December 12, 2017

Melody Greene, Author at MARIJUANA POLITICS

Oregonian Provides a Q & A on Marijuana Legalization

Oregon marijuana

There is a daily countdown in Oregon as every adult over the age of 21 will be able possess, cultivate and consume cannabis on July 1st. While marijuana has been widely available and a relatively low law enforcement priority (especially in Portland),it still just feels good to know that we no longer will be considered criminals under state law. There will certainly be a celebratory period, but we need to do our best to respect people who dislike cannabis and remember that Oregon’s experience will greatly impact states with upcoming legalization measures.

To know what to expect and to help ensure that folks follow the law, The Oregonian provided a Q&A for readers regarding the new law:

How much marijuana can I have?

A: In addition to growing four plants and possessing up to 8 ounces at home or 1 ounce away from home, anyone 21 and older can possess up to 1 pound of solid edibles, or about 10 chocolate bars; 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquid, or a six-pack of 12-ounce sodas; and 1 ounce of marijuana extract.

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What is the penalty for public consumption?

A: Consuming marijuana in public is a class B violation, the equivalent to a traffic ticket. The punishment is a fine of up to $1,000.

The Oregonian’s Noelle Crombie has been covering the marijuana beat for the Northwest’s largest newspaper for a few years, so she has immersed herself in all things cannabis, striving to provide accurate answers for her readers, so the entire Q&A is definitely worth checking out. The Oregonian will certainly be covering all of the ins and outs of the July 1st legalization date and then we will likely see coverage pick up again around October 1st, regulated sales thru existing medical dispensaries get approved as expected.

July 1st is an historic day in Oregon and cannabis history, so let’s all celebrate in a responsible way, knowing that we have an obligation to help the cause across the country. If you are in the Portland area, Portland NORML is helping kick off the landmark day at midnight, helping facilitate free seeds and marijuana. Personally, I am just absolutely giddy about legal marijuana in Oregon and am so excited for what the future holds for the marijuana movement in the upcoming years.

Obama Administration Makes Another Positive Marijuana Policy Change

President Obama

President Obama was expected to make great progress on marijuana law reform as candidate Obama certainly gave the cannabis community hope that we were electing a federal administration that would be smarter on drug policy. Unfortunately, the early years of the Obama Administration were a bit of a disappointment as medical marijuana arrests and prosecutions continued and even expanded for a bit during the first few years of President Obama’s tenure. Following some initial disappointment, President Obama hasn’t exactly led the movement, but he has made several positive policy decisions, helping continue our momentum federally and across the country. From the Justice Department policies of allowing states and Native American reservations to move forward with legalization, President Obama has commuted the sentences of nonviolent Drug War prisoners and has now eased restrictions to medical marijuana research.

Medical marijuana research has been stifled by a multitude of federal restrictions and hoops to jump through. Cannabis advocates have been stuck in a Kafkaesque situation where elected officials and prohibitionists claiming that not enough medical marijuana research has been conducted while federal law and policies have made the much-needed research extremely difficult, if not impossible to achieve. Thankfully, one of the barriers has been removed as the Obama Administration has just announced that the federal government would remove the Public Health Service Review. Removing one of the federal obstacles won’t end all of the hurdles needed removing, but it is yet another step forward by the Obama Administration and just the latest positive development for the cannabis community.

Of course, the Drug Policy Alliance is on top of the latest marijuana policy development and issued a press release shedding light on the latest positive move by the Obama Administration:

PRESS RELEASE  | 06/22/2015

Obama Administration Removes Crucial Barrier to Marijuana Research

Big Win for Marijuana Reform Advocates but More Has to Be Done

Senate Hearing on Medical Marijuana Scheduled for Wednesday

In a long-sought move anticipated by many marijuana reform advocates, the White House today announced that it was removing a major obstacle to marijuana research – the Public Health Service (PHS) Review. “This announcement shows that the White House is ready to move away from the war on medical marijuana, and enable the performance of legitimate and necessary research,” said Bill Piper, Director of Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “This is progress, but the White House should also end the NIDA’s unique monopoly on marijuana production, and allow private entities to grow marijuana, thus facilitating even more important research.”

The PHS Review was introduced by the Clinton Administration. At the time, the Institute for Medicine was one of the first major entities to call for more research on marijuana. But they urged the Clinton Administration to ensure the process was as controlled as possible. The Clinton Administration response was  to make the Department of Health and Human Services conduct an individual review of all applications for all marijuana research. This bureaucratic hurdle meant that research for marijuana was heavily slowed, and also meant that it became more difficult to study marijuana than to study cocaine and heroin. Today’s announcement was published in the federal register.

