Mar 232015

The Russ Belville Show #558 420RADIO News – Colorado Sends $16M in Pot Tax Revenue to Schools [2015-03-23 Mon]

The Colorado state marijuana excise tax brought in more than $2 million for school construction projects in January, and when the state starts awarding grants for projects this summer the tax will contribute about $16 million.  That’s as much as the total given out by the Building Excellent Schools Today (or BEST) Grant Program all last year, according to Scott Newell, Capital Construction Director for the Colorado Department of Education. “This year we’re going to give out $50 million in grants and we expect to be at that level for the next few years.”  The state also is readying another $2.5 million from pot taxes so interested schools can hire health professionals.  Next year, officials estimate the pot contribution to the BEST grants will be about $10 million.  The marijuana excise tax — which is 15 percent on unprocessed recreational pot sales on its first sale – — netted about $3 million from January through June 30.

Massachusetts legislators are working on a marijuana legalization proposal, in part as an effort to short-circuit an expected 2016 ballot push.  Advocates have long planned an initiative petition to legalize the personal use of the drug for adults, and political analysts have expected that measure to pass in the next presidential election year.  The legislators would rather write the proposed law themselves, allow for lots of public input, and have final say on the scope and details.  Opposition from top officials could doom a legislative push. Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston all oppose legalizing marijuana for personal use.  Strong majorities approved measures that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2008 and allowed its use for medical purposes in 2012. In 2016, political analysts expect legalization to get on the ballot and pass into law.

A Louisiana legislator has proposed putting marijuana legalization to a statewide vote during the presidential election in 2016.  Rep. Dalton Honore, D-Baton Rouge, has filed legislation to put possession, distribution and dispensing of marijuana and its derivatives on the Louisiana ballot Nov. 8, 2016. Voters would be deciding on not only the presidential race, but also congressional seats that day as well.  Honore said marijuana criminal charges have ruined too many lives in Louisiana. As of June 2013, 1,372 Louisianians were serving sentences for simple marijuana possession. The average sentence is 8.4 years. More than 78 percent of these offenders are black.  Honore has heard privately from several legislators who support marijuana legalization, but don’t feel they can openly vote for its approval. But he thinks some of these lawmakers might be able to vote for an bill that would let the voters decide how they feel about the drug.

Non-euphoric pot may nudge forward in the Florida Legislature this year, but the window for a full-fledged medical marijuana system has all but slammed shut.  A bill by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, that would allow broad use of medical marijuana has not been scheduled for a committee hearing. Neither has a companion House bill and the deadline for that is today. Nor has leadership in either chamber made marijuana a high priority.  Brandes’ bill would have allowed doctors to qualify patients with several diagnoses and symptoms — including pain — and would have allowed treatment with any strain of marijuana.  But so far, the Legislature seems more focused on implementing a limited system of non-euphoric pot often called “Charlotte’s Web,” which desperate parents want for children with severe seizures.  In a fund-raising letter Friday, United for Care told supporters that news from Tallahassee “ain’t looking good.”

A Tennessee medical marijuana bill being carefully drawn for the first time by Republican state lawmakers will not allow recipients to smoke cannabis.  Instead, those drafting the legislation say the measure would allow the cannabis to be ingested or applied externally through oil.  Last week, the two Republican bill sponsors, Rep. Ryan Williams of Putnam County and Nashville M.D. Sen. Steve Dickerson, indicated that the medical marijuana bill would be “limited” in scope.  Capitol Hill lobbyist David McManhan, whose firm has been hired to help guide the controversial bill through the Republican-dominated legislature, called it a “carefully controlled measure with a limited delivery method.”  He said the medical marijuana bill would aim to help people with conditions such as glaucoma or MS, but “not those with chronic pain or PTSD.”  McManhan added the bill will be crafted “so conditions can’t be faked or gamed.”