Is the DEA’s marijuana eradication program worth the $14 million to fund annually? Here’s a look at some numbers
Published: Oct 10, 2016, 6:33 am • Updated: about 5 hours ago Comments (1)
In 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration gave $20,000 to the state of New Hampshire to eradicate marijuana plants, according to federal documents. But the Granite State’s law enforcement agencies didn’t have much luck finding any weed to pull that year – their efforts uncovered a single outdoor grow site with a grand total of 27 plants.
Do the math, and U.S. taxpayers paid $740.74 for each pot plant uprooted in New Hampshire that year.
That’s an expensive weeding operation, but it could be worse. Utah received $73,000 in marijuana eradication funds, according to the federal documents, obtained by journalist Drew Atkins as part of a FOIA request. But agents failed to find a single pot plant to eradicate.
The DEA’s $14 million marijuana eradication program has been the subject of a fair amount of criticism in recent years. Twelve members of Congress have pushed to eliminate the program and use the money instead to fund domestic-violence prevention and deficit-reduction programs.
Its purpose is to “halt the spread of cannabis cultivation in the United States,” a mission that has become complicated as more states have legalized medical or recreational marijuana programs. Several more states have similar measures on the ballot this year.
DEA records show the program has been effective in some states, most notably California. Agents pulled 2.6 million marijuana plants in 2015, seizing more than 1,600 weapons in the process. Nearly $5.4 million was funneled into that state’s program.
Kentucky’s $1.9-million program had the next largest number of eradicated plants, more than 570,000.
Nationwide, the DEA documents show that spending on the program has shrunk from about $18 million in 2014 to $14 million in the current fiscal year. Some states – including Alaska, Colorado and Vermont – stopped receiving eradication funds completely.
California, where medical marijuana is legal, receives the lion’s share of marijuana eradication funds, in part because the “Emerald Triangle” region of Northern California. The area has long been home to many of the state’s legal and quasi-legal marijuana production operations, but law enforcement authorities have maintained that it also has been a haven for the grow operations of Mexican drug cartels.
Kentucky also receives a large amount of money to eradicate marijuana. The state has a surprisingly rich culture of marijuana cultivation.
Rounding out the top 5 marijuana eradication states are Tennessee, Georgia and, perhaps unexpectedly, Washington. The aptly nicknamed Evergreen State legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, and pot shops opened for business in 2014. So it may seem odd that the DEA is spending $760,000 this year to eradicate pot plants in the state.
But Washington is the only recreational marijuana state that doesn’t allow people to grow their own plants for recreational use. (In District of Columbia, incidentally, the situation is reversed: Homegrows are okay, but you can’t buy weed at the store.)
Washington also receives more marijuana eradication money than any other state with a recreational pot regime in place. Oregon received $200,000 this year, while Colorado and Alaska didn’t take any federal money for marijuana eradication.
New Hampshire, Louisiana, Delaware, Utah and New Jersey all spent well over $100 for every marijuana plant eradicated. Eleven states spent at least $50 per plant, while nearly half of the states – 23 of them – spent at least $25 in federal money for each marijuana plant they eliminated.
At the other end of the spectrum, states with big investments in marijuana eradication – like California and Kentucky – also had the most successful efforts to pull up large numbers of pot plants. So their per-plant costs are much lower.
To be perfectly clear, even in a fully legal, highly regulated market like Colorado’s there will be a need to enforce prohibitions on large-scale, unlicensed marijuana grows – similar to the way the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms busts illegal home alcohol distilleries. Beyond that, authorities often make a number of arrests at cultivation sites, or seize weapons and other property from people suspected of involvement with marijuana grow operations.
Still, some lawmakers are starting to question the need dedicated this level or resources to eliminating pot plants when so many states are relaxing their own restrictions.
“It makes zero sense for the federal government to continue to spend taxpayer dollars on cannabis eradication at a time when states across the country are looking to legalize marijuana,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., told me earlier this year. “I will continue to fight against DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program in Congress and work to redirect these funds to worthwhile programs.”
What a mess. For generations, Washington D.C. has attempted to grab our guns and state legislatures follow its lawless example. It occupies 640 million acres of America. But having our guns and our land taken by D.C. thugs isn’t about the Second Amendment. It is about Washington D.C. and its allies in multinational and foreign corporations, waging war against us.
The war is Washington D.C. vs. America…
Every time Congress or a federal court takes up any issue of us vs. them, they rule for themselves. Our side is split up into countless small groups, each fighting for our single issue. How can we ever win this war and restore rule of law?
The Founding Fathers made provision for that. In Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 of the Constitution, We The People authorize Congress to "provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections, and repel Invasions…". Then in Clause 16 we authorize Congress to, "provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the Militia…reserving to the States…the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia". That’s the Law in plain English. It’s clear, simple, and non-negotiable.
See? The Second Amendment is the wrong battle because 80 million Americans already own over 250 million firearms. The problem is, few of them are military-grade arms suitable for Citizen Militia. Also, few citizens are trained to execute the laws or protect their community in a crisis or attack, because no American belongs to a constitutional Citizen Militia. Not a single state has a constitutional Militia law. Pulling together a bunch of gung-ho guys in ‘unorganized Militia’ doesn’t pass constitutional muster.
The Second Amendment has nothing to do with it. We need to exercise our power and duty over the Constitution by "execut(ing) the Laws of the Union", not arguing with liberals and tyrants in the White House or in our statehouse about ‘gun rights’. Sovereigns don’t argue with their lawless servants about rights; we execute the laws!
Notice how this ties into land-grabs by the BLM, EPA, NFS and other illicit alphabet agencies. To execute the highest law, we need to make our State legislatures shut down the federal bureaucracies occupying our states’ sovereign public lands in violation of the Constitution. Our legislators don’t have the backbone to do it, so we need to force them to obey the Constitution, too. I will explain how, in Part 3.
