Is marijuana the fix for Washington's budget problems?
You have probably heard most of the arguments for and against the legalization of marijuana. The pro folks say it costs too much money to prosecute the crimes, and pot is no more dangerous than alcohol. Opponents claim it's a gateway drug, and legalization would make it far more accessable to children.
Those and many other popular arguments have been sung for years. One Seattle lawmaker is changing the tune. State Representative Mary Lou Dickerson is making the debate about dollars and cents. With the state in such financial trouble, she believes that Washington needs to get into the drug dealing business to put the balance sheet in the black.
"The only people that are profiting from this prohibition are the drug cartels and the black market criminals who are involved," she told a State House committee on Tuesday. "Why shouldn't Washington reap the financial benefits of legalization?"
Representative Dickerson has introduced a bill that would legalize the drug, tax it and make it available at state-owned stores. It's the second time that she's made this pitch in Olympia. She told the committee the state could pocket $400 million every two years if marijuana was legal. Most of that money would go to fund health care in the state.
But opponents like State Representative Christopher Hurst worry the federal government will spoil the party, since marijuana possession and distribution would still be a federal crime. "Would we ever really keep any of that money and what would we do to our state employees who would be going to federal prison on a consistent basis?"
Dickerson admitted that any legalization effort would be bogged-down in the courts for years, but she told the committee Washington should be pushing the issue. "Some state has to take the lead," she said. "I say to you that Washington State can lead, and because we take the lead we will reap the benefits."
Here's how Dickerson's bill would work. Marijuana would be legal for people older than 21. The state would impose a 15 percent tax on each gram sold. People could grow their own in small gardens that aren't visible to the public, and the state couldn't advertise. The bill would also allow for hemp production which Dickerson believes could be an economic boon to Washington.
Medical Marijuana patient sues Royal Oak
Another resident is suing the city because of its new zoning ordinance that allows patients to use but not grow medical marijuana.
Christopher Frizzo, 47, a qualifying patient who has multiple sclerosis, filed a lawsuit Monday in Oakland County Circuit Court. He isn’t seeking monetary damages.
“He wants Royal Oak to repeal its ordinance that limits medical marijuana from being grown or cultivated and if they won’t do it he wants the judge to declare the Royal Oak ordinance unenforceable and void,” said Neil Rockind, one of Frizzo’s attorneys.
Rockind, who is representing Frizzo pro bono, served the city with the lawsuit in person. He was following up on a threat to sue made during public comment of the Jan. 24 City Commission meeting.
“I think the way some politicians and localities are approaching medical marijuana is hurting patients when it’s their job to protect people like Christopher Frizzo,” Rockind said. ”I marched down to City Hall with the lawsuit in my hand and told the city clerk you’ll be getting to know me.”
The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act passed by state voters in November 2008 allows qualifying patients to grow to up to 12 medical marijuana plants or have a caregiver do it for them if both are registered with the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Frizzo’s lawsuit says he has no caregiver and grows his own medicine because he has limited mobility and financial means.
In a phone interview, Frizzo said medical marijuana reduces the severity of his muscle spasms and nausea while increasing his appetite.
“In minutes, the nausea and sick feeling goes away. It likes a miracle,” Frizzo said.
Colorado teen battles to attend school and continue medical pot use
A Colorado teen has been told that if he consumes his legal medical marijuana, he cannot attend classes at his school or he will be “in internal possession” of the drug.
According to the Colorado Independent, Michigan Messenger’s sister site, the boy has been prescribed the medical pot to control his rare neurological condition diaphragmatic and axial myoclonus. A letter from his physician shows that the teenager has tried numerous other medications to intervene with the condition which causes seizures that can last 24 hours or more.
Treatment: Sinemet 25/100 mg tablets, 2 tablets by mouth three times per day Zoloft 50mg at bedtime THC 10-50mg as needed for episode of breakthrough myoclonus
Rationale: Failure to respond to a host of other medications including Keppra, clonazepam, valium, morphine, benadryl, Xanax, inhaled lidocaine, Dilantin, Tegretol, Depakote, Flexeril, Artane, IVlg and Solumedrol. Previously, (redacted name) was taking benzodiazepines while at school for episodes of breakthrough myoclonus which was sedating and ineffective to control the symptoms. We now have (redacted name) on a medication regimen which actually helps reduce the frequency and duration of his spells, and have found a medication which reliably aborts the attacks (THC) when they occur.
He has no significant side effects to the THC and is functional on this medication. I strongly recommend that (redacted name) return to school on his current medication regimen and be allowed to take the THC which has been prescribed by a physician to treat his medical condition.
But school officials have said if the student takes his THC lozenges, he can’t attend school.
“They say if he takes his medicine it is ‘internal possession’ and he cannot come back to school,” the teenager’s father told The Colorado Independent. The boy attends Sierra High School
Medical marijuana case settled before trial
Smith, 38, was initially charged with three felonies after he sold an ounce of marijuana to a member of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office who was working undercover on Jan. 4, 2010.
According to Deputy District Attorney Seth Matthews, the initial charges were for sales, cultivation and possession of marijuana.
In his defense, Smith said the undercover deputy used a legitimate medical marijuana recommendation to join Smith’s K Care Collective and appear legitimate.
The recommendation belonged to Robert Shaffer of Ione, who was arrested in 2009 on drug charges. According to reports, Deputy Steve Avila had taken possession of Shaffer’s recommendation and used it to convince Smith that he was in fact Shaffer in the weeks leading up to the sting operation.
Smith adamantly denied that he had broken the law from the very start, claiming that he was legally operating a medical marijuana collective in compliance with state law when he sold the marijuana to the undercover deputy, who he thought was Shaffer.
Sheriff Dennis Downum said that Smith was executing a drug deal instead of operating a legitimate collective.
“Quite frankly, it doesn’t sound like he was any part of a collective,” Downum said in 2010. “With a collective there has to be a relationship of some sort. It can't be meeting somebody in a parking lot. In our opinion, you’re just selling drugs.”
Compassion Centers Could Soon Be Opened
Medical marijuana could soon be distributed in the state in retail form. Eighteen organizations have applied to open compassion centers, also known as marijuana retail outlets. The Rhode Island Department of Health has invited anyone interested in commenting on the topic to attend an open meeting on Monday morning at 10 a.m. on Capitol Hill.
There are currently over three thousand patients in the state who use pot for medicinal purposes. Sales of medical marijuana are expected top $25 million dollars over the course of the next three years.
Berkeley, CA Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owes $6 Million In Taxes
The largest medical cannabis dispensary in Berkeley, California – the Berkeley Patients Group owes about $6 million in back state taxes and interest from three years where it didn’t pay. The dispensary has been disputing the tax bill since 2007, saying medical cannabis shouldn’t be taxed just like other medicine is not. The original tax bill was $4.4 million with the rest coming from interest that has been racking up over the last three years.
Medical marijuana taxes were unclear in the middle of the last decade, so the Berkeley patients group didn’t pay them assuming medical cannabis would be untaxed like other medicine. Now the state wants the money it lost out on from 2004 to 2007.
While I agree that in an ideal world medical marijuana would remain untaxed, this is not practical. First off, states are very broke and are not going to let a cash cow like cannabis go untouched. Secondly, medical marijuana is not the end of the road. Cannabis won’t always be just medicine. Someday soon marijuana is going to be completely legal and won’t have the shield of medicine to protect it from taxation. It will be taxed, that is an undeniable fact. We will work hard to keep taxes as low as possible, but legalization is simply not possible without taxes coming with it.
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