America needs marijuana bars




For building a national pub culture, pot is better than alcohol

September 29, 2014 6:00AM ET

by Malcolm Harris @BigMeanInternet

Blogger-pundit Matt Yglesias really wants more bars. First at Think Progress, then at Slate and now at Vox, the commentator has waged a one-man rhetorical war on the country’s urban liquor boards. The current licensing system, in which the number of bars is constrained by city bureaucrats rather than market demand, Yglesias has argued, leaves us with a paucity of public drinking spots where they’re wanted. From New York’s East Village to Adams Morgan in Washington, D.C., license limitations have caused bars to become rare, expensive, crowded and all around worse.

There’s just one problem with Yglesias’ more-bars plan: alcohol. America has a serious issue with responsible drinking, and increasing the number of sales locations probably won’t help. Alcohol abuse already kills tens of thousands of Americans annually and costs hundreds of billions of dollars a year in lost productivity, health care and property damage. It’s an especially big problem for college students and other young people; Jake New reported for Insider Higher Education that at least eight college freshman died in the first few weeks of school this year, most in alcohol-related accidents or overdoses. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a fairly dramatic increase of alcohol-related hospitalizations in this age group,” George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health, told New. More bars would contribute to what’s already a public health crisis. Studies in Los Angeles and Cleveland suggest adding a bar is associated with about three additional violent crimes a year.

It’s hard to imagine bars without alcohol. Caffeine is popular, but it’s not what economists call a substitute good for booze. Luckily, those aren’t our only options. In a post for Vox, German Lopez suggested that the strongest argument for marijuana legalization might be that people will use it instead of alcohol. Although prohibition has no doubt suppressed use, marijuana’s social costs per user are negligible, especially compared with alcohol’s. A recent National Institutes of Health study suggested that marijuana appears to fit the seven published criteria to be a substitute medication for alcohol, in the same way doctors prescribe methadone for heroin dependence. From a public health perspective, every drink we can replace with a toke is a victory.

Individual states, moved by a combination of hard evidence and shifting public opinion, are advancing with plans to legalize recreational marijuana use. So far, only Colorado and Washington have gone all the way to legalization, but the whole country is headed quickly in that direction. Despite all the new regulatory architectures for growing, distributing and using marijuana without violating the law, no states have been willing to propose what responsible common use in public could look like. Not one Amsterdam-style coffee shop has managed to keep its doors open. Still, there’s a demand for marijuana bars or weed cafes or whatever we end up calling them, a demand that’s being suppressed far more strongly than the demand for more alcohol bars.

Eventually Americans will have public places to go and get high with their friends.

Although federal law schedules marijuana with the worst of the worst drugs — for now, that is — small entrepreneurs have taken the first cautious steps toward establishing common spaces to get high. To do it, they have had to navigate webs of local regulations that were never written to apply to marijuana. In Washington, the Liquor Control Board banned weed from liquor-licensed establishments after a bar named Frankie’s navigated the law and opened an upstairs smoking club. In Colorado a tea shop opened an after-hours marijuana co-op where patrons could take their own and smoke, until the town of Lafayette put the kibosh on use in business locations. One problem with weed bars is employees’ right to a smoke-free workplace; even if cops allowed indoor marijuana smoking, no one would be allowed to work there. The Tacoma, Washington, pizza and rum bar Stonegate tried using vaporizers to get around this issue, but local authorities revoked his business license. Though owners seem willing to conform to whatever guidelines they’re given, so far, no locality wants to be the first to host an American marijuana bar.

This is going to change. As the stigma around recreational marijuana use falls away, I’m confident that government prohibition will attenuate accordingly. Eventually Americans will have public places to go and get high with their friends. And given the way regulation is shaping up, they may be very different, depending on where you live. I think that’s most likely a good thing, since I don’t expect anyone is going to get it just right the first time. It’s going to be a learning process, but we can’t start until government at all levels relaxes a bit and allows the experimenting to proceed.

In his substantial writing on the topic of bars, Yglesias is predominantly concerned with economic growth in the service sector, but there’s an equally strong argument to be made for increasing what’s called parochial space. In his cultural history “Made in America,” sociologist Claude S. Fischer documents the decline in bars, fraternal lodges, social clubs and neighborhood celebrations. Over the course of the 20th century, Americans retreated into their homes, off to the suburbs, broadcast entertainment and the nuclear family. Fewer and fewer people have a third place (not work or home) where everyone knows their name. These spaces promote community integration, friendship and extrafamilial networks of support; it’s in the public interest to have more of them.

