Recreational

Massachusetts: Lawmakers To Hold Hearing On Bill To Regulate And Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

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Joint Committee on the Judiciary to consider H. 1632, which would establish a legal market for businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would make possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET in Room A-2 of the Massachusetts State House.

H. 1632 would eliminate criminal penalties for adults 21 years of age and older if they possess or cultivate marijuana for personal use. It would also create a Cannabis Control Authority, which would establish licenses, collect taxes, and regulate the production, processing, and sale of marijuana to adults.

"Marijuana prohibition has been just as colossal a failure as alcohol prohibition," said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), who is scheduled to testify during the hearing. "Marijuana is less toxic than alcohol, less addictive, and less likely to contribute to violent or reckless behavior.

"Most voters think it's time to stop punishing adults who make the safer choice, and we hope their elected officials will agree," Simon said.

A majority of Massachusetts voters likely to vote in the November 2014 midterm election (53 percent) support making marijuana legal, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll released in February. Just 37 percent were opposed.

Rhode Island: Lawmakers, Former Cops Voice Support For Marijuana Legalization Bill

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Legislators, Former Police Officers, and Health and Legal Experts Voice Support for Bill That Would Regulate and Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

State legislators, former police officers, and health and legal experts joined representatives of several organizations at a Wednesday news conference to voice their support for a bill that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol in Rhode Island. The House Committee on Judiciary was scheduled to hold a hearing on the measure later Wednesday.

Speakers at the event included the bill's sponsor, Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Providence); Dr. David Lewis, founder of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University; Professor Andy Horwitz, director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Roger Williams University School of Law; and Beth Comery, a former Providence police officer.

A bipartisan group of 29 sponsors, including House Minority Leader Rep. Brian Newberry (R-North Smithfield), is supporting H 7506, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act. The bill would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space.

U.S.: Atty. Gen. Holder 'Cautiously Optimistic' About Legalization; Admits He's Tried Weed

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he is "cautiously optimistic" about marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington state, but added it's tough to predict where legalization will be in 10 years. In the same interview, Holder, the nation's top law enforcement official, admitted he had tried pot in college.

"I think there might have been a burst of feeling that what happened in Washington and Colorado was going to be soon replicated across the country," Holder told Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post. "I'm not sure that is necessarily the case.

"I think a lot of states are going to be looking to see what happens in Washington, what happens in Colorado before those decisions are made in substantial parts of the country," he said.

The Department of Justice has allowed marijuana legalization to go forward in the two states where votes chose that course back in November 2012, and has issued guidance to federal prosecutors that is intended to open up banking services for cannabis businesses that are legal under state law.

Rhode Island: House Committee To Hold Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Bill

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Bill That Would Regulate and Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

The Rhode Island House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Rep. Edith Ajello will join supporters of the measure at a pre-hearing news conference at 3 p.m. ET in Room 101 of the Rhode Island State House. Attendees will include Dr. David Lewis, founder of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University; Professor Andy Horwitz, director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Roger Williams University School of Law; and Beth Comery, a former Providence police officer.

H 7506 would allow adults 21 and older to possess of up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space, and establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities. It would also:

• Enact wholesale excise taxes of up to $50 per ounce of flowers and $10 per ounce of leaves applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store;
• Enact a 10 percent sales tax at the point of retail sales; and
• Require the Department of Business Regulation to establish rules regulating security, labeling, health and safety requirements.

WHAT: News conference prior to Rhode Island House Committee on Judiciary hearing on H 7506, which would regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol

Colorado Attracting More Visitors Following Marijuana Legalization; 4/20 Bookings Skyrocket

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The state of Colorado and especially Denver have seen a spike in travel interest and tourism since recreational marijuana sales to adults 21 and older have been legalized, according to data from Hotels.com. Denver has seen a 25 percent increase in hotel searches in the first three months of 2014 compared to 2013, according to the data.

Denver, ranked as the 17th most popular domestic destination for Americans in 2013 according to the Hotels.com Hotel Price Index™, the Mile High City is also expected to see an influx of visitors around April 20, nudge nudge, wink wink. Hotel searches for the weekend of April 18-20, when the city will host a number of organized events and music festivals, have increased by 73 percent compared to the same timeframe last year.

