Texas Lawmakers Attempt to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession… Denver Officially Legalizes Social Use… Tennessee A.G.ttempts too Bring Down the Hammer on Cities That Have Decriminalized.
Read all about it in the HIGH TIMES weekly Legalization Roundup for November 21:
What: Time to Decriminalize?
Texas lawmakers will try to eliminate the criminal penalties associated with small time marijuana crimes in the 2017 legislative session. Democratic State Rep. Joe Moody recently introduced House Bill 81, a measure aimed at decriminalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by replacing the criminal penalties with a $250 fine—no jail time, no criminal record. As of now, anyone busted for this offense can spend up to 180 days in jail and pay fines reaching $2000. Although the bill is expected to have more support in the House than a similar measure did back in 2015, it is still too early to tell whether it stands a chance at being passed. So far, Governor Greg Abbott has not said whether the bill has his support.
What: Denver Legalizes Cannabis Cafes
Cannabis cafes are going to emerge throughout Denver. Last week, 53 percent of the voters approved Initiative 300, putting a new pilot program into place that will allow the city to test the concept of social marijuana use over the course of the next few years. The new ordinance will allow businesses that already have a license to operate within the Denver city limits to apply for a separate permit that gives them the freedom to set up a “designated consumption area” for cannabis. Some believe this will lead to restaurants and bars chiseling out a portion of their facilities to cater to marijuana users. However, sources close to the campaign recently told HIGH TIMES that while “this could apply to some bars and restaurants… it could actually be any type of business such as a cafe, coffee shop, music venue, arcade, yoga studio, movie theater” and “even a laundromat.” The pilot program is set to run until 2020. At that point, city officials will determine whether a more permanent policy should be put into place.
What: Admitting Defeat
The folks behind Arizona’s Proposition 205, an initiative aimed at fully legalizing marijuana, came forward last week to admit defeat after the proposal failed to pass in the recent election. In a statement issued by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, chairman J.P. Holyoak thanked the more than one million voters who came out in support of Proposition 205.
“We are disappointed the initiative came up short, but we are encouraged by the impressive amount of support it received given this was the first time voters had considered such a proposal,” he said. “Marijuana has been illegal for decades, so we knew this was going to be an uphill battle. We ran a positive, fact-based campaign that fostered a much-needed public dialogue about this subject, and we are confident it will lend to positive change in the future.
“This year’s election did not close the book on marijuana prohibition in Arizona, but the writing on the wall could not be clearer,” Holyoak added. “It is too soon to provide any specific details, but we intend to continue fighting in support of sensible marijuana policy reform. Thanks to the gains we made with the Prop. 205 campaign, we are confident that Arizona will be among the next round of states to end prohibition and start regulating marijuana like alcohol.”
While full legalization passed in four other states (though Maine in looking at a recount; see next item), including neighboring Nevada, an enormous financial advantage on the anti side in the last weeks of the campaign kept Arizona out of the win column. It will likely be at least another four years before a similar marijuana legalization initiative is put in front of the voters.
What: Will There Be a Recount?
Maine voters approved an initiative in the recent election aimed at fully legalizing marijuana throughout the state. However, opposing forces have demanded a recount of the votes for Question 1, which is said to have passed by a margin of 4400 votes.
Supporters behind the legalization effort believe the move is just a waste of time and tax dollars.
“The results of the election are clear and the people have spoken,” David Boyer, Campaign Manager for Yes on 1, told HIGH TIMES in a statement. “We won by thousands of votes, and a recount won’t change that. It’s unfortunate the opposition would go against the will of the people and waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on a recount that will do nothing to change the outcome of the election.”
What: The Renegade A.G.
Nashville and Memphis passed citywide ordinances earlier this year decriminalizing the possession of marijuana in small amounts. But Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery claims the ordinances “cannot stand” and are unenforceable. In a recent opinion, Slatery said the two cities could not adjust the penalties for those caught possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana because that goes against the grain of state law.
“A municipal ordinance that attempts to regulate a field that is regulated by state statute cannot stand if it is contradictory to state law,” Slatery wrote. “An ordinance that makes possession of one-half ounce or less of marijuana a municipal offense and allows an officer to issue a municipal civil citation in lieu of a criminal warrant is not permissible.”
Although Memphis is cowering to the state, Nashville’s mayor is challenging the matter. The AG’s opinion has since been referred to the Metro Department of Law for guidance. Tennessee NORML expects Nashville will fight this argument to the bitter end.
What: Medical Marijuana Biggest Issue in 2017
After spending the past year trying to determine whether medical marijuana would be good for the state, a special committee appointed to study the issue has given up. During a recent hearing, the Utah State Legislature’s interim Health and Human Services said while “the issue is significant, but that more time is needed to develop solutions and consensus.” Fortunately, this does not mean that medical marijuana is doomed to be debated within the halls of the State Capitol in 2017 – it is one of the biggest issues of the upcoming session. Reports indicate there will be around five bills introduced aimed at legalizing a medical marijuana program. There is also speculation that a ballot measure will be launched, if lawmakers cannot finally come together on this topic in the next session.
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