Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Fresh Toast Marijuana Legislative Roundup: Sept. 18

Last week’s major marijuana news item was a bit of a shocker: Conservative Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah came out in favor of medical marijuana legislation. Also last week, Nevada’s distribution battles continued and Maine released a draft bill for its recreational marijuana program.  Find out about that more in our weekly marijuana legislative roundup.


On Wednesday, Senator Orrin Hatch announced the introduction of legislation to ease research on medical marijuana. The MEDS Act would streamline the research registration process and increase marijuana availability for research and the production of FDA-approved drugs derived from the plant. It would also require the Attorney General to increase the quota for marijuana cultivation in an expeditious manner to meet the need for marijuana for research, medical, and other purposes.

The MEDS Act was previously introduced in 2016 by Senator Brian Schatz, who is joining Hatch in introducing the 2017 bill. Its reintroduction is in part a response to reports that the Department of Justice is stalling efforts to increase the federal marijuana cultivation quota.   


On Friday, the Nevada Supreme Court issued an injunction prohibiting the Department of Taxation from issuing any more cannabis distribution licenses. The case centers around a provision in the state’s voter-approved recreational cannabis law that grants alcohol distributors exclusive rights to transport marijuana from growers to retailers. The Department determined earlier this year that alcohol distributors alone would be unable to meet demand for recreational marijuana in the state. After a protracted legal battle that led to supply shortages and a steep decline in sales following the July 1 start date, a Carson City judge sided with the Taxation Department, allowing marijuana businesses to apply for the licenses. The Supreme Court’s injunction will last until at least October 3, when oral arguments are set to begin in the case.   

On Monday, the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau issued an opinion clearing the way for marijuana consumption lounges in the state. The opinion, requested by state Senator Tick Segerblom, confirmed that Nevada law does not prohibit the establishment of cannabis lounges or holding events where recreational marijuana is consumed. Las Vegas and other cities had been hoping for such an opinion to give tourists the opportunity to consume cannabis without violating the law, since public consumption is currently illegal in the state.  


On Tuesday, a draft bill to implement Maine’s recreational marijuana law was released. The legislation would increase the tax on cannabis sales from 10 percent to 20 percent and allow dispensaries to sell both recreational and medical marijuana. Enforcement of cannabis laws would fall under the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry would be responsible for regulating marijuana cultivation, testing, manufacturing, and labeling. Maine’s marijuana legalization committee will take up the legislation when it meets later this month. Recreational sales are expected to begin in February 2018 at the earliest.  


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