Legal marijuana bars would resolve all the problems Yglesias has with current licensing policies and give the U.S. a much-needed injection of parochial space, all without the harms that come with increased drinking. Not to be dramatic, but it’s easy to see how making marijuana available as an alternative intoxicant could save lives. At very least, it’s a socially healthier solution than more alcohol. And even if the author of “I Have Smoked Pot and Don’t Really Care for It” won’t be a frequent visitor, those of us who would rather get high than drunk will decamp and stop overcrowding Yglesias’ neighborhood gastropub. Marijuana bars are an urban-planning win-win, and Americans will get them eventually. For stoners and drinkers alike, the sooner, the better.

Malcolm Harris is an editor at The New Inquiry and a writer based in Brooklyn.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.



Portland’s marijuana festival attempts to go sober: Hempstalk 2014



By Jamie Hale |
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on September 27, 2014 at 7:25 PM, updated September 28, 2014 at 7:09 PM

Marijuana news

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“This is the only place in Portland where there will be no marijuana smoking this weekend,” Paul Stanford said, sitting under a canopy at the opening day of Hempstalk. “That’s what the police require … we have to meet their preconceived misconceptions.”…


Colorado Supreme Court to hear case of man fired over medical marijuana –



By Rachel Estabrook Sep 29, 2014

Tomorrow, Colorado’s Supreme Court will consider whether employers should be able to fire workers for using medical marijuana.

Brandon Coats, the plaintiff, is suing Dish Network for firing him in 2010 from his job as a telephone operator after he tested positive for marijuana.

As a teenager, Coats was injured in a car accident, which left him unable to walk. 

“I use marijuana at nighttime, and just a little bit gets my spasms to where my body’s not going out of control,” he says.

Dish Network did not respond to Colorado Public Radio News’ requests for comment, but has said in court that the firing is in line with a policy that complies with federal law making marijuana illegal. Lower courts in Colorado have sided with Dish Network.

Coats has appealed to the Supreme Court because, he says, he wants to work again.

“There’s a lot of people out there like me  who would like to have a job but cannot, because their impairment requires them to use marijuana, and because marijuana’s looked down on for employment, they’re not able to get jobs,” he says.

Despite the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana, Colorado law does not require employers to allow marijuana use. The statute authorizing medical use of marijuana states, “Nothing in this section shall require any employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any work place.” Amendment 64, which approved recreational marijuana use for Colorado adults, has a similar provision.

But Coats’ attorney has cited a Colorado law called the “Lawful Activities” statute, which prohibits an employer from discharging an employee for engaging in lawful activity off the premises of the business during nonworking hours.

Lara Makinen says most employers in Colorado have drug-free workplace policies spurred by the federal Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988. Makinen is on the board of the Colorado chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management. And she says, only a very small portion of employers have relaxed those policies since the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in Colorado. Many employers have actually tightened their drug testing policies, according to a survey by the Mountain States Employers Council.

Makinen holds regular phone calls and writes a newsletter for other human resources professionals in the state, and she says she has gotten a lot of questions about marijuana. “They want to know whether to stop drug testing, whether to change their policies,” she says. “They want to know, if someone’s smoking pot in their car at lunch, do I have to let them keep working after lunch?”

She says she’s sympathetic to Brandon Coats’ case, but worries that a ruling in his favor would open up employers to more lawsuits, and potentially embolden some employees to show up at work impaired. “Especially in jobs that have high safety standards, physicians, operating machinery… we have to be able to say as an employer, you have to come here clean and clear-headed,” Makinen says.

Coats’ attorney, Michael Evans, says his case isn’t about recreational marijuana, nor about using medical marijuana at work.

“We’re looking for something that both employers and employees can find a reasonable, working, practical solution,” he says. “For somebody in Brandon’s situation, who uses it after work, and who’s in a safe position answering phone calls from a desk… I think we can find a way to live together and not terminate these people.”

The Coats v. Dish case has gotten significant national attention. Makinen says there is no precedent, despite the fact that 22 other states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. “The bottom line is there’s no one else who has policies on this stuff,” she says.

– See more at:

Colorado rolling out 30 new tests to regulate marijuana industry



By Katie Kuntz Rocky Mountain PBS I-News – • Updated: September 29, 2014 at 5:37 am • 1

Medical and retail marijuana dispensaries in Colorado will receive about 30 new rules related to almost every aspect of their businesses.