But here’s the federal land-grab in a nutshell. In Article I, Section 8, Clause 17, We The People give Congress permission to "exercise exclusive Legislation…over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square)…and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards…".
THIS MAP depicts land that Washington D.C. lawfully acquired from the states by that section of the law. Compare that to THIS MAP depicting the over 640 million acres of state lands being occupied, claimed or controlled by Washington D.C. in direct violation of the Constitution!
This began when the West consisted of ‘territories’ that Washington D.C. grabbed from the Indians, Spaniards, French and Mexicans. Once a State entered the Union, its land became its own sovereign property and every State had to treat its co-sovereigns equally; this is a republic.
But you know how politicians are; Washington D.C. wanted to keep all that land, minerals, timber and water for itself. Congress and the federal courts have been citing Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 as Washington D.C.’s right to steal public lands belonging to the States: "Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular State."
See that last sentence? It means that neither Washington D.C. nor any sovereign State can win a court battle over a State’s land. It is the duty of the State Legislature to put its foot down on federal occupation of our land in violation of the highest law. And it is the duty and power of the Citizen Militia to make the law stick!
America can win this war against lawless Washington D.C., but only by first enacting a constitutional Militia statute in each state.
Remember, in the Constitution, We The People created, defined, and limited our servant government in Washington D.C., including the U.S. supreme Court. In any contest between America and Washington D.C., We The People are the highest authority. If something is clear in our Constitution, We The People – not federal courts – are the final word on what the law says. This powerful principle is explained in the book, The People Themselves, by former Stanford Law School dean Larry Kramer.
This isn’t rocket science. Every State legislature needs to enact a constitutional Militia statute, set up training and appoint Militia officers; that’s the law. Then when the State legislature passes its law to expel every lawless federal bureaucrat, agent, and thug from the State, the Citizen Militia of that State can "execute the Laws of the Union".
We The People gave no authority or jurisdiction to Washington D.C. of one square inch of land in any sovereign State on earth, except in that passage about military bases and forts purchased from the States with approval of the State Legislature. Everything else that Washington D.C. thugs and bureaucrats are doing in ‘federal lands’ or a ‘federal possession’ is criminal activity.
Thousands of Americans have horror stories about tyranny by federal bureaucrats, agents, and operatives. This was out of control generations ago, and it’s our fault. We The People have work to do, to turn this long war back in America’s favor.
Stay tuned for Part 3 to see how we will do that. I had originally planned five articles, but I think I can finish this series in three parts.
By KOMO Staff Friday, January 15th 2016
TACOMA, Wash. — A South Sound man could potentially spend the next 40 years in prison after he was convicted Friday of illegally growing and selling marijuana.
Prosecutors say 37-year-old Lance Edward Gloor and his business partner opened four illegal marijuana dispensaries throughout Puget Sound. The men claimed the shops were non-profit medical dispensaries, but in reality Gloor was making millions of dollars and breaking state laws, according to prosecutors.
Prior to opening the shops, Gloor was arrested in 2010 when police searched his home and found more than 70 pot plants and a firearm.
In 2011, federal and state law enforcement teamed up to investigate Gloor and his dispensaries. He told police he was getting out of the marijuana business, but in reality he continued to operate two of the four businesses while attempting to hide his role in the operation, prosecutors say.
On Friday, a jury found Gloor guilty of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and manufacturing marijuana. The jury couldn’t reach a verdict on a money laundering charge, and they acquitted Gloor of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Gloor is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of five to 40 years in prison, according to the Department of Justice. He will officially be sentenced on April 15.
To mark the anniversary of recreational-marijuana stores opening in Washington, we look at The Seattle Times’ coverage of pot over the past 115 years.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Cannabis made one of its first appearances in The Seattle Daily Times in 1911, in a recipe to cure corns. An extract of cannabis, along with sodium and collodion, would form a paste. Readers were instructed to “paint over the corn once or twice a day and scrape away superficial growth in three or four days.”
Later stories journeyed from a portrayal of marijuana as an illegal, dangerous drug used by dirty hippies to a legal drug purchased at a regulated store.
The corn remedy is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of mentions of marijuana, also referred to as pot, weed, mary jane, cannabis, reefer, that have appeared in The Seattle Times pages since 1900.
To mark Wednesday’s one-year anniversary of recreational-marijuana stores opening in the state, we took a look at our cannabis coverage over the past 100-plus years.
A look back
Marijuana turned musicians in Chicago into “laugh addicts,” according to a 1928 account. A 1940 dispatch from New York recounted that “Harlem Negroes” had invented a new lexicon related to marijuana. Other stories recounted drugs coming in from Canada, China and the Middle East.
And oh, won’t someone think of the children?
Echoing films such as “Reefer Madness,” marijuana was often portrayed as a gateway drug to narcotics, debauchery and a life of crime. In 1953, The Seattle Times interviewed parents of teens arrested for stealing cars. The parents of one 13-year-old said their son “got in with a tough Queen Anne High School gang,” who would get marijuana, then steal cars “for the thrill of it.” A year later, a dealer was sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling dope to minors.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the drug became more associated with counterculture, with hippies wandering around in a “sea of mud, sickness and drugs,” as Woodstock was described in a 1969 story.
In 1981, The Seattle Times ran a 10-part series (yes, 10) called “Marijuana and Your Child.” There was a marijuana epidemic among America’s children, an Associated Press reporter wrote, that didn’t kill, but maimed.
“The media’s portrayal has, in some instances, contributed to accurate public knowledge and marijuana’s effects on behavior, how popular it was, who was using it,” said Roger Roffman, a University of Washington professor emeritus and author of “Marijuana Nation: One Man’s Chronicle of America Getting High.” “In other instances, the media pretty grossly contributed to stereotypical views of marijuana users and marijuana policy.”
Feb. 26, 2015: From artisan glass blowing to grow operations and retail, Kush Tourism takes curious guests through various facets of the marijuana industry. (Steve Ringman and Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)
Only recently have the mainstream media covered marijuana as something that might have value, Barcott said. One of the first Seattle Times stories about medical marijuana was published in 1975, when a drug expert testified at a Drug Enforcement Administration hearing.
