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.
Death Fuels Demand for Emergency Access to Medical Marijuana for Critically Ill Patients in New York
Anna Conte, a nine-year-old from Orchard Park, New York, who died last week after falling into a coma following a severe seizure, was laid to rest on Wednesday. Anna suffered from Dravet syndrome, a life-threatening seizure disorder that has been treated with medical marijuana in states where it is legal. Medical marijuana has dramatically reduced the number of seizures in many children with similar seizure disorders.
In an effort to help their daughter, the Conte family joined the successful fight to pass a medical marijuana bill in New York. The Contes travelled repeatedly to Albany, persuading several powerful New York senators to support the bill and generating thousands of phone calls and emails to Albany leadership. Advocates around the state came to know and love Anna and her family and admire their selfless advocacy which was always accompanied with a sense of humor.
Tragically, Anna Conte did not live long enough to benefit from the law that her family helped pass. Governor Cuomo, who signed the bill into law just days before Anna’s passing, has said that it will take 18 months or longer for New York to implement the law and develop the full medical marijuana patient access system.
Families and advocates are urgently calling upon Governor Cuomo to take immediate action establishing expedited access to medical marijuana for those patients and families, like the Conte’s, who cannot wait until the full system is up and running.
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.
Botanical medicine standards released as Colorado medical marijuana business sees first product recall in U.S.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) on Tuesday released its long-awaited medical marijuana manufacturing guidelines, completing its compendium of industry standards which include regulatory recommendations for cannabis from seed to sale. The AHPA manufacturing guidelines come as licensed Colorado business "At Home Baked" sees the country's first medical marijuana product recall.
A new nationwide program called Patient Focused Certification (PFC), a project of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), aims to bring greater standardization to the medical marijuana industry. The PFC program uses the recently completed AHPA guidelines in combination with standards set by American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) for the plant's identity, purity, quality and botanical properties. Together, these standards have the means to bring greater accountability to the industry and increased safety for patients, according to the group.
"Although medical marijuana is one of the safest medicines used today, it's important for patients to have industry standards that ensure the highest product quality and reliability," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "The AHPA guidelines issued today not only provide a blueprint for product recalls, like the one in Denver, but also establishes sound manufacturing procedures that will help avoid such recalls in the future."
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."
On Wednesday — the first anniversary of Gov. Hassan’s signing of H.B. 573 — Rep. Donald ‘Ted’ Wright will join patients and advocates at a demonstration in front of the State House
One year after New Hampshire adopted a law intended to allow seriously ill people to use medical marijuana, patients are still facing criminal penalties for marijuana possession.
On Wednesday — the first anniversary of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s signing of H.B. 573 — Rep. Donald “Ted” Wright (R-Tuftonboro) will join patients and advocates at a demonstration in front of the New Hampshire State House to discuss a list of grievances and requests to the governor. Patients will then deliver the list to Gov. Hassan’s office.
The list of grievances and requests is pasted below and available online at http://mpp.org/NHgrievances.
“Patients have nothing to celebrate on the first anniversary of New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law,” said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Implementation of the program has been beset by needless delays, and people with debilitating conditions still face criminal penalties for possessing any amount of marijuana. This situation is unacceptable.
“We’re fed up with state officials’ stonewalling,” Simon said. “It’s time to start listening to the seriously ill people the medical marijuana law was intended to help.”
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.
By Steve Elliott
Legendary actor James Garner, who portrayed two of television's most memorable characters in "Maverick" and "The Rockford Files," died on Sunday at the age of 86. Garner was a longtime supporter of marijuana legalization, and in his memoir said he'd used cannabis for 50 years, even adding "I don't where I'd be without it."
"I started smoking marijuana in my late teens," Garner wrote in his memoir,
"Grass is smooth," Garner wrote, reports Jake Ellison at the Seattle PI. "It had the opposite effect from alcohol; it made me more tolerant and forgiving."
"I smoked marijuana for 50 years," Garner wrote. "I don't know where I'd be without it. It opened my mind to a lot of things, and now its active ingredient, THC, relaxes me and eases my arthritis pain.
"I've concluded that marijuana should be legal and alcohol should be illegal," Garner wrote. "But, good luck with that."
