News Round-Up | Feb. 20th, 2022 | High There

High There’s news round-up for Feb. 20th, 2022

News Round-Up: Feb. 20th, 2022

High There

By High There

February 20, 2022

Washington DC creates 4/20 “cannabis tax holiday”, Papa Johns introduces new “hemp seed cheese sticks” to the international market, and Oregon authorities are led to a massive illegal grow op by way of exploding power transformers.

There can be a lot to keep track of when it comes to the fast-paced world of cannabis information and news. Our roundup has everything you might have missed from the last week and more.

The bridge leading into Cincinatti Ohio, by Matt Koffel via Unsplash

Ohio: Legalization Efforts Face Uphill Battle

Cannabis reform initiatives in Ohio may be stalling, after the Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R) has said he will refuse to bring a state-wide proposal for legalization before the Senate floor.

The “Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol” recently submitted a signatory proposal for adult-use cannabis sales and cultivation, but was already up against tough opposition from state lawmakers, including Gov. Mike DeWine, who had previously called the effort a “mistake” and vowed to veto any such legislation.

Should the current bill not be passed, Ohio citizens may resubmit their petition with an additional 130k+ signatures to go before legislators as a ballot proposal

Washington D.C. Capitol Building, by Quick PS via Unsplash

Washington, DC: Mayor Creates Cannabis Sales Tax Holiday For 4/20

Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser recently signed the “Medical Marijuana Patient Access Extension Emergency Amendment Act of 2022”, effectively creating a 10-day sales tax “holiday”, wherein cannabis products purchased from one of the city’s seven dispensaries will be exempt from the 6% sales tax typically levied against cannabis purchases.

The act, which will be in effect from Friday, April 15th through Sunday, April 24th (the official document even refers to it as a “4/20” holiday week), aims to extend medical marijuana sales for DC citizens who’s registration cards have lapsed in the last two years, as well as issuing new cards to those in need, and increasing the amount of dried flower a patient may possess from 4oz to 8oz. The act additionally allows citizens over the age of 65 to “self-certify” that they are using cannabis for medical purposes until later this year.

Cannabis bud, seed, oil, and a gavel, by 24k Productions via iStock

Alabama: Decriminalization Passes Senate Judiciary Committee

Lawmakers in Alabama are seeking to reduce penalties for “small amounts” of marijuana to a fee, rather than jail time.

State Senator Bobby Singleton (D) is behind the measure, which would see citizens caught with less than 2oz of cannabis no longer facing criminal charges, instead paying a flat $250 fine with no arrest made; those caught with more than two ounces would be subjected to a “three strikes” proposal, with a sliding scale fee and felony charges for those caught three or more times.

A police car, by Matt Popovich via Unsplash

Washington: State Senate Passes Armed Robbery Protection Measures For Dispensaries

With a unanimous vote, the Washington state Senate recently passed a measure introducing stiffer penalties for those who would rob local cannabis dispensaries. Senate Bill 5927 extends potential prison sentences for those convicted of either first or second-degree robbery of a cannabis retailer.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Jim Honeyford (R), was quoted as saying “Due to federal banking rules, these businesses are almost entirely cash-only operations, making them a target for robberies and a magnet for criminals […] The number of robberies of cannabis stores is on the rise, and this bill would make improvements for not just the benefit of the retailers themselves, but for the public safety of the community as a whole.”

The Baltimore, Maryland skyline, by Styves_Extanus via Unsplash

Maryland: Lawmakers Begin Work On Recreational Cannabis Infrastructure Ahead Of Fall Elections

Though recreational cannabis use has yet to pass in Maryland, state Democratic leaders have already begun working on a roadmap for what legalization would look like.

A proposal set to go before voters this year would remove civil penalties for up to 1.5oz of cannabis for those over the age of 21 by mid-2023, additionally expunging criminal records for those convicted of marijuana possession and requiring the state to undergo a “disparity study”, determining barriers to the cannabis industry minority and under-represented groups could face.

Lawmakers are now attempting to round out the legislation with laws surrounding paraphernalia, personal growing limitations, and taxation rates.

L.E.T.T.'S GROW Act logo, by Kentucky lawmakers

Kentucky: Dueling Cannabis Bills Seen As Unlikely To Pass

Both Democratic and Republican-led marijuana reform bills are set to be seen by state legislators this year, but hopes remain dim that either will see significant movement.

A bill for adult-use recreational sales has been filed by state Democrats that would create a new agricultural industry, with multiple additional revenue streams and a significant reduction in money spent prosecuting small-time offenders.

However, despite both strong bi-partisan support and support from Kentucky citizens, much more restrictive medical-only legislation has failed to gain any significant traction in the state. Republican-led alternative House Bill 136 has been introduced multiple times since 2020 and has not been taken up by the state Senate, despite amending numerous alterations and additional restrictions.

