A proposed initiative to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Massachusetts moved another step closer to the 2016 ballot Wednesday when the state Attorney General’s office certified the petition in support of the measure.
The attorney general is required to review all initiative petitions to ensure they meet certain constitutional requirements and must prepare a “fair, concise summary of the proposed law” to appear on petitions and the ballot.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) will now file the petition with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which has 14 days to sign off on it, at which point the campaign will begin its signature drive.
“Massachusetts is another step closer to ending marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a more sensible policy,” said CRMLA campaign manager Will Luzier. “We’re already finding a lot of support and enthusiasm among voters. People are fed up with laws that punish adults simply for consuming a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.”
Initiative backers must collect the signatures of 64,750 registered Massachusetts voters over a nine-week period from September to November. The petition would then be transmitted to the Massachusetts Legislature. If the legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.
In summary, the proposed initiative would:
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) on Wednesday announced it has been selected to provide training for compliance inspectors operating under the authority of the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.
The auditors are charged with ensuring members of the state’s new medical cannabis industry comply with all applicable regulations, which were finalized by the Commission in August.
In addition to developing its own rigorous compliance protocols, Maryland has adopted the American Herbal Product Association’s (AHPA) Recommendations to Regulators in the areas of cultivation, distribution and manufacturing. AHPA’s guidelines offer seed-to-consumption product safety and quality control measures that will ensure rigid oversight of the state’s medical cannabis industry.
Auditor training will be offered through the Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program, a project of ASA with extensive experience training members of the cannabis industry to meet strict regulatory compliance guidelines. PFC has trained thousands of employees of the medical cannabis industry and is currently under contract with the District of Columbia to train all medical cannabis staff to achieve comprehensive regulatory compliance.
FilmOn Networks on Wednesday announced a new comedy series hosted by the legendary Cheech & Chong star, Tommy Chong, "Almost Legal With Tommy Chong."
The iconic actor, best-selling author, and Grammy-winning comedian will host an interview and sketch comedy show co-produced by FilmOn Networks and title sponsor WeedMaps. The series will be distributed by FilmOn.com, and air on FOTV over Dish Network.
"Almost Legal with Tommy Chong" is an irreverent take on the traditional late night talk show with celebrity interviews, sketch comedy and musical acts—he’s called it “a stoner’s version of Jon Stewart.” Chong will address, “anything that affects the pot smoker’s status in any way, negative or positive,” and that includes his own battle with cancer and salvation through medical marijuana.
Confirmed guests include Danny Trejo, Steve-O, Andy Milonakis, Garfunkel and Oates, Chef Roy Choi, Hannibal Buress and select guests provided by WeedMaps, such as major marijuana attorney Linda Held.
The show is written by veterans from "The Whitest Kids U’Kno" and "Late World with Zach Galifianakis." Chong’s production company Chongson is also co-producing. The series is directed by Tommy’s son, Paris Chong, executive produced by Eli Graham, written by Sam Brown, Joe Wagner, Kyle Williams and Eddie Ifft, and shot in Los Angeles.
By Steve Elliott
More and more cities across Wisconsin are relaxing penalties against people caught with small amounts of marijuana, as the decriminalization movement sweeps across the state.
Nine of the state's 10 largest cities have already decriminalized simple cannabis possession, a Gannett Central Wisconsin Media review reveals, reports the Associated Press. Madison and Milwaukee were among the first cities in Wisconsin to relax their pot laws.
Stevens Point is the latest municipality in the state to adopt and then modify a new marijuana ordinance. Last month, the city reduced the fine for first-time pot possession to $100.
Under Wisconsin law, people caught with small amounts of weed can be charged with a misdemeanor crime, punishable by jail time and a permanent criminal record. With some cities in the state now enforcing lesser penalties, those "suspects" can now face anything from up to six months in jail, to no jail time or fine at all.
Some law enforcement types say they don't support decrim because they claim marijuana can lead to harder drugs, i.e., the long discredited "gateway theory." Decrim advocates say those caught with small amounts of cannabis shouldn't be treated any differently than other minor offenders.
An independent Arizona-based research organization on Tuesday reported a proposed 2016 ballot measure to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol would likely raise more revenue for education in Arizona than initiative backers originally estimated.
According to the Grand Canyon Institute, a “centrist think-thank led by a bipartisan group of former state lawmakers, economists, community leaders, and academicians,” tax revenue from the initiative would initially generate $64 million annually, including $51 million for K-12 education and all-day kindergarten programs. It estimates that by 2019, once the new system is fully rolled out, it would raise $72 million per year, including approximately $58 million for public education.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on August 19 announced that it had conservatively estimated that the initiative would raise more than $40 million in tax revenue for public education in Arizona. The estimate was called into question by opponents, and the Arizona Republic published an editorial in which it called the estimate a “lie” and accused the campaign of exaggerating the initiative’s revenue potential.
“The Grand Canyon Institute…finds that the revenue projections were conservative as proponents claimed,” the report reads. “The revenue gains do exceed the $40 million espoused by proponents of the initiative.”
