Criminal justice reform took center stage last week in the cannabis world. In Seattle and Vermont, some marijuana offenses can be expunged from the record of those convicted. In Massachusetts, the waiting game continues, and in Arizona, legalization may return to the ballot. Find out about more in our weekly marijuana legislative roundup.
On Friday, the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association sent a letter to the state Cannabis Control Commission urging regulators to postpone plans to legalize certain types of marijuana businesses. The letter argued that cannabis delivery services, social-use lounges, and so-called “mixed-use” venues were beyond the scope of the recreational cannabis law approved by voters and that such businesses pose a unique threat to public safety.
Under the regulatory package being considered by the Commission, the state would allow licensed businesses to deliver small amounts of marijuana to customers. The rules also provide for marijuana consumption at licensed social-use venues such as cafes, and sale of small amounts of cannabis products at other types of businesses, such as movie theaters, whose primary source of income is derived from sources other than marijuana sales.
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The letter is similar to one submitted by Governor Charlie Baker, in which he urged the Commission to focus on licensing retailers, growers, and other core businesses to get recreational marijuana sales off the ground by a July 1 deadline. The rules are expected to be finalized next month.
On Thursday, officials in Seattle announced that the city would automatically clear prior convictions for minor marijuana offenses. The policy would apply to all such convictions in the city since 1997, when the state legislature mandated that misdemeanor marijuana charges be tried at the municipal level, rather than in county district courts.
The city stopped prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana crimes altogether in 2010, when City Attorney Pete Holmes came to office on an outspokenly pro-legalization platform. The announcement follows similar moves by officials in San Francisco and San Diego.
Last week, lawmakers in Vermont introduced legislation that would make it easier to expunge minor marijuana offenses. The measure would allow anyone convicted of possession of up to two ounces of cannabis to begin the expungement process immediately after serving their sentence.
Under current law, those convicted of marijuana offenses must wait five years before pursuing expungement. Vermont recently legalized possession and home cultivation of small amounts of cannabis. The Governor’s office said it is still reviewing the proposal.
On Thursday, lawmakers in the Arizona House of Representatives unveiled legislation to place recreational cannabis legalization on the ballot again this year. If passed by the House and Senate, the bill would place a question on the November ballot asking whether small amounts of marijuana should be legal for adults 21 and older in the state.
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The measure would legalize adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivation of up to six plants at home. Public consumption would be banned and municipalities would be able to prohibit marijuana businesses within their jurisdictions. The state’s medical marijuana laws would remain intact. Arizona voters narrowly voted down a similar referendum in 2016.