By Steve Elliott
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder on Monday signed a new law that would allow the state to certify "pharmaceutical-grade cannabis," but the law can't take effect unless and until the federal government reclassifies marijuana as a Schedule II drug, suitable for medicinal use.
Medical marijuana has been legal since voters approved an initiative legalizing it back in 2008, but remains illegal for any purpose under federal law, reports Jonathan Oosting at MLive.com. The Obama Administration, however, has pledged to respect state marijuana laws.
Senate Bill 660, which is now Public Act 268 of 2013, provides the framework for Michigan to regulate large-scale cannabis growers and sell marijuana in pharmacies if the federal government recategorizes it in the future.
The "pharmaceutical-grade" marijuana registry would not replace Michigan's current medical marijuana law, which uses a patient-caregiver model, according to its backers, but patients would have to give up their current medical marijuana cards if they want to participate.
Corinne Tobias, an author, cook and farmer living in Durango, Colorado wants to teach cannabis users how to create simple and organic edibles from the legal marijuana that will be available starting on January 1. She says Wake & Bake: a Cookbook will be the first legal cannabis cookbook released in the state and will be available online, in dispensaries, and at independent bookstores in early 2014.
The project began in September when Tobias became surrounded by fresh marijuana prunings and an abundance of produce. She began infusing organic Coconut Oil with the trim and started incorporating the healthy and potent alternative to butter in breakfast, brunch and baking recipes. The coconut oil was dubbed the “Green Monsta Oil” for its electric green color and its strength.
The book features organic, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free recipes, and includes an ingredient conversion chart so everyone can use the book regardless of dietary restrictions or habits.
Tobias’ childhood friend Aja Kolinski signed on as the book’s designer and in November, they launched a small Kickstarter campaign to fund the book’s first printing. In less than 8 days, the project was fully funded.
“After living in the North, the South, and the Midwest, I never thought I’d live in a state where marijuana would be legal," said Tobias. "It feels so free. Like anything is possible.
By Steve Elliott
Uruguay President Jose Mujica's plan to create and regulate the world's first modern national marijuana market now is the law of the land in this small South American nation, and those who have, until now, been black market cannabis growers are starting to come out into the open.
Symbols of marijuana are seen everywhere in Uruguay, reports The Associated Press. Pot-leaf t-shirts are sold on the streets, the music of Bob Marley and the Wailers plays on the radio, and cultivation shops are doing a brisk business.
But those who are buying lights, soil and irrigation equipment to grow weed could get in legal trouble if they don't wait to start growing until after the government launches its registration and licensing system, Uruguay's drug czar said on Thursday.
"From a strictly formal point of view, you still can't [grow]," said Julio Calzada, secretary general of the national drug junta. "Until the regulations are in place, there's no way to legally have marijuana plants in your house."
Once registered and licensed, though, any citizen of Uruguay will be allowed to either grow plants at home, joint a cannabis-growing club, or buy marijuana from pharmacies, according to Calzada. Pay particular attention to that "once registered" part, because, according to Calzada, "If a person isn't registered, he'll have legal problems, and the plants will be seized."
State agencies will begin establishing system of regulated medical marijuana cultivation and distribution to individuals with serious illnesses; patients will NOT be protected from arrest until registry is established by Dept. of Public Health
Legislation adopted this year to establish a state-regulated medical marijuana program in Illinois will go into effect Wednesday. Licensed medical marijuana cultivation and distribution facilities are expected to begin producing medical marijuana and providing it to patients in late 2014.
Patients with qualifying medical conditions will NOT be protected from arrest until the Department of Public Health has established the patient registry and approved their individual applications to the program.
"We hope state officials will work swiftly to ensure seriously ill patients no longer face legal penalties for using medical marijuana," said Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Illinois patients and their families have already waited long enough."
The Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP) will require coordination by three state agencies. The Department of Public Health will oversee the creation and management of the state's medical marijuana patient registry; the Department of Agriculture will regulate medical marijuana cultivation facilities; and the Department of Financial and Professional Responsibilities will regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
Following more than a year of planning by regulators, legislators, and entrepreneurs, the world’s first modern legal sale of regulated marijuana for social use will take place in Denver, Colorado on January 1, 2014.
This sale will kick off a year in which the legal cannabis industries are expected to generate $2.34 billion in revenues, tens of thousands of jobs, and hundreds of millions in new tax revenue. In addition to the launch of adult cannabis sales in Colorado and Washington, four states will implement safe access to medical cannabis through regulated markets and countless others are expected to reform marijuana laws leading to legal, regulated sales.
Despite the sizable economic impact of the legal cannabis industry, owners and operators struggle daily with the operational and safety challenges presented by the lack of access to basic banking services such as checking and savings accounts.
Toni Fox, the owner and operator of 3-D Cannabis Center, where the first legal sale of marijuana for adult use will take place (see details below), counts herself as fortunate to have secure money-handling options, but has fears nonetheless. “As a woman business owner, I cannot help but be concerned about the safety and security threats caused by outdated federal banking regulations,” said Fox.
