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Have Things Finally Hit Bottom for Medical Marijuana in Montana?
After state laws and federal raids have decimated the medical marijuana industry in Montana, things seem to be finally leveling off as far as the number of cardholders and providers is concerned.
As of the end of July, Montana had 8,844 registered medical marijuana cardholders, according to the Medical Marijuana Program in the state Department of Public Health and Human Services. That’s slightly more than the 8,681 registered at the end of June.
It’s the first monthly increase in medical marijuana cardholder numbers since May 2011, when the monthly totals rose to 31,522 from 30,609. Which means overall the number of cardholders is off about 70%+ since its peak.
Roy Kemp, deputy administrator of the Quality Assurance Division in the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, said he believes the number of cardholders has reached equilibrium.
“During the course of implementation of (SBN) 423 — it was implemented a year ago in July — we saw a precipitous decline in people not renewing,” Kemp said. “During each of the months, there were people renewing their cards and new patients coming on. Where we had huge drops, we had new patients coming on in every month of the last 12.”
Kemp added, “Really, what you’re looking on right now is where you have none of the chaff in the new registry.”
Chaff is an odd word to use to describe medical marijuana patients – one of its definitions is “worthless matter or refuse.” One would suppose he means the ones who were “faking” to get legal marijuana, but it’s hard to comprehend how a piece of legislation could know the medical histories of some 22,000 people and decide if they need the option of medical cannabis.
In many ways, Montana is where the current trend – at least among many authorities – to suppress medical marijuana started. More than a year later, patients are still feeling the pain.
Medical Marijuana Advocates in Long Beach, CA Seek Voter Approval
Supporters of medical marijuana in Long Beach, CA want to get an initiative on the ballot this fall that would force the city to allow medical marijuana dispensaries. The proposed measure would require City officials to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries to comply with California State law. In addition to limiting the number of dispensaries in Long Beach, and ensuring that they are not located near schools, public beaches and parks, the initiative calls for a tax of up to 4% to be paid into the City’s General Fund.
In July the city banned dispensaries, but recent court decisions have made those actions illegal.
Jeremy Coltharp filed the documents for the initiative on behalf of patient members throughout Long Beach. “It’s important that the City of Long Beach provides the leadership needed to ensure the health and safety of all its citizens, both medical marijuana patients and the community as a whole”, stated Coltharp. “Regulation of medical marijuana distribution will ensure that dispensaries have clear expectations to which they must adhere, and will also ensure that sick patients are not forced to turn to back alley drug dealers.
“We continue to look to our City leaders to find the best way to ensure public safety,” Coltharp continued, “[and] I’m confident that our City Council will find a way to do that without endangering the quality of life of so many people in need.”
Supporters need signatures from 15% of registered voters in Long Beach to get the measure on the ballot.
Most politicians still don’t seem to realize that safe access to medical cannabis requires dispensaries as well as the freedom to grow if that’s what a patient chooses. People aren’t told to go home and grow their own food and make their own pills, so why should they have to grow their own cannabis for medical purposes?
Decision in U.S. Tax Court Has Ramifications for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
A new U.S. Tax Court decision could complicate life for medical marijuana businesses across the country, as well as putting a former San Francisco dispensary on the hook for a huge tax bill.
"The dispensing of medical marijuana, while legal in California, among other states, is illegal under federal law," Tax Court Judge Diane L. Kroupa said. "Congress has set an illegality under federal law as one trigger to preclude a taxpayer from deducting expenses incurred in a medical marijuana dispensary business. This is true even if the business is legal under state law."
The ruling means Vapor Room owner Martin Olive owes Uncle Sam a lot of money, although the amount is unspecified, but less than the $2.1 million the Internal Revenue Service wanted at first. Beyond that, the ruling means other medical marijuana dispensaries could have a harder time securing valuable tax deductions.
"In the end, it's going to be very important," Las Vegas-based tax expert Russell Clayton said of the ruling in an interview Friday. "This is going to have a major impact on medical marijuana (operations)."
In other words, the federal government is sure to increase the use of the IRS against medical marijuana dispensaries, especially if they do not close voluntarily.
Olive had gone to court to challenge the IRS's determination that he owes more than $1.8 million in taxes, and about $378,000 in penalties, for the years 2004 and 2005. Olive reported the Vapor Room had gross receipts of $1 million in 2004 and $3.1 million in 2005. But tax investigators subsequently concluded that Olive had underreported his income, and that the Vapor Room really grossed $1.9 million in 2004 and $3.3 million in 2005.
Dispensaries nationwide should fear the coming of the tax man.
Teens Getting Diverted Medical Marijuana? Advocates Respond
A new study out of Colorado claims to show that a lot of medical marijuana is being diverted into the hands of non-patients, specifically into the hands of teenagers.
Advocates are responding, like Michael Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group in Colorado. "Since Colorado regulated the sale of medical marijuana in 2010, Colorado has seen decreases in youth marijuana consumption, suicides, traffic fatalities, and crime. All of these studies point to one conclusion -- Colorado's medical marijuana framework is working," Elliot says, adding, "MMIG's members are responsible business owners who support rigorous enforcement of the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code, and work to ensure the industry is run with the highest standards."
Mason Tvert from the advocacy group SAFER also spoke out, saying, "We have hundreds of state-legal cannabis businesses operating in Colorado and they were able to cite a few dozen examples of problems over the past three years -- and relatively few were from 2012." Tvert is one of the sponsors behind Amendment 64 in Colorado, which would legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol.
The fact is that opponents of medical marijuana have put themselves in a very tough position. They have to justify why sick people shouldn’t have the option of medical cannabis, an unjustifiable position. So they must claim doom and gloom about stoned teenagers running around everywhere and destroying society.
But as it the case with alcohol and cigarettes, if you want to limit teen exposure to something, you put it in a legal and regulated market. Drug dealers do not check I.D. It is literally impossible for teens to get something easier in a legal market as opposed to an illegal one, because only legal markets have any kind of “safeguards” at all regarding age.
Medical Marijuana Up For Debate in Federal Court
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