2015

U.S.: $18 Million Spent Last Year Destroying Marijuana Plants

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

New numbers released by the Drug Enforcement Administration show that their controversial marijuana eradication program continued in full force last year. In 2015, roughly 4.1 million cultivated marijuana plants were uprooted by local, state, and federal authorities in all 50 states. The number was slightly less than the 4.3 million plants destroyed in 2014.

Federal spending on the program was $18 million, similar to the level spent in previous years.

The DEA program provides funding to law enforcement agencies to aggressively search for, seize, and destroy illegal marijuana grow across the country.

A group of lawmakers led by Rep. Ted Lieu, D-CA tried to pass legislation last year to redirect marijuana eradication funds to more productive uses, such as domestic violence prevention programs.

The effort was ultimately unsuccessful, and Lieu is dismayed to see the program continue. "Marijuana needs to be removed from Schedule I classification, and DEA should stop this wasteful program," he said via email.

The DEA did note that two states, Alaska and Colorado, declined to accept federal funds last year. Those states, where marijuana is now legal, conducted their own enforcement efforts against illegal marijuana grows.

Michigan: Group Forms To Repeal Marijuana Prohibition

AbrogateProhibitionMichigan(logo)[AmericansForCannabis]

A ballot question committee has been formed to make use of the cannabis/hemp plant legal in Michigan and repeal marijuana prohibition.

Abrogate Prohibition Michigan announced it "is driven by the need to repair one of the most ineffective and damaging policies introduced by legislators in the last 50 years, the prohibition of the Cannabis/Hemp plant."

"Abrogate Prohibition Michigan is very different from all other efforts because the group is proposing an amendment to the State Constitution repealing all prohibitions on the Cannabis/Hemp plant for use by the people, business, and industries alike," the prepared statement reads. "The proposal does not allow for any excise/luxury/sin taxes, nor allow fines or any other penalties whatsoever for the use of the Cannabis/Hemp plant by anyone in the state."

Abrogate Prohibition Michigan's petition was approved by the Board of Canvassers on Dec. 29th, 2015, and the group said it is prepared to kick off the signature campaign in about one week, finishing the 180-day campaign just after the July 4th Independence Day Holiday, in time for voters to address the issue in the 2016 Elections.

Israel: Documentary Examines Professor Mechoulam's Pioneering Work With Cannabis

RaphaelMechoulam[PotNetwork.com]

The Scientist, a documentary released by filmmaker Zach Klein which aims to promote the work of Professor Raphael Mechoulam, is available online for free viewing.

Filmmaker Zach Klein first met Professor Mechoulam when researching the ways in which cannabis reduced the symptoms of chemotherapy that his mother was experiencing while being treated for breast cancer. The resulting documentary follows Professor Mechoulam's attempt to answer the potent question: Are we missing something?

While the work of Dr. Mechoulam in the cannabis field started way back in 1960, he maintained a humble attitude when it comes to the diffusion to the general public of the incredible discoveries he was able to publish. Only a few years ago Dr. Mechoulam agreed to grant an exclusive right to Zach Klein to produce a documentary about his lifetime achievements, to help spread the word and reach out to patients that suffer from medical conditions that can be treated with cannabinoids.

"Here we have a group of compounds, an endogenous system of major importance, it is not being used as much as it should be in the clinic, it is of great promise in the clinic," explained Dr. Mechoulam. "Let's try to push it forward and maybe this film can push it forward a bit."

The Scientist was produced, over period of four years, in association with Fundación CANNA, a non-profit research foundation focusing on the study of Cannabis and its compounds.

The Scientist is free to watch online through

New York: Company Will Offer World's First Certified Kosher Marijuana

KosherCannabis[TheMarijuanaShow]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A New York company has announced it will soon offer the world's first certified kosher medical marijuana.

Vireo Health, based in Albany, said its non-smokable medicinal cannabis products have been certified as conforming to the Jewish dietary law by the Orthodox Union, reports Glenn Blain at the New York Daily News.

The Orthodox Union said it awarded kosher certification to the product after inspecting Vireo's facilities to ensure the cannabis was grown and processed according to kosher standards. The standards include that the plants be insect-free, for example.