Tourists traveling to Colorado should remember a few basics:

Airport Travel: Cannabis remains on the Transportation Safety Administration's list of prohibited items, and marijuana possession is illegal at most airports in Colorado. Colorado Springs Airport and Aspen/Pitkin County Airport have installed "amnesty boxes" in terminals, where travelers can get rid of any marijuana still in their possession. But Denver International Airport has taken a hard line, banning cannabis possession anywhere on its premises.

Visiting Parks and Federal Landmarks: It is illegal to possess marijuana on federal land, even in Colorado. This includes national parks, national forests, national monuments and ski areas.

Colorado: Marijuana Vending Machine Starts Operation

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A marijuana vending machine was unveiled in Colorado on Saturday, ushering in a new era of selling cannabis to customers from vending machines. Its creators call it "an automated, age-verifying, climate-controlled marijuana dispensing machine."

The machine, called the ZaZZZ, uses biometrics to verify a customer's age, according to its creators, reports Bill Chappell at NPR. The climate-controlled machine also keeps the cannabis fresh, according to the company.

For now, the machine will be used only in medical marijuana dispensaries, not for recreational marijuana, which is also legal in Colorado. It will serve a purpose much like that of an automated checkout line at a grocery store, according to American Green, which company which built it.

American Green spokesman Stephen Shearin acknowledged that the idea of buying marijuana from a machine will probably have a "wow factor" that could boost business. He said the machine could also cut down on employee pilferage of pot.

"We're gonna eliminate the middle man," said Herbal Elements owner Greg Honan, reports Denver's Fox 31. "It'll go straight from the budtender right into our machine. There's no room for theft by patients, employees ... there's no way to lose track of the inventory."

Alabama: Coloradans Say 'Marijuana Profiling' Prompts Traffic Stop

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Does the fact that marijuana is legal in Colorado mean motorists from the Centennial State are subject to traffic stops merely because of their license plates? A couple who were headed for a stay on the Florida coast when they were pulled over on an Alabama highway say they were the victims of "marijuana profiling."

Sandra Lenga, 65, and her husband, 71, were driving to St. Augustine, Florida, at the end of January when their route took them through northeast Alabama, heading towards Birmingham, reports Kelsey Stein at Al.com. When they saw blue lights flashing and moved into the left lane, two law enforcement vehicles followed them and pulled them over "for changing lanes too slowly," reports Michael Roberts at Denver Westword.

But the deputies said they weren't going to write a traffic ticket. What they did do, was walk their drug-detecting dogs around the couple's car. One dog supposedly alerted on the gas cap, prompting a more aggressive search, during which deputies went through the bags and boxes in the trunk.

Lenga and her husband were separated for questioning by the deputies. She told one of them that she hadn't touched marijuana "since college in the 1960s."

As they were apparently being detained, one deputy let it slip that the Lengas "matched the profile of drug smugglers," to Sandra Lenga's chagrin.

New Jersey: Gov. Christie Says He Opposes Bill To Legalize Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Wednesday emphasized that he is against any effort to legalize marijuana in the state, weeks after a state senator introduced a bill that would make sale and possession of cannabis legal.

"I'm not going to do that on my watch," the GOP governor told a crowd of about 500 at Winston Churchill Elementary School, reports Brent Johnson at The Star-Ledger. "I'm just not. I don't think it's the right thing to do for our state."

State Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) last month introduced a bill that would regulate the cultivation, possession and sale of recreational marijuana, providing new tax revenue for the state.

"It's time to update our archaic drug laws and get real about the detrimental effects they are having on the lives of residents in New Jersey," Scutari said.

A Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released on Wednesday showed that nearly 60 percent of New Jersey adults believe alcohol and tobacco are more risky than marijuana. But residents are still split on whether to legalize, with 48 percent in favor of allowing adults to buy small amounts, and 47 percent opposed.

Christie, who has his eye on the White House in 2016, has long said he is against relaxing the marijuana laws because that would "the wrong message" to kids.

