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U.S.: National Poll Shows Majority Supports Legalizing Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A majority of American registered voters nationwide support the legalization of marijuana, according to the results of a new Quinnipiac Poll released on Monday.

Just more than half -- 54 percent -- said cannabis use should be made legal across the United States, while 41 percent said it should not, reports Nick Gass at Politico.

The results showed partisan polarization, with Democrats favoring legalizing 65 percent to 30 percent, and Republicans opposing legalization 62 percent to 36 percent. Independent voters backed legalization 61 percent to 36 percent, as did men (60 percent to 37 percent) and women, but just by 48 percent to 46 percent, within the margin of error.

Possession of cannabis is already legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, along with the District of Columbia, with a couple of dozen other states having decriminalized the herb.

Majorities of voters younger than 65 said they would support legalization, while 57 percent of those 65 and older said they would oppose it.

Wisconsin: Bernie Sanders Says Marijuana Should Not Be A Federal Crime

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Campaigning for President in liberal Madison, Wisconsin, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) defended marijuana, saying it should not be a federal crime.

Sanders criticized the American War On Drugs, saying that millions of lives have been "ruined" because they got a police record, and sometimes prison sentences, for possessing marijuana, reports Tom Kertscher at Politifact.

"Today, under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed in the same Schedule I as heroin," Sanders said. "That is nuts."

"Now people can argue -- although I suspect in this audience, there may not be much of an argument -- about the pluses and minuses of marijuana," Sanders said, drawing cheers from the crowd of thousands at the Alliant Energy Center. "But everybody knows marijuana is not a killer drug like heroin."

Sanders then pointed out he's introduced legislation which would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act -- as in DEscheduling cannabis, not REscheduling it. (Merely moving marijuana to Schedule II would effectively hand over its control to Big Pharma.)

California: Adult Use of Marijuana Act Endorsed By Congressman Ted Lieu

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Congressman and military veteran U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) on Monday announced his support for the statewide ballot measure known as the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).

The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Lieu has won awards as a military prosecutor, an advisor to U.S. Air Force commanders and as a law student and private attorney. As a congressman, he serves on the House Budget and Oversight Committees.

Last year, Lieu introduced bipartisan legislation to save taxpayer dollars by blocking the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from financing its Domestic Cannabis Eradication and Suppression Program through civil asset forfeitures.

“I’ve reviewed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act and believe it creates a legal, responsible and regulated framework for adult use of marijuana that is fiscally responsible, smartly builds on what California has already done with medical marijuana and provides necessary protections for children, workers, local governments, law enforcement agencies and the environment,” said Rep. Lieu.

“As a policy, marijuana prohibition has wasted taxpayer resources while failing to protect our communities,” Lieu said. “The Adult Use of Marijuana Act represents a vastly superior and long overdue new approach.”

U.S.: DEA Plans Decision On Rescheduling Marijuana By Mid-Year

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Drug Enforcement Administration plans to decide whether marijuana should be reclassified under federal law "in the first half of 2016," according to a letter from the DEA to senators.

The agency was responding to a 2015 letter from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and seven other Democratic senators urging the federal government to stop blocking research into the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

If marijuana is reclassified at all, it would have to be moved to a "less dangerous" category, because it is currently considered Schedule I under federal law, the category of drugs considered the most dangerous of all. Schedule I drugs, by definition, supposedly have no medical value and a high potential for abuse. The insanity of including cannabis -- which, of course, can be used to treat hundreds of conditions -- should be obvious.

There are five categories (schedules) classifying illegal drugs. Marijuana has been considered Schedule I since Nixon's War On Drugs kicked off in 1971. That means the federal government officially considers marijuana to be just as dangerous as heroin -- and it means the government thinks pot is less dangerous than either cocaine or methamphetamine, both of which are considered Schedule II drugs.

Alabama: Democratic Senate Nominee Favors Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

While the pace of cannabis law reform may sometimes seem far too slow, we are making major progress. One way that I know this, is by watching my home state of Alabama, the "Heart of Dixie," rightly considered one of the most conservative states in the union.

