As we scroll through our cannabis related news feeds today, we notice an abundance of stories on how American communities are struggling to deal with marijuana sales, both in states where the plant is legal, and arrests in states where it’s not. With Portland working to implement its own often confusing marijuana rules – Mayor Wheeler’s move to replace Commissioner Fritz with Commissioner Eudaly at the Office of Neighborhood Involvement represents a recent win for the industry – it can be helpful to remind ourselves that in the current complex cannabis climate, citizens and legislators around the country are struggling to chart the path forward.
These days, much debate is progressing in California, which faces the simultaneous task of managing the massive medical industry of today while preparing for an onslaught of recreational marijuana in the near future. This has led many municipalities to consider the regulatory regimes that they will implement to deal with recreational legalization.
Most notable are prospective moves in Sacramento and San Diego to tax the plant and limit its cultivation, respectively. In Sacramento, the city has now asked marijuana retailers, processors, and distributors to contribute 1% of total revenues to a “neighborhood responsibility fund”. The strange bit about this contribution is that – for now – it’s voluntary. Marijuana businesses are told that if they contribute now, in the event of a future mandatory contribution, they won’t be asked to increase their contribution above the voluntary 1%. In San Diego, the city council is currently mulling a bill that would prevent all marijuana cultivation, processing and distribution within city limits. Although retail retail and medical sales would be allowed, any activities further down in the supply chain would be restricted.
In Maine, it is now legal to possess or grow marijuana, but procedures for retail sales will not be in place until January 2018 at the earliest. The Associated Press reports that anti-weed advocate continue to fight to restrict how and where marijuana will be sold.
Finally, Maryland may be poised to be the next state to legalize recreational marijuana. Notably, all states in which cannabis have been legalized so far offer direct citizen democracy through ballot measures, referenda, or initiatives. Even as attitudes towards the evil weed change rapidly, legislators often remain out of touch with their younger constituencies, or afraid of the potential political repercussions of a vote to legalize. Although Maryland doesn’t have direct citizen democracy, the state constitution does provide for state legislators to refer a question to voters for direct consideration. Although many Maryland legislators fear a vote to legalize marijuana, they may feel that they have sufficient political cover to allow the voters to decide for the themselves.