Merry Christmas! Peace on Earth! Good Will to Men! Hark the Herald Angels sing…Glory to the newborn KING!
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The federal government is stockpiling hundreds of "suspicious activity reports" that could provide federal agents with sufficient evidence to shut down any state-legalized marijuana business.
While it may appear that federal authorities have taken a wait-and-see approach to marijuana legalization in the 23 states that now allow medical or recreational use, these reports are poised like a blade over the budding industry should federal laws be enforced.
This risk of federal prosecution has led some cannabis companies to literally launder their money.
"You used to be able to just smell it," said Jennifer Waller, vice president of the Colorado Bankers Association, speaking of the cash from marijuana shops. "But now they are using Febreze a lot, putting the money in dryers, a lot of different things to try to disguise the scent because marijuana has such a distinct odor."
That distinct odor is considered a red flag by federal authorities who require banks to file a suspicious activity report for every transaction that might be associated with illegal activity, including selling marijuana, even for state licensed businesses.
"It’s because of the illegal nature of it," Waller said. "In banking, if you are accepting the funds from a marijuana company and you are aware of it … you can be charged with money laundering yourself."
Banks fear the repercussions of holding deposits related to marijuana, still a Schedule I illegal drug under federal law. That could mean prison time for tellers, fines for the bank, and even the bank losing its federal deposit insurance.
If a marijuana store is charged with money laundering, it could lose everything.
"Even before a conviction, the feds could freeze your assets," said Chris Myklebust, commissioner of the Colorado Division of Financial Services. "And if there is a money laundering conviction, the feds can seize the assets, too."
The federal government has already collected more than 1,100 reports that implicate different cannabis companies in financial crimes nationwide.
"Just in a moment’s notice, the U.S. Justice Department could literally take down every single dispensary in Colorado, probably within about a day." said Rob Corry, a Denver attorney and marijuana advocate. Corry has worked on several cases where federal agents have seized assets — cars, cash, bank accounts — though many of the records are sealed and it’s hard to gauge just how often this occurs.
More often, banks simply shut down marijuana-related accounts. Between February and August 2014, banks filed more than 475 "Marijuana Termination" suspicious activity reports — indicating they closed hundreds of accounts because of possible criminal activity.
"I’ve lost my personal bank account, my brothers have lost their personal bank accounts," said Sally Vander Veer, operator of Medicine Man dispensary in Denver. The dispensary also lost its account in August. She says that without a bank account, all Medicine Man employees are paid in cash.
"I can’t protect them. They walk out of here with a pocket full of cash and, in essence, they become another target and a potential victim of not having banking in the marijuana industry," Vander Veer said.
The dilemma has resulted in marijuana dispensaries hiring private businesses like Blue Line Protection Group that employ former military or law-enforcement officers equipped with handguns, bulletproof vests, tactical training and armored trucks to transport cash and product to undisclosed locations for safekeeping.
"When we started, the clients we were picking up had a manager taking (cash) in a Honda Civic or some kind of Subaru, unarmed, no vests, no tactics, no skills," said Dominic Powelson, who works for Blue Line Protection Group.
State regulators in Colorado and Washington have also tried to ease access to banking. Mycklebust, the Colorado financial services commissioner, issued a charter to the first ever marijuana-focused credit union in November. The new credit union will not immediately have federal credit insurance, although it has applied.
Mycklebust said the new credit union must also file suspicious activity reports.
The so called "SARs" stem from guidelines set forth by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department. The guidelines were meant to ease access to banks.
"Banks are required by law to report when they think that a business is making money from something illegal, and marijuana is still federally illegal," said Steve Hudak, spokesman for FinCEN. "We attempted to provide guidance that would help to get cash off the streets and some of the public danger that is associated with that, so we went about as far as we could."
But the guidelines didn’t actually legalize banking for marijuana businesses — only Congress can do that. So far, Congressional leaders have been opposed.
"(FinCEN’s) guidance is dangerously misleading," wrote U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in a letter of reprimand to the agency. "Indeed, following the guidance may expose financial institutions to civil or criminal liability."
Still, some U.S. representatives from Colorado and other states have introduced legislation to federally legalize state-approved marijuana, or at least legalize the industry’s access to banking. But those bills have not advanced, and state-approved marijuana businesses operate solely as a matter of federal discretion.
That could change at any time.
The Coloradoan brings you this report in partnership with Rocky Mountain PBS I-News. Learn more at rmpbs.org/news. Contact Katie Kuntz at firstname.lastname@example.orgRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands
U.S. won’t stop Native Americans from growing, selling pot on their lands
Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice.
The new guidance, released in a memorandum, will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues.
It once again sends a message that we really don’t care about federal drug laws. – Kevin A. Sabet, an opponent of marijuana legalization and former advisor on drug issues to President Obama
It remains to be seen how many reservations will take advantage of the policy. Many tribes are opposed to legalizing pot on their lands, and federal officials will continue to enforce the law in those areas, if requested.
Southern California is home to nearly 30 federal- and state-recognized Indian tribes, with a total population of nearly 200,000, according to state estimates. The largest tribes operate profitable casinos and outlet malls, including those by the Morongo, Cabazon, San Manuel and Pechanga tribes.
- Representatives of several of the largest tribes could not be reached for comment.
The policy comes on the heels of the 2013 Justice Department decision to stop most federal marijuana prosecutions in states that have legalized the possession or sale of pot. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have all moved to legalize the drug, though the D.C. law may be scaled back by Congress.
Some tribes see marijuana sales as a potential source of revenue, similar to cigarette sales and casino gambling, which have brought a financial boon to reservations across the country. Others, including the Yakama Reservation in Washington state, remain strongly opposed to the sale or use of marijuana on their lands.
Purdon said in an interview that the majority of Native American tribes, mindful of the painful legacy of alcohol abuse in their communities, appear to be against allowing marijuana use on their territory.
The federal government will continue to legally support those tribes that wish to ban marijuana, even in states that now permit its sale, Purdon said.
But the Justice Department will generally not attempt to enforce federal marijuana laws on federally recognized tribes that choose to allow it, as long as they meet eight federal guidelines, including that marijuana not be sold to minors and not be transported to areas that prohibit it.
"The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations," Purdon said.
John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, said a primary purpose of the memorandum to be released Thursday is to assure U.S. attorney offices and tribes that despite the changes in Justice Department policy announced last year, federal prosecutors still have the authority to prosecute marijuana felonies on tribal lands.
In many cases, federal prosecutors are the only ones permitted by law to prosecute marijuana felonies on tribal lands.
Walsh said that the new memorandum, like the one issued for states last year, emphasizes that states or reservations must have "robust and effective regulatory systems in place" and that federal prosecutors reserve the right to take broader enforcement actions.
The policy is likely to be criticized in states opposed to marijuana sales, particularly those with Native American reservations.
Kevin A. Sabet, an opponent of marijuana legalization and former advisor on drug issues to President Obama, called the policy an "extremely troubling development."
"It once again sends a message that we really don’t care about federal drug laws," he said.
Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, said, "Native Americans and their families suffer disproportionately from addiction compared to other groups. The last thing they want is another commercialized industry that targets them for greater use."
Times staff writer Hugo Martin in Los Angeles contributed to this report.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
With all the upheaval in Washington, it isn’t likely that federal proposals to tax marijuana will pass anytime soon. Yet as Professor Paul Caron catalogs, economists are looking anew at the proposed Marijuana Tax Equity Act (H.R. 501). It would end the federal prohibition on marijuana and allow it to be taxed. Growers, sellers and users would not to fear violating federal law. But dealing with taxes would be another story.
The bill would impose an excise tax of 50% on cannabis sales and an annual occupational tax on workers in the growing field of legal marijuana. Is that a good trade-off? Federal Proposals to Tax Marijuana: An Economic Analysis by Jane G. Gravelle & Sean Lowry focuses on potential federal marijuana taxes. The authors present justifications for taxes and they estimate levels of tax. They consider possible marijuana tax designs, as well as tax administration and enforcement issues such as labeling and tracking.
Of course, statistics can be deceptive. When Colorado legalized recreational use, it trumpeted the tax revenue it knew would be piling in. There’s a 2.9% sales tax and a 10% marijuana sales tax. Plus, there is a 15% excise tax on the average market rate of retail marijuana. If you add them up, it’s 27.9%.
But it turned out that the $33.5 million Colorado projected to collect in the first six months of 2014 was a little too optimistic. When the smoke cleared, Colorado was missing $21.5 million in pot taxes! One explanation is that all those taxes meant many smokers still buy on the black market. Getting numbers on that can be tough.
The Marijuana Policy Group has suggested that perhaps only 60% of purchases in Colorado are made through legal channels. One reason is price, since legal marijuana is more expensive. And the taxes are still being contested. So far, the Colorado tax on marijuana has been upheld despite claims that paying it amounts to self-incrimination violating the Fifth Amendment.
Plaintiffs wanted the taxes on recreational pot outlawed, reasoning that they require businesses and consumers to implicate themselves in federal crimes. The plaintiffs lost on getting an injunction, but challenges to the taxes continue. The 2.9% medical marijuana tax compared with 27% on the recreational variety is a big spread.
Some patients could be reselling their 2.9% medical stock to the public. A medical marijuana card costs $15. About 23% of the estimated marijuana users in Colorado have medical cards, according to the Marijuana Policy Group.
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By Samuel T. Wilkinson December 5 at 8:09 PM
Last month, people voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Oregon, Alaska and the District. As the movement toward marijuana legalization continues, lawmakers and policy experts are looking to the experiments in Colorado and Washington for guidance. We should not overlook, however, valuable lessons from our experience with another legal drug: tobacco.
In the late 19th century, the landscape of tobacco consumption was very different than it is today. Tobacco use was much less prevalent, and cigarettes accounted for a tiny portion of consumption. Yet by the mid-20th century almost half of U.S. adults smoked, with major consequences for public health. Despite important health policy achievements since, cigarette smoking remains a major contributor to the top causes of death in the United States, including cardiovascular and lung diseases, as well as cancer.
This drastic rise in the prevalence of smoking can be attributed to a number of successful business strategies. Hand-rolling of cigarettes, a technique that limited production potential, was supplanted by machine manufacturing. Changes in the chemical composition and curing process of cigarettes made them more flavorful as well as more addictive. Aggressive marketing techniques sought to build a larger consumer base. Advertisements often featured doctors in an effort to quell public fear over smoking-related health concerns; other campaigns targeted children or adolescents, who represented potential lifetime customers. Finally, the industry created powerful lobbying groups to protect their profits from regulations aimed at curbing consumption.
Alarmingly, marijuana businesses are now mimicking many of Big Tobacco’s successful strategies. New methods of consuming marijuana (such as vaporization) are said to represent a healthier way to get high — though little research supports this claim — encouraging individuals to consume more marijuana in one sitting. The percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (the euphoria-inducing compound associated with many adverse health effects) in marijuana is much higher than it was a few decades ago. Just as tobacco companies featured doctors in advertisement campaigns, marijuana advocates have appealed to medical authority by successfully lobbying in many places for the approval of “medical marijuana” for a plethora of conditions, even when little or no scientific evidence supports its use. While it is laudable that Colorado has placed restrictions on marijuana advertising, it is also disturbing that the marijuana industry quickly mounted powerful legal efforts to challenge these restrictions in court.
The formula for success in profiting from a legal drug is simple and has been clearly outlined by Big Tobacco: Identify a product with addictive potential, aggressively market it to as large an audience as possible, develop technical innovations to allow for and promote increased consumption, and deny or minimize potential costs to human health. The marijuana industry is poised to copy this formula, with dire consequences.
Important lessons can also be drawn from the Netherlands , where marijuana has been decriminalized since 1976. Following decriminalization, the Dutch government strictly enforced guidelines prohibiting advertising and transactions above a certain quantity (to discourage mass production and distribution). For about a decade, marijuana consumption rates remained stable. However, in the mid-1980s, waning enforcement of these guidelines coincided with a drastic increase in both the commercialization of marijuana and rates of consumption. The overriding lesson from the Netherlands is that it was commercialization, not decriminalization itself, that led to sharp increases in use.
If we are intent on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, lessons from the tobacco industry and the Dutch marijuana experiment suggest that we do so in a way that does not pit corporate incentives against the interests of public health. Similar to efforts in Uruguay, production and distribution should be done solely by the government so as to ensure that there is no corporate incentive to entice more people to consume marijuana in larger quantities. Advertisements in all media venues should be banned, or as stringently regulated as allowed by law.
While the health effects of marijuana are generally not as severe as those of cigarette smoking, the consequences — including addiction, psychosis and impaired cognitive abilities — are nonetheless real. Notably, these effects are most pronounced in children and adolescents. Claims that marijuana legalization will make it easier to prevent use by minors are not backed by scientific or historical evidence. The most prevalent drugs consumed by teenagers are those that are legal: alcohol and tobacco. This should give us pause to consider the optimal way to legalize marijuana — and indeed whether other states should consider legalization at all.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the US, and its prevalence among adolescents and young adults has been increasing in recent years. But in a new study published in the journal Cell Reports, researchers say they may have uncovered a potential way to help some individuals stop using marijuana.
In the brain, endocannabinoids usually activate cannabinoid receptors, which are involved in regulating appetite, pain, memory and mood, among other physiological processes.
However, past studies have indicated that individuals with mood and anxiety disorders have reduced levels of endocannabinoids. Since the active ingredient in marijuana – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – can also activate the cannabinoid receptors, many people may use the drug to relieve symptoms of such disorders.
But the research team – led by Dr. Sachin Patel, professor of psychiatry and molecular physiology and biophysics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN – says they have found a way to replenish levels of an endocannabinoid called 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in the brain, which may reduce the reliance on marijuana to treat mood and anxiety disorders.
Replenishing 2-AG levels reduced anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors in mice
To reach their findings, Dr. Patel and his team deleted an enzyme in adult male and female mice – called diacylglycerol lipase α (DAGLα) – that usually breaks down 2-AG, creating 2-AG-deficient mouse models.
The researchers say all mice displayed anxiety-like behaviors, while female mice displayed behaviors related to depression. "We were expecting that endocannabinoid deficiency would produce anxiety and depressive-like behaviors, but the female-specific depressive behavior took us by surprise," Dr. Patel told Medical News Today.
However, the team found that replenishing 2-AG levels in the brains of the mice appeared to reverse anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors. The researchers say their findings indicate that "normalizing 2-AG deficiency could represent a viable […] therapeutic strategy for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders."
What is more, Dr. Patel told MNT that, although the technique has not yet been tested in humans, it has the potential to wean some heavy marijuana users off the drug:
"It is very possible that a subset of heavy marijuana users are actually self-medicating symptoms of anxiety or mood disorders.
We think that manipulating the naturally produced cannabinoids, like 2-AG, is likely to have the same anxiety-reducing, mood-elevating capacity without producing as many side effects as synthetic cannabinoids, like marijuana. This approach, then, would eliminate the drive to self-medicate with marijuana."
Next, Dr. Patel said the team wants to find out exactly how 2-AG deficiency impacts the brain’s ability to regulate mood and anxiety. This, he says, would improve efficiency when the endocannabinoid-replenishing technique reaches clinical testing.
Last month, MNT reported on a study by researchers from the University of California-San Francisco, which suggested that exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke could be just as harmful to health as exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke.
Written by Honor WhitemanRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Today is the 81st anniversary of the repeal of federal alcohol prohibition.
The 21st Amendment ended the failed experiment of Prohibition and delegated the issue of alcohol legalization and regulation solely to the states.
The 21st Amendment was neither “for” nor “against” alcohol. It was simply an acknowledgment that federal prohibition was an obvious failure and a nod towards state’s and individual rights. No state was required to legalize alcohol. It was their choice.
The repeal of prohibition has been a tremendous success. This country has the best regulated beverage alcohol industry in the world while still being the world’s most dynamic. Just ask any beer drinker!
Fast forward to the present. Republicans made huge gains in last month’s elections, decisively winning control of the Senate, increasing their dominance in the House to a level not seen since the 40’s, controlling 33 governorships and more state legislators than any time since the 1920s. They now have the opportunity to cement and expand these gains and to create a permanent majority.
How? By leading the charge to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. You don’t have to be “pro-cannabis” to be against prohibition.
Like it or not, illicit marijuana is available in every corner of this country. Any teenager can get it with little effort. Most say it’s far easier to get than beer.
Criminal gangs across the country rake in tens of billions of dollars each year selling marijuana. Milton Friedman once said, “See, if you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That’s literally true.”
In 2012, 750,000 people were arrested for mere possession. That’s about one arrest every 48 seconds! And a disproportionate number of the people arrested on marijuana-related charges are minorities.
The federal prohibition of marijuana has been as profound a failure as the attempted federal prohibition against alcohol. The solution is the same. Let the states decide and regulate as they see fit.
Here in Colorado, the legalization of marijuana has been a resounding success. Teen use is down. Auto fatalities are at near historic lows. Crime is down across the board. Tax revenue is flowing in.
If Republicans want to expand their base, they need to show they truly believe in a liberty-based agenda. Reach out to groups that historically have not been favorable to the Republican brand and prove through action that they have much more in common than they might think. Individual freedom is a winning message for people of all colors and all walks of life.
Republicans in Congress should pass legislation within their first 60 days in office repealing federal prohibition and placing the issue with the individual states and their citizens.
A statement such as, “I’m personally against it but believe in the wisdom of the people” can be a get-out-of-jail-free card for all who fear being branded pro-marijuana. The issue isn’t for or against marijuana but rather whether a legal, state regulated market is preferable to a prohibition market. Alcohol or marijuana, the answer to this is clear.
The alternative is Republicans turning off another generation of voters who think of them as the party that speaks of individual freedom but whose actions suggest they want to control other people’s lives. These folks have seen the failure of big government and most big institutions. Their loyalty can be obtained, but the party has to walk the walk.
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The new law, passed by the overwhelming demand of the American people, broke new ground in drug policy. Finally forcing the federal government to regulate a drug which had been a part of American society since the Colonial days, the new policy provided an innovative compromise: adult Americans were permitted to possess the drug for medical purposes in the privacy of their own homes, but it was a crime to sell the drug or to manufacture it for sale.
The law was in fact very similar to Initiative 71, which voters in Washington, D.C. passed by an overwhelming majority in the 2014 elections and news outlets were quick to label a victory for cannabis legalization. It also contains definite shades of a California-style medical marijuana bill, in which possession of the herb technically remains a crime but patients with a valid medical recommendation have been exempted from penalties.
But history calls this law by a very different name: Prohibition.
It is a mind-boggling measure of just how far this nation has gone down the path of drug policy insanity that the 1919 Volstead Act, which criminalized the sale of alcohol in every state of the US and which history calls “Prohibition,” had essentially the same rules for alcohol that D.C.’s “legalization” initiative lays out for cannabis nearly a century later.
The Volstead Act, contrary to popular belief, didn’t really criminalize adult possession of alcohol for personal consumption; although the practice was nominally prohibited, the text of the law contained so many loopholes that practically any adult could legally possess and consume booze. The two largest loopholes during alcohol prohibition should in fact sound very familiar to any cannabis activist today: both “medical” and sacramental use were excepted.
Thus, in the unlikely event that an adult couldn’t find a physician willing to prescribe him medical whiskey, he could always simply “convert” to Catholicism and keep his altar stocked for his weekly communion with holy spirits.
Sure, it’s far from a perfect policy, as practically everyone knows; but what the Volstead Act did for alcohol during the Prohibition era would be hailed as a landmark reform victory if applied to cannabis today. It would even address some legitimate concerns; with the highly-visible presence of some unscrupulous profiteers preying on vulnerable parents curious about medical cannabis, a ban on for-profit sales similar to provisions in the Volstead Act might be a rational — if overly blunt — policy tool.
Here, too, the path forward can be found through history, as over time Americans realized that legalizing and regulating alcohol sales (including restrictions on advertising to minors) were more effective strategies than criminal bans. Indeed, D.C.’s innovative “non-commercialized” cannabis legalization policy continues the nation’s history of evolving drug policy; with time and experience in the laboratories of states, Americans may deem the model superior to commercialized options. Only time will tell.
Prohibition gets a bad rap these days, but it was a whole lot better than the drug war is today. It’s time the federal government chose the lesser evil.
Restore Prohibition, 2016.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Marijuana is growing up. As Colorado and Washington’s recreational marijuana industries blossom and new markets in Oregon and Alaska begin to take shape, so-called ganjapreneurs are looking for ways to take cannabis mainstream. Before long, they hope, marijuana products will be as widely available as alcohol — and just as socially acceptable.
“Ideally, I would like to see the 21-to-35 year-old taking a four-pack of these to a barbecue,” Joe Hodas, chief marketing director for the marijuana product manufacturer Dixie, said earlier this year of the company’s new watermelon cream-flavored "elixir," Dixie One. The drink contains five milligrams of THC — just enough to produce a subtle buzz.
“This is a full experience in a bottle, much like beer," Hodas said. "Sometimes they’ll want a beer, sometimes they’ll want two or three beers. This sort of affords you that calibration."