Vireo, one of just five companies chosen by the state to grow and distribute medical marijuana, said it will be the first "medical cannabis company in the world" to have the "OU" symbol on its oils, vaporization cartridges and other products.

Vireo said the certification will help the company serve patients among New York's Jewish population, the largest in the U.S. Its program is scheduled to start next month, and will serve patients who qualify under New York's medical marijuana law.

“Being certified kosher by the OU will not only help us serve the dietary needs of the largest Jewish community in the United States, but also combat unfortunate stigmas associated with medical cannabis,” said Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung.

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

MexicoMarijuanaFlag[MJHeadlineNews]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japan: First Lady Touts Revival Of Hemp Culture

JapanFirstLadyAkieAbeHempField[Facebook]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Japan's First Lady Akie Abe raised eyebrows this month after telling a Japanese magazine that she's considered becoming a hemp farmer to help revive the traditional culture.

Abe, in an interview with Spa!, was quoted as saying she'd become interested in hemp cultivation and considered applying for a permit to grow the plant after studying its history, reports Jun Hungo at The Wall Street Journal.

"Hemp is a plant of which all of its parts can be used effectively," Abe said. "While it is not yet permitted in Japan, I think it can be put into great practical use for medical purposes as well."

Japan maintains a hard line with its marijuana laws. The Cannabis Control Law enacted in 1948 bans the cultivation, purchase, import and export of marijuana. But before that, hemp was widely grown in Japan and used to make fabric and for use in imperial ceremonies.

There are still legal hemp farms in Japan, but they are rare and require special permits.

Abe said she'd like to revive the Japanese tradition of cultivating hemp. "I've even considered myself to apply for a permit to grow hemp," she said.

The article included a photo of the First Lady visiting a hemp farm in western Japan in August and posing for a photo in the middle of the hemp field.

Photo: Akie Abe/Facebook

U.S.: Credit Union Fights In Court To Become World's First Marijuana Bank

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In a high-stakes, closely watched lawsuit, the founders of the Fourth Corner Credit Union, which wants to become the world's first bank focused on the marijuana industry, is suing the U.S. Federal Reserve for the right to do so.

There's more at stake that just the fate of the credit union, reports Joel Warner at the International Business Times. The results of the case could have a ripple effect across the cannabis industry, which everyone agrees is currently lacking proper financial services.

"This transcript is going to be read around the world and your decision will have an effect around the United States in a major, major way," Mark Mason, attorney for the plaintiffs, told Judge R. Brooke Jackson on Monday.

"This isn't something that is going away," Mason said during his impassioned oral arguments for the credit union, whose founders include several members of his immediate family. “This is something that is going to be a part of the next generation and the future, and we need to get it right. And if we are not going to have banking ... and have millions and millions of dollars on the streets where bad things can happen, that is not responsible.”

Ohio: Marijuana Legalization Debate Far From Over

OhioMarijuanaLeaf

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Issue 3, a well-funded proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio, failed at the polls in November, but the issue isn't going anywhere.

More ballot initiatives are in the works, and state lawmakers have promised action on medical marijuana, reports Jackie Borchardt at Cleveland.com. Activists across the state are working on local ballot measures that would decriminalize pot possession.

Advocates struggled for years, with almost no funding, to put a marijuana initiative on the Ohio ballot. But in 2015, wealthy investors banded together with the name ResponsibleOhio to propose Issue 3, which would have legalized both recreational and medical marijuana. Funders, in exchange for giving $20 million to the campaign, would have owned the only 10 sites commercial cultivation sites allowed in the state.

Ohio voters didn't want that marijuana monopoly; 64 percent of them rejected Issue 3 at the voting booth. But according to experts, Issue 3 shouldn't be seen as an up-or-down vote on marijuana legalization, because it was so crappily written.

It's interesting that would-be "activists" like Russ Belville cluelessly brayed about Issue 3 needing to pass to "send a message" about legalization. The only "message" that passing garbage like Issue 3 would have sent is that "people would vote for anything if you just call it legalization"... a premise which, as we have learned, is quite faulty.