And last year, The Seattle Times wrote about Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes buying two packages of marijuana, one for posterity and one, he said, for “personal enjoyment.” The reporters even noted what strain he bought: “OG’s Pearl.”
“It will be very interesting to see how that coverage changes,” Barcott said. “Not just year to year, but week to week, month to month. It’s such a fast-moving story.”
February 27, 2015
I hate to be the party pooper but I feel there is a need to point out that the possession, transportation, processing and use of marijuana is still illegal. It is not legal in Alaska, nor Colorado, nor Washington, nor Oregon. It’s not legal in your house, nor in a car, or on a train, or in a plane. No Charlo Green I am; it’s not legal to grow pot in this here land.
There is this thing called the Controlled Substances Act. You can find it in Title 21, Section 800 or so of the U.S. Code. Section 812 lists marihuana (with an h) as a schedule I substance. The rest of the sections talk about how the federal government can punish (or, cough, deter) you from doing things with marihuana and other substances. By the way, the Controlled Substances Act was passed by Congress. Remember that high-school U.S. government class you kept falling asleep in? Quick refresher: The U.S. Constitution says if Congress passes a law, it trumps any state law.
What about my right to use marijuana? Didn’t Alaska legalize it? Can’t I have 4 ounces in my home after that Ptarmigan or Raven decision? No. Uncle Sam said no, and he couldn’t care less what Colorado’s constitution reads or what the Supreme Court of Alaska said. Ravin was a decision regarding the right to "privacy" provided by the Alaska Constitution. The recent ballot initiative was a voter initiative that changed Alaska state law. Neither gave anyone a legal right to marijuana. A state cannot grant a legal right to do something that the federal government has declared illegal. Just ask Angel Raich and Dian Monson of California; they thought they had a medical right under California law. The SCOTUS said no: Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1, 7 (2005).
What about Ballot Measure 2 in Alaska, and the Colorado amendment, and Washington’s and Oregon’s laws? All that these states have done is decide that they will no longer enforce criminal penalties for various acts involving marijuana. So once again, marijuana is not legal in Alaska; it’s just not criminal under Alaska law, and won’t be punished by law enforcement or courts of Alaska (within the limits set by Ballot Measure 2).
OK, semantics, right? Except these are important semantics that the general public doesn’t quite understand. Semantics that legislators should be wary of when they enact legislation, lest they have their laws pre-empted. Semantics that public administrators should ensure to get correct to properly inform the public. Semantics that, if used properly in and by the media, could help further a national debate that we should be having about drug policies in the United States.
No matter how many times Sam I Am, or Charlene Egbe, or Charlo Greene tell you it’s legal now in Alaska, it isn’t. It’s not legal recreationally and it’s not legal medically. A doctor technically can’t prescribe pot (although they can “recommend” it under their First Amendment right to free speech — again, important semantics for policymakers and interested parties). In a way, I guess that’s a good thing for people like Ms. Egbe; they can go on treating “their patients” and not fear being prosecuted for the unauthorized practice of medicine (and yes, I ran her name through the Professional License search on the Alaska Department of Commerce’s website. She is not a doctor, or a pharmacist, or a nurse, or a lawyer (different search website)). But they still need to watch out for Uncle Sam. It’s not legal to sell it, and you face stiff penalties for doing so under federal laws. Oh, you think it’s just pot, no big deal, the feds won’t bust me for it and if they do, how bad could it be? Ask Weldon Angelos when he gets out of the Mendota Federal Correctional Institute in 2051 how serious $350 worth of pot can get.
OK, so before you get your pitchforks and torches and string me up in tar and feathers for blasphemy against the almighty Matanuska Thunder #@!*, I need to clarify the point of my rant. I truly believe our nation, not just our state, needs to rethink our policies on drugs, crime and punishment. As a society, we have a knee-jerk reaction to throw people in jail thinking it will solve everything, which it hasn’t. Reform with our current Congress isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, so reform at the state level is the next best thing — a thing that can help begin national change.
But what I would hate to see is more good people imprisoned under the current severe federal drug penalties because of mistaken beliefs of their “right” to use marijuana. I would also hate to see the national debate be ignored by complacent individuals with the misguided perception that “it’s legal in my state so who cares what the feds think.” So please, when people tell you how it’s legal to smoke pot in Alaska, or Colorado, or anywhere else, remind them of what they missed when they slept through that high school government class, and tell them more change is still needed.
Kevin Coe lives in Anchorage.
The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Rick Steves is the affable host of public television’s best travel series, “Rick Steves’ Europe.” He’s also the author of “Europe Through the Back Door,” a best-selling series of travel guide books. His approachable demeanor makes him one of your grandparent’s favorite television hosts; his boyish good looks and friendliness remove any trepidation imposed by his six-foot frame.
What your grandparents might not know about Rick Steves is that he is an unapologetic proponent of the legalization of responsible adult use of marijuana. He sits on the board of directors for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and contributed large amounts of his travel business profits into passing the legalization laws in Washington State and Oregon. It’s his frequent travels to Europe, where many countries like The Netherlands and Portugal have gone beyond what America has tolerated so far in marijuana reform, which leads him to see the two countries America has become with respect to marijuana legalization.
In a three-part interview with SFGate columnist David Downs, Steves explains how the attitudes toward marijuana reform differ so greatly in America based on geography. “We have two different countries right now,” Steves tells Downs. “I’ve traveled all over the country. Look at the East Coast. They just can’t hardly believe how far along we are and in their world it feels like they’re still behind. They’re on the dark side of the moon.”
