General

Cynthia Nixon adds $4.20 donation button to her website because weed, dude

Justice, liberty, and spliffs for all!
Image: timothy a. clary/AFP/Getty Images

There is nothing Twitter progressives love more than  a quality pro-weed troll coming from an older politician.

Take New York Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who recently added a $4.20 donation button to her website to express her support for legalized marijuana. Her opponent, Governor Cuomo, has taken the avoidant “let’s do more research” approach.

“We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity,” Nixon says in the video. “Eighty percent of the New Yorkers who are arrested for marijuana are black or Latino, despite the fact that whites and people of color use marijuana at roughly the same rates.”

In 2014, Governor Cuomo legalized medical marijuana in New York with extreme restrictions. When it comes to recreational marijuana, however, Cuomo calls it a gateway drug. He has proposed decriminalizing small amounts of the drug which… *elongated sigh.*

In March, Nixon first declared her support for legalization, arguing that doing so would raise millions in tax revenue and help the struggling agriculture industry.

According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, as does 100 percent of people who live in the apartment below me — my dudes, get another hobby.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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Cannabis tourism in California a womens wellness retreat with puff love

At the Ganja Goddess Getaway, yes, there are yoga classes and spiritual talks but the mother lode comes from the spliffs, edibles and pot-infused mocktails that aid the healing

Wearing a T-shirt with the slogan Mary Jane Smokewear, a woman with long, grey pigtails crawled towards me, offering a hit off a balloon bag inflated with marijuana vapours. I was sitting cross-legged under a Ganja Goddess Getaway-branded gazebo on a perfect California afternoon and it was the umpteenth time that day that a stranger had come over, unprompted, to share their weed.

The bag was just one way my fellow ganja goddesses were getting high. Plates piled with spliffs, giant blunts, laced caramel-pecan candies and fruity mocktails enhanced with pot-infused tinctures also made the rounds. At one point, I was handed a wizard pipe packed with a tiramisu. Where a domestic goddess might use cream and ladyfingers, a ganja goddess gets baking with alternating layers of green and hash.

This is a canna-holiday, California-style. After new laws permitting recreational marijuana use came into effect in the state on 1 January, canna-visionaries wasted little time integrating their product into the regions aspirational aesthetic. You can tour the sun-grown, craft cannabis fields of the norths Humboldt County while in Los Angeles marijuana chef Chris Sayegh plans to open the citys first high cuisine cannabis restaurant (working name: Herb).

Mama
Mama Sailene Ossman, one of the getaways co-founders serves a weed-laced sweet treat.

The women-only Ganja Goddess Getaway bills itself as a wellness retreat with a (herbal) difference. The retreat itself is in the woods near the coast at Pescadero, about an hours drive south of San Francisco. At the end of a long dirt track, in a meadow surrounded by redwoods, I found about 135 goddesses engaged in a ritual of puff and pass. Twentysomething girls sporting cannabis-leaf-motif leggings shared bongs with middle-aged women dressed in loungewear. Others passed spliffs around the hot tub, lined up for henna tattoos, or got cannabis oil massages. Two friends who had followed the pungent aromas all the way from Chile snored peacefully through a Laughter Yoga class.

The getaways five co-founders are a diverse mix: CEO Deidra Bagdasarian is also the entrepreneur behind award-winning cannabis confection company Bliss Edibles, while event co-ordinator Trish Demesmin was an administrator at Oaklands cannabis business college, Oaksterdam, and is now president of a medical cannabis delivery company. Mama Sailene Ossman is the companys head of public relations and attributes her nickname to being famous for bringing the food and the weed, while married couple Kelli Valentine and Ciera Lagges complete the quintet, the former as in-house filmmaker, the latter as chief creative officer. Together, they all preach cannabis as a meditative and spiritual plant.

Bagdasarians vision for the getaway has changed since it launched in 2016 (when only women with a medical marijuana card could attend).

In the beginning, I just wanted it to be a good vacation, like a stoner-girl slumber party, she told me. Soon, however, she noticed the women were undergoing transformational experiences, So I wanted to foster a space where women can use cannabis as a tool for self-improvement.

Deidra
Deidra Bagdasarian, co-founder and CEO of Ganja Goddess Getaway

This makes the retreat less a group slump in front of Netflix and more a series of wellness seminars wherein the crowd passes weed around while listening to talks with topics such as Give Plants A Chance. During this, Bagdasarian recounted the inability of Prozac to assuage her depression. She railed against accepted norms of big pharma, sugar and a culture of chemicals. But cannabis, Bagdasarian said, was a healer. Everyone was paying attention until a butterfly flapped into the gazebo, drawing an en masse, distracted woooah.

Its true the women I met here werent just in it for the giggles. They all talked about how cannabis had helped them with ailments and conditions, such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. Many had travelled solo, from non-legal states including Nebraska, New Jersey, Georgia and Florida and they formed fast bonds, sharing in-jokes over breakfast and doing morning meditation together.

No ones judging, said a 35-year-old from Sacramento, when I asked what the appeal was. This is two days where I get to just be myself and focus on me. Like the majority of women I spoke to, she asked to remain anonymous, for fear of what her workplace, family and friends would think.

Ganja
Organisers must also be dextrous around legalities: they cant sell cannabis but they can give it away. Hence the getaways all-inclusive ticket, encompassing unlimited food and weed.

A lot of Americans are in the cannabis closet, Bagdasarian said. But here, they can meet their tribe. And cannabis, she added, is a useful facilitator. It lets you take your mask off. Women like being vulnerable and connecting. We give them a safe space where they can do that.

Safe, however, is a relative term given the United States tangled cannabis laws. In January, attorney general Jeff Sessions announced he was giving federal prosecutors carte blanche to go after cannabis growers, sellers and users who are violating the nations rule of law. The shock memo defied Obama-era policy to leave states that had legalised the drug alone. President Trump, however, recently promised to respect states rights on legal pot. More states are discussing going recreational this year, including Michigan, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Such ambiguity has stalled many California cities from writing rules that would grant cannabis tourism a green light. Its frustrating for Bagdasarian, who cites finding venues as her biggest challenge. Few places permit open consumption and cannabis businesses are blocked from promoting themselves on social media. Ticket seller Eventbrite recently cut ties with the getaway, citing federal law.

For this reason, the getaway is limited to private retreat centres, where camping is the most practical accommodation. In Pescadero, attendees shared 12-person bell tents or brought their own; there were also more comfortable, though higher-priced options, of a shared yurt with wood-burner and cots and dorm-style rooms in the main lodge. Organisers must also be dextrous around legalities: they cant sell cannabis but they can give it away. Hence the getaways all-inclusive ticket, encompassing unlimited food and weed.