The state Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) released the new rules Thursday. They change such things as the start-up licensing fees, and rules for cultivation, production, edibles, sales, employee training and product testing. Right down to a hand-washing requirement.

2 photos Photo - A worker waves a sign to attract business to the "Canna Med Medical Clinic," a medical marijuana dispensary on Galley Road just east of Circle Thursday, January 26, 2012. Mark Reis, The Gazette + caption

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State officials have contended that Colorado’s recreational marijuana industry is a work in progress, and these new standards underscore that fact.

“I think the new rules make a lot of sense,” said Mark Slaugh, CEO of iComply, a cannabis industry compliance and consulting firm. “We’re putting out consumer education and teaching business owners and workers how to be responsible vendors, from a business decision, it’s a no-brainer.”

Among the new rules is a revision of a proposal that caused an uproar at a hearing earlier this month, production caps on greenhouse or outdoor grows. The proposed rule would have allowed greenhouses to produce only half the amount of plants allowed at indoor or warehouse operations. The new rules do not make that distinction and allow the same number of plants, 3,600, for the first-level cultivation process.

“I think that the state really listened to the greenhouse workers and was responsive to the impassioned testimony,” said Meg Collins, executive director of the Cannabis Business Association, and a member of the work group committee writing the production rules.

The enforcement division also established minimum “responsible vendor training” requirements along with minimum public health and safety requirements for anyone manufacturing edible marijuana products. The state has issued 18,666 marijuana occupational licenses. Each individual with a license will be required to meet new minimum training standards if hired by a shop, cultivation center, testing facility or product manufacturer. There are 496 licensed medical shops and another 242 recreational stores in Colorado. The state has received 177 additional applications for recreational stores and grow operations that could be approved by Oct. 1.

“I believe it’s our responsibility to be as safe as we can be and make sure every bud tender and customer knows what to expect,” said Brian Ruden, a retail and medical marijuana store owner in Denver, Louisville and Colorado Springs. “It’s just better for the industry to err on the side of caution when the whole country is looking at the industry now.”

Aside from safety and health training, new rules will normalize the amount of marijuana found in any edible – ensuring that a single serving size has no more than 10 milligrams of active THC, the intoxicating chemical in marijuana. “So that could be something as small as a peanut butter cup or bonbon or as large as a soda,” said iComply’s Slaugh. “If there is more than one serving in the product, it has to be easily identified.”

The serving size rule is meant to ensure a more safe consumption of edible marijuana. Edibles have a greater risk for over consumption because the digestion of marijuana causes a later onset of the effects. Some people respond by eating more.

Testing requirements have also changed. MED will not only require testing for potency in edibles, but also for chemicals like pesticides and for the presence of fungi.

“I already spend a small fortune every month testing, and that is only going up because of all the other things they are testing,” Ruden said. “I’m excited for more responsible regulation, but frustrated with the expenses, the licensing fees, taxes and testing.”

Others expressed concern with what the new rules don’t include.

Marijuana testing facilities will only test product from licensed cultivation centers, not home growers or medical marijuana caregivers.

“We’re still not able to know how to dose,” said Ashley Weber, medical marijuana patient and caregiver advocate. “From a caregiver’s side, not being able to test means you don’t know what you’re giving your patient and you are never going to be able to be on a consistent level. And for parents with kids with epilepsy, (they) can’t know if they are overmedicating their children (or) when (to) give the medication.”

MED has not yet considered expanding testing services to caregivers.

Others were concerned that the mass of new regulations might mean more costs, and continuing competitions from the black or gray markets.

“The more rules you have the more challenging it is because we are driving up the price,” Slaugh said.

“We can offer a consistent, safe product and a wider variety and you don’t have to deal with a drug dealer – I think legitimate market will always drive away the black market – except for the price.”


The Gazette brings you this report in partnership with Rocky Mountain PBS I-News. Learn more at Contact Katie Kuntz at


Marijuana industry makes political donations




Kristen Wyatt Associated Press

Posted:   09/29/2014 09:56:50 AM MDT2 Comments

Updated:   09/29/2014 10:28:04 AM MDT

DENVER (AP) — The entrepreneurs of the young U.S. marijuana industry are taking another step into the mainstream, becoming political donors who use some of their profits to support cannabis-friendly candidates and ballot questions that could bring legal pot to more states.

