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With a foundation in advocacy for cannabis legalization built through involvement on University of Washington's campus and with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, Daniel has positioned himself as a fearless advocate for the cannabis industry.

oregon

2016 was a huge year for cannabis. So we decided we would rank the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts analyzed one state. We started this series on January 10, 2016, and now, over a year later, we are ready to crown the top state for cannabis law: Oregon.

Our previous rankings are as follows: 2. Colorado; 3. Washington; 4. California;  5. Alaska; 6. Massachusetts;  7. Maine; 8. New Mexico; 9. Nevada; 10. Hawaii; 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16.Pennsylvania; 17.Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.

Oregon

Recreational Marijuana. Oregon voters approved Measure 91 to legalize recreational cannabis in 2014. This was two years after the failure of the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, which appeared on the 2012 ballot and would have legalized recreational marijuana.  Measure 91 allows adults, 21 and over, to grow up to 4 plants on their property, possess up to 8 ounces of usable marijuana (dried marijuana flowers or leaves that are ready to smoke) in their home, and carry up to 1 ounce in public. Like other legal states,  marijuana cannot be consumed in public.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has the authority to tax, license and regulate recreational marijuana grown, sold, or processed for commercial purposes but does not regulate the home grow/personal possession provisions of Oregon law. The OLCC oversees multiple license types including producer, processor, wholesale, retail, and researcher licenses. Oregon has not limited the number of licenses it will grant, meaning that OLCC is continuously accepting applications. It also allows a single licensee to own multiple licenses (e.g., an entity can hold a producer, processor, and retail license). This differs from the approach taken by Washington, which limits the number of licenses granted and is currently not accepting new marijuana applications. Oregon’s marijuana market is open to out of state actors as the state does not impose a residency requirement. This also differs from Washington and from Colorado which require licensees to be state residents. Oregon imposes a relatively low 17% tax on recreational marijuana sales. Finally, Oregon is one of the few states to allow for cannabis delivery, although Portland, the state’s largest city, does not (yet) allow for marijuana delivery.

Medical marijuana. Oregon first legalized medical marijuana in 1998 by passing Ballot Measure 67. Oregon’s medical market is distinct from the recreational market although there is some regulatory overlap between the two. For example, Oregon medical dispensaries were authorized to sell recreational marijuana from October 1, 2016-January 1, 2017 while the recreational market took shape.

Oregon medical marijuana is regulated by the Oregon Health Authority. Individuals with a qualifying medical condition and a recommendation for medical marijuana from an attending physician can apply for a medical marijuana card. Qualifying conditions include the following:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Alzheimer’s
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
  • Severe pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Seizures, including but not limited to seizures caused by epilepsy
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Multiple sclerosis

Medical patients may possess up to 6 plants, which may only be grown at a registered grow site address, and up to 24 ounces of marijuana. This means patients are legally allowed to possess more cannabis than recreational users. Medical users may purchase from licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, but are limited to purchasing the following amounts in a single day

  • 24 ounces of usable marijuana;
  • 16 ounces of a medical cannabinoid product in solid form;
  • 72 ounces of a medical cannabinoid product in liquid form;
  • 16 ounces of a cannabinoid concentrate whether sold alone or contained in an inhalant delivery system;
  • Five grams of a cannabinoid extract whether sold alone or contained in an inhalant delivery system;
  • Four immature marijuana plants; and
  • 50 seeds.

Many expect Oregon’s medical and recreational cannabis regimes will eventually merge, and proposed legislation could accomplish just that.

Bottomline. Determining the top state in this series was not easy. There was significant debate among our cannabis lawyers as to whether California, Colorado, Oregon, or Washington should take top honors. Seeing as how we have offices and lawyers in California, Washington and Oregon, we must concede just a bit of bias here. Ultimately, we determined that Oregon has the best marijuana program.

One of the prime determinants for us was Oregon not having a residency requirement, as we see this as very business friendly and making it much easier for cannabis businesses to secure funding. Oregon also has shockingly low licensing fees and it does not cap the number of licenses it will grant. This means one need not be a millionaire to get into the industry and this also means there will be (and there is) substantial competition to keep cannabis prices down. Oregon also allows its cannabis licensees to vertically integrate by owning multiple license types. The state is also consumer friendly, with relatively low taxes and with laws that allow for home growing your own cannabis. Oregon has had legal medical marijuana for nearly twenty years and it used this medical market to permit early sales of recreational marijuana, evidencing the state’s willingness to take a pragmatic approach to marijuana legalization.

Oregon’s cannabis laws are not perfect, but they are the best in the nation.

Do you agree?

colorado2016 was a huge year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts analyzes one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments.

