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Indian Tribes May Legalize Marijuana, Feds Say

By Mary Ellen Klasherald, Tallahassee Bureau 
Source: Miami Herald

Florida — Will marijuana be as legal as poker chips on Native American tribal lands in Florida? That is the question being asked after the U.S. Justice Department published a memo directing federal prosecutors nationwide to allow tribes to cultivate and grow marijuana on their sovereign lands without fear of federal harassment.

The decision will be applied on a case-by-case basis, according to the memo published Thursday, and there is no indication yet that Florida’s two federally recognized tribes — the Miccosukees and Seminoles — will participate.

But experts say the proposal opens the door for Native Americans across the country to capitalize on the lucrative new industry much like the way the tribes began selling cigarettes and opening casinos.

Read the Department of Justice policy statement.pdf:

“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota who chairs the U.S. attorney general’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. He said that he and other prosecutors from tribal states have been raising questions for years about the issues and wanted the guidance.

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Tribes Can Legalize Pot Justice Department Decides

By Steven Nelson 
Source: U.S. News & World Report

Washington, D.C. — Four western U.S. states have decided to allow recreational marijuana sales, but legal pot may soon be within driving distance of many more Americans following a new Department of Justice decision.

In a memo released Thursday, the department outlined new policies allowing American Indian tribes to grow and sell marijuana on reservation lands.

Possession of marijuana is a federal crime, but the department announced in August 2013 it would allow states to regulate recreational marijuana sales. The nation’s first recreational pot stores opened in Colorado and Washington this year.

Residents of Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voted in November to also legalize marijuana, though Congress appears likely to block sales in the nation’s capital.

The new federal policy will allow tribes interested in growing and selling marijuana to do so, if they maintain “robust and effective regulatory systems,” John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, told the Los Angeles Times.

Tribes will need to avoid eight enforcement triggers that currently apply to state marijuana sales, including a prohibition on sales to minors and the diversion of marijuana to states where it remains illegal under local law.

It’s unclear how many tribes will take advantage of the policy directive. Some tribes are well-known for using their special legal status to host casinos or sell untaxed cigarettes, but addiction and substance abuse are major concerns for some communities.

There are 326 federally recognized American Indian reservations, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Many reservations are in states that don’t allow marijuana for medical or recreational use, such as Oklahoma, Utah and the Dakotas. Others are located near major East Coast cities and far from legal pot stores in the West.

“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” U.S. attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon, chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues, told the Times.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said U.S. attorneys will review tribal marijuana policies on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors retain the right to enforce federal law.

“Each U.S. attorney will assess the threats and circumstances in his or her district, and consult closely with tribal partners and the Justice Department when significant issues or enforcement decisions arise in this area,” the statement says.

Kevin Sabet, a former presidential drug adviser and co-founder of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, says he’s concerned the new policy opens the door to pockets of legalization across the country.

“A situation is quickly forming where people living in states who do not want legalization will in fact be living 10 minutes away from a marijuana store,” Sabet says.

Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, says tribal leaders “will have a tremendous opportunity to improve public health and safety, as well as benefit economically” by legalizing marijuana.

“Regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol would ensure the product is controlled, and it would bring significant revenue and new jobs to these communities,” Tvert says. “Studies have consistently found above-average rates of alcohol abuse and related problems among Native American communities, so it would be incredibly beneficial to provide adults with a safer recreational alternative.”

Source: U.S. News & World Report (US)
Author: Steven Nelson
Published: December 11, 2014
Copyright: 2014 U.S. News & World Report

The Brains of Marijuana Users are Different

By Abby Phillip  
Source: Washington Post

USA — If you’re confused about what marijuana use really does to people who use it, you’re not alone. For years, the scientific research on health effects of the drug have been all over the map.

Earlier this year, one study suggested that even casual marijuana use could cause changes to the brain. Another found that marijuana use was also associated with poor sperm quality, which could lead to infertility in men.

But marijuana advocates point to other research indicating that the drug is far less addictive than other drugs, and some studies have found no relationship between IQ and marijuana use in teens.

Researchers at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas in Dallas sought to clear up some of the confusion with a study that looked at a relatively large group of marijuana users and evaluated their brains for a slew of different indicators.

What they found was complex, but the pattern was clear: The brains of marijuana users were different than those of non-marijuana users. The area of the brain responsible for establishing the reward system that helps us survive and also keeps us motivated was smaller in users than in non-marijuana users. But there was also evidence that the brain compensated for this loss of volume by increasing connectivity and the structural integrity of the brain tissue.

Those effects were more pronounced for marijuana users who started young. Read More..

How Legal Marijuana is Reshaping State Economies

By Patrik Jonsson, Staff Writer 
Source: Christian Science Monitor

USA — Forget that postgraduation barista job. Given that four US states have legalized marijuana, “budtender” is now one of the hottest retail jobs in America.

The legalization movement, which began when California voters approved medical marijuana in 1996, has long argued that one big reason to legalize marijuana is to stop sending adults to jail for using a drug that basically doesn’t have fatal implications, unlike legal ones like alcohol and nicotine.

Yet the experiments in Colorado and Washington State, both of which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and where pot is now sold in shops, have begun to highlight an economic side to the issue. Residents in Oregon and Alaska will also soon see the impact of regulated marijuana sales.

