June 23, 2024

Russ Belville, Author at MARIJUANA POLITICS

"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.

Cayman Islands Supporting Medical Marijuana

Cayman Islands

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands – Premier Alden McLaughlin is in full support of changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act that would make the Cayman Islands the first Caribbean nation to have a functioning medical cannabis program. The rules changes published by the island government are still subject to a 21-day public comment period, followed by debate in the Legislative Assembly. The law would allow doctors to prescribe extracts and tinctures of cannabis; however, cannabis plants would not be grown and processed on the islands. The law will only allow for the importation of the cannabis oils and tinctures.

CHICAGO, Illinois – First Daughter Malia Obama was revealed to be smoking what appears to be a joint at the Lollapalooza music festival. RadarOnline has the exclusive video showing 18-year-old Malia dancing to the music and taking a hit off the small hand-rolled marijuana cigarette passed to her by some young man. RadarOnline reports that Jerrdin Selwyn, also 18, was an eyewitness to President Obama’s oldest daughter toking the reefer. “I caught Malia smoke pot and I have the pictures to prove it,” she told Radar. “She was only a few feet away from me and you could smell the marijuana smoke coming from the cigarette she took a hit on.” Barack Obama famously admitted his marijuana use at age 17 while in high school in Hawaii.

ALBANY, New York – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday signed a law expanding the Empire State’s hemp research program. The changes will now allow the selling and transportation of industrial hemp within the state. There is currently one farm in Madison County cultivating a 30-acre hemp farm with the researchers at Morrisville State College.

IRVINE, California – Former USC and Oakland Raiders quarterback Todd Marinovich was found naked Late Friday night morning in the backyard of someone else’s home, in possession of marijuana, and arrested. Marinovich was cited for trespassing, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana. The former 1991 first-round NFL draft pick has had a long troubled history with drug abuse. After only two seasons with the Raiders, he was dropped by the team because of his drug use. In 1997, he was busted for felony marijuana cultivation and prescription pill possession. A stint in the Arena Football League in 2000 was cut short by heroin possession charges. Marinovich had two more drug possession arrests in 2005 and 2007.

Feds Drop Private Prison Contracts, Colorado Pot Docs Re-Suspended

private prison


Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced that the feds will cease using private prisons. Yates wrote that the private prisons “simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” according to the Washington Post. The Department of Justice will not renew the contracts of thirteen private facilities housing federal prisoners, or cut back the scope of the contracts with the goal of eventually eliminating them altogether. Those facilities house over 22,000 prisoners. In 2014, the Bureau of Prisons spent $639 million on the facilities run by Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, and Management and Training Corporation.

DENVER, Colorado

Four Colorado doctors accused of over-recommending medical marijuana have had their suspensions upheld by a judge who had previously blocked the suspensions. The Denver Post reports that the four doctors have recommended more than 75 cannabis plants for each of over 1,500 patients. Colorado medical marijuana law caps a patients’ personal cannabis grow at six plants, but doctors can override that cap for patients truly in need. The doctors may not currently practice medicine and must now fight their case through administrative hearings with the State Medical Board.

CHARLESTON, West Virginia

A new report from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy claims the Mountaineer State could reap $26 to $45 million annually by legalizing marijuana. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that an additional $116 to $194 million could be generated by out-of-state residents coming to West Virginia to buy marijuana. West Virginia lacks any mechanism of citizen initiatives and recent attempts at medical marijuana and decriminalization have failed repeatedly in the legislature.

Quick Hits: Any Rooted Plant Counts in Michigan

Michigan Legalization

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – Michigan’s muddied medical marijuana laws got more restrictive Wednesday, as an appeals court ruled that marijuana cuttings, no matter how small, are considered against the plant count limits mandated by state law. WZZM-TV reports that the case involved a caregiver with authority to grow two dozen cannabis plants. When Grand Rapids police raided his grow, they seized 21 cannabis plants and 22 cloned seedlings. For the possession of what prosecutors considered 43 plants, the caregiver was charged with a four-year felony. The appeals court today ruled that if those cuttings have developed roots, they are considered plants under the law. This decision severely restricts the ability of caregivers to provide for patients by essentially halving the number of mature cannabis plants they can produce.

JERUSALEM, Israel – Health officials in Israel have announced an increase of 100 more doctors who will be authorized to prescribe medical cannabis. Haaretz reports that the Israeli medical marijuana program serves about 23,000 patients, but only 36 doctors, mostly oncologists, have the appropriate authorization to prescribe cannabis. Adding more doctors to the program should broaden the use of medical cannabis beyond cancer treatments. Earlier this year, officials lessened the restrictions on cultivating medical cannabis. Since the discovery of THC by Israeli scientists in 1964, the country has been leading the world in cannabis research, even treating its soldiers with cannabis for PTSD since 2004.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – While attending the opening of new medical clinic that performs workplace drug testing, outgoing Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid said if the vote were held today, he would oppose Nevada’s recreational marijuana legalization initiative. “I support medical marijuana 100 percent,” Senator Reid told Las Vegas Sun reporter Megan Messerly, “and I’m going to wait and see how the debate progresses on recreational use of marijuana.” Senator Reid said he was “very, very dubious and concerned” about legalization and that supporters “better start making their case to me.”

