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


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.

New Jersey: Residents More Supportive Of Marijuana Decriminalization Than Ever Before


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Support among New Jersey residents for decriminalizing marijuana is higher than ever before, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released on Tuesday.

An overwhelming majority, about 66 percent, of residents believe penalties for marijuana use should be reduced, according to the poll. That number is up from 58 percent in 2011 and 40 percent in 1972, reports Andrew George at NJ Biz. Sixty-five percent said penalties should be eliminated altogether.

Twenty-nine percent of residents said they oppose marijuana decrim.

Outright legalization of marijuana is supported by 49 percent, with 48 percent opposed.

Back in 1972, just 34 percent of adults wanted to get rid of penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana, while 56 percent did not, reports Matt Friedman at The Star-Ledger.

The poll comes about a month after state Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) introduced a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol in New Jersey.

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


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.

U.S.: Marijuana Use Changes The Brain, New Study Says


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Young adults who smoke marijuana occasionally show changes in two key areas of their brains related to emotion, motivation and decision making, with the degree of changes related to the amount of cannabis used per week, according to a new study by researchers in Boston. Other scientists quickly pointed out that the research was partially sponsored by the federal agency charged with keeping marijuana illegal.

The study is believed to be the first which indicates such changes in the the brains of young, casual marijuana users, reports Kay Lazar at The Boston Globe.

The scientists did not study whether the brain changes were related to any declines in brain function. Any speculation by the scientists themselves, therefore, or especially by journalists who sensationalize the findings, about declines in cognition or functionality is therefore completely unsupported by any evidence.

But the scientists, unfortunately including lead author Jodi Gilman, did exactly that.

Arizona: Nearly 80 Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Now Open; 126 Allowed


More medical marijuana dispensaries are open in Arizona than ever before, with nearly 80 shops now open throughout the state. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act allows for up to 126 dispensaries to open.

Many more dispensaries plan to open in 2014, according to, a medical marijuana industry website.

"As dispensaries become more common place in Arizona, the amount of interest and awareness by the public continues to increase," said Dan Kingston, president of "Over the last 12 months our site has seen significant growth in the number of visitors searching for medical marijuana doctor offices, dispensaries, jobs, news, products, discounts and other information.

"We anticipate our traffic will continue to increase drastically as the Arizona medical marijuana industry continues to expand," Kingston said.

Arizona currently has 50,000 medical marijuana patients. More than 70 percent of patients have chronic pain listed as their qualifying condition and the majority of patients are males.

Because of Arizona's "25-Mile Rule," patients who live within 25 miles of the nearest dispensary aren't allowed to grow their own cannabis. Almost all the patients in the state fall under the 25-Mile Rule, with a few rural patients the only ones still allowed to grow. One former patient advocate had a lawsuit against the rule, but its status is uncertain since he has since left the state.

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


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

U.S.: Religious Leaders Release Easter Statement Calling For End To War On Drugs


Wednesday Teleconference: Christian Leaders Discuss Role of Faith in Developing Alternatives to Criminalization of Drug Use

A broad coalition of Christian leaders has taken the occasion of the holiest day on the Christian calendar to release a statement calling for the end of the War On Drugs and mass incarceration.

“The cross that faith leaders are imploring others to take up is this unjust, and immoral war on drugs and mass incarceration of the poor. In particular, poor black and brown young adults whose futures are being ruined at the most critical point in their lives,” said Reverend John E. Jackson of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

“We are guided by our religious principles to serve those in need and give voice to those who have been marginalized and stigmatized by unjust policies,” said Reverend Edwin Sanders, who is a board member of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the Senior Servant for the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tennessee. "We cannot sit silently while a misguided war is waged on entire communities, ostensibly under the guise of combating the very real harms of drug abuse. The war on drugs has become a costly, ineffective and unjust failure."

The statement makes the following recommendations:

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


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 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 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


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."

Florida: Medical Marijuana Amendment Could Help Democrats


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida is the nation's largest swing-state politically, and Democrats there see the medical marijuana amendment on this year's ballot as a source of hope and high voter turnout in November's elections.

A constitutional amendment which would legalize medical marijuana in Florida, making it the first state in South to do so, has widespread public support, reports Michael J. Mishak of The Associated Press. The measure is particularly popular among young voters, a critical part of the Democratic coalition.

"I wish that it didn't take medical marijuana on the ballot to motivate our young voters to go and vote, because there's far too much at stake for them and their children," said Ana Cruz, former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. "But listen -- we'll take it any way we can get it."

The Florida Governor's mansion is up for grabs, as are a handful of competitive House seats. Florida could be a test case for whether increases in youth turnout in Washington and Colorado in 2012 -- when marijuana legalization initiatives were on the ballot -- was an anomaly, or part of a trend.

Activists plan to launch at least half-a-dozen legalization campaigns in battleground states in 2016.

"It's a smart move on Democrats' part, said Colorado-based Republican pollster David Flaherty. "It's going to help them, no doubt about it."

Maryland: 2 In 1 Day - 21st State To Allow Medical Marijuana, 18th State To Decriminalize Possession


Gov. Martin O’Malley signs SB 923/HB 881, which would allow patients with serious illnesses to access medical marijuana; he will also sign SB 364 Monday, making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense

Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill into law Monday making Maryland the 21st state in the nation to allow medical marijuana. He will also sign a bill Monday making Maryland the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“We applaud Gov. O’Malley for signing these important bills into law,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “The progress we’re seeing in Maryland is emblematic of what is taking place nationwide. Most Marylanders, like most Americans, are fed up with outdated marijuana prohibition policies and ready to start taking a more sensible approach.”

Senate Bill 923 and House Bill 881 are identical bills that allow state residents suffering from certain qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Possession limits and regulations governing cultivation and dispensary facilities will be determined by a state-sanctioned commission prior to implementation. The measure will officially go into effect on June 1.

Missouri: House Panel Passes Marijuana-Derived CBD Oil Bill


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill which would allow epilepsy patients to use non-psychoactive CBD marijuana extracts to control seizures passed in the House General Laws Committee with a unanimous 11-0 vote on Tuesday.

The bill, called a "hemp bill" by Rep. Caleb Jones (R-Columbia), is intended to provide legal protection for people who find little help in conventional medicine, he said, reports Rudi Keller at the Columbia Tribune.

The bill allows adults or children with "intractable epilepsy" to get a cannabis extract which is high in non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main component responsible for the high, but which also has many medicinal benefits.

"This helps the children who need it the most and keeps out the outside influences out of the state of Missouri," said Jones, who chairs the committee and likes to say "out" a lot. "This is something that is very personal to me, and that is why I am doing it."

The cannabis oil must be 5 percent of more CBD and less than 0.3 percent THC, according to Jones' bill, which, according to many medical experts, will probably limit the effectiveness of the CBD. All of the dozens of cannabinoids found in marijuana work most effective in a synergistic fashion, potentiating each others' medical benefits in what Dr. Sanjay Gupta has called the "Entourage Effect."

Alabama: Coloradans Say 'Marijuana Profiling' Prompts Traffic Stop


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 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


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


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.

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