May 25, 2016

Russ Belville, Author at MARIJUANA POLITICS

Russ Belville

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland 2015.

Marijuana Heart Attack Risk Claims Unfounded

Marijuana Heart Attack Risk

Researchers at the American College of Cardiology 2016 Scientific Sessions have presented new evidence that seems to debunk common marijuana heart attack risk claims. Not only does prior marijuana use not seem to affect survival factors after suffering a heart attack, it seems marijuana use may improve post-heart attack survival factors while still in the hospital.

Investigators culled data from over one million heart attack patients, with over 3,800 who had reported prior marijuana use. After controlling for confounding variables like age, race, and known heart attack risk factors, the researchers found that the marijuana consumers were no more likely to die or face another heart attack than the marijuana-abstinent patients.

“We already know that marijuana helps with pain and cataracts,” said Dr. Andrew Freeman of Denver’s National Jewish Health to Medscape’s heartwire, adding, “we should be looking deeper into it, just as we should with any drug.”

Marijuana Heart Attack Risk Survival Better in Hospital

While there was no long-term survival difference between those patients who consumed marijuana and those who didn’t, the rates for dying post-heart attack while in the hospital were lower for the marijuana consumers. Risks for shock among the marijuana patients was much lower as were the risks from using an intra-aortic balloon pump during heart surgery on those patients.

However, marijuana-using patients did have an increased risk for assisted breathing while in the hospital after a heart attack. Researchers hypothesize there may be some connection to the smoking of marijuana, rather than the marijuana itself, that may require mechanical ventilation more often.

“This suggests that the theory that the smoke is more damaging is probably the real deal,” said Dr. Freeman. “And we need to be very cautious about that.”

The study is limited in that it cannot make claims that marijuana use leads to greater survival rates in-hospital for heart attack victims. The study’s lead author, medical student Cecelia Johnson-Sasso at University of Colorado-Denver, cautions that there is no causal proof of “what appears to be prevention from death.”

While Johnson-Sasso and her team are careful to stress they aren’t advocating for marijuana use, they also are optimistic about the medical ramifications of their research. “More basic science and clinical research are definitely needed,” said Johnson-Sasso. “We can’t yet make recommendations, but I’d say to keep this information in mind as more research is being done.” If other studies replicate these findings, she adds, “further investigation into the possible therapeutic benefit of CB-receptor agonists in [myocardial infarction] may be warranted.”

Bernie Sanders Marijuana Accessories Are Yuge Hit

Bernie Sanders Marijuana Smoking Accessories

It’s no secret that many of us at Marijuana Politics are Feeling the Bern, excited at the potential of a major party candidate who promises to remove marijuana from federal drug schedules. But now we can Feel the Bern as we feel the burn with exciting new Bernie Sanders marijuana accessories! These products are YUGE!

Bernie Sanders Marijuana Accessories – Papers

Bernie Sanders Marijuana Accessories
Get your king-size papers for $5 at

The entrepreneurs at have come up with Bernie Sanders marijuana rolling papers. They come emblazoned with the Bernie 2016 campaign logo on the front and a “Feel the Bern” caricature on the back of the king-size pack.

Each pack is only $4.99 and large-quantity discounts are available. The site even provides a link to donate to Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

But maybe you don’t roll joints. You need Bernie Sanders marijuana accessories with some permanence, something you can pass on to your grandkids (because you’re the cool grandparent). No problem! Portland, Oregon’s Ariel Zimman has got you covered.

Bernie Sanders Marijuana Accessories – Pipes

Bernie Sanders Marijuana Smoking Accessories
Get your Bernie Pipe for $60 or Bernie Chillum for $30 at Stonedware Company

HIGH TIMES reported on her white ceramic pipes she’s been marketing as “Burners for Bernie”. She’s selling the pipes for $60 and chillums for $30 with his campaign logo through her website and donating 10 percent of the proceeds to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Well, she was donating to the campaign. The items sold so well that she’s maxed out the personal $2,700 donation limit to presidential campaigns. That means she sold at least $27,000 worth of those pipes. Now your “Burners for Bernie” help fund charities that support women in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) and the Arts.

Bernie Sanders Marijuana Accessories – Lighters

Bernie Sanders Marijuana Accessories
Get your three-pack of Bernie Lighters for $12 at Etsy

Whether you get the papers or the pipes, you’re going to need some flame. Fortunately, BernieLighters over at Etsy has got you covered. You can pick up a three-pack featuring a blue “Feel the Bern” lighter, a flaming angry “Feel the Bern!” lighter, and an American flag buff-Bernie Photoshop lighter, all for just $12.

Bernie Sanders Marijuana Accessories – Ashtray

Now you’re feeling it, but you can’t go dirtying up the planet by leaving your ashes everywhere. That’s where PiccadillyWoods on Etsy comes in with the Bernie Sanders Ashtray, available for only $8.

Are these Bernie Sanders marijuana accessories legal? Probably not. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) wrote that “attorneys say entrepreneurs open themselves to risk by using candidates’ names, likenesses or logos — especially when promising to donate a specific portion of their sales.”

Bernie Sanders Marijuana Accessories
Get your Bernie Ashtray for $8 at Etsy

But when Ariel Zimman is sending your campaign the maximum $2,700 political donation, do you think Bernie’s lawyers are going to go after her for appropriating his trademark? Who’s going to pass up the priceless word-of-mouth advertising for their candidate, even if it is among cannabis consumers passing a joint or pipe around?

Tokers may be the audience of die-hard supporters you most want to be reminded constantly of an upcoming election. Ken Gross, a political law expert, told CPI, “I can’t imagine the campaign going against them. They’re supporters. They don’t want to turn them off.”

Whether Bernie Sanders wins the nomination or not, you win with these unique political keepsakes that can help spark the political revolution.

Bernie Sanders Path to Victory

Bernie Sanders Birdiecrats

A Little Birdie Told Me The Bernie Sanders Path to the Nomination

With another set of wins in the western states of Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, Senator Bernie Sanders has chipped away at Secretary Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. However, the math in the remaining states makes the Bernie Sanders path to the nomination daunting, indeed.

Political handicappers point out that at the beginning of the day, Clinton had a lead of +312 pledged delegates. Some media outlets, like CNN, misleadingly continue to add Clinton’s superdelegates – party insiders who don’t vote until the convention – and include analysis like the following:

But Sanders still faces daunting mathematical odds as he tries to catch up with Clinton’s delegate count, particularly because delegates are allocated proportionally. The former secretary of state has already amassed 1,711 of the 2,383 delegates she would need to clinch the nomination, according to CNN estimates, while Sanders has notched 952 delegates to date. That means he would need to win 75% of the remaining pledged delegates to defeat her.

Bernie Sanders Path to the Nomination Began With a Bird
#BirdieSanders (Photo credit: Alicia Rose)

Such number crunching is meant to discourage Sanders’ supporters in an attempt to get him to end his campaign so Clinton can focus on the general election. But in reality, since superdelegates don’t count until the convention, Sanders needs to capture 58 percent of the remaining pledged delegates – not 75 percent – to overtake her by the convention. If that happens, superdelegates would be risking the wrath of Democratic voters upset that their votes had been rendered moot if they didn’t support the winning candidate.

It would require a sort of political miracle rarely seen in American politics for Sanders to pull it off. He pretty much has to run the table of remaining states and notch some huge victories in places where Clinton is easily expected to win.

But here is an admittedly fantastic projection of how Bernie could do it. And before you ask me what I’m smoking, I can’t tell you, because marijuana for sale to healthy people in Arizona isn’t labeled. We start with the assumption that Sanders wins Hawaii later tonight and Clinton’s delegate lead stands at +274.

Hillary Alienates the Cheeseheads

We'll never forget Packer's legend Brent Favrey!
We’ll never forget Packers’ legend Brent Favrey!

The Bernie Sanders path starts in early April by campaigning for Wisconsin’s 86 delegates by hammering Clinton on her support of disastrous trade policies. Clinton campaigns in Green Bay, trying to appear likeable by sharing some beers and brats with hometown Green Bay Packers fans. But she commits a huge gaffe by referring to former Packers quarterback “Brent Favrey”. The clip gets paired with the infamous clip of John Kerry referring to “Lambert Field” in the 2004 campaign and goes viral, reminding ‘Sconnies that Hillary will say anything to get elected.

At one campaign event in a rural area of Wisconsin, local news crews get a shot of a wild badger peeking his head up in the background while Bernie Sanders delivers his speech. That video invites comparisons to the “Birdie Sanders” clip from Portland, Oregon, and gives Sanders more free positive airtime. Voters reward Sanders with a 63 percent win on April 5th.

