Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Interesting recreational marijuana regulatory rules emerging in Alaska's laboratory

Download (1)Because Alaska is a "red state" and distinctive in various other ways, I have long been saying that The Last Frontier should be an especially interesting jurisdiction to watch as it develops rules for its recreational marijuana industry.   This local article reporting on the work of Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board as it is finalizing the state's commercial marijuana regulations confirms my thinking on this front. Here are highlights from the article:

At the end of an all-day meeting Friday to craft Alaska's first regulations over the cannabis industry, the state Marijuana Control Board adopted new rules that could blow the door wide open to Outside investment. Marijuana businesses must be 100 percent Alaskan owned, but the definition of what makes an Alaskan was changed from matching what is needed to receive a Permanent Fund dividend to matching voter registration requirements, which is far easier to achieve. Assistant Attorney General Harriet Milks called it a “sea change” that could “upend the whole program.”

Qualifying for a PFD requires documents such as employment and school records or vehicle registration, and a certain number of days spent physically in the state. By contrast, for Alaska voter registration requirements, all that is needed is a physical address and no other voter registration elsewhere....

Board member Mark Springer said he proposed the amendment because there had been concerns that the requirement would limit opportunity for some Alaskans to be able to invest. “There are people in this state who travel out of state long enough not to get a dividend, but they live here, so I was looking at it as providing the opportunity,” Springer said. He said he’d consider it a “major failure” if non-Alaskans flew up, rented an apartment and claimed residency. He noted that the amendment still had to withstand the Department of Law's review.

Earlier in the day, the board had voted down two separate amendments that would have allowed for 25 percent Outside investment, but the final changes, some said, were actually far more inclusive for Outsiders. “When you have 75 percent ownership then you give immediate value to Alaska residents. Now, right now …. an Alaska resident is not needed to have a place in this market,” marijuana industry attorney Jana Weltzin said. “They don’t need us anymore,” Weltzin added....

With Tuesday’s deadline approaching, the board had met in downtown Anchorage on Friday with hopes of ironing out remaining questions and concerns surrounding Alaska’s marijuana regulations. Aspects small and large – from licensing fees to retail store hours to packaging requirements -- have been considered by the board in crafting its 133 pages of regulations. Forty-two pages of amendments were posted on the board’s website Friday morning.

Another big change Friday was allowing for marijuana retail licenses to have an area for on-site consumption of marijuana. An adult 21-years or older would purchase marijuana and consume it in a designated area on the store’s premises, similar to a bar. Details on the on-site consumption were not figured out Friday; they will be defined at a later date, Alcoholic Beverage Control and Marijuana Control Board director Cynthia Franklin said.

The vote passed 3-2; the audience, a room composed mostly of marijuana industry advocates, clapped after the vote. “Common sense finally prevailed on one issue,” Weltzin said later.

Other changes made Friday:

• The board voted to remove a cap on THC limits for marijuana concentrates. A prior draft version had capped THC at 76 percent, a calculation derived from the limit placed on spirits; board member Bruce Schulte argued that the cap was taking the idea of regulating marijuana like alcohol too literally.

• Marijuana can be packaged in such a way as to allow consumers to see the product before they purchase it in a retail store, the board voted Friday. A previous version of the regulations had specified that marijuana must be packaged in opaque plastic.

• A broker cultivation license was removed from proposed regulations. Under a previous draft version of the regulations, a license would have allowed for brokers to procure marijuana from small growers and then sell the marijuana to retailers. The license was seen as a way to help small black-market growers transition to the legal market, but the board decided that the broker did not fall under the auspices of a cultivation license.

November 22, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interesting data on changing marijuana prohibition enforcement realities in New York City

Big_apple_NY-copyThe New York Post has this notable new piece on marijuana enforcement patterns in the Big Apple.  The piece is headlined "Marijuana arrests drop 40% this year as NYPD mellows out," and here are excerpts:

Cops are following through on Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to stop locking people up for carrying small amounts of pot. Police cuffed 18,120 stoners through Oct. 20 — a 40 percent plummet from the 29,906 pot busts in the same period last year, state Division of Criminal Justice records show.

At the same time, tickets for pot violations have surged. Cops handed out 13,081 low-level pot summonses through the end of September — and are on pace for more than 16,000 tickets. The NYPD issued 13,378 pot tickets for all of last year, and 13,316 tickets in 2013, records show. City Hall ordered cops last year to ticket suspects they caught with 25 grams or less of marijuana instead of arresting them after district attorneys and activists clamored for drug decriminalization.

Still, arrests outnumber tickets citywide, and there appears to be wide variations in enforcement. Bronx cops in the 45th Precinct in upscale Throggs Neck handed out 415 tickets for marijuana possession and made only 48 arrests in the first nine months of the year. Similarly, Staten Island cops in the 122nd Precinct ticketed 258 people and arrested only 18 suspects, city and state crime data show. But Bronx cops in the 52nd Precinct in Kingsbridge arrested 720 individuals but ticketed only 168 people in the first nine months of the year. And Queens cops made 259 pot arrests but only ticketed 79 people in South Jamaica’s 113th Precinct, the records show.

