U.S.: Obama Predicts More States Will Legalize Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Barack Obama on Thursday said he expects more states to legalize marijuana.

In a YouTube interview, Obama discussed cannabis policy and the contrasts between federal and state law, reports Niraj Chokshi at The Washington Post. Four states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska) plus the District of Columbia have now legalized marijuana.

“What you’re seeing now is Colorado, Washington through state referenda, they’re experimenting with legal marijuana,” Obama said in response to a question from Hank Green, who with his brother runs a YouTube channel with nearly 2.5 million subscribers.

“The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue,” Obama said, about 11 minutes into the video embedded below. “My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.”

U.S.: Brookings Institution Lists 8 Things To Watch About Marijuana Legalization In 2015


The Brookings Institution has released a list of eight critical marijuana legalization items to monitor during 2015.

The list, from Brookings Fellow John Hudak, follows:

1) Oregon, Alaska Plan & Prepare for Legal Marijuana: How well each of these state legislatures and alcohol regulatory bodies work together will determine the success or failure of marijuana policy in these states. As it borders Washington, Oregon’s commercial and regulatory choices will be particularly crucial in understanding to what extent states may strive for market advantages vis-à-vis bordering states.

2) Identifying the Next States to Legalize: 2015 will show which states are serious about ballot initiatives in 2016. It’s widely expected that California will advance an initiative and Florida might take another swing at approving medical marijuana, after falling just short of approval in 2014.

3) Cannabis Policy & State Legislative Action: In some states, the battleground for enacting items like the legalization of recreational or medical marijuana is not the ballot box, but the state legislature.

4) Cannabis & the Courts: Multiple high-profile lawsuits surrounding marijuana policy may play out in 2015. For instance, Coats v. Dish Network may settle the issue of employer-sponsored marijuana testing and a Supreme Court case involving Nebraska and Oklahoma’s suing of Colorado over legalizing marijuana will indicate the willingness of federal courts to engage in this policy area.

U.S.: Marijuana Legalization Puts Military In Awkward Position


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With the number of states where marijuana is now legal reaching four (plus the District of Columbia), the United States military is still trying to enforce 20th Century drug policies of zero tolerance towards cannabis, despite the shifting sands of public opinion.

With Alaska, Oregon and D.C. joining Colorado and Washington as legal havens for weed, the army has gone to great pains to remind troops that state law doesn't help servicemen who smoke pot, reports RT.com.

The military is governed by federal laws, under which marijuana possession remains a criminal offense; use or possession of cannabis also remains a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and can result in court martial.

Each branch of the military claims to keep troops off marijuana by frequent drug testing and stiff penalties for those who test positive.

According to Army testing data recently obtained by the Washington Times, 30,836 of the 41,000 soldiers stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state were tested in fiscal 2014; that's about 75 percent. Meanwhile, at Fort Carson, Colorado, all 26,000 active duty personnel were tested.

U.S.: Hundreds of Marijuana Store ATMs Shut Down


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Hundreds of automatic teller machines in medical marijuana dispensaries were shut down on Wednesday, just days after ATMs were turned off in recreational cannabis shops.

The machines in Colorado and Washington were part of a network served by MetaBank, a South Dakota company which in January had warned ATM providers that machines located in marijuana shops violated federal banking rules, reports David Migoya at The Denver Post.

The machines, both cashless and the traditional ATMs which dispense cash, continued to work until this week, according to owners of cannabis shops impacted by the shutdown.

"Just like that, it was out of commission," said Andy Williams, owner of Medicine Man, a Denver recreational and medical marijuana dispensary that has an on-site cash-dispensing ATM. "I got a warning the night before saying they'd lost their bank, and that was it.

The ATM machines are the lifeblood of many marijuana shops, which are forced by federal banking rules to otherwise work in cash only rather than accepting credit and debit cards from their customers.

A number of trade organization Marijuana Industry Group's clients lost ATMs, both of the cash-dispensing and cashless variety, according to executive director Michael Elliott.

