U.S.: Feds Approve State Marijuana Legalization: DoJ Will Allow CO, WA To Go Forward


Colorado and Washington to Establish Systems for State-Regulated Marijuana Retail Sales

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

At a Thursday press briefing, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it will allow Colorado and Washington to move forward with implementation of laws establishing state-regulated systems of marijuana production and distribution.

Attorney General Eric Holder told the governors of Washington and Colorado that the DoJ would "allow" the states to create a system of regulation implementing the ballot initiatives that legalized adult use of marijuana, reports Ryan Grim at The Huffington Post.

The directive will also apply to the 20 states that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole also issued a three-and-a-half page memo to U.S. Attorneys.

"The Department's guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests," Cole's memo reads. "A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper; it must also be effective in practice."

The memo outlines eight priorities for federal prosecutors enforcing marijuana laws. According to the new guidance, DoJ will still prosecute individuals or entities to prevent:

• The distribution of cannabis to minors;

Colorado: Rules Rolling Out for Legal Marijuana Businesses


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Colorado Department of Revenue on Tuesday opened three days of hearings to lay out licensing rules before retail sales of legal marijuana begin in January.

The proposed rules require those who want to enter the cannabis business to pay up to $5,000 just to apply to BE in the business, reports Eli Stokols at KDVR, with no guarantee of acceptance. Operational licenses for retail stores then cost another $3,750 to $14,000, depending on their size. Growers will pay $2,750 per year, reports Kristen Wyatt at the Associated Press.

Those who want to sell both medical and recreational marijuana will have to pay double under the proposed rules.

Applicants must not only have plentiful cash; they must also pass a battery of criminal background checks and state residency requirements. No owners are allowed to live out of state.

All of the revenue will go funding Colorado's regulation of the marijuana industry, according to KDVR. Much of the money will go to cover the cost of a "seed to sale" tracking system, including video surveillance of all plants as the grow, and RFID tags on all packaging to make sure that cannabis grown in Colorado stays there.

Colorado: Denver DA's Claims of a Violent Medical Marijuana Industry Questioned


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey on Monday made a startling claim about the medical marijuana industry just before the Denver City Council's decision to ask voters to approve a 5 percent sales tax for cannabis: That the industry is plagued by violence.

"We have had 12 homicides related directly to medical marijuana," Morrissey claimed, reports Jeremy P. Meyer of The Denver Post. "We have had over 100 aggravated robberies and home invasions. Many of you probably didn't read about the double-execution-style homicide that we had down here in Denver, where people were laid down on the floor and executed because they were running a medical marijuana outlet."

After being questioned on Tuesday, the DA backtracked, claiming the numbers he presented on Monday to the council were "loose figures" and admitting that none of the murders occurred in a medical marijuana facility.

Medical marijuana industry figures at Monday's city council meeting had been shocked by Morrissey's claims.

The DA was unfairly casting a bad light on the legally regulated dispensaries, according to Michael Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group.

Colorado: Second-Largest City Expected To Ban Retail Marijuana Stores


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

So much for legalization? Colorado Springs, the second-largest city in Colorado, on Tuesday is expected to ban recreational marijuana stores, joining more than two dozen cities in blocking the outlets.

Four of nine city council members said in advance of Tuesday's vote that they'll vote against retail pot, reports the Associated Press, and even if the stores were approved, Mayor Steve Bach said he would veto them, leaving the stores without enough support to override a mayoral veto.

"This is so important to our community and in our best interest that I will respectfully need to veto anything short of opting out," Mayor Bach said, reports Monica Mendoza at The Gazette of Colorado Springs. Bach said he planned to address the city council during Tuesday's discussion.

The mayor has used his veto power in the past, but never on an ordinance. It would take a two-thirds vote by the council to override the mayor's veto, "and council does not have that," said city council president Keith King.

The council appears to be split 5-to-4 in favor of regulating marijuana sales, and it would take six votes to overturn Mayor Bach's veto.

Colorado: Report Finds 'Devastating' Problems With Denver's Regulation of Medical Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An audit released on Thursday found serious problems with how Denver licenses, tracks and manages the medical marijuana industry.

Denver has the most medicinal cannabis dispensaries in the state, but the city's management of the industry has been "ineffective" and "inefficient" and even poses "substantive risks to the city," according to the report, which Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher called "devastating," reports Jeremy P. Meyer at The Denver Post.

The problems potentially cost Denver millions of dollars in tax revenues, and one member of the audit committee even claimed the oversights put neighborhoods and citizens at risk.

According to the report, city officials didn't even know how many dispensaries were open in Denver, and could not provide a map of their locations. The audit report offered 20 recommendations for Denver's Department of Excise and Licenses to fix the system.

