U.S. attorney snuffs pot fans’ plan for festival

U.S. attorney snuffs pot fans’ plan for festival

The Columbian / Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal prosecutor has snuffed out plans by pot fans to celebrate Nevada’s new recreational marijuana law by lighting up on a Native American reservation near Las Vegas.

U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden took a hard line in a letter to organizers of a cannabis festival this weekend, saying federal law applies and pot smokers could be prosecuted.

Bogden’s warning raised concerns about a possible Trump administration crackdown on marijuana.

Bogden said a 2013 Obama administration directive that was seen as relaxing enforcement on tribal lands in states where pot is legal might have been misinterpreted. He said pot is still illegal on tribal lands and on federal land.

Organizers of the High Times Cannabis Cup festival said there will still be music, T-shirts and souvenirs at the event at a Moapa Band of Paiutes festival site.

But spokesman Joe Brezny said it’ll essentially be just a concert this year.

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Published at Sat, 04 Mar 2017 06:20:05 +0000

Republican Congressman introduces bill to end federal pot prohibition

Republican Congressman introduces bill to end federal pot prohibition

A rookie Republican representative from Virginia has tabled legislation that would put a stop to U.S. federal prohibition of cannabis use and allow states to set their own policies.

The bill seeks to remove pot from the federal Controlled Substances Act and solve the current conflict between federal and state laws over medical or recreational use. If passed, the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” would take cannabis off the banned substances list along with alcohol and tobacco.

Originally introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders in 2015, this bill is meant to create a level playing field across the country.

“I have long believed justice that isn’t blind, isn’t justice,” said 5th District Congressman Tom Garrett in a prepared statement. “Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California.”

Currently neither the recreational or medical uses of cannabis are allowed in Virginia.

The bill does specify that transporting pot into states where it is not legal would remain a federal crime.

Cannabis is currently a Schedule 1 controlled substance at the federal level, meaning the federal government considers the drug to have a “high potential for abuse” and “no medically accepted use.” But more than half the states have set their own policies allowing either medical or recreational use.

Canadians and Americans spent a combined $75 billion ($56.4 billion USD) on pot products in 2016, and a whopping 88 % of that sales were illegal, according to a report by ArcView Market Research. Legal spending made up $9.81billion ($6.9 billion USD) of last year’s total, which is up 34 per cent from 2015.

The Trump administration has been skeptical of the benefits of making cannabis legally available. Newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said he is  “not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” and White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested the administration may crack down on weed in some states where it’s now legal.

In introducing the bill, Garrett’s tackled that apprehension directly:

“In recent weeks, the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to crack down on federal marijuana crimes,” said Garrett. “During his confirmation, then-Senator Sessions pointed out that if legislators did not like this approach, they should change the laws accordingly.”

Garrett hopes to have bipartisan support as his bill makes its way to the various committees of jurisdiction. Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D) is serving as the lead original co-sponsor on this bipartisan legislation.

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Published at Fri, 03 Mar 2017 21:08:04 +0000

Canada’s Prime Minister Says Marijuana Legalization Law to be Ready by Summer

Canada’s Prime Minister Says Marijuana Legalization Law to be Ready by Summer

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says legislation to legalize marijuana should be ready by the summer.

The comments came yesterday at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt during the start of a two-day trip for Trudeau to Victoria and Vancouver. Trudeau – who made it a campaign promise to legalize marijuana – says that until the upcoming proposal becomes law, Canadians must follow existing policies regarding cannabis.

“Until we have a framework to control and regulate marijuana, the current laws apply,” he said.

In December Canada’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recommended that the nation legalize the plant for everyone 18 and older, while setting a limit of 30 grams (just over an ounce).

According to a report released in October, Canada’s legal marijuana industry is expected to be worth $23 billion annually, surpassing the total market for beer, wine and spirits.

A Nanos survey released in July found that 69% of those in Canada who are 18 and older support legalizing cannabis, with just 26% opposed.

About Anthony Martinelli

Anthony, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheJointBlog, has worked closely with numerous elected officials who support cannabis law reform, including as the former Campaign Manager for Washington State Representative Dave Upthegrove. He has also been published by multiple media outlets, including the Seattle Times. He can be reached at TheJointBlog@TheJointBlog.com.

