Although Congress has adjourned for its August recess, last week saw a number of significant legislative developments in relation to marijuana reform, including: a call by state legislators nationwide for the freedom to regulate cannabis, and the announcement of a new panel to draw up a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in New York state and some noteworthy policy decisions in California.
On Wednesday, state lawmakers from across the nation passed a resolution directing Congress to allow states to regulate marijuana without federal interference. The resolution, which was drafted by Oregon delegates and passed by the National Conference of State Legislators, notes that a majority of states have now legalized medical marijuana and that a growing number have also legalized recreational marijuana for adults. It then urges Congress to remove the threat of prosecution for businesses engaged in state-legal marijuana activities and allow them access to banking services.
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To facilitate these objectives, the directive calls on Congress to remove cannabis from scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act. While the measure has no binding effect on Congress, it offers an indication of the broad support marijuana reform enjoys and could help to convince members of Congress who are uneasy about taking steps toward legalization due to political concerns.
On Thursday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his appointments to a new panel tasked with drafting comprehensive legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The 20-member task force, comprised of criminal justice and drug reform advocates, law enforcement, teachers, academics, substance abuse counselors, and other stakeholders. The move comes in the wake of the release of a New York Department of Health report commissioned by the governor in January to study the impact of a regulated cannabis on public health, criminal justice, and the economy. The report, released in June, found that the positive effects of legalization would significantly outweigh the negative, which was the basis for Como’s convening of the panel.
On July 25, the California Cannabis Control Commission released a memo expressing its stance that the production and sale of marijuana-infused alcoholic beverages remains illegal under state law. While this had been assumed prior to the memo, it had not been stated explicitly as a matter of policy.
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The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday withdrew a ballot proposal to increase taxes on marijuana-related sales. The ballot question would have increased taxes on retail cannabis sales by 1 percent in the city, and imposed a $5 surcharge on tickets to marijuana events and on cannabis lab tests. The move comes as the city began accepting its second round of applications for marijuana business licenses.