U.S.: Freaked-Out DEA Chief Gets Choked Up, Admits Marijuana Legalization 'Scares Us'


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Drug Enforcement Administration's chief of operations on Wednesday gave some freaked-out, emotional testimony at a Senate hearing, admitting that marijuana legalization "scares us."

"I have to say this ... going down the path to legalization in this country is reckless and irresponsible," said James L. Capra, reports Eric W. Dolan at The Raw Story. "I'm talking about the long-term impact of legalization in the United States. It scares us."

"Every part of the world where this has been tried, it has failed time and time again," Capra lied. (Cannabis legalization hasn't "been tried" anywhere since the Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs in 1961).

"The idea somehow ... that this is somehow good for us as a nation, that this is good for the next generation coming up is wrong," Capra sputtered. "It's a bad thing, and this body will get its door knocked on 10 years from now and say, 'How did we get where we got?' "

Capra said that when he attended an international "drug control" conference in Moscow, foreign officials wanted to know why the U.S. was scaling back its war on weed.

"Almost everyone looked at us and said: Why are you doing this, you're pointing a finger at us as a source state," Capra claimed. "I have no answer for them," he intoned dramatically. "I don't have an answer for them."

Colorado: Banks Turn Away Piles of Cash From Legal Marijuana Stores


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The cannabis banking situation in Colorado, where legal marijuana sales began on January 1, remains sketchy and confusing. Federal rules bar banks from opening accounts for "illegal drug enterprises," and all cannabis sales are still in violation of federal law.

"We don't like it, and the bookkeepers hate us, but that's the way it is," said Tim Cullen, co-owner of the Evergreen Apothecary in Denver, reports Valerie Richardson at The Washington Times.

Colorado state officials and cannabis advocates are lobbying for the federal government to allow access to banking for marijuana businesses. The lack of legitimate banking is the biggest flaw in an otherwise healthy kickoff of recreational marijuana sales in Colorado.

Just more than 30 cannabis stores are doing $1 million worth of business every day, most of it in cash. Many of the stores are winding up with large piles of cash at the end of the day, and nowhere safe to store it.

"A lot of business owners are operating on a cash-only basis, and you can imagine the security issues with that," said Mike Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, based in Denver. "For every business with an account, I've heard 20 stories from people who have said, 'We had a bank account, but they kicked us out.'

U.S.: Real Estate Company Releases List of America's 10 Highest Cities

The 10 Highest Cities In America By Movoto Real Estate

Colorado last week became the first state in the Union with legal sales of recreational cannabis, instantly conferring upon Denver the status of marijuana mecca.

But is Denver the highest city in the United States? That's what the Movoto Real Estate Blog set out to determine through the power of data, just as they've done with topics including which cities are the nerdiest, which are the worst dressed, or which is the best city in the whole country.

After extensive research, Movoto concluded that, yes, Denver really is the Mile-High City, but they also came up with a Top 10 list of the highest cities in America:

1. Denver
2. Colorado Springs
3. Seattle
4. San Bernardino, CA
5. Aurora, CO
6. Santa Ana, CA
7. Irvine, CA
8. San Francisco, CA
9. Sacramento, CA
10. Los Angeles, CA

Now, I'm sure San Francisco's heads are quite exercised over the indignity of being outranked by Irvine, Santa Ana, and San Ber'dino, but are there any other surprises here?

Washington state is coming up fast with its own legalization law about to be implemented, but legal pot sales won't start until this summer.

To determine a city's ranking, Movoto measure seven different criteria:

• Marijuana dispensaries per capita
• Number of residents with medical marijuana cards

Colorado: Recreational Marijuana Sales Top $5 Million In First Week


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado's newly legal recreational marijuana shops made bank in the first week of legal sales.

The 37 new recreational cannabis dispensaries around the state reported first-week retail sales adding up to about $5 million, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post.

Colorado expects retail cannabis sales to reach $600 million a year, from which it expects to collect almost $70 million in taxes. No official sales figures will be available before February 20, when businesses are required to file January tax reports, according to Julie Postlethwait of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division.

New Year's Day sales, on the first day the shops were allowed to open, topped $1 million, according to Denver's 9News. Business slowed slightly on subsequent days, according to shop owners, but many stores still had lines of waiting customers.

"Every day that we've been in business since January 1 has been better than my best day of business ever," said Andy Williams, owner of Denver's Medicine Man dispensary.