The political activity includes swanky fundraisers at Four Seasons hotels and art auctions at law firms. And members of Congress who once politely returned the industry’s contribution checks are now keeping them.

“We’re developing an industry here from the ground up. If we don’t contribute politically and get out there with the candidates, we can’t help shape what happens,” said Patrick McManamon, head of Cleveland-based Cannasure Insurance Services, which offers insurance to marijuana growers and dispensaries.

Medical marijuana businesses have been giving to candidates since the late 1990s. With the arrival of recreational pot in Colorado and Washington, the industry and its political influence are expanding rapidly.

Pot is now legal for medical or recreational purposes in 23 states and Washington, D.C. More marijuana measures will be on the November ballot in Oregon, Florida, Alaska and the nation’s capital, so many contributions are being funneled into those campaigns and the candidates who support them.

Compared with the donations of other industries or advocacy groups, the political spending by marijuana businesses is modest. But, said Tripp Keber, head of Denver-based Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, which makes pot-infused soda, food and lotion, “the word is out that the marijuana industry has money to give.”

Keber attended a summer fundraiser for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed legalization in 2012 but has promised to regulate the industry according to voters’ wishes.

“It was interesting to see how he’s starting to evolve. I said, ‘I’m telling you, I can get 100 people in the room who would be happy to max out,'” or give the state’s maximum legal donation of $1,100, Keber said.

A few weeks later, in August, Keber threw a fundraiser at the Four Seasons in Denver with a goal of raising $16,000 for Hickenlooper. The event netted $40,000.

The Cannabist

In Washington state, the industry’s contributions are channeled into reforms that include reducing the tax rate on pot and kicking some marijuana revenue back to cities and counties to encourage more communities to allow dispensaries, said dispensary owner John Davis, who also serves as director of the Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics.

Not long ago, most marijuana entrepreneurs were “trying to scrape a few dollars together” to get started, Keber said. “Now this industry is becoming profitable, and we’re taking that profit and investing it politically. There isn’t a week that goes by where we don’t make a political donation.”

The Oregon ballot measure has raised about $2.3 million. A medical-marijuana question in Florida has attracted nearly $6 million. And the Alaska campaign has brought in about $850,000. A recreational pot measure in Washington, D.C., attracted few donations, perhaps because it appears almost certain to pass.

Colorado’s congressional delegation alone has received some $20,000 this year from the marijuana industry, according to federal campaign-finance data. The true figure is probably much higher because many donors do not mention the drug in campaign-finance disclosures.

The largest federal spender on marijuana advocacy is the Marijuana Policy Project, which plans to donate $150,000 to federal candidates this year, up from $110,000 in 2013. The Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have also given directly to federal candidates, and tax-exempt industry groups such as the National Cannabis Industry Association can spend an unlimited amount of untracked money.

Politicians who used to reject checks from pro-marijuana donors “aren’t doing that anymore,” said Ethan Nadelmann, head of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance.

Still, the same candidates who cash the checks aren’t always keen to talk about it. About a dozen recipients of marijuana money declined interview requests or did not return calls from The Associated Press.

A Colorado state lawmaker who accepts marijuana-industry donations conceded thinking twice before taking them.

“I always worry about what people’s perceptions will be,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat who is the only sitting Colorado legislator who supported legalization. “But it came down to, I’m on record for where I stood before I ever took a penny from this industry.”

Todd Mitchem, a Denver marijuana industry consultant, recalled a fundraiser earlier this year thrown by a maker of cannabis vaporizer cartridges for a state legislator. When the company posted photos from the event on its Facebook page, the lawmaker asked that the images be taken down.

“They just didn’t want to be seen. They were still taking the money,” said Mitchem, who declined to name the lawmaker.

The only member of Congress who responded to the AP was Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, a longtime ally of the marijuana industry who has proposed federal legalization.

“As long as this industry Is following our state marijuana laws,” Polis said in a statement, “their contributions are the same as those from any other legal donors.”


Associated Press writers Nigel Duara in Portland, Oregon; Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; Ben Nuckols in Washington, D.C.; Gene Johnson in Seattle and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.


Kristen Wyatt can be reached at .

  • Marijuana industry makes political donations
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    The Cult of Marc Emery



    Marc Emery is commonly known as the ‘Prince of Pot,’ which is a title he got from years of pot activism and, of course, pot smoking. Beyond his protesting, which got him arrested more than a few times, Marc Emery was a successful weed-seed seller, which became a lucrative business quite quickly. His cash flow got him noticed by the DEA, who extradited him from Vancouver to the US, where Marc was sentenced to five years in prison. 28 hours after his release, VICE’s Damian Abraham went to meet up with Marc at his welcome home party in Toronto. We also met with his co-accused, ‘Marijuana Man,’ and his wife Jodie, back at the Cannabis Culture HQ in Vancouver. This is the Cult of Marc Emery.


