A Colorado state panel warned citizens Monday about the dangers of using the drug during pregnancy, while driving and during adolescence and young adulthood. The report, which was commissioned by the state legislature to clarify sometimes contradictory health information about marijuana, also found preliminary evidence to suggest that legalization in the state had resulted in increased hospitalizations, emergency room visits and poison center calls possibly related to marijuana. Violent criminal behavior is not considered an expected result of marijuana use, and there are inconclusive findings on the permanent effects of marijuana use among adult users. The data on marijuana use rates among youth are contradictory—one 2013 survey found lower high school use than the national average, while another from 2012 and 2013 found higher middle school use than the rest of the country. Medical marijuana has been allowed in Colorado since 2000, and recreational marijuana was legalized in 2014.
Under bills introduced in both houses in Olympia, Washington State would share a chunk of its marijuana tax revenue with cities and counties — but only if they allow approved marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions. It’s an approach that has worked to some degree in Colorado. Washington’s legal pot law, Initiative 502, passed with 56 percent of the vote in 2012. But in many parts of the state — especially in central and eastern Washington — voters opposed it. Officials in many cities have imposed bans on the pot businesses, seeing little reason to let them operate, and courts have upheld their authority to do so. Since legal marijuana stores opened in Washington last summer, the state has collected $20 million in pot taxes. In Colorado, sales and excises taxes on pot hit $50 million in the first year of legal sales, with about $6 million sent back to local governments. But even in Colorado, three-quarters of the state’s 281 cities ban marijuana businesses.
In a move that surprised advocates of the medical marijuana program, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration on Monday announced it would issue most of the coveted licenses to grow and sell the medical product. The move came amid fears Rauner would take months to determine who should be awarded the new state licenses. Patients and medical marijuana advocates lauded the governor for taking swift action on the licenses, allowing the medical marijuana program to gain momentum. Monday’s decision to award 18 medical marijuana farming licenses and 52 selling licenses heartened business owners who had been on both lists, but it dismayed others who had spent thousands on the application process and weren’t selected. If seeds are planted now, Illinois marijuana could be available by summer, though that’s an optimistic timeline that doesn’t take bureaucracy and construction into account, said Dan Linn, executive director of Illinois NORML, a marijuana advocacy group.
President Barack Obama’s nearly $4 trillion federal budget plan unveiled Monday includes fine print that may have major consequences for marijuana legalization in Washington, D.C. Obama’s addition of a single word — “federal” — to his budget proposal may thwart congressional Republicans trying to block marijuana legalization in the district, and would allow the city government to move ahead with local laws regulating and taxing recreational pot. By adding “federal” to his budget, the president forbids “federal funds” from being used to enact any “law, rule, or regulation to legalize” marijuana. That would leave the city free to use local funds to implement pot laws. A White House official explained that the president supports the principle of home rule for Washington and believes Congress should not interfere with local decisions. Washington’s government is mostly autonomous, but the U.S. Constitution gives Congress final say over the District’s laws.
When recreational marijuana becomes legal in Alaska later this month, pot smokers in the capital city will not be able to toke up inside bars. Private clubs might be allowed later, but for now those are off-limits too. That’s because the Juneau Assembly last night unanimously voted to amend the city’s indoor public smoking ban to include pot, despite objections from some marijuana advocates. The statewide initiative voters passed in November already outlaws public consumption of marijuana. The local ordinance makes it explicit that smoking pot is not allowed inside public places in Juneau, where smoking tobacco was already banned. The marijuana initiative goes into effect Feb. 24. The Assembly has formed a special committee to deal with legal pot issues. It will hold its first meeting later this month.