October 27, 2016

Anthony Johnson, Marijuana Politics Blogger and Editor

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.

OMBC Program: Ed Rosenthal, OLCC Chair, Business Basics, Tommy Chong and More!


The Oregon Marijuana Business Conference (OMBC) returns to Ashland on November 19th at an important time for the cannabis industry, as there have been many changes to the state’s medical and adult use laws. The OMBC will have those in the industry, or thinking of joining the industry, prepared for whatever cannabis business license they choose, while providing a fun, engaging event that will allow for tremendous networking opportunities. You can check out the OMBC’s schedule here.

Full disclosure, I help organize the conference and its content, so I may be biased, but I, and everyone at the OMBC, take the job very seriously. We understand that we are asking many small farmers and business owners to part with their hard-earned cash, so we want to make sure that they get their money’s worth. We are activists first and foremost and we want to see mom-and-pops thrive and patients getting safe access to their medicine. The OMBC is an informational event, but it also is a venue for advocates to organize, share ideas, and work towards protecting and improving Oregon’s marijuana laws.

The OMBC kicks off with the Guru of Ganja, Ed Rosenthal, a longtime cannabis expert and activist who always speaks his mind. Not all of us will necessarily agree with all of the political positions of Mr. Rosenthal, but you have to respect the man’s passion and knowledge. Growers should really take advantage of the opportunity to pick the brain of such a legendary cannabis cultivator. The Guru of Ganja will be followed by Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) Chair Rob Patridge, the man leading the regulatory body given the huge task of starting the state’s licensed and regulated commercial cannabis system. If you want to know why the OLCC has made some of their decisions or share your perspective about the state’s regulations, the OMBC is the place to do it.

After the two opening speakers, the OMBC will delve into the basics of licensing, reporting, tracking, testing, labeling, and packaging; basically everything folks will need to know to be a medical or recreational cannabis entrepreneur in the Beaver State. Each panel will feature experts and attorneys, providing attendees the chance to get some answers to their burning questions. There are some important elections on the November ballot, as cities and counties across the state will determine whether they ban cannabis businesses, so it is only fitting that the OMBC include a panel that focuses on local regulations.

The cannabis community will be in for a treat at the conclusion of the conference when the one-and-only Tommy Chong will be on hand with Celebstoner’s Steve Bloom for an exclusive celebrity interview covering his life and career. Saturday night, OMBC attendees will be able to network and unwind with an exclusive concert performance by hip-hop legend Del the Funky Homosapien.

With so many changes to Oregon’s marijuana laws, tickets will go fast. Get your tickets before early bird pricing end November 2nd. 

The OMBC Program:

OMBC Ashland Schedule


Don’t Miss Cannabis Comic and Activist Ngaio Bealum at the ICBC!


Cannabis comic extraordinaire Ngaio Bealum has brought his unique brand of comedy to cannabis events and clubs around the country, including emceeing the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, California. Ngaio will be joining us in Vancouver for the ICBC on October 13th and 14th, and he will help keep the event both informative and engaging.

If you have seen Ngaio’s comedy act before, or you’ve checked him out on Doug Benson’s Getting Doug with High, then you know the man has weed jokes for days. Ngaio has opened up for Weird Al and the great Dave Chappelle, and always has the audience laughing and having a great time. You don’t even have to be a cannabis user to enjoy Mr. Bealum’s comedy…but it does help.

If you’ve been to the ICBC before, then you know that Ngaio can think quickly on his feet and be very helpful with follow-up questions and commentary as he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from years of activism and immersion within the California cannabis community. Ngaio has been an activist for a couple of decades, is a former editor of West Coast Cannabis magazine and has contributed articles for Alternet and the Guardian. Today, Bealum writes a marijuana advice column for the Sacramento News and Review and contributes to Freedom Leaf Magazine.

Ngaio wrote about his support  for California’s Proposition 64, expressing his support for small farmers, but recognizing the need to end criminal penalties, in Freedom Leaf Magazine:

As for big corporations taking over the cannabis industry, Prop 64 ensures that small-scale “boutique” grows have a spot in the marketplace. It may help to think of the new connoisseur paradigm the same way we think about beer. Sure, mass-market brands like Budweiser and Coors have a big share of the market, but where I live, we all drink local micro-brews. Craft cannabis is an emerging market niche, and growers with skill (and a good marketing plan) should have no trouble finding buyers, especially with the explosion in demand that legalization may bring.

Prop 64 is just a step. If it passes, it doesn’t mean that pot activism is over. There’s plenty more to do. We still need to get people out of jail, and there are folks awaiting trial on marijuana charges right now that could probably get them dropped if AUMA passes, such as long-time canna-activist Todd McCormick, who in August had his cultivation case delayed until after the election because prosecutors didn’t want to spend time and money prosecuting him if weed is going to be legal anyway. Freeing cannabis captives should be reason enough to vote for Prop 64.

The International Cannabis Business Conference is coming to Vancouver, British Columbia, at a great time as Canadian medical laws just changed and the nation is poised to help lead the global fight to end cannabis prohibition for all adults under Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party. The ICBC is bringing together top lawyers, experts and entrepreneurs to discuss all things cannabis business and Ngaio Bealum will be there to help keep the whole operation educational and fun. Get your tickets for the ICBC today and check out Ngaio whenever you can, listen to his podcast on Cannabis Radio, and keep tabs on him via his Facebook and Twitter pages.

This blog was originally posted by International Cannabis Business Conference and reblogged here with special permission.

Attorney Kirk Tousaw Talks About Canadian Cannabis Policy and ICBC

Kirk Tousaw ICBC

For members of the cannabis community, great attorneys can be your best friend. Effective attorneys can keep you out of prison, help you jump over regulatory hurdles and move reform efforts forward. I was fortunate to speak with one of the top cannabis lawyers in Canada, Kirk Tousaw, just head of his upcoming presentation at the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Vancouver, British Columbia, on October 13-14.

Anthony Johnson: Kirk, thanks for taking the time to talk with me, can you describe your current legal practice?

Kirk Tousaw: I represent many cannabis industry participants, including an excess of 50 medical cannabis dispensaries Canada and applicants to the licensed producer program. I also defend people charged with cannabis offenses and engage in strategic litigation designed to improve Canadian cannabis law.