U.S.: DOJ Suspends Asset Forfeiture Equitable Sharing; Police Take More Than Thieves

AssetForfeitureProgramDEA(patch)

Federal Sharing Linked to Circumvention of State Reforms

The Department of Justice on Monday released a memorandum addressed to local, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies to announce that the equitable sharing program for asset forfeiture funds has been temporarily suspended due to financial considerations.

This means that state and local law enforcement can no longer expect to receive a share of federal funds confiscated through the process of civil asset forfeiture, a method by which law enforcement can seize property and money from individuals without charging them with a crime.

Until now, the Department of Justice’s Equitable Sharing Program allowed departments to keep up to 80 percent of assets seized in joint operations, a practice scholars have shown allows local agencies to circumvent reforms in their own states. At least one estimate puts the amount of assets confiscated by law enforcement agencies in 2014 above the total amount of robberies, suggesting, according to Reason Magazine, that “Your local police or sheriff's department is more likely to take your stuff than a robber.”

Maryland: Medical Marijuana Sales Probably Won't Start Until 2017

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Patients who need to buy marijuana for medicinal purposes in Maryland are probably going to have to wait until 2017 -- nearly four years after the state made it legal.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission on Monday announced it won't award licenses to grow and process marijuana until sometime next summer, and industry officials said it would take another four to six months after than for cannabis to be ready to sell, reports Fenit Nirappil at The Washington Post.

The commission doesn't even have a target date for allowing retail dispensaries to start operation, and cannot say when cannabis will be available to patients.

The Maryland Legislature approved the medical marijuana program back in 2013, but adjusted it multiple times before applications could even be submitted.

The commission said this year it would start issuing licenses in January 2016, but abandoned that timetable last month after getting more than a thousand applications for people who want to be marijuana producers or dispensers.

Several prospective growers have already bought land and are leasing buildings so they can launch quickly if they are awarded licenses.

Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh City Council Votes To Decriminalize Marijuana

PittsburghSteelersMarijuanaCap[Snapback]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Pittsburgh City Council on Monday morning passed a measure to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The bill, which Mayor Bill Peduto has pledged to sign the bill into law, allows city police to to levy a $100 fine against those caught with less than 30 grams of marijuana, or less than 8 grams of hashish, instead of citing them for a misdemeanor, reports Chris Potter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Bill sponsor, Public Safety Committee Chairman Daniel Lavelle, said the measure was intended to "help break the damning life-long consequences of unemployment, lack of education, and being caught in a revolving criminal justice system."

The council voted 7-2 to approve the measure. Only Councilwomen Theresa Kail-Smith and Darlene Harris voted against the bill, claiming it was "irresponsible" to pass such a bill at the local level.

"I think [the bill] gives a false sense of security to people driving on the streets," Kail-Smith said, adding that if people were pulled over by police in bordering municipalities, the confrontation "could actually escalate to something much more serious than a fine."

Harris argued that only state officials could change the marijuana laws. "We have opened ourselves up to many lawsuits by overstepping our bounds this year," she claimed.''

Australia: 'Stoner Sloth' Anti-Marijuana Campaign Backfires, Draws Widespread Ridicule

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An anti-marijuana ad campaign in Australia featuring a Stoner Sloth has drawn widespread criticism and online ridicule; the campaign is being derided as a laughable failure.

The Stoner Sloth campaign, paid for by the New South Wales government with taxpayer money, was supposed to convince teens not to smoke marijuana, reports the BBC. The Stoner Sloth character is portrayed as being unable to cope with various social situations after getting fucked up.

The three original videos show Stoner Sloth acting dopey and reacting slowly to the people around, who are apparently disgusted by Stoner Sloth's dull-wittedness. "You're Worse On Weed," we are told by the ads.

Even anti-marijuana groups in Australia attacked the lameness of the campaign. “While we wish the NSW Government luck in future cannabis campaigns, the current Stoner Sloth campaign doesn't reflect NCPIC views on how cannabis harms campaigns should be approached,” sniffed the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, reports Mark Molloy at The Telegraph.

The NCPIC's logo was used to endorse the campaign, but it was quick to distance itself, claiming it had "no input" into the final ad.

