Jul 1, 2015 Online Issue
Bobby Jindal signed legislation late yesterday significantly reducing criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses.
House Bill 149, which took effect upon signing, amends the state’s toughest-in-the-nation repeat offender laws for marijuana possession offenses.
Under the previous law, second-time possession offenders faced up to five years of hard labor in prison. Third-time offenders faced up to 20 years hard labor in prison.
Under the revised law, two-time marijuana possession offenders face a maximum sentence of six-months in prison. Three-time offenders face a maximum sentence of two-years in prison. Those convicted of marijuana possession for a fourth time face up to eight years in prison.
First-time offenders found in the possession of 14 grams of cannabis or less now face a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail (reduced from six-months). House Bill 149 allows offenders to apply to have their record expunged if they aren’t convicted of a marijuana violation within two years of the first offense.
According to an analysis by the ACLU, Louisiana ranks #14 in the nation in per-capita marijuana possession arrests.
Gov. Jindal also signed separate legislation, SB 143, amending the state’s dormant Therapeutic Research Act. Specifically, the measure asks the state to adopt rules and regulations “relating to the dispensing of prescribed marijuana for therapeutic use” for patients with glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia, or who are undergoing cancer chemotherapy. However, because this language directly conflicts with federal regulations prohibiting doctors from ‘prescribing’ schedule I controlled substances, it remains to be seen whether any licensed Louisiana physicians will agree to participate in the state’s proposed program.
Jul 1, 2015 Online Issue
Peaceful Event Filled the Burnside Bridge Beneath The Iconic Portland Oregon Sign,
Portland Police Maintained Remarkable Restraint As Thousands Light Up
The end of adult marijuana prohibition came at the stroke of midnight, July 1, and a crowd that spanned the entire length of the Burnside Bridge gathered to celebrate the beginning of marijuana legalization in Oregon. A huge puff of marijuana smoke rose to the sky beneath the shining neon Portland Oregon sign that welcomes travelers into Old Town Portland.
“The end of prohibition has been a long time coming,” remarked Portland NORML Executive Director Russ Belville, “and we wouldn’t be celebrating this day in Oregon without the hard work of long time Oregon activists like Paul Stanford, John Sajo, Doug McVay, Madeline Martinez, and so many more, including those we’ve recently lost like Jim Klahr, Jim Grieg, Melodie Silverwolf, and Larry Kirk.”
Portland NORML Board Members Scott Gordon, Jennifer Alexander, and Kaliko Castille were on hand to help distribute educational fliers explaining Oregon adults’ new legal rights to possess marijuana and cultivate cannabis plants. Even as the line of people waiting to celebrate stretched across the bridge on both sides, filling the sidewalks and spilling into the bike lanes, Portland Police Bureau kept their distance.
“We are thankful that the Portland Police Bureau recognized this gathering as a peaceful celebration and allowed the large crowd to express their First Amendment rights free from interference,” said Portland NORML Deputy Director Scott Gordon. “Tonight’s gathering proved that people have nothing to fear from marijuana legalization and the people who enjoy marijuana.”
Portland NORML is the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and represents the interests of marijuana consumers. While legalization is a welcomed first step, it is only the beginning of reforms called for by the organization. Prisoners who remain behind bars for marijuana crimes must be freed. Marijuana consumers must be protected from discrimination in the workplace, as well as protection for parental rights, medical treatment rights, and Second Amendments rights that are still threatened despite marijuana’s new legality.
“We’ve achieved legalization,” Belville explained, “now we seek equalization. We will not stop until we have the same rights as beer drinkers and cigar smokers.
Jun 29, 2015 Online Issue
Beginning July 1st,
adults 21 and older will be able to legally possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana in their home and up to 1 ounce of marijuana outside their home. Adults may also grow up to four plants as long as they are out of public view. The regulatory structure allowing for commercial retail sales is still in the works and will not be implemented until next year.
Oregon voters passed Measure 91 last November with 56% support. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana but did not address its taxation and sale due to D.C. law. Alaska’s law started to take effect earlier than Oregon’s, with Alaska officially ending the criminalization of marijuana possession and cultivation inFebruary. Thus Oregon is now the 4th U.S. state to begin implementing its marijuana legalization law.
Early reports from Colorado and Washington indicate that implementation efforts to tax and regulate marijuana have been largely successful. Tax revenues, economic output, and funds for youth education and prevention have significantly increased. Meanwhile, violent crime rates and statewide traffic fatalities have fallen. While it is far too early to make definitive declarations about social trends, these are encouraging signs that have quelled the concerns of legalization opponents.
In 2012, more than 12,000 people were cited or arrested for the possession of marijuana in Oregon. In Oregon, black people are more than twice as likely to be arrested as white people, even though they use marijuana at similar rates.
“Marijuana prohibition has been a costly failure—to individuals, to communities, and to the state,” says Tamar Todd, Director of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Oregon is taking a smarter, more responsible approach to marijuana that ends the wasteful and racially disproportionate practice of arresting and citing people simply for possessing a small amount of marijuana.”
