By Steve Elliott
Voters in three Michigan cities on Tuesday will have a chance to weigh in on whether local police should arrest people possessing non-medical marijuana.
Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale voters face ballot proposals that would legalize possession of up to an ounce of cannabis on private property by adults 21 and older, reports Jonathan Oosting at Mlive.com.
Cannabis activists predict success in all three cities. They're hoping that victories will motivate the Legislature to decriminalize marijuana in Michigan, where possession remains illegal for everyone except medicinal cannabis patients under state law.
"This is going to send a message to the Legislature that people really want change," said Tim Beck, a Detroit-based activist who led the drive for Michigan's successful 2008 medical marijuana ballot proposal, and now heads the Safer Michigan Coalition. "The best poll you're ever going to find is an election."
Voters in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint and Ypsilanti have already decriminalized or legalized small-time cannabis possession, joining Ann Arbor, where police have issued tickets instead of making arrests since the 1970s. The Kalamazoo City Commission passed a similar measure.
By Steve Elliott
Colorado could have more than 100 recreational marijuana stores open for business on January 1, according to the latest numbers from the Marijuana Enforcement Division.
The division reports that it accepted 136 applications in October from prospective cannabis shop owners, along with 28 applications for recreational cannabis-infused products businesses and 174 applications for recreational cultivation facilities, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post.
The decision will be made by the end of the year for all businesses which applied for marijuana licenses in October, according to Marijuana Enforcement Division spokeswoman Julie Postlethwait.
Under Amendment 64, Colorado's marijuana legalization law, all of the applications had to come from people already operating medical marijuana businesses in the state. (After six months, the application process will be open to everyone.) Colorado has 517 medical marijuana dispensaries, 138 medicinal cannabis infused products businesses, and 736 medical marijuana cultivation facilities, according to the Marijuana Enforcement Division.
The expense of applying for recreational marijuana licenses limited the number of applicants, according to Meg Collins, executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance. Application fees start at $500 and licensing fees are between $2,7509 and $14,000. Application fees along brought in about $179,000 in October, according to Postlethwait.
By Steve Elliott
A new report says legal marijuana is now among the fastest-growing markets in the United States, and is on track to pass the growth rate of smartphones. Fourteen more states will legalize recreational cannabis in the next five years, the report predicts, creating a potential $10.2 billion marijuana market by 2018.
Researchers estimated that more than $1.43 billion worth of legal marijuana will be sold in 2013, reports Carly Schwartz at The Huffington Post. The report predicts that figure will grow to $2.34 billion by next year, a jump of 64 percent. Meanwhile, the smartphone market grew by 46 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to recent figures.
The researchers were unable to find any market growing as quickly as legal marijuana, said Steve Berg, a former managing director of Wells Fargo Bank and editor of the report, the second annual State of Legal Marijuana Markets.
"Those who really understand market dynamics will reap large rewards," Berg predicted.
Colorado alone is predicted to add $359 million to its existing marijuana market in 2014, with the rollout of recreational marijuana stores, as legalized by voters under Amendment 64 last year. Washington state voters at the same time passed Initiative 502, under which state-licensed legal marijuana stores are expected to open in mid-2014.
By Steve Elliott
Hundreds of paid signature gatherers are fanning across Florida as part of a petition drive for the legalization of medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. Advocates have until February 1 to get 683,149 signatures to qualify their proposal for the 2014 general election ballot.
The People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) campaign has already collected about 200,000 signatures since July, with more than 100,000 of those already being validated, reports Steven Nelson at U.S. News.
That leaves just 90 days to get signatures from half-a-million more voters, meaning the campaign must average just more than 5,555 valid signatures per day from now until February.
"It's a big number we have to get between now and the beginning of the year, but we're confident we can do it," said campaign manager Ben Pollara. "We have a statewide grass-roots volunteer effort going on that's brining in five to 10,000 signatures a week, and we just kicked back up our paid petition-gathering effort, which by the middle of November should be pulling in about 60 to 70,000 signatures a week."
Paid petitioners can earn between $15 and $30 an hour, according to a Facebook page advertising the positions, well above Florida's $7.79 minimum wage.
The third trial against medical marijuana dispensary operator and Navy veteran Jovan Jackson is coming to an end Friday in San Diego Superior Court, before Judge Louis R. Hanoian. Closing arguments were underway Friday morning and the jury was expected to begin deliberations on the verdict after lunch.
San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a staunch -- nay, fanatical -- opponent of medical marijuana, has waged a years-long effort to rid the county of dispensaries, and Jackson has borne the biggest brunt.
After a 2008 law enforcement raid, Jackson was tried in 2009 for possession and sales of marijuana, but was acquitted by a jury. Dissatisfied with that result, District Attorney Dumanis tried Jackson again on the same charges stemming from another raid in 2009.
