"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
@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.”
@SAM_Oregon Over 32k dead from gun violence each year in US. ZERO dead from marijuana. Your comparison is delusional & shameful.
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.
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.
@repblumenauer would that be the same cowardice as those who refuse to stand up against the 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”.
Blowing our statement out of proportion doesn't mean you're right. MJ is a threat to public health/public safety whether you like it or not
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
A Little Birdie Told Me The Bernie Sanders Path to the Nomination
With another set of wins in the western states of Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, Senator Bernie Sanders has chipped away at Secretary Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. However, the math in the remaining states makes the Bernie Sanders path to the nomination daunting, indeed.
Political handicappers point out that at the beginning of the day, Clinton had a lead of +312 pledged delegates. Some media outlets, like CNN, misleadingly continue to add Clinton’s superdelegates – party insiders who don’t vote until the convention – and include analysis like the following:
But Sanders still faces daunting mathematical odds as he tries to catch up with Clinton’s delegate count, particularly because delegates are allocated proportionally. The former secretary of state has already amassed 1,711 of the 2,383 delegates she would need to clinch the nomination, according to CNN estimates, while Sanders has notched 952 delegates to date. That means he would need to win 75% of the remaining pledged delegates to defeat her.
Such number crunching is meant to discourage Sanders’ supporters in an attempt to get him to end his campaign so Clinton can focus on the general election. But in reality, since superdelegates don’t count until the convention, Sanders needs to capture 58 percent of the remaining pledged delegates – not 75 percent – to overtake her by the convention. If that happens, superdelegates would be risking the wrath of Democratic voters upset that their votes had been rendered moot if they didn’t support the winning candidate.
It would require a sort of political miracle rarely seen in American politics for Sanders to pull it off. He pretty much has to run the table of remaining states and notch some huge victories in places where Clinton is easily expected to win.
But here is an admittedly fantastic projection of how Bernie could do it. And before you ask me what I’m smoking, I can’t tell you, because marijuana for sale to healthy people in Arizona isn’t labeled. We start with the assumption that Sanders wins Hawaii later tonight and Clinton’s delegate lead stands at +274.
Hillary Alienates the Cheeseheads
The Bernie Sanders path starts in early April by campaigning for Wisconsin’s 86 delegates by hammering Clinton on her support of disastrous trade policies. Clinton campaigns in Green Bay, trying to appear likeable by sharing some beers and brats with hometown Green Bay Packers fans. But she commits a huge gaffe by referring to former Packers quarterback “Brent Favrey”. The clip gets paired with the infamous clip of John Kerry referring to “Lambert Field” in the 2004 campaign and goes viral, reminding ‘Sconnies that Hillary will say anything to get elected.
At one campaign event in a rural area of Wisconsin, local news crews get a shot of a wild badger peeking his head up in the background while Bernie Sanders delivers his speech. That video invites comparisons to the “Birdie Sanders” clip from Portland, Oregon, and gives Sanders more free positive airtime. Voters reward Sanders with a 63 percent win on April 5th.
Four days later in Wyoming, voters there follow the lead of voters in demographically-similar Idaho and Utah and give Sanders an 80 percent win. Heading into the crucial April 19th New York primary, Clinton’s delegate lead is down to +244.
Wall Street Crash Leads to New York Stunner
The Bernie Sanders Path gets considerably tougher. As the former senator from New York, Clinton goes into the contest with a huge lead in the polls. But the idea of Sanders’ momentum keeps growing, with wins in seven of the last eight states. Also, questions about illegal electioneering by Bill Clinton in Massachusetts and voter suppression in Arizona begin to surface in the mainstream media.
While both candidates are campaigning heavily in New York, there is a tremendous week-long 700-point plunge on the stock market. Donald Trump hits Clinton relentlessly from the right and Sanders continues to tie Clinton to Wall Street on the left. The barrage weakens Clinton’s support enough to allow Sanders to squeak by her with 50.1 percent of the vote, stealing one more delegate from her and dropping her lead to +243.
Sanders Outperforms Expectations on Mid-Atlantic Tuesday
Wall Street is still struggling to recover the next week as the campaigns turn to the five states that have elections on April 26. Clinton’s inevitability took a tremendous hit by not winning her “home” state of New York and the mantra that Sanders has won every state that’s voted in the past thirty days. The Bernie Sanders path is still a tough one.
