U.S.: Patrick Kennedy Crusades Against Marijuana Legalization


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, suggesting his own past drug use gives him the moral authority to speak out against marijuana, railed against pot on the June 14 episode of "Real Time with Bill Maher."

Kennedy, a former eight-term U.S. Representative from Rhode Island, leads Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), an organization which opposes cannabis legalization. He is an admitted former OxyContin addict, alcoholic, and cocaine abuser.

On Maher's show, Kennedy claimed studies show a link between marijuana and schizophrenia. He also suggested "heavy use" of pot by teenagers can lead to an IQ drop.

"Your reasoning is, 'You shouldn't do things because kids might,' " Maher pointed out. "Adults shouldn't have fires or drive cars. Kids might do all kinds of bad things."

"This is like global warming denying," Maher said. "This is the kind of stuff we heard years and years ago... It just seems so un-Kennedy-like to bge against what I said a couple of weeks ago was the new gay marriage. The next civil rights movement is to get equality under the law for people."

Kennedy has admitted he was treated for cocaine use during his teenager years. He also acknowledged he abused drugs and alcohol while he was a student at Providence College.

Alaska: Marijuana Legalization Push Begins


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Alaska could be the next battleground in the effort to legalize marijuana.

A ballot initiative application on Friday was certified by Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, whose office oversees elections.

The proposal would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of cannabis, though not in public. It would also set up rules for legal cultivation and establish an excise tax on marijuana.

Supporters will have a year to collect valid signatures from 30,169 voters across the state in order to get the question on the 2014 ballot. The group plans to get it done by January and have it on next year's primary ballot, according to petition sponsor Tim Hinterberger, reports The Associated Press.

"It really seems like the whole mood has radically shifted," Hinterberger said.

The conversation is no longer about whether cannabis should be legalized, according to Hinterberger. "Everybody assumes it's going to happen, and now it's just figuring out the details," he said.

"Obviously getting approved by the lieutenant governor's office is a good step indicating that we're not going to run into roadblocks," Hinterberger said. "We're ready to roll."

After about a week -- the time required to prepare the petition booklets -- proponents can start gathering signatures, according to Gail Fenumiai, director of the Alaska Division of Elections.

Arizona: Marijuana Legalization Initiative Launched


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An Arizona man has launched an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in the state.

Dennis Bohlke, 59, a north Phoenix computer programmer, is leading the Safer Arizona initiative, reports Yvonne Wingett Sanchez at The Republic. Bohlke said the measure is modeled after Colorado's newly enacted constitutional amendment, which taxes and regulates cannabis.

"The intent of the initiative is to legalize marijuana in Arizona and to treat it as we treat alcohol," Bohlke said.

The measure would amend Arizona's Constitution to allow people 18 and over (not 21 and over, as in Washington and Colorado) "to consume and possess limited amounts" of marijuana. The state would license grow facilities, retail marijuana stores and other related businesses.

The initiative needs 259,213 valid voter signatures by July 3, 2014, to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.

There is no major financial backing to fund signature gathering, according to Bohlke; that has been the death knell for efforts in other states including, most recently, Oregon's Measure 80. He acknowledged it will be "challenging" to gather the necessary signatures to qualiy for the ballot without major funding.

Bolhlke said he had spoken with Republican, "Tea Party" and Democratic lawmakers about the measure, and while they won't openly support him, they seemed "very receptive" to his initiative.

Washington: Board Delays Marijuana Rules After Extensive Public Input


The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) has delayed releasing draft rules for the implementation of recreational marijuana legalization in the state. Director Rick Garza blamed the delay on extensive last-minute public input on the rules.

The WSLCB on Monday issued dates for filing its recreational marijuana draft rules.

June 19 Board work session on proposed rules
July 3 Board files official draft rules (CR 102) with the state Code Reviser
August 7 Public hearing on draft rules
August 14 Board adopts rules
September 14 Effective date for rules
September 14 WSLCB begins accepting applications for all license types.

June 10 was the deadline for collecting public input on the board's first cut of draft rules that were released on May 16. "While the initial written comments on the rules were relatively light, the agency received extensive written comment over the weekend and throughout the day from public and private organizations," the WSLCB said in a Monday press release.

“In keeping with our goal of an open and transparent process for drafting the rules, we’re going to take an additional two weeks to consider the last-minute input we’ve received,” said WSLCB Director Rick Garza.

“The Board was prepared to issue the rules on June 19," Garza said. "However, it’s our responsibility to carefully review and consider the comments we received.”