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

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Jeff Sessions Will Lose the GOPs Battle Over Weed

In the year-and-a-bit since Donald Trump took office, Americans have witnessed a neck-wrenching 180-degree turn on an array of policy topics. One of the biggest has been with regard to drugs.

Between anti-marijuana moves by Trumps attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and apparent interest by the administration in making passing a drug test a condition for receiving food stamps in states that request it, Trump and key figures in his administration seem eager to jump back to a time in history when drug use that has become more or less accepted in society is again disqualifying and indeed criminal. And where Trump goes, the GOP often follows.

But is the Trump administration truly set on achieving this? Those of us watching drug policy debates in the era of Trump are feeling a little (OK, a lot of) whiplash.

The direction in which Sessions wants to take the country is clear. So too are Republicans views with regard to food stamps and drug testing.

With Trump, things are a bit murkier. He generally cultivated an anti-drug message with his death penalty for heroin dealers chat. Hes pushed that message in other ways too, such as the little noticed controversy in February, when Israel put the brakes on a plan to export marijuana to the U.S., apparently because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didnt want to piss off Trump. Trump also claims never to have smoked pot, something that some pot advocates view as inherently likely to predispose him against cannabis.

But during the campaign, Trump was pot-neutral. He exclaimed that he was for letting states decide their own pot and medical marijuana policies. And just weeks ago, he voiced support for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)s bill codifying states rights with regard to pot. Reportedly, his campaign manager is making that position a selling point to Colorado voters ahead of 2020.

Outside of Trump, the GOP itself seems to be in the midst of an evolution on pot. Or, at least, a process of self-discovery. Gardner was so adamant that states rights on the matter be respected that he threatened to hold up any nominees to the Department of Justice until Sessions and Trump backed down. Weve also learned that John Boehner is joining the board of a cannabis companya pretty big turnaround for a former speaker of the House known more for his love of wine than weed.

So what the heck is going on with the GOP and pot? The short answer is: a lot. But though much of it seems contradictory, there is still an obvious, ultimate direction. The GOP will, in the end, follow Gardner and Boehners path, even if that feels like an Olympic gymnast-level flip-flop for a lot of voters.

It used to be that the only pro-decriminalization or pro-legalization Republicans were Libertarians who voted GOP because they wanted tax cuts and a tiny bit more fiscal restraint (with the exception, perhaps, of some prominent figures at National Review who always took a surprisingly pro-decriminalization line on marijuana).

More recently, however, the pro-decriminalization ranks have been joined by the Koch brothers, especially Charles Koch, who champions criminal justice reform and sees issues like pot decriminalization and mandatory minimums reform as obviously related.

There are also Republicans from states where marijuana laws have been liberalized, leading to a booming new sector of the economy.

Gardner is one such figure. But more Gardners are on the way. While Sessions may believe the War on Drugs has failed because it has been prosecuted with insufficient zeal, youve got a whole raft of states represented by Republican officeholders who manifestly believe that the anti-pot aspect of it, at least, is stupid.

Its certainly economically unhelpful. Nine states have fully legalized recreational pot (including Alaska, a deep red state, and Colorado, Nevada, and Mainepurplish ones with GOP elected officials). Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana (including the magenta-ish states of North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana, and West Virginia, and swing state New Hampshire).

Rank-and-file Republican voters are becoming much more opposed to the War on Weed too, according to an October 2017 Gallup poll. Maybe thats because veterans (who Republicans love to champion) claim marijuana helps them with physical and psychological battlefield injuries. Maybe its because of claims that legalization could help combat the opioid epidemic, which is ravaging Republican areas. Maybe its because Republicans are hearing from unlikely marijuana advocates like Michelle Malkin.

Or maybe its because Republicans still tend to consider themselves pro-business, and the pot business is growingfast. According to a report last year from Arcview Market Research, across North America, legal pot sales in 2017 were on pace to hit $9.7 billion. Thats 33 percent growth against the previous yearevidence of a booming market. Many Republicans may oppose pot use personally. But basically all Republicans love making and keeping money.

Whatever it is, the reality is this: The ranks of pro-legalization Republicans, like plants on weed farms, will continue to grow over time, while those sharing Sessions views will shrink and shrivel and decline. Thats a good thing, in terms of achieving limited government goals, and expanding personal libertysomething todays GOP could do with getting back to focusing on.

The debate may seem muddied now. But its heading in a very clear direction.

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

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Cynthia Nixon On Marijuana: It’s Effectively Legal For White People

Cynthia Nixon’s campaign for governor continues with her latest video about why she supports legalizing the use of recreational marijuana in New York.

“There are a lot of good reasons for legalizing marijuana, but for me, it comes down to this: We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity,” said Nixon in a video posted on Twitter Wednesday.

Nixon, who in March announced her run against incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo in the upcoming Democratic primary, notes in the video that 80 percent of New Yorkers arrested for marijuana are black or Latino.

“The simple truth is, for white people, the use of marijuana has effectively been legal for a long time,” she says. “Isn’t it time we legalize it for everybody else?”

While Nixon has spoken out about recreational legalization in New York before, this discussion on how it correlates to the issue of racial inequality is particularly refreshing and needed.

The gubernatorial candidate and former actress goes on to say in her campaign video that white people and people of color use marijuana at roughly the same rates. Yet black people in New York are arrested or detained for marijuana 4.5 times more than white people, according to a report by the ACLU.

“The consequences follow people for the rest of their lives, making it harder to get jobs or housing, and for noncitizens, putting them in the crosshairs of deportation,” she says.

The 52-year-old also says that legalizing would “generate millions of dollars in tax revenue” and “create new agricultural opportunities for New York’s farmers.” 

Currently, eight other states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use. New York state does have a medical marijuana program, though it is extremely restrictive.

TIMOTHY A. CLARY via Getty Images
Cynthia Nixon speaks to people at the Bethesda Healing Center in Brooklyn, New York, on March 20, 2018.

Current New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D) had previously called marijuana a “gateway drug” in 2017, though his stance has since shifted slightly. In January 2018. Cuomo proposed a study in his 2018 budget plan that explores the potential impacts of recreational marijuana use in New York State.

Of the study, Cuomo said: “If it was legalized in Jersey and it was legal in Massachusetts and the federal government allowed it to go ahead, what would that do to New York, because it’s right in the middle? This is an important topic, it’s a hotly debated topic, pardon the pun, and it’d be nice to have the facts in the middle of the debate once in a while.”

