Poll: Florida, Ohio Voters Support Marijuana Legalization; Pennsylvania Divided


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Voters in Florida and Ohio back legalization of marijuana for personal recreational use, while Pennsylvania voters are divided on the subject, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released on Thursday.

Men support legalized marijuana for personal use more than women in each of the states, the poll finds. The Swing State Poll focused on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania because since 1960, no Presidential candidate has won without taking at least two of these three states.

Voters in all three states, by overwhelming margins, support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. There is no gender gap on this question; men and women support medicinal cannabis equally. "Only about one in 10 voters opposes legalizing marijuana for medical purposes," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Also in all three states, most voters said they wouldn't use marijuana, even if personal use were legalized.

"If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then the Red Planet might be the more spacey place," Brown said. "That's because men are more likely than women to support legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

Not surprisingly support for the change is linked to age, with younger voters more likely to see personal use of pot as a good thing," Brown said. "But despite the support for legalization, a majority of voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania say they would not use the drug if it were legal."

Oregon: Union Negotiates First Cannabis Worker Contract In State


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

At least one labor union has begun to organize workers in Oregon's marijuana industry.

United Food & Commercial Workers Local 555 recently negotiated a three-year contract for employees at a Portland dispensary, and the union hopes to broker similar deals across the state as the cannabis dispensary takes off, according to Local 55 secretary-treasurer Jeff Anderson, reports George Rede at The Oregonian.

The initial contract provides for wages starting at $15 an hour for cashiers, $20 an hour for trimmers and up to $32 an hour for master cultivators at Stoney Brothers dispensary. Paid holidays and vacation days are also guaranteed in the contract, along with pension contributions and employer-subsidized health insurance.

"Our UFCW International Union has been involved in cannabis organizing for six to eight years, much of it in northern California involving medical dispensaries," Anderson said. The union represents about 3,000 marijuana workers in 10 legal and medical states and D.C., according to Anderson.

Union officials estimated the cannabis industry could expand to as many as 7,000 workers in Oregon. "Our goal is to have a couple thousand organized in the next five years," Anderson said.

Stoney Brothers president Trevor Reed approached Oregon union officials himself. "I'm a socialist at heart," Reed said. "I knew if I tied my hands to a contract, I would pay a living wage and if I didn't, I may or may not."

Ohio: Medical Marijuana Research Center Planned For Grow Site


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A nonprofit cannabis research institute plans to build a $24 million facility in Ohio and offer medical marijuana insurance if recreational legalization measure Issue 3 passes on November 3.

The International Cannabinoid Institute, a new Ohio-based nonprofit, announced on Tuesday it will rent land in Licking County from, you guessed it, investors who are backing the marijuana legalization ballot issue.

Issue 3 would legalize recreational and medical marijuana sales and use, but would limit commercial growing to just 10 sites owned by the wealthy investors who financed the measure.

Opposition has arisen to Issue 3 because of how it limits commercial growing to those who financed the ballot issue, reports Jackie Borchardt of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. The preselection of site owners means that only investors in ResponsibleOhio, the political action committee backing the measure, would get to participate in the new marijuana cultivation industry.

Wealthy investors have contributed more than $20 million to the campaign, which would basically enshrine their marijuana monopoly into the state constitution.

Germany: Recreational Marijuana, Coffee Shops Rejected By Berlin


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Federal Institute of Pharmaceuticals on Monday rejected proposed plans that would have allowed "coffee shops" in Berlin similar to those in Amsterdam, where customers can buy various kinds of recreational marijuana products alongside coffee.

Proponents of the law said they are still hopeful for the future of cannabis legalization in Germany, reports Jess McXHugh at IB Times.

"For us, the rejection of the plans was no surprise, and as such, it's also not a setback," said Georg Wurth, spokesperson for a cannabis advocacy group in Germany, reports The Local. "Political pressure is rising from below," he said.

The Green Party has long favored cannabis legalization in Germany. In 2014, party leader Cem Özdemir had himself filmed doing the Ice Bucket Challenge with a tall marijuana plant in plain view on his balcony beside him.

The Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain borough of Berlin had submitted plans for four "specialist cannabis shops" back in June. The cannabis would have been produced in Berlin and Brandenburg, and sold only to residents of the borough 18 and older.

Oregon: Marijuana Dispensaries Report Massive Recreational Sales


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon remained busy throughout the weekend after opening their doors to recreational customers on Thursday. The Oregon Legislature approved tax-free recreational sales through medicinal cannabis dispensaries through the end of the year.

Many of the shops opened at the stroke of midnight Thursday morning and were greeted with long lines of excited customers, reports Ted Shorack at The Bend Bulletin. Those lines continued all weekend, with thousands of customers checking out the shops.

"It was amazing," said Ben Hebert, owner of Dr. Jolly's in Bend. "We were totally busy all the time. I think we had a lot of happy people coming out of here."

Sales reached $55,000 on the first day alone, according to Aviv Hadar, cofounder of Oregrown Industries, which has a dispensary in Bend. As many as 2,000 customers shopped at his dispensary on the first day, according to Hadar.

"Our day two is bigger than most people's day one," Hadar said, reports Reed Andrews at KATU News.

Brothers Cannabis in Portland was one of the shops which opened at midnight; co-owner Nyno Thol said the shop is serving 600 people a day, about 20 times more than they usually do. "We're getting a lot of out of town folks and from Vancouver," he said.

California: Marijuana Legalization Supporters Split Up, Threaten Separate Initiatives


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With legalization seemingly a near-certainty coming down the pike in California, there's a lot of excitement in the air. And the smell of money has joined the aroma of cannabis, stoking the excitement to a fever pitch. But there's a fly in that medicated ointment.

Inspired by successes in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, activists are hungrily eyeing California, the biggest prize of all in the recreational legalization sweepstakes, reports Dennis Romero at the L.A. Weekly.

Legalization fell short in the Golden State in 2010 with Proposition 19, and that sad outcome could see a repeat if multiple initiatives compete against each other to qualify, and if two or more reach the ballot and face off against each other.

What was supposed to be the unifying initiative -- ReformCA, from the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform -- was the intended vehicle for all the big players in California cannabis politics to support; they almost pulled it off, too.

Oregon: Activists, Consumers Welcome Historic First Day of Legal Cannabis Sales


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Oregon's historic first day of legal cannabis sales on Thursday was a success, as marijuana consumers 21 and older statewide were, for the first time ever, able to legally buy retail weed without a medical authorization.

Lines snaked out the doors of many collectives at mid-day; the Tree House Collective on NE Sandy Boulevard in Portland had line of 8 to 10 customers out the door at around 1 p.m. By 5 p.m., the line was only a couple of people, and the wait had been reduced to around five minutes.

THC owner Nathan Roszina told Hemp News that creating separate queue and retail area for recreational customers was key in keeping down waiting times. Roszina said the shop wanted to address concerns from some patients that they might be subjected to long wait times due to the influx of recreational customers.

According to Roszina, the normal number of medicinal cannabis patients showed up for medicine; add to that all the first-time recreational customers, and it was a busy day. "It's been very steady all day long," Nathan told me. Many of the recreational customers, though, were curiosity seekers, according to Roszina, and only wanted to buy a gram or two.

Colorado: Overcapacity Drives Down Marijuana Prices


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

There's lots of weed in Colorado, man. In fact, there's so much marijuana, overcapacity in dispensaries is driving down prices. Retail cannabis prices have dropped for a year now, but seem to be stabilizing in the third quarter, according to a marijuana store survey by chief market strategist Nicholas Colas and Jessica Rabe, both with Convergex.

Colas surveyed retail pot stores in Colorado and fought that cannabis fell from $50-$70 for an eighth-ounce to $30-$45, reports Debra Borchardt at Forbes. An ounce fell from $300-$400 to the lower end of $300 an ounce. According to Colas, all his contacts said that more competition was the reason for the downward pricing pressure, as more dispensaries and grow facilities open.

Colas said there were 156 retail marijuana stores and 204 retail cultivation facilities at the start of 2014, according to the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division. "At the end of December 2014, there were 322 retail stores and 397 retail cultivations respectively," he said, representing roughly double the number at the beginning the year.