Marijuana advocates have called for years for the elimination of the PHS review, and its elimination was included in the CARERS Act, the groundbreaking medical marijuana bill introduced in the Senate this year by Senators Booker, Paul and Gillibrand. The research section of the bill also calls for an end to NIDA’s monopoly on marijuana production. This move by the Obama Administration comes just days before a June 24 Senate hearing on medical marijuana. On Friday, the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics, chaired by Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced a hearing entitled “Cannabidiol: Barriers to Research and Potential Medical Benefits.”

“There’s huge momentum surrounding marijuana reform, and this is just the latest example. This year we have seen the introduction of the CARERS ACT, passage of amendments in the House and Senate to stop federal interference in medical marijuana, a hearing on medical marijuana and this positive step from the White House, said Bill Piper. “Our objective of moving the CARERS Act piece by piece is bearing fruit, and there will be more to come this year.”

Largely out of public view, for more than four decades DEA and NIDA/PHS have blocked drug development research by maintaining a government monopoly on the supply of marijuana that can legally be used in research. This frustrating reality belies the recent pronouncements of pundits and policymakers implying that the FDA has already dismissed the medical benefits of marijuana or that proponents have simply failed to explore FDA approval.  While there is a plethora of scientific research establishing marijuana’s safety and efficacy, the specific FDA clinical trials necessary to bring the marijuana plant to market as a prescription medicine have been obstructed.

Marijuana remains the only Schedule I drug that DEA prohibits from being produced by private laboratories for scientific research. Although DEA has licensed multiple privately-funded manufacturers of all other Schedule I drugs, it permits just one facility, located at the University of Mississippi, to produce marijuana for research purposes. This facility, under contract with NIDA, holds a literal monopoly on the supply of marijuana available to scientists, including researchers seeking to conduct FDA-approved studies of the plant’s medical properties — studies that, of course, squarely conflict with NIDA’s mission to study drug abuse.  Unlike research with any other drugs, until now all protocols had to be approved by PHS and NIDA.

Currently, 23 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have legalized marijuana for a variety of medicinal purposes – and an additional 16 states have passed laws to allow access to CBD oils, a non-psychotropic component of marijuana that has proven uniquely effective in managing epileptic seizures that afflict children. Four states – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington – have legalized marijuana like alcohol. In 2016, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada are expected to decide ballot initiatives on the question of legalizing marijuana for adult use. A slew of recent polls show that significant majorities of both Democrats and Republicans strongly believe that the decision of whether and how to regulate marijuana should be left up to the states.

DPA Fact Sheet: Removing Marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act

DPA Fact Sheet: Medical Marijuana

Contact:

Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Bill Piper 202-669-6430

Michigan May Vote on Marijuana Legalization in 2016

Marijuana legalization may be coming to the Midwest in 2016 as two ballot initiatives have been approved for circulation in Michigan. The Great Lake State has actually been one of the leaders in marijuana policy for quite some time as Ann Arbor decriminalized personal amounts of marijuana in 1972; the state passed medical marijuana in 2008; and 17 more cities have now joined Ann Arbor in passing decriminalization laws. From the Detroit Free Press:

The board on Thursday unanimously approved petition wordings for the Michigan Cannabis Coalition and the Cannabis Law Reform Committee, though board members expressed concern that the petition wording for the Cannabis Law Reform Committee — though apparently meeting legal requirements — was too small and narrowly spaced to make it easily legible for members of the public.

Each group must now collect close to 253,000 signatures to send legislation to legalize marijuana before the Legislature. If not approved by lawmakers, the proposed laws would then go before the public in November of 2016.

Matt Marsden, a former Senate Republican staffer who is the spokesman for the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, said his group’s proposal would provide for the licensing of cannabis growers and retailers and provide tax revenues for the state. Legalizing marijuana could also significantly reduce the Michigan prison budget because the state would no longer lock up marijuana violators, he said.

In addition to helping continue the national momentum, Michigan legalizing marijuana would have a great impact upon neighboring states. Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois would definitely be influenced by Michigan. The Wolverine has head a head start on cannabis law reform and the initiative process certainly helps. After its neighbors witness the savings and additional revenue that legalization brings, state legislatures will eventually follow suit. Good luck, Michigan cannabis activists!

Legalization Allies Oppose ResponsibleOhio Marijuana Measure

Competing marijuana legalization efforts have often criticized each others’ plans, but something remarkable has happened in Ohio as both the Green Party of Ohio and Libertarian Party of Ohio have announced their opposition to ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization measure. Opposition from the two parties is rather remarkable as both have been strong advocates for marijuana legalization for decades. Whenever cannabis law reform advocates look to pass any reform measure, the Greens and Libertarians are two state party endorsements thought to be in the bag. However, ResponsibleOhio’s plan has garnered opposition from many grassroots activists and long-time allies.

From Cleveland.com:

“There is nothing ‘responsible’ about ResponsibleOhio,” Libertarian Party of Ohio Political Director Tricia Sprankle said in a statement. “This isn’t a proposal to restore rights to Ohioans. It’s a crony scheme to line the pockets of a few wealthy investors.”