While possession and home cultivation will soon be legal in the state, commercial retail sales will not begin until next year. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the state agency responsible for taxing, licensing, and regulating commercial recreational marijuana, will begin accepting applications next year and retail stores are not expected to open until late 2016. This is similar to the roll-out in both Washington and Colorado, where possession of marijuana became legal over a year before retail sales began. In the first year, court filings of marijuana charges dropped significantly in both Colorado and Washington. In Washington, there were 5,531 court filings for marijuana offenses in 2012, and that number dropped to 120 in 2013.
“The dramatic reduction in arrests in Washington and Colorado and associated savings for police and prosecutors will now be a reality in Oregon,” added Todd.
DPA was the single largest donor to Oregon’s Measure 91 campaign and was deeply involved in the measure’s drafting and on-the-ground campaign. Voters in several states, including California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Ohio, Nevada and Maine, are expected to consider marijuana legalization initiatives at the ballot in 2015 and 2016.
As support for marijuana reform increases and attitudes shift, the Drug Policy Alliance is encouraging news outlets to use images that accurately reflect modern-day marijuana consumers and has released free, open-license stock photos and B-rollfootage for editorial use.
Jun 29, 2015 Online Issue
On June 14,
more than 200 people gathered at the Sebastopol Grange for a fundraiser and organizing meeting of local pot growers, the Sonoma County Growers Association. They were being mentored by their northern neighbors from Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties, the Emerald Growers Association, which already has lobbyists in Sacramento and is in the middle of the effort to legalize weed in California next year. The Emerald Triangle is the largest marijuana growing area in the country’s largest marijuana producing state.
Two days later, more than a hundred people met in a conference room at the Oakland Marriot City Center to plot the intricacies of producing a statewide marijuana legalization initiative. For several hours, attendees—dispensary operators and employees, small growers, not-so-small growers, patients, consumers, interested citizens, even a nun—offered their input on a rapid-fire but seemingly endless array of issues related to legalization and how it should occur:
Who can grow it? How much? Where? Who can grow it commercially? Should there be tiered licensing to ensure small operators have a chance? Who can sell it? Can cities and counties opt out? Who should regulate it? How should it be taxed and how much? Where should the revenues go? Should there be amnesties or expungements of records? Should employees be protected from being fired for smoking on their own time? Should there be protections from child welfare services or family courts? Does impaired driving need to be addressed? What about medical marijuana? Should existing businesses get a priority?
The complexities of knitting together a legalization initiative that will satisfy the community’s already well-developed interest groups become apparent. But the process is nearing its end, and, it is hoped, a repeat of the movement infighting that accompanied 2010’s failed Prop 19 effort can be avoided.
The Bay area events are nothing unusual in California this year. Pot politics is in the air. There is a lot at stake for the existing medical marijuana system as the legislature tries again to agree on a statewide regulation scheme, but beyond that, there’s the whole issue of outright legalization, and that’s going to come to a head in the months leading up to November 2016.
Jun 29, 2015 Online Issue
When it comes to the business world,
I always tell people that marijuana is different.
Strategies that work in other industries don’t always work in the marijuana industry. There are a multitude of reasons. The consumer base for marijuana is different than other industries due to the fact that those consumers had to operate in the shadows for so long, and there’s a lot of consumer behaviors that go along with that that aren’t found in other industries. Also, whereas other industries operate according to long established rules and policies, the marijuana industry is very new and the rules and policies that govern the industry are constantly evolving. There are many other reasons that marijuana is different when it comes to business, but those are the two that I offer up the most.
This has made it hard for people that are entering the industry that don’t have a long background with marijuana. They come into the industry with their business suits, pitches, and angel investments, and they think that the sky is the limit, and there’s simply no way that they can fail in anyway. They have big plans that they will re-brand the industry, and change the way things are being done, because after all, they have succeeded in other areas of business. A lot of those business types are getting a rude awakening.
I usually offer up the State of Illinois as an example of this, because business people there thought for sure that they would knock it out of the park. After all, there would be just a limited number of medical marijuana business licenses to go around, and with such a large overall population, anyone who got a license would be rich overnight, which is why so many tried to get licenses despite such a high barrier to entry in the Illinois market. That isn’t working out to well due to the fact that the Illinois law is so limited that the patient base is not large enough to support hardly any companies, let alone well over a dozen companies.
Canada was another very promising prospect for some marijuana investors. Canada was going to move to a model where just a handful of companies supplied all of the medical marijuana for the nation’s medical marijuana patients. It seemed like a golden opportunity for some companies since Canada has such a huge population, and, in theory, the only way medical marijuana users would be able to get their meds is via one of the handful of companies. So a lot of companies went all in, largely overestimating the profit potential from running one of the national medical marijuana cultivation companies in Canada.