 AJ: Can you describe an example of this strategic litigation?
KT: Yes, I was co-counsel with a team that sued the federal government to allow patients to cultivate medical cannabis for themselves under the Constitution of Canada. The court found that Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedom guaranteed a reasonable access to cannabis, and that the ban on personal cultivation was arbitrary and caused harm, thus personal cultivation couldn’t be prohibited.
AJ: What’s your history with the cannabis movement?
KT: I’ve been an advocate for legalizing cannabis since my teens. I moved to Vancouver in 2002 and obtained a Masters in Law writing about cannabis policy. When I began practicing law, I was fortunate to work with John Conroy and we won a case in 2009 called R v. Beren that changed the medical cannabis system for the better. Public attitudes evolved as government thinking has evolved. Until recently, we had a conservative government, so it has been an uphill battle for the movement. My hope is that future advocacy occurs outside the courtroom so no one goes to jail.
AJ: What are your some of your concerns about how the federal government will proceed with legalization?
KT: Over regulation is always a fear, particularly in a new industry. However, I have great hope for the industry, regardless of the initial regulatory rollout. The system on day one won’t be the policy we have down the line. The hurdles, hiccups and problems will become to be known and we’ll move in a more positive direction. My advocacy is designed to have the government understand that it sin’t creating a new industry, but is instead bringing an existing industry into the light. Those that have built the industry need to be a part of the new system. I’m hopeful that the government understands that overregulation won’t achieve its goals, especially of eliminating the black market, if existing legacy producers and distributors can’t participate or regulations are too expensive. I’m hopeful government is receptive to the message and doesn’t miss a great opportunity for our country.
AJ: What advice will you give attendees of the International Cannabis Business Conference and those in the cannabis industry, or thinking of joining?
KT: I think right now, the most important thing is to be advocating for the laws that we want to see implemented, both in Ottawa for the federal policy as well as the provincial, municipal and tribal governments as all levels will shape the industry. It might be a time for some caution in terms of getting involved, to not move too quickly. Some may have moved too quickly under the old system and as a resulte, some are struggling because of burdensome overregulation. Caution and advocacy would be my two pieces of advice.
AJ: Thanks so much, Kirk, looking forward to seeing you in Vancouver.
KT: Thank you.
You can learn more about Kirk Tousaw from his website and by following him on Twitter. Learn from Mr. Tousaw and other entrepreneurs, activists and experts at the International Cannabis Business Conference on October 13-14 in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Get your tickets now.
This blog was originally published at International Cannabis Business Conference’s website. Reposted here with special permission.

Join NCIA at the ICBC and in Its Efforts to Improve Cannabis Laws


The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) has been at the forefront of cannabis law reform since its inception in 2010. NCIA works for sensible cannabis laws for for cannabis businesses while also supporting efforts to improve criminal law as well. With more than 1,000 members, NCIA has forged a powerful coalition that lobbies in Washington, D.C., and helps the cannabis industry stay informed and have a voice across the nation. NCIA’s Aaron Smith will even be traveling across the border to help keep  cannabis industry participants informed at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference.

Since United States Senator Chuck Grassley needlessly obstructs cannabis legislation, including the bipartisan CARERS Act, NCIA took the senator to task:

More than 80 percent of Americans believe patients should have legal access to medical marijuana. Sen. Grassley could be helping patients in need, supporting legitimate small businesses, and respecting the overwhelming will of the voters,” said Aaron Smith, executive director and co-founder of NCIA. “Instead, he plays obstructionist again, refusing to even have a conversation about a bill that has the support of Republicans and Democrats alike.

“Sen. Grassley may be stuck in the past, but the rest of us are not. It’s time for him to do his job and hold real hearings on real legislation that could make a real difference for patients and providers across the country.”

In addition to the Carers Act, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act also sits bottled up in Sen. Grassley’s Judiciary Committee, despite a recent national AP poll showing that 61% of Americans support the legalization of cannabis.

When the Drug Enforcement Administration laughably decided to keep cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance with no medical value, Smith, shot back at the prohibitionist agency, “DEA’s decision flies in the face of objective science and overwhelming public opinion. The reality is that half of U.S. states have already passed effective laws allowing patients legal access to medical cannabis, and it is changing lives.

On our way to federally legalizing medical cannabis and ending cannabis prohibition altogether, it is imperative that Congress fix cannabis banking and tax policy. The denial of banking services poses dangers to the community as it makes cannabis businesses prime targets for robbery while also encouraging money laundering. The 280E tax provision that disallows normal business deductions for cannabis retailers also encourages dishonesty and makes it extremely hard for businesses to operate, especially mom-and-pop operations. NCIA is helping lead the way on these imperative sensible reforms in Congress.

NCIA Director Aaron Smith will be travelling up north of the border to discuss cannabis policy at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, on October 13-14. Canada has recently changed instituted several new medical reforms, including allowing home cultivation and is moving towards legalizing for all adult. When asked about the movement in Canada towards legalization, Smith stated, “Smart cannabis entrepreneurs and investors all over the world are keeping a close eye on Canada. In many ways, Canada’s national marijuana policy is already ahead of the U.S. Once adult-use becomes legal and regulated in Canada, the market size there has the potential to even rival California’s behemoth cannabis market.”

As the cannabis industry has moved mainstream across the nation and the world, it has been imperative that businesses have had an effective voice advocating for sound industry regulations; NCIA has been that voice. If you are in the cannabis industry or thinking of entering, then you should join the NCIA as a member and director Aaron Smith at the ICBC in beautiful, cannabis-friendly Vancouver, Canada.

Attorney Robert Laurie Talks Prohibition and Regulation Ahead of the ICBC


When you are in the cannabis industry, have been arrested for a cannabis offense, or contemplating a cannabis business, it is great to have a good lawyer on your side. Lawyers are often at the heart of the cannabis law reform movement and Robert W.E. Laurie of AD LUCEM LAW CORPORATION is no exception. Practicing out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Laurie has worked in big-name firms in London and the United States. The Canadian cannabis community is lucky to have him on their side. I got to talk for a few minutes with Mr. Laurie ahead of his upcoming presentation at the International Cannabis Business Conference, about cannabis prohibition, where the industry is headed and the advice he gives to those in the industry. Laurie had just finished speaking with Wally Oppal, Q.C., the former Attorney General of British Columbia as part of the Canadian Institute’s Canadian Cannabis Business Week in Vancouver.

