Legalization

West Indies: Jamaica, Formerly Opposed To Marijuana, Now Wants To Cash In On It

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Jamaica has long been considered the land of ganja, but has worked hard to fight that reputation.

Despite strict drug laws and spending millions on public education to diminish its image as a pot mecca, its role as a major supplier of illegal weed to the United States and its international image led by the likes of Bob Marley have been impossible to overcome.

After watching states like Colorado and California generate billions of dollars from marijuana, Jamaica has decided to accept the plant and is looking to promote "wellness tourism", having legalized medical marijuana. The nation also decriminalized the possession of small amounts of pot just last year.

A recent conference at a luxury hotel in Montego Bay attracted government leaders, Rastafarian leaders, business leaders, and pot farmers.

Rastafarian leader First Man kicked off the conference with a speech on the global benefits of marijuana.

“We are talking about a plant that bridges the gap between all of our relationships,” First Man, barefoot with a Rasta scarf around his neck, said to a packed room. “Our planet needs this relationship to happen.”

First Man was speaking at the first CanEx conference, a gathering of government and local leaders trying to figure out just how the country can most effectively make this turn-around, without neglecting international law.

Massachusetts: Another Poll Shows Support For Recreational Marijuana Is High

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A second poll on Question 4, the Massachusetts initiative to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, suggests support for the initiative is high.

A new poll conducted by WBZ-TV, WBZ NewsRadio and UMass-Amherst shows a 53 percent. majority of voters surveyed support the statewide ballot initiative legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts. Seven percent of the 700 people polled remain unsure.

Passing the initiative this November would allow the use, cultivation, possession and distribution of recreational marijuana for individuals at least 21 years old.

According to WBZ, "Support for the measure (in the new poll) cuts across all demographic categories, with only voters over 55 years old and self-described conservatives opposing the measure."

The support does not come without some concerns, however.

WBZ reports:

41% of those polled say they'd be bothered if a pot store opened up in their neighborhood
52% didn’t like the idea of pot ads on TV or radio
61% expressed alarm over the prospect of people using in public.
25% claimed people growing pot in their homes would be troubling

Nevada: New Poll Finds Majority Of Voters Support Legalizing Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

New polling shows that a majority of voters in Nevada are in favor of legalizing cannabis. The poll’s release comes less than 50 days before voters will get their say on Question 2 to legalize recreational cannabis for everyone 21 and older.

The new KTNV-TV 13 Action News/Rasmussen Reports poll shows that 53% of voters in Nevada support legalizing cannabis. Just 39% oppose the move, with 8% undecided.

The results mark a modest but steady increase from a KTNV-TV 13 poll released in July which found support for legalization to be at 50%, with opposition at 41%; the percentage of undecided voters was roughly the same, though slightly higher, at 9%.

“We will be spending the next seven weeks educating all Nevadans about the benefits of regulating marijuana,” says Joe Brezny, a spokesperson for the Yes on Question 2 campaign. “We have no doubt that once we do, a solid majority of Nevada voters will choose to regulate marijuana so that we can take the market away from criminal actors.”

If Question 2 is passed into law, it will be legal for those 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of pot. They’ll also be allowed to cultivate up to six marijuana plants, and marijuana retail outlets will be authorized to distribute the plant.

Alaska: Army Says Troops Are Banned From Attending Marijuana Fairs

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Army stated Thursday that soldiers in Alaska are officially banned from attending marijuana fairs, even though pot is now legal in the state.

The ban applies to fairs and conventions and goes so far as to include hemp products, the Associated Press reported.

According to a letter from Army Maj. Bryan Owens, the reason that 11,000 Alaska-based soldiers are banned from these sorts of events is because the events may negatively affect the health and discipline of troops. Authorities say the letter is necessary since the military expects cannabis-related events to increase in the state, since the drug has been legalized there for recreational purposes. In addition, some suppliers have started offering marijuana discounts to troops.

Moreover, marijuana itself is still banned in the military, as it remains a Schedule I drug on the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act.

As of today, 25 states and the District of Columbia have some form of legal marijuana.

Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Therefore Alaska, being one of those four states, allows adults over 21 to purchase up to an ounce of pot and to grow up to six plants.

Nebraska: Marijuana Groups Already Petitioning For 2018 Ballot

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

With 54 days left until November's election, a group of marijuana advocates pushing to eliminate Nebraska's penalties for those caught with small amounts of pot has already begun gathering signatures to put the issue before voters in 2018.

A second group seeking a broader constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana entirely has also filed 2018 petition language with the Nebraska Secretary of State's Office.

Volunteers started gathering signatures for the more limited proposal Aug. 5, targeting high-traffic areas and events such as last week's Omaha rally by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

"We're in Lincoln three times a week," said Mark Elworth Jr., a perennial candidate for elected office from Omaha who drew up the petition language and is leading the campaign.

Nebraska decriminalized marijuana in the 70s, but anyone caught with an ounce or less is still subject to a fine.

Elworth said the most significant consequence for people who are caught with pot, particularly teenagers, is the permanent record it creates.

"We're trying to protect people," he said. "Those minor possession tickets ... they can ruin people's lives."

Colorado: Marijuana Is Legal In Some States - But Only If You're A U.S.Citizen

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Marijuana may be legal in a growing number of states, but not many people know that it's still very much against the law for all non-U.S. citizens to use it. In fact, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has penalized and deported more people convicted of marijuana-related crimes in the past decade than ever before.

Claudia, a native of Chile, learned this the hard way after being flagged for an in-depth security screening after landing at Los Angeles International Airport on October 8, 2015. "It's normal," she says. "Sometimes the officers review people." Besides, she had never been in trouble in her life.

Agents directed Claudia into a big, open room where she was asked to place her luggage on a table for examination. Officer Torres, a customs agent, asked her about her planned one-week trip to San Francisco and made friendly small talk as he went through her suitcase and purse.

Torres asked Claudia about past trips to the U.S., and she told the agent of visits to Tennessee, Louisiana, New York, and Colorado. At the mention of Colorado, he asked to see her phone. He quickly began scrolling through photos from her last visit to the States from April to June of that year. "Can you do this?" she asked.

"Yes", he replied, which Claudia accepted; she had nothing to hide, after all.

Oregon: Recreational Marijuana Sales Exceed $100 Million For The Year

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

It was reported Tuesday that recreational sales in Oregon surpassed $100 million between January and July. Data provided by the state's Department of Revenue estimated recreational sales at $102 million, bringing the state about $25.5 million in marijuana taxes.

Oregon legalized adult use marijuana legalization in 2014. The law took effect on July 1, 2015 and dispensaries began sales on October 1, but sales were tax-free until January 4 of this year. Since then, a 25 percent sales tax has been imposed on recreational marijuana sales.

Oregon had taken in about $60 million in May. The significant bump in sales is probably due to the marijuana market expanding to edibles, extracts, and topicals in early June.

“We know some people would embrace [edibles] because they don’t like smoking, for example, so it would be an easier thing to go to,” said Mazen Malik, senior state economist with the Office of Legislative Revenue. “Others would just want to try them because they are new and different and they want to see how they work.”

Michigan: Marijuana Vote Kept Off Ballot With Federal Court Ruling

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A federal judge denied a court motion today meant to stop the printing of election ballots in Michigan until signatures supporting marijuana legalization could be counted.

The decision came at noon today, September 13, in U.S. District Court Judge Linda V. Parker's courtroom in Flint.

Plaintiffs Sean Michael Myers and Dakota Blue Serna both signed and circulated petitions to place a ballot question asking voters to legalize marijuana in Michigan and filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, Sept. 8.

Parker ruled after a hearing that lasted over an hour that there is not enough time to stop the process of Michigan's election to place the issue on the ballot.

"...It's really too late to have an effect," she said while ruling on the plaintiff's request for a temporary restraining order to pause election processes. She noted a Sept. 24 deadline to send ballots to overseas voters, and a 40-day window that the state legislature has to be given to look at the ballot initiative before the election.

