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Prince and princess of pot are expanding their dispensary empire, whether it’s legal or not

Cannibas Culture

 

Sunny Freeman | February 3, 2017

Jodie Emery struts through the hazy hallway of Cannabis Culture’s flagship Toronto store, through a 15-person deep checkout line, and then past the extracts, pre-rolled joints and display jars of bud into the lounge area where a group of pot enthusiasts is sparking up.

It is just after noon on a Wednesday.

The 32-year-old Cannabis Culture owner makes several attempts to call her husband, Marc, a famous marijuana legalization advocate, to wake him up. The Prince of Pot likes to sleep in, she explains, because he works past midnight, which is closing time at his shop in Toronto’s gay village downtown.

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Marc emerges half an hour later. He joins employees behind the counter to recommend strains and weigh portions for the rapidly growing lunchtime rush. Marc is focused on the Toronto flagship locale he owns, while Jodie oversees the franchising and most other aspects of the business. 

“This is what legalization looks like,” Marc said. “That’s exactly what we want to present to the government: You can go and do your rules and your thing and we’re going to do our thing.”

Many in the scene consider the Emerys weed royalty and the couple’s hard-fought decades-long dream of legalization may be on the cusp of fruition. But even as the government pursues legislation to set up a legal recreational market, the question of whether dispensaries such as theirs will be allowed to operate above ground hangs in the air.

Depending on the specific wording of the legislation, Canada’s prince and princess of pot could very well be excluded from the opportunity to earn a legal living in a recreational marijuana market that is expected to be worth as much as $22.6 billion annually.

In the meantime, a plethora of ganjapreneurs are looking to gain a foothold in the coming pot economy through the only current legal path, by becoming a Health Canada licensed medical marijuana producer. Many more are simply opening dispensaries on the sly, hoping to fly under the radar as they count down to legalization.

The Emerys worry licensed producers will monopolize the commercial system, but even if they are shut out, it will not deter the defiant outsiders from their aggressive expansion plans. 

The couple is relatively new to the dispensary business, jumping in less than two years ago with their first store in Vancouver and deciding to expand last year at the request of interested investors.

“When the opportunity came up to start dispensing cannabis I thought why not? If everybody else is doing it why shouldn’t we after all we’ve done?” Jodie said.

It’s a decision that has paid off so far. The crowd at Cannabis Culture’s flagship dispensary was just an average weekday, and sales spike on weekends. This location, one of 18 franchises, can pull in between $30,000 and $40,000 a day.

One man calls out to Jodie to say he’s one of her 38,000 Twitter followers. Another guy thanks Marc for his years of sacrifice to the cause, which include a five-year sentence in a U.S. federal prison.

For a guy who sometimes gives pot away for free, Marc keeps a keen eye on performance metrics and knows the exact headcount of customers they had last Friday: 1,783.

“You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that’s a good cash-flow business,” he said.

It could be even better if dispensaries like his become legal.

A task force report on legalization has recommended the government allow storefront locations in addition to the current mail-order system and acknowledged a majority of people who participated in the consultation process prefer a distribution system that includes dispensaries.

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Yet it remains unclear whether new government legislation will allow a place for the 400 or so dispensaries already operating.

The shops, most of which maintain at least an ostensible medical purpose, argue that they fill a gap for consumers by providing in-person advice, fostering competition and keeping prices low.

Marc has set an ambitious goal of opening 200 locations by the end of 2017, whether they are legal or not.

“Those questions to me are irrelevant, we just do what we do. We’re going to keep doing it. As long as the law is wrong we will disobey,” Marc said. “After prison, I didn’t want to be relegated to irrelevancy so I had to take the lead in provoking the authorities by opening up retail shops.”

And provoke he does.

Marc was most recently arrested just before Christmas, when cops raided six Cannabis Culture locations in Montreal, the day after he made a splashy debut in the city by bestowing free “nugs,” or marijuana buds, on throngs of admirers. Similarly, the flagship Toronto location opened a day after raids shuttered dispensaries across the city last May.

How police handle dispensaries varies widely across in the country, no more so than in the country’s two biggest markets. Vancouver has opted for a licensing system while Toronto police continue to crack down and raid dispensaries, citing public safety concerns.

Emery wears his 289 arrests, eight raids and five years in prison as a badge of honour. After all, the raids attract media attention and that attracts even more customers.

“Raids are just part of doing business. They’re annoying and they certainly set you back, but ultimately the police are wrong and we’re right,” he said.

Raid-related expenses, including covering the costs of lawyers for any employees who get arrested, have been built into the cost of doing business.

Those questions to me are irrelevant, we just do what we do. We’re going to keep doing it. As long as the law is wrong we will disobey

Stan Behal/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Stan Behal/Toronto Sun/Postmedia NetworkMarc and Jodie Emery’s Cannabis Culture store on Church Street in Toronto. The couple, considered pot royalty, can’t keep up with the requests they have for franchise licences for their business model.

But the Emerys also have to think about the more mundane aspects of growing a franchise business, such as how much of a cut they should take. Jodie has been studying the Subway sandwich model and working with a franchise lawyer to help figure it out.

Cannabis Culture’s model asks for a $10,000 investment up front, plus a royalty of six per cent for the first six months, rising to seven per cent afterward. But she thinks they might be lowballing it. Subway, by contrast, asks for $15,000 upfront and a 12.5-per-cent royalty each month.