Anthony Johnson: Robert, how did the discussion go with the former attorney general?

Robert Laurie: We had a really good discussion. We talked about the history of cannabis prohibition and its roots in the anti-immigration sentiment at the time and how the discrimination against immigrants morphed into the culture wars of the 1960s under Richard Nixon. Even after all of the progress that we’ve made, there are still too many harmful consequences of cannabis prohibition, even in a progressive city like Vancouver. Smelling like cannabis can still get you targeted by law enforcement.

AJ: It sounds like Canada’s cannabis prohibition followed the United States, starting with racism and then transforming into a culture war.

RL: The United States started the international “Drug War,” but Canada followed suit. Unfortunately, international law has been an excuse to perpetuate prohibition instead of progressing legalization. The U.S. is very influential today, even as we move towards legalization in Canada. For instance, some of the regulations in place in Colorado, have been implemented here in a different manner, but they won’t necessarily work. Vancouver has significant urban density, so arbitrary barriers around dispensaries don’t fit.

Now, we have to ask ourselves, “What does legalization and regulation actually look like?” Is it a regulatory policy or an elimination strategy? We shall see.

Even regulations, while a step forward, impose barriers that can continue the black market. Black market dealers just adapt when regulations are too restrictive. Unnecessary and complicated regulations hurt those that want to do the right thing. Such participants, with good intentions and practices, are unable to compete with the black market because of overregulation and the cost of legitimacy. Crazy taxes and huge regulations will only push people into the black market rather than into transparent market participation. In a way, the black market keeps government overreach in check.

AJ: It seems like most government officials have an inclination to overregulate cannabis, I’m guessing that you agree?

Admitting that prohibition is a mistake forces the government to admit their part in the negligence and harm to their citizens caused by prohibition. We still have people incarcerated for simple possession. Where is their justice while everyone floods to this new market?

Clearly prohibition has been a failure, but government officials feel like they can’t say that, so they use red herrings like “youth harm, fire risks, health issues, mould problems and black market profiteering” to continue to restrict cannabis. We need regulations that fit the situation. Cannabis is a plant that is relatively benign and safe, so really the question is, “If we are allowed to have Starbucks on every corner, can’t we have dispensaries treated, at the very least, the same as alcohol?”

He adds: “Cannabis can save the planet, whereas alcohol and tobacco will kill you, especially if used as directed. So why regulate cannabis like alcohol or tobacco? To do so is nonsensical and irresponsible.”

Even regulating like alcohol doesn’t fit because alcohol is much more lethal than cannabis, a plant.

Even though it looks like cannabis is being legalized, it is still an unsatisfactory situation for patients and recreational users alike. Crossing borders with cannabis, even for medical patients isn’t allowed, so we still have work to do. Unfortunately, police are too often involved with developing regulations. Why are we trusting people that have been on the wrong side of history for 90 years? It’s would be like having a redneck, bigot, small town sheriff in charge of the “gay legalization” process.

AJ: What are your hopes for the cannabis industry in Canada?

I hope there are sensible regulations by provinces, but municipalities are going to take or assume power to mold regulations for their constituents. While the rules are being written, civil disobedience is making real change. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ghandi showed that nonviolent civil disobedience can bring about significant change.

Most dispensaries and growers are engaging in civil disobedience by their daily actions and chosen professions. More and more dispensaries are opening up, especially across British Columbia, even though it is technically illegal, but there really aren’t the resources to try and shut them down when there are more serious issues. Vancouver really started the safe injection sites and the federal government tried to shut it down, but the city said, “Sorry, we have bigger fish to fry.” It’s the same with cannabis.

I hope that the federal government learns from its mistakes. The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) was designed to benefit the federal government, but under the Constitution of Canada, cannabis as an industry should be regulated under the jurisdiction of the provinces. On other grounds, however, the MMPR was declared incompatible with the Constitution of Canada after a challenge by several great attorneys, including Kirk I. Tousaw and John W. Conroy, Q.C. The government was given 6 months to set up a legitimate system.
In turn, the government set the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). The ACMPR is trying to be a hybrid system, trying to reconcile personal growing with exclusive growing and dispensing by Licensed Producers (LP’s). Big players, unfortunately are seeking to consolidate the market. The ACMPR is really just a bandaid trying to stop the bleeding of the money.
I want to see barriers to entry low and patients given true equality. Barriers to entry can be several million dollars with overregulation, which is ridiculous. There should be opportunities for the mom-and-pops.
Even patients have to pay too much for a prescription and most drugs are subsidized by the government, but cannabis isn’t treated the same.
The federal government seems to do whatever it can to make it as difficult as possible, even for growing for yourself, starting with the fact that you can only get your seeds and clones from licensed producers. The new prohibition is going to be overregulation and may be a long time before we see true equality.
AJ: Describe your work in the Canadian cannabis industry today.
RL: I represent about 35% of the dispensaries in Vancouver, most with their administrative issues with the city, as well as cannabis clients up and down the island, across B.C. and even throughout Canada. After graduating from the University of Oxford, I spent about 6 months dealing with tobacco industry regulations and another 6 months working in the alcohol industry, so I bring my knowledge of regulatory systems to my cannabis clients.
AJ: What is some of the advice that you give to those thinking about entering the cannabis industry, like those you’ll be speaking to at the International Cannabis Business Conference?
RL: Be prepared to enter a connoisseur market. People will vote with their feet and their pocket book and you must understand that most cannabis consumers tend to be the connoisseurs of the connoisseurs.
Better to ask for forgiveness in Canada, than to ask for permission, otherwise you are going to miss the opportunity. The best years are yet to be written. Be prepared and attend as many conferences and talks as you can.
AJ: Thanks, Robert, I look forward to seeing you at the ICBC in beautiful Vancouver.
RL: Thank you, see you soon.
You can see Robert Laurie and other lawyers and experts from Canada and around the world at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, October 13-14. Get your tickets now before prices go up. 

LivWell’s Neal Levine Talks Politics, Activism, Big Marijuana and the ICBC


Neal Levine, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for LivWell Enlightened Health , has been through the trenches of cannabis activism and business, like very few have. Levine actually helped to oversee the grant from the Marijuana Policy Project for the very first campaign I was a part of, a local reform effort in Columbia, Missouri back in 2003. Neal’s impact has been felt in the political sphere in campaigns across the nation and he brings his policy knowledge and foresight to LivWell, a fully integrated medical and adult-use cannabis company in Colorado. Neal will be sharing his extensive knowledge with attendees at the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Vancouver, British Columbia, this October, and I was very happy to catch up with him for a bit.

