June 30, 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 CannabisRadio.com, 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 NORML.in 2015.

AUMA, Unlike Hillary, Actually Supports Marijuana Legalization

AUMA Hillary

My friend Leland Berger has penned an essay on this fine site entitled “AUMA is the Hillary of United States Cannabis Legalization Initiatives“. He makes very astute points about the Adult Use of Marijuana Act – California’s marijuana legalization initiative – including how it is just as good or better than the marijuana legalization initiatives that have passed in four states and the District of Columbia so far.

But I part ways with Berger in his comparison of AUMA to Hillary Clinton:

In the same way as it would be a disaster for America to elect Donald Trump, it would likely set legalizing cannabis back two election cycles if California does not legalize this November. Nationally, we have no other viable choice but to elect Hillary. …

Point is, [AUMA] could be better, but, and again like Hillary, it could be far worse.

But for now, America needs to elect Hillary, and Californians need to pass AUMA.

Hillary Clinton is not like AUMA. Most obviously, AUMA openly supports marijuana legalization, while the best we get out of Clinton is that medical marijuana needs more research, it ought to be moved to Schedule II (where her Big Pharma donors can profit from it), and that states are laboratories of democracy.

I’ve gotten this complaint from some in my audience who know me to be a very progressive guy. How could I support AUMA, this incrementalist corporate approach to legalization, but be opposed to Hillary Clinton, with her centrist corporate approach to governing? If I’m such a #BernieOrBust guy looking for a grassroots revolution against The Man, why didn’t I instead support the grassroots legalization efforts and oppose this one from The Man?

It’s quite simple, really. I support AUMA and oppose Clinton because I’m against the status quo.

Supporting AUMA is a no-brainer. It truly is a binary choice. Support it and marijuana is not contraband, oppose it and marijuana is contraband. Support it and be free to buy, grow, and smoke marijuana, oppose it and still be a criminal subject to harassment, tickets, and arrest.

Plus, I live in a state (Oregon) that has gone from medical+decrim to legal, and the difference is night and day. Sure, it’s imperfect, especially east of the Cascades, but we’ve created jobs, raised tax revenue, and worked to expunge criminal records.

Supporting Hillary Clinton, however, is a different question. First, despite the threat that she is one of only two “viable” candidates, that’s just not true. Just because we’ve been electing either D or R presidents for 160-odd years doesn’t mean it will always be true. We only elected white male presidents for 200-odd years, remember? The definition of “viable” can change, as Clinton’s presumed nomination proves.

I’m still weighing my options. I’ve met Gary Johnson and seen him on numerous occasions. I find him to be honest and principled in his policy proposals; it’s just that, like Samantha Bee, I only agree with about every other proposal. And, like AUMA, Gary Johnson openly supports marijuana legalization.

Unlike AUMA, voting for president isn’t a binary choice. I’m never going to vote for Donald Trump. But voting for Hillary Clinton means giving my approval to someone who voted for the Iraq War, supported a bloody Honduran coup then opposed taking in the child refugees fleeing it, allowed aid to South Sudan’s army of child soldiers, worked to halve the Haitian minimum wage, resists a national $15 minimum wage in the USA, pushed for Syrian regime change that emboldened Russia, gleefully celebrated the brutal overthrow of Qaddafi that left Libya in chaos, supports Israel’s occupation of Palenstinian territories, promoted fracking worldwide and the Keystone XL pipline domestically, supported labor-busting trade deals like the one that devastated Colombia, crusaded for mass incarceration of “super predators“, approved of the decimation of the social safety net for single welfare mom “deadbeats“, won’t even try for universal health care anymore, gave secret six-figure speeches to Wall Street while leaving State Dept. secrets on an open email server in Chappaqua, opposed gay marriage on the floor of the Senate (when her support would’ve mattered), would accept limitations on abortion, worked to censor video games and ban flag burning and restrict the internet, voted for the PATRIOT ACT (twice), approved of spying on Americans without a warrant, took campaign donations from private prison corps, is working to further militarize NYPD, railed against money in politics while benefiting from the largest super PAC fundraising in history, supports the death penalty, made bankruptcy harder for average people, opposed reinstating restraints on Wall Street gambling with our money, and flip-flops more than a trout on a riverbank.

I know politics is messy. I know we sometimes have to make compromises. And if that list were even half as long, I probably could.