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – A municipal ordinance to decriminalize possession of one half-ounce of marijuana in Music City has survived its first reading. The Nashville City Council voted 32-4 to advance the legislation mandating that adults who possess or share up to a half-ounce of pot shall be fined fifty dollars or given 10 hours of community service, according to The Tennessean. Police officials have objected to the word “shall” in the ordinance, claiming it would remove the discretion from police officers. Current law in Tennessee treats marijuana possession as a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The first vote is typically procedural and the measure will have to survive two more votes to become law. This is the first time Nashville city leaders have ever taken up the subject of marijuana reform.

Omaha Cat Cursed By Marijuana Brownie Eater

OMAHA, Nebraska – Omaha police officers were called to investigate a situation Tuesday night involving a 53-year-old man who’d ingested brownies containing marijuana.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the man had let his adult children use his car. When he later used the car to get groceries, he found the brownies in the back of the car. As he unloaded the groceries, he ate four of the brownies, unaware they were laced with marijuana.

As the man sat to watch television with his wife, he told her he was feeling “bad anxiety”. The wife tried to reach the children to find out what he may have eaten, but to no avail.

Omaha Cat
Dude, what did I ever do to you? Get some CBD in you and chill the F out! (Copyright: artman1 / 123RF Stock Photo)

Paramedics called to the scene noted the man was agitated, but his vital signs were otherwise normal. However, he was crawling around on the floor, sputtering profanities, and calling the family cat “a bitch”, according to reports. He told the paramedics he felt like “he’s trippin’” but declined to go to the hospital, retiring to his bed instead.

As police were investigating, one of the adult sons returned to the home, confirmed that the brownies contained marijuana, and said that they belonged to his siblings. As of press time, Omaha police have not filed any charges over the marijuana.

Nebraska is one of eleven states that decriminalized marijuana possession in the 1970s. Possession of marijuana less than one ounce is merely a ticket for a first infraction with a $300 fine. A second charge is a misdemeanor with a $500 fine, but no jail time. Subsequent charges earn seven days in jail.

Quick Hits: Ninth Circuit Protects Western Medical Marijuana States

Ninth Circuit

SAN FRANCISCO, California – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided today that the Department of Justice may not spend taxpayer dollars to conduct prosecutions of patients and their providers in states that have legalized medical marijuana. The ruling is in response to ten cases brought up on appeal that cite the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, a rider to congressional appropriations that forbids the use of tax dollars on medical marijuana cases. The Department of Justice had argued that their prosecutions weren’t countermanding California’s ability to conduct its medical marijuana operations, while the author of the amendment, California Republican Dana Rohrabacher, responded that the amendment was created specifically to end the DEA raids. The cases return to the lower courts to determine if the defendants had been following California law and therefore should have been immune to the federal raids and trials.

SACRAMENTO, California – Lawmakers in the Golden State are proposing a bill that would allow California’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry to pay its state taxes in cash without penalty. Federal law still maintains that cannabis is a Schedule I drug, so traditional banking services are unavailable to most cannabis businesses. Currently, dispensaries and other businesses that pay their state taxes in cash are charged a 10 percent penalty by the Board of Equalization for amounts over $10,000. Businesses can apply for a waiver on a case-by-case basis, but the process is “very cumbersome and time-consuming” according to one Assemblymember. If the bill, now awaiting signature from Gov. Jerry Brown, is passed the 10 percent penalty will be dropped for cannabis businesses.

LONDON, United Kingdom – A unit of Britain’s National Health Service is testing a CBD-oil vaporizer pen, legitimizing another medical use of cannabis. The MediPen has been on sale to the general public for about a year now, but this marks the first time the government-run health care system has evaluated cannabinoid vaporization. The GW Pharmaceutical spray product called Sativex, a whole plant extract of CBD and THC, has been recognized by the government for treatment of multiple sclerosis, but it is available by prescription only. “As the first consumer cannabis product to be tested by the NHS,” said MediPen managing director Jordan Owen, “we are confident that this will go a long way towards creating a properly regulated cannabis market in the UK.”

MELBOURNE, Australia – A new committee will be formed to supervise the roll out of medical cannabis in the Australian state of Victoria. In April, Victoria became the first state to legalize the use of cannabis to treat epilepsy in children. Cannabis won’t be available in raw plant form, but rather dispensed in pill, tincture, oil, and liquid formulations. The government committed $AUS28.5 million to the project which will include 16 experts to advise on which patients should next be eligible for medical cannabis. The government says the cannabis cultivation centers are on track but would not estimate when in 2017 the cannabis products will be made available to patients.

DENVER, Colorado – A new type of cannabis growing competition is set to find the best commercial horticulturalists in Colorado. The Grow-Off is the brainchild of Denver Post cannabis reviewer Sohum Shah, Hemp Box founder Samantha Sandt, and comedian Jake Browne. Each grower competing must have a commercial grow license and will receive a clone of exactly the same mother plant as every other grower. Unlike traditional grow competitions that compare various sativa, indica, or hybrid strains, growing from one mother plant will allow apples-to-apples comparisons of growing skills. Growers will be judged on terpenoid profile (how well it smells and tastes), cannabinoid profile (how much medical cannabinoid content there is), and yield (who produced the most product).