Since starting in 2010, Colorado-based Dixie has developed a wide array of marijuana products, from THC-infused chocolates to concentrated cannabis for e-cigarettes. Many of its offerings are aimed at experienced marijuana users with high tolerances — the company’s top seller is a line of elixirs containing 75 milligrams of THC. Lower-dose products are proving increasingly popular, however.
“It’s been selling really surprisingly well,” Hodas told The Huffington Post recently of Dixie One. “In some of our stores, it had been outselling our 75 mg elixir. We were going to be happy if it sold decently well, but it was outselling in some cases. That said to us, we were correct, there is a market for that consumer.”
Encouraged by the success of Dixie One, the company is focusing on casual cannabis consumers. This week, Dixie released another low-dose product, a mint that releases THC directly into the bloodstream as it dissolves in the mouth.
“I think the low-dose consumer is an expansion demographic for us,” Hodas said. “It’s my belief that the core marijuana user is a small circle, and in a much larger surrounding circle is the casual user and a much larger market.”
At the moment, the recreational cannabis industry is limited to Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon. Marijuana advocates and business owners say it’s only a matter of time before more states follow, bringing cannabis products like Dixie One to store shelves and backyard barbecues across America. More than 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and this month voters in Washington, D.C., approved a referendum to legalize recreational use in the nation’s capital.
Already, Colorado and Washington state illustrate how cannabis is shedding its stoner image and entering mainstream culture. Marijuana products have been featured prominently in gourmet dinners and in cooking seminars in both states. The drug has become a fashionable substance to offer as a celebratory toast at weddings. Yoga enthusiasts can seek zen at marijuana-fueled classes.
Earlier this year, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra held a “Classically Cannabis” fundraiser, where well-heeled attendees sipped drinks, shook hands and smoked pot from joints, vaporizers and glass pipes, while a brass quintet played Debussy, Bach, Wagner and Puccini.
"Cannabis is being elevated into the pantheon of refined and urbane inebriants, no different than boutique rye or fine wine," said Matt Gray, the publisher of a new gourmet marijuana cookbook.
A number of worrying episodes have accompanied the legal high, however. In March, a 19-year-old college student leapt to his death from a hotel balcony in Denver after eating marijuana-infused cookies. In April, police said a Denver man shot his wife to death after he said he had eaten marijuana candy and prescription pills.
State laws in Colorado and Washington already require a “serving” of THC in an edible marijuana product to be limited to 10 milligrams — about the amount in a medium-sized joint. (The rules in Alaska and Oregon have not yet been set.) Some products, such as candy bars, may contain multiple servings, however, and package labels do not always include serving size or dosage information.
To address these issues, Colorado and Washington officials, and representatives of the cannabis industry, are finalizing new regulations that will require clearer labeling and childproof packaging. And, much like the alcohol industry encourages consumers to "drink responsibly," the makers of marijuana products are taking steps to educate customers and encourage responsible consumption.
“I think the idea of being proactive with our messaging — being safe and responsible with our messaging — we’re trying to do that now early on, versus being told to do that after the fact,” Hodas said.
“We are concerned about the uneducated consumer who may have a bad experience with edibles, because that means they may not use our products in the future," Hodas added. "So educating that consumer and making sure they know how to use them is of great importance to Dixie and the rest of the industry."
To that end, Dixie, like most marijuana product companies, has detailed information its website about how to enjoy its products. Marijuana Policy Project launched an educational campaign, aptly named ”Consume Responsibly,” with advice about preventing and responding to over-consumption or accidental consumption, as well as other detailed information about cannabis products, their effects and the laws that govern their possession, sale and use.
Recognizing that Colorado’s marijuana laws are luring tourists to the state, the inaugural billboard for the campaign in Denver encouraged moderation and patience. “Don’t let a candy bar ruin your vacation," the sign read. "With edibles, start low and go slow.”
"We are aiming to boost the industry’s image by removing negative stereotypes and stigmas, while promoting education surrounding the many uses of cannabis,” said Olivia Mannix, co-founder of Cannabrand, an ad agency representing marijuana-related businesses. “We feel that the public image of cannabis ultimately influences policy makers and is crucial for widespread legalization.”
Still, getting the message — and brands — in front of the public has been a challenge for marijuana companies. State laws ban advertisements on television or billboards that directly market marijuana products. Google, Facebook and Twitter refuse to accept marijuana advertising on their websites.
While marijuana businesses may have dreams of mass market sales and global domination, for the moment, they seem to be taking the "go slow" approach.
“The eyes of the world are on us right now, and how we handle that spotlight will go a long way in shaping public opinion about legal marijuana,” Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told HuffPost. “Our businesses and our people are committed to building an industry we can be proud of. That means no shortcuts and none of the leeway that plenty of other industries out there get."
Her appeal to the marijuana industry is simple: “The future of this industry depends on the present — don’t screw it up.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Christian M. Wade Statehouse reporter
BOSTON — Emboldened by victories in other states and recent polls showing widespread support, advocates of legalized marijuana are preparing to put the question to Massachusetts voters in 2016.
Supporters of legalization say they are drafting legislation to allow recreational pot cultivation and use, with a tax similar to those for alcohol and tobacco, for consideration in the legislative session that starts in January. They’ll also prepare a ballot question for the 2016 elections in case lawmakers fail to act.
“If the Legislature doesn’t do anything, we’ll go to the voters in 2016,” said Richard Evans, a Northampton attorney and chairman of a coalition that is pushing for legalization. “We want to give lawmakers the opportunity to enact it. Voters shouldn’t be making laws like this, lawmakers should. But when the lawmakers won’t, voters must.”
It seems unlikely the Legislature will sign off, given the track record of previous efforts. A bill to allow adults to grow marijuana while establishing a tax on retail sales failed to gain much support in the current session.
Still, Evans said he believes public opinion on marijuana use is turning, citing an easing of state laws and the approval of recreational use in Colorado, Washington and, more recently, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C.
In 2008, Massachusetts voters decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, replacing jail time with a $100 fine. Four years later, voters approved the cultivation and use of medical marijuana. Both initiatives passed by more than 60 percent.
“It’s no longer a question of whether it will be legalized in the state, but when and how,” Evans said.
Medicinal uses, medical concerns
Opponents argue that recreational pot use should remain illegal, especially given the danger it poses to youth.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The movement to end marijuana prohibition has made significant progress recently, but it could all be undone when the next president takes office in 2017.
Harvard economist Jeff Miron, a vocal supporter of marijuana policy reform, highlighted the precarious nature of state marijuana laws in a Wednesday op-ed for CNN on why Congress needs to act now on federal marijuana policy.
"Despite the compelling case for legalization, and progress toward legalization at the state level, ultimate success is not assured," Miron wrote. "Federal law still prohibits marijuana, and existing jurisprudence (Gonzales v. Raich 2005) holds that federal law trumps state law when it comes to marijuana prohibition. So far, the federal government has mostly taken a hands-off approach to state medicalizations and legalizations, but in January 2017, the country will have a new president. That person could order the attorney general to enforce federal prohibition regardless of state law."
With marijuana legalization supported by a majority of Americans, and with states continuing to pass legalization laws — about a dozen more may do so by 2016 — it seems unlikely that the federal government would push back against the popular movement. But it’s not impossible.
That’s because the regulation of marijuana — as seen in programs currently in place in Colorado and Washington state, as well as those that will soon go into effect in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C. — remains illegal under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. The states that have legalized marijuana have only been able to do so because of federal guidance urging federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations. That guidance could be reversed when a new administration enters the White House.
“Both Miron’s analysis and conclusion are spot on," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) told The Huffington Post. "The federal government needs to end the failed prohibition of marijuana by rescheduling or removing it from the list of controlled substances. Too many lives are ruined and futures cut short by these outdated and wasteful policies.”
Blumenauer is just one of a number of lawmakers from both parties who have worked toward that end. About a dozen bills were introduced in 2013, several by Blumenauer himself, aimed at limiting the federal government’s ability to interfere with states’ legal marijuana programs. Last year, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would direct the U.S. Attorney General to issue an order that removes marijuana in any form from all schedules of controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act. If passed, Polis’ measure would effectively end the federal government’s prohibition of marijuana.
And while Congress has failed to pass any of those bills, attitudes are still changing rapidly on marijuana policy. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said he remains cautiously optimistic about marijuana legalization being here to stay, despite Congress’ tendency to move slowly on controversial social issues like this.
"It’s all political," Nadelmann told HuffPost in an email. "Of course it’s possible that the next president could decide to crack down on the states that have legalized marijuana but that prospect becomes ever less likely with every passing day."
"Diverse sectors of society are developing a stake in marijuana remaining legal," he continued. "Taxpayers and tax collectors enjoy the revenue. Cost cutters appreciate the savings from no longer arresting so many people for marijuana. Unions welcome the new legal jobs. Businessmen, including many who vote Republican, relish the actual and potential profits."
In a similar vein, Blumenauer himself has predicted that before the end of the decade, the federal government will legalize weed. Federal authorities have already allowed Colorado’s and Washington’s historic marijuana laws to take effect, and earlier this year, President Barack Obama signed the 2014 farm bill, which legalized industrial hemp production for research purposes in the states that permit it. The first hemp crops in U.S. soil in decades are already growing.
Moreover, in May, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed bipartisan measures aimed at limiting Drug Enforcement Administration crackdowns on state-legal medical marijuana shops, and at preventing the agency from interfering in states’ legal hemp programs.
Even in gridlocked Washington, the Democratic White House and the Republican-heavy Congress have been able to see eye-to-eye over how criminal justice and drug policy reform will be implemented in the next two years.
So what do some of the likely 2016 presidential candidates say about marijuana? On the Republican side, according to HuffPost’s Pollster model, the front-runners are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Paul has been supportive of D.C.’s new recreational marijuana law, and he’s also introduced legislation aimed at protecting state-legal medical marijuana operations from federal intervention.
Huckabee, meanwhile, is opposed to both medical and recreational marijuana, and Bush came out against Florida’s recent medical marijuana bill. At the same time, Bush has made generally supportive comments about keeping the federal government out of state marijuana laws.
On the Democratic side, the current front-runners are former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.). While Clinton hasn’t offered a full-throated endorsement of marijuana legalization, she has left the door open, saying she supports medical marijuana "for people who are in extreme medical conditions." She’s also said she wants to "wait and see" how recreational pot works out in Colorado and Washington state.
Biden has called legalization a "mistake" in the past, but he’s also said that cracking down on marijuana users is a "waste of our resources." Warren has offered some support for medical marijuana legalization, but is opposed to recreational legalization.
"For 77 years, the United States has outlawed marijuana, with tragic repercussions and unintended consequences," Miron wrote Wednesday. "The public and their state governments are on track to rectify this terrible policy. Here’s hoping Congress catches up."
Read Miron’s entire editorial here.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Marley Natural blend will hit states where weed is legal next year
By Daniel Kreps | November 19, 2014
The world’s most famous reggae singer is on the verge of becoming the Marlboro Man of Marijuana: The Bob Marley estate has licensed the Legend singer’s name and likeness to create a special blend of herb dubbed Marley Natural.
Marley’s widow Rita Marley and children Cedella and Rohan have teamed up with Privateer Holdings, a private equity group specializing in the legal marijuana market, to exclusively mass-produce those "heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains" that Marley himself smoked to make the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer the face of the herb revolution. Privateer also owns Tilray, a 60,000-square-foot property on Vancouver Island, British Columbia that ranks as the world’s largest marijuana grow farm.
Although the blend won’t hit the States where pot is legal – which now includes Alaska and Oregon – until late-2015, Marley is now positioned to become the face of a movement to legalize weed not just in America but worldwide. "Bob Marley started to push for legalization more than 50 years ago. We’re going to help him finish it," Privateer Holdings CEO Brendan Kennedy told NBC News.
"It just seems natural that Daddy should be part of this conversation," Cedella Marley, 47, the reggae legend’s first-born daughter, told NBC News in a taped statement. "As Daddy would say, ‘make way for the positive day.’" Son Rohan Marley added, "Herb is for the healing of the nation; herb is for the meditation; herb is for the higher vibrations."
Rita Marley, who was once a member of Marley’s backup singing group the I Threes, said in a statement, "You can depend on Bob, too. He’s 100 percent behind what is happening. He’s happy because this is what we dreamed of," referring to marijuana legalization. "It was unruly for them to call it weed or drugs. We saw it as a spiritual thing, given to us by God." The Marley family also shared a commercial for the Marley Natural, as well as the blend’s logo, a dread lion positioned between two pot leaves.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Oct. 23, 2014
Earlier this month, we reported that Ebola.com’s owner, a disease-obsessed domain name vendor called Blue String Ventures, was hoping to sell the URL for at least $150,000. Now, according to a report from DomainInvesting.com, Ebola.com has been sold to a Russian company that is apparently focused on the marijuana business.
Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Ebola.com was bought by Weed Growth Fund for $50,000 in cash and 19,192 shares of Cannabis Sativa, a Mesquite, Nevada-based recreational and medical marijuana company that trades on over-the-counter markets. Based on Cannabis Sativa’s current stock price, those shares are valued at roughly $164,000, making the overall transaction worth just over $200,000.
So to recap: Ebola.com was sold to a marijuana-related company based in Russia that paid mostly in the stock of another marijuana company.
But the story’s not over yet. As recently as September of this year, Weed Growth Fund was known as Ovation Research, which according to this BusinessWeek profile was in the business of distributing “stainless steel cookware products for retail and wholesale customers in North America.”
Then, on Sept. 19, the company filed with the Nevada Secretary of State changing its name to Weed Growth Fund. (We tried to contact Weed Growth Fund by phone and email to ask about the deal and name change, but got no answer.)
Why would a marijuana company want to own the URL Ebola.com? Elliot Silver, DomainInvesting.com’s publisher, asked Blue String Ventures founder Jon Schultz this very question. And while Schultz replied that he did not know why Weed Growth Fund wanted the domain, he did send Silver to this Marijuana.com article in which Cannabis Sativa CEO Gary Johnson (the former two-term New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate!) claims that marijuana can be used to treat Ebola. (You can see him do it in this Fox Business interview.) Cannabis Sativa also did not respond to requests for comment.
So there you have it. A newly renamed, Russian weed-related company bought Ebola.com using shares of a medical marijuana business run by a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate who thinks that pot should be used to treat Ebola. And no, you’re not high (as far as we know). This really happened.
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
BY Ben Reynolds
NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Marlboro cigarette maker Altria (MO) controls 50.9% of the U.S. cigarette market. The company is still gaining market share; one year ago the company controlled 50.7% of the U.S. cigarette market. The U.S. cigarette industry is slowly declining as the negative health consequences of smoking become common knowledge.
Despite onerous taxes and advertising restrictions, selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in the U.S. is highly profitable. Altria has recorded about $24 billion in sales and $4.3 billion in profits over the last 12 months. Altria stock is up almost 40% over the last year, more than twice the gain of the S&P 500.
In the coming years, Altria may be able to tap into the growing U.S. marijuana market. The similarities between marijuana and tobacco are many. Both products are smoked and consumed repeatedly. Marijuana is not physically addictive like tobacco is, but marijuana is psychologically addictive. It also carries a cool vibe in many subsets of society that cigarettes no longer do. The primary reason Altria has not moved into the marijuana market is because marijuana is still illegal on a federal level in the U.S. Despite this, four states have legalized marijuana for both legal and recreational use (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington).
Size of the U.S. Marijuana Market
Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana sales. In August (the most recent month for which data are available), marijuana sales in Colorado, excluding black market sales, totaled $67.5 million. Recreational marijuana sales accounted for $34.1 million, while medical marijuana sales came in at $33.4 million. Colorado has a population of 5.26 million; total marijuana spending per capita in the state was $12.83.
The U.S. has a population of about 316 million. If the entire U.S. legalized marijuana and consumed it at a similar rate as the state of Colorado, the U.S. marijuana market would generate about $48.6 billion per year in sales.
A sizable chunk of Colorado’s marijuana revenue was generated by tourists. This likely inflates marijuana sales numbers in the state. This would be partially offset if the entire U.S. legalized marijuana, as "pot tourists" from around the world would come to the U.S. Still, the effect is likely to be less on a percentage basis than what Colorado is experiencing.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By TIM TALLEY
Associated Press November 9, 2014
OKLAHOMA CITY — As more states approve the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, an Oklahoma-based electronic cigarette retailer is looking to build a national franchise.
Marijuana is illegal under federal drug laws. But voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., approved ballot measures Tuesday to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, joining Washington state and Colorado. And in more than a dozen other states, medical marijuana is available.
The growing availability of legal pot opens the door for Tulsa-based Palm Beach Vapors to market a method for producing a cannabis oil product that can be inhaled through a common e-cigarette, according to CEO and co-founder Chip Paul.
"This is a wave that’s kind of sweeping the nation," said Paul, whose company is looking to patent the method and has already signed licensing deals in California and Colorado for what it calls the M-System. He said he intends to set up franchise locations in other states.
The use of marijuana is currently illegal in Oklahoma, but the market for cannabis products is projected to grow as more states move to legalize it. Advocates plan a big push for legalization initiatives on 2016 ballots in California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, according to Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Paul was one of the organizers of an Oklahoma initiative petition calling for the legalization of medical marijuana, an effort that ended in August when volunteers failed to gather the needed signatures of more than 155,000 registered voters. The failed petition sought voter approval of classifying marijuana as an herbal drug that would be regulated by the Oklahoma Department of Health. Doctors would have been authorized to prescribe it for a variety of medical conditions.
Cannabis has a history of medicinal use to treat pain or alleviate symptoms such as nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients and people with AIDS. Paul plans to launch another petition drive in August 2015.
But Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, says the agency is concerned about the inhalation of cannabis oils via e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes work by heating liquid nicotine into an inhalable mist; cannabis oils and waxes work much the same. Palm Beach Vapors does not buy, sell or ship marijuana but licenses the preparation method and additive that produces a vegetable glycerin base in which cannabis oils remain evenly distributed, which is key to labeling concentrations, similar to the nicotine measurements in e-cigarettes, Paul said.
The company has applied for a patent, and expects the M-System to account for 30-40 percent of its annual revenue by 2018, provided the country continues its march toward wider legalization, Paul said.
Marijuana is still illegal in Indiana, but Nate Renschler, who has a Palm Beach Vapors franchise in Newburgh, Indiana, said that sentiment could change when state officials realize the tax benefits of legalization.
"The whole country is going one way and Indiana is taking two steps back. We’ll be one of the last steps to legalize marijuana," Renschler said, noting that the e-cigarette product is still viable regardless of what state it is sold in. He uses the Palm Beach Vapors method to sell hemp oil, which he claims is good for a person’s general well-being.
Even though marijuana is not legal in the majority of the United States, Woodward said teens are obtaining e-cigarettes and cannabis oils. "It’s an easier way for people, especially our youth, to disguise their marijuana use," Woodward said.
He said investigators for the agency have already intercepted couriers traveling across Oklahoma who have purchased cannabis oils legally in one state with plans to sell it where it’s illegal.
"It can be hard to detect," Woodward said.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
A new study in the journal Addiction lays out what the vast research on marijuana has revealed over the last 20 years, highlighting the drug’s adverse effects, both acute and chronic. Though researchers have been studying the effects of marijuana for decades, the science has really exploded just in the last 20 years, due in part to better study methods, and also spurred by the growing interest in legalization. The new study maps out exactly what marijuana does and does not do to the body and brain, both in the short and long terms. What’s clear is that marijuana has a number of adverse effects over years of use – in certain people, anyway. What’s not so clear is how policy should be informed by the science. But the researchers suggest that with increasing legalization should come increasing public awareness of the sometimes-serious effects of chronic use.
The acute effects aren’t so bad: No one has ever died from a natural marijuana overdose, the study found. (N.B. This is not true for synthetic marijuana, which can be very dangerous.) Driving while high on marijuana does seem to double the risk of a car crash, which is of course heightened if there is also alcohol in the system. Marijuana has been linked to low birth weight when it is used during pregnancy. Otherwise, acute effects mainly include anxiety, paranoia (especially among new users), dysphoria, cognitive impairment, and psychotic symptoms (especially in people with a family history of psychosis). These particular side effects seem to have risen over the last 20 years, which may be due to the fact that the THC content in marijuana has also risen over that time.
Dried marijuana bud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Over the long term, things get a little worse. It’s important to point out that in epidemiological studies, it can be very difficult to tease out whether cause and effect is actually at play, or whether there’s something else going on. But the authors have gone to great lengths to separate causation from correlation, combing the data for studies that point strongly to cause and effect. Here’s what they found:
- Marijuana can be addictive. But only for some people. About 10% of all users seem to develop dependence syndrome, and for those who start in adolescence, the number is more like 1 in 6. Withdrawal syndrome is also a real phenomenon, with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and appetite disturbance being the main symptoms, which can often be severe enough to have an effect on daily life.