So… Gary Johnson… is he “viable”? Well, he certainly isn’t if everybody buys into the self-fulfilling prophecy that only Republicans and Democrats are “viable”. Only if everybody buys into the lesser-of-two-evils threats and doesn’t it validate my anti-Hillary stand somewhat that even her supporters’ first selling point for her is “Donald Trump would be so much worse”?

This year I think the Libertarian ticket is quite viable. In three-way polls, Johnson is reaching double-digit support. They’ve got the gravitas of having two former Republican governors of Democratic states at a time when Democrats and Republicans dislike their own candidate in record numbers. More people register as Independent now than either Democrat or Republican.

It’s still early, but in this race where the two biggest crowds for presidential candidates rallied behind a crazy-haired white septuagenarian socialist Jew and a crazy-haired orange anthropomorphic YouTube comments section, who knows what could happen?

Clinton is still under an FBI investigation that even without charges filed could damage her support.

Trump will become even more offensive to the point where mainstream Republicans can’t abide him anymore.

As Johnson hits 15 percent and makes it to the debates, his profile rises and more moderate Democrats and sane Republicans support him. In a three-way race, Johnson would only need to top about 40 percent (like Bill Clinton did in 1992) to win. Add Jill Stein siphoning off some more left-wing support from Clinton and this could be the year when a third party finally breaks through to the Oval Office.

Quick Hits: Congress Drops Support For VA Medical Marijuana

VA Medical Marijuana

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bi-partisan amendment to allow Veterans Administration doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states that allow it has disappeared from the appropriations process. The VA funding bill had included the Blumenauer Amendment, which passed the House 233-189 in its first vote and 296-129 once it was added to the funding measure. A similar measure in the Senate passed 89-8. But when the House Democrats staged their sit-in over gun control measures, the Republicans brought up the VA funding bill without the Blumenauer Amendment attached. The House Appropriations Committee has not revealed which Republican member removed the amendment before the vote. The Senate failed to pass the funding bill, so there may yet be an opportunity to place the amendment back into the bill.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Democratic Party has officially added support for marijuana law reform to its party platform. The Democrats will fight for decriminalization of marijuana possession, modifying policy to allow for scientific research, and supporting each state’s right to abolish marijuana prohibition as they see fit. However, Senator Bernie Sanders’ call for the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act altogether was not accepted by the national Democratic Party. The Democrats also note that marijuana prohibition has had a disparate impact on people of color.

LANSING, Michigan – Eight months’ worth of drug testing poor people who are applying for welfare has netted not one positive result. Supporters of the drug testing point out that drug testing may dissuade drug users from applying, possibly reducing the positivity rate. But that seems unlikely, as none of the 303 applicants selected for screening opted out and the application rate for welfare subsidies did not decline.

PHOENIX, Arizona – The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona has unveiled a marijuana-themed billboard for the 4th of July weekend encouraging people to “Buy American”. The advertisement for Arizona’s legalization campaign points out that passage of the initiative would allow Arizonans to buy locally-sourced marijuana that would benefit schools through tax revenues rather than profiting the murderous cartels south of the border. Arizona public officials and law enforcement oppose legalization, warning that legalization would be detrimental to public health and safety.

Quick Hits: Senate Committee Passes Marijuana Banking Amendment

Marijuana Banking

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Banking services for legal marijuana businesses came one step closer to becoming a reality as the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday passed the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill. The bill contained an amendment from Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Washington Sen. Patty Murray to allow marijuana businesses access to banking services. The amendment, which passed 16-14, would prevent federal banking regulators from prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated marijuana business. It now heads to the full Senate, and if it passes there it must be reconciled with the House version of the bill.

DENVER, Colorado – Last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill that bans the manufacture and sale of marijuana-infused gummy products shaped like humans, animals, or fruit. The new law goes into effect July 1 and is aimed at preventing the accidental ingestion of medicated gummies by children. However, the new law does still allow for the production of gummies in geometric shapes, such as stars, discs, lozenges, or even pot-leaf shaped. Activists question whether the cosmetic changes will make much difference, with both anti-pot and pro-pot observers noting that an unsupervised child is just as likely to a gummy star as a gummy bear.

LANSING, Michigan – Activists who were rebuffed in their attempt to place marijuana legalization on the ballot are suing the state of Michigan over a signature gathering requirement that was passed to thwart their efforts. MI Legalize, the group that spent $1 million dollars collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures, has named Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, the state elections director Christopher Thomas, and the Board of State Canvassers as defendants in the suit. The group contends a new requirement to collect signatures within a 180-day window improperly disenfranchised the thousands who signed the petition, without providing an efficient way to challenge their disqualification. The suit asks that the MI Legalize proposal be placed on the ballot and the 180-day rule be clarified.