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Published at Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:18:00 +0000

AG Jeff Sessions Met with Russian Ambassador Twice in 2016, Something He Lied About

AG Jeff Sessions Met with Russian Ambassador Twice in 2016, Something He Lied About

In a bombshell piece The Washington Post has reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions twice met with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. last year, something he lied about during his confirmation hearing.

(Photo: AP)

According to the Post, Sessions had a private phone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in Session’s office. The call was made “at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.”

At the time of the conversation Sessions was not only a senior member of the Armed Services Committee; he was one of then-candidate Trump’s top foreign policy advisers.

During Session’s confirmation hearing in the Judiciary Committee on January 10th, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked him what actions he would take if he was presented evidence that someone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” said Sessions. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Recently President Trump fired Michael Flynn, his pick for National Security Advisor, over his failure to properly disclose contacts with Russia. This precedent could very well lead to Trump also firing Sessions, something cannabis advocates would clearly applaud given his recent and past derogatory statements regarding the plant and laws that legalize it.

About Anthony Martinelli

Anthony, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheJointBlog, has worked closely with numerous elected officials who support cannabis law reform, including as the former Campaign Manager for Washington State Representative Dave Upthegrove. He has also been published by multiple media outlets, including the Seattle Times. He can be reached at TheJointBlog@TheJointBlog.com.

(Why?)

Published at Thu, 02 Mar 2017 03:45:16 +0000

Dear Jeff Sessions: Here's that science on marijuana and opioids you were asking for

Dear Jeff Sessions: Here's that science on marijuana and opioids you were asking for

Speaking Tuesday morning before the National Association of Attorneys General, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed doubt that marijuana could help mitigate the opioid abuse epidemic.

“I see a line in The Washington Post today [Monday] that I remember from the ’80s,” Sessions said. “‘Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse.’ Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just – almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”

The stakes are pretty high here. After all, opioids killed 33,000 people in 2015, up from around 8,000 in 1999. As the head of the Department of Justice, Attorney General Sessions oversees the Drug Enforcement Administration, which just last year reaffirmed its belief that marijuana has no medical value and hence should remain illegal (which makes it substantially more difficult for researchers to conduct studies).

Here’s a run-down of where the evidence on marijuana and opiates stands.

Marijuana is great at treating chronic pain.

This is the big finding, and the one from which all the others spring. Surveying the entire known universe of studies about the medical efficacies of cannabis, the National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering found “strong evidence” showing marijuana is effective at dealing with chronic pain in adults, relative to a placebo. The National Academies study is the most thorough review of the literature on marijuana to date, conducted by some of the nation’s leading substance use researchers.

Across numerous trials and experiments, the report found, people treated for pain with marijuana were “more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms” compared to a placebo or doing nothing at all.

This is huge news, considering the annual opiate overdose numbers cited above. Americans consume roughly 80 percent of the world’s opiate painkiller supply. The drugs are often prescribed for long-term treatment of chronic pain, a practice that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now trying to discourage. Prescription painkillers and other opioids are highly addictive, and taking too much of them can easily kill you.

Marijuana is habit-forming too, but not nearly as much as opiate drugs like heroin. It also has no known lethal dose – you basically can’t consume large enough quantities of marijuana at a fast enough pace for overdose death to become a concern the way it is with say, OxyContin or fentanyl – or alcohol for that matter.

There’s been a lot of research done into this question in recent years. Here’s what it says:

States with medical marijuana laws see fewer opiate deaths.

According to a 2014 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, states with medical marijuana laws between 1999 and 2010 saw, on average, about 25 percent fewer opiate overdose deaths than states without such laws. What’s more, the effect of a medical marijuana law appeared to grow over time – more lives were saved each additional year after the laws’ implementation, suggesting an effect from more people taking advantage of the programs.

This, of course, is just an observational study. It looks at the correlation between medical marijuana uptake and opiate deaths, but it isn’t able to say that the former definitively caused the decline in the latter. But these findings were soon borne out by other research.

Access to medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with less prescription painkiller abuse, and fewer overdose deaths.

A 2015 working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries in a state was linked to a 15 to 35 percent decrease in admissions to substance abuse treatment centers, along with a similar decline in overdose deaths.

This study was somewhat more rigorous than the previous paper, drawing on a larger data set that stood up to greater statistical scrutiny. As one of the authors told me at the time, “If this is for real, it means that there are other ways that are less dangerous [than prescription painkillers] for people to deal with chronic pain.”

Medical marijuana is associated with fewer opiate-induced car crashes.

A 2016 Columbia University paper zeroed in on a different facet of the substance abuse problem – auto accidents. The researchers found that after a state passes a medical marijuana law, fewer drivers in those states test positive for opioids after fatal car crashes.

The take-home here is pretty simple: “in states with medical marijuana laws, fewer individuals are using opioids,” the authors conclude.

Painkiller prescriptions fall sharply after medical marijuana laws are introduced.

A novel study conducted last year looked at what happened to Medicare Part D painkiller prescriptions after states passed medical marijuana laws.

It found that the typical physician in a medical marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer painkiller doses for Medicare patients in a given year. Why? Some seniors don’t need painkillers if they have access to medical pot (related: seniors and people in late middle age are among the fastest growing marijuana use demographics).

Among chronic pain patients, marijuana use is associated with less opiate use.

A study published last year in the Journal of Pain found chronic pain patients who reported marijuana use were 64 percent less likely to report opiate use, more likely to report good quality of life, and less likely to report negative side effects from their medication.

“This study suggests that many chronic pain patients are essentially substituting medical cannabis for opioids and other medications for chronic pain treatment, and finding the benefit and side effect profile of cannabis to be greater than these other classes of medications,” the authors conclude. “More research is needed to validate this finding.”

“More research is needed.” Researchers universally say they need to do more studies to tease out the nature of the relationships seen in the studies above. In particular, what’s sorely lacking are controlled experiments that allow doctors to treat either chronic pain or opiate dependency with medical marijuana.

But as of right now that research is incredibly difficult to do because of how marijuana is classified by the federal government. As a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the government has deemed that marijuana has “no medically accepted use.”

Researchers can still work with it, but it requires jumping through an onerous system of legal hoops that can sometimes take years to navigate. It took nearly a decade for one researcher trying to use marijuana to treat PTSD in military veterans to obtain all the approvals necessary.

Those roadblocks have a chilling effect on marijuana research, as outlined in a 2015 Brookings Institution report. Meanwhile, while researchers fight red tape, tens of thousands of opiate users are dying.

The scientific evidence available so far indicates marijuana holds great promise for mitigating the effects of the opiate epidemic. Researchers desperately want to know more, but as long as the Drug Enforcement Administration considers marijuana a Schedule 1 controlled substance, they’ll have a hard time getting more answers.

(Why?)

Published at Wed, 01 Mar 2017 14:38:12 +0000

Trump won't “turn his back” on Colorado pot laws, GOP lawmaker says

Trump won't “turn his back” on Colorado pot laws, GOP lawmaker says

A top Republican lawmaker in Colorado is casting doubt on whether Donald Trump’s administration will crack down on the legalization of marijuana, saying the new president wouldn’t “turn his back” on state’s rights.

Colorado Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican and a Trump supporter, reacted after the statement from White House spokesman Sean Spicer that recreational pot will face “greater enforcement.”

“I’m not sure I’d put too much thought or too much credit into what he was saying,” Sonnenberg told reporters Monday morning. “This president has been all about federalism and giving the states more authority, this just flies in the face of that. So I would anticipate not much coming from that.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper downplayed the suggestion a day earlier in a “Meet the Press” interview, affirming that he didn’t believe the federal government would target states like Colorado that legalized weed.

Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has suggested a change in federal policy toward states on marijuana is unlikely, but Sonnenberg’s comments are the most forceful Republican push back against the White House on the issue since the announcement Thursday.

“Colorado has been the leader when it comes to marijuana and the regulation,” he said. “People look to us for leadership, and I don’t think our new president will turn his back on allowing states to do what they need to do, whether (marijuana) or anything else.”

In the TV interview Sunday, Hickenlooper suggested that even though he opposed Amendment 64, he is moving closer to supporting legalized pot. But Sonnenberg disputed that there is a shift in public opinion on the issue — even though Republican lawmakers are sponsoring various bills related to easing marijuana rules in Colorado.

