Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marijuana Decriminalization Bills Continue to Advance in Four New States

Four states recently advanced marijuana rights this month. Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and New Jersey have all passed measures to reclassify minor marijuana offenses. This would decriminalize the offenses and make them punishable by only fines, with no criminal record, jail time, or arrests.

In Hawaii, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 472 which would change marijuana possession from a criminal misdemeanor to an infraction. On March 14th, this Bill was revised to cap fines at no more than $100 for violations for infractions of possessing 20 grams or less of cannabis.

In Maryland, Senate Bill 297 was passed to significantly reduce penalties for non-medical use of marijuana. Under this bill, minor marijuana offenses would be punishable by only a fine of $100, instead of the current penalty of $500 and up to 90 days in jail. The bill will now go before the House on March 28th at 1pm.

New Hampshire
New Hampshire House members recently voted in favor of House Bill 621 that would decriminalize marijuana possession offenses and make them an infraction, punishable by only a fine. Currently, New Hampshire's law punishes those found guilty of marijuana possession up to 1 year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

New Jersey
Assembly Bill 1465 took one step further in New Jersey and now awaits action by the Senate. This would decriminalize possessing up to 50 grams of marijuana. Possessing up to 50 grams of marijuana is currently punishable by up to 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and a criminal record .

The majority of voters continue to support pot reform and polls found that 6 out of 10 voters favored removing criminal penalties for first time marijuana possession offenders. Currently, 15 states have now decriminalized marijuana possession to a fine-only offense.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Washington Pot Bill Would Tax Premium Marijuana Strains

A bill is being introduced in the state of Washington that would tax marijuana brand names and trademarks. This bill was heard by the House Finance Committee and it calls for a marijuana tax of $3.60 per $1,000 on all trademarks, trade names, patents and copyright marijuana strains. This would be in addition to the 25% tax that will be assessed at each stage of the marijuana process, including the selling, growing, and processing of marijuana.

"I think that this reflects the uniqueness of the situation. What was the value of Marlboro as a trade name back when it was filed as a trade name or brand name?”
                                      ---Jeff Morris, Washington Democratic Representative

The bill specifies that this specific tax revenue would go into a special fund for agricultural research, specifically research for health benefits. Some of this research includes research that is currently being done at Washington State University to create plasma from wheat to make gluten-free wheat. Although Morris was quick to point out that this tax was not meant to replace state funding of research, only to enhance it.

At the present time, the amount of this tax's potential revenue is unknown, mostly due to the fact that this industry does not yet exist and the federal government may still block Washington's pot law from actually taking effect.