Chronicle AM: MedMJ Moves in NJ, PA; Initiative News from CA, MS, OH; Pot Sentencing Reform in LA, More (6/30/15)

It looks like ResponsibleOhio will qualify for the November 2015 ballot, activists in California and Massachusetts move forward with their initiative campaigns, the New Jersey legislature passes a bill to let sick kids use CBD cannabis oil in school, and more. 

Initiative season is upon us. (reformca.com)
Marijuana Policy

California Legalization Initiative Okayed for Signature-Gathering. The Responsible Use Act has been cleared for signature-gathering. It has 180 days to collect 365,880 valid voter signatures, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The act is one of four legalization initiatives that have been filed so far this year; a fifth is expected to drop later this summer. This act would set a retail tax of $8 an ounce on dried buds.

Louisiana Governor Signs Marijuana Sentencing Reform Law. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has signed into law a bill that would reform the state's marijuana sentences—the harshest in the nation. First time possession was punishable by up to six months in jail; now the maximum will be 15 days. Second offense possession was a felony punishable by up to five years in prison; now it's a misdemeanor punishable by six months. Third time was punishable by up to 20 years; now it remains a felony, but the max is only two years.

Massachusetts Activists Release Second Draft of Legalization Initiative. Bay State Repeal has submitted a second draft of its legalization initiative for informal review by the state attorney general's office. The current draft of the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 and over and envisions a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. The Bay State Repeal effort is one of two potential legalization initiatives; the other is supported by the Marijuana Policy Project.

Ohio Legalization Initiative Turns In Twice the Number of Needed Signatures. The controversial but well-financed initiative to create an oligarchy of sanctioned commercial marijuana growers as part of overall legalization scheme turned in more than 695,000 voter signatures today. ResponsibleOhio only needs 305,000 valid signatures to qualify for the November 2015 ballot. At least two other groups are seeking signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Legislature Approves Bill Allowing Sick Kids to Use CBD Cannabis Oil in School. The state Senate Monday approved the bill; an identical version had already passed the House. Now it's up to Gov. Christ Christie (R) to sign it.

Compromise Medical Marijuana Bill Filed in Pennsylvania. Rep. Ron Marisco (R-Dauphin) and several cosponsors have filed House Bill 1432, which would allow for the limited use of medical marijuana. The move comes as a measure that passed the Senate, Senate Bill 3, has been stuck in the House.

New Synthetic Drugs

DC City Council Considers Harsher Penalties for Synthetic Drugs. The council is set to consider emergency legislation that would allow the DC Metro Police chief to temporarily close businesses that sell synthetic drugs. The move comes after the city has seen a spike in overdoses and bad reactions linked to the new synthetics. The measure would let the city close businesses for up to four days and fine them up to $10,000.

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Bay State Repeal

Bay State Repeal (BSR), the ballot question committee aiming to draft the least restrictive citizen initiative, filed its second draft for informal review of what may become its initiative petition with the Office of the Attorney General today.  The Governor’s Office, Senate President Rosenberg, House Speaker DeLeo, Senator Lewis (chair and only member of the Special Committee on Marijuana), the Senate and House Majority and Minority leaders and the sponsors of H. 1561 received copies of BSR’s second draft.

BSR’s second public draft, the “Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act” includes the first draft’s provisions for keeping marijuana out of the hands of children.  It expressly requires sellers of marijuana to collect the sales tax and is more concise than the first draft.

BSR chair Maddy Webster explained, “The proposed law authorizes persons over the age of 21 to legally possess and cultivate marihuana for their personal use and that of their household members and guests beginning the day after the election results are certified.  As soon as licensed medical marihuana dispensaries register under the sales tax law they will be able to sell it to persons over the age of 21 who are not registered medical users.  They will have to collect the sales tax on such sales and pay income tax on any profit from those sales.”

Attorney Steven S. Epstein, BSR’s primary drafter, calls the second draft, “the product of feedback from the Attorney General’s Office to our first draft, comments received from interested persons and made in the media.  The most frequent complaint was that the age at which one may exercise the right should be 18.  BSR has this complaint under advisement.  We continue to welcome suggestions.”

Bay State Repeal treasurer Bill Downing adds, “In Colorado where the effective tax rate is about 30% they recently voted to reduce the special marijuana sales tax from 10% to 8% which result in only a small decrease in the effective rate, too small to curb the black market.   We’re doing it right the first time with a simple and reasonable regulation and a sales tax that people will understand and be willing to pay.”

Andy Gaus, also of Bay State Repeal, has this to say: “Politicians complain to journalist that citizen initiatives make sloppy legislation. That’s not true of this initiative. It is thoroughly grounded and integrated into Massachusetts law.”

Bay State Repeal member Terry Franklin agrees: ” Though long overdue, it is wonderful that the citizens of Massachusetts will finally get to vote on ending prohibition.”

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Bay State Repeal, PO Box 211, Reading, MA 01867
Maddy Webster, Chair      William Downing, Treasurer      Massachusetts OCPF # 95399

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