We have reviewed all 50 states and are now almost ready to reveal our top pick when it comes to cannabis. This post focuses on the runner-up, Colorado, which along with Washington, was the first state to vote to legalize recreational marijuana.

Our previous rankings are as follows: 3. Washington; 4. California;  5. Alaska; 6. Massachusetts;  7. Maine; 8. New Mexico; 9. Nevada; 10. Hawaii; 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16.Pennsylvania; 17.Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.

Colorado

Recreational Marijuana. Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 in November 2012, legalizing recreational marijuana. In Colorado, adults 21 and over can possess up to one ounce of marijuana of useable marijuana. Colorado allows for home grows, meaning adults are allowed to grow cannabis plants in their homes. The state allows up to six marijuana plants in a private and locked space in a residence and a person may possess all marijuana grown from those plants, so long as that marijuana stays on the premises.

Colorado’s recreational marijuana market is the nation’s oldest. Though Washington and Colorado both voted to legalize marijuana on the same date, Colorado was the first to implement its recreational market. That market is made up of licensed cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores. The Colorado Department of Revenue oversees Colorado’s licensed cannabis entities. According to the Department’s website, Colorado’s market is currently made up of 441 retail stores, 623 cultivation facilities, 241 product manufacturers, and 13 testing facilities. Colorado cannabis eclipsed $1 billion in sales in only the first ten months of 2016 according to Fortune.

Colorado (Denver, actually) is in the forefront (sort of) on public consumption of cannabis. Denver voters approved Initiative 300 to allow private businesses to offer space for their patrons to consume cannabis. However, the Liquor Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue recently approved a rule prohibiting businesses with a liquor license from applying for cannabis consumption permits under Initiative 300. This new rule will mean that Denver bars and restaurants that serve alcohol cannot also allow their patrons to use cannabis on-site.

Medical Marijuana. Colorado first approved the medical use of marijuana in 2000 when Colorado voters approved Amendment 20. Patients may possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and may cultivate no more than six marijuana plants. Doctors may recommend more to treat a patient’s specific medical needs. The following are qualifying conditions for which a patient may use medical cannabis:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Severe nausea
  • Severe pain

Colorado patients may purchase cannabis at licensed medical dispensaries at a lower tax rate than recreational users. Colorado’s medical cannabis industry continues to operate alongside its recreational cannabis market.

Bottomline. Colorado ranks so high on our list largely because it has a proven history of being on the cutting edge of cannabis reform. It was the first to implement recreational marijuana and it has had an operational medical market for nearly twenty years. Colorado is now moving forward with allowing public consumption of cannabis as well. The cannabis industry is booming in Colorado, with profits from cannabis exceeding initial projections. One could argue that Colorado’s successful legalization has done more for legalization nationwide than that of any other state. One could also make a good argument for Colorado having done more to end the stigma surrounding cannabis than another state.

Next week we will conclude this series by revealing our number one cannabis state and. Our number one state owes a lot to Colorado and to Washington (our number three state) for its number one ranking. That state achieved its lead ranking by having been able to learn from the two great states (Colorado and Washington) that preceded it on legalizing cannabis.

Stay tuned.

Washington State cannabis lawyers
Washington State cannabis laws. Very very good.

This is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. As a result of the overwhelming success of many cannabis initiatives this November, all the remaining states in this series have legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana. This week we cover Washington, who along with Colorado, was the first to legalize recreational marijuana.

Our previous rankings are as follows: 4. California;  5. Alaska; 6. Massachusetts;  7. Maine; 8. New Mexico; 9. Nevada; 10. Hawaii; 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16.Pennsylvania; 17.Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.

Washington

Recreational marijuana. Washington State legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012 when its citizens voted to pass of Initiative 502. Under Washington State law, adults over the age of 21 can legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana flower, sixteen ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, seventy-two ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form, or seven grams of marijuana concentrate. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board regulates Washington’s cannabis market, creating and enforcing rules regarding marijuana.

Washington’s marijuana market mainly consists of three different license types: producer, processor, and retail licenses. To a certain extent, cannabis licensees cannot vertically integrate because an individual cannot have an interest in all cannabis licensing types. A retail license holder may have no interest in a producer or processor license. However, a licensee may possess both a producer and processor license. To qualify for any Washington State cannabis license, one must have at least six months of residency in Washington State.

Washington State requires residency compliance from anyone who qualifies as a “True Party of Interest,” which means anyone who either exercises “control” of the cannabis company (control is not defined) or who receives or is entitled to receive either net or gross profits from a licensee. By way of a couple examples, True Parties of Interest include anyone who holds stock in a corporation and it includes the spouses of any stockholders. Every True Party of Interest in a Washington State cannabis business must be vetted by the Liquor and Cannabis Board and must have resided in Washington for at least six months, same as a cannabis licensee.  Failure to disclose a True Party of Interest leads to instant cancellation of a license.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis and Cannabis Board  is not currently accepting applications for cannabis producer, processor, or retail licenses. This means Washington’s cannabis market is currently closed to newcomers seeking a new license, but it it not closed to those seeking to get into the Washington State cannabis industry by buying outright or by buying into an existing licensed Washington State cannabis business.

