By Steve Elliott
Rhode Islanders use marijuana at the highest rates in the United States, according to a recently released annual survey.
The report originates from a national survey on drug use and health sponsored each year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reports Alison Bologna at NBC 10.
In Rhode Island, 14 percent of those 12 and older -- up from 13 percent the previous year -- report having used marijuana in the past month, the highest rate in the nation, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health, reports Richard Salit at the Providence Journal. Rhode Island also led the nation in those who reported having used marijuana in the past year, at 20 percent, up from 19 percent.
Rhode Island is one of 23 states and the District of Columbia that now allow medical marijuana for authorized patients, and a coalition is forming in the state to make it the fifth to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes.
The survey "is probably an accurate portrayal, and one we've seen trending for a long time," said Rebecca Boss, deputy director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. "The why is really hard to answer. I don't necessarily have the answers to why."
By Steve Elliott
The rules of Washington state's recreational marijuana legalization law, I-502, require a sample tested from every lot of marijuana. But how useful is that testing?
The program is having some success detecting substances like yeast, mold and bacteria, reports Evan Bush at The Seattle Times. About one out of every 10 batches of marijuana fails and can't be sold in recreational pot shops, according to Washington State Liquor Control Board data.
Potency testing, meanwhile -- which measures levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component, shows Washington weed is widely variable. Recreational marijuana averages about 16 percent THC in the state, but about 2.5 percent of samples test above 28 percent.
Laboratory directors from the state's 12 licensed pot-testing facilities said they are forming working groups to lobby the Liquor Control Board for more oversight of lab methods.
"Part of it is to invite more regulation," said Brad Douglass, scientific director at the Werc Shop, one of the 12 labs licensd by the state.
Randy Simmons, with the Liquor Control Board, claimed that the system is off to a good start. "The majority of what's out there on packages is correct," he said.
"The lab side is emerging," Simmons said. "As it matures, I think all those things that have been missed ... or things we find out we should be looking for, will all be changed."
By Steve Elliott
With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia, there's a scare campaign by drug war advocates who want the American public to be afraid of the supposed menace of pot-impaired drivers. Many Americans, however, aren't really buying it, according to a survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Despite the inclusion of per-se impairment levels for blood THC in Washington state's Initiative 502, for example, the Foundation's annual Traffic Safety Culture Index reveals that, compared to alcohol, Americans are significantly less concerned about the thread of marijuana impairment behind the wheel.
The survey found that while two-thirds feel that those who drive after drinking pose a "very serious" threat to their personal safety, just over half feel the same way about pot use. In fact, one in six Americans repoprt that, where they live, "most people" feel it's acceptable to drive one hour after using cannabis.
The scare campaigns are, unfortunately, having some effect. The survey found that nearly half of Americans reported feeling that drug-impaired drivers are a "bigger problem" today than compared to three years ago. Fully 85 percent support some form of marijuana-impairment laws when it comes to operating motor vehicles.
But Americans are quite unclear on impairment thresholds (naturally, since there's no convincing science showing a "bright line" cutoff point for THC), as well as on safety implications and legal ramifications.
“There’s no superlative that could adequately describe the impact that 2014 has had on the cannabis industry.”
~ Aaron Smith, NCIA
In honor of the one-year anniversary of Colorado’s history-making opening of legal adult-use sales of marijuana, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is looking back at the most monumental year in the history of the cannabis industry.
“There’s no superlative that could adequately describe the impact that 2014 has had on the cannabis industry,” said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith. “The success of adult-use legalization in Colorado and Washington, the overwhelming public opinion in favor of medical marijuana, and the steady march of policy change at both the state and federal levels have created an entirely new world.
“NCIA is proud to work on behalf of the businesses, consumers, patients, and advocates all striving to build a cannabis industry that is successful, responsible, engaged in our communities, and treated fairly by policy-makers,” Smith said.
Nearly every week brought new ground-breaking developments, but here are NCIA’s top six moments in a year that has changed the industry forever.
1. Legal adult-use sales begin in Colorado.
“Marijuana Country: The Cannabis Boom,” reported by NBC News Correspondent Harry Smith, premieres on Monday, January 5 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. A year after Colorado passed one of the most permissive pot laws in the world and total sales of recreational and medicinal pot are on track to top $650 million, CNBC and correspondent Harry Smith return to the state to chart the rise of a new American industry and report on the results of this unprecedented social experiment.
Smith profiles the most successful marijuana merchant in Denver, who hopes to expand his family-run business to other states as they follow Colorado’s lead and legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use. He explores the new world of cannabis-infused edibles and the sale of pot brownies, chocolates and even soda, which has led to some confusion and controversy over dosing and portion size.
CNBC cameras also follow two pot dealers – one of them a U.S. Army veteran – who profit from a black market that funnels the drug across state lines and continues to thrive despite the new law.
This CNBC original documentary examines the issue of pot in the workplace, as Colorado employers work to reconcile a more open marijuana culture with workplace rules that enforce zero tolerance.
Smith talks to Brandon Coats, who awaits a State Supreme Court ruling that could ripple across the country. Coats was fired from his job when he tested positive for THC – the result of an act that was legal according to the state.
