By Steve Elliott
Oregon wasn't the first state, or the largest, to legalize marijuana. But when it begins retail cannabis sales next month, the state will blaze a new trail, because it will consider applications to clear the record of past marijuana convictions.
Paperwork which would forever seal old pot offenses is now available in Oregon, thanks to a new law, and those who complete the process can legally say to any employer, landlord or anyone else who asks that they've never been convicted or cited for any drug crime at all, reports Kirk Johnson at The New York Times.
Fifteen years ago, when Erika Walton, then in her 20s, handed a bong to someone who turned out to be a police officer, she was cited for marijuana possession. She paid the fine, but the violation continued to haunt her as part of her record.
"It's taken away a lot of my life," Walton said as she inked out her fingerprints, which Oregon requires for sealing the file. Walton said the minor citation cost her when she had to disclose it on job applications and for volunteer positions at her children's school.
Amid Disappointing Conversations around Criminalization, Advocates Push for a Comprehensive Public Health Strategy to Deal with Synthetic Drugs
The New York City Council Committee on Public Safety on Monday held hearings about the growing concern surrounding synthetic cannabinoids. The hearings were held jointly with the Committees on Health and the Committee on Mental Health; Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services; and the Committee on Consumer Affairs
Recently, there have been several media reports of public drug use involving synthetic cannabinoids, such as spice and K2. Synthetic cannabinoids are a class of cannabinoid chemicals typically sprayed over plant matter and packaged with names like “K2,” “Spice” and “Green Giant.”
These are only the latest “legal highs” to come on the market that simulate the effects of prohibited drugs like marijuana, ecstasy (MDMA), opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine. In the past, as these kind of substances have been banned, manufacturers have simply invented new variations of the same substances to skirt the bans as well as for legitimate scientific purposes.
While synthetic cannabinoids are used by a wide range of people, media accounts have focused on their use by people who are homeless and/or criminal justice involved. The substances usually do not show up in drug tests that are sometimes required for people to access shelters or social services that require abstinence from illicit drugs, like marijuana.
By Steve Elliott
Three teens in southeastern Washington state have been charged with felonies for simple marijuana possession, with the prosecutor saying a new law specifies the higher level of offense for those under 21.
The teens, aged 14, 15 and 17, were charged in Asotin County with felonies that could get them up to five years in prison apiece, reports The Lewiston Tribune.
Previous to the passage of Senate Bill 5052 in this year's session of the Washington Legislature, the same offense was just a misdemeanor with a maximum 90-day sentence.
SB 5052 contains the new language specifying youth possession of marijuana a felony offense, according to Asotin County Prosecutor Ben Nichols.
SB 5052 sponsor Ann Rivers (R-La Center), who many activists believe is personally responsible for the de facto elimination of access to medical marijuana in Washington state, claims the tougher penalty was designed to deter minors from trying "an adult drug."
But the specter of kids once again being charged with felonies for pot -- a bad flashback to the 1960s and 1970s, which is once again playing out in small Washington towns, thanks to the state's badly flawed, laughably weak "legalization" -- is so embarrassing that even the Governor's office felt it necessary to distance themselves from the destruction.
By Steve Elliott
Keynote speaker Melissa Etheridge on Thursday wowed a full house at the Cannabis World Congress, held Los Angeles Convention Center.
Etheridge, the Grammy-winning rock star who, a decade ago, famously beat breast cancer, told the rapt throng about her health battles, and how using cannabis helped her make it through a brutal regimen of chemotherapy.
"I can't imagine anyone going through chemotherapy without cannabis," Etheridge said, adding that the herb helped not only her physical nausea and pain, but added a spiritual dimension to her relief, as well. "I can't imagine asking anyone to go through that."
According to Etheridge, it was legendary musician Davis Crosby who, upon first learning Melissa had cancer, told her "you must try medical marijuana." Crosby, Etheridge reminded the crowd, is the biological father of her children and a lifelong friend. Once she'd experienced the relief cannabis provided from the effects of harsh chemotherapy, there was no looking back.
