Activists Promise 'Big Announcement' Next Week
Paul Stanford: "These measures are going to be on the ballot"
In light of recent news that the Oregon Legislature has abandoned meaningful reforms, initiative activists are moving forward with a new phase in their campaign to end criminal penalties for marijuana.
"We salute the efforts of Representative Peter Buckley and other progressive-minded legislators," said chief petitioner Paul Stanford, "and we are ready to pick up where they fell and bring a pair of ballot initiatives restoring the progressive pioneer spirit that Oregon is well known for."
Oregon has lagged behind other Western states in bringing reform to marijuana law. Two initiative petitions, IP 21 and IP 22, would change that. "Prohibition doesn't work," Stanford said. "Filling our jails with nonviolent marijuana prisoners is a waste of public resources and people's future. We will end prohibition and end criminal penalties for marijuana."
Oregon's 2014 Initiative 21, a constitutional amendment to end prohibition and stop imposing criminal penalties for marijuana, has 38,000 signatures collected to date. It needs 116,284 valid registered Oregon voters' signatures by July 3rd to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.
Initiative 22, a proposed statute to regulate and tax marijuana, and allow farmers to grow hemp for fuel, fiber and food, has gathered 25,000 signatures. It needs 87,213 valid registered Oregon voters' signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
By Steve Elliott
Wait, this is legalization? Colorado's police chiefs are asking the state for more money for "marijuana enforcement," whining that they are "disappointed" in Governor John Hickenlooper's plan for how to spend cannabis taxes.
In a letter sent to the Governor earlier this week, the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police complained that Hickenlooper's plan has no money specifically for local law enforcement, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post. The letter asks Hickenlooper to support the creation of a program to give grants to police departments to "cover extra costs related to marijuana legalization."
If that sounds strange, after hearing all these years how marijuana legalization would save on law enforcement costs, then yeah. It surely does.
"Many of our local law enforcement agencies have diverted staff from other operations into marijuana enforcement, leaving gaps in other service areas as a direct result of marijuana legalization," the letter whines.
The association wants the marijuana money for training officers to identify stoned drivers; buying "oral fluid testing" to catch impaired drivers; and creating a statewide database of "marijuana crimes."
By Steve Elliott
The Washington State Liquor Control Board on Wednesday issued the state's first licenses to produce and process recreational marijuana during a Board meeting at its headquarters in Olympia.
The licenses were issued to Sean Green of Spokane, who will be doing business as Kouchlock Productions.
"This is a historic day," said Board Chair Sharon Foster. "The hard work and preparation this agency has done has laid the foundation to make this pioneering endeavor a success."
Kouchlock Productions is licensed to produce and process -- but not sell -- recreational marijuana. It holds a restricted tier-three license to produce marijuana initially up to a maximum of 21,000 square feet.
The company is one of more than 2,800 producer license applications that the WSLCB is currently processing. Licenses will be continuously issued as they are ready.
The WSLCB will update weekly its list of pending and active marijuana licenses on the Frequently Requested Lists page of the public records section of its website.
UN Wants US Federal Government to Crack Down On Colorado and Washington
By Steve Elliott
The United Nations drug watchdog group, the International Narcotics Control Board, on Tuesday released its 2014 Annual Report, in which it "deeply regrets" the states of Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana and said that cannabis legalization poses a "very grave danger to public health."
The INCB is in charge of enforcing international drug treaties, so it's no surprise that the body would take a dim view of moves towards cannabis legalization in the United States and Uruguay, because such moves are technically in violation of international drug treaties, reports Alan Travis of The Guardian.
The annual report claims that marijuana in Colorado has led to increases in car accidents involving "drug drivers" (the statistics actually show otherwise), and that marijuana-related treatment admissions are on the rise.
"Drug traffickers will choose the path of least resistance, so it is essential that global efforts to tackle the drug problem are unified," said INCB President Raymond Yans. "When governments consider their future policies on this, the primary consideration should beg the long-term health and welfare of the population."
By Steve Elliott
California Governor Jerry Brown said on Sunday that he isn't convinced this marijuana legalization business is such a good idea, because folks need to "stay alert."
"The problem with anything, a certain amount is OK," "Moonbeam" Brown said on NBC's "Meet The Press," reports The Huffington Post. "But there is a tendency to go to extremes.
"And all of a sudden, if there's advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?" Brown asked. (Our answer is a hell of a lot of them, Governor.)
"The world's pretty dangerous, pretty competitive," Brown said. "I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together."
A recent poll showed that a majority of Californians support marijuana legalization.
The Governor noted that California already allows medical marijuana, but said he isn't sold on the idea of recreational legalization until he sees how that works out for Colorado and Washington. "I'd really like those two states to show us how it's going to work," he said.
By Steve Elliott
A Democratic representative has introduced a bill into the Wisconsin Assembly to legalize marijuana, and the bill has attracted six Democratic co-sponsors, but Republican Governor Scott Walker says not so fast.
