June 2018

Oklahoma voters approve medical marijuana despite opposition

Oklahoma voters on Tuesday backed the medicinal use of marijuana, overcoming a late opposition campaign from law enforcement and business, faith and political leaders.

State Question 788 , the result of an activist-led signature drive launched more than two years ago, makes it legal to grow, sell and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The proposed law outlines no qualifying conditions, which would allow physicians to authorize its use for a broad range of ailments — a fact that sparked bitter opposition, particularly from law enforcement.

Under the proposed law, a two-year medical marijuana license would allow someone to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana, six mature plants and six seedlings, along with edibles and concentrated forms of the drug.

Gov. Mary Fallin said she feared the proposal would essentially legalize recreational pot and said if it passed she would likely call on lawmakers to return for a special session to set up a regulatory framework for medicinal pot.

Oklahoma’s is the first marijuana question on a state ballot in 2018, with elections scheduled for later this year in Michigan and Utah. Voters in neighboring Arkansas legalized the drug for medical use in 2016, but Oklahoma is among the most conservative states to approve its use.

In Oklahoma City, Robert Pemberton, 58, said he supported the measure because he believed it’s been beneficial in other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

“They’ve got excess money, and we need that, especially for our teachers,” Pemberton said. “I think we need the revenue from it. I think we need the money. Our state’s in trouble financially and I think it would really help.”

A group called SQ 788 is Not Medical launched a late $500,000 media blitz that painted the proposal as a plan to legalize recreational use of the drug under the guise of medical care.

“This is a bad public health policy that does not resemble a legitimate medical treatment program,” said Dr. Kevin Taubman, former president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association and chairman of the opposition group.

Connie Givens, 67, said she voted against the measure because she believes it’s written too broadly and could permit recreational use of the drug.

“I think it’s not written right. I think it’s just so people can get marijuana,” said Givens, a Republican in Oklahoma City.

Although Oklahoma has a reputation for being a conservative state, attitudes have shifted sharply on marijuana in recent decades, especially among young people, said Bill Shapard, a pollster who has surveyed Oklahomans on the issue for more than five years.

“I’ve found almost half of all Republicans support it, so that’s going to take an awful lot of money and an awful lot of organized opposition for this to lose on Election Day,” Shapard said.

Oklahoma’s tough-on-crime ideology also has come at a cost, with the state’s skyrocketing prison population consuming a larger share of the state’s limited funding. In 2016, voters approved a state question to make any drug possession crime a misdemeanor, despite opposition to that proposal from law enforcement and prosecutors.

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Associated Press writer Tim Talley contributed to this report from Oklahoma City.

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/

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Top Senate Democrat Endorses Decriminalizing Marijuana at the Federal Level

The push to decriminalize marijuana has picked up another high-profile backer — Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer — just a week after President Donald Trump endorsed letting states decide how to regulate the drug.

"I’ll be introducing legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level from one end of the country to the other," Schumer, of New York, told Vice News in an interview airing Thursday evening. "I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail much too long."

Schumer’s backing of decriminalization adds to what has become a bipartisan effort in the Senate, led by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, which was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Marijuana currently is legal for medicinal use in 29 states and for recreational use in eight.

Trump’s promise to let states handle the issue caused pot-related stocks to spike. It also eased the threat that the Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions — a staunch foe of legalization — would step up enforcement of federal prohibitions on sales and use of marijuana in states like Colorado.

Gardner separately said in an interview Wednesday he is 80 percent finished with legislation he is writing to ensure states don’t run afoul of the federal prohibition on marijuana and to allow marijuana businesses access to the financial system.

It’s not clear, however, when or if such a bill might move. In the meantime Schumer’s backing could help Democrats, given that polls have increasingly shown a strong majority backing legalization.

Previous efforts to expand an existing appropriations rider protecting state-licensed medical-marijuana operations failed.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

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John Boehner Now Lobbying For Medical Marijuana

Make no mistake: John Boehner’s career after serving as speaker of the House has really gone to pot.

Really.