Oregon: Moms from Oregon, Colorado and Washington Endorse Measure 91 Marijuana Legalization


Moms from Oregon, Washington and Colorado on Friday gathered at the Yes on 91 headquarters to show their support for Measure 91, which would regulate, legalize and tax marijuana for adults 21 and older in Oregon.

“My top priority is the safety of my children,” said Leah Mauer, who founded a Facebook group called Moms for Yes on 91. “The current approach is failing to keep them safe.

"A better approach is to take marijuana away from illegal dealers and cartels and put it behind the counter at a regulated, inspected and properly zoned store,” Mauer said.

Colorado and Washington are already experiencing successful results from their approval of the regulated use of marijuana:

• Teen use and access to marijuana is down in Colorado. (Source: US News & World Report, Aug. 7
• Arrests are down for marijuana violations. (Source: The Denver Post, Jan. 14)

Colorado: Mary's Medicinals Gets Exclusive License To 40:1 CBD:THC Cannabis Strain


Mary's Medicinals, a producer and distributor of transdermal cannabis patches, gels and compounds, on Tuesday announced a licensing agreement with Green Natural Solutions (GNS) of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, for exclusive access to its proprietary 40:1 CBD:THC marijuana strain, known as Mary's Healing Heart.

Mary's Healing Heart has a significantly higher cannabidiol (CBD) level and lower THC level than the most well known high-CBD strains available today, according to the company.

A recent media blitz has highlighted the extraordinary benefits of CBD for epilepsy and many other ailments. Families have flocked to Colorado with hopes of obtaining CBD treatments, but many have encountered roadblocks, left on waiting lists or procuring low quality hemp materials imported from China.

"After 18 months of searching for a reliable source of locally grown CBD, we are delighted to have secured this oppotunity to team with GNS," said Nicole Smith, CEO of Mary's Medicinals. "GNS is an ideal partner to work with to deliver on our shared vision of patient care through plant-based medicine."

"We feel that by providing Mary's Healing Heart to us, GNS is ensuring that the best possible use is made of the limited top quality CBD resources currently available," Smith said. "As more states and the federal government consider CBD and whole plant legislation, Mary's is poised to expand the availability of its offerings to ensure patients have access to reliable, pharmaceutical grade medicine."

U.S.: Some Police Stop Ripping Up Marijuana Plants In Medical States


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Police in some medical marijuana states -- who once ripped up marijuana plants by the roots without a second thought, or just stashed them away to die -- are now reevaluating the practice.

Police departments from Colorado and Washington to Hawaii and California are being sued by people who want their cannabis back after prosecutors chose not to charge them, or they were acquitted, reports Sadie Gurman at The Associated Press.

Some former suspects are asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash compensation to replace dead plants that the cops either uprooted, or left to die in evidence rooms.

Police departments in some municipalities have, therefore, either stopped rounding up the plants, or have started collecting just a few samples and photographing the rest to use as evidence in court.

"None of us are really sure what we're supposed to do, and so you err on the side of caution," claimed Mitch Barker, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

The evolving paradigm under which cannabis is now viewed as medicine rather than as a dangerous scourge which must be wiped out is responsible for the changing ways police departments deal with the question.

"Law enforcement is going to have to think more carefully about what their procedures are and how those procedures might need to change in light of changes in the law," said University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin.

Washington: Drivers Offered $60 For Roadside Blood, Saliva Tests For Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

If you're driving in Washington state this summer, something odd may happen. While you're at a stoplight, you may encounter people waring orange vests, with signs saying "Paid Voluntary Survey," and they may ask you if you want to take blood, saliva and breath tests for marijuana. They'll give you 60 bucks if you say yes.

These government-hired survey teams have already begun asking hundreds of Washington state motorists to provide breath, saliva and blood samples, reports Mike Lindblom at The Seattle Times, and they'll be asking questions, too.

The voluntary roadside surveys are a federally funded project to give police and safety agencies a better idea of how many Washingtonians drive high, according to officials. National agencies are working with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, which is in hurry-up mode to get the data before retail marijuana stores open in Washington later this summer.