Cannabis Culture franchises can take in anywhere from $2,000 to $40,000 a day depending on their location, but about 60 per cent of that goes back into the stores, mostly toward buying new product, Jodie said.

Like all dispensaries, Cannabis Culture currently operates outside the law, so the Emerys have established their own guidelines: they don’t record customer information, do not require a doctor’s note and ask customers to show ID to prove they are over 19.

HST is tacked on to all prices and payroll taxes are collected, Marc said. He estimates they have turned over about half a million in taxes to the government.

The details of their supply chain are, somewhat understandably, sketchy. Jodie said much of the product comes from brokers who get it from those with medical growing licences. Many of the connections have stood for decades.

She equates the growers to farmers at a local market. They are proud of their product and would like to come forward, but prohibition forces them to stay in the dark.

Product quality is mostly assessed by a sight and smell test by store employees. But bigger locations such as the flagship store owned by Marc work with a lab to test strains for pesticides, mold and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in pot, and cannabidiol (CBD), the ingredient said to have therapeutic effects. The tests can cost about $150 each, prohibitively expensive for most small-time operators.

My feeling is if I am not allowed to sell marijuana after all the work I’ve done this far, then who does have that right?

Tyler Anderson/National Post

Tyler Anderson/National PostMarc Emery, owner of Cannabis Culture, speaks with customers at his store on Church Street in Toronto. Like all dispensaries, Cannabis Culture currently operates outside the law.

Despite some unusual costs factored into the underground business, interest in Cannabis Culture and the Emerys runs high among investors — a diverse group that includes fellow activists as well as deep-pocketed business-types — who don’t seem to be deterred by dispensaries’ questionable legal status.

“‘I’ve got hundreds of franchise request emails coming in from all across Canada and even the U.S.,” Jodie said. “People are begging and I can’t even get back to them.”

Cannabis Culture’s brash business style irks some other dispensary owners worried that the Emerys’ in-your-face promotion style could turn off Canadians who are on the fence about legalization and the role of dispensaries within the system.

But Jodie is dismissive of their critics: “They’re looking at Cannabis Culture with a bit of green in their eyes saying you guy are big corporate cannabis now.”

Meanwhile, the Emerys are also feeling squeezed from the publicly traded licensed producers that they believe are trying to monopolize marijuana and shut them out of a free market. The Emerys say the market is big enough for all types of players — especially theirs.

“We’ve paid our dues. My feeling is if I am not allowed to sell marijuana after all the work I’ve done this far, then who does have that right?” Marc said. “And I don’t believe anybody else has that right over me.”

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sfreeman@postmedia.com
Twitter.com/sunnyfreeman

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“Rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to purposes and principles of the United Nations.” HOW THE UNITED NATIONS IS STEALING OUR “UNALIENABLE RIGHTS” TO GROW FOOD AND MEDICINE THROUGH THE U.N. CONVENTION ON NARCOTIC DRUGS AND AGENDA 21.

North Americans Spent $53.3 Billion On Marijuana Last Year, Most Of It Illegally

The industry “just needs to move demand for an already widely-popular product into legal channels,” a new report says.

01/17/2017 06:20 pm ET

Ryan Grenoble Reporter, The Huffington Post

A new report estimates consumers spent $53.3 billion on cannabis in North America last year.

The first-of-its-kind analysis, compiled by ArcView Market Research, spans legal, medical and illegal marijuana markets across both the United States and Canada. At around $46 billion, the illegal market constituted 87 percent of marijuana sales in 2016 (a decrease from 90 percent in 2015), dwarfing both medical and legal sales.

The marijuana investment and research firm provided a 25-page executive summary of its fifth annual State of Legal Marijuana Markets to The Huffington Post Tuesday, ahead of the full report’s release in February.

Arcview projects the legal marijuana market will expand from its current $6.9 billion to $21.6 billion by 2021, as California, Massachusetts and Canada expand their cannabis sales, and medical sales begin in Florida. The $6.9 billion figure is itself a 34 percent increase in just one year from 2015.

Assuming the projections hold, the five-year growth rate for legal marijuana from 2016 to 2021 would fall just short of that seen by broadband internet providers from 2002 through 2007, which expanded at around 29 percent per year, from around $7 billion to north of $25 billion.

Unlike most of the billion-dollar industries that preceded it, marijuana is in a unique position, ArcView argues, because the market doesn’t need to be created from scratch ― it just needs to transition from illicit to legal channels.

“The enormous amount of existing, if illicit, consumer spending sets cannabis apart from most other major consumer-market investment opportunities throughout history,” Arcview Market Research CEO Troy Dayton explained in an emailed statement.

“In contrast to comparable markets with fast growth from zero to tens of billions in recent decades such as organic foods, home video, mobile, or the internet, the cannabis industry doesn’t need to create demand for a new product or innovation ― it just needs to move demand for an already widely-popular product into legal channels.”

In states that have moved to tax and regulate the drug, the black market has decreased rapidly, the report found. Colorado’s black market, for instance, accounts for about one-third of all cannabis sales, with the majority having transitioned to legal marketplaces.

ArcView found the cashflow going to drug dealers and cartels has diminished accordingly, helped in part by the shrinking “illegality premium” for the product once demanded by the black market. 