New Jersey: Poll Finds 61% of Voters Favor Marijuana Decriminalization


Solid Majority Also Now Supports Legalizing, Taxing and Regulating Marijuana for Personal Use

Overwhelming Public Support Adds Momentum to Pending Senate Bill that Decriminalizes Small Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An overwhelming majority of New Jersey voters support reducing the penalty for simple marijuana possession from a criminal offense to a small fine similar to a traffic ticket, according to a new poll of likely voters by Lake Research Partners. The poll was commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance.

The poll found that 61 percent of those asked support a proposal to make possession of two ounces or less of marijuana a civil violation. Currently, possession of this amount is a criminal offense that carries a penalty of up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. A conviction also results in a criminal record that cannot be expunged for at least five years.

The poll also found that support for decriminalization is broad-based, traversing North, Central and South Jersey, and that it bridges gender, race and partisan divides. An overwhelming 82 percent of those polled said that they would either be more likely to vote for an elected official who supported reducing penalties for marijuana possession or that it would make no difference in their vote.

Maine: Senate Refuses To Let Voters Decide On Marijuana Legalization


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Maine Senate on Monday blocked a chance for the state's voters to decide for themselves at the ballot box whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

The Senate voted 24-10 Monday morning against sending the question to November's ballot, reports Christopher Cousins at the Bangor Daily News. That followed a Friday vote in the House of Representatives where the measure, LD 1229, sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland), fell four votes short of passage.

LD 1229 would have created a system of regulating and taxing marijuana. After a majority of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee opposed that plan, lawmakers voting with the minority moved forward with an amendment calling for a voter referendum, giving them a chance to decide, on a straight up-or-down question, whether Maine should craft rules to allow the legal, recreational use of cannabis. That was the question being debated on Monday in the Senate.

Some senators argued that the Maine Legislature should act before the issue is forced upon them by a voter initiative, but others seemed mostly concerned with not having their votes recorded as "supporting marijuana legalization."

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.

Ohio: Mayoral Hopeful Stages Pot Plant Giveaway, But Hands Out Tomato Plants Instead


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Cincinnati's Jim Berns hasn't even been elected mayor yet, but some would say he's already broken his first campaign promise.

Berns, a Libertarian mayoral hopeful, told people he would be giving out "nice plants about six weeks from harvest," reports Leslie Larson at the New York Daily News. Since Berns has often expressed his support to "re-legalize marijuana," folks naturally assumed he meant cannabis.

His attempt to attract voters -- and publicity -- with the ploy to draw attention to his platform, which calls for the legalization of marijuana in Ohio, drew about 30 people, mostly college-aged. They queued up following his talk to receive their plant at a city park.

But when the time came to hand out the greenery, they were just tomato plants. Wearing an American flag tie, Berns was photographed handing out the tomato plants and distributing fliers about his crusade to re-legalize cannabis.

"We support people deciding themselves to smoke marijuana," Berns said.

Before the event, Berns had been coy about the plants, saying only that they were "nice plants about six weeks from harvest."

He previously ran for a seat in Congress, but lost to GOP Rep. Steve Chabot (who, incidentally, is a "hard on drugs" pot-hating moron).

Photo: Jim Berns

Texas: Activists Say Lone Star State Moving Towards Marijuana Legalization


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Optimism is a good thing, don't you think? Some activists say FBI crime statistics will help move Texas closer to legalizing marijuana.

Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) points to new crime stats showing African Americans, while only making up about 12 percent of Texas' population, are arrested far more often than whites for marijuana possession, reports CBS DFW.

"There is no logical reason why law enforcement officials should be spending their time arresting and prosecuting adults simply for possessing a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol," Tvert said.

"It is the 15th highest arrest rate and right now, black Americans are being arrested at more than twice the rate as white," Tvert said. "Communities of color are really facing the most enforcement despite the fact that they use marijuana at the same rate as whites."

Marijuana prohibition costs U.S. taxpayers $41.8 billion per year, according to the MPP. Tvert said law enforcement needs to prioritize its crime-fighting efforts.

"We are spending our law enforcement resources arresting adults for marijuana, when we could be using those resources to address serious crime," he said.