You may be asking, "Progress? What progress?" Well, for the first time in history, as far as we've been able to determine, the 2016 Democratic nominee for United States Senator from Alabama favors marijuana legalization.

"Current marijuana policy in Alabama, and across America, lacks reason, intelligence and sanity," said Democratic Senate nominee Ron Crumpton, a native of Wilsonville, Alabama. "It creates criminal enterprises, puts our children in unnecessary danger and clogs our courts and prisons with people who would be considered normal productive members of society, but because they choose to use marijuana as opposed to alcohol, they are considered criminal."

It is mighty refreshing to see a major party nominee for Senator with such an enlightened viewpoint -- and doubly so, since Crumpton is from the Deep South.

"The prohibition of marijuana promotes violence, costs millions of dollars in law enforcement/corrections, and violates the constitutional rights of Americans," Crumpton said. "Using marijuana does not present a viable danger to anyone. Therefore, denying the use of marijuana, or arresting someone for the use of marijuana is not only a violation of our personal rights and liberties… it is asinine."

Iowa: Poll Shows Growing Support For Medical Marijuana; Legislature Considers Expanding Law

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than three of every four Iowans now favor allowing patients to use marijuana medicinally, but most remain opposed to its recreational legalization, according to a new poll.

Iowans have become more comfortable with medical marijuana, which is now supported by 78 percent of the state's adults, according to the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, reports Tony Leys at The Des Moines Register. That represents a gain of 20 points in support levels in just three years; support was at 58 percent in 2013.

But most Iowans continue to oppose allowing marijuana for fun. Just 34 percent of adults favor that idea, up 5 percentage points from 2013, according to the poll.

The poll results come as Iowa lawmakers are considering expanding the state's tiny, ineffective medicinal cannabis program. The state's current law, passed in 2014, only allows possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a marijuana extract that isn't psychoactive and helps quell seizures associated with severe epilepsy. It provides no legal method to make the CBD oil, nor does it provide any legal method to obtain or distribute it.

U.S.: How Will Marijuana Influence Super Tuesday?

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

As Super Tuesday fast approaches, Kind Financial CEO David Dinenberg decided to take a look at the influence of marijuana on the voters in the affected states.

"Most of the Super Tuesday states are historically Red states, and while that might be true today, many of these states are considering passing laws in favor of medical marijuana," Dinenberg said. "Alabama, Georgia, and Texas are considering legislation.

"Others, such as Vermont and Massachusetts, already have medical marijuana and now are considering recreational," Dinenberg said. "Of course, Alaska and Colorado have recreational use."

Dinenberg pointed out that Donald Trump is leading in the polls in every Super Tuesday state that has passed or is considering medical or recreational marijuana. "Mr. Trump is on record supporting states' rights," Dinenberg said. "While he doesn't favor federal legalization, his pro-states' rights just might be enough to fend off his competitors."

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both oppose medical marijuana, according to Dinenberg. "I ask this question to the candidates," he said. "How do you plan on winning an election that 58 percent of the voters disagree with you?"

U.S.: Sen. Elizabeth Warren Urges Investigating Marijuana As Alternative To Pain Pills

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) this week asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research how marijuana might help curb the opioid epidemic in America.

The U.S. is the largest consumer of prescription painkillers in the world, according to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Even though Americans are just 5 percent of the global population, they gobble 75 percent of the planet's opioid medications.

Warren asked the CDC to conduct studies about alternatives to pain relief drugs, such as marijuana, reports Jackie Salo at International Business Times

In a letter sent Monday to CDC head Dr. Thomas Friedan, Warren urged the agency to finalize its guidance to doctors on prescribing oxycodone, fentanyl, and other pharmaceutical opioid painkillers, reports Alan Pyke at Think Progress.

In the letter, Warren mentioned the struggle her constituents in Massachusetts have faced with painkiller abuse. She said there were almost 1,100 confirmed cases of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2014, which was a 65 percent increase from 2012.

U.S.: Obama Says Marijuana Reform Is Not On His Agenda For 2016

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

It seems that cannabis activists who had hoped for a big shift in federal marijuana policies from the Obama Administration in its last year are likely to be disappointed.

