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Oregon: Marijuana Advocates Take Legalization Message To Capitol

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Advocates of marijuana legalization are taking their message to Oregon's capitol. A legislative panel on Tuesday will look at a measure that would legalize and tax cannabis. The move comes as Washington state, next door, prepares rules about how to regulate and tax pot after voters there approved legalization in November.

"I understand this is a heavy lift for the Legislature to pass this bill this year," said Anthony Johnson, who heads New Approach Oregon, a political action committee formed to legalize the herb, reports Chris Lehman at Northwest News Network.

"Our neighbors to the north are going to start collecting taxes from Oregon residents who are purchasing marijuana," Johnson said.

Voters in Oregon last fall rejected Measure 80, a ballot measure that would have legalized marijuana. But Johnson said New Approach Oregon's bill is more restrictive; it would allow more state control over the production and distribution of cannabis.

Oregon: Pro-Marijuana Billboard Destroyed By Vandals

Regulate Marijuana in 2014!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A pro-marijuana billboard in Portland, Oregon, put up to coincide with the city's Spring Beer & Wine Festival, was destroyed by vandals Thursday night. The vandals removed the billboard from its backing, causing it to fall off the sign, rendering it unreadable.

The billboard, which promoted marijuana as being safer than alcohol, was paid for by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which helped pass Colorado's Amendment 64, through which Coloradans voted to legalize cannabis last November, reports David Knowles at the New York Daily News. It featured a picture of a pint of beer, a glass of wine, and a marijuana leaf with the words "beer," "wine," and "safer" printed above each image, respectively.

There is a truth that must be heard!"Portland is a city where a strong majority of people realize that the prohibition of marijuana has failed," MPP's Mason Tvert said. "More voters are acknowledging the fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, so this is an important message to keep pushing."

Pointing to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tvert said nobody has ever died from smoking pot.

Massachusetts: First Marijuana Dispensaries Could Open By Year's End

Illustration: The Daily ChronicBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The first medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts could open by the end of this year, according to a timeline released on Friday by the state Department of Public Health.

Draft regulations on the medical use of marijuana in Massachusetts were filed by the DPH, which expects the final regulations to be approved by the Public Health Council and the Secretary of State by the end of May, report Marie Szaniszio and Erin Smith at the Boston Herald.

DPH is expected to start accepting applications from prospective dispensary operators by summer, and continue reviewing shops for license approval through the fall, said Interim Commissioner Dr. Lauren Smith.

"DPH solicited an unprecedented level of input in drafting these regulations to create a medical marijuana system that is right for Massachusetts," Smith said. "In this proposal, we have sought to achieve a balanced approach that will provide appropriate access for patients, while maintaining a secure system that keeps our communities safe." ("Safe" from one of the most non-toxic substances known to man, presumably.)

DPH requires that each nonprofit medical marijuana treatment center (MMTC), as it calls dispensaries, will operate its own growing facilities. No wholesale distribution of cannabis products will be allowed.

Rhode Island: Marijuana Decriminalization Law Takes Effect Monday

There is a truth that must be heard!Criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession will be replaced with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Possession of small amounts of marijuana will no longer carry criminal penalties in Rhode Island when a law adopted last year officially takes effect on Monday.

S 2253/ H 7092, sponsored by Sen. Josh Miller and Rep. John “Jay” Edwards and signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee last June, replaces criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a $150 civil fine similar to a traffic ticket. If the offender is under the age of 18, his or her parents or legal guardians will be notified and he or she will be required to complete an alcohol and drug education course, as well as perform community service, in addition to the fine.

Fifty percent of the fines collected by the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal will be directed toward drug education and treatment programs.

Rhode Island joins 13 other states around the country that have adopted marijuana "decriminalization" laws. Voters in two additional states, Washington and Colorado, have approved measures to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol for adults 21 and older.

Decriminalization bills have been introduced in nine states this year. Additionally, bills to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol have been introduced in nine states.

