Cannabis News HeadlinesChanging cannabis laws are taking center stage in the US, as 2019 continues to hold strong for the industry.
Marijuana Smell No Longer Grounds for Search According to Vermont Supreme Court
After the decision in favor of a cannabis farmer who was sued for racketeering, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that marijuana odors no longer constitute grounds for a search or seizure of property. This ruling sets and crucial legal precedent in the State and exonerates Greg Zullo, the defendant.
Cannabis possession has been decriminalized in the state since 2013, and recreational cannabis is legal since 2018. The case in point started in March 2014 when Zullo, a 21-year old African-American was pulled over by a state trooper after reportedly smelling “burnt marijuana” inside the vehicle. Although Zullo consented to a search of his person, he did not agree to let the police search his car, which was seized for further investigation. Zullo took his case to the Vermont ACLU, which promptly filed a complaint.
Governor of New York Presents Plan to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed Tuesday his plan to legalize recreational marijuana statewide. Highlights of the governor’s proposal were shared with lawmakers as part of his State of the State address.
According to Cuomo’s plan, the regulation of the cannabis industry in the state will be the responsibility of a state Office of Cannabis Management. This agency would also be responsible for the review of past cannabis convictions. In addition to that, the governor’s plan includes licensing of cultivators, retailers and delivery services. Businesses will be taxed with 20% state tax and an additional 2% local tax will be due on transactions from wholesalers.
Cuomo said in his address: “The how is something that we’re talking about right now … I think you have to look at New Jersey and you have to look at Massachusetts. They are natural competitors in the marketplace.”
For reference, Massachusetts imposes a 17% tax on adult-use cannabis, while New Jersey is also planning on legalizing soon. Cuomo estimates that a legal cannabis industry in the state could bring in more than $300 million per year in tax money.
Illinois Governor to Make Good in Campaign Promise to Legalize Marijuana
New Illinois Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker confirmed in his inaugural address on Monday that he plans on keeping his campaign promises about legalizing marijuana.
“In the interests of keeping the public safe from harm, expanding true justice in our criminal justice system, and advancing economic inclusion, I will work with the legislature to legalize, tax and regulate the sale of recreational cannabis in Illinois,” said Pritzker after taking the oath.
In making cannabis a centerpiece of his campaign, Pritzker followed the example of many newly-elected or reelected state government officials, such as New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Colorado’s Jared Polis. It is expected that the legalization of recreational cannabis in the state would generate more than half a billion in revenue and create more than 20,000 jobs by 2020.
Attorney General Nominee Promises Not to Touch State-Legal Marijuana Programs
Attorney General nominee has pledged in a Senate testimony that he will not use the resources of the Department of Justice to prosecute state-regulated cannabis businesses. The statement came this Tuesday, in response to questions from Democratic Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.
Just a year ago, cannabis businesses across the nation were shocked to learn that former AG Jeff Sessions rescinded the 2013 Cole Memo, putting their operations at risk. This Justice Department memorandum signed by Deputy Attorney General James Cole directed prosecutors not to get involved with licensed businesses and state legalization programs. This move created a friendlier environment for legal companies which still have to operate under federal prohibition.
House to Consider Federal Bill “H.R. 420” To Deschedule Cannabis
On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Oregon), introduced the aptly named bill H.R. 420 to the House of Representatives. If signed into law, the bill will remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and pass on its regulation to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
This is a potentially significant issue for cannabis professionals all over the country, as a wholly decriminalized cannabis would mean access to banking systems and financing. Furthermore, with marijuana out of a legal gray area, funding for research would not be impeded. Finally, this move could also mean the start of interstate cannabis commerce. Oregon, Blumenauer’s home state is already searching for ways to sell its surplus cannabis to its neighbors and its already pushing for a suitable regulatory structure.