That way, officials say they'll have a baseline from which to measure any "safety effects" of cannabis legalization, according to commission spokeswoman Jonna VanDyk. The findings might be used to help local law enforcement decide how much time to spend on marijuana DUI patrols, VanDyk said.

The roadside surveys began last Friday and continued over last weekend in Spokane and Yakima counties. Kitsap and Whatcom counties will follow, likely this weekend, and maybe King and Snohomish counties as well, VanDyk said.

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


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.

U.S.: Republicans Assail Obama Administration's Tolerance of Marijuana Legalization


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Republicans on a House Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday assailed the Obama Administration's tolerance of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington, but Treasury Secretary Jack Lew defended the decision to let banks provide services to legal cannabis businesses.

Secretary Lew said the Department of the Treasury's financial crimes division issued the guidance to banks in February to lend more clarity to the emerging licensed, legal marijuana trade in Colorado and Washington state, reports David Lawder at Reuters.

But Rep. Harold Rogers, the Kentucky Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, assailed Lew, claiming the move was a "rubber stamp" for marijuana dealing, which is still illegal in most of the United States.

Rep. Rogers hysterically claimed that it would "encourage illegal drug gangs" to try and exploit the U.S. banking system, even asking "What about cocaine dealers? Shouldn't we give them the same break?"

"If they aren't licensed or regulated by the state, how are they different from a drug dealer on the street corner?" Rep. Rogers asked, displaying a spectacular, nay majestic cluelessness, since the topic of discussion was licensed, regulated marijuana businesses in states which have legalized and regulate cannabis.

U.S.: DEA Head Tells Congress Her Agency Is 'Fighting Back' Against Administration's Tolerance of Marijuana Legalization


At a Wednesday House subcommittee hearing, DEA director Michele Leonhart publicly opposed Department of Justice position on legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington and warned of dangers of marijuana legalization … to pets

Dan Riffle of Marijuana Policy Project: 'It's Time For Her To Go'

Drug Enforcement Administration head Michele Leonhart apparently has no problem trash-talking her boss. The administrator of the DEA repeatedly criticized the Obama Administration at a Wednesday hearing on the DEA’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

In a memo released in July 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would not interfere with the effective implementation of laws regulating the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adults in Colorado and Washington. When asked by Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) during a Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing whether the Obama Administration’s tolerant views toward legal marijuana had affected morale at the DEA, which is a branch of the DOJ, Leonhart replied that “Our agents are fighting back against those messages. It makes us fight harder.”

The DEA administrator had earlier criticized the DOJ for a perceived delay in issuing a response to Washington and Colorado’s new laws, claiming there was “a lot of confusion in those 296 days.”

U.S.: Medbox Founder Partners With ASA On 'Consume Responsibly' Campaigns For Marijuana States


Vincent Mehdizadeh, the founder and chief operations officer of Medbox, Inc., which provides consulting services and medicine storage and dispensing systems to the medical and retail cannabis industries, on Monday announced that he has personally funded campaigns "aimed at educating the general public as to all aspects of cannabis" in medical and recreational states.

A public awareness campaign led by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), an organization dedicated to ensuring safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research, is designed to better inform the national dialogue on medical cannabis by first letting the public know that cannabis medicines can be regulated and secondly that the therapeutic experience of the over one million legal medical cannabis patients goes beyond "feeling better."

The campaign will include production of new materials and ads, new communication outreach, and grassroots education campaigns to empower citizen-advocates to participate in the effort nationwide.

ASA has created a groundbreaking third-party industry certification program to help promote and publicize best practices in medical cannabis that will serve as the platform for this education campaign.

U.S.: Pacific Northwest Native American Tribes Oppose Marijuana Legalization


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

I guess no group is immune to ignorance. A group representing 57 Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday morning announced it opposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes.

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians are hurting my heart, announcing they have passed a resolution calling for the group to work closely with the dim-witted Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) anti-cannabis group spearheaded by former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy and former federal drug policy advisor Kevin Sabet.

The Native American organization and SAM on Wednesday morning jointly released a statement that the tribes "stand strongly in opposition" to legalized marijuana in the Pacific Northwest, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. The group represents tribal governments in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, southeast Alaska, northern California and western Montana.

