Hey everyone, Richard Lowe here again to give you the five top marijuana stories of the week on this Friday, March 15, 2019. As usual we will start with marijuana law and politics as marijuana reform continues to tear its way through the country. You will find in this summary another update on Florida’s ban on smoking medical marijuana, that New Jersey took another step towards recreational marijuana legalization and Alaska became the first state to legalize marijuana social consumption lounges. I will touch upon Presidential Candidate Beto O’Rourke’s stance on marijuana legalization. It’s also pretty crazy what the cannabis industry has done for the U.S. economy and jobs since the green wave of legalization started, so we will talk about cannabis jobs as well. It’s a green weekend in many different ways, so let’s go find our pot of green gold. Way too many puns.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to End Medical Marijuana Smoking Ban Today
Starting with cannabis state laws and then moving to a federal discussion, let’s start again with Florida. Both the Florida House and Senate have voted to end the ban on smoking medical marijuana. Senate Bill 182 should be signed by Governor Ron DeSantis sometime today. He gave lawmakers until March 15th (today) to end the ban, they did, so now it is his turn. The Florida House of Representatives voted in favor of the bill 101-11 and the Senate voted unanimously to end the ban 38-0. Medical marijuana patients under the age of 18 will have to get a second state certified doctor’s opinion to be able to smoke cannabis. Adult medical marijuana patients though will be able to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana flower every 35 days and doctors can order six months worth of medical cannabis at a time for patients now. The decision should result in dramatic changes to the Florida medical marijuana market making cannabis more affordable and providing a form of cannabis consumption people maybe more comfortable with. While Florida may see a large jump in the amount of patients it currently has now that flower is available, there are still some missing elements. The state still has not implemented rules for edibles and Gov. DeSantis wants to see an end to the forced vertical integration of medical marijuana treatment centers so that more people have an opportunity to participate in the business of medical cannabis. Once SB 182 is signed by the governor, it will be up to Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use to implement the new dispensing rules before patients can have an opportunity to actually buy flower.
New Jersey Set to Vote on Recreational Marijuana on March 25th
New Jersey lawmakers finally introduced their bill to legalize recreational marijuana this week. It is set to be voted on by March 25th and focuses on expunging records for those convicted of marijuana possession infractions, creating a structure for the commercial sale of cannabis and taxes. Controversially, the new bill puts a flat tax of $42 per ounce plus additional local taxes, which could make it pretty expensive. However, it is a step in the right direction for Gov. Murphy who vowed to bring cannabis legalization to New Jersey if voters chose him back during the 2016 election. The Northeast region of the country has been busy with marijuana reform. Adult-use cannabis sales are already happening in Massachusetts, New Hampshire recently voted to legalize marijuana too. New York wants to legalize recreational marijuana but is currently dealing with some hurdles and Connecticut is pushing for legalization this year too. In Pennsylvania, reports are that Gov. Wolf is researching the merits of adult-use marijuana and has received over 21,000 messages from voters about marijuana legalization just in the last two months.
Alaska Becomes First State to Legalize Marijuana Lounges Statewide
This week, Alaska became the first state to legalize marijuana consumption lounges statewide. Cannabis lounges can be found in places like San Francisco and in some cities in Colorado. But, as far as statewide rules being implemented for marijuana lounges, Alaska beat everyone to it. Alaska receives a lot of its annual revenue from tourism which makes social consumption lounges for marijuana logical. Guests of the state have no place to legally consume marijuana in Alaska, which became legal in 2014 and available for purchase in February of 2015. In states like Nevada where massive amounts of their revenue come from tourists visiting Las Vegas, marijuana lounges are a must to maintain the integrity of the law rather than just expecting police to turn a blind eye on public consumption. On-site marijuana lounges are expected to be open sometime this summer in Alaska at dispensaries that have received licenses.
A New Marijuana Reform Bill Introduced to Congress this and Presidential Candidate Beto O’Rourke’s Stance on Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition
Let’s talk marijuana on the federal level for a moment. First, the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act (HR 1687) was introduced this week to help protect federal employees from losing their job over testing positive for drug tests if they are medical marijuana patients in their state or reside in a state that has legalized recreational marijuana. Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level so federal employers can terminate employees if they fail a drug test for marijuana. The bill has bipartisan support so we will have to see how it does.
Sticking with the federal discussion for another moment. Beto O’Rourke announce this week that he will be running for president in 2020. O’Rourke, the former Texas representative, fought valiantly to take Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat during the November midterm elections and campaigned on bringing more marijuana law reform to Texas. While he did not win that race, he has now brought his energy, momentum and the recognition he received during the Senate race to the whole country calling for an end to federal marijuana prohibition. There is a tremendous amount anticipation building for the 2020 Presidential election and nearly every democrat that has thrown their hat into the ring wants to end prohibition, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Cory Booker and State Senator Kamala Harris.
The Cannabis Industry is the Fastest Growing Sector for Jobs in the Country
Moving to national job growth. A recent report by Whitney Economics shows that about 296,000 people in the U.S. are making their living now in some way related to the cannabis industry. In 2018, 64,389 cannabis jobs were created. 211,00 of the total jobs involve actually handling the cannabis plant in some way. These numbers make the cannabis industry the fastest growing sector in the country for jobs at this time. National job growth has slowed as of late according the Bureau of Labor Statistics which still does not count cannabis related jobs since the plant is listed as a Schedule I substance making it federally illegal.
That’s it for this week everyone. I hope you all have a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day! Remember to follow our Youtube channel, The National Marijuana News, along with our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages @NationalMJNews. I hope everyone enjoys the weekend.