Four days later in Wyoming, voters there follow the lead of voters in demographically-similar Idaho and Utah and give Sanders an 80 percent win. Heading into the crucial April 19th New York primary, Clinton’s delegate lead is down to +244.

Wall Street Crash Leads to New York Stunner

cash money
Image via

The Bernie Sanders Path gets considerably tougher. As the former senator from New York, Clinton goes into the contest with a huge lead in the polls. But the idea of Sanders’ momentum keeps growing, with wins in seven of the last eight states. Also, questions about illegal electioneering by Bill Clinton in Massachusetts and voter suppression in Arizona begin to surface in the mainstream media.

While both candidates are campaigning heavily in New York, there is a tremendous week-long 700-point plunge on the stock market. Donald Trump hits Clinton relentlessly from the right and Sanders continues to tie Clinton to Wall Street on the left. The barrage weakens Clinton’s support enough to allow Sanders to squeak by her with 50.1 percent of the vote, stealing one more delegate from her and dropping her lead to +243.

Sanders Outperforms Expectations on Mid-Atlantic Tuesday

Bernie Sanders and Jesse JacksonWall Street is still struggling to recover the next week as the campaigns turn to the five states that have elections on April 26. Clinton’s inevitability took a tremendous hit by not winning her “home” state of New York and the mantra that Sanders has won every state that’s voted in the past thirty days. The Bernie Sanders path is still a tough one.

Tragically, there is another terrible case of a police officer shooting an unarmed black man on video, this time in Hartford, Connecticut. Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns address the tragedy and both are confronted with aggressive Black Lives Matter protesters. Sanders is heckled at another one of his huge rallies and he takes the time to gather some of the protesters on stage to have their say. Video is played on the news showing BLM protestors embracing Sanders and raising his arm in solidarity.

A day later at Hillary’s far smaller and strictly managed event, there is a similar attempt by Black Lives Matter to take the podium like they had at Sanders’ rally. But Clinton comes off dismissive to the protesters. Video of white Secret Service agents physically removing the protesters at Clinton’s is split-screen with the BLM embrace of Sanders video and video of security physically removing protesters from Trump’s rally.

The resulting hit to her popularity with African-Americans, especially in the younger generation, combined with upper class white panic over the Wall Street plunge allows Sanders to complete a close sweep of all five states – Connecticut at 52 percent, Delaware at 54 percent, Maryland at 54 percent, Pennsylvania at 53 percent, and Rhode Island at 54 percent. Clinton’s delegate count is down to +219 and has dropped 126 points – over a third – since her last win in Arizona.

May Day! May Day!

640px-President_Bill_Clinton_2007Stories begin to circulate about upcoming indictments in the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s personal email server – not for Clinton, but for close aides. That distinction is lost on the general public and Clinton’s already bad trustworthiness and likeability numbers continue to drop. The Bernie Sanders path is getting a bit easier.

Donald Trump has not secured enough delegates for the Republican nomination, leading to more speculation of the GOP establishment drafting Speaker Paul Ryan to deny Trump the nomination at a brokered convention. Polls show Clinton losing badly to Ryan and only beating Trump within the polls’ margin of error.

Sanders continues to trounce Trump in the polls and the first round of polls show him beating Ryan by seven points. Word leaks that Clinton is struggling in her fundraising and that key superdelegates in landslide states for Sanders begin announcing they’re switching their votes to Sanders. The feeling that it’s all coming apart for Clinton becomes palpable, punctuated by a cell phone video someone captures backstage at a Clinton event where Hillary and Bill are screaming angrily at each other.

In this environment and with the economic effects of the 700-point stock market drop beginning to be felt, Sanders notches an unexpectedly large win in Indiana, with 60 percent of the vote. Guam votes similar to other overseas Democrats and gives Sanders a 66 percent win.

The “Big Coal Speech”

Copyright: gaohan / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: gaohan / 123RF Stock Photo

Media begins framing the new Bernie Sanders path as a Rocky-like fighter who just will not go down as Clinton’s pledged delegate lead drops below +200 to +199 on the Guam results. With increased attention nationally to Sanders continuing to pack arenas and building a populist wave, Sanders delivers what historians will call his “Big Coal Speech” in Morgantown, West Virginia.

“For too many years,” Sanders tells the crowd of thousands at the University of West Virginia, “the titans of Big Coal have lined their pockets with profits purchased with the health and lives of the good working people of coal mining country, working people who work one of the most hazardous jobs on the planet.

“Now even those jobs are disappearing as Big Coal now simply slices off the tops of mountains to get at this dirtiest of energy sources. Well, some people may disagree, but I say it is time to end the era of Big Coal. The federal government should invest in helping the working people of West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and other coal producing regions become the world leaders in alternative energy production, through massive job retraining programs and tax incentives for alternative energy companies that create jobs right here in West Virginia!

My opponent likes to say that I’m promising ‘free stuff’. I say it takes some gall to say investing in the American people is some sort of giveaway. For how long have we given ‘free stuff’ to ExxonMobil and Chevron in the form of huge subsidies? For how long have we given ‘free stuff’ to Walmart in the form of food stamps for their employees – where the richest family in America, the Walmart heirs, don’t pay their employees enough to feed their families? For how long have we given ‘free stuff’ to the richest one-tenth of one-percent in the form of loopholes and tax havens and benefits they accrue from shipping our jobs overseas?

For too long, I say, and if somebody like Donald Trump wants to say investing in West Virginia to become an economic powerhouse, producing alternative energy products, cleaning rather than polluting our environment, if he wants to say that is some sort of handout, he should come here and say that to the faces of the working people of West Virginia!”

The West Virginia people eat it up and reward Sanders with a 55 percent win. Meanwhile, more speculation swirls around Speaker Ryan being drafted by the establishment Republicans as Ted Cruz is still hanging around, picking off more conservative states and preventing Trump from gaining the majority he needs to guarantee his nomination.

Another Pacific Northwest Shellacking

BirdieCrats Cropped-680As we hit the middle of May, Hillary Clinton hasn’t won a contest since the beginning of spring. Arizona seems a long time ago as Sanders keeps winning and drawing huge crowds. Trump has been barraging Clinton in the media, resurrecting scandal after scandal that are ultimately old news, but Trump’s celebrity reality style makes them all new again for the media. Trump’s few attacks on Bernie mostly consists of implying he’s weak, too old, a “communist”, and he once wrote some “disgusting” stories, but nothing really sticks.

Oregon and Kentucky vote on the Bernie Sanders path on May 17. The “Put a Bird on It” moment in Portland back in March has metastasized into a phenomenon all throughout Oregon. The cute little finch comes to represent a symbolic “third party” – neither donkey nor elephant – that rejects the establishment political offerings. The finch t-shirts are ubiquitous among trendy Oregonians and rural residents, many of whom are Republicans who cannot stomach Donald Trump.

Clinton bravely campaigns in Portland, trying to salvage as many of the delegates as possible, worried she may not even make the threshold to be awarded any delegates proportionally in Oregon. But her string of terrible bird-related luck continues. At a speech outdoors in Portland she gets an airborne delivery of bird shit on the right shoulder of her blue pantsuit, just as she’s delivering a line about how she will fight for the values of personal privacy and government accountability that all Oregonians believe in. The hashtag #BirdsForBernie becomes a trending topic and the loop of what gets called “The Second Blue Clinton Dress Stain” takes America by storm.

Oregon votes 4-to-1 in Sanders’ favor and Kentucky follows West Virginia in giving Sanders a 55 percent victory. Clinton’s delegate lead is now down to +156, less than half of what it was when she last won a primary or caucus – eighteen states ago. And if fighting off Trump, Cruz, and Sanders weren’t enough, Ryan has started dipping his toes in the political waters, lobbing a few thinly veiled attacks at Clinton.

California Dreamin’ on Final Super Tuesday

California FlagSanders gets another couple of appetizers in early June. The US Virgin Islands votes on the 4th and gives him a 66 percent win and a 5 to 2 delegate split. The real surprise comes in Puerto Rico, where most people had expected Clinton to finally put an end to her losing stream, thanks to the large Hispanic population. But Sanders’ string of wins and the support of more Latino/a leaders, including some more superdelegates, coupled with a renewed focus on minority communities, propels Sanders to an amazing 66 percent win there as well.

The table is set for the homestretch of the Bernie Sanders path with Clinton still maintaining a +133 delegate lead over Sanders. Both have been spending heavily on ads in California for weeks, but Bernie’s powerfully broad small-donor base keeps setting records while Hillary’s fundraising stalls enough that she and Bill begin loaning some of their own fortune to her campaign. Trump and Cruz hammer her for being unable to fundraise and Sanders points out that both his opponents, Trump and Clinton, are the mega-rich funding their own campaigns.

