By Steve Elliott
With voter-approved Amendment 64, recreational marijuana sales are now legal in Colorado. The law doesn't require stores to keep records on recreational customers, as medical marijuana dispensaries are required to do, but retail stores aren't prohibited from gathering information, either.
Store owners say they're taking a cautious approach, reports Eric Gorski at The Denver Post. Many of the shops are trying to balance customer privacy with their desire to know their customers, including, for instance, which strains of cannabis they enjoy.
"You have to find a healthy balance," said Brooke Gehring, of Bud Med, a chain of recreational and medical marijuana outlets in Colorado. "How do we capture information that is pertinent to the success of our new retail business, versus the privacy of adults who now have this right and are able to shop at our stores?
Customers punch their cellphone numbers or email addresses into tablet computers at the counter at Bud Med stores to receive promotional offers, according to Gehring.
The text of Amendment 64 forbids state officials from requiring customers to provide marijuana stores with any personal information other than a government-issued ID to confirm their age. Video cameras capture recreational marijuana customers; the required footage must be preserved for 40 days and can be inspected by state enforcement agents.
Vincent Mehdizadeh, the founder and chief operations officer of Medbox, Inc., which provides consulting services and medicine storage and dispensing systems to the medical and retail cannabis industries, on Monday announced that he has personally funded campaigns "aimed at educating the general public as to all aspects of cannabis" in medical and recreational states.
A public awareness campaign led by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), an organization dedicated to ensuring safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research, is designed to better inform the national dialogue on medical cannabis by first letting the public know that cannabis medicines can be regulated and secondly that the therapeutic experience of the over one million legal medical cannabis patients goes beyond "feeling better."
The campaign will include production of new materials and ads, new communication outreach, and grassroots education campaigns to empower citizen-advocates to participate in the effort nationwide.
ASA has created a groundbreaking third-party industry certification program to help promote and publicize best practices in medical cannabis that will serve as the platform for this education campaign.
Legislation to end marijuana prohibition and establish a legal market for businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older amended by House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday
The New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday adopted an amendment on HB 492, a bill that would regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. The amendment, which would simplify the tax structure and improve regulations for the legal marijuana industry, was approved by a subcommittee earlier Tuesday morning in a 5-0 vote. The Ways and Means Committee voted 14-5 to adopt the subcommittee’s amendment, and then it voted 14-5 to recommend that the House not pass the bill.
The House of Representatives already approved HB 492 once, in January, after overturning a similarly negative recommendation from the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. The bill will now return to the full House for a second vote. If approved, it will then be considered by the state Senate.
Rep. Frank Sapareto (R-Derry), a member of the subcommittee, said he was very pleased with the committee’s adoption of the amendment.
"We have developed what will be a workable and responsible system of regulating marijuana in New Hampshire," Sapareto said. "New Hampshire has effectively regulated the production and sale of alcohol, and there is no reason why we cannot capitalize on that experience to effectively regulate the production and sale of marijuana."
By Steve Elliott
Many Americans think sugar is worse for health than is marijuana, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released this week.
Poll participants were asked to rank the relative harms of alcohol, marijuana, sugar, and tobacco in order of the most harmful to the least harmful in the survey of 1,000 American adults last week, reports Beth Reinhard at The Wall Street Journal.
Tobacco was ranked as the most harmful by 49 percent of respondents, with alcohol coming in second at 24 percent. Sugar was voted the third most harmful, with 15 percent, while marijuana came in as least harmful with just 8 percent.
Respondents said they were more interested in following cannabis legalization stories in the news over other stories, according to NBC political director Chuck Todd, reports Alexandra Ward at Newsmax.
"Among the more shocking numbers to me was the legalization story," Todd said. "This idea that more and more states are moving to legalize medical marijuana or recreational use is a story that, according to our poll, is being followed more closely than what's going on in Ukraine, than the healthcare rollout, than the battles over same-sex marriage.
"Over 90 percent of the public say they are following the marijuana story closely," Todd said.
By Steve Elliott
Seldom has there been a clearer divide between the will of the people and the wishes of law enforcement to hold onto their power. With the Maryland Senate taking a final vote on decriminalizing marijuana on Friday, supporters squared off with police officers in a battle of words, with the cops seemingly unwilling to let go of almost 80 years of war on a plant.
Dozens of uniformed law enforcement officers from around the state showed up at the state capital on Thursday to oppose popular efforts by some legislators to loosen Maryland's marijuana laws, reports Megan Brockett of Capital News Service.
The packed committee room became tense at times, as law enforcement officials attempted to fight back against the rising tide of support for changing the cannabis laws. Many officers voiced passionate opposition to any loosening of the pot laws, darkly warning of "unintended consequences" that supposedly might follow. In a quite revealing admission, some officers argued that changing the laws would hinder the ability of cops to conduct searches on the basis of marijuana odor.