Melissa told the crowd how once her struggle with cancer was over, and she got over fears of losing her children, she decided to continue her cannabis use for the balancing effect it has, helping to ameliorate the stresses of everyday life.
"Once we learn to stop being so insane about cannabis, once we no longer have worry about losing our children, our homes and our jobs for choosing this herb, we'll become a better society," Etheridge said.
Backers of an initiative to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Arizona announced Thursday that their petition drive has surpassed the 75,000-signature mark and is one-third of the way to its goal of 230,000 total signatures.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol launched its petition drive in May and needs 150,642 valid signatures of registered Arizona voters to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.
“We’re finding that more than one out of every two registered voters we ask to sign is happy to do it, so that’s a good sign,” said campaign chairman J.P. Holyoak. “People recognize that marijuana prohibition has been just as big of a mess as alcohol prohibition was 80 years ago. It’s time for a more sensible approach.”
The proposed initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana; establish a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol; and enact a 15 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, from which a majority of the revenue would be directed to Arizona schools and public education programs.
“Most voters seem to recognize that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and that we’d be better off if we started treating it that way,” Holyoak said. “It makes little sense to criminalize adults for choosing to use a product that is safer than one you can currently buy in a grocery store. Regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol just makes sense.”
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will deliver a noon keynote address on Monday, Sept. 21, at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Fall Regional Cannabis Business Summit, taking place at the Wyndham New Yorker in New York City, Sept. 21-22.
New York State Senator Diane J. Savino (D-Staten Island) will also speak at the Summit, delivering the morning keynote on Tuesday, Sept 22. Other speakers at the event include two of the first licensed medical marijuana providers in the state of New York.
NCIA’s Fall Regional Cannabis Business Summit provides a platform for cannabis business professionals throughout the East Coast - including New York’s emerging medical marijuana market - to discuss best business practices and patient care, while also building a regional community and gaining valuable education on relevant policy issues.
NCIA brings its Cannabis Business Summit series to New York City at an essential time. New York is about to become the newest state to bring critically ill patients legal and safe access to life-changing medical marijuana therapies. Recently, the state awarded the first five licenses for medical marijuana providers, and two of the successful applicants - Hillary Peckham of Etain and Collete Bellefleur of Bloomfield - will share their insights in an intimate discussion at 9:15am on Monday.
This week, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) will launch a month-long online tribute to Latino drug policy reformers. As the nation reflects upon the history, cultures and contributions of Latinos in the U.S., DPA recognizes the significant and far-reaching roles that Latino activists, communities, advocates and movement builders have played and continue to play in ending the war on drugs.
The drug war has had a devastating impact on Latino and Latin American communities – fueling mass incarceration, widespread detention and deportation, border militarization, racial profiling, and rampant crime, corruption and violence. Latinos make up 17 percent of the U.S. population, and use and sell drugs at similar rates as other people in the U.S. Yet Latinos comprise 20 percent of people in state prisons for drug offenses, 37 percent of people in federal prisons for drug offenses, and almost half (47 percent) of all cases in federal courts for drug offenses. Roughly 40,000 people (overwhelmingly Latinos) are deported every year for nonviolent drug offenses.
Against this backdrop, many Latino activists and communities are fighting back – and have been for years. From criminal justice reform advocates and groups most affected by failed drug policies to on-the-ground harm reduction activists, DPA acknowledges the profound and transformative contributions and sacrifices of this distinguished list of drug policy reformers who struggle to end the drug war in their communities – and all communities.
Congressmen Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI) on Wednesday introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would eliminate the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program.
The enormously wasteful and ineffective DEA program distributes funds to state and local law enforcement agencies for the purpose of locating and destroying marijuana cultivation sites. The proposed bill would prohibit federal funds from being distributed to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies for any purpose pertaining to the program or any substantially similar program.
