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Montana Votes to Legalize Marijuana, What’s Next?

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The ongoing campaign for legalizing marijuana in Montana ended with the elections. However, it did pay off as the majority of voters decided to legalize marijuana. The voters in the state of Montana also passed another amendment alongside marijuana legalization. Known as the constitutional initiative 118 this amendment makes cannabis consumption at the age of 21 legal. Almost 57 percent of the voters in the state of Montana approved these decisions.

So now that cannabis is declared legal should jo just go home and fire a joint. Well not exactly,  marijuana is not legal in Montana right now but it will be very soon. The authorities say that the new amendment will take effect from next year. This means that Montana residents can possess and use marijuana legally from January 2021. A great way to celebrate the new year, isn’t it?

It looks like the government of Montana has done some homework on the decision. Unlike the majority of the states, they do have a set of new rules. First of all, there are limits to how much you can carry on you. Every individual above the age of 21 can carry up to one ounce of cannabis flower or about eight grams of cannabis concentrates. Secondly, you may only buy from registered marijuana retailers. The registered stores and sale of cannabis in Montana will start from January 2022.

In addition, the government also set new guidelines for growing cannabis at home. This change will also take effect from January 2021. Montana residents will be able to possess up to four mature plants per individual, with a maximum of eight plants per household. The most common concern the people now have right now is whether there will be new retail shops.

COVID-19 and cannabis usage leaves mixed data

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Decriminalizing Marijuana:

To help currently operating medical marijuana providers gain a foothold in the maturing adult-use retail market. The recently approved initiative 190 states a one-year moratorium on new licenses for out-of-state companies. However, after the one-year moratorium expires the out-of-state operators will have to enter the market with a small grow canopy. In terms of taxation, the tax rate on adult-use cannabis is a flat 20 percent as decided by the government.

In terms of legal changes, the state has also decided to expunge the cannabis-related criminal records of individuals. Individuals with non-violent cannabis records can apply to the Department of Revenue for expungement. In addition, those serving a sentence in prison for these offenses can also get a reduction in their time after the initiative 190.

Coming back to the financial cannabis regulation. Retail cannabis will not be advertised in the traditional sense. Although, retailers might advertise on mobile applications and websites. In terms of supply and demands, the retailers in Montana will have to scale up their operations in order to meet the newly increased demand. The companies do have a lot of time to prepare for the demand. Spark1‘s CFO, Marc Lax said that “(people are asking) When it passes, can we come in and purchase immediately?” The answer to the question according to him is no, not until January 2022. This gives all the people in the market enough time to prepare for what’s coming.

Lastly Marc lax also had some important things to say about how recreational marijuana will impact the medical market in Montana. He said that “Great. Keep the doctors, keep the medical community thriving” referring to the increase in sales and prescriptions after the law change.

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An Overview of Marijuana Laws in Arizona

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Arizona's Marijuana Laws have now made its recreational usage legal in the state.

Arizona, also known as The Grand Canyon State, is famous for more than its iconic natural wonder. Advocates of marijuana legalization have long associated the state with its stringent policies towards the drug. This is mainly because marijuana laws in Arizona have not only been extremely conservative, but also archaic, and racist in every way one can imagine.

This year, however, in a historic move to reform its policies, Arizona had put up the question of marijuana legalization on the November 2020 election ballots. The initiative, known as Proposition 207, was drafted to legalize the recreational usage of the drug in the state. Propitiously, it won with an overwhelming majority, getting the approval of around 60.03% of Arizona residents.

This was a huge jump in the percentage of legalization supporters since 2016. The closest Arizona ever got to legalizing marijuana in its jurisdiction was in that same year, where Proposition 205 was put before the public. To the dismay of its advocates, the initiative failed even after securing 48.7% of votes in favor of it. Its opponents defeated the initiative with a mere 2.6% majority, standing at 51.3%.

Overview of transition in Arizona’s Marijuana Laws

Arizona’s marijuana laws have undergone a lot of changes, failed legalization attempts, and revisions. Here is an overview of when each of these policies was introduced and what each of them meant for Arizonians:

Proposition 200 – 1996

The Drug Medicalization, Prevention, and Control Act was implemented in Arizona in 1996. Under the terms of this initiative, certified physicians could prescribe cannabis or any other Schedule 1 drug to patients with certain medical conditions. It was approved with the support of 65% of Arizona residents.

Within a few months of its approval, however, state legislators rejected the proposition and tried to repeal it. “It seems to me, we’re saying to the voters that you’re smart when you vote for us, but we don’t trust you when you vote on other important issues,” state Sen. Pete Rios said in April of 1997 while voicing his disapproval of the changes put forward by legislators.

In response to this, voters used their right to a popular referendum in 1998. Appallingly, Proposition 300 was not successful in attaining much at all. All it could manage to do was to create a significant conflict with federal law due to its language composition which ultimately led to its rejection.