The study will now move forward after the state’s $168 million state budget was approved in March.

Nixon is slated to challenge Cuomo in the Democratic primary on Sept. 13.

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

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California ‘weed fortress’ had 35,000 marijuana plants inside, cops say

Southern California police seized 35,000 marijuana plants from a weed “fortress” and shut down an operation they believed was bringing in millions of dollars a month.

San Bernardino Police said they detained eight people Wednesday when police and federal agents raided a warehouse that was converted into a multi-level grow house. They said the once-abandoned warehouse was recently outfitted with a 12-foot fence, “fortified doors” and surveillance cameras.

Investigators also raided three properties all owned by Stephanie Smith, 43, of Pacific Palisades, and found marijuana plants in each residence.

THOMAS FIRE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA JOINS LIST OF DESTRUCTIVE BLAZES IN THE STATE

Smith was being investigated but she was not arrested or charged with a crime, police said. The eight people detained at the warehouse were also not charged.

CBS Los Angeles reported Smith was taking in millions of dollars per month. 

Police found marijuana plants in three properties owned by Stephanie Smith.  (San Bernardino Police Department)

Authorities began investigating the operation after they received complaints from neighbors beginning two months ago, CBS News reported.

Police said the four-story warehouse contained thousands of marijuana plants. The property’s electric bill was a staggering $67,000 a month, police said.

San Bernardino Police Lt. Mike Madden called the operations “the biggest grow” he has ever seen in his 26 years on the force.

CALIFORNIA MAN GETS LIFE IN PRISON FOR SUFFOCATING 3 KIDS 

Although marijuana was legalized in California, the state required people who grow the plants to have the necessary licenses and permits, Madden explained. Smith did not have the proper requirements needed to grow
marijuana. 

“Marijuana has been legalized, but there are stringent requirements,” Madden said. “It’s not that you just get to set up shop where you want to set up.”

Recreational marijuana sales in the state begin on Jan. 1 but medical marijuana has been legal in California for decades.

Police told CBS Los Angeles the marijuana discovered “would go up in smoke.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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

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How do you move mountains of unwanted weed?

Oregon farmers have grown three times what their customers can smoke in a year, causing bud prices to plummet and panic to set in

A recent Sunday afternoon at the Bridge City Collective cannabis shop in north Portland saw a steady flow of customers.

Little wonder: a gram of weed was selling for less than the price of a glass of wine.

The $4 and $5 grams enticed Scotty Saunders, a 24-year-old sporting a gray hoodie, to spend $88 picking out new products to try with a friend. Weve definitely seen a huge drop in prices, he says.

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Across the wood and glass counter, Bridge City owner David Alport was less delighted. He says hes never sold marijuana this cheap before.

We have standard grams on the shelf at $4, Alport says. Before, we didnt see a gram below $8.

The scene at Bridge City Collective is playing out across the city and state. Three years into Oregons era of recreational cannabis, the state is inundated with legal weed.

It turns out Oregonians are good at growing cannabis too good.

In February, state officials announced that 1.1m pounds of cannabis flower were logged in the states database.

If a million pounds sounds like a lot of pot, thats because it is: last year, Oregonians smoked, vaped or otherwise consumed just under 340,000lb of legal bud.

That means Oregon farmers have grown three times what their clientele can smoke in a year.

Yet state documents show the number of Oregon weed farmers is poised to double this summer without much regard to whether theres demand to fill.

The result? Prices are dropping to unprecedented lows in auction houses and on dispensary counters across the state.

Wholesale sun-grown weed fell from $1,500 a pound last summer to as low as $700 by mid-October. On store shelves, that means the price of sun-grown flower has been sliced in half to those four-buck grams.

For Oregon customers, this is a bonanza. A gram of the beloved Girl Scout Cookies strain now sells for little more than two boxes of actual Girl Scout cookies.

But it has left growers and sellers with a high-cost product thats a financial loser. And a new feeling has descended on the once-confident Oregon cannabis industry: panic.

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The business has been up and down and up and down, says Don Morse, who closed his Human Collective II dispensary in south-west Portland four months ago. But in a lot of ways it has just been down and down for dispensaries.

This month, WW spoke to two dozen people across Oregons cannabis industry. They describe a bleak scene: small businesses laying off employees and shrinking operations. Farms shuttering. People losing their lifes savings are unable to declare bankruptcy because marijuana is still a federally scheduled narcotic.

To be sure, every new market creates winners and losers. But the glut of legal weed places Oregons young industry in a precarious position, and could swiftly reshape it.

Oregons wineries, breweries and distilleries have experienced some of the same kind of shakeout over time. But the timetable is faster with pot: for many businesses, its boom to bust within months.

Mom-and-pop farms are accepting lowball offers to sell to out-of-state investors, and what was once a diverse and local market is increasingly owned by a few big players. And frantic growers face an even greater temptation to illegally leak excess grass across state lines and into the crosshairs of US attorney general Jeff Sessions justice department.

If somebody has got thousands of pounds that they cant sell, they are desperate, says Myron Chadowitz, who owns the Eugene farm Cannassentials. Desperate people do desperate things.

In March, Robin Cordell posted a distress signal on Instagram.

The prices are so low, she wrote, and without hustling all day, hoping to find the odd shop with an empty jar, it doesnt seem to move at any price.

Cordell has a rare level of visibility for a cannabis grower. Her Oregon City farm, Oregon Girl Gardens, received glowing profiles from Dope Magazine and Oregon Leaf. She has 12 years of experience in the medical marijuana system, a plot of family land in Clackamas county, and branding as one of the states leaders in organic and women-led cannabis horticulture.

She fears shell be out of business by the end of the year.

The prices just never went back up, she says.

The
The prices just never went back up.

Cordell ran headlong into Oregons catastrophically bountiful cannabis crop.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) handed out dozens of licenses to new farmers who planted their first crop last spring. Mild weather blessed the summer of 2017 and stretched generously into the fall. And growers going into their second summer season planted extra seeds to make up for flower lost to a 2016 storm, the last vestige of a brutal typhoon blown across the Pacific from Asia.

That storm naturally constrained the supply even though there were a lot of cultivators, says Beau Whitney, senior economist for New Frontier Data, which studies the cannabis industry.

It kept supply low and prices high in 2017 even though the state was handing out licenses at an alarming rate.

It was a hot new market, Whitney says. There werent a whole lot of barriers to entry. The OLCC basically issued a license to anyone who qualified.

