By Steve Elliott
Portland should ease its restrictions on marijuana stores in the downtown area to encourage development of a "green light district," according to one city commissioner.
"We have a nightlife district," Commissioner Dan Saltzman said, reports Willamette Week. "Why not have a green light district?"
The Portland City Council on Wednesday will consider amendments to its recently adopted weed regulations, including a requirement for at least 1,000 feet between retail pot stores. Saltzman said he plans to introduce another amendment on Wednesday which would lift the 1,000-foot buffer entirely in central Portland, which includes downtown and the Lloyd District.
Marijuana stores would still be required to be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, Saltzman said.
The commissioner's plan would require two more votes from the City Council. It grew from his concern and frustration over Portland's over-regulation of weed after voters approved legalization.
"It seems like it's creating a nightmare out there, on top of already complicated rules from the state," he said.
Loosening the rules downtown would make it possible for pot shops to cater to tourists, while also protecting the rest of Portland's neighborhoods from being unduly impacted by the proliferation of shops, according to Saltzman.
"Downtown can cater to 'green' tourism -- a new kind of green tourism," he said.
HOBO Unveils Latest Effort In Continuing PSA Campaign To End Prohibition Of Marijuana
Creative Audio/Content Production House Releases “Very Presidential” -- New TV/Internet Spot Designed To Highlight Hypocrisy Of Current Marijuana Laws.
By Steve Elliott
A new TV/Internet PSA spot has just been unveiled which is designed to expose the federal government’s fraudulent handling of marijuana as a Schedule I drug (considered most dangerous, equivalent in danger to heroin and more dangerous than cocaine and methampetamine, both of which are considered Schedule II).
The spot was produced HOBO – the creative audio post and content production company led by company Founder/President Howard Bowler. The PSA will be available to grassroots organizations for use on websites, social networks and during live community events.
A version of the spot "will target states such as Ohio where marijuana legalization measures are on the ballot," according to a HOBO press release, although one finds oneself wishing other states would be spotlighted, since Ohio's legalization measure is easily the worst in the nation, as it hands control of commercial growing in the state to the 10 wealthy investors who financed the campaign.
By Steve Elliott
Concerned citizens and advocates packed a Monday hearing to debate proposed regulations of the city's medical marijuana industry.
The Detroit City Council is weighing a proposal that includes a licensing plan for the city's approximately 150 medical cannabis dispensaries, reports Joe Guillen at the Detroit Free Press. The proposal would also create zoning restrictions on how close the shops can operate to schools, churches and other dispensaries.
Patients at the hearing said they feel safe buying medicinal cannabis at dispensaries, which often have a security guard onsite. "There is a security guard there who is able to handle any situation that may come upon me," Pamillian McNary said. "When I go to (the drug store), I don't know what will happen to me."
Councilman James Tate introduced his proposal last month. In addition to establishing licensing and zoning requirements, it would ban drive-through dispensaries and prevent them from staying open around the clock. Shops couldn't be located within 1,000 feet of schools, religious institutions or public parks, or be within 2,000 feet of another dispensary.
The Detroit planning commission is scheduled to discuss the zoning restrictions at its Thursday meeting. Monday's public hearing dealt with the licensing portion of Tate's proposal.
After almost 20 years without statewide regulations, California Governor Jerry Brown on Friday signed historic legislation creating a legal framework for medical cannabis.
"This is an important first step that will allow California's cannabis industry to come out of the shadows and into the light," said California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) executive director Nate Bradley. "California will now be able to take it’s rightful place as the center of investment and innovation in the cannabis economy.
"Governor Brown and his colleagues in the legislature have just given the green light to let California’s cannabis industry become the thriving, tax-paying, job-creating industry it was always destined to become," Bradley said.
California has is the largest legal cannabis market in the US. -- representing $1.3 billion in annual sales and nearly half the legal U.S. market, according to Bradley. "The signing of the Medical Marijuana Regulation & Safety Act (MMRSA) is an important milestone, nearly 20 years in the making," Bradley said.
"Today’s signing represents the most significant victory for the industry since Washington and Colorado legalized recreational use in 2012," Bradley said on Friday.
"That said, we believe parts of the bills need fixing," Bradley said. "We will pursue clean up legislation -- and take part in the rulemaking process -- to address these issues.
Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act Will Establish State-Level Regulation in California
By Steve Elliott
Governor Jerry Brown on Friday signed the trio of bills known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act that will establish regulation of commercial medical cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and transportation, as well as create a state-level licensing system in California for the first time since the medical cannabis program was enacted in 1996.
The bills establish a new agency within the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which will oversee the system and work with other agencies that will be involved in licensing key areas of activity, such as cultivation and testing. The bureau will develop detailed rules by January 2017, and businesses will begin to apply for state licenses in January 2018, at which point the current system of collectives and cooperatives will be phased out. Medical marijuana businesses will need to obtain local approval to continue operating.
