by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the
government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be
enforced." — Albert Einstein
2014 Is Looking Like a Good Year for Marijuana Law Reform
Cannabis advocates view 2014 as an important year. Colorado and Washington’s adult-use laws, which were voted on last year, take effect January 1, and it’s the first year that those states can generate tax revenue from the legalized drug. Research by the ArcView Group, an advisory firm that connects cannabis-industry entrepreneurs, found that legalized marijuana is one of the fastest growing markets in the U.S., with profits expected to soar by 64 percent to $2.34 billion next year. Legalization supporters hope that once states and legislatures see how much state income is to be had, more lawmakers will be swayed to follow suit. And with 2014 bringing midterm elections, marijuana lobbyists are hoping that more state ballot initiatives for legalization—like the one poised for Alaska—will pass.
Currently campaigners are pushing bills to legalize in state legislatures in Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. In Oregon, there is both a legislative push and an attempt to put legalization on the ballot—despite a similar bill failing by nearly 7 points in 2012.
Meanwhile, there’s been a pronounced push just this year to introduce reforms on Capitol Hill that would change the way the national government regulates businesses that deal with marijuana and states where use is legal.
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle introduced three major pieces of legislation in 2013, aiming to eliminate legal roadblocks for marijuana. The Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act fights a current federal-banking regulation that makes it illegal for banks to give out loans or open up credit-card accounts for marijuana-affiliated businesses. As a result, all cannabis retailers, including medical dispensaries, have to operate on a purely cash basis. The bill currently has 24 cosponsors including Republican Representatives Mike Coffman of Colorado and Dana Rohrabacher of California.
Another bill, with 12 cosponsors, fights an Internal Revenue Service code that limits marijuana businesses from deducting work expenses, including rent and supplies, from their tax returns. The language was included in the code following a case in the 1980s where a drug dealer attempted to write off a yacht as a business expense. The new bill aims to level the playing field for companies who deal with marijuana, since studies show that the IRS code gives marijuana-based businesses an 87.5 percent tax rate while others businesses function at 35 percent.
A third bill takes the role of a state marijuana rights catch-all. The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act aims to codify the recent DOJ announcement that the federal government will not interfere at this time with states that have legalized marijuana. The legislation would bar the federal government from prosecuting people who use and purchase marijuana in legalized states. It now has 20 cosponsors, including four Republicans.
“The goal is simple. It’s really to alleviate the voices of cannabis business-people and then push federal laws so these businesses are treated just like any other businesses in the country,” says Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “They pay taxes, they have insurance and a payroll. These aren’t drug dealers. They are business people and ought to be treated so under federal law.”
Thanks to The Atlantic
Meet the Faces Behind the Drug Policy Reform Movement
The 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference featured an interactive photography project that encouraged attendees to create powerful statements and use social media to challenge the war on drugs. The #NoMoreDrugWar photo booth attracted the young reformer and seasoned activist alike. Attendees shared their commitment to drug policy reform by customizing messages that focused on three themes: criminal justice, marijuana legalization, and health & harm reduction.
Uruguay Is Likely to Legalize Cannabis and Set the Tone for Latin American Drug Policy
This week, Uruguay’s senate is expected to pass the world’s most far-reaching drug legalization. The marijuana regulation bill, which has been passed by the lower house of the Uruguayan parliament, will allow registered users to buy up to 40 grams a month from a chemist, registered growers to keep up to six plants, and cannabis clubs to have up to 45 members and cultivate as many as 99 plants.
The government is designing a new set of legal, commercial, and bureaucratic tools to supplant a violent illegal market in narcotics, improve public health, protect individual rights, raise tax revenues, and research the medical potential of the world’s most widely used contraband drug.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that there are 162 million cannabis users — 4% of the world’s adult population. An estimated 10% of adult Uruguayans — 115,000 people — smoke cannabis. Existing law permits consumption of “reasonable” amounts of marijuana, but forbids sales.
