By Steve Elliott
In yet another sign of the inevitability of cannabis law reform in the United States, The New York Times has called for marijuana legalization.
"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 Times Editorial Board wrote in the Sunday edition of the newspaper.
The Times Editorial Board reached that conclusion, the op-ed piece notes, "after a great deal of discussion." One would love to have been a fly on the wall, as the tectonic plates of journalistic history worked themselves into a new configuration. The decision was, the Board wrote, "inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws."
With more than 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, and with the negative results of those arrests falling disproportionately on young African American men, the social costs of cannabis prohibition are just too steep to continue, according to The Times.
"Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults," the editorial states.
The Times announced a series of articles in the coming days by members of the Editorial Board, along with supplementary material that will examine the questions surrounding marijuana legalization.
By Steve Elliott
Recreational marijuana sales only began two-and-a-half weeks ago in Washington state, and it didn't take the price gouging long to get started.
Ramsey Hamide, the manager of Main Street Marijuana, a recreational cannabis store in Vancouver, Washington, said that when he saw what came in a shipment of pot from a new grower this week, he said no thanks, deciding to close his business's doors until he can get a more variety, lower prices and better quality, reports Sue Vorenberg at The Columbian.
Hamide said some growers and processors are trying to charge him $6,000 per pound for marijuana, reports Stephen Mayer at KATU. He said that's about triple the normal price.
"I'm not going to let these guys hold us hostage anymore," Hamide said of the growers who he says have been selling low quality marijuana for high prices. "It's hurting the entire system, and it needs to stop. By continuing to play ball with these guys, it's just making things worse."
Hamide said Main Street Marijuana would likely remain closed through the weekend and possibly well into next week.
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana advocates in Wichita, Kansas on Thursday turned in petitions with nearly twice as many signatures as they need to put decriminalization on the November ballot.
City officials in Wichita said they may have questions and concerns about the wording of the measure, but they have no immediate plans to go to court to try to block the initiative, reports Dion Lefler at The Wichita Eagle.
Organizers Esau Freeman and Janice Bradley went to Wichita City Hall at 4:20 p.m. on Thursday and presented City Clerk Karen Sublette with a thick sheaf of papers. According to the advocates, those papers contain the names and signatures of more than 5,800 people in favor of decriminalizing possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.
They need 2,928 valid signatures of registered Wichita voters to put the issue on the ballot.
"We didn't verify every single one, but we're pretty confident with what we have," said Bradley, who added that an intern with the Peace and Justice Social Center had checked a large sample of the signatures.
The petition has garnered support from at least two state legislators and the Community Voice, a newspaper focused on Wichita's black community.
To End the War On Drugs by LEAP Speaker Dean Becker Features More than 100 Experts on Drug Policy
Together with the James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy at Rice University, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) will be hosting a press conference this Tuesday on Former Air Force Security Policeman Dean Becker’s new book To End the War on Drugs, after which they will distribute copies of the book to the White House, every Member of Congress, every Justice on the Supreme Court and governors nationwide.
“Through his interviews with so many differently situated individuals, Dean Becker captures the complete picture of the drug war, giving us a better understanding of the far-reaching nature of its effects and the depths of its failures,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of LEAP, a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. "Every politician in America should read this book."
By Steve Elliott
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) on Thursday filed an amendment to Senate Bill 2569, the "Bring Jobs Home Act," that would explicitly allow states to pass medical marijuana laws despite the federal Controlled Substances Act. The amendment would also bar prosecutions of patients and doctors involved in medical marijuana when they are in compliance with state laws.
Amendment 3630 allows states to "enact and implement laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical use" without federal prosecution," reports Phillip Smith at StoptheDrugWar.org.
The amendment then lists 33 states and the District of Columbia that have medical marijuana laws at variance with the federal Controlled Substances Act, including 10 states that allow only for the use of CBD oil (cannabidiol), which, unlike THC, isn't psychoactive, reports Matt Ferner at the Huffington Post.
"What we're trying to do is look at the law and allow states that have changed their laws and have allowed medical marijuana to do so, for doctors to be able to prescribe and for people to be able to get those prescriptions without being worried about the federal government coming in and arresting them," said Brian Darling, Sen. Paul's communications director.
By Steve Elliott
If officials at Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital get their wish, authorized medical marijuana patients could one day buy their cannabis at a hospital dispensary, just like patients buying antibiotics or pain relievers at the hospital's pharmacy.
"We have professionals who very much would like to prescribe these drugs, we have the system in place to manage it and we have the patient population that needs it," said Marcia Jimenez, director of intergovernmental affairs at Swedish Covenant Hospital, reports Becky Schlikerman at the Chicago Sun Times. "It just made a lot of sense."
The hospital would like to be the first in Illinois to take advantage of the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes in the state. Illinois has agreed to issue 60 permits to sell medical marijuana, 13 of which will be in Chicago.
Swedish Covenant would really like one of those, but is hamstrung by federal law, under which marijuana is illegal for any purpose, classified as a dangerous Schedule I controlled substance with no medical uses.
