matt ferner

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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.

Alaska: Marijuana Legalization Would Generate Millions In Taxes

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Millions of dollars in state tax revenue would be generated if Alaska's voters decide in next week's election to legalize marijuana sales to adults, according to a comprehensive report released on Monday by the Marijuana Policy Group, made up of Colorado researchers and economic experts.

The first year of recreational cannabis sales in Alaska would generate about $7 million in state taxes, according to the group, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post. Legal recreational sales of marijuana would account for about 22 percent of total demand in that first year, about four metric tons, according to the report.

"Previous studies incorrectly assume that all demand will quickly shift to regulated markets," the researchers noted. "In our experience, such assumptions are naive." That conclusion would certainly jibe with the legalization experience in Washington state, where scant supplies have driven prices past $30 a gram and have driven many consumers back to the black market.

"If retail prices increase significantly, then most heavy users will avoid this supply mode and buy marijuana from black or grey market sources as possible," the researchers wrote.

Adult Alaskans use nearly 18 metric tons of marijuana, according to the researchers, a demand which is now satisfied through the state's black market, as well as a network of medical marijuana caregivers and home cultivators.

U.S.: Marijuana Legalization Supported By Growing Majority of Americans

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new survey shows that a growing majority of Americans continue to support marijuana legalization in the United States.

The CivicScience survey, released last week, asked more than 450,000 adults over the last two years: "Would you support or oppose a law in your state that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol?"

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they support cannabis legalization, with 39 percent saying they "strongly support" and 19 percent saying they "somewhat support" it, reports Matt Ferner at the Huffington Post. Thirty-five percent oppose marijuana legalization, with 29 percent "strongly opposing" and 6 percent "somewhat" opposing the move. Seven percent were too wishy-washy to even express an opinion on the issue.

When breaking out the data from the last three months of responses, from May to August this year, CivicScience saw an increase in support and a decrease in opposition to marijuana legalization. Of those who responded most recently, 61 percent said they strongly or somewhat support cannabis legalization, while just 30 percent said they were opposed.

Sixty percent of men and 55 percent of women support legalization, according to the survey. Support was strongest among those between 25 and 34 years old; the only age group which opposed legalization was people over 65.

U.S.: Rand Paul Files Measure To Protect Medical Marijuana States From Feds

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) on Thursday filed an amendment to Senate Bill 2569, the "Bring Jobs Home Act," that would explicitly allow states to pass medical marijuana laws despite the federal Controlled Substances Act. The amendment would also bar prosecutions of patients and doctors involved in medical marijuana when they are in compliance with state laws.

Amendment 3630 allows states to "enact and implement laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical use" without federal prosecution," reports Phillip Smith at StoptheDrugWar.org.

The amendment then lists 33 states and the District of Columbia that have medical marijuana laws at variance with the federal Controlled Substances Act, including 10 states that allow only for the use of CBD oil (cannabidiol), which, unlike THC, isn't psychoactive, reports Matt Ferner at the Huffington Post.

"What we're trying to do is look at the law and allow states that have changed their laws and have allowed medical marijuana to do so, for doctors to be able to prescribe and for people to be able to get those prescriptions without being worried about the federal government coming in and arresting them," said Brian Darling, Sen. Paul's communications director.

U.S.: Hillary Clinton Supports Medical Marijuana In New Interview

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Hillary Clinton supports the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes "under appropriate circumstances" and thinks medical marijuana should be researched, she said in a Tuesday interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. Clinton said she's taking a "wait and see" approach to recreational use.

"At the risk of committing radical candor, I have to say I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes," Clinton said on CNN. "I don't think we've done enough research yet, although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and who have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances."

"But I do think we need more research because we don't know how it interacts with our drugs," she said. (Actually, we know quite a bit about how cannabis reacts with other drugs, as it's one of the most studied substances in history.)

"On recreational, states are the laboratories of democracy," Clinton said. "We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is."

Clinton said she'd never personally tried marijuana, nor did she plan to. "Absolutely not," she said. "I didn't do it when I was young; I'm not going to start now."

