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U.S.: House Republicans Strip Veterans Of Equal Access To Marijuana In Dead Of Night

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"This isn't right for our veterans, or the American people."
~ Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Senator Jeff Merkley

On Wednesday, in the dead of night, as House Democrats held a sit-in for gun safety, House Republicans stripped language that would make it easier for qualified veterans to access state-legal medical marijuana from legislation to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

With no transparency and little opportunity for Members to review, the House passed the legislation shortly after 3 a.m. local time Thursday. The Senate will vote on the legislation next.

Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) released the following statement:

“Our language ensuring fair treatment for our veterans had broad, bipartisan support and passed both Chambers—it’s outrageous that it was removed. To add insult to injury, the legislation was released in the middle of the night, not even giving Members of the House an opportunity to review the language before voting on it. This isn’t right for our veterans, or the American people. We will keep fighting to make sure our wounded warriors have equal treatment and the ability to consult with their VA medical providers about medical marijuana as a treatment option.”

Nevada: Largest Paper Used To Support Pot Legalization -- Then Adelson Bought It

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Las Vegas Review-Journal supported legalization last year. It opposes it this year. The difference? Pot-hating conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson bought the paper last December.

As recently as last summer, the Review-Journal published an editorial strongly proclaiming that paper's stance "supporting the decriminalizing, regulating and taxing the sale of currently illegal drugs," including marijuana. The paper went on record as supporting an effort to legalize cannabis in the state that will go before voters this November, and just last year called for all presidential candidates to support "removing marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act."

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.

Vermont: Lawmakers Seen Drinking In Hallway Just Before Voting No On Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

When the Vermont House on Tuesday soundly rejected a Senate proposal to legalize marijuana and create a regulated retail market for it -- and even failed to decriminalize possession and cultivation of just two cannabis plants -- their unfortunate lack of political courage didn't shock many political observers.

What was a bit more upsetting, though, was that at least two of the politicians who voted "No" on legalization were seen (and photographed!) drinking alcohol in the hall shortly before the vote, according to multiple sources. Photos tweeted by reporter Neil Goswami depict Rep. Gary Viens (R-Newport) and Rep. Corey Parent (R-St. Albans City) enjoying alcholic beverages at the State House during a 15-minute recess from the marijuana debate.

"Drinking in the State House is cool, according to these people who voted against legal pot," Goswami tweeted.

Both Viens and Parent are widely grinning in the photos, apparently believing themselves to be quite clever in taking a drink in the hall before batting down a bill that would have treated marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Utah: Poll Shows Strong Support For Asset Forfeiture Reform On Eve Of Primary

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One out of 11 Surveyed Utah Voters Report Having Property Taken by Police without Criminal Charge from Themselves or Someone They Know

Utah Voters Also Signal Support for Presidential Candidates Who Embrace Asset Forfeiture Reform

An overwhelming majority of registered Utah voters support civil asset forfeiture reform, according to a new poll released by Drug Policy Action. The poll was released the day before Utah’s primary election vote.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of Utah registered voters, including 83 percent of all Republicans, think police should not be able to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been convicted of a crime. Sixty-six percent (66%) of voters polled, including 70 percent of Republicans, would be more likely to support a candidate for president who took the position that the government should not be able to take property from a person who has not been convicted of a crime.

Also, a high number of surveyed Utah voters (1 out of 11) reported that a police officer has taken property from them or someone they know without being charged with a crime. Most of these respondents said that property was taken from them during a traffic stop.

Montana: Medical Marijuana Patients Ask Court To Delay Harsh Restrictions

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana patients and their supporters are pushing back against harsh new restrictions on Montana's program -- restrictions so Byzantine, that many providers are closing down rather than try to meet them.

The owners of Montana Advanced Caregivers on Thursday held a barbecue at their location in south Billings. Patients were stocking up on medicinal cannabis because of an uncertain future, co-owner Jason Smith said, reports Matt Hudson at the Billings Gazette.

Smith and his business partner, Rick Abromeit, needed to sell some of their existing stock of marijuana or else risk having an illegal amount once the new law is fully implemented.

The Montana Supreme Court on February 25 upheld provisions of the Montana Medical Marijuana Act, a 2011 bill passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature that, for all practical purposes, shut down the program as it had been run in Montana since voters approved medical marijuana back in 2004.

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.

Montana: Supreme Court Upholds Gutting of Medical Marijuana Law

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Montana Supreme Court on Thursday upheld almost all of the GOP-controlled Legislature's 2011 gutting of the state's medical marijuana law.

The high court, in a 6-1 decision, ruled that the restrictions placed on medical marijuana by the Montana Legislature in 2011 are a "rational response" to the rapid growth in medical marijuana patients from 2008 to 2010, reports Mike Dennison at MTN News. Never mind that the stuff actually works, unlike most harsh, toxic Big Pharma products; that just couldn't be why the program was so popular, now could it?