“The vast majority of the people who supported marijuana continue to support it and the vast majority of the those that hated it in the beginning, still hate it,” he said.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com

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Published at Mon, 27 Feb 2017 18:07:39 +0000

LP shares drop over possible Trump crackdown on weed

LP shares drop over possible Trump crackdown on weed

Shares of North American cannabis producers dropped yesterday after the Trump administration suggested a crackdown on recreational marijuana could be expected.

A majority of Canada’s publicly traded LPs dipped after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Thursday that the Justice Department will be looking more closely at the issue, saying “there is a big difference” between medical and recreational use.

Shares of Ontario-based Canopy Growth Corp, which bills itself as the world’s largest cannabis company and trades as “WEED” on the Toronto Stock Exchange, dropped 4.64 per cent on open Friday.

cANOPY-GROWTH-STOCK-570

Canopy became the country’s first cannabis “unicorn” in 2016, with a market value of $1 billion or more, after voters in four U.S. states voted to legalize recreational use.

More than 20 % of U.S. residents live in a state where recreational use is now legal.


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Published at Sat, 25 Feb 2017 22:20:01 +0000

Marijuana dispensaries take wait-and-see approach after crackdown talk

Marijuana dispensaries take wait-and-see approach after crackdown talk

The Columbian / Associated Press

Local marijuana shops say they will take a wait-and-see approach after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer recently made allusions to a federal crackdown on legal pot.

Ramsey Hamide, whose co-owned dispensary Main Street Marijuana is Washington’s top seller of marijuana, said cannabis-based businesses are worried they could face fines or jail time, but for many it’s too soon to say.

“We’re not going to do anything reactionary,” he said, later adding that he and his business partners would take it “one day at a time.”

Spicer said Thursday the administration may consider cracking down on the recreational marijuana industry now legal in eight states and Washington, D.C.

“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said during a press briefing. He also made the distinction between recreational and medical marijuana, which he said were “very, very different” subjects.

Spicer then referred follow-up questions to the Department of Justice, now headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been critical of marijuana legalization.

The comments led Hamide and others to talk “contingency plans,” he said.

“If we’re to shut down, how do we unwind (the business)? How do we get rid of inventory? How does the framework unwind in a way that isn’t going to raise eyebrows with the federal government?” Hamide said.

Jim Mullen, owner of the trio of marijuana retailers called The Herbery, said he isn’t concerned and said people may be misinterpreting Spicer’s comments.

“I don’t think enforcement meant shutting (the industry) down, I think people are reading into it,” Mullen said. “And that’s common. It’s a new industry, it’s a big industry and it’s a popular industry. From what I’ve heard and read, people are making speculations that are completely inaccurate and out of context.”

Retailers have been thriving with little concern for federal involvement since the release of the so-called Cole Memorandum, in which Justice Department officials said federal prosecutors would not impede state laws as long as marijuana did not cross state lines.

Robert McVay of the law firm Harris Bricken said the Trump administration could choose to revoke or change the memorandum, or issue its own. But that move would put more work on agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency.

“Federal law enforcement isn’t built to enforce these intrastate marijuana laws,” he said.

If they do proceed, the federal government could start by sending letters to marijuana businesses ordering them to halt production or sales, he said. They could be threatened with or face raids, arrests and other ramifications.

Hamide said if it comes to that, he will likely consider shuttering.

“Once that happens, we won’t be the last holdout on the block or anything, trying to take a stand against the Trump administration,” he said. “That’s a losing battle.”

Plans might also get tangled if the administration plans to knuckle down on recreational marijuana but not medical marijuana, McVay said. In Washington, for example, the programs are merged.

There are many marijuana businesses in Vancouver and Battle Ground, including 12 retailers and more than 20 producer-processors who grow, sell and make cannabis products. The industry has generated $34.1 million in excise taxes since debuting in 2014.

Washington officials look to oppose any moves made against the state’s marijuana laws. In a letter to Sessions dated Feb. 15, Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson said legalization had successfully turned a black market enterprise into tax dollars.

“This frees up significant law enforcement resources to protect our communities in other, more pressing ways,” the letter said. “We urge the DOJ to continue to allow states the option to pursue these sensible policies.”