Chadowitz blames out-of-state money for flooding the Oregon system. In 2016, state lawmakers decided to lift a restriction that barred out-of-state investors from owning controlling shares of local farms and dispensaries.

It was a controversial choice one that many longtime growers still resent.

The root of the entire thing was allowance of outside money into Oregon, Chadowitz says. Anyone could get the money they needed. Unlimited money and unlimited licenses, youre going to get unlimited flower and crash the market.

As of 1 April, Oregon had licensed 963 recreational cannabis grows, while another 910 awaited OLCC approval.

That means oversupply is only going to increase as more farms start harvesting bud.

The OLCC has said repeatedly that it has no authority to limit the number of licenses it grants to growers, wholesalers and dispensaries (although by contrast, the number of liquor stores in Oregon is strictly limited).

Since voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, many industry veterans from the medical marijuana years have chafed at the entrance of new money, warning it would destroy a carefully crafted farm ecosystem.

The same problem has plagued cannabis industries in other states that have legalized recreational weed. In 2016, Colorado saw wholesale prices for recreational flower drop 38%. Washington saw its pot drop in value at the same time Oregon did.

The OLCC remains committed to facilitating a free market for recreational marijuana in which anyone can try their hand at growing or selling.

[The law] has to be explicit that we have that authority to limit or put a cap on licenses, says OLCC spokesman Mark Pettinger. It doesnt say that we could put a cap on licenses. The only thing that we can regulate is canopy size.

The demand for weed in Oregon is robust the state reeled in $68m in cannabis sales taxes last year but it cant keep pace with supply.

A
A cannabis harvest at East Fork Cultivars, Oregon.

Whitney says its not unusual for a new industry to attract speculators and people without much business savvy.

Whenever you have these emerging markets, theres going to be a lot of people entering the market looking for profit, he says. Once it becomes saturated, it becomes more competitive. This is not a phenomenon that is unique to cannabis. There used to be a lot of computer companies, but theres not so many anymore.

Across rolling hills of Oregon farmland and in Portland dispensaries as sleek as designer eyewear shops, the story plays out the same: Business owners cant make the low prices pencil out.

Nick Duyck is a second-generation farmer and owner of 3D Blueberry Farms in Washington county. I was born and raised on blueberries, he says.

But last June, Duyck launched Private Reserve Cannabis, a weed grow designed to create permanent jobs for seasonal workers.

By starting up the cannabis business, says Duyck, it keeps my guys busy on a year-round basis.

He invested $250,000 in the structural build-outs, lighting, environmental controls and other initial costs to achieve a 5,000 sq ft, Tier I, OLCC-approved indoor canopy.

Ongoing labor and operational costs added another $20,000 a month.

Weed prices were high: Duyck forecast a $1,500 return per pound. If Duyck could produce 20lb of flower a week, hed make back his money and start banking profits in just three months.

A
A gram of weed was selling for less than a glass of wine.

Octobers bumper crop tore those plans apart.

We got in at the wrong time, Duyck says. The outdoor harvest flooded the market.

By the start of the new year, Duyck was sitting on 100lb of ready-to-sell flower an inventory trickling out to dispensaries in single-pound increments.

So he turned to a wholesaler, Cannabis Auctions LLC, which holds monthly fire sales in various undisclosed locations throughout Oregon.

Weed auctions operate under a traditional model: sellers submit their wares, and buyers dispensary owners, intake managers and extract manufacturers are given an opportunity to inspect products before bidding on parcels awarded to the highest dollar.

Duyck sent 60lb of pot to the auction block in December. He had adjusted his expectations downward: he hoped to see something in the ballpark of $400 a pound.

It sold for $100 a pound.

The price per pound that it costs us to raise this product is significantly higher than the hundred dollars a pound, says Duyck. (A little light math points to a $250-per-unit production cost.) Currently, were operating at a $15,000-per-month loss, Duyck says.

If prices dont improve soon, Duyck says he wont be able to justify renewing his OLCC license for another year.

The dispensaries that are out there, a lot of them have their own farms, so they dont buy a lot of product from small farms like us Duyck says. If you really want to grow the product, you almost have to own the store also.

Middlemen store owners without farms are also suffering. Take Don Morse, who gave up selling weed on New Years Eve.

Morse ran Human Collective II, one of the earliest recreational shops in the city, which first opened as a medical marijuana supplier in 2010. At times, Morse stocked 100 strains in his Multnomah Village location.

A
A cannabis crop. I think if we let it be a painful moment, and not try to cover it up, were going to be better off for it.

Morse lobbied for legal recreational weed and founded the Oregon Cannabis Business Council.

The shift to recreational was costly. With his business partner Sarah Bennett, Morse says he invested more than $100,000 in equipment to meet state regulations.

By last summer, new stores were popping up at a rapid pace. Morses company wasnt vertically integrated, which means it did not grow any of its own pot or run a wholesaler that might have subsidized low sales.

Competition around us was fierce, and the company started losing money, and it wasnt worth it anymore, Morse says. At our peak, we had 20 employees. When we closed, we had six.

Prices went into free fall in October: the average retail price dropped 40%.

Morse couldnt see a way to make the numbers work. Human Collective priced grams as low as $6 to compete with large chains like Nectar and Chalice, but it struggled to turn a profit.

When youre the little guy buying the product from wholesalers, you cant afford to compete, he says. Theres only so far you can lower the price. Theres too much of everything and too many people in the industry.

So Morse closed his shop: We paid our creditors and that was that. That was the end of it.

Despite losing his business, Morse stands behind Oregons light touch when it comes to regulating the industry.

Its just commercialism at its finest, he says. Let the best survive. Thats just the way it goes in capitalism. Thats just the way it goes.

Just as mom-and-pop grocery stores gave way to big chains, people like Morse are losing out to bigger operations.

Chalice Farms has five stores in the Portland area and is opening a sixth in Happy Valley. La Mota has 15 dispensaries. Nectar has 11 storefronts in Oregon, with four more slated to open soon.

Despite the record-low prices in the cannabis industry, these chains are hiring and opening new locations, sometimes after buying failed mom-and-pop shops.

The home page on Nectars website prominently declares: Now buying dispensaries! Please contact us if you are a dispensary owner interested in selling your business.

Nectar representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

Mason
Mason Walker, the CEO of East Fork Cultivars.

Because the federal government does not recognize legal marijuana, the industry cannot access traditional banking systems or even federal courts. That means business owners cant declare bankruptcy to dissolve a failed dispensary or farm, leaving them with few options. They can try to liquidate their assets, destroy the product they have on hand and eat the losses.