The number of authorized medical marijuana patients in Montana rose from about 1,000 in 2008 to more than 30,000 in 2010. Dispensaries opened around the state, just as was intended by the people when they, in 2004, voted to approve marijuana as medicine.

One part of the 2011 restrictions that was struck down in Thursday's ruling was the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries charging for their products. But the court left intact a provision that said providers can only have three clients.

The ruling upheld a ban on medicinal cannabis advertising, and also upheld the requirement that any physician authorizing more than 25 medical marijuana patients per year must be reported to the Montana Board of Medical Examiners.

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?"

Utah: Mormon Church Opposes Medical Marijuana Edibles Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Mormon church is opposing a bill before the Utah Legislature which would legalize the medicinal use of edible cannabis products.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leaders claimed they were worried about "unintended consequences" of the bill introduced by Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Eagle Mountain), reports the Associated Press. A majority of state lawmakers in Utah are Mormons, so the church position on an issue usually is codified into law.

The church isn't objecting to another medical marijuana bill, a much more restrictive CBD-only measure that would only allow access to cannabis infused oil, according to church spokesman Eric Hawkins.

Madsen told The Salt Lake Tribune that church representatives told him and other lawmakers about their opposition, but wouldn't explain their reasoning. "Maybe they don't want to be known as the spcial interest who put their thumb on the scale and decided this for everyone in the state," he said.

"If they're going to put their thumb on the scale politically and force everyone to a standard, then I think they owe something of an explanation to the people," Sen. Madsen said. Madsen's right; at the very least, these hypocrites seem to be falling a little short of their ideals.

Both medical marijuana bills in the Utah Legislature have been approved in committee and are expected to be debated before the full Senate within a week.

Georgia: Lawmakers Face Seven Marijuana Bills

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Georgia lawmakers are facing no fewer than seven marijuana-related bills this session. Two of the measures, if passed, could result in cannabis legalization.

HB 722, sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), would allow the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana, reports Randall Savage at 13 WMAZ. Peake is the author of the CBD-only cannabis oil bill that lawmakers passed and Governor Nathan Deal signed into law last April.

SB 254, sponsored by Sen. John Colbert (R-Lowndes County), would reduce marijuana possession charges from a felony to a misdemeanor for first-time offenders. Under Colbert's bill, first-time offenders could be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail, fined $1,000, or both.

HB 704, sponsored by John Pezold (R-Columbus) and co-sponsored by James Beverly (D-Macon), would allow the cultivation of industrial hemp.

HB 283, sponsored by Stephen Allison (R-Blairsville), would eliminate the current practice of suspending the driver's license of anyone convicted of marijuana possession.

SB 7, sponsored by Sen. Curt Thompson (R-Gwinnett County), would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for an expanded number of conditions.

SB 198, also sponsored by Sen. Thompson, a legalization bill, would permit the cultivation, production and retail sale of marijuana throughout the state.

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.: Presidential Candidate Ben Carson Wants To Intensify The War On Drugs

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Presidential candidate Ben Carson, who is seeking the Republican nomination, wouldn't just continue to wage the failed War ON Drugs if elected, like everyone since Nixon. He would ramp up and intensify the futile policy, he said last week in an interview.

Speaking with conservative commentator Glenn Beck, Carson answered "Absolutely," when asked if he'd continue the War On Drugs. "I intensify it," he added.

"Legalize marijuana?" Beck asked. "I disagree with it," Carson replied.

Last year, Carson claimed marijuana is "gateway drug," despite all the science proving the contrary. "It tends to be a starter drug for people who move on to heavier duty drugs -- sometimes legal, sometimes illegal -- and I don't think this is something that we really want for our society," he said.

"You know, we're gradually just removing all the barriers to hedonistic activity and you know, it's just, we're changing so rapidly to a different type of society and nobody is getting a chance to discuss it because, you know, it's taboo," Carson claimed. "It's politically incorrect. You're not supposed to talk about these things."

No, Ben. You're not supposed to cluelessly spout in public and make yourself appear an idiot if you're interested in preserving any dignity.

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.: 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.

D.C.: No Legal Marijuana Sales For 2 More Years Under GOP House Budget Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

After the District of Columbia's voters chose to legalize recreational marijuana, Republicans in Congress flirted with the idea of limiting D.C.'s ability to implement the law, although it was ultimately put into place. Now they're taking another try at blocking legalization: The GOP-controlled House on Thursday advanced a budget resolution saying cannabis can't be sold for two more years in D.C.

The House budget resolution seeks to delay implementation of the measure approved by D.C. voters, reports Clark Mindock at International Business Times.