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Clinton Gave Thumbs Down to Legal Marijuana, Leak Shows

By Tom Angell on October 10th, 2016

 

Image result for marijuana and hillary clinton

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoke out against legalizing marijuana in a paid speech, hacked emails from her campaign show.

During an on-stage Q & A session with Xerox’s chairman and CEO in March 2014, Clinton used Wall Street terminology to express her opposition to ending cannabis prohibition “in all senses of the word”:

URSULA BURNS: So long means thumbs up, short means thumbs down; or long means I support, short means I don’t. I’m going to start with — I’m going to give you about ten long-shorts.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Even if you could make money on a short, you can’t answer short.

URSULA BURNS: You can answer short, but you got to be careful about letting anybody else know that. They will bet against you. So legalization of pot?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Short in all senses of the word.

The excerpt comes from an internal Clinton campaign memo highlighting potentially problematic passages from her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, General Electric, Deutsche Bank and other major corporations.

Other excerpts from the 80-page document, published by Wikileaks after a hack on Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account, show the former U.S. secretary of state admitting she is “far removed” from the struggles of the middle class, arguing that politicians need to have separate positions on issues in public and in private and supporting “open trade and open borders.”

Over the course of the past year, the Clinton campaign forcefully refused calls to release the speech transcripts from her Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who supports legalization and has introduced legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition.

That the campaign flagged the candidate’s opposition to legalization as a potential problem demonstrates a growing understanding by political operatives that marijuana law reform is now a mainstream issue, one which is supported by a majority of Americans and a supermajority of Democratic primary voters.

While Clinton has made no secret in public appearances that she isn’t ready to endorse full legalization, she has usually framed her position as taking a wait-and-see approach, wanting to give laws like those in Colorado and other states a chance to work before she makes up her mind about ending prohibition.

The leaked Xerox excerpt, in contrast, positions her as strongly opposed to legalization.

But the remarks were made two-and-a-half years ago, just two months after legal marijuana sales began in Colorado, so it is possible that Clinton’s personal view of legalization has legitimately softened in the interim.

During the course of her presidential campaign, Clinton has highlighted support for letting states set their own cannabis policies without federal interference and has pledged to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act if elected.

But advocates have pushed the candidate to go even further by offering a personal endorsement for the policy of legalization, arguing that doing so could help Clinton win back support from wayward millennial voters who are supporting Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson or Jill Stein of the Green Party, both of whom have made support for ending cannabis prohibition centerpieces of their campaigns.

The newly-leaked documents showing Clinton’s strong opposition to legalization in a private appearance, combined with comments from the candidate’s daughter Chelsea last month implying that marijuana use can lead to death, could present an added sense of urgency for Clinton to evolve on the question of ending prohibition prior to Election Day.

To see what else Hillary Clinton has said about cannabis law reform, check out Marijuana.com’s comprehensive guide to the candidates.

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9 States to Vote Soon on Expanding Legal Access to Marijuana

SAN FRANCISCO — Sep 28, 2016, 2:35 AM ET

Marijuana National Vote

From California, with its counterculture heritage, to the fishing ports and mill towns of Maine, millions of Americans in nine states have a chance to vote Nov. 8 on expanding legal access to marijuana. Collectively, the ballot measures amount to the closest the U.S. has come to a national referendum on the drug.

Five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — will consider legalizing the recreational use of pot. Three others — Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota — will decide whether to permit marijuana for medical purposes. Montana will weigh whether to ease restrictions on an existing medical marijuana law.

As the most populous state, with a reputation for trend-setting, California is attracting the most attention — and money — in an intensifying debate over Proposition 64.

Silicon Valley tycoons and deep-pocketed donors with connections to the legal medical marijuana industry are among the top financial backers of a pro-pot campaign that has raised almost $17 million. Opponents have raised slightly more than $2 million, including a $1.4 million contribution from retired Pennsylvania art professor Julie Schauer.

Advocates on both sides say passage in California would likely ignite legalization movements in other states, especially when the tax dollars start adding up. California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated the state could collect up to $1 billion a year in marijuana taxes.

"As California goes, so goes the nation," said University of California, Berkeley political science professor Alan Ross.

If "yes" votes prevail across the country, about 75 million people accounting for more than 23 percent of the U.S. population would live in states where recreational pot is legal. The jurisdictions where that’s already the case — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and the District of Columbia — have about 18 million residents, or 5.6 percent of the population. Twenty-five states allow medical marijuana.

According to national polls, a solid majority of Americans support legalization. Gallup’s latest survey gauged support at 58 percent, up from 12 percent from when the question was first posed in 1969. Gallup says 13 percent of U.S. adults report using marijuana at present, nearly double the percentage who reported using pot in 2013.

California voters rejected an attempt to legalize recreational marijuana in 2010 after campaign leaders struggled to raise money and support for a four-page ballot measure hastily written by the owner of a small medicinal marijuana store.

This time, the 62-page ballot measure was crafted by political professionals and has the backing of many elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for governor in 2018. Current Gov. Jerry Brown says he’s close to announcing his position.

The measure would allow people 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce of weed and grow six marijuana plants at home. Pot sales would be subject to various tax rates that would be deposited into the state’s Marijuana Tax Fund. Most of that money would be spent on substance-abuse education and treatment. Some would be used to repair environmental damage caused by illegal growers.