SAN DIEGO, California – A San Diego councilman is unveiling a proposed municipal ballot measure to implement an 8 percent tax on marijuana sales that could be adjusted upward to 15 percent. Councilman Mark Kersey says the tax would cover the cost of code enforcement and law enforcement with respect to marijuana commerce. Kersey’s proposal applies to all marijuana sales, medical and recreational; however, if the Adult Use of Marijuana Act passes this November, it ends the taxation of medical marijuana statewide, leaving San Diego and other cities with recreational taxes only. But AUMA also establishes a statewide recreational marijuana tax of 15 percent, and with an 8 percent state sales tax, that means marijuana could end up with overall taxes of 31 to 38 percent.

Orlando Massacre Marijuana Comparison Ousts Anti-Pot Leader

Orlando Massacre marijuana

PORTLAND, Oregon – Smart Approaches to Marijuana, the anti-legalization group, has announced the resignation of the leader of their Oregon Project SAM affiliate over comments he made comparing the legalization of marijuana to the horrific massacre in Orlando that killed 49 and wounded 53.

As Marijuana Politics reported, on June 12, as the world was reacting to the news of the slaughter that took place at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Twitter account for SAM Oregon was trolling the comments of Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

Orlando Massacre Marijuana
The original response from Randy Philbrick of SAM Oregon to Congressman Blumenauer’s statement on the Orlando Massacre.

In response to Blumenauer’s statement of disgust over the shooting and the cowardice of elected officials who won’t pass sensible gun regulations, SAM Oregon called out the cowardice of elected officials who “refuse to stand up against the marijuana industry”. SAM Oregon also chided Blumenauer for supporting one “threat to public health/public safety” [marijuana legalization] while also speaking to “condemn another” [the Orlando shooting].

Today, the leader of SAM Oregon who composed the tweets, Randy Philbrick of Portland, resigned from the anti-marijuana group, effective immediately.

Orlando Massacre marijuana
Randy Philbrick’s letter of resignation from SAM Oregon to Project SAM leader Kevin Sabet.

In his resignation, however, he still dodges responsibility for comparing the shooting that killed 49 to marijuana legalization that’s killed no one, writing, “My poor choice of words were construed as something I did not intend.”

The offensive tweets have since been scrubbed from the SAM Oregon Twitter account, but their text remains in our original reporting of the story.

Philbrick also tweets at his personal account, @PDXRandyLee. Marijuana Politics has documented some of his more offensive tweets that he composed while leading Project SAM’s Oregon affiliate.

Quick Hits: Microsoft Marijuana Business Agreement

Microsoft Marijuana

LOS ANGELES, California – The first huge multi-national corporation to jump into the marijuana market isn’t the long-feared agri-giant Monsanto or tobacco company Altria – it’s tech titan Microsoft. The Washington-based software and tech company has partnered with KIND Financial to acquire government contracts for KIND’s “Seed-to-Sale” tracking software. Matt Cook, formerly with the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, will serve as KIND’s Special Advisor on Government Matters. KIND’s software platform will host data on the Microsoft’s Cloud for Government, known as Azure. Referring to the co-operative agreement between Microsoft and KIND, Microsoft’s director of government solutions Kimberly Nelson said, “KIND agreed that Azure Government is the only cloud platform designed to meet government standards for the closely regulated cannabis compliance programs.”

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania – City Council discussed the possibility of marijuana decriminalization in Harrisburg during Wednesday night’s meeting. Councilman Cornelius Johnson unveiled a proposal that goes even further than a decriminalization proposal floated by Mayor Eric Papenfuse four months ago. While Papenfuse’s proposal created a $100 civil fine for marijuana possession, it escalated that fine for subsequent offenses and mandated that a “third strike” reverts back to a misdemeanor. Johnson’s proposal would lower that fine to $75 and require that a third strike would only be a misdemeanor if it occurs within a five-year time frame. Johnson’s proposal also decriminalizes paraphernalia, something Papenfuse’s proposal did not consider, which would mean many marijuana possession tickets would still earn paraphernalia misdemeanors. Johnson’s proposal also raises the public toking fine to $150 to discourage public use.