Anthony Johnson: You’ve had quite the career in the cannabis activist and business sectors over the years. How would you sum up your experience?
Neal Levine: “Thank you, Anthony! That’s quite the compliment coming from you.

I’ve had the good fortune to have worked on cannabis policy reform in more than 20 states over the course of almost 14 years. In that time I have either led or been part of the teams that passed many of our current cannabis laws, both legislatively and at the ballot. I shut down my political consulting business and started working with LivWell last July, and everything that I have done professionally up to this point has led me to this job. While we may be one of the larger cannabis companies out there, we are still very much a start-up. So I get to wear many hats, working on our federal and local government affairs, our community integration efforts, public relations, new business development, and whatever else happens to fall out of the sky on any particular day. I’ve never had this much fun at work, and it is honestly hard to stop working sometimes to find the time to take a breath.

I have also been fortunate enough to have several key mentors along the way, making up for my lack of formal political and business training. To now be able to count LivWell CEO John Lord and legal counsel Dean Heizer among the folks who have helped to mentor me on the business side is humbling. John and Dean have built multiple successful businesses, and now I get to work on this venture with them. Plus, I get to work directly with John’s son Mike on multiple projects, who is one of the brightest and most dedicated people that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I feel truly blessed. That probably sounds cheesy, but I don’t care. It’s true.”

AJ: How many retail locations and employees does LivWell have?

NL: “We currently have 14 retail locations and just shy of 600 employees. Isn’t that amazing?”

AJ: It is. So how do you respond to complaints that LivWell is an example of Big Marijuana that is hurting the industry?

NL: “You mean after I stop laughing?

Let me start by saying that there is no such thing as “Big Marijuana”, at least not yet. And folks in the cannabis policy reform movement and the industry who regurgitate that prohibitionist clap-trap are doing exactly what the prohibitionists want us to do. Everyone who is actually in the industry should understand that we are all hanging on by our fingertips. To quote Benjamin Franklin, ‘We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately’. Folks, we are all in this together.

But to specifically address your question, there really aren’t “mom-and-pops” out there going out of business because of us or companies similar to ours. Almost all businesses struggling in the legal and compliant cannabis industry today are struggling because of the cost of complying with state and local regulations and our effective federal tax burden of 80% or more (plus the never-ending stream of IRS audits that come with it). It is just a devastating one-two combination. Especially for smaller operators. It is almost impossible for cannabis companies to survive unless they are able to scale.

So as far as us “hurting” the industry, that’s just absurd. We have spent a lot of time and resources trying to advance the industry, and those efforts will continue. Also, we feel that one of the best things that we can do for the industry as a whole is to try and lead by example. We understand that our employees are our number one asset, and therefore all of our employees have full company paid health insurance and a 401K retirement plan that LivWell makes an annual 3% contribution to that does not require an employee match and vests instantly. Our entry level positions pay several dollars above the minimum wage, and we invest heavily in employee training to minimize turnover.

Between engaging politically and doing our best to run a solid company that the industry can be proud of, we feel that we are working hard to advance the industry every day. Of course, no one is perfect and we’re always striving to get better at what we do, including being as engaged as possible in all of the communities that we operate in. And that includes the cannabis community as a whole.”

AJ: What’s your advice for those attending the International Cannabis Business Conference and those entering the cannabis industry?

NL: “If you’re looking at opening a business in the states, be sure to get a good CPA, pay your taxes, and understand that the cannabis business is not license to print money. If you’re looking to be a passive investor, make sure you pick your teammates very carefully. Success is going to take a while. Go into this with eyes wide open, and you don’t have a true love of the plant, there are much easier ways to make money.”

AJ: What advice would you give to political advocates?

NL: “I strongly believe that we need to collectively focus our energy and resources on ending the scourge of IRS 280E enforcement against our industry. Many of my friends and compatriots in the cannabis legalization movement view this as an “industry” problem, when in fact aggressive enforcement of 280E is a cornerstone in the foundation of modern cannabis prohibition. And it has been for almost twenty years. Former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey first outlined the strategy in a memo to President Bill Clinton in 1996 after the passage of Prop 215 in California. This enormous tax burden we struggle with isn’t an accident, man. There are forces at work that are doing this to us on purpose, and they are doing it because they want to see this movement fail.

The cannabis legalization movement gave birth to our industry, and we are inextricably linked forever. Like all good children, it will eventually be our responsibility to take care of our “parent”. But to continue with the analogy, we’re barely toddlers. We need to all work together to get the industry to the point where we are in position to fully fund the movement, and then we can all collectively end cannabis prohibition once and for all. But that cannot happen until state-compliant cannabis companies are no longer subjected to 280E enforcement. We are simply not in a position to replace the billionaire philanthropists that have historically funded the cannabis legalization movement. Yet.”

 AJ: How are you feeling about the marijuana reform measures on the 2016 ballot?

NL: “Honestly, I’m extremely nervous.  A lot of initiatives were placed on the ballot without the funding in place to run full-fledged campaigns, and many of these campaigns are fishing in the same small pond for funding. Also, several of these initiatives skipped the essential step of researching the electorate for viability before launching their campaigns, which is campaign 101 stuff. Another factor that makes me nervous (for a whole host of reasons) is Donald Trump. Who knows what this electorate is going to look like? This is the hardest electorate to read in my 18 years of working in politics.

With those caveats, I think the healthiest campaigns at the moment are in Maine, California, and Florida. Nevada, Arizona, and Massachusetts are more complicated. I don’t have much of a read on the other medical ones out there.

I am a former resident of Nevada and I have done a lot of work there, including leading the signature drive to qualify the current initiative for the ballot. So that one is personal. Sheldon Adelson, a multi-billionaire casino owner and top Republican campaign financier, has apparently pledged to put over $3 million into the “No” side. He also purchased the largest newspaper in the state, The Las Vegas Review Journal. The LVRJ had actually endorsed the legalization campaign the day that we launched the signature drive, and then almost immediately reversed their endorsement of the initiative after he bought it! In a close race, Adelson has the resources and political talent available to him to swing the election.