By Steve Elliott
Daily marijuana use among college students in the United States is at an all-time high, with college students now more likely to smoke cannabis on a daily basis than cigarettes, according to the results of a nationwide survey released on Tuesday.
The long-term study, performed by researchers at the University of Michigan, shows that the number of students who smoke marijuana daily is at its highest level since 1980, when such data was first compiled, reports Ben Kesling at The Wall Street Journal.
"There's no question marijuana use has risen considerably," said principal investigator Lloyd Johnston of the Monitoring the Future study. "In December, we released results on secondary-school students, and we're seeing a rise in daily marijuana use there as well."
Nearly 6 percent of college students in 2014 reporting smoking cannabis on a daily or near-daily basis, up from 3.5 percent in 2007. Fewer students see marijuana as a health threat, with just 35 percent of high school graduates surveyed in 2014 saying regular cannabis use is dangerous, down from 55 percent in 2006.
About one of every 17 high school students uses cannabis on a daily or near-daily basis, according to findings released last December by the university.
Jeff Mizanskey walked out of prison Tuesday morning a free man after spending 21 years behind bars because of a minor, nonviolent marijuana offense. Mizanskey walked into the arms of more than a dozen family, friends and supporters, including his son, who had fought for years for his dad's release from prison.
"I'm one of the lucky ones," Mizanskey said. "Now it's time to free the other victims of the war on drugs."
The 61-year-old became a symbol of the failed War On Drugs. His campaign for clemency attracted 391,254 Change.org petition signatures, a plea from the prosecutor who put him away, a bill proposed by Missouri Rep. Shamed Dogan, a letter for clemency from 126 Missouri lawmakers, billboards in prominent locations, including the state capitol of Jefferson City, a documentary about his plight, a commuted sentence from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and a successful review from the parole board.
“He saw rapists, murderers and child molesters get out of prison while he was sentenced to die behind bars for something that should not be a crime to begin with,” said his lawyer, Dan Viets. "Jeff's case is an example of the extremely harsh drug laws which have failed to reduce marijuana use but have wasted vast amounts of public money in the effort to enforce marijuana prohibition, disrupting the lives of good people who do not deserve to be treated like criminals."
By Steve Elliott
Uruguay isn't just defending its own national sovereignty regarding its legalization of marijuana. The small South American country is now recommending that the rest of the world adopt its policies as an alternative to the War On Drugs.
The Drug War creates a "diversion of focus," according to Andres Roballo, president of the National Drug Board, making it necessary to switch to a "sophisticated" way of regulating cannabis, rather than prohibiting it, reports El Diario.
Roballo made the remarks during an international seminar on "New Approaches in Drug Policy in the 21st Century." Lawmakers from Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Uruguay discussed a "paradigm shift" when it comes to the prohibition and legalization of drugs.
For now, domestic growers responsible to providing the substance for registered users through the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA) are the only ones who have profited from legalization. About 3,000 growers are operating nationwide, according to officials.
"We are telling the world that the market regulation of marijuana is possible," said Ernest Samper, secretary general of the Union of South American Nations.
By Steve Elliott
A team of researchers launched the Cannabis Evolution Project last year with an important goal: mapping the genetic structure of marijuana, effectively protecting the biodiversity of the plant from corporate interests which might seek to capitalize on legal pot by patenting select strains.
Rumors have swirled for years that corporate agrochemical giant Monsanto had either plans or an active project to genetically modify marijuana in advance of nationwide legalization, reports Kyle Jaeger at attn:. This GMO marijuana would threaten the diversity of cannabis agriculture and put corporate interests in a position to make huge profits once the government gave approval.
Monsanto stoutly denies such speculation, but that hasn't stopped some scientists from taking preemptive action to prevent it from become a reality from any of the corporate behemoths hungrily eyeing the cannabis market.
Cannabis is a crop on par with corn in terms of both multifunctional properties and biological reach, Dr. Mowgli Holmes, cofounder and Chief Scientific Officer at Phylos Bioscience, told a conference in Portland, Oregon, last week. Like corn, marijuana's been around for millennia, having been domesticated by humans at least 10,000 years ago, he said.
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana use doesn't cause alterations in brain structure, according to a new study which fails to support past claims about cannabis and brain health.
Scientists looked at the effect of marijuana exposure on brain volume in the hippocampus, the amygdala, the ventral striatum, and the orbitofrontal cortex in groups of exposed and unexposed pairs of siblings. Researchers reported that all the volumetric differences identified "were within the range of normal variation," and that they were attributable to "shared genetic factors," not marijuana use.
"We found no evidence for the causal influence of cannabis exposure on amygdala volume," the authors concluded.
"We found that while cannabis users had lower amygdala volumes than nonusers, that difference appears to be linked to other predisposing factors," said senior author Arpana Agrawal, an associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, reports Dennis Thompson at HealthDay
By Steve Elliott
Vancouver, B.C. says it has gotten 176 applications for medical marijuana related businesses after imposing new license requirements earlier this summer.
Sixty-nine of those have the potential to be licensed as compassion clubs, while the rest have applied as retail businesses, the city announced on Friday, reports Tiffany Crawford at the Vancouver Sun.