SONOMA COUNTY, California – Police and DEA conducted raids against Absolute Xtracts and CBD Guild, two of Northern California’s most prominent manufacturers of medical cannabis oils. Santa Rosa police officials arrested Dennis Franklin Hunter, 43, for felony manufacturing of a controlled substance. Hunter is being held on $5 million bail because of his history of evading police, including four years on the lam for a previous pot production charge. The companies are accused of using illegal and hazardous production methods in violation of municipal codes. Nick Caston, a spokesperson for CBD Guild and Absolute Xtracts, said their companies are collectives operating in compliance with all state laws. The CBD Guild’s 34,000 square foot production facility uses super-critical CO2, not the butane they’re accused of using in violation of California law.

TRENTON, New Jersey – The New Jersey Assembly has by a 55-14 vote approved the use of medical marijuana by those suffering from post-traumatic stress. There is a requirement that patients prove that other conventional therapies aren’t working. A previous bill from April that would allow women to use medical marijuana to combat menstrual pain has languished in the Assembly. And Assembly Democrat Reed Gusciora has floated the idea that legalizing marijuana in Atlantic City could save that beleaguered city just as casino gambling legalization saved it in the 1970s. All these proposals face a daunting path in getting past the New Jersey senate and then the veto pen of Gov. Chris Christie, who has vowed that he will never allow the medical marijuana program to expand or marijuana legalization to occur on his watch.

Quick Hits: Baltimore Ravens Release Pro-Medical Marijuana Player

Pro-Medical Marijuana Player

BALTIMORE, Maryland – Eugene Monroe, the NFL offensive tackle, has been released into free agency by the Baltimore Ravens, a move Monroe believes is due to his advocacy for medical marijuana. Monroe has donated $80,000 toward research for medical marijuana use in the treatment of concussions and traumatic brain injuries. The NFL recently settled a multi-million-dollar lawsuit by former players who contend the NFL didn’t do enough to protect its players from the lifelong consequences of concussion. With many players becoming addicted to powerful painkillers, Monroe advocates for the removal of cannabis as a banned substance for NFL players, so they could use it for pain relief instead. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports that Monroe could end up with the New York Giants, San Diego Chargers, or maybe the Seattle Seahawks, who play where marijuana is legal.

LOS ANGELES, California – The California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Passage of the AUMA would legalize the possession of an ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of six cannabis plants. Citing the racial disparities in ticketing and arrests that still occur despite a decriminalization law passed in 2010, Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, criminal justice and drug policy director with the ACLU of California, said “It is time to move from prohibition to regulation.” From 2011 to 2014, the California ACLU found that there were roughly 60,000 marijuana arrests. Those arrests were over 70 percent young people and over 70 percent people of color.

PHOENIX, Arizona – The public electric utility in Arizona has made a $10,000 donation to a group fighting the legalization of marijuana. KJZZ Radio reports that Arizona Public Service spokesperson Jim McDonald warns about the possibility of stoned employees affecting “the public safety aspects involved in providing reliable electric service….” McDonald denies any customer money was included, saying the $10,000 came only from “shareholder funds”. The anti-marijuana group is known as Arizonans For Responsible Drug Policy and is vice-chaired by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and has so far raised at least $480,000. The ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Arizona specifically protects the right of employers to maintain so-called drug-free workplaces.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Marijuana Policy Project, the DC-based reform group, has officially endorsed Libertarian Gary Johnson for president of the United States. MPP was quick to note that the endorsement is based solely on Johnson’s “A+” rating on the issue of marijuana reform and not based on any of Johnson’s other policy proposals. Critics point out that Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein also receives high marks for her marijuana policy poposals, but MPP head Rob Kampia stated that, “Of the three presidential candidates who will appear on the ballot in all 50 states and D.C., Gary Johnson clearly has the best position on marijuana policy,” implying that Dr. Stein didn’t merit consideration due to lack of nationwide ballot access.

Quick Hits: Hawaii Medical Marijuana to Phase Out Home Grow

Hawaii Medical Marijuana

HILO, Hawaii – A Hawaiian marijuana activist is suing the state over its proposed medical marijuana licensing scheme, claiming it breaks federal drug laws and is a scheme to fleece patients. Mike Ruggles, who is facing criminal charges regarding his operation of a now-defunct medical marijuana collective, alleges that the state is in violation of racketeering laws. Ruggles also alleges the dispensary licensing program will deprive patients of medicine, since it phases out the existence of caregivers and the right to home grow over the next two years. Hawaii would add just eight dispensaries under the proposal, owned by just four companies. Ruggles argues that he should not be facing the possibility of life in prison for his three Class A marijuana felony charges, when the state will be licensing four companies to profit from doing exactly what he did, in violation of federal law.