Uruguay is trying to bring the cannabis market under state control by undercutting and outlawing traffickers. If the bill is passed, the government will arrange for a high-quality, legal product to be sold in a safe environment at competitive prices. “If one gram costs $1 in the black market, then we’ll sell the legal product for $1. If they drop the price to 75 cents, then we’ll put it at that level,” says Julio Calzada, a presidential adviser and the head of the National Committee on Drugs.
The market in Uruguay is estimated to be worth $30 million a year, according to Martin Fernández, a lawyer with the Association of Cannabis Studies. The pharmaceutical industry will have more freedom to develop and test marijuana painkillers and other treatments than any other country. The hemp, biotech, and marijuana farming industries are other examples of marijuana-related business opportunities that Uruguay can anticipate to yield big money if marijuana is legalized, as is expected.
President José Mujica, a reluctant advocate of marijuana regulation, says that legalization in Uruguay is “not about being free and open,” but is rather “a logical step” in taking users away from the black market. “We don’t defend marijuana or any other addiction. But worse than any drug is trafficking.”
Thanks to The Guardian
August 30, 2013—Despite 75 years of federal marijuana prohibition, the Justice Department said Thursday that states can let people use the drug, license people to grow it and even allow adults to stroll into stores and buy it — as long as the weed is kept away from kids, the black market and federal property.
In a sweeping new policy statement prompted by pot legalization votes in Washington and Colorado last fall, the department gave the green light to states to adopt tight regulatory schemes to oversee the medical and recreational marijuana industries burgeoning across the country.
The action, welcomed by supporters of legalization, could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana. Alaska could vote on the question next year, and a few other states plan similar votes in 2016.
[…] “If state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust … the federal government may seek to challenge the regulatory structure itself,” the memo stated. States must ensure “that they do not undermine federal enforcement priorities,” it added.
November 5, 2013—Portland, Maine, voters on Tuesday approved legalizing recreational marijuana for residents 21 and older. The measure, Question 1, passed with about 70 percent of the vote, making Portland the first East Coast city to legalize recreational pot.
Adult residents of Portland — Maine’s largest city — may possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana under the referendum. The new measure does not permit the recreational purchase or sale of marijuana, nor does it permit its use in public spaces like parks.
[…] Medical marijuana is already legal in Maine, and the Portland referendum is seen as largely symbolic, as it does not override state or federal laws.
with marijuana now legal in washington and colorado, will the federal government respect the voters’ decision to live with legal weed? this issue will be addressed in a senate hearing next month.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next month to examine clashing state and federal marijuana laws, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced yesterday.
"It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal." Leahy wrote in a press release.
The Vermont Democrat, who has been seeking clarification on this issue since December, supports the states’ right to proceed with their new policies. "I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government,” he continued in his statement.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana last November.
These state marijuana laws conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act, which places marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance—in the same category as heroin and LSD—defined as having no medical use and high potential for abuse. Federal authorities have continued to raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal, but have remained silent on Washington and Colorado.
"There is such a gray area in the law," NORML director Allen St. Pierre told U.S. News. “It’s time somebody had a hearing. The Obama Administration has failed to address this issue at all.”
Leahy called on Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to testify at the hearing.
Last December, Leahy wrote to the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, asking how the administration would proceed in light of differences between federal and state laws. “Legislative options exist to resolve the differences between federal and state law in this area and end the uncertainty that residents of Colorado and Washington now face,” he wrote. “In order to give these options full consideration, the committee needs to understand how the administration intends to respond to the decision of the voters in Colorado and Washington.”
The hearing is scheduled for September 10.
At Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill on Pacific Avenue, firing up a “fatty” is not just condoned — it’s welcomed. Last fall, Washington state legalized recreational marijuana use, allowing people to smoke the drug in private, but not in public places such as bars. [Frankie] Schnarr, 63, has found a way around that: He’s using a space in his pub he says is private.
The second floor of his sports bar — a mammoth room with TVs, card tables, 10 pool tables, four shuffleboard tables and rows of booths — is the only pub in the state to allow the practice. It’s a rarefied realm where patrons burn joints and bowls of weed in a free-for-all fashion that’s still unknown in most of law-abiding America.