I will say that there is some amazing talent working on our side of the Nevada campaign, with the largest props reserved for Scot Rutledge and Joe Brezny. Anthony, you and I both know from experience how thankless campaign work can be. Joe specifically has done an enormous amount of work to launch this campaign and keep it alive through many trials and tribulations. So I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Joe Brezny for everything that he has done for cannabis policy reform in Nevada. Joe and Scot, if you are reading this, you are appreciated.”

AJ: Thanks, Neal. Looking forward to seeing you at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Vancouver next month.

NL: Thank you. I can’t wait to see you and everyone at the ICBC.

You can see Neal Levine discuss cannabis industry and politics, along with many other prominent entrepreneurs and advocates at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, October 13-14.

Brendan Kennedy on the ICBC, Marley Natural, Big Marijuana and More

Brendan Kennedy

Brendan Kennedy, CEO of Privateer Holdings, has made a big splash in the cannabis community over the last six years or so, bringing in capital and his business acumen to the industry. Through Privateer’s companies, Leafly, Tilray and Marley Natural, Kennedy has helped provide medical cannabis, as well as valuable information, to patients and consumers, created positive publicity for the industry and has helped expunge the criminal records of those convicted of marijuana offenses in the past. Despite some very good things, the prospect of “Big Marijuana” has been touted by both prohibitionists and even by some in the cannabis community as a negative for the cannabis legalization cause.

Kennedy, just ahead of his keynote at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Vancouver, Canada, October 13-14, candidly took on any and all questions, not afraid to tackle the elephant in the room and provide advice for those who could potentially be his competitors in the market someday.

Anthony Johnson: Let’s just address the elephant in the room right away, how do you respond to claims that you’re “Big Marijuana”, taking over small businesses or taking advantage of Jamaica?

Brendan Kennedy: I got into this industry six years ago because I saw the opportunity to attack prohibition from a different angle. Activists groups and political campaigners use the angles of activism and politics to attack prohibition, and many are doing great work that I admire and support. To me, business is also form of activism, and I wanted to see how we could attack prohibition from that angle by creating companies that would help bring the cannabis industry into the mainstream, convert the skeptics and ultimately usher in an end to prohibition by winning trust and confidence of policymakers by demonstrating that a responsible industry would be a better alternative to the status quo.

Large and small businesses can and should coexist in the industry. There’s a lot we can accomplish when we collaborate and combine our different strengths. A rising tide lifts all boats. There will be room for both big and small businesses as this industry grows.

In the case of Marley Natural and Jamaica, the Marley family came to us three years ago interested in the idea of a partnership. We saw the opportunity to work together and celebrate a great cultural icon like Bob Marley, to take his message of freedom and spread it around the world, to take his social justice message and apply that to the cause of ending prohibition around the globe. We created the Marley Natural brand through a lot of collaboration with the Marley family, so we want to do everything in a way that respects his family and the rich tradition of cannabis in Jamaica. We are giving back to Jamaica through Marley Natural’s philanthropic program Rise Up.

In general, Privateer does a lot of things that the industry and community love, including supporting clinical trials around the world via Tilray supplying cannabis and cannabis products to researchers internationally. The movement at large cheered when Leafly placed an ad in the New York Times. Many of those in the business understand that we also help other entrepreneurs raise capital. But we have been a target of some and that comes with the territory. It’s our job to address that skepticism, though, and I think we accomplish that through both our attitude toward the industry and our contributions.

AJ: Can you explain how the Rise Up Expungement Day and other socially-conscious efforts have come about?

BK: Social responsibility is really at the core of Marley Natural and so far our efforts have been focused on two general themes:

First, helping small farms and agriculture in Jamaica. We are funding various projects there and using our assets to educate and train small farmers in good agricultural practices. And second, helping people who have been harmed the most by prohibition, particularly minorities who have been disproportionately harmed by the drug war a, with events like Rise Up Expungement Day, where we help people clear their criminal record free of charge. We are working on other projects to help those harmed by the drug war as well and look forward to hosting many more Rise Up Expungement Days.

AJ: It would have been nice if a recent Vice article on Marley Natural would have mentioned some of the social justice aspects of the company.

BK: Yes, it certainly would have. I grew up as a progressive in San Francisco, and got involved with the cannabis industry to work toward more freedom and social justice. With Rise Up Expungement Day and other projects, I hope that our socially responsible work gets mentioned, one, so that people get word of these services and two, so that others in the industry can join us in making social responsibility an ongoing commitment that runs through everything we do.

AJ: When did you become a supporter of legalization?

BK: Growing up in the Bay Area and going to school in Berkeley, I’ve been a libertarian on social issues for as long as I can remember and have long supported legalization. I’ll be honest that I was really skeptical of medical cannabis at first, but I was still a supporter of legalization for social justice reasons. After travelling the world researching the industry, talking to patients and getting educated, I became a staunch believer in the medical benefits of cannabis about six years ago. If you listen to the stories of medical cannabis patients, you can’t deny that people are experiencing real relief that’s dramatically changed their quality of life. I try to highlight those personal testimonies from patients because if I had heard them sooner, I would have realized how wrong my earlier belief was.

AJ: A lot of people are looking forward to seeing you speak at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference and would certainly like to learn more on how entrepreneurs can prepare their businesses to be attractive to investors, any advice?

BK: I’ve done a lot of pitches in a lot of industries, and my initial advice is to tell a story. Show a vision, not just a product. Show a vision of the company, brand, or product and how it will change the industry. Also, pitch, pitch, pitch. Practice your pitch over and over again, so your pitch tells your story very well. Learn from hearing “no” from potential investors. Usually, you only want to hear the answer “yes,” but getting a “no” here and there can be very valuable, as you can learn from that experience. My favorite investors are the ones that told me “no” at one time, but I managed to turn them into a “yes.” Finally, just go and do it. Don’t tell investors what you are planning to do, show what you are doing. You can convince some people to invest because of their fear of missing out.

AJ: To Canadians, Tilray may be common knowledge, but to those in the States and elsewhere around the world, they may be less familiar, what would you like to convey about the company?

Tilray has invested heavily in Canada and we feel that we have built a brand that represents Canada well. We’re building a global brand. We are proud to have become the first company to legally export medical cannabis products from North America and import them into the EU, a huge milestone for the global cannabis movement. We have been very pleased to help promote scientific research around the world and are proud to be contributing to both the medical and commercial industries around the world.