The former Ohio congressman has signed on to the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis company that cultivates, processes and dispenses marijuana in 11 U.S. states.

The decision to support weed comes nine years after the Republican claimed to be “unalterably opposed” to legalization, according to Bloomberg.

“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” he said the website. “I find myself in that same position.”

Boehner said his position on pot evolved after he saw the positive effects the plant had on a friend dealing with serious back pain.

He said marijuana has great potential for helping veterans with PTSD and reversing the opioid epidemic. He also believes de-scheduling marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s controlled substances list, saying the move would help ease problems with the criminal justice system.

“When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head,” Boehner said. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”

Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld (R), who has supported medical marijuana since the early 1990s, has also just joined the Acreage advisory board.

Like Boehner, he believes pot is the key to reversing the opioid epidemic.

“Cannabis could be perceived as an exit drug, not a gateway drug,” he told Bloomberg.

However, both politicians insist they’ve never tried marijuana in any of its forms.

Although President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are no fans of marijuana, Boehner’s decision ― as unexpected as it may seem on the surface ― is actually mainstream.

A Gallup poll from October shows that 64 percent of Americans favor making marijuana legal. The same poll found that 51 percent of Republicans favored legalization, an increase of nine percentage points from the 2016 survey.

Acreage Founder and CEO Kevin Murphy believes having the two former politicians on the board will advance U.S. cannabis policy.

“The addition of [former] Speaker Boehner and [former] Governor Weld to our Board will lead to even greater access for patients by changing the conversation overnight,” Murphy said in a release. “These men have shaped the political course of our country for decades and now they will help shape the course of this nascent but ascendant industry.”

Some people in the cannabis industry believe Boehner’s budding involvement is a good thing.

Eddie Miller, Chief Strategy Officer for GreenRush.com, a business that is like GrubHub or Amazon for weed, thinks Boehner will lend new credibility to the whole cannabis industry. 

“It will help [us] by bringing a new wave of support from conservative politicians that have never considered cannabis to be a legitimate industry,” he told HuffPost.

Erik Knutson, CEO of Keef Brands, which manufactures cannabis-infused cola and sparkling water, said Boehner’s pro-pot stance harkens the end of an era.

“With the majority of Republicans favoring legalization and states rights, it is no surprise that mainstream right-leaning politicians are beginning to gravitate towards Cannabis,” he told HuffPost by email. “Luckily for all of us, the Reagan era drug warrior platform is dying.”

However, attorney Perry N. Salzhauer, who specializes in cannabis industry law, worries Boehner’s involvement is a sign that big business could drive out the little guy.

When a powerful political figure with ties to the tobacco industry makes a public move like this, it certainly raises fears among the smaller operators that their days may be numbered,” he told HuffPost. “Despite this, we believe that there will always be room for a craft cannabis industry similar to what we’ve been seeing in the beer and spirits industry.”

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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Medical cannabis ban ‘bizarre and cruel’

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCharlotte Caldwell said the medication ordeal had been ‘horrific and cruel’

A senior MP leading an all-party group looking at medical cannabis has called the existing laws “bizarre and cruel”.

Sir Mike Penning MP has called for “fundamental reform” of the system.

“Medical cannabis is a health issue, not a misuse of drugs issue,” Sir Mike said in a statement. “It’s about patients and relieving suffering.”

It follows the home secretary’s decision to grant 12-year-old Billy Caldwell temporary access to cannabis oil medication to treat his epilepsy.

Mr Penning, who is the proposed chairman of the new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Medical Cannabis Under Prescription, said: “It’s bizarre and cruel that we have a system that allows the medical use of strong opiates, but bars the medical use of cannabis.

“The current structures within government on this issue are not fit for purpose. We need to move this from criminal justice to health.”

He said he supported reclassifying cannabis under the law so it would be regarded as having a medicinal use.

Last Monday officials at Heathrow airport confiscated Billy’s cannabis oil, which his mother Charlotte uses to treat his severe epileptic seizures.

She had been attempting to bring a supply into the UK from Canada.

Ms Caldwell says her son’s seizures dramatically reduce when he takes the oil, which contains a substance called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is illegal in the UK.