"If the hospital were to become a dispensary at this point, we would be violating the federal law and jeopardizing reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid, Jimenez said. Hospital administrators are also worried they could be targeted for "criminal activity" and get in tax trouble with the Internal Revenue Service.
By Steve Elliott
The British tabloid media doesn't mind telling some tall tales. After all, it was U.K. tabloids which encouraged the absurd "Skunk Weed" scare a few years back -- and that took such root in British society that they rolled back their progressive cannabis laws, making marijuana, once again, an arrestable offense.
After The Sun, a U.K. tabloid, ran a false June 16 story claiming that Lake Havasu City, Arizona's iconic London Bridge could be "bulldozed" to make room for "drug tourism," the Convention & Visitors Bureau sprang into action. As a result, The Sun ran a page two correction on July 21. It reads:
"In an article 'London Bridge IS Falling Down' (16 June) we stated that the iconic bridge, now a tourist attraction in Arizona, was falling into disrepair and could soon be bulldozed. We also stated that there were plans to turn the area into a centre for drug tourism. We have been assured by Lake Havasu City that there are no plans to knock down the bridge or to build a centre for drug tourism. We regret any misunderstanding and are happy to set the record straight.
"A Lake Havasu spokesman also assures us there are plans to revitalise the English Village on the east side of the bridge and that they are committed to looking after the monument."
By Steve Elliott
The very first recreational marijuana legally sold in Seattle will become part of a display at the city's Museum of History and Industry, after the woman who was first in line donated part of her purchase on Tuesday.
Sixty-five-year-old retiree Deb Greene had waited all night to be the first customer in line at Cannabis City, so far Seattle's lone recreational marijuana store, when legal cannabis sales began in Washington on July 8, reports The Associated Press.
Cannabis City proprietor James Lathrop also donated items from opening day, including the receipt for Greene's purchase.
Voters in both Colorado and Washington voted in November 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, but Colorado was first out of the gate with legal marijuana sales beginning January 1 of this year. Washington state's burdensome, bureaucracy-laden system took until July 8 to get up and running.
Museum of History and Industry curator Kristin Halunen put on purple latex gloves to accept the donation of marijuana and other paraphernalia on Tuesday.
Greene bought eight grams of marijuana, which cost $160 including tax, two weeks ago when she was first in line. She donated a two-gram sealed packet of cannabis, the t-shirt she wore as she waited for hours to make the buy, and the book she read while she waited in line.
By Steve Elliott
When limited marijuana legalization measure Initiative 502 was on the Washington state ballot back in 2012, one of the main selling points touted by its supporters was the the measure would help eliminate racial disparities in low-level marijuana enforcement -- the kind that exist practically everywhere, and which were the subject of a recent American Civil Liberties Union study. But sadly, it appears I-502 didn't make a lot of difference in that regard.
African Americans were still disproportionately cited by Seattle police for using marijuana in public in the first six months of 2014, reports Bob Young at The Seattle Times.
In a report required by the Seattle City Council, the police had to admit that of 82 tickets written for public cannabis consumption in the first half of 2014, 37 percent of those went to black people. Blacks account for just 8 percent of Seattle's population.
Fifty percent of the tickets for public consumption went to whites, who are 70 percent of Seattle's residents.
Of course, racially discriminatory enforcement of marijuana laws was one of the main arguments for legalizing pot in the first place. A national study by the ACLU found that almost four blacks are arrested on marijuana charges for every white person arrested.
City council will decide whether to enact the measure or refer it to voters at its meeting on August 4
South Portland city officials confirmed Wednesday that a citizen initiative to make marijuana possession legal for adults within city limits has qualified for the November 2014 ballot. Citizens for a Safer Maine submitted more than 1,500 signatures, and just 959 valid signatures of registered city voters were required.
The South Portland City Council will consider whether to enact the measure or refer it to city voters at its meeting scheduled for August 4.
“Voters were very receptive during the signature drive,” said MPP Maine political director David Boyer. “Most people agree law enforcement officials have more important things to do than punish adults for using a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.
"If this measure passes, police can use their discretion to stop arresting adults for simple marijuana possession,” Boyer said.
The initiative would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It would remain illegal to consume or display marijuana in public. The measure also includes a statement in support of regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at the state level.
“We hope to see as much support and enthusiasm among city council members as we have among voters,” Boyer said. “This is an opportunity for council members to demonstrate leadership on this issue. It’s time to move beyond the status quo of prohibition and start making progress.”
Could the Green Mountain State become the Green Marijuana State? Researchers from the RAND Corporation will study the issues related to potentially legalizing the production, distribution and possession of marijuana in Vermont, officials said on Wednesday.
In May 2014, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill that requires the state secretary of administration to report to the General Assembly regarding the taxation and regulation of recreational marijuana in Vermont. A May poll from the Castleton Polling Institute found 57 percent of Vermonters favor cannabis legalization, reports the Marijuana Policy Project.