MI Legalize turned in 354,000 signatures for the ballot issue -- well over the total needed to qualify for the November ballot — but state rules made signatures older than 180 days void, blocking it from being added to the ballot.

Massachusetts: New Poll Shows Marijuana Legalization Winning

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A new statewide poll of likely voters shows that 50 percent support the marijuana legalization measure this November in Massachusetts.

Question 4 would allow adults over 21 to cultivate, possess, and use marijuana, and sets up a regulatory structure under a Cannabis Control Board.

Forty-five percent in the WBUR/MassINC poll are opposed to legalization and five percent are undecided.

The poll of 506 likely voters took place between September 7 and September 10.

"Younger people are very much in favor of legalization, and it declines steadily as you move up the age brackets to where you get to voters who are 60-plus, and they're opposed to it by a 17-point margin," Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, told WBUR.

Eighty percent of respondents in the poll said they did not believe pot use is morally wrong. Fourteen percent said they did. Six percent are undecided or just don't know.

When asked what they thought was most harmful to a person's health, 42 percent said tobacco, 19 percent said alcohol, 13 percent said sugar ,and 4 percent said marijuana.

Massachusetts decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2008 through a ballot measure, and made medical marijuana legal the same way in 2012..

Idaho: State Struggles To Stop Pot Smugglers

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Oregon and Washington are collecting millions of dollars in tax revenue from recreational pot sales, but neighboring Idaho is struggling to keep up.

Between 2011 and 2015 Idaho State Police saw a huge increase in the amount of marijuana they seized from people passing through their state.

"We've seen almost, approximately a 1000 percent increase in the amount of marijuana that we've seized in Idaho since it's became legal in Washington," said Idaho State Police Captain John Kempf.

ISP seized 131 pounds of marijuana in 2011. But in 2015 after voters in Oregon and Washington voted to legalize pot, the amount of marijuana seized climbed to 1,644 pounds.

Corporal Kevin Kessler and his K9 partner are responsible for many of those seizures. He said the busts begin as traffic stops and from there they find pot. Much of the time the pot is not destined for Idaho but it is being smuggled farther east.

The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board said the pot seized by ISP is not being diverted to the black market. WSLCB Spokesperson Mikhail Carpenter said they track marijuana from seed to sale.

Massachusetts: Legalization Campaign Has Raised $2.4 Million This Year, Seven Times More Than Opposition Campaign

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The campaign in support of legalizing marijuana for recreational use for adults over 21 in Massachusetts has raised over $2.4 million so far in 2016, according to data from the state.

The $2.4 million raised by Yes on 4 is almost seven times the amount the initiative's opposition campaign, the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, has raised. This group, which is supported by Governor Charlie Baker and others, has only raised $360,000 so far this year.

The New Approach PAC has been the primary contributor to the Yes on 4 campaign, having donated $2.1 million of the $2.4 million raised.

The Yes on 4 campaign has spent nearly all the money donated, with only $22,500 still on-hand. Most of the money was spent on TV commercials, but the New Approach PAC is expected to make another large donation soon.

The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts has spent very little of their funding, still having $320,000 on-hand.

If Question 4 passes in November, adults 21 and over would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of pot. It would also allow the personal cultivation of up to six plants, and allow those in a private residence to possess up to ten ounces instead of just one.

November 8 is the day of the vote. Marijuana legalization is up for a vote the same day in Arizona, Maine, Nevada, and California .

U.S.: Celebrities High On Marijuana Businesses

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Whoopi Goldberg was a guest on Stephen Colbert's Late Show on CBS last week and was introduced by the host, who said "My first guest is an actor, author, talk show host, and has her own line of premium pot."

She's joined an ever-growing group of celebrities who are pushing their own line of specialty marijuana products that includes Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, and Tommy Chong.

"It's gotten into the fad scenario at this point," Harvard Business School marketing professor John Quelch told USA Today, " where celebrities almost feel obligated to attach themselves to the cause."

Goldbergs's company, Whoopi & Maya, focuses on cannabis-infused salves, balms, and edibles designed to relieve menstrual cramps, her company website says.

