Jun 042015

In the strongest sign yet that deciders in Washington may soon be ready to undo federal marijuana prohibition, both Democrats and Republicans voted to approve three pro-cannabis budget amendments — and came very close to approving a fourth in support of recreational marijuana. Bipartisan votes approved amendments forbidding Justice Department officials from interfering in state-legal medical cannabis operations, industrial hemp programs, and laws that allow citizens to access products high in CBD (cannabidiol). The biggest day for cannabis in Congress to date led one pro-marijuana lawmaker, Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, to predict that prohibition will be done within five years. The pro-marijuana amendments are all meant to limit the Drug Enforcement Administration’s reach by cutting its budget. All told, about $23 million was cut from the DEA’s budget and shifted to other Justice Department endeavors, like police body cameras and rape kit testing.

Colorado will repeal all taxes on marijuana Sept. 16, thanks to a quirk in the state’s constitution. The impetus is the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which, when triggered by tax over-collection, requires the tax rate to be cut to zero. State lawmakers agreed to eliminate the sales tax for one day to meet the constitutional obligations and then restore it. The tax holiday is expected to cost the state about $100,000 in revenue. The bigger price tag — $3.6 million — is what the state anticipates losing in revenue for a one-day elimination of the 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales from cultivators to retailers. A permanent sales tax break on recreational marijuana takes effect July 2017, lowering the rate from 10 percent to 8 percent. Also in the works is a ballot question this fall. The state will ask voters’ permission to keep the estimated $58 million in pot taxes collected this fiscal year.

The Minnesota Department of Health says only five patients have been certified for the state’s new medical marijuana program so far. Only 30 doctors have registered, and a new poll shows an overwhelming majority are not interested in participating. A survey by the Minnesota Medical Association found only nine percent of doctors say they will take part in the program: 68 percent of them say they won’t participate, and 17 percent are undecided. The figure is significant because patients cannot sign up by themselves — a doctor must enroll them. Some medical practices are wary of attracting too many patients simply in search of cannabis certification. Some have more questions about the drug’s efficacy or possible side-effects. Registration for the program — which begins July 1 — just started on Monday.

More than 100 Alaskans are vying for a spot on the Marijuana Control Board, Alaska’s new regulatory body that will craft the state’s marijuana regulations, according to documents released by the state. Among the list of applicants are marijuana initiative supporters, business owners, a few people who spoke out against the initiative, and the attorney who represented the famous “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case. The 132 applicants are hoping to fill one of five seats on the board. One member will come from the public safety sector; one from the public health sector; one from the marijuana industry; one person either from the general public or the marijuana industry; and one person will be chosen who lives in a rural area. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker will appoint the board, which will then need to be approved by the Legislature. Katie Marquette, Walker’s deputy press secretary, wrote that the response was greater for the Marijuana Control Board than for other seats on state boards.

Cannabis use in the U.K. has almost halved over the past decade, even as marijuana use among 15- to 34-year-olds has grown throughout most of the Europe, according to the annual report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction released Thursday. As Brits are increasingly turning down pot, nations across Europe and states in the United States have begun decriminalizing marijuana-related offenses and use of the drug. The decreased use of pot in the U.K. came as something of a surprise to researchers. In 2003, roughly 19 percent of British 15- to 34-year-olds used cannabis, but only about 11 percent consumed marijuana in 2013, according to the report. The drop in marijuana use could also be attributed to a general decline of smoking in the nation, especially since pot and tobacco are frequently combined in Britain. At the same time, the price of pot in the U.K. has nearly doubled over the past 10 years.