By Steve Elliott
A top federal official on Tuesday said that 105 banks and credit unions are now doing business with legal marijuana merchants, and suggested that revised federal rules giving financial institutions the green light to provide services to cannabis businesses are starting to work.
The financial institutions in question cover about one-third of the United States, and have reported relationships with marijuana-related businesses, the top U.S. anti-money laundering official said, reports Jeffrey Sparshott at The Wall Street Journal.
The Obama Administration in February gave the go-ahead to the banking industry to offer financing and accounts to marijuana distributors who are legally conducting their business according to state laws, reports Danielle Douglas of The Washington Post.
"From our perspective the guidance is having the intended effect," said Jennifer Shasky Calvery, director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. "It is facilitating access to financial services, while ensuring that this activity is transparent and the funds are going into regulated financial institutions."
By Steve Elliott
A federal judge has dismissed a Washington lawsuit challenging the state's authority to tax marijuana.
The case was dismissed last week by U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman for lack of jurisdication, reports the Associated Press.
Martin Nickerson, who operates the Northern Cross Collective Gardens medical marijuana dispensary in Bellingham, sued because at the same time he was being prosecuted for marijuana distribution, he was also targeted by the state Revenue Department for not collecting taxes on cannabis sales.
Nickerson had argued that he couldn't pay the tax without incriminating himself, violating his Fifth Amendment rights. His suit named Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and state tax chief Carol Nelson, reports CBS Seattle.
His complaint argued that the state could not "grant authority to local and county government to authorize licensing and collect taxes on an activity that is a crime" under federal law.
Nickerson's medical marijuana dispensary, Northern Cross Collective, opened in April 2011. He argued that he should be protected from tax liens and other legal actions as he defends himself from federal criminal charges stemming from raids on his property and home in March 2012.
The Green Joint, a recreational marijuana dispensary in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, opened its doors to the pot-loving masses on August 1. Owned by locals Cheryl and Dan Sullivan, The Green Joint is the third recreational marijuana shop to open in Glenwood Springs since recreational weed became legal January 1.
The Sullivans have served the greater Roaring Fork Valley for the last five years with Green Medicine Wellness, a medical marijuana dispensary, and now the Green Joint and Green Medicine Wellness operate out of the same appropriately green Victorian in the heart of Glenwood Springs.
“Bringing high quality recreational products to the masses has been a dream of ours for a long time,” said Dan. “We’ve seen visitors from France, the UK, and all over the U.S. in the short time that we’ve been open. It’s been incredible to see the excitement on the face of every customer that has walked through our door.”
Located at 1030 Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs, The Green Joint offers a central
location and a discreet, comfortable atmosphere, according to Sullivan. Recreational patrons are greeted upon entry and can browse the marijuana selection upstairs in a relaxed setting (medical customers stay on the main level).
Guests can make themselves at home on couches if there is a wait, and everyone from weed veterans to weed novices are encouraged to ask questions and learn about favorite strains and different offerings at The Green Joint.
By Steve Elliott
A former pastor in Mississippi has something he wants you to know about marijuana.
"If you believe in God, you have to believe in cannabis," Al Pollard said in an interview with WDAM-TV. "It's a plant."
Pollard, a paraplegic who is on an exuberant mission to educate Mississippians about cannabis, wants it to be legalized, taxed, and regulated, reports The Clarion-Ledger.
"It's God's medicine," Pollard said.
He became paralyzed in a diving accident at age 18. Pollard said that during the first six months after his accident, he was prescribed to more than a dozen medicines a day, including prescription narcotics for pain.
After leaving physical therapy, he stopped taking those prescription drugs and starting using marijuana.
"I recently came clean with my doctor telling her I've never taken medicine since my release from rehab," Pollard said.
"She was shocked, but believed me. I told her marijuana is my medicine and that it helps me," he said. "Maintaining a moderate use has proven to be the cause of my healthy condition."
By Steve Elliott
Despite falling 47 signatures short of getting a marijuana decriminalization petition on the ballot in Wichita, Kansas, supporters aren't giving up.
Interim City Attorney Sharon Dickgrafe on Tuesday told the Wichita City Council that it could not legally put the issue on the ballot as a ballot petition, but the council then voted for city staff to work with the marijuana petitioners to address the language of a ballot petition that could be carried for a signature election, probably for a vote next spring when city elections are held, reports Kelsey Ryan at The Wichita Eagle.
But supporters also plan to fight the Wichita elections office on the signature count done last week during the primaries, and still hold the goal to meet the county deadline later this month to get the issue on the November ballot.
Initiative leader Esau Freeman said there have been concerns over two missing pages of signatures that were turned over to the county, with 2,928 valid voter signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot.
At least one of the missing pages contained the signature of his wife, Freeman said. He said petition gatherers weren't allowed to observe the counting, which was done by the Sedgwick County elections office.
"[Kansas Secretary of State] Kris Kobach says we have open and fair elections, but I think the first case of voter fraud has been perpetrated by the Sedgwick County election office," Freeman said.