Medical Marijuana. In November of 1998, Washington voters approved Initiative 692, providing legal immunity to patients using medical marijuana. In 2011, the Washington State Legislature passed SB 5073, allowing patients to possess up to 15 cannabis plants and 24 ounces of usable cannabis. The bill required the Washington State Departments of Health and Agriculture to register and license cannabis dispensaries. However, those provisions and various other provisions relating to dispensaries were vetoed by then-Governor Christine Gregoire. What was left was a semi-legal gray medical marijuana market.

I-502 created a legal recreational cannabis market independent of the existing medical market. This dual channel cannabis system radically changed in 2015 when the Washington State Legislature merged Washington State’s medical and recreational cannabis markets by passing SB 5052 and HB 2136. Among other things, these two new laws required both recreational and medical marijuana in Washington State be produced, processed, and sold by licensed cannabis entities.

Today, Washington State retail cannabis stores must obtain a medical marijuana endorsement to sell medical cannabis, though there is no legal distinction between recreational and medical cannabis itself. Instead, the distinction between recreational and medical cannabis is “in the eye of the beholder,” meaning that if a medical patient who obtains authorization from a health care professional uses cannabis to treat his or her ailment, it is medical.

The amount of medical marijuana a patient can possess depends on whether the patient decides to register with the state’s medical marijuana database. Medical cannabis patients who register in the medical marijuana database may purchase the following amounts of cannabis, free of sales tax, from a medically endorsed retail store:

  • Three ounces of usable marijuana
  • Forty-eight ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form
  • Two hundred sixteen ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form or
  • Twenty-one grams of marijuana concentrate

Patients in the Washington State medical marijuana database are also allowed to grow from six to fifteen plants, as recommended by their doctor, and possess up to eight to sixteen ounces of marijuana produced from those plants. Patients who elect not to enter the Washington State medical marijuana database may purchase only the amounts allowed for recreational users and grow four to six plants for medical use and possess up to six ounces of usable marijuana from those plants. These patients also do not get to purchase their cannabis (even if for medical use) free of sales tax.

Bottomline. Washington is a pioneer in the movement to reform marijuana laws. Though it has a one of the most sophisticated marijuana markets in the country and really good cannabis laws overall, Washington does not quite rise to the very top of our state cannabis ranking. This is because the two remaining states, Colorado and Oregon, have implemented legal marijuana in a way that is more patient-friendly and that allows for greater competition among licensed marijuana entities and generally lower prices to the consumer. But the difference between Washington and the remaining two states is minuscule, as all three of these states (Washington, Colorado and Oregon) have extremely favorable cannabis laws, that truly are considerably better and more established than any of the other states. Washington State’s excellent marijuana laws and its overall tenor of enforcement make Washington number three in our State of Cannabis series.

 

californiaThis is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. As a result of the overwhelming success of many cannabis initiatives this November, all the remaining states in this series have legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana. This week we cover the Golden State: California.

Our previous rankings are as follows: 5. Alaska; 6. Massachusetts;  7. Maine; 8. New Mexico; 9. Nevada; 10. Hawaii; 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16. Pennsylvania; 17. Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.

California

Recreational marijuana. On November 8, 2016 California voters approved the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). California is the largest state in the nation and after the AUMA is fully implemented, the 38 million people (children excluded) who reside in California will have access to legal marijuana. Needless to say, this is huge.

The AUMA is a complicated, 62-page measure. At its most basic, the AUMA allows adults (21 and over) to possess roughly an ounce of cannabis flower, eight grams of concentrate, or up to six plants. It also creates a regulated market for the production, manufacture, and sale of marijuana.

The AUMA creates 19 distinct cannabis licenses:

  1. Type 1 = Cultivation; Specialty outdoor; Small.
  2. Type 1A = Cultivation; Specialty indoor; Small.
  3. Type 1B = Cultivation; Specialty mixed-light; Small.
  4. Type 2 = Cultivation; Outdoor; Small.
  5. Type 2A = Cultivation; Indoor; Small.
  6. Type 2B = Cultivation; Mixed-light; Small.
  7. Type 3 = Cultivation; Outdoor; Medium.
  8. Type 3A = Cultivation; Indoor; Medium.
  9. Type 3B = Cultivation; Mixed-light; Medium.
  10. Type 4 = Cultivation; Nursery.
  11. Type 5 = Cultivation; Outdoor; Large.
  12. Type 5A = Cultivation; Indoor; Large.
  13. Type 5B = Cultivation; Mixed-light; Large.
  14. Type 6 = Manufacturer 1.
  15. Type 7 = Manufacturer 2.
  16. Type 8 = Testing.
  17. Type 10 = Retailer.
  18. Type 11 = Distributer.
  19. Type 12 = Microbusiness.