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania – Activists gathered at the statehouse steps to criticize a proposal to increase fines for marijuana possession. The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on a bill, HB 1422, that downgrades 30 grams of marijuana or less from a misdemeanor to a summary, which ends arrests but still results in a criminal record. The current law says punishment for possession shall not exceed $500; HB 1422 makes $500 the minimum fine, with $750 for second offenses and $1,000 for every other offense, in addition to up to thirty days in jail. Currently, jail time is rare for possession, as is the maximum $500 fine. Pennsylvania’s two major urban areas have decriminalization; Philadelphia has a code violation of $25 and Pittsburgh has a $100 ticket. Pennsylvania recently passed a limited medical marijuana law but it will not be up and running until 2018.

ALBANY, New York – Too few patients are able to access medical marijuana in New York, according to a report from the Drug Policy Alliance. Since the rollout of the program in January, more than half the patients DPA surveyed had been unable to find a doctor to certify them, and 60 percent of them have been waiting over three months. Doctors in New York must undergo a state training course and register with the state to recommend medical marijuana for patients suffering from any of ten serious medical conditions. Patients reported their doctors were reticent to recommend medical marijuana for legal concerns, while some doctors just didn’t believe marijuana was medical. New York’s program does not allow patients to grow their own medicine or even have any marijuana plant material. The cannabis oils they are allowed are expensive, leading over three-quarters of those surveyed unable to afford it.

MEAD, Colorado – The tiny Colorado town of Mead has decided to table a proposal to repeal its ban on marijuana businesses. TimesCall.com reports that about 100 people gathered for a city council meeting where the repeal was tabled, effectively ending any chance of bring the Colorado green rush to Mead any time soon. Some locals in attendance cited the family atmosphere of Mead and how marijuana would bring nothing but problems. But others looked to the example of Garden City, another nearby small town, where marijuana sales have helped to quadruple the town’s budget since 2008. Mayor Pro Tem Herman Schranz pleaded in vain that “We need to jump-start Mead’s economy,” but city trustees like Terri Hatch were not swayed, saying, “It’s a moral issue for me.”

OAKLAND, California – The NBA Finals featured a bit of garbage time in Game 5 as the Cleveland Cavaliers cruised to a road victory, but buried within may have been a first for the marijuana industry – an ad during a major sports championship telecast. Leafly reports that a commercial for Black Magic potting soil appeared in the fourth quarter and featured visuals of people growing plants indoors in closets and under very stealthy conditions. The plants weren’t cannabis, of course, but the framing and visuals of the ad clearly were appealing to indoor cultivators looking to increase their yields. Further confirming the true nature of the ad is that it only ran on the West Coast and Rocky Mountain time zone feeds, regions of the country where recreational marijuana growing is legal. “They seek perfection on a level that would drive lesser souls to madness,” says the narrator, closing with the catchphrase, “Black Magic: Yield to no one.”

Quick Hits: Canada AG Rejects Decrim Before Legalization

Canada decrim

OTTAWA, Canada – The Federal New Democrats Party in Canada, or NDP, called on the ruling Liberal Party to immediately decriminalize marijuana. Murray Rankin of the NDP says that since marijuana will soon be made legal, it makes no sense to continue arresting Canadian adults for minor possession charges. But the Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, rejected the call, telling the House of Commons, decriminalization “would be giving a green light to dealers and criminal organizations to continue to sell unregulated and unsafe marijuana to Canadians, especially children and youth.”

OLYMPIA, Washington – The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) is notifying numerous marijuana license applicants that it improperly distributed their personal information, including social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, financial information, tax information and attorney-client privileged information. Last week, the LCB had released redacted information in a public records request, but inadvertently also included the source folder for the information, which contained unredacted information. The request was made by a local activist critical of the LCB, who is unable to determine how many people may have accessed the data from his servers before he was able to replace it with the redacted versions.

Anti-Pot Org Compares Legal Marijuana to Orlando Shooting

Orlando Massacre marijuana

Following the horrendous tragic mass shooting at an Orlando dance club that killed and wounded over 100 people, SAM Oregon, the state affiliate of Kevin Sabet’s anti-pot group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, sent out a tweet chiding Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s statement of sorrow for the killings.