U.S.: Rolling Stone Profiles Ethan Nadelmann, 'Most Influential Man In The Battle For Marijuana Legalization'


Insightful Rolling Stone Profile Calls Nadelmann “The Real Drug Czar” and “Most Influential Man in the Battle for Legalization”

Former Senior Bush Advisor: “He is the Single Most Influential Policy Entrepreneur on Any Domestic Issue”

Rolling Stone Special Edition on Marijuana Includes Article by Bill Maher, Feature on Colorado and More

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The war on people who use marijuana, the momentum to end prohibition, the people leading the fight, and of course the “Greatest Stoner Movies Of All Time” are just some of the 12 stories featured in the June 20 special issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, is profiled in one of the issue’s main features by Rolling Stone reporter Tim Dickinson. The insightful piece, “The Real Drug Czar,” documents Nadelmann’ s twenty-year career leading the movement to end the disastrous war on drugs. The front cover refers to him as “The Pot Movement’s Power Broker.”

The article describes the pivotal role of Nadelmann’s organization, the Drug Policy Alliance, in marijuana reform’s rapid shift from the fringes to the mainstream of U.S. and international politics – first with medical marijuana in the late 1990s and 2000s, and more recently with marijuana legalization victories in Colorado and Washington.

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).

Republic of Georgia: Hundreds Rally For Marijuana Legalization


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Hundreds of citizens of the former Soviet republic of Georgia rallied in the streets of capitol city Tbilisi on Monday, demanding the legalization of marijuana.

A majority of the protesters rallying in front of the old parliament building were young people, reports Radio Free Europe.

Many of them were wearing green shirts and were holding posters and placards calling on the government to "Stop Sending People to Jail for Smoking Weed."

Rally participants said they weren't advertising marijuana, but taking action to protect the personal freedom of those who choose to smoke it.

David Sergeyenko, Minister of Labor, Health Care, and Social Protections, said last week in a televised statement that his ministry was discussing the possibility of legalizing cannabis. According to Minister Sergeyenko, Georgia's Justice Ministry is also involved in the talks.

"If you have marijuana in your pocket, and police catch you, you might end up with up to 11 years in prison," psychologist David Subeliani said at the rally. "That's nonsense. We are talking about human rights."

(Photo: Radio Free Europe)

Minnesota: Independence Party To Push For Marijuana Legalization

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

Delegates at the Independence Party of Minnesota's state convention in St. Cloud on Monday adopted a party platform which calls for the legalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana.

"Party members spoke to allowing for personal choice and individual responsibility throughout the convention," said Kyle Lewis, executive director of the Independence Party, reports Tom Scheck at MPR News.

No cannabis law reform bills were introduced in this year's session of the Minnesota Legislature, but there is likely to be a push next year to allow marijuana for medical purposes, MPR reports.

The Independence Party has held major party status in Minnesota since IP candidate Jesse Ventura was elected governor in 1998.

(Photo: Cannabis Fantastic)

U.S.: Nearly Half of Adults Say They've Tried Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Almost half of Americans say they've smoked marijuana, but only 12 percent said they've smoked pot within the past year, according to a recent survey.

According to the Pew Research Center survey, 48 percent of adults said they had tried cannabis, up from 40 percent just three years ago, reports Drew Desilver of Pew Research. But among those who had tried marijuana, only 12 percent said they had smoked pot within the past 12 months.

More than half, 53 percent, of marijuana smokers said they used cannabis at least partially to address medical issues. Among those who smoke pot, 47 percent said their use is "just for fun," while 30 percent said they use cannabis only for medical reasons; 23 percent said they use marijuana for both recreational and medical reasons.

A majority of young adults -- 56 percent -- said they've tried marijuana, and 27 percent said they've smoked pot in the past year, the, well, highest percentage in any category. Young adults are also the strongest supporters of legalizing pot, with 64 percent favoring legalization, compared to just more than half of 30- to 64-year-olds.

About half of people ages 30 to 49 (51 percent) have tried marijuana. Among Baby Boomers, more people ages 50 to 64 (54 percent) have tried pot than in the 30-49 age group, although only about one in 10 Boomers smoked pot last year.

U.S.: 30+ Cannabis Industry Leaders Head To D.C. To Tell Congress: "Tax Us -- Fairly"

There is a truth that must be heard!National Cannabis Industry Association to endorse taxation of adult-use marijuana proposal included in Senate Finance Committee’s “options paper,” while decrying an unfair existing tax provision

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than 30 marijuana business leaders will travel to Washington, D.C., from across the country to take part in a two-day lobbying visit. Industry leaders will discuss the primary challenges facing business owners which could be solved by reconciling state and federal law, including a lack of access to financial services, unjust application of tax provisions, and ongoing interference from the federal government.

In additional to numerous lobbying meetings, participants will join Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), and Jared Polis (D-CO) at a press conference on Wednesday, June 5, to discuss Internal Revenue Code Section 280E, which prohibits state-legal businesses from taking standard business deductions when computing their federal taxes and results in regulated cannabis businesses paying two to three times the effective tax rate for most other small businesses.