Tragically, there is another terrible case of a police officer shooting an unarmed black man on video, this time in Hartford, Connecticut. Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns address the tragedy and both are confronted with aggressive Black Lives Matter protesters. Sanders is heckled at another one of his huge rallies and he takes the time to gather some of the protesters on stage to have their say. Video is played on the news showing BLM protestors embracing Sanders and raising his arm in solidarity.
A day later at Hillary’s far smaller and strictly managed event, there is a similar attempt by Black Lives Matter to take the podium like they had at Sanders’ rally. But Clinton comes off dismissive to the protesters. Video of white Secret Service agents physically removing the protesters at Clinton’s is split-screen with the BLM embrace of Sanders video and video of security physically removing protesters from Trump’s rally.
The resulting hit to her popularity with African-Americans, especially in the younger generation, combined with upper class white panic over the Wall Street plunge allows Sanders to complete a close sweep of all five states – Connecticut at 52 percent, Delaware at 54 percent, Maryland at 54 percent, Pennsylvania at 53 percent, and Rhode Island at 54 percent. Clinton’s delegate count is down to +219 and has dropped 126 points – over a third – since her last win in Arizona.
May Day! May Day!
Stories begin to circulate about upcoming indictments in the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s personal email server – not for Clinton, but for close aides. That distinction is lost on the general public and Clinton’s already bad trustworthiness and likeability numbers continue to drop. The Bernie Sanders path is getting a bit easier.
Donald Trump has not secured enough delegates for the Republican nomination, leading to more speculation of the GOP establishment drafting Speaker Paul Ryan to deny Trump the nomination at a brokered convention. Polls show Clinton losing badly to Ryan and only beating Trump within the polls’ margin of error.
Sanders continues to trounce Trump in the polls and the first round of polls show him beating Ryan by seven points. Word leaks that Clinton is struggling in her fundraising and that key superdelegates in landslide states for Sanders begin announcing they’re switching their votes to Sanders. The feeling that it’s all coming apart for Clinton becomes palpable, punctuated by a cell phone video someone captures backstage at a Clinton event where Hillary and Bill are screaming angrily at each other.
In this environment and with the economic effects of the 700-point stock market drop beginning to be felt, Sanders notches an unexpectedly large win in Indiana, with 60 percent of the vote. Guam votes similar to other overseas Democrats and gives Sanders a 66 percent win.
The “Big Coal Speech”
Media begins framing the new Bernie Sanders path as a Rocky-like fighter who just will not go down as Clinton’s pledged delegate lead drops below +200 to +199 on the Guam results. With increased attention nationally to Sanders continuing to pack arenas and building a populist wave, Sanders delivers what historians will call his “Big Coal Speech” in Morgantown, West Virginia.
“For too many years,” Sanders tells the crowd of thousands at the University of West Virginia, “the titans of Big Coal have lined their pockets with profits purchased with the health and lives of the good working people of coal mining country, working people who work one of the most hazardous jobs on the planet.
“Now even those jobs are disappearing as Big Coal now simply slices off the tops of mountains to get at this dirtiest of energy sources. Well, some people may disagree, but I say it is time to end the era of Big Coal. The federal government should invest in helping the working people of West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and other coal producing regions become the world leaders in alternative energy production, through massive job retraining programs and tax incentives for alternative energy companies that create jobs right here in West Virginia!
My opponent likes to say that I’m promising ‘free stuff’. I say it takes some gall to say investing in the American people is some sort of giveaway. For how long have we given ‘free stuff’ to ExxonMobil and Chevron in the form of huge subsidies? For how long have we given ‘free stuff’ to Walmart in the form of food stamps for their employees – where the richest family in America, the Walmart heirs, don’t pay their employees enough to feed their families? For how long have we given ‘free stuff’ to the richest one-tenth of one-percent in the form of loopholes and tax havens and benefits they accrue from shipping our jobs overseas?
For too long, I say, and if somebody like Donald Trump wants to say investing in West Virginia to become an economic powerhouse, producing alternative energy products, cleaning rather than polluting our environment, if he wants to say that is some sort of handout, he should come here and say that to the faces of the working people of West Virginia!”
The West Virginia people eat it up and reward Sanders with a 55 percent win. Meanwhile, more speculation swirls around Speaker Ryan being drafted by the establishment Republicans as Ted Cruz is still hanging around, picking off more conservative states and preventing Trump from gaining the majority he needs to guarantee his nomination.