Or they can sell the business to a company like Nectar, often for a fraction of what theyve invested.

This time last year, it was basically all mom-and-pop shops, says Mason Walker, CEO of Cave Junction cannabis farm East Fork Cultivars. Now there are five or six companies that own 25 or 30%. Stores are selling for pennies on the dollar, and people are losing their life savings in the process.

Deep-pocketed companies can survive the crash and wait for the market to contract again.

What this means is, the market is now in a position where only the large [businesses] or the ones that can produce at the lower cost can survive, Whitney says. A lot of the craft growers, a lot of the small-capacity cultivators, will go out of business.

Oregon faces another consequence of pot businesses closing up shop: leftover weed could end up on the black market.

Already, Oregon has a thriving illegal market shipping to other states.

US attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams, has said he has little interest in cracking down on legal marijuana businesses, but will prosecute those shipping marijuana to other states.

That kind of thing is whats going to shut down our industry, Chadowitz says. Anything we can do to prevent Jeff Sessions from being right, we have to do.

Ask someone in the cannabis industry what to do about Oregons weed surplus, and youre likely to get one of three answers.

The first is to cap the number of licenses awarded by the OLCC. The second is to reduce the canopy size allotted to each license Massachusetts is trying that. And the last, equally common answer is to simply do nothing. Let the market sort itself out.

Up
Up in smoke: opinions vary about what Oregon must do to address its weed surplus.

Farmers, such as Walker of East Fork Cultivars, argue that limiting the number of licensed farms in Oregon would stunt the states ability to compete on the national stage in the years ahead.

Were in this sort of painful moment right now, says Walker, but I think if we let it be a painful moment, and not try to cover it up, were going to be better off for it.

Walker and other growers hope selling across state lines will someday become legal.

Every farmer, wholesaler, dispensary owner and economist WW talked to for this story said that if interstate weed sales became legal, Oregons oversupply problem would go away.

Under the current presidential administration, that might seem a long shot. But legalization is sweeping the country, Donald Trump is signaling a looser approach, and experts say Oregon will benefit when the feds stop fighting.

The thing about Oregon is that it is known for its cannabis, in a similar way to Oregon pinot noir, Whitney says. For those who are able to survive, they are positioned extremely well not only to survive in the Oregon market but also to take advantage of a larger market assuming things open up on a federal level.

Looking for more great work from the Portland, Oregon, alt-weekly paper and website Willamette Week? Here are some suggestions:

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

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Women Of Color Are Leading The Charge For Racial Justice In Legal Weed

Nina Parks bought a VIP ticket for her first cannabis business conference in early 2015.

“It was so expensive, I thought, I don’t even know how I’m going to pay for this,” she said, but she was new to the industry and hoped the meet-and-greet would offer networking opportunities with like-minded owners and operators in the growing medicinal market.

“I walked into that room, and I saw Amber, and she was the only one who had weed and the only woman of color,” Parks said.

Amber Senter, an entrepreneur and consultant in the business, was also the only woman of color on any of the conference’s panels, which delivered industry insight to an audience that seemed to have little personal or political investment in the plant and a lot more money to spend than those who did.

“I was like, what is going on? Is this what the industry looks like? It’s just white men in suits!” Park recalls asking Senter. “Many, many, many white men in suits.”

This was not a reflection of the industry as they knew it. Parks and Senter were based in California, which became the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1996. In 2013, the Justice Department under President Barack Obama, in a document known as the Cole memo, limited federal intervention in state-level legalization. The “Green Rush” hurtled toward the Golden State, and it was mostly white and male.

Roxane Pasibe/East Bay Express
Andrea Unsworth, left, Amber Senter, Tsion Lencho and Nina Parks formed the nonprofit Supernova Women in 2015.

Senter was consulting for cannabis businesses when she met Tsion Lencho, an attorney, at an industry event. They both worked to help prospective businesses navigate tax and regulatory structures, and they were troubled by the lack of inclusion and how gentrified the industry could become with full legalization.

At the time, Parks, Lencho and entrepreneur Andrea Unsworth had tried to bring more of an activist focus to existing women’s cannabis industry groups. “We just saw that wasn’t going to happen, and we weren’t going to try to change that,” Unsworth said.

The four women founded Supernova Women to fill the gap: a nonprofit organization by and for women of color in the emerging cannabis industry. The four women, each experts in their fields, work to lower barriers to entry for people of color in the emerging cannabis industry and advocate on their behalf in California’s rapidly expanding market.

Supernova Women
Supernova Women helps people prepare applications for permits and licenses in a changing regulatory environment.

Unsworth, who has an MBA and was a cannabis entrepreneur when the group began, said she wanted to advocate for those who were very present in the gray-market industry ― women and people of color ― but who were largely missing from conversations about the policies that would shape it.   

“We saw that there was more to be done than just networking,” Unsworth said. “We wanted the same women attending those events to come to city council meetings and have their stories told, not just in these women’s meetings.” 

Around the same time Supernova Women formed in 2015, California cannabis policy went into overdrive, and legalization seemed inevitable.

Lencho studied cannabis prohibition and policy in law school at Stanford. When she entered the field as an attorney providing guidance for cannabis businesses, she was surprised how little consideration was given to addressing the harms that had been caused by criminalization.

“When you came to the business side of things, there was a complete dearth of conversation about inclusion, even though social and racial justice were at the forefront of the talking points around why you should legalize and why you should allow local jurisdictions to give permits,” Lencho said. “But no one was talking about providing permits for those who actually went to jail for cannabis.”

In November 2016, California passed Proposition 64, which legalized recreational, or “adult use,” marijuana and included sweeping measures to address harm caused by its prohibition. Localities would establish their own rules for approving licenses to sell recreational cannabis beginning on Jan. 1, 2018.

Lawmakers and advocates began to discuss what it might look like if legalization policies embraced restorative justice. How can communities of color, whose access to the networks and means required to start a business for cannabis had long been oppressed by the rules governing it, now benefit from what is projected to be the largest and most profitable market in the U.S.?

Christina House/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Customers line up in West Hollywood as the legal sale of recreational marijuana begins in California.

The existing industry was already “inclusive of a lot black and brown faces,” Unsworth said. “We knew that people were just going to run in here and buy up all the property and just take it over. If nothing else, we wanted to slow it down and make sure that these other considerations were on the table.”  

Supernova Women, based in Oakland, attended city council meetings across the Bay Area to advise localities on how they might preserve and promote the diversity in the industry, address disparities and even implement legalization policies that consider the disproportionate effect of criminalization on people of color. 

