Despite the fact that nearly half the United States has legalized cannabis for medicinal and recreation purposes, lawmakers continue to deny progress as it pertains to the reform of the drug laws that bind us. Sure, there has been an impressive amount of forward momentum, so far, this year, but there remains an unnerving twinge of resistance churning around inside the belly of the America. It is reassuring, however, that a legion of bloody-knuckled activists are still out there swinging even after the bell has sounded. The bout has officially become a full-blown street fight, and soon, we believe, Uncle Sam will find himself curb stomped on the steps of Capitol Hill.
Read all about what went down last week in the High Times Legislative Roundup for April 13:
Federal: Tax Reform Legislation Introduced to Congress
The unjust tax laws surrounding the cannabis industry could be remedied in the near future. Representative Earl Blumenauer and Senator Ron Wyden have plans to introduce a piece of legislation this week in both chambers of Congress that will allow businesses that grow and sell marijuana to be eligible for tax deductions in the same manner as other legitimate commence.
The bill is called the Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2015 and it would essentially establish an exemption to the IRS Code 280E that would allow cannabis-related businesses to take deductions, which are currently not allowed due to their profiting from a Schedule I substance. The passing of this measure would be a huge weight off the backs of the cannabis industry, which is sometimes forced to pay as much as a 90 percent federal income tax rate. This bill would readjust the tax rate to around 20 percent.
Missouri: Marijuana Bills Progressing
Last week, a couple of marijuana-related bills gained momentum in Missouri. The Missouri Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 255, which would enable individuals to cultivate industrial hemp. This is companion legislation for House Bill 830, which was approved last month by the Committee on Economic Development and Business Attraction. These proposals would make it so residents could obtain a license from the state to grow industrial hemp, as long as the herb was no stronger than .03 THC.
In addition, House Bill 800, which aims to legalize a statewide medical marijuana program, received approval by the House Select Committee on General Laws. If passed, the bill would allow for the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana to patients suffering from a restricted number of debilitating conditions. The measure is expected to be sent to the House floor for a vote.
Idaho: CBD Bill Approved by State Legislature
The Idaho Legislature has put their seal of approval on a measure that would allow the possession of a non-intoxicating form of cannabis oil. Earlier last week, the House voted in favor of Senate Bill 1146, which was previously approved in the Senate. The bill now goes before Governor Butch Otter for either his signature or a veto. If signed into law, parents and adult patients would be able to lean on the “medical necessity” defense in court if they happen to get caught in possession of CBD oil. Essentially, the law would not legalize or even decriminalize the substance, only provide patients with a fighting chance against prosecution if they ever find themselves faced with drug possession charges. The bill is really just an example of a cut-rate policy written by lawmakers who are too afraid to take real steps towards providing patients with the medicine they need.
Kansas: Wichita Voters Decide to Decriminalize Marijuana…Sort of
Wichita voters approved an initiative last week to reduce the penalties for offenses pertaining to the possession of marijuana. On Tuesday, 54 percent of the voters sided in favor on lowering the penalties associated with first-time marijuana possession – making it a criminal infraction punishable with a $50 fine rather than being charged as a misdemeanor. Unfortunately, a legal battle is expected to take place before the ordinance can go into effect. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has announced plans to sue the city in an attempt to block the ordinance because it directly conflicts with state law.
Washington: Senate Approves Reduction of Retail Pot Tax
In an attempt to make the prices of legal weed more comparable to the black market, lawmakers have voted for the removal of specific marijuana taxes. Last week, the Washington Senate approved the elimination of the first two levels of excise tax on the recreational marijuana market, while increasing the tax rate at the retail level to 37 percent. As it stands, marijuana is taxed in Washington at a rate of 25 percent each time the product is sold through the distribution chain. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Michigan: Ballot Initiative to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Michigan could be one of the next states to legalize recreational marijuana. The Michigan Cannabis Coalition has submitted a proposal aimed at establishing a statewide cannabis market similar to those in Colorado and Washington. It is now up to the Board of State Canvassers to approve the language of the initiative, which the group hopes will happen without issue. Supporters of the proposal will then be challenged to collect 252,000 signatures before the initiative can be transmitted to the state legislature. If lawmakers fail to take a vote on the issue, the proposal will be automatically added to the ballot in the November 2016 election.
Texas: State Legislature Hates Marijuana Bills
A number of bills aimed at reforming the marijuana laws in the Lone Star State were discussed last week at a Criminal Jurisprudence Committee meeting, but did not achieve much success. Two proposals aimed at decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana was met with resistance even though supporters argued that the rest of the nation was headed in this direction. A second measure, which aims to legalize recreational marijuana, was not met with any enthusiasm at all, while even a restrictive CBD bill to legalize a non-intoxicating form of cannabis oil for epilepsy patients seems to have been completely disregarded. The session is scheduled to end soon, and it appears that none of the proposed legislation will make it out alive.
Tennessee: Medical Marijuana Bill Delayed Until 2016
A bill aimed at legalizing medical marijuana for specific patients has died in committee. Both the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and the House Health Committee failed to come to a decision on a bill aimed at legalizing the herb for certain debilitating conditions. Therefore, the proposal is now considered a dead issue until next year. Although lawmakers were not able to articulate exactly what changes they would like to see made to this particular piece of legislation, most of them agree the bill needs work before it can move forward. Fortunately, there is CBD-only bill still making its way through the legislative channels, but even this restrictive proposal has been met with a great deal of resistance, which could manifest a similar fate.