The AUMA allows for vertical integration of these licenses, with the exception of testing licensees; if you have a testing license, you cannot hold another type of license. This means one entity may hold licenses in multiple stages of production, possibly controlling cannabis from seed-to-sale.

State residency is required for licensure, as indicated by the following text in the AUMA:

No licensing authority shall issue or renew a license to any person that cannot demonstrate continuous California residency from or before January 1, 2015. In the case of an applicant or licensee that is an entity, the entity shall not be considered a resident if any person controlling the entity cannot demonstrate continuous California residency from and before January 1, 2015.

This provision expires on December 31, 2019, unless the California legislature extends it. This essentially creates a three-year residency requirement for California applicants. It is not clear who will be considered a “controlling” person of an entity and we expect the state to provide guidance on this issue as the AUMA is implemented.

Medical Marijuana. Twenty years ago, California became the first state to implement a workable medical marijuana program and the laws and rules have developed over time. In California, a patient may use medical cannabis upon receiving a approval from a physician. Patients may possess enough cannabis necessary for their personal medical use, but this amount must be reasonable and in compliance with any local ordinances that may limit personal amounts. Patients can purchase cannabis from cooperatives and dispensaries. Patients have the option to obtain a state ID card showing they are allowed to use medical cannabis. Under the AUMA, these ID cards may also allow for a local tax exemption.

The AUMA is intended to regulate the non-medical use of marijuana but, there will be some overlap in the agencies regulating cannabis under the AUMA. The “Bureau of Marijuana Control”, a sub-agency of the Department of Consumer Affairs will regulate and license California’s recreational marijuana market. This sub-agency is distinct from the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation (BMCR) which oversees the medical market. However, the AUMA makes clear that it will “consolidate and streamline regulation and taxation for both non-medical and medical marijuana.” This means the BMC may eventually subsume the BMCR. The AUMA also reinforces stricter requirements on physicians who authorize medical marijuana use.

Californians should look at the cannabis progression in Washington State as an example of what may end up happening with recreational marijuana legalization in California.  When Washington Initiative 502 passed in 2012 and legalized recreational marijuana, many medical marijuana activists were concerned about its impact on medical pot and on July 1, 2016, the two markets (recreational and medical) officially merged. California is distinct from Washington because medical cannabis is already regulated by state and local agencies. Washington’s medical market was largely unregulated when I-502 passed. Time will tell what impact the AUMA has on California’s medical marijuana, but there is a good chance that California too will eventually see a merger of its medical and recreational cannabis regimes.

Bottomline. California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, becoming the first state to allow cannabis for medical use.  The AUMA is a detailed measure that should lead to a robustly regulated marijuana market. California legalization may be the tipping point that leads to legalization at the federal level. California has the potential to be the top cannabis state in the nation (by far), and we expect California’s ranking among the states to only rise. But for now, we rank it number 4, making it  our top state that has yet to implement a recreational program, but behind the three states that already have full-on recreational cannabis programs in place — Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Our California cannabis attorneys are constantly writing about California’s cannabis laws and so if you want to read more about California, click California cannabis for all of our California articles.

Cannabis LawyersThis is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. As a result of the overwhelming success of many cannabis initiatives this November, all the remaining states in this series have legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana.

With four states remaining — Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington — we deviate from our regular format of ranking the actual states and we instead turn to the District of Columbia. This post will examine the District’s cannabis laws and focus on how the federal government has made implementing those laws in D.C. so difficult.

Our state rankings are as follows: 5. Alaska; 6. Massachusetts;  7. Maine; 8. New Mexico; 9. Nevada; 10. Hawaii; 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16. Pennsylvania; 17. Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.

Washington D.C. 

Recreational Marijuana. On November 4, 2014, voters in Washington D.C. approved Initiative 71, allowing individuals 21 and older to legally possess, use, purchase, or transport up to two ounces of marijuana within the District. The initiative also permits individuals to legally possess, grow, and harvest up to six marijuana plants in their principal residence, with no more than three flowering plants at one time. However, the initiative did not directly address cannabis sales. Instead, Initiative 71 called for the city council to draft regulations for marijuana retail sales.

Those regulations were never drafted due to interference by the federal government. Congress possesses budgetary oversight for Washington D.C. and it has used that spending power to frustrate Initiative 71’s implementation. In December 2014,  U.S. Congressional members included a rider in the U.S. federal spending bill prohibiting the use of federal funds towards any efforts to implement Initiative 71. Despite this, D.C city officials and the mayor pledged to move forward with legalization. Eventually, members of Congress actually threatened D.C.’s mayor with criminal penalties for implementing legalization.