Several problems, including incomplete, inaccurate or inaccessible records, were identified in the report. Other problem areas were lack of formal processes or policies for licensing; bad coordination between the city and the state Department of Revenue; unenforced deadlines for key steps in the licensing process; and poor management and staffing, according to the audit.

U.S.: Rep. Perlmutter Introduces Bill to Address Banking Crisis for State-Legal Marijuana Industry


Bipartisan Measure Would Allow Marijuana Businesses Access To Basic Banking Services Such As Checking Accounts

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) on Wednesday morning introduced the “Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013,” legislation addressing the growing banking crisis for regulated, state-legal marijuana businesses which are frequently unable to access even the most basic of banking services such as business checking accounts or merchant services.

“Each year, my companies contribute to the five million dollars in tax revenue Colorado collects from the sales of medical marijuana," said Jaime Lewis, board member of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and owner of two Denver-based medical marijuana companies. "Just like any other small business, we submit payroll taxes and unemployment insurance for our staffers.

"Making those tax payments is unnecessarily challenging because we do not have access to banking services other local businesses take for granted," Lewis said. "Regulators, business owners, and medical marijuana patients alike all deserve the accountability, safety, and efficiency offered by this legislation.”

Colorado: Retail Marijuana Labels Must Include Potency, Expiration Dates, Safety Warning


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado has announced extensive rules regulating how recreational marijuana should be grown and sold starting next year under the legalization measure approved last November by voters.

The state department responsible for cannabis regulation on Monday released more than 60 pages of rules for how marijuana retailers will be licensed and regulated, reports The Denver Channel.

The rules require labels to include potency, expiration dates, and a disclaimer that marijuana isn't legal outside Colorado and hasn't been safety-tested.

The Colorado Legislature set broad rules earlier this year, but the details were left to the state Department of Revenue.

Last year's voter-approved cannabis legalization measure, Amendment 64, required the department to release rules by July 1. Retail recreational marijuana sales won't start until January 2014.

The new recreational marijuana rules don't apply to medical marijuana dispensaries.

(Graphic: Ma'ayan Rosenzweig/ABC News)

Colorado: Marijuana Legalization Debate Monday Between Former DEA Head and DPA's Nadelmann


Marijuana Legalization Continues Rapid Shift From Fringes to Mainstream of U.S. and International Politics

Debate Will Be Live-Streamed on YouTube on July 1

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic are hosting their ninth annual Aspen Ideas Festival from June 26 through July 2. More than 300 insightful thinkers and leaders from around the country and beyond are gathering in Aspen, Colorado, to discuss their work, the issues that inspire them, and their ideas. The week’s programming will cover a variety of important issues, including the economy, the Middle East, energy, space, mobility, design – and marijuana legalization, among other topics.

The public dialogue will engage, over seven days, a festival audience of more than 4,000 attendees between the campus at the Aspen Meadows and the town of Aspen, as well as those following the festival online throughout the world.

On Monday, July 1 (10:20 am-11:20 am Mountain Time / 12:20-1:20 Eastern), Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, will debate former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) head and U.S. Congressman Asa Hutchinson on marijuana legalization. Nadelmann and Hutchinson have previously debated on a national stage, such as this segment on CNN’s Crossfire.

Colorado: It'll Be DPA vs. DEA In High-Profile Debate On Marijuana Legalization


2013 Aspen Ideas Festival to Feature Debate Between Former DEA Head Asa Hutchinson and DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann

Debate Will Be Live-Streamed on YouTube on July 1

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic are hosting their ninth annual Aspen Ideas Festival from June 26 through July 2. More than 300 insightful thinkers and leaders from around the country and beyond will gather in Aspen, Colorado to discuss their work, the issues that inspire them, and their ideas.

The week’s programming will cover a variety of important issues, including the economy, the Middle East, energy, space, mobility, design – and marijuana legalization, among other topics. The public dialogue will engage, over seven days, a festival audience of more than 4,000 attendees between the campus at the Aspen Meadows and the town of Aspen, as well as those following the festival online throughout the world.

On Monday, July 1 (10:20 am-11:20 am Mountain Time / 12:20-1:20 Eastern), Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, will debate former Drug Enforcement Administration head and U.S. Congressman Asa Hutchinson on marijuana legalization. Nadelmann and Hutchinson have previously debated on a national stage, such as this segment on CNN’s Crossfire.

U.S.: Conference of Mayors Tells Feds to Respect Local Marijuana Laws


Bipartisan Resolution Urges Obama to Stop Medical Marijuana Crackdown

Polls Show Majority Voter Support for Letting States Set Their Own Policies

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The United States Conference of Mayors on Monday unanimously passed a resolution criticizing the failure of marijuana prohibition and urging the federal government to respect the ability of states and cities to implement policies like marijuana legalization and medical marijuana without interference.