“Words cannot express my sorrow,” tweeted Congressman Blumenauer. “Disgusted by this horrific act on the LGBT community & cowardice of those who won’t pass sensible gun laws.”

In response, SAM Oregon, led by a Portland native named Randy Philbrick, tweeted in response, “@repblumenauer you can’t support 1 threat to public health/public safety and then condemn another. You have failed this state.”

From context and history, it is clear that Philbrick / SAM Oregon is calling Rep. Blumenauer’s support of marijuana legalization a “threat to public health/public safety” and comparing it to the mass shooting that Rep. Blumenauer was condemning.

In response, the Congressman tweeted back, “@SAM_Oregon Over 32k dead from gun violence each year in US. ZERO dead from marijuana. Your comparison is delusional & shameful.”

Drug reform activists on Twitter reacted to Philbrick / SAM Oregon’s tweet swiftly and harshly.

TIME contributor and author of “Unbroken Brain”, Maia Szalavitz, reiterated the Congressman’s point that there’s “never been a single [overdose] death” from marijuana.

Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, characterized the tweet as “embarrassing & shameful” and warned that the national head of Project SAM, Kevin Sabet, would probably force the tweet to be removed from the SAM Oregon feed.

Shaleen Title, formerly with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, warned Project SAM’s national office to “rein in” SAM Oregon who was “trolling” the Congressman.

It appears, however, that SAM Oregon’s tweet from 10:20am wasn’t Philbrick’s first response to Congressman Blumenauer. The original post from SAM Oregon, accuses the Congressman of “cowardice” in the face of the [legal] marijuana industry.

It appears Angell was prescient, as the original tweets from 10:16am and 10:20am are now gone from SAM Oregon’s feed. In their place is a retweet of an Orlando memorial and three tweets trying to explain away the deleted tweets as being “blown out of proportion”.

Our requests for comment from Randy Philbrick were not returned as of press time.

Quick Hits: Ohio Becomes 25th Medical Marijuana State

390px-Seal_of_Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed his state’s medical marijuana bill, making Ohio the 25th state to have a functioning medical marijuana program. Patients will qualify for medical marijuana with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, ALS, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, or chronic and severe or intractable pain. While plant material will be made available alongside edibles, oils, and tinctures, patients will be forbidden from smoking marijuana, placing patients caught with burned marijuana or smoking paraphernalia at risk of ticketing and prosecution. Cultivating marijuana is still prohibited and any patients caught growing cannabis will also be subject to the criminal laws of Ohio.

LANSING, Michigan – MILegalize, the Michigan activist group seeking to legalize marijuana, has vowed to fight for its petition signatures in court. The grassroots campaigners had submitted over 354,000 signatures for their marijuana legalization proposal, needing just 252,523 to qualify for the ballot. But the Michigan Board of State Canvassers concluded that over 137,000 of those signatures were outside the statutory 180-day window for signature gathering. Current law allows petitioners to prove that older signatures were those of validly-registered voters at the time, but the Board dismissed MILegalize’s attempts to validate those signatures. Meanwhile, the legislature has passed and the governor signed a bill more strictly regulating the 180-day signature window, making future petitioning attempts even more difficult. MILegalize attorneys are suing under the principle that the 180-day window violates citizens’ First Amendment right to petition.

HAMMOND, Indiana – Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a federal lawsuit against an Indiana county’s refusal to allow an activist group to hold marijuana legalization rallies on the courthouse grounds. Tippecanoe County in 1999 instituted a “closed forum” policy following controversy over Christmas nativity scenes at the courthouse. The ACLU suit claims the county is engaged in unconstitutional restriction of free speech at the courthouse grounds based on content, noting that other groups, such as a gun control rally, an environmental rally, an art fair, and a protest for Syrian refugees have all been held on the same grounds.

Quick Hits: California Marijuana Election Results

california

SACRAMENTO, California – Numerous local ballot measures in California were decided in last night’s primary election. Voters in Sacramento were 1.5 percentage points shy of a two-thirds majority needed to pass a five percent indoor marijuana cultivation tax. Nevada County voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure to ban outdoor marijuana cultivation. Meanwhile, Yuba County voters were unwilling to overturn an outdoor cultivation ban or require at least four medical marijuana dispensaries in the county. Voters in the city of Davis resoundingly approved a tax of up to ten percent on recreational marijuana; however, city leaders have repeatedly said they won’t allow medical or recreational dispensaries. Voters in San Jose overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have undone the city’s local marijuana ordinances that only allow marijuana operations in about 1 percent of the city.