No one was talking about providing permits for those who actually went to jail for cannabis.” Tsion Lencho, attorney, Supernova Women co-founder

In early 2017, Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks put forward a radical “equity permit” plan to address the harmful effects of prohibition on communities of color: When handing out permits, prioritize those who had been hit the hardest by marijuana criminalization.

“When you look across this country, the people who are making money in respect to cannabis and recreational marijuana are white men,” Brooks told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “The people who have historically gone to jail for the same activity are predominantly African-American and Latino.”

Prior to Jan. 1 and the implementation of Proposition 64, California state licensing policies prohibited anyone with a felony conviction for cannabis from starting a cannabis business, so any person previously in possession of a plant the state now considered legal was excluded from the legal market.

Nationally, black people are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people, even though the two groups consume cannabis at similar rates. In Oakland, 90 percent of cannabis arrests from 1995 to 2015 were people of color.

Oakland’s newly created department of race and equity, led by Darlene Flynn, produced an equity analysis to see how outcomes for people of color might be improved by the kind of equitable cannabis policy Brooks had proposed.

“We did outreach through the network of cannabis folks in the city of Oakland and sat with folks and asked them questions about what the barriers were and what it would take for them to overcome those barriers and to engage in the legalized cannabis market,” Flynn told HuffPost.

Supernova Women provided expertise and stakeholder perspectives for Flynn’s equity analysis. The city finalized and adopted its equity permit program in May of 2016.  

The program reserves half of medical and recreational marijuana business licenses for applicants who meet certain criteria: They must live in Oakland, make less than 80 percent of the area median income, and had either been convicted of a cannabis crime or live in an area of the city with disproportionately high marijuana arrests. 

It also creates incentives for applicants who don’t meet those criteria to “incubate” equity applicants and provide capital and real estate for their businesses. Those who qualify receive no-interest loans from the city.  

Supernova Women urged lawmakers in San Francisco to consider a similar program. Without equity language in place on Jan. 1, when cities could officially license adult-use cannabis businesses, the city might lose a chance to ensure that those who had been hurt by the racist criminalization of the plant were first in line to create wealth from it.

Parks, who owns a delivery service in the city, introduced herself to Nicole Elliott, the first director of the city’s office of cannabis. She also created a working group with other operators in the area.

“We sat down with every single one of the board members and their staff, and every day for almost three months,” to create the guidelines Parks said.

City Supervisor Malia Cohen fiercely advocated for an equity program in San Francisco. When serving as acting mayor last September, Cohen halted approvals for new cannabis permits until steps were taken to ensure a more equitable process. She fought for and won continuances to set the city’s cannabis policy, urging her colleagues to consider the consequences of letting a privileged minority sail ahead.

The city ultimately adopted Cohen’s proposed equity program, which goes a step further than Oakland’s by requiring existing businesses to reapply for licenses. Los Angeles has since adopted its own set of equity guidelines.

“The programs are slightly different, but they all have the same basic themes,” Lencho said. “You can’t exclude people who have been formerly incarcerated, you can’t fail to provide certain technical assistance, financial assistance or real estate assistance to those people. And you have to figure out a system to prioritize those businesses getting into the market.”

Reese Benton, a cannabis entrepreneur who owns a delivery service in San Francisco, said she’d thought about shutting down when she got a call from Malia Cohen’s office to advise on an equity program.

“That’s when all the tables turned,” she said. “They told me, Oh, you cannot give up. You have to do this. You don’t know what you have. Let us help you. I thought, this is a dream, this is the answer I’ve been waiting for.” 

Benton, whose father was incarcerated on drug-related charges, is reapplying for her permit through the equity program and meeting with investors who want to help expand her business.

A post shared by Reese (@thestylistreeseb) on

Tsion Lencho, Malia Cohen, and Reese Benton

Women, and women of color specifically have led the charge in advocating for cannabis policy that allows for restorative justice and healing from the war on drugs.

Outside of California, Ayanna Pressley, the first woman of color elected to the Boston City Council, worked with the Minority Cannabis Business Association to develop a model equity bill. In 2017, Shaleen Title, a marijuana attorney and legalization activist, was appointed to lead the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission.

Alison Heckard
Shaleen Title, a 34-year-old Indian-American, was appointed to lead the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commision. 

Despite their leadership in advocacy and policy, women of color are still largely absent from mainstream images of the cannabis industry, where say they experience casual sexism and blatant racism.

“As a black woman attorney who was educated at Stanford twice, I am repeatedly having to prove to people that I know what I’m talking about. I recognize that I may be viewed as a unicorn, but it’s astounding that people aren’t used to women attorneys,” Lencho said.

“What you see in the general business sector with regard to sexism is exacerbated by cannabis because it’s an ever-changing environment,” she added.

Unsworth said the greatest challenge women of color face when entering the cannabis industry is lack of access to networks and capital. For some, these issues are closely related to the war on drugs.

“It’s about who you know, just like any other industry. Whether it’s telecom or cannabis. If you want to be a big player, you have to know folks and you have to commit capital. And when every male in your family has been in jail at one point in their life, it’s very hard to build up capital,” she said.

Remembering those women of color who have been left behind when their men have fallen is another aspect of the war on drugs that gets forgotten about. Andrea Unsworth, Supernova Women

Nina Parks opened Mirage Medicinal after her brother, an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur, was arrested on a cannabis charge in 2014 and sentenced to a year at Riker’s Island in New York.

“He had a vision for a delivery service and lifestyle brand called Mirage Medicinal. He had all the paperwork done,” she said. But under licensing laws at the time, his conviction would disqualify him from entering the legal market.

“I didn’t want him to sit in jail thinking everything was lost,” Parks said.

Parks procured the license for Mirage Medicinal in her name. Because of her brother’s previous conviction, they’ll be applying for a new license through San Francisco’s equity permit program this year.

Other sisters, daughters and wives of men targeted by the war on drugs are among those prioritized to receive permits to sell legal cannabis this year.

“Remembering those women of color who have been left behind when their men have fallen is another aspect of the war on drugs that gets left behind or forgotten about,” Unsworth said.

Shanita Penny is the president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association and the CEO and founder of Budding Solutions, a cannabis financial consulting firm. She described women’s outsized participation in industry activism as a “necessity.”

