Last week in marijuana news, Nevada officials are still struggling to solve the distribution issue. In Washington State, the battle for homegrown cannabis rages on. Some Alaska jurisdictions voted to ban marijuana business and Atlanta decriminalized possession of small amounts of weed. Find out about that more in our weekly marijuana legislative roundup.
On Tuesday, the Nevada Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a dispute over the right to transport recreational cannabis in the state. A unique provision of Nevada’s voter-approved legalization measure grants alcohol distributors exclusive rights to transport recreational cannabis from growers to retailers for the first 18 months. However, the Department of Taxation ruled earlier this year that there was insufficient interest among alcohol distributors to meet demand for the plant.
In response, a group of alcohol wholesalers sued the state, arguing that it had violated regulatory protocol in making its determination. A protracted court battle caused supply shortages and a precipitous drop in sales as retailers struggled to keep up with demand following the July 1 start of recreational sales. A Carson City judge eventually sided with the Department of Taxation, giving the agency authority to issue distributor licenses to businesses other than alcohol wholesalers.
In September, the Nevada Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by the alcohol wholesalers, and issued an injunction prohibiting the state from granting distribution licenses to any non-alcohol wholesalers until the Court rules on the case. Given the complexity of the case, Justice Michael Sommermeyer said that the justices will likely need several months to reach a determination. In the meantime, retailers are once again reporting significant supply shortages, imperiling the state’s fledgling cannabis industry.
On Wednesday, the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board held its first hearing on the issue of home marijuana cultivation for adult use. Unlike some other states that have legalized recreational marijuana, Washington’s cannabis law only permits authorized medical marijuana patients to grow the plant at home. However, that could change in the near future, with the Board considering three different options for legal home cultivation.
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The first proposal would allow home cultivation with a permit and mandatory use of the state’s marijuana inventory tracking system. Another proposal would allow home cultivation without participation in the tracking system, while granting localities the authority to impose additional restrictions. The last option would continue the state’s ban on home marijuana grows. The board is required to submit its recommendations to the legislature by December 1.
On Tuesday, voters in Fairbanks and surrounding areas voted to reject local bans on recreational marijuana businesses. The two separate ballot initiatives would have forced all retailers, growers, and other cannabis operations to close within 90 days in one of the state’s largest cultivation hubs. Home cultivation and personal consumption would have remained legal if the measures had passed. The 2014 legalization measure approved by Alaska voters grants municipalities the authority to ban recreational marijuana businesses.
On Monday, the Atlanta City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Possession of an ounce of marijuana in the city is currently punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Under the new law, jail time will be eliminated and the fine will be reduced to $75. Atlanta’s mayor has said he will sign the legislation.