Following the confiscation, Billy was admitted to hospital in London after his seizures “intensified”.

His condition led to Home Secretary Sajid Javid later approving the return of some of the cannabis oil, after doctors made clear it was a medical emergency.

Image caption Billy was admitted to Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London on Friday

The Home Office has granted a limited licence for the drug to be administered to the child in hospital for 20 days.

Billy’s case has prompted a renewed debate on the legislation surrounding medical cannabis.

Sir Mike said many more families needed “urgent” access to medical cannabis, adding that the medical use of cannabis was “totally separate from recreational use”.


Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?

CBD and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two types of cannabinoids found naturally in the resin of the marijuana plant.

A cannabis-based drug called Sativex has been licensed in the UK to treat MS. It contains THC and CBD.

Doctors could, in theory, prescribe it for other things outside of this licence, but at their own risk.

MS patients prescribed Sativex, who resupply it to other people, also face prosecution.

Another licensed treatment is Nabilone. It contains an artificial version of THC and can be given to cancer patients to help relieve nausea during chemotherapy.

Source: NHS Choices


Sir Mike is one of a growing number of MPs from all parties who support the reform of the laws regarding the medicinal use of cannabis and cannabis products.

Fellow Conservative Crispin Blunt MP, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on drug policy reform, said the existing law was “frankly absurd”.

Ex-Tory health minister Dan Poulter said the current situation was “ridiculous” and pledged to push for a change in the law.

Former drugs minister Norman Baker, a Liberal Democrat, has described the confiscation as “cruel and inhumane”, and renewed calls for a law change citing cannabis’s “useful medical properties”.

But UCL’s Dr Michael Bloomfield said the use of medical marijuana is “far from straightforward”. He said in some jurisdictions the drug’s use for medical conditions is “a potential way of decriminalising cannabis through the back door”.

Many other countries, including much of the US, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, have legalised the substance’s use medicinally.

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Bet money on yourself with Proveit, the 1-vs-1 trivia app

Pick a category, wager a few dollars and double your money in 60 seconds if you’re smarter and faster than your opponent. Proveit offers a fresh take on trivia and game show apps by letting you win or lose cash on quick 10-question, multiple choice quizzes. Sick of waiting to battle a million people on HQ for a chance at a fraction of the jackpot? Play one-on-one anytime you want or enter into scheduled tournaments with $1,000 or more in prize money, while Proveit takes around 10 percent to 15 percent of the stakes.

“I’d play Jeopardy all the time with my family and wondered ‘why can’t I do this for money?’ ” says co-founder Prem Thomas.

Remarkably, it’s all legal. The Proveit team spent two years getting approved as “skill-based gaming” that exempts it from some laws that have hindered fantasy sports betting apps. And for those at risk of addiction, Proveit offers players and their loved ones a way to cut them off.

The scrappy Florida-based startup has raised $2.3 million so far. With fun games and a snackable format, Proveit lets you enjoy the thrill of betting at a moment’s notice. That could make it a favorite amongst players and investors in a world of mobile games without consequences.

“I could spend $50 for a three-hour experience in a movie theater, or I could spend $2 to enter a Proveit Movies tournament that gives me the opportunity to compete for several thousand dollars in prize money,” says co-founder Nathan Lehoux. “That could pay for a lot of movies tickets!”

Proving it as outsiders

St. Petersburg, Fla. isn’t exactly known as an innovation hub. But outside Tampa Bay, far from the distractions, copycatting and astronomical rent of Silicon Valley, the founders of Proveit built something different. “What if people could play trivia for money just like fantasy sports?” Thomas asked his friend Lehoux.

That’s the same pitch that got me interested when Lehoux tracked me down at TechCrunch’s SXSW party earlier this year. Lehoux is a jolly, outgoing fella who became interested in startups while managing some angel investments for a family office. Thomas had worked in banking and health before starting a yoga-inspired sandals brand. Neither had computer science backgrounds, and they’d raised just a $300,000 seed round from childhood friend Hilt Tatum who’d co-founded beleaguered real money gambling site Absolute Poker.