    Thailand steps up its dubious war on drugs

    By Patrick Tibke Sep 15, 2014 11:21AM UTC


    Authorities round up ‘addicts’ and place them in compulsory treatment centres

    Last week, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, a joint task force of 250 army and police personnel descended on 18 neighbourhoods throughout Bangkok, as part of a door-to-door operation designed to round up the Thai capital’s drug users.

    At 5am uniformed officers armed with M-16 rifles and urine testing kits blitzed residential areas, identifying potential ‘suspects’ purely on the basis of their age and appearance. Those unfortunate enough to be selected were goaded by police to confess to using recreational drugs, or else face a mandatory, on-the-spot pee test.

    “Hundreds” of startled Thais were then made to decant their urine into little plastic capsules provided by the police: If the test was negative, then the urine would stay its natural colour and the ‘suspect’ would go free. But if the test was positive, then the urine would turn a dreaded purple, and the ‘suspect’ would be detained at a nearby police station.

    By the end of the two-hour operation, 83 “drug addicts” and 22 “small-time dealers” had been arrested, according to a statement made by Police Major General Itipon Piriyapinyo. Itipon did not reveal the total number of people summoned for testing, but he lauded the search and arrest tactic as an efficient, humane and exemplary way of tackling Bangkok’s drug problem.

    Speaking to the press later that day, Itipon described the operation as a “targeted” raid focussed on “places where there are teenagers gathering;” places where one might find “people suspected of taking drugs.” As quoted by Thai Rath, Itipon explained that the apprehended users will be dispatched separately to compulsory treatment centres in Central Thailand, where they are expected to spend at least one month in detention “reforming their minds and bodies,” after which they may “return to society as good people.” This, he believes, is both a medical and a humanitarian intervention from which all Thais can benefit. “If they don’t go to rehab,” he said of Tuesday’s detainees, “[then] they might be sent to court… but if they go voluntarily, they will be considered as patients.”

    Itipon also revealed that Tuesday’s raid was merely a “test mission” for a wider anti-drugs crackdown, endorsed by the ruling junta, which will aim to put at least 900 Bangkok “drug addicts” into compulsory treatment centres. All this, presumably, in service of General Prayuth’s relentless efforts to restore “moral soundness” and “return happiness to Thai people.”

    “Treated as patients, not criminals”
    Last week’s raid, and Itipon’s subsequent comments, are symptomatic of the limbo stage in Thailand’s drug war, in which drug abuse is widely accepted to be a medical problem -rather than a criminal one -yet the persecution and stigmatisation of drug users continues unabated. In recent years Thailand has diverted hundreds of thousands of drug users away from criminal penitentiaries and into compulsory treatment centres, yet the growing perception of drug users as “patients” remains fundamentally at odds with existing laws that continue to criminalise drug consumption or possessing drugs for personal use.

    Since 2002, when Thai lawmakers passed the Narcotics Rehabilitation Act, compulsory rehabilitation of all drug users has been a central aim of Thailand’s drug policy. Based on the principle that drug users should be “treated as patients, not criminals,” the Act established a new legal framework through which low-level drug offences could be spared prosecution in favour of rehab. In theory, this of course sounds rather progressive. But in practice, however, the Act has enabled drug users to be abused on two fronts: Firstly by law enforcement – who continue to harass and persecute; and secondly by the treatment centres – where drug users are effectively detained without criminal conviction, and denied professional medical care.

    One of the greatest pitfalls of the Act itself, is that it makes no attempt to differentiate between varying degrees of drug use, (occasional, non-problematic, dependent etc.), meaning that every single drug offender unlucky enough to be brought before court – from a once-monthly cannabis smoker to a daily heroin injector – is liable to receive a compulsory treatment order. Inevitably, a great number of non-dependent drug users get needlessly caught up in the system, being forced to partake in pointless therapy at the taxpayers’ expense.