Polls in California are plentiful and all over the place. Some have Clinton winning a nail-biter, some have it going the other way for Sanders, but by a slightly larger margin. Everyone says it will all come down to turnout. On this last Super Tuesday of June 7th, with the biggest prize on the line, the political world is shocked as turnout crushes records. Universities report being nearly empty as college students are camped out in voting lines before the polls even open.

Initial counts of early and absentee voting in California show Sanders with a lead. The news boosts the morale of the young people standing in those long lines all across the state. The voting continues past midnight and the world is shocked when Sanders pulls off an unthinkable 58 percent win, fueled by the record turnout of young people. With just the win in California, Sanders has knocked another 77 delegates off of Clinton’s once insurmountable lead.

The California upset is the second big one of the night. On the East Coast, Sanders defied all expectations by pulling out a 60 percent win in New Jersey, as people still fed up with the so-called stock market correction let their dissatisfaction with Wall Street be heard. Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota went as rural white states have gone for Sanders, giving him a 75 percent, 80 percent, and 75 percent, respectively. New Mexico also reacts to the increased support of Latinos/as for Sanders and breaks from next-door Arizona by giving Sanders a 66 percent win.

The End of Inevitability

Hillary ClintonMost of all, the California win does for the Bernie Sanders path what was once though impossible. For the first time in the primary contest, Sanders has pulled ahead of Clinton in pledged delegates – just +11, 1,982 to 1,971 – leaving the nation’s capital, Washington DC, to decide who will be the people’s Democratic nominee.

The week of campaigning is fierce and Clinton finally notches her first win since Arizona in March on June 14th when DC voters support her by a 3-to-1 margin. But that nets her 15 delegates and Sanders 5 delegates, leaving him with a +1 margin in pledged delegates over Hillary Clinton. The media, however, has been adding in the remaining superdelegates of hers who haven’t switched over, giving her the appearance of being the party’s nominee in two weeks. Sanders supporters are furious and vow to ensure the finch wing of the Democratic Party wins that nominating battle.

The GOP Convention begins in Cleveland in just four days after DC votes. Trump hasn’t collected enough delegates to win on a first ballot. Ryan continues to beat Clinton in nationwide polls and Sanders continues to beat Ryan in those same polls. The convention is a madhouse full of angry Trump supporters and there is plenty of violence for the cameras to cover. The GOP finally picks Ryan to be their nominee and hope Trump sticks to his pledge to support the nominee. Trump, only interested in winning, knows he can’t win an independent bid and bows out, asking his supporters to get behind Ryan so Clinton will lose.

Next comes the Democratic Convention, where the momentum of three months of nothing but Bernie Sanders wins (minus DC) combined with his actual +1 pledged delegate lead and superior poll performance against the Republican nominee Paul Ryan are all in Sanders’ favor. Sanders eventually converts enough of Clinton’s superdelegates and picks up more of his own from unpledged superdelegates that he wins the Democratic nomination for president of the United States and goes on to beat Speaker Paul Ryan with 58 percent of the popular vote – coincidentally what he needed  to win in the remaining Democratic primaries when we started this fantasy.

Bernie's Path 2016-03-26

You know what? This black market Arizona weed isn’t so bad…

Richard Nixon’s Racist Drug War

FILE - In this March 15, 1973, file photo President Nixon tells a White House news conference that he will not allow his legal counsel, John Dean, to testify on Capitol Hill in the Watergate investigation and challenged the Senate to test him in the Supreme Court. A feisty Nixon defended his shredded legacy and Watergate-era actions in grand jury testimony that he thought would never come out. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, it did. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi, File)

Richard Nixon’s Racist Drug War (Or: What Took Y’all So Long?)

The internet was ablaze this week with the bombshell that Richard Nixon’s Racist Drug War was launched for racist and political purposes.

Dan Baum wrote an amazing cover story for Harper’s Magazine entitled “Legalize It All“. It leads with a quote from John Ehrlichman. He was President Richard Nixon’s domestic policy adviser and one of the Watergate co-conspirators who served time in prison for his crimes. In 1994, Ehrlichman said to Baum:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

It’s interesting he refers to the Nixon campaign and the Nixon White House, which doesn’t necessarily mean Nixon himself, but rather the political operatives, like Ehrlichman, who surrounded him.

Richard Nixon's Racist Drug WarI don’t think Nixon vilified the hippies and the blacks so he could win elections or anything so calculating, though I’m certain his inner circle did. I think Nixon actually believed that hippies and blacks and Communists and gays and Jews were terrible threats to society. Richard Nixon’s racist drug war was his duty as president of the United States! Drug users were Public Enemy Number One! But not the drinkers. Drug users kill societies, not drinkers.

Yes, Nixon actually believed that. He was one of those true-believer what-about-the-children?!? types. The evidence is all there in the Nixon White House Tapes. These archives, which were laboriously transcribed by Common Sense for Drug Policy, reveal a racist anti-Semitic homophobic cannabigoted Nixon at his alcohol-embracing hypocritical worst:

 “[Marijuana] is now becoming a white problem”

RICHARD NIXON:  “When will the marijuana one come out?”

RAYMOND SCHAFFER: “The marijuana will come out in March ‘72. In other words we are coming into the final phases of it now, we’ve had all of our public hearings. We have not, we have nine more informal hearings.”

RICHARD NIXON:  “You’ve had all your public hearings already?”

RAYMOND SCHAFFER: “All of the public hearings, yes, and, uh, we’ve had, had, have had several informal hearings, we have nine more of those including one at, at federal college (?), Monday.”


RAYMOND SCHAFFER: “Right here in Washington, [unintelligible].”

RICHARD NIXON:  “Hard to find anybody who isn’t on the stuff?”

RAYMOND SCHAFFER: “Uh, no. [unintelligible] Over 75 percent of the [unintelligible] are white, and, uh, and under 18, almost 85 percent, which I [unintelligible].”

RICHARD NIXON:  “It’s now becoming a white problem.”

“I want a goddamn strong statement on marijuana… that just tears the ass out of them”

RICHARD NIXON:  “Now, this is one thing I want. I want a Goddamn strong statement on marijuana. Can I get that out of this sonofabitching, uh, Domestic Council?”

H.R. HALDEMAN: “Sure.”

Richard Nixon's Racist Drug War
(Photo by Ellsworth Davis/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

RICHARD NIXON:  “I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them. I see another thing in the news summary this morning about it. You know it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob, what is the matter with them? I suppose it’s because most of them are psychiatrists, you know, there’s so many, all the greatest psychiatrists are Jewish. By God we are going to hit the marijuana thing, and I want to hit it right square in the puss, I want to find a way of putting more on that. More [ unintelligible ] work with somebody else with this.”

H.R. HALDEMAN: “Mm hmm, yep.”

RICHARD NIXON:  “I want to hit it, against legalizing and all that sort of thing.”


MarijuanaPolitics Blogger Featured on Phoenix Newscast


This just in from the Department of Tooting My Own Horn: I was featured last night on the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, Arizona, for my dedication to nationwide marijuana reform and my tattoo commemorating that mission. CBS 5 covered me as part of their story on Scottsdale-based, the network that hosts my live daily podcast, The Russ Belville Show.

A marijuana advocate and talk show host on the Valley-based Cannabis Radio Network has a target on his back. Literally.

“Radical” Russ Belville, host of the Russ Belville Show, has a map of the United States tattooed from shoulder to shoulder. States that have legalized recreational use of marijuana Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska are shaded in green ink.

“I’m not stopping until all 50 states are legal. I’m not stopping until nobody has to fear a drug test for their job. I’m not stopping until every patient who needs medical cannabis can get it.”

“Will I be in my 80s by the time Kansas legalizes? Maybe. But since I use a lot of cannabis, I’m sure I’ll see it,” he said with a smile.


Make Cannabis Industry Reparations by Favoring Criminal Marijuana Convictions


There is an informative piece on BuzzFeed entitled “How Black People Are Being Shut Out of America’s Weed Boom” that is a must-read for the marijuana movement. If it is a subject that interests you (and it should) you can also check out to learn more.

The gist is that the legal marijuana world is a rich white man’s playground, after decades of the illegal marijuana world being the domain of black and brown people who bore the brunt of racist prohibition enforcement. As Michelle Alexander put it, “White Men Get Rich from Legal Pot, Black Men Stay in Prison.