By Steve Elliott
A 48-year-old woman in Chile has become the first legal medicinal cannabis patient in Latin America after being granted special permission by the Institute for Public Health due to having both systemic lupus and breast cancer.
"I feel like I am burning up inside," Cecilia Hayder said, reports NBC News. "Everything hurts. I don't have the strength to take a step, and I often have to use a wheelchair. My body rejects opiates so cannabis is the only thing that works for me."
Heyder, a mother of two, will be treated with Sativex, extracted from cannabis, with equal amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Sativex isn't considered to be psychoactive, as the CBD mediates the effects of the THC. Although she's already permitted to take Sativex, a new law will have to be rushed through Chile's Congress to allow the public health system to pay for it.
That process will take at least two more months; with Sativex costing more than $3,000 monthly, Heyder simply cannot afford the stuff without government help.
"I am very happy and grateful to the parliamentarians, she said. "But I don't see why my case had to become so emblematic for this to change. Too many people have suffered because of this taboo."
Hickenlooper’s Marijuana Prevention Campaign Eerily Reminiscent of Failed “This is Your Brain” Effort
Approach Emphasizes Scare Tactics over More Effective Reality-Based Education
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has introduced his administration’s marijuana prevention campaign to deter underage consumption -- and unfortunately, it uses scare tactics rather than a reality-based approach. The campaign is slated to waste $2 million of taxpayer money.
The theme of the campaign is marijuana’s potential impact on the developing adolescent brain, using the slogan “don’t be a lab rat.” The administration plans to place human sized rat cages throughout the city of Denver, particularly at high-traffic bus stops.
While flashy and memorable, the campaign has raised concerns among advocates who question the credibility of this approach. Drug policy reformers and prevention experts invoke the cynicism generated by 1980s-era scare tactic efforts such as the notorious “This is your brain on drugs” ad, widely recognized today as far more attention grabbing than drug deterring.
Advocates recommend instead an approach that focuses on credible drug education delivered through programs and initiatives that focus on overall youth health and development. Reality-based efforts engage students and prevent the cynicism resulting from simplistic scare tactics. Furthermore, to be successful, parents and/or guardians should be directly involved in drug education and prevention efforts.
By Steve Elliott
The Miami-Dade Police Department on Friday morning invited news media to an event so secret, only two members of the media were actually allowed to watch. The event was the burning of 225 55-gallon barrels of marijuana at a secret location.
The department organizes such top-secret burns of cannabis and illegal drugs several times a year, reports Emma Court at the Miami Herald. How many times? Well, we don't know, since that's a secret, too.
Multiple police stood guard at the secret Broward County location with machine guns while the marijuana was burned. Clearly, this was Serious Business.
Two or three pallets of boxed narcotics were destroyed along with the 225 barrels of marijuana, said police spokeswoman Elena Hernandez, who said the drugs were no longer needed as evidence.
It wasn't possible to calculate how much marijuana was burned, since the weight of each barrel differed, according to Lt. Alberto Somoano, who works in the evidence section of the Miami-Dade Police Department's forensics bureau.
That, of course, makes it mighty convenient for pot to be pilfered by partying police. If they don't know how much they're destroying, it would be mighty easy for some uniformed oinker to stuff his pockets full, don't you think?
Americans for Safe Access and Leafly team up to educate public on therapeutic effects of cannabis for chronic pain
Medical marijuana advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has teamed up with cannabis information resource Leafly to run advertisements starting Sunday in USA Today's NFL Special Edition, which will be read by football fans across the country.
The quarter-page ads will run for 30 days, followed by digital online ads, and will focus on the markets for the Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles.
The USA Today advertisement depicts a football player with the captions "100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain," and "9 in 10 retired players suffer from pain on a daily basis." The ad then points readers to further information on the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana on chronic pain. "Medical marijuana works on pain even when opiates don't," reads the ad before directing readers to the website: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/football.
By Steve Elliott
Marc Emery, the self-styled Prince of Pot who got a five-year federal prison sentence in the United States for selling seeds, will get to return home to Canada on Tuesday.
Emery is scheduled to be flown from a Louisiana jail to Detroit on Tuesday, escorted in shackles by U.S. marshals, then turned over to Canadian officials, his wife Jodie Emery said on Friday, reports Gordon McIntyre at The Province.
He had been sentenced after pleading guilty to selling cannabis seeds through the mail to U.S. customers through his Vancouver-based company.
"It's very exciting," said Jodie. "It's been a long road."
Jodie said supporters will be waiting in Windsor, although it's not known exactly what time the Prince will be crossing the border. The Emerys are planning a press conference at Windsor City Hall as soon as Marc is released, "likely sometime after 12 Noon ET," according to Cannabis Culture.
She said their lives will then pick up where they left off when Marc went to Seattle to plead guilty before serving his "hard nickel" (under federal sentencing rules, prisoners must serve 85 percent of their time).
"Our life is about our activism," Jodie said. "We'll be getting right back into it."