I find this basic data quite interesting, and I am hopeful there will soon be some serious resesrch done in conjunction with what this data reveal and suggest. For example, I would be interested in learning more about related economic realities, e.g., is the city as a whole and/or certain precincts starting to raise (considerably?) more revenue from issuing more tickets instead of making more arrests? And, of course, the relationships between these charing marijuana arrest rates and broader crime patterns could be fascinating if there were any notable correlations between the two. Finally, especially in light of historical patterns of disparate arrest rates for marijuana offenses for different races, I wonder if there are notable new racial dynamics in these notable new data.

November 22, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 20, 2015

"After federal raids, U.S. tribes cautioned about marijuana"

The title of this post is the headline of this AP article providing an effective review of the state of tribal affairs concerning marijuana reform roughly a year since the US Department of Justice issued notable guidance concerning federal law enforcement priorities in this arena.  Here are excerpts (with links from the source):

Tribes across the U.S. are finding marijuana is a is risky business nearly a year after a Justice Department policy indicated they could grow and sell pot under the same guidelines as states.

Federal raids on tribal cannabis operations in California followed by a South Dakota tribe's move this month to burn its crop amid fears it could be next have raised questions over whether there's more to complying with DOJ standards than a department memo suggested last December.

The uncertainty — blamed partly on thin DOJ guidelines, the fact that marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal laws, and a complex tangle of state, federal and tribal law enforcement oversight on reservations — has led attorneys to urge tribal leaders to weigh the risks involved before moving forward with legalizing and growing pot.

"Everybody who is smart is pausing to look at the feasibility and risks of growing hemp and marijuana," said Lance Gumbs, a former chairman of the Shinnecock Tribe in New York and regional vice president of the National Congress of American Indians. "But are we giving up on it? Absolutely not."

At a conference on tribal economic development held in Santa Fe, tribal leaders and attorneys said Wednesday that the raids have shown there may be more red tape for tribes to negotiate when it comes to legalizing cannabis than states have faced.  That's especially the case for tribes that are within states where marijuana is not legal....

"Industrial hemp, medical marijuana and maybe recreational marijuana present a lot of opportunity. But for now, the best advice is to proceed with caution," said Michael Reif, an attorney for the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin, where tribal leaders filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday after federal agents recently seized thousands of hemp plants grown for research.  "We're seeing the ramifications of things being unclear in a way states didn't."

The Flandreau Santee Sioux in South Dakota — a state where marijuana isn't legal — was the first to approve recreational pot under tribal law with a vote in June, and was one of the most aggressive about entering the industry, with plans to open the nation's first marijuana resort on its reservation north of Sioux Falls.

But after weeks of discussions with authorities who signaled a raid was possible, the tribe announced last week it had burned all of its marijuana plants.  Anthony Reider, the tribe's president, told The Associated Press the main holdup centered on whether the tribe could sell marijuana to non-Indians, along with issues over where the seed used for planting originated.  He suggested that by burning the crops, the tribe could have a clean slate to relaunch a grow operation in consultation with authorities.

In California, the Alturas and Pit River Indian rancherias launched tribally run marijuana operations that were raided by federal authorities, with agents seizing 12,000 marijuana plants in July.  The regional U.S. attorney's office said in a statement that the two neighboring tribes planned to distribute the pot off tribal lands and the large-scale operations may have been financed by a foreign third-party foreign.   It's not clear if the two tribes have plans for a new marijuana venture, and calls from the AP were not immediately returned.

The California and South Dakota tribes are three of just six so far this year that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana on their reservations.  The Squaxin Island Tribe in Washington state is another, and just opened a store last week for retail sales of the drug. But most expect the tribe to face fewer legal challenges because Washington allows for recreational marijuana use and the tribe entered into a compact with the state that sets guidelines for taxing pot sales.

"The tribes are not going to be immune to what the local attitudes toward marijuana are going to be," Trueblood said.  "If there's one 30,000-feet takeaway from this year, it's that you're not going to be successful if you don't work with you local governments or U.S. attorneys."

Prior related posts:

November 20, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

GOP firebrand Sarah Palin suggests Republicans ought not be fighting against marijuana reform

Faith_PalinThough I somewhat doubt that Sarah Palin is still a significant voice in conservative circles, I do not doubt that it is still somewhat significant that the former GOP Vice-President candidate is saying pretty clearly that politicians ought not be too concerned about bringing an end to blanket marijuana prohibition. This Huffington Post article, headlined "Sarah Palin: Legalizing Weed Is 'No Big Deal'," highlights Palin's latest comments on this topic:

Supporters of marijuana legalization may have an unlikely ally: Sarah Palin. Breaking with many members of her party who oppose legalizing marijuana, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee on Thursday said it is "no big deal" and argued that it should not be a controversial issue.