"In November, voters in my city and state strongly approved a ballot measure to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana," said Mayor Steve Hogan of Aurora, Colorado. "The bipartisan resolution we passed today simply asks the federal government to give us time to implement these new policies properly and without interference.

"Cities and states across the country are enacting forward-thinking reforms to failed marijuana prohibition policies, and for the federal government to stand in the way is wasteful and contrary to the wishes of the American people," Mayor Hogan said.

Despite campaign pledges that "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," President Obama's administration shuttered more state-legal medical marijuana providers in one term than were closed by federal authorities during the two terms of George W. Bush's presidency.

Alabama: Colorado Marijuana Mogul Caught With Pot; No Smoking For 2 Years


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Colorado man who's behind one of the largest medical marijuana products companies in the state won't be allowed to use cannabis for two years after he pleaded guilty to pot possession in Alabama.

Vincent "Tripp" Keber, managing director of the company which makes the Dixie Elixirs line of cannabis-infused products, pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor marijuana possession in Baldwin County, Alabama, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post. A second charge of marijuana possession was dropped as part of the plea deal, and the whole case will be expunged if Keber stays out of trouble for the next two years, according to his lawyer, Harold Callaway.

Keber will be required to check in with law enforcement in Alabama daily and submit to random drug tests. If those tests show he has used alcohol, marijuana, or any other drugs, he could face up to a year in jail, according to Martha Simmons with the Baldwin County district attorney's office.

"This is a situation during some vacation where I basically made an error in judgment," Keber said.

Colorado: Regulators Ditch Unconstitutional Rule Treating Marijuana Mags Like Porn


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana publications won't be treated like pornography in Colorado after all, state regulators announced on Thursday in the face of First Amendment lawsuits.

The rule would have forced stores to keep magazines with a "primary focus" away from customers under 21 years old, reports Steven Nelson at US News. It was part of a package of Legislature-approved cannabis regulations sigend into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper on May 28.

The rule is unconstitutional and will be ignored, according to the Colorado State Licensing Authority. The authority issued an "emergency rule" saying "such a requirement would violate the United States Constitution" and Colorado law.

The Colorado Attorney General's office had input on the decision. "We support the laudable goal of keeping retail marijuana out of the hands of those under 21, but that has to be consistent with the Constitution," the attorney general's spokesperson said, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post.

Russia: President Putin Criticizes Other Countries For Even Thinking About Legalizing Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't think other countries should legalize marijuana. Putin criticized countries which are moving towards cannabis legalization at a drug policy conference on Wednesday.

"We consider it essential to fight all kinds of drugs," Putin said at the annual International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) in Moscow, reports Ria Novosti. "We observe with concern the relaxation in laws by some countries moving towards the legalization of so-called soft drugs."

Putin didn't specify which countries he meant, but voters in two U.S. states, Colorado and Washington, approved limited recreational marijuana legalization in November, and the Organization of American States (OAS) in May released a study calling for a serious discussion on legalizing marijuana, which was quickly rejected by President Obama.

Guatemala's new president, Otto Perez Molina, in September called for the legalization of drugs in a regulated market.

Both of the two states that have legalized recreational marijuana, plus 16 more, have also legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The trend towards legalization was criticized in a 2012 report the the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).

Colorado: Governor Signs Legislation Establishing Legal Marijuana Market For Adults


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on Tuesday signed historic measures to implement marijuana legalization, establishing the Mile High State as the first legal, regulated and taxed marijuana market for adults since the United Nations Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs took effect in 1961.

Hickenlooper vocally opposed cannabis legalization last fall when Amendment 64 was on the ballot, saying "Colorado is known for many great things; marijuana should not be one of them." But he signed the bills that will start development of a regulatory framework for the legal marijuana industry, as well as for the cultivation, distribution and processing of industrial hemp, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post.

"Recreational marijuana really is new territory," Hickenlooper said at Tuesday's signing ceremony. He called the bills "common sense," despite his vocal opposition in the past to legalization, reports Kristin Wyatt of The Associated Press.

The governor's chief legal counsel, Jack Finlaw, said although the Hickenlooper administration was opposed to marijuana legalization, "the will of the voters needed to be implemented."

Colorado: Residents Will Smoke More Than 2 Million Ounces Of Weed In 2014


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new study from Colorado State University estimates that Coloradans will use more than two million ounces of marijuana in 2014.

The study, from the Colorado Futures Center at CSU, predicts that some 642,772 state residents -- about 12 percent of the population -- will buy legal marijuana next year, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post.

The researchers believe that each cannabis customer will purchase about 3.5 ounces of pot during the year (seems rather conservative to us), for a grand total of 2,258,985 ounces of weed sold -- about 142,000 pounds, or 71 tons.

The study estimates each ounce of weed will cost about $185; they arrived at that figure by averaging prices at the crowd-sourced website Based on that price, and with estimated taxes added, Coloradans will be spending about $420 million (yeah, $420 million) on marijuana in 2014.