Proposition 203 – 2002 and 2010

Through Proposition 203 advocates in Arizona tried to legalize recreational as well as medicinal usage of marijuana for the first time in their history. It was first introduced in the state in 2002 and proposed criminal justice reforms as well as a scheme to establish a state-run medical cannabis system.

In addition to this, it also proposed decriminalizing possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana. It also proposed some revisions of conviction criteria for non-violent drug offenses. The initiative met the same fate as its preceding reforms and did not get approved by the law enforcement community of Arizona.

The proposition was placed before local residents once again in November of 2010. This time it succeeded in getting medicine usage of marijuana legalized with the support of 50% of voters.

Proposition 205 – 2016

After its medicinal use was legalized in 2010, Proposition 205 sought to legalize the recreational use of marijuana once again in 2016.  As mentioned earlier, the initiative was defeated. Despite of expected tax revenues, and potential increases in educational funding opponents of the initiative were convinced that the social and economic impacts of legalization would have outweighed its benefits.

The Victory of Proposition 207

Proposition 207, also known as the Smart and Safe Marijuana Act is a long-awaited victory of the cannabis sector in Arizona. It has marked the end of an era of uncompromising policies that have bred racism, police brutality, and unfair incarceration.

Under the new laws, past marijuana related minor crimes can be petitioned to get an expungement. The proposed laws are expected to be put into effect beginning July of 2021.

Here’s what they have in store for Arizonians:

Possession

Adults 21 or older will be allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana. Possessing 5 grams of its concentrate is also made permissible. Moreover, medical marijuana patients will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces over a period of two weeks and grow 12 plants for personal use.

Cultivation

Under Proposition 207, marijuana users are allowed to grow 6 plants for personal use at their homes. However, it is important for the cultivation to be in an enclosed area, away from public view. All users who hold the ADHS are allowed to cultivate their plants.

Consumption

Smoking marijuana in public is still not legal in marijuana. Using it on the premises of a dispensary can lead to license cancellation. In addition, driving under influence can lead to severe consequences and will be punishable through fines, arrests or license suspension.

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Overview of Marijuana Laws in New Mexico

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Marijuana laws have undergone a lot of changes in New Mexico, making it the first state to acknowledge its medicinal value.

New Mexico, also known as the Land of Enchantment, is a state located in the southwestern region of the USA. It was 47th to join the union in 1912, after which it became the fifth-largest state in the U.S.A area wise. When marijuana was slammed with a legal prohibition during the 1920s in the country, New Mexico followed suit and banned it in 1923. Since then, marijuana laws in the state have undergone quite a few significant changes.

Here is an overview of marijuana laws in New Mexico and their current legal standing in the region.

Marijuana usage before the legal ban

Up until the early 1800s, marijuana was pretty much a legal drug within the United States. Although its recreational usage was not a very common idea, it was widely used for medical purposes. In addition to this, it was used to make everyday products like ropes, clothes, canvas, sacks, and many other things.

It might be hard to believe today, but in 1619, not growing hemp was considered illegal in areas like Virginia, Massachusetts, and even Connecticut. This was because the plant was considered extremely resourceful. Later on in the 1700s, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, and North Carolina were granted special licenses to promote hemp cultivation and production.

Surprisingly enough, many political personalities of the United States had also cultivated hemp in the past. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin are among them.

Reefer Madness overshadows benefits of Marijuana Plant

Starting in 1906, cannabis was typecasted as a poisonous drug. Its out-and-out prohibitions began in the 1920s following the Mexican Revolution.

Most marijuana advocates believe that the legal ban had more to do with racism than its psychoactive effects. According to Tommy Chong, “Marijuana prohibition has been a racial law right from the get-go. It followed the path of the Chinese opium law. Britain actually almost ruined China with the opium trade and so America, when they wanted to demonize a race of people, they would outlaw their habits – that’s what prohibition was all about. Prohibition was just basically a racist law.”

Therefore in an attempt to stigmatize Mexican’marihuana’ users, the drug was officially outlawed state by state in the U.S. Reefer madness took over the news, movies, and television after which medicinal benefits of the plant were forgotten. The propaganda against it was very strong and successfully associated with violent behavior, rape, and even murder.

New Mexico Moves Ahead towards Reforming Marijuana Laws

In 1978, New Mexico became the first-ever state to acknowledge the medicinal value of marijuana after decades of prohibitions.

The move was strongly motivated by the efforts of Lynn Pierson, a cancer patient who died during his struggle to gain legal access to medical marijuana. Having endured a lot of suffering during the course of his chemotherapy sessions, he found solace in marijuana. “A few puffs of pot took nausea away. And there was hardly any vomiting. Then I got really hungry. Hell, I ate so much I actually gained some weight,” he said.

It was due to his efforts that the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act was passed with an overwhelming majority. Governor Jerry Apocada signed it as an ’emergency legislation’, setting the bill as a model for at least 30 more states for upcoming years.

Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act

In 2007,  honoring the memories of Lynn Pierson and Erin Armstrong (another cancer patient and advocate of marijuana legalization), medical marijuana was legalized in New Mexico.

The legislation was entitled ‘ The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act’ and established a system of marijuana usage under the regulations of NMDOH. The system aimed to provide patients legal access to the Medical Cannabis Program of the state. It made adults aged 18 or above qualifiable to receive medical marijuana if they had certain ailments. A list of 28 medical conditions was prepared that included eligible medical conditions. Some of them include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Anorexia
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Cervical dystonia
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Epilepsy and seizure disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV/AIDS
  • etc.

Later in 2018, the state’s biggest city, Albuquerque, decriminalized the possession of 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana. Any amount above it was a punishable offense causing a fine of $25. These marijuana laws were further revised in 2019, whereby possessing up to half an ounce (14 grams) led to a $50 fine instead of jail time. Patients are allowed to possess up to 8 ounces (277 grams) of marijuana over a three month period.

As of now, patients can only obtain medicinal marijuana from state-licensed non-profit producers. Unauthorized distributors, users, or sellers are liable to face criminal prosecutions and penalties.

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Here’s Why Tommy Chong is an Active Advocate for Cannabis

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Tommy Chong has been a cannabis advocate all his life.

Tommy Chong is a well-known face around the world for more than one reason. He is an actor, writer, director, musician, comedian, and most prominently a very famous cannabis advocate. His legalization efforts have continued for a good part of his life and were expressed intently through his music, films, and other creative works.

Starring alongside Richard Cheech in the Grammy Award-winning comedy flick ‘Cheech & Chong‘, Tommy Chang has been quite vocal about his love for marijuana. His stand-up shows with Richard Chee were quite impactful during their time, speaking volumes about their support for the cannabis movement. They were so successful that most of their shows were sold out in the 1970s – a time when the ‘war on drugs’ was at its peak in the entire world.

What Does Tommy Chong Believe About Cannabis Criminalization?

Hailing from immigrant families himself, Chong sternly believes that the war on drugs has its roots in xenophobia.

According to him, “Marijuana prohibition has been a racial law right from the get-go. It followed the path of the Chinese opium law. Britain actually almost ruined China with the opium trade and so America, when they wanted to demonize a race of people, they would outlaw their habits – that’s what prohibition was all about. Prohibition was just basically a racist law.”

If we are to weigh his words and match them with reality, disagreeing with him would be hard. Here’s why:

Up until the early 1800s, there were no federal restrictions on the usage, retail, or possession of marijuana in the U.S. Hemp fiber derived from it was used to make products like clothes, paper, and rope. In addition to this, medicinal usage of the drug was also very common. It might sound ironic, but at the time of its prohibition, tinctures containing cannabis traces were present in probably every medicinal cabinet in the United States. It was used to treat various diseases like malaria, stomach ache and even ‘absentmindedness’.

SEE ALSO: Best CBD: Tommy Chong Holiday Sale Sitewide, Discount Codes Released

Why then was cannabis criminalized and banned?

Just as Tommy Chong pointed out, cannabis was prohibited in an attempt to degrade and ‘demonize’ Mexican immigrants.

The early 1900s was a time when thousands of Mexican immigrants began seeking refuge in the United States. While smoking marijuana recreationally was not very common in the U.S, Mexican immigrants were quite fond of this practice.

This was seen as a great opportunity to instill ‘reefer madness’ among the people. Politicians were quick to substitute the term ‘cannabis’ with ‘marihuana’ to make it sound more authentically Mexican in order to create more prejudice.  It worked of course. Newspapers were soon labeling Mexican cannabis use as a ‘marijuana menace’. In the words of Harry J. Anslinger, first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, marijuana caused “insanity, criminality, and death”.

Here is a quote from a New York Times story from 1927:

“A widow and her four children have been driven insane by eating the Marihuana plant, according to doctors, who say that there is no hope of saving the children’s lives and that the mother will be insane for the rest of her life,”

Going Back to the Future With Cannabis

With the increasing recognition of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and its derivatives, laws surrounding it are slowly relaxing. The racism that has long haunted the drug is also vanishing slowly.

Tommy Chong compares this with the phenomena of going back to the future. He says that with more acceptance of the drug, society is going back to the beginning days. It is returning to days where there was no stigma attached to the drug.

According to him, one of the major challenges now faced by the industry is its federal prohibition. Businesses are unable to obtain finances for the fear of being prosecuted. This has led to a major part of the industry operating on cash transactions creating problems for them as well as regulators. Depending upon cash means that cannabis dispensaries are at the forefront of robberies and burglaries when civil unrest arises.

Cannabis is equally beneficial for the mind and body

Chong is a firm believer in the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. He has made a mention of its religious sacrament and its soothing impact on the mind and body.

“A lot of sports people that I’ve known are big marijuana advocates because it doesn’t tear you down like alcohol does or make you crazy or addicted like cocaine and heroin. So, marijuana is really the perfect stuff for everything including medicine.”

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