BOSTON, Massachusetts — The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard two challenges Wednesday to the proposed marijuana legalization initiative in Massachusetts. The first lawsuit alleges that activists have misled voters about the initiative, including a claim by opponents that it would allow for the sale of genetically modified forms of marijuana with THC concentrations of 60 percent or higher. That lawsuit also claims the ballot question is misleading because it does not talk about food and drink products containing THC. The second lawsuit focuses on the title of the proposed law, “Marijuana Legalization.” Critics say the title is misleading for a law that does not legalize possession of marijuana by people under 21 and limits its use by people 21 or older.

DENVER, Colorado – Neighborhood complaints about pot smell could lead to the first ever revocation of a recreational marijuana grow license in Colorado. Starbuds operates a recreational pot shop, located in Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, with a 240-plant marijuana grow on the second floor. Hearing officer Suzanne A. Fasing recommended the denial of Starbuds license for renewal, citing “adverse effects caused by excessive odors”. Stacie Loucks, the executive director of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, has the final say on the matter. Starbuds is located in a mixed-use zone that requires annual renewal of their license.

BREMERTON, Washington – Pacific Cannabis owner Kathy Hartwell says her business has been getting inconsistent mail delivery from a new mail carrier. She has the video to prove it. Hartwell believes the mail carrier has a personal distaste for marijuana and has been shirking his duties as a postal employee by forcing her and her employees to needlessly travel to the post office to pick up deliveries he should be making.

Quick Hits: Michigan Out of 2016 Legalization Race

Michigan Legalization

LANSING, Michigan – Election officials in Michigan have determined that activists have not turned in enough recent signatures to qualify marijuana legalization for the ballot. Activists from MILegalize collected more than 354,000 signatures without any national funding or support. Almost 72 percent of those signatures would have to have been valid to meet the petition requirements of 252,523 signatures. But this year, the legislature made the petition process more difficult by requiring a strict 180-day window in which to gather signatures. Officials with the Bureau of Elections said only 146,413 signatures were collected in the past six months. MILegalize will file suit against the 180-day rule as unconstitutional, as well as pressing for modern computerized methods to validate older signatures. Other activists pressing an initiative to ban fracking are suing the state over the rule as well.

DENVER, Colorado – Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed a bill requiring schools to maintain a policy for students who need to use medical marijuana at school. The law does not allow for the smoking of marijuana. Hickenlooper signed a law in 2015 that allowed for school districts to voluntarily adopt such policies. None did, so the 2016 law now requires them to adopt a policy unless they can show they have lost federal funding over the marijuana issue or if the district opts-out with a prominent explanation on their website. Under the law, no school officials will administer any marijuana product, which will not remain on school grounds. The student’s primary caregiver must bring the marijuana product to the school, administer it to the student, then take the product away from the school.

JERUSALEM, Israel  – A new study of over 20,000 patients receiving medical marijuana in Israel show the program to be a success. Prof. Pesach Shvartzman of Ben-Gurion University, leader of the study, concluded that most marijuana patients enjoy significant improvement in pain and function. Users of medical marijuana cited almost unanimously that they turned to the herb after conventional medications did not work for them, with over half citing unpleasant side effects from pharmaceuticals as their reason for seeking medical marijuana. Three out of four patients smoked marijuana, with the remainder using cannabis oils or vaporization. More than three-quarters felt side effects from marijuana, most commonly dry mouth and hunger. Red eyes, fatigue, and sleepiness were cited by one-quarter to one-third of those suffering side effects. Most patients said their pain, nausea, anxiety, appetite and general feeling had improved.

Quick Hits: NFL Docs Explore Medical Marijuana

nfl_logo2[1]

According to a profile in the Washington Post, officials from the NFL have met in a conference call with medical marijuana researchers to learn more about the use of phytocannabinoids for head trauma. Eugene Monroe, the Baltimore Ravens tackle who is the first active player to advocate for medical cannabis use in the NFL, has donated $80,000 to researchers investigating the clinical uses of cannabis versus concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The NFL officials were Jeff Miller, the league’s senior vice president for player health and safety, and neurological surgeon Russell Lonser, a member of the league’s head, neck and spine committee. One of the researchers contacted said of the NFL officials, “They are definitely showing genuine curiosity, and they are definitely not throwing up roadblocks.”