[After reading the new law and spotting a loophole, Schnarr] created what he called a private room on his bar’s second floor, with enhanced ventilation, and invited members (for a $10 annual fee) to puff away to their lungs’ content.
They quickly became known as “Friends of Frankie.” Because they were partaking in a private room, there was no conflict with public anti-smoking laws, Schnarr insisted. More than 10,000 people signed up and received membership cards.
[…] “These stoners are polite people,” [Schnarr] said. “I haven’t heard as much ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No, sir’ in my 25 years in the bar business. And they spend money. After they start smoking, they may not drink as much. But they sure do eat.”
Uruguay is poised to become the first nation to legalize and regulate the production, sale and consumption of weed. This would place Uruguay at the vanguard of liberal drug policies, surpassing even The Netherlands, where recreational drugs are illegal but a policy of tolerance is in place.
The bill, which was passed by Uruguay’s Chamber of Deputies and will be taken up by the Senate, attempts to answer the questions that inevitably arise when debating drug policy: How will marijuana be regulated? Who will grow it? How can the country avoid cannabis tourism?
[…] The same debates about marijuana that exist in the United States — about medicinal properties, recreational use, the impact on the justice system — have been happening in Uruguay for a long time, according to Julio Calzada, secretary-general of the country’s National Committee on Drugs. The decision to push legislation to overhaul its drug policies did not come overnight.
"We have reflected on our problems," Calzada said, and the government felt that Uruguay’s tradition of tolerance and equality merited action on the marijuana issue.
Interestingly, it’s the government that’s pushing to legalize marijuana, not the people. Only 26% approve of the bill, while 63% oppose it, according to a recent poll of more than 1,000 Uruguayans. Calzada says the government “does not overlook public opinion” but believes it’s in the country’s best interest to go forward with the bill.
Police Hand Out Bags of Doritos at Seattle HempFest
Police officers descended on this past weekend’s 3-day marijuana festival, Seattle HempFest, not with handcuffs or citations, but one thousand bags of Doritos. A sticker with a brief guide to Washington’s new marijuana law was affixed to each bag, as well as a link to Marijwhatnow, the department’s guide to legal marijuana use in Seattle. Shockingly, “Operation Orange Fingers” was over in ten minutes, as festival-goers tore through the police’s entire supply of chips.
5. NYC Comptroller Proposes Marijuana Legalization
New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu released a report on Wednesday proposing the legalization and taxation of marijuana. The report commissioned by Liu revealed that the city’s pot users make up a $1.65 billion marijuana market. Liu says legalization would bring in $400 million in tax revenue, saving $31 million annually in the cost of enforcing marijuana policy. He proposed that marijuana tax revenue be used toward cutting CUNY tuition in half for native New Yorkers. “We’d be investing in young people instead of ruining their lives,” he said.
"We have to recognize that the prohibition of marijuana failed and its enforcement has damaged too many lives, especially in minority communities," said the mayoral candidate, chastising the Bloomberg administration for the disproportionate impact of rising marijuana arrests on black and Hispanic New Yorkers over the past decade. "It is economically and socially just to tax it," Liu told AP. "We can eliminate some of the criminal nature that surrounds the drug and obtain revenue from it."
Liu’s proposal calls for allowing adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use. The state would oversee private pot-selling businesses, and using marijuana in public or while driving would be prohibited. A law would have to be passed in the state legislature and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo for marijuana to be legalized in New York, so there is some way to go.
Butane hash oil (BHO)—also known as dabs, honey oil, wax, oil, shatter, or budder—is a potent marijuana concentrate that can exceed 80% THC content. Growing in popularity in recent years, BHO is hailed by some as “the future of cannabis” while others fear it could harm the image of the legalization movement. “It is very, very potent,” Nick, 21, a Physics and Applied Math double-major and avid pot smoker from New York, tells The Fix. “It’s like the first time you smoked. Every single time.”