U.S.: Federal Government May Cut Off Water For Legal Marijuana Crops

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Some marijuana farmers may soon find themselves with some thirsty plants if the federal government decides to block the use of federal water for state-legal cannabis cultivation.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is in charge of managing federal water resources, and "at the request of various water districts in the West," the Bureau "is evaluating how the Controlled Substances Act applies in the context of Reclamation project water being used to facilitate marijuana-related activities," according to spokesman Peter Soeth, report Matt Ferner and Mollie Reilley at The Huffington Post.

Local water districts in Colorado and Washington state contract with federal water projects -- and officials from some of those districts said they think the federal government will turn off the water.

"Certainly every indication we are hearing is that their policy will be that federal water supplies cannot be used to grow marijuana," claimed Brian Werner at Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is in charge of about a third of the water for northeastern Colorado.

Meanwhile, in Washington state, the Roza Irrigation District, which supplies federal water to about 72,000 acres in Yakima and Benton counties, has issued a "precautionary message" to water customers who may be involved in state-legal marijuana grow operations.

Colorado: Recreational Marijuana Sales Top $5 Million In First Week

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado's newly legal recreational marijuana shops made bank in the first week of legal sales.

The 37 new recreational cannabis dispensaries around the state reported first-week retail sales adding up to about $5 million, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post.

Colorado expects retail cannabis sales to reach $600 million a year, from which it expects to collect almost $70 million in taxes. No official sales figures will be available before February 20, when businesses are required to file January tax reports, according to Julie Postlethwait of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division.

New Year's Day sales, on the first day the shops were allowed to open, topped $1 million, according to Denver's 9News. Business slowed slightly on subsequent days, according to shop owners, but many stores still had lines of waiting customers.

"Every day that we've been in business since January 1 has been better than my best day of business ever," said Andy Williams, owner of Denver's Medicine Man dispensary.

The larger shops reported selling 50 to 60 pounds of cannabis in the first week. Smaller shops sold 20 to 30 pounds, according to proprietors.

Colorado residents may legally buy up to an ounce of marijuana per transaction. Tourists can buy one-fourth ounce, about 7 grams.

Colorado: It's Legal To Smoke Marijuana On Your Front Porch, Says Denver City Council

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Denver City Council on Monday overwhelmingly approved allowing adults to smoke marijuana on their front porches and private property, even if it's in clear public view.

In a 10-3 final vote, the council approved a measure eliminating the controversial front-yard cannabis smoking ban introduced last month, which had previously appeared poised to pass with a 7-5 vote, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post.

"Fortunately, common sense ultimately prevailed," said Mason Tvert, a key supporter of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana in Colorado. "If adults are able to consume alcohol -- and even smoke cigarettes -- outside on their own property, there's no logical reason why they should be prohibited from using a less harmful substance," said Tvert, who is communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

"City officials need to move on and focus their time and attention on getting the necessary regulations in place to ensure these businesses are able to open on January 1," Tvert said. "There is no need for further proposals designed to prevent adults from being able to use marijuana responsibly."

A widely reviled first draft of the law would have banned even the smell of marijuana, or the sight of someone smoking marijuana, if it could be smelled or seen by anyone else.

U.K.: Study Shows Marijuana Compounds Can Kill Cancer Cells

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A scientist at the University of London's St. George School of Medicine has found that cannabinoids from marijuana can kill cancerous cells found in people with leukemia, a form of cancer which kills 24,000 people each year in the United States.

"Cannabinoids have a complex action; it hits a number of important processes that cancers need to survive," said study author Dr. Wai Liu, an oncologist, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post. "For that reason, it has really good potential over other drugs that only have one function.

"I am impressed by its activity profile, and feel it has a great future, especially if used with standard chemotherapies," Dr. Liu said.

The study was recently published in the journal Anticancer Research. It was funded by GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes a marijuana-derived nasal spray, Sativex, that is used to treat spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.

The study examined six different non-psychoactive cannabinoids, which unlike THC, don't get you high. The cannabinoids were examined alone and in combination; they displayed "a diverse range of therapeutic qualities" that "target and switch off" pathways, preventing cancer from growing, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Study: Marijuana Breath Test Could Offer Alternative To Controversial Blood Draws For Pot DUIs

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado and Washington, with their new recreational marijuana laws, and the 20 medical marijuana states are grappling with the question of driving under the influence of cannabis. Lawmakers seem to feel some action is required, although there hasn't been anything remotely resembling a rash of marijuana-related accidents, as has been the case with alcohol.