"I look on the national scene and think, wow, of all things to be fighting over and battling over, especially when it comes to medical marijuana. I think, hmm, this is just not my baby," Palin told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

When Hewitt expressed disbelief that Palin's home state legalized recreational marijuana last year, she said the vote "didn't surprise me."

"We've got that libertarian streak in us," she said, explaining that Alaska, the most conservative state to legalize marijuana so far, already had lax marijuana laws, so it was a less divisive issue than in other states. "I grew up in Alaska when pot was legal anyway. It was absolutely no big deal. I mean you didn't smoke it because your parents would strangle you. And if you were a jock and you were, you know, a Christian going to youth group, you just didn't do it, right?" Palin recalled. "And I still believe that. But when it comes to picking our battles, for many of us in Alaska, legalization of marijuana just was never really a bright blip on the radar screen."

November 20, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Menominee Indian Tribe files suit seeking declaration it has right under federal Farm Bill to cultivate industrial hemp

TribalSealThis press release reports on a interesting new lawsuit filed in federal district court this week.  Here are the details: 

The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit for declaratory judgment today against the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) seeking a judicial determination that Menominee has the right to cultivate industrial hemp pursuant to the Agricultural Act of 2014 (“Farm Bill”). Menominee filed its lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin – Green Bay Division.

Menominee Chairman Gary Besaw stated: “The Menominee Tribe, in cooperation with the College of Menominee Nation, should have the right under the Farm Bill to cultivate industrial hemp in the same manner as Kentucky, Colorado, and other states. These and other states cultivate industrial hemp without threats or interference from the United States government. In contrast, when our Tribe attempted to cultivate industrial hemp we were subjected to armed federal agents who came to our Reservation and destroyed our crop. The Department of Justice should recognize the equality of Tribes under the Farm Bill, and provide us with the same respect they have demonstrated to states growing industrial hemp for research purposes.”

Industrial hemp — which can be grown as a fiber and a seed crop — is used to produce a range of textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics, and building materials that are available throughout North America, the European Union, and Asia. Unlike marijuana, it has no psychoactive effect. Industrial hemp is currently cultivated by farmers in more than 30 countries around the world—from Australia to Canada to China. Menominee had been in discussions regarding its growth of industrial hemp with federal officials for months prior to October 23, 2015 when DEA and DOJ officials raided the Menominee Reservation and destroyed its industrial hemp crop. Brendan Johnson, Partner at Robins Kaplan LLP, former United States Attorney for South Dakota, former Chair of then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s Native American Issues Subcommittee, and an attorney representing Menominee in the action filed today stated: “This is a straightforward legal issue. The lawsuit focuses on the specific legal question of whether the Farm Bill’s industrial hemp provisions apply to Menominee. We are confident that the provisions do apply to Menominee; that Menominee is authorized under federal law to cultivate industrial hemp consistent with those provisions; and that a federal court will read the Farm Bill provisions as we do and require the federal government to recognize Menominee’s rights under federal law to cultivate industrial hemp.”

November 19, 2015 in Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pennsylvania moves one legislative step closer to legalizing medical marijuana

Bipartisan-Medical-Marijuana-Bill-Introduced-to-Pennsylvania-Senate1.thumbnailAs reported in this local article, headlined "Pennsylvania House panel advances medical marijuana legislation," the Keystone State had a key legislative development yesterday with respect to marijuana reform.  Here are the basic details:

Pennsylvania is one step closer to legalizing medical marijuana, following a successful committee vote Wednesday in the House that positions the bill for final passage.  Before any proposal becomes law, however, it is subject to an amendment process that legalization advocates fear could dilute it.

Senate Bill 3 received an affirmative 25-8 vote in the House Rules Committee.  The proposal would legalize marijuana use for patients with certain illnesses and establish a regulatory framework for growing, processing and prescribing.

“We believe that it can benefit a significant number of Pennsylvanians, but if the House waters it down with arbitrary restrictions, then we fear that it will be a medical cannabis bill in name only,” said Patrick Nightingale, executive director of the legalization advocacy group Pittsburgh NORML.  The vote is a victory, Nightingale said, but he's cautious about what comes next.

All eight votes in opposition came from Republicans, who control the majority in the chamber.  House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said amendments are being prepared and the bill could be voted on by the full House as early as next week.  Feared changes could include a cap on the amount of THC that can be used in the medicine.  Under the current proposal, patients with select illnesses — such as cancer and seizure disorders, among others — could receive a prescription.  Smoking marijuana would not be a permitted treatment, and delivery methods would be limited to oils, edible products, ointments and tinctures.

Gov. Tom Wolf favors legalization for medical purposes and called on the Legislature to send a proposal to his desk. “It's past time for them to act on it,” said his spokesman, Jeff Sheridan....

The Senate passed the legalization in May by a 40-7 vote. House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, then convened a bipartisan committee to vet the bill and consider changes.  Reed voted for the bill on Wednesday.  State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 3 and began pushing for a legalization proposal in 2010.  “We hope the entire House acts quickly to pass our bill without amendment,” said Leach's Chief of Staff Steve Hoenstine.