When asked by Colbert how she got into the business, she said "A friend of mine said to me 'Hey, Snoop Dogg is doing this and Willie is doing this.' "

Here are some of the well-known names of celebrities and the pot products they represent:

Snoop Dogg: Snoop's branded line of marijuana, Leafs By Snoop, includes flavors such as Lemon Pie, Purple Bush, and Northern Nights. He says on his website, "Let's medicate, elevate, and put it in the air. Snoop Dogg doesn't actually own the business; a company in Colorado does. He can't own it because he's not a resident in Colorado.

Arizona: Maker Of Deadly Fentanyl Donates Half A Million To Defeat Pot Legalization

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Advocates of marijuana legalization have been saying for a while that pharmaceutical companies are one of the major supporters of pot prohibition. States that have legalized marijuana have seen a decrease in opioid abuse.

So it should come as no surprise to learn that fentanyl manufacturer Insys Therapeutics has donated $500,000 to foes of the Prop 205 marijuana legalization initiative.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid several dozen times more potent than heroin. It has been linked to many opioid overdose deaths across the country, especially when mixed with heroin. Marijuana has no reported overdose deaths, ever.

The only product Insys makes is Subsys, a sublingual fentanyl spray. In just the past month, two former company employees pleaded not guilty to federal charges related to an alleged kickback scheme to get doctors to prescribe Subsys. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against the company charging that Insys hawked the drug to doctors for off-label prescribing.

Insys' "desire for increased profits led it to disregard patients' health and push addictive opioids for non-FDA approved purposes," Madigan wrote.

Insys says on its website that it is working "to develop pharmaceutical cannabinoids."

Colorado: Pueblo County Wants To Say No To Legal Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado for four years, but anti-marijuana activists in Pueblo County have gathered enough signatures to force an unprecedented question on the November ballot: whether to terminate recreational marijuana sales and operations.

Backers of the Pueblo effort to repeal marijuana legalization say retail pot shops and farms have brought increased vagrancy, crime, and an undesirable reputation as the pot capital of southern Colorado. Supporters of legalization say the new industry has helped revitalize an area that has long struggled economically. Repealing it would cost more than a thousand jobs, they say. It would be giving in to the retrograde impulses of “prohibitionists.”

Possession and use of marijuana would remain legal in the county, as would medical marijuana. But more than 100 dispensaries, cultivation facilities, and infused product manufacturers would have to shut down within a year.

County Commissioner Sal Pace, the chief opponent of the ballot effort, is pleased that his community is seen as a center for marijuana innovation. He said that almost $4 million in annual tax revenue has gone to college scholarships, 4H and Future Farmers of America efforts, and medical marijuana research at Colorado State University Pueblo.

Alaska: Officials To Issue Cannabis Licenses This Week, Retail Outlets To Open By End Of Year

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Almost two years after Alaskan voters approved legalizing marijuana's recreational use for adults, the state's Marijuana Control Board has announced it will begin issuing cannabis business licenses this week allowing cannabis retail stores to open.

The Board expects most of the retail outlets to be open by the end of the year. Since licenses for cultivation facilities and testing sites were issued in June, seeing the stores open by year-end should be easy.

The stores will be able to legally sell marijuana to anyone over 21 years of age. The Board also plans to discuss this week whether it will allow on-site consumption at these stores, something that's currently not allowed.

Question 2, which was approved by voters in 2014 with 53% of the vote, is what made all these changes possible. Because of Question 2, anyone over 21 in Alaska can legally possess and use up to an ounce of marijuana, and can cultivate up to six plants.

Caribbean: Jamaica Hopes To Cash In On Pot Tourism

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Several Caribbean countries are benefitting from the multi-billion dollar health and wellness tourism industry. Jamaica hopes to become one of them, but is planning an alternative to traditional medicine.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said that Jamaica's lush southwestern coast is perfect for "cannabis-infused tourism" where products made from the plant would play a major part in the tourism sector.

Minister Bartlett spoke recently at Canex Jamaica, the first cannabis-centered conference on the business potential of the marijuana trade, where he said he recognized “how the cannabis product and its application could fit neatly in a network of health and wellness that could drive a new demographic into Jamaica with a higher spend and which will be able to establish us as a destination with a difference.”