LRB 3671 would legalize marijuana for recreational and medical purposes in Wisconsin. Its sponsor, Rep. Melissa Sargent, said the bill is a "good start" to bringing better cannabis policies to the state.
"After researching this issue extensively, I believe that this bill will benefit Wisconsin and its citizens in many ways, including: addressing racial disparities in arrests, providing medical benefits, time and cost savings to law enforcement, and additional revenue for the state," Rep. Sargent posted on her website.
But Gov. Walker remains unconvinced. "I don't think you're going to see anything serious anytime soon here, but if other states did, maybe in the next Legislative session there'd be more talk about it," he said.
Walker said he spoke with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper at last week's National Governor's Association Meeting, where Hickenlooper said his state would see $134 million in sales tax revenue from marijuana this year -- a much higher figure than expected, reports WITI.
"He talked about the upsides of the revenue," Walker said. "He also talked about how they weren't rushing to spend that on other things because, he said, it's early and they're still concerned about the side effects."
By Steve Elliott
Alaska's voters will decide on August 19 if the state will be third to legalize marijuana and regulate and tax it sale.
Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on Wednesday ordered election officials to put the issue on the ballot, confirming that an initiative effort satisfied the legal requirements, reports Steven Nelson at US News.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska turned in more than 45,000 signatures on January 8, about 36,000 of which were validated by state officials. Just more than 30,000 signatures were required to qualify for the ballot.
"A bipartisan tidal wave of public support for regulating marijuana like alcohol in Alaska has pushed this issue onto the ballot, and we will be running an aggressive campaign designed to build on that momentum," said CRMA spokesman Taylor Bickford.
Adults 21 and older would be allowed to have up to an ounce of weed and grow six plants at home if the initiative passes.
Stores selling cannabis would be licensed by the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board; the Legislature would have the option of creating a Marijuana Control Board.
A quirk in Alaska state law allows the ballot question to appear on the August ballot with primary elections of political parties, rather than on the November general election ballot.
By Steve Elliott
I guess no group is immune to ignorance. A group representing 57 Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday morning announced it opposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes.
The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians are hurting my heart, announcing they have passed a resolution calling for the group to work closely with the dim-witted Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) anti-cannabis group spearheaded by former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy and former federal drug policy advisor Kevin Sabet.
The Native American organization and SAM on Wednesday morning jointly released a statement that the tribes "stand strongly in opposition" to legalized marijuana in the Pacific Northwest, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. The group represents tribal governments in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, southeast Alaska, northern California and western Montana.
The Indian tribes "stand with SAM in support of their principles," said Simon Lee Sampson of Yakama Nation.
According to a statement from the Native American group, it supports "drug prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery efforts that focus on reducing marijuana use, especially among youth."
"We cannot deny that marijuana legalization will have a devastating impact on our communities and we want none of it," said a deeply clueless Sampson.
By Steve Elliott
Despite hostility from Governor Martin O'Malley, Maryland lawmakers are moving forward on bills which would either reduce marijuana penalties, or legalize cannabis entirely.
Dozens of people on Tuesday testified before legislators and called for an end to the state's war on marijuana, which they said has done more harm than good, reports Megan Brockett at Capital News Service.
One bill would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to a ticket and a fine, reports Pat Warren at CBS Baltimore. The other would make pot legal for adults 21 and older, with regulation and taxes.
In a heated debate, proponents of both bills pointed to what they called the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition, including barriers to employment and education created by pot arrests and the racial disparities that often surface in enforcement. In 2010, Maryland had the fourth-highest marijuana arrest rate in the nation, with African-Americans being arrested for possession at higher rates than whites in every county in the state, according to a report released last October by the American Civil Liberties Union.
By Steve Elliott
A group in Texas called Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) will hold their inaugural meeting in Houston on March 15. According to RAMP, the group "serves as a voice for all Republicans who opposed the failed policy of prohibition."
The meeting, which will be held at King Street Patriots, "will highlight the fundamentals of marijuana policy," according to the group. "RAMP will explore the four major initiatives gaining traction nationwide: medical marijuana, decriminalization, industrial hemp, and the legalization model to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol," according to a press release.
RAMP says its mission is to "work within the GOP to educate and connect with lawmakers, party leadership, and grassroots activists."
According to the group's founder and executive director, Ann Lee, the conservative principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and individual liberty are the focal point of RAMP's message. "RAMP believes these core Republican ideals have been greatly eroded by government policies that criminalize responsible adults for using cannabis," a statement from the group reads.
Lee, the group's founder, is a lifelong Republican, octogenarian, and mother of five sons. She changed her viewpoint on marijuana after a workplace accident left her son, Richard Lee, as a paraplegic.
Anti-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Accidentally Highlight Own Ignorance of Drug War Issues
Pro-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Guardedly Optimistic About Future of Law Enforcement
I wish I could've been there. A clueless police chief was practically laughed out of the Maryland Legislature on Tuesday.
