Colorado collected about $76 million in recreational and marijuana pot revenue in 2014. The year-end report, released Tuesday, tallied about $44 million in new sales taxes and excise taxes from recreational pot. Add fees and pre-existing taxes from medical pot, which has been legal since 2000, and Colorado’s total 2014 pot haul was about $76 million. Colorado started selling recreational weed on Jan. 1, 2014. But its first month of sales resulted in only $1.6 million for the state. By December, that figure was $5.4 million. The reason for the increase? Regulatory delays. Things will speed up as more states legalize pot and can look to Colorado and Washington for regulatory guidance. Washington and Colorado set vastly different tax rates, both based on a percentage of the pot’s value. Alaska and Oregon, both still working on retail regulations — will tax marijuana by weight, similar to how tobacco is taxed.
State regulators have issued the first license to grow industrial hemp in Oregon, but the farmer is still looking for seeds to plant. Growers will have to import seed to grow the state’s first crop of hemp, but it’s not clear from where. Canada, Russia, Hungary, Australia and New Zealand are mentioned as possible import sources for. Officials at the state Department of Agriculture and at Oregon State University say they are working with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration on the question of getting seed — a question faced last year by two states in the forefront of efforts to bring hemp into commercial production. In Kentucky, the state Agriculture Department sued to get the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to release seeds imported from Italy. In Colorado, state regulators looked the other way as growers obtained seeds on their own.
A pro-marijuana group is suing the police who lead the fight against drugs in Missouri. The organization Show-Me Cannabis wants drug task forces to comply with the state’s open records law. The group is suing task forces in St. Louis and Kansas City and one in Mid-Missouri. John Payne, the executive director of Show-Me Cannabis, said he thinks there should not be multi-jurisdictional drug task forces. Payne feels these groups are focusing on marijuana busts more than other drugs because it is easier and there is often more money to seize. Audrain County Sheriff Stuart Miller who is on the board of directors for the East Central Drug Task Force, replied in a statement, “We have, in the past, obtained legal counsel advising that our Executive Board meetings are not open to the public when discussing topics such as current criminal investigations, criminal intelligence information, personnel matters, and legal issues.”
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said he will take a “hard look” at the case of a 61-year-old man serving life in prison for marijuana. Jeff Mizanskey’s marijuana case is gaining worldwide attention with more than 386,000 signatures, online, appealing to Nixon for a pardon. Mizanskey was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1996 for marijuana possession and distribution. A Pettis County judge gave Mizanskey the toughest sentence possible through Missouri’s version of the “three-strikes” law for drug crimes. At the time of his sentencing, Mizanskey had two other marijuana convictions on his record. Missouri’s version of the three strikes drug law, called the “prior and persistent offender” statute, will go away in 2017, allowing the possibility of parole or probation for third-time offenders. The latest numbers from the United States Sentencing Commission show marijuana traffickers only spend an average of 34 months in prison. Mizanskey has already served 21 years.
Several hundred converged on the Capitol for “The Rally in Tally” on the heels of House legislation filed Tuesday in companion to a Senate medical marijuana bill. The bills lay out a regulatory structure for patients, doctors, growers and retail stores and allow patients access to the plant if their doctor approves an appropriate need. The push for legislation comes after a constitutional amendment narrowly failed in November with 58 percent support, just shy of the 60 percent needed. The House bill differs from the Senate proposal in that it gives the option for non-smokable marijuana and specifies the medical conditions patients would be approved for. Jeff Sharkey, a lobbyist for the Medical Marijuana Business Association, said the appetite to discuss marijuana has changed in the Legislature. “The legislature is recognizing that it’s not radioactive,” Sharkey said. “They’re finding that a lot of people — conservative, liberal, in the middle — think that this would be a good opportunity for folks who have serious illnesses.”