Opponents argue that the measure will do more harm than good by opening a marijuana market dominated by small farmers to corporate interests and encouraging children to use the drug through pot-laced sweets like gummy bears, cookies and brownies.

The proposal "favors the interests of wealthy corporations over the good of the everyday consumer, adopting policies that work against public health," said Kevin Sabet, co-founder of the California-based advocacy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Napster founder and early Facebook investor Sean Parker has contributed more than $3 million to the legalization effort, which has also attracted sizable contributions from an organization backed by billionaire George Soros and another backed by Weedmaps, which rates pot stores throughout the state.

"It’s a huge deal and it’s long overdue," said Steven DeAngelo, owner of one of the nation’s largest medicinal marijuana dispensaries and a Proposition 64 supporter.

In most of the states with marijuana ballot measures, polls have shown the "yes" side leading. Sabet believes opponents of legalization would attract more support if they could narrow a large fundraising gap and spread their cautionary messages. He does not buy the other side’s argument that nationwide legalization will come sooner or later.

"Repeating that this is inevitable, and repeating they are so excited, is part of their narrative to makes folks like us feel helpless," he said.

Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, a leading pro-legalization group, said his side has a chance to win in most of the nine states, but some losses will not derail the movement.

"Even if a measure doesn’t pass, support will grow," he said, citing failed ballot measures in Oregon and Colorado that preceded the victories for legalization.

"Most people believe marijuana should be legal. It’s a question of whether opponents do a good job of scaring them out of doing it now," Tvert added. "We might see people opt to wait a couple more years."

All five states voting on recreational marijuana have seen intense debate over the effect of legalization in the states that have already taken that step.

Opponents of the ballot measures make an array of claims, contending, for example, that Colorado’s legalization of pot has coincided with an increase in crime in Denver and fueled a jump in the number of traffic fatalities linked to marijuana use.

However, an analysis by three academic experts, published this month by the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, asserted that the impact of legalization has been minimal.

"The data so far provide little support for the strong claims about legalization made by either opponents or supporters," the analysis said.

Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron, one of the co-authors of the study, predicted Californians would approve Proposition 64, but he was less certain of the outcome in his home state of Massachusetts, where the Republican governor, Charlie Baker, and the Democratic mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, have teamed up to oppose legalization.

Miron said it’s difficult to predict when legalization might get support in Congress or surge to approval in a majority of states.

"I’m not sure if this November will get us to the tipping point. It may be two or four more years," he said. "Certain things seem impossible, until all of a sudden they are possible, and they happen fast."

———

Crary reported from New York.

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Jesse Ventura Calls For Legalizing All Drugs

JESSE VENTURA

VIDEO AT THIS LINK

By Jason Devaney   |   Thursday, 08 Sep 2016 04:54 PM

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura wants to see marijuana and every other drug made legal in order to regulate them better.

During a series of interviews with Newsmax TV, Ventura — the author of the book “Marijuana Manifesto” — said Wednesday legalizing marijuana would also create jobs and help the economy.

“We’ve got an entire industry out there waiting to happen,” Ventura told J.D. Hayworth on “America Talks Live.”

“It hasn’t got any of these negatives they’ve sold to you over the years. The experiments in Colorado and Washington are phenomenal. In fact, in the state of Washington, their first trickle-down effect of legalizing marijuana, their statewide judicial budget fell 15 percent. In Colorado, they’ve got $300 million more to spend on schools and infrastructure because of the legalization of marijuana.”

Ventura added that someone he knows used medical marijuana to treat epileptic seizures. The seizures went away with the use of the drug.

“That’s why I’m so passionate that it needs to be legalized,” he said. “There’s people out there suffering and marijuana can help them.”

In a separate interview on the “Steve Malzberg Show,” Ventura claimed marijuana is not a gateway drug like people say it is.

“The gateway drug is tobacco,” Ventura said. “I was a kid, the first thing I did was smoke tobacco. Second gateway drug was alcohol. Marijuana might have been third.”

Malzberg and Ventura later went back and forth about legalization. Ventura said he would legalize heroin, and then answered yes when asked if he would make all drugs legal.

“You know what? Then you ensure the addict, addiction is a disease, it’s a medical condition,” Ventura said. “We choose to treat it criminally rather than medically.

“If you bring it above board, anything that isn’t brought legally is then run by criminals. So you bring in a criminal element, the price goes up 10 times as high because it’s illegal and then crimes are committed to support the addiction. You don’t see crimes being committed to support cigarette smoking, you don’t see crimes committed to support drinking. Why? Because they’re legal and you can get it.”

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The New Peaceful Pot Head Revolution: Or, Why I’m Going To Infiltrate The Democrats & Run As One Of Them

Cris Ericson

 

 

By CrisEricson2016 | Fri, February 26 2016

S.241 Vermont marijuana Bill does NOT make marijuana legal like alcoholic beverages: (1) because you can brew your own alcoholic beverage at home in Vermont, and this bill does NOT allow you to plant a seed in the ground and grow your own marijuana at home; (2) because the state government does not raid your home and count your cans of beer, but in the new Bill, S. 241, the state will raid your home and count every single seed you have, or have planted, and send you to prison if you are not one of the chosen few to pay a high price for and receive a license to commercially grow and sell marijuana.
S.241 was written for the express purpose of making the rich even richer, and sending the poor to prison for the benefit of the private-for-profit prison industry.