Yet when he Lehoux thrust the Proveit app into my hand, even on a clogged mobile network at SXSW, it ran smoothly and I immediately felt the adrenaline rush of matching wits for money. They’d initially outsourced development to an NYC firm that burned much of their initial $300,000 seed funding without delivering. Luckily, the Ukrainian they’d hired to help review that shop’s code helped them spin up a whole team there that built an impressive v1 of Proveit.

Meanwhile, the founders worked with a gaming lawyer to secure approvals in 33 states including California, New York, and Texas. “This is a highly regulated and highly controversial space due to all the negative press that fantasy sports drummed up,” says Lehoux. “We talked to 100 banks and processors before finding one who’d work with us.”

Proveit founders (from left): Nathan Lehoux, Prem Thomas

Proveit was finally legal for the three-fourths of the U.S. population, and had a regulatory moat to deter competitors. To raise launch capital, the duo tapped their Florida connections to find John Morgan, a high-profile lawyer and medical marijuana advocate, who footed a $2 million angel round. A team of grad students in Tampa Bay was assembled to concoct the trivia questions, while a third-party AI company assists with weeding out fraud.

Proveit launched early this year, but beyond a SXSW promotion, it has stayed under the radar as it tinkers with tournaments and retention tactics. The app has now reached 80,000 registered users, 6,000 multi-deposit hardcore loyalists and has paid out $750,000 total. But watching HQ trivia climb to more than 1 million players per game has proven a bigger market for Proveit.

Quiz for cash

“We’re actually fans of HQ. We play. We think they’ve revolutionized the game show,” Lehoux tells me. “What we want to do is provide something very different. With HQ, you can’t pick your category. You can’t pick the time you want to play. We want to offer a much more customized experience.”

To play Proveit, you download its iOS-only app and fund your account with a buy-in of $20 to $100, earning more bonus cash with bigger packages (no minors allowed). Then you play a practice round to get the hang of it — something HQ sorely lacks. Once you’re ready, you pick from a list of game categories, each with a fixed wager of about $1 to $5 to play (choose your own bet is in the works). You can test your knowledge of superheroes, the ’90s, quotes, current events, rock ‘n roll, Seinfeld, tech and a rotating selection of other topics.

In each Proveit game you get 10 questions, 1 at a time, with up to 15 seconds to answer each. Most games are head-to-head, with options to be matched with a stranger, or a friend via phone contacts. You score more for quick answers, discouraging cheating via Google, and get penalized for errors. At the end, your score is tallied up and compared to your opponent, with the winner keeping both player’s wagers minus Proveit’s cut. In a minute or so, you could lose $3 or win $5.28. Afterwards you can demand a rematch, go double-or-nothing, head back to the category list or cash out if you have more than $20.

The speed element creates intense, white-knuckled urgency. You can get every question right and still lose if your opponent is faster. So instead of second-guessing until locking in your choice just before the buzzer like on HQ, where one error knocks you out, you race to convert your instincts into answers on Proveit. The near instant gratification of a win or humiliation of a defeat nudge you to play again rather than having to wait for tomorrow’s game.

Proveit will have to compete with free apps like Trivia Crack, prize games like student loan repayer Givling and virtual currency-based Fleetwit, and the juggernaut HQ.

“The large tournaments are the big draw,” Lehoux believes. Instead of playing one-on-one, you can register and ante up for a scheduled tournament where you compete in a single round against hundreds of players for a grand prize. Right now, the players with the top 20 percent of scores win at least their entry fee back or more, with a few geniuses collecting the cash of the rest of the losers.

Just like how DraftKings and FanDuel built their user base with big jackpot tournaments, Proveit hopes to do the same… then get people playing little one-on-one games in-between as they wait for their coffee or commute home from work.

Gaming or gambling?

Thankfully, Proveit understands just how addictive it can be. The startup offers a “self-exclusion” option. “If you feel that you need to take greater control of your life as it relates to skill-gaming,” users can email it to say they shouldn’t play any more, and it will freeze or close their account. Family members and others can also request you be frozen if you share a bank account, they’re your dependant, they’re obligated for your debts or you owe unpaid child support.