But that figure, like Coloradans themselves, could get substantially higher. When the data were compiled, recreational marijuana was still illegal, and currently shows the average price of "low quality" marijuana at $222.

Voter-approved Amendment 64 also allows Coloradans to grow their own cannabis, so the numbers could go down if more residents opt to do it the smart way rather than paying retail prices.

Colorado: First Hemp Crop In 60 Years Now Growing

(Photo: Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado's first industrial hemp crop in almost 60 years is now growing.

Ryan Loftin, a farmer in Springfield, Colorado, on Monday began planting 60 acres of industrial hemp in fields previously used for alfalfa, according to the Denver Post.

He and business partner Chris Thompson are installing a seed press to produce hemp seed oil, reports Patricia Collier of The Associated Press.

Hemp, like marijuana, comes is a form of the cannabis plant. Industrial hemp typically contains little or no THC, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana, but it has dozens of uses in food, fuel, clothing and industrial materials.


Colorado: Attorney Threatens 1st Amendment Lawsuit Over Marijuana Magazine Rule

(Graphic: The Huffington Post)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Denver attorney is threatening a lawsuit if Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signs House Bill 1317, the marijuana regulation bill that includes a requirement for marijuana magazines to be kept behind store counters.

HB 1317, recently passed by the Legislature, also contains other regulations on the sale of marijuana and the licensing of cannabis businesses, report Lindsey Sablan and Phil Tenser of The Denver Channel. Gov. Hickenlooper has said he intends to sign the plan into law.

David Lane, a veteran criminal and defense attorney based in Denver, threatened a lawsuit over the marijuana magazine rule. He is representing two cannabis publications, the Daily Doobie and the Hemp Connoisseur.

"My own personal belief is that this is a blatant First Amendment violation," Lane wrote in a letter to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. "It has apparently passed muster with the House and Senate and the governor will be signing it shortly. Please inform Governor Hickenlooper that if this is signed into law, he can expect a First Amendment law suit filed promptly."

Colorado: Legislature Gives Final Approval To Rules For Legal Marijuana

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

History was made on Wednesday as the Colorado Legislature gave final approval to a bill asking voters to tax recreational marijuana, moving the Mile High State closer to becoming the first in the the U.S. to pass laws regulating legal cannabis.

The Colorado Senate on Wednesday morning approved the tax measure and another bill spelling out rules for marijuana stores and sent both the the House, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post. The House then quickly passed House Bill 1318, the bill on cannabis taxes, and sent it to Governor John Hickenlooper's desk.

House members will now take up the second measure, covering rules for the pot stores.

The Senate's Wednesday morning marijuana votes came with little discussion. Only Mark Scheffel (R-Parker) stood to speak about the bills on Wednesday, in contrast with Tuesday's lengthy debates on both bills.

Sen. Scheffel said he has reservations about allowing more open and legal access to marijuana (apparently disregarding the fact that the voters of the state obviously have no such reservations). Scheffel claimed he worried about the impact of marijuana legalization "on the kids," but decided to support the tax bill anyway.

Colorado: Lawmakers' Attempt To Repeal Marijuana Legalization Falls Short

(Illustration: The Denver Channel)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana legalization in Colorado "appeared to be in serious trouble" Monday night, according to The Associated Press. But the late-night effort fell short.

A bipartisan group of state senators late on Monday raced a midnight deadline to possibly repeal retail cannabis legalization. It was a last-moment plan, because lawmakers on Wednesday conclude their work for the year.

Facing the threat of a filibuster and being outvoted in the House, state senators gave up the repeal plans and adjourned Monday just before 10 p.m. without advancing the repeal, the AP reports.

The possibility of repeal arose after the Senate had given initial approval to a cannabis DUI blood-limit standard that they had rejected several times before, including twice this year.

The repeal measure was described by Senate President John Morse as an attempt to "get the marijuana industry's attention" and urge their support for taxes, which will require another vote this fall because of Colorado tax law.

"Here is the inherent problem: The marijuana industry has no incentive to support a tax increase it promised voters," claimed Morse.

Colorado: Lawmakers Expected To Vote On Marijuana Regulations As Deadline Approaches

(Graphic: The Coloradoan)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Colorado Senate committee is expected to vote on legal marijuana regulations and taxes Friday as the deadline for such a decision is closing in.

Lawmakers have until Wednesday to come up with regulations and tax rates for marijuana, newly legal since state voters approved Amendment 64 in November, reports The Denver Channel.

Members of the Legislature have clashed over whether to set a marijuana blood limit for drivers, and whether to limit the size of growing operations and the number of cannabis outlets.

If the Senate Finance Committee approves the regulations and taxes on Friday, the full Senate must still debate the bills. Senators may work over the weekend -- an unusual move -- to get the job done.

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