PUBLIC NOTICE to DEMOCRATIC PARTY in VERMONT

I live in the area of Windsor County just north of Windham County, and there are a lot of low income people who will be devastated by S. 241 proposed marijuana bill because when marijuana is legal, they will be tempted, but they can NOT afford to pay for it.

Until marijuana is legal to grow your own at home for your own personal use, without the government prying on your private property to count your plants, I will continue to campaign for legalization.
Because the Democratic Party has taken over the issue of marijuana legalization, whereas I started it in 2002, the first time I was on the ballot for Governor, I will run in the Democratic Primary this election season to off-set the injustice being brought down on low income Vermonters.

The whole current marijuana bill is intended to make a few farmers and Lounge merchants vastly wealthy, while the tax dollars will be spent hounding and stalking poor people and threatening them if they so much as plant one seed.

Did you know this is how the American Revolution began?

The King decided that one company could sell Tea, he made one company a monopoly.
So, the Settlers dressed up as Indians and dumped the Tea into Boston Harbor.
If Peter Shumlin gets his way and does the equivalent of allowing monopolies, allowing only a few businesses to farm marijuana and sell marijuana, then you are inciting a riot, you may be inciting the next Boston Tea Party, only it might be tons of marijuana dumped into Lake Champlain off the Ferry.

If I lose the Democratic Primary, I will be on the ballot for the General Election for the Marijuana Party, of course.

This is a battle of the rich against the poor, and the Democratic Party is in conspiracy with Governor Peter Shumlin to extort money from people for marijuana, rather than allowing them to plant a seed in the ground and grow their own.

Also, of course, your conspiracy with Peter Shumlin includes violating federal marijuana laws; and I might start a group to file an action directly with the Supreme Court of the United States which is allowed when a State law violates the U.S. Constitution – and I think we might have a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution guarantee of equal rights under the law: how can you possibly think it is alright for one man to profit growing marijuana, while another man may be imprisoned for the same thing?

And, in keeping with the Spirit of the American Revolution, you must know you are violating the U.S. Constitution in conspiracy with Peter Shumlin for making laws that require someone else, other than an elected official, to make rules and regulations to use the tax dollars collected;  that is clearly taxation without representation.

Cris Ericson

http://democracy.com/vermont
SOURCE LINK:  http://ibrattleboro.com/sections/politics/new-peaceful-pot-head-revolution-or-why-im-going-infiltrate-democrats-run-one-them
SB 241 VT LINK:  http://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2016/S.241

U.S.: Congressman Blumenauer Writes Open Letter To President About Marijuana

Tue, 01/12/2016 – 22:24 – steveelliott

EarlBlumenauer(Congressman-D-OR)[LadyBud]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Congressman Earl Blumenauer on Tuesday wrote an open letter advocating marijuana legalization to President Obama in advance of the President’s State of the Union speech.

"As you begin your last year in office, I hope there is one more step you take to bring about fundamental change — ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances," Rep. Blumenauer wrote to the President.

The language chosen by Rep. Blumenauer is very significant, politically speaking. "Removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances" is, of course, the only way forward that avoids cannabis being immediately co-opted and controlled by Big Pharma, which is assuredly what will happen if it is moved from Schedule I to Schedule II or III on the Uniformed Controlled Substances Act.

Following is Rep. Blumenauer’s letter in its entirety.

An Open Letter to the President

Dear Mr. President:

A State of the Union speech is a unique opportunity to address Congress and the nation about priorities and accomplishments, as well as to highlight critical issues.

I remember another speech in May 2008 when you spoke to over 70,000 Portlanders. The overwhelming feeling of hope coming from the crowd was palpable.

Tonight, you will undoubtedly reflect on the last seven years. During this time, you fulfilled your promise of systematic change while dealing with the largest economic disaster the United States has seen since the Great Depression and almost unanimous Republican obstruction in Congress. Your actions jumpstarting the economy, reforming health care and Wall Street, and providing critical leadership on climate change will be felt for generations to come.

As you begin your last year in office, I hope there is one more step you take to bring about fundamental change — ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances.

We both know the prohibition of marijuana has not and will not work. Recent surveys find that 18 million adults used marijuana in the past month — and well over a million use it legally under state laws for medicinal purposes. Despite dire hyperbolic warnings and the threat of citation, arrest, or even prison, all evidence indicates Americans will continue to use marijuana, especially since younger Americans feel even stronger that it ought to be legal. They understand that, while not without risk, marijuana is certainly less dangerous than tobacco — which is legal in every state despite its highly addictive nature and proven deadly consequences. Indeed, if we were scheduling drugs today, tobacco would probably be classified as Schedule I and marijuana would be left off.

I suspect that both your heart and your head tell you ending prohibition is the right thing to do, especially from a civil rights and criminal justice perspective. We’ve undercut respect for the law, wasted law enforcement resources, and more important, wasted lives.

