By Steve Elliott
The New York Times this week, in what is widely seen as an epochal event, called for marijuana legalization in an editorial. But The Times drug tests its own employees, including for cannabis, despite its strong stance against marijuana prohibition.
The online dispensary-finding company WeedMaps has just launched a petition on Change.org which calls out the newspaper for its hypocritical policy.
"Whether we're going to continue testing for marijuana or not, I don't know," Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal said last night on MSBNC. "If they ask me, I'll stop."
Drug policy experts believe the petition stands a good chance of impacting the newspaper's drug testing policy, at least to the extent of convincing them to remove marijuana from the list of substances on the test.
"If The New York Times believes it is wrong to discriminate against people for using marijuana, then they should stop doing so. Full stop," said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority. "Forward-thinking companies in the emerging legal marijuana industry, such as WeedMaps, are leading the way toward a post-prohibition approach to hiring and human resources by focusing on job performance and not on the content of their employees' urine.
Colorado: Food Safety Training For Marijuana Edibles Makers, Responsible Selling For Budtenders LaunchedSubmitted by steveelliott on Tue, 07/29/2014 - 18:14
Edibles makers to learn proper hygiene, prevention of food contamination, emergency procedures, and more
“Budtenders” to learn responsible selling practices based on lessons of alcohol industry
The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) on Tuesday announced that it will launch the first ServSafe© Food Safety Basics course specifically for cannabis industry professionals. Participants in the course, based on a curriculum developed originally by the National Restaurant Association, will learn about the significance of food-borne illness, proper personal hygiene, time and temperature control, how to prevent cross-contamination, cleaning, sanitizing and emergency procedures, and more.
“The interest in edibles and other infused products keeps growing,” said NCIA deputy director Taylor West. “We know our industry is under a microscope, and we want to make sure cannabis product-makers continue developing the highest quality and safest products possible.”
NCIA also announced a new Sell-SMaRT™ Responsible Cannabis Vendor course that will teach marijuana dispensary employees, or “budtenders,” responsible selling practices, such as how to check ID, educate customers about responsible consumption, and handle tricky situations.
These courses are developed and facilitated by Maureen McNamara, founder of Cannabis Trainers™, an NCIA member business. McNamara has been teaching the ServSafe© course to traditional food industry professionals for the last 18 years, but this will be her first course geared solely for makers of marijuana edibles.
By Steve Elliott
As Floridians get ready to vote on medical marijuana in November, months of campaigning by both sides hasn't moved the numbers at all. A new poll shows 88 percent support for medicinal cannabis, the exact same level of support shown in May.
Quinnipiac University Polling Institute's numbers are significant, reports Dan Sweeney at the Sun Sentinel, because two well-funded opposition groups have formed since the May poll -- "Don't Let Florida Go To Pot," a disinformation campaign from the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Drug Free America Foundation, and Vote No On 23, a project of Drug Free Florida.
As a constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in Florida, needs 60 percent of the vote to pass in November.
An incredible 95 percent of voters age 29 and younger support the measure in the new poll.
Notorious anti-pot activist Calvina Fay, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation, claims the amendment would result in an explosion of medical marijuana dispensaries, shady doctors authorizing it for almost any ailments, and access for minors. But supporters say the amendment is specific about ailments that can be treated with marijuana, and that there are already state laws in place which would require parental consent before minors could be authorized.
By Steve Elliott
The Senate delegations from Colorado and Washington are seeking clarification from the Obama Administration on the regulations which will impact the legal marijuana trade in those two states.
Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall of Colorado and Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington on Monday wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Attorney General Eric Holder, calling for "a clear, consistent and uniform interpretation and application" of federal marijuana laws in relation to their home states, reports Jonathan Topaz at Politico. The letter warns about the current uncertainty surrounding federal cannabis laws.
"We believe the federal government should support Colorado and Washington state's effort to establish a successful regulatory framework in a way that achieves greater certainty for local officials, citizens, and business owners" in the marijuana industry, the senators wrote.
The uncertainty regarding the implementation of federal cannabis laws "may undermine our states' ability to regulate the industry adequately," the senators said.
All four Democrats said they look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to ensure lawful and successful implementation of marijuana legalization in their states.
Less than a week after qualifying for the ballot, the New Approach Oregon campaign to regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older has won three major endorsements.
The endorsing organizations are:
• The Oregon State Council for Retired Citizens, the oldest grassroots senior advocacy organization in the state.
• The Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, which represents more than 1,300 criminal defense attorneys in Oregon.
• Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), whose 100,000 supporters include police officers, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens, FBI agents and DEA agents.
“This is the first time a senior organization in Oregon has endorsed a marijuana regulation measure,” said Steve Weiss, board president of the Oregon State Council for Retired Citizens. “I’ve seen how medical marijuana can transform seniors’ lives, but when you are sick and in need of effective medicine, getting a medical marijuana card can be difficult, and without legalization, almost no research is done on it, making it hard for people to estimate the proper dosage.”
By Steve Elliott
In yet another sign of the inevitability of cannabis law reform in the United States, The New York Times has called for marijuana legalization.