Nearly a year after implementing its tax-and-regulation regime, Colorado now sports 18,000 state-certified, or “badged,” pot industry workers eligible for jobs ranging from cultivation to trimmers, from “edibles creators” to retail budtenders.

“Think about it: You have to count all the people working at the counter, in a cultivation or testing facility, people who are working for packaging and labeling companies. It extends pretty broad,” says Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., which lobbies for marijuana legalization.

To be sure, not everyone is bullish on the ability of pot to drive employment. For one, despite voter enthusiasm at the ballot box for legalized marijuana, pot-related stocks took a tumble this week – probably an investor acknowledgment that the federal government still has the power to squash the market.

“Investors have learned that despite the hype with the populace, marijuana stocks remain risky and mostly something to avoid for now,” writes USA Today’s Matt Krantz.

Critics also worry that a corporatized marijuana industry will, like the tobacco and alcohol giants, target younger Americans in search of profits. Such concerns have in part led to a slide in the polls for marijuana legalization, from 58 percent support a year ago to 51 percent now, according to Gallup. Read More..

In New York City, Marijuana May Mean Ticket

By Joseph Goldstein 
Source: New York Times

New York — The New York Police Department, which has been arresting tens of thousands of people a year for low-level marijuana possession, is poised to stop making such arrests and to issue tickets instead, according to law enforcement officials.

People found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued court summonses and be allowed to continue on their way without being handcuffed and taken to station houses for fingerprinting.

The change would remake the way the police in New York City handle the most common drug offenses and would represent Mayor Bill de Blasio’s most significant effort since taking office to address the enduring effects of the department’s excessive stop-and-frisk practices.

Curbing arrests for small-scale marijuana possession has become a cause for criminal justice reform advocates, and this year, the new Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, said he would stop prosecuting such cases. But his announcement did not go over well with Mr. de Blasio and his police commissioner, William J. Bratton, who vowed to continue making low-level marijuana arrests.

Now, the de Blasio administration is publicly embracing the notion that such small-scale possession merits different treatment. And with the changes, City Hall is moving to retake control of a politically potent issue that has enormous resonance in the black and Latino communities, where a vast majority of small-scale marijuana arrests have taken place.

In the first eight months of the year, blacks and Hispanics represented 86 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession in the city, according to a study written in part by Harry G. Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College who is a director of the Marijuana Arrest Research Project. Read More..

Marijuana from Outlaw Status To Retail Shelves

By Jeff Mapes 
Source: Oregonian

Oregon — After voters in Washington and Colorado voted to legalize marijuana in 2012, Alison Holcomb would tell pot activists it was too early to say that the rest of America was ready to accept the drug.

Holcomb, an American Civil Liberties Union official who managed Washington’s legalization campaign, recalled that nearly a dozen states – including Oregon – decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug in the 1970s.

“And then the ’80s came and the pendulum swung back hard,” she said, as President Ronald Reagan called marijuana “probably the most dangerous drug in America” and stepped up federal enforcement against all illegal drugs.

Holcomb now feels more confident that marijuana will be widely legal after watching Oregon and Alaska voters approve the possession and retail sales.

Legalization in two more states — in a non-presidential year when fewer younger people vote – marks an important milestone in the drive to sweep away criminal penalties against a drug routinely used by millions of Americans, Holcomb and other activists say. On top of that, in Washington, D.C., voters said adults should be able to grow and possess the drug. Read More..

What’s Next For The Marijuana Movement

By Niraj Chokshi  
Source: Washington Post

Washington, D.C. — Marijuana advocates notched three big victories on Tuesday, but they’re just gearing up.

Emboldened by their Election Day victories in Alaska, Oregon and D.C., supporters of legalization are optimistic for the future. We asked a few of them which states will be targeted next for legalization and what lessons they’ve learned from the four successful state campaigns so far.

“The stage is now set for 2016, when measures to regulate marijuana like alcohol are expected to appear on ballots in at least five states,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which was instrumental in passing legalization in Colorado and bankrolled the successful campaign in Alaska. The group contributed about 84 percent of the nearly $900,000 raised by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, which successfully lobbied for passage of the ballot measure in Alaska.

The five states where MPP has established committees to push similar ballot measures in 2016 are Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. An independent Democratic activist in Mississippi is also pursuing a ballot measure there. The measures there will likely mimic the Colorado model, as the measures in Oregon and Alaska did. (The measure passed by voters in Washington in 2012 is typically viewed by advocates as more restrictive than Colorado’s.)

But the group also plans to work to help shepherd legalization through a state legislature for the first time, with a particular focus on Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Hawaii, and Maryland. New Hampshire’s state House in January became the first legislative body in the country to approve legalization, though the effort ultimately reached a dead end. That state, Rhode Island and Vermont may see action soonest among that group.

The upcoming push to legalize in those nearly dozen states will no doubt draw heavily on lessons learned during the successful campaigns so far, which fall roughly into two categories, Tvert said. Advocates in Alaska and Colorado felt they needed to focus on disarming fears about the harm of marijuana early by drawing the comparison to alcohol, while Oregon and Washington played it safer by arguing that legalization is safer than prohibition. Read More..