The larger shops reported selling 50 to 60 pounds of cannabis in the first week. Smaller shops sold 20 to 30 pounds, according to proprietors.

Colorado residents may legally buy up to an ounce of marijuana per transaction. Tourists can buy one-fourth ounce, about 7 grams.

U.S.: Majority of Americans Want Marijuana Legalized


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A majority of Americans want marijuana to be legal, according to a new poll.

The CNN/Opinion Research poll shows 55 percent support the legalization of cannabis, while 44 percent are opposed, reports Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. The 55 percent support for legalization represents a rise of 12 points from just more than a year ago.

Polls from both Pew and Gallup have recently shown similar numbers, with majorities supporting cannabis legalization for the first time in American history. Gallup's poll showed support for legalization at 58 percent in October.

Most Americans don't view marijuana as being physically or mentally harmful, according to the new CNN poll. They are evenly split on whether pot is addictive, and whether it leads to other drugs. Only 19 percent describe marijuana use as a "major problem" in society today.

The rise in support for legalization comes as voters in two states, Colorado and Washington, have approved legalization measures. Colorado pot shops began selling weed last week, and Washington's are expected to join them sometime around mid-year.

Colorado: Price Of Legal Marijuana Soars With High Demand


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

On the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, retailers were selling top-shelf cannabis at prices up to $400 per ounce, not including taxes, according to reports.

"I think people were a little bit surprised at the price," said Rachel Gillette, executive director of Colorado NORML, reports Erik Ortiz at NBC News.

Medical marijuana patients, who have been able to buy their cannabis for medicinal use at Colorado dispensaries since 2010, are used to paying around $250 an ounce, according to Gillette.

Colorado doesn't impose any price restrictions on marijuana, leaving the market open to supply and demand. One shop was selling marijuana on Wednesday for $70 an eighth-ounce -- a markup of $25 from the previous day's price of $45, reports The Associated Press.

"It's a new industry; it's a new market," Gillette said "I think things will work themselves out in a few years. We saw the same thing happen with the medical marijuana industry before the prices came down."

Industry observers also pointed out that while prices may be initially high in Colorado's legal marijuana market, along with that high price comes arrest protection.

A Colorado State University report released last April predicted retail prices ending up around $185 an ounce.

Colorado: Marijuana Not Banned At Colorado Springs Airport


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Denver International Airport announced that marijuana is banned there, despite its legal status in Colorado, but it's still allowed at the Colorado Springs Airport, according to an official there.

"We talked to TSA about that issue," said John McGinley, assistant aviation director at Colorado Springs Airport, reports Bonnie Silkman at KRDO. "If they find it in someone's possession, they refer it to our law enforcement.

"If our law enforcement says it's within the legal limit, they're going to take no action," McGinley said. "In that case, TSA is not on their own going to throw the marijuana in the trash."

The question had arisen because marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

When KRDO asked a TSA spokesperson about the policy, the answer backed up McGinley's assertions.

"TSA's screening procedures are focused on security," the spokesperson said. "If an officer discovers an item that may violate the law, TSA refers the matter to law enforcement. There has been no change to this policy or how it is implemented in the field."

Meanwhile, Denver International Airport officials are sticking to their policy of banning marijuana.

Colorado: Alabama Family Relocates To Treat Epileptic Daughter With Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An Alabama family is celebrating their first New Year in Colorado after relocating to treat their epileptic daughter with medical marijuana.

Butch and Mandy Swann of Haleyville, Ala., moved to Colorado on September 15 with their children Allie, 14; Cy, 6; and Carter, 2. Allie has violent seizures that brain surgery and potent pharmaceuticals haven't helped, reports Martin J. Reed at

The parents administer three oral doses of marijuana-derived CBD oil, containing cannabidiol, to Allie every day in order to control her seizures.

"This has kind of been, I wouldn't say a depressing Christmas because we're trying to make it as good as we can for the children, but it's not like back at home," Butch Swann said. "It's sad to an extent that we don't have our family, but at the same time we understand what Christmas is all about -- that's the birth of Jesus. As long as the children are OK, that's all that matters."

The Swanns uprooted their family to give their teenage daughter a chance to change her life with CBD oil, which doesn't product marijuana's "high" but helps control the seizures which started when Allie was just six months old. Doctors don't fully understand the cause. The Swanns were inspired to try medical marijuana for their daughter after they saw Dr. Sanjay Gupta's CNN medical marijuana documentary, "Weed."