- Marijuana use is linked to adverse cognitive effects. In particular, the drug is linked to reduced learning, memory, and attention. It hasn’t been entirely clear whether these effects persist after a person stops using the drug, but there’s some evidence that it does. One study found a reduction in IQ of 8 points in long-time users, the greatest decline being in people who’d started using as teenagers and continued daily into adulthood. For people who began in adulthood and eventually stopped using, a reduction in IQ was not seen a year later.
- Marijuana may change brain structure and function. There’s been an ongoing debate about whether marijuana actually changes the brain, but recent evidence has suggested that it is linked to changes in the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. It’s unclear, however, how long these effects last, whether they’re linked to behavioral changes, and whether they reverse after a person stops using the drug.
- Regular use is linked to an increased risk of psychotic symptoms. That marijuana is linked to increased psychotic symptoms (e.g., delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking) is fairly clear. But again, it’s been a chicken-and-egg problem, since it’s hard to show whether causation is at play, and which way the connection goes. However, it’s likely that the relationship actually goes both ways: Marijuana may lead to psychotic symptoms, and early psychotic symptoms may increase the likelihood that a person will smoke marijuana (particularly if there’s a family history of psychotic disorders).
- Marijuana is linked to lower educational attainment. When pot smoking begins in adolescence, people tend to go less far in school – but again, a causal relationship hasn’t been demonstrated.
- Marijuana may (or may not be) be a gateway drug. Regular teenage marijuana users are more likely to use other drugs in the future – but again, researchers don’t know whether the link is causal.
- Marijuana is probably – but modestly – linked to schizophrenia. The study found that marijuana is connected to a doubled risk of a schizophrenia diagnosis in the future. Many previous studies have suggested this connection, but, as always, showing causality is hard. The new study cites a number of well-executed studies that suggest a causal relationship between marijuana and schizophrenia. The authors estimate that marijuana use may double the risk of schizophrenia from 7 in 1000 non-users to 14 in 1000 marijuana users. On the upside, they point out that users who quit using the drug after a first psychotic episode have fewer psychotic symptoms and better social functioning moving forward, compared to people who have a psychotic episode but continue using.
- Marijuana may be linked to testicular cancer. Its connection to other forms of cancer is not very consistent, but there’s some evidence of an increased risk of testicular cancer in long-term marijuana users.
- Regular users may have cardiopulmonary issues. Regular marijuana users have a higher risk of developing chronic bronchitis. Marijuana “probably” increases the risk of heart attack in middle age, but it’s hard to know for sure, since many users also smoke cigarettes.
So the chronic effects of marijuana are becoming clearer, though some areas need more work. As the authors point out, none of this is to argue for or against the legalization of marijuana, which is gaining so much speed (and, of course, criticism) across the country. The authors are careful not to weigh in, except to say that if marijuana is legalized or decriminalized, it should be done with a number of safeties in place. As study author Wayne Hall, Director and Inaugural Chair at the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at The University of Queensland, tells me, “Given that Colorado and Washington State have decided to legalise, the governments in these states should aim to regulate sales in ways that minimise the harms arising from use. This should certainly include informing users about the risks of use and doing what is possible to discourage uptake by adolescents.”
He stresses that methods to discourage new users, especially young ones, should be implemented by the government in as many ways as possible. “Regulation of cannabis,” says Hall, “should learn from experiences with alcohol and tobacco and use in limiting the number of heavy users by using taxation, limiting promotion of cannabis use and restricting where cannabis can be sold and by whom.” As more states debate the prospect of legalization, looking to the science may help them make some of the hard decisions. Or, of course, it could make the conversations that much more complex.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
An Ordinance to restore the natural Human Right to grow and use plants for the basic necessities of life.
Whereas in the State of California, the People of the County of Lake do hereby Find, Declare and Ordain as follows:
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for people to reaffirm and reestablish the fundamental human rights with which they are naturally endowed, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s origins entitle them, and to recognize a decent respect for the opinions of humankind, requires that they should declare the causes which compel them to come forward toward the reestablishment of those rights.
We hold these truths to be self-evident:
That all humans beings are created equal. That human beings are naturally endowed with certain rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that to secure these rights, governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, and that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to re-declare and reestablish the inherent human rights that would intrinsically correct such governmental negligence, and to reconstitute such in a form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Therefore, in accordance with the 9th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America,
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.",
and also in accordance with the California State Constitution, Article 1 Declaration of Rights, Section 21.:
…"This declaration of rights may not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people.",
and, also as consistent with County of Lake Ordinance No. 2267 in relation to private property rights, and, whereas disregard and contempt for certain human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of humankind, and, whereas in a world which human beings endeavor to enjoy freedom of speech and belief, and where freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of peoples everywhere, be it here proclaimed that it has become necessary to reaffirm and specifically re-constitute the self evident inherent freedom to grow and use plants as described herein:
Section 1., Findings:
That human beings are naturally endowed with the fundamental self evident right to have and grow the natural plants of this earth, and the naturally occurring seeds thereof, to be used for their own needs as individuals in pursuit of life and in effort to live, and that such basic human rights have been recognized and acknowledged to exist, and that these rights are held in perpetuity outside of the constitutional responsibility of a government to protect an individual’s right to engage in commerce.
That all County of Lake residents residing within the unincorporated areas of the County who exercise the rights described in Section 1. of this Act at their residence within said area, and are compliant with Section 2.(a), and are gardening outside (outdoors) or in a greenhouse (and not withstanding any generally applicable urgency ordinance(s) specifically relating to water conservation), are, as accorded in the paragraphs above, necessarily exempt from any County permitting or other County ordinances that would limit an individual’s home gardening efforts or abilities in conjunction with Section 1.
That any law, to the extent that it would specifically deny or disparage the human rights as described in Section 1. of this Act is unconstitutional by both the Federal Constitutions 9th Amendment, and also by the State Constitutions Article 1 Declaration of Rights, Section 21, and by the fact that such self evident human rights are held in perpetuity by the People.
Section 2., Responsibilities:
Should neighbor complaints that are not related to Section 2.(a) herein, or that are not related to a specific medically verifiable toxic health risk to the public arise as an official complaint to the County as a result of an individual(s) exercising the rights as described in Section 1., and Section 1.(a), (and not withstanding any effected party choosing to seek remedy and or reparations by way of litigation through civil proceedings), all the effected parties shall be directed to mediation provided for by the County of Lake, and if resolution between the effected parties cannot be achieved in a reasonable effort to mediate (to be determined by the appointed mediator), the effected parties shall then continue mediation at their own expense (to be equally divided between the effected parties) until a resolution between the parties can be agreed upon, or until one of the effected parties withdraws from the mediation.
All who exercise the rights described in Section 1., and Section 1.(a) of this Act, shall take reasonable care to prevent environmental destruction, and are responsible to mitigate any possible foreseen negative impacts on the natural environments, and all persons who neglect such practices shall be subject to the authority designated under Section 2.(b) herein, but such remedies are to be used to help individuals come into compliance with this section and not to unreasonably burden individuals who exercise the rights described in Section 1.
The County of Lake Environmental Health Department shall administer over individual circumstances that may arise related to Section 2. and Section 2.(a) herein, but all such administrative authority and compliance inquiries shall be restricted to circumstances where a verifiable neighbor (or resident of the county) complaint in writing and signed by the complainant has been officially registered with the county.
Section 3., Special Circumstances:
Any law, to the extent that it would specifically deny or disparage the Human Rights as described in Section 1. of this Act, (and not withstanding an individual in violation of using illegal gardening chemicals, including but not limited to, certain pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers), is to be set aside unless it can be determined that the individual circumstance is occurring within the context of "commerce" related activities as defined herein, or if an individual’s violation(s) of Section 2.(a) of this Act are to the extent of violating a criminal statute.
This Act shall not apply in circumstances where (a) private rental or lease agreement(s) (contract) exist(s) pertaining to the occupancy and or use of any private land unless such is otherwise specifically enumerated within said agreement(s) (contract), or unless the agreement(s) (contract) does not specify any conditions or agreement pertaining to outside (or greenhouse) home gardening.
Section 4., Definitions:
(a) For the express purposes of this Act, the word "commerce" shall be taken to mean:
The buying and selling of goods or services in any form, and in direct reference to the exchange of United States currency (or other such legally recognized tender) for such goods or services.
(b) For the express purposes of this Act, the words phrased as "compliance inquiries" shall be taken to mean:
A written and delivered inquiry, and an in person inquiry as to responding to (a) specific complaint(s), and to which access to inspect private property shall only be in circumstances where the respondent has voluntarily agreed to and granted such access, or where on an individual basis, a court order has provided for such access.
(c) For the express purposes of Section 1. of this Act, the words phrased as "to be used for their own needs" shall be taken to mean:
For use as food, medicine, fiber, fuel, building materials, environmental damage mitigation or other environmental concerns, privacy, aesthetics or ambiance, spiritual/religious requirement, (or other) basic necessities of life.
(d) For the express purposes of Section 1. of this Act, the word "natural" and the words phrased as "naturally occurring" shall be taken to mean:
Plant species and varieties of such that have evolved in nature through the traditional pollination and cross pollination processes, be that by wind/weather, or animal (including human) assistance.
(e) For the express purposes of Section 1.(a) and Section 3.(a) of this Act, the word "greenhouse" shall be taken to mean:
Any structure where the sun’s light can penetrate at least 80% of the roof (ceiling or top) surface and that is intended for and used for growing plants in.
Section 5., Severability:
If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this Act are severable. The People of the County of Lake hereby declare that we would have adopted this Act irrespective of the invalidity of any particular portion thereof.
Just as Attorney General Eric Holder prepares to step down from his post, he appears more open than ever to the argument for rescheduling marijuana as a less dangerous, more beneficial drug.
"I think it’s certainly a question we need to ask ourselves, whether or not marijuana is as serious of a drug as heroin," Holder said in an interview with Yahoo global news anchor Katie Couric, released on Thursday. "Especially given what we’ve seen recently with regard to heroin — the progression of people from using opioids to heroin use, the spread and the destruction that heroin has perpetrated all around our country. And to see by contrast, what the impact is of marijuana use. Now it can be destructive if used in certain ways, but the question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that we need to ask ourselves and use science as the basis for making that determination."
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, have a "high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted medical use."
Yet science clearly indicates otherwise about marijuana. A growing body of research has demonstrated its medical potential. Purified forms of cannabis can be effective at attacking some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use has also been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. Legalization for medical purposes may even lead to lower suicide rates and fewer pain pill overdoses.
The Schedule I classification hinders federal funding for further research into the benefits of cannabis. Columnist Jacob Sullum recently wrote in Forbes that moving marijuana to Schedule III or below could make it easier for university researchers to look into the drug’s full potential.
While marijuana use would still be illegal under federal law, recategorizing it could also remove some of the financial burdens that state-licensed marijuana businesses currently face.
A provision of the federal tax code prohibits any business that "consists of trafficking in controlled substances," which include Schedule I and II drugs, from making tax deductions. Because of this, pot shops cannot deduct traditional business expenses like advertising costs, employee payroll, rent and health insurance from their combined federal and state taxes. Dispensary owners face effective tax rates of 50 to 60 percent — and in some states, those rates soar to 80 percent or higher. The tax rule would no longer apply to pot businesses if marijuana were moved to Schedule III or lower.
To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, while Colorado and Washington remain the only two states to have legalized it for recreational use.
On whether he thinks marijuana should be decriminalized at the federal level, Holder told Couric, "That’s for Congress to decide."
"I think we’ve taken a look at the experiments that are going on in Colorado and Washington, and we’re going to see what happens there, and that’ll help inform us as to what we want to do on the federal level," Holder added.
"For you, the jury is still out?" Couric asked.
"Yeah," Holder said, "it is."
Holder’s statements to Couric on the potential rescheduling of marijuana appear to follow a continuing evolution of his views on the drug. Under the Obama administration, the DEA and several U.S. attorneys have raided hundreds of marijuana dispensaries that were compliant with local laws in states like California and Colorado. But it was Holder who announced in 2013 that the Department of Justice would allow Colorado and Washington to implement their new laws legalizing and regulating the possession, use and sale of marijuana.
More recently, Holder said that the Obama administration would be "more than glad" to work with Congress to re-examine how cannabis is scheduled. He even said in April that he’s "cautiously optimistic" about how the historic changes in Colorado and Washington were working out.
"It’s refreshing to hear these remarks from the attorney general, especially since the science couldn’t be any clearer that marijuana doesn’t meet the criteria for being classified as a Schedule I substance," said Tom Angell, chairman of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority, after the Couric interview. "Numerous studies confirm marijuana’s medical value, and if the administration is serious about taking an objective look at this issue, rescheduling is very achievable by the time this president leaves office. They can do this administratively without any further action from Congress."
Neill Franklin, a retired police officer turned executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, also praised Holder’s comments. He said he hoped the attorney general’s successor "will recognize the war on drugs for what it is: the single biggest problem afflicting our criminal justice system and the central civil rights issue of our time."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A U.S. marijuana advocacy group took steps Wednesday to begin raising money for a campaign to legalize recreational pot use in California in 2016, a move with potential to add a dose of extra excitement to the presidential election year.
The Marijuana Policy Project filed paperwork with the California secretary of state’s office registering a campaign committee to start accepting and spending contributions for a pot legalization initiative on the November 2016 state ballot, the group said.
The measure would be similar to those passed in 2012 by voters in Colorado and Washington, the first U.S. states to legalize commercial sales of marijuana to all adults over 21.
California, long the national leader in illegal marijuana production and home to a thriving, largely unregulated medical marijuana industry, is one of the 21 other states that currently allow marijuana use only for medical reasons. The drug remains illegal under federal law.
"Marijuana prohibition has had an enormously detrimental impact on California communities. It’s been ineffective, wasteful and counterproductive. It’s time for a more responsible approach," Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Rob Kampia said. "Regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol just makes sense."
The Washington, D.C.-based group also has established campaign committees to back legalization measures in Arizona, Massachusetts and Nevada in 2016.
Voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia will weigh in on marijuana legalization in November.
Seattle tosses out marijuana tickets
In 2010, California voters rejected a ballot initiative seeking to legalize recreational pot. The measure, just like the medical marijuana law the state approved in 1996, was the first of its kind. But along with opposition from law enforcement and elected officials, Proposition 19 faced unexpected resistance from medical marijuana users and outlaw growers in the state’s so-called Emerald Triangle who worried legalization would lead to plummeting marijuana prices.
Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert predicted no such divisions would surface this time around.
Legal pot, murky jobs: Marijuana laws put workers in tough spot
Citing his group’s experience in Colorado and the advantage of aiming for a presidential election year when voter turnout is higher, Tvert said legalization supporters would use the next two years to build a broad-based coalition and craft ballot language that addresses concerns of particular constituencies.
"Obviously, it’s a whole different landscape in California, where it will cost probably as much or more to just get on the ballot as it did to run a winning campaign after getting on the ballot in Colorado," he said.
League of California Cities lobbyist Tim Cromartie, whose group opposed the state’s 2010 pot legalization initiative and until this year fought legislative efforts to give the state greater oversight of medical marijuana, said Wednesday that it was too soon to say what kind of opposition, if any, would greet a 2016 campaign.
Lynne Lyman, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said her group expects to play a major role in the legalization effort and already has started raising money. Lyman said the goal is to have an initiative written by next summer. She estimated that a pro-legalization campaign would cost $8 million to $12 million.
Even though California would be following in the steps of other states if a 2016 initiative passes, legalizing recreational marijuana use there would have far-reaching implications, Lyman said.
"When an issue is taken up in California, it becomes a national issue," she said. "What we really hope is that with a state this large taking that step, the federal government will be forced to address the ongoing issue of marijuana prohibition."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
KTVA Anchorage reporter Charlo Greene profanely quit her job at the station in the middle of last night’s newscast. Greene made the announcement immediately following a story on a medical marijuana business, and the revelation that she is the business’s owner.
Greene ended her segment with this:
"Now everything you’ve heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska. And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, fuck it, I quit."
Greene’s organization is fighting for the passage of Ballot Measure 2, which would legalize recreational amounts of marijuana in Alaska. And, not incidentally, create business for Greene—with Alaska laws as they are, medical marijuana dispensaries currently operate in a legal gray area.
After Greene’s abrupt resignation, KTVA’s news director issued a statement:
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We sincerely apologize for the inappropriate language used by a KTVA reporter during her live presentation on the air tonight. The employee has been terminated.
News Director – KTVA 11 News
It may be an off-year election, but it’s a big one for drug policy reform. In seven weeks, voters across the country will have a chance to accelerate the unprecedented momentum to legalize marijuana and end the wider drug war. In fact, there are more drug policy reform questions on the ballot this November than ever in American history. Voter initiatives — primarily reforming or repealing marijuana laws — appear on the ballots in seven states, at least 17 municipalities and one U.S. territory. To help you keep score at home, here’s an overview, starting with the highest-profile measures.
Oregon: Passage of Measure 91 will make the Beaver State the third to legalize marijuana for adults outright. Like the historic laws adopted in Colorado and neighboring Washington two short years ago, this initiative would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older and create a statewide system to regulate production and sales. And similar to Colorado’s law, Measure 91 would allow adults to cultivate small amounts of marijuana under controlled circumstances. In this entirely vote-by-mail election, the initiative has already been endorsed by the Pacific Northwest’s largest daily paper and would likely boost efforts across its southern border to end marijuana prohibition in California two years from now.
Alaska: The other statewide marijuana legalization initiative, Measure 2, is closely modeled on Colorado’s Amendment 64 and tracks many of the elements in Oregon’s prospective law. Alaska was something of a marijuana reform pioneer as possession and cultivation of small amounts for personal use in a private residence has been protected under the Alaska Constitution since the 1970s. Alongside Oregon in 1998, Alaska was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana. With a deep-rooted respect for personal freedom, Alaska would become the first red state to legalize marijuana for adult use, no doubt raising eyebrows across the political spectrum.
Florida: Amendment 2 is the only statewide medical marijuana initiative on the ballot this year, and it’s one to watch. Victory would make Florida, with its huge population and bell weather status in American politics, the very first southern state to adopt a medical marijuana law. With 23 other medical marijuana states and super-majority support nationally, passage of Amendment 2 would effectively settle any lingering questions on public acceptance of marijuana as medicine. It’s going to be a challenge, though, since Florida law requires 60% to pass a voter initiative. While polls indicate enormous support, casino mogul Sheldon Adelsoncontributed a few million dollars to stop it as Amendment 2 is associated with Charlie Crist’s comeback gubernatorial campaign. Adelson’s intervention has created the first well-funded opposition to a statewide marijuana reform campaign ever.
California: On the heels of reforming its harshest-in-the-nation Three Strikes law in 2012, Californians are now poised to refine six low-level, nonviolent offenses, including simple drug possession, from felonies to misdemeanors. Proposition 47 would then dedicate the savings — likely more than $1 billion a year — to schools, victim services, and mental health treatment. With retroactive sentencing and expungement provisions, the impact of Prop 47 in California on wasteful corrections spending and individual lives would be profound and surely resonate across the country.
District of Columbia: Earlier this year, the D.C. Council adopted the nation’s most far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law. In November, voters in the nation’s capital will decide whether to go even further. Initiative 71 makes it legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess and cultivate small amounts of marijuana. While District law prevents the ballot initiative from addressing the sale of marijuana, the D.C. Council is considering a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana within the District. D.C. has the highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the U.S. with enormous racial disparities as police target African Americans for 91 percent of these arrests. Initiative 71 will be the first marijuana reform campaign fought primarily on the issue of the drug war’s ongoing toxic impact on black communities.
Other races: Voters in municipal elections from the Northeast to Micronesia will weigh in November 4 on a range of marijuana focused issues.
· Guam: Voters could make this U.S. territory the first to adopt medical marijuana. Thebinding referendum would allow for dispensaries regulated by the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
· Maine: By a wide margin in 2013, Portlanders chose to eliminate criminal penalties for adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. In seven weeks, voters in York, South Portland, and Lewiston will tackle the same question.
· Michigan: In the last two years, residents of seven cities have voted to remove local penalties for adult possession of small amounts of marijuana in a private residence. As of now, a whopping 11 other cities (with apparently more to come) will have the chance to follow suit this year.
· New Mexico: Last month, the City of Santa Fe became the first in the state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. On the ballot in November, voters in Bernalillo (Albuquerque) and Santa Fe Counties will decide if their county should affirm decriminalization efforts.
Public opinion has shifted dramatically over the last decade in favor of reforming marijuana laws and dismantling the egregious excesses of the drug war. And elected officials have begun to take notice. The U.S. House has voted five times in recent months to let states set their own marijuana policies while Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker have introduced similar bi-partisan legislation in the U.S. Senate in addition to a cluster of other long-overdue criminal justice reforms. When the dust settles on November 5, the momentum for change in this country will only have accelerated.
Stephen Gutwillig is the Deputy Executive Director for Programs of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization working to promote alternatives to the failed war on drugs.
Follow Stephen Gutwillig on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SWGinLA
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By Amy O’ Connor | September 8, 2014
Specialty brokers looking to get insurers hooked on emerging industry
The legal marijuana industry in the United States is experiencing tremendous growth.