One major hurdle for minority involvement in the newly legal cannabis industry is the high cost of getting licensed for cultivation operations and dispensaries. States may require outrageously high demonstrations of secured capital – like being able to show one has a $2 million letter of credit – before even applying for a license. Then there are non-refundable application fees in the tens of thousands of dollars.

These kinds of requirements obviously favor white capitalists who are able to amass such fortunes in an economy that disfavors building minority wealth through historic practices such as real-estate redlining and the legacy of slavery through Jim Crow that has left black families with virtually no wealth.

But the monetary hurdles are secondary barriers more indicative of systemic racism in general than anything particular to the marijuana movement. As Dr. Carl Hart put it, “We can’t expect one fledgling, developing industry alone to solve this major problem in the United States, which the republic has ignored since we came out of slavery. That’s not even logical.”

Yes, we could write marijuana laws so that there aren’t such enormous monetary barriers to entry, but that’s not going to fix the black/white wealth gap, in other words.

Another hurdle that is specific to the newly legal cannabis industry, however, is the practice of disqualifying for licensure anybody who has had a conviction for being a part of the previously illegal cannabis industry.

Not only is this in effect racist, since black and brown growers and dealers were four times more likely to be busted in the illegal cannabis industry, but it is also counter-productive. Why would we want to shut out from the legal industry those who gained the requisite experience illegally? Why would we want to favor operators who are less likely to have real-world knowledge of how cannabis production, supply, marketing, and demand actually work?

Lawmakers, I believe, like these “no drug felons” restrictions because of a mistaken understanding of what drug dealers are. They are not evil criminal masterminds looking to harm the public for their personal gain – they are entrepreneurs no different from any other, aside from their product being illegal. If they have a chance to become legal entrepreneurs, they will abandon the illegal side, and isn’t that what we want to happen? Why would we incentivize those who’ve been criminal marijuana dealers to remain criminal marijuana dealers?

Obviously, then, we need to write marijuana laws so that one’s non-violent marijuana conviction isn’t a barrier to getting licensure. We can also ensure that our laws don’t contain vague coded references to judging an applicant’s “character”, something that can work against a minority applicant without being overtly racist enough to be called out. We can do more like my home state of Oregon and provide easy pathways and assistance to expunging criminal records of marijuana violations that are no longer illegal.

But if I may offer a radical suggestion, we should take the concept further.

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote for The Atlantic the excellent piece called “The Case for Reparations”, detailing how and why America owes African-Americans payback on that “40 acres and a mule” promise to make up for the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow. Solving that large a problem is beyond my pay grade, but in my little slice of marijuana activism, may I offer a case for reparations in our domain?

Make an affirmative action program for marijuana licensing that gives bonus points for licensure to applicants with prior non-violent marijuana convictions.

This program would then favor minority applicants indirectly, since they will be four times more likely than white applicants, generally speaking, to be able to accrue those bonus points. But it wouldn’t be racially unfair, as a white applicant who’d been busted could get those points, too.

Critics would say that such a system rewards past lawbreaking. But isn’t the point of legalization a recognition that calling those past behaviors “lawbreaking” was wrong? By promoting the previously convicted for licensure, we’d be incentivizing people previously and currently involved in the illegal market to become legal operators who follow regulations and pay taxes. We’d be draining the best horticultural and sales talent from the illegal side of the ledger.

Some might say that such a system unfairly penalizes the savvy growers and dealers who avoided getting caught. But since that avoidance of law enforcement also has a racially-favorable bias toward whiteness, it’s not a complaint that will garner much sympathy. Yes, sorry you grew illegally for twenty years and scored lower than the two-year grower who got caught – your consolation prize is that you did no prison time and got to enjoy your prohibition profits on the outside.

Such a system would begin to create an engine of wealth for communities of color, addressing a small piece of Coates’ call for reparations. It could succeed without angering regressive whites by being a program that explicitly favors black and brown people. Prohibitionists who play the “more liquor stores in the ‘hood” card to fearmonger about legal pot shops would have less traction with minority voters if the people in the ‘hood were owning and benefitting from those shops.

Merging Medical and Recreational Marijuana Makes Sense

OLCC rec store

The Oregon Legislature has completed its short session and has once again made significant changes to marijuana laws in the state. By all appearances it seems like the legislature’s goal has been to merge the medical and recreational marijuana systems in the state.

I think that’s a fantastic idea that is best for both medical and recreational consumers, especially in the Portland area.

The first step was when the legislature passed the so-called “early sales” bill. That law allowed the existing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell to all adults 21 and over. Sales were limited to just 7 grams of cannabis flower and four seedlings, so there would still be plenty of flower for patients. Edibles, tinctures, and concentrates were still off-limits to recreational consumers, though.

This was a laudable move, motivated by Sen. Ted Ferrioli’s observation that if we were legal to possess and grow as of July 1, 2015, but had nowhere to acquire marijuana, we would simply support the black market until our recreational shops open in September 2016.

What has happened instead is that some people are satisfied with 7 gram purchases, but others find that a short drive across the Columbia River into Vancouver, Washington, takes you to multiple shops that will sell you a full ounce at far lower prices than found in Portland. The shops there will also sell you edibles, tinctures, and concentrates.

This session, the legislature continued the process of merging the two systems. Laws were passed that allow the existing dispensaries to add edibles, tinctures, and concentrates to the menu for all adult shoppers. Future recreational shops will be able to sell their products to medical marijuana patients tax-free. New licenses have been created to allow for micro-canopy grows and for non-profit dispensaries to continue purchasing product from medical growers. (Some of these bills have been passed and signed by the governor, others still await her signature as of press time.)

That means sometime this fall, there will be one building called a dispensary where anybody can go in and purchase marijuana products, but patients make those purchases free from tax. Then there will be another building called a pot shop where anybody can go in and purchase marijuana products, but patients make those purchases free from tax. The recreational products will come from recreational grows to be regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) and the medical products will come from medical grows to be regulated by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).

These nearly identical parallel systems for producing, regulating, inspecting, and distributing marijuana add unnecessary cost to taxpayers and unnecessary paperwork for cannabis entrepreneurs and caregivers. Merging the two only makes sense.

One criticism I’ve heard about the idea of merging is that patients have much more sensitive needs for their medicine, in terms of being contaminant-free and medically effective. That sounds like “It’s OK for recreational consumers to be poisoned by lousy weed.” Just make the inspection and quality standards for marijuana products that which will suffice for patients. I guarantee that we recreational consumers will not mind getting clean, powerful weed.

Another criticism is without a medical-only system, there will be a dearth of patient-specific products, like high-CBD oils, for instance. But that’s not how supply and demand works. If there is a huge demand for, say, vacuum cleaners, it wouldn’t matter if there was a dedicated vacuum cleaner shop in your town or a Wal-Mart. If people want to buy vacuum cleaners or high-CBD oils, someone will sell them, it doesn’t matter where they will be sold.

A third point is that many places in Oregon are going to outright ban any sort of recreational marijuana, but might accept a medical marijuana shop. Well, the only difference between a patient and a pothead is that Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) card. In the future, bans of recreational marijuana would simply become a requirement for an OMMP card to enter a pot shop.

Another reason for merging the systems is the issue of location. Currently, there are over 250 medical marijuana dispensaries that must be 1,000 feet from schools and such. That means the medical side has already poached all the best locations in any given town. If new pot shops have to be separate and have to be 1,000 feet from the dispensaries, it pushes the recreational shops to the faraway fringes of any given town.

Let there be an entity that licenses, regulates, and inspects marijuana in the state of Oregon – I’d prefer a new cannabis-only commission stocked with people who’ve actually used cannabis, rather than the current squares on the OLCC – but let there be just one entity. Let there be one universal system of grows, processors, extractors, testers, and retailers to serve both patients and potheads alike.

That’s not to disregard patients’ needs. Let the OMMP remain and issue cards to patients. That card, shown at a universal pot shop, gets you a tax-free purchase and allows you to purchase in greater quantities. It allows the patient to maintain greater home-grow allowances and possession. It allows the patients and their caregivers to sell excess marijuana to the non-profit OLCC shops. It also provides that out-of-state coverage in the other medical states that have reciprocity.

Why does this need to be so difficult?

California MCLR Initiative Makes It More Difficult to Jail Adults Who Sell Marijuana to Kids


UPDATE: I mistakenly reviewed the text from what was the version 5 of MCLR. I have updated the text of this article in italics to reflect the changes found in the version 7 currently being circulated. I apologize for the error.

You may have heard that there is another marijuana legalization initiative in California that isn’t the one supported by billionaire Sean Parker and the major drug policy organizations. It’s called the Marijuana Control, Legalization, & Revenue Act (MCLR) and its supporters tout the fact that it’s the first legalization measure that can be printed on a single sheet of paper, petition space, summary, and all.