"It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol," The Times Editorial Board wrote in the Sunday edition of the newspaper.
The Times Editorial Board reached that conclusion, the op-ed piece notes, "after a great deal of discussion." One would love to have been a fly on the wall, as the tectonic plates of journalistic history worked themselves into a new configuration. The decision was, the Board wrote, "inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws."
With more than 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, and with the negative results of those arrests falling disproportionately on young African American men, the social costs of cannabis prohibition are just too steep to continue, according to The Times.
"Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults," the editorial states.
The Times announced a series of articles in the coming days by members of the Editorial Board, along with supplementary material that will examine the questions surrounding marijuana legalization.
By Steve Elliott
Recreational marijuana sales only began two-and-a-half weeks ago in Washington state, and it didn't take the price gouging long to get started.
Ramsey Hamide, the manager of Main Street Marijuana, a recreational cannabis store in Vancouver, Washington, said that when he saw what came in a shipment of pot from a new grower this week, he said no thanks, deciding to close his business's doors until he can get a more variety, lower prices and better quality, reports Sue Vorenberg at The Columbian.
Hamide said some growers and processors are trying to charge him $6,000 per pound for marijuana, reports Stephen Mayer at KATU. He said that's about triple the normal price.
"I'm not going to let these guys hold us hostage anymore," Hamide said of the growers who he says have been selling low quality marijuana for high prices. "It's hurting the entire system, and it needs to stop. By continuing to play ball with these guys, it's just making things worse."
Hamide said Main Street Marijuana would likely remain closed through the weekend and possibly well into next week.
By Steve Elliott
The British tabloid media doesn't mind telling some tall tales. After all, it was U.K. tabloids which encouraged the absurd "Skunk Weed" scare a few years back -- and that took such root in British society that they rolled back their progressive cannabis laws, making marijuana, once again, an arrestable offense.
After The Sun, a U.K. tabloid, ran a false June 16 story claiming that Lake Havasu City, Arizona's iconic London Bridge could be "bulldozed" to make room for "drug tourism," the Convention & Visitors Bureau sprang into action. As a result, The Sun ran a page two correction on July 21. It reads:
"In an article 'London Bridge IS Falling Down' (16 June) we stated that the iconic bridge, now a tourist attraction in Arizona, was falling into disrepair and could soon be bulldozed. We also stated that there were plans to turn the area into a centre for drug tourism. We have been assured by Lake Havasu City that there are no plans to knock down the bridge or to build a centre for drug tourism. We regret any misunderstanding and are happy to set the record straight.
"A Lake Havasu spokesman also assures us there are plans to revitalise the English Village on the east side of the bridge and that they are committed to looking after the monument."
By Steve Elliott
The very first recreational marijuana legally sold in Seattle will become part of a display at the city's Museum of History and Industry, after the woman who was first in line donated part of her purchase on Tuesday.
Sixty-five-year-old retiree Deb Greene had waited all night to be the first customer in line at Cannabis City, so far Seattle's lone recreational marijuana store, when legal cannabis sales began in Washington on July 8, reports The Associated Press.
Cannabis City proprietor James Lathrop also donated items from opening day, including the receipt for Greene's purchase.
Voters in both Colorado and Washington voted in November 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, but Colorado was first out of the gate with legal marijuana sales beginning January 1 of this year. Washington state's burdensome, bureaucracy-laden system took until July 8 to get up and running.
Museum of History and Industry curator Kristin Halunen put on purple latex gloves to accept the donation of marijuana and other paraphernalia on Tuesday.
Greene bought eight grams of marijuana, which cost $160 including tax, two weeks ago when she was first in line. She donated a two-gram sealed packet of cannabis, the t-shirt she wore as she waited for hours to make the buy, and the book she read while she waited in line.
By Steve Elliott
When limited marijuana legalization measure Initiative 502 was on the Washington state ballot back in 2012, one of the main selling points touted by its supporters was the the measure would help eliminate racial disparities in low-level marijuana enforcement -- the kind that exist practically everywhere, and which were the subject of a recent American Civil Liberties Union study. But sadly, it appears I-502 didn't make a lot of difference in that regard.
African Americans were still disproportionately cited by Seattle police for using marijuana in public in the first six months of 2014, reports Bob Young at The Seattle Times.
In a report required by the Seattle City Council, the police had to admit that of 82 tickets written for public cannabis consumption in the first half of 2014, 37 percent of those went to black people. Blacks account for just 8 percent of Seattle's population.
Fifty percent of the tickets for public consumption went to whites, who are 70 percent of Seattle's residents.
Of course, racially discriminatory enforcement of marijuana laws was one of the main arguments for legalizing pot in the first place. A national study by the ACLU found that almost four blacks are arrested on marijuana charges for every white person arrested.
City council will decide whether to enact the measure or refer it to voters at its meeting on August 4
South Portland city officials confirmed Wednesday that a citizen initiative to make marijuana possession legal for adults within city limits has qualified for the November 2014 ballot. Citizens for a Safer Maine submitted more than 1,500 signatures, and just 959 valid signatures of registered city voters were required.