By Steve Elliott
With two citizen referendums competing for the ballot -- either of which would legalize recreational marijuana in Maine -- Democratic state Rep. Diane Russell is introducing a bill in the Legislature which would accomplish the same goal through regulation and taxation.
Rep. Russell said that cannabis legalization is inevitable in Maine, with three marijuana-related bills alreadyu under consideration by lawmakers, reports Jonah Bennett at the Daily Caller.
Russell's bill would reinstate liquor inspectors and put them in charge of marijuana, as well. Marijuana would be regulated similarly to alcohol under her plan.
"It would dedicate tax revenue, significant tax revenue, to school construction so that we can make sure we're building new schools and remodeling old schools so our children have an opportunity to have a solid education," Russell told CBS 13.
There is growing uncertainty in Maine around exactly how cannabis legalization will look in the state, with competing initiatives from the Marijuana Policy Project and Legalize Maine vying for the ballot in 2016.
By Steve Elliott
A year after marijuana legalization in Uruguay, the small South American country of 3.3 million people has registered 1,200 cannabis growers, the head of the National Drugs Board, Julio Calzada, announced on Monday.
"It is encouraging to have 1,200 growers after three or four months since the law came into effect," Calzada said, adding that implementation is progressing "on a clear path, carefully and under control," reports EFE.
"Roughly 500" cannabis clubs have registered with the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis, Calzada estimated. Each club can have up to 45 members and can cultivate up to 99 marijuana plants.
Calzada believes most marijuana users won't grow their own, and won't become club members. Instead he believes they'll just buy their weed through authorized pharmacies, which is still in the works.
President-Elect Tabare Vazquez, who will take office in March, said his government will abide by the law allowing cultivation and sale of marijuana through pharmacies, but left open the possibility of introducing changes in the regulations.
"We will abide by this law and we will have a very strict monitoring to see how it works," said Vazquez, a medical doctor. "If the need arises to amend the law, we will send a bill to parliament to be debated."
"Managing Drug Use at Your Event" Aimed at Event Producers, Focuses on Improving Health and Safety of Festival Attendees
Guide Calls for Drug Education, Onsite Mental Health Services and Drug Checking
In response to an increasing number of deaths at music festivals and other events in the U.S. and a rising emphasis on use of police and enforcement tactics, a new guide aims to give event producers an alternate approach that places health first when it comes to drug use. The recommendations in the guide include onsite drug education, mental health services and drug checking.
The guide states that alcohol and other drug use is “the norm at almost all events” while acknowledging that addressing illicit drug use is challenging. Drug war-era policies, such as the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act -- passed in 2003 and commonly known as the RAVE Act -- have loomed large.
The RAVE Act has been misinterpreted by many event producers as grounds to shut down their business if they take any approach to drug use beyond zero tolerance. “We know it’s a tricky subject, but it’s time to get real,” the guide states, concluding that, “The fact is, a pragmatic approach to managing drug use at events saves lives.”
As detailed by the guide, a pragmatic approach to managing drug use includes both improving practices event producers already employ, like use of security and medical teams, as well as adding new services, like onsite drug education and mental health spaces.
By Steve Elliott
Ohio residents could get the chance next year to vote on a marijuana ballot issue unlike any other in the United States, involving 10 wealthy individuals who would invest to obtain the right to grow and sell marijuana wholesale for personal use by adults 21 or older.
A group calling itself ResponsibleOhio said it aims to "end marijuana prohibition" and "pursue a ballot initiative in 2015 to give voters the opportunity to let adults 21 and older use marijuana for medical and personal use," reports Alan Johnson at The Columbus Dispatch.
“Marijuana for medical and personal use should be a choice made by adults 21 and older in this state. We are going to end this failed prohibition,” said Lydia Bolander, spokeswoman for the campaign.
“Legalizing marijuana for medical and personal use means increased safety because we will regulate, tax and treat marijuana like alcohol,” Bolander said. “We will smother the black market and use the taxes generated to help local communities provide vital public services.
“We need to be compassionate and ensure patients receive the treatment they rightfully deserve. We will create jobs in the agricultural, wholesale and retail marketplace, and we will drive research at our universities and hospitals,” Bolander said.
Under the plan, cannabis would be taxed, with the proceed distributed to government, according to the group. The exact method of distribution isn't detailed.
Since the inception of Colorado’s recreational cannabis industry, the market has grown significantly. Apart from growers, processors, and retailers, the industry has created opportunities for all types of niche businesses.
One such business is Primal Wellness, the world’s first day spa offering cannabis-infused products and related services, located in Englewood, Colorado. The spa offers a variety of massages, manicures, pedicures, yoga classes, and other services to tourists and local residents who want to experience the physical (non-psychoactive) benefits of cannabis products.
Recently, Ganjapreneur interviewed Danielli Martel, founder of Primal Wellness, as part of a series of entrepreneur and investor profiles featuring pioneers in different sectors of the rapidly growing marijuana industry. In the interview, Martel discusses her career before she founded Primal Wellness, what she thinks the future of the cosmetics industry looks like given the likelihood of new cannabis- and hemp-based products, as well as some of the obstacles that she faced while growing the business.