“As multiple states legalize marijuana across our nation, it is a huge waste of federal resources for the DEA to eradicate marijuana," said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California). "The federal government should focus its precious resources on other issues and let the states innovate in the cannabis field. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill along with Congressman Amash.”
“Civil asset forfeiture allows innocent people to have their property taken without sufficient due process, and this program encourages civil asset forfeiture by allowing the DEA to use the proceeds of seized property to fund marijuana prohibition enforcement," said Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan). "This is especially troubling given that the federal government should not be expending resources on marijuana prohibition—enforcement is a state-level issue, and an increasing number of states are deciding to back off from prohibition.
By Steve Elliott
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) and the Suquamish Tribe on Tuesday signed what's being called the nation’s first state-tribal marijuana compact. The compact governs the production, processing, purchase and sale of marijuana on the Tribe’s land in Kitsap County.
The retail store will be located on Highway 305 next to Longhouse Texaco in Suquamish, Washington, and is expected to be open by November, the Tribe's communcation office reported, according to the North Kitsap Herald.
The 10-year agreement was made possible by legislation (HB 2000) enacted during the 2015 legislative session, according to the LCB. The signed compact moves next to Gov. Jay Inslee for approval.
“We believe that working closely with the Suquamish Tribe we can ensure a well-regulated marijuana market that protects the health and safety of Washington State citizens,” said Board Chair Jane Rushford. “This agreement is an excellent model for future compacts.”
The State recognizes the Suquamish Tribe as a sovereign nation and negotiated the agreement in lieu of licensure by the Board. Per the enacting legislation, a tribal tax equivalent to the state excise tax will be applied to sales to non-tribal customers on Suquamish tribal lands.
By Steve Elliott
The advent of recreational marijuana in Colorado has led to some interesting business models. Now a hybrid that combines a traditional filling station with a cannabis dispensary is set to open two locations in Colorado Springs.
Gas and Grass, operated by Denver-based Native Roots, will open its first two locations in Colorado Springs next month, one at West Uintah and 17th Street, the other at Academy and Galley, reports Andy Koen at KOAA.
"It's really just kind of pairing the convenience in one specific stop," said spokesperson Tia Mattson.
The dispensary will have its own separate entrance and must follow all the same rules that apply to other medical marijuana stores in Colorado, according to Mattson. The gas station will be open to the public.
"I believe we'll have lottery tickets, beverages, cigarettes and similar things that you would pickup in a convenience store," Mattson said.
Native Roots' 11 dispensaries and retail marijuana stores operate all over Colorado. The stores have a uniform look with merchandise and pricing structures in common, like most any other retail chain.
The stores, in addition to cannabis products, sell marijuana themed shirts, hats and souvenirs. The gas station idea simply expands the other-than-cannabis business concept, Mattson said.
Dr. Sue Sisley on Tuesday will lead a clinical lecture on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cannabis as part of the 5th Annual Pain Care Skills Training at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Research has indicated that cannabis has tremendous therapeutic potential to treat PTSD and pain-related symptoms of many medical conditions. The Pain Care Skills Training is a four-day event that includes hands-on trainings, lectures and roundtable discussions on best-practice models of treatment, and evolving solutions to meet the needs of pain care within the military, hosted by the National Capital Region Pain Initiative.
"The military has historically been a leader in adopting new medical practices far ahead of the larger medical community," said Dr. Sisley. "It's an honor to be able to help educate these highly dedicated medical professionals about medical cannabis and PTSD."
Earlier this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Veterans Equal Access Amendment by a margin of 18-12, which would allow Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical cannabis if they are in a state that has a medical cannabis program. Under current policy, veterans who receive treatment from a physician outside of the VA are able to access medical cannabis if they live in state with a medical cannabis program.
By Steve Elliott
A group of patients who are disappointed with the much criticized, heavily regulated medical marijuana program and its glacial pace in New York state has drafted a bill to make medicinal cannabis more accessible in New York City.
