By Steve Elliott
Uruguay isn't just defending its own national sovereignty regarding its legalization of marijuana. The small South American country is now recommending that the rest of the world adopt its policies as an alternative to the War On Drugs.
The Drug War creates a "diversion of focus," according to Andres Roballo, president of the National Drug Board, making it necessary to switch to a "sophisticated" way of regulating cannabis, rather than prohibiting it, reports El Diario.
Roballo made the remarks during an international seminar on "New Approaches in Drug Policy in the 21st Century." Lawmakers from Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Uruguay discussed a "paradigm shift" when it comes to the prohibition and legalization of drugs.
For now, domestic growers responsible to providing the substance for registered users through the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA) are the only ones who have profited from legalization. About 3,000 growers are operating nationwide, according to officials.
"We are telling the world that the market regulation of marijuana is possible," said Ernest Samper, secretary general of the Union of South American Nations.
By Steve Elliott
Hempstalk 2015 is on! The Portland City Council on Thursday voted to grant Hempstalk a permit for its 2015 festival at Tom McCall Waterfront Park downtown. "We will have our Hempstalk festival," said organizer Paul Stanford.
The Council, on a 3-1 vote, overturned the Portland Parks Bureau's earlier decision to deny the permit, reports Andrew Theen at The Orergonian. The Police Bureau also opposed Hempstalk, a free 11-year-old festival which celebrates and advocates the legalization of marijuana and industrial hemp.
The lone "no" vote came from Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees the Parks Bureau.
The decision means Hempstalk 2015 could occur around the same time as the first legal sales of recreational marijuana in Oregon, on October 1. "If I had my preference, it would be the first weekend of October," said Hempstalk organizer Stanford of the Campaign of the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH).
Parks officials, meanwhile, claimed the event is set for September 26 and 27. Stanford said he had "no idea" where they got that date.
"It sounds like this event was imperfect," said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales on Thursday. "It sounds like there were some people smoking marijuana there." But Mayor Hales added that most large events in Portland are imperfect.
By Steve Elliott
Chile is on the verge of joining a growing list of Latin American countries decriminalizing marijuana. Proposed changes to Ley 20.000 (Law 20,000) which would grant Chileans the right to possess up to 10 grams of cannabis and grow up to six plants passed Chile's Chamber of Deputies last month on a 68-39 vote.
The bill must be adjusted by a health commission and then passed by the Chilean Senate before it officially becomes law, but strong support for marijuana legalization in Chile indicates a new norm in the Western Hemisphere and that the War On Drugs has failed, according to Olivia Marple of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
In a 2012 poll of 18- to 34-year-olds by Asuntos del Sur (Southern Affairs), 79 percent of young Chileans "voice strong approval" for legalization, with 52 percent disapproving of government campaigns attempting to reduce drug use and 54 percent did not support the government's current drug policies.
Fifty percent of Chileans at large favor legalization while 45 percent are against, according to a 2014 poll by Cadem, a Chilean market and public opinion investigation company. The approval figure skyrockets to 86 percent in favor of the legalization of medical marijuana.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) on Wednesday released its annual list of the “Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Consumers” in the United States.
The list is available below and at https://www.mpp.org/Top50.
“About one out of every two Americans has used marijuana, including a whole lot of very successful people,” said Mason Tvert, MPP’s director of communications. “There are a lot more out there that we don’t know about because it is illegal.
"Marijuana is a less harmful substance than alcohol," Tvert said. "Adults who use it responsibly should not have to choose between keeping it a secret or admitting to a crime.”
President Barack Obama is at the top of MPP’s list, followed by several 2016 presidential candidates. At least eight (and as many as 17) of the 23 major-party presidential hopefuls have said or strongly indicated that they have consumed marijuana: Jeb Bush, Lincoln Chafee, Ted Cruz, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Rick Santorum.
Nine others do not appear to have said whether they have consumed marijuana, and they did not respond to inquiries from MPP: Joe Biden, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb.
Only six candidates have said they never used marijuana: Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.
Supermajority Support From Democrats & Republicans in Iowa & New Hampshire
New polling data reveals that voters in early presidential primary states overwhelmingly support ending federal prosecutions of people acting in accordance with state marijuana laws.
Among respondents, 71 percent in Iowa and 73 percent in New Hampshire agree that "states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference." Just 13 percent of Iowans and 15 percent of New Hampshirites think that "the federal government should arrest and prosecute people who are following state marijuana laws."
"Politicians running to become our next president should take note of just how uniformly voters in these key states want to end federal marijuana prohibition," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, which commissioned the poll. "Candidates who say they would send in the DEA to shut down legal, taxpaying marijuana businesses are effectively announcing that they're out of the mainstream and out of touch with the voters they need support from in order to get elected.
"That type of rhetoric is just not going to score any points in 2016," Angell said.
The new data shows that support for letting states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference is especially high among Democrats and independents in both states, although there is at least 60 percent support across all demographics, including Republicans, 2012 Mitt Romney voters, people older than 65 and those who identify as very conservative.