A shocking 620,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2014. No area is more stark and unfair than the treatment of African Americans — particularly young men. Research shows they are no more likely to use marijuana, yet the heavy hand of the law descends upon them with a vengeance. Depending on where they live, African Americans are two to eight times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana, according to a study by the ACLU. Unlike white middle class Americans, for young men of color — especially if poor — even a minor infraction can have devastating consequences. They can be forced from their family home if they are living in public housing, or have difficulty obtaining federal student loans to make it nearly impossible to attend college.

This is wrong.

Current federal policy declares marijuana has no medicinal value and implies it is more dangerous than methamphetamine or cocaine. I don’t believe that any member of your Administration believes this is true. Yet inaction creates another serious consequence — an inability to focus on real threats to public health. Cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and opioids are all far more dangerous than marijuana. In 2013 alone, over 20,000 people died of prescription drug overdoses — while there have never been any reported marijuana overdose fatalities.

This is also wrong. By telling Americans something demonstrably false, the case and credibility of drug enforcement authorities at all levels is weakened.

Not only that, federal policy has placed a stranglehold on effective marijuana research — even as evidence continues to mount about its medicinal benefits. Medical marijuana patients receive relief of pain, suppression of nausea, and the control of symptoms of neurological disorders. Recognizing this, 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have legalized medical marijuana, and 17 other states have authorized some form of medical marijuana. Removing federal barriers to research will help eliminate the guess work about both its benefits and potential problems.

For all the talk about gateway drugs, having millions of Americans relying on the black market for marijuana only opens the way for thugs to directly market to young people and those desperate to deal with depression and pain. No drug dealer checks for ID on the street corner or schoolyard. They have no license to lose and every incentive to sell other more dangerous, addictive and profitable drugs.

The vast underground network supplying millions of Americans can and should be transformed into a legal industry that is regulated and taxed. We continue to enrich Mexican drug cartels that use marijuana as one of the pillars of their financial model. We should instead be taxing and regulating marijuana to help balance the budget and fund important services. If we approach marijuana the same way as alcohol, we could take the billions of dollars we save in enforcement and additional billions that will be generated in tax revenue to deal with education, the protection of our children, and the treatment for people with addiction problems.

Mr. President, you’ve already had the most profound effect on marijuana law reform than any President in history. You’ve declined to interfere with states that have legalized adult use of marijuana and others states that allow medical marijuana, and you’ve provided breathing room for state-legal marijuana businesses.

It is time, Mr. President, for you to take the next logical step, cementing your legacy in history on drug reform and a fairer criminal justice system. Call for an end to marijuana prohibition and de-schedule marijuana. The House and Senate are reluctant to take bold action to legalize marijuana at the federal level, but you don’t have to wait. Under your leadership by de-scheduling marijuana, you will trigger monumental reform, allowing states to continue their pioneering efforts and putting pressure on Congress to take additional actions to tax and regulate. We can start by ending the lunacy of forcing legal marijuana companies to operate as cash-only. Seldom has such a small step, supported by a majority of Americans, had such potential transformational power.

Please seize the moment. We can’t wait.

The time is now. The country is ready.

In 2008, I joined with tens of thousands of Oregonians who cheered you on chanting, “Yes, we can!”

Today, I speak on behalf of millions of Americans across the country and ask you to support ending the prohibition of marijuana.

We hope you will respond, “Yes, I will.”

Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress

– See more at: http://crrh.org/news/node/6521#sthash.TEB7vmh3.dpuf

Canada to be first G7 country to legalize weed – Gov-General

© Steve Dipaola

 

Next year Canada could become the first country in the G7 group of the world’s leading economies to legalize marijuana as the government announces its plans in a speech to parliament.

The freshly-elected Liberal government has reaffirmed their pledge to legalize marijuana as Governor-General David Johnson addressed the parliament with a speech that outlined the legislative agenda for the coming year.

“The Government will introduce legislation that… will legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana,” Johnson said, Canadian Global News reports. He did not elaborate on how the government plans to regulate or restrict access to the soft drug.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter to the Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould also includes a provision suggesting that the justice minister should work “with the Ministers of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Health, create a federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.”

Trudeau said that legalizing marijuana would fix a “failed system” and help remove the “criminal element” from marijuana production and trade, adding that Canadians would benefit from studying the experience of the US state of Colorado and Washington, which recently adopted similar laws.

The PM has stuck to that position since becoming the leader of the Liberal party in 2013. He says his support for the legalization of marijuana is influenced by the fate of his late brother, who was charged with drug possession for having “a tiny amount” of weed before his death in an avalanche in 1998.

Legalizing pot was a high profile election promise made by Trudeau during the latest election campaign that raised the Liberal Party to power after almost a decade of the Conservative rule. Two previous Conservative administrations also made such election promises but failed to live up to them.

In Canada, people are allowed to use medical marijuana in dried and edible forms on condition they do not smoke it. Growing marijuana at home is also legal, according to Global News.

Apart from legalizing marijuana, the new government also plans to cut taxes for citizens with middle income as well as to provide higher child benefits to the needy, which would be financed by a tax increase on the wealthiest 1 percent of the population.

The government also announced plans to provide significant investments in infrastructure, cut military spending, limit the budget deficit to 10 billion Canadian dollars ($7.5 billion) per year as well as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

CONTINUE READING…

After federal raids, U.S. tribes cautioned about marijuana

SANTA FE, N.M. — Tribes across the U.S. are finding marijuana is risky business nearly a year after a Justice Department policy indicated they could grow and sell pot under the same guidelines as states.