The group's proposed legislation, which responds to the state's Compassionate Care Act, establishes a "medical marihuana users' bill of rights" and asks the New York City Council to support creation of a "users cooperative," reports Madison Margolin at The Village Voice.
Longtime marijuana activist Dana Beal, one of about 10 contributors ot the bill, said the group hopes to establish a five-borough patients' cooperative "for people with serious maladies, including ones that aren't on the state list."
"The law and the regulations don't cover people who are [also] legitimate patients," Beal said. "We believe that under home rule, we can extend better availability and better prices to more people."
New York's Compassionate Care Act, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in July 2014, is scheduled to take effect in January. Many have criticized it for being among the most restrictive, and least patient-friendly, in the country. The law doesn't allow for any smoking of marijuana, nor the use of any cannabis flowers, nor the use of infused edibles, but only allows oils, concentrates, dissolvable strips, patches, and tinctures.
By Steve Elliott
Patients with legal access to medical marijuana use less conventional pharmaceuticals, according to a demographic review of patient characteristics published online in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
Investigators with the Medical Marijuana Research Institute in Mesa, Arizona, looked at responses from 367 state-qualified medicinal cannabis patients recruited from four Arizona dispensaries, reports the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Respondents were most likely to be male, in their mid-40s, and daily users of cannabis.
Respondents most often reported using marijuana for pain, muscle spasms, nausea, anxiety, depression, arthritis, headaches, insomnia, and stress. They typically said cannabis provides "a lot of relief" or "almost complete relief" of their symptoms, and that it is more effective than conventional pharmaceuticals.
Patients also understandably, therefore, reported reducing their use of pharmaceuticals. More than 70 percent of those responding said they used other medications "a little less frequently" or "much less frequently" for 24 of the 42 conditions specified. More than 90 percent of those who used marijuana for nausea, headache, muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, bowel discomfort, and chronic pain said they used pharmaceuticals less frequently once they started cannabis therapy.
By Steve Elliott
A trio of Cleveland City Council members, along with civil rights leader George Forbes, on Friday endorsed ResponsibleOhio, sponsors of Issue 3, an amendment to legalize marijuana on the November ballot which would legalize marijuana.
Forbes and council members Ken Johnson, Jeff Johnson and Mamie Mitchell said they want to help reshape the criminal justice system under which racial disparities exist between arrest rates of blacks who use marijuana compared to whites, reports Mark Naymik at the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
"We should take (marijuana) out of the darkness and begin to regulate it," said Jeff Johnson at a news conference organized by ResponsibleOhio. "It will relieve a pathway to prison that too many of our young African Americans have gone to."
The council members said police resources should be used to fight against more powerful drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.
Cleveland activist Basheer Jones and Cleveland Rev. Jeff Jemison also joined the politicians. Jemison said he'd been trying to sell his colleagues on a related issue known as the Fresh Start Act that would allow Ohioans convicted of pot offenses since legalized by ResponsibleOhio's constitutional amendment to have those records expunged or destroyed.
By Steve Elliott
Changes in marijuana laws aren't associated with increased use of pot by teenagers, according to data compiled by Washington's Healthy Youth Survey and published by the Washington State Institute of Public Policy.
Survey results from the years 2002 to 2014 show little change in marijuana use by Washington teens, despite the passage of laws allowing and expanding the use of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational uses during this time, reports the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
Self-reported pot use fell slightly among 8th graders, 10th graders, and 12th graders during the survey period. Self-reported access to marijuana remained largely unchanged, and more 8th graders actually now report that cannabis is "hard to get."
The passage of I-502, which legalized the adult use of marijuana in 2012, isn't associated with any increase in consumption by youth, according to survey numbers. Between 2012 and 2014, self-reported lifetime cannabis use and/or use within the past 30 days either stayed stable or fell among every age group surveyed.
"Cannabis use and access among students in 6th through 12th grades have changed little from 2002 through the most recent survey in 2014," the report concluded.