Colorado: Long Lines For Smooth Rollout of Legal Marijuana Sales


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

At 8 a.m. on January 1, an ex-Marine named Sean Azzariti became the first person in Colorado to legally buy a bag of recreational marijuana under legalization measure Amendment 64, approved by state voters last year.

Azzariti, an Iraq veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, had been unable to buy marijuana under Colorado's medicinal cannabis program, because PTSD isn't an authorized condition under the state's MMJ law, reports Niraj Chokshi at The Washington Post. He bought an eighth ounce (3.5 grams) of Bubba Kush for $40 and some cannabis-infused truffles for $9.287, comprising the very first legal sale under Amendment 64.

"It hasn't even really sunk in fully, but it's a huge honor to say the least," Azzariti said, reports CBS News.

The implementation of Colorado's marijuana legalization law makes it the first U.S. state -- and the first political jurisdiction anywhere on Earth -- to permit recreational marijuana since the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was adopted through the United Nations back in 1961.

Colorado: World's First Modern Legal Adult Marijuana Sales Begin


The Marijuana Policy Project — the largest financial backer of the Colorado legalization initiative — will support efforts to pass similar laws regulating marijuana like alcohol in 13 more states by 2017

About three dozen state-licensed marijuana retail stores in Colorado at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, January 1, began legally selling marijuana to adults 21 years of age and older. The state is the first jurisdiction in the modern world to establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

Colorado made marijuana legal for adults in November 2012 when 55 percent of voters approved a statewide ballot initiative known as Amendment 64.

“The era of marijuana prohibition is officially over in Colorado,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the largest financial backer of the campaign in support of Amendment 64. “The state is demonstrating to the rest of the nation and the entire world that regulating marijuana works.

“It’s only a matter of time before lawmakers and voters in more states adopt similar laws regulating marijuana like alcohol,” Kampia said. “The dominoes are falling.”

Colorado: 'Wake & Bake' Author Says It Is State's First Legal Cannabis Cookbook


Corinne Tobias, an author, cook and farmer living in Durango, Colorado wants to teach cannabis users how to create simple and organic edibles from the legal marijuana that will be available starting on January 1. She says Wake & Bake: a Cookbook will be the first legal cannabis cookbook released in the state and will be available online, in dispensaries, and at independent bookstores in early 2014.

The project began in September when Tobias became surrounded by fresh marijuana prunings and an abundance of produce. She began infusing organic Coconut Oil with the trim and started incorporating the healthy and potent alternative to butter in breakfast, brunch and baking recipes. The coconut oil was dubbed the “Green Monsta Oil” for its electric green color and its strength.

The book features organic, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free recipes, and includes an ingredient conversion chart so everyone can use the book regardless of dietary restrictions or habits.

Tobias’ childhood friend Aja Kolinski signed on as the book’s designer and in November, they launched a small Kickstarter campaign to fund the book’s first printing. In less than 8 days, the project was fully funded.

“After living in the North, the South, and the Midwest, I never thought I’d live in a state where marijuana would be legal," said Tobias. "It feels so free. Like anything is possible.

Colorado: New Year, But Still No Banking For $2 Billion Marijuana Industry


Following more than a year of planning by regulators, legislators, and entrepreneurs, the world’s first modern legal sale of regulated marijuana for social use will take place in Denver, Colorado on January 1, 2014.

This sale will kick off a year in which the legal cannabis industries are expected to generate $2.34 billion in revenues, tens of thousands of jobs, and hundreds of millions in new tax revenue. In addition to the launch of adult cannabis sales in Colorado and Washington, four states will implement safe access to medical cannabis through regulated markets and countless others are expected to reform marijuana laws leading to legal, regulated sales.

Despite the sizable economic impact of the legal cannabis industry, owners and operators struggle daily with the operational and safety challenges presented by the lack of access to basic banking services such as checking and savings accounts.

Toni Fox, the owner and operator of 3-D Cannabis Center, where the first legal sale of marijuana for adult use will take place (see details below), counts herself as fortunate to have secure money-handling options, but has fears nonetheless. “As a woman business owner, I cannot help but be concerned about the safety and security threats caused by outdated federal banking regulations,” said Fox.

