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Cannabis News Update | December 2022

Cannabis legalization, equity-driven licensing, legal cannabis research, and more. Read on for the latest cannabis news update.

With cannabis on the ballot in several states this past November, voters have made their opinions on the matter loud and clear. While several legalization measures failed in states like Arkansas and North Dakota, recreational cannabis is now legal in twenty-one states. Equity-focused cannabis markets are also on the rise with multiple states focusing on licensing for communities hit hardest by the war on drugs. 

Additionally, Biden has made U.S. history by signing the first piece of standalone federal cannabis reform legislation. Read on for details.

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Rhode Island Legalizes Recreational Cannabis

After months of negotiations, Rhode Island became the 19th state to end cannabis prohibition after Governor Dan McKee signed the legalization bill this past May. The bill officially went into effect this December, and the state’s first adult-use cannabis sales immediately began with five dispensaries.

At one of the new hybrid medical-recreational dispensaries, State Senator Josh Miller said, “it’s been a long road, and I hope it works for Rhode Island because we’ve been losing out to other states for quite a while now.” He also stressed the importance of Rhode Island being able to participate and “make its mark” on the cannabis industry. 

Medical cannabis has been legalized in the state since 2006, but the legalization of recreational cannabis means that any Rhode Island resident over the age of 21 may purchase cannabis from a licensed retailer. Additionally, residents may possess up to one ounce of cannabis on their person, up to ten ounces in their home, they can cultivate up to three mature plants, and they can even transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another adult over the age of 21. 

New York Takes Equity-Driven Approach to Licensing

New York legalized recreational cannabis in March of 2021, allowing for the possession of up to three ounces of cannabis and up to twenty-four grams of concentrate. More recently, they’ve taken a significant step toward launching their legal recreational market by approving licenses for 36 businesses and nonprofits to operate the first retail dispensaries. 

Recipients of these licenses were selected from a pool of over 900 applicants—most of which were individuals who’d previously been convicted of cannabis-related offenses, close relatives of those with convictions, or even nonprofits who assist those with similar convictions. 

Like many other parts of the country, cannabis prohibition in New York disproportionately impacted Black and Latino residents despite the fact that there was a similar level of use across most races. The latest licensing effort was put in place with the hope that it would prioritize communities that were unnecessarily targeted during the war on drugs. 

Officials insist that the market will officially open before the end of 2022, but qualifying businesses can move forward with delivery options until then. A tweet from the regulatory agency stated, “This will help jumpstart sales and enable these small business owners to generate capital and scale their operations.”

Maryland Residents Approved Legalization Ballot Measure

This November, Maryland residents approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis as early as July 2023. The legislation would allow for residents over the age of 21 to possess up to one and a half ounces, replaces the “marijuana” with “cannabis,” and it also addresses conviction expungements and resentencing. 

Olivia Naugle, the senior policy analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project, stated in a press release, “The passage of Question 4 is a huge victory for criminal justice reform and racial justice in Maryland. It will save thousands of Marylanders from arrests and further criminalization for cannabis possession, and it will begin to repair the decades of harm cannabis prohibition has caused, disproportionately in communities of color, by expunging records and reinvesting back into those communities.”

Missouri Residents Vote to Remove Cannabis Prohibitions

Missouri voters approved Amendment 3 in November, which effectively removes the current prohibitions on cannabis. This will allow adults to purchase and possess up to three ounces as well as allow them to grow up to six mature plants in their homes. Additionally, residents with specific non-violent cannabis-related offenses will now be able to petition for record expungement.

Considering that Missouri was listed in the top ten states for most cannabis possession arrests, the passage of Amendment 3 has the potential to impact a large number of residents positively. Dan Viets, the co-author of the amendment and state coordinator for NORML, said, “This means that the great majority of the 20,000 people who have been arrested year after year in Missouri will no longer be subject to criminal prosecution for victimless marijuana law violations.”

Biden Signs Marijuana Research Bill

On Friday, December 2nd, President Biden signed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act. This law requires the U.S. attorney general to either approve an application or request additional information from applicants seeking to conduct cannabis research. In addition, researchers who require large amounts of cannabis for research will now have a more efficient request process.

A joint statement from the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus said, “For decades, the federal government has stood in the way of science and progress—peddling a misguided and discriminatory approach to cannabis. Today marks a monumental step in remedying our federal cannabis laws. The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act will make it easier to study the impacts and potential of cannabis.”

Stay Up to Date on Cannabis News

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