California: Lawsuit Alleges Long Beach Police Brutalized Marijuana Dispensary Employee

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A lawsuit filed on Tuesday alleges that Long Beach police who were raiding a medical marijuana dispensary brutalized one of the employees.

Security camera footage of the incident, which happened June 19 of last year, show employee Dorian Brooks, a young African-American with no prior arrests on his record, lying on the ground when an LBPD officer steps on his neck, reports Nick Schou at OC Weekly.

The footage also shows police officers trying to destroy a security camera after the attack.

When Brooks -- who posed no visible threat to the officers -- cried out in pain from the weight of the cop standing on his neck, officers roughly handcuffed him, according to the complaint, and said, "You're a black drug dealer; you should be used to this."

When officers battered down the security camera -- allegedly trying to destroy evidence of their misbehavior -- debris from the camera fell on Brooks, and he again cried out in pain. At that point, one of the officers told him, "Shut up, you dumb nigger," according to the complaint.

Officers refused to loosen Brooks' handcuffs, according to the lawsuit, and they made racially insulting and otherwise insensitive remarks to two overweight Latino dispensary employees. They allegedly loosened the handcuffs on two white workers.

Massachusetts: Police Say Men Mailed $1 Million In Marijuana From California

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Seven men were arrested after a six-month investigation into a cross-country operation in which $1 million in marijuana was mailed from California to Malden, Massachusetts, police announced on Thursday.

Seized in a series of raids at Malden homes were six pounds of marijuana, six guns, and thousands of dollars in cash, according to Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone, reports Jarret Bencks of the Boston Globe.

Cops say they started investigating the so-called "Maplewood Crew" after U.S. Postal Service employees intercepted several packages containing cannabis addressed to various homes in Malden.

Arrested were:

• Dat Tran, 23; possession of ammunition as an armed career criminal, trafficking of more than 100 pounds of marijuana, conspiracy to traffic marijuana, money laundering

• Reginald Miller, 20; breaking and entering, trafficking of more than 100 pounds of marijuana, possession of a large-capacity weapon, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, possession of ammunition, destruction of property, being an armed career criminal

• Joshua Joyner, 21; trafficking of more than 100 pounds of marijuana, conspiracy to traffic marijuana more than 100 pounds

Colorado: Prominent Marijuana Activist Damien LaGoy Dies At 53

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Prominent cannabis activist Damien LaGoy of Colorado, who was battling AIDS and hepatitis C, died at age 53 on Saturday, advocates from the group Sensible Colorado announced this week.

LaGoy became "the public face of medical-marijuana patients in Colorado," reports John Ingold of The Denver Post.

"Damien LaGoy was pound for pound the toughest individual I have ever known," said Dan Pope, a longtime friend and caregiver. "He was very genuine in his compassion and sense of fairness, yet he could be tenacious as hell when pushed."

LaGoy won court battles in 2007 and again in 2009, securing victories that laid the foundation for Colorado's earliest medical marijuana dispensaries.

He had, with both cases, challenged state Health Department rules that limited the number of patients a caregiver could serve. The limit had been set at five, but LaGoy said that would have leeft him without a provider, because he was Pope's sixth patient.

"If I lose my caregiver, I don't know what I'll do," LaGoy said in 2009. "I'll have to find someone on Colfax or by the Civic Center and get it off the street."

U.S.: Marijuana Super PAC Wants To Go National With Legalization

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Two brothers, Mark and Dennis Rogers, have started an effort to end the federal prohibition of marijuana -- both medical and recreational -- by creating the nation's first pro-marijuana super PAC (political action committee).

The Legalize Marijuana Super PAC was founded to deal with legal troubles concerning marijuana use, according to Mark Rogers, reports Sterling C. Beard at The Hill.

The Rogers brothers have already sent in their application to the Federal Election Commission, reports Kiki Van Son at Policymic.

They've also made known their opposition to the efforts of local law enforcement to eradicate the use of Marinol, an FDA-approved synthetic pharmaceutical substitute for herbal cannabis which is available by prescription.

"A couple of our local judges here have said it creates a problem for them because they can't distinguish between Marinol and marijuana," Rogers said.