Today I’m preparing my hyperlinked documentation of MCLR , to go along with the ones I’ve done for California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), as well as the Campaigns to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) in Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maine. That’s when I discovered a fatal electoral flaw in the MCLR.

If MCLR passes, it would be impossible difficult to do anything but fine an adult who sells marijuana to a kid.

Let’s dispense with the disclaimer that I am not a lawyer. However, I have read a whole lot of state initiatives and statutes and I believe I’m correct in this interpretation.

Section 7 of MCLR states: “Sections 11357, 11358, 11359, 11360, 11361, and 11485 of the Health and Safety Code are hereby repealed.”

There are some in the movement who criticize legalization initiatives as not being “True Legalization™” because they retain existing criminal penalties while merely providing windows of lawful behavior within a certain range. For instance, Washington State legalized possession of an ounce of marijuana, but the felony that already existed for possessing more than 40 grams is still on the books.

Therefore, I can understand why MCLR chose to repeal Health & Safety Code (H&SC) sections 11357 [marijuana possession crimes], 11358 [marijuana cultivation crimes], 11359 [marijuana sales crimes], 11360 [marijuana trafficking crimes], and 11485 [asset forfeiture] – nobody would go to jail or lose their stuff over a plant — but why repeal 11361?

Here are the statutes MCLR would be repealing. When you read section 11361, you’ll find the following (trimmed for brevity):

“Every person 18 years of age or over who… unlawfully sells… any marijuana to a minor under 14 years of age… shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of three, five, or seven years.”

How would the MCLR campaign respond to the inevitable attack ad that states, factually, that passing MCLR would legalize end the mandatory imprisonment of adults selling marijuana to children under 14? If section 11361 is repealed, there is no statute on the books to punish adults who sell marijuana to kids!

Perhaps the response is found in section 3, where MCLR creates a new division of the business code. There, in new section 27400, “The Legislature shall implement this Act with one or more bills…” Certainly, we would expect the California legislature to pass bills making it illegal for adults to sell marijuana to kids.

But in new section 27500, “Violations of any statute or regulation enacted or promulgated to implement this Act shall not constitute a felony and shall not be punished by imprisonment.”

The worst punishment the legislature could invoke for dealing marijuana to kids would be a misdemeanor with a fine.

The punishment MCLR proposes for selling marijuana to minors would be the punishment an adult receives for selling cigarettes to minors, as shown in new section 27500:

Except as otherwise authorized by law, any person who knowingly sells, gives, or in any way furnishes cannabis products to a person under the age of 18 years, and any person under the age of 18 years who purchases, receives or possesses any cannabis or cannabis products, shall be subject to the penalties set forth in Penal Code 308 as if the cannabis or cannabis products were cigarettes.

Here is the Penal Code 308 language authorizing punishment:

Every person, firm, or corporation that … sells … to another person who is under the age of 18 years any tobacco… is subject to either a criminal action for a misdemeanor or to a civil action … punishable by a fine of two hundred dollars ($200) for the first offense, five hundred dollars ($500) for the second offense, and one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the third offense.

Here’s the explanation from the California Department of Public Health’s pamphlet, “Tobacco Control Laws That Affect Retail Businesses Updated 2013”

Penal Code Section 308 – It is a crime to sell, give, or in any way supply tobacco products and paraphernalia to minors. Signs with the “1-800-5 ASK-4-ID” phone number must be posted at each cash register. WHAT are the penalties? Storeowners and/or clerks who sell to minors may be charged with a misdemeanor or may be fined: $200 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation, and $1,000 for the third violation.

So the charge may be a misdemeanor, but could also be mere civil fines. Charging that misdemeanor will require the prosecutor to use statutes regarding the endangerment of the welfare of a minor, and that will require proving harm or immenent harm to the child.

I understand repealing all these criminal penalties and making jail for marijuana impossible sales to minors much more difficult. Even the laws regarding providing alcohol to minors are misdemeanors with $1,000 fines only, unless the kid causes injury to someone else when he or she is drunk. MCLR is really regulating marijuana like alcohol.

But the problem is marijuana ain’t alcohol and legalizing it requires the votes of a majority of Californians, most of whom don’t use marijuana and know very few facts about it. When they hear that “MCLR will let weed dealers at your child’s middle school go free with a slap on the wrist!” and “MCLR repeals mandatory felony prison time for people who deal weed to kids, replaced with a mere civil fine or misdemeanor!” they will reject that initiative.

There is this weird idea among some True Legalizers™ that AUMA is a bad initiative because it is 62 pages long. This has led to the creation of this one page MCLR that touts its brevity as a major selling point. (You know, like the eleven-line Prop 215, whose brevity has led to numerous conflicting judicial interpretations, local bans in wide swaths of California, and even 20 years later is still being litigated and regulated.)

The problem is that law can be complex and sometimes, it requires a few pages of text to make clear what the initiative intends to do and what limitations and powers should be assigned to the government regulating that law. In trying to keep an initiative artificially short, major questions are left unanswered and blanket repeals have unintended electoral and legislative consequences.

Canceled Cannabis Cup Shows Legalization Fight Has Only Just Begun


So, you can’t have a Cannabis Cup in Seattle, Portland, or Denver.

If you thought there’d be nothing for marijuana legalizers to be fighting for after legalization, you were sorely mistaken. Like our First Amendment right of Free Association.

Legalization is just the beginning of the real fight, which is the freedom to use cannabis as equally as people use alcohol and aspirin.

You know my stand on the True Legalizers who’ll say, “See, it’s not really legalization!” as if we should have rejected Initiative 502 (WA), Measure 91 (OR), and Amendment 64 (CO).

Of course it isn’t! Even True Legalization™ wouldn’t really be legalization; there would still be prejudices and court cases and expungements and many things to work out.

The Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t True Freedom, either. There were still (and still remain) many battles to be fought for true equal civil rights for all people. The right for black people to marry white people in all fifty states has happened only within my lifetime. (OK, so I was a fetus in June 1967, but hey, gay people just got the right to marry last year.)

But it would be ridiculous to suggest in 1863 that President Lincoln should not move forward with the Emancipation Proclamation because it wasn’t True Freedom that included the right to interracial marriage, and it would be tragic if that argument was coming from the enslaved black people.

These Cannabis Cup bans are not arguments against supporting legalization, however it appears on your state’s ballot. What they are is proof that legalization is a marathon, not a sprint.

Smokeless in Seattle

Seattle can’t have a Cannabis Cup or any sort of public toking lounge because the State of Washington passed a law that felonizes the operation of any club or event that directly or indirectly promotes and allows for the consumption of cannabis.

Because if a bunch of people gathered together and smoked pot… what, exactly?

There was fear at last year’s Seattle Hempfest that the new law could essentially criminalize that protestival, where over 100,000 people, many of them suspiciously young, are openly smoking pot and even doing dabs. No charges came for the event – Seattle has generally been friendlier to the cannabis community than Olympia – but nobody can say for certain that’s because there couldn’t have been charges, if a future prosecutor wanted to file them.

I’ve covered that Hempfest for ten years and I attended the first Cannabis Cups in Seattle, and they are like every other marijuana-themed event I cover in the country – friendly and mellow.

You don’t need to take my word for it. Ask a cop, an EMT, or a nurse whether they’d prefer to cover a pot event or an alcohol event. Just last week I had a nurse, a spry septuagenarian veteran in practice since the mid-1970s, tell me she’s never had to deal with an end-of-life patient suffering the ill effects of marijuana, but she’s helped many smokers and drinkers face their self-inflicted death.

Seattle has literally hundreds of buildings built for the express purpose of administering mind-altering and performance-decreasing drugs to adults for entertainment. These buildings have parking lots for the express purpose of storing the vehicles of those adults while they alter their minds and decrease their performance with drugs inside the drug building. Society then trusts the drug building owners to not administer too much drugs to the adults and trusts the adults to judge the degree of their mind alteration and decreased performance before returning to the parking lot to operate their vehicles. Society even allows for a tolerable degree of mind alteration and decreased performance for adults operating vehicles on the road after taking drugs in the drug buildings, knowing that this tolerance comes at the cost of thousands of deaths on the roads.

But because we call the drugs “alcohol” and the buildings “bars”, none of that is a felony in Washington.

Potless in Portland

In Portland, there can’t be a Cannabis Cup or any sort of cannabis café because Oregon’s Clean Air Act was amended to include vaporization and cannabinoids. So, anywhere you cannot smoke tobacco indoors, you now cannot smoke cannabis or vaporize cannabis or use nicotine e-cigarettes.