Another Pacific Northwest Shellacking
As we hit the middle of May, Hillary Clinton hasn’t won a contest since the beginning of spring. Arizona seems a long time ago as Sanders keeps winning and drawing huge crowds. Trump has been barraging Clinton in the media, resurrecting scandal after scandal that are ultimately old news, but Trump’s celebrity reality style makes them all new again for the media. Trump’s few attacks on Bernie mostly consists of implying he’s weak, too old, a “communist”, and he once wrote some “disgusting” stories, but nothing really sticks.
Oregon and Kentucky vote on the Bernie Sanders path on May 17. The “Put a Bird on It” moment in Portland back in March has metastasized into a phenomenon all throughout Oregon. The cute little finch comes to represent a symbolic “third party” – neither donkey nor elephant – that rejects the establishment political offerings. The finch t-shirts are ubiquitous among trendy Oregonians and rural residents, many of whom are Republicans who cannot stomach Donald Trump.
Clinton bravely campaigns in Portland, trying to salvage as many of the delegates as possible, worried she may not even make the threshold to be awarded any delegates proportionally in Oregon. But her string of terrible bird-related luck continues. At a speech outdoors in Portland she gets an airborne delivery of bird shit on the right shoulder of her blue pantsuit, just as she’s delivering a line about how she will fight for the values of personal privacy and government accountability that all Oregonians believe in. The hashtag #BirdsForBernie becomes a trending topic and the loop of what gets called “The Second Blue Clinton Dress Stain” takes America by storm.
Oregon votes 4-to-1 in Sanders’ favor and Kentucky follows West Virginia in giving Sanders a 55 percent victory. Clinton’s delegate lead is now down to +156, less than half of what it was when she last won a primary or caucus – eighteen states ago. And if fighting off Trump, Cruz, and Sanders weren’t enough, Ryan has started dipping his toes in the political waters, lobbing a few thinly veiled attacks at Clinton.
California Dreamin’ on Final Super Tuesday
Sanders gets another couple of appetizers in early June. The US Virgin Islands votes on the 4th and gives him a 66 percent win and a 5 to 2 delegate split. The real surprise comes in Puerto Rico, where most people had expected Clinton to finally put an end to her losing stream, thanks to the large Hispanic population. But Sanders’ string of wins and the support of more Latino/a leaders, including some more superdelegates, coupled with a renewed focus on minority communities, propels Sanders to an amazing 66 percent win there as well.
The table is set for the homestretch of the Bernie Sanders path with Clinton still maintaining a +133 delegate lead over Sanders. Both have been spending heavily on ads in California for weeks, but Bernie’s powerfully broad small-donor base keeps setting records while Hillary’s fundraising stalls enough that she and Bill begin loaning some of their own fortune to her campaign. Trump and Cruz hammer her for being unable to fundraise and Sanders points out that both his opponents, Trump and Clinton, are the mega-rich funding their own campaigns.
Polls in California are plentiful and all over the place. Some have Clinton winning a nail-biter, some have it going the other way for Sanders, but by a slightly larger margin. Everyone says it will all come down to turnout. On this last Super Tuesday of June 7th, with the biggest prize on the line, the political world is shocked as turnout crushes records. Universities report being nearly empty as college students are camped out in voting lines before the polls even open.
Initial counts of early and absentee voting in California show Sanders with a lead. The news boosts the morale of the young people standing in those long lines all across the state. The voting continues past midnight and the world is shocked when Sanders pulls off an unthinkable 58 percent win, fueled by the record turnout of young people. With just the win in California, Sanders has knocked another 77 delegates off of Clinton’s once insurmountable lead.
The California upset is the second big one of the night. On the East Coast, Sanders defied all expectations by pulling out a 60 percent win in New Jersey, as people still fed up with the so-called stock market correction let their dissatisfaction with Wall Street be heard. Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota went as rural white states have gone for Sanders, giving him a 75 percent, 80 percent, and 75 percent, respectively. New Mexico also reacts to the increased support of Latinos/as for Sanders and breaks from next-door Arizona by giving Sanders a 66 percent win.
The End of Inevitability
Most of all, the California win does for the Bernie Sanders path what was once though impossible. For the first time in the primary contest, Sanders has pulled ahead of Clinton in pledged delegates – just +11, 1,982 to 1,971 – leaving the nation’s capital, Washington DC, to decide who will be the people’s Democratic nominee.
The week of campaigning is fierce and Clinton finally notches her first win since Arizona in March on June 14th when DC voters support her by a 3-to-1 margin. But that nets her 15 delegates and Sanders 5 delegates, leaving him with a +1 margin in pledged delegates over Hillary Clinton. The media, however, has been adding in the remaining superdelegates of hers who haven’t switched over, giving her the appearance of being the party’s nominee in two weeks. Sanders supporters are furious and vow to ensure the finch wing of the Democratic Party wins that nominating battle.