“The widespread perception that cannabis retailers hold large amounts of cash, despite top-notch security and monitoring, creates an inherent danger for businesses owners, employees, and communities alike,” she said.
By Steve Elliott
Denver International Airport plans to enforce a marijuana ban in early January, becoming the first city facility to prohibit cannabis possession on its property. Airport officials claim they're trying to combat interstate pot trafficking.
The Denver City Council recently passed ordinances banning the display and transfer, but not the possession, of marijuana on city-owned property including parks, the 16th Street Mall, and streets and sidewalks near schools, report Kristen Leigh Painter and Eric Gorski at The Denver Post.
Ironically, under legalization measure Amendment 64, marijuana will be banned at the airport, when before it was allowed. Back in 2010, Denver Police and the federal Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) had announced that medical marijuana patients traveling to one of five states (Maine, Michigan, Montana, Rhode Island and Arizona) from DIA could pack their cannabis openly. Those five states recognize out-of-state medical cannabis authorizations.
"We talked to all of (the federal agencies involved), and they've expressed concern for good reason, but it was our decision based on the way the airport operates," claimed DIA spokeswoman Stacey Stegman. "We didn't want to impact other airports and other agencies, and we didn't want to facilitate transporting marijuana across state lines."
By Steve Elliott
A California ballot initiative to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana got a positive review from state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who last week released a summary saying legalization could save the state "hundreds of millions of dollars."
Harris's summary of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act (MCLR) explained that it would legalize under California law the use, cultivation, possession, transportation, storage and sale of cannabis, reports Robin Wilkey at The Huffington Post.
"Reduced costs in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders," the fiscal analysis reads. "Potential net additional tax revenues in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually related to the production and sale of marijuana, a portion of which is required to be spent on education, health care, public safety, drug abuse education and treatment, and the regulation of commercial marijuana activities."
By Steve Elliott
A so-called "child welfare check" led to the arrest of a prominent Alabama medical marijuana activist after deputies discovered a cannabis growing operation in Cullman County.
The call to the Cullman County Sheriff's Office for a child welfare check resulted in the arrest of Chris Butts, 42, his girlfriend Sonja Franks, 46, Stephen Franks, 22, and Amber Nixon, 22, after deputies claimed they smelled marijuana when Butts answered the door, reports CullmanSense.
Chris Butts serves as the executive director of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition (AMMJC), a group focused on changing Alabama laws concerning medical marijuana.
The call to the sheriff's office came from his ex-wife DJ Butts, Chris Butts claimed in a Saturday Facebook status update apparently made from the back of a police cruiser. "Was just raided," Butts posted Saturday afternoon, reports Toke Signals. "I'm in the back of a transport right now [...] DJ set me up. If you are friends with her you should watch out."
Amid Rapid Changes Elsewhere, State Becomes First Government in World to Control and Regulate Marijuana
The eyes of the world will be on Colorado this New Year’s Day as adults 21 and over become eligible to legally buy marijuana for the first time since worldwide cannabis prohibition was instituted by the Single Convention Narcotics Treaty in 1961. Marijuana has been illegal in the United States since 1937.
Sales will be tightly controlled, regulated like alcohol is currently, and subject to a number of restrictions preventing sales to minors, intoxicated driving, smoking in public and other undesirable behavior. The Colorado Legislative Council estimates marijuana will generate $67 million in tax revenue annually.
“This Wednesday Coloradans stop buying marijuana from street gangs and cartels and start buying it from licensed, regulated sellers who create jobs and pay taxes to the government,” said 36-year policing veteran Lieutenant Tony Ryan (Ret.), a board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. “Soon our jails will be less crowded, our schools will be better funded, and our police more able to focus on violent crime.”
By Steve Elliott
Last spring, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (MASA) conducted a survey of its physicians regarding their stance on medical marijuana, seemingly at the request of the House Health Committee. Everybody agrees that the survey took place -- but there's a debate raging in the Heart of Dixie over what the survey showed.
Medical marijuana advocates for the past week have been peppering MASA and state officials with emails urging the release of the survey's results, which have never seen the light of day, reports Brian Lyman at The Montgomery Advertiser.
"Alabama Safe Access Project (ASAP) has long thought that the reason that the results of the survey have never been released is because they did not yield the results that (House Health Committee Chairman Jim) McClendon and (MASA President Dr. Michael) Flanagan had hoped for," one of the emails reads. "This week we have been told that is the case."
But MASA is claiming the survey was "inconclusive" and "did not reveal any new information."
Now, how, exactly, a first-ever survey of Alabama doctors regarding medical marijuana could NOT "reveal any new information" is an interesting question in itself. It looks an awfully lot as if MASA is stonewalling.
"There was a survey done," said MASA spokesman Niko Corley. "The results were very inconclusive. The data was not released due to its inconclusivity."
By Steve Elliott
After a long, hard battle for access to the medical marijuana which could help their 2-1/2-year-old daughter, Vivian, Brian and Meghan Wilson are finally giving up and moving to Colorado.
