A bill presently being voted on by the Alexandrian Imperial Parliament is soon expected to pass, resulting in the legalization of marijuana in the micronation.
The Marijuana Legalization Bill, tabled by First Consul Antonio Verini’s Liberal Alliance government to meet a June election commitment, aims to regulate the production and sale of the drug. If the Bill receives Royal Assent as expected, all individuals, aged 18 or greater, would be lawfully permitted to consume marijuana and to purchase it from licensed vendors, who would in-turn be supplied through licensed cultivators.
Alexandrians will not have carte blanche to smoke marijuana without consequence, however. The Bill criminalizes the operation of any motor vehicle, industrial equipment, aircraft or watercraft while under the influence of the drug, imposing penalties similar to drunk driving. Those who contravene the provisions of the Bill governing underage sales and unlicensed production will also be subject to a stiff range of fines – up to $20,000 – or a term of imprisonment of up to 16 months.
Consistent enforcement of the Bill’s provisions may nonetheless be difficult, as the Imperial Parliament will download licensing powers to each of the provincial governments. This may serve to create differing local enforcement regimes, leading to confusion amongst travelling Alexandrians or those involved in interprovincial trade.
That complication was seen as a trade-off for the Imperial Government as it attempts to meet another campaign commitment to empower local government and allow for greater revenue opportunities for them. “[Provincial and local governments] will be able to levy an excise tax to fund programs that they deem important for their unique needs,” said Mr Verini during parliamentary debate.
Any such local excise tax on marijuana would range up to 50% under the provisions of the Bill, and would be in on top of a 50% national excise tax to benefit Imperial coffers. Neither tax would apply to medical marijuana, suggesting that the Imperial Government is hoping to create a beneficial revenue stream through taxation of marijuana use as a vice. Of the taxes collected, at least 5% would be directed to addiction treatment programmes. With the economy slowing last month, it is unclear how much revenue will be realized from the legalization of marijuana, and no such estimate was provided by the government during debate.
Perhaps more definitively for government finances will be the retroactive decriminalization provision included with the Bill. That provision will commute the sentence of individuals previous convicted of most marijuana-related offences, potentially reducing the nationwide prison population considerably. The Bill will also expunge most convictions from individual criminal records, allowing many Alexandrians to regain access to the job market.
Voting on the Bill is continuing as of press time. The Liberal Alliance and the Socialist Party, which dominate parliament, are both in favour of the Bill, suggesting that its passage is a foregone conclusion. The vote will formally conclude on August 8, with Royal Assent expected to follow soon thereafter.