Business licenses for compassion clubs -- nonprofit groups also offering additional health services like nutritional counseling, massage and acunpuncture -- are significantly lower. Those clubs paid $1,000 each, compared to the standard retail license of $30,000 for the rest of the medical marijuana businesses.
The deadline for applications closed a week ago, on August 21, and any medical marijuana businesses that missed the window of opportunity must close their doors, or city officials warn they'll take enforcement action, including hefty fines and lawsuits.
City staff will now review the applications, with particular attention to zoning regulations. Some of these relate to whether the shops are located in permitted commercial zones, and whether they are at least 300 meters from schools, community centers, places that serve "vulnerable youth," as well as other medical marijuana related businesses.
By Steve Elliott
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's top state regulator on Thursday rejected the advice of a state panel and refused to allow the use of medical marijuana to treat autism.
The decision followed a three-year struggle by parents of autistic children, their lawyers and patient advocates to have Michigan become the first state to specify marijuana as a treatment for autism, reports Bill Laitner at the Detroit Free Press.
Mike Zimmer, director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), claimed he was concerned that an approval wouldn't apply just to serious cases of autism, but to all cases. Zimmer said that parents applying to use medicinal cannabis would need the approval of two doctors, yet there was no requirement that either doctor be experienced in treating autism.
Zimmer said, in a four-page "Final Determination," that allowing medical marijuana for autism might do more harm than good to mildly affeted autistic children. That view followed uninformed, but damaging, testimony in Lansing by Dr. Harry Chugani, chief of pediatric neurology at Children's Hospital of Michigan, considered a national authority on autism but obviously who doesn't know much about cannabis.
"The vast majority of kids with autism do not need pot, and I won't sign for it," Chugani huffed last month. He said cannabis should be reserved for those with "very bad behaviors, aggression, meltdowns."
Women Grow, a professional networking organization for women leaders in the cannabis industry, is partnering with the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) in Los Angeles to produce 15 business-focused educational sessions at the September event.
CWCBExpo in LA will take place September 16-18 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The Women Grow tracks at CWCBExpo in LA will feature leading industry experts from the Women Grow Speaker's Bureau. These women and men will draw on experience to share entrepreneurial insight with the next generation of industry professionals.
Topics include "Upcoming States for New Licenses;" "Future Billion-Dollar Segments: Pets & Skin Care;" "New Technology for Efficient Grows;" "What Women Want From the Cannabis Industry;" and "Capitalizing on the Senior Market While a Providing a Service."
"Women Grow's ongoing partnership with CWCBExpo is an exciting opportunity for us to educate and inspire the next generation of cannabis industry leaders," said Jazmin Hupp, cofounder and CEO of Women Grow. "By offering expert-led educational programming that focus on the topics that matter to new entrepreneurs, we are setting the stage for the industry's long-term success."
Women Grow's national leadership team will be in attendance at CWCBExpo in LA, according to Hupp. They will network with attendees and share insights on investment, cultivation, retailing, brand marketing, advocacy, and more.
By Steve Elliott
Hempstalk 2015 is on! The Portland City Council on Thursday voted to grant Hempstalk a permit for its 2015 festival at Tom McCall Waterfront Park downtown. "We will have our Hempstalk festival," said organizer Paul Stanford.
The Council, on a 3-1 vote, overturned the Portland Parks Bureau's earlier decision to deny the permit, reports Andrew Theen at The Orergonian. The Police Bureau also opposed Hempstalk, a free 11-year-old festival which celebrates and advocates the legalization of marijuana and industrial hemp.
The lone "no" vote came from Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees the Parks Bureau.
The decision means Hempstalk 2015 could occur around the same time as the first legal sales of recreational marijuana in Oregon, on October 1. "If I had my preference, it would be the first weekend of October," said Hempstalk organizer Stanford of the Campaign of the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH).
Parks officials, meanwhile, claimed the event is set for September 26 and 27. Stanford said he had "no idea" where they got that date.
"It sounds like this event was imperfect," said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales on Thursday. "It sounds like there were some people smoking marijuana there." But Mayor Hales added that most large events in Portland are imperfect.
By Steve Elliott
Chile is on the verge of joining a growing list of Latin American countries decriminalizing marijuana. Proposed changes to Ley 20.000 (Law 20,000) which would grant Chileans the right to possess up to 10 grams of cannabis and grow up to six plants passed Chile's Chamber of Deputies last month on a 68-39 vote.
The bill must be adjusted by a health commission and then passed by the Chilean Senate before it officially becomes law, but strong support for marijuana legalization in Chile indicates a new norm in the Western Hemisphere and that the War On Drugs has failed, according to Olivia Marple of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
In a 2012 poll of 18- to 34-year-olds by Asuntos del Sur (Southern Affairs), 79 percent of young Chileans "voice strong approval" for legalization, with 52 percent disapproving of government campaigns attempting to reduce drug use and 54 percent did not support the government's current drug policies.
Fifty percent of Chileans at large favor legalization while 45 percent are against, according to a 2014 poll by Cadem, a Chilean market and public opinion investigation company. The approval figure skyrockets to 86 percent in favor of the legalization of medical marijuana.