“The widespread perception that cannabis retailers hold large amounts of cash, despite top-notch security and monitoring, creates an inherent danger for businesses owners, employees, and communities alike,” she said.

Colorado: Denver International Airport First City Facility To Ban 'Legal' Marijuana Possession


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Denver International Airport plans to enforce a marijuana ban in early January, becoming the first city facility to prohibit cannabis possession on its property. Airport officials claim they're trying to combat interstate pot trafficking.

The Denver City Council recently passed ordinances banning the display and transfer, but not the possession, of marijuana on city-owned property including parks, the 16th Street Mall, and streets and sidewalks near schools, report Kristen Leigh Painter and Eric Gorski at The Denver Post.

Ironically, under legalization measure Amendment 64, marijuana will be banned at the airport, when before it was allowed. Back in 2010, Denver Police and the federal Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) had announced that medical marijuana patients traveling to one of five states (Maine, Michigan, Montana, Rhode Island and Arizona) from DIA could pack their cannabis openly. Those five states recognize out-of-state medical cannabis authorizations.

"We talked to all of (the federal agencies involved), and they've expressed concern for good reason, but it was our decision based on the way the airport operates," claimed DIA spokeswoman Stacey Stegman. "We didn't want to impact other airports and other agencies, and we didn't want to facilitate transporting marijuana across state lines."

Colorado: Legal Marijuana Sales Start Wednesday


Amid Rapid Changes Elsewhere, State Becomes First Government in World to Control and Regulate Marijuana

The eyes of the world will be on Colorado this New Year’s Day as adults 21 and over become eligible to legally buy marijuana for the first time since worldwide cannabis prohibition was instituted by the Single Convention Narcotics Treaty in 1961. Marijuana has been illegal in the United States since 1937.

Sales will be tightly controlled, regulated like alcohol is currently, and subject to a number of restrictions preventing sales to minors, intoxicated driving, smoking in public and other undesirable behavior. The Colorado Legislative Council estimates marijuana will generate $67 million in tax revenue annually.

“This Wednesday Coloradans stop buying marijuana from street gangs and cartels and start buying it from licensed, regulated sellers who create jobs and pay taxes to the government,” said 36-year policing veteran Lieutenant Tony Ryan (Ret.), a board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. “Soon our jails will be less crowded, our schools will be better funded, and our police more able to focus on violent crime.”

Colorado: Recreational Marijuana Stores Stocking Up For January Sales Debut


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The first state-licensed marijuana retailers in modern times will open on January 1 in Colorado, serving the state's cannabis users with a newly legal system instituted by Amendment 64, approved by voters last year.

Possession, cultivation and private use of marijuana by adults have already been legal in Colorado for more than a year under the new law, but the first marijuana retailers will finally open on New Year's Day, reports Keith Coffman atReuters.

Operators of the first eight cannabis retailers scheduled to open Wednesday morning in Denver, as well as a handful of stores in other cities, are anticipating a big demand for store-bought, legal weed.

"It will be like people waiting in line for tickets to a Pink Floyd concert," said Justin Jones, owner of Dank Colorado in Denver, who has run a medical marijuana dispensary for four years and now has a recreational pot retailer license.

"This is groundbreaking," said Mike Elliot, spokesman for the Medical Marijuana Industry Group of Colorado. "We are away ahead of Washington state, Amsterdam and Uruguay."

Washington state voters legalized marijuana for adults (although not cultivation) on the same day Colorado voters did so, but marijuana still isn't commercially available in the Evergreen State, and won't be for at least six more months, due to stifling bureaucratic regulations.

Colorado: Location Set For First Modern Legal Marijuana Sales To Adults


Denver Issuing Marijuana Retail Store Licenses

Amendment 64 campaign leaders to hold January 1 news conference at 3-D in Denver — a licensed marijuana retail store with on-site cultivation facility

Leaders of the campaign that made marijuana legal in Colorado will gather January 1 at 3-D (Denver’s Discreet Dispensary) — a licensed retail marijuana store with on-site cultivation facility — to recognize the first-ever legal marijuana sales to adults.

A news conference with the owner of 3-D will be held at 7:30 a.m. MT on Wednesday, and the first sale will take place at 8 a.m. MT. The store is located at 4305 Brighton Boulevard in Denver.