    Neither the wording nor the implementation of the Narcotics Rehabilitation Act admits the possibility that a drug user might not be dependent, and might not – therefore – be in urgent need of rehabilitation. This is a convenient default position for anti-drugs crusaders like Itipon, who needn’t hesitate before summarily labelling 83 people as “drug addicts,” purely on the basis of a purple pee test. (A purple pee test – if anyone cares – does not even establish which illicit substance the ‘suspect’ has taken, to say nothing of dosage, frequency of use, or associated risk behaviours, etc.)

    The reflexive pronouncement of all apprehended drug users as “addicts” clearly undermines concurrent efforts to treat drug users as “patients.” For medical professionals, international best practice dictates that one or more validated measures of drug dependence – such as the WHO Addiction Severity Index – should be applied to each individual patient before a diagnosis can be made. Addiction therapy, if required, should then be conducted in a way that is flexible and tailor-made to suit the needs of the individual, causing the least possible harm and suffering during treatment. For dependent opiate users, for example, this would include methadone maintenance therapy to alleviate painful withdrawal symptoms, en route to a total cessation of opiate use.

    In contrast to international best practice, Thailand’s current anti-drugs regime allows for urine tests and law enforcement figures to do much of the diagnostic work, whilst a blanket form of ‘rehabilitation’ is performed at treatment centres en masse, with no regard to an individual patient’s needs. Worse still, centres are often run by religious organisations, charities or the armed forces – rather than qualified medical professionals – and genuinely dependent drug users are denied medication to counteract withdrawal symptoms. Most rehabilitation programs consist of daily group therapy exercises and military-style, boot camp activities, in which vulnerable “patients” are made to endure a rigorous physical exercise regime. Many detainees also report physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their treatment leaders, such as corporal punishment for breaking centre rules, or public shaming for resisting therapy.

    Around 150,000 drug users are currently being ‘treated’ in Thailand’s compulsory rehab centres, yet despite the enormous scale of the project, its efficacy remains impossible to quantify. And this is largely due to the continued criminalisation of drug use. Successful patients who “return to society as good people,” to borrow Itipon’s phrasing, are expected to attend follow-up urine tests to prove their abstinence, but many former detainees disappear upon their release. Somewhat predictably, perhaps, those who continue to use drugs after their ‘rehabilitation’ program simply don’t bother to turn up to their scheduled pee test appointments, or, alternatively, they work around the pee tests so as to avoid getting caught twice.

    It is little wonder, then, that the United Nations has called for an immediate end to the use of compulsory treatment centres, and a shift towards voluntary addiction therapy. I quote here form the Joint Statement of 2012, endorsed by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime among others:

    United Nations entities call on States to close compulsory drug detention centres and implement voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in the community… The deprivation of liberty without due process is an unacceptable violation of internationally recognised human rights standards. Furthermore, detention in these centres has been reported to involve physical and sexual violence, forced labour, sub-standard conditions, denial of health care, and other measures that violate human rights.

    Ironically, under the rubric of the seemingly progressive Narcotics Rehabilitation Act, Thailand’s drug users are neither guaranteed the same rights as patients, nor subject to the same due process as criminals. They remain, precariously as ever, trapped in limbo somewhere in between.

    Thai police continue to hunt down and apprehend drug users on criminal charges, only to have those charges summarily waived as soon as the offender comes face-to-face with a prosecutor. Then, having been spared the trauma of a criminal imprisonment, the offender is finally handed over to a treatment centre run by people with no expertise in medical care – “as patients, not criminals.”

    The absurdity of this arrangement should elude no one.

    If Thailand’s drug users are indeed patients, not criminals, then why not simply decriminalise all drugs and allow dependents to seek treatment on their own terms? It’s the next logical step…

    More From Patrick Tibke:


    Auditions begin for marijuana-based reality show

    FOX31 Denver

    [ooyala code=”E4aDZjcDr1oV-bJ_P6uzFTGHeBFPnJnU” player_id=”47658b6fe4a043a48f5296392ce1db7f”]

    DENVER — Colorado opened up a new frontier in January when voters approved the recreational use of marijuana.

    Since then, it’s led to new jobs in the industry and tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state and cities where it’s sold.

    Now, we’re seeing the entertainment industry come calling.

    About 200 people came out to audition for a new web reality show in Denver Saturday.

    The director of the project calls “The Marijuana Show” The Apprentice meets Shark Tank — if the sharks were dolphins.

    They came to The Watering Bowl at 541 Leetsdale Drive to pitch their ideas for products and services that’ll change the pot industry and make them marijuana millionaires.

    “I never want to say I am going to screw you, it’s just business,” says the show’s director/producer/panelist Wendy Robbins.