Washington: Suquamish Tribe Approaches State About Marijuana Sales

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Suquamish Tribe of Washington state is exploring the idea of selling marijuana on their reservation at Port Madison.

The native American tribe proposed a deal with the Washington State Liquor Control Board earlier this year that would allow cannabis sales by the tribe and tribally-approved businesses, reports Tad Sooter at the Kitsap Sun.

The liquor board hasn't taken any formal action on the tribe's proposal, according to spokesman Brian Smith. Because the reservation is under federal rather than state jurisdiction, and marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the WSLCB will defer to the federal government on cannabis policies affecting the tribe, Smith said.

"I would not expect us to issue any licenses without some defining statement from the Department of Justice," Smith said on Wednesday.

Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman said the tribe hopes to discuss with the Liquor Control Board how they can become involved in legal marijuana sales. The tribe has a "responsibility to explore business opportunities that may help raise funds for its people and government," Forsman said in a statement released to the media.

"[T]he production and sale of marijuana on our tribal lands is simply something we are exploring and thought it vital to approach the Liquor Control Board as part of that process," Forsman said. The chairman noted that cannabis remains prohibited on the reservation under tribal law.

U.S.: Rev. Sharpton's National Action Network Convention To Address Failed Drug War

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President Obama, AG Holder, NY Gov. Cuomo, NYC Mayor DeBlasio and DPA’s Art Way to Speak at National Action Network (NAN) Convention April 9-14

Convention to Address Major Civil Rights Issues, Including the Failed Drug War and Mass Incarceration

President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio will all join Reverend Al Sharpton at his National Action Network’s annual national convention being held April 9-12 in New York, NY.

The conference is being billed as the largest civil rights convening of the year bringing the nation’s top activists, political strategists and leading academia together to create an action plan for a civil rights agenda. Participants will address key policy issues such as jobs, voter ID and immigration; which will be key in this midterm election year.

The conference is also focusing on the failed drug war and mass incarceration. A panel called “Up in Smoke: Banning of Menthol, Legalization of Marijuana & Criminalization of African Americans” will address racial justice and the war on drugs.

"We are at a critical point where momentum to end the drug war and mass incarceration is gaining traction,” said Art Way, Senior Policy Manager, Colorado, of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “It's not time to let up, it's time to ramp up."

Oregon: Grassroots Cannabis Campaign Gathering Signatures

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Two cannabis legalization measures in Oregon are gathering signatures around the state. Initiative Petitions 21 and 22, the Oregon Cannabis Amendment and The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, are in the race for the July 3 signature deadline. Initiative 21 would end criminal penalties for cannabis, while Initiative 22 regulates and taxes cannabis, including hemp for industrial and agricultural uses.

"The people of Oregon stand with Initiatives 21 and 22 and they demonstrate this by getting involved," said campaign director Jersey Deutsch of the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH). "This is because our legislation puts an end to cannabis prohibition, ensuring no one in Oregon will be criminalized for cannabis again."

Currently CRRH has more than 20 staff members, 3,000 volunteers, and 6,000 independent Oregon donors, making them second only to Oregon United for Marriage with the largest volunteer campaign in the state.

"Volunteers join our campaign because they believe we must put an end to prohibition and criminalization, while ensuring citizens of all ages are free of cannabis related felonies," Deutsch said. "CRRH will continue the fight to end cannabis prohibition by mobilizing Oregon supporters, educating community members, fighting for patients, training and empowering volunteers, growing the campaign, and pushing legislation forward."

Sign the Petitions: I-21 and I-22: http://cannabistaxact.org/sign-petition/

New Hampshire: Majority Of Granite State Adults Support Legalizing Marijuana, Regulating It Like Alcohol

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New Granite State Poll Shows Growing Majority of New Hampshire Adults Support Making Marijuana Legal and Regulating It Like Alcohol; Three Out of Five Support the Decriminalization Bill Currently Moving Through the State Legislature

UNH-WMUR survey finds 55% think marijuana possession should be legal — up from 53% in 2013 — and 61% support HB 1625, which would reduce the penalty for possession of limited amounts of marijuana to a $100 civil fine

The annual WMUR Granite State Poll released Wednesday by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows a growing majority of New Hampshire adults support making marijuana legal and regulating it like alcohol.

