By Sonia Case
Following important cannabis news articles every day can be a real burn-out, we know. That’s why the Emerald rolls up a chronicle of the headiest news hits, and passes them to you at the end of each week. We Bring You: The Digital Dime.
Virginia Hops on the Decriminalization Bandwagon
Throw your hands in the air Virginians! And yes, wave ‘em like you just don’t care because, starting Wednesday, July 1st, cannabis possession will no longer be a criminal offense in the state. On Thursday, May 21st, Gov. Ralph Northam signed Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 972, making Virginia the 27th state to decriminalize cannabis possession.
Remember, decriminalization is not the same as legalization. Possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis will now carry a maximum $25 fee and a court summons, though it will no longer go on criminal records.
In a tweet, Virginia House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Va, the sponsor of the bill, reminded us that, “it was a significant step to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system.”
One small step for cannabis legislation, one giant leap for criminal justice reform.
The Bill That Almost Was
Last Thursday, May 21st, Oklahoma’s Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed a bill meant to transform the state’s medical cannabis program. The following day, the Oklahoma Legislature decided not to override the governor’s decision in spite of overwhelming bipartisan support of the legislation.
House Bill 3228 would’ve made it possible for medical cannabis dispensaries to deliver within a 10-mile radius or, for rural patients, within the same county. The bill would’ve also made it illegal for the Oklahoma State Department of Health to share any patient records without a court order. According to Tulsa World, the bill would’ve also, “permitted dispensaries to stay in the same location if a school is built within 1,000 feet after it opens.”
R.I.P. HB 3228. Shelved but not forgotten.
Massachusetts Recreational Shops Back in the Game
This Monday, May 25th, adult-use dispensaries across Massachusetts woke up to long lines and hundreds of online orders. Recreational dispensaries were allowed to re-open for curbside pickup this week for Phase 1 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan. Customers could be allowed back in stores for Phase 2 as early as June 8th. For now, they must place orders online or over the phone, wear face masks and have their IDs and confirmation codes ready to go.
Demand is high but dispensaries are having to restrict customers so they can keep up. Amanda Rositano, president of New England Treatment Access, told the Boston Herald in an interview that because of the restrictions, “her Brookline store will only be able to serve about 500 customers a day—20% of the typical 2,500 customers it [normally] serves.”
So take it easy on your budtenders this week, and know that they’re also taking a hit.
Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe; Maybe This Year, Maybe No?
Way back in January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised New Yorkers to legalize cannabis in the state by the end of 2020. At the time, he estimated that a legal cannabis program could bring in $300 million in tax revenue. COVID-19 put those plans on hiatus, re-directing the governor’s time and energy to fighting the virus. Unfortunately, this means that cannabis legalization will likely not pass this year. Lawmakers are still holding out hope for 2020, as tax revenue from legal cannabis sales could help offset the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cuomo is unlikely to budge, stating that cannabis legalization is too much of a hairball to tackle on Zoom.
Still curious? Check out our piece on how New York lawmakers are pushing for legalization amid this pandemic.