As of August 3, those numbers have increased to 385 retail stores and 496 retail cultivations, a 20 percent and 25 percent increase respectively.

Prices seem to be stabilizing, but Colas said some stores sell ounces for $200. The survey participants told him they had to lower prices to compete.

Oregon: Legal Marijuana Sales Begin Thursday, Oct. 1


Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Given Head Start Before Other Stores

Oregon Becomes First State to Expunge Prior Nonviolent Marijuana Records

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Oregon, which legalized marijuana in 2014 with Measure 91, is beginning sales Thursday, October 1. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries will be permitted to get a head start on sales before other, non-medical stores, which are expected to open in Autumn 2016.

This will ensure existing medical marijuana retailers have an opportunity to fairly compete in the new market as it emerges in the next several years. About 200 of the 345 medical shops have registered to expand their sales to all adults and expect a significant increase in profit margins.

Oregon voters passed Measure 91 in November 2014 with 56 percent support. Similar to initiatives in both Washington and Colorado, Measure 91 called for a slow and thoughtful roll-out of legalization.

In Washington and Colorado, possession of marijuana became legal over a year before retail sales began. This approach left adults with no lawful means of purchasing marijuana. This, too, was the path in Oregon until lawmakers passed new legislation this summer.

Possession became legal on July 1, 2015, yet the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the state agency responsible for taxing, licensing, and regulating commercial recreational marijuana, will not begin accepting applications until early next year and retail stores are not expected to open until late 2016.

South Dakota: Tribe To Open Nation's First Marijuana Resort


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Santee Sioux tribe in Flandreau, South Dakota, has announced it plans to open the nation's first marijuana resort and "adult playground" on its reservation.

The small tribe of 400 is undertaking the venture after already having proven their business acumen running a successful casino, a 120-room hotel and a 240-head buffalo ranch, reports Regina Garcia Cano at The Associated Press. The experiment could mean a new money-making model for Native American tribes nationwide looking for economic opportunities beyond casinos.

Tribal leaders plan to grow their own cannabis and sell it in a smoking lounge that includes a nightclub, arcade games, bar and food service, slot machines, and an outdoor music venue.

"We want it to be an adult playground," said tribal President Anthony Reider. "There's nowhere else in America that has something like this."

The "playground" could mean up to $2 million a month in profit, and work has already begun on the growing operation, according to the tribe. The first weed is expected to go on sale on December 31 at a New Year's Eve party.

The Santee Sioux decided to legalize marijuana in June, a few months after the U.S. Department of Justice announced a new policy that allows Native American tribes to grow and sell cannabis under the same conditions as states where it is legal.

Oregon: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Gear Up For Oct. 1 Recreational Sales


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon are preparing for a big moment this week: when recreational cannabis users will be able to come into their shops, and, for the first time, buy weed, no medical authorization required.

Of Oregon's 345 registered medical marijuana dispensaries, more than 200 have notified the Oregon Health Authority they'll start selling recreational marijuana on Thursday, October 1, reports Gosia Wozniacka at the Associated Press. Some of these dispensaries may not qualify right away if they're still in the application process and haven't been approved, according to Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the OHA.

Oregon voters approved Measure 91 last November. The new law legalized possessiong and growing limited amounts of cannabis for personal use starting July 1. Since Oregon won't be ready to begin regulated recreational sales until next year, medical dispensaries are being allowed to conduct early sales of recreational cannabis, tax-free, as a temporary stop-gap and to curb black market sales.

Taxes on recreational marijuana sales won't begin until January 4, 2016, when a 25 percent tax on retail sales will be added.

Adults 21 and older can buy a quarter ounce (7 grams) of marijuana flowers. Edibles, extracts, concentrates and infused products aren't available in early recreational sales. Customers must provide government-issued photo ID as proof of age.

U.S.: FBI Reports Marijuana Arrests Increased In 2014; First Increase Since 2009


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The annual number of arrests for marijuana offenses in the U.S. increased last year for the first time since 2009, according to the Uniform Crime Report released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

There were 700,993 marijuana arrests in the U.S. in 2014, according to a new report from the FBI. That's one every 45 seconds.