November 19, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Advocates for marijuana reform in Vermont highlight economic development

Vt_magnet_allI have long thought advocates for marijuana reform could and should focus on the economic development benefits that seem to flow from permitting a legal market in cannabis.  I now see from this local article in Vermont, headlined "Marijuana pitched for young VT entrepreneurs," that some folks in the Green Mountain State are making a pitch in this way. Here is how the article gets started:

Entrepreneurs are pitching marijuana as a cash crop that would keep college graduates in Vermont and create thousands of jobs. The Vermont Cannabis Collaborative says in a new report that if Vermont lawmakers bring “order to the chaos” of the underground illegal marijuana market, business opportunities would abound.

“This provides a whole new industry for our young millennials coming out of college and trying to find what to do in Vermont to jump in and become the next Steve Jobs, to become the next Ben and Jerry’s, to become the next Seventh Generation,” Alan Newman, a founder of Seventh Generation and Magic Hat Brewing Company, said Wednesday.

Newman spoke during a news conference in Burlington one day after legalization opponents rallied at the Statehouse in Montpelier. Newman and other members of the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative group have been working for months on recommendations for a legal marijuana industry in the state.

The resulting report, titled “What Cannabis Can Do for Vermont,” suggests that any large-scale marijuana-growing operation should be at least 51 percent owned by Vermonters and certified as a benefit corporation, meaning the business would consider social and environmental values in addition to profit. The proposed Vermont marijuana economy also would include home growers with six or fewer plants, and artisanal craft growers with seven to 99 plants.

The idea is to create a market unlike the kind that Ohio voters recently rejected, which would have allowed just 10 commercial growers. “We think we have a chance here to grow an economy based on Vermont values, based on Vermont tradition, and one that embraces the already-existing infrastructure that can really help keep young people here and make Vermont an attractive place to live,” said Bill Lofy, former chief of staff for Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Lofy’s former boss is publicly coy on whether he will push a legalization bill during his final year as governor. Shumlin, a Democrat, favors legalization and last year accepted thousands of dollars of campaign contributions from the groups that are calling for legalization, but he has hesitated to set a date.

The governor promised this week to make up his mind by January. “I gotta be candid with you,” Shumlin said Monday. “I’m focusing on a lot of other things, like the budget, creating jobs. We will get to that, but I haven’t made a decision.”

Creating jobs is among the goals of the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative, which argues that legalization would create as many as 4,000 positions, because the industry would need growers, architects, lawyers, marketing experts, security experts and more. The group used a custom economic model to estimate the total market at about $250 million, assuming 50,000 pounds of marijuana would be consumed annually.

The Vermont Cannabis Collaborative has a lot of reform resources collected at this web page, and its recent report, titled "What Cannabis can do for Vermont: How to grow a thriving, community-based, legal cannabis economy," is available at this link.

November 19, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Effective general overview of the state of US marijuana reforms as of Fall 2015

I am giving a lecture this afternoon to a local bar association about the state of marijana reform in Ohio and throughout the United States as of Fall 2015.  Helpfully, this recent article from BloombergBNA provides a useful national overview with a number of state-level specifics.  The piece is titled "Marijuana in America, 2015: A Survey of Federal And States' Responses to Marijuana Legalization and Taxation," and I recommend it for those looking to get up to speed on a lot of the legal and tax basics ASAP.

November 18, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 16, 2015

New Canadian Prime Minister orders key Cabinet officials to work toward marijuana legalization

As reported in this post a few weeks ago, the big winner in the Canadian national election was the Justin Trudeau, who became Canada's new Prime Minister after leading his Liberal Party to a majority government win.  As noted before, this was big news for marijuana reform fans because the Liberal Party, as detailed here, campaigned with an express promise to "legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana."  Now, thanks to this blog posting. I see that Prime Minister Trudeau recently issued a series of ministerial mandate letters detailing his instructions to his Cabinet officials.  In these three letters, marijuana reform is specified as among the mandates:

Minister of Health Mandate Letter

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Mandate Letter 

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Mandate Letter

Here is the key mandate language from the first of these letters which is comparable in all three: "Support the Ministers of Justice and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on efforts that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana."

November 16, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Jersey legislature to hold (historic?) hearing on full marijuana legalization

Images (5)As reported in this local story, headlined "Legalize recreational marijuana in N.J.? Supporters to pitch for it at hearing," the Garden State is due to have a legislative hearing this afternoon that explores the pssibility of allowing gardens to grow an especially notable weed.  Here are the details:

Eighteen months after proposing a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey [text of bill here], state Sen. Nicholas Scutari will preside over a hearing Monday that allows only supporters to testify. "I am going to start positive, then open up the floor to the people are against it," said Scutari (D-Union). Opponents will get their turn at a future hearing, he said.

