The legislative battle for cannabis reform continues across the nation. In Denver, public cannabis consumption in a coffee shop got the go-ahead. But in Vermont, the aroma of smoked marijuana could be categorized as a “public nuisance.”
On Monday, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission voted to delay licensing for recreational cannabis delivery services and social-use lounges until this autumn, while moving forward with a regulatory package designed to meet a July 1 deadline for the start of recreational sales. The Commission voted to remove licensing for cannabis home deliveries, social-use venues, and “mixed-use” venues, such as movie theaters and yoga studios, where small amounts of marijuana could be sold for consumption on the premises but whose income is derived primarily from non-marijuana sources.
Massachusetts was poised to become the first state to license cannabis lounges, or “cafes,” where patrons could consume marijuana in a social setting. The move comes after harsh criticism from Gov. Charlie Baker and state District Attorneys, who argued that such licenses were beyond the scope of the recreational cannabis law approved by voters in 2016 and that these businesses would pose a unique threat to public health and safety.
Lawmakers in the Vermont House of Representatives are considering a bill that would empower municipalities to punish marijuana odor as a “public nuisance.” Under the proposed legislation, which is supported by Gov. Phil Scott’s marijuana commission, cities and towns would be allowed to impose fines if a cannabis odor is emitted from a private residence. It is already illegal to consume marijuana in public under the legalization measure signed into law earlier this year. Starting July 1, adults 21 and older will be allowed to possess and consume up to an ounce of marijuana, and grow up to six plants of varying maturities at home. A vote is expected on the public nuisance bill soon.
Another bill under consideration in the Vermont House would allow police to use roadside saliva tests for marijuana on drivers who seem impaired. If the test is positive, it would be considered grounds for requiring a more precise blood test. Saliva tests cannot detect whether a driver is impaired by cannabis, and could return a positive result long after any marijuana was consumed. The bill was recently passed by the House Transportation Committee and now faces approval by the Judiciary Committee before going to a vote of the full House.
On Monday, the city of Denver granted the nation’s first social-use recreational cannabis license under a pilot program approved by voters in 2016. The license was granted to a café named The Coffee Joint. Denver was the first city to allow such businesses, though the regulations are so restrictive that only one other business has applied for licensing. Patrons will now be allowed to consume cannabis products on the premises, but smoking remains illegal under state law.
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The Coffee Joint will not be allowed to sell any marijuana products. Certain medical marijuana dispensaries in California have allowed smoking areas on the premises for several years and some of these were recently granted recreational cannabis licenses.
On Thursday, the Illinois Senate voted 37-13 in favor of a bill to put a marijuana legalization question on the ballot in November. If passed by the House and signed by the governor, the bill would place a non-binding referendum on the ballot asking voters whether recreational marijuana should be legalized for adults.
Non-binding referendums are often used by state legislatures to gauge public support for contentious political issues. Gov. Bruce Rauner is an outspoken critic of marijuana legalization, so it is unclear whether he would sign the bill.