BILLINGS, Montana – Three groups are fighting to get marijuana reform issues on the ballot, but they have wildly different reform goals in mind. Safe Montana is a group that is pushing I-176, which is an initiative to repeal Montana’s medical marijuana program. Safe Montana founder, Steve Zabawa, says they’ve collected enough signatures for the ballot and has put over $70,000 into the campaign. Montana Cannabis Industry Association is pushing I-182, the initiative to restore Montana’s medical marijuana program by removing the three-patient-per-caregiver limit and doctor-monitoring established by the legislature and upheld by the state Supreme Court. MCIA has contributed over $94,000 to the effort. A third measure, I-178, seeks to legalize recreational marijuana in Montana, but the group pushing that initiative is short on funding and signatures.

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – NORML KC, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of marijuana laws, has received approval to move forward with a municipal initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses. If passed, the measure will amend local laws regarding the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and up from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine to a civil offense punishable by a $50 fine — no arrest or criminal record. With a deadline of August 25, 2016 to collect the 1,703 signatures needed to qualify the initiative for a vote, the organization’s executive director, Jamie Kacz, is hoping to gather more than 2,300 to offset the possibility of some signatures being deemed invalid. Mrs. Kacz and her volunteers started the process of collecting signatures during last week’s First Friday Art Festival at the Crossroads Art District and will continue to work hard over the next twelve weeks.

Quick Hits: NY Medical Marijuana Company Accused of Smuggling

New York Flag

WHITE PLAINS, New York – Vireo Health, one of the five companies in New York State that began growing and selling non-smokable cannabis medicines this year, is alleged to have illegally smuggled a half-million worth of cannabis oils from Minnesota to New York. Minnesota authorities are acting on a tip from a former Vireo employee who alleges that Vireo committed the crime because it wasn’t going to meet the 2016 deadline for supplying the medical marijuana program. Vireo is the parent company of Minnesota Medical Solutions, which had employed the tipster. A surprise raid in Minnesota found over 5.5 kilograms of cannabis oil missing, listed as outbound in December 2015 with no final address. Vireo denies the allegations and claims software inadequacies failed to account for their destruction of the oil.

PHOENIX, Arizona – An Arizona Administrative Law Judge has determined that the state department of health wrongly denied a hearing for the evaluation of Parkinson’s disease as a qualifying medical marijuana condition. The ruling by Judge Dorinda Lang said that “the department has utilized a standard of proof that is higher than the rules call for” in evaluating a petition for review of Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. That petition, brought by Cannabis Radio Host Nurse Heather Manus, head of the Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association, was denied by the department for not showing strong enough evidence and not proving marijuana was safe for treatment. Judge Lang noted that Manus submitted two peer-reviewed journal studies that certainly qualified as evidence and that the rules don’t provide a method of her submitting evidence for marijuana’s safety.

SACRAMENTO, California – More taxes on California medical marijuana may become a reality after the Assembly passed AB 2243 in a 60-12 vote yesterday. The bill calls for taxes of $9.25 per ounce of marijuana flowers, $2.75 per ounce of pot leaves and $1.25 per ounce of immature pot plants. Earlier this week, the California Senate passed a flat 15 percent medical marijuana tax. Localities also tax medical marijuana at around 7.5 percent. The legislature estimates the Assembly’s per-ounce taxes would raise $77 million a year, with funds to be dedicated to local police and environmental cleanup.

AUGUSTA, Maine – The event page for a marijuana trade show this weekend in Augusta was hacked yesterday, with a cancellation notice posted on the website. The Kennebec Journal reports that organizers scrambled to fix the listing today and assured the public that the show was still happening this Saturday and Sunday at the Augusta Civic Center. The show, called Home Grown Maine and put on by Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, is billed as “the largest medical marijuana trade show in New England.” There will be over 130 exhibitors, speakers, and educational panels on cannabis issues. A medication tent is made available for registered patients to vaporize cannabis on site. Catherine Lewis, chairman of the board of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, says this is the second time in two months the group has experienced a cyber attack.

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island – Petitioners from Regulate Rhode Island came to the statehouse to deliver more than 1,300 signatures calling on the General Assembly to regulate marijuana. According to recent polling cited by the group, 55 percent of Rhode Islanders support legalization of marijuana. The activists want legislative leaders to allow two nearly identical legalization bills to move through the House and Senate. Marijuana legalization bills have been submitted annually for five years, but never even get to the committee vote stage. The protest and petition may have had little effect, however, as legislative insiders predict there will be no movement on legalization in Rhode Island this year.

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.”