Amidst legal uncertainty, legalization in D.C. nonetheless went into effect in February 2015. The threats by Congressional members were somewhat effective though because the D.C. City Council has yet to create regulations necessary for a truly functioning legal recreational marketplace in our nation’s capital. In D.C., cannabis is legal to possess and cultivate, but not to buy or sell. The District’s recreational marijuana market has operated in this “gray area” since cannabis was legalized. With Republicans now controlling both our nation’s House and Senate, our cannabis lawyers do not see the Washington D.C.’s betwixt and between situation changing anytime soon.

Medical marijuana. Washington D.C.’s medical marijuana market is currently operational after years of delay. Voters legalized medical marijuana in 1998. But just as it did with Initiative 71, Congress stalled the process by limiting D.C.’s use of federal funds to get its medical cannabis program off the ground. Cannabis dispensaries did not start selling medical marijuana in D.C. legally until 2013. Washington D.C.’s Department of Health summarizes its medical cannabis program as follows:

All qualifying patients have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes when his or her primary physician has provided a written recommendation that bears his or her signature and license number. This recommendation must assert that the use of marijuana is medically necessary for the patient for the treatment of a qualifying medical condition or to mitigate the side effects of a qualifying medical treatment.

Unlike many states, D.C. does not have a list of qualifying conditions, meaning that doctors have the freedom to recommend cannabis for a wide range of medical conditions.

D.C. patients and recreational users are both limited to two ounces of cannabis. But unlike recreational users, cannabis patients may purchase cannabis at a dispensary. A 2013 Amendment to D.C.’s medical cannabis law prohibits more than five marijuana dispensaries from opening in the District. The mayor has authority to expand that number to eight. The D.C. City Council recently implemented new regulations requiring the city’s dispensaries to submit cannabis to labs for testing. These rules are intended to protect consumers from ingesting dangerous additives that can be found on cannabis.

Bottomline. For years, the federal government has taken a generally hands-off approach to the states legalizing both medical and recreational cannabis. So long as an individual state’s legalization regime complies with the dictates of the Cole Memo, the federal government typically stays away. This has not been the case in our Nation’s Capital, as federal lawmakers are simply more concerned with cannabis legalization in their own backyard. Though Washington D.C. now has a workable medical marijuana program, we see the battle over its recreational marijuana program getting only more heated as the Trump administration and a Republican Congress take over. If D.C. were a state, it would definitely rank within our top ten for cannabis, but that may change for the worse, and soon.

Colorado Cannnabis

Even in states and cities where recreational cannabis is legal, consuming cannabis with others anywhere but in one’s own home is usually problematic. If you want to consume a beer with a friend, you can easily do so at a bar or a restaurant. There are no comparable places for cannabis. The citizens of Denver are trying to change this, but their efforts are being constricted.

On November 8, 2016, the people of Denver by a slim margin voted for Initiative 300 to allow private businesses to offer space for their patrons to consume cannabis. In an apparent effort to counter this vote, the Liquor Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue recently approved a rule prohibiting businesses with a liquor license from applying for permits under Initiative 300. This rule means bars and restaurants that serve alcohol cannot also allow their patrons to use cannabis on-site.

In spite of this Liquor Enforcement Division rule, social cannabis consumption in Denver will still be allowed in certain designated areas. Establishments that wish to operate a business that permits its customers to consume cannabis on-site must first approval from a relevant local neighborhood association and then a permit from the City of Denver.

Yes on 300 Initiative explains the reasoning behind this initiative as follows:

In Denver we’ve legalized the purchase and possession of cannabis for adults but have not provided them with a safe and private place to consume it away from city sidewalks, parks and places where children congregate. The City of Denver Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program is a responsible approach to solving this problem that won’t remedy itself. It will provide designated spaces in certain City-permitted business establishments where adults 21 and over can consume cannabis in accordance with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act and out of view of the public. The problem stems from the fact that many residents of Denver live in HOA or landlord-controlled properties that disallow cannabis use on the premises, while more than 70 million tourists come to Colorado each year, also with no place to go. This has led to a 500% increase in public consumption tickets issued in Denver since the passing of Amendment 64 in Colorado, with African-Ameri­­cans being arrested at a rate 2.6 times higher than whites.