One indication of how different the two coasts are is the plethora of business seminars now servicing the fledgling legal marijuana industry in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, as well as the continuing evolution of the quasi-legal medical marijuana industry in California. Steves is one of many speakers presenting at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco next month, an event that is drawing scientists (Dr. Carl Hart, Dr. Amanda Reiman), politicians (California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher), activists (Oregon legalizer Anthony Johnson, California Prop 19’s Dale Sky Jones) and business leaders (Harborside’s Steve DeAngelo, ArcView Group’s Troy Dayton), and others seeking to shape and grow the cannabis industry.
Steves, however, isn’t as sanguine about marijuana reform as an issue of business profits. He’d rather people took marijuana legalization to heart as a civil rights issue. “I wish we could all just grow two plants on our windowsill and share them with each other, but that’s not going to work that way,” Steves says with regret. “I’m out of the fray there. I’m sure there was lots of cannabis people that wish I was all for the investors and stuff. I’m just agnostic on it. I just want to stop locking people up for smoking pot.”
But Steves recognizes that the cannabis club ideas, like the grow-and-share system that works in Spain, aren’t going to suffice in capitalist America. “You can’t fight that. Big business, free enterprise, greed — it’s the American way,” Steves notes. “So you can’t legalize marijuana and not have it legal.”
How marijuana becomes legal, though, will likely be very different on the east Coast compared to the West Coast. “There’s a huge difference between the more progressive and more regressive parts of the country. That’s just the way it is,” Steves observes. “I think that’s going to change very quickly and I think after 2016, once California legalizes, and a couple other states will go along with it — it’ll be easier because it’s a presidential year — I think it will be pretty hard to deny the fact that prohibition of marijuana is on its way out.”
Steves, however, also recognizes that some true believers’ ideas about ultimate cannabis freedom without restrictions are unlikely to win at the ballot box. According to Steves, “You need a public safety law that respects the concerns of most people that don’t smoke pot. That’s just a pragmatic thing. I’m not saying that’s right — that’s just reality. I mean, my record is 2- 0. We legalized in Washington and we legalized in Oregon and we needed every bit of common sense pragmatism and respect for people that oppose us that we could.”
Follow Russ Belville on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RadicalRuss
More: CONTINUE READING…
- December 30 2014
In a few short paragraphs within the 1,603-page congressional spending bill signed into law on December 16, 2014, Congress prohibited the U.S. Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute users, growers and distributors of medical marijuana in states that have enacted medical marijuana statutes. The full text of the de-funding rider barring the DOJ from the use of funds to “prevent. . . implementation” of state and local laws legalizing medical marijuana states:
Sec. 538. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
Sec. 539. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (“Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Several U.S. Supreme Court decisions have upheld prosecution of medical marijuana growers and users under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Nevertheless, the Obama Administration, as a matter of policy, has directed the DOJ to take a relaxed approach to prosecution and the DOJ has done so, except for use that impacts the DOJ’s “enforcement priorities” (e.g., preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing the revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels). This new de-funding measure now codifies that policy approach as law. (Notably, the rider does not affect IRS or Treasury Department actions relating to payment of taxes by marijuana suppliers and online banking).
The legislation, however, does not legalize medical marijuana. Rather, the federal ban on marijuana continues – i.e., both medical and recreational marijuana continue to be illegal under CSA Schedule I. And, though de-funding may affect enforcement of criminal laws in states with medical marijuana statutes, it has no effect in states that have not legalized marijuana, nor does it express any limitations on employer action on the basis of a positive marijuana test result administered under a workplace drug testing policy. Finally, the rider expires on September 30, 2015, and may or may not be renewed heading into the heart of the presidential election campaign in the fall of 2015. For all of these reasons, though significant in reflecting current legislators’ thinking at the national level regarding CSA enforcement, the mere enactment of the spending bill with this provision does not warrant adjustment to drug testing policies of employers choosing to continue to treat confirmed positive marijuana test results as positive even when the result was caused by medicinal use that is lawful under state or local law.
The proposed congressional budget released Tuesday night prevents the Department of Justice from using funds to undermine state laws regarding medical marijuana.
posted on Dec. 9, 2014, at 9:20 p.m.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke BuzzFeed News Reporter
The House budget passed Tuesday night prevents the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to interfere with state laws that legalize medical marijuana.
The amendment was introduced by California Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, and Sam Farr, a Democrat, and was approved by the House of Representatives in May. It implies that DEA raids on medical marijuana patients in states where it is legal will stop.
The budget Senate proposal — which must still go back to the House for a full vote before it lands on President Obama’s desk — would keep all but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operating normally through the end of the fiscal year in 2015.
The compromise bill was approved with Republicans agreeing to put off a fight with Obama over his immigration policies until February, when funding for the DHS is slated to run out, the Associated Press reported.
The bill’s Section 538, which addresses medical marijuana, reads:
None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
The bill also includes a section that protects industrial hemp cultivation.
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (”Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113–79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
Marijuana advocates were pleased with the bill.
Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, said in statement to BuzzFeed News: “Congressional leaders seem to have finally gotten the message that a supermajority of Americans wants states to be able to implement sensible marijuana reforms without federal interference.”
Angell also urged the Obama administration to use this opportunity to “reschedule marijuana immediately.” Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it’s a dangerous narcotic with no accepted medical use. Heroin and LSD are also classified Schedule I, while cocaine and methamphetamine are Schedule II, a lower ranking.
Advocates say reclassifying the drug would allow for state and federal laws to be in sync, and conserve law enforcement resources. It would also ease access to research of the drug and tension between banks and marijuana retailers.
Erik Altieri, communication director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also released a statement that said: “By restricting these agencies in this manner, the nearly two dozen states that implemented medical marijuana programs can hopefully breathe easier knowing federal money won’t be spent to interfere with their progress. We hope this leads to further reforms at the federal level further enshrining this sentiment into law.”
The bill also effectively blocks the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Washington, D.C., but preserves its decriminalization law.
Voters in Washington, D.C., overwhelmingly passed a recreational marijuana referendum on the November ballot, which is now effectively blocked. The District passed a decriminalization bill in April that will remain intact.
The proposed bill’s appropriations section, which allocates millions in funds to the district, states:
“None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.”