White House press secretary John Earnest on Friday said any progress on cannabis law reform would have to come from Congress, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. President Obama had, a day earlier, said marijuana reform isn't on his list of end-of-term priorities, according to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee).

Cohen said he'd asked the President whether he wanted to reschedule marijuana; the federal government considers cannabis a Schedule I substance, the most dangerous category, under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are considered to have a "high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence."

Many lawmakers want to move pot to Schedule II, which would acknowledge the plant's medicinal potential, but would also effectively hand over control of it to Big Pharma, since prescriptions would be required.

Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wants to DE-schedule marijuana, which means removing it from the federal list of controlled substances altogether.

U.S.: Most Americans Support Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new poll released on Friday by YouGov shows that more than half of Americans -- 52 percent -- now support marijuana legalization, with just 34 percent opposing it. This is up from 48 support legalization when YouGov last asked the question in March 2015.

More than half of all adults under age 65 support legalization, according to YouGov, but more people over 65 (49 percent) oppose legalization than support it (39 percent).

Two-thirds of Democrats (66 percent) and half o independents (51 percent) want to legalize weed, but just over a third of Republicans (36 percent) are down with that plan.

Two-third of Americans as a whole believe government efforts to enforce the marijuana laws cost more than they are worth. A big majority of those favoring legalization (86 percent) agreed with that sentiment, but even legalization opponents narrowly agree that current efforts aren't worth the cost (42 percent to 33 percent).

Last October, Gallup found that 58 percent of Americans want marijuana to be legalized. Pew measured the level of support at 53 percent in an April survey.

The new YouGov poll was conducted December 16-17, 2015 and included 1,000 web-based interviews with American adults. The margin of error is ± 4.6 percent.

U.S.: Congressman Blumenauer Writes Open Letter To President About Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Congressman Earl Blumenauer on Tuesday wrote an open letter advocating marijuana legalization to President Obama in advance of the President's State of the Union speech.

"As you begin your last year in office, I hope there is one more step you take to bring about fundamental change — ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances," Rep. Blumenauer wrote to the President.

The language chosen by Rep. Blumenauer is very significant, politically speaking. "Removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances" is, of course, the only way forward that avoids cannabis being immediately co-opted and controlled by Big Pharma, which is assuredly what will happen if it is moved from Schedule I to Schedule II or III on the Uniformed Controlled Substances Act.

Following is Rep. Blumenauer's letter in its entirety.

An Open Letter to the President

Dear Mr. President:

A State of the Union speech is a unique opportunity to address Congress and the nation about priorities and accomplishments, as well as to highlight critical issues.

I remember another speech in May 2008 when you spoke to over 70,000 Portlanders. The overwhelming feeling of hope coming from the crowd was palpable.

Oregon: Lawmakers Say University, Dept. of Agriculture Resisting Hemp

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Agriculture have screwed up a chance to make the state a leader in the production of industrial hemp, according to Democrats in the state's Congressional delegation.

The Congressional representatives have publicly and privately criticized the university and state agency for their apparent reluctance to embrace the potential of hemp, reports Taylor W. Anderson at The Bulletin.

The lawmakers are trying to learn why, despite a successful effort from Congress to open the doors to hemp cultivation for farmers, Oregon is failing to seize the opportunity to encourage the promising industry.

"It's insane that we're having this conversation today," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland), who is among the most outspoken supporters of cannabis in Congress.

Blumenauer led the charge for the 2014 Farm Bill, which included a provision making it legal for state departments of agriculture or universities to run pilot research programs on industrial hemp, in preparation for the full legalization of hemp cultivation.

U.S.: New Gallup Poll Shows Record 58% Support For Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A majority of Americans continue to say marijuana should be legal in the United States, with 58 percent now holding that opinion, equaling the highest-ever support in Gallup's 46-year trend.

Support for legalizing recreational cannabis has grown steadily among Americans over time, reports Jeffrey M. Jones at Gallup. When Gallup first asked the question, back in the heady hippy days of 1969, just 12 percent of Americans said they thought marijuana use should be legal, with little change in two early 1970s polls.