NEW YORK, New York – While marijuana arrests seem to be on the rise in New York City, the results of those arrests are less likely to lead to a night in jail. Of the 3,897 marijuana smokers caught by NYPD in the first three months of 2016, only 11 spent the night in Central Booking. The rest received desk appearance tickets and were released. In the last year of Mayor Bloomberg’s term, during the first three months of 2013, there were 7,454 tokers busted with a whopping 4,601 spend the night in Central Booking. Mayor de Blasio in late 2014 directed NYPD to use more discretion in dealing with simple possession cases, and it seems to have affected the way marijuana cases are handled.

Quick Hits: One-in-Eight Adults Smoke Pot

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new Gallup poll finds that over one in eight American adults are current marijuana smokers. The poll found that 13 percent of adults admit to being current cannabis consumers, up from 7 percent who admitted that just three years ago. That means there are currently 33 million marijuana smokers in the United States, outnumbering the population of Texas. While some increase in marijuana smoking has been determined to be the result of marijuana legalization in now four states and medical marijuana tolerance in 25 states, some of the increase may actually represent adults who have always been consuming cannabis but lying to pollsters about it. Marijuana use is highest in the West, with 14 percent admitting use, lowest in the South, with only 6 percent admitting use. Nine percent of adults in the Midwest and East admit to currently using cannabis.

WASHINGTON, DC – Lost in all the hullaballoo over the WikiLeaks revelations of Democratic National Committee favoritism for Hillary Clinton is email evidence that the alcohol industry is actively working to fund junk science on marijuana and driving. Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority uncovered the email that contained an attachment to a Beltway-insider newsletter called “Huddle”. In that May 24 edition, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America claim neutrality on the issue of marijuana legalization, but then they urge Congress to fund the FAST Act, which is legislation intended to study and develop a roadside impairment testing technology for police to use similar to a breathalyzer for alcohol. The THC in marijuana does not act like alcohol in the bloodstream, leading the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to declare that it is “inadvisable” to determine driver impairment by body fluid testing alone.

NEW YORK CITY, New York – Despite pledging to reduce low-level marijuana arrests while campaigning, there has been yet another increase in New York City marijuana arrests under Mayor Bill de Blasio. During the first half of 2015, the city recorded 7,236 arrests. During the first half of this year, the arrests total 9,331. Last year was the first year since 1996 that citywide marijuana arrests were below 17,000. The year before, arrests topped out over 26,000. First-half 2016 figures predict an increase in annual arrests for the first time in three years, but annual arrests are still two-thirds lower than the peak of almost 51,000 in 2011. New York City marijuana arrestees are still largely black and Latino, with whites accounting for only 9 percent of those arrested. Enforcement targets lower income residential areas, like Harlem or Alphabet City neighborhoods, while leaving residents of high-end districts like Wall Street and east and west sides of Central Park free to enjoy a surreptitious toke now and then.

Quick Hits: Judoka Dropped in 2012 for Marijuana Competes in 2016 Olympics

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil – The 2016 Rio Summer Olympic games begin this week and a US athlete disqualified from the 2012 London Summer Olympics for marijuana use will finally get to compete. Nicholas Delpopolo is an American judoka – or judo competitor – who was kept off the Olympic team four years ago due to a failed drug test he blamed on unknowingly eating a marijuana-infused brownie. Another disqualified martial artist from 2012, American champion wrestler Stephany Lee, is no longer competing in the sport. The World Anti-Doping Agency, which monitors Olympic athletes for doping, has since raised its threshold by a factor of ten, now requiring 150 nanograms of marijuana metabolite in urine to trigger a positive instead of the 15 nanograms that cost Delpopolo and Lee their Olympic dream in 2012. WADA specifically mentioned the need to keep athletes whose use was long before competition from failing their tests.

MARYSVILLE, Ohio – Scott’s Miracle-Gro, the company famous for its lawn and garden products, has made another big investment in the legal marijuana industry by paying $136 million to purchase Gavita, a Dutch grow-light company. Scott’s has also signed a deal to purchase Botanicare, an Arizona company that makes nutrient and hydroponics supplies. Last year, Scott’s paid $130 million to acquire California’s General Hydroponics. Scott’s runs its marijuana industry business through a subsidiary called Hawthorne Gardening Company, which is well known among cannabis growers for its “Black Magic” soil brand. Scott’s CEO Jim Hagedorn sees the investments as the company’s chance to “take advantage of something that’s high margin, high growth.”

RIONEGRO, Colombia – Colombian farmers are beginning to plant their first legal cannabis crops since the government legalized medical use of marijuana. But unlike other countries and states where such use is legal, Colombia also legalized the export of medical marijuana products, like salves and tinctures. Officials in the South American country want to see a thriving cultivation and export business in hopes it will curtail the power and profits of the drug cartels that traffic in still-illegal cocaine and heroin. A Canadian company, PharmaCielo, received a license in June to produce cannabis products, which it plans to import back into Canada. PharmaCielo estimates that once their cultivation facilities are up and running, they will be able to produce marijuana flowers wholesale at just a nickel per gram.