Legal cannabis markets in the United States are expected to grow 700 percent over the next five years, according to an industry report titled, “The State of Legal Marijuana Markets 2nd Edition,” published by The ArcView Group.
The report values the U.S. legal marijuana market, which comprises all states that have active and open sales of cannabis to people legally allowed to possess it under state law, at $1.53 billion. The national market is projected to grow 68 percent to $2.57 billion by the end of 2014.
The five-year national market potential is $10.2 billion, according to ArcView. Gains will stem from increased demand in existing state markets, as well as from new state markets coming online within a five-year horizon.
As individual states try to determine where they stand on the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use, insurers are also evaluating this segment and what coverages – if any – they are prepared to offer to the businesses selling and growing medical or recreational cannabis products.
Those who specialize in this class say agents and brokers shouldn’t be deterred by the stigma that goes along with it; instead they should learn about the segment’s needs so they can take advantage of growing business opportunities.
The legalization of marijuana for recreational use in both Colorado and Washington has led to a slew of new business ventures in both states. The Associated Press reported in December 2013 that the state of Washington received nearly 1,700 business applications between when the license application window opened on Nov. 13, 2013, and mid-December for those looking to grow, process or sell cannabis under the new recreational marijuana law.
Marijuana sales in Colorado totaled $15.3 million for the first five months of the year, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue, and the Denver Post reported the state has seen record tourism numbers so far in 2014.
Whether they are a grower, dispensary owner, supplier or processor, marijuana entities looking to sell to the public are now businesses that need insurance, says Ed Kuhn, president of Creative Edge Nutrition (CEN) and the newly formed Wellness Medical Protection Group/Liability Insurance Solutions.
“These business owners need help figuring out issues like: Where can I set up a dispensary? What are the state regulations? What is my workers’ comp liability? And what are the liabilities that other businesses have like theft, fire, business interruption, etc. They have unique issues and those need to be seen and be addressed,” he says. “They have a lot of investment dollars going into this industry and they are concerned about what happens to their investment dollars if they are shut down or don’t obey state regulations.”
Insurance coverage requirements can include and are not limited to: workers’ compensation, business interruption, theft, products liability, cargo insurance, BOP coverage, equipment breakdown, and cyber liability – particularly for those medical marijuana dispensaries that store patients’ personal information.
There is also opportunity for agents beyond the marijuana-related businesses themselves because they work with vendors that welcome the expertise an agent that specializes in the marijuana industry can offer, says Mike Aberle, vice president of sales and marketing for Next Wave Insurance Services, the program administrator for the marijuana-focused entity MMD Insurance.
“It is a brilliant marketing campaign. Most of these people also have businesses outside cannabis and they made money before this,” says Aberle. “The agent, by promoting that they do this segment, can also get other policies from those working with the [marijuana entity] but have nothing to do with cannabis except for how they work with the operations.”
Aberle says MMD’s core program started with indoor/outdoor cultivators and retailers and has since grown to cover the businesses that work with them like construction, security and supply companies.
“These ancillary businesses can help you feed your company based on a single classification, which is cannabis. And if you are an agency that relies on referrals, then hopefully those people will turn around and refer you to other industry business owners too,” he says.
Cannarisk, a division of BIM Agency, a Washington-based construction insurance brokerage, is the result of agent Matt Gunther’s figuring that as the marijuana industry became more accepted, the businesses that sell products would need insurance.
“I am 36 years old and I felt like insurance was an old man’s game, particularly on the commercial side. I realized as recreational goes legitimate, just like in construction, it will be required to have insurance,” says Gunther. “This is unprecedented and unchartered territory and nobody knows what the risks are ahead of us. It makes sense for state and local governments to require liability insurance to protect the public.”
Cannarisk launched in Washington state in early 2014 around the time producers, growers and retailers were getting licensed. It is focused on serving medical and recreational marijuana-related businesses in the state. Gunther says being located in the state has proven to be a big advantage.
“We are trying to establish ourselves as a local face that understands the business and provides the needed services. We also provide additional value because we can be a wholesale access point for retail agents too,” he says.
Gunther says right now they are just targeting the recreational facilities that must carry insurance, not the medical facilities because insurance is optional for them. He has found that many medical facilities don’t want to pay the cost even though premiums are low for the medical dispensaries.
Recreational growers, however, are required to disclose their growing locations by Washington state law, which Gunther says his agency has been able to use to its advantage.
“We can convey to the growers that their locations are public information and people know where you are growing your product. Now you really have an exposure,” he says.
Creative Edge Nutrition sees opportunity on the medical side. The health, wellness and alternative treatments company entered into a joint venture with RXNB Inc. in June to offer marijuana liability insurance in North America through The Wellness Medical Protection Group (WMPG).
Kuhn heads the new venture, which offers medicinal marijuana coverage for the grow and harvest of product, extracts, facilities, landlords, dispensaries and the medicinal prescriber. Coverage is available through Lloyd’s of London. He says WMPG’s coverage is available through its CANNAPROTECT program for all medical marijuana-related areas, including anti-aging and aesthetic treatments, cash-based practices, and alternative treatment facilities.
WMPG will be mainly focused on medical cannabis practices but will also cover recreational facilities in Washington and Colorado.
“We think there will always be two segments of the market – the prescription-quality marijuana that is only available through the medical side, and recreational that isn’t used for ailments,” says Kuhn.
Not surprisingly, Kuhn says insurance markets are currently more comfortable with covering the medical side because it is a more established industry with more controls in place. He says he has heard from carriers that will not work with recreational facilities at this time.
“Carriers are spooked by the lack of a federal position and if they have big limits exposed and something happens in Washington or Colorado, it could be huge for them,” he says. “Markets feel more comfortable with medical marijuana because it is dispensed through a physician.”
Cannarisk’s Gunther says he didn’t expect there to be much competition from other agencies because of the exposures, which has so far turned out to be true. He says the reaction from the rest of the industry toward this segment – particularly carriers – has been skeptical and prudent. He said they are working with a “limited number of carriers,” with three main ones really willing to insure the risk.
“There are a few on the outskirts looking in. They are being very cautious, as they should be, because how do you measure the risk?” he says. “But these [business owners] are professionals. There is a misconception from people in other states that these are all stoners starting a business, and that is not the case at all. These are professionals who are extremely educated and they are opening up with the desire to work with a local broker.”
MMD’s Aberle says it is customary for states to start with legalizing medical marijuana before they will look at the recreational side. These frequent changes and unknowns in the industry are a put-off to carriers, he says. Lloyd’s has been the only carrier Aberle has found that will be flexible in adjusting the coverage and limit options on a needed basis.
“If I were to request as many changes as I have made in a given year with another carrier, they would have dropped the program. This industry has so many changes and needs all the time that you have to be consistently moving forward,” he says.
MMD has also received requests from states, counties, cities, and policy departments for its loss guidelines and has lent its expertise to answer questions about the role insurance will play in the development of a legitimate marijuana industry. As state government or regulatory agencies set certain insurance standards, Aberle says the industry will play a big part. However, carriers’ leeriness in offering the required limits or coverages can make it difficult for the marijuana industry to move forward.
“We will continue to work with these people to help carve out a proper industry. … We have had to do a lot of work in the insurance industry and show a lot of data to say this is a viable business and you will be profitable writing,” he says. “We have also had to work with cities and states to show them that certain insurance options are just not available because there is no carrier willing to do it.”
Products completed or products liability coverage is an area that makes carriers nervous, says Aberle, and it is also a coverage that is required of all recreational operations in both Washington and Colorado.
MMD launched the coverage for recreational facilities on a claims-made form in January, though it always offered the coverage for medicinal facilities on an occurrence form. Aberle says carriers were more comfortable offering the coverage on a claims-made basis for the marijuana industry.
Aberle is encouraged by the movement he’s seen from other carriers that haven’t written this class in the past, but for now they are mostly “window shopping.”
“They want to know about it because it sounds cool and the industry loves to talk about it and know more and that’s a great thing,” he says. “For us, it is has gone from ‘can we even mention we are writing it?’ to ‘we love telling everyone about it.’ The carriers still won’t write the business, but they love hearing about it.”
Editor’s Note: The marijuana products and facilities in this article were photographed at Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham, Wash.
O’Connor is associate editor of MyNewMarkets.com.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
You may be eligible to grow pot for the federal government. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) posted a listing on Tuesday night requesting proposals from people fit to “cultivate, grow, harvest, analyze and store” cannabis for research.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an NIH branch specializing in researching drug abuse and addiction, will lead the project. It is looking for growers who can help them manufacture new methods for growing cannabis plants modified with different doses of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, the psychoactive and medicinal components of marijuana, respectively.
But in order to grow cannabis for the feds, farmers must comply with many stipulations. First, you must officially register with the DEA in order to be eligible to develop and manufacture marijuana. You must also have at least 12 acres of a “secure and video monitored outdoor facility” to grow pot on and a greenhouse at least 1,000 square feet in size to grow and sustain cannabis plants.
To be eligible, you must also demonstrate to the Food and Drug Administration and the DEA that you have a storage vault capable of storing roughly 400 to 700 kilograms of cannabis materials. The listing also says that participants might be required to "design, develop, manufacture, analyze, store and distribute" cannabis extracts for clinical research, and manufacture cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) cannabis cigarettes. Potential vendors must live in one of the two states where farmers can grow marijuana legally in the United States, Washington or Colorado.
In 18 states cannabis has been decriminalized, while 23 states have laws allowing eligible residents to purchase medical marijuana.
The agency said that it made the listing into a bidding competition because its marijuana farm contract will be expiring soon. It “anticipates” that vendors will receive a one-year contract with four-year options following a successful first year. “It’s a free and open competition—we will consider proposals from any responsible offers,” NIDA told Newsweek.
By Paula Mejia
Filed: 8/28/14 at 5:45 PMRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Production is going from 46.3 pounds to 1,433 pounds – but it’s unclear where the extra pot is going.
Marijuana is seen in this 1999 photo at the University of Mississippi. The school cultivates and supplies research-grade cannabis in partnership with the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
By Steven Nelson Aug. 26, 2014
The Drug Enforcement Administration offered the production bump – from 46.3 pounds to 1,433 pounds – for public comment on May 5.
One person submitted a comment, which was supportive.
“The DEA appreciates the support for this adjusted 2014 aggregate production quota for marijuana which will provide for the estimated scientific, research and industrial needs of the United States,” a Tuesday notice in the Federal Register says.
“The DEA has taken into consideration the one comment received during the 30-day period and the administrator has determined,” the notice says, the increase is appropriate.
The DEA gave preapproval to the increase in late April, citing urgent need for National Institute on Drug Abuse-facilitated research. But, the DEA said in a May notice, all comments from the public would be taken into consideration.
NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health, grows marijuana for approved research in partnership with the University of Mississippi.
The increase was necessary because the DEA underestimated researchers’ need when it calculated the initial annual quota in September.
In its May notice the DEA said it simply couldn’t wait for public comment before making the correction.
“Due to the manufacturing process unique to marijuana, including the length of time and conditions necessary to propagate and process the substance for distribution in 2014, it is necessary to adjust the initial, established 2014 aggregate production quota for marijuana as soon as practicable,” the DEA said. “Accordingly, the administrator finds good cause to adjust the aggregate production quota for marijuana before accepting written comments from interested persons or holding a public hearing.”
A spokesman for the DEA referred questions about the increase to NIDA. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the uptick in demand. It’s unclear how much marijuana has been produced to date this year.
A NIDA official told The Washington Post in May the agency was funding more than 100 grants for marijuana research, including 30 studies of the plant’s “therapeutic uses." Critics say the agency disproportionately funds research into the downside of pot use.
DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, who signed the Tuesday notice, is a critic of liberalizing marijuana laws. Leonhart refused to say during a June 2012 congressional hearing if marijuana is less harmful than crack or heroin. In January she criticized President Barack Obama for saying smoking pot is less harmful than drinking alcohol.
"Marijuana is so popular these days with voters, lawmakers and researchers that even the DEA can’t continue to ignore it,” says Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell.
But Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the pro-medical marijuana group Americans for Safe Access, isn’t cheering. He finds the increase "very fishy" and says he cannot recall a previous time the quota was offered for public comment.
Hermes also notes the annual pot-production quota was once higher.
In fact, throughout the Bush administration the quota was much higher. From 2005-2009 the annual quota was about 9,920 pounds, according to DEA fact sheets. Before that, from 2002-2004, the quota was about 1,852 pounds and in 2001 it was 1,100 pounds.
The quota hovered at 46.3 pounds beginning in 2010. Hermes says he doesn’t know why the quota dropped so dramatically that year.
Editorial Cartoons on Pot Legalization
"They still aren’t divulging why the quota is increasing and why it’s not increasing how much it has in the past," Hermes says. "It’s shrouded in secrecy."
About half of U.S. states currently allow marijuana for medical use. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have established regulated recreational marijuana markets. Alaska and Oregon voters may legalize pot under state law in November and Florida voters may adopt medical marijuana. Despite liberalizing state laws, marijuana remains an illegal Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Fox News.com Aug 28, 2014
When you think about green travel, it usually means an eco-friendly resort or destination.
That’s not the case anymore, as “green” has taken on a new meaning with the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington – and the corresponding increase in tourism to both states. For the purpose of this story, I’ll focus on Colorado, but many tips cover both states.
Travelers looking for a ski vacation later this year may want to skip Utah or Tahoe, and head to Colorado instead. We are already seeing a direct spike in visitors tied exclusively to the legalization of marijuana, but the lure of legal marijuana could end up increasing tourism to all areas of the state.
Entrepreneurs are actively going after this market by packaging tours around the idea of getting high, but you can just as easily do it on your own. Land in Denver and the information desk will direct you to any one of the numerous outlets where you can legally purchase marijuana and enjoy a hazy break from the ordinary without worry of arrest.
Related: In Aspen, Even the Weed is Luxurious
Here are the seven things you need to consider before you head out on that stoner trip:
Know there is a limit: If you come from out of state you must be 21 years of age and hold a valid form of identification, most often a driver’s license or passport. If you have that covered, the limit for your purchase is a quarter of an ounce. For in-state residents it is a full ounce.
Find a quiet spot to light up: You cannot smoke in public or in most hotels, so finding a legal spot to light up may be your biggest challenge. Ask your hotel front desk or concierge for smoking clubs, lounges, or a safe spot to smoke. If you are out in the mountains, find some open space and go about your business. It may be illegal and land you a fine, but there is a good chance you won’t have any issues. Never smoke in your rental car since any intent to drive would lead to a DUI arrest, even if the car is not turned on.
Don’t overdo it: You can smoke it, but you can also eat it in packages resembling protein bars they sell at many health food stores. Instead of giving you a nutritional lift, they’ll send you to a very different place. Look at the equivalent dose you might get from any pot bar to avoid getting yourself in trouble. Some bars have 10 times the average dose you might get from smoking a joint, sending you into an uncomfortable state or even the hospital.
Don’t drive, period: Driving under the influence of pot can lead to arrest, even if you exhibit no indications of impairment. The express consent law in Colorado details that drivers automatically give consent to have their blood or breath tested if an officer has any probable cause to believe he or she is impaired.
Don’t leave the state with any marijuana: Enjoy your legal marijuana experience in Colorado or Washington, but leave whatever you don’t use in those states. If you bring back excess pot, it could result in a steep fine or, depending on the amount and any previous convictions, actual jail time.
Don’t even think about selling your excess stash: Are you ready to head back home even though you are still sitting on some great weed? Give it away, but don’t try to sell it. Trade it for a Rockies jersey or anything else. Asking for money in exchange of the drug is illegal and could result in fines or worse.
Look up state rules before heading out on your marijuana tour. These laws are subject to change, so make sure you have the latest information to make a safe, and legal, trip.
First Marijuana edibles store opens in Washington State
Neuroscientists found that extremely low doses of a compound found in marijuana may slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported that neuroscientists using a cellular model of Alzheimer’s found low doses of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) reduced the production of amyloid beta, and prevented abnormal accumulation, which is one of the early signs of the memory-loss disease.
“Decreased levels of amyloid beta means less aggregation, which may protect against the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Since THC is a natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor, THC or its analogs may help us develop an effective treatment in the future,” said lead author Chuanhai Cao, a neuroscientist and PhD at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and the University of South Florida College of Pharmacy.
Neuroscientists also found THC enhanced mitochondrial function which is needed to supply energy, transmit signals and maintain a healthy brain.
“THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function,” Cao said.
The research noted that the therapeutic benefits of THC at low doses appear greater than the associated risks of toxicity and memory impairment.
“Are we advocating that people use illicit drugs to prevent the disease? No,” study co-author Neel Nabar said. “However, these findings may lead to the development of related compounds that are safe, legal, and useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”
As many as 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, with the numbers projected to reach 14 million by 2050, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Remember Lois Lerner? She’s the IRS Exempt Organizations Chief whose emails disappeared but whose texts revealed bias against conservative groups. She has refused to testify multiple times claiming protection under the Fifth Amendment. The right not to incriminate yourself runs deep in our Constitution.
Even so, a Colorado tax on marijuana has been upheld by a federal court despite claims that paying it amounts to self-incrimination violating the Fifth Amendment. Plaintiffs want the taxes on recreational pot outlawed, reasoning that they require businesses and consumers to implicate themselves in federal crimes. The plaintiffs lost on getting an injunction at this point, but that doesn’t mean the lawsuit is over.
Indeed, the lawsuit challenging the taxes will continue, and the stakes are high. In Colorado, there’s a 2.9% sales tax plus a 10% marijuana sales tax. Plus, there is a 15% excise tax on the average market rate of retail marijuana. If you add that up, it’s 27.9%. Medical marijuana only pays the 2.9% sales tax.
Victoria, the nation’s first legal medical marijuana plant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The argument is pretty clever: making you pay these taxes is making you admit to the government that you are violating federal law. Even getting witnesses is tough, said one of the lawyers involved. After all, just being a witness would mean incriminating oneself!
Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal and a controlled substance, even for medical use. And the gulf between federal law and recreational marijuana seems even bigger. Of course, this isn’t the only context raising the conflicting federal and state laws over marijuana. The tax problems of the industry remain a major impediment.
Section 280E of the tax code denies even legal dispensaries tax deductions. The IRS says it has no choice but to enforce the tax code passed by Congress. “The federal tax situation is the biggest threat to businesses and could push the entire industry underground,” the leading trade publication for the marijuana industry reported. One answer is for dispensaries to deduct expenses from other businesses distinct from dispensing marijuana.
If a dispensary sells marijuana and is in the separate business of care-giving, the care-giving expenses are deductible. If only 10% of the premises are used to dispense marijuana, most of the rent is deductible. In allocating expenses between businesses, good record-keeping is essential.
But there is only so far one can go. Some marijuana sellers operate as nonprofit social welfare organizations so Section 280E shouldn’t apply. Some claim dispensaries should be organized as cooperatives or collectives.
The proposed Marijuana Tax Equity Act would end the federal prohibition on marijuana and allow it to be taxed. That way growers, sellers and users would not fear of violating federal law. The bill would also impose an excise tax on cannabis sales and an annual occupational tax on workers in the growing field of legal marijuana.
Colorado’s tax law is bringing in considerable revenue, and that may influence attempts to derail the tax. Early reports suggested that the taxes might be attacked as unconstitutionally high. But the Fifth Amendment assertions are more sophisticated. Not only that, they jab at the already sensitive issue of the conflict between state and federal law. As medical marijuana has gained widespread acceptance and now recreational marijuana is taking hold, the federal v. state conflict grows deeper.
You can reach me at Wood@WoodLLP.com. This discussion is not intended as legal advice, and cannot be relied upon for any purpose without the services of a qualified professional.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Editor’s Note:This story is the fifth part in a series of articles and video documentaries that surveys the state of the legal marijuana and hemp industries.To read the previous article on hemp and marijuana executives tied to crimes, go here.
MURRAY STATE UNIVERSITY, Kentucky—In 1994, Chris Boucher planted industrial hemp at the USDA Research Center in Imperial Valley, California. As the owner of a company that sold hemp T-shirts, wallets, backpacks and hemp seed oil, Boucher figured it would be just a few years before growing hemp in the United States was legal.
Earlier this month, Boucher was beaming while exploring a hemp field at Murray State University.
“We’ve waited almost 20 years to this day for hemp to be legal in the United States," he declared here on a muggy-free day in July.
The trek to legalize marijuana’s cousin hemp is far from over. Earlier this year, Congress authorized the cultivation and growth of industrial hemp—but only for research purposes.
Industrial hemp hails from the same plant species (Cannabis Sativa L.) as marijuana, and federal law still classifies hemp as a Schedule I controlled substance along with such hardcore drugs as heroin, LSD and peyote. That’s in spite of the fact that hemp contains little of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that makes a smoker high: THC. Under this year’s Farm Bill, a plant meets the definition of “industrial hemp" if it contains no more than 0.3 percent of THC, otherwise known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol.
Chris Boucher of CannaVest Corp. inspects a hemp field at Murray State University. CannaVest donated the seeds for the hemp research project.