    The cameras are ready to roll. And panelists are in place…

    View original post 403 more words

    High on Marijuana Insurance

    By Amy O’ Connor | September 8, 2014


    Specialty brokers looking to get insurers hooked on emerging industry

    The legal marijuana industry in the United States is experiencing tremendous growth.

    Legal cannabis markets in the United States are expected to grow 700 percent over the next five years, according to an industry report titled, “The State of Legal Marijuana Markets 2nd Edition,” published by The ArcView Group.

    The report values the U.S. legal marijuana market, which comprises all states that have active and open sales of cannabis to people legally allowed to possess it under state law, at $1.53 billion. The national market is projected to grow 68 percent to $2.57 billion by the end of 2014.

    The five-year national market potential is $10.2 billion, according to ArcView. Gains will stem from increased demand in existing state markets, as well as from new state markets coming online within a five-year horizon.

    As individual states try to determine where they stand on the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use, insurers are also evaluating this segment and what coverages – if any – they are prepared to offer to the businesses selling and growing medical or recreational cannabis products.

    Those who specialize in this class say agents and brokers shouldn’t be deterred by the stigma that goes along with it; instead they should learn about the segment’s needs so they can take advantage of growing business opportunities.

    The legalization of marijuana for recreational use in both Colorado and Washington has led to a slew of new business ventures in both states. The Associated Press reported in December 2013 that the state of Washington received nearly 1,700 business applications between when the license application window opened on Nov. 13, 2013, and mid-December for those looking to grow, process or sell cannabis under the new recreational marijuana law.

    Marijuana sales in Colorado totaled $15.3 million for the first five months of the year, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue, and the Denver Post reported the state has seen record tourism numbers so far in 2014.

    Whether they are a grower, dispensary owner, supplier or processor, marijuana entities looking to sell to the public are now businesses that need insurance, says Ed Kuhn, president of Creative Edge Nutrition (CEN) and the newly formed Wellness Medical Protection Group/Liability Insurance Solutions.

    “These business owners need help figuring out issues like: Where can I set up a dispensary? What are the state regulations? What is my workers’ comp liability? And what are the liabilities that other businesses have like theft, fire, business interruption, etc. They have unique issues and those need to be seen and be addressed,” he says. “They have a lot of investment dollars going into this industry and they are concerned about what happens to their investment dollars if they are shut down or don’t obey state regulations.”

    Insurance coverage requirements can include and are not limited to: workers’ compensation, business interruption, theft, products liability, cargo insurance, BOP coverage, equipment breakdown, and cyber liability – particularly for those medical marijuana dispensaries that store patients’ personal information.

    There is also opportunity for agents beyond the marijuana-related businesses themselves because they work with vendors that welcome the expertise an agent that specializes in the marijuana industry can offer, says Mike Aberle, vice president of sales and marketing for Next Wave Insurance Services, the program administrator for the marijuana-focused entity MMD Insurance.

    “It is a brilliant marketing campaign. Most of these people also have businesses outside cannabis and they made money before this,” says Aberle. “The agent, by promoting that they do this segment, can also get other policies from those working with the [marijuana entity] but have nothing to do with cannabis except for how they work with the operations.”

    Aberle says MMD’s core program started with indoor/outdoor cultivators and retailers and has since grown to cover the businesses that work with them like construction, security and supply companies.

    “These ancillary businesses can help you feed your company based on a single classification, which is cannabis. And if you are an agency that relies on referrals, then hopefully those people will turn around and refer you to other industry business owners too,” he says.

    Cannarisk, a division of BIM Agency, a Washington-based construction insurance brokerage, is the result of agent Matt Gunther’s figuring that as the marijuana industry became more accepted, the businesses that sell products would need insurance.

    “I am 36 years old and I felt like insurance was an old man’s game, particularly on the commercial side. I realized as recreational goes legitimate, just like in construction, it will be required to have insurance,” says Gunther. “This is unprecedented and unchartered territory and nobody knows what the risks are ahead of us. It makes sense for state and local governments to require liability insurance to protect the public.”

    Cannarisk launched in Washington state in early 2014 around the time producers, growers and retailers were getting licensed. It is focused on serving medical and recreational marijuana-related businesses in the state. Gunther says being located in the state has proven to be a big advantage.

    “We are trying to establish ourselves as a local face that understands the business and provides the needed services. We also provide additional value because we can be a wholesale access point for retail agents too,” he says.

