Here's our marijuana news recap for March 2021. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on throughout the world, vaccine rollouts have seen promising results.
While we're still ways away from having the pandemic under control, the cannabis industry continues to move forward with record sales and continuing legalization efforts.
Here are the month’s top stories.
Las Vegas Now Allows Cannabis Retail Drive-Thrus
Drive-thrus are big in Las Vegas. You can get married, buy alcohol, gamble, catch a strip show, and now buy weed at the drive-thru. The new rule will now make it safer to buy weed, especially during the pandemic.
However, the move comes too little too late, especially since states like Maryland, California, and Massachusetts already allowed weed drive-thrus starting last March. In addition, many other Nevada cities were already on board the drive-thru train.
Mexico Moves Forward with Historic Legalization Bill
Mexico's Chamber of Deputies passed a bill that would move forward with the regulation of cannabis and hemp. Now, the chamber’s revisions head to the Senate for final approval before they reach the desk of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for a signature.
Experts predict the industry still has a long way to go before being fully operational. The industry’s regulations must still be developed and implemented.
The bill approved by Mexico's lower house removed a requirement to create a new regulatory body called the Mexican Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis. Instead, the National Commission Against Addictions will be tasked with regulating and licensing the cannabis industry.
In November 2020, the Senate passed a version of the bill for approval in the lower house. Now, lawmakers are hoping to reach a compromise by the Supreme Court's spring deadline. Lawmakers have already asked for several deadline extensions in the past.
Rhode Island Governor Wants to Legalize Recreational Weed
In his 2022 budget, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee (Democrat) proposed legalizing recreational pot and issuing 25 retail licenses annually with a tentative program launch in April 2022.
Governor McKee stepped in after former Governor Gina Raimondo accepted a position as President Joe Biden's Commerce Secretary.
McKee’s proposal includes the following:
- 5 of the 25 retail licenses would be issued to minority businesses
- An Office of Cannabis Regulation would regulate and license the industry
- A retail excise tax of 10% in addition to the state's 7% sales tax
- A task force tasked with economic development including job training, small business funding, and community development
Arizona’s Adult-Use Sales Start Off Strong
During the first 10 days of Arizona's recreational cannabis market launch, the state made $2.9 million according to state sales data.
Arizona’s adult-use market launched on January 22, 2021, after being approved by voters in the November 2020 general election. Experts predict the state could bring in nearly $400 million dollars in its first year of sales.
California Awards $15 Million in Social Equity Grants
California's Office of Business and Economic Development and the Bureau of Cannabis Control awarded $15 million in grant funding to 10 cities and counties with social equity programs. This new and third round of funding adds to the $40 million awarded in the past.
Nearly all of the grant funding ($11.5 million) will be awarded directly to social equity entrepreneurs through grants and loans. $75,000 will be given to 8 local governments each to create social equity programs.
Colorado Passes Social Equity Law
Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill that would award $4 million from the state's tax fund to its social equity program. The program would include the following:
- Loans to social equity licensees for seed capital and ongoing business expenses
- Grants to social equity licensees for innovation and job creation
- Technical assistance such as business plan development, consulting services, and other technical assistance programs
Social equity licensees must be Colorado residents who own a majority share of a marijuana business. They must also meet the following requirements:
- The applicant or an immediate family member was arrested or convicted for a cannabis offense
- The applicant lived in a community disproportionately affected by the war on drugs for a minimum of 15 years between 1980 and 2010
- The applicant’s income is below a certain threshold
Cannabis Banking Reform Efforts Continue in Congress
In March, a cannabis banking reform bill was reintroduced into the US House of Representatives. In September 2019, the same measure passed the House but was dead on arrival in the Senate. The SAFE Banking Act would allow financial institutions to work with cannabis establishments without federal prosecution.
One week after the bill passed the House, a parallel bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate. The SAFE Banking Act has a better chance of passing this Democratic-controlled Congress.
However, the executive director of a new federal cannabis coalition predicts the full federal legalization of cannabis is still years away and will be an uphill battle for the current Congress.
Cannabis Proposals Fail in North Dakota and Maryland
North Dakota’s Senate defeated an adult-use bill by a landslide, in an unsurprising move by a Republican-controlled Senate. North Dakota's Congress was attempting to pass a more conservative cannabis bill instead of waiting for a more progressive proposal from voters on the 2022 ballot.
In Maryland, bills to legalize recreational cannabis use were stalled in chamber committees and unable to pass before the deadline. Now, Maryland’s lawmakers are working on amendments to help it pass in 2022.
New Mexico Governor Pushes to Pass Adult-Use Legalization
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is wasting no time by calling a special legislative session starting on March 30, 2021, to pass recreational cannabis legalization. In February 2021, the State House passed an adult-use bill.
While a couple of Senate committees amended the proposal, Senate lawmakers prioritized other matters before the end of the session on March 20th. The governor is hoping to pass cannabis legalization soon to increase state revenue.
South Dakota Governor Seeks Cannabis Law Restrictions
In South Dakota, the fight against its voter-approved medical cannabis law lost steam. Governor Kristi Noem and lawmakers in Congress were attempting to delay its implementation but were able to reach a compromise.
Now, the governor is trying to make the proposal more restrictive. The restrictions include the following:
- Prohibit individuals under the age of 21 to smoke or vape medical cannabis
- Limit the number of medical cannabis plants that can be grown at home to 3
As far as the adult-use bill goes, Noem has filed a lawsuit to try to stop the measure from being implemented. A lower court agreed with her but the case is now being appealed to the State Supreme Court.
Missouri Brings in Nearly $25 Million in Total Revenue
Since Missouri's medical marijuana program launched in October 2020, this state has brought in nearly $25 million, or about $2 million per week. While the state’s program is new, it has registered about 90,000 medical cannabis patients. Experts predict the state to reach up to $300 million in sales in 2021.
Vermont Cities Approve Commercial Cannabis Sales
In March, at least 27 cities and towns voted on whether to allow adult-use cannabis in their jurisdictions.
Vermont's largest city, Burlington, its state capital, Montpelier, and at least 16 other towns approved commercial cannabis sales. Recreational sales are expected to start on October 2022 at the earliest.
Virginia Moves Up Recreational Cannabis Timeline
Virginia’s House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and Governor Ralph Northam are pushing for the adult-use law to be legalized sooner rather than later.
The governor proposed to legalize home growing and possession on July 1, 2021, instead of the January 1, 2024 date approved by lawmakers.
Adults would be able to possess up to one ounce of weed and grow up to 4 cannabis plants. Commercial cultivation and sales would still be scheduled for July 1, 2024.
New York Legalizes Recreational Weed
It finally happened. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) legalizing commercial cannabis use, sales, and production. Under the law, the following is legal:
- Adults over the age of 21 can buy, use, and grow cannabis
- Adults can possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrates
- Adults can grow up to 6 plants for personal use (up to 3 mature plants) or up to 12 plants per household
- 50% of the licenses have to be directed to social equity applicants
- Prior cannabis convictions will be automatically expunged or resentenced
- Social consumption establishments and delivery services are permitted
- The medical cannabis program will be expanded
- Hemp flower is legal
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