The family of the New Jersey toddler who became a symbol in a drive to change the state's medical marijuana laws this year is leaving the state to gain safe access for their child after Gov. Chris Christie gruffly refused to sign a bill which would have done so, saying "He's done" expanding medical access to cannabis in "his state."
The Wilsons say they're heading to Colorado because once there, they can buy an edible form of Charlotte's Web, a high-CBD strain of cannabis they believe will help Vivian with her severe epileptic seizures due to Dravet syndrome.
Vivian has a medical marijuana card (after getting the approval of three doctors) and is New Jersey's youngest registered patient. But all three dispensaries currently operating in the state only sell cannabis in smokable form, reports Jan Hefler at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Wilsons were leaders in a successful push earlier this year for an initial expansion of New Jersey's medical marijuana law, allowing the sale of more medicinal cannabis strains and edible forms for minors in the state. But after that expansion still didn't result in access to the CBD oil Vivian needs, the Wilsons are calling it quits and moving.
By Steve Elliott
Two men who allegedly sold medical marijuana illegally from a Bay City dispensary have taken plea offers.
Ernest R. Rahn, 57, on December 19 pleaded guilty to single counts of manufacturing or delivering marijuana, and "maintaining a drug house," reports Cole Waterman at MLive.com. In exchange for the guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed to drop four counts of manufacturing or delivering marijuana.
Terry L. Horner, 59, one of Rahn's two codefendants, in November accepted a similar plea deal, pleading guilty to single counts of manufacturing or delivering marijuana and "maintaining a drug house," and the prosecution agreed to drop sevem counts of manufacturing or delivering marijuana. As part of the deal, prosecutors also agreed to dismiss all three charges against Horner's wife, Peggy Horner, 55, which included three counts of manufacturing or delivering marijuana.
The three began running E.T. Education & Compassion Club in Bay City in 2010. The Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement Team (BAYANET) raided the club on August 31, 2011, along with the Horners' home in Essexville and Rahn's home in Frankenlust Township.
Denver Issuing Marijuana Retail Store Licenses
Amendment 64 campaign leaders to hold January 1 news conference at 3-D in Denver — a licensed marijuana retail store with on-site cultivation facility
Leaders of the campaign that made marijuana legal in Colorado will gather January 1 at 3-D (Denver’s Discreet Dispensary) — a licensed retail marijuana store with on-site cultivation facility — to recognize the first-ever legal marijuana sales to adults.
A news conference with the owner of 3-D will be held at 7:30 a.m. MT on Wednesday, and the first sale will take place at 8 a.m. MT. The store is located at 4305 Brighton Boulevard in Denver.
The Denver Department of Excise and Licensing began issuing the first local marijuana business licenses on Friday, December 27, and 3-D is set to receive one. It received its state license earlier this week from the Colorado Department of Revenue.
The first customer in January will be Sean Azzariti, a Denver-based Iraq war veteran who can now legally use marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Azzariti appeared in a Yes on 64 campaign television ad last year in which he discussed how legalization would benefit those suffering from PTSD — a condition that is not covered under Colorado's medical marijuana law despite repeated efforts to add it.
WHAT: First-ever retail marijuana sales to adults and news conference with leaders of the campaign that made marijuana legal in Colorado
By Steve Elliott
Patients in Maine won't be legally allowed to use medical marijuana to treat Tourette's syndrome, state public health officials decided this week.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) denied a request by Dr. Dustin Sulak to add Tourette's to the list of medical conditions which qualify patients for medicinal cannabis, reports The Associated Press.
Dr. Sulak said a letter signed by DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew arrived on Christmas Eve, denying the request without offering any explanation for the decision.
Sulak and his patient, Peter Hasty, had testified at a November hearing that cannabis helped Hasty's muscular tics caused by Tourette's.
Hasty said that if he couldn't use cannabis to treat several muscular tics caused by Tourette's, he would be confined to his home in Ellsworth, reports Joe Lawlor at the Morning Sentinel.
"I would not be able to go out the door," he said. "It has has vastly improved my qualify of life."
"Tourette's syndrome does have human studies showing that (marijuana) helps, and it's not like there's other good options," Dr. Sulak said.
By Steve Elliott
Since opening during the summer, Washington, D.C.'s, three medical marijuana dispensaries have served a total of only 111 patients -- and that's in a district with 600,000 residents. Not surprisingly, all three shops say they are losing money.
That's about 100 times fewer medical marijuana patients, on a per capita basis, than places like California or Oregon, which also have medicinal cannabis. What's going on?
The low numbers are because the District's medical marijuana program is considered the most restrictive in the nation, reports Becca Clemons at the Los Angeles Times. Patients can get marijuana authorizations 0only from doctors with whom they have an "ongoing relationship," and only if they have one of just four qualifying conditions: HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, or severe muscle spasms such as those caused by multiple sclerosis.
The law allows up to five dispensaries in D.C., but with the three which have opened so far struggling financially, there's no guarantee two more shops will open.
"I think there was a general expectation that the numbers would be higher," said Jeffrey Kahn, owner of the Takoma Wellness Center, one of D.C.'s three operating dispensaries.