    Gunther says right now they are just targeting the recreational facilities that must carry insurance, not the medical facilities because insurance is optional for them. He has found that many medical facilities don’t want to pay the cost even though premiums are low for the medical dispensaries.

    Recreational growers, however, are required to disclose their growing locations by Washington state law, which Gunther says his agency has been able to use to its advantage.

    “We can convey to the growers that their locations are public information and people know where you are growing your product. Now you really have an exposure,” he says.

    Creative Edge Nutrition sees opportunity on the medical side. The health, wellness and alternative treatments company entered into a joint venture with RXNB Inc. in June to offer marijuana liability insurance in North America through The Wellness Medical Protection Group (WMPG).

    Kuhn heads the new venture, which offers medicinal marijuana coverage for the grow and harvest of product, extracts, facilities, landlords, dispensaries and the medicinal prescriber. Coverage is available through Lloyd’s of London. He says WMPG’s coverage is available through its CANNAPROTECT program for all medical marijuana-related areas, including anti-aging and aesthetic treatments, cash-based practices, and alternative treatment facilities.

    WMPG will be mainly focused on medical cannabis practices but will also cover recreational facilities in Washington and Colorado.

    “We think there will always be two segments of the market – the prescription-quality marijuana that is only available through the medical side, and recreational that isn’t used for ailments,” says Kuhn.

    Carrier Reaction

    Not surprisingly, Kuhn says insurance markets are currently more comfortable with covering the medical side because it is a more established industry with more controls in place. He says he has heard from carriers that will not work with recreational facilities at this time.

    “Carriers are spooked by the lack of a federal position and if they have big limits exposed and something happens in Washington or Colorado, it could be huge for them,” he says. “Markets feel more comfortable with medical marijuana because it is dispensed through a physician.”

    Cannarisk’s Gunther says he didn’t expect there to be much competition from other agencies because of the exposures, which has so far turned out to be true. He says the reaction from the rest of the industry toward this segment – particularly carriers – has been skeptical and prudent. He said they are working with a “limited number of carriers,” with three main ones really willing to insure the risk.

    “There are a few on the outskirts looking in. They are being very cautious, as they should be, because how do you measure the risk?” he says. “But these [business owners] are professionals. There is a misconception from people in other states that these are all stoners starting a business, and that is not the case at all. These are professionals who are extremely educated and they are opening up with the desire to work with a local broker.”

    MMD’s Aberle says it is customary for states to start with legalizing medical marijuana before they will look at the recreational side. These frequent changes and unknowns in the industry are a put-off to carriers, he says. Lloyd’s has been the only carrier Aberle has found that will be flexible in adjusting the coverage and limit options on a needed basis.

    “If I were to request as many changes as I have made in a given year with another carrier, they would have dropped the program. This industry has so many changes and needs all the time that you have to be consistently moving forward,” he says.

    MMD has also received requests from states, counties, cities, and policy departments for its loss guidelines and has lent its expertise to answer questions about the role insurance will play in the development of a legitimate marijuana industry. As state government or regulatory agencies set certain insurance standards, Aberle says the industry will play a big part. However, carriers’ leeriness in offering the required limits or coverages can make it difficult for the marijuana industry to move forward.

    “We will continue to work with these people to help carve out a proper industry. … We have had to do a lot of work in the insurance industry and show a lot of data to say this is a viable business and you will be profitable writing,” he says. “We have also had to work with cities and states to show them that certain insurance options are just not available because there is no carrier willing to do it.”

    Products completed or products liability coverage is an area that makes carriers nervous, says Aberle, and it is also a coverage that is required of all recreational operations in both Washington and Colorado.

    MMD launched the coverage for recreational facilities on a claims-made form in January, though it always offered the coverage for medicinal facilities on an occurrence form. Aberle says carriers were more comfortable offering the coverage on a claims-made basis for the marijuana industry.


    Aberle is encouraged by the movement he’s seen from other carriers that haven’t written this class in the past, but for now they are mostly “window shopping.”

    “They want to know about it because it sounds cool and the industry loves to talk about it and know more and that’s a great thing,” he says. “For us, it is has gone from ‘can we even mention we are writing it?’ to ‘we love telling everyone about it.’ The carriers still won’t write the business, but they love hearing about it.”

    Editor’s Note: The marijuana products and facilities in this article were photographed at Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham, Wash.

    About Amy O’ Connor

    O’Connor is associate editor of