Colorado Attorney General says ‘suit is without merit and [his office] will vigorously defend against it’
By Steve Elliott
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning on Thursday announced that he has filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Colorado’s laws that legalize, regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. He said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is also joining the lawsuit, which alleges the state constitutional amendment approved by Colorado voters and the implementing legislation approved by state lawmakers is unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“We agree with the Colorado Attorney General’s opinion that this suit is without merit," said Mason Tvert, the Denver-based communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) who co-directed the 2012 Colorado marijuana initiative campaign. "This is a classic case of a solution in search of a problem."
"They are wasting Nebraska and Oklahoma taxpayers’ dollars by filing this suit, and they’re forcing Coloradans to pick up the bill for defending ourselves against it," Tvert ssaid. "Colorado's top law enforcement officials have better things to do, and you’d think their counterparts in Nebraska and Oklahoma would as well.
“These guys are on the wrong side of history," Tvert said. "They will be remembered similarly to how we think of state officials who fought to maintain alcohol prohibition years after other states ended it.
Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyperson Crystal Peoples-Stokes on Wednesday sponsored a public forum about the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
Under the proposal, those over 21 would be able to purchase small amounts of marijuana from a state-regulated store. The bill would rectify the many problems associated with marijuana prohibition, including the arrests of tens of thousands of primarily young people of color.
“There is no question that New York’s marijuana policies are broken,” said Kassandra Frederique, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Each year, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are swept into the maze of the criminal justice system for nothing more than possessing small amounts of marijuana.
"Enforcement of these policies is focused almost entirely focused on young people, primarily young people of color, such that our laws are now applied differently to different people based on the color of their skin and their income level – this must stop,” Frederique said.
The hearing comes amidst a wave of marijuana policy reform nationally. Four states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize marijuana for adult use.
At the federal level, Congress has just passed and President Obama on Tuesday signed the omnibus bill that contained an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to interfere with states that have passed medical marijuana laws.
By Steve Elliott
If you've ever doubted the existence of police privilege, it may be time to reassess. A police officer in California who was caught redhanded with marijuana in his home earlier this year -- more than 4 pounds of it -- "probably" won't be charged with a crime due to "lack of evidence."
K-9 Officer Joe Avila has been on paid leave since September, pending results of an internal investigation, according to the Richmond Police Department, reports Rick Hurd at the Contra Costa Times.
The Contra Costa District Attorney's Office has been "investigating" but "is not inclined to file charges," said Robin Lipetzky, the county's chief public defender. That decision "likely" comes from "evidence not strong enough to produce a conviction," according to Lipetzky (remember, they caught this cop with between 4 and 5 pounds of weed in his house).
A search warrant obtained by the Contra Costa Times showed that Avila picked up a box containing 4 to 5 pounds of cannabis from a UPS store on November 25, 2013. He then radioed a dispatcher to say he'd file an incident report.
But Officer Avila never filed that report. Instead, he took the marijuana to his home in Oakley instead of placing it in a department evidence locker, which would have been policy.
By Steve Elliott
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission on Tuesday announced that Tom Burns, a former pharmaceutical lobbyist who now works at the Oregon Health Authority as director of pharmacy programs and ran the state's medical cannabis dispensary program, will oversee the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.
Before working for the state of Oregon, Burns served as top administrator in the California Senate and was a lobbyist for GlaxoSmithKline, a Big Pharma giant, reports Nigel Jaquiss at Willamette Week.
The OLCC has been in charge of distributing and regulating liquor in Oregon since alcohol Prohibition ended, and now that the voters have approved Measure 91, it is now in the position of implementing marijuana legalization.
"Tom has navigated these waters before on the medical side," said OLCC Executive Director Steven Marks. "In line with Chairman Rob Patridge's direction, Tom will lead the implementation of Oregon's recreational marijuana law with a measured approach that protects children, promotes safety, and brings the marijuana industry into the regulated market."
Photo of Tom Burns: Willamette Week
A national survey released on Tuesday found teen marijuana usage rates decreased from 2013 to 2014 — a period marked by heightened national debate regarding marijuana policy and implementation of the nation’s first marijuana legalization laws.
According to the annual Monitoring the Future Survey, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), rates of annual, monthly, and daily marijuana use dropped among 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. More details are available in the researchers’ press release at http://www.monitoringthefuture.org//pressreleases/14drugpr_complete.pdf.
Teens’ perception of ‘great risk’ in marijuana use also decreased among students in all three grades, contradicting the often-heard claim that public dialogue about the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition — including discussion of the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol and other substances — will result in more teens using marijuana.
In August, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that rates of current and lifetime marijuana use among the state’s high school students has dropped since marijuana became legal for adults. More information is available at http://mppne.ws/1BSbM17.
“The survey’s findings and recent polls demonstrate that Americans of all ages are wising up when it comes to marijuana," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Support for ending marijuana prohibition is growing among adults, and marijuana use is dropping among teens.