“I always like to say there’s more opiates in a poppy seed than there is THC in a hemp seed," said Boucher, who manages US Hemp Oil, a division of CannaVest Corp., a developer and marketer of hemp-based consumer products with a focus on the compound cannabidiol (CBD). “Looking at it from that standpoint, I think logic will dictate the outcome here on the legality of industrial hemp."
Kentucky Leads Hemp Pilot Projects
Of the world’s industrialized countries, the United States is the only one that prohibits production of industrial hemp, according to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. An estimated 55,700 metric tons of industrial hemp are produced annually around the world, with China, Russia and South Korea supplying 70 percent of a crop that is used in such products as paper, foods and nutritional supplements, the state agency said.
Kentucky, whose largest industry is agriculture, is striving to capitalize on hemp production should Congress eventually authorize it for commercial production. Section 7606 of the Farm Bill is the first step in that journey. President Obama signed the bill into law on Feb. 7, 2014, authorizing institutions of higher education or state agriculture departments to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp in states that permit the growth or cultivation of the crop.
Hemp has not been grown in the United States since 1957, according to Vote Hemp, a grassroots hemp advocacy organization.
"With the U.S. hemp industry estimated at over $500 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal law to allow colleges and universities to grow hemp for research means that we will finally begin to regain the knowledge that unfortunately has been lost over the past 50 years," Vote Hemp president Eric Steenstra said in a statement following passage of the Farm Bill. "This is the first time in American history that industrial hemp has been legally defined by our federal government as distinct from drug varieties of cannabis."
Adam Watson, industry hemp program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, said his agency is leading the hemp pilot projects that the Farm Bill authorized.
“To the best of my knowledge, we have the most aggressive pilot program out there," he said.
Although a number of states have passed hemp laws, Boucher is aware of only one other state that is conducting research on hemp cultivation: Colorado, which happens to be only one of two states that has legalized marijuana for recreational use. In fact, Amendment 64—the 2012 ballot initiative that legalized recreational pot—also directed Colorado lawmakers to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp.
Following passage of an industrial hemp law last year by the Colorado General Assembly, roughly 200 private growers have registered with the Colorado Department of Agriculture for research and commercial purposes, said Ron Carleton, deputy commissioner of the agency. Of the 1,555 acres registered with the state agriculture department, 1,312 acres are for commercial purposes while 243 acres are for R&D, he said.
“I think once other states start to see … the success of this test crop, then we’ll see other states start to figure out how to get their rules lined up so they can do this," said Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), commenting on the hemp plants at Murray State University.
AHPA, CannaVest Executives Visit Hemp Field
McGuffin and a colleague from AHPA, Chief Information Analyst Merle Zimmermann, recently visited the hemp field there and met with CannaVest executives and university officials.
In Kentucky, under the oversight of the state agriculture department, a number of educational institutions are studying myriad aspects of industrial hemp from its sensitivity to herbicides (University of Kentucky) to how well it grows if the soil isn’t tilled (Murray State University).
Murray State University has grown what is perhaps the nation’s first legal industrial hemp in generations. The plants are located on a 250-acre farm that the university’s agriculture school manages to study various crops such as corn, tobacco and soybeans.
“This hemp was planted May the 12th, the first in the State of Kentucky and we believe in the nation," said Tony Brannon, dean of the Hutson School of Agriculture, which enrolled nearly 900 students last fall and ranks among the largest non-land grant agriculture colleges in the nation.
By mid-summer, some plants had soared to be eight-feet tall.
Kentucky is a logical place to study hemp. Some locals have parents and grandparents who grew the crop. During World War II, Kentucky was a leader in hemp production, Brannon said.
“Our farmers are very good at adapting to whatever crop is there," he said. “It’s been said that you give us a market and Kentucky farmers will be overproducing it in a couple of years … If [industrial hemp is] a legal crop and it’s of economic value to our farmers and to our area, we definitely want to play whatever role we can."
Boucher and other CannaVest executives recently flew into Nashville, Tennessee from their offices in San Diego and drove the roughly two hours northwest to see the hemp field and chat with university officials about various aspects of the project, including future testing of the hemp and equipment needed to harvest the crop.
In the meetings, university staff expressed the importance of strictly following legal protocols, especially after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency seized hemp seeds that were bound for the state agriculture department. The seeds were later released and distributed to a number of universities after the state agriculture department filed a lawsuit against the DEA.
At Murray State University, where harvesting is likely to occur in October, CannaVest donated more than 100 pounds of hemp seeds, which are derived from France and are known as Futura 75. Those seeds were never seized by DEA. CannaVest also donated a bag of seeds to The Growing Warriors Project, a program that helps veterans grow produce.
Boucher, CannaVest’s vice president of product development, said professional hemp seed breeders designed the seeds to grow predominantly hemp fiber and seed.
“A farmer can sell his seeds and sell his fiber on the market and make a good profit," he said.
Industrial Hemp: No ‘Get-Rich-Quick Scheme’
It could be years, though, before the United States commercializes industrial hemp, and the opportunities are difficult to fully ascertain for obvious reasons: there is no domestic market yet and hemp is still classified as a controlled substance that cannot be cultivated outside the limited scope of the Farm Bill.
“Ultimately, it’s going to take time to determine what the ultimate marketable crop or products are going to be and it’s going to be economically driven," Watson said.
He said three to five years of data is required in order to be indicative of how a crop performs under various conditions such as dry and wet seasons and an average year.
“Producers need to have a crop reliably come off the field," Watson said. “They’ve got bills every season they’ve got to pay."
Brannon also is realistic about the opportunities for farmers.
“This is certainly no get-rich-quick scheme," he said. “We don’t know what the true economic value is going to be. But that’s where you start. That’s why we start with higher education to determine all the different variables."
CannaVest’s Boucher is stoked over the possibilities of U.S. hemp cultivation. In addition to sponsoring projects like the one at Murray State University, he described CannaVest’s longer-term plans to build mills in order to convert parts of the hemp plant into essential fatty acids and protein powder.
His vision wouldn’t be plausible had Congress not authorized hemp cultivation and research in the Farm Bill. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican from Kentucky, introduced the measure in the Farm Bill conference report.
“We know this field is 100 percent legal," Boucher said, “and this field here is a historical field that … is going to kickstart the American hemp industry once and for all."
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By Janet Patton
email@example.comJuly 30, 2014
UK agronomist Dave Williams stood next to a plot of 7-foot hemp plants at the University of Kentucky Spindletop Research Farm in Lexington last Thursday. This hemp was planted in late May after the seeds were released by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Hemp’s comeback in Kentucky is going strong, tall and green.
A patch of hemp seeded at the University of Kentucky’s Spindletop research farm in Lexington in late May has climbed well over 6 feet in some places and is still going, without neither fertilizer nor pesticides.
"It’s doing just fine so far," said Dave Williams, a UK agronomist who, with Rich Mundell, is in charge of the test plots.
"We’ve had enough rain to keep it growing and enough heat to make it grow."
The first legal hemp planted in Central Kentucky appears to be off to a good start despite being planted later than originally hoped.
The seeds, imported from Italy, were seized by U.S. Customs officials in Louisville because the Kentucky Department of Agriculture did not have an import permit. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer sued the federal government to have them released.
The DEA agreed to expedite permits for the state and agreed that private growers also can be permitted by the department to grow cannabis sativa, which is almost identical to marijuana but with minuscule amounts of high-inducing chemicals.
The federal suit will be officially dismissed soon, said Holly VonLuehrte, Comer’s chief of staff.
Further shipments have come in without difficulty, and now about 15 Kentucky farmers have planted test plots for the department, she said.
Williams said his hemp, which includes a larger plot with 13 strains, all thought to be fiber varieties, will be harvested in late September or early October.
The variety in the test plot that has become the poster child for Kentucky hemp is called red petiole and will be evaluated for how much fiber it yields.
This planting is just a first step for what many farmers across the state hope will become a lucrative crop.
The KDA anticipates having at least 30 farmers growing hemp next year, VonLuehrte said.
Williams plans to plant much more as well.
"We’d like to test more varieties than what were available this year," he said. "There are lots of different fertility regimes we’d like to look at, planting densities we’d like to look at. Lots of research yet to do."
Other Kentucky universities also planted hemp this year — the first time it has been legally planted in the United States in decades. Murray State got seeds in the ground first, in mid-May.
The same varieties at Spindletop also have been planted at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond and at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. Data from all the locations will be compared with the Fayette County trials.
Next comes finding a processor and a buyer. Some processors have expressed interest, Williams said.
"We’re very excited about that," he said. "If farmers can’t sell it, can’t pack it up in a truck, drive it somewhere and sell it … And if it’s not worth more than whatever their lowest value crop is …" Williams shrugged.
"Really, establishing that market is key."
Decades ago, when hemp was a major crop in Kentucky, it was grown primarily for fiber, as it is today in Europe. But Canada’s hemp industry is built on seed, mainly processed for oil.
Williams and Mundell hope next year to grow some varieties for seed, rather than fiber.
"This is just a baby step in the research that needs to be conducted before we can make great recommendations to farmers in Kentucky," Williams said. "This is just the first step in the right direction."
Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Caleb Hellerman, CNN
updated 1:26 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
(CNN) — Doctors in Macon, Georgia, told Janea Cox that her daughter, Haleigh, might not live another three months.
That was the middle of March, when Haleigh’s brain was being short-circuited by hundreds of seizures a day, overrunning the array of five potent drugs meant to control them. Worse, the drugs were damaging Haleigh’s organs.
"She was maxed out," Cox said. "She’d quit breathing several times a day, and the doctors blamed it on the seizure medications."
Cox had heard that a form of medical marijuana might help, but it wasn’t available in central Georgia. So a week after hearing the ominous diagnosis, she and Haleigh packed up and moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. There, Haleigh began a regimen of cannabis oil: four times a day and once at night.
By summer, she was down to just a handful of seizures a day. In less than three months, doctors were able to wean her off Depakote, a powerful medication that had been damaging her liver.
Haleigh had never been able to walk or talk. But freed from seizures in Colorado, "She said ‘Mama’ for the first time," Cox said. "She’s playing with puzzles; she’s walking. She’s almost being a normal child."
Despite all the good news, Cox is living in limbo. Her husband, a paramedic, couldn’t afford to leave his job and pension; he still lives and works in Forsyth, Georgia. The family is relying on charity to keep their Colorado apartment for the next few months; beyond that, the future is uncertain.
A bill being introduced Monday in the U.S. House of Representatives could be Cox’s ticket home. The three-page bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act — the federal law that criminalizes marijuana — to exempt plants with an extremely low percentage of THC, the chemical that makes users high.
If passed, it would be the first time that federal law allows any medical marijuana use.
"No one should face a choice of having their child suffer or moving to Colorado and splitting up their family," said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pennsylvania, the bill’s sponsor. "We live in America, and if there’s something that would make my child better, and they can’t get it because of the government, that’s not right."
The bill will land in a Congress that may be open to change. Across the country, highly sympathetic patients and a nonintoxicating product have proved a popular mix. This year alone, 11 states have passed legislation loosening regulation of cannabis strains with high cannabidiol and/or minimal THC content.
In this atmosphere, Perry says that once members and their staffs are brought up to speed, he expects the bill to attract "overwhelming" support. "In a time of intractability in Washington, D.C., this is something where we can show some progress."
Dubbed the Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014, the bill is named after Charlotte Figi, a young Colorado girl whose parents have campaigned nationwide for easier access to medical marijuana after successfully controlling their daughter’s seizures with cannabis oil. Since her story became known, a growing number of parents have flocked to Colorado, hoping for similar success.
The Charlotte’s Web cannabis strain, developed by the Realm of Caring nonprofit organization in Colorado Springs, is in high demand, in part because of the attention it’s received in the media. Many families wait months for a batch to be grown and processed into cannabis oil. Perry’s bill, however, would apply to any cannabis strain with a THC content of less than 0.3%.
Charlotte’s Web and similar strains not only have minimal THC, they have high levels of cannabidiol, another chemical. A growing body of anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabidiol can effectively control seizures, though there are no published studies to support its use.
It’s easy to find critics who say parents should follow a more traditional route.
"There is no evidence for marijuana as a treatment for seizures," Rep. John Fleming, R-Louisiana, a physician, claimed during a congressional hearing last month. "We hear anecdotal stories, and that’s how myths come about."
Fleming and others point out that a pharmaceutical version of cannabidiol oil, called Epidiolex, is being tested in clinical trials. But many children aren’t able to get into the trials. Haleigh Cox is disqualified because she has type-1 diabetes. Others aren’t willing to wait several months to be enrolled.
"With Epidiolex, there just aren’t enough seats at the table," said Mark Knecht, a father from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, whose story helped inspire Perry’s bill.
His daughter Anna, 11, has epilepsy and suffers anywhere from a handful of seizures a day to more than 100, despite her four anti-convulsant medications. Knecht, the chief financial officer of a large Christian medical nonprofit, says Anna has been evaluated at several top hospitals but couldn’t land a spot in the Epidiolex trial.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books allowing medical marijuana for a variety of conditions. But even as states rewrite their regulations, federal law remains the same: Marijuana is illegal to grow, sell or use for any purpose. Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed on Schedule 1, meaning it has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." To backers of reform, the Catch-22 is familiar: Marijuana is restricted in large part because there is little research to support medical uses; research is difficult to conduct because of tight restrictions.
A series of memos from the Justice Department has said that arresting individual medical marijuana users is not a priority, and a 2013 memo added that federal prosecutors should not target large commercial operations except on a case-by-case basis. But most observers say that shipping or transporting the drug across state lines ups the ante.
"For families like us, the biggest issue is the federal issue. You can’t take it across state lines," Knecht explained.
His family still lives in Mechanicsburg. But after seeing CNN’s medical marijuana documentary last year, Anna and her mother, Deb, established residency in Colorado, where they obtained a medical marijuana card that let them place an order for a batch cannabis oil, in hopes it will control Anna’s seizures. If Perry’s bill becomes law, Knecht says, "Realm of Caring could just put it in a FedEx package."
The Food and Drug Administration is conducting a review of scientific evidence to determine whether marijuana warrants looser treatment, but a spokeswoman says there’s no set date to complete the analysis. A review in 2011 ended with the Drug Enforcement Administration leaving marijuana’s status unaltered.
But certain actions in Congress give Perry and his supporters hope.
This month, the House passed a bill allowing banks to handle cash proceeds from dispensaries and other legal marijuana businesses.
The most recent Farm Bill allows industrial hemp — a strain of cannabis without THC — to be grown for academic or research purposes. That didn’t stop the Drug Enforcement Administration from seizing a shipment of hemp seeds bound for the University of Kentucky this spring. In response, the Senate Appropriations Committee, with support from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, passed an amendment blocking DEA funds for anti-hemp enforcement.
In May, the House passed a measure blocking money for DEA raids on marijuana dispensaries that are legal under state law.
And just last week, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky took it a step further, introducing an amendment to the Jobs Bill that would forbid federal prosecution of doctors and patients whose actions are legal under state medical marijuana laws.
"If states allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana, and people are in good faith prescribing medical marijuana, we want to make sure it’s OK and that the federal government doesn’t come in and prosecute somebody," said Brian Darling, Paul’s communications director.
The amendment seems likely to die amidst wrangling over the Jobs Bill, but Darling says his boss plans to move forward on a standalone measure.
"There are a lot of people who have been locked up on marijuana laws for a long time," Darling said. "The War on Drugs has gone overboard."
Knecht doesn’t want to uproot his family to move to Colorado. But he says his hand may be forced. "We’re taking this situation one day at a time."
That’s where Janea Cox was a few months ago. She hadn’t heard about Perry’s bill until she got a call from a reporter but says she understands where the Pennsylvania families are coming from. She’s angry at home-state lawmakers who failed to push through Georgia’s cannabidiol oil bill this spring.
"I lived in Georgia for 17 years," she said, "but here in Colorado, I met my child for the first time, at the age of 5."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.
We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.
There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.
We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.
But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.
The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.
There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the “Reefer Madness” images of murder, rape and suicide.
There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.
Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime.
In coming days, we will publish articles by members of the Editorial Board and supplementary material that will examine these questions. We invite readers to offer their ideas, and we will report back on their responses, pro and con.
We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A West Michigan man facing federal marijuana charges has filed a constitutional challenge based, in part, on disparate federal prosecution in different states.
Shawn Taylor, the alleged leader of a marijuana grow operation, also argues that marijuana has medicinal value and should not be classified as a Schedule 1 drug – the designation for the most dangerous drugs.
Taylor is seeking an evidentiary hearing on the issues before U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids.
“We’re raising arguments that have really never been raised before in a federal marijuana case,” former Kalamazoo attorney John Targowski, now practicing in Santa Monica, Calif., said on Thursday, June 19, after he filed an 86-page brief on behalf of his client.
“We’re arguing that cannabis is wrongly scheduled – it has medicinal value,” Targowski said.
Taylor is one of 37 people arrested for alleged roles in grow operations in Kent, Muskegon, Oceana and Ottawa counties and Traverse City.
Targowski said that a U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act should have bearing on marijuana cases.
“Recognizing the historical support for defining marriage as between one man and one woman, the court determined that it was the duty of the judiciary to rectify past misperceptions which result in constitutionally unsound legislation,” Targowski wrote in court documents.
“Like the long held beliefs regarding the marital relationship, the long held beliefs about the effects of marijuana have evolved. While the former evolution has been the result of societal ideologies, the latter is predicated on scientific evidence, and therefore, can be more readily established through an evidentiary hearing.”
Targowski has asked that Jonker consider declarations of three experts, including a former FBI supervisor and a physician, to establish there is no rational basis to treat marijuana as a controlled substance. Medical science has documented that “marijuana has a notably low potential for abuse,” Targowski wrote.
He said the Supreme Court has acknowledged its medical value.
“Compared to other over-the-counter substances, cannabis has the lowest potential for abuse, as it is impossible to die from an overdose: further, no studies have proven that the use of cannabis causes harms similar to those caused by the use of common over-the-counter medications, even at recommended dosages,” he wrote.
“In effect, the facts upon which marijuana was scheduled as one of the most dangerous narcotics in 1970 have been disproven.”
He also said that the government’s policy of not prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws amounts to unequal prosecution based on where people live.
“The policy statement presented in the memorandum to U.S. Attorneys from Deputy Attorney General James Cole, issued on Aug. 29, 2013, by Attorney General Eric Holder has resulted in a discriminatory application of federal law, in that it protects similarly situated individuals from criminal sanctions for actions identical to that alleged to have been conducted by the defendant, and therefore violates the Equal Protection Clause,” Targowski wrote.
The government contends Taylor ran a large-scale drug operation that sold marijuana in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. He worked with a doctor for “certification clinics” for alleged patients, police said.
The government said Taylor used the state’s medical marijuana law as a ruse.
The government said that the state’s medical marijuana law is not a defense in federal court, and Taylor’s operation was not in compliance with state law, records showed.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
DENVER — The marijuana in those pot brownies isn’t the only thing that can potentially make consumers sick. The industry and regulators are taking a closer look at how marijuana-infused edibles are made.
The thriving edible marijuana industry in Colorado is preparing for new testing requirements — due to take in effect in October — to make sure the products are safe to eat and drink.
While consuming too much of an edible has been connected to at least one death and a handful of hospital visits since retail recreational sales of marijuana began in January, officials say there have been no reports of anyone getting a food-borne illness from edibles.
Still, activists, producers, and officials agree that safety testing is long overdue for a sector of the new marijuana market that, according to one industry estimate, has seen the sale of at least 8 million pieces this year.
Food safety testing is necessary ‘‘to building any sort of credibility for the industry . . . to create that public confidence that we’re not just a bunch of stupid kids throwing marijuana into cookies and putting them on the market,’’ said Jazzmine Hall-Oldham, general manager of Bakked, which makes cannabis concentrates and marijuana-infused chocolate bars.
With federal help in regulating production nonexistent because the drug is illegal under federal law, state and local governments have had to assemble a patchwork of health and safety regulations for foods with cannabis.
The agency that regulates Colorado’s marijuana industry, the state Department of Revenue, requires marijuana manufacturing facilities to meet the same sanitation requirements as retail food establishments, including adequate hand-washing and refrigeration.
But the question of whether the state’s 51 licensed recreational edible-marijuana makers meet those standards is left to local health departments, said agency spokeswoman Natriece Bryant. State regulations requiring them also to pass tests for common food contaminants — such as E. coli and salmonella — don’t take effect until the fall.
In Washington state, where retail sales are expected to begin the week of July 7, regulations call for samples of all marijuana sold for consumption to clear a ‘‘microbiological screening,’’ whether it’s in edible, smokeable, or concentrate form.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Kira Bindrim
After a several-week absence from the media spotlight, Pope Francis emerged on Friday as a speaker at the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome, where he said he was opposed to the legalization of drugs—including marijuana—for recreational use.
"The scourge of drug use continues to spread inexorably, fed by a deplorable commerce which transcends national and continental borders," Francis told conference participants. "Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce desired effects."