[…] The pro-pot community is somewhat divided over dabbing. Dale Gieringer, PhD of NORML in California, says there has been a recent uptick in hospitalizations for cannabis overdose, which he attributes to rising use of BHO. "Things like this never happened until the popularization of hash oil in recent years," he writes in a letter to O’Shaughnessy’s. ”The dangers are dire enough to merit a special warning.” Others, however, praise BHO’s medical merits. Daniel “Big D” de Sailles, a partner at Denver dispensary Top Shelf Extracts, tells the High Times it’s practically a miracle remedy. “I’m a 100% proponent of BHO, because I’ve seen it make people’s pain just evaporate,” he says. “As medicine, it helps with both harm reduction—it practically cures withdrawal symptoms in people who are alcoholics or addicted to speed or pharmaceuticals— and pain management. It works every single time, and it’s easier to regulate your dosage.”
But some pro-pot activists worry that BHO could harm the herb’s reputation, setting back the legalization movement at a time when public acceptance of pot is at an all-time high. “Seeing teenagers wielding blowtorches or blowing themselves up on the evening news might incite a new anti-pot paranoia that could set the legalization movement back decades,” writes High TImes senior editor Bobby Black, who notes that the techniques used to produce dabs “bear an eerie resemblance to those used for harder drugs like meth and crack.” Meanwhile NORML’s executive director, Allen St. Pierre directly attributes BHO’s popularity to marijuana’s still mainly illegal status. “Contraband product tends to become more potent under prohibition,” he tells The Fix. “This appears demonstrably true for cannabis, as the more the government commits resources and energy to ban cannabis, the more potent the herbal drug has become over the years.”
now that pot is legal in colorado, here’s what residents can expect:
Governor John Hickenlooper signed a set of bills yesterday to establish Colorado as the world’s first legal, regulated marijuana market. Last November, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, allowing residents to possess and consume up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes, either purchased from licensed stores or homegrown. A maximum of six marijuana plants are permitted per home, while selling weed without a license or buying from an unlicensed party is still prohibited. And though local authorities may ban retail sales if they choose, home cultivation is allowed statewide. One of the measures signed, HB 1325, establishes a THC limit for drivers; those caught with 5 nanograms or more in their blood will be considered “too stoned to drive” and ticketed.
For the next nine months, only existing medical marijuana dispensaries can apply for a recreational sales license, and only Colorado residents may own or invest in the stores. When the retailers open for business, most likely in January 2014, they must label all pot products with warnings, and information on quantity and potency. Out-of-state customers may be saddened to learn that they can purchase only a quarter-ounce at a time. And marijuana-themed magazines must be kept behind the counter, like pornography; High Times and The Daily Doobie have threatened to sue.
Coloradans will decide in November whether to impose a 10% sales tax (funding the regulation of recreational marijuana) and a 15% excise tax (funding school construction), which would amount to a total rate of 25%. Some state lawmakers fear that voters will reject one or both proposals. Amendment 64 also legalized the commercial growing of hemp—which is genetically related to marijuana but has little or no THC content—though like its cousin, it remains illegal under federal law. The nation’s first major hemp crop in almost six decades was planted in southeastern Colorado earlier this month. But don’t expect to see Amsterdam-style “coffeeshops" sprouting up—they’re still banned, along with incorporated marijuana collectives and pot smoking in bars.
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- WASHINGTON: Initiative 502 legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over, but does not allow for personal cultivation, except by or for medical marijuana patients. It will license marijuana cultivation and retail and wholesale sales, with restrictions on advertising. Regulation will be the remit of the state liquor control board, which will have to come up with rules by December 2013. The measure creates a 25% excise tax on marijuana sales, with 40% of revenues dedicated to the general fund and 60% dedicated to substance abuse prevention, research, and healthcare. It also creates a per se driving under the influence standard of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.
- COLORADO: Amendment 64 allows adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or six marijuana plants, three of which can be mature. It will create a system of state-licensed cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities and state-licensed retail stores. Local governments would have the option of regulating or prohibiting such facilities. The amendment also requires the state legislature to enact legislation governing industrial hemp cultivation, processing, and sale, and to create an excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales. The first $40 million of that annual revenue will be dedicated to building public schools.