The Indian tribes "stand with SAM in support of their principles," said Simon Lee Sampson of Yakama Nation.

According to a statement from the Native American group, it supports "drug prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery efforts that focus on reducing marijuana use, especially among youth."

"We cannot deny that marijuana legalization will have a devastating impact on our communities and we want none of it," said a deeply clueless Sampson.

U.S.: Banks Now Allowed To Work With Marijuana Businesses; Justice Dept., Treasury Dept. Announce New Guidelines


Policy Changes Will Protect Public Safety, Honor the Will of the Voters, and Help Small Businesses

Drug Policy Alliance’s Ethan Nadelmann: White House Appears to be Working in Good Faith with Colorado and Washington’s Efforts to Responsibly Regulate Marijuana

The Obama Administration on Friday afternoon announced new guidelines that will allow banks to legally provide financial services to state-licensed marijuana businesses. Twenty states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use; two of those states (Colorado and Washington) recently legalized marijuana like alcohol.

Medical marijuana advocates are applauding the new memorandum giving long-awaited guidance to financial institutions. A refusal to engage in these services has plagued medical marijuana businesses for years, dating back to the Bush Administration. Businesses in states like California, Colorado, Washington, Michigan and others have been forced to deal in large amounts of cash.

Many banks have been afraid to open checking or savings accounts for legalized marijuana businesses out of fear of breaking federal law. As a result these businesses are forced to deal with large amounts of cash, creating public safety risks for employees, bystanders, and police officers.

Colorado: Denver Fair Welcomes Marijuana Competitions, Unlike Washington Fairs


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Yet another difference between the Colorado brand of legalization and that being rolled out in Washington state has cropped up. Visitors at the Denver County Fair will have a chance to celebrate legal recreational marijuana at competitions including Joint Rolling and a Best Homemade Bong contest. But in Washington, where voters also legalized recreational marijuana, nothing of the sort is yet planned.

Adult attendees at the Denver County Fair will have also have a chance to take part in or witness contests such as the Best Brownie Recipe, Best Homemade Roach Clip, Best Tie-Dye, Best Clone Plant, Best Hemp Fabric, a Grateful Dead karakoke competition, and even a Dorito Eating Contest, reports C.R. Roberts at the Tacoma News Tribune. No such plans exist in Washington.

"At this point in time I have not been made aware of any fairs that are going to do that," said Rich Hartzell, who is president of the Washington State Fairs Association, on Monday. "A department like that could spring up."

"They obviously need a little time for preparation," Hartzell said. "It has not been (discussed) to this point and I guess we're probably looking for a little more clarity from the laws that are out there. I would say at this point it is a little premature to really try to instigate that in any kind of a fair program."

U.S.: President Obama Says Marijuana Is No More Dangerous Than Alcohol


President Calls New Laws Legalizing Marijuana in Colorado and Washington ‘Important’

In an interview with the New Yorker published on Sunday, President Barack Obama spoke about his past drug use, said marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol, talked about racial disparities in marijuana arrests and said the new laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington are ‘important’.

In the interview, conducted by David Remnick of the New Yorker, Obama discussed cannabis and the War On Drugs.

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol," Obama told Remnick.

The president expressed concern about disparities in arrests for marijuana possession. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” Obama said, adding that individual users shouldn’t be locked up “for long stretches of jail time.”

In the interview, Obama said he believes these new laws are "important."

“It's important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished,” said Obama.

President Obama’s interview is generating national news and is being applauded by drug policy reform advocates.

U.S.: Freaked-Out DEA Chief Gets Choked Up, Admits Marijuana Legalization 'Scares Us'


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Drug Enforcement Administration's chief of operations on Wednesday gave some freaked-out, emotional testimony at a Senate hearing, admitting that marijuana legalization "scares us."

"I have to say this ... going down the path to legalization in this country is reckless and irresponsible," said James L. Capra, reports Eric W. Dolan at The Raw Story. "I'm talking about the long-term impact of legalization in the United States. It scares us."