Bartlett said Jamaica should not be a destination with only all-inclusive properties and mass tourism: “We believe that we can do product differentiation and we can do a level of product diversification which enables us to be attractive to all demographics.”

He said that Jamaica wants a piece of the US$494 billion global market for that kind of tourism.

Massachusetts: Elizabeth Warren Still 'Open' To Legalizing Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Thursday that she would be "open" to the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana, but would not give an endorsement of the state ballot question seeking to legalize. She had made comments last year expressing her openness to the idea of legalization.

“Massachusetts is in a very difficult position, because we have decriminalized marijuana, but that means it’s fairly widely available,” Warren said Thursday. “But there’s no real regulation of it…and I think what we really need is to have some regulation of it, and that means I would be open to the possibility of legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts.”

Massachusetts decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2008 through a ballot initiative, and approved medical marijuana the same way in 2012. When asked if she supports Question 4 she reiterated her call for greater regulation.

“What I just said is that I would be open to it because I think that the problem we’ve got right now in Massachusetts is that we’ve decriminalized it which makes marijuana available but there’s no regulation over it for safety,” she said.

Tennessee: Marijuana Decriminalization In Nashville Faces Important Council Meeting

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A bill that would reduce the penalty in Nashville for possessing or exchanging small amounts of marijuana faces a crucial vote next week at the Metro Council.

The bill was advanced earlier this month with a 32-4 vote, but it may not see the same support within the 40-member body.

The bill will probably have the support of Mayor Megan Barry, who expressed support for decriminalization during last year's mayoral campaign and has expressed continued support for the idea.

Nashville Police Department records indicate an arrest rate for marijuana misdemeanors at about 20 per day without a felony charge.

The police department is opposed to the bill as proposed, and says that it is due to the wording of the proposed ordinance — it says an offender “shall be issued a citation” as opposed to “may be issued,” which would appear to take discretion away from the officer.

“This is something that targets minorities a lot, small amounts of drugs, and it really hurts their ability to break away from a cycle of poverty,” Councilman Fabian Bedne said.

Nashville's simple possession laws would still differ from those of the state of Tennessee, but the state has shown some support for treating minor marijuana offenses less harshly.

Michigan: Court Says No To Marijuana Ballot Question: Advocates Plan Appeal

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Yesterday the marijuana-legalization question on Michigan ballots suffered a setback that may keep the measure off ballots this November.

MI Legalize, the campaign to legalize cannabis in Michigan, failed to submit enough valid petition signatures, the Michigan Court of Claims ruled.

Although 354,000 signatures were submitted -- well over the required 252,000 signatures -- the court agreed with a State Board of Canvassers decision in June that “more than 200,000 were collected more than 180 days before the petition was submitted” to the Secretary of State — a violation of state law.

“We’re disappointed but we always figured this would go to the state Supreme Court — and that’s where we’re headed” with an emergency appeal, said Jeff Hank, a Lansing lawyer and chairman of MI Legalize. Hank and other pro-marijuana advocates are hopeful that they will prevail and see the question on this year's ballot.

However, state election law experts have said for months that MI Legalize is unlikely to succeed this year. Others said the MI Legalize relied on volunteers for too long, not hiring professional petitioners until it was too late to gather the signatures in 180 days.

Alaska: Credit Union Closes Accounts Connected To Marijuana Businesses

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Alaska USA Federal Credit Union has restricted 10 accounts of people applying for state licenses for marijuana businesses, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Recreational marijuana was made legal in 2014 in Alaska, winning a ballot initiative to legalize.

The state is currently creating regulations for those who want to legally grow, sell, and test marijuana.

In July, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union told marijuana license applicants to close their accounts by August 19.

A letter sent to customers said that the credit union, being federally chartered, does not offer accounts to anyone in a marijuana-related business or any other business that violates federal law.

In 2014 the US Department of Justice said financial institutions are subject to prosecution for conducting financial relations with marijuana-related conduct.

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