AJ: What will attendees gain from your speech at the ICBC?

BK: I’m going to focus a lot on the global cause to end cannabis prohibition. There’s often a misconception that the end of the end of cannabis prohibition is a western United States phenomenon, but it is important that everyone understands that we are in the midst of a global paradigm shift. I’m excited that this event is in Vancouver as there are exciting developments in Canada, but there are also changes coming about in Jamaica, Colombia, Germany, Spain, Israel, and elsewhere. We are seeing countries around the world making progress and that is great for the legalization cause and entrepreneurs. I’m really looking forward to it.

AJ: Thanks Brendan, will see you soon.

BK: Thank you, looking forward to it.

See Brendan Kennedy and many other movers and shakers in the cannabis industry and movement at the International Cannabis Business Conference on October 13-14, in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Weed Tornado Strikes Southern Oregon!

wizard of oz

Ever since Oregon legalized cannabis, thanks to the wisdom of over 56% of the voters in 2014, the sky hasn’t fallen, but, admittedly a lot of strange things have happened. (But Oregon isn’t like Florida crazy, or anything!) And while “Keep Portland Weird” is a slogan, Southern Oregon has its fair share of eccentricities, such as Ashland’s lithia water fountains and Sugar Bob, the cannabis-munching deer in the Applegate Valley. And now, you can add a sighting of a weed tornado to the list. (But a weed tornado is much better than a sharknado, right?)

Siskiyou Sungrown cultivates two side-by-side cannabis plots in Southern Oregon, one for medical use under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, while the other is for the adult-use legalization system overseen by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (which will hopefully be renamed the Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission soon). Under both the medical and adult-use systems, farmers must report to the state, among other things, how many plants they are cultivating and it is a cannabis plant getting uprooted out of the blue must be accounted for.

“When an employee came to report that a tornado touched down on our medical plot and threw a 6′ x 6′ medical marijuana plant out of the ground, up into the air, over an 8′ fence, and 50′ south into our recreational grow, I surely didn’t believe him,” stated Michael Johnson, the Chief Operating Officer of Siskiyou Sungrown. “Until I checked the security camera footage and saw the weed tornado.”

You can see the security footage for yourself:

One of the best things about working in the cannabis movement is that I learn something new virtually every single day. Just when you think that you have seen it all, you witness your first weed tornado. I often advise advocates in other states about Oregon’s cannabis regime, what we’ve learned, and how they can hopefully learn from us. Next month, I’ll be discussing Oregon’s regulations in another country for the first time in Vancouver, Canada, at the International Cannabis Business Conference, and somehow I’ll have to work in how Southern Oregon growers had to account for a weed tornado in their monthly reporting to the state.


Check out Siskiyou Sungrown on their website and on Facebook

Canadian Cannabis Laws Are Changing Rapidly, ICBC Will Have the Latest

Canada Marijuana Flag

The cannabis community has been making great strides across the globe, and Canada is no different. In fact, the entire marijuana movement cheered and got another shot in the arm when the Liberal Party, with cannabis legalization as part of its platform, took over the Canadian government in a landslide. With Justin Trudeau leading the way, who unlike the next President of the United States, has used cannabis, the future is certainly bright for the Canadian cannabis community. However, with change comes obstacles and new regulations and Canadian cannabis laws are changing rapidly and the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) on October 13-14 in Vancouver, British Columbia, will have the latest.

From The New York Times:

Mr. Trudeau has promised to make recreational marijuana legal in Canada as soon as next year, bypassing the nation’s strict medical marijuana regulations. Under the latest rules for medical use, announced last week, patients must be registered, have a prescription and obtain their supplies only by mail from a government-licensed producer or by growing a limited amount privately.

Impatient to test the shifting political boundaries, entrepreneurs have opened hundreds of illicit dispensaries across Canada, selling products like organic marijuana buds and potent cannabis concentrates, while local governments and the police have tended to look the other way.

The marijuana boom they hope for has yet to materialize, though the Canadian government is now doing preliminary work on a measure to govern recreational use.

And as Marijuana.com reported on August 11th, Health Canada announced new changes to the law, some good, such as allowing home cultivation, but some existing dispensaries are left in a “gray area.” Also, more changes are on the horizon:

Health Canada did say they are “committed to studying other models” of marijuana distribution so patients can have access, but they stopped short of endorsing any dispensary scenario for now. In that respect, Health Canada is regurgitating what the feds have already stated — let local law enforcement enforce the “laws.”

An interesting and rather cryptic message, Health Canada revealed that they are exploring other models such as pharmacy distribution. It’s no secret that Canada’s largest pharmacy chain, Shoppers Drug Mart, has been publicly and privately lobbying the government to be the retail option of choice.

The final part of today’s announcement was to let Canadians know that this is a temporary solution and shouldn’t be interpreted as the long-term plan for both medical and recreational marijuana in Canada. That announcement will still come next spring according to schedule.

The upcoming ICBC will help unpack the current status of Canadian regulations while also providing a preview of where the law is headed. Additionally, as always at the ICBC, there will be a strong focus on activism, so attendees will get some insight into how to protect the rights of patients as well as implement sound, fair business regulations for the burgeoning industry. Hope to see you there!

Cannabis Legalization Cuts Across the Political Spectrum

Girl Scout Cookies - Top 10 Marijuana Strains of 2016

Cannabis legalization is crossing political barriers in 2016 as Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson announced his support for California Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act , joining the democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, and a whole host of political figures across the political spectrum, including Republican Dana Rohrabacher and Democratic Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. Johnson announced his support during the Republican Convention, so it flew under the radar a bit. While it shouldn’t be a shock to see Johnson supporting a legalization measure, sometimes libertarians are wary of the taxation and regulatory provisions of legalization efforts. It’s good to see him on board with AUMA.

From The Sacramento Bee:

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson said late Wednesday that he supports the initiative on California’s fall ballot to legalize recreational marijuana.

“Why do I support it?” Johnson, a longtime backer of decriminalizing marijuana, asked about Proposition 64 while leaving Quicken Loans Arena, site of the Republican National Convention. The initiative is supported by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and billionaire entrepreneur Sean Parker.

“Whether you agree with marijuana legalization or not, you have friends, family, coworkers that use marijuana,” the former New Mexico governor said. “Are they criminal? No, they’re not criminal.”