"Every part of the world where this has been tried, it has failed time and time again," Capra lied. (Cannabis legalization hasn't "been tried" anywhere since the Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs in 1961).

"The idea somehow ... that this is somehow good for us as a nation, that this is good for the next generation coming up is wrong," Capra sputtered. "It's a bad thing, and this body will get its door knocked on 10 years from now and say, 'How did we get where we got?' "

Capra said that when he attended an international "drug control" conference in Moscow, foreign officials wanted to know why the U.S. was scaling back its war on weed.

"Almost everyone looked at us and said: Why are you doing this, you're pointing a finger at us as a source state," Capra claimed. "I have no answer for them," he intoned dramatically. "I don't have an answer for them."

U.S.: Real Estate Company Releases List of America's 10 Highest Cities

The 10 Highest Cities In America By Movoto Real Estate

Colorado last week became the first state in the Union with legal sales of recreational cannabis, instantly conferring upon Denver the status of marijuana mecca.

But is Denver the highest city in the United States? That's what the Movoto Real Estate Blog set out to determine through the power of data, just as they've done with topics including which cities are the nerdiest, which are the worst dressed, or which is the best city in the whole country.

After extensive research, Movoto concluded that, yes, Denver really is the Mile-High City, but they also came up with a Top 10 list of the highest cities in America:

1. Denver
2. Colorado Springs
3. Seattle
4. San Bernardino, CA
5. Aurora, CO
6. Santa Ana, CA
7. Irvine, CA
8. San Francisco, CA
9. Sacramento, CA
10. Los Angeles, CA

Now, I'm sure San Francisco's heads are quite exercised over the indignity of being outranked by Irvine, Santa Ana, and San Ber'dino, but are there any other surprises here?

Washington state is coming up fast with its own legalization law about to be implemented, but legal pot sales won't start until this summer.

To determine a city's ranking, Movoto measure seven different criteria:

• Marijuana dispensaries per capita
• Number of residents with medical marijuana cards

U.S.: Majority of Americans Want Marijuana Legalized


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A majority of Americans want marijuana to be legal, according to a new poll.

The CNN/Opinion Research poll shows 55 percent support the legalization of cannabis, while 44 percent are opposed, reports Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. The 55 percent support for legalization represents a rise of 12 points from just more than a year ago.

Polls from both Pew and Gallup have recently shown similar numbers, with majorities supporting cannabis legalization for the first time in American history. Gallup's poll showed support for legalization at 58 percent in October.

Most Americans don't view marijuana as being physically or mentally harmful, according to the new CNN poll. They are evenly split on whether pot is addictive, and whether it leads to other drugs. Only 19 percent describe marijuana use as a "major problem" in society today.

The rise in support for legalization comes as voters in two states, Colorado and Washington, have approved legalization measures. Colorado pot shops began selling weed last week, and Washington's are expected to join them sometime around mid-year.

U.S.: Feds Have No Viable Legal Challenge To Marijuana Legalization, Admits Deputy A.G.


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The U.S. Justice Department doesn't have a viable legal basis on which to challenge marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington, Deputy Attorney General James Cole admitted on Sunday.

"It would be a very challenging lawsuit to bring," Deputy Attorney General Cole said while testifying at the first Congressional hearing on cannabis legalization in the two states, reports Jacob Sullum at Forbes.

Cole said that simply repealing state penalties for growing, possessing, and selling marijuana does not create a "positive conflict" with the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

He argued that the feds would be on firmer legal ground if they tried to preempt state licensing and regulation of cannabis businesses which are newly legal under state law. But the deputy attorney general said that approach would mean that if such litigation were successful, it would leave the industry unregulated.

That's why the Department of Justice decided on the approach summarized in the memo Cole issued on August 29, limiting federal enforcement to cases that involve eight "federal concerns," including sales to minors, drugged driving, and diversion of marijuana to other states.

"We have reserved quite explicitly the right to go in and preempt at a later date," Cole said, summarizing the DOJ's policy as "trust, but verify."

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