BRIDGEWATER, New Jersey – The New Jersey Supreme Court has upheld the right to privacy for a man whose aunt reported his closet marijuana grow to the police. Michael Cushing, 29, was living in the home of his aunt’s mother when his aunt, Lisa Mylroie, became suspicious about her mother’s high electricity bill. Mylroie then entered Cushing’s bedroom while he was away and discovered grow lights and cannabis plants in Cushing’s closet. Mylroie called police and escorted them into the bedroom and closet. Police then obtained a search warrant and seized 16 cannabis plants. Cushing pleaded guilty to cultivation charges and was sentenced to ten years in prison. The Supreme Court agreed with appellate courts that determined Mylroie violated Cushing’s expectation of privacy and had no right to show police that closet. The case will now be re-tried to determine if that evidence should have been suppressed. If it is, Cushing’s conviction will be overturned, if not, Cushing will be re-sentenced.

Quick Hits: DEA Delays Rescheduling Decision

DEA Delays Rescheduling

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The DEA has still not made a decision on rescheduling marijuana, but tells Denver’s The Cannabist that the agency is “closer than we were a month ago.” DEA made headlines early last year when they hinted that a decision on rescheduling would be made by the end of the first half of 2016. When July 1st came with no decision, DEA pushed the supposed decision date back to August 1st. Now DEA spokesman Russ Baer tells The Cannabist that “I can’t give you a time frame as to when we may announce a decision.” The Dept. of Health & Human Services in April submitted its scheduling recommendation to DEA, leading DEA to reach out to the FDA and NIDA for other opinions. The recommendation by HHS has not been made public.

ROME, Italy – After Monday’s initial discussion of a bill to legalize marijuana in Italy, debate will continue in September, where the measure faces over 1,300 amendments filed by the opposition. The proposal, backed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party, would legalize personal possession of 5 grams of marijuana and home possession of 15 grams and cultivation of 5 plants. Collectives of up to 50 growers would be legal, but private sales forbidden. State-licensed growers would supply a state-run system of cannabis sales. Opponents of the measure include the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis has consistently opposed liberalization of drug laws, telling a reform conference in 2014 that “Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs’, are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.” Deputy Maurizio Lupi, an opponent in Parliament oppose the measure because it “[sends the message] that anyone can freely smoke a spliff.”

BOSTON, Massachusetts – Four years after passing their medical marijuana law, residents of Boston have their first medical marijuana dispensary. Patriot Care on Milk Street will be the seventh dispensary to open in the Commonwealth. The other dispensaries are located in Ayer, Brockton, Brookline, Lowell, Northampton, and Salem, which opened the Commonwealth’s first dispensary in June of last year. Massachusetts dispensaries sell almost 13,000 ounces monthly to over 27,000 registered patients.

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – State officials have released figures showing that sales of medical marijuana have reached $2.9 million for the month of July. In the nine months since sales began in November, there has been $16.3 million sold throughout Illinois. There are now almost 9,000 registered patients and 40 dispensaries operating in the state. Last month the governor extended the pilot program to the year 2020. He also signed legislation adding PTSD and terminal illnesses to the qualifying condition list, which will doubtlessly increase patient rolls and dispensary sales.

BOSTON, Massachusetts – The campaign against marijuana legalization in Massachusetts have announced that a bi-partisan group of 119 state legislators are opposed to measure. That represents more than half of the 200-seat legislature. But two city officials, City Council President Michelle Wu and Councilor Tito Jackson, are endorsing the measure, putting them at odds with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who is opposed. “It just seems ridiculous that kids at Harvard can smoke pot and have incredibly successful careers while blacks and Latinos, particularly men and boys, who are using the same substance are sent to jail,” Wu told the Boston Globe.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – An outgoing official involved with the legalization process in Alaska says the state isn’t “really serious about making this happen”. Bruce Schulte was removed from the five-member Alaska Marijuana Control Board on Friday by Gov. Bill Walker. Schulte had previously served as the board’s chair, but was demoted from that position earlier this year. “There’s an underlying agenda to subvert the process,” says Schulte, “to delay the implementation of a legalized marijuana industry.” A spokesperson for the governor denied the allegations, saying instead that Schulte was terminated simply for performance reasons.

STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania – The Borough Council in State College, home to Penn State University, voted to treat personal marijuana possession as a civil violation, removing the threat of arrest and criminal records. The new rule passed in a 5-2 vote Monday. The rule treats possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of hashish as a municipal summary offense. The fine for the marijuana infraction will be $250, with a $350 for public use.

LOGAN, Ohio – Residents of the Ohio city of Logan, a small town of roughly 7,000 residents an hour’s drive southeast of Columbus, will vote on marijuana depenalization this fall. Officials with the Hocking County Board of Elections certified enough valid signatures from a group called Sensible Logan to place the measure before the voters. Last year a similar ordinance lost with just 43 percent of the vote. Logan voters may repeal municipal codes criminalizing possession and cultivation of cannabis. The new law would treat possession of up to 200 grams as a minor misdemeanor and over that amount as a fifth-degree felony, but neither charge would carry fines or prison time. These crimes would remain a part of one’s permanent record, however.

Quick Hits: US Territory N. Mariana Islands May Legalize Marijuana

Northern Marianas Flag

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands – American voters are deciding on marijuana legalization in California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine this election. We may also get the chance to pass legalization in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory just southeast of Japan. Senator Sixto K. Igisomar pre-filed a bill that would legalize medical and recreational marijuana in one fell swoop, becoming the first US jurisdiction to do so. Nearby Guam, another US territory, legalized medical marijuana in 2014, but the Mariana Islands remain under complete prohibition of cannabis. If the election commission approved the bill by next Wednesday, voters there will decide in November, 2016. If the bill is approved after Wednesday, the vote wouldn’t come until the November, 2018, election.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – Today, pain patients in the state of Minnesota are now legally able to acquire medical marijuana products at dispensaries. The state’s medical marijuana program was begun in 2014, but it took a year before legislators added chronic pain as a qualifying condition, and that law goes into effect today. Over 500 pain patients have already registered in July, the first month they could join the program. Patients may acquire their medicine at eight dispensaries located throughout the state. However, Minnesota law does not allow patients to use the herbal form of cannabis. Only non-smokable oils, tinctures, and edible preparations of cannabis are available.