The oppositional side of the hearing on legalization and regulation of marijuana in the Maryland Senate turned into a comedy of errors, courtesy of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and Maryland Sheriffs’ Association. The gallery erupted in laughter and outrage after Annapolis Chief of Police Michael Pristoop cited a hoax story about deaths attributed to marijuana overdose in Colorado. He was publicly corrected by one of the presiding senators, who pulled up the hoax on his phone and explained the story was a joke.
Other questionable statements included Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis’s point that marijuana shouldn’t be legalized because police would have to retrain expensive drug-sniffing police dogs, an officer making light of the dangers of alcohol use, a DA asserting “no one goes to jail for marijuana,” and comments on how absent (constitutionally required) probable cause other than the supposed smell of marijuana, police would be less able to conduct pretextual stops such as stop-and-frisk.
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana legalization is on the move in the New Hampshire Legislature, with the House Ways and Means Committee reviewing HB 492, which gained initial approval from the House on a 170-162 vote last month.
A report, including expected revenues and regulatory expenses, is expected from the committee as soon as next month, reports John Toole at the Eagle Tribune.
Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), said he expects HB 492 to have smooth sailing in the House, but not the Senate. "We think it will pass in the House," he said. "We have no illusions about it passing the Senate or becoming law this year."
But, either way, Simon said, it's advancing the ball down the field. "This sets us up well in a year or two to pass something like that," he said.
The House passed a similar bill last year, which then died in the Senate. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who opposes legalization, would likely veto any such bill that reached her desk, in any event.
"Legalizing marijuana won't help us address out substance use challenge," Hassan said in her State of the State address this month. "Experience and data suggests it will do just the opposite," she claimed.
"The evidence suggests that legalizing marijuana will increase the number of minors who use this drug, will make our workforce less productive and our roads less safe, and will undermine public health," Hassan claimed.
By Steve Elliott
A advocacy group on February 17 launched an online petition to legalize and regulate cannabis in the European Union. The petition, called "Weed Like To Talk," is on The European Citizens' Initiative petition site operated by the European Commission.
The petition says it offers "A European solution to a European problem: legalizing cannabis."
"The ECI Weed Like To Talk aims at making the EU adopt a common policy on the control and regulation of cannabis production, use and sale," the petition site reads.
"There is currently a heterogeneous legal map as regards cannabis policies in the EU," the petition reads. "The question of coherence and discrimination is worth asking. A common policy on the control and regulation of cannabis production, use and sale would: (a) ensure equality before the law and non-discrimination of all EU citizens; (b) protect consumers and monitor health security; (c) end cannabis trafficking. Let’s leap toward the legalization of cannabis and the harmonization of national legislations across the EU."
"While cannabis has become a worldwide debate over the last decades, the European Union somehow managed to avoid it," the Weed Like To Talk site reads. "It cannot do so anymore."
"Our aim is to legalize cannabis production, sale and use at the European Union level while checking if the ECI fulfills its mission of participatory democracy," the site reads.
Board to limit individual production, will begin issuing producer and processor licenses soon
The Washington State Liquor Control Board (Board) on Wednesday approved staff’s recommendations to limit the number of individual marijuana producer licenses to one (from the previous limit of three) and initially limit production at 70 percent, clearing a path for the agency to begin issuing producer and processor licenses.
“Today’s Board action clears an obstacle and allows the agency to begin issuing marijuana producer and processor license in the coming weeks,” said Board Chair Sharon Foster. “We believe this is the most fair and equitable way to get the market up and running.”
Single Production License Limited to 70 Percent
In its enforcement guidelines issued August 29, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice required states to ensure a tightly regulated and controlled market to prevent diversion of product to other states, sales to minors and other concerns.
The Board used available consumption data supplied by its consultant, BOTEC Analysis Corporation, to craft production limits in its rules to meet initial consumer demand without over-supplying. The rules are based on BOTEC’s input that the state can capture just "13 to 25 percent of the overall market in the first year of recreational sales."
"Additional production is likely necessary for the state to capture an increasing percentage as the market refines and matures," the Board drily noted. "Agency rules allow for flexibility to meet an evolving controlled market."
By Steve Elliott
What's up with California? Despite its reputation as a weed-friendly state and polls showing a majority of residents are ready to legalize marijuana, it looks like it's going to be at least two more years before the Golden State's going to get 'er done.
The state's top legalization measure, the Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act, was deflated on Tuesday by its backers, including the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who said they will stop gathering signatures to put it on November's ballot, reports Josh Richman at the San Jose Mercury News.
"We decided it was more important to do it right than to do it fast," said Stephen Gutwillig, the DPA's deputy executive director, on Tuesday. "We ultimately came quite close but just decided we didn't have enough of the pieces in place right now."
Fifty-five percent of Californians support cannabis legalization, according to a Field Poll in December. That's the first time in 44 years that the poll found a clear majority favoring such a change.
But that kind of support didn't bring unity to California's cannabis activists. Besides the DPA measure, two other legalization initiatives started gathering signatures in recent months, but neither seems to have the money, organization or backing to successfully qualify for the ballot.