There are many reasons to support ending cannabis prohibition, allowing the issue that cuts across partisan lines. There’s a reason that cannabis legalization measures often garner a higher percentage of the vote than popular national and statewide candidates. In 2012 Colorado’s Amendment 64 garnered more votes than President Obama and Oregon’s Measure 91, earning 56% of the vote in 2014, outperformed popular incumbent Senator Jeff Merkley. Whether you are for personal responsibility, creating jobs, social justice, generating more tax dollars or many other other issues, cannabis legalization is an issue that can bring together the far right, the far left and everyone in between.

This blog was originally posted at WeedNews.co, posted here with special permission.

Oregon Cannabis Convictions Expunged Free of Charge in Portland on August 27th

Rise Up

This blog was originally posted at www.newapproachoregon.com.

Legalizing cannabis in Oregon was a great achievement that is already paying dividends for our state by creating jobs and generating revenue. However, the number one reason to legalize cannabis was to keep people from suffering from unnecessary and harmful consequences for using a substance less addictive and lethal than alcohol and tobacco.

We are extremely proud of joining forces with the Bus Project to help with the Fresh Start campaign that successfully passed legislation allowing for the expungement of past marijuana offenses. Unfortunately, too many people are unable to afford the lawyer and court fees that it costs to have their offenses expunged. Thankfully, the Minority Cannabis Business Association and Marley Natural™ are stepping up to help folks expunge their past Oregon cannabis convictions, free of charge, on August 27th at the Village Ballroom, located at 704 NE Dekum in Portland, from 11am to 2pm.

Please see the press release sent out by MCBA and Marley Natural™ below. If you have a cannabis conviction that can be expunged or reduced, sign up atwww.minoritycannabis.org and please, spread the word.

Minority Cannabis Business Association and Marley Natural™ are clearing cannabis convictions in legal-market cannabis states. When cannabis is made legal, people convicted of cannabis offenses prior to legalization still carry the negative stigma of cannabis convictions. While the cannabis industry profits, a specific group of people targeted in the failed war on drugs continue to suffer the negative consequences of cannabis criminal records, including denied jobs, financial aid, housing, and, in some cases, the right to vote.

Part of MCBA’s mission is to combat the consequences of the war on drugs. In service to that mission, we are extremely proud to announce Rise Up™ Oregon Expungement Day brought by MCBA™ and Marley Natural™. On August 27, Rise Up Expungement Day participants will, within 2 hours, complete all steps necessary to file their request for expungement with the state of Oregon, including covering all costs and fees.

Marley Natural and MCBA developed the Rise Up Expungement program together to further both organizations’ missions of lifting up communities that have been harmed by the social injustices of cannabis prohibition. Marley Natural’s Rise Up™ program projects are committed to positive social change. As agents for change, Marley Natural honors Bob Marley’s legacy by adding his beliefs to the conversation about cannabis.

The Minority Cannabis Business association is proud to have a platinum sponsor with the legacy and history of Marley Natural. Says MCBA Chairman Jesce Horton, “With Marley Natural as our partner, we are building the resources needed to make a measurable positive impact in communities impacted by the war on drugs. By giving back through Rise Up, Marley Natural is an example of a cannabis company that is getting all aspects of cannabis business right so we don’t just build another industry; we build a better industry.”

Founded in 2015, the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) is the first non-profit organization created to serve the specific needs of minority cannabis entrepreneurs, employees, and patients/ consumers. The organization currently serves members from across the United States and Canada. MCBA’s mission is to create equal access and economic empowerment for cannabis businesses, their patients, and the communities most affected by the war on drugs. For more information, visit www.minoritycannabis.org.

Marley Natural is the official Bob Marley cannabis brand, crafted with deep respect for Bob’s legacy and belief in the positive potential of the herb to heal and inspire us. Starting on August 24, 2016, the brand’s all-natural, sun-grown premium cannabis products, as well as smoking and other lifestyle accessories, will be available at all Serra and Nectar dispensaries in the Portland metro area and Eugene. To learn more about Marley Natural, visithttp://www.MarleyNatural.com or follow the conversation on social media using @MarleyNatural and #MarleyNatural.


Mark Your Calendars: ICBC Heads to Canada October 13-14th


Helping organize the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) has been one of the best projects of my career as it is great to see so many great advocates and industry participants in one place. It has been rewarding and humbling to get good reviews about the event and it is important for everyone involved that attendees get the information and networking opportunities that they need to improve their business and advocacy.

The ICBC has brought together old-school legends like the Guru of Ganja Ed Rosenthal and cannabis icon Tommy Chong as well as new upstarts that are making waves across the globe. The ICBC makes the trek into Vancouver, Canada, a truly amazing international city that has been on the global forefront of the cannabis legalization movement. Mark your calendars for October 13-14 and join activists and industry participants from around the world learn about the latest developments with Canada’s medical system, as well as what appears to be on the horizon for its legalization system.

Canada shook the legalization world after the election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, the first major party to make legalization a part of its party platform. After Liberal unexpectedly won in a landslide, cannabis law reform advocates around the world rejoiced. It hasn’t been all rainbows and smooth sailing after Trudeau came into power, but the nation is moving forward with legalizing cannabis for all adults, although bureaucratic wheels tend to turn slowly.

We’ll be covering the ICBC extensively here at Marijuana Politics, with several features highlighting this historical and important event. So stay tuned and, if you can make it, we’ll see you in Vancouver!


DEA Will Allow More Medical Cannabis Cultivation Sites, Keep Marijuana at Schedule I

DEA Delays Rescheduling

The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a new policy this morning that many advocates have considered a mixed bag. The DEA announced that they would allow more universities to produce medical cannabis for research purposes, but that marijuana would ridiculously remain a Schedule I controlled substance (the same classification as heroin, deemed to not have any medicinal value). While many marijuana law reformers were hopeful that the federal government would reschedule marijuana down to a Schedule II substance, a classification that includes methamphetamine and cocaine, but a Schedule II classification wouldn’t have much of a benefit for the cannabis community and industry.

A Schedule II classification wouldn’t have made medical marijuana legal federally nor would it have fixed our nation’s ridiculous tax and banking laws that make state-regulated cannabis businesses difficult and dangerous to operate. There may be a symbolic victory in the federal government announcing that marijuana did indeed have medical value, there aren’t many practical benefits to the Schedule II classification.