With a governor who firmly opposes legalizing recreational marijuana use, there is plenty of time to give everybody who wants to speak out a chance to do so, he said. He admits he thinks opponents offer "shallow arguments" to make their point.

"A journey of a thousand steps starts with the first," said Scutari, who as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the hearing. "The first step was introducing the bill and this is the natural next step — to talk about the benefits of legalization and the negative impact prohibition has had."...

Under the bill, local elected officials could impose an ordinance barring a dispensary or any pot-related business from opening, and dictate how many would be allowed, hours of operation and licensing fees and regulations. Sales tax and application fee revenue would be dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund, drug enforcement and prevention efforts, and women's health programs, which Christie has cut since taking office in 2010....

The invited speakers are:

  • Richard Smith, President, NAACP-NJ
  • Udi Ofer, executive director, ACLU-NJ
  • Lazaro Cardenas, Latino Action Network
  • J.H. Barr, Clark prosecutor and president of the NJ Municipal Prosecutors Association
  • Lt. Nick Bucci, retired, N.J. State Police
  • Annette DePalma, Maplewood prosecutor and incoming president of the Municipal Prosecutors Association;
  • Dr. David Nathan, director of Continuing Medical Education for Princeton HealthCare System and clinical associate professor at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Rev. James A. Dunkins, Shiloh Baptist Church, Vineland
  • Rev. Craig Hirshberg, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry
  • Evan Nison, director of the New Jersey chapter for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
  • Ken Wolski, executive director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey
  • Bill Caruso, attorney with Archer & Greiner, member of NJ United for Marijuana Reform

As the title of this post hints, I think this hearing itself is historic for being the first significant state legislative hearing enabling a full and robust discussion of the pros and cons of full marijuana legalization. I am hopeful that, among other developments, this hearing will result in considerable discussion (and perhaps detailed written testimony) with detailed data on the impact of marijuana legalization in states like Colorado and Washington.

November 16, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

"Colombia’s government plans to legalize the cultivation and sale of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes"

The title of this post is the first line of this notable new AP story providing more evidence that the marijuana reform movement in US states continues to have international echoes.  Here are the details:

The change is coming in an executive decree that President Juan Manuel Santos will soon sign into law. It will regulate regulating everything from licensing for growers to the eventual export of products made from marijuana, Justice Minister Yesid Reyes said.

With the new policy, Colombia joins countries from Mexico to Chile that have experimented with legalization or decriminalization as part of a wave of changing attitudes toward drug use and policies to combat it in Latin America. But unlike many of its neighbors, Colombia has long been identified with U.S.-backed policies to eradicate drug production and a sharp decline in levels of violence over the past 15 years is largely attributed to the no-tolerance policing.

Sen. Juan Manuel Galan, who last year introduced legislation that tracks with the government’s decree, said that as many as 400,000 Colombians suffering from epilepsy and other ailments could benefit from the clearer regulatory framework to be provided by the decree.

Colombians for two decades have been allowed to possess small quantities of any narcotic for personal use thanks to a series of Constitutional Court rulings guaranteeing the “free development of one’s personality.” But the congress and the executive branch have been loath to endorse such views, in part because of officials’ skittishness about showing any weakness in a country that is the biggest supplier of cocaine to the U.S.

Indeed, conservative critics in Colombia and abroad see Santos’ drive to reform drug policy, including a decision earlier this year to end a two-decade-old campaign of spraying illegal coca crops with herbicides, as a sign that the government’s resolve is weakening. Reflecting those concerns, officials went to great lengths Thursday to explain that they are not looking to further liberalize recreational use of marijuana as was recently done in Uruguay, the region’s pioneer in drug policy reform. “Nobody is talking about legalizing anything except for these two purposes,” Reyes said.

Colombia gained international fame since the 1970s as a producer of potent pot strains such as Santa Marta Gold. Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria told Blu Radio that he envisions Colombia positioned as a major global player in the booming market for marijuana products. “Our phones are ringing off the hook as we get ready for the next chapter,” said a statement from John Campo, president of the parent of the U.S.-owned Sannabis company, which is developing cannabis-based oils, creams and other products on a self-governed indigenous reservation in southern Colombia.

November 12, 2015 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Should marijuana reformers be especially focused these days on Silicon Valley and "the cannabis tech start-up"?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new New York Times article headlined "Silicon Valley Tries to Alter Your Perception of Cannabis."  Here is an excerpt:

HelloMD is at the forefront of a new trend in Silicon Valley: the cannabis tech start-up.  As marijuana laws are being loosened across the country, entrepreneurs and investors are creating new businesses to cash in on what they see as an emerging bonanza.  Like start-ups in other industries, these firms are trying to use technology to bring speed and efficiency to what has long been a face-to-face, pen-and-paper market.  In the process, they are also trying to alter mainstream perceptions of the marijuana industry, shedding the ganja and Rasta imagery to cultivate a wider audience.