The rationale behind the original Oregon Clean Air Act was What About The Servers! In workplaces where there is excessive cigarette smoking, like bars and restaurants, the workers would be exposed to the deadly secondhand smoke. So we eliminated cigarette smoking indoors as a safety protocol to protect workers’ lungs from the scientifically demonstrated harms of secondhand tobacco smoke.

But there is scant scientific evidence for any comparable harms from secondhand cannabis smoke. Renowned pulmonologist Dr. Donald Tashkin’s groundbreaking work found that cannabis smokers – firsthand smoke – showed lower risk for lung cancer than even non-smokers. Furthermore, vaporization doesn’t produce secondhand smoke, but secondhand vapor. The science isn’t there to show anywhere near the tobacco harms needed to apply the Clean Air Act’s restrictions to cannabis.

Whether secondhand cannabis smoke is less harmful, however, isn’t even a point we need to defend. That same Clean Air Act has exemptions within it to allow for tobacco smoking at smoke shops and cigar bars! So, somehow, we can allow for the alcohol buildings and the tobacco buildings, but not the cannabis buildings?

Another sticking point in Oregon is the regulators’ decision that any venue that has a liquor license is a “public place”. Under the law, cannabis consumption cannot occur within public view, and if you’re in a public place, you’re in public view.

Note: that doesn’t mean you just can’t hold a Cannabis Cup where there is alcohol being served. That public place definition applies to the liquor license, whether it is in operational use or not. Thus, you could find a big ol’ private ballroom to hold your event in and not serve a drop of alcohol, but because the ballroom does other events throughout the year where it does serve alcohol, it has a liquor license and you’re out of luck.

Doobieless in Denver

In Denver, the problems all come down to securing permits from recalcitrant bureaucrats who can find all manner of imagined harms from 10 to 20 thousand cannabis consumers in a building but turn a blind eye to the shenanigans of 76,000 people drinking beer at Sports Authority Field Mile High Stadium or Coors Field.

Denver NORML is attacking the problem head on with their proposal of a city initiative to legalize pot lounges. Alaska is signaling its acceptance of the right of cannabis consumers to gather. The proposed initiatives in California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maine (assuming their appeal goes favorably) all provide for some sort of public accommodation for cannabis consumers.

Come 2017, Portland and Seattle could be the only major cities in legal states that don’t allow for some sort of cannabis café.

So rejoice, cannabis activists, that we are winning the battles for hearts and minds. Now that marijuana is legal, we can force the public to address the incompatible standards we have for alcohol bars and festivals versus cannabis lounges and festivals. Without “it’s illegal!” to fall back on, it is untenable to defend Cannabis Cup bans as any sort of public safety measure. As more states become legal and allow these events, the banning states become more exposed as reactionary cannabigots.

Now make sure you get out and register to vote!

Of Course There Are Two Medical Marijuana Initiatives For Ohio


A couple of weeks ago, Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) announced the details of their planned medical marijuana initiative for the state of Ohio. The Buckeye State had infamously rejected legalizing recreational and medical marijuana last year because Nick Lachey might get rich, but within that electoral drubbing was the polling information that showed overwhelming support for medical marijuana.

MPP’s initiative is largely cut-and-paste from some of the better medical marijuana laws they’ve been successful in passing throughout America. But there are a few stinkers in there from some of their lesser medical marijuana laws as well.

  • Patients would qualify for a medical card with any of the “Big Eight” conditions most states recognize (cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, cachexia, seizures, spasms, pain, and nausea) as well as PTSD, Alzheimer’s agitation, ALS, Hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
  • Registered cardholders could possess 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana, cultivate (or have a caregiver cultivate) at least six plants (they could raise that limit) and possess all the usable marijuana harvested from them at the grow site.
  • The state will come up with limits for other cannabis products, like edibles and extracts.
  • Only one caregiver can grow at any one address, and he or she must be an Ohio resident.
  • Caregivers can only serve up to five patients, unless he or she is working as a caregiver in an assisted-living facility.
  • Registry cards cost no more than $40 per year, with lower-cost cards for low-income patients.
  • There will be reciprocity for medical marijuana cards issued from other states.
  • Until registry cards are issued, patients have an affirmative defense to marijuana charges as soon as the law goes into effect.
  • Medical cardholders cannot “be denied any right or privilege” for medical cannabis use, and they cannot be discriminated against in housing*, education*, child custody, and medical procedures, such as organ transplants.
  • Nursing homes and hospices have to allow some sort of patient access to medical cannabis*.
  • Cardholders are specifically protected from search and seizure solely for being cardholders and being a cardholder is no sort of probable cause or reasonable suspicion for police to investigate.
  • There would be a new Marijuana Control Division to establish rules on safety, packaging, labeling, inspection, testing, marketing, and advertising of medical cannabis. They’ll control licensing of the medical cannabis industry and favor those who help provide medicine to financially-needy patients and promote investment in communities of color.
  • There would be up to fifteen Type 1 Growers, who pay a $500,000 fee to cultivate up to 25,000 square feet of canopy space, and an unspecified number of Type 2 Growers, who pay a $5,000 fee to cultivate less than 5,000 square feet.
  • Production (processing), testing, distribution (wholesaling), and dispensary (retailing) licenses also cost $5,000.
  • Cardholders could not process their own hydrocarbon or carbon dioxide extracts without a commercial processor’s license.
  • Dispensaries will have to maintain internal, confidential tracking of patient purchases to ensure they don’t sell them more than the 2.5 ounces allowed per two-week period.
  • You can own any or all of the licenses, except testers can only be testers, and cultivators can only own one cultivation license.
  • Licensees must be Ohio residents from before January 1, 2016, but that residency requirement ends in 2020.
  • Licensees generally can’t have felony convictions within the past five years, unless they were for things made legal by this medical marijuana law.
  • Licensees can’t co-locate with a doctor who writes recommendations for medical cannabis.
  • Licensees must be at least 500 feet from schools, churches, libraries, playgrounds, and parks, but localities could increase that distance requirement.
  • Localities could only enact restrictions on time, place, and manner of medical marijuana establishments. Outright bans of dispensaries would require a majority vote of the people.
  • The Ohio legislature can’t come up with sneaky ways to undermine the amendment.

MPP’s got the funding and the experience. They’ve passed several medical marijuana laws; this one is one of their better iterations and would be the best medical marijuana law east of the Mississippi. They’ve hired three longtime local activists from NORML, the Ohio Rights Group, and the former Issue 3 campaign. They’re proposing a law far better than what the Ohio legislature offered: a cannabidiol, no-whole-plant medical marijuana proposal.

So, of course, MPP’s plan is terrible and must be dropped in favor of a competing, grassroots initiative that promises to legalize medical marijuana the right way.

Grassroots Ohio announced they are proposing their own amendment to legalize medical marijuana, which their spokesperson, Cassie Young, said is “intentionally brief”. (This comports with recent True Legalization™ criticism of California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act as being “too long” at 62 pages.) “We shouldn’t be putting regulations in our constitution,” Young told “The amendment is about protecting inherent rights of Ohioans – not enshrining business interests.”

The boogeyman of the wrong people making money on marijuana reform was the scare tactic that undermined the legalization campaign (as well as an ill-advised mascot) in Ohio last year. It’s no surprise, then, to learn the mastermind behind the Grassroots Ohio one-page medical marijuana amendment was one of the most vocal critics of last year’s Issue 3, “GW Pharmaceuticals Founder” Don Wirtshafter.

Here’s what the Grassroots Ohio initiative proposes:

  • People the “age of majority” (aged 18 and older) can use, possess, cultivate, process, and share cannabis for medical purposes.
  • People under age 18 can use cannabis for medical purposes if a doctor says so.
  • Everybody can grow, process, and sell industrial hemp.
  • Hydrocarbon extraction, edibles production, commercial cultivation, and retail sales may be taxed and shall be regulated by the state.
  • People aged 21 and older can get licenses in the medical cannabis industry.
  • You still can’t endanger others, engage in malpractice, or operating heavy machinery while under the influence of cannabis, but…
  • Evidence of active or inactive metabolites** is not evidence of being under the influence of cannabis.
  • You still can’t smoke in public places.

That’s it. What condition qualifies you for this medical use? Apparently, it’s your belief that your cannabis is for medical use. The only requirement for a physician’s approval is for people under aged 18.

How much cannabis can you grow in your backyard for medical purposes? How much usable cannabis can you keep on hand? It doesn’t say; apparently, it is limitless.

Those medical rights “shall not be infringed” and active THC isn’t evidence of impairment, so does that mean the 18-year-old who believes he needs cannabis for anxiety and is carrying a quarter-pound of it while puffing a joint and driving is safe from any police interference?