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania – Following a high-profile overdose case that sickened 33 people in Brooklyn, authorities in Pennsylvania are blaming synthetic pot for overdoses that have sickened 20 people in Harrisburg. Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico states that a synthetic branded as “Darkness” has sent its users to the emergency room with symptoms like advanced delirium, including one patient who had to be housed in intensive care. Synthetic cannabinoid use is up across the country, since it is cheap, widely available, and doesn’t cause a positive result on workplace and probation drug tests. Pennsylvania’s new medical marijuana program doesn’t allow patients to use herbal marijuana and penalties for herbal marijuana possession still include jail time and a criminal record everywhere but Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

HOLYOKE, Massachusetts – The mayor of Holyoke has become the first mayor in Massachusetts to endorse the initiative legalizing marijuana that appears on the November ballot. Mayor Alex Morse said in a statement that “I could no longer tolerate a system that results in disproportionate arrests of African-Americans and other minority groups and, frankly, has failed for decades to limit the availability of marijuana.” Mayor Morse is opposed by Commonwealth’s governor, Charlie Baker, its Speaker of the House, Robert DeLeo, its Attorney General, Maura Healey, and the mayor of Boston, Martin Walsh. All those politicians but the governor are Democrats.  Morse’s support is in step with his demographic; at age 22, Morse was elected as mayor and has now served three two-year terms, and millennials like Morse overwhelmingly support legalization. Healey and Walsh are in their mid-40s and DeLeo and Baker are in their early-60s.

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia – SAM Action, the non-profit 501(c)(4) affiliate of Project SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, co-founded by a former Obama Administration drug policy advisor Kevin Sabet, announced today a fundraising milestone of more than $2 million dedicated to defeating marijuana legalization and medical marijuana measures on the ballot in seven states. The multimillion dollar commitment represents the single largest fundraising amount ever dedicated to fighting the legalization of non-medical marijuana via ballot initiative. Project SAM claims that none of the $2 million was donated by corporations, corporate interest groups, or people acting on their behalf.

Quick Hits: Australia to Legalize Hemp Seed for Food


CANBERRA, Australia – The Australian Government has moved one step closer to approving the legalization of hemp seed as a food product. Low-THC industrial hemp seeds are a staple of diets around the world, even in countries that have prohibited psychoactive cannabis. But on Thursday, Food Standards Australia New Zealand signaled the Australian government of its approval to legalize the hemp seed as food. At issue were concerns over the effect of help seed ingestion on roadside drug testing and the worry that legalizing hemp seed would be seen as approval of cannabis in general.

PORTLAND, Oregon – A nineteen-year-old Native American man is facing one year in prison and a $1,000 fine for possessing a gram of marijuana in a state where an ounce is legal. Devontre Thomas is set for federal trial over the gram that was found in another student’s backpack at the Chemawa Indian School. That student claims Thomas sold the marijuana to him. This is the first time in three years that an Oregon US Attorney has pursued pot possession charges. The school Thomas attended is managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which only recognizes federal marijuana law, not state-level legalization. Thomas has pleaded not guilty to the charge and will face trial in September.

DALLAS, Texas – A new study from the American Heart Association reveals concerns about the effects of secondhand cannabis smoke on the cardiovascular system. The blood vessels of rats in the study took at least three times longer to recover function after only a minute of breathing secondhand marijuana smoke, compared to recovery after a minute of breathing secondhand tobacco smoke. Blood vessel function was examined in rats before and after exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke at levels similar to real-world secondhand tobacco smoke. Researchers also found the mere burning of the plant material appears responsible for the impaired blood vessels, not chemicals like nicotine and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, nor rolling paper.

COTTONWOOD, Arizona – An Arizona mom is behind bars after authorities allege she gave her 11- and 12-year-old children marijuana-infused gummi candies. Jessica Barrett, age 34, was arrested and police seized multiple forms of marijuana candies she was given by a friend, Anthea Sanderson Jones, age 35, as payment for babysitting. Jones has a valid medical marijuana card in Arizona; news reports are unclear on Barrett’s status. The two children told their father the candy made them “act crazy”. Barrett is facing two counts of child abuse and two counts of possession of marijuana. Jones was also arrested and charged with illegal transfer of marijuana.

You Want A Third-Party President? Here’s How!

Range Voting

Since I have dropped my #BernieOrBust stand to support Hillary Clinton for president, I’ve has to deal with so many people urging me to vote for the Green’s Jill Stein or the Libertarian’s Gary Johnson. I think Dan Savage has the best take on the quadrennial third party distraction, but I wanted to follow it up with concrete advice for my third-party-loving friends on the Left and the Right.

Stop trying to change the players and start trying to change the game. What binds us to a duopoly is one simple thing: math.

