Marijuana news briefs: Chuck Grassley steps down from Judiciary committee, Mass. opens for business, and Utahns challenge the Mormon church over cannabis
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa announced that he would step down as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley is an ardent opponent of marijuana legalization. As Judiciary chairman Grassley refused to allow any marijuana bills come to a vote.
Next in line for the seat is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Graham is not known as a marijuana advocate but is significantly more open-minded about cannabis reform and has cosponsored legislation to protect legal medical states from federal interference, down-schedule cannabis, and remove CBD from the list of federally banned substances altogether.
In 2016 Graham supported an amendment to prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical cannabis laws.
Massachusetts to begin recreational cannabis sales on Tuesday
Two stores in Massachusetts will start selling recreational cannabis to customers on Tuesday after the state’s marijuana regulatory agency, the Cannabis Control Commission, authorized operations to begin in three calendar days. Previously, recreational sales were set to start in July.
Voters in Massachusetts legalized the use of recreational marijuana in 2016. The target date for retail sales had initially been set for July 1 but not all the pieces were in place to launch the market. The two shops will be the first recreational marijuana retail outlets in the eastern United States. Large crowds and mass media coverage are expected on opening day, and a pair of U.S. veterans are scheduled to be the first two customers.
Utah group warns Mormon church of lawsuit
In Utah, a week after voters approved a medical marijuana ballot initiative, a lawyer representing a group of patients and advocates has sent a letter to the Mormon church warning of a potential lawsuit over alleged attempts to undermine the measure. A tentative compromise was reached last month by advocates and opponents ahead of the vote.
The letter accuses the LDS Church of “extreme undermining” of the state’s recently passed medical marijuana ballot measure. A number of Utah lawmakers, the Utah Patients Coalition and the Utah Medical Association were also named in the notice and asked to maintain records.
According to the letter, the church has “a long history of dominating and interfering with the government of the State of Utah, often dictating to state and municipal legislators what legislative measures or policies they are to support or oppose.” However, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement that the church is still committed to the compromise.
The groups involved include Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, or TRUCE, and the Epilepsy Association of Utah.
Around the globe
Mexico's president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his leftist party introduced legislation that would allow citizens of the country to grow and sell pot. The main impetus of the legislation is to stem the violence that has plagued the country for many decades and has taken the lives of more than 235,000.
The bill allows companies to grow and sell marijuana for commercial, medicinal, and recreational use. It also allows individuals to register for permits to grow up to 20 marijuana plants a year for private use. Last month, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that an absolute ban on recreational marijuana use is unconstitutional.
The Nevada Department of Taxation said that the state collected $8.1 million in taxes from cannabis sales in August — an increase of $3.2 million over the previous year. Nevada retailers reported taxable sales of $48.8 million. Marijuana taxes for 2019 are expected to come in around $70 million.
In Colorado, cannabis sales topped $800 million by August of 2018 and are on pace to pass $1.2 billion by the end of the year — a 12 percent increase over total sales in 2017. The number of cannabis retailers also grew to 541 — a 9 percent increase. Monthly adult-use sales records were broken three times in 2018. In March, sales topped $105 million setting a new record. That record was quickly broken in July with reported sales of $111 million, and again in August, when sales neared $113 million.
A little something for which to be thankful
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is warning against not only drinking and driving but also driving while stoned on “Danksgiving.” The federal agency urges cannabis users to designate a sober driver or take advantage of public transportation or ride-sharing services. It’s the first time the agency has included marijuana in their annual statement.
Cannabis consumers categorized
According to New Frontier Data, cannabis consumers can be broken down into nine distinct archetypes, from weekend enthusiasts to medical purists and more. The full list can be seen in this week’s Cannabit: