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U.S.: Federal Numbers Show Marijuana Smuggling Plummets After States Legalize

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Federal marijuana trafficking offenses are on a steep decline nationwide as more states legalize recreational cannabis.

According to the latest drug trafficking statistics from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), such offenses have fallen sharply since 2012, the year that Colorado and Washington residents decided at the ballot box to legalize weed, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

The decline continues through 2015, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

"The number of marijuana traffickers rose slightly over time until a sharp decline in fiscal year 2013 and the number continues to decrease," according to the report. This, mind you, while trafficking in other drugs -- particularly meth and heroin -- appears to be on the rise.

The USSC's numbers show that at the federal level, marijuana trafficking is becoming less of a problem. Legalization could be reducing demand for black market sales, state prosecutors could have changed how they charge defendants, or there could be another explanation altogether. The data doesn't provide enough details to draw a conclusion, according to researchers.

Mexico: Marijuana Farmers See Profits Tumble As U.S. Legalizes

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The loosening of marijuana laws in the United States has increased competition from American growers, apparently enough to drive down prices paid to Mexican black-market cannabis farmers.

Small-scale growers in the state of Sinaloa, one of Mexico's biggest marijuana production areas, said that over the past four years the per-kilogram price has fallen from $100 to $30, reports Deborah Bonello at the Los Angeles Times.

The price drops appear to have led to reduced marijuana production in Mexico and a drop in trafficking to the U.S., according to officials on both sides of the border.

"People don't want to abandon their illicit crops, but more and more they are realizing that it is no longer good business," said Juan Gerra, Sinaloa's secretary of agriculture.

For decades, in an impotent and ill-fated attempt to stop marijuana cultivation in Mexico, both the American and Mexican governments have paid farmers to grow legal crops, and have periodically sent in Mexican soldiers to supposedly "seek out and eradicate" cannabis fields. Just as often, the troops merely demanded a piece of the action.

Those efforts, of course, failed miserably to stop production, because marijuana was still more profitable than the alternatives. It took legalization in several states in the U.S. to actually make a negative impact on Mexican cannabis production; it's not rocket science and doesn't require a genius level IQ to comprehend.

Vermont: New Report Outlines Options Regarding Marijuana Legalization

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Legalizing recreational marijuana production, distribution and possession in Vermont could generate significant tax revenues, but also involves costs and important decisions about how best to regulate the substance, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The report makes clear that if Vermont chooses to remove its prohibition on producing and selling marijuana, lawmakers will have many choices to make about who will supply it, who can buy it, if and how it will be taxed, and how it will be regulated.

The report does not make a recommendation about whether Vermont should change its marijuana laws. Researchers say the goal of the report is to inform, not sway, discussions about the future of marijuana policy in Vermont and other jurisdictions considering alternatives to traditional marijuana prohibition.

The RAND report provides the most-detailed accounting available about the wide number of issues that face state officials -- in Vermont and elsewhere -- when considering alternatives to traditional marijuana prohibition.

“Our conversation about whether to legalize marijuana must be rooted in facts and be transparent about the uncertainties,” said Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin. “This RAND report will serve as a critical foundation for our ongoing discussion about the best course for Vermont.

"I continue to support moves to legalize marijuana in Vermont but have always said that we have to proceed with rigorous research and preparation before deciding whether to act," Shumlin said. "This report will help us do that.”

Vermont: Public Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Scheduled For Wednesday

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A public hearing on the legalization of marijuana in Vermont is scheduled for Wednesday. The hearing will be held statewide via Vermont Interactive Television.

Earlier this year, the Vermont Legislature ordered the administration to study marijuana legalization, with a report due in January, reports the Associated Press.

The state contracted with the RAND Drug Policy Research Center to study the production, distribution, and possession of cannabis.

Wednesday's hearing will be held by Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding and Beau Kilmer, who co-directs the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

Spaulding and Kilmer will make brief presentations, after which people attending the meeting will be allowed to ask questions and make comments.

Vermont: RAND Corporation To Study Issues Around Marijuana Legalization

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Could the Green Mountain State become the Green Marijuana State? Researchers from the RAND Corporation will study the issues related to potentially legalizing the production, distribution and possession of marijuana in Vermont, officials said on Wednesday.

In May 2014, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill that requires the state secretary of administration to report to the General Assembly regarding the taxation and regulation of recreational marijuana in Vermont. A May poll from the Castleton Polling Institute found 57 percent of Vermonters favor cannabis legalization, reports the Marijuana Policy Project.

“We are pleased to help the state of Vermont think through the potential consequences associated with alternative marijuana policies,” said Beau Kilmer, project leader and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

Kilmer met with state Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding and other Vermont officials this week to discuss the study.

The law calls for the report to analyze the possible taxing systems for the sale of marijuana in Vermont, including sales taxes, use taxes and excise taxes, as well as the potential revenue each may raise. In addition, the study will examine any savings or costs to the state that would result from regulating marijuana and the experiences of other states with regulating and taxing marijuana. Issues surrounding public health and public safety also will be addressed.

California: Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance to Speak at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco

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Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, will speak at the World Affairs Council’s WorldAffairs 2014 conference in San Francisco on Saturday, March 15 at 10:30 a.m.

WorldAffairs 2014 offers fresh insights and new perspectives on current global topics. The conference will be held at the St. Regis in San Francisco on Friday, March 14 and Saturday, March 15.

Nadelmann will take part in a discussion entitled “Rethinking the War on Drugs.” Nadelmann will be joined by Beau Kilmer, co-director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center and Robert MacCoun, professor of public policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy. Issues addressed in the discussion will include:

• What do President Obama’s new drug policy initiatives mean for the U.S?
• What does it mean to reclassify drug use as a public health issue?
• What lessons can be learned from Europe?
• Can the United States effectively reduce the harmful effects of drugs at home and abroad while also reducing the enormous fiscal burden of the War on Drugs?

Described by Rolling Stone Magazxine as "the point man" for drug policy reform efforts, Ethan Nadelmann is widely regarded as the outstanding proponent of drug policy reform both in the United States and abroad. Nadelmann is the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), an organization based in the United States promoting alternatives to the War On Drugs.

Washington: Study Says State Marijuana Users Smoked 6 Million Ounces In 2013

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Washington state marijuana users smoked more than 6 million ounces of pot this year, according to an official government study.

The RAND Corp. study, aimed at figuring out how much cannabis is smoked by heavy users on a typical day, was released on Wednesday. A team of researchers calculated that the Evergreen State's roughly 750,000 marijuana users will have consumed between 135 and 225 metric tons of weed in 2013, reports Gene Johnson at the Associated Press.

The team came up with the median figure of 175 metric tons, which is 6 million ounces, enough for about 340 million half-gram joints, or 170 million the way I roll 'em.

According to the RAND study, "Before the Grand Opening," half the weed in the state is consumed in just its three most populous counties: King County (which includes Seattle) uses about 30 percent of Washington's marijuana, while Pierce to the north and Snohomish to the south smoke about 11 percent each.

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