“What we see is moms, dads, professionals, old people, everyone wanting access to cannabis,” said Mark Hadfield, the founder of HelloMD.  “The old type of experience — go to a crummy doctor’s office, wait in line — was not going to appeal to the market that we were after, which is everyday Americans, a market that, by the way, is much larger than the old market of — I don’t want to call them stoners, but let’s say, ‘recreationally minded young people.’”

People in the marijuana industry have lately taken to saying that legal marijuana is the next Internet, an untrammeled new market opportunity that is just waiting for its own big brands, the Google and Facebook of pot.  But many businesses are also finding that, in an environment of only partial legality, not everything in the marijuana business is smooth sailing.

Proponents for legalization expect a handful of states to vote on ballot measures to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the 2016 election.  The biggest prize is California, where a wealthy coalition of advocates, including Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster and the former president of Facebook, is pushing for recreational legalization.  “California is the biggest domino,” said Justin Hartfield, the founder and chief executive of Weedmaps, a kind of Yelp for marijuana dispensaries, who is also backing the California initiative.  “Once California goes legal, very shortly after we’ll have a majority of states where adult use is legal.”

The ArcView Group, a company that connects investors to cannabis businesses, estimates the American legal cannabis industry generated $2.4 billion in sales in 2014, up 74 percent from 2013.  Legalization will lead to continued growth of at least double-digit percentage points for the rest of the decade, according to Troy Dayton, the chief executive of the ArcView Group.  “This is already the fastest-growing industry in America, and when these new markets come online, the impact will be huge,” Mr. Dayton said.

And when millions of new customers flood into the marijuana business, tech companies will be lining up to offer them an easy way to find a hit.  They’ve already made it pretty simple: After getting my prescription, I didn’t have to do much more to get some drugs.

November 12, 2015 in Web/Tech, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Senate Approves Funding Bill That Allows Veterans to Access Medical Marijuana"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new report from the Drug Policy Alliance on a notable new vote in the US Senate today.  Here are the details:

The Senate today passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill, which includes language to allow Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. The language was included as an amendment in the Senate Appropriations committee in May....

The Veterans Equal Access Amendment was sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. It passed the Committee 18-12 in a bipartisan vote. The funding bill will now be negotiated with the House’s version as part of an omnibus spending bill.

"On this eve of Veterans/Armistice Day where we remember those who served in the military and the treaty agreement to reach peace concluding WWI, we see this victory as a step toward a peace treaty with the government we volunteered to defend with our lives and as a step toward restoring our first amendment rights and dignity as citizens of the United States, " said TJ Thompson, a disabled Navy veteran.

Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking recommendations or opinions regarding participation in a state medical marijuana program. The Daines-Merkley amendment authorizes VA physicians and other health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the use of medical marijuana to veterans who live in medical marijuana states....

There are numerous federal healthcare programs besides the VA such as Medicaid, Medicare, and CHIP – but only the VA prohibits physicians from discussing and recommending medical marijuana to their patients. A Medicare patient may freely discuss medical marijuana use with her doctor, while a returning veteran is denied the same right.

Studies have shown that medical marijuana can help treat post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, illnesses typically suffered by veterans. A 2014 study of people with PTSD showed a greater than 75% reduction in severity of symptoms when patients were using marijuana to treat their illness, compared to when they were not.

A legislative version of the Daines-Merkley amendment was included in groundbreaking Senate medical marijuana legislation introduced in March. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act is the first-ever bill in the U.S. Senate to legalize marijuana for medical use and the most comprehensive medical marijuana bill ever introduced in Congress. The bill was introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and generated enormous interest.

With the Senate approving one element in the bill, supporters say it is time for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the full bill. “The politics around marijuana have shifted in recent years, yet Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley hasn’t held a hearing on the bill,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We will move the CARERS Act piece by piece if we have to but now is the time for the Senate to hold a hearing on the bill as a whole.”

November 10, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 9, 2015

South Dakota tribe planning first marijuana resort (mysteriously?) changes plans and destroys (valuable?) crops

As regular readers should recall from lots of prior posts, a Native American tribe seemed well on its way to opening the nation's first "marijuana resort" on tribal lands in South Dakota at the end of the year.  But, as reported in this local article, headlined "Flandreau tribe temporarily suspending marijuana operations," there appears to have been a significant and sudden change in pot plans. Here is the local report, which prompts a lot more questions than answers:

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is temporarily suspending its marijuana cultivation and distributing facilities and is destroying its existing crop as leaders seek clarification on regulations from the federal government, according to the tribe's lawyer.

Seth Pearman said the suspension is pivotal to the continued success of the marijuana venture and that tribal leadership is confident that after getting clarification from the U.S. Department of Justice, "it will be better suited to succeed."

"The tribe will continue to consult with the federal and state government and hopes to be granted parity with states that have legalized marijuana," Pearman said in the news release. Pearman said despite suspending the current plan, the tribe intends to be a participant in the marijuana industry.