By Steve Elliott
Legalization is raking in the cash for Colorado, where state coffers are $2 million fatter from taxes on recreational marijuana from January, the very first month it was legal to sell non-medicinal cannabis in the Rocky Mountain State.
State officials said the numbers are about what they expected, reports Katie Lobosco at CNN Money. Colorado on New Year's Day became the first state to allow the sale of recreational marijuana to adults 21 or older; it's considered the first place in the world where cannabis will be tracked and regulated "from seed to sale."
The state gets a 15 percent excise tax, a 10 percent "special" sales tax and a 2.9 percent sales tax on recreational cannabis, as well as application and license fees. Just the 2.9 percent sales tax, and the license and application fees, apply to medical marijuana, which Colorado voters legalized back in 2000.
Recreational and medical marijuana, considered together, brought in about $3.5 million in taxes for Colorado in January, reports Carla Mozée at Wall Street Journal Market Watch.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper expects the state to get about $134 million in taxes from the cannabis industry in the next fiscal year. He wants much of the marijuana tax money will be used in programs aimed to keep kids from using cannabis.
By Steve Elliott
Pointing out that it could put billions of dollars into state coffers and provide much-needed jobs, California Democrats on Sunday insert a plank in their party platform calling to "support the legalization, regulation and taxation of pot in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol," reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
On the marijuana issue, California Democrats "support the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol," the official party platform reads, reports Seema Mehta at the Los Angeles Times.
The change -- a monumental political shift -- comes as 3,000 state Democrats met over the weekend at a three-day convention in Los Angeles, where they heard a Saturday appeal by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on the issue, reports Carla Marinucci at SF Gate. The former San Francisco mayor told the Democrats that the state should be leading, not following, on an important issue that, according to the latest polls, is experiencing a surge of popular support among Americans.
Citizens Demanding Due Diligence, Full and Immediate Restoration of Natural Rights to Cannabis
Not in small part for the dedicated work of the diligent citizens of Legalize Louisiana, the state Legislature has multiple bills to restore cannabis rights. Advocacy group Legalize Louisiana says it is "trying to make sure the full restoration of natural rights is achieved."
Legalize Louisiana called all citizens to the Capitol on Monday "to ensure, from the start, that this year's Legislature ends cannabis prohibition, for health and justice in Louisiana."
Responsible citizens brought the research and testimony "exposing the current laws and policies as unjust, illegal, unscientific and irrational, unconstitutional, inhumane, and unacceptable," according to Legalize Louisiana. Lawmakers were "drawn clear solutions based on the promised rights to peace and prosperity for all," according to the group.
Community members gathered at the Capitol steps at 8:30 AM, to share their testimonies and pleas for justice, and at the Legislature’s opening, submitted facts and researches attesting to the abuses now being permitted under color of law. "Nothing short of due diligence will be allowed; law and policy must respect the highest and most basic natural and common, State and Federal Constitutional, and human rights to use cannabis for any bona-fide medical reason," the group said in a prepared statement.
Activists Promise 'Big Announcement' Next Week
Paul Stanford: "These measures are going to be on the ballot"
In light of recent news that the Oregon Legislature has abandoned meaningful reforms, initiative activists are moving forward with a new phase in their campaign to end criminal penalties for marijuana.
"We salute the efforts of Representative Peter Buckley and other progressive-minded legislators," said chief petitioner Paul Stanford, "and we are ready to pick up where they fell and bring a pair of ballot initiatives restoring the progressive pioneer spirit that Oregon is well known for."
Oregon has lagged behind other Western states in bringing reform to marijuana law. Two initiative petitions, IP 21 and IP 22, would change that. "Prohibition doesn't work," Stanford said. "Filling our jails with nonviolent marijuana prisoners is a waste of public resources and people's future. We will end prohibition and end criminal penalties for marijuana."
Oregon's 2014 Initiative 21, a constitutional amendment to end prohibition and stop imposing criminal penalties for marijuana, has 38,000 signatures collected to date. It needs 116,284 valid registered Oregon voters' signatures by July 3rd to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.
Initiative 22, a proposed statute to regulate and tax marijuana, and allow farmers to grow hemp for fuel, fiber and food, has gathered 25,000 signatures. It needs 87,213 valid registered Oregon voters' signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
By Steve Elliott
Wait, this is legalization? Colorado's police chiefs are asking the state for more money for "marijuana enforcement," whining that they are "disappointed" in Governor John Hickenlooper's plan for how to spend cannabis taxes.
In a letter sent to the Governor earlier this week, the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police complained that Hickenlooper's plan has no money specifically for local law enforcement, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post. The letter asks Hickenlooper to support the creation of a program to give grants to police departments to "cover extra costs related to marijuana legalization."
If that sounds strange, after hearing all these years how marijuana legalization would save on law enforcement costs, then yeah. It surely does.
"Many of our local law enforcement agencies have diverted staff from other operations into marijuana enforcement, leaving gaps in other service areas as a direct result of marijuana legalization," the letter whines.