Voters approved cannabis legalization last November; under the law, residents can grow and possess marijuana, but can't smoke it in public.

Advocates for legal pot said the fact that an outright ban did not appear to be an early budget priority added to other signs that a GOP-controlled Congress may be softening its opposition to marijuana, reports Aaron C. Davis at The Washington Post.

Utah: Republican State Senator Mark Madsen Advocates Medical Marijuana Legalization

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A conservative Republican Utah state senator has a “420” message for America: “It’s time to legalize medical cannabis.” In an exclusive video interview released Monday morning, Utah State Senator Mark Madsen discussed his own personal use of medical cannabis and advocates for national reform.

“We need to work from the principles of freedom and compassion and let the policy grow from there,” Sen. Madsen said. “I believe we should allow individuals and their physicians to make their own decisions on whether medical cannabis is an augmentation or an alternative to other traditional medical treatments. Government has no legitimate place in that process.”

In 2007, Madsen was nearly killed by an accidental overdose of fentanyl when a patch his doctor prescribed accidentally tore and released a fatal dose of the opiate.

Madsen was the sponsor of recent legislation in the state, S.B. 259, which would have legalized the cultivation, production, sale and possession of whole-plant medical cannabis for a range of conditions. The bill was narrowly defeated by one flipped vote in the Senate in March.

Shortly before introducing S.B. 259, Madsen travelled to Colorado to try medical cannabis, which he said provided great relief for his chronic back pain. In 2007, Madsen says he was inspired by the families lobbying for legislation passed in 2014 legalizing high-CBD medical cannabis extracts for epileptic patients.

Tennessee: GOP Medical Marijuana Bill: Eat It Or Rub It On, But Don't Smoke It

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Tennessee's weirdly Puritan attitude towards cannabis is being highlighted this week by a medical marijuana bill being drawn up by Republican state lawmakers.

Those drafting the legislation said the measure would allow the cannabis to be eaten or applied externally through topical oil, but not smoked, reports Chris Bundgaard at WKRN.

"It would likely be the most conservative medical marijuana bill in the country, and if passed, the nation's most carefully controlled law," bragged Capitol Hill lobbyist David McMahan, who failed to explain what's so damned attractive about "the most conservative medical marijuana bill" rather than "the medical marijuana bill most helpful to patients." McMahan's lobbying firm has been hired to help guide the bill through the GOP-dominated Tennessee Legislature.

McMahan told News 2 he has been hired by a group called Tenncangrow, which is listed as a Murfreesboro LLC and headed by estate planning lawyer David B. Laroche.

The two GOP bill sponsors, Rep. Ryan Williams of Putnam County and Sen. Steve Dickerson, MD of Nashville, said the bill would be "limited" in scope.

McMahan called it a "carefully controlled measure with a limited delivery method." It really is starting to sound as if these folks believe that the fewer patients helped, the better a medical marijuana bill is.

New Jersey: Governor Refuses To Help Suffering Children With Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's cold-hearted refusal to allow sick children in his state safe access to medical marijuana was the subject of a blistering editorial inMonday's Star-Ledger.

"The issue of edible marijuana in New Jersey comes down to an irrefutable premise: The governor of this state has had numerous chances to liberate children from suffering over the last 18 months, yet he has chosen not to do it," wrote the Star-Ledger Editorial Board.

"Chris Christie seems content to live with this disgrace," the board wrote. "At one time, he summoned the audacity by looking into the faces of inconsolable parents and chirping the dim-bulb refrain, 'It's complicated,' and now he merely dismisses a law that he signed himself and hopes that nobody notices."

The op-ed unsparingly points out that two years after Vivian Wilson's parents were forced to move to Colorado for the sake of their toddler's health, there is still no workable edible marijuana program for New Jersey's needlessly suffering children -- "because Christie's administration doesn't prioritize compassion."

U.S.: GOP Congressmen Criticize Marijuana Legalization; Claim Pot Causes Car Wrecks

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Congressional Republicans on Thursday criticized Colorado and Washington state for legalizing marijuana, claiming pot causes automobile accidents.

Rep. John Mica (R-Florida), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, claimed stronger federal laws against marijuana were needed in light of the wave of states legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational uses, reports Marina Fang at The Huffington Post. Rep. Mica made the remarks during a hearing entitled "Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Operating While Stoned."

Rep. John Fleming (R-Louisiana) couldn't resist joining in, attacking Colorado voters for their recent decision to legalize weed. Fleming pointed to a study by the University of Colorado at Denver purportedly showing an increase in traffic fatalities in the state since voters legalized medical marijuana, implying that further loosing the marijuana laws is dangerous.

Interestingly, Fleming didn't mention another study, by University of Colorado Denver professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University professor D. Mark Anderson, which found that traffic fatalities drop nearly 9 percent in states after the legalize medical marijuana.

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