South Dakota attorney general Marty Jackley called the about-face a "positive" choice. "The decision by the Flandreau Tribe to not move forward at this time with marijuana growth in South Dakota is positive and is in the best interest of both tribal and non-tribal members," Jackley said.  "I understand that this has been a divisive matter and that this decision by tribal authorities has not been easy."

Jackley said that he and tribal government officials have had opportunities to sit down and discuss the marijuana operation throughout the process. "We haven't always agreed, but we've had good, positive discussions," he said.  "I will do whatever I can as South Dakota's Attorney General to assist Flandreau in the decision and as I have done throughout this process, make myself available to tribal leadership for further discussions." Jackley told the Associated Press that he was informed of the tribe's decision Saturday. He plans to meet with tribal officials Monday or Tuesday.

Jonathan Hunt, vice present of Monarch America, a Denver-based marijuana consulting firm hired by the tribe, told the Associated Press that a reported fire Saturday was caused by wood and not marijuana. He declined further comment.

Rep. Matthew Wollmann, R-Flandreau, had the opportunity to tour the tribe's marijuana facilities in October.  Wollmann said he was surprised by the decision to forego the venture for now. "They've invested a lot of money into the facilities," he said. Wollmann added that despite the delay, the fact that marijuana is still illegal across South Dakota could continue to create tension between the tribe and the rest of the state.

"Quite frankly, nine out of 10 people that I've spoken to about the issue were not in favor of it," he said.  "I think they had a lot more pushback than they expected. ... Maybe they're waiting for a better environment."...

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe became the first South Dakota tribe to move forward with making marijuana legal.  The tribe's executive committee voted June 11 to make the sale and use of marijuana legal on its reservation in Moody County about 45 miles north of Sioux Falls. The facility had been slated to open at the end of the year.

I would not have been too surprised if, for administrative reasons, the planned opening for the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe's marijuana resort was being delayed. But the (unclear?) indication that the Tribe has now decided against opening up a pot shop on its lands and has destroyed its crop leads me to wonder if the Tribe was subject to considerable pressure from local, state and federal authorities to not be the first tribe actively promoting recreational marijuana sales and tourism.

I hope there will be a lot more (and clearer) reporting on this front in the days ahead, as I am quite curious what prompted the change of plans and also whether the change will greatly influence whether and how other tribes consider moving forward in this challenging space.

Prior related posts:

November 9, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Is Maryland a "sleeper" marijuana reform state to start watching closely?

ImagesThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting Baltimore Sun article headlined "Maryland's nascent medical marijuana industry already booming." The article suggests a number of reasons why the Old Line State could and should be the new hot state to watch in the marijuana reform movement. Here are excerpts:

More than 350 applicants for licenses to grow, process or dispense medical marijuana were filed with the state's Medical Cannabis Commission by Friday evening's deadline as entrepreneurs try to get in at the ground floor of the newest pot market. The applications cover every county in the state. "It's very busy, and we're very excited," said Dr. Paul Davies, the commission's chairman. "There's an awful lot of excitement buzzing around."

State officials said they had counted only some of the applications received. Already, they have processed nearly three times more applications than there are grower licenses available and at least twice as many dispensary applications than they can award.

The huge demand is typical of a new medical marijuana market, said Troy Dayton, CEO of ArcView, a cannabis industry research firm. Apart from the District of Columbia, Maryland is the first jurisdiction south of the Mason-Dixon line that has a medical marijuana industry, he noted....

"The biggest opportunity in the cannabis industry is the opportunity to be a limited license holder in a state that is likely to expand," Dayton said. "It makes a lot of sense that people would put a lot of time and resources into their applications and really swing for fences." And because Maryland set up its industry to award licenses on a merit-based system with high fees to apply, Dayton said, it is likely that the businesses that ultimately win licenses will be successful. "You have people really vested in the success of that effort," he said. "And they have a protected market. They're guaranteed a flow of customers."...

Maryland's medical marijuana program has stirred much interest in the industry, said Taylor West, deputy director at the National Cannabis Industry Association. Not only are there few medical marijuana programs on the East Coast, she said, but Maryland's approach to treating a broad range of conditions and awarding a fair number of licenses makes it an attractive place to invest. "This is a brand-new market where there really isn't an established set of businesses there," West said. "So getting in at the ground floor, treating patients and building a reputation has a lot of value."

The breadth of Maryland's medical marijuana program attracted Dr. Greg Daniel and his associates to the state. They plan to build what he calls a "seed-to-sale" operation that grows the marijuana, processes it and then sells it at a dispensary. Daniel said he has talked to officials in Easton about converting an old Black & Decker factory into a growing and processing plant, and he applied to operate a dispensary near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The total cost to build the operation would be about $10 million.

For more than a decade, Daniel ran a doctor-staffing business before getting into the medical marijuana industry. He said he narrowly missed the cutoff to be awarded one of the few licenses available in New York, where he is based, but sees a bigger potential market in Maryland because of the way the program is set up. "We could be very successful here," said Daniel. "The number of patients that we would be able to treat would be greater in the Maryland marketplace."

