Times

Georgia Patients Will Still Have to Obtain Medical Cannabis Illegally

Georgia Patients Will Still Have to Obtain Medical Cannabis Illegally

After quite a bit of debate in the legislature, a medical marijuana expansion bill has finally been passed by both the House and the Senate. The bill that made it through to the end is a revised version of Senate Bill 16, which had previously been approved by the Senate and saw a couple major revisions during the review in the House when Senator Ben Watson and Representative Allen Peake came to an agreement between their two versions of similar bills. After being approved by the House, the bill went back to the Senate for a final vote where they approved it this week with a vote of 45-6.

The bill originally had allowed patients with autism to possess cannabis oil – adding them to the list that currently allowed cannabis oil for nine different conditions – but it had also attempted to limit the amount of THC in the cannabis oil to 3%, less than the 5% allowed under current law. The House bill had allowed for a much larger number of conditions to be added, and kept the current laws regarding the concentration of THC in the cannabis oil allowed to be possessed by patients. In the end, the two bills were merged, allowing autism, AIDs/HIV, Tourette’s syndrome, and Alzheimer’s, among others – and dropping the 3% provision from the Senate bill.

“Today we’re going to provide more access to Georgians with very specific illnesses,” said Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan. “And we’ll provide doctors more treatment options for patients.”

Even though this legislation does dramatically increase the number of patients who will qualify to possess medical cannabis oil, it doesn’t actually provide a way for patients to access the medicine once a doctor has recommended it. So if Senator Brass – and other lawmakers – really want to make a difference for these patients, providing real access to safe medicine is the next thing they need to consider.

As it stands patients must still obtain the cannabis oil illegally – which leaves them few options and probably adds to the reasons why many patients will continue to go without the medicine they need. Yet another reason is the fact that low THC cannabis oil is not shown to aid as much as high THC cannabis products for many of the conditions that have been on the list, or are being added to the list, of qualifying conditions. However, the fact that they have recognized that medical cannabis can be beneficial to these patients is definitely a step in the right direction.

Now that the bill has been approved by both the House and the Senate it has been sent over to the governor for a signature – but so far the governor’s office has declined to say whether or not Governor Deal intends to sign the bill or not. Hopefully, in a matter of weeks, this medical marijuana expansion bill will become law, and then progressive lawmakers can move on to the next logical step (one that should have been a priority before now), which is providing legal and safe access to medical marijuana within the state of Georgia.

Originally published: The Marijuana Times

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