Though cannabis legalization efforts have faced difficulties in KY over the years, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) has gone on record as supporting medical marijuana reform within the state.

The New York skyline, by Ben o'Bro via Unsplash

New York: State Cannabis Control Board Approves Regulations

After a long-delayed waiting period that saw local citizens turning to a “free gift with purchase” method of selling cannabis, the New York State Cannabis Control Board has announced its approval of the Medical Cannabis Program regulations, which will soon enter a “sixty day public comment” period.

Recreational cannabis laws were signed into effect as of March, 2021 but due to lack of a regulatory board and licenses, state citizens have been unable to legally offer the direct sale or purchase of cannabis goods.

Board Chair Tremaine Wright was quoted as saying “With today’s action, we’re continuing to swiftly implement critical provisions of the new Cannabis Law to maintain and expand access to the Medical Cannabis Program and the relief it provides to thousands of New Yorkers.”

A budtender dispenses cannabis, by Add Weed via Unsplash

New Mexico: Dispensaries Appearing Ahead Of April 1st Legalization Date

Recreational sales aren’t slated to begin in New Mexico until April but local dispensaries are already gearing up to open.

Unlike many other states that have passed marijuana legalization efforts, New Mexico has no limit on the amount of licenses it can approve for retail locations, potentially allowing for a massive wave of dispensaries.

State regulators are keeping a fairly close grasp on the amount of licenses offered, though, with only 20 approvals for retail locations as of Feb. 11th, 2022.

The 420 Cafe, a cannabis coffee shop in Amsterdam, by Johannes Schroter via Pexels

Amsterdam Coffee Shops Stand Resilient – But Empty – As Pandemic Continues [Editorial]

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far reaching effects for both the retail and tourism industries alike. But what happens when one of the world’s most famous cities for cannabis tourism runs out of clientele? And would they even be welcomed back in the first place?

CNN reporter Isabelle Gerretsen provides an in-depth look at the culture and economics of a Dutch coffee shop in 2022.

The flag of Israel, by Taylor Brandon via Unsplash

Israel: Cannabis Providing Both Cash And Culture For Communal Farms

With a history long intertwined with cannabis research, Israel farming communities now look to marijuana cultivation and exports as both a major source of revenue, and a way of rebuilding fading culture.

The Washington Post and journalist Shira Rubin take a look at the revitalization of kibbutzim in the light of growing marijuana acceptance.

A set of transformers and powerlines, by Pixabay via Pexels

Oregon: Transformer Explosions Tip Authorities To Illegal Grow Op

Excessive energy usage and exploding power transformers have lead law enforcement agents to a massive cannabis bust in Oregon. Federal prosecutors have charged Fayao “Paul” Rong with two counts of “conspiracy to manufacture and possess cannabis with intent to distribute”.

Investigators claim that Rong purchased multiple houses in the state for the purpose of converting to cannabis growing facilities, and “trafficked more than $13.2 million in black market marijuana” starting in August of 2020.

Authorities executed search warrants on 25 Oregon houses last September, revealing over 33,000 plants, with over 1,800 pounds of pre-packaged, dried marijuana and roughly $600k in cash. Law enforcement arrested Rong in Houston, TX, where he was released from custody pending his appearance in Oregon District Court. If convicted, Rong faces life in federal prison.

A police officer, wearing handcuffs and a radio, by cocoparisienne via Pixabay

Texas: State Trooper Caught Vaping Confiscated Marijuana On Dash Cam

Remember to watch your surroundings – Recently released footage from 2019 shows now-former officer Chad Harden using a marijuana vaping pen confiscated from a routine stop.

The footage, which was brought to light by a lawyer representing several citizens stopped by the same trooper, shows Harden clearly taking a puff from the vape pen, which he pulled from the trunk of someone he had recently stopped.

Harden resigned from his position after coming under investigation, and was ultimately sentenced to two years probation for tampering with evidence; several criminal cases featuring Harden’s testimony have been dismissed due to the former trooper’s illegal behavior.

Papa John's new "hemp sticks" (not available in America) - Photo provided by Papa Johns UK

Papa Johns Now Offering Hemp-Seed Cheese Sticks (But Not In United States)

Not gonna lie, these sound pretty tasty. Seminal pizza chain Papa Johns has recently announced its new “Hemp Sticks” appetizer, a version of their classic garlic cheese sticks but with hemp seeds on the top.

Coyly playing into the cannabinoid association most people tie to hemp by claiming “all seed, no weed” in related advertisements, the pizza provider is hoping to present hemp seeds as a “super food”, packed with proteins and nutrients.

Currently the new hemp sticks are only available for sale in the United Kingdom and Russia; the move makes Papa Johns the first “quick service” restaurant to include hemp as an ingredient.

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