"People that find themselves in legal trouble, that is essentially the only way that they can medicate," Rogers said, "even though we've made several distinctions in our state to circumvent [federal marijuana laws], the local authorities really grind you under their thumb."

Washington: Zoning Could Restrict Seattle Marijuana Sales In Tourist Areas

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Some Seattle City Council members want to keep legalized marijuana -- approved by Washington state voters last November via Initiative 502 -- away from the city's tourist areas, historical districts and family zones.

An amendment to the city's Land Use Code has been proposed by council members Nick Licata and Sally Clark which would restrict the growing, processing, selling and delivery of cannabis in Capitol Hill's Harvard-Belmont area, the Downtown core, and other historical districts and family zones, reports Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

Areas where marijuana sales and cultivation would be allowed under I-502 are already greatly restricted within Seattle's city limits; these changes would even further restrict the areas where it would be allowed.

The proposals are a response to legalization and the need to develop regulations surrounding marijuana and cannabis products, according to city officials.

"The proposal would not alter federal or State criminal law related to marijuana, and it would not place any City employee in the position of permitting or sanctioning any marijuana-related activity," the city said in a statement.

Kentucky: Hemp Bill Passes In Final Hour

(Photo: Marijuana.com)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An amended bill to legalize industrial hemp production by Kentucky farmers -- if the federal government allows it -- was passed by the Kentucky Legislature in the final minutes of this year's regular session.

The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission remains in the state Department of Agriculture, with only research functions of the bill assigned to the University of Kentucky, according to the terms of the compromise, reports Gregory A. Hall at the Louisville Courier-Journal. The last point of contention had been a try by House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook) to put the Hemp Commission under the authority of the University.

That had proven to be a deal breaker for bill sponsor Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) and its chief backer, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.

In fact, Comer had left the Capitol under the impression the hemp bill was dead. He returned late Tuesday when he learned Adkins wanted to continue the talks.

"We're very satisfied with the bill," Comer said. The next step, according to Comer, will be working with Kentucky's federal lawmakers to get a DEA waiver for a pilot project to grow industrial hemp in the state.

Public pressure to pass the hemp bill helped achieve the last-minute deal, according to Comer.

The bill passed the House as amended, 88-4, with Comer, a former House member, watching from the chamber floor. The Senate approved the compromise 35-1.

Oregon: Billboard, Press Conference to Highlight Safety of Marijuana Compared to Alcohol

Regulate Marijuana in 2014!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Just days before one of Oregon’s largest and most celebrated beer and wine festivals, a provocative new billboard highlighting the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol will be the centerpiece of a press conference to be held in downtown Portland on Thursday.

The Marijuana Policy Project will hold the news conference, Thursday, March 28, at 10:30 a.m. in front of the billboard at the intersection of SW 13th Avenue and SW Alder Street.

Noting that April is Alcohol Awareness Month, the billboard features a glass of beer, a glass of wine, and a marijuana leaf below the words "Beer," "Wine," and "Safer," respectively. It encourages Oregonians who will be drinking at upcoming beer and wine festivals to think about how marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol to consumers and the community.

"Our goal is to make this year's beer and wine festivals as educational as they are enjoyable," said Roy Kaufmann, Oregon representative of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "We simply want attendees who are drinking to think about the fact that marijuana is objectively less harmful than the pint of beer or glass of wine they have in their hands."

Maryland: Hearing Thursday On Bill To Remove Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession

(Illustration: The Weed Blog)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Maryland House Judiciary Committee on Thursday will hold a hearing on a bill to remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replace them with a civil citation and fine. The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST in Room 101 of the House Office Building.

S.B. 297 would reduce the penalty for possession of less than 10 grams (about one-third of an ounce) of marijuana to a civil citation with no possibility of jail time and a fine of up to $100. Currently, it is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

The decriminalization bill, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) and Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Carroll & Howard), was approved in the Senate last week by a vote of 30-16.

