New Hampshire may soon join other New England states in loosening the law when it comes to marijuana possession. The Committee on Criminal Justice voted overwhelmingly Thursday to support a measure making it a violation, rather than a criminal offense, to possess a half-ounce or less of marijuana. Under current law, possession of an ounce of marijuana or less is a Class A misdemeanor that carries with it a possible year in jail. “We should be better spending our limited time and resources, and on top of that, the New Hampshire Constitution says the penalty ought to fit the crime,” said Rep. Adam Shroadter. Under Shroadter’s bill, possession of a half-ounce would carry a penalty of a $100 fine for the first offense. A recent WMUR poll showed that 71 percent of New Hampshire adults either favored loosening the current law or legalizing marijuana altogether.
Local officials in Eastern Washington asked legislators to consider the subject of pot lounges. Wednesday evening, a lobbyist for Spokane Valley asked the House Finance Committee to add restrictions on marijuana lounges to the wide array of changes it is considering for medical and recreational pot. That committee is considering changes to the tax system the voters slapped on recreational marijuana, which currently charges a 25 percent excise tax each time the drug moves from a grower to a separate processor and then to a retailer. Members of the Washington Cannabusiness Association support the proposed change for the state to levy a single 30 percent sales tax at the retail level. Medical marijuana dispensaries would either have to be licensed by the state or close under that proposal and a separate one that has passed the Senate and received a hearing Thursday morning in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
This weekend, North Bonneville, Washington, will become home to what is apparently the nation’s only city-owned pot shop, The Cannabis Corner. While most cities around the state have spent the past two years either banning marijuana businesses or reviewing applications for new private stores, the city of North Bonneville took a different route, diving right into the industry. The city operates with an annual budget of about $1.2 million. But North Bonneville is still working to recover from several years of severe budget cuts that hit timber-dependent counties. Perhaps the most similar business model to The Cannabis Corner can be found all the way out in Minnesota. More than 200 cities throughout Minnesota own liquor stores. On an annual basis, the stores generate about $300 million in sales and roughly $20 million in net profits, according to the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association. All profits go directly back into local municipal budgets.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott will not seek U.S. Supreme Court review of a law that would have required applicants for welfare benefits to submit to mandatory drug testing. The law, a top priority of the Republican governor’s first term, was ruled unconstitutional by two federal courts. American Civil Liberties Union of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said this means those court rulings invalidating the 2011 law will stand. The 11th Circuit found that only about 2.6 percent of Florida welfare applicants failed the drug test during the four months the law was in effect, almost half for marijuana use. Another of Scott’s drug-testing priorities, an executive order requiring random drug tests for thousands of state workers, was also struck down by a Miami federal judge. The 11th Circuit, however, reversed part of that ruling, concluding that some categories of workers in sensitive jobs could be subjected to such tests.
The South Island of New Zealand is in the midst of its most severe cannabis shortage in 15 years. A local cannabis cultivator, who refused to be named, said yesterday the shortage was “a nightmare for consumers” who could not source cannabis at any price. Abe Gray, curator of a New Zealand cannabis museum, said the “acute” shortage of marijuana meant there was “not a single tinny of cannabis for sale” in the entire South Island and supplies in Auckland were also affected. Gray said he was not sure what had caused the shortage, but “significant” police operations had taken several tons out of the market. The grower said his own crops were “doing OK” and resisting the drought, despite being stunted by a lack of rain in December. Cannabis plants had deep roots and resisted drought better than grass.