But by the late 70s, with tacit approval from the Carter White House, support had increased to about 25 percent, and held near that point through the mid-1990s. The percentage of Americans who favored making cannabis legal passed 30 percent by 2000, and topped 50 percent by 2009.

Support has vacillated over the past six years, but averaged 48 percent from 2010 through 2012, and has averaged above 56 percent since 2013.

The higher level of support comes as many states and localities are changing, or at least considering changing, their laws on cannabis. So far, four states -- Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska -- have made recreational marijuana use legal, along with the District of Columbia. Ohio voters are set next month to decide a ballot initiative that would do the same thing, albeit in a fashion which hands control of commercial growing to just 10 wealthy investors who are financing the campaign.

South Carolina: Voters Want Next President To Respect State Marijuana Laws

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Voters in Three Early 2016 Primary States Want to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

New polling data has revealed that voters in the early presidential primary state of South Carolina overwhelmingly support ending federal prosecutions of people acting in accordance with state marijuana laws.

Among respondents, 65 percent agree that "states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference." Just 16 percent think that "the federal government should arrest and prosecute people who are following state marijuana laws."

The survey, commissioned by Marijuana Majority, is a follow-up to other recent polls from the organization that showed supermajority support for respecting local marijuana laws in Iowa and New Hampshire, which are also key early presidential primary states.

"Regardless of whether they personally support legalization, voters in these early primary states strongly support scaling back the war on marijuana so that local laws can be enacted without federal harassment," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "The Obama administration has made some helpful accommodations to let states start to move forward, but overarching federal prohibition laws still stand in the way of full and effective implementation.

"Presidential contenders in both parties would do well to make marijuana law reform a prominent issue in their campaigns, and they'd be better off doing it before other candidates realize just how much of a winning issue this is with voters," Angell said.

U.S.: Controlled By Prison Lobby? Hillary Clinton Unlikely To End War On Drugs

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More and more Americans have come to realize that the War On Drugs is a colossal failure -- but presidential contender Hillary Clinton doesn't seem to be one of those. Hillary seems unlikely to end that futile war and the mass incarceration which results from it, due to her ties to the prison lobby.

The pattern of mass incarceration triggered by the Drug War has resulted in the arrests of millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans, and has unfairly targeted the economically disadvantaged and people of color, reports Romain Bonilla at Marijuana Politics.

Clinton has stayed mostly silent on the failures of current drug policies during her presidential campaign. She has historically been opposed to marijuana decrim, and despite voters confronting her on multiple occasions, has failed to clarify her current stance on cannabis policy.

The the 1990s, Hillary favored harshly punitive sentences to deter people from violating drug laws, including "Three Strikes" measures which proved both disastrous and unconstitutional.

U.S.: Poll Reveals Bipartisan Support Among Voters For Reducing Prison Population

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An overwhelming consensus exists among American voters about how to reduce the U.S. prison population, according to a new national survey focused on criminal justice reform.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday released results from the survey, which reveal an overwhelming consensus among voters of the three leading political parties and various political leanings about how to reduce the U.S. prison population and the path forward to reform.

Commissioned by the ACLU and administered by the Benenson Strategy Group, the national survey was conducted from June 2-6. All respondents were registered voters who are likely to vote in the 2016 presidential election.

The survey found, in part:

• Republicans and Democrats alike say that communities will be safer when the criminal justice system reduces the number of people behind bars and increases the treatment of mental illness and addiction, which are seen as primary root causes of crime.

• Overall, 69 percent of voters say it is important for the country to reduce its prison populations, including 81 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents, and 54 percent of Republicans.

• In a sharp shift away from the 1980s and 1990s, when incarceration was seen as a tool to reduce crime, voters now believe by two-to-one that reducing the prison population will make communities safer by facilitating more investments in crime prevention and rehabilitation strategies.