"Every year, Maryland wastes millions of dollars prosecuting tens of thousands of adults simply for choosing to use a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol," said Dan Riffle, a former prosecutor now serving as deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana would allow police and prosecutors to focus on violent criminals and real threats to public safety."

WHAT: House Judiciary Committee hearing on S.B. 297, a bill to remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana

Maine: Concerns Raised About Pesticides On Medical Marijuana

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Maine Department of Health on Monday said its investigation of Wellness Connection of Maine, the operator of four of the state's eight medical marijuana dispensaries, had revealed 20 violations of state law and program rules, including pesticide use and security breaches.

But on Tuesday, the Portland Press Herald, the same newspaper which had run the headline "State: Marijuana supplier used pesticides, violated rules" ran another story by the same reporter, Michael Shepherd, headlined "Dangers of pesticides on cannabis pretty hazy."

It seems five of the nine pesticides that state officials say were used by the medical marijuana dispensary group contain active ingredients that are safe for many uses and are federally approved for tobacco, according to Maine's official pesticide toxicologist.

However, the state still says it can't vouch for the pesticides' safety on marijuana, because not much is known about the chemicals' interaction with cannabis when smoked.

Regulators don't set standards for pesticide use on marijuana, because it is illegal under federal law; that's why Maine prohibits all pesticides in its medical marijuana program.

West Virginia: Lawmakers To Hold Hearing on Medical Marijuana Bill Thursday

(Photo: Marijuana.com)House Health and Human Resources Committee will discuss proposal to allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The House Health and Human Resources Committee on Thursday will hold a hearing on a bill that would allow patients with serious illnesses to obtain and use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.

H.B. 2961, the Compassionate Medical Marijuana Use Act of 2013, introduced by State Rep. Mike Manypenny (D-Taylor), would allow patients with certain qualifying medical conditions to possess up to six ounces of marijuana with their doctor's authorization.

It would initially establish five tightly regulated compassion centers across the state to provide patients with safe, reliable access to medical marijuana. Patients would also have the option of privately cultivating up to 12 plants in their homes. The bill currently has nine cosponsors, including two Republican delegates.

“The evidence is clear that medical marijuana can provide significant benefits to people suffering from a variety of serious illnesses,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University.

New York: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced In Legislature

(Photo: 420 Times)Legislation Would End the Needless Suffering of Thousands of Seriously Ill New Yorkers

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Diane Savino on Wednesday introduced a bill that would create one of the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs.

If passed, New York would join 18 other states – including New Jersey and Connecticut -- and the District of Columbia in allowing patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses to access to medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider.

The entire program, including the registration of patients and the licensing of producers and dispensaries, would be subject to strict state regulation and oversight.

Doctors, physicians' assistants and nurse practitioners could authorize medical marijuana patients to the New York Department of Health, reports Teri Weaver at Syracuse.com. The department would create a patient registry; patients would have photo ID cards and would be allowed to buy up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis at a time from certified growers or dispensaries.

The department would also be in charge of approving growers and sellers. Growers would be required to cultivate marijuana indoors at secure locations. Growing and selling would be taxed up to $250 pound, according to the proposal.

Colorado: Audit Says Medical Marijuana Has Inadequate Oversight

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division has neither adequately defined its mission nor determined what resources it needs, according to a state audit released on Tuesday.

The auditors found that Colorado's highly touted "seed-to-sale" oversight of 1,440 medical marijuana businesses doesn't actually exist, reports Eric Gorski of The Denver Post.

The audit -- which is quite critical of the MMED -- includes the following highlights:

• A review by auditors of 35 new cannabis business applications found "evidence of potentially disqualifying information" about criminal backgrounds and finances in 13 cases. In 10 of those cases, MMED issued licenses. Five of the 13 files were flagged by auditors for concerns about past felony arrests, financial assistance possibly coming from a "potentially unsuitable person," or involvement in drug and alcohol treatment classes.

• The processing of applications took too long, and the division tried to get those with "problem applications" to just withdraw them instead of persevering through the process. Auditors called this practice "concerning," in part because the law requires the MMED to deny applications that don't meet the requirements.