“The movers and shakers in the industry and activist space are phenomenal women who broke down barriers in corporate America, politics and in every other aspect of life, out of necessity,” she said. “These women are mothers, partners, wives, sisters and daughters of the men killed and imprisoned and left with few options in life as the War on Drugs rages on. We don’t have the option of not actively pursuing restorative justice in addition to creating an equitable industry. ”  

Ultimately, these minority business owners hope the industry will respect their claim to the plant they helped bring out of the darkness.

“You are going to respect this plant. You’re not just going to come in here and grab on us. You’re going to respect what we have to bring to the table, and we’ve been doing this a really long time, and you’re not just going to come in here and grab it,” Unsworth said. “As women, we’re finally getting the chance to scream that as a group.”

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Jeff Sessions Marijuana Adviser Wants Doctors to Drug-Test Everyone

A adviser on marijuana policy to Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to see doctors make drug testing a routine part of primary-care medicine and force some users into treatment against their will, he told The Daily Beast.

Dr. Robert DuPont was among a small group of drug-policy experts invited to a closed-door meeting with Sessions last month to discuss federal options for dealing with the rapid liberalization of state marijuana laws. California became the sixth state to allow the sale of marijuana for recreational use on Jan. 1.

DuPont, 81, is one of the most influential drug warriors of the past century. He began his career as a liberal on drug control in the 1970s, calling then for the decriminalization of marijuana possession and launching the first U.S. methadone treatment program for heroin in Washington, D.C. in 1971. By the 1980s, he shifted to the right, popularizing the claim marijuana was a gateway drug.

At the December 2017 meeting with Sessions, DuPont was slated to present on the effect of marijuana on drugged driving, a topic on which he has proposed some radical ideas.

A national model bill he helped write in 2010 called on law enforcement to test anyone stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence for all controlled substances, and arresting them if any trace at all shows up in their systemregardless of the amount. While the bill includes an exemption for drivers who consumed a drug pursuant to a prescription, it would not apply to medicinal-marijuana users because doctors are not currently allowed to prescribe pot, only offer a recommendation for its use.

The bills language makes clear that these people will still face sanction even if they live in a state in which medical marijuana is legal.

[The] fact that any person charged with violating this subsection is or was legally entitled to consume alcohol or to use a controlled substance, medication, drug, or other impairing substance, shall not constitute a defense against any charge, it reads.

But even thats not the worst of it.

The bill includes a section prohibiting the Internal Possession of Chemical or Controlled Substances.

Any person who provides a bodily fluid sample containing any amount of a chemical or controlled substance… commits an offense punishable in the same manner as if the person otherwise possessed that substance, it reads, adding in a footnote: This provision is not a DUI specific law. Rather, it applies to any person who tests positive for chemical or controlled substances.

Asked to comment on whether Sessions was aware of DuPonts proposal to penalize drug users who may not even be under the influence behind the wheel, and if he supports it, a Justice Department spokesperson chose to focus on the dangers of driving while intoxicated.

"The Controlled Substances Act was enacted by Congress to comprehensively restrict and regulate numerous drugs, including marijuana, said DOJ spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam, in a statement provided to The Daily Beast. Further, the attorney general agrees with the Centers for Disease Control that driving while impaired by marijuana is dangerous as it negatively affects a number of skills required for safe driving.

Futile for Addicts to Help Themselves

On closer inspection, DuPonts proposal is part of a plan to expand the use of drug-testing technology to root out users, and the threat of prosecution to compel them into treatment, where they will be tested even more.

Early last year, The Daily Beast conducted a lengthy interview with DuPont as he was shopping around a radical proposal called the New Paradigm for Long-Term Recoveryto address Americas festering overdose crisis. It would include a massive expansion of drug testing in addiction medicine.

Drug testing is the technology of addiction medicine, but its underutilized, he said. We want [drug screens] to be routine in all medicine. The health-care sector in general should approach addiction in the same way as diabetes, and that includes monitoring. Doctors already check for things like cholesterol and blood sugar. Why not test for illicit drugs?

Calling his platform the opposite of harm reduction, DuPont said the goal of his plan is to promote long-term results… and greater accountability in the treatment sector.

Among other things, he proposed giving doctors the authority to compel suspected substance abusers into treatment against their will. Once in treatment, patients could face as much as five years of monitoring, including random drug tests.

People dont understand that referral to treatment is futile for an addict on their own, DuPont told The Daily Beast. Right now, the public really thinks that if we provide treatment the addicts will come and get well… thats not true. So lets use the leverage of the criminal-justice system, thats what the programs in the New Paradigm want to do.

Turning a Profit Off Drug Testing

DuPont presents his proposal as evidence-based, but its hard to separate his strong promotion of drug testing from his close personal and financial connections to the drug testing industry.

In the 1970s he was the nations drug czar under Nixon and Ford, and was the first Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, until his increasingly radical views (he called for drug testing all parolees and sending them back to prison if they failed) forced his resignation in 1978.

After leaving federal service, DuPont joined the former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Pete Bensinger, to cash in on urine testing. The firm they founded, Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, provided drug testing services to some of Americas largest corporations.

Doctors already check for things like cholesterol and blood sugar, why not test for illicit drugs.
Dr. Robert DuPont

In 1991, while running the firm, DuPont introduced the idea of mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients in a policy document published by the Heritage Foundation. DuPont recommended not only testing the adults on public assistance but also their children.

Later that decade, DuPont co-authored research with the founder of a firm called Psychemedics promoting the companys new hair testing technology.

In 2000, while he was a shareholder and a paid consultant for the company DuPont testified before a Food & Drug Administration panel on drug testing where he advocated for expanding hair testing into federal workplaces. Dismissing the appearance of a conflict of interest DuPont told the panel: I don't think of myself as an employee or an advocate particularly for Psychemedics, but for drug testing generally.

The FDA approved the companys first hair follicle test two years later, and today Psychemedics is a multi-million dollar a year business that's in the process of a profitable expansion into South America.

This is a running theme for DuPont. For instance, Stephen Talpins, an attorney who helped DuPont author his model drugged driving bill, formerly was a vice president at Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc., which makes the SCRAM alcohol and location monitoring system used by many courts.

Now DuPont is listed as a scientific adviser on the website of global drug-testing startup called CAM International Ventures. That company was founded in 2013 by David Martin, former president of the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association, and includes among its staff other prominent members of the drug testing industry.

Still, DuPont rejects the idea that there is any financial motivation behind his fixation drug testing.

I find it bizarre to think that my interests after all these years were financial, he told The Daily Beast. I just think, there is a financial incentive in drug testing, but the reason Im interested in drug testing is that there is an interest from the disease standpoint.