It took a year to happen, but on Sunday, August 16, history was made as the Brownie Mary Democrats of California received by unanimous vote of the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party, their statewide organizational charter.
"BMDC now joins only four chartered statewide organizations in representing the interests of its members to the Democratic Party," said Lanny Swerdlow, RN, president of the Brownie Mary Democratic Club of Riverside County.
"I would like to thank all of you who took a minute and sent the California Democratic Party an email of support for the BMDC application," Swerdlow said. "Although there was no opposition of any kind to the application, the 66 supporting emails were duly noted and indicated to the Party the widespread support for marijuana law reform and for the Democratic Party to take a leading role in bringing marijuana prohibition to an end.
"Not only was there no opposition, but when approval of the application for the Brownie Mary Democrats of California was announced as part of the consent calendar, hundreds of people gave it a spontaneous round of applause which they had not really done for much of anything else that was announced as part of the consent calendar," Swerdlow said. "It seems Democrats like marijuana or at least ending marijuana prohibition.
By Steve Elliott
Backers of a plan to legalize marijuana in Arizona are outraged over an unsigned editorial in the Arizona Republic published on August 21 using inaccurate tax revenue figures to back its claim that campaign leaders are lying.
The op-ed was responding to a claim made by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol's message from August 19 at the state Capitol that its planned November 2016 ballot measure, if passed, could bring in $40 million or more annually to Arizona public schools.
The measure in question would create a system of retail cannabis stores where adults 21 and older would pay a 15 percent tax on marijuana sales. After taking the money needed to run a new bureaucracy to oversee that system, 80 percent of the remaining tax revenue would go to funding kindgartens and public schools.
The unsigned editorial claims the legalization campaign's figure is a "lie," suggesting that backers of the measure might be so high on weed that they'd try to deposit the fake check they used for a prop.
Backers of a proposed 2016 ballot initiative to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol estimate the measure would raise more than $40 million annually for education in Arizona. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol highlighted the potential revenue Wednesday by presenting the state with a jumbo-sized check during a “back-to-school” news conference in front of the state capitol.
“Our schools are in serious need of funding, and taxing marijuana would create a significant new revenue stream,” said State Sen. Martin Quezada, a member of the Pendergast Elementary School District Governing Board who spoke at the news conference. “Marijuana sales are going to keep taking place regardless of whether this initiative passes or fails. But only if it passes will they raise tens of millions of dollars each year for public education in Arizona.”
The proposed initiative would enact a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales from licensed retail stores to adults 21 years of age and older, which would be used to fund the implementation and enforcement of regulations. Of any additional tax revenue collected, 40 percent would be allocated to the Department of Education for school construction, maintenance, and operating costs, and 40 percent would be allocated to the Department of Education for full-day kindergarten programs.
By Steve Elliott
Ohio could become the fifth state, and the first in the Midwest, to legalize marijuana under a measure that qualified on Wednesday for the state's November 2015 ballot. The measure itself, however, remains controversial, as it basically hands control of the state's legal cannabis industry to a handful of entrepreneurs.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted rules that ResponsibleOhio advocates and hired workers gathered enough valid signatures -- more than 320,000 -- to qualify, reports Jackie Borchardt at the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
The measure will appear as Issue 3 on the statewide ballot for the general election on November 3.
"It's time for marijuana legalization in Ohio, and voters will have the opportunity to make it happen this November -- we couldn't be more excited," said ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James. "Drug dealers don't care about doing what's best for our state and its citizens.
"By reforming marijuana laws in November, we'll provide compassionate care to sick Ohioans, bring money back to our local communities and establish a new industry with limitless economic development opportunities."
If the measure passes, Ohio would become the first state to legalize recreational marijuana without having legalized medicinal cannabis first.
By Steve Elliott
Israel's natural gas reserves off its shores are considered a boon for the nation's economy. But the general consensus Thursday at a Thursday conference was that Israel is missing an even bigger opportunity -- in the field of medicinal cannabis.
The conference, on how Israel's farmers could benefit from the global market for medical marijuana, was hosted by the Israel Loss Adjusters Association (ILAA), reports Niv Elis at The Jerusalem Post. The cannabis market in the United States alone stands at $35 billion a year, according to Doron Havkin, chairman of the ILAA.
"Are we able to give up revenues from this market?" Havkin asked, arguing that the government could help Israel's struggling farmers in the Arava by declaring it a closed zone for growing export-oriented medical marijuana. Nearly 6,000 acres of land are waiting for such development, according to Havkin.
The economy would be the biggest beneficiary if Israel grew medical cannabis, according to Dr. Tamir Gadot, CEO of the pro-medical marijuana agricultural association Breath of Life. "The economic potential of growing Big Cannabis is greater than that of the gas," he said.
Dr. Gadot said that the government should recognize that medical marijuana is "a legitimate pharmaceutical industry,"
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday issued an amendatory veto of a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amount of marijuana, sending it back to the General Assembly for final approval.