Participants will also discuss a recently released Senate Finance Committee "options paper," which includes the taxation of marijuana as a possible means of raising tax revenue at the federal level.

Maine: Ballot Initiative To Legalize Marijuana In Portland One Step Closer


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A measure to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults in Portland, Maine, is likely to be on the ballot this fall.

A coalition led by the Portland Green Party on Thursday morning handed in petitions with more than 3,200 signatures to city officials, the first step in getting the proposal on the November ballot, reports the Portland Press Herald. The city requires 1,500 valid signatures for citizen initiatives to qualify for the ballot.

The proposal would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, while prohibiting its use in public spaces such as parks, schools, and sidewalks.

The law is vague on how adults could actually get marijuana, but according to Tom MacMillan, chair of the Portland Green Independent Committee, it's "likely" to be available through existing medicinal cannabis dispensaries (which we don't see as likely at all, unless and until the law changes on a statewide level). Distribution would be left up to the Portland City Council if the ordinance passes, MacMillan said.

Legalizing pot could lead to less use by young people, because it could eliminate the black market and make buying cannabis subject to the same type of age checks as alcohol purchases, MacMillan said.

New York: Man Hands Out Marijuana Lollipops On The Street


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An Oakland, California man has been handing out marijuana lollipops on the streets of New York City since April.

"Marijuana has had a bad rap for too many years, man," activist Judah Izsraael, 44, co-owner of Weed World Candies, said on Wednesday, reports Shane Dixon Kavanaugh of the New York Daily News. "Its time is now."

Izsraael, driving a Ford Econoline van painted with pot leaves and ganja babes, said he has handed out weed lollipops along St. Marks Place and West 4th Street, Times Square and Union Square for a month now. The candies have strain names such as White Widow, O.G. Kush and Blueberry Dream.

"We just set up wherever," Izsraael said. "We're all about educating people."

A handful of attractive women in denim shorts and tank tops working for Izsraael stood on 14th Street near University Place on Wednesday night, offering passersby handfuls of the pot-laced lollipops. While most ignored the spectacle, others were agape.

"Is this for real?" asked one wide-eyed woman. "How do you not get caught?"

"Izsraael claims his candies contain only a small, yet legal, amount of THC -- the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets you stoned," reports the Daily News, but of course that's nonsense, since there is no "legal amount" of THC under federal law.

"We're not giving out blunts," Izsraael said. "We can't guarantee that everyone is going to get high."

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."

Rhode Island: Lawmakers Hold Hearing On Bill To Legalize, Tax and Regulate Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday, May 28 on a bill to make possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older, and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. The hearing will begin following the rise of the Senate at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET.

Committee member Donna E. Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket, North Providence) introduced S 334, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, on February 13. Senators Josh Miller (D-Cranston) and Frank S. Lombardo, III (D-Johnston) co-sponsored the legislation in the Senate.

House Judiciary Chair Edith Ajello and 18 of her colleagues, including House Minority Leader Brian Newberry (R-North Smithfield, Burrillville), are sponsoring companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“By regulating marijuana like alcohol, Rhode Island stands to generate significant new revenue, take marijuana sales out of the underground market, and allow law enforcement officials to spend more time addressing serious crimes,” said Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and most Rhode Islanders think adults should be allowed to make the choice to use the less harmful substance.”

WHAT: Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on S 334, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act

California: L.A.'s New Mayor Says Legalizing Marijuana Is 'Not A Problem'


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Los Angeles Mayor-Elect Eric Garcetti, who was elected last month on the same day that voters approved capping the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in town, on Sunday said that he would be OK with legalizing cannabis for general use.

During a short interview with Jorge Ramos of Univision on Sunday, Garcetti was asked if he thought marijuana should be legalized, reports Jacob Sullum at He replied that marijuana is important for medical use, "But if in the future, California's voters want it for casual use, for me, it's not a problem."

Garcetti, currently a member of the Los Angeles City Council, went on to suggest that enforcement of the marijuana laws is diverting law enforcement personnel from more important tasks.

"I want to use the police department's resources for more serious crimes, but they are usually tied up in these crimes that aren't as important," Garcetti said. "Still, it would need to be decided by a statewide vote."

Californians rejected legalization measure Proposition 19 by a seven-point margin in 2010. Last year, voters in Colorado and Washington approved legalization by a margin of more than 10 points in both states.

Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority notes that Garcetti made similar comments before winning the mayoral election.

"I'll respect the voters on that," Garcetti said. "If folks wanna do that, it would be fine for recreational use."

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