The new policy of allowing more medical marijuana cultivation could eventually have a big impact on legalizing medical cannabis at the federal level. Research has been stymied by the fact that the only approved marijuana had to be produced at the federally-approved site at the University of Mississippi. With more medical marijuana available, more research can be conducted on more strains and for more conditions. As more research is done, more voters and politicians will realize the need to legalize medical marijuana across the nation, and eventually, end cannabis prohibition altogether.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer, along with Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have issued statements lambasting the decision of the DEA to keep marijuana a Schedule I substance, and they are all doing amazing work helping lead the way towards a sensible cannabis policy. It was also great to see Oregon Governor Kate Brown decry the DEA’s nonsensical policy as well.

The fight to remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances now moves to Congress where there just happens to be a bill that would declassify cannabis from the scheduled list, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders. Let’s get some co-sponsors of this common sense bill in the Senate, a companion piece in the House and work to convince Congress to end the failed and harmful war on cannabis.

This blog was originally posted by New Approach Oregon. Reposted here with special permission. 

New Approach Missouri to Challenge Invalidated Signatures in Effort to Place Medical Marijuana on the Ballot

New Approach Missouri

Over 60% of Missouri voters support the legalization of medical cannabis and hard-working activists at New Approach Missouri seemingly gathered enough signatures to place a medical measure on the 2016 ballot. Unfortunately, more than 10,000 signatures were disqualified in the 2nd congressional district, leaving the campaign just over 2,000 valid signatures short. New Approach Missouri will now take the political fight to the courts, hoping that voter intent will prevail.

As someone that has had to sweat out a couple of successful signature gathering efforts in both Oregon, I feel for these activists, and the patients and concerned citizens that are hoping to have medical cannabis on the ballot this year. Missouri’s signature gathering requirements are rather strenuous, forcing campaigns to collect so many signatures in several congressional districts. Oregon, in contrast, simply relies upon a bulk number of signatures, not mandating that signatures come from different areas of the state. Here’s hoping that Missouri courts will see that this medical measure does indeed belong on the ballot, for the sake of thousands of sick and disabled Missourians that would benefit from medicinal cannabis.

A message from the campaign was sent out to supporters today:

As a campaign supporter, I wanted you to hear this important campaign update directly from me.

Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative Campaign Will Ask Courts to Overturn Invalidated Signatures, So that Measure Can Appear on November Ballot

We announced today that we will go to court this month to overturn invalidated signatures, so that our medical marijuana measure can appear on the November ballot in Missouri. Multiple ballot initiative campaigns have successfully gone through this effort to get back on the ballot over the last decade in Missouri.

“The citizens overwhelmingly want Missouri to be the 26th state to allow state licensed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with debilitating illnesses,” said Jack Cardetti, New Approach Missouri spokesman. “Later this month, we will ask the courts in Missouri to overturn some of these invalidated signatures, so that this initiative can appear on the November ballot, and more importantly patients suffering from everything from cancer to epilepsy will finally have another treatment option. Courts have long held in Missouri that they want voters to make these final decisions.”

An initial review of signature totals from the six congressional districts we collected this Spring shows that the campaign currently has more than enough valid signatures in every district, except for Missouri’s second congressional district. In that district, which is made up of parts of Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis counties, local election authorities invalidated approximately 10,700 signatures, leaving the campaign roughly 2,200 short of the 32,337 signatures required in that district. We don’t believe the local election authorities in this district unnecessarily invalidated these signatures out of malice, but rather the errors were made by overworked staff and temporary employees that are brought in to handle the validation process for this year’s five initiative petitions.

Recent polling indicates that if the initiative is on the November ballot in Missouri, it is likely to pass. A poll released July 15 from the national Public Policy Polling showed that 62% of Missourians would vote yes on the initiative, compared to only 27% that were opposed. Likewise a poll from the Marijuana Policy Project conducted July 25-27 showed that Missourians support the initiative by a margin of 66-27%.

The proposal would allow only state licensed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, spinal-cord injuries and other serious or debilitating medical conditions. The state would license and regulate those who are allowed to cultivate and dispense medical marijuana. The measure would maintain the prohibition of marijuana use in public and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana.

Under the proposal, medical marijuana sales would be taxed at 4%, which is estimated to generate roughly $20 million annually for veterans’ health care services in Missouri.
Thanks for your support,

John Payne
Campaign Manager
New Approach Missouri

Prosecutors to Drop Charges Against Oregon Teen Devontre Thomas

Oregon leaf

Even those that don’t support legalizing cannabis were hard pressed to support the federal government threatening Oregon teen Devontre Thomas with a year long prison term over about a gram of marijuana. Drug War reform advocates and concerned citizens across the nation were frankly appalled of such a harsh sentence facing a nonviolent teenager in a state that had legalized cannabis with over 56% of the vote in 2014.

Thomas’ attorney, Ruben Iniguez worked tirelessly for his client and he left me a message stating that the charges would be dismissed in 60 days so long as Thomas stayed out of trouble and stayed employed and/or in school, conditions he was confident the teen would fulfill. Iniguez thanked advocates for reaching out and offering to help with Thomas’ case.

Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden and Representative Earl Blumenauer, who should be commended for speaking out in favor of sensible cannabis laws, all expressed their concern over Thomas’ pending charges. Congressman Blumenauer released a press release today:

Blumenauer Statement on U.S. Attorney Decision to Drop Charges Against Oregonian Teen for Marijuana

Portland, Ore. – Today, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) released the following statement on the decision by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon to drop charges against Oregonian teen, Devontre Thomas, for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

“While I am pleased to see the U.S. Attorney drop the charges in the case of 19-year-old Devontre Thomas, I’m still concerned that this Office thought it was worth prosecuting in the first place. My hope is that this sets a precedent that federal prosecutors should not be wasting time and resources on low level marijuana crimes.”

Recently, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer led a letter to U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, expressing concerns about the drug prosecution priorities of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

It is great news that Devontre Thomas can put this unfortunate plight behind him and get on with his life in a couple of months. Like Congressman Blumenauer stated, hopefully this case will set a precedent and U.S. Attorneys across the nation will stop bringing these wasteful cases against nonviolent citizens.

This post was originally published by New Approach Oregon, reposted with special permission.