With a dozen more states expected to consider legal marijuana measures in 2018, and even Republican lawmakers like Trey Gowdy questioning the federal governments hard stance on the drug, its unlikely even a die hard anti-pot crusader like DuPont can turn back the tide, but that doesnt mean he cant make a few more bucks trying.

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

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Trump now backs marijuana ‘states rights’ bill, senator says

President Donald Trump has reportedly lent his support to a U.S. senator from Colorado, promising to back legislation that “protects states’ rights” on legalized marijuana.

The president’s decision would represent a split from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who in January rescinded an Obama-era policy, known as “the Cole memo,” that gave states more leeway over the federal government on marijuana policy.

The name refers to former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, whose memo explained the policy.

In a statement Friday, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, said he’d received an assurance from the president on the states’ rights’ issue earlier this week.

“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” Gardner said. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.

“Furthermore,” Gardner added, “President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., addresses reporters, Jan. 22, 2018.  (Associated Press)

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Gardner’s account of the president’s thinking — but Sessions’ reaction was not immediately known.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump said states should be able to decide their own marijuana policies. “I’m a states person, it should be up to the states, absolutely,” he told a television interviewer in Colorado that year.

However, a year earlier at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Maryland, Trump had said he supported medical marijuana but called recreational pot “bad.”

He singled out Colorado, the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales. “They’ve got a lot of problems going on right now in Colorado – some big problems,” Trump said then.

When Trump selected Sessions, a former federal prosecutor and U.S. senator from Alabama, as his attorney general, marijuana supporters girded for a crackdown. But Gardner said Sessions had promised him he’d do nothing to interfere with Colorado’s robust marijuana market.

Gardner said he was blindsided when Sessions made his announcement in January regarding pot prosecutions.

In retaliation, Gardner used his power as a senator to prevent consideration of any nominees for the Department of Justice — an extraordinary step for a senator to use against an administration run by another member of his party.

Recently, Gardner and Justice officials have been in discussions for months to get the holds lifted. Gardner has met with Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official overseeing the Russia probe who has been the target of Trump’s ire.

In his Friday statement, Gardner said he had released some holds, but left others in place until he acquired “a full commitment that the guidelines of the Cole Memo would be respected.”

Meanwhile, legislation to protect states where marijuana is legal is still being drafted. Trump’s backing is seen as key to getting a bill through Congress.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Jake Gibson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Medical marijuana push spreads to Utah, Oklahoma

The push for legalized marijuana has moved into Utah and Oklahoma, two of the most conservative states in the country, further underscoring how quickly feelings about marijuana are changing in the United States.

If the two measures pass, Utah and Oklahoma will join 30 other states that have legalized some form of medical marijuana, according to the pro-pot National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws. Nine of those states and Washington, D.C. also have broad legalization where adults 21 and older can use pot for any reason. Michigan could become the 10th state with its ballot initiative this year.

Utah and Oklahoma already are among 16 states that allow for use an oil called cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound from cannabis that doesn’t get users high but can treat a range of health concerns.

Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, is confident the Utah and Oklahoma measures will pass.

“America’s appetite for cannabis is not going away,” Strekal said. “We are in the death rattles of prohibition.”

Marijuana legalization efforts have faced some pushback from religions before — including in 2016 in Arizona and Nevada from the Mormon church, and the same year from the Catholic Church in Massachusetts. But not to the scale they could face this year in Utah, where Mormons account for about two-third of the population, said Matthew Schweich, executive director of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.

Mormons have long frowned upon marijuana use because of a key church health code called the “Word of Wisdom,” which prohibits the use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out against the proposal this month, saying in a statement drugs designed to ease suffering should be tested and approved by government officials first. The church said it respects the “wise counsel” of doctors, and commended the Utah Medical Association for opposing it. The association has accused organizers of trying to disguise their intention of simply paving the way for legalizing recreational marijuana.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told middle school students in January that he thinks medical marijuana will someday be legalized in the state but in March he announced his opposition to the ballot question, which he argues lacks safeguards for the growing and distribution of marijuana.

Advocates remain confident that they’ve crafted a medical marijuana measure that respects the Mormon church and culture while providing much-needed relief for people with chronic pain, Schweich said. His Washington, D.C.-based organization helped draft the measure.

Unlike other medical marijuana states, Utah’s proposal would not allow pot smoking or for residents to grow their own, Schweich said. It would create a state-regulated growing and dispensing operation to allow people with certain medical conditions to get a card and use the drug in edible forms like candy, in topical forms like lotions or balms, as an oil or in electronic cigarettes. Proponents turned in the signatures Monday to get the measure on the ballot in November.

“It’s a question of compassion,” Schweich said.

Oklahoma will vote in June on its proposal that would allow doctors to recommend that patients receive a medical marijuana license allowing them to legally possess up to three ounces of the drug, six mature plants and six seedlings.

Ted Lyon, a 78-year-old Mormon, is a supporter because he saw in the past decade how medical marijuana helped two of his neighbors in Provo — one with multiple sclerosis and another who has seizures. He said he wouldn’t support the drug’s legalization for recreational use.

Lyon, a retired professor at Mormon-owned Brigham Young University, said he’s afraid the church’s opposition will have a chilling effect on members of the faith but said he remains hopeful there are enough progressive-leaning Mormons who will see the benefits.

“In 10 years, the church may say something different,” Lyon said. “This is not an eternal banishment of medical marijuana. My father was a good historian, and he used to say, ‘If you don’t like something in the church, just wait a while because it will change.'”

Nathan Frodsham, a 45-year-old married Mormon father of three, is hoping the measure passes so he can get off opioids and back to using the vaporized form of marijuana that he used when he lived in Seattle after his doctor recommended trying for his painful osteoarthritis in his neck.

Frodsham wasn’t discouraged by the Mormon church statement, which he notes doesn’t go as far in opposition as when the church explicitly asked members to vote against full marijuana legalization in Arizona and Nevada. He said marijuana is a natural plant and that the religion’s health code doesn’t single out cannabis as being prohibited.

“I think there’s some room for interpretation on this,” said Frodsham.

The 4,500-member Utah Medical Association isn’t against the idea of legalized medical marijuana but has numerous concerns with an initiative it thinks is too broad and doesn’t include necessary regulatory measures, said Michelle McOmber, the group’s CEO.

“We want to be very careful about what we bring into our state,” McOmber said. “This is an addictive drug.”

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Associated Press writer Adam Causey in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

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Find complete AP marijuana coverage here: https://apnews.com/tag/LegalMarijuana

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