The South Portland City Council will consider whether to enact the measure or refer it to city voters at its meeting scheduled for August 4.
“Voters were very receptive during the signature drive,” said MPP Maine political director David Boyer. “Most people agree law enforcement officials have more important things to do than punish adults for using a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.
"If this measure passes, police can use their discretion to stop arresting adults for simple marijuana possession,” Boyer said.
The initiative would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It would remain illegal to consume or display marijuana in public. The measure also includes a statement in support of regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at the state level.
“We hope to see as much support and enthusiasm among city council members as we have among voters,” Boyer said. “This is an opportunity for council members to demonstrate leadership on this issue. It’s time to move beyond the status quo of prohibition and start making progress.”
Could the Green Mountain State become the Green Marijuana State? Researchers from the RAND Corporation will study the issues related to potentially legalizing the production, distribution and possession of marijuana in Vermont, officials said on Wednesday.
In May 2014, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill that requires the state secretary of administration to report to the General Assembly regarding the taxation and regulation of recreational marijuana in Vermont. A May poll from the Castleton Polling Institute found 57 percent of Vermonters favor cannabis legalization, reports the Marijuana Policy Project.
“We are pleased to help the state of Vermont think through the potential consequences associated with alternative marijuana policies,” said Beau Kilmer, project leader and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.
Kilmer met with state Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding and other Vermont officials this week to discuss the study.
The law calls for the report to analyze the possible taxing systems for the sale of marijuana in Vermont, including sales taxes, use taxes and excise taxes, as well as the potential revenue each may raise. In addition, the study will examine any savings or costs to the state that would result from regulating marijuana and the experiences of other states with regulating and taxing marijuana. Issues surrounding public health and public safety also will be addressed.
It’s official: Oregon voters will decide in November whether to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over.
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown has certified that the New Approach Oregon petition campaign has turned in enough valid signatures to qualify the Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act for the November ballot.
According to the Secretary of State's website, 145,030 unverified signatures were submitted for verification. Of those, 88,584 signatures, or 64.41 percent of the 135,722 accepted for verification, were valid. To qualify for the ballot, 87,213 were needed.
The New Approach campaign is celebrating Tuesday's achievement by hosting its first voter registration canvass led by young Oregonians who will be decisive in winning a new approach to marijuana.
“This is our moment to be part of history and lead a movement,” said Dominique Lopez, metro regional organizer for New Approach Oregon. “Treating marijuana use as a crime has failed, but together we can win a more sensible approach and better the lives of Oregonians.”
Tuesday's announcement comes almost exactly two weeks after Washington state began regulated sales of marijuana. New data shows that Washington state has received $318,000 in excise taxes in the first 10 days of regulated marijuana sales.
The proposed measure in Oregon would allow for licensed and regulated cultivation and sales of marijuana. Sales would be taxed to generate money for schools, state and local police and drug treatment, prevention and mental health programs.
By Steve Elliott
High taxes and a low number of storefront licenses mean that revenue from legalized marijuana sales in Washington state could be "minimal" this year, according to Moody's Investor Service.
State-licensed recreational marijuana stores opened in Washington on July 8, and the state estimated it will collect $51.2 million in revenues during the upcoming 2015-2017 biennial budget, reports Robin Respaut at Reuters. But Moody's said on Monday that high taxes, marketplace competition and supply challenges could lower that number.
The ratings agency warned that Washington's sky-high excise tax of 25 percent -- applied at three points along the supply chain, producer, processor and retailer -- and sales taxes of 9.6 percent might deter consumers. Combined, the trio of 25 percent taxes means an effective rate of 44 percent tax, Moody's calculated, reports Niraj Chokshi at The Washington Post.
"The tax structure in Washington state is likely to be a major deterrent for consumers who do not see the value in obtaining a product from a storefront as opposed to a medical dispensary," Moody's analyst Andrea Unsworth wrote in the report, entitled "Tax Revenues from Legalized Marijuana Will Be Minimal in Washington State."
By Steve Elliott
A Washington marijuana businessman is suing the state's Liquor Control Board, saying the agency rejected his application to retail cannabis over a minor technicality. The suit alleges that the board put him and his partners at risk of substantial financial loss.
The suit, filed by Pete O'Neil in King County Superior Court, seeks to overturn the Liquor Control Board's decision to deny a license for C&C Cannabis to sell marijuana in Lynnwood, Washington, reports Valerie Bauman at Puget Sound Business Journal. The application was rejected for only having an electronic signature, instead of both a written signature and an electronic one, according to O'Neil, who manages C&C.
Officials at the Washington State Liquor Control Board refused to comment on ongoing litigation.
The board could be subjected to dozens or even hundreds of similar lawsuits as it makes its way through the first year of implementation of I-502, a limited legalization measure approved by 54 percent of Washington voters in 2012. The first cannabis stores opened on July 8, and more are gradually opening for business as the supply from growers increases; 334 retail licenses were awarded statewide.
More lawsuits by disappointed entrepreneurs like the one filed by O'Neil are expected. Many business people feel wronged by what they say is a system which set them up for failure.