Please visit http://rangevoting.org for the full mathematical explanations. I’ve been hyping this concept for a decade now. I rarely find any of my Green or Libertarian friends hyping it, which is odd, considering it is the only way by which the system can be fixed to allow for third parties.

This is why I have my doubts to the sincerity of the angry quadrennial third-party POTUS voter who I can never recall hitting me up to vote Green or Libertarian for the city councilman, sheriff, district attorney, or state rep running in-between presidential elections.

As Savage points out, elected Greens make up about 0.017% of the estimated 520,000 elected offices in the United States, and none of them are a governor, congressperson, or senator. That’s largely because no matter how great a candidate the Greens or Libertarians run, the math of our pick-only-one voting system works in favor of the entrenched two parties.1

Range Voting
An example of Range Voting. Give each candidate a score from 0 to 9. You can use the same number as often as you like. Mathematically, this will produce the winner that the most voters like. In this example, if my favorite candidate Jesus doesn’t win, I’ve still helped my 2nd-favorites FDR & MLK to defeat my least-favorites Muhammad & Reagan.

Range voting means that you’re not limited to just one selection for president (or any office), you’re allowed to pick all the people you think would do a good job. There are variations – some methods would have you assign a score of 0 to 9 to each candidate (Ranked Choice), others just let you pick multiple choice, others would have you only pick a first and a second choice (Instant Run-Off).

Regardless of method, in this election, you could vote for both Stein and Clinton. Or vote Johnson and Stein and Clinton. Everybody’s vote totals are added up and the person with the most votes wins. It’s your way of saying, “I prefer Stein/Johnson, but if they don’t get enough votes, I prefer Clinton to Trump.”

The system we have now only allows you to say “I prefer Stein/Johnson, but if they don’t get enough votes, y’all figure it out, I already had my one say.”

Now, some will say that trying to install range voting is as pie-in-the-sky an idea as trying to elect Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. Why would the two parties enriched by the current single vote system work to change that?

The difference is that we have a mechanism outside the the two-party system with which to get range voting. Think marijuana legalization… do you think Democrats or Republicans stepped up to make that happen?

Third-Party President
Democrats and Republicans didn’t start this… citizen ballot initiatives did.

It would have to start at the state level in those states with citizen ballot initiatives. There are 24 such states, but I’d start somewhere with a small, demographically homogeneous population, like Vermont or Utah. Pass an initiative instituting range voting and let ‘er rip. Give it a few cycles of range-voted elections and someday, Vermont has a Green statehouse and governor and Utah has a Libertarian statehouse and governor.

Repeat that cycle in other initiative states. As people have more and more exposure to what range voting is and see the results it produces, more of the disaffected voters and third party voters get on the bandwagon and pass it in their states. Like medical marijuana, it continues to grow and shape the political conversation, and eventually some state legislatures give it a pass, pushed by the increasing number of third party candidates who win local and state elections, since the third party is building financial backing and political clout.

Then, maybe sometime around 2036, you’ve got a significant number of states that have range voting and there becomes a nationwide push to institute it federally. Get that done and perhaps Malia Obama becomes the first Green president or Rand Paul becomes the first Libertarian president.

That’s it. Get Greens & Libertarians (& Socialists & Constitutionalists & Worker’s World & all the rest) to decide to focus all their energies on passing a range voting initiative in their state. That’s something the frackingest Libertarian and the gun-grabbingest Green can work together on. It’s changing the game that they all agree is rigged.

But Russ, that would require communication and collaboration over multiple states and conflicting organizations with differing agendas and take a generation to complete! It’s so much easier for me to get all pissed-off and self-righteous and throw my vote away and claim a clean conscience when Donald Trump is setting an 8-1 conservative Supreme Court for the next generation! Besides, it could never be done!

Really? What I just described was what the Right did in merging Evangelicals, fiscal conservatives, and southern white males into a political force that brought us to this two-headed corporate party problem in the first place.

Let range voting be the next medical marijuana. Get all the third parties, the folks who don’t vote, and even the disillusioned Republicans and Democrats behind it. Don’t hate the players, hate the game, and change it!

1 Yes, the bullshit requirements the Dems & GOP conspire upon to thwart third-party ballot access and debate access are deplorable. Yet another reason why my strategy of going after the game is more important.

Quick Hits: Democrats Embrace Legalization

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – The Democrats have become the first major political party in the United States to endorse “a reasoned pathway for future [marijuana] legalization” in their party platform at their convention in Philadelphia. The platform plank, fought for by supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, calls for the removal of cannabis from Schedule I of the government’s Controlled Substances Act, where it sits with heroin, LSD, and PCP. However, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton doesn’t support nationwide marijuana legalization yet, and the platform also includes her belief that legalization should work out first in the states as “laboratories of democracy”. The platform also recognizes the disparate impact of marijuana prohibition on African-Americans and the need to reform banking and tax laws to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to operate.

WASHINGTON, DC – The FDA has approved for sale a new liquid form of the synthetic THC medication called Dronabinol. The new drug, called Syndros, has been designated a Schedule III drug, meaning it has medical use and is not highly addictive, despite being 100% synthetic THC, while natural cannabis registering as high as 25% THC is considered a non-medical addictive Schedule I illegal drug. Doctors in all fifty states will be free to prescribe Syndros, though the demand from patients for the drug may be lacking. With the new Syndros and the Dronabinol and Marinol before it, patients find that the THC all by itself lacks the efficacy of whole-plant cannabis with its varying cannabinoid constituents, something Dr. Sanjay Gupta referred to as “the entourage effect”. These Schedule III legal THC drugs lack the other main cannabinoid, CBD, that’s found in marijuana and tends to regulate the feelings of anxiety and paranoia that synthetic THC alone tends to create.