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Justice Department clears the air on states’ marijuana laws

Federal raids on tribal cannabis operations in California followed by a South Dakota tribe’s move this month to burn its crop amid fears it could be next have raised questions over whether there’s more to complying with DOJ standards than a department memo suggested last December.

The uncertainty — blamed partly on thin DOJ guidelines, the fact that marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal laws, and a complex tangle of state, federal and tribal law enforcement oversight on reservations — has led attorneys to urge tribal leaders to weigh the risks involved before moving forward with legalizing and growing pot.

"Everybody who is smart is pausing to look at the feasibility and risks of growing hemp and marijuana," said Lance Gumbs, a former chairman of the Shinnecock Tribe in New York and regional vice president of the National Congress of American Indians. "But are we giving up on it? Absolutely not."

At a conference on tribal economic development held in Santa Fe, tribal leaders and attorneys said Wednesday that the raids have shown there may be more red tape for tribes to negotiate when it comes to legalizing cannabis than states have faced.

That’s especially the case for tribes that are within states where marijuana is not legal. In those cases, tribes may face the challenge of figuring out how to bring cannabis seeds onto reservations without crossing a state jurisdiction, and sheriffs and state officials are bound to be less approving of marijuana, said Blake Trueblood, director of business development for the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, host of the conference.

The DOJ memo sent to U.S. attorneys last December directed them not to prioritize prosecuting federal marijuana laws in most cases where tribes legalized the drug for medical or recreational use. The memo calls for tribes to follow an eight-point policy standard that includes taking measures to keep pot out of the hands of children and criminal networks, and not transport it across federal or state jurisdictions where it remains illegal.

"Industrial hemp, medical marijuana and maybe recreational marijuana present a lot of opportunity. But for now, the best advice is to proceed with caution," said Michael Reif, an attorney for the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin, where tribal leaders filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday after federal agents recently seized thousands of hemp plants grown for research. "We’re seeing the ramifications of things being unclear in a way states didn’t."

The Flandreau Santee Sioux in South Dakota – a state where marijuana isn’t legal – was the first to approve recreational pot under tribal law with a vote in June, and was one of the most aggressive about entering the industry, with plans to open the nation’s first marijuana resort on its reservation north of Sioux Falls.

But after weeks of discussions with authorities who signaled a raid was possible, the tribe announced last week it had burned all of its marijuana plants. Anthony Reider, the tribe’s president, told The Associated Press the main holdup centered on whether the tribe could sell marijuana to non-Indians, along with issues over where the seed used for planting originated.

He suggested that by burning the crops, the tribe could have a clean slate to relaunch a grow operation in consultation with authorities.

In California, the Alturas and Pit River Indian rancherias launched tribally run marijuana operations that were raided by federal authorities, with agents seizing 12,000 marijuana plants in July. The regional U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement that the two neighboring tribes planned to distribute the pot off tribal lands and the large-scale operations may have been financed by a foreign third-party foreign.

It’s not clear if the two tribes have plans for a new marijuana venture, and calls from the AP were not immediately returned.

The California and South Dakota tribes are three of just six so far this year that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana on their reservations.

The Squaxin Island Tribe in Washington state is another, and just opened a store last week for retail sales of the drug. But most expect the tribe to face fewer legal challenges because Washington allows for recreational marijuana use and the tribe entered into a compact with the state that sets guidelines for taxing pot sales.

"The tribes are not going to be immune to what the local attitudes toward marijuana are going to be," Trueblood said. "If there’s one 30,000-feet takeaway from this year, it’s that you’re not going to be successful if you don’t work with you local governments or U.S. attorneys.

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Mark Thornton: Cannabis Legalization Starting to Advance Rapidly –

Anthony Wile: Hello, Mark. It’s been over a year since we last interviewed you. Give us an update on your recent work.

Mark Thornton: I was asked to debate the War on Drugs at Oxford Union in June of last year. I was happy to see such a political elitist institution interested in debating the War on Drugs. Maybe the new requirement for paying tuition is having a positive effect or it could be just part of the worldwide trend against the War on Drugs and political institutions in general.

Recently, I was asked to speak to the Atlanta Economic Club at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. I spoke about the Skyscraper Curse, a topic that I was criticized about by the Economist magazine. It’s a topic that I have been talking about often these days as we look out at a pending Skyscraper Signal in Saudi Arabia and the collapse of the world economy.

Anthony Wile: We continue to follow the cannabis trend at The Daily Bell, and given your focus on "the economics of prohibition" over the years, would like to talk with you about several recent developments, especially in regard to two areas – the economics of prohibition and tariffs and price controls. When we talked with you in March 2014 you talked about "UNGASS 2016 and the Enormous Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana." Given the progress to date, what do you expect to come from UNGASS 2016? And how would you assess the working sessions being hosted around the world in preparation for the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs, in April 2016?

Mark Thornton: Well, I have heard about the leaks and those leaks seem quite promising. I believe they basically confirmed what we hoped and expected from UNGASS 2016. It is complete reversal from 1998. In 1998 the report said that policy could achieve a drug-free world. That is an insane position to take, like no more storms, no more automobile accidents. It is the Pollyanna delusion. In 2016 we expect the UNGASS to issue a harm reduction recommendation where illicit drug consumption and possession would not be criminal acts that could lead to a prison sentence. This is a sane policy position. Prison sentences for illicit drug users are clearly harmful to the consumer (who now has a criminal record) and to government (cost of courts and prisons, etc.) and it does not deter consumption, or crime, or other negative consequences.