The association wants the marijuana money for training officers to identify stoned drivers; buying "oral fluid testing" to catch impaired drivers; and creating a statewide database of "marijuana crimes."
By Steve Elliott
The Washington State Liquor Control Board on Wednesday issued the state's first licenses to produce and process recreational marijuana during a Board meeting at its headquarters in Olympia.
The licenses were issued to Sean Green of Spokane, who will be doing business as Kouchlock Productions.
"This is a historic day," said Board Chair Sharon Foster. "The hard work and preparation this agency has done has laid the foundation to make this pioneering endeavor a success."
Kouchlock Productions is licensed to produce and process -- but not sell -- recreational marijuana. It holds a restricted tier-three license to produce marijuana initially up to a maximum of 21,000 square feet.
The company is one of more than 2,800 producer license applications that the WSLCB is currently processing. Licenses will be continuously issued as they are ready.
The WSLCB will update weekly its list of pending and active marijuana licenses on the Frequently Requested Lists page of the public records section of its website.
UN Wants US Federal Government to Crack Down On Colorado and Washington
By Steve Elliott
The United Nations drug watchdog group, the International Narcotics Control Board, on Tuesday released its 2014 Annual Report, in which it "deeply regrets" the states of Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana and said that cannabis legalization poses a "very grave danger to public health."
The INCB is in charge of enforcing international drug treaties, so it's no surprise that the body would take a dim view of moves towards cannabis legalization in the United States and Uruguay, because such moves are technically in violation of international drug treaties, reports Alan Travis of The Guardian.
The annual report claims that marijuana in Colorado has led to increases in car accidents involving "drug drivers" (the statistics actually show otherwise), and that marijuana-related treatment admissions are on the rise.
"Drug traffickers will choose the path of least resistance, so it is essential that global efforts to tackle the drug problem are unified," said INCB President Raymond Yans. "When governments consider their future policies on this, the primary consideration should beg the long-term health and welfare of the population."
By Steve Elliott
California Governor Jerry Brown said on Sunday that he isn't convinced this marijuana legalization business is such a good idea, because folks need to "stay alert."
"The problem with anything, a certain amount is OK," "Moonbeam" Brown said on NBC's "Meet The Press," reports The Huffington Post. "But there is a tendency to go to extremes.
"And all of a sudden, if there's advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?" Brown asked. (Our answer is a hell of a lot of them, Governor.)
"The world's pretty dangerous, pretty competitive," Brown said. "I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together."
A recent poll showed that a majority of Californians support marijuana legalization.
The Governor noted that California already allows medical marijuana, but said he isn't sold on the idea of recreational legalization until he sees how that works out for Colorado and Washington. "I'd really like those two states to show us how it's going to work," he said.
By Steve Elliott
A Democratic representative has introduced a bill into the Wisconsin Assembly to legalize marijuana, and the bill has attracted six Democratic co-sponsors, but Republican Governor Scott Walker says not so fast.
LRB 3671 would legalize marijuana for recreational and medical purposes in Wisconsin. Its sponsor, Rep. Melissa Sargent, said the bill is a "good start" to bringing better cannabis policies to the state.
"After researching this issue extensively, I believe that this bill will benefit Wisconsin and its citizens in many ways, including: addressing racial disparities in arrests, providing medical benefits, time and cost savings to law enforcement, and additional revenue for the state," Rep. Sargent posted on her website.
But Gov. Walker remains unconvinced. "I don't think you're going to see anything serious anytime soon here, but if other states did, maybe in the next Legislative session there'd be more talk about it," he said.
Walker said he spoke with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper at last week's National Governor's Association Meeting, where Hickenlooper said his state would see $134 million in sales tax revenue from marijuana this year -- a much higher figure than expected, reports WITI.
"He talked about the upsides of the revenue," Walker said. "He also talked about how they weren't rushing to spend that on other things because, he said, it's early and they're still concerned about the side effects."
By Steve Elliott
Alaska's voters will decide on August 19 if the state will be third to legalize marijuana and regulate and tax it sale.
Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on Wednesday ordered election officials to put the issue on the ballot, confirming that an initiative effort satisfied the legal requirements, reports Steven Nelson at US News.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska turned in more than 45,000 signatures on January 8, about 36,000 of which were validated by state officials. Just more than 30,000 signatures were required to qualify for the ballot.
"A bipartisan tidal wave of public support for regulating marijuana like alcohol in Alaska has pushed this issue onto the ballot, and we will be running an aggressive campaign designed to build on that momentum," said CRMA spokesman Taylor Bickford.
Adults 21 and older would be allowed to have up to an ounce of weed and grow six plants at home if the initiative passes.
Stores selling cannabis would be licensed by the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board; the Legislature would have the option of creating a Marijuana Control Board.
A quirk in Alaska state law allows the ballot question to appear on the August ballot with primary elections of political parties, rather than on the November general election ballot.