The Denver Department of Excise and Licensing began issuing the first local marijuana business licenses on Friday, December 27, and 3-D is set to receive one. It received its state license earlier this week from the Colorado Department of Revenue.

The first customer in January will be Sean Azzariti, a Denver-based Iraq war veteran who can now legally use marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Azzariti appeared in a Yes on 64 campaign television ad last year in which he discussed how legalization would benefit those suffering from PTSD — a condition that is not covered under Colorado's medical marijuana law despite repeated efforts to add it.

WHAT: First-ever retail marijuana sales to adults and news conference with leaders of the campaign that made marijuana legal in Colorado

Colorado: Denver Launches Website On Do's And Don'ts Of Legal Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The city of Denver has launched an informational website to ask questions surrounding the newly legal status of marijuana in Colorado such as "Is it illegal to drive while high?" and "Is it illegal to smoke marijuana in public?" (The answer to both questions is yes, by the way.)

The city's marketing office constructed the site starting in late October, reports Joe Vaccarelli at The Denver Post. "The goal was to provide clarity and I think the site does that," said Sarah Kurz, Denver's director of strategic marketing.

Kurz said her office met with groups such as AAA Colorado, Denver Health and Denver Public Schools to figure out which questions should be answered by the site. She said all groups insisted that the information be out there as soon as possible.

"All the groups were united behind the idea that we needed to get the facts out there as quickly as possible about what is not allowed," Kurz said. "There's a lot of misinformation out there. It's a really confusing topic."

The site has questions designed for four different groups: residents and visitors; parents and neighbors; business and property owners; and marijuana retailers and home cultivators.

Colorado: Denver City Council Decriminalizes Marijuana For Young Adults


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Denver City Council on Monday passed an ordinance to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for people 18 to 21 years old.

A range of fines can be assessed for cannabis possession under the measure, but no jail time. Until now, violators had faced heavy fines and up to a year behind bars, reports The Denver Post.

Amendment 64, the marijuana legalization measure approved by Colorado voters last year, only legalized cannabis for those 21 and older.

Fines will now be $150 for a first offense of marijuana possession, for those 18-21; $500 for a second offense; and $999 for subsequent offenses.

The council also passed a separate measure to keep marijuana that is on city-owned property at least 1,000 feet away from schools.

(Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Colorado: First Marijuana Business Licenses Issued; Legal Cannabis Sales For Adults To Begin January 1


Amendment 64 campaign leaders will hold a news conference on the morning of January 1 at a Denver marijuana store — with an on-site cultivation facility — to recognize first-ever adult marijuana retail sales

First customer will be a Denver-based veteran with PTSD who uses marijuana to alleviate his symptoms; the former Marine appeared in a Yes on 64 television ad discussing how legalization would benefit Coloradans with PTSD — a condition not covered by the state's medical marijuana law

The Colorado State Department of Revenue issued the first licenses to marijuana businesses in Colorado on Monday, December 23. Retail marijuana stores will begin selling marijuana to adults 21 and older on January 1.

The state approved 348 total licenses, including 136 for retail stores, 178 for cultivation facilities, 31 for product manufacturing facilities, and three for testing facilities.

Leaders of the campaign in support of Amendment 64, the successful ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol approved in November 2012, will hold a news conference at 7:30 a.m. on January 1 at a Denver marijuana retail store that includes an on-site marijuana cultivation facility. The specific store will be announced later this week.

Colorado: Stores May Run Out Of Weed When Legal Marijuana Sales Begin Jan. 1


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado voters last year approved Amendment 64, legalizing marijuana possession, cultivation and sales for those 21 and older. But when recreational pot stores open on January 1, 2014, they may run out of weed, according to many experts.

Although more than 100 stores have applied, complicated licensing rules and operational regulations may mean that only about a dozen pot stores could open on New Year's Day, reports CBS News.

"We are definitely going to run out of cannabis," said Toni Fox, owner of Denver's Discreet Dispensary, reports Gabrielle Karol at Fox Business. "The question is when."

Fox expects to get clearance to open on January 1, and estimates her stock will be depleted by January 6. She expects to sell to at least 100 customers a day.

"We're anticipating $300,000 in revenue in January," she said.

Although Coloradans approved recreational marijuana legalization, about 70 cities across the state have banned pot shops. Cities not allowing recreational marijuana stores include Colorado Springs, the second-largest city in the state.

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