Washington and Colorado were the first states to legalize marijuana, but have since been joined by Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

(Why?)

Published at Sat, 25 Feb 2017 02:19:30 +0000

Alliance Growers invests in Canwe

Alliance Growers invests in Canwe

Alliance Growers Corp. has closed the first tranche of installment of its subscription for common shares in New Maple Holdings Ltd., the parent company of Canwe Growers Inc.

Canwe is an Ontario-based company preparing to apply for a producer’s license under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). Canwe has access to a 22 acre property 1.5 hours north-west of Toronto, where it plans to build a facility focused on producing clean, premium quality cannabis. Canwe has amassed a team which includes licensed producer MedReleaf Corp.’s former Head Grower and his number two aide, both of whom are expert cannabis growers who intimately know the cannabis cultivation cycle from seed to sale.

With Alliance Growers’ four-pillar strategy and Canwe’s experienced team, the two companies plan to work together to form business synergies with the goal of creating a strong presence in Canada’s fast-growing medical cannabis space.

Alliance Growers has subscribed for a total of 375,000 common shares of New Maple at a cost of $1.00 per share, which would represent approximately 5% of the outstanding shares of New Maple if the subscription was filled in its entirety today. Alliance Growers acquired an initial common share of New Maple upon incorporation and has acquired an additional 25,000 common shares for $25,000. Alliance Growers is expected to fulfil its commitment to acquire the remaining 350,000 shares by April 30, 2017 for an additional $350,000, failing which New Maple can repurchase all of its shares from Alliance Growers at the original issuance price. The funds are expected to be used by Canwe to prepare its application for a producer’s license in accordance with the ACMPR.

In conjunction with the investment, New Maple and Alliance Growers have entered into a non-binding letter of intent for the negotiation of a business arrangement for the purchase and sale between the parties of live cannabis plants, tissue culture plantlets and other cannabis products and services subject to applicable law and the availability of products between the parties. Alliance Growers will not be able to acquire any such products from Canwe unless Canwe obtains its producer’s license from Health Canada and agrees to enter into a business arrangement with Alliance Growers.

Commenting on the investment in New Maple/Canwe, Dennis Petke, Alliance Growers’ President and CEO said, “I am pleased that we have initiated an investment with such an experienced group applying to become a licensed producer applicant in Ontario. This relationship is expected to provide synergies and mutual opportunities for going forward for developing business arrangements concerning the purchase and sale between the parties of live cannabis plants and other cannabis products”.


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Published at Wed, 22 Feb 2017 05:18:33 +0000

LA Prop M Puts Minorities First and Provide a Foundation for Cannabis Businesses

LA Prop M Puts Minorities First and Provide a Foundation for Cannabis Businesses

LA Prop M puts minorities first and is a new measure being considered in Los Angeles, California that aims to regulate, tax and enforce medical and recreational marijuana – order that’s much needed to bring order in the quasi-legal Los Angeles dispensaries.

The choice turns to the voters with Proposition M on March 7. Voting ‘yes’ on M would give the City Council more authority and control over the sales of legal cannabis.

L.A cannabis is complicated – there are more than one-hundred medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the ‘grey area’ due to a 2013 measure called Prop D, that gave “limited legal immunity” to those operating without a proper license.

City Council drafted Prop M. The measure would rebuild the cannabis market with a solid legal foundation for businesses, and also help more minorities get into California cannabis.

Virgil Grant and is co-founder of Southern California Coalition. The group represents minorities in the cannabis space. In an interview with the LA Times, Grant expressed his frustrations with a system that keeps out well-intentioned business people that happen to have a record – often from being victims of the failed drug war.

“We said, we are no longer going to have the City Council take meetings with hundreds of other organizations,” Grant said to the LA Times. “I didn’t go to the City Council with an ‘ask.’ I went with a demand: This is what needs to be done, and it needs to be done right. We don’t get a do-over. We need smart and sensible regulations, licensing mechanisms and enforcement.”

The state still has the right to deny licenses based on past marijuana felonies, but LA Prop M Puts Minorities First.

Proposition N will also be on the ballot, however, it was written by those quasi-legal dispensaries, who have since lent their allegiance to Prop M.

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Published at Mon, 20 Feb 2017 19:11:10 +0000