While Francis has sometimes surprised constituents with his progressive views—on homosexuality, atheism and capitalism, for example—his stance on marijuana legalization, at least, is at odds with a growing push for it. In December, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the drug (Francis is from nearby Buenos Aires, Argentina). That law included regulation of the cultivation, production, storage, sale and distribution of marijuana, as well as an official registry of users’ consumption.
"We will be able to get more information about the consequences of different alternatives," Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Group, told Newsweek at the time.
Earlier this month, Jamaica said it would legalize medical marijuana, and allow possession of up to two ounces of the drug for recreational use. In the United States, two states—Colorado and Washington—have legalized marijuana. Alaska could vote on legalization in November, and Oregon may vote on a similar measure later this year. Twenty-two states have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes—New York is poised to become the 23rd—and 16 have decriminalized it, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). In October 2013, a Gallup poll found that for the first time, a majority of Americans believe the drug should be legalized: 58 percent, compared with just 12 percent in 1969, the first time the question was asked.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but in May the House voted to restrict the DEA from using funds to go after state-legal medical marijuana outfits. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a similar amendment in the Senate this week.
Pope Francis has spoken out against drug legalization in the past, and has visited with addicts both as Pope and when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. "A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use," he said during a speech at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last year. "Rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Emery said he holds a “moral objection” against individuals who once helped imprison people for petty drug offences now profiting off the sale of marijuana.
Marc Emery’s top picks for Canadian politicians go to the Greens and NDP. But he doesn’t want you to vote for either of those parties in next year’s federal election.
“Elizabeth May and Libby Davies are two of my favourite MPs,” Emery told the Straight. “But there is a time when you have to make decisions about what’s really important, and stopping Stephen Harper and replacing his government is the ultimate priority.”
Emery was speaking from Yazoo City Prison in Mississippi, where he’s serving the final month of a five-year sentence for selling cannabis seeds. In a wide-ranging telephone interview, the so-called Prince of Pot said a voter drive will be at the centre of a cross-country tour he’s planned for the fall of 2015.
“We’ll be trying to get young people out,” Emery continued. “It’s really important to motivate them to go out and vote for the Liberal party, because they could also split the vote between the Greens and the NDP, and I really don’t want to see that happen.”
Emery’s relatively-newfound support for the Liberals is firmly rooted in his life’s work aimed at ending the prohibition of marijuana. In November 2012, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau revealed that he was a “huge supporter of decriminalization”, and that he wanted Canada to take a serious look at legalizing and regulating the drug.
Emery described Trudeau’s position as “courageous and unprecedented”.
“Normally, they all wait until they’ve retired out of politics before they advocate the legalization route,” he explained. “Justin Trudeau is the only leader of a Canadian political party with any chance of forming the government who’s ever done this. I thought it was pretty brave of him.”
Criticizing a system of prohibition
Emery didn’t have such kind words for every politician who’s made an about-face on marijuana.
In May 2014, two former high-profile B.C. politicians announced they were going to work in Canada’s booming medicinal marijuana industry. First, the province’s former top cop, Kash Heed, signed on as a security consultant for medical growers. A couple of weeks later, ex-premier Mike Harcourt took a position as chairperson of True Leaf Medicine Inc.
Emery said he holds a “moral objection” against individuals who once helped imprison people for petty drug offences now profiting off the sale of marijuana.
“While they were in charge of administrations, they busted hundreds, if not thousands of people,” he said. “They’ve never apologized for what they did….And now here our oppressors are actually taking financial advantage.”
According to Emery, the larger issue is the legitimization of the Conservative government’s Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR), and how those rules are being used to maintain a system of prohibition.
As of April 1, 2014, medicinal marijuana licence holders previously allowed to grow their own medicine were only permitted to purchase dried cannabis via mail order from large-scale producers. (The implementation of certain MMAR provisions has since been delayed by a court challenge and interim injunction.)
Emery argued this new system extends “extraordinary privilege” to a small group of corporations while “disenfranchising and marginalizing” people who grow small amounts of marijuana for private consumption.
“This whole medicinal marijuana business just reeks of hypocrisy,” Emery concluded. “Either we’re free and autonomous individuals who can put in our bodies what we want, or we’re not. This idea that there are somehow citizens with superior rights to others is ridiculous and unacceptable.”
Emery also described the MMAR as a form of cooptation. He predicted that companies with licences to grow medicinal marijuana could soon act as a “bulwark against legalization”.
“They’re not going to want to give up their special privilege,” Emery explained. “I fear that’s what the Conservatives have deliberately created.”
A cross-country tour in 2015
Emery is scheduled for release on July 10.
On that day, prison officials will turn him over to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ahead of his pending return to Canada. It’s unknown how long he’ll be in the custody of ICE. Emery said it could take days, weeks, or more than a month, depending on the pace at which a bureaucracy processes his case.
His return to Canada will therefore likely happen in the late summer, at the border crossing at Windsor, Ontario. From there, he’ll travel to London for a few days with family. Next up are public parties planned for Toronto and then Vancouver. Emery said he’ll then be leaving Canada for an international speaking tour and vacation with his wife, Jodie.
The couple’s itinerary includes Spain, France, Ireland, and Austria, after which they will return to Vancouver. A second trip abroad planned for 2015 is expected to take them to Jamaica, Uruguay, Argentina, and South Africa.
By that time, Canada will be preparing for the 2015 federal election, which Emery said will see him and Jodie make a 30-stop cross-country tour beginning in early September.
Asked if he was at all concerned the marijuana issue could backfire and become a liability for the federal Liberals, Emery argued that Trudeau has taken a position that has growing support from the public.
“For the first time in 40 years, the majority of Canadians are highly sympathetic to my point of view,” he said.
Emery claimed he has no plans to run for office, but stated he expects politics to still consume the majority of his time once he’s free.
“Getting rid of Stephen Harper and making sure Justin Trudeau is elected along with the Liberal party is a pretty major job,” Emery said. "Really, the only job that I’m going to have in the next year.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Thirty members of Congress, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Tuesday demanding an end to the federal monopoly on marijuana research so that more studies can be done by scientists around the nation.
"We write to express our support for increasing scientific research on the therapeutic risks and benefits of marijuana," the letter reads. "We ask that you take measures to ensure that any non-National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded researcher who has acquired necessary Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Institutional Review Board (IRB), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and appropriate state and local authority approval be able to access marijuana for research at-cost without further review." (Read the full text of the letter below.)
The letter comes about two weeks after the House voted to block the Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to go after medical marijuana operations that are legal under state laws, a measure that Rohrabacher sponsored.
And just last week, a scathing joint report from the Drug Policy Alliance and and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies blasted the DEA, arguing that the agency has repeatedly failed to act in a timely fashion when faced with petitions to reschedule marijuana.
The drug is currently illegal under federal law, and remains classified as a Schedule I substance, a designation the DEA reserves for the "most dangerous" drugs with "no currently accepted medical use." Schedule I drugs, which include substances like heroin and LSD, cannot receive federal funding for research. On three separate occasions — in 1973, 1995 and 2002 — the DEA took years to make a final decision about a rescheduling petition, and in two of those cases the DEA was sued multiple times to force a decision.
Last week’s report criticized the DEA for overruling its own officials charged with determining how illicit substances should be scheduled. It also accused the agency of creating a "regulatory Catch-22" by arguing there is not enough scientific evidence to support rescheduling marijuana — while simultaneously impeding the research that would produce such evidence.
"Two weeks ago, we took a very important vote in the House to stop the DEA from interfering in states’ medical marijuana programs," Blumenauer said in a statement Tuesday. "Now we need the Administration to stop targeting marijuana above and beyond other drugs when it comes to research. By increasing access for scientists who are conducting studies, we end the Catch-22 of opponents claiming they can’t support medical marijuana because there’s not enough research, but blocking research because they don’t support medical marijuana."
The U.S. government grows marijuana for research purposes at the University of Mississippi in the only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of these crops — a process through which the only federally-sanctioned marijuana studies are approved.
Federal authorities have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the drug. Since 2003, more than 500 grants for marijuana-related studies have received federal approval, with a marked upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. Only 22 grants were approved in 2003 for cannabis research, totaling $6 million, but in 2012, 69 grants were approved for a total of over $30 million.
Despite these numbers, NIDA has reportedly conducted only about 30 studies to date on the potential benefits of marijuana, according to The Hill.
Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Eight other states — Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin — have legalized CBD oil, a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that is frequently used to treat epilepsy, for limited medical use or for research purposes.
A number of studies in recent years have shown the medical potential of cannabis. Purified forms may attack some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use has also been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. One study found that legalization of the plant for medical purposes may even lead to lower suicide rates.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Judge Henry Latham’s ruling was filed. "I’m not allowed to give proof why I was using. Now, there is no fair trial."
Since his arrest last summer, Benton Mackenzie has maintained he grew marijuana to treat terminal cancer.
Now, just days ahead of going to trial Monday on drug conspiracy charges, a Scott County District judge has ruled he won’t allow Mackenzie to use his ailment as a defense.
"I’m not allowed to mention anything," Mackenzie said Thursday, the day Judge Henry Latham’s ruling was filed. "I’m not allowed to give proof why I was using. Now, there is no fair trial."
The 48-year-old, who shared his story with the Quad-City Times last September, was diagnosed with angiosarcoma in 2011. It’s a cancer of the blood vessels, in which tumors appear as skin lesions.
He says the lesions have grown enormous since sheriff’s deputies confiscated 71 marijuana plants from his parents’ Long Grove home last summer. He needed all those plants just to be able to extract enough cannabis oil for daily treatments, he says.
Mackenzie wants to be able to tell jurors why he grew marijuana. He wants to show them pictures of his cancerous lesions.
"If I’m to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and the court doesn’t let me tell the truth, they’re making me a liar," he said.
Assistant Scott County Attorney Patrick McElyea, who is prosecuting Mackenzie, filed a motion earlier this month to limit any testimony regarding medical marijuana. He has declined to comment on the case.
McElyea based his motion on the 2005 Iowa Supreme Court decision in State v. Bonjour, a case similar to Mackenzie’s. Lloyd Bonjour, an AIDS patient, was convicted of growing marijuana, and the Supreme Court upheld the conviction.
Latham sided with McElyea’s motion, stating, "The court is not aware of any legislation or been provided with any legislation which provides for such defense."
The judge states he is aware Mackenzie has angiosarcoma. He also is aware Iowa lawmakers recently legalized oil concentrated with cannabidiol, or CBD, with "specific restrictions."
The pending law, expected to be signed today by Gov. Terry Branstad, only applies to those suffering severe epileptic seizures.
Mackenzie says he thinks state government is the "bigger criminal," because it’s practicing medicine without a license in deciding who can and who cannot possess medical marijuana.
"At least the state is now recognizing, with a law, that marijuana has medicinal value," he said, adding his plants were from a strain rich in CBD, which in other states is associated more with medical use than recreational use.
Without the medical necessity defense, Mackenzie said his fate is "completely in the Lord’s hands."
Sitting through several hours of hearings over the past 11 months has been hard enough on someone with lesions covering his legs and rear, he says. He can’t imagine sitting through an entire trial, which is scheduled to begin Monday with jury selection.
He says he may show up to court wearing a kilt, so jurors can see for themselves. But he wouldn’t want his lesions oozing and bleeding all over the courtroom furniture.
"That shows how much of a criminal I’m not," he said.
At one point during a phone conversation with a reporter Thursday afternoon, he reacted because one of his larger lesions opened up and bled onto the chair and floor at home, he said.
"I’m sitting in a pile of blood," he said a moment later.
He wants to request a nurse or a medical provider be allowed to sit in the courtroom with him. He says the judge is allowing breaks, but he expects he’ll have to take a break every few minutes just to replace the large, disposable underpad for furniture.
He anticipates that with his failing health and the number of co-defendants, the trial will come across as a "circus."
Mackenzie is charged with felony drug possession along with his wife, Loretta Mackenzie. His 73-year-old parents, Dorothy and Charles Mackenzie, are charged with hosting a drug house, and his son, Cody, is charged with misdemeanor possession. His childhood friend, Stephen Bloomer, also is charged in the drug conspiracy.
All six defendants are being represented by a different attorney.
Lately, Mackenzie’s health has been "touch and go," he says, with episodes of vomiting, cold sweats and extreme pain. He almost always feels tired.
He raised enough money from family and friends to travel twice this spring to Oregon, which has legalized medical marijuana.
Each trip was a week long. During the first trip, he met with a physician, who approved him for a state medical marijuana identification card. On the second trip, he was able to purchase oil in an amount equivalent to a pound and a half of marijuana, which he couldn’t by law bring back to Iowa.
The little bit of relief is nothing compared to the daily treatments prior to his arrest, when he was shrinking his skin lesions, he said. He claims the oil in Oregon also stopped the growth of the lesions, but only temporarily.
Mackenzie said he hopes jurors will show compassion in deciding his future.
"No matter what, if I’m found guilty, I’ll do at least three years in prison, which is a death sentence for me," he said. "If I’m found guilty at all, I’m a dead man. I’m lucky I’m not dead already."
Copyright 2014 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Benton Mackenzie, Iowa, Henry Latham, Medical Cannabis, Cannabidiol, Cannabis, Iowa Supreme Court, Mackenzie, Patrick Mcelyea, Cannabis Oil, Lloyd Bonjour, Legalized Oil, Cancer, Marijuana, Medical MarijuanaRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
June 3, 2014
Documents buried deep in tobacco company archives reveal a hope and a plan to sell marijuana as soon as legally possible
Tobacco executives anticipated the legalization of marijuana as early as the 1970′s — and they wanted a piece of the action, according to newly discovered documents from tobacco company archives.
Public health researchers scanned 80 million pages of digitized company documents for keywords such as, “marijuana,” “cannabis,” “reefer,” “weed,” “spliffs,” and “blunts.” The results, published Tuesday in the Milbank Quarterly, reveal a long history of maneuvers toward marijuana-laced products.
“The starting point must be to learn how to produce in quantity cigarettes loaded uniformly with a known amount of either ground cannabis or dried and cut cannabis rag,” read one memorandum from British American Tobacco’s adviser on technical research, Charles Ellis.
A hand-written letter from Philip Morris president George Weissman read, “While I am opposed to its use, I recognize that it may be legalized in the near future…Thus, with these great auspices, we should be in a position to examine: 1. A potential competition, 2. A possible product, 3. At this time, cooperate with the government.”
Philip Morris even went so far as to request a marijuana sample from the Department of Justice for research purposes, promising to share its findings with the government so long as the company’s involvement remained strictly confidential. “We request that there be no publicity whatsoever,” wrote a Philip Morris executive. The Justice Department drug science’s chief Milton Joffee obliged with a promise to deliver “good quality” marijuana.
While tobacco executives missed the mark on legalization by several decades, they did lay out a persuasive case for vigilance. In early 1970, an unsigned memorandum distributed to Philip Morris’ top management read, “We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying these needs.”
The study authors said the documents provide proof of tobacco companies’ intent to enter the marijuana trade, despite their claims to the contrary. They urged policymakers to prevent tobacco makers from entering the nascent market for legal marijuana “in a way that would replicate the smoking epidemic, which kills 480,000 Americans each year.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
May 1, 2014
What could be a better day out for adult fun in Kentucky than the Derby?
Dare I say, Derby Day, Mint Juleps and a Cannabis March? In the same day? In Louisville?
Yet, “oops there it is”…
For the first time in history a Global Marijuana March is to be held in Louisville, Kentucky.
It just so happens that the march will coincide with the “Running for the Roses”.
just received yesterday. NEW FARM CONCEPTS out of Bowling Green is the Sponsor.
History is being made in Kentucky this year in a lot of ways not the least of which is
the fact that GMM KY and Derby Day in Louisville will peacefully coexist and bring
more business to the Highland Neighborhood where the March is set for. It should
prove to be a very interesting day for this City and even the weather is cooperating as
it is forecasted to be warm and sunny.
We will be following up with a Global Marijuana March in Bowling Green on
Sunday, May 4th as well.
Below are a few links that include the GMM events.
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Melissa Healy
April 23, 2014, 4:35 p.m.
Over a five-year period, a government-mandated tracking system in France showed that physicians in that country treated 1,979 patients for serious health problems associated with the use of marijuana, and nearly 2% of those encounters were with patients suffering from cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia and stroke, and circulation problems in the arms and legs. In roughly a quarter of those cases, the study found, the patient died.
In the United States, when young and otherwise healthy patients show up in emergency departments with symptoms of heart attack, stroke, cardiomyopathy and cardiac arrhythmia, physicians have frequently noted in case reports that these unusual patients are regular marijuana users.
Such reporting is hardly the basis for declaring marijuana use an outright cause of cardiovascular disease. But on Wednesday, cardiologists writing in the Journal of the American Heart Assn. warned that "clinical evidence … suggests the potential for serious cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use." And with a growing movement to decriminalize marijuana use, they called for data-collection efforts capable of detecting and measuring marijuana’s cardiovascular impact among American users of cannibis setiva.
"There is now compelling evidence on the growing risk of marijuana-associated adverse cardiovascular effects, especially in young people," said Emilie Jouanjus, lead author of the French study, which was also published in the Journal of the American Heart Assn. That evidence, Jouanjus added, should prompt cardiologists to consider marijuana use a potential cause of cardiovascular disease in patients they see.
In an editorial published Wednesday in the AHA journal, Drs. Sherief Rezkalla and Robert A. Kloner asked, "Do we really know enough about the cardiovascular effects of marijuana to feel comfortable about its use in patients with known cardiovascular disease or patients with cardiovascular risk factors," including obesity, sedentary behavior, high blood pressure and worrisome cholesterol numbers.
Rezkalla and Kloner combed the recent medical literature for animal experiments, observational studies and case reports linking marijuana use in close temporal proximity with cardiovascular events. They cited evidence that marijuana use probably increases clotting factors in the blood and that heavy marijuana use may lead to significant changes in the tiny vessels carrying blood to the heart and brain, such that even after clearance of a major blockage, blood flow remains impeded.
Aside from heart attacks and strokes, case studies linked recent marijuana use in patients seeking care for increased angina, ischemic ulcers and gangrene associated with blocked blood flow to extremities and transcient ischemic attacks, sometimes called "mini-strokes." Notably these complaints often came from patients who were young and had no previous evidence of cardiovascular disease.
"We think the time has come to stop and think about what is the best way to protect our communities from the potential danger of widespread marijuana use in the absence of safety studies," added Rezkalla, a cardiologist at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, and Kloner, a cardiologist at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. "It is the responsibility of the medical community to determine the safety of the drug before it is widely legalized for recreational use."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Above: Big Hemp’s main man in Washington, 27-year-old Ben Droz
Ben Droz loosened the red paisley tie around his neck, pulled the knot over his head and replaced it with a skinny black cord made of hemp with sterling silver tassels at the ends. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple of plastic tie slides—a screaming eagle and a geometric wood piece—that would, when attached, turn the string into a bolo tie. “This one’s more subtle, more professional,” Droz said, selecting the wooden piece. He pulled it up the string toward his Adams apple. His bolo tie in place, he was ready to “go lobbying,” as Droz put it.
Droz is the American hemp industry’s main man in Washington. As a registered lobbyist for Vote Hemp, an advocacy group that works to loosen hemp laws, Droz, a 27-year-old from Pennsylvania with a thick head of hair and caterpillar eyebrows that make him appear eternally excited, has made it his life mission to bring the Gospel of Hemp to the leaders of America’s capital city. For the past five years, Droz has loaded up a hemp briefcase with hemp products—hemp granola bars, hemp seeds and hemp paper, to name just a few—and walked the halls of the capitol building preaching the glories of hemp.
You’ve heard of industries having an army of lobbyists. Hemp has as army of one, in the person of Ben.
“It’s an army of passion,” Droz said.
He has his work cut out for him. In the United States, there are tough federal restrictions on importing and growing live hemp seeds. As a variant of the cannabis plant which comes from the same botanical family as marijuana, hemp can be grown in a limited number of states only for industrial purposes, and only with special permission from the Drug Enforcement Agency. Because of these restrictions, most hemp products sold in the U.S. are made overseas and shipped here.
On any given day, Droz is a walking billboard for those products. He sports a tan button-down hemp dress shirt over a white undershirt, also made of hemp. Hemp-knit socks cover his feet. A hemp bolo tie adorns his neck; a hemp bracelet circles his wrist. In his pocket, he carries a hemp wallet, which houses his hemp-paper business cards. In the mornings, he washes his body with hemp soap and styles his hair with hemp hair cream. He even wears hemp-cloth underwear, he says. And he’s saving up money to one day buy a hemp business suit, on which he will place the American Flag lapel pin he wears that reads, “Hemp Is Patriotic.”
When I met up with Droz on an April morning to see him in action, his schedule was packed with meetings, photo shoots and presentations about hemp. (When he’s not pushing hemp at the Capitol, Droz moonlights as a professional photographer.) His day would begin with a presentation to conservative activists, followed by a photo gig downtown. Then it was off to Capitol Hill to meet with staff for Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis and Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, two of hemp’s biggest supporters in Congress. Thence to the Phoenix Park Hotel near Union Station to scope out a venue for an upcoming cocktail reception for hemp supporters. After a meeting with staff of Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden,he ran across town to take headshots for a PR firm, followed by another shoot at a stand-up comedy competition near U Street that would last late into the night.