At his second trial in 2010, Jackson was denied a defense and ultimately convicted. However, with the help of patient advocates Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Jackson appealed and overturned his conviction with a 2011 landmark decision that gives dispensary operators the right to a defense in state court. Instead of admitting defeat, Dumanis is choosing to retry Jackson for a third time.
By Steve Elliott
A group of medical marijuana patients in Lynnwood, Washington, this week got more than six pounds of cannabis back from the police after it was seized more than a year ago. Also returned were 202 dead marijuana plants.
The Lynnwood Police Department seized the marijuana, along with lights and other growing equipment, in a May 2012 raid, reports The Associated Press. The patients were following Washington's medical marijuana law, attorney Aaron A. Pelley said, and no criminal charges were filed.
Pelley and two other attorneys demanded that city officials return the items, or pay nearly $1 million, the estimated value of the property. The mayor didn't like the sound of that, and signed off on the return of the marijuana.
Pelley picked up the marijuana on Tuesday. He said it's no longer good for smoking, but it might still be usable to make cannabis oil or marijuana-infused products.
The police weren't pleased that they had to return the weed, according to Deputy Chief Byran Stanifer, but also didn't want to face a lawsuit.
(Photo: KING 5)
From White House to Congress, Drug Sentencing Reform Is One of Few Issues Democrats, Republicans Agree On
Reps. Raul Labrador (R-ID) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) on Thursday introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would significantly reform mandatory minimum drug sentencing policies. The bill, which was introduced as S.1410 in the Senate by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) in July, would cut the length of some mandatory minimum drug sentences by half and expand access to the existing safety valve for federal drug offenders.
It would also afford retroactivity for the Fair Sentencing Act, which was signed into law in 2010 to reduce the disparity in crack and powder cocaine sentences.
“Mandatory minimum sentencing is a costly and counterproductive cookie-cutter approach that removes a judge’s ability to apply a fairer sentence,” said Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the
Lawsuit Highlights Cruel Practices and Ineffectiveness of Undercover Narcotics Operations in Schools
The parents of a 17-year-old special needs student arrested in an undercover police operation on Thursday announced they are suing the school district that authorized the operation. The student, who suffers from a range of disabilities, was falsely befriended by a police officer who repeatedly asked the boy to provide him drugs.
After more than three weeks, 60 text messages and repeated hounding by the officer, the student was able to buy half a joint from a homeless man he then gave to his new -– and only -– “friend,” who had given him $20 weeks before. He did it once again before refusing to accommodate the officer, at which point the officer broke off all ties with the child.
Shortly thereafter, the student was arrested in school in front of his classmates as part of a sting that nabbed 22 students in all, many of them children with special needs.
"Our son is permanently scarred from the abuse he suffered," said Catherine and Doug Snodgrass, the boy’s parents, who are suing the Temecula Valley Unified School District, Director of Child Welfare and Attendance Michael Hubbard and Director of Special Education Kimberly Velez for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other charges. "Right now, our focus is on him, and our entire family."
They hope that this suit will send a message to schools around the country that these raids will not be tolerated.
By Steve Elliott
A Missouri Drug Task Force cop who debated marijuana legalization advocates from the group Show-Me Cannabis at a town hall meeting apparently got butt-hurt during the debate because some people disagreed with his point of view.
When he got safely home at his computer and away from "those people," he posted a rant on Facebook in which he "basically call[ed] the legalization advocates a bunch of stupid potheads," reports Ray Downs at the St. Louis Riverfront Times.
Seemingly upset that these folks dared to hold an opinion different than his when it comes to cannabis, the petulant policeman, Sgt. Kevin Glaser of the SEMO Drug Task Force -- who evidently is having some real difficulty adjusting to the realities of modern America -- got home and really gave those weed-suckers a piece of his mind.
"It was held at the Cape Girardeau Library," Sgt. Glaser posted. "This was a good location because it afforded many in the group an opportunity to actually visit a library, probably for the first time in their life." But wait, he really got going, after that.
"My views and opinions were not well received and they appeared to have very closed minds towards what i had to say," Sgt. Glaser posted (you'll have to imagine him sniffling to himself indignantly as he furiously typed). "Many impressed me as having no minds at all. Or at least very slow functioning minds."
By Steve Elliott
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods on Wednesday announced that its facility, located in Winnipeg, "aced" the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standards Recertification. According to Manitoba Harvest, it is the world's largest hemp food manufacturer, growing, making and selling their own hemp foods.
The company improved a full "grade" from their first certification last year, according to chief executive officer and cofounder Mike Fata. "Improving our BRC Certification standing to 'A-Grade' showcases our commitment to continuous improvement -- especially when it comes to food safety and quality," Fata said.
"If a school had a hemp production program we'd already have our Ph.D.," Fata said. "Receiving a top grade in our recertification validates our team's commitment to quality."
BRC Certification is considered the world's leading food safety and quality certification program, and is used by suppliers in more than 100 countries.