New law allows people suffering from seizure disorders to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it; it also allows minors to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program if they receive parental consent
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday signed a bill into law that will expand access to the state’s medical marijuana program.
SB 2636, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), expands the qualifying conditions of the program to include seizure disorders, such as epilepsy and those associated with brain injuries. Illinois is now one of 23 states with workable medical marijuana programs that allow the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of seizure disorders.
“Medical marijuana is an effective treatment option for people suffering from seizure disorders,” Lindsey said. “As more elected officials become familiar with its medical benefits, more states will adopt laws that allow it.”
SB 2636 will also allow the health department to develop rules so that minors may participate in the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program if they receive parental consent in addition to recommendations from their physicians. Illinois was one of three states with workable medical marijuana programs that prohibit minors from participating.
In a report published earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a clear call for broad drug policy reforms, including decriminalization of drug use, harm reduction practices such as syringe exchange and opioid substitution therapy, and a ban on compulsory treatment for people who use drugs. This report by the United Nations’ leading health agency focuses on best practices to prevent, diagnose and treat HIV among key populations.
In a section titled “Good practice recommendations concerning decriminalization”, the WHO report makes the following recommendations:
• Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration.
• Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize the use of clean needles and syringes (and that permit NSPs [needle and syringe programs]) and that legalize OST [opioid substitution therapy] for people who are opioid-dependent.
• Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs.
By Steve Elliott
In a bit of news that surprises absolutely no one, a majority of Arizona's sheriff's and county attorneys officially oppose the legalization of marijuana. Just to make sure we know that, they helpfully approved a resolution by voice vote at their annual meeting.
The resolution came as marijuana advocates have selected Arizona for a legalization drive for 2016, reports Yvonne Wingett Sanchez at the Arizona Republic. The Marijuana Policy Project plans to pursue full recreational legalization through a voter initiative in the state.
The resolution adopted by a voice vote of the Arizona County Attorney & Sheriff's Association meeting includes nearly two dozen whiney points outlining why the group refuses to join the 21st Century. It includes such fanciful Reefer Madness claims as marijuana being harmful to teen IQ (it actually grows brain cells) and pot use "leading to risky behavior."
The exercise in futility, I mean the law enforcement resolution, cites more than two pages of references to support its outlandish statements.
Graphic: 420 Petition
Advocates have come together with medical, public policy, labor and New York government affairs experts to create the Medical Cannabis Industry Alliance of New York (MCIA), which says it is designed to help State regulators create the safest and most effective medical marijuana program in the nation.
“This new association will work to bring the best practices from around the country and meld them with the unique needs of New York State’s diverse communities, so we have the safest and most effective program possible,” said Melissa Hilt, a founding board member of MCIA. “We recognize the enormous challenge, and workload, the State regulators face in the coming months.
"We hope to be a resource that allows that work to proceed efficiently so we can ensure this program is up and running as soon as possible so patients can get the relief they so desperately need,” she said.
Individual companies seeking to enter New York's medical marijuana market are not allowed to talk with regulators, according to Health Department officials, reports Benjamin Oreskes at the Albany Times Union. The state agency said it was trying to determine the legality of its personnel holding discussions with a trade group like the MCIA, but remained open to the possibility.
By Steve Elliott
Agriculture officials in Oregon have for months now been working on rules for industrial hemp production, with a goal of having them finished in time for a Spring 2015 planting. But one man from Portland doesn't want to wait.
Rick Rutherford, 47, has some land in Dufur, and he doesn't want to wait, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. Rutherford, who said he sees big potential for industrial hemp, last week sent an application to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, requesting permission to grow hemp on his land in Wasco County.
"Time is of the essence as planting seeds needs to be underway within the next couple of weeks to conduct a viable outdoor research pilot program in Oregon," wrote Courtney Moran, a Portland lawyer, in a letter accompanying Rutherford's application.
"I think it will be kind of fun to do," Rutherford said. "I have been itching to do this for a long time."
State officials on Thursday said they aren't ready to start issuing hemp-growing licenses. The rule writing process has been torturously slow, as officials labor of licensing fees and processing rules.
The Farm Bill approved by Congress earlier this year allows states where industrial hemp is legal -- including Oregon -- to permit hemp production by universities and state agriculture departments. Sixteen states allow hemp cultivation.