U.S.: New Poll Finds 53% of Americans Support Legalizing Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new poll from Pew Research Center finds that 53 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, with 44 percent opposed. As recently as 2006, just 32 percent supported legalization, while nearly twice as many -- 60 percent -- were opposed, according to Pew.

Crucially, the poll finds that people are much more likely to change their minds from opposing legalization to supporting it than vice versa. Among the general public, 21 percent of people support legalization now, but once opposed it. In contrast, just 7 percent of people used to support legalization but now oppose it.

Millennials (currently 18-34) lead the change, with 68 percent in favor. But across all generations, with the exception of the Silent Generation (ages 70-87), support for legal weed has risen sharply over the past decade.

“The more that people learn about marijuana and look at the benefits of legalization, the more likely they are to support reform," Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority told Hemp News on Tuesday. "Our opponents sure do have a lot to say about what they see as the benefits of continuing prohibition, but voters don’t want to hear it."

The most frequently mentioned reasons for supporting marijuana legalization are its medical benefits (41 percent) and the belief that cannabis is no worse than other drugs (36 percent), with many specifically mentioning they think pot is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.

U.S.: Democrats Rally Around Marijuana As Winning Issue For 2014

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Lawmakers across the United States are turning to relaxing the marijuana laws as a winning issue in 2014, and Democratic candidates appear to be intent on owning the cannabis issue this year.

On Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Texas, Maryland, and Pennsylvania all made statements supporting marijuana policy reform, reports Max Lockie at MSNBC. And in Florida, where incumbent GOP Gov. Rick Scott opposed a medical marijuana constitutional amendment but Democratic challenger Charlie Crist supports it, cannabis looms as a big factor in the race.

In Texas, Democratic candidate Wendy Davis came out in support of medical marijuana, as well as revealing openness to decriminalization in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. "I personally believe that marijuana should be allowed for," Davis said, adding she would support reducing penalties for marijuana possession.

Colorado: The Fight Is On Over Marijuana Taxes

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Not everyone in Colorado is happy with the proposed sales and excise taxes on recreational marijuana, which, if approved, will kick in on January 1 when sales begin.

A few dozen activists have joined to oppose the state tax rates, saying the taxes are simply too high and will motivate consumers to purchase pot from the black market instead, reports Kristen Wyatt of The Associated Press. They've organized three joint giveaways, which don't violate Colorado law as long as the joints are free and the recipients are 21 or older.

At a joint giveaway in Denver last week, activists jeered dispensary owners who support the tax, and also criticized Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who attended a $1,000-per-plate fundraiser to support the tax.

"If we overtax it, just watch," said Larisa Bolivar, a former dispensary owner who is now executive director of the campaign against the tax.

The taxes, if approved, would be higher than the taxes on alcohol, but lower than the taxes on tobacco. Tobacco has a 34 percent excise tax; state excise taxes for alcohol are 8 cents per gallon for beer, 7.33 cents per liter for wine, and 60 cents per liter for liquor.

The November 5 ballot measure includes a 15 percent excise tax and an initial 10 percent sales tax.

Wisconsin: Democrats Introduce Bill To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Two Wisconsin Democrats are trying again to legalize marijuana for medical use. Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) held a Thursday news conference to announce a new medical marijuana bill, saying cannabis can provide pain relief that other medication doesn't.

Erpenbach and Taylor are cosponsoring the Jacki Rickert Medical Cannabis Act, which would legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes. The bill is named after medical marijuana patient Rickert, who is in a wheelchair. "What is (getting) high?" Rickert asked. "Living or gaining weight?"

Sen. Erpenbach called Gary Storck, a medical marijuana patient and advocate for its legalization, "the most persistent constituent in Wisconsin," reports Jessica Vanegeren at The Capital Times. Storck, 58, has been lobbying Erpenbach and others to legalize medical marijuana, which he has been using for 41 years to treat his glaucoma.

"Medical cannabis is all but mainstream now," Storck said at the Capitol press conference.

Erpenbach said opponents claim legalizing medical marijuana will lead patients and others to use the herb for recreational purposes. "I've always found (that line of thinking) disrespectful," Erpenbach said. "I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to actually read the bill."

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