Yes on Initiative 300 then explains how the initiative will work in practice:

To remedy this, the City of Denver Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program is designed to mutually serve the interests of both cannabis consumers and Denver neighborhoods by requiring a prospective permit holder to garner formal support from an eligible neighborhood organization prior to applying with the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses. To allow neighborhoods the ability to slowly step into this new territory, the proposed permits could be issued for a short duration of time, such as for a single event, allowing for a phased integration of this program that adjusts to current unknowns as they are realized and best practices are developed. Neighborhood organizations will have the ability to mandate certain restrictions on the businesses to ensure they operate in a manner that is most appropriate for the neighborhoods in which they operate, empowering neighborhoods to be part of the process and set high standards of responsibility for cannabis consumers and cannabis consumption permit holders.

In addition to having to contend with the Colorado Liquor Board banning restaurants and bars from participating in the benefits from Initiative 300, it also is likely to face additional legal hurdles. Colorado Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, states that “nothing in this section shall permit consumption that is conducted openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others.” Supporters of Initiative 300 contend that it does not conflict with Amendment 64’s prohibition against open or public consumption of cannabis because consumption at a private business is neither open nor public. It is expected that opponents of the initiative will mount legal challenges to it by arguing that consumption in private businesses is “open” and “endangers others” in violation of Amendment 64. If these opponents succeed with their legal arguments regarding conflicts between Colorado Amendment 64 and Initiative 300, Initiative 300 will cease to apply because a state level Constitutional Amendment (Amendment 64) supersedes local law (Denver’s Initiative 300).

Denver’s Initiative 300 is nationally important because it is unique in making Denver the only major US city to allow for cannabis consumption spaces. And by way of one example, Washington state expressly forbids these types of cannabis consumption spaces by making it a felony for businesses to allow for cannabis consumption. Alaska’s marijuana laws allow for cannabis consumption spaces, but a recent legal opinion from the state Attorney General has halted cannabis clubs in Alaska. We will be monitoring what happens with Denver’s cannabis consumption spaces and reporting back on developments there.

Alaska cannabisThis is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. As a result of the overwhelming success of many cannabis initiatives this November, all the remaining states in this series have legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana. This week we head north to Alaska, which we rank number 5 among the states for cannabis.

Our previous rankings are as follows: 6. Massachusetts;  7. Maine; 8. New Mexico; 9. Nevada; 10. Hawaii; 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16. Pennsylvania; 17. Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.

Alaska

Recreational Marijuana.  The history of marijuana legalization in Alaska goes back to 1975 when the Supreme Court of Alaska decided Ravin v. State. Irwin Ravin was charged with possessing cannabis for personal use. He claimed his arrest violated his privacy rights under Alaska’s Constitution. The court agreed, holding that the right to privacy enshrined in the Alaska Constitution allowed Ravin to consume cannabis in his own home and went on to discuss the health significance of marijuana consumption:

Given the relative insignificance of marijuana consumption as a health problem in our society at present, we do not believe that the potential harm generated by drivers under the influence of marijuana, standing alone, creates a close and substantial relationship between the public welfare and control of ingestion of marijuana or possession of it in the home for personal use.

On November 4, 2014, Alaskan voters approved Ballot Question 2, legalizing the recreational sale and use of marijuana. Under this law, adults over the age of 21 may possess up to one ounce of cannabis and six cannabis plants but only three plants may be mature and producing flower.

The initiative created the Marijuana Control Board to oversee the legal recreational market in Alaska. The Board issues six different types of licenses:

  • Retail Marijuana Store
  • Standard Cultivation Facility
  • Limited Cultivation Facility
  • Marijuana Product Manufacturing Facility
  • Marijuana Concentrate Manufacturing Facility
  • Testing Facility

Alaska’s recreational market has been slow to develop, with retail sales only recently beginning in October. For more information on Alaska’s recreational market, check out the following:

Medical Marijuana. Voters approved the Alaska Medical Marijuana Initiative in 1998, but the initiative did not create legal dispensaries for patients to purchase cannabis. Instead, patients could either grow their own cannabis or appoint a caregiver to grow on their behalf. As such, Alaska has no legally sanctioned medical marijuana market. That combined with protection for the home use of marijuana in the Ravin decision has allowed for a thriving illegal cannabis market. This is likely to change now that Alaska’s recreational cannabis market is now operational. This makes Alaska different from states like Oregon, Colorado, and Washington, all of whom had independent medical marijuana markets operating when recreational cannabis was legalized. Alaska’s medical marijuana market is almost non-existent and it’s likely that both medical and recreational users in Alaska will purchase their cannabis from retail marijuana stores.

Bottomline. Alaskans have had a right to use cannabis in the privacy of their own homes since 1975. The medical marijuana market was never truly operational, but Alaskans are finally getting a chance to legally purchase marijuana as retail stores start to open. For its long legalized cannabis history and, more importantly, its legalized recreational cannabis present, Alaska lands at number five in our rankings on how the states treat cannabis.

Massachusetts

This is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. As a result of the overwhelming success of many cannabis initiatives this November, all the remaining states in this series have legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana. This week we cover Massachusetts.