The California Legislature passed Assembly Bills 243 and 266 and Senate Bill 643 on September 11th, with overwhelming support in both the Assembly and the Senate.
“Governor Brown’s approval of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act ushers in a new era in California,’” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta, the lead sponsor of AB 266. “Patients will have more assurances that their products are safe.
By Steve Elliott
Voters in Florida and Ohio back legalization of marijuana for personal recreational use, while Pennsylvania voters are divided on the subject, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released on Thursday.
Men support legalized marijuana for personal use more than women in each of the states, the poll finds. The Swing State Poll focused on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania because since 1960, no Presidential candidate has won without taking at least two of these three states.
Voters in all three states, by overwhelming margins, support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. There is no gender gap on this question; men and women support medicinal cannabis equally. "Only about one in 10 voters opposes legalizing marijuana for medical purposes," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Also in all three states, most voters said they wouldn't use marijuana, even if personal use were legalized.
"If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then the Red Planet might be the more spacey place," Brown said. "That's because men are more likely than women to support legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
Not surprisingly support for the change is linked to age, with younger voters more likely to see personal use of pot as a good thing," Brown said. "But despite the support for legalization, a majority of voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania say they would not use the drug if it were legal."
By Steve Elliott
A new package of spending bills from the Senate, intended to keep the federal government operational for the next year, includes several positive changes in marijuana law.
The bills were filed on Tuesday by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and they've just been uploaded to Congress's website, reports Marijuana.com.
The new spending package put forth by the top Senate appropriator "includes, well, everything us marijuana law reformers could have reasonably hoped for this year," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.
“We won bipartisan votes on all of these issues this year on either the House floor, in the Senate Appropriations Committee or both, so this is a rare case of Congressional leadership actually listening to their members — and to the American people," Angell said.
"Just a few short years ago, politicians used to jump all over each other to be seen as the ‘toughest’ on drugs," Angell said. "But now that polls consistently show that a growing majority of Americans support legalization, more elected officials are beginning to realize that scaling back failed prohibition policies is not only the right thing to do, but that it’s politically smart."
If enacted, the bills would:
Agreement Comes on Heels of Historic Senate Deal
High Hopes that Congress will soon Pass Criminal Justice Reform
House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) on Thursday announced a deal on sentencing reform with his counterpart Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). The bill -- The Sentencing Reform Act -- takes a similar approach to the Senate’s Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, announced last week, although this bill contains new problematic provisions.
“This is not the legislation we would have drafted, but we are encouraged that we now have bills in the House and Senate that tackle similar issues and that move the ball down the field for sentencing reform,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “We are more optimistic than ever that a bill will land on the President’s desk.”
The Senate deal, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), includes reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal "safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and expansion of reentry programming and early release, among other things.
By Steve Elliott
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday vetoed a bill which would have created new penalties for making hash oil with flammable chemicals like butane. Brown said the state already has enough laws, and a prison overcrowding problem, and doesn't need to make the problem worse.
The Golden State has seen a rise in explosions and fires caused by the extraction of cannabis concentrates using volatile solvents like butane, reports David Downs at East Bay Express. But it's already against the law to make butane hash oil (BHO) in Cali. Arson and criminal negligence are also already crimes there.
Assembly Bill 849, from East Bay Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, would have created a new crime carrying prison sentences of up to six years for BHO blasters who hurt others. The bill passed the California Assembly -- unanimously! -- on August 31.
But Gov. Brown vetoed AB 849 and eight others for good measure, blasting reationary, "get tough" laws that result in prison overcrowding but don't do a damn thing to improve public safety.
"Each of this bills creates a new crime -- usually by finding a novel way to characterize and criminalize conduct that is already proscribed," Brown said. "This multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit.
By Steve Elliott
A nonprofit cannabis research institute plans to build a $24 million facility in Ohio and offer medical marijuana insurance if recreational legalization measure Issue 3 passes on November 3.
The International Cannabinoid Institute, a new Ohio-based nonprofit, announced on Tuesday it will rent land in Licking County from, you guessed it, investors who are backing the marijuana legalization ballot issue.
Issue 3 would legalize recreational and medical marijuana sales and use, but would limit commercial growing to just 10 sites owned by the wealthy investors who financed the measure.
Opposition has arisen to Issue 3 because of how it limits commercial growing to those who financed the ballot issue, reports Jackie Borchardt of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. The preselection of site owners means that only investors in ResponsibleOhio, the political action committee backing the measure, would get to participate in the new marijuana cultivation industry.
Wealthy investors have contributed more than $20 million to the campaign, which would basically enshrine their marijuana monopoly into the state constitution.
By Steve Elliott
The Federal Institute of Pharmaceuticals on Monday rejected proposed plans that would have allowed "coffee shops" in Berlin similar to those in Amsterdam, where customers can buy various kinds of recreational marijuana products alongside coffee.
Proponents of the law said they are still hopeful for the future of cannabis legalization in Germany, reports Jess McXHugh at IB Times.