“We want Proveit to be a fun, intelligent entertainment option for our players. It’s impossible for us to know who might have an issue with real-money gaming,” Lehoux tells me. “Every responsible real-money game provides this type of option for its users.

That isn’t necessarily enough to thwart addiction, because dopamine can turn people into dopes. Just because the outcome is determined by your answers rather than someone else’s touchdown pass doesn’t change that.

Skill-based betting from home could be much more ripe for abuse than having to drag yourself to a casino, while giving people an excuse that they’re not gambling on chance. Zynga’s titles like Farmville have been turning people into micro-transaction zombies for a decade, and you can’t even win money from them. Simultaneously, sharks could study up on a category and let Proveit’s random matching deliver them willing rookies to strip cash from all day. “This is actually one of the few forms of entertainment that rewards players financially for using their brain,” Lehoux defends.

With so much content to consume and consequence-free games to play, there’s an edgy appeal to the danger of Proveit and apps like it. Its moral stance hinges on how much autonomy you think adults should be afforded. From Coca-Cola to Harley-Davidson to Caesar’s Palace, society has allowed businesses to profit off questionably safe products that some enjoy.

For better and worse, Proveit is one of the most exciting mobile games I’ve ever played.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com

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Sessions nixes Obama-era rules leaving states alone that legalize pot

(CNN)Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday rescinded a trio of memos from the Obama administration that had adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws.

The move essentially shifts federal policy from the hands-off approach adopted under the previous administration to unleashing federal prosecutors across the country to decide individually how to prioritize resources to crack down on pot possession, distribution and cultivation of the drug in states where it is legal.
While many states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana use, the drug is still illegal under federal law, creating a conflict between federal and state law. Thursday’s announcement is a major decision for an attorney general who has regularly decried marijuana use as dangerous.
    In a written statement Thursday, Sessions called the shift a “return to the rule of law” but he did not go as far as some advocates had feared he might, stopping short of explicitly directing more prosecutions, resources or other efforts to take down the industry as a whole.
    “In deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws with the department’s finite resources, prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions,” Sessions said in a memo to all federal prosecutors. “These principles require federal prosecutors deciding which cases to prosecute to weigh all relevant considerations of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution, and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community.”
    The former senior Justice Department official behind the decision to harmonize federal prosecutions with state legalization efforts during the Obama told CNN in a phone interview Thursday that it’s uncertain how Sessions’ new memo will play out at the state level.
    “The whole point was to do what we could to maintain some control in this area,” said Jim Cole, former deputy attorney general and now a partner at Sidley Austin in Washington.
    Back in 2013, as an increasing number of states began to legalize marijuana, Cole released a directive to federal prosecutors that essentially adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws.
    In what became colloquially known as the “Cole memo,” the department recognized that the drug was still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act but gave federal prosecutors permission to focus their resources elsewhere, so long as the states didn’t threaten other federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of the drug to minors and targeting cartels.
    “The memo set out harms we saw associated with marijuana” but essentially said that otherwise “let’s let the states deal with this,” Cole told CNN. “Given a non-perfect situation, we figured this was the best way to deal with it.”
    The new memo likely “reduces the level of comfort in the industry until it sees how US attorneys actually implement it,” Cole added. “Each US attorney now gets to decide what will and will not be prosecuted. We’ll have to see how it plays out. … There was a previously a higher level of reliability that you could operate your industry if you followed certain rules. That’s not necessarily being destroyed, but it is being thrown into question.”
    The US Attorney’s Office in Colorado released a statement Thursday saying there are no plans to change marijuana prosecutions:
    “Today the Attorney General rescinded the Cole Memo on marijuana prosecutions, and directed that federal marijuana prosecution decisions be governed by the same principles that have long governed all of our prosecution decisions. The United States Attorney’s Office in Colorado has already been guided by these principles in marijuana prosecutions — focusing in particular on identifying and prosecuting those who create the greatest safety threats to our communities around the state. We will, consistent with the Attorney General’s latest guidance, continue to take this approach in all of our work with our law enforcement partners throughout Colorado.”