“It’s non-stop for me, because there’s no real distinction between what counts as working and what’s not,” Droz said, describing his life. It’s a plight he shares with thousands of other single, overworked 20- and 30-somethings in the District of Columbia. “I feel like I have three jobs. I do all of this hemp stuff, then I do photography, then I also do a lot of Facebooking, because networking is a big part of photography. I’m just constantly working around the clock.”
Grover Norquist hosted Droz for his first stop of the day, the legendary Wednesday meeting of conservative activists organized by the anti-tax lobbyist for two decades. Droz, who voted for President Obama in 2008 and considers climate change one of the world’s greatest dangers, doesn’t necessarily consider himself a conservative. But cannabis advocates have made inroads with conservatives in recent years by pitching decriminalization as a states rights issue and a move toward a world with fewer government regulations.
For his presentation, Droz chose to wear the red traditional necktie instead of his beloved bolo, which he left in a pocket.
“With the conservatives,” he explained, “I never want to come across as too fringe.”
When Norquist introduced Droz as a hemp advocate, some in the audience chuckled. Droz ignored it, and launched into a brief speech about “harmful federal regulations” intended to appeal to the Reaganite hearts of the assembled.
“We are working to remove harmful federal regulations on industrial hemp production in the U.S.,” Droz said, once the giggling died down. “We can’t grow hemp in the U.S. and that’s exactly what we’re working on.”
Droz rattled off statistics about hemp in the lobbying equivalent of an elevator pitch. It’s a half a billion dollar industry, he said, but most of the products have to be imported from abroad, and three new states removed their barriers to hemp production in 2014, bringing the number up to 13. “This is not really a controversial issue anymore,” he told the conservatives. Under current law, he said, the states need federal approval to grow hemp, and he needs help passing a bill to give states control over their own hemp laws without federal interference.
On the actual elevator after the meeting, Michael Moroney, who works at the Franklin Center, a conservative journalism non-profit,shot a knowing smirk at Droz. “Handing out pot candy there, Ben?”
“It’s hemp,” Droz replied. “Not marijuana.”
Moroney smiled. “I know, man,” he said. They both laughed at his ribbing and Droz promised to get Mahoney some hemp granola bars, Droz’s most popular product.
“Everybody makes jokes like that, but the truth is, they know the difference. He knows he’s making a joke,” Droz told me. “They always giggle. But here’s the thing that’s great: They used to giggle and not know what hemp is. But now they giggle and they do know what it is. That’s a big difference.”
Indeed, in just the past few years, hemp in America has grown from an obscure plant used mostly to produce household decorations for stoners and latter-day hippies and into a source of goods that busy mothers can buy at Costco.
In June 2013, 63 Republicans joined 162 Democrats to pass an amendment to the Farm Bill that authorized hemp research in states where hemp farming is legal. Encouraged by that victory, Droz is working to raise support for the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would amend the Controlled Substance Act by decoupling hemp from marijuana–thereby freeing up states to legalize hemp as they wish. On the right, the bill has support from Kentucky Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Rep. Massie.
“When I first started this, it was only lefties who are into this,” Droz said. “But it’s really changed a lot because of the states rights approach.”
With his presentation at the Norquist meeting over, Droz, juggling his hemp gear and camera equipment, rushed down the street for a photoshoot with a young real estate mogul at a DC’s City Center, a new complex of apartments, shops and restaurants.
“It’s a crazy day,” Droz muttered. On the way, he berated himself for the two-minute presentation he’d made that morning. “I forgot to mention the Industrial Hemp Farming Act,” he said. “I’m not killing it as hard as a sometimes am. I’m sorry about that.”
Droz wrapped his photo shoot, and then dropped off some of his gear at a nearby office of the PR firm where he would shoot later that day.That was when he removed his traditional tie and got comfortable in his bolo, which he calls his “YOLO bolo.”
Droz fell in love with bolo ties a few years ago when he found that he could buy them made out of hemp and that nearly everyone he met would stop and ask him about his neckwear when he wore bolo ties. He became so obsessed that he even started designing his own ties out of hemp, which he sells on Etsy and promotes on his new website, YoloBolo.com.
“I started wearing bolos as a way to get the conversation going about hemp,” he said. “People just love talking about it. The fact that I can talk about it means I can always talk about hemp, which is my goal. People remember me. I’m the guy with the bolo tie. I’m that hemp guy.”
With his new neckwear in place, Droz caught the Metro to Capitol Hill. His next challenge: Educating Capitol Police at a security station of the Longworth House Office Building that hemp seeds can enter the building. Droz dumped a handful of yellow baggies full of edible hemp seed onto the conveyer belt for screening briefcases. An officer snatched one up and inspected it.
“It’s hemp seed,” Droz informed her. “Totally legal.” In order to enter the United States, edible hemp seeds must first be sterilized, and these were.
(It just so happened that the officer holding Droz’s seeds was the same cop who just last year arrested a marijuana activist for passing out samples of pot candy in a congressional office building the year before.)
Waved in by the officer, Droz stopped for lunch at the bustling Longworth cafeteria, where he spotted Howard Wooldridge, a well-known former policeman and pro-pot activist from Texas who wears an oversized cowboy hat and a shirt that reads, “COPS SAY LEGALIZE POT ASK ME WHY.” Droz bought a salad and sat down.
“Officially there’s a big wall between his issue and mine,” Wooldridge said. “That’s by design from his side, because you don’t want to taint the hemp issue with the marijuana issue. His job is straightforward capitalism, straight forward agricultural issues. Period. It ain’t got nothing to do with drugs.”
While I talked to Wooldridge, Droz ripped open one of the yellow baggies of hemp seed.
“It’s time to hempify my lunch,” he declared, dumping the entirety of the bag over the greens and shaking the salad up to mix them in.
Over lunch, Droz went over some of the challenges he faces as one of the only national activists for a cause few Americans think much about and that many lawmakers still see as a drug policy issue.
“I haven’t been accepted by the mainstream agriculture lobbyists,” he said. “Hemp is such a small issue for agriculture. It’s not an issue they talk a lot about. It’s not an issue they’re passionate about. It’s hard to get them engaged as other people. The goal is for me to be mainstream.”
That will take some doing. About the time Droz finished lunch, a lobbyist from the United Nations Foundation spotted the open hemp seed bag and walked over to introduce himself.“Where can I purchase those? You didn’t get this at the House cafeteria, right?” he asked, before picking up the bag and pulling it toward his nose for a sniff.
“Smells like weed,” he said.
Droz looked up at him. “No it doesn’t, okay?” he said. “This is what people say every time. People smell my briefcase. People smell my shirt, thinking it’s going to smell like weed.”
I took the bag and smelled it. You could definitely discern an olfactory resemblance to hemp’s cousin.
“Okay maybe a little bit,” Droz conceded. “If you’re untrained, you could say it smells like weed.”
Droz, of course, can smell the difference.
With his belly full of hemp seeds, Droz began his daily rounds to congressional offices. Over the course of a year, he will typically visit hundreds of lawmakers. Sometimes he holds long, pre-scheduled meetings with staffers sympathetic to his cause. Other times he just pops into offices to say hello and drop off hemp granola bars.
“Sometimes I just do it randomly,” he said.
When he arrived at Massie’s office, the staffers there greeted Droz by his first name. He and an aide sat down in the lawmaker’s personal office and discussed how they could gain more support across the capitol for the Senate version of Massie’s bill. So far, no one in the upper chamber is taking enough of a leadership role on the issue to do what it takes to get the bill passed, Droz explained.
The theme is a constant one for the one-man, single-issue lobby shop. With so many pressing issues facing lawmakers, how do you get powerful people to care about a single plant, especially when there’s the risk that constituents may confuse it with support for an illegal drug?
It wasn’t always like this. Before live hemp seeds became controversial–and eventually illegal–in the twentieth century, they were widely used throughout the United States for all kinds of purposes.
In fact, hemp literally brought people to America.
“The first Americans who came here brought hemp with them. They not only brought hemp, they sailed here using hemp sails,” Droz said of early European settlers. “You used to be able to pay your taxes in barrels of hemp.”
In 1942, during World War II, the Department of Agriculture even made a pro-hemp propaganda film called, “Hemp for Victory.”
All of that changed under the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970s, when hemp was lumped in as an illegal drug with marijuana. Hemp fell out of fashion for decades and has only recently re-emerged on the American market as an eco-friendly alternative to a variety of products.
“It’s been slow and steady progress over the years,” Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra—Droz’s boss—said. In 2005, then-Texas Rep. Ron Paul introduced a bill to legalize live hemp seeds; he gained only a couple of co-sponsors. It wasn’t until the farm bill last year that the industry saw its first real win. “Over time we just realized that we had to go door-to-door and educate on this, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Steenstra said.
And that is exactly what Droz does on Capitol Hill, day after day. His meeting with Massie’s aide on Wednesday led to another meeting with a staff member from Polis’ office, where hemp enjoys support. Sitting on a couch next to Polis’ desk, Droz and an aide brainstormed as to how they could best encourage the DEA to start accepting live seeds inside the country. The DEA has said it’s in a policy review period, putting the hemp industry in a state of limbo. Lawmakers like Polis could possibly help, Droz said, by sending a letter to the DEA urging them to make a decision.
“Why won’t they do anything about it?” Droz said. “It’s so not okay!”
Before the meeting ended, Droz told the staffer about Vote Hemp’s upcoming lobby day during Hemp History Week (the first week of June), when scores of hemp activists were planning a trip to Washington, D.C. Vote Hemp hopes to hold a reception for lawmakers and a briefing on the issue at that time.
The staffer looked at his calendar, and informed Droz of one big problem: Congress won’t be in session that week. Droz took a deep breath.
After the meeting, Droz called Steenstra to report the news of their poor scheduling. If that wasn’t bad enough, Droz also found out that it was against the rules to hand out promotional materials bearing a logo at a Senate conference room where they were planning a Hemp History Week event, and they had already printed out flyers and literature. “That totally sucks! I don’t know what we’re going to do anymore. Dammit,” Droz said after the phone call. “Hemp History Week is totally falling apart!”
“I can only do so much,” he said.
Despite the moment of panic, Droz never lost his composure. He turned to me. “I’m glad you’re here,” he said. “You get to see what it’s like.”
Before he left the Capitol, Droz ducked into California Democrat Zoe Lofgren’s office unannounced to thank her staff for her supporting industrial hemp farming.
Droz reached into his pocket and pulled out one of the yellow packages of hemp seeds. With a wide smile, he tossed it over the desk of a staff assistant in the front room. “That’s for the congresswoman.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Three months following Colorado’s decision to legalize the production, sale, possession and use of recreational marijuana — a vote that Denver city officials including Mayor Michael Hancock, among others, fought kicking and screaming — guess what’s happened to Denver crime rates in 2014?
According to new data, they’ve fallen across the board. Property crime is down 14.6% compared to the same period in 2013. Violent crimes are down 2.4%. (Arson is up 109% from the same period, but represents just 23 of 3,757 crimes — so if you want to blame every count on smouldering doobies, whatever.)
As the Huffington Post notes, this is a far cry from wild-eyed claims of Amendment 64 opponents that legal weed was the devil’s work and Colorado would see a surge in crime and drug use.
“Expect more crime, more kids using marijuana and pot for sale everywhere,” said Douglas County Sheriff David Weaver in 2012. “I think our entire state will pay the price.” Gov. John Hickenlooper said “Colorado is known for many great things — marijuana should not be one of them” and that “It sends the wrong message to kids that drugs are OK.” Dr. Kevin A. Sabet, former Obama drug policy advisor, warned that the feds would crack down on legal-weed states, increased teenage use and “stoned driving.” Mayor Hancock tried to dodge the constitution by banning the smell of weed, however that works. The now-defunct Vote No On 64 issued fliers claiming it would damage children’s minds and kill people.
And finally, one California sheriff went on Denver television to warn that after marijuana was decriminalized in his county, “thugs put on masks, they come to your house, they kick in your door. They point guns at you and say, ‘Give me your marijuana, give me your money.'” (Of course, this completely disregards the simple logic that when weed is legal, you really don’t have to steal it.)
In reality, things look pretty much the same as they did before in Colorado, except for $6 million in new tax revenue already in state coffers through February alone. And while it would certainly be premature to credit weed for Denver’s falling crime rate, the sky’s not falling, either. In fact, a recent study in PLOS One suggested that not only is there no evidence medical marijuana increases crime, and in fact it’s associated with slightly lower rates of violent crime.
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How local cops are still colluding with the feds to seize pot-related assets—even in states with legal marijuana.
The Shame of “Equitable Sharing”
How local cops are still colluding with the feds to seize pot-related assets—even in states with legal marijuana.
By Nick Sibilla
When voters in Colorado and Washington state approved legalizing marijuana in 2012, those votes undermined an abusive—and profitable—police practice: civil forfeiture. Unlike with criminal forfeiture, under civil forfeiture people do not have to be convicted of or even charged with a crime to permanently lose their cash, cars, and other property. Police can then auction off that seized property and use the proceeds to fund themselves. In the 42 states that allow police departments to profit from forfeiture, that cash flow has funded both the militarization of police and allowed law enforcement to make ridiculous purchases, including a margarita machine, a Hawaiian vacation, and a Dodge Viper.
In Colorado and Washington, the federal government processed more than $36 million worth of cash and other property in civil and criminal marijuana forfeitures between 2002 and 2012. Pursuing cannabis cases earned local law enforcement in Washington an additional $6 million to $9 million in forfeiture revenue since 2008. Nationwide, the Wall Street Journal reported the federal government scored $1 billion in forfeiture from marijuana cases over the past decade.
Legalization now threatens that forfeiture revenue for the police departments that have relied on it. Legal cannabis and the subsequent drop in forfeiture have already caused one drug task force in Washington to cut its budget by 15 percent. That’s great news for due process and property rights.
But marijuana is still illegal under federal law, so local legalization has created ambiguity in civil forfeiture proceedings. Even in states where recreational or medical marijuana is legal, property owned by innocent people is still at risk thanks to “equitable sharing.” This federal program lets local and state law enforcement do an end run around state law and profit from civil forfeiture, simply by collaborating with a federal agency.
Equitable sharing is a two-way street: For the federal government to “adopt” a forfeiture case, cops can approach the feds and vice versa. The U.S. Department of Justice has applications online for agencies to apply for adoption and to transfer federally forfeited property. Crucially, criminal charges do not have to accompany a civil forfeiture case.
The proceeds from federal forfeitures are deposited into the DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture Fund. After the DOJ determines the size of the cut for the feds, equitable sharing allows the local police to take up to 80 percent of what the property is worth. In fiscal year 2012, the federal government paid out almost $700 million in equitable sharing proceeds to local and state law enforcement agencies.
Equitable sharing tempts cops to become bounty hunters, even in states with legal marijuana. Tony Jalali is living proof of this travesty. Jalali almost lost his business over four grams of marijuana.
After immigrating to the United States from Iran in 1978, Jalali became a successful small business owner. Jalali owns an office building in Anaheim, Calif.—worth around $1.5 million—that he rents out to fund his retirement.
Among the more staid tenants—a dentist’s office, an insurance company—was ReLeaf Health & Wellness, a medical marijuana dispensary. Posing as a patient with a legitimate doctor’s recommendation, an undercover Anaheim police officer bought $37 worth of cannabis from that dispensary. Keep in mind that medical marijuana sales were—and are—legal in California under state law, and this Anaheim cop worked for local law enforcement, not the feds.
Jalali never bought or sold marijuana. Jalali was not charged with any crime nor was he warned that renting to a dispensary could lead to civil forfeiture. “I had no idea I was doing anything wrong,” Jalali said.
Yet for the DEA, which collaborated with Anaheim police in pursing the forfeiture, that $37 pot sale was enough evidence that Jalali should lose his property.
This Kafkaesque nightmare should not have happened under California law. Not only did California voters legalize medical marijuana in 1996, state law bans forfeiting real property (like a home or a business) unless the owner has been convicted of a crime related to the property. In fact, Anaheim authorities even requested aid from California prosecutors to take action against Jalali’s property. State officials refused.
But the state’s protections don’t exist on the federal level. By participating in equitable sharing, Anaheim police could directly benefit from a federal forfeiture, bypassing California law to cash in on Jalali’s property.
His case was not an isolated incident. In just the Central District of California alone (which includes Anaheim and Los Angeles), the U.S. attorney’s office filed 30 forfeiture actions against landlords and threatened more than 525 marijuana businesses in 2012 and 2013. Since 2008, Anaheim police have received over $21 million in forfeiture proceeds from the federal government. At the same time, for four straight years the city-owned Anaheim Convention Center has hosted the Kush Expo, the world’s largest medical marijuana trade show.
Both the ACLU and the Institute for Justice (IJ), where I work, have launched campaigns to close the equitable sharing loophole and end policing for profit. IJ took Jalali’s case pro bono. The federal government dropped the forfeiture suit this past October and cannot refile the case.
For the time being, the feds appear to be shifting priorities. Last August, Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced new guidelines to U.S. attorneys. If state laws regarding marijuana don’t conflict with federal law enforcement priorities (like keeping cannabis away from kids and preventing it from crossing state lines), the feds will defer to the states. But even that cautious memo is filled with caveats, like “this memorandum does not alter in any way the Department’s authority to enforce federal law, including federal laws relating to marijuana, regardless of state law.”
The equitable sharing loophole still exists. The federal government can continue to prosecute criminal cases and litigate civil forfeiture actions related to cannabis. Citing the risk of federal forfeiture, Wells Fargo, one of Colorado’s largest banks, has refused to finance properties in that state’s marijuana industry.
Few things have been more corrosive to the basic concepts of due process and other constitutional protections for citizens/restrictions on police than the War on Drugs. More…
Buying recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado only since Jan. 1 and pot stores haven’t opened yet in Washington. Yet selling the plant has already generated $14 million in Colorado—a tempting cash cow for local police.
The incentives behind equitable sharing are primed for abuse. Property owners’ protection from forfeiture currently depends on prosecutorial discretion. That is no substitute for meaningful legal reform.
Nick Sibilla is a writer for the Institute for Justice.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Shortly after the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act went into effect on October 1, 1937, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Denver City police arrested Moses Baca for possession and Samuel Caldwell for dealing.
^ "The First Pot POW". Retrieved 2011-03-18. "On the day the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act was enacted — Oct. 2, 1937 — the FBI and Denver, Colo., police raided the Lexington Hotel and arrested Samuel R. Caldwell, 58, an unemployed labourer and Moses Baca, 26. On Oct. 5, Caldwell went into the history trivia books as the first marijuana seller convicted under U.S. federal law. His customer, Baca, was found guilty of possession."
Baca and Caldwell’s arrest made them the first marijuana convictions under U.S. federal law for not paying the marijuana tax. Judge Foster Symes sentenced Baca to 18 months and Caldwell to four years in Leavenworth Penitentiary for violating the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.
After the Philippines fell to Japanese forces in 1942, the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Army urged farmers to grow fiber hemp. Tax stamps for cultivation of fiber hemp began to be issued to farmers. Without any change in the marijuana Tax Act, 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) were cultivated with hemp between 1942 and 1945. The last commercial hemp fields were planted in Wisconsin in 1957.
In 1967, President Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of justice opined, "The Act raises an insignificant amount of revenue and exposes an insignificant number of marijuana transactions to public view, since only a handful of people are registered under the Act. It has become, in effect, solely- a criminal law, imposing sanctions upon persons who sell, acquire, or possess marijuana."
In 1969 in Leary v. United States, part of the Act was ruled to be unconstitutional as a violation of the Fifth Amendment, since a person seeking the tax stamp would have to incriminate him/herself. In response the Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. The 1937 Act was repealed by the 1970 Act.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Marc Emery – Thursday, February 27 2014
CANNABIS CULTURE – Since the 20th anniversary of my activism in British Columbia is approaching on April 11th, I thought I would write a series of blogs about my early years, when there was no movement, no legal medical marijuana anywhere, books and magazines about cannabis were banned in Canada – in essence, there was nothing. Over the next few months I’ll tell you about great moments in my life where I contributed to the marijuana movement and helped changed several laws.
My history is packed with well-documented campaigns and pivotal moments. It includes the day in August 1996 when Dennis Peron was was with me in Vancouver for a large rally in historic Gastown, occupying the intersection that, 25 years earlier, had been the scene of the "Grasstown Police Riot" (where cops attacked and injured dozens of peaceful pot advocates and innocent bystanders), and his pioneering medical cannabis building in San Francisco was raided. I encouraged him to make a phone speech rallying his supporters to not back down – the after-effect of which really pushed the California voters in favour of Proposition 215.