“We are pleased to help the state of Vermont think through the potential consequences associated with alternative marijuana policies,” said Beau Kilmer, project leader and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.
Kilmer met with state Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding and other Vermont officials this week to discuss the study.
The law calls for the report to analyze the possible taxing systems for the sale of marijuana in Vermont, including sales taxes, use taxes and excise taxes, as well as the potential revenue each may raise. In addition, the study will examine any savings or costs to the state that would result from regulating marijuana and the experiences of other states with regulating and taxing marijuana. Issues surrounding public health and public safety also will be addressed.
Death Fuels Demand for Emergency Access to Medical Marijuana for Critically Ill Patients in New York
Anna Conte, a nine-year-old from Orchard Park, New York, who died last week after falling into a coma following a severe seizure, was laid to rest on Wednesday. Anna suffered from Dravet syndrome, a life-threatening seizure disorder that has been treated with medical marijuana in states where it is legal. Medical marijuana has dramatically reduced the number of seizures in many children with similar seizure disorders.
In an effort to help their daughter, the Conte family joined the successful fight to pass a medical marijuana bill in New York. The Contes travelled repeatedly to Albany, persuading several powerful New York senators to support the bill and generating thousands of phone calls and emails to Albany leadership. Advocates around the state came to know and love Anna and her family and admire their selfless advocacy which was always accompanied with a sense of humor.
Tragically, Anna Conte did not live long enough to benefit from the law that her family helped pass. Governor Cuomo, who signed the bill into law just days before Anna’s passing, has said that it will take 18 months or longer for New York to implement the law and develop the full medical marijuana patient access system.
Families and advocates are urgently calling upon Governor Cuomo to take immediate action establishing expedited access to medical marijuana for those patients and families, like the Conte’s, who cannot wait until the full system is up and running.
It’s official: Oregon voters will decide in November whether to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over.
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown has certified that the New Approach Oregon petition campaign has turned in enough valid signatures to qualify the Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act for the November ballot.
According to the Secretary of State's website, 145,030 unverified signatures were submitted for verification. Of those, 88,584 signatures, or 64.41 percent of the 135,722 accepted for verification, were valid. To qualify for the ballot, 87,213 were needed.
The New Approach campaign is celebrating Tuesday's achievement by hosting its first voter registration canvass led by young Oregonians who will be decisive in winning a new approach to marijuana.
“This is our moment to be part of history and lead a movement,” said Dominique Lopez, metro regional organizer for New Approach Oregon. “Treating marijuana use as a crime has failed, but together we can win a more sensible approach and better the lives of Oregonians.”
Tuesday's announcement comes almost exactly two weeks after Washington state began regulated sales of marijuana. New data shows that Washington state has received $318,000 in excise taxes in the first 10 days of regulated marijuana sales.
The proposed measure in Oregon would allow for licensed and regulated cultivation and sales of marijuana. Sales would be taxed to generate money for schools, state and local police and drug treatment, prevention and mental health programs.
Botanical medicine standards released as Colorado medical marijuana business sees first product recall in U.S.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) on Tuesday released its long-awaited medical marijuana manufacturing guidelines, completing its compendium of industry standards which include regulatory recommendations for cannabis from seed to sale. The AHPA manufacturing guidelines come as licensed Colorado business "At Home Baked" sees the country's first medical marijuana product recall.
A new nationwide program called Patient Focused Certification (PFC), a project of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), aims to bring greater standardization to the medical marijuana industry. The PFC program uses the recently completed AHPA guidelines in combination with standards set by American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) for the plant's identity, purity, quality and botanical properties. Together, these standards have the means to bring greater accountability to the industry and increased safety for patients, according to the group.
"Although medical marijuana is one of the safest medicines used today, it's important for patients to have industry standards that ensure the highest product quality and reliability," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "The AHPA guidelines issued today not only provide a blueprint for product recalls, like the one in Denver, but also establishes sound manufacturing procedures that will help avoid such recalls in the future."
By Steve Elliott
High taxes and a low number of storefront licenses mean that revenue from legalized marijuana sales in Washington state could be "minimal" this year, according to Moody's Investor Service.
State-licensed recreational marijuana stores opened in Washington on July 8, and the state estimated it will collect $51.2 million in revenues during the upcoming 2015-2017 biennial budget, reports Robin Respaut at Reuters. But Moody's said on Monday that high taxes, marketplace competition and supply challenges could lower that number.
The ratings agency warned that Washington's sky-high excise tax of 25 percent -- applied at three points along the supply chain, producer, processor and retailer -- and sales taxes of 9.6 percent might deter consumers. Combined, the trio of 25 percent taxes means an effective rate of 44 percent tax, Moody's calculated, reports Niraj Chokshi at The Washington Post.
"The tax structure in Washington state is likely to be a major deterrent for consumers who do not see the value in obtaining a product from a storefront as opposed to a medical dispensary," Moody's analyst Andrea Unsworth wrote in the report, entitled "Tax Revenues from Legalized Marijuana Will Be Minimal in Washington State."