Our previous rankings are as follows: 7. Maine; 8. New Mexico; 9. Nevada; 10. Hawaii; 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16. Pennsylvania; 17. Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.

Massachusetts

Recreational Marijuana. On November 8, Massachusetts’s voters approved the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. This means that on December 15, possessing, using, and purchasing an ounce or less of marijuana will be legal for adults 21 and older. However, there will be no legal way to purchase recreational marijuana until January 1, 2018.

Once the legal market is operational, the Cannabis Control Commission will oversee the recreational market. The Act also creates the Cannabis Advisory Board to study and make recommendations on regulating cannabis. Massachusetts will issue licenses for the testing, cultivation, product manufacturing, and retail sale of cannabis. In public, persons over 21 can possess up to one ounce of marijuana or up to five grams of marijuana concentrate. Adults can possess up to ten ounces in their home. An individual can also grow up to six plants in their home. But, a single household cannot have more than 12 plants total. For example, three adults living in one residence can only grow 12 plants even though each individual is permitted to grow 6 plants. Each household caps the number of plants at 12.

Like many other cannabis legalization efforts, Massachusetts marijuana will be subject to an excise tax. The Act imposes a 3.75% tax on marijuana products. This is in addition to the state’s 6.25% sales tax. The Act also allows local governments to impose an additional 2% tax on cannabis and keep the revenue. All in all, this leads to a likely tax of 12% for Massachusetts marijuana. This is much lower than the cannabis taxes in other states like Colorado and Washington, which currently have the two longest-running recreational marijuana markets.

Medical marijuana. In 2012, Massachusetts became the 18th State to legalize medical marijuana. Patients with the following qualifying conditions may access medical cannabis after obtaining authorization from their qualified healthcare provider:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • AIDS
  • Hepatitis C
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Other debilitating conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s certifying physician

After showing that he or she suffers from one of the enumerated conditions, a patient must register with the Massachusetts Department of Health as a cannabis patient. Cannabis patients then obtain a card they must show to obtain cannabis from a dispensary. Massachusetts has already licensed several cannabis dispensaries and a current list of those dispensaries can be found here.

Massachusetts medical cannabis patients may grow their own cannabis, but the process to do so is complicated and not available to all patients. Cannabis patients may only cultivate their own marijuana after showing their access to a dispensary is limited by at least one of the following three reasons:

  • Financial hardship
  • Lack of transportation
  • No cannabis dispensary within a reasonable distance

If granted the right to grow their own cannabis, a medical cannabis patient can grow a two-month supply of cannabis.

Bottomline. Even before legalizing recreational cannabis, Massachusetts had favorable marijuana laws. The state decriminalized marijuana in 2008 when the modern legalization movement was only in its infancy and it has been home to a thriving medical cannabis program since 2012. Now, along with Maine, Massachusetts has become the first East Coast state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. For all of these reasons, we rank Massachusetts at number six among the states for its treatment of cannabis.

 

 

maineThis is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. As a result of the overwhelming success of many cannabis initiatives this November, all the remaining states in this series have legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana. This week we head to the East Coast to focus on Maine.

Our previous rankings are as follows: 8. New Mexico; 9. Nevada; 10. Hawaii; 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16.Pennsylvania; 17.Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.

Maine

Criminal Penalties. Throughout this series we have focused on states that have not legalized the adult use of marijuana. Maine marks the first state in our series to allow recreational cannabis. Unlike previous posts, we will not focus on the criminal penalties for the possession or distribution in Maine. However, there are two things to keep in mind regarding Maine and its criminal penalties for pot:

  1. Possession or cultivation of cannabis in an amount that exceeds the legal limit can result in criminal liability. The same goes for the sale or distribution of cannabis without a license.
  2. Maine just approved its legalization initiative and its fully legal market is not yet operational. This process could take years. For example, Alaska legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2014, yet the state only recently allowed its first legal sale.

Recreational Marijuana. On November 8, Maine narrowly voted yes on Question 1, approving the Marijuana Legalization Act. As a result of this vote, adults in Maine over the age of 21 may possess up to two-and-one-half ounces of marijuana and may cultivate up to 6 flowering plants and 12 vegetative plants in their home.

The Act creates a tightly regulated market for the cultivation and sale of cannabis. The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry will oversee Maine’s recreational market. The Act creates licenses for retail stores, cultivation facilities, product-manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities. The Department will oversee the application process for cannabis businesses. The Act gives cities and towns the ability to prohibit the operation of marijuana establishments.
The Act creates a 10% tax on adult-use marijuana sales. The revenue will go to implementing and enforcing regulations. Remaining funds will be allocated to the state legislature. The Act does not create a tax for medical marijuana sales.

