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Washington Supreme Court Strikes Down Criminalization of Drug Possession
Washington State’s felony penalties against drug possession abruptly disappeared on Thursday after the state Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional. As lawmakers decide how to respond to the decision—with a bill to decriminalize all drugs having already passed a legislative committee earlier this month—some police departments and prosecutors have now announced they’ll no longer arrest or pursue cases against people over possession of small amounts.
Simple drug possession “is no longer an arrestable offense,” the Seattle Police Department said in a public statement following the ruling. “Effective immediately, officers will no longer detain nor arrest individuals” merely for having drugs.
The ruling in the case, State v. Blake, applies only to possession of controlled substances. Other state drug laws, such as those against selling or driving under the influence of drugs, are unaffected.
Disagreements Threaten Virginia Marijuana Legalization Deal as Deadline Approaches
With a Saturday deadline approaching, state lawmakers in the House and Senate are still working to resolve differences over landmark legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana in Virginia.
According to five sources familiar with the talks, the primary point of contention is language sought by the Senate that would delay decisions about how the new market is regulated until next year. Members of the chamber said during hearings last month they felt the legislation was too expansive and complex to complete work on during the 45-day session.
Lawmakers in the House have resisted, arguing the delay is unnecessary, citing in-depth studies conducted by legislative analysts and Northam’s administration. House lawmakers have also expressed discomfort about voting to legalize the drug without finalizing plans for a legal marketplace, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations.
Kansas Governor’s Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced as Lawmakers Take Up Separate Legalization Proposal
A bill championed by the governor of Kansas to legalize medical marijuana and use the resulting revenue to expand healthcare was officially introduced on Wednesday. The move comes as lawmakers held back-to-back hearings on separate reform legislation this week.
Laura Kelly: “By combining broadly popular, common sense medical marijuana policy that will generate significant revenue with Medicaid expansion, all logical opposition to expansion is eliminated.”
Under Woodard’s bill, a draft version of which was shared with Marijuana Moment, there would be 21 medical conditions that qualify patients for cannabis—including cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic or intractable pain—and regulators would be able to add additional conditions later.
The bill prohibits smoking or vaping cannabis. And it sets a 35 percent THC limit for marijuana flower. Home cultivation by patients would not be allowed.
Montana Lawmakers Weigh Bill to Limit Marijuana Businesses
Montana Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, R-Great Falls, is sponsoring House Bill 568, which would allow roughly 115 marijuana dispensaries in the state—or not more than one per 10,000 people in a county, but 10 maximum—compared to the 355 medical dispensaries that are currently open.
The bill would also limit dispensaries to be no closer than 1,000 feet from a school, daycare, place of worship, park or playground.
As part of her argument in favor of the bill, Rep. Sheldon-Galloway pointed to the relatively high use of marijuana among Great Falls middle and high school students compared to the state average.
No members of the public spoke in favor of the legislation before the House Business and Labor Committee.
Wednesday, the committee heard a separate bill related to medical marijuana, House Bill 582, which would prevent an employer from barring a person from using medical marijuana off the job for a medical condition.
The committee did not take action on either bill on Wednesday.
IRS Chief Says Agency Would ‘Prefer’ If Marijuana Businesses Could Pay Taxes Electronically
The head of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) told Congress this week that the federal agency would “prefer” for state-legal marijuana businesses to be able to pay taxes electronically, as the current largely cash-based system under federal cannabis prohibition is onerous and presents risks to workers.
During an oversight hearing before the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on Tuesday, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig was asked about the lack of banking access for marijuana businesses and what steps could be done to normalize the market.
Charles Rettig: “The IRS would prefer direct deposits moreso than receiving actual cash payments. It’s a security issue for the IRS. It’s a security issue for our employees in our taxpayer assistance centers, [which] is actually where we receive these payments.”