SAN FRANCISCO, California – According to the latest government data, the City by the Bay has the nation’s highest rate of monthly marijuana smoking. Over 15 percent of San Francisco residents aged 12 or older smoke marijuana monthly, according to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration. Nationwide, marijuana is used monthly by 7.7 percent of the population. South Texas is the region with the lowest use rate at slightly less than 4 percent of the population. As for perception of marijuana’s risk, people in the 3rd Ward of Washington DC were least likely to see marijuana use as harmful, with only 14 percent seeing “great risk of harm” from pot. Greatest harm was perceived in Miami-Dade County, Florida, with nearly half the residents finding “great risk of harm” from pot.

LOS ANGELES, California – The Los Angeles County Supervisors have pulled a planned ballot measure that sought to institute a 10 percent tax on marijuana businesses. The plan was to raise the tax revenue to aid the homeless, but the supervisor proposing the tax received word from homeless services and drug rehabs that accepting the tax revenue would be perceived as supporting marijuana legalization. Proposition 64 already proposes a statewide 15 percent tax on marijuana in addition to a $9.75 per ounce tax on cultivation.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The first legal commercial cannabis grow in the state of Alaska has been approved by the city of Anchorage. A local marijuana license and special-use permit for Dream Green Farms was approved Tuesday, and a second grow license for Arctic Herbery was forwarded for additional review. Tuesday’s meeting was the first time the Anchorage assembly had taken public input on the issue. Assemblywoman Amy Demboski was part of the unanimous approval vote for Dream Green Farms and she praised their application, saying, “this application right here should be the standard by which all others are measured — period.” Under Alaska’s legalization, Dream Green Farms should be ready to distribute by December, but can they can only sell to processors or retailers, not direct to consumers.

Quick Hits: Over 300 Dead in Philippine-Sanctioned Drug War Executions


MANILA, Philippines – Over 300 people are dead in the streets at the urging of the newly elected president, who has called for police and vigilante executions of drug dealers and users. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared war on illegal drugs at the start of this month and shows no concern about the international outrage over the killings. “Double your efforts. Triple them if need be,” Duterte told his police forces. The figures on the dead come only from the police killings and don’t include drug dealers killed by vigilantes. Duterte has promised presidential pardons for any police convicted of human rights violations in the crackdown. In fear for their lives, over 60,000 drug consumers surrendered themselves to the authorities. During his campaign for president, Duterte promised that up to 100,000 would be killed to rid the Philippines of drugs.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – Marijuana advocacy had a substantial presence at the Democratic National Convention. Protestors aligned with Philly NORML and DCMJ marched two fifty-one foot inflatable prop joints through the sweltering heat of the Philadelphia streets. Downtown, marijuana industry executives, politicians, and reform activists mingled at a reception to discuss how the fight for legalization continues in the next Democratic administration. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told USA Today, “Marijuana legalization ranks with marriage equality as the two social issues that have evolved the most rapidly in public opinion.” Marijuana is already on the ballot in six states, with California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine voting for legalization and Florida and Arkansas voting on medical marijuana.

TALLAHASSEE, Florida – The family trust behind the popular Southern grocery store chain Publix has donated $800,000 to the campaign opposing medical marijuana in the state of Florida. The group Drug-Free Florida successfully fought the 2014 medical marijuana campaign with millions donated by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson. This time around, Carol Jenkins Barnett, worth $1.8 billion herself, is emerging as the prime funder for the group, which needs only to reduce support for the amendment below 60 percent. Back in 2014 she had also donated $500,000 to Drug-Free Florida. As a grocery chain that also maintains pharmacies, Publix might suffer an economic hit from medical marijuana legalization, as a recent study shows fewer pharmaceutical prescriptions are issued in medical marijuana states. Publix officials note that the donation from Jenkins Barnett is a personal donation, not on behalf of Publix. Ironically, Jenkins Barnett, age 59, stepped down from her role with the company to battle early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which research shows medical marijuana may be able to prevent or alleviate.

LONDON, England – Researchers have discovered that consumers who mix tobacco with cannabis, as is popular in Europe and among young people in America, have more difficulty with dependency issues. “Cannabis is less addictive than tobacco,” remarked lead researcher Chandni Hindocha, “but we show here that mixing tobacco with cannabis lowers the motivation to quit using these drugs.” Between 77 and 90 percent of European cannabis users mix tobacco in their joints. Mixed cannabis and tobacco use is popular with over half of Australian cannabis consumers and one-fifth of New Zealand consumers. Such mixing is less popular in Canada, at 16 percent, and rare in the United States, at less than one in twenty. Public health officials are suggesting that a campaign to encourage cannabis-only use would reduce costs surrounding the harm from tobacco use.