By Steve Elliott
Supporters of a petition to decriminalize marijuana in Wichita, Kansas, have come up just short of the number of signatures they needed to force the city to put the issue to a vote.
Organizers got word late Thursday that the Sedgwick County Election Board has ruled they were just 41 signatures short of the 2,928 needed to qualify, reports KAKE.com.
Around 3,500 signatures were disqualified by the office, although reasons weren't immediately given. One possibility is that the election office wouldn't accept signatures from people who were newly registered by the petition circulators, or that those registrations were delayed at the office by proof-of-citizenship requirements, according to petition drive leader Esau Freeman, reports Dion Lefler at The Wichita Eagle.
"This is exactly what I expected from the election office," Freeman said, adding that he was "terribly disappointed" but isn't giving up.
The signature count was supposed to have been completed a year ago, but was delayed by the need to recheck rejected signatures and to conduct Tuesday's primary election.
Petition supporters said they'll be at Tuesday's city council meeting to encourage the council to put the measure on the ballot. The drive had been organized towards getting the decrim question on the November 4 general election ballot.
By Steve Elliott
A group of California medical marijuana patients has filed a lawsuit charging that San Diego's restrictions on dispensaries will cause them to drive too far to get their cannabis, causing air pollution.
The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients (UMMP) names the City of San Diego and the Coastal Commission in the lawsuit, which also alleges that some patients will be forced to grow their marijuana indoors, wasting energy and contributing to global warming, reports UPI.
"The ordinance caps the total number of cooperatives at 36 and places a limit of four per Council District," the UMMP lawsuit states, reports Robert Kahn at Courthouse News. Because of the zoning restrictions, only 30 dispensaries are "even possible" under the new law, the suit states.
The "extremely restrictive approach" of the ordinance will require "thousands of patients to drive across the City of San Diego to obtain their medicine because cooperatives are only allowed in certain limited places in the city, which will create traffic and air pollution," the lawsuit states.
The zoning ordinance allows medical marijuana coops only in certain industrial and commercial zones, and requires buffer zones between the shops and residential areas.
By Steve Elliott
The very first edible recreational marijuana products are now being sold legally in Washington state, a month after cannabis itself went on sale in state-licensed stores.
Due to strict regulations from the Washington State Liquor Control Board, no kitchens had been approved for producing marijuana edibles last month when cannabis sales began on July 8.
Al Olson, the marijuana editor at CNBC.com, bought the first approved edibles in Bellingham, Washington, at a store called Top Shelf Cannabis, reports Katy Steinmetz at Time. Olson bought about $200 on Green Chief "Crazy Carnival Nuts," "420 Party Mix," and "Twisted Trail Mix," as well as on a vaporizer pen and vape pen battery.
The marijuana-infused nut clusters, trail mix and party mix cost around $25 per bag.
Top Shelf opened at 10 p.m. on Wednesday in order to be the first store to sell the products, owner John Evich said, reports Trevor Hughes at USA Today. "It's something interesting and fun," Evich said. "Going down a list of menu items -- I think it's something new for people."
Rates of current and lifetime marijuana use among Colorado high school students has dropped since the state's voters made marijuana legal in 2012, according to a Thursday press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“Thirty-day marijuana use fell from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013, and lifetime use declined from 39 percent to 37 percent during the same two years,” according to the release. It has dropped nearly five points since 2009 (24.8 percent), when hundreds of medical marijuana stores began opening throughout Colorado.
The state began regulating medical marijuana in 2010. The CDPHE release says the drop from 2011 to 2013 is not statistically significant, but it appears the drop from 2009 to 2013 could be. In either case, it is clear that use among high school students has not increased.
Nationwide, the rate of current teen marijuana use increased from 20.8 percent in 2009 to 23.1 percent in 2011 and 23.4 percent in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The national rate of lifetime use increased from 36.8 percent in 2009 to 39.9 percent in 2011 and 40.7 percent in 2013.
Citizens for a Safer Maine on Friday will submit its final batch of petitions in support of a citizen initiative to make private marijuana possession legal for adults 21 years of age and older within Lewiston city limits.
The group has collected more than 1,250 total signatures, and just 859 valid signatures of registered city voters are needed to qualify for the ballot. The city clerk has 10 days to certify the petition. Then it must submit it to the city council for consideration at its next regular meeting, at which time council members can enact the measure or refer it to city voters.
“I hope council members will join us in supporting this commonsense measure,” said David Boyer, spokesperson for Citizens for a Safer Maine and Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “If they don’t enact the measure, it should be placed on the November ballot for Lewiston voters to decide.”
Citizens for a Safer Maine has qualified a similar measure for the ballot in South Portland, and it is in the process of collecting the final signatures needed to place one on the ballot in York.
“Law enforcement officials have better things to do than punish adults for using a less harmful substance than alcohol,” said Boyer. “If the council or voters approve this measure, we expect police to respect the decision.
"Police can refrain from citing adults they find in possession of marijuana, just as they can refrain from citing someone they find driving 10 miles per hour over the speed limit,” Boyer said.