”Can we do away with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program if we are going to legalize marijuana?” That was the question asked by Republican State Senator Fred Girod in the first meeting between the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, tasked with regulating marijuana under Measure 91, and the state legislature. Girod doesn’t see why the state would need to spend the money on two separate regulatory systems with two sets of personnel. He thinks recreational stores could sell medical marijuana strains. He’d also like to lower the amount of marijuana a household could possess. Measure 91 set that limit at 8 ounces. Democratic State Senator Lee Beyer thinks the Measure 91 vote shows Oregonians’ support for legalization, not necessarily the specifics of Measure 91. His assumption is that most voters “didn’t pay a heck of a lot of attention” to or read all the fine print in the proposal.
Washington’s legal recreational marijuana market is bringing in more tax revenue to the state than originally predicted, state officials said Wednesday. The most recent revenue forecast released by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council shows that the industry is expected to bring in more than $694 million in state revenue through the middle of 2019. A previous forecast in September had that projection at about $636 million. About $237 million is expected for the next two-year budget that ends mid-2017, and $415 million more is expected for the 2017-19 budget biennium. So far, the state has issued 86 retail marijuana licenses, and 70 stores have opened. As of this week, revenue from total sales of recreational marijuana – including between producers, processers and product sold by retailers – totaled more than $40 million, with the state receiving more than $10 million in excise taxes, according to the state Liquor Control Board.
In a move that may be seen more often in coming years, pro-pot advocates in Missouri want to skip the medical marijuana phase and go straight to legalization. Show-Me Cannabis, a Missouri marijuana activist group, filed the petition last week to put a legalization initiative on the 2016 ballot. To earn a place on the ballot, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has to provide his approval, then petition backers can launch a drive to collect 165,000 signatures from registered voters. The group’s director thinks they can do it and he’s not alone. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board published an article on November 13 making its case for legalization. They reference a 2013 ACLU report showing that blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana in Missouri. The numbers get worse when you look at St. Louis, where the disparity in the city was a whopping 18 to 1.
On Thursday, an advisory council for the IRS recommended that tax professionals who help state-recognized, legal marijuana businesses “will not be considered unethical, will not be targeted for audit,” or otherwise penalized simply because pot is illegal under federal law. The tax agency estimates that legal recreational cannabis businesses in Colorado will gross $1 billion this year. Its report said some tax preparers in that state are concerned they could lose their federal licenses by working with such enterprises. “Tax professionals who give that advice need assurance that they will not be adversely affected by the fact that the business is illegal under federal law.” It does not appear that any tax preparers have gotten in trouble over the years merely for working with a legal marijuana business, but CPA groups have been talking with federal officials about providing some sort of formal protection.
While marijuana legalization rolls on in the West and medical marijuana expands in the Northeast, citizens in the middle of the country are still facing cruel punishment. In Pennsylvania this week, a 65-year-old woman who said she sold marijuana to help raise several grandchildren after her daughter died has been sentenced to 15 to 30 months in state prison. She pleaded guilty in October, telling a Butler County judge she sold as much as 100 pounds of marijuana a year for more than four years. And in Illinois, a 40-year-old man is facing felony charges with a possible 6-to-30 year sentence for supplying his 92-year-old grandfather with cannabis oil four times a day in an attempt to treat the elderly man’s prostate cancer. The grandfather has since passed away.