The top trending Twitter hashtag in Australia on Saturday was #stonersloth, and it was still trending as of Monday.

U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 95 People

ObamaSignsCommutations[GenerationOpportunity]

Clemencies Come As Congress Looks More Likely Than Ever To Pass Sentencing Reform

Drug Policy Alliance: The President Is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Barack Obama on Friday commuted the sentences of 95 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 45 people in July, 22 people in March, and 8 people in December of 2014. All of those who received commutations on Friday were serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued 170 commutations, the vast majority to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug law violations under draconian sentencing laws. President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

Two marijuana lifers were among those whose sentences were commuted by the President on Friday.

U.S.: Congress Adopts Significant Drug Policy Reforms In New Spending Bill

CongressCapitolWashingtonDC

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Congress on Friday morning passed a must-pass spending bill that includes language that stops the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice from spending money to block the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. The amendment was passed last year on a temporary basis and had to be renewed this year.

“The renewal of this amendment should bring relief for medical marijuana patients and business owners,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “For decades Congress has been responsible for passing disastrous drug laws. It’s encouraging to see them starting to roll back the war on drugs by allowing states to set their own medical marijuana policies.”

“Patients who benefit from medical marijuana should not be treated like dangerous criminals, and the businesses that support them need to be protected from the old drug war mentality that still runs deep within the DEA,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of criminal justice professionals working to end the Drug War. “It’s very encouraging to see such widespread support for protecting state’s rights and the rights of patients.”

Maine: Terminally Ill N.H. Woman Will Finally Access Medical Marijuana On Friday

LindaHoran[InDepthNH]

A terminally ill woman who successfully sued the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to obtain the state’s first medical marijuana patient ID card will visit a medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Maine on Friday.

Linda Horan of Alstead, who suffers from Stage 4 lung cancer, will visit Wellness Connection of Maine, where she will be accompanied by New Hampshire State Rep. Renny Cushing and several of her supporters.

“I feel better already, knowing that I will not have to spend my final days in a narcotic stupor,” Horan said. “I look forward to visiting the dispensary, learning about which products would be best for treating my symptoms. I will finally receive the medicine I need, and I won’t need to fear being treated like a criminal for it.”

Horan filed a lawsuit against DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas on November 5, asking the agency to immediately issue her a medical marijuana ID card so that she could begin obtaining medical marijuana legally in Maine and using it without fear of arrest in New Hampshire. On Nov. 24, a Merrimack County Superior Court Judge ordered the DHHS to issue her a card.

DHHS is responsible for administrating the state’s medical marijuana program, which has experienced several delays since Gov. Maggie Hassan signed it into law in July 2013. The agency began accepting applications from patients interested in participating in the program, but patients remain at risk of arrest and prosecution until they receive program ID cards.

Delaware: Marijuana Decriminalization Law To Take Effect Friday

DelawareSmallWonderMarijuanaRoadSign[MarijuanaStocks.com]

Marijuana decriminalization legislation adopted earlier this year in Delaware will officially take effect on Friday, making it the 19th state in the nation to remove the threat of jail for simple marijuana possession. (A 20th state, Missouri, has a similar law on the books that goes into effect in 2017.)

“Delaware’s marijuana policy is about to become a lot more reasonable,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Most people agree adults should not face jail time or the life-altering consequences of a criminal record just for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol. Taxpayers certainly don’t want to foot the bill for it, and fortunately they will not have to any longer.”

Under current Delaware law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a $575 fine and three months in jail.

Once HB 39 takes effect, the possession or private use of one ounce or less of marijuana will no longer trigger criminal penalties or create a criminal record for adults 21 years of age and older. Instead, it will be a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine.

Adults between the ages of 18 and 20 will face the same $100 civil fine for their first offense, then an unclassified misdemeanor for subsequent offenses, which they can have expunged from their records when they reach age 21. Marijuana possession by minors and public consumption by people of any age will remain misdemeanors.