It is not the correct position of full legalization, but decriminalization has achieved good results in Portugal and Ireland has announced its intention to follow Portugal’s lead. With UNGASS 2016 recommendations we can expect many more counties to follow suit with legalization of marijuana and decriminalization of the hard drugs. Many governments have already turned a blind eye towards illicit drug consumers in anticipation of UNGASS 2016 and are ready to enact harm reduction policies such as decriminalization, marijuana legalization, and needle exchange programs. So I am hopeful that we will see a windfall of policy liberalization in many countries and then political change in countries that do not follow suit.

There will be some pushback from countries like the US, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The for-profit prison companies in the US will spend lots of money trying to defeat public opinion. Someone should keep an eye on them and their political and lobbying spending. If politicians knew that anyone accepting for-profit prison money would be outed as an ally of crony capitalism, it could be helpful.

Anthony Wile: What about individual response from member nations? Many have already implemented new regulations but I’ve stated my expectation that many changes will likely need to be made to at least parts of those regulatory regimes post-UNGASS, in order to come in line with treaty agreements.

Mark Thornton: Yes, it will be a messy process. Government always is a mess. Some will stick with the War on Drugs, some will adjust within the new framework, and others will venture outside the new guidelines and treaty agreements. As I mentioned, Ireland has already jumped the gun in preparing for full decriminalization. There will be experimentation and lots of reviewing of the evidence. I am sure there will be reform efforts that fail, but overall I am not worried about the long term because we have solid evidence from Portugal.

Medical marijuana legalization has been a big success. Recreational marijuana legalization has been a big success, rather than the disaster that was predicted, for Colorado and Washington. Marijuana and hemp are going to be big businesses in areas as diverse as medicine, textiles, chemicals, building materials, and fuel. They can be grown in diverse climates without herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and without much labor.

It is a "master ingredient" like petroleum, except it’s renewable. So it’s appealing to our progressive and environmentalist friends and it’s the type of thing that will turn the current and future generations of entrepreneurs to create a giant leap in human progress. I think this potential will force regulators to innovate and fix problems in their systems.

Anthony Wile: I’ve also cautioned excited investors to take a deep breath and wait a bit for the market to shake out, for this very reason. Comment?

Mark Thornton: It is wise to caution investors. Any new product or ingredient experiences a great deal of chaos in the early years. I expect thousands of new and existing businesses to get involved in cannabis and hemp, everything from retailing recreational marijuana, to new cutting-edge medical applications, to competing with the petrol-chemical industry. Initially there could be hundreds of firms in each "product space," but over time each will come to be dominated by a small number of firms. Think about automobiles, soda drinks, and personal computers. They started out with more than a hundred entrants and ended up with just a couple of primary domestic producers. Therefore, it is very difficult to pick winners at this early stage. By the way, there are no Tweets with #marijuanaprofits yet!

Anthony Wile: An argument is made that conflates legalization efforts with promoting the "normalization" of drug use. We suggest, rather, that ending prohibition simply accepts human nature for what it is and enables any adult person seeking to utilize the cannabis plant for either medicinal or adult use recreational purposes in a safe and maturely managed manner. We suggest maturity prevail in this conversation. Recently, the pro-legalization campaign in Ohio featured "Buddie," a marijuana mascot on street corners and public areas in view of children and families, in essence promoting cannabis use. This is quite reminiscent of the "Joe Camel" tobacco advertising that was dangerous and offensive, long ago relegated to the dustbin of history as an unsuitable figure for big tobacco. This kind of promotion is certainly not consistent with public values. Perhaps that’s part of why they lost the vote.

Would you agree that the main objective is to remove the black market from the equation but not to encourage drug use per se or to focus on expanding the usage of cannabis? Does anyone really think a costumed marijuana bud is going to fly?

Mark Thornton: Yes, I completely agree. I argue that the policy of government prohibition causes us all much harm and provides no benefits. Legalization creates opportunities for many economic benefits. However, when it comes to using marijuana for recreational use I am not an advocate. It may be less dangerous than alcohol, but that does not mean I recommend consuming it. It is a drug after all.

The situation in Ohio is important to discuss. The recreational legalization measure on the ballot was recently defeated and properly so. It would have changed the state constitution and put 10 monopoly marijuana growers into the constitution! These 10 monopolists were the ones that wrote and paid for the measure to be put on the ballot. They are the ones that paid for "Buddie" to be on the streets of Ohio. Naturally, crony capitalist/monopolists want to encourage consumption of their product. It is just shameful.

It is important to note that the defeated ballot measure was opposed by many advocates of legalization. Another measure to prevent any monopoly from being written into the state constitution was also passed by the voters. Hopefully, legalization will come in the next round of voting in Ohio. Overall, I consider the ballot results a great victory.

PLEASE CONTINUE READING THIS INTERVIEW AT LINK BELOW!

– See more at: http://www.thedailybell.com/exclusive-interviews/36640/Anthony-Wile-Mark-Thornton/#sthash.ft32TNJ2.dpuf