The heart part of me loves this Grassroots Ohio initiative. No doctor’s notes, age 18 and up, toking and driving is legal, what’s not to love?

But the head part of me says there is no way in hell Ohioans would vote for such a measure, especially after the easy attack ads it would summon.

And the practical part of me says that this is yet another case where there’s a professional, national, funded, moderate reform initiative with a decent chance of making the ballot and passing being “primaried” once again by a grassroots, local, unfunded, True Legalization™ initiative with a tenuous chance of making the ballot and zero chance of passing.

* Caveat: they can discriminate if not doing so causes them to break a federal law or lose a benefit under federal law (like a grant or a contract).

** There is no such thing as an “active metabolite”. If THC has been metabolized, it is inactive. In fact, “inactive metabolite” is redundant. There is THC (a molecule that active in influence over human physiology) and THC-COOH (a metabolite that is inactive in influence). Well, I was wrong about this! As reader Matthew Meyer points out: 

Russ, in your rush to pick nits you have erred. It appears there is, indeed, such a thing as “active metabolites” of cannabis:

“11-Hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC) is the main active metabolite of THC which is formed in the body after cannabis consumption.”

So our bodies apparently do transform the THC into another substance that is active, hence “active metabolite.”

10-Year-Old Alexis Bortell, Medical Marijuana Refugee, Returns to Texas, Delivers Powerhouse Speech


I get the chance to meet and interview amazing people, like pot star Tommy Chong, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, quarterback Jim McMahon, billionaire Richard Branson, and the leading researchers and activists in the marijuana movement.

But the interviews I find most special are those with the children battling life-threatening illnesses and conditions who find relief and cures from cannabis treatments. Imagine trying to comprehend the concept of your own mortality, finding a medicine that will save you, and then comprehending why the government would imprison your parents for giving it to you.

DSC07624Such is the case for 10-year-old Alexis Bortell. She suffers from a terrible form of epilepsy, but her father, Dean, has found that a combination of CBD oil and THC supplements relieve Alexis’ condition. A little girl who was slipping behind in school and spending afternoons with the school nurse is now almost a year seizure-free.

But that’s only because Dean moved himself and Alexis out of Texas and into Colorado, where her medicine is legal. While Texas has passed a law allowing epileptic kids to use CBD oils, it mandates that the level of THC be exceptionally low to non-existent. Alexis’ condition doesn’t respond to CBD alone; she requires THC for it to be effective.

I had the chance to interview Alexis one-on-one shortly before her keynote speech:

In her keynote speech, she had two thousand attendees hanging on her every word. She was professional and rehearsed, an accomplished public speaker by any measure. She laid out her plans to bring whole plant medical marijuana to Texas, even if she has to become governor.

You can learn more and support Alexis Bortell at You can find my entire coverage of the Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo, including the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition panel of Jim McMahon, Ricky Williams, and Marvin Washington, the inspiring Montel Williams, and the numerous activists and entrepreneurs fighting for marijuana reform in the Lone Star State at my Soundcloud page.

Tommy Chong on California Marijuana Legalization: 1 Ounce, 6 Plants, It Doesn’t Matter, Just Decriminalize It

ICBC Tommy Chong

My conversation with Tommy Chong at the International Cannabis Business Conference began with his thoughts on the candidacy of Donald Trump, who Chong believes “personifies the Republican Party.”

In Part 2 of our interview, Chong talks about how rich people like Donald Trump lose contact with the real world. Chong also tells a hilarious anecdote about racism in prison and weighs in on the various initiatives to legalize marijuana in California.

Chong seems to endorse all efforts to legalize marijuana, just so long as it is not excessively taxed.

In Part 3, Chong talks about the Black Lives Matter movement and parallels to being a “hunted animal” as a marijuana consumer.  Chong also goes into how the law enforcement system is addicted to the money they make through prohibition.

Why Shouldn’t Oregon’s Medical and Recreational Marijuana Programs Merge?


Oregon legislators are working on a bill (SB 1511) during this short legislative session that will allow medical marijuana patients to show their Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) card at a future recreational marijuana retail shop to make tax-free purchases of marijuana and cannabis products.

Meanwhile, the bill also extends the temporary “early sales” program of adults buying marijuana and cannabis seeds and seedlings from current medical marijuana dispensaries to also allow purchase of cannabis products like edibles and concentrates.

If the bill passes as expected, the result would be two buildings that sell marijuana and cannabis products. One’s called a retail shop, and it sells to all customers, with no taxes charged to OMMP patients. The other’s called a dispensary, and it sells to all customers, with no taxes charged to OMMP patients.

The retail shop will get its marijuana and cannabis products from a producer licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), who transfers it to an OLCC-licensed processor. An OLCC-licensed tester will inspect the goods before they are then sold by an OLCC-licensed retailer to any adult, without taxes if the customer shows an OMMP card.

The dispensary will get its marijuana and cannabis products from a producer licensed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) or from patients’ designated growers, who transfers it to an OHA-licensed processor. An OHA-licensed tester will inspect the goods before they are then sold by an OHA-licensed dispensary to any adult, without taxes if the customer shows an OMMP card.

Can anyone explain to me the need for this bureaucratic and operational redundancy?

I first experienced this dual-track marijuana madness in Fort Collins, Colorado. There, I walked into a “Rec/Med” facility where the first thing you notice is one of those banker’s ropes separating the room right down the middle. A sign on the pole pointed left and said “MEDICAL” and pointed right and said “RECREATIONAL”.

Behind the counter were all the same items – marijuana, edibles, tinctures, salves, and extracts. However, the “Super Silver Haze” in the jar on the medical side came from a clone of the mother plant tracked on the medical side, while the “Super Silver Haze” in the jar on the recreational side came from a clone of the mother plant on the recreational side.

Despite what the Supreme Court said in the Raich case, in Colorado and Oregon, marijuana isn’t fungible – there’s medical marijuana and there’s recreational marijuana – and even though it’s exactly the same strain, it must be grown and tracked and sold in two separate supply systems.

Why? How much overhead does maintaining two redundant systems add to the overall price of marijuana?

It seems to me like the Oregon legislature is slowly merging the medical and recreational marijuana systems. Considering that medical marijuana was always a temporary measure to “get the sick and dying off the battlefield” until we ended adult marijuana prohibition, this change seems only logical. If medical marijuana was an exception to criminal prosecution, why must the exception continue in the absence of criminal prosecution?

For years, the OMMP evolved to better suit the needs of patients by turning a blind eye to the clone shares, farmers’ markets, and ersatz dispensaries that cropped up. By 2013, the legislature recognized the situation by legalizing the dispensaries and setting up a system by which medical growers could sell their patients’ excess medicine to help stock the dispensaries.

But that was a temporary fix for the problem of patient access, not the establishment of an industry for growers. The growers were never supposed to be in this for personal enrichment; their role was supposed to be that of compassionate caregiver for the sick, merely recouping their expenses for supplies and, later, labor.

Now that marijuana is legal in Oregon, the distinction between medical and recreational marijuana isn’t as compelling as the distinction between personal and commercial marijuana.

For commercial marijuana, I’d prefer if the legislature took all command over the industry from OLCC and OHA and created a new Oregon Cannabis Regulatory Authority (OCRA, because I like clever acronyms). OCRA would regulate all commercial growers, processors, wholesalers, testers, and retailers, period.

If you’re growing pot to sell, you’ll need an OCRA license and follow OCRA rules. What difference does it make if your end customer is sick or healthy? Why would there need to be different rules for different customers. The fragile health of the OMMP patient, perhaps? Then why not make the standard one that applies to the patients; I’m sure the recreational customers won’t mind purer, safer, better-labeled products.

That might require a sort of “micro-business” license for the small grower currently selling to the dispensaries, but so what? If you want to make money selling marijuana, you’re a commercial grower and should follow the same commercial rules.

But if you’re growing pot for personal use, you need no license and need only follow the law. What difference does it make if your personal use is to treat an illness, a disability, or boredom on a Saturday night?

While OCRA would run the commercial marijuana industry from seed-to-sale, there would remain within OHA an OMMP that maintains a registry of patients with doctors’ recommendations for medical use and issues OMMP cards. That card gets you the tax-free purchase at the OCRA store, allows you to purchase more at the OCRA store, and grants you greater personal possession and cultivation limits.

But what about those Western Idaho (Eastern Oregon) counties that ban pot shops, but allow medical dispensaries? Simple. Write a compromise that allows localities to ban adults from shopping at local OCRA stores without an OMMP card, but requires a minimum amount of OCRA stores by patient population. (For fun, let’s call them Medi-OCRA stores.)