U.S.: DOJ Asks Supreme Court To Dismiss Suit Against Colorado Marijuana Legalization

SolicitorGeneralDonaldVerrilli[RWULaw]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The U.S. Solicitor General, on behalf of the federal Department of Justice, on Wednesday filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit that the neighboring states of Nebraska and Oklahoma filed against Colorado's marijuana legalization law.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., in the brief, argues that the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) "does not preempt a 'State law on the same subject matter' as the CSA's control and enforcement provisions 'unless there is a positive conflict' between federal and state law 'so that the two cannot consistently stand together.'

"Here, for example, it is conceivable that the Court could conclude that whether Colorado's scheme creates a 'positive conflict' with the CSA ultimately turns on, among other factors, the practical efficacy of Colorado's regulatory system in preventing or deterring interstate marijuana trafficking," the Solicitor General -- whose duty it is to represent the federal government before the Supreme Court -- wrote.

“This is the right move by the Obama administration," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "Colorado and a growing number of states have decided to move away from decades of failed prohibition laws, and so far things seem to be working out as planned.

Washington: Board To Increase Number Of Retail Marijuana Stores

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Board to increase the number of retail stores by from 334 to 556 "to ensure access by medical patients"

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Following an analysis of the entire marijuana marketplace in Washington state, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) on Wednesday heard a recommendation from staff to increase the number of retail marijuana stores from the current cap of 334 to a new cap of 556.

The methodology for the cap will be part of emergency rules which will be announced Jan. 6, 2016. The allocation of retail licenses determined by the board will be published on the WSLCB website at lcb.wa.gov.

Earlier this year the Washington Legislature enacted, and Gov. Jay Inslee signed, legislation (SSB 5052) ironically entitled the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (the Act dismantles the system of safe access which has existed for patients in the state for 17 years).

“Our goal was clear; to ensure medical patients have access to the products they need,” claimed WSLCB Director Rick Garza. “There will be more storefronts for patients going forward than are available today. In addition, qualified patients can grow their own or join a four-member cooperative,” Garza said.

Unsurprisingly, Garza didn't mention that the Board's original recommendations were to entirely eliminate home growing entirely. Garza also negelected to mention that the Board reduced the number of plants patients are allowed to grow from 15 to 6 (if on the state patient registry) or just 4 (for patients who opt not to be on the state registry).

U.S.: DOJ Will Continue To Be Prohibited From Interfering In State Medical Marijuana Laws

DOJTriedToStopMedicalWeedLaws[StonerThings]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Justice Department will continue to be prohibited from interfering in state medical marijuana laws under the new federal spending bill unveiled late Tuesday night.

The compromise legislation includes a provision that is intended to prevent the department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from using funds to arrest or prosecute patients, caregivers, and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. It stems from an amendment sponsored by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) that was first approved in the House of Representatives in May 2014 and included in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 signed by President Obama last December.

“The renewal of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment suggests most members of Congress are ready to end the federal government’s war on medical marijuana,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “There’s a growing sentiment that the Justice Department should not be using taxpayer dollars to arrest and prosecute people who are following their states’ medical marijuana laws.”

U.S.: Survey Of Teens Finds No Change In Marijuana Usage Rates For Past 5 Years

TeenMarijuanaUse[SmokingPanda]

The results of an annual survey of U.S. middle and high school students released Wednesday refute claims that reforming marijuana laws and debating legalization will lead to increased marijuana use among teens.

According to the Monitoring the Future Survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

· Rates of daily marijuana use by 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders, as well as monthly use by 12th-graders, did not change from 2014 to 2015 and have remained unchanged since 2010.

· The rate of monthly marijuana use by 8th-graders did not change in the past year, but has dropped significantly since 2010.

· The rate of monthly marijuana use by 10th-graders appears to have dropped significantly from 2014 (and 2010) to 2015.

The survey also found a decline in the number of teens who perceive "great risk" in marijuana use, negating the theory that softening perceptions of harm will result in more teens using marijuana.

“Many young people recognize that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and other drugs," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "But they also understand that it is not okay for them to use it.

"For decades, teens had an artificially high perception of risk that stemmed from exaggerations and scare tactics," Tvert said. "Now that there is more information out there and it's not limited to horror stories and propaganda, they are developing a more realistic view.

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