Unlike most states, Washington, D.C., doesn’t take in any local revenue that it can spend and receives all of its funding from the federal government, so the ban on using funds for legalization effectively blocks the referendum voters recently passed.
Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said of the rider: “I’m opposed to what the House is trying to do.”
“If they put it in there, it’s going to be hard to take it out over here,” he added.
Marijuana advocates in Washington D.C. and those who advocate for the district’s autonomy were not pleased. D.C. Cannabis Campaign, which sponsored the ballot measure to legalize weed, tweeted the following:
By Jessica Chasmar – The Washington Times – Sunday, November 30, 2014
Scientists at Washington State University are working to develop a breath test, similar to a breathalyzer, that would help law enforcement officers more quickly determine whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana.
Currently, officers must use blood tests to determine if THC is present in a driver’s blood, and the results are never immediate. WSU chemistry professor Herbert Hill said existing technologies like those used by TSA agents to detect drugs and explosives in real time on airline passengers can also be altered to test breath for THC, the News Tribune reported.
Mr. Hill said he and WSU doctoral student Jessica Tufariello are working on a handheld device that uses a technique called ion mobility spectrometry. They plan to develop a prototype this year, then start testing human breath between January and June of 2015, Mr. Hill told the News Tribune.
The Washington State Patrol said it welcomes anything that gets impaired drivers off the road.
Washington voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, and users driving while high has become an increasing concern. The number of suspected impaired drivers in Washington who tested positive for active THC rose from 18.6 percent to 25 percent for the first year legalization was in effect, the News Tribune reported.
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.
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.
O’Connor is associate editor of MyNewMarkets.com.
Fox News.com Aug 28, 2014
When you think about green travel, it usually means an eco-friendly resort or destination.
That’s not the case anymore, as “green” has taken on a new meaning with the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington – and the corresponding increase in tourism to both states. For the purpose of this story, I’ll focus on Colorado, but many tips cover both states.
Travelers looking for a ski vacation later this year may want to skip Utah or Tahoe, and head to Colorado instead. We are already seeing a direct spike in visitors tied exclusively to the legalization of marijuana, but the lure of legal marijuana could end up increasing tourism to all areas of the state.
Entrepreneurs are actively going after this market by packaging tours around the idea of getting high, but you can just as easily do it on your own. Land in Denver and the information desk will direct you to any one of the numerous outlets where you can legally purchase marijuana and enjoy a hazy break from the ordinary without worry of arrest.
Related: In Aspen, Even the Weed is Luxurious
Here are the seven things you need to consider before you head out on that stoner trip:
Know there is a limit: If you come from out of state you must be 21 years of age and hold a valid form of identification, most often a driver’s license or passport. If you have that covered, the limit for your purchase is a quarter of an ounce. For in-state residents it is a full ounce.
Find a quiet spot to light up: You cannot smoke in public or in most hotels, so finding a legal spot to light up may be your biggest challenge. Ask your hotel front desk or concierge for smoking clubs, lounges, or a safe spot to smoke. If you are out in the mountains, find some open space and go about your business. It may be illegal and land you a fine, but there is a good chance you won’t have any issues. Never smoke in your rental car since any intent to drive would lead to a DUI arrest, even if the car is not turned on.
Don’t overdo it: You can smoke it, but you can also eat it in packages resembling protein bars they sell at many health food stores. Instead of giving you a nutritional lift, they’ll send you to a very different place. Look at the equivalent dose you might get from any pot bar to avoid getting yourself in trouble. Some bars have 10 times the average dose you might get from smoking a joint, sending you into an uncomfortable state or even the hospital.
Don’t drive, period: Driving under the influence of pot can lead to arrest, even if you exhibit no indications of impairment. The express consent law in Colorado details that drivers automatically give consent to have their blood or breath tested if an officer has any probable cause to believe he or she is impaired.
Don’t leave the state with any marijuana: Enjoy your legal marijuana experience in Colorado or Washington, but leave whatever you don’t use in those states. If you bring back excess pot, it could result in a steep fine or, depending on the amount and any previous convictions, actual jail time.
Don’t even think about selling your excess stash: Are you ready to head back home even though you are still sitting on some great weed? Give it away, but don’t try to sell it. Trade it for a Rockies jersey or anything else. Asking for money in exchange of the drug is illegal and could result in fines or worse.
Look up state rules before heading out on your marijuana tour. These laws are subject to change, so make sure you have the latest information to make a safe, and legal, trip.
Above: Big Hemp’s main man in Washington, 27-year-old Ben Droz
Ben Droz loosened the red paisley tie around his neck, pulled the knot over his head and replaced it with a skinny black cord made of hemp with sterling silver tassels at the ends. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple of plastic tie slides—a screaming eagle and a geometric wood piece—that would, when attached, turn the string into a bolo tie. “This one’s more subtle, more professional,” Droz said, selecting the wooden piece. He pulled it up the string toward his Adams apple. His bolo tie in place, he was ready to “go lobbying,” as Droz put it.
Droz is the American hemp industry’s main man in Washington. As a registered lobbyist for Vote Hemp, an advocacy group that works to loosen hemp laws, Droz, a 27-year-old from Pennsylvania with a thick head of hair and caterpillar eyebrows that make him appear eternally excited, has made it his life mission to bring the Gospel of Hemp to the leaders of America’s capital city. For the past five years, Droz has loaded up a hemp briefcase with hemp products—hemp granola bars, hemp seeds and hemp paper, to name just a few—and walked the halls of the capitol building preaching the glories of hemp.
You’ve heard of industries having an army of lobbyists. Hemp has as army of one, in the person of Ben.
“It’s an army of passion,” Droz said.
He has his work cut out for him. In the United States, there are tough federal restrictions on importing and growing live hemp seeds. As a variant of the cannabis plant which comes from the same botanical family as marijuana, hemp can be grown in a limited number of states only for industrial purposes, and only with special permission from the Drug Enforcement Agency. Because of these restrictions, most hemp products sold in the U.S. are made overseas and shipped here.