Marijuana arrests comprised 44.9 percent of all drug arrests, and drug crimes are the largest category of offenses people were arrested for, according to the FBI. Fully 88.4 percent of marijuana arrests were for possession alone.

In comparison, there were 693,482 marijuana arrests in the U.S. in 2013. Data on marijuana arrests for years prior to 2013 is at

"It's unacceptable that police still put this many people in handcuffs for something that a growing majority of Americans think should be legal," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "A record number of states are expected to vote on legalizing marijuana next year, so we hope and expect to see these numbers significantly dropping soon.

"There’s just no good reason that so much police time and taxpayer money is spent punishing people for marijuana when so many murders, rapes and robberies go unsolved," Angell said.

Colorado: Marijuana Growers Have Legal Alternatives To 'Organic' Label


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado's marijuana industry has thus far benefited from the regulatory gray area where it resides, but according to an expert in organic certification, any other operation that routinely labeled its products "organic" without certification would have been shut down and fined almost immediately.

"If those farmers were farming any other agricultural crop, they would be contacted within a month or two," said Chris Van Hook, an accredited organic certifier for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and owner of Clean Green Certified, which offers alternative organic certifications for cannabis, reports Emilie Rusch at The Denver Post.

"It's very clear in the organic regulations," Van Hook said. "It's an $11,000-per-violation labeling infraction to call an uncertified product organic."

Industry figures are working to find a way to legitimately market cannabis products as pesticide-free and environmentally friendly. Van Hook established his "Clean Green" certification seal in 2004, and another organization, based in Denver, could begin certifiying marijuana as pesticide-free later this year.

"The quicker the cannabis industry can address the misrepresentation, the better it will be for consumers and farmers," Van Hook said. Clean Green, based in Crescent City, California, has already certified more than 100 cannabis grow operations, processors and collectives.

Oregon: Albany City Council Bars Recreational Marijuana Sales


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Oregon adults 21 and older will be able to legally buy recreational marijuana on October 1. Well, most of them. If you live in Albany, Oregon, your city council says you don't get to do that.

A large crowd of cannabis advocates filled the room, with about two dozen speaking to the council, "but they might have well stayed home," , reports Hasso Hering.

Four members of the Albany City Council blocked recreational marijuana sales in the town. Councilors voted 4-2, enacting an ordinance that bars medical marijuana dispensaries from selling recreational weed from October 1 through the end of 2016.

After that, recreational cannabis still can't be sold at medical dispensaries, but will be available at recreational retail stores which will be licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Voting for the ban were Councilors Floyd Collins, Bill Coburn, Bessie Johnson, and Rich Kellum. Voting against the ban, and thus actually representing their constituents who voted for recreational marijuana legalization, were Dick Olsen and Ray Kopczynski.

Councilors are also considering passing even more restrictions on marijuana sales. Among the ideas discussed:

• A buffer larger than the currently required 300 feet between dispensaries and residential zones

Oregon: Portland City Council Delays Vote On Marijuana Retailer Regulations


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Portland City Council on Wednesday delayed voting on new regulations for marijuana retailers due to concerns that the proposed rules could shut down existing businesses.

One dispensary owner told the Council that regulations intended to stop too many marijuana retailers from operating in close proximity could have unintended consequences, reports Brad Schmidt at The Oregonian. "The goal here is not put people out of business," said Mayor Charlie Hales.

City officials plan to issue marijuana retail licenses on a first-come, first-served basis, with the intent to level the playing field in what could quickly become a lucrative business. Officials hope to prevent marijuana stores from operating within 1,000 feet of each other.

If two shops are operating within 1,000 feet of each other, a new retailer could beat an established retailer in the application process, forcing the existing shop to shut down.

Officials now are considering exemptions that would allow case-by-case evaluations of siting issues; in some instances more than one pot shop may be allowed within 1,000 feet. Commissioner Nick Fish suggested this change, recommending something with a "clear legal standard."

Existing businesses could also be grandfathered in so that they could remain open.

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