If you can think of a logical reason why we need to maintain two redundant systems for the same flower, please let me know in the comments. Otherwise, thank you, Oregon legislature, for recognizing that marijuana is fungible and redundancy is unneeded.

Americans For Safe Access Grades Equate Illinois Medical Marijuana With California

ASA State of the States 2016

The patient-focused medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has released their 2016 report, grading the fifty states for their medical marijuana programs or lack thereof.

To little surprise, ASA gave California a grade of B+ for its overall average score of 88, based on the categories of patient rights, access to cannabis medicine, ease of navigation (i.e. the bureaucracy), functionality (ease of abiding by the law), and consumer safety.

Each of those categories gets ranked 0-100, based on subcategories. For instance, 40 of the 100 points for the patient rights category come from ranking arrest protection, another 15 for an affirmative defense, another 10 for child custody protection, and so on.

Can you guess a state that tied with California for the highest score in the class with 88 points? Colorado, perhaps? Nope, they got an 84. Oregon, maybe? Nope, they got an 85.

Did you guess Illinois? (Of course you did; it’s in the title.)

Yes, somehow, ASA has come up with an incredibly detailed report card system that ranks California and Illinois (and New Mexico) as equally great medical marijuana states with a score of 88.

Illinois is a better medical marijuana state than Colorado or Oregon, where you don’t even need to be sick to be protected from arrest for possession and cultivation of marijuana.

Illinois is a better place for patients than Colorado or Oregon, where any adult can walk into a store, purchase cannabis and cannabis seedlings, without paying a dollar to the state for registration or a dollar to a doctor for a permission slip.

Illinois, the state where the medical marijuana law is just a pilot program that will sunset unless renewed, is a better medical marijuana state than Colorado or Oregon, with 15 and 17 years of medical marijuana, respectively.

Illinois, where the possession limit is 2.5 ounces per fortnight and no home grow is allowed, is better than Colorado or Oregon, where any adult can cultivate 3 or 4 mature plants and possess at least a half-pound at home (and patients can possess 1.5 pounds in Oregon!)

Illinois, where there are just eight dispensaries in a state of 13 million people, is better than Colorado or Oregon, with hundreds of dispensaries in states of 9 million people, combined.

Illinois, where the law is currently protecting roughly 2,000 patients from arrest, is better than Colorado or Oregon, that protect every adult from arrest for personal amounts and roughly 200,000 patients combined from arrest for medical amounts.

This isn’t to completely dismiss the ASA 2016 Report. They’ve amassed a ton of great information in there, especially the chart of qualifying conditions by states.

But reading it reminded me of a Super Bowl spreadsheet I once built. I thought it was wrong that a team like the New York Jets, who are 1-0 in Super Bowls (a 1.000 win pct), should be ranked above my beloved Green Bay Packers, who are 4-1 (a .800 win pct… stupid John Elway!)

So I concocted a formula by which a win counted for 3 pts and a loss counted for 1 point. Thus, an 0-4 Minnesota Vikings or Buffalo Bills team with 4 pts would rank ahead of the New York Jets with 3 pts, because going to the Super Bowl four times ought to count for something.

Then someone convinced me that a one-time Super Bowl winner ought to rank ahead of a four-time loser. I changed the formula to 5 points for a win and 1 for a loss. That also shifted the rankings of some of the other teams from the 3:1 system.

Anyway, the point is that ASA has given a very through explanation of its grading system and it’s well worth a read, but just as my gut that tells me the Packers are a better Super Bowl team than the Jets, my gut also tells me there is no way in hell I’d rather be a medical marijuana patient in Illinois than in Colorado or Oregon.

There’s something wrong with your grading system when California and Illinois are coming out as the top states for medical marijuana patients and legal states of Colorado and Oregon are next best.

Steve Kubby Confirms Stoners Against Legalization Are Protecting Prohibition Profits

What is it with stoners named Steve?

In every election since 2010, I have donned my screen beret to do battle with the keyboard kommandos online who smoke pot and oppose legalization. I don’t know if I coined the phrase or borrowed it, but I call them Stoners Against Legalization. And now, I have damning proof from one of the pioneers of Prop 215, Steve Kubby, that it’s the medical marijuana prohibition profits, not medical marijuana patients, they’re protecting.

These folks claim to support True Legalization™, so they get upset when I call them like I see them. They always cloak their opposition in some doom-and-gloom scenario where legalization imperils medical marijuana patients. They often forecast incredible price hikes resulting from increasing the size of the marijuana market. They inevitably say the legalization in question isn’t really legalization because there will remain criminal penalties for breaking the law.

Well, if criminal penaties involving fines and jail for the unauthorized production of an ingestible product exist, then I guess dairy farming isn’t really legal. I guess since I can’t home brew more than 100 gallons of beer, it isn’t really legal. I guess since I can’t just catch shellfish and sell them, fishing isn’t really legal.

As for the price hikes, I heard it before with Washington’s I-502, that it would raise the price of weed to $600 per ounce! Meanwhile, I can go to Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver, Washington, and buy a half-ounce of Durban Poison for $65 or a half-ounce of Timewreck for $45, and that’s with the 37 percent state tax plus local taxes.

Then there’s the medical marijuana angle. Indeed, medical marijuana has been drastically changed since the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Oregon… by their legislatures. Both I-502 and Measure 91 changed not one aspect of the medical marijuana laws and Oregon’s Measure 91 specifically said the medical marijuana laws were not to be modified.

The Stoners Against Legalization are suffering from the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy – because A happened, then B happened, A caused B. Notably absent in any reckoning why their legislatures would so dramatically alter medical marijuana laws is any accounting of the wide-spread abuses of those laws. It’s never medical marijuana’s fault medical marijuana got changed, it’s always the fault of trying to protect the other 80 percent of pot smokers from arrest and jail.

My contention has always been that the Stoners Against Legalization are motivated by keeping the prohibition profits status quo, whether they be growers who wouldn’t accept a real farmer’s salary, dispensaries that like the lack of capitalized competition, doctors who enjoy the ease of signing permission slips for profit, and black market dealers who don’t want to lose their customers to a well-lit store with better selection and prices.

And what a status quo it is! California medical marijuana plus Schwarzenegger’s decrim is the perfect mix of quasi-legalization and prohibition that keeps risk low and profits high. It’s just legal enough you can grow and sell and possess without really fearing The Man, but just illegal enough that you can still charge $100 to $150 per half-ounce for it.

Well, now I have proof that the real fear of the Stoners Against Legalization is primarily financial, thanks to a long series of Facebook bouts with Steve Kubby.

Kubby is the CEO of Kush, Inc., founder of Cannabis Science Inc., and one of the many-claimed authors of Prop 215. He was a college roommate of Cheech Marin’s and may even be the subject of a reality show. When he’s not calling me a “boot licking moderate“, a “narc“, or a “brown noser“, he’s littering his Facebook wall with photos of his luxurious millionaire lifestyle.

But in our latest online go-round, Kubby slipped from the usual talking points of me appeasing oligopolists, damning patients, and all-we-need-is-Prop-215-which-I-helped-write, to this revealing post (emphasis mine):

Russ Belville sure sounds like a NARC. He calls the current free market a “unregulated, Wild West,” sees growers as “greedy,” and advocates “taxing and regulating” as if weed is as dangerous as plutonium. Worst of all, he has no problem if his AUMA bankrupts the very pioneers who have gotten us to where we are today.

There you have it. You and me and all the rest of the adults in California who aren’t sick and won’t lie to doctors should continue to accept possession tickets, accept sharing misdemeanors, and accept growing felonies, because we wouldn’t want to bankrupt the people in the 1990’s who said their medical marijuana mission was all about compassion, not profits.

P.S. This is the part where they complain that we don’t have to “lie to a doctor” because “all use is medical”, and then they run down how if you’re a regular pot smoker, you already have the legitimate need for medical use of marijuana.

Never mind how that “all use is medical” framing made such a joke out of medical marijuana in California that twenty-somethings line up at a doc-in-a-tent at a cannabis event to get recommendations for their “anxiety” before they attend the rap concert. Never mind how scene after scene of those “all use is medical” people royally screwed any attempt to get reasonable whole-plant medical marijuana laws passed in more conservative states eastward.

The funny part to me is how the Stoners Against Legalization want to paint me as the supporter of monopolies and appeaser of governments when they’re fighting to maintain a system that protects the monopoly pot docs have on writing permission slips for marijuana use, backed by the threat of government fines and arrest and imprisonment, keeps the prices of marijuana artificially high, and protects the entrenched dispensaries from well-capitalized professional businesspeople.