On any given day, Droz is a walking billboard for those products. He sports a tan button-down hemp dress shirt over a white undershirt, also made of hemp. Hemp-knit socks cover his feet. A hemp bolo tie adorns his neck; a hemp bracelet circles his wrist. In his pocket, he carries a hemp wallet, which houses his hemp-paper business cards. In the mornings, he washes his body with hemp soap and styles his hair with hemp hair cream. He even wears hemp-cloth underwear, he says. And he’s saving up money to one day buy a hemp business suit, on which he will place the American Flag lapel pin he wears that reads, “Hemp Is Patriotic.”
When I met up with Droz on an April morning to see him in action, his schedule was packed with meetings, photo shoots and presentations about hemp. (When he’s not pushing hemp at the Capitol, Droz moonlights as a professional photographer.) His day would begin with a presentation to conservative activists, followed by a photo gig downtown. Then it was off to Capitol Hill to meet with staff for Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis and Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, two of hemp’s biggest supporters in Congress. Thence to the Phoenix Park Hotel near Union Station to scope out a venue for an upcoming cocktail reception for hemp supporters. After a meeting with staff of Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden,he ran across town to take headshots for a PR firm, followed by another shoot at a stand-up comedy competition near U Street that would last late into the night.
“It’s non-stop for me, because there’s no real distinction between what counts as working and what’s not,” Droz said, describing his life. It’s a plight he shares with thousands of other single, overworked 20- and 30-somethings in the District of Columbia. “I feel like I have three jobs. I do all of this hemp stuff, then I do photography, then I also do a lot of Facebooking, because networking is a big part of photography. I’m just constantly working around the clock.”
Grover Norquist hosted Droz for his first stop of the day, the legendary Wednesday meeting of conservative activists organized by the anti-tax lobbyist for two decades. Droz, who voted for President Obama in 2008 and considers climate change one of the world’s greatest dangers, doesn’t necessarily consider himself a conservative. But cannabis advocates have made inroads with conservatives in recent years by pitching decriminalization as a states rights issue and a move toward a world with fewer government regulations.
For his presentation, Droz chose to wear the red traditional necktie instead of his beloved bolo, which he left in a pocket.
“With the conservatives,” he explained, “I never want to come across as too fringe.”
When Norquist introduced Droz as a hemp advocate, some in the audience chuckled. Droz ignored it, and launched into a brief speech about “harmful federal regulations” intended to appeal to the Reaganite hearts of the assembled.
“We are working to remove harmful federal regulations on industrial hemp production in the U.S.,” Droz said, once the giggling died down. “We can’t grow hemp in the U.S. and that’s exactly what we’re working on.”
Droz rattled off statistics about hemp in the lobbying equivalent of an elevator pitch. It’s a half a billion dollar industry, he said, but most of the products have to be imported from abroad, and three new states removed their barriers to hemp production in 2014, bringing the number up to 13. “This is not really a controversial issue anymore,” he told the conservatives. Under current law, he said, the states need federal approval to grow hemp, and he needs help passing a bill to give states control over their own hemp laws without federal interference.
On the actual elevator after the meeting, Michael Moroney, who works at the Franklin Center, a conservative journalism non-profit,shot a knowing smirk at Droz. “Handing out pot candy there, Ben?”
“It’s hemp,” Droz replied. “Not marijuana.”
Moroney smiled. “I know, man,” he said. They both laughed at his ribbing and Droz promised to get Mahoney some hemp granola bars, Droz’s most popular product.
“Everybody makes jokes like that, but the truth is, they know the difference. He knows he’s making a joke,” Droz told me. “They always giggle. But here’s the thing that’s great: They used to giggle and not know what hemp is. But now they giggle and they do know what it is. That’s a big difference.”
Indeed, in just the past few years, hemp in America has grown from an obscure plant used mostly to produce household decorations for stoners and latter-day hippies and into a source of goods that busy mothers can buy at Costco.
In June 2013, 63 Republicans joined 162 Democrats to pass an amendment to the Farm Bill that authorized hemp research in states where hemp farming is legal. Encouraged by that victory, Droz is working to raise support for the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would amend the Controlled Substance Act by decoupling hemp from marijuana–thereby freeing up states to legalize hemp as they wish. On the right, the bill has support from Kentucky Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Rep. Massie.
“When I first started this, it was only lefties who are into this,” Droz said. “But it’s really changed a lot because of the states rights approach.”
With his presentation at the Norquist meeting over, Droz, juggling his hemp gear and camera equipment, rushed down the street for a photoshoot with a young real estate mogul at a DC’s City Center, a new complex of apartments, shops and restaurants.
“It’s a crazy day,” Droz muttered. On the way, he berated himself for the two-minute presentation he’d made that morning. “I forgot to mention the Industrial Hemp Farming Act,” he said. “I’m not killing it as hard as a sometimes am. I’m sorry about that.”
Droz wrapped his photo shoot, and then dropped off some of his gear at a nearby office of the PR firm where he would shoot later that day.That was when he removed his traditional tie and got comfortable in his bolo, which he calls his “YOLO bolo.”
Droz fell in love with bolo ties a few years ago when he found that he could buy them made out of hemp and that nearly everyone he met would stop and ask him about his neckwear when he wore bolo ties. He became so obsessed that he even started designing his own ties out of hemp, which he sells on Etsy and promotes on his new website, YoloBolo.com.
“I started wearing bolos as a way to get the conversation going about hemp,” he said. “People just love talking about it. The fact that I can talk about it means I can always talk about hemp, which is my goal. People remember me. I’m the guy with the bolo tie. I’m that hemp guy.”
With his new neckwear in place, Droz caught the Metro to Capitol Hill. His next challenge: Educating Capitol Police at a security station of the Longworth House Office Building that hemp seeds can enter the building. Droz dumped a handful of yellow baggies full of edible hemp seed onto the conveyer belt for screening briefcases. An officer snatched one up and inspected it.