Other significant events include my times with Jack Herer in the very early days (1991); selling banned marijuana books and magazines door-to-door in early 1994 to establish myself in Vancouver (after doing the same in Ontario years earlier, to challenge the laws prohibiting marijuana literature); producing the first issue of The Marijuana & Hemp Newsletter in 1994, which became Cannabis Canada magazine a year later, then Cannabis Culture in 1998; how I was inspired in November 1994 to "Overgrow the Government" by funding activism through seed sales; publishing my 1995 article "How To Open Your Own Hemp Store" that kickstarted a revolution across Canada (and continues to this day); underwriting the early days of the Marijuana Policy Project (1998); contributing to the success of the medical marijuana initiative in Washington DC (1998), Colorado and Arizona (2000); my role in making medical marijuana legal in Canada (1999); creating Pot TV, the first online cannabis video website in the world, with its construction beginning on January 1, 2000; going to the Canadian Supreme Court to legalize pot in December 2003 (and the ten years of court battles leading to that); and stories of how my many adversaries who once persecuted and prosecuted me became activist anti-prohibitionists, including Vancouver Mayors Philip Owen and Larry Campbell, Vancouver ‘GrowBusters’ chief Kash Heed, and Washington State District Attorney (and my prosecutor) John McKay.
Some great history reviews lay ahead, in this, the 20th anniversary year of Cannabis Culture and the retail-activist revolution that is now growing everywhere. I should start with my early efforts in my hometown of London, Ontario.
In 1990 I had a radio show at the University of Western Ontario’s CHRW-FM called "Radio Free Speech: Revolution Thru Rock N’ Rap" and I loved playing the Dead Kennedy’s and the spoken-word albums of lead singer Jello Biafra. When his 1990 spoken word album "I Blow Minds for a Living" came out, I decided to have a Jello Biafra spoken-word performance at Centennial Hall (Dufferin Ave by Victoria Park). We sold 450 tickets to cover the cost of Centennial Hall and Jello’s $3,000 fee. As part of the contract, he was obligated to go on CHRW with me for a special 3-hour show the next day (Saturday), which was a highlight of my 18-month London radio career before I was fired in 1991 for criticizing the station’s lame newscast.
In this new album and at his Centennial Hall performance, Jello did as segment called "Grow More Pot", wherein, though not a pot smoker himself, he urged the audience to grow more pot based on his reading and recommending the (seminal) work of the then-ascendant hemp movement, "The Emperor Wears No Clothes". It was a book by Jack Herer – and it was banned in Canada!
Nowhere in Canada was this book offered for sale (and remember, this was before Amazon.com and the internet existed!) and I found out that the federal government of Canada had prohibited all books and magazines that spoke honestly of marijuana. Since I had a bookstore in London, the City Lights Bookshop on Richmond Street (now owned and operated since July 1992 by then-employees Jim & Teresa), I decided I would get this book and challenge the ban by selling it at City Lights.
After some cursory research, I found that everything to do with marijuana was illegal in Canada since an act of Parliament in 1987 had banned all books, magazines, pipes, bongs, video – all and anything to do with marijuana culture was prohibited under section 462.2 of the Canadian criminal code. Since 1987, over 500 shops selling bongs, pipes, High Times magazine, etc. had been shut down, and now in 1991 there were no longer any head shops (as they were called then), nor was High Times available on any newsstand in Canada! Penalties for a first-time conviction for selling books like "The Emperor" or magazines like High Times, or bongs and pipes, included a fine of up to $100,000 and/or up to six months in jail for a first offense, and up to $300,000 for a second offense!
So I bought an ad in the daily London Free Press newspaper and announced that I would be selling the banned Jack Herer book to get arrested and go to court to challenge this law.
I sold over 100 copies of "The Emperor", but got no charge by police, nor was I raided. As a historical note, I had already been arrested and charged in previous attempts to change laws regarding Ontario’s Sunday-shopping prohibition (1986), and the province’s ban on explicit rap music (1990), so this was a technique that I had had good success with, up until this time. So I decided to go a little further and smuggled in hundreds of copies of every available marijuana grow guide, dozens of copies of back-issues of High Times, every copy of The Freak Brothers comics, all in huge quantities.
When we bought an ad in the London Free Press announcing this massive sale of over fifty different books and magazines – more than one thousand individual copies – I had over 150 people lined up outside the doors of City Lights at the 10:00am opening. Still, no police raid or arrest.
So I brought Jack Herer to town, to autograph copies of the book, and bought more ads flouting the law. Still… no arrest or charge. Then I flew in Ed Rosenthal to autograph copies of his books; Steve Hager (editor of High Times) for a special celebration dinner at the City-owned London Art Gallery, where over 100 people paid to attend; Paul Mavrides, writer and artist of the Freak Brothers, to autograph his comics.
I even gave away 300 copies of High Times to 300 people in front of the London police headquarters in February 1992 (since they law said ‘distributing’ any book or magazine was illegal, not just the selling of them) to force the London police to charge me. But they didn’t! So while I may not have had my day in court then to make marijuana literature legal, by having the law overturned, I did succeed at bringing important cannabis and hemp information into Canada when we had nothing available at all.
In 1994 I moved to Vancouver, and continued selling banned books and magazines on what became a huge scale. It was the cornerstone to getting established in my new West Coast base of operations; by June 1995, I was distributing 2,000 copies of High Times every month.
In the autumn of 1994, my friend Umberto Iorfida of Canada NORML was charged by Toronto police for handing out pamphlets to students at a high school where undercover narcs had entrapped teens by asking for marijuana. I undertook to finance his defense, and in July 1995, with lawyer Alan Young, Umberto and I got the aspect of the 462.2 law regarding media (books, magazines, video) struck down by Judge Ellen McDonald, in the Ontario Superior Court. This law, by the way, is still in the criminal code, because it was not overturned in the Canadian Supreme Court, but since the Ontario Crown did not appeal the Superior Court decision, the decision stands as law in Ontario.
That having been said, over the years, I have traveled to places that tried to ban my Cannabis Culture Magazine or High Times, like in Timmins, Ontario in 1999. The police went to convenience stores and told them that selling those magazines was illegal, and they’d have to stop. So I bought a half-page ad in the Timmins newspaper and went there to hand out 300 copies of my publication, Cannabis Culture Magazine, for several hours in front of the Timmins police station, daring them to try to charge me under 462.2. We ended up having an hours-long smoke-fest and street party in front of the police station. Media from all over Ontario covered that event, and Timmins police never tried that again.
In my peaceful civil disobedience regarding marijuana laws, I have been arrested 28 times in Canada, and jailed 22 times, in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and this one very long stint in federal prison in these United States (where, as most people know, I did not travel to or spend any time as a seed seller).
I regard all of this as punishment for my political activities, as all of them were acts done under clearly-political auspices, and most – if not all – are unique in North America, Canada, or the USA. For example, I have been arrested and convicted in Vancouver of giving away one gram of hash (the witness was brought 2,000 miles from the United States to testify against me for one gram I gave him, for free, at my Cannabis Cafe in 1997); arrested and convicted for promoting vaporizers, a charge I can hardly believe exists; arrested and convicted for selling seeds (to my knowledge, no other Canadian has ever been convicted of selling just seeds); and arrested and convicted (and sentenced to three months in prison!) for passing one joint in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, at a rally after my speech at University of Saskatchewan in 2004 (although no joint or pot was ever produced to prove their charge, merely a 22-year-old witness’ claim, upon police inquiry, that I passed him a joint).
I was arrested and jailed six times on my 2003 Summer of Legalization Tour across Canada, which was a campaign to demonstrate that the marijuana prohibition laws were of no force and effect due to a court ruling in Ontario (click here to see archive coverage on Pot TV and Cannabis Culture). To challenge the law nationwife, I promoted a tour where I smoked a bong or one-ounce joint in front of police station headquarters in every major city in Canada – eighteen stops in nine provinces – and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in front of a huge RCMP phalanx. In those six arrests in Alberta (Calgary and Edmonton), Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick, I was charged, but my charges – and charges against many Canadians – were later dropped when the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in October 2003 that there was, in fact, no valid marijuana possession law in effect in Canada from 2001 to 2003 (it was reinstated by that court at the time, unfortunately).
I was not arrested during the other 12 stops that tour, in cities in British Columbia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. I was also not arrested when I led a march in 2002 in Montreal at the Quebec Cannabis Cup after Montreal police arrested the organizer. I quickly responded with a bellicose protest immediately, took over the streets en route, and had a very confrontational conflict with riot-clad Montreal cops at the police station. I was also not arrested in my numerous attempts to get charged for selling banned marijuana literature in London, Ontario or Vancouver.
So whereas I have been arrested 28 times, jailed 22 times, and convicted on about ten of those arrests since 1990 to 2010, I have also attempted to get arrested – or risked getting arrested – well over 45 times, all related to fighting against marijuana prohibition or promoting cannabis culture.
And you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!
If you’re interested in seeing more about Marc’s earliest freedom activist causes and campaigns, watch the 1992 documentary "Messing Up The System" by the late Chris Doty (one hour), the 2006 CBC documentary "Prince of Pot: The US vs. Marc Emery" by Nick Wilson (one hour), and the thorough multi-part 2010 documentary "The Principle of Pot" by Paul McKeever (four hours).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Largely illegal in the U.S. for a century, weed became legal in Washington and Colorado at the start of the year after voters in those states gave the go-ahead in 2012. Further north, voters could decide in August whether Alaska will become the third state to remove prohibitions on the recreational use of pot. A poll released Monday by Quinnipiac University suggests residents of New York, a state notorious for its strict drug laws, are in favor of legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use by a comfortable margin of 18 percentage points.
Estimates of the total value of a legal pot industry in the U.S. are hard to establish in part because the current price of marijuana is artificially high; illegal substances, after all, are a significant risk to black market dealers and buyers, and with that comes a premium. A 2011 report by See Change Strategy, which focuses on growth in new markets, estimated that the value of medical marijuana alone would grow from $1.7 billion to about $9 billion by 2016.
Here are some companies that have begun positioning themselves to cash in on this cash crop: CONTINUE THRU THIS LINK!
By Angelo Young on February 20 2014 10:59 AM
Above: Nate Johnson, managing owner of the Queen Anne Cannabis Club, sells a marijuana strain called "Beast Mode OG", named after NFL player Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks, in Seattle, Washington January 28, 2014. ReutersRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Rep. Earl Blumenauer speaks on Capitol Hill about the tax treatment of state-legal marijuana businesses, as anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist listens. | Michael McAuliff
Earl Blumenauer, Marijuana, Schedule I, Controlled Substances Act, Earl Blumenauer Marijuana, Eric Holder Marijuana, Marijuana, Marijuana, Marijuana Schedule I, Obama Marijuana Legalization, Politics News
WASHINGTON — With federal law enforcement officials moving to make it easier for marijuana businesses to operate in states where they are legal, one member of Congress is calling on President Barack Obama to take the next logical step and remove pot from the federal government’s list of tightly restricted drugs.
Marijuana is listed on Schedule I, along with heroin and LSD, under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The Drug Enforcement Administration says that such drugs have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse" and that they are "the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence."
But Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime advocate for loosening restrictions on marijuana, thinks that definition clearly doesn’t apply to weed, which can now be medically prescribed in many states. He’s begun circulating a letter to the president among other members of Congress, seeking signers who will ask that marijuana be stricken from the controlled substances categories or at least moved to a less restrictive schedule.
"Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana," the letter says.
According to Blumenauer’s spokesman, the congressman had been thinking about such a request for a while, but was sparked to pursue it after Obama told The New Yorker magazine that he thought pot was less destructive than booze.
"You said that you don’t believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol: a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less dangerous ‘in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.’ This is true," says the letter. "Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I, the strictest classification, along with heroin and LSD. This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs. This makes no sense."
Blumenauer will gain a better sense of how many of his colleagues want to sign on to the effort when Congress returns next week, but it will likely require more than a token level of support to sway Obama. In spite of the president’s comments, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters last week that Obama remains opposed to decriminalizing pot.
The administration has the authority to determine which substances are and are not on the controlled schedules. Congress can also pass laws to change those lists.
Here is Blumenauer’s full letter:
We were encouraged by your recent comments in your interview with David Remnick in the January 27, 2014 issue of the New Yorker, about the shifting public opinion on the legalization of marijuana. We request that you take action to help alleviate the harms to society caused by the federal Schedule I classification of marijuana.
Lives and resources are wasted on enforcing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws. Nearly two-thirds of a million people every year are arrested for marijuana possession. We spend billions every year enforcing marijuana laws, which disproportionately impact minorities. According to the ACLU, black Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable marijuana usage rates.
You said that you don’t believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol: a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less dangerous "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer." This is true. Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I, the strictest classification, along with heroin and LSD. This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs. This makes no sense.
Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana. A Schedule I or II classification also means that marijuana businesses in states where adult or medical use are legal cannot deduct business expenses from their taxes or take tax credits due to Section 280E of the federal tax code.
We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II. Furthermore, one would hope that your Administration officials publicly reflect your views on this matter. Statements such as the one from DEA chief of operations James L. Capra that the legalization of marijuana at the state level is "reckless and irresponsible" serve no purposes other than to inflame passions and misinform the public.
Thank you for your continued thoughtfulness about this important issue. We believe the current system wastes resources and destroys lives, in turn damaging families and communities. Taking action on this issue is long overdue.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
One citizen-journalist’s journey into the drug war bureaucracy shows why previous efforts to reschedule pot have been DEA’d on arrival.
October 30, 2013
Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug in America. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Cannabis sativa is as dangerous as heroin. (You know… as in heroin!) To justify this ranking, the DEA has declared that the plant has absolutely no medical value. Zero. Nada. Zip. The federal government has determined that this position is backed by science.
Marijuana’s current status as one of the most dangerous drugs in America became official in 1970, during the Nixon administration. (Putting matters in ludicrous perspective, cocaine and even Breaking Bad meth are Schedule II.) Every administration since then has treated marijuana as mad, bad and dangerous to know, with virtually no attempt made to reclassify it. And that list includes the current one.
About the Author
Harmon Leon is the author of six books, including The American Dream, The Harmon Chronicles and Republican Like Me. His…
“It’s a bit of an Alice in Wonderland scenario with the Obama administration,” explains Kris Hermes of American for Safe Access (ASA). “He made statements prior to being elected about changing the policy on marijuana, but in reality the opposite has happened.”
Not only have there been more medical marijuana arrests during Obama’s administration than the entire Bush regime, but even in states like California and Washington, there’s been a steady rise in the number of people being raided even though they’re in full compliance with state law. The federal government has threatened landlords and financial institutions working with medical marijuana businesses; the IRS has been involved with audits; pro-pot lawmakers have been bullied; and veterans using marijuana for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder have been denied medical benefits by the Veterans Administration—all because of marijuana’s Schedule I status.
On the other hand, dropping pot down a notch to Schedule II (let alone III, IV or V, or removing it from the Controlled Substances Act completely) would be a big step in resolving the clash between state and federal law, since such a move would at least acknowledge marijuana’s medical utility and allow doctors to legally prescribe it.
So what can be done to reschedule marijuana in a country where the “drug czar” is required by law to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a Schedule I substance—in any form?
Time to put on our citizen-journalist’s hat and go through the looking glass into the bizarre legal labyrinth of the rescheduling process. Kris Hermes warned that it wouldn’t be easy: “Bureaucrats shut down and refuse to talk when it’s convenient for them not to talk… when it suits their purpose!”
I Contact the DEA
Phoning the DEA is an unnerving experience—a sensation similar to being in high school and calling your dad at 2 am to inform him that you’ve crashed the family car (though now safe in the knowledge that the NSA will keep tabs on me).
I get a DEA representative on the phone. He goes by the name Rusty. (Perhaps because of his employer’s corroded views on ending the drug war?)
“Could I get any information regarding the rescheduling of medical marijuana?”
“I don’t want to spark a debate,” Rusty from the DEA replies. “I don’t know if that’s something we’d weigh in on. I don’t know what the point would be—our stance is pretty much on our website.”
Rusty from the DEA informs me that the agency’s position on medical marijuana can be found under the tab astutely labeled “The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse.” (The thirty-page PDF reads like some bureaucrat’s idea for a remake of Reefer Madness.)
The key words in this manifesto: dangers, consequences, abuse. That doesn’t seem to indicate much willingness to consider pot’s medical value. Apparently, the DEA is still convinced that cancer victims are merely “abusing” marijuana to alleviate their chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea.
Rusty from the DEA adds: “You know, Congress can change this at any point—which people seem to forget.”
Perfect. That would be the same body that recently shut down the federal government and threatened the United States with default. But while the DEA might say that rescheduling is up to Congress, according to the ASA, that’s not exactly the case. The DEA actually delays the process—with no time limit imposed for answering rescheduling petitions, the agency takes the longest possible time before reaching a decision. (And then it says no.) To get around to denying the ASA’s rescheduling petition, it took the federal government a whopping nine years.
I Contact the FDA
According to a memorandum of understanding between the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration, a rescheduling petition has to go through the FDA. (Despite the fact that the DEA is under no obligation to recognize the conclusions of that agency.) Meanwhile, roughly every nineteen minutes, an American dies of accidental prescription-drug overdose—and these are pills approved by the FDA. (“Approved!”) Since the big pharmaceutical companies can’t make money off homegrown medical marijuana, might that be swaying the FDA’s recommendation?
“Can I ask a few questions about the rescheduling of medical marijuana?” I ask an unnamed FDA representative.
“I’m looking into this for you,” she replies.
“We cannot comment on this topic due to pending citizen petitions, other than to say our analyses and decision-making processes are ongoing.”
Not much to work with there, though I’m intrigued by the mention of “pending citizen petitions.” I press on: “What would be the process needed for medical marijuana to be approved by the FDA?”
“As you are aware, Schedule 1 drugs have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and as I indicated before, we cannot comment on this topic of rescheduling due to pending citizen petitions.”
My information parade has been rained out. Why so cagey? After all, the FDA approved Marinol, whose active ingredient is 100 percent synthetic THC (i.e., the stuff that makes pot so dangerous and addictive that it has to be classified as Schedule I). And Marinol, strangely enough, is Schedule III—even though no pot plant in the history of marijuana has tested at 100 percent THC. (Even the strongest pot these days clocks in at under 40 percent.)
So my basic question goes unanswered, though the FDA representative does grant me an open invitation to check out the agency’s website—anytime I please!
My inquiry at the Justice Department yields similar results: “Hi Harmon—DOJ’s enforcement policy on marijuana is in the attached. Thanks.”
My attempt at securing a comment from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals—which threw out the ASA’s appeal on its rescheduling petition—doesn’t go much better: “I’m sorry. I don’t know the answer to your question. I am sure there must be subject matter experts out there who would know.… Good luck!”
Down and Down the Rabbit Hole…
At the heart of the approval process is the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Ironically—or maybe not—the organization is funded by the federal government. Catch-22: for the DEA to reschedule marijuana, scientific studies authorized by NIDA have to prove its medical benefits. This is basically like putting the mice in charge of the mousey snacks. In his now-famous about-face on medical marijuana, Dr. Sanjay Gupta pointed out how many of NIDA’s studies are actually designed to find detrimental effects—with only about 6 percent, he estimates, looking into medical benefits. The end result of NIDA’s efforts: the almost-complete suppression of research into the therapeutic value of marijuana.
“Will Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s statement have any impact on rescheduling medical marijuana?” I ask the NIDA rep.
NIDA’s response: “The best resource for questions about rescheduling is the Drug Enforcement Administration.” (A phone number is provided.)
Reaching deep into my citizen-journalist’s bag of tricks, I try a more straightforward approach: “What would it take to have medical marijuana rescheduled? Clearly we’re at a crossroads where public opinion is changing, yet the federal government doesn’t want to change its stance. Is it left to further scientific studies or any other factors?”
“You’ll need to contact the DEA for questions about rescheduling.”
And so I’m back at square one. It turns out that getting an answer from the federal government on rescheduling marijuana is a lot like contacting the local Scientology center and asking them to go on record about the planet Xenu. In the meantime, the Supreme Court recently declined to hear ASA’s appeal on its rescheduling petition—the one that the DEA waited nine years to reject, and that the DC Circuit Court turned down on appeal, declaring that only Congress has the power to amend the Controlled Substances Act.
If the federal government is determined to maintain marijuana as a highly illegal Schedule 1 substance—despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary and an ongoing sea change in public opinion—then perhaps its best ploy at this point would be to sit on its hands and do absolutely nothing.
Also In This Issue
Katrina vanden Heuvel: “Why Its Always Been Time to Legalize Marijuana”
Mike Riggs: “Obama’s War on Pot”
Carl L. Hart: “Pot Reform’s Race Problem”
Kristen Gwynne: “Can Medical Marijuana Survive in Washington State?”
Atossa Araxia Abrahamian: “Baking Bad: A Potted History of High Times”
Various Contributors: “The Drug War Touched My Life: Why I’m Fighting Back”
And only online…
J. Hoberman: “The Cineaste’s Guide to Watching Movies While Stoned”
Seth Zuckerman: “Is Pot-Growing Bad for the Environment?”
October 30, 2013Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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