Quick Hits: Colorado Town’s Water Not THC-Laced After All

Stop Sign THC

HUGO, Colorado – More extensive testing has shown that the well water in Hugo, Colorado, is not contaminated by THC after all. Marijuana experts immediately reacted to the initial news with disbelief, as THC is not a water-soluble molecule. “If THC were dissolvable in water,” remarked this reporter, “nobody would smoke a bong.” Officials now say that the initial tests were false positives, a point emphasized by marijuana experts who note that such faulty and unreliable field drug tests are used to arrest and convict cannabis consumers all across the country. In reaction to those first tests, officials called on citizens to not drink or bathe using city water.

PORTLAND, Oregon – Adults 21 and older enjoyed free marijuana product samples at the first Oregon Cannabis Fair in Portland. State laws required that the event was free to the public, because charging admission where samples are given would constitute a marijuana sale. Numerous vendors gave away samples of marijuana and cannabis infused edibles. However, weight restrictions on how much marijuana could be displayed tilted the limits against edibles producers, whose products are substantially heavier than flower. Alcohol was also not allowed to be sold or consumed on site; state law bans any cannabis consumption where alcohol is served.

SAN DIEGO, California – Researchers have published a study showing that the THC in cannabis could protect the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The study showed that THC helps in the removal of a toxic plaque that affects Alzheimer’s patients. It also showed that THC also seems to block inflammation that can cause even more damage. “It is reasonable to conclude that there is a therapeutic potential of cannabinoids for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” wrote David Schubert, senior researcher and a professor at Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The news bolsters the value in cannabis as a treatment for brain disorders, with other studies showing it effective for dementia patients and protective against the effects of concussion.

Utah, Gary Johnson, and President Mike Pence

Liberal firebrand Michael Moore has written an incredible essay on why Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. It is an expansion on a riff he delivered recently on Bill Maher’s HBO program, about what Moore calls “the Rust-Belt Brexit”.

I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states.

And this is where the math comes in. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’s 64. All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he’s expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that’ll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states.

Michael Moore's "Rust-Belt Brexit" 2016 election scenario, where Trump flips WI+MI+OH+PA from the 2012 election results.
Michael Moore’s “Rust-Belt Brexit” 2016 election scenario, where Trump flips WI+MI+OH+PA from the 2012 election results.

It’s a pretty compelling prediction, especially now as Hillary Clinton has chosen Tim Kaine as her VP, a man who was praising the Trans-Pacific Partnership as recently as last Thursday. There is reason to believe that Clinton may be able to flip North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes, but there’s equal reason to believe Trump could flip New Hampshire, Iowa, and Nevada to make up 16 electoral votes.

But now we have new polls out of Utah showing the three-way race between Trump, Clinton, and Libertarian Gary Johnson to be a statistical dead heat. Utah’s super-majority Mormon population does not particularly like the Muslim-bashing, twice-divorced, profane Trump.

Michael Moore's "Rust-Belt Brexit" electoral map if Gary Johnson takes Utah, denying both Clinton and Trump the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
Michael Moore’s “Rust-Belt Brexit” electoral map if Gary Johnson takes Utah, denying both Clinton and Trump the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

If the election goes the way Michael Moore predicts with the “Rust-Belt Brexit”, the 6 electoral votes Gary Johnson could win in Utah would deny both Clinton and Trump the presidency.

If this Electoral College tie happens, the election is thrown to the Congress. The 12th Amendment says that the House will choose among the top three finishers for President, while the Senate chooses among the top two finishers for Vice President.

When the House votes, however, each state gets just one vote. The House delegation – each state’s representatives – hold a vote to determine how their state would vote. In a normal election, you’d expect the states to choose the candidate based on the partisan makeup of that state’s delegation.

The makeup of the state delegations to the United States House of Representatives, sorted from most Democratic-dominated to least.
The makeup of the state delegations to the United States House of Representatives, sorted from most Democratic-dominated to least.

The problem for Hillary Clinton is that there are only 14 states and DC that have Democratic-dominated delegations. There are 33 Republican-dominated states and 3 that are ties. The person who gets 26 votes among the states becomes the President.

So Donald Trump becomes President if Gary Johnson wins Utah? Not so fast. If the GOP establishment that hates Donald Trump recognized their opportunity, they could deny both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump the White House.

If Johnson wins Utah, there’s heavy pressure for Utah’s four Republican congresspersons to choose Johnson. He needs only three of their four votes. Even if he gets two congresspersons, he’s deadlocked the state and taken it out of the Trump column.

With Utah out, Trump is down to 32 Republican delegations, needing 26 for the win. That’s when GOP leadership could be working to find individual districts in which Johnson did well or Trump did badly and then pressuring that district’s congressperson to select Johnson.

House delegations that could be flipped from Trump to Johnson or declared a tie by flipping one congressperson, and Utah voting for Johnson.

Looking for seven states to flip, the GOP could start with the 5 red states that have only one congressperson – Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota. In another 4 red states – Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, and Idaho – flipping one vote deadlocks that state. With many of these states in the libertarian-leaning Intermountain West and Northern Plains, picking off 7 out of the 18 Republicans in those states wouldn’t be impossible.

With the House then set at 25 Trump states, 14 Clinton states, and 11 states either for Johnson or tied, the House deadlocks on choosing a President. When that happens, the Vice President chosen by the Senate becomes Acting President after January 20, 2017. Since each Senator gets one vote, the Senate is currently 54-46 Republican, and the top two VP finishers will be Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, the GOP would get to inaugurate President Mike Pence.