By INIGO 'NAUGHTY' ZENICAZELAYA
A FEW weeks back in this column, I wrote about the state of Illinois innovative Bill 1483 regarding legalising and decriminalising recreational marijuana use, for adults over 21 years of age.
Bill 1483 has many beneficial components that could be implemented in the construction of our legislation, concerning this very sensitive topic in our society.
ILLINOIS NUMBER 11:
A little more than a week ago, the Illinois Legislature overwhelmingly voted in favour of House Bill 1438, which is a measure that will legalise recreational marijuana throughout the state of Illinois by Jan 1, 2020.
The bill allows adults aged 21 and over to purchase and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, with nonresidents allowed to possess up to half the amount of state residents.
As with the other 10 states (and Washington, DC) to have given the green light to adult-use marijuana, an excise tax will be imposed on sales.
According to the bill, an excise tax of 10% will be imposed on products containing less than 35% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive cannabinoid that gets a user high, with a considerably higher tax of 25% on products with higher doses of THC, such as concentrates.
This doesn’t include state and local taxes that are added onto retail sales in the state. (So VAT is in play here too).
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, expects that this tax will generate $170 million in 2020, which will partially help the state meet its numerous underfunded obligations. (Marijuana taxes in The Bahamas could become a productive revenue source).
In addition, HB 1438 contains a provision to help expunge marijuana offences for persons convicted of possessing a small amount of the drug that were not associated with violence. (Rastas throughout Bahamaland would rejoice.)
According to ABC News, this could lead to 770,000 Illinois residents having their convictions expunged.
Although no timeline was laid out as to when Gov. Pritzker would sign the bill into law as of midweek, he has expressed support for the legislation and does intend to sign it.
This means it’s a mere formality that Illinois is set to become the 11th recreationally legal state.
Next up to bat in my opinion, would be New Jersey and New York, both of which have advanced legislation to legalise adult-use marijuana.
Unfortunately, both states may have to wait until 2020 before they get their chance at redemption.
In March, New Jersey looked like a near-shoe in to legalise, with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and state lawmakers seemingly coming to an agreement on excise tax rates after protracted debates. However, talks abruptly fell apart after Republican lawmakers in the state failed to support the legislation, and in-party squabbling among Democrats over social aspects of the bill, left the bill dead in the water.
In New York, social issues held up inclusion of recreational cannabis legislation in the state’s budget, which was due at the beginning of April.
Both states are good candidates to advance legislation in 2020 that could lead to recreational legalisation.
If no other states winding up legalising recreational weed in 2019, then all eyes in 2020 will likely turn to Arizona and/or Florida -- and not for vacation purposes.
Arizona voted unsuccessfully back in 2016, with the measure narrowly failing by about two percentage points.
However, the image of marijuana has improved nationwide over the past couple of years, and the second time has been the charm in a number of states, including California and Oregon, where initial legalisation efforts failed.
The Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which will require close to 238,000 signatures of residents to get on the 2020 ballot, looks like it has a reasonably good chance of passing in November 2020, assuming everything goes to plan.
The Florida medical marijuana industry has been such an overwhelming success that it seems only logical to see a recreational marijuana measure make its way to the ballot by November 2020.
Florida remains a bigger long shot than Arizona, but powerful cannabis support groups have focused on legalising adult-use weed in Florida, in 2020.
Florida has the potential to become the largest projected revenue-producing state.
No matter which state follows in the footsteps of Illinois, the fact remains that marijuana is a budding industry that rightly has the attention of opportunistic investors. (I understand certain opportunistic Bahamian investors, are ‘chomping at the bit’ to legally get in the ‘weed’ game).
HEALING OF A NATION:
Just as I promote the decriminalisation and legalisation of marijuana for adults over 21, I also want to keep the conversation open regarding medical marijuana and the positive results from its usage.
Despite all the negative noise in the market, from all the talking heads, (especially Bahamian talk radio contributors) in relation to the legalisation and decriminalisation of marijuana, and its usage medicinally, France is taking steps towards the legalisation of medical marijuana.
The Canadian Senate voted by a large majority to approve the use of experimental medical cannabis for two years, which should make it available to 300,000 to one million patients, according to advocacy groups.
The French agency that is overseeing the programme has identified cancer, some types of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and palliative care as potential qualifying health conditions that would allow doctors to prescribe the medicine through the plan. Also on the list is chronic pain that is unresponsive to other kinds of treatment. As a matter of fact, doctors have been advised that the recommendation of medical cannabis is to be regarded as a last resort in the treatment of health problems. (We can’t cut off the major pharmaceutical companies, they need their revenue also).
AND DON’T FORGET THE CHURCH:
The Church of England, which sits atop the international Anglican communion, and is led by Queen Elizabeth II herself, is changing the rules of its $10.5 billion investment fund to allow for investments in medical cannabis.
Let that sink in.
So if it’s good enough for Her Majesty, it’s good enough for us!
Excuse me, PM Minnis, can you and the FNM stop politicking with the marijuana, and pass it along, with its myriad of benefits, financially, medicinally and socially.