The General Assembly has 15 days from the next session date to approve the amended version of HB 218, which needs to receive a simple majority vote in the House and then the Senate to officially become law. The original version, introduced by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), was approved in the Senate (37-19) on May 21 and in the House (62-53) on April 23.
Gov. Rauner’s amended version of HB 218 would make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil law violation punishable by a fine of up to $200 with no possibility of jail time, and the civil offense would be automatically expunged in order to prevent a permanent criminal record. The original version applied to possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana and set the amount of the fine at up to $125.
Under current Illinois law, possession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana is a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500, and possession of more than 2.5 grams and up to 10 grams is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500. More than 100 localities in Illinois have adopted measures that reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession.
By Steve Elliott
U.S. Congress members from Oregon on Monday urged state agriculture officials to speed up a pilot project allowing farmers to begin cultivating industrial hemp crops in time for next year's growing season.
The federal lawmakers said in a letter that the program missed the 2015 growing season because of concerns in the Oregon Legislature over how hemp would coexist with the marijuana industry, which became legal for recreational use by adults in Oregon on July 1, reports Shelby Sebens at Reuters.
Industrial hemp cultivation faces a number of complications, including the fact that all forms of cannabis are federally illegal. Prosecutors have cautiously allowed state hemp experiments to inch forward.
In the letter, sent to Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba and Oregon State University Director of the College of Agricultural Sciences Daniel Arp, lawmakers said provisions in last year's Farm Bill allow states and universities to research potential benefits of commercial hemp cultivation.
"The potential for industrial hemp production represents a great opportunity for Oregon agriculture," the lawmakers wrote.
Oregon, which has issued 13 hemp licenses to farmers since adopting rules for the program in January, is reviewing the letter, according to Agriculture Department spokesman Bruce Pokarney. The agency is reviewing the letter, Pokarney saikd.
The California Cannabis Hemp Initiative (CCHI 2016) is organizing a statewide infrastructure of volunteers and activists in a drive to qualify for the November 8, 2016 ballot.
The group's signature drive is set to begin October 31, 2015 through April 21, 2016, and CCHI 2016 will have just under 180 days to gather 600,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot, according to proponent Michael Jolson.
"We are at a 30-year low in the amount of signatures needed to qualify an initiative for the California ballot," Jolson wrote in a Wednesday fundraising email. "We will need to gather 365,880 signatures ... In order to attain the necessary 365,880 signatures, we will need to gross around 600,000 signatures by April 21, 2016! We will submit our signatures into the counties on April 26, 2016."
"We are building our grassroots volunteer infrastructure in preparation for our upcoming signature drive," Jolson said. "The more volunteers and activists we can get to help us organize our grassroots effort, the better chance we have of qualifying for the November 8, 2016 ballot!"
"We need to raise massive support throughout California," Jolson said. "We need help coordinating volunteers in all 58 counties and are organizing Regional Coordinators for this task.
"We are growing as a grassroots political movement towards 100 percent ending the prohibition of Cannabis Hemp," Jolson said. "We are gaining interest every day. We, the CCHI 2016, look forward to having your help with our all grassroots effort to end the prohibition of Cannabis Hemp in California!"
By Steve Elliott
California voters will legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for adults in the 2016 general election, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom predicted on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday. "I'm leading the effort," Newsom added.
"As some folks may know, we're very likely to have a ballot initiative in 2016 and we have strong confidence that we'll win," Newsom said, reports David Downs at SF Gate.
"We gotta do it right and be thoughtful and deal with the legitimate concerns folks have about our children, and not allowing Big Tobacco come in and do Big Marijuana," Newsom said. "So we want to do it in a very thoughtful way and we want to have that opportunity next year."
Lt. Gov. Newsom has been working with a Blue Ribbon Commission on legalization; its findings were released this summer. An initiative is expected soon.
A winning marijuana legalization initiative campaign could cost half a million dollars or more, and that's just for paid signature gatherers, never mind the ads. Those will run a cool $10 million or so -- and that's assuming no major opposition.
By Steve Elliott
The U.S. Justice Department warned Congress last year that a medical marijuana provision included in an appropriations bill could "limit or possibly eliminate the Department's ability to enforce federal law in recreational marijuana cases as well." But it turns out that was wrong, according to a just-revealed DOJ memo.
The "informal talking points" obtained by Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell were "intended to discourage passage" of the provision, which passed and was signed into law, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.
The memo was written by the chief of the Justice Department's appellate section and dated February 27, 2015. In it, the DOJ says the provision does not place "any limitations on our ability to investigate and prosecute crimes involving recreational marijuana."
The memo's talking points were repeated by a number of House members who opposed the medical marijuana provision.
Andy Harris (R-Maryland), one of the worst enemies of medicinal cannabis in the entire House, claimed "the amendment as written would tie the DEA's hands beyond medical marijuana." Rep. John Fleming (R-Louisiana) claimed that the provision would "take away the ability of the Department of Justice to protect our young people ... it would just make it difficult, if not impossible, for the DEA and the Department of Justice to enforce the law."