July 9, 2014
The Green Movement: NY And Washington State Legalize Marijuana
Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com - Your Universe online
When you read the words “Green Movement” chances are you think about renewable energy from solar panels, wind turbines and engines fueled by bio-diesel. But a different Green Movement made some major strides this week on opposite coasts of the United States.
On Monday, New York State became the 23rd state to permit the sale and use of medical marijuana. New York ushered in the new law when, at a news conference in New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo made it official by signing the Compassionate Care Act. This legislation allows New York doctors to prescribe non-smokeable marijuana to patients suffering from the state's predefined but flexible list of conditions.
As reported by CNN, Governor Cuomo stated, “There is no doubt that medical marijuana can help people. We are here to help people. And if there is a medical advancement, then we want to make sure that we're bringing it to New Yorkers.”
According to Senate Co-Leader Jeffrey D. Klein, the new statewide medical marijuana program will be “one of the safest, most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs in the country.”
Cuomo, who likely has political aspirations beyond his current office, has not been quiet about his skepticism of this program. It was this skepticism that led to strict criminal penalties that can be brought against anyone charged with attempting to defraud the system. Also, lawmakers acceded to the implementation of a “fail-safe” measure that would allow the governor to “suspend the program at any time on recommendation of either the State Police Superintendent or the Commissioner of Health if there is a risk to the public health or public safety.”
Even with this week's public signing of the law passed last month, it will not be fully implemented for another 18 months.
Meanwhile, Tuesday finally saw the fruition of a ballot initiative passed by the voters of Washington State in 2012 legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes for citizens and visitors to the state aged 21 and over. Washington is only the second state in the Union, behind Colorado, to allow the sale of marijuana and related products for purely recreational purposes.
In preparation for Tuesday's rollout, the state issued 24 retail licenses on Monday. According to The Associated Press, only one-quarter of the shops that received their licenses were prepared to open their doors on day one. Others explained they intended to open later this week or next. The remainder stated it could be a month or more before they could acquire marijuana to sell.
Unlike its predecessor in the pot market, Washington did not have a regulated medical marijuana law to base their retail model on. This has led to several hiccups leading up to Tuesday. Growers and sellers, therefore, are struggling to be fully prepared for the demand. This will likely result in early product shortages which will drive the prices higher than what people are used to paying in the state's unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries.
Many cite the fact that only about 100 growers have been approved by the state despite an initial interest by more than 2,600 people who applied for growing licenses. Among the 100 approved it is estimated only about a dozen were ready to harvest earlier this month.
As mentioned above, Washington State's medical system is unregulated. This meant that state officials were forced to come up with regulations for the new marijuana market on the fly.
Just some of the rules the legislature and state officials settled on include protocols for testing marijuana along with requiring that marijuana be sold in child-resistant packaging. Additionally, officials had to settle on exactly what level of criminal history an applicant could present and still be considered for a license. One of the last considerations centered on the types of security systems the state would require for both retail pot shops and growing operations.
As of yesterday, Washington State residents and visitors to the state can purchase up to an ounce of dried marijuana, 16 ounces of pot-infused solids, 72 ounces of pot-infused liquids, or 7 grams of concentrated marijuana, like hashish.
The federal government is taking a wait-and-see approach to the marijuana experiment currently underway in Colorado and Washington. The state governments, on the other hand, are looking forward to the much needed infusion of tax dollars to their ailing state coffers. On the outside looking in, states that have neither a medical marijuana program nor a retail sales scheme, will likely see the economic boon experienced by NY and Washington and may surely be green with envy.
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