The GOP Convention begins in Cleveland in just four days after DC votes. Trump hasn’t collected enough delegates to win on a first ballot. Ryan continues to beat Clinton in nationwide polls and Sanders continues to beat Ryan in those same polls. The convention is a madhouse full of angry Trump supporters and there is plenty of violence for the cameras to cover. The GOP finally picks Ryan to be their nominee and hope Trump sticks to his pledge to support the nominee. Trump, only interested in winning, knows he can’t win an independent bid and bows out, asking his supporters to get behind Ryan so Clinton will lose.
Next comes the Democratic Convention, where the momentum of three months of nothing but Bernie Sanders wins (minus DC) combined with his actual +1 pledged delegate lead and superior poll performance against the Republican nominee Paul Ryan are all in Sanders’ favor. Sanders eventually converts enough of Clinton’s superdelegates and picks up more of his own from unpledged superdelegates that he wins the Democratic nomination for president of the United States and goes on to beat Speaker Paul Ryan with 58 percent of the popular vote – coincidentally what he needed to win in the remaining Democratic primaries when we started this fantasy.
You know what? This black market Arizona weed isn’t so bad…
Richard Nixon’s Racist Drug War (Or: What Took Y’all So Long?)
The internet was ablaze this week with the bombshell that Richard Nixon’s Racist Drug War was launched for racist and political purposes.
Dan Baum wrote an amazing cover story for Harper’s Magazine entitled “Legalize It All“. It leads with a quote from John Ehrlichman. He was President Richard Nixon’s domestic policy adviser and one of the Watergate co-conspirators who served time in prison for his crimes. In 1994, Ehrlichman said to Baum:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
It’s interesting he refers to the Nixon campaign and the Nixon White House, which doesn’t necessarily mean Nixon himself, but rather the political operatives, like Ehrlichman, who surrounded him.
I don’t think Nixon vilified the hippies and the blacks so he could win elections or anything so calculating, though I’m certain his inner circle did. I think Nixon actually believed that hippies and blacks and Communists and gays and Jews were terrible threats to society. Richard Nixon’s racist drug war was his duty as president of the United States! Drug users were Public Enemy Number One! But not the drinkers. Drug users kill societies, not drinkers.
Yes, Nixon actually believed that. He was one of those true-believer what-about-the-children?!? types. The evidence is all there in the Nixon White House Tapes. These archives, which were laboriously transcribed by Common Sense for Drug Policy, reveal a racist anti-Semitic homophobic cannabigoted Nixon at his alcohol-embracing hypocritical worst:
“[Marijuana] is now becoming a white problem”
RICHARD NIXON: “When will the marijuana one come out?”
RAYMOND SCHAFFER: “The marijuana will come out in March ‘72. In other words we are coming into the final phases of it now, we’ve had all of our public hearings. We have not, we have nine more informal hearings.”
RICHARD NIXON: “You’ve had all your public hearings already?”
RAYMOND SCHAFFER: “All of the public hearings, yes, and, uh, we’ve had, had, have had several informal hearings, we have nine more of those including one at, at federal college (?), Monday.”
RICHARD NIXON: “Here.”
RAYMOND SCHAFFER: “Right here in Washington, [unintelligible].”
RICHARD NIXON: “Hard to find anybody who isn’t on the stuff?”
RAYMOND SCHAFFER: “Uh, no. [unintelligible] Over 75 percent of the [unintelligible] are white, and, uh, and under 18, almost 85 percent, which I [unintelligible].”
RICHARD NIXON: “It’s now becoming a white problem.”
“I want a goddamn strong statement on marijuana… that just tears the ass out of them”
RICHARD NIXON: “Now, this is one thing I want. I want a Goddamn strong statement on marijuana. Can I get that out of this sonofabitching, uh, Domestic Council?”
H.R. HALDEMAN: “Sure.”
RICHARD NIXON: “I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them. I see another thing in the news summary this morning about it. You know it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob, what is the matter with them? I suppose it’s because most of them are psychiatrists, you know, there’s so many, all the greatest psychiatrists are Jewish. By God we are going to hit the marijuana thing, and I want to hit it right square in the puss, I want to find a way of putting more on that. More [ unintelligible ] work with somebody else with this.”
H.R. HALDEMAN: “Mm hmm, yep.”
RICHARD NIXON: “I want to hit it, against legalizing and all that sort of thing.”