Vicki Christopherson: Initiative 502 for Legal Marijuana

August 6th, our speaker Vicki Christopherson, a government relations specialist and lobbyist for the marijuana industry,  gave a short summary about Initiative 502.

Here is a description of the bill:   Initiative 502 defined and legalized small amounts of marijuana-related products for adults 21 and over, taxes them, and designates the revenue for health care and substance abuse prevention and education. Cannabis is still classified as a schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Possession by anyone under 21, possession of larger amounts, and growing of unlicensed or unregulated marijuana remains illegal under state law.

Prior to the initiative’s 2012 passage, certain evils existed. Among them were licenses granted for marijuana’s medicinal use that degenerated into commercial abuse. The Initiative caused honest purveyors to have to compete with the black market. On the one hand were those highly regulated and taxed and on the other, the opportunistic non-taxed. Legislation has thus decreed that, by 7/16, all medical marijuana will be regulated by the Department of Health and the Liquor Control Board. No longer will it be legal to set up shops and issue cards for sales of the substance. Retail stores will have to be licensed. There is to be a crackdown on loopholes and sales to minors. To be sure, there is opposition from those making lots of money. The DOH will determine that which is medical. No sales tax will be charged to genuine patients. Payroll tax consideration will accrue to taxpaying, honest, licensed dealers.

However, unintended tax obstacles were in place, including a 25% tax on producer, processor, and retailer. Then there is are taxes on gross receipts, business and occupancy, and tax on the client. (Can a business sustain this?). This is to be replaced by a single 37% tax (still high). Also, a requirement that one use one’s own vehicle for transport and disclosure of the route has evolved. There seem to be creative ways to get around these. Add to this the idea that a trail vehicle may harbor guns when the transport vehicle may not.

Other impediments: The public and financial record issues involving disclosure; wild variation as to what revenue should be; difficulties in creation of a safe adult market; to legalize or not to legalize; whether the federal government should change marijuana from a schedule 1 to a schedule 3.

Comment: As Churchill would say, “A riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

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