"For us, the rejection of the plans was no surprise, and as such, it's also not a setback," said Georg Wurth, spokesperson for a cannabis advocacy group in Germany, reports The Local. "Political pressure is rising from below," he said.
The Green Party has long favored cannabis legalization in Germany. In 2014, party leader Cem Özdemir had himself filmed doing the Ice Bucket Challenge with a tall marijuana plant in plain view on his balcony beside him.
The Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain borough of Berlin had submitted plans for four "specialist cannabis shops" back in June. The cannabis would have been produced in Berlin and Brandenburg, and sold only to residents of the borough 18 and older.
By Steve Elliott
Farmers in North Carolina may soon be able to enter the booming worldwide industrial hemp market, if and when Gov. Pat McCrory signs Senate Bill 313, which would legalize is cultivation in the state.
SB 313 originally had to do with license plates and registers of deeds -- that is, until an addition from sponsor Sen. Jeff Collins (R-Nash County), who added industrial hemp, reports Kat McReynolds at the Mountain Xpress. Gov. McCrory's signature is the last thing needed after overwhelming approval of the bill in both the North Carolina House (101-7) and Senate 42-2).
"From all indications, the governor is going to sign it," said hemp advocate Blake Butler, organizer of Asheville's recent HempX festival. "He's in support of it."
If McCrory signs the bill, an industrial hemp commission will be in charge of managing a statewide pilot program involving commercial growers and researchers. Industrial hemp is used to make thousands of products, from hempseed oil, to rope, to clothing, paper, plastics, and building materials.
The 2014 U.S. Farm Bill allows states to enact their own regulatory systems on industrial hemp cultivation. Twenty states have now adopted Farm Bill-compliant laws to accommodate hemp cultivation under various conditions. North Carolina law had remained silent on the subject until now.
Amy Schumer, Steph Curry, Ed Norton, Jesse Williams, Chris Pine, Russell Simmons, and Piper Kerman are among 90+ celebrities calling for reform to our criminal justice system -- a call sounded by #cut50, a bipartisan effort to safely and smartly reduce our incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years.
The historic campaign comes on the heels of major bipartisan legislation in Congress. Last week, an all-star group of Senators including Chuck Grassley (R-IaA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) came together to begin rolling back mass incarceration with the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. In the House, the SAFE Justice Act has been called the most comprehensive justice reform legislation in decades.
President Obama said late last week that he was "optimistic that members on both sides of the aisle, in both houses… can put a meaningful criminal justice reform bill on my desk before the end of this year."
For the first time, major celebrities are petitioning Congress to pass a meaningful criminal justice reform bill and roll back the incarceration industry in America.
Poll after poll shows that the majority of American people, of all political persuasions, agree - it is time to fix our broken justice system.
The #JusticeReformNOW petition, organized by #cut50, has received more than 130,000 total signatures collected across multiple petitions hosted on Care2, Credo Working Assets, MoveOn & a recently launched petition at Change.org/JusticeReformNOW - all petitions call for a comprehensive, criminal justice reform bill this year.
By Steve Elliott
With legalization seemingly a near-certainty coming down the pike in California, there's a lot of excitement in the air. And the smell of money has joined the aroma of cannabis, stoking the excitement to a fever pitch. But there's a fly in that medicated ointment.
Inspired by successes in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, activists are hungrily eyeing California, the biggest prize of all in the recreational legalization sweepstakes, reports Dennis Romero at the L.A. Weekly.
Legalization fell short in the Golden State in 2010 with Proposition 19, and that sad outcome could see a repeat if multiple initiatives compete against each other to qualify, and if two or more reach the ballot and face off against each other.
What was supposed to be the unifying initiative -- ReformCA, from the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform -- was the intended vehicle for all the big players in California cannabis politics to support; they almost pulled it off, too.
Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy to Mobilize Activists Statewide in Effort to Inject Marijuana Policy Debate Into 2016 State Legislative Races; New Texas Lyceum Poll Finds Three Out of Four Voters Support Reform
First of several regional advocacy training events will be held Saturday in San Antonio; UTSA criminal justice professor and former corrections officer Michel Gilbert will be a guest speaker
Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy will hold an advocacy training event Saturday, October 3, in San Antonio that will mark the beginning of a statewide effort to inject the marijuana policy debate into 2016 state legislative races. Regional events are also scheduled for Dallas on October 31, Corpus Christi on November 7, East Texas on December 5, and Houston on December 12.
“Comprehensive marijuana reform saw tremendous progress this legislative session largely because families and regular Texans shared their stories with lawmakers,” said State Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio). “The movement to change our antiquated and dangerous prohibition laws are gaining traction. However, that momentum will be lost unless citizens stay engaged with their lawmakers during the interim and campaign season.
“That's why these advocacy training events are so important because citizens will be the catalyst for change,” Sen. Menéndez said. “I'm excited the inaugural training session is taking place in San Antonio. Poll after poll shows Texans are ready for comprehensive marijuana reform.”