“It’s hemp seed,” Droz informed her. “Totally legal.” In order to enter the United States, edible hemp seeds must first be sterilized, and these were.
(It just so happened that the officer holding Droz’s seeds was the same cop who just last year arrested a marijuana activist for passing out samples of pot candy in a congressional office building the year before.)
Waved in by the officer, Droz stopped for lunch at the bustling Longworth cafeteria, where he spotted Howard Wooldridge, a well-known former policeman and pro-pot activist from Texas who wears an oversized cowboy hat and a shirt that reads, “COPS SAY LEGALIZE POT ASK ME WHY.” Droz bought a salad and sat down.
“Officially there’s a big wall between his issue and mine,” Wooldridge said. “That’s by design from his side, because you don’t want to taint the hemp issue with the marijuana issue. His job is straightforward capitalism, straight forward agricultural issues. Period. It ain’t got nothing to do with drugs.”
While I talked to Wooldridge, Droz ripped open one of the yellow baggies of hemp seed.
“It’s time to hempify my lunch,” he declared, dumping the entirety of the bag over the greens and shaking the salad up to mix them in.
Over lunch, Droz went over some of the challenges he faces as one of the only national activists for a cause few Americans think much about and that many lawmakers still see as a drug policy issue.
“I haven’t been accepted by the mainstream agriculture lobbyists,” he said. “Hemp is such a small issue for agriculture. It’s not an issue they talk a lot about. It’s not an issue they’re passionate about. It’s hard to get them engaged as other people. The goal is for me to be mainstream.”
That will take some doing. About the time Droz finished lunch, a lobbyist from the United Nations Foundation spotted the open hemp seed bag and walked over to introduce himself.“Where can I purchase those? You didn’t get this at the House cafeteria, right?” he asked, before picking up the bag and pulling it toward his nose for a sniff.
“Smells like weed,” he said.
Droz looked up at him. “No it doesn’t, okay?” he said. “This is what people say every time. People smell my briefcase. People smell my shirt, thinking it’s going to smell like weed.”
I took the bag and smelled it. You could definitely discern an olfactory resemblance to hemp’s cousin.
“Okay maybe a little bit,” Droz conceded. “If you’re untrained, you could say it smells like weed.”
Droz, of course, can smell the difference.
With his belly full of hemp seeds, Droz began his daily rounds to congressional offices. Over the course of a year, he will typically visit hundreds of lawmakers. Sometimes he holds long, pre-scheduled meetings with staffers sympathetic to his cause. Other times he just pops into offices to say hello and drop off hemp granola bars.
“Sometimes I just do it randomly,” he said.
When he arrived at Massie’s office, the staffers there greeted Droz by his first name. He and an aide sat down in the lawmaker’s personal office and discussed how they could gain more support across the capitol for the Senate version of Massie’s bill. So far, no one in the upper chamber is taking enough of a leadership role on the issue to do what it takes to get the bill passed, Droz explained.
The theme is a constant one for the one-man, single-issue lobby shop. With so many pressing issues facing lawmakers, how do you get powerful people to care about a single plant, especially when there’s the risk that constituents may confuse it with support for an illegal drug?
It wasn’t always like this. Before live hemp seeds became controversial–and eventually illegal–in the twentieth century, they were widely used throughout the United States for all kinds of purposes.
In fact, hemp literally brought people to America.
“The first Americans who came here brought hemp with them. They not only brought hemp, they sailed here using hemp sails,” Droz said of early European settlers. “You used to be able to pay your taxes in barrels of hemp.”
In 1942, during World War II, the Department of Agriculture even made a pro-hemp propaganda film called, “Hemp for Victory.”
All of that changed under the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970s, when hemp was lumped in as an illegal drug with marijuana. Hemp fell out of fashion for decades and has only recently re-emerged on the American market as an eco-friendly alternative to a variety of products.
“It’s been slow and steady progress over the years,” Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra—Droz’s boss—said. In 2005, then-Texas Rep. Ron Paul introduced a bill to legalize live hemp seeds; he gained only a couple of co-sponsors. It wasn’t until the farm bill last year that the industry saw its first real win. “Over time we just realized that we had to go door-to-door and educate on this, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Steenstra said.
And that is exactly what Droz does on Capitol Hill, day after day. His meeting with Massie’s aide on Wednesday led to another meeting with a staff member from Polis’ office, where hemp enjoys support. Sitting on a couch next to Polis’ desk, Droz and an aide brainstormed as to how they could best encourage the DEA to start accepting live seeds inside the country. The DEA has said it’s in a policy review period, putting the hemp industry in a state of limbo. Lawmakers like Polis could possibly help, Droz said, by sending a letter to the DEA urging them to make a decision.
“Why won’t they do anything about it?” Droz said. “It’s so not okay!”
Before the meeting ended, Droz told the staffer about Vote Hemp’s upcoming lobby day during Hemp History Week (the first week of June), when scores of hemp activists were planning a trip to Washington, D.C. Vote Hemp hopes to hold a reception for lawmakers and a briefing on the issue at that time.
The staffer looked at his calendar, and informed Droz of one big problem: Congress won’t be in session that week. Droz took a deep breath.
After the meeting, Droz called Steenstra to report the news of their poor scheduling. If that wasn’t bad enough, Droz also found out that it was against the rules to hand out promotional materials bearing a logo at a Senate conference room where they were planning a Hemp History Week event, and they had already printed out flyers and literature. “That totally sucks! I don’t know what we’re going to do anymore. Dammit,” Droz said after the phone call. “Hemp History Week is totally falling apart!”
“I can only do so much,” he said.
Despite the moment of panic, Droz never lost his composure. He turned to me. “I’m glad you’re here,” he said. “You get to see what it’s like.”
Before he left the Capitol, Droz ducked into California Democrat Zoe Lofgren’s office unannounced to thank her staff for her supporting industrial hemp farming.