    Congress, industry alarmed

    Sessions’ shift at the Justice Department comes days after marijuana became officially legal under laws in California, the largest state. Voters in California approved the measure in November 2016, but the legal, commercial sale of marijuana under state law just went into effect with the new year.
    A majority of states allow the use of medical marijuana and eight, including the entire West Coast and the District of Columbia, allow recreational use.
    When asked whether the Justice Department was considering suing states that attempt to legalize the drug after this new policy has gone into effect, one senior Justice official said, “Further steps are still under consideration.”
    The immediate reaction to Thursday’s news from the marijuana industry and some members of Congress was alarm.
    Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, tweeted that the issue “must be left up to the states,” ran counter to what he had been previously told by Sessions and threatened to hold up confirmation of DOJ nominees.
    Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden from Oregon, where marijuana is also legal, similarly blasted the move.
    “Trump promised to let states set their own marijuana policies. Now he’s breaking that promise so Jeff Sessions can pursue his extremist anti-marijuana crusade. Once again the Trump administration is doubling down on protecting states’ rights only when they believe the state is right,” Wyden said in a statement.
    One issue that may be potentially litigated is how the new memo affects medical versus recreational marijuana use.
    Congress voted in its last session to extend a spending provision known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which blocks the Justice Department from using federal funds to impede the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.
    Sessions’ new memo does not explicitly set forth how prosecutors should treat medical marijuana, though a senior Justice official explained that prosecutors wouldn’t do anything contrary to any current federal law. The open question is how broadly or narrowly that appropriations rider may be interpreted down the line, as it is an unsettled issue in the federal courts.

    Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

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    Canada Votes To Legalize Cannabis For Recreational Use

    Canada is now set to become only the second country worldwide to legalize the recreational use of cannabis after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to change the laws. The new legislation could see marijuana sold legally in shops as early as September.

    The new bill, known as The Cannabis Act, controls and regulates how the drug is grown, distributed and sold. It means that Canadians can now legally grow up to four plants in their own household, and carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis for personal use. Anyone found to be carrying more than this amount, or providing it to minors – anyone under the age of 18 or 19 depending on the province – will be breaking the law.

    Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001, and in response to popular opinion, the Liberal Party committed to legalizing it for personal use during the elections of 2015. Now, the Cannabis Act has finally been voted through in the nation’s upper chamber by 52 to 29 votes on Tuesday.

    “We’ve just witnessed a very historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition,” Senator Tony Dean told the press following the vote. “It ends 90 years of needless criminalization, it ends a prohibition model that inhibited and discouraged public health and community health in favor of just-say-no approaches that simply failed young people miserably.”

    It means that Canada now joins Uruguay as the only two countries in the world where recreational cannabis is now legal, as technically it is still illegal in the Netherlands although the law is not actually upheld. In Portugal, which famously relaxed its drug laws, the possession and use of the drug is decriminalized, but not legal.

    The move by Canada is likely to cause a headache south of the border, and twist an already strained relationship with the current US government. Currently, 29 states have legalized medical marijuana, with nine of those going the whole way and opening it up to personal use. But there have been previous suggestions that the White House may try and stem the recreational use by enforcing federal laws to override individual states.

    The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been tweeting his support of the successful vote, writing: “It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that.” It has been estimated that the legal sale of the drug could eventually be worth up to C$7 billion annually.

    Clearly, there are those members of parliament who are dismayed by the move, but these were massively outweighed by others happy to see the end of cannabis prohibition, and the relaxing of the laws.

    Read more: http://www.iflscience.com

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    Legal marijuana cuts violence says US study, as medical-use laws see crime fall

    Murder and violent crime found to have decreased most in states bordering Mexico as drug cartels lose business to regulation

    Legal marijuana cuts violence says US study, as medical-use laws see crime fall

    Murder and violent crime found to have decreased most in states bordering Mexico as drug cartels lose business to regulation

    Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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    You Can Now Buy Legal Recreational Marijuana In California

    LOS ANGELES ― Adults who are at least 21 years old can legally purchase recreational marijuana from select retail shops in California beginning Monday, a milestone that instantly makes the state the world’s largest legal marijuana marketplace.