The libertarians have supported legalization for more than 30 years but cannot support “the crony-capitalist nature” of the ResponsibleOhio plan, Sprankle said.

The Green Party also opposes a similar plan from a group calling itself Better for Ohio, which borrowed ResponsibleOhio’s amendment language designating 10 grow sites but would allow others to buy into the commercial model.

In a news release, Green Party of Ohio Co-Chair Bob Fitrakis said the plans would be “exchanging an illegal cartel, for a legal one, representing the worst of cannabis capitalism.” Fitrakis has been a member of the petitioning committee for Ohio Rights Group, which is pushing a competing proposal.

Admittedly, I need to research the situation in the Buckeye State a bit more, so I won’t weigh in on the merits of ResponsibleOhio’s legalization measure at this point. I will admit that I usually tend to personally support any measure that improves marijuana laws, believing that activists shouldn’t oppose laws that will lead to fewer arrests, prosecutions and imprisonments–improvements can always be made later. I hope that regardless the merits of ResponsibleOhio’s measure, the Ohio cannabis community can soon unite and vote on a measure that will end cannabis prohibition in the state.

Philadelphia Quickly Saved $1 Million Decriminalizing Marijuana

It simply makes sense that decriminalizing marijuana saves money and better prioritizes law enforcement resources. Many localities and states, large and small, have wisely decriminalized cannabis, without the sky falling. Oregon was the first state to end criminal penalties for personal possession back in 1973. Wichita, Kansas, is the latest locality, even though the Kansas’ Attorney General is unwisely challenging the voter-passed measure in court. Philadelphia became the largest city to make marijuana possession a civil infraction last October and the city is already experiencing benefits. From the Daily Caller:

Last year, Philadelphia decided to decriminalize marijuana, dropping the consequences to a simple fine for possession. That decision appears to have saved the city $1 million dollars over a very short period of time.

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Countless thousands of hours of police time have been saved. Based on a study from the RAND Corporation showing that a single custodial arrest costs the city $1,266 dollars, Philadelphia may have saved $1 million from January to March of this year, compared to 2013.

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On a state-wide level, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf also supports the decriminalization of marijuana, since according to Wolf, the criminal justice system ruins families and makes it difficult for people to find employment.

Local decriminalization measures are a great way to kick start a state’s cannabis law reform efforts. Ending costly arrests immediately save money and allow police to go after real criminals. Once a city experiences more money in its coffers and the prohibitionists’ predictions of marijuana mayhem doesn’t occur, then more cities and potentially the entire state looks to duplicate the success. And once voters can see that people can use marijuana responsibly, legalization becomes more likely as every budget can use additional revenue.

Portland High Times Cannabis Cup Still Looking for A Space?

I heard a rumor today, to add to the plethora of ones circulating around July 2015. It has to do with High Times Cannabis Cup. Not news to many at this point, the Cannabis Cup is coming to Portland, Oregon, this July in celebration of the implementation of Measure 91, the bill that recreationally legalized marijuana for adults 21 and up in Oregon. The question that remains unanswered, however, is who will be hosting?

A little more than two months out from July 1, the date Measure 91 takes effect, you would think this question would have been answered. So why the hold up Portland? Fifty-seven percent of Oregonians supported the right to use and consume cannabis, and that is exactly what goes down at a cannabis cup.

When thinking of venues, the most obvious one that comes to mind is the Oregon Convention Center (OCC). Built in 1990 to host large conventions and bring in tourism, the OCC is the ideal location for events of this size. Just a couple of weeks ago, they were willing hosts to the Craft Brewers Conference, which brought in an impressive 11,500 attendees and filled the brew pubs of Portland with craft beer aficionados and connoisseurs from all over the world. It was a shining and lucrative moment for the OCC and the city of Portland, and one that would pair nicely (in my humble opinion) with a cannabis cup.

Turns out the ladies and gentlemen of High Times thought so too. So here it is, less of a rumor and more a fact, High Times called the OCC this afternoon to inquire about a space for this July’s cannabis cup. Instead of a warm welcome, however, they were met with hesitation.

I can not exactly say why, but I am left to assume it has something to do with the OCC’s no smoking policy, as well as a slight stigma against cannabis. That said, the OCC did play host to last years International Cannabis Business Conference in September, and the Executive Director does hold the authority to override the no smoking policy on given occasions.

So while it may still make some chuckle, the thought of the OCC hosting the Cannabis Cup is not out of the question. On the contrary, it would be a huge opportunity for the OCC to make history in hosting Oregon’s first recreational cannabis cup, and probably pretty profitable too.

Medical cannabis cups have been a staple in the cannabis community for several years now. It was not until 2013, however, and after Colorado passed legalization, that the recreational cannabis cup was held in Denver. The Denver Convention Center was host to this year’s High Times Cannabis Cup, so maybe the OCC will be too? Here’s to hoping, and to history.