Medical Marijuana. Maine’s medical market is to be distinct from the recreational market and until the recreational market is up and running, the medical program is the only way to legally purchase cannabis in Maine. Maine residents with a debilitating medical condition may ask their doctor for a recommendation to use medical cannabis. Those conditions are as follows:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Hepatitis C
  • ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Nail-patella syndrome
  • Intractable pain, or a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces cachexia, severe nausea, seizures (such as those characteristic of epilepsy) or severe and persistent muscle spasms (such as those characteristic of multiple sclerosis)
  • Chronic pain that has not responded to traditional treatments for 6 months or more.
  • PTSD

Maine allows for regulated dispensaries to provide cannabis to patients. Patients may also grow up to six cannabis plants. Maine residents then have the option to register with the state as a medical marijuana patient but are not required to do so to possess, purchase, or cultivate medical cannabis.

Bottomline. With recreational marijuana legal and an established medical market in place, it should come as no surprise that Maine ranks so highly on this list. Establishing a recreational market is no easy task and the state has a lot to do before recreational stores are operational. However, this is a good problem to have as it means Maine residents will soon have access to legal adult-use marijuana. Congratulations to Maine on voting for adult-use cannabis.

newmexicoThis is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. We are now working through the top ten. The remaining states all have legalized medical marijuana and the criminal penalties in the remaining states range from bad to good, but many have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Now we turn to state number nine: New Mexico.

Our previous rankings are as follows: 9. Nevada; 10. Hawaii; 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16.Pennsylvania; 17.Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.

New Mexico

Criminal Penalties. Possession of less than one ounce of cannabis in New Mexico is punishable by a fine of $50-100 and up to 15 days imprisonment. Subsequent offenses for this amount earn a fine of $100-1,000 and a maximum 1-year prison sentence. Possession of 1-8 ounces also earns a fine of $100-1,000 and a maximum 1-year prison sentence. Possession of over 8 ounces earns up to 1.5 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000.

Distribution of cannabis is punished in New Mexico based on weight, as follows:

  • Less than 100 pounds earns up to 1.5 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000. Subsequent offenses earn up to 3 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000.
  • Distribution of over 100 pounds earns up to 3 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Subsequent offenses earn up 9 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000

These penalties increase if cannabis is distributed to a minor or in a school zone.

Medical Marijuana. New Mexico legislators approved medical marijuana in 2007. Cannabis patients may receive a certification from a medical provider that they have one of the following qualifying conditions:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS),
  • Cancer,
  • Crohn’s Disease,
  • Epilepsy,
  • Glaucoma,
  • Hepatitis C Infection currently receiving antiviral treatment (proof of current anti-viral treatment required),
  • HIV/AIDS,
  • Huntington’s Disease,
  • Hospice Care,
  • Inclusion Body Myositis,
  • Inflammatory autoimmune-mediated arthritis,
  • Multiple Sclerosis,
  • Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord, with (proof of objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity required),
  • Painful Peripheral Neuropathy,
  • Parkinson’s disease,
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,
  • Severe Chronic Pain,
  • Severe Anorexia/Cachexia,
  • Spasmodic Torticollis (Cervical Dystonia), and
  • Ulcerative Colitis.

Cannabis patients must then apply to the New Mexico Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Program. The Medical Cannabis Department then issues the patient a Patient Enrollment Card which they must carry anytime they use or possess cannabis.

New Mexico cannabis patients are allowed to grow up to four mature plants and twelve seedlings and they may possess up to six ounces of usable marijuana. Patients may only cultivate marijuana at their own residence or property. Additionally, cannabis patients must apply for a Personal Production License from the New Mexico Department of Health.

Alternatively, patients can purchase marijuana from a state-licensed producer. New Mexico’s medical cannabis industry includes licensed producers, couriers, manufacturers, and laboratories. Producers are allowed to grow and sell cannabis to medical marijuana patients. A list of the currently licensed producers is available here. Couriers transport cannabis. Manufacturers process cannabis into other products such as tinctures and oils.

New Mexico regulators are considering fairly groundbreaking rule changes to allow opioid addicts access to marijuana to treat their addictions. KREQ News 13 reports that “New Mexicans addicted to heroin or other opiates like pain killers may soon be able to apply for a medical marijuana card.”

Bottomline. New Mexico has some of the most lenient criminal penalties for cannabis and an already workable and well-regulated medical marijuana program that may soon allow opiate addicts to use cannabis to combat drug addiction. Unlike last week’s featured state Nevada, New Mexico is not considering recreational marijuana legalization on the upcoming ballot. However, its existing cannabis policies and regime is so favorable to cannabis that we rank it higher than Nevada even though its recreational cannabis prospects are more distant. New Mexico ranks at number 8 in our State of Cannabis series.