    Sales begin just after 6 a.m. local time at shops that obtained a temporary adult-use retail license from the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the state agency that oversees the industry. Many more retail outlets will open in the months to come.

    “This was another milestone in California’s voter-approved efforts to be smarter and more cost-effective about preventing real crime,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) told HuffPost. ”Now it’s time for California to transition a billion-dollar industry largely existing in the shadows of the black market into a tracked, traced, taxed and tightly regulated system.”

    California, the most populous U.S. state, began the nation’s medical marijuana trend in 1996, and holds an outsized influence in national policy as it begins recreational marijuana sales under an initiative approved by voters in 2016. The state’s new recreational marijuana industry has a projected value of as much as $7 billion ― enough to make it the world’s largest legal marijuana market ― and is predicted to eventually generate $1 billion annually in local and state tax revenue. 

    One of the few shops to obtain a permit to begin Jan. 1 sales of recreational marijuana was Berkeley Patients Group, in Berkeley, the oldest medical marijuana dispensary in the nation.

    “We are thrilled to be one of the first recipients of a state license and are thankful for the opportunity to now serve quality cannabis to a larger community in a safe and welcoming environment,” Étienne Fontán, vice president and director of the company, told HuffPost.

    Fontán, a longtime advocate of marijuana legalization, said his shop has been adding inventory for what will likely be a busy day of sales.

    California produces vast amounts of marijuana, and has done so for years. Now, more than 20 years after the state legalized medical marijuana, 28 other states allow cannabis for medical purposes. Eight states, including California, and the District of Columbia, have also legalized the plant for adult recreational purposes. 

    “California is going to have a major impact on the public’s view of cannabis, not just in the U.S., but around the world,” Mason Tvert, a proponent of progressive drug laws and a partner at VS Strategies, a communications and government relations firm focused on marijuana policy, told HuffPost. “California is our country’s number one tourism destination, with millions of people from around the country and hundreds of thousands from around the world visiting each year. A whole lot of people are going to witness this system. They will see that it works, and they will share their experiences with others back home.”

    California’s new recreational marijuana law allows adults 21 and older to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Adults can also grow up to six cannabis plants at home for personal use. It remains illegal to openly use marijuana in public, and smoking pot is banned anywhere that tobacco smoking is banned, so recreational consumers will have to enjoy their new rights in private.

    The law goes beyond the regulation and taxation of marijuana, and aims to repair damage from the country’s failed war on drugs. Individuals with prior marijuana-related convictions that wouldn’t have been a crime under the new law, or would have resulted in a lesser punishment, can petition courts to have their record reclassified, or cleared altogether. 

    As of September, some 4,500 people had petitioned courts to change their marijuana-related sentences.

    In addition, some local jurisdictions are giving priority or other assistance to marijuana business license applicants previously convicted of low-level marijuana offenses, or who come from low-income communities hit hard by harsh drug-war policies.

    California’s regulated recreational marketplace begins as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization, continues to suggest that a federal crackdown of state-legal marijuana may be in the works.

    Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but states have pressed ahead with their own laws under Obama administration guidance that urges federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations. That policy could be reversed or altered by Sessions, who hinted as recently as last month that the Justice Department is looking to make changes.

    A Sessions task force reviewed the hands-off approach to state laws this year, but its report largely reiterated current policy and did not push for a crackdown, according to The Associated Press. In May, Sessions urged Congress not to renew the federal law that blocks the Justice Department from spending money to interfere with states’ legalization of medical marijuana. Lawmakers rejected his request. 

    President Donald Trump, as a candidate for office, said he would respect states’ rights on the issue.

    “Federal officials have been engaging in more cannabis-related dialogue than ever with state officials, and it seems like they recognize the catastrophe that would be caused by significantly interfering in state regulatory systems,” Tvert said. “These state laws are working, and it would be very difficult to justify disrupting them.”