Missouri: Survey Shows Half of Voters Support Marijuana Legalization

Photo: National Cannabis CoalitionBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new survey commissioned by a pro-cannabis group says at least half of Missourians favor marijuana legalization.

According to the poll, conducted by DHM Research, 50 percent of respondents supported legalization, 45 percent opposed it, and five percent were undecided, reports KMOX.

Five hundred likely 2014 Missouri voters were asked if they'd support a ballot measure nearly identical to the one that the pro-marijuana group Show-Me Cannabis Regulation tried to get on the ballot in 2012.

After the initial survey, participants heard more details about the proposal and were presented with an equal number of statements supporting and opposing it. That process increased support for the proposal to 54 percent.

"This poll confirms that support for legalizing and regulating cannabis like alcohol continues to grow, and that is just as true in Missouri as it has been in Colorado," said John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation.

U.S.: Supreme Court Limits Police Use of Drug-Sniffing Dogs; Requires Warrant

(Photo: Alan Diaz, AP)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday limited the ability of police to use trained drug-sniffing dogs to check around the outside of homes for illegal drugs that might be inside.

On a 5-4 split, the Court said that law enforcement's use of dogs to investigate a home and its surroundings qualifies as a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and thus requires a search warrant, reports Jonathan Stempel at Reuters.

"A police officer not armed with a warrant may approach a home and knock, precisely because that is no more than any private citizen might do," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority.

"But introducing a trained police dog to explore the area around the home in hopes of discovering incriminating evidence is something else," Scalia wrote. "There is no customary invitation to do that."

"The home is the first among equals" when it comes to the Fourth Amendment, Scalia said.

The decision upholds a 2011 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court which suppressed evidence found at Joelis Jardines' home with the assistance of Frankie, a trained drug-detecting chocolate Labrador retriever.

"It's a very important decision for all citizens, because it helps ensure their right of privacy in the places where they live," said Howard Blumberg, a public defender who argued Jardines' appeal.

U.S.: As More States Legalize Marijuana, Supporters See Big Future For Hemp

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With a tide of marijuana legalization poised to sweep across the United States, supporters of industrial hemp see a burgeoning market opening up and big profits for American farmers if they are allowed to grow the crop.

Hemp, like marijuana, is a variety of the cannabis plant; even though most industrial hemp contains little or no THC -- the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana -- federal drug laws don't differentiate between the varieties, reports Angela Kocherga at KING 5.

"Although it comes from the same plant, it's like non-alcoholic beer," explained author Doug Fine, whose book Too High To Fail predicts a new "green economy."

"I can't give a rational explanation as to why something as valuable as hemp -- which other countries are making so much money off and importing to us -- why we're not growing this by the millions of acres," Fine said.

Federal law prohibits American farmers from growing the crop; a special permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration, along with lots of security, would theoretically be required. But the DEA has never issued a single industrial hemp license, ever.

Texas: UT Students Want To Stop Marijuana Arrests On Campus

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Students at the University of Texas are proposing a bill that would be the first of its kind on any campus in the United States: It would stop university police from arresting anyone for marijuana possession, instead giving them a citation similar to a traffic ticket.

Twelve authors are proposing the bill in the UT Student Government, according to graduate student Robert Love, who said tobacco smoking and second-hand smoke are much bigger problems on campus than is cannabis, reports Kris Betts at KVUE.

"Marijuana is not a threat to safety on campus, so let's take resources away from marijuana and put it toward things that are dangerous to students," Love said.

The proposed student government bill would ask UT police to issue citations for all marijuana possession cases under four ounces, instead of making arrests.

"I want to make sure that they have the availability to spend those resources investigating violent crime, rather than forcing them to investigate marijuana crimes on campus," Love said.

Travis County, Texas, where the University is located, currently allows officers to either make an arrest or issue a citation at their discretion. Love says that can encourage racial profiling.

"Citations should be the standard, and that way blacks, white and Latinos get the same treatment under the law," he said.

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