A recent study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Clinical Chemistry suggests that a marijuana breath test might work for law enforcement to test for THC in drivers, like the "breathalyzer" test performed to determine the level of alcohol intoxication, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post.

The THC blood test which is currently used remains controversial, especially since it involves blood being drawn from the suspect.

According to the new study, scientists collected breath samples from folks who used marijuana four or more times per week, and also from occasional users (fewer than two times per week) after they smoked a joint containing 6.8 percent THC.

Colorado: Marijuana Industry Gets $1 Million From Investor Group

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Investors poured more than $1 million into Colorado's legalized recreational marijuana industry this week. Back in May, the same group of investors committed $1 million to cannabis startups at a similar event in Seattle, Washington.

More than 60 investors from The ArcView Group met with 22 capital-seeking marijuana startups in Denver, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post. Several of the startups are directly involved in cannabis sales or cultivation, which is a first for ArcView.

The investors had committed "well over $1 million" to the companies by the end of the meeting, ArcView CEO Troy Dayton told John Ingold at The Denver Post.

The total could reportedly have been even higher, if it weren't for Colorado's marijuana laws which require investors to qualify as state residents for three years before making equity investments in a marijuana business.

"This is big, big business," Tripp Keber, the mogul behind Dixie Elixirs cannabis-infused products, said. "There has been an incredible amount of interest that's been expressed to make investments in this industry."

Colorado: Regulators Ditch Unconstitutional Rule Treating Marijuana Mags Like Porn

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana publications won't be treated like pornography in Colorado after all, state regulators announced on Thursday in the face of First Amendment lawsuits.

The rule would have forced stores to keep magazines with a "primary focus" away from customers under 21 years old, reports Steven Nelson at US News. It was part of a package of Legislature-approved cannabis regulations sigend into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper on May 28.

The rule is unconstitutional and will be ignored, according to the Colorado State Licensing Authority. The authority issued an "emergency rule" saying "such a requirement would violate the United States Constitution" and Colorado law.

The Colorado Attorney General's office had input on the decision. "We support the laudable goal of keeping retail marijuana out of the hands of those under 21, but that has to be consistent with the Constitution," the attorney general's spokesperson said, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post.

Colorado: Governor Signs Legislation Establishing Legal Marijuana Market For Adults

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on Tuesday signed historic measures to implement marijuana legalization, establishing the Mile High State as the first legal, regulated and taxed marijuana market for adults since the United Nations Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs took effect in 1961.

Hickenlooper vocally opposed cannabis legalization last fall when Amendment 64 was on the ballot, saying "Colorado is known for many great things; marijuana should not be one of them." But he signed the bills that will start development of a regulatory framework for the legal marijuana industry, as well as for the cultivation, distribution and processing of industrial hemp, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post.

"Recreational marijuana really is new territory," Hickenlooper said at Tuesday's signing ceremony. He called the bills "common sense," despite his vocal opposition in the past to legalization, reports Kristin Wyatt of The Associated Press.

The governor's chief legal counsel, Jack Finlaw, said although the Hickenlooper administration was opposed to marijuana legalization, "the will of the voters needed to be implemented."

Colorado: Residents Will Smoke More Than 2 Million Ounces Of Weed In 2014

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new study from Colorado State University estimates that Coloradans will use more than two million ounces of marijuana in 2014.

The study, from the Colorado Futures Center at CSU, predicts that some 642,772 state residents -- about 12 percent of the population -- will buy legal marijuana next year, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post.

The researchers believe that each cannabis customer will purchase about 3.5 ounces of pot during the year (seems rather conservative to us), for a grand total of 2,258,985 ounces of weed sold -- about 142,000 pounds, or 71 tons.

The study estimates each ounce of weed will cost about $185; they arrived at that figure by averaging prices at the crowd-sourced website PriceofWeed.com. Based on that price, and with estimated taxes added, Coloradans will be spending about $420 million (yeah, $420 million) on marijuana in 2014.

But that figure, like Coloradans themselves, could get substantially higher. When the data were compiled, recreational marijuana was still illegal, and PriceofWeed.com currently shows the average price of "low quality" marijuana at $222.

Voter-approved Amendment 64 also allows Coloradans to grow their own cannabis, so the numbers could go down if more residents opt to do it the smart way rather than paying retail prices.

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