To receive BRC Certification, Manitoba Harvest underwent a voluntary audit by a third-party certification body that ensures the production, packaging, storage and distribution of safe food and consumer products. The annual certification is meant to reassure retailers and consumers of the capability and competence of Manitoba Harvest's facility, and therefore the integrity of its products.
Celebrating their 15th year in business, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods offers products like hemp hearts (raw shelled hemp seeds) and Hemp Pro 70 (hemp protein concentrate).
By Steve Elliott
Legalizing marijuana would more than double its potential market, if a new HuffPost/YouGov poll is to be believed.
The poll indicates that 26 percent of Americans say they would buy cannabis if it was legal in their state, compared to 9 percent who said they already buy it, reports Emily Swanson at The Huffington Post. The percentage who said they would buy marijuana "often" jumped from 1 percent who already do so, to 4 percent who said they would buy it "often" if it was legal.
When asked how often they'd buy weed, 18 percent said they'd buy it more often than they do now if it ws legal. That includes 16 percent who said they'd never buy pot now but would, at least on rare occasions, get it if it was legal.
Those under age 30 were more likely to say both that they'd buy cannabis if it was legal (35 percent) and that they already do so now (16 percent). But even among those 65 and older -- almost none of whom said they ever buy marijuana now -- 9 percent said they'd get it at least occasionally if it was legal.
UNH WMUR Granite State Poll shows 60% of New Hampshire adults support HB 492, which would make marijuana legal and establish a regulated marijuana market for adults; just 36% are opposed
The New Hampshire House of Representatives Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has voted 11-7 against recommending the passage of HB 492, a bill to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol, despite a new poll showing strong public support for the measure.
According to a new WMUR Granite State Poll released October 25 by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, 60 percent of New Hampshire adults support HB 492. Just 36 percent said they are opposed.
The poll of 603 randomly selected New Hampshire adults was conducted October 1-7 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. The entire poll is available here.
"Marijuana prohibition has been just as big of a failure as alcohol prohibition," said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "New Hampshire voters are clearly ready for a more sensible approach. It appears some legislators are still less evolved than their constituents on this issue."
By Steve Elliott
Hundreds of marijuana plants, along with the indictment against a Mat-Su, Alaska couple, were thrown out of court on Monday.
A judge dismissed the charges against Trace and Jennifer Thoms of Meadow Lakes after suppressing the "drug evidence" seized by Alaska State Troopers in their 2010 raid west of Wasilla, reports Casey Grove at the Anchorage Daily News.
An earlier court dispute about the troopers' search warrant had focused on whether Trooper Kyle Young was truthful when he claimed he could smell marijuana from across a swamp while driving by on a below-freezing night. Upon checking, Trooper Young said he later found that the Thoms's electrical bill was higher than that of a typical home.
The issue of Young's truthfulness regarding his smelling ability got the case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which sent it back to Alaska for another hearing. A judge finally ruled Trooper Young was truthful.
But the September 20 ruling to throw out the evidence was based on the overreach involved in the troopers' search. They looked in buildings not included in the warrant, more than 100 yards from the home, not on the same electric meter and not associated with the house's day-to-day activities. The judge ruled those buildings were not covered by the warrant.
By Steve Elliott
New Jersey's youngest medical marijuana patient, two-and-a-half-year-old Vivian Wilson, left the Compassionate Care Foundation medicinal cannabis dispensary Monday in a stroller, holding a stuffed toy dog, with her parents Brian and Meghan Wilson of Scotch Plains.
It was a moment to remember for the dispensary, which finally opened on Monday, nearly four years after the state passed its medical marijuana law, reports Susan K. Livio at The Star-Ledger. It was perhaps an even more important moment for the Wilsons and for other families with critically ill children in New Jersey.
Monday marked the first time a New Jersey family was able to buy the form of marijuana that in other states has helped quell the severe seizures that have stunted Vivian Wilson's development, and could take her life. Vivian has a rare and dangerous form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome, and conventional medicine just hasn't helped much.
Javier Sicilia to Speak at Stanford University of Pain Caused by Failed Drug War – and Need for Alternative Drug Policies to Prevent Future Victims
Mexican poet and peace leader Javier Sicilia on Wednesday will visit the Bay Area to speak firsthand about the devastation and pain caused by the Drug War in Mexico.
Sicilia’s visit –- to Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies on Wednesday, October 30, at 4:30 pm -– is part of the bi-national, 11-city “Voices of the Victims” Tour calling for an end to the Drug War that has left more than 80,000 people murdered, 25,000 disappeared, and 250,000 displaced from their homes in Mexico.
The Voices of the Victims Tour began on October 23-26 in Denver, Colorado, at the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), during which 24 representatives from the Mexican victims’ organization, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, participated in panels and roundtable discussions to strategize with activists from around the world about how to bring the war on drugs to an end.