These investors didn’t take into account that growing quality marijuana is not easy, nor is getting it to the masses at an affordable price. Companies that were once full of certainty and optimism are now learning that the average medical marijuana consumer in Canada is not like they thought, nor is the political climate like they thought, and things are about to get even worse as more and more companies get approved to cultivate medical marijuana and the market becomes more competitive. The City of Vancouver just announced it would allow medical marijuana dispensaries, and I’m sure there will be other cities that will follow suit. Dispensaries are all over Vancouver serving patients, and there are many more patients that just continue to grow medical marijuana illegally because what they can grow is better and cheaper than what the national companies can supply.
At least one Canadian medical marijuana company is planning on laying off over five dozen of its employees, which I suspect is due to the fact that business isn’t booming quite like they had thought that it would. Although to be fair, they claim it’s for a different reason. Per Marijuana Business Daily:
Canadian medical marijuana producer and distributor Tilray said it will lay off 61 employees as the company changes up its operating model.
The move comes about a year after Tilary opened its cultivation facility in the town of Nanaimo and a day after two of its competitors announced they are merging to create a powerhouse MMJ provider.
One dispensary owner in Victoria told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that the layoffs aren’t surprising, as he feels cultivation companies grossly overestimated the amount of revenues they’d take in.
Tilray is one of 17 companies in Canada licensed to both cultivate and distribute MMJ, according to Health Canada’s Marihuana for Medical Purposes (MMPR) regulations. It’s owned by Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based private equity firm that in April closed a $75 million round of financing.
Jun 29, 2015 Online Issue
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today released its 2015 World Drug Report as the organization marked the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, but civil society groups around the world used the occasion to take to the streets to demand an end to the global drug prohibition regime.
The report itself was relatively anodyne by UNODC standards, noting that illicit drug was “stable,” with around 250 million people having used illegal drugs in the previous year. There was “little change in the overall global situation regarding the production, use and health consequences of illicit drugs,” the UNODC noted.
The annual report did make note of deleterious consequences related to drug prohibition—including high overdose death rates and health consequences, as well strengthening terrorist and organized crime networks—but failed to acknowledge the role of prohibition in creating and aggravating the very problems it claims to address.
Global civil society took it upon itself to rectify that omission. Led by the International Drug Policy Consortium, dozens of groups mobilizing thousands of people marched or otherwise took action in at least 150 cities worldwide as part of theSupport, Don’t Punish global advocacy campaign. Support has more than tripled since 2013, when 41 cities participated.
“On the 26th June, thousands of people in over 150 cities will take part in a global day of action for the Support. Don’t Punish campaign. The campaign is a global show of force to say enough is enough – it’s time to end the wasteful and damaging war on drugs,” said Ann Fordham, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC).
“Governments need to wake up,” declared Idrissa Ba, Executive Director of the Association Sénégalaise pour la Réduction des Risques Infectieux chez les Groupes Vulnerables (ASRDR) and member of the West African Commission on Drugs. “In the last year we’ve spent another $100 billion on fighting the drug war, and yet again we’ve seen no change, but the human cost in terms of lives lost, new HIV infections or the forced detention of people who use drugs is immeasurable. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, isn’t that the definition of madness?”
In New York City, people from groups including the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the Harm Reduction Coalition, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Espolea, México Unido Contra la Delincuencia, and Transform met an UN headquarters to demand reforms in the broken global drug prohibition system.
Jun 27, 2015 Online Issue
Pennsylvania State Rep.
Nick Miccarelli (R-Ridley Park) will file a discharge petition in the House of Representatives on Friday to remove a medical marijuana bill from the House Health Committee and bring it to the full floor for a vote. SB 3 would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to access medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors. Rep. Matthew Baker (R-Wellsboro), who chairs the Health Committee, has stated that he will not call the bill for a vote there.
“There is no reason this compassionate legislation should not get a full vote,” said Christine Brann of Dauphin County, whose son has an intractable seizure condition called Dravet Syndrome. “SB 3 passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and is supported by the vast majority of Pennsylvania doctors as well as residents. We know this works. The time to allow our most vulnerable residents to access medical marijuana is now – not in the fall.”
Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Harrisburg) announced his plans to introduce a new medical marijuana bill in the coming weeks but details have not been finalized.
“Thousands of seriously ill Keystone State residents are depending on our representatives to support this discharge petition and SB 3,” said Mike Whiter, a combat veteran from Philadelphia who suffers from PTSD. “Chairman Marsico’s proposal — that he write a bill that would not be considered until fall — is not a reasonable alternative. The longer they wait, the longer we have to suffer. How many patients will die waiting for our lawmakers to do the right thing?”
The Senate approved SB 3 40-7 on May 12. It would allow patients with serious medical conditions to obtain medical marijuana from a limited number of licensed, regulated dispensaries throughout the state. Smoking would not be permitted, but patients would be allowed to consume marijuana in edible form, and patients with certain conditions would be allowed to consume it through vaporization. To qualify, patients would need recommendations from their doctors. Gov. Tom Wolf has said he would sign a medical marijuana bill into law.
Nearly nine out of 10 Pennsylvania voters (88%) support medical marijuana, according to an April survey conducted by Quinnipiac University. Nine out of 10 Pennsylvania doctors would recommend medical marijuana to their patients, according to a survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have adopted effective medical marijuana laws.