    A recent Gallup poll found that 64 percent of Americans favor making marijuana legal ― the highest since the pollster first posed the question almost five decades ago. Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents all voiced support for legal marijuana.

    Newsom said he expects some turbulence as California’s new regulatory system kicks in. Still, he said, “This moment presents an opportunity to separate responsible actors from the bad, crack down on cartels and abusers of the environment, and provide law enforcement greater resources and a clearer focus.”

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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    Sessions just made the opioid war harder to win

    (CNN)On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended the federal policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws. While controversial for many reasons, this move is first and foremost a significant step backward in our country’s fight against opioid addiction.

    Maybe Attorney General Jeff Sessions needs to come to Logan County, West Virginia, where I grew up. Maybe he needs to visit nearby Huntington, West Virginia, a town of nearly 49,000 that’s been dubbed the overdose capital of America. A town where opioid- and heroin-related crime has spiked to such levels that the National Guard is now backing up local law enforcement efforts.
    Maybe if he were to open the door to a public restroom and find someone overdosed on the floor, as have residents of Huntington and other West Virginia communities, then Sessions would rethink his disastrous decision to bring down the heavy hand of the federal government on states whose citizens and legislatures have opted to legalize medical cannabis.
      Sessions’ decision takes away one of the few effective tools we have for getting people off of opioids, off of heroin, bringing peace back to our streets and making our neighborhoods great again.
      In 2016 alone, drug overdoses killed nearly as many Americans as the total amount who died in the Vietnam War, according to a report from the Police Executive Research Forum.
      As a retired soldier, I know that if any person or nation killed that many Americans, we would pull up our bootstraps and go to war with them. How then can an administration which has rightfully declared opioid addiction a national emergency, strip us of our ability to fight?
      Medical cannabis can save lives in a country where opioids continue to take them. It offers patients an alternative to addictive opioids. It also helps combat withdrawal symptoms and could give those struggling with addiction a way to detox without feeling as though they are dying. It could be an effective way to help those who have fallen prey to addiction to rebuild their lives.
      Last year, as a freshman state senator, I sponsored legislation to legalize medical cannabis in West Virginia with the hopes that it would help our state combat opioid dependence. I’m a Democrat in a legislature where Republicans have a super-majority, but we were able to get this bill passed and signed by the governor in April 2017. This rare show of bipartisanship didn’t happen because we’re all singing Kumbaya and getting along. It happened because the devastation of addiction is so obvious where we live that my colleagues could not in good conscience deny our citizens a chance to escape this scourge.

        Will new Justice Dept. guidance affect legal pot?

      When our bill was signed into law, I felt hopeful. We still don’t have nearly enough treatment facilities or nearly enough funding to deal with the overwhelming addiction in West Virginia. But at least medical cannabis could be a fresh line of attack and give the state a better chance at restoring our families and rebuilding our communities.
      Sessions’ attack on cannabis patients cynically hurts the very people who so enthusiastically sent this administration to Washington, the ones Democrats and Republicans in West Virginia came together to try to protect.
      So I have some friendly advice for Jeff Sessions from the front lines of the addiction crisis. If he’s interested in fighting a war on drugs, then maybe he should look toward Congress, lobbyists and drug distributors. According to a joint report by “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post, a former DEA agent says all three played a role in fueling the spread of the opioid crisis.

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      Maybe he should find out why pharmaceutical companies thought nothing of shipping 9 million pain pills into Kermit, a tiny town of just 392 people in my congressional district. Maybe he should take a look at the politicians who took big contributions from these same drug makers and then turned the other cheek as the pills flooded in and our towns turned into war zones. Because I can promise you that the true drug problem is not sitting in dispensaries in Colorado.
      I have watched as my home state struggles to reverse the crippling effects of opioid addiction and I will not sit quiet while Sessions threatens our efforts to overcome it. He thinks that cannabis is a gateway drug. I agree. It is a gateway to a life free of opioid addiction.

      Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

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