Droz reached into his pocket and pulled out one of the yellow packages of hemp seeds. With a wide smile, he tossed it over the desk of a staff assistant in the front room. “That’s for the congresswoman.”
Largely illegal in the U.S. for a century, weed became legal in Washington and Colorado at the start of the year after voters in those states gave the go-ahead in 2012. Further north, voters could decide in August whether Alaska will become the third state to remove prohibitions on the recreational use of pot. A poll released Monday by Quinnipiac University suggests residents of New York, a state notorious for its strict drug laws, are in favor of legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use by a comfortable margin of 18 percentage points.
Estimates of the total value of a legal pot industry in the U.S. are hard to establish in part because the current price of marijuana is artificially high; illegal substances, after all, are a significant risk to black market dealers and buyers, and with that comes a premium. A 2011 report by See Change Strategy, which focuses on growth in new markets, estimated that the value of medical marijuana alone would grow from $1.7 billion to about $9 billion by 2016.
Here are some companies that have begun positioning themselves to cash in on this cash crop: CONTINUE THRU THIS LINK!
By Angelo Young on February 20 2014 10:59 AM
Above: Nate Johnson, managing owner of the Queen Anne Cannabis Club, sells a marijuana strain called "Beast Mode OG", named after NFL player Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks, in Seattle, Washington January 28, 2014. Reuters
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Barack Obama says he won’t go after pot users in Colorado and Washington, two states that just legalized the drug for recreational use. But advocates argue the president said the same thing about medical marijuana — and yet U.S. attorneys continue to force the closure of dispensaries across the U.S.
Welcome to the confusing and often conflicting policy on pot in the U.S., where medical marijuana is legal in many states, but it is increasingly difficult to grow, distribute or sell it. And at the federal level, at least officially, it is still an illegal drug everywhere.
Obama’s statement Friday provided little clarity in a world where marijuana is inching ever so carefully toward legitimacy.
That conflict is perhaps the greatest in California, where the state’s four U.S. Attorneys criminally prosecuted large growers and launched a coordinated crackdown on the state’s medical marijuana industry last year by threatening landlords with property forfeiture actions. Hundreds of pot shops went out of business.
Steve DeAngelo, executive director of an Oakland, Calif., dispensary that claims to be the nation’s largest, called for a federal policy that treats recreational and medical uses of the drug equally.
"If we’re going to recognize the rights of recreational users, then we should certainly protect the rights of medical cannabis patients who legally access the medicine their doctors have recommended," he said.
The government is planning to soon release policies for dealing with marijuana in Colorado and Washington, where federal law still prohibits pot, as elsewhere in the country.
"It would be nice to get something concrete to follow," said William Osterhoudt, a San Francisco criminal defense attorney representing government officials in Mendocino County who recently received a demand from federal investigators for detailed information about a local system for licensing growers of medical marijuana.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said he was frustrated by Obama’s comments because the federal government continues to shutter dispensaries in states with medical marijuana laws, including California.
"A good step here would be to stop raiding those legal dispensaries who are doing what they are allowed to do by law," said the San Francisco Democrat. "There’s a feeling that the federal government has gone rogue on hundreds of legal, transparent medical marijuana dispensaries, so there’s this feeling of them being in limbo. And it puts the patients, the businesses and the advocates in a very untenable place."
Obama, in an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, said Friday that federal authorities have "bigger fish to fry" when it comes to targeting recreational pot smokers in Colorado and Washington.
Some advocates said the statement showed the president’s willingness to allow residents of states with marijuana laws to use the drug without fear of federal prosecution.
"It’s a tremendous step forward," said Joe Elford, general counsel for Americans for Safe Access. "It suggests the feds are taking seriously enough the idea that there should be a carve-out for states with marijuana laws."
Obama’s statements on recreational use mirror the federal policy toward states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes.
"We are not focusing on backyard grows with small amounts of marijuana for use by seriously ill people," said Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in Sacramento. "We are targeting money-making commercial growers and distributors who use the trappings of state law as cover, but they are actually abusing state law."
Alison Holcomb, who led the legalization drive in Washington state, said she doesn’t expect Obama’s comment to prompt the federal government to treat recreational marijuana and medical marijuana differently.
"At this point, what the president is looking at is a response to marijuana in general. The federal government has never recognized the difference between medical and non-medical marijuana," she said. "I don’t think this is the time he’d carve out separate policies. I think he’s looking for a more comprehensive response."
Washington voters approved a medical marijuana law in 1998, and dispensaries have proliferated across the state in recent years.
Last year, Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed legislation that would have created a state system for licensing medical dispensaries over concern that it would require state workers to violate the federal Controlled Substances Act.
For the most part, dispensaries in western Washington have been left alone. But federal authorities did conduct raids earlier this year on dispensaries they said were acting outside the state law, such as selling marijuana to non-patients. Warning letters have been sent to dispensaries that operate too close to schools.
"What we’ve seen is enforcement of civil laws and warnings, with a handful of arrests of people who were operating outside state law," Holcomb said.
Eastern Washington has seen more raids because the U.S. attorney there is more active, Holcomb added.
Colorado’s marijuana measure requires lawmakers to allow commercial pot sales, and a state task force that will begin writing those regulations meets Monday.
State officials have reached out to the Justice Department seeking help on regulating a new legal marijuana industry but haven’t heard back.
DeAngelo said Friday that the Justice Department should freeze all pending enforcement actions against legal medical cannabis providers and review its policies to make sure they’re consistent with the president’s position. He estimated federal officials have shuttered 600 dispensaries in the state and 1,000 nationwide.
DeAngelo’s Harborside Health Center is facing eviction after the U.S. attorney in San Francisco pressured his landlord to stop harboring what the government considers an illegal business.
"While it’s nice to hear these sorts of positive words from the president, we are facing efforts by the Justice Department to shut us down, so it’s hard for me to take them seriously," DeAngelo said.
The dispensary has a hearing Thursday in federal court on the matter.