The survey found 55 percent percent support making possession of small amounts of marijuana legal in New Hampshire — up from 53 percent in 2013 — and 67 percent approve of marijuana being sold in licensed retail outlets and taxed at levels similar to alcohol if marijuana possession becomes legal.

"Marijuana prohibition has been an ineffective and wasteful policy," said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Voters are increasingly becoming fed up with it, and they're ready to replace it with a more sensible system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol."

U.S.: Snoop Dogg To Rally Support For Cannabis Movement At Wellness Retreats In Seattle And Denver

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A record 58 percent of Americans now believe cannabis should be legal and regulated similarly to alcohol and tobacco. With Washington and Colorado at the forefront of the movement to end cannabis prohibition, Seattle-based Leafly is sponsoring Snoop Dogg's Wellness Retreat concerts at the WAMU Theater in Seattle on 4/19 and at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver on 4/20.

Guests in Seattle will join Snoop (aka Snoop Lion), Wiz Khalifa and other special guests. Denver guests will join Snoop, Wiz, YG and Smoke DZA as they take over Red Rocks Theater.

In addition, online cannabis information and education resource Leafly has partnered with Snoop Dogg to launch the #MyLeaf social media contest, giving fans the chance to be Leafly's behind-the-scenes photographer at Snoop's Wellness Retreat. Participating in the #MyLeaf contest is easy: tag @Leafly and use #MyLeaf with a photo or video on Twitter, Instagram or Vine that showcases creative/artistic support for the cannabis movement.

Entries are accepted between now and Monday, April 14 at 11:59pm PDT. Full terms and conditions can be found http://bit.ly/snoopleaf.

"Snoop's Wellness Retreat represents a movement that's changing mindsets around cannabis," according to Leafly, a leading source of information on cannabis strains and where to legally access them.

Colorado: Student Dies In Fall After Eating Pot Cookie

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A 19-year-old college student from Wyoming on spring break in Colorado fell to his death after eating a marijuana-laced cookie, the Denver coroner said on Wednesday. It was called "the state's first death linked to marijuana" since recreational legalization was implemented with the opening of cannabis stores in January.

The heavy attention the death got in the press serves to highlight just how rare and unusual "deaths linked to marijuana" really are, and also the fact that even when deaths are supposedly "linked" to cannabis, they aren't caused by the herb itself, but by human errors of judgment. Of course, that doesn't prevent it from being labeled a "marijuana death" in sensationalistic press accounts.

Leva Thamba Pongi, a student at the University of Wyoming, died after falling from a Holiday Inn balcony on March 11, reports Carlo Dallaverson at NBC News. Denver Police claim they are still investigating the death, but the autopsy lists the cause of accidental death as "multiple injuries due to a fall from height," and says "marijuana intoxication is a significant contributing factor."

New York: Marijuana Most Prominent Issue Facing Legislature, Governor

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana has become the most prominent issue faced by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers in the second half of the 2014 session, according to political observers, with advocates pushing to make the Empire State the 21st to legalize cannabis for medicinal uses.

Gov. Cuomo remains stubbornly opposed to a functional medical marijuana program, even as a growing number of legislators have lined up in support, reports Yancey Roy at Newsday.

Others, such as Bay Shore Republican Senator Phil Boyle, are pushing for a limited CBD-only bill which would legalize concentrated oils derived from marijuana, but would prohibit smokable cannabis flowers.

Cuomo is up for reelection and is reportedly considering a 2016 Presidential run. He slightly shifted his position this year, in the face of overwhelming support for medicinal cannabis, by proposing an extremely limited medical marijuana research program.

His plan would revive an obscure 1980 law to begin a medical marijuana research program in which 20 New York hospitals could dispense medicinal cannabis under strict conditions. The program would use marijuana seized in drug busts, according to Cuomo.

"I'm not proposing a law, so it's not the Legislature telling me what I have to do," Gov. Cuomo said. "And that gives me great comfort because if it goes bad, we can correct or improve all within our own control."

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