In 2013, Maryland lawmakers approved a medical marijuana program that relied on academic institutions to distribute the drug, whose sale is prohibited under federal law. No university volunteered to participate, so the legislature retooled the program in 2014. The program authorizes physicians in the state to recommend the drug for a specific set of conditions, with 15 growers and as many as 94 dispensaries to supply it.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission spent months crafting regulations on how to implement the law, and even longer developing the complicated application that stretches more than 60 pages. Most of the questions require an essay answer, plus proof that the applicant can pay for the operation. The commission plans to have an independent third party review and score all of the applications — with names of applicants redacted — to determine which ones make the first cut.

The commission came under fire last year for setting some of the highest fees in the medical marijuana industry, charging $125,000 to growers for a two-year license and $40,000 for a dispensary. But the cost apparently did not scare off many applicants.

Tony Toskov said he became interested in the business because his wife suffers from migraines and he hopes medical marijuana might alleviate her symptoms. "I hope everyone's doing it for the right reasons," said Toskov, a restaurateur who owns several Anne Arundel County locales and has applied to operate a dispensary in Baltimore, Washington or Anne Arundel. "It's not a pot store; you're getting into the medical business."

November 7, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Lots of notable Ohio stories about marijuana reform even after voters soundly reject Issue 3

As reported in prior posts (here and here), earlier this week Ohioans went to the polls and voted by large margin against a controversial ballot initiative, Issue 3, which would have legalized recreational marijuana in Ohio and give exclusive rights to growing marijuana to 10 designated investors.  But, as highlighted by the headlines and stories linked below, this vote has not ended the conversations about marijuana reform in the Buckeye State:

Finally, for anyone who likes believing  grand government conspiracies against changing the political status quo, another article would be especially appealing: "Was Ohio's Marijuana Vote Stolen? TV Screen Shots Show Massive Number of Votes Flipping."

November 7, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"If Mexico legalizes marijuana, what will the U.S. do?"

Mexico-Marijuana-900The title of this post is the headline of this notable and interesting op-ed in the Los Angeles Times authored by Jorge Castañeda, who once served as foreign minister of Mexicoand now teaches at New York University. Here are excerpts:

Mexico may soon enter an elite club composed of Holland, Portugal, Uruguay and Colorado, Oregon and Washington state: It's on the verge of excluding marijuana from the destructive war on drugs. But will the United States stand in its way?

On Nov. 4, Mexico's Supreme Court voted by a wide margin to declare unconstitutional the country's ban on the production, possession and recreational consumption of marijuana. A group of citizens had banded together in a so-called cannabis club (named SMART, for the initials in Spanish of its full title) and requested permission to grow and exchange marijuana among themselves; the government's health agency (the equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) denied them permission; the group sought a writ of habeas corpus, and went all the way to the Supreme Court, which granted them the writ and ordered the agency to legalize the club and allow it to function.

This decision does not entail an across-the-board decriminalization of recreational marijuana. For the moment, it applies only to the group that sought permission. But the court's ruling may eventually extend to everyone seeking to grow or consume the drug.

Absent injury to third parties, the court resolved that, under the constitution, every individual has the right to enjoy life as he or she sees fit, and that secondary legislation — like prohibiting marijuana — cannot curtail that right. The court also ruled that although marijuana may cause some degree of harm to some adult users in large quantities, prohibition is an excessive antidote to that harm....

Unlike in the U.S., public opinion in Mexico is against legalizing pot, which is why SMART chose the judicial road instead of pursuing a legislative approach. Recent history has shown that once the courts resolve controversial social issues — abortion, same-sex marriage, living wills — public opinion shifts and eventually comes around to the more progressive view.

The ruling means a great deal for Mexico. Domestically, it probably spells the beginning of the end of its bloody, costly, fruitless war of choice on marijuana. It will be increasingly awkward for the country's armed forces and police to prosecute growers, wholesale traffickers and retail dealers of a substance that can be grown and consumed legally, if not yet bought and sold freely.

The decision will not immediately affect the country's cartels, or the rising (once again) levels of drug-related violence and corruption. It will, however, eventually bring down marijuana prices, which over time will damage the cartels' business. And if President Enrique Peña Nieto wishes to continue the drug war, the decision will free him to concentrate on heroin and methamphetamines (produced in Mexico) and cocaine (brought from South America).

For the country's always prickly ties with Washington, Mexico's Supreme Court ruling could cut either way. If hard-liners in the U.S. — the Drug Enforcement Administration and its supporters in Congress — determine the American response, there will be trouble.... Or, if President Obama as well as the moderates in the State and Justice departments run the show, the decision could serve as a much-needed excuse to rethink prohibition.

Just as Obama wisely decided not to interfere with state-level legalization in the U.S., he could encourage Peña Nieto not to interfere with the court decision. Both governments could unite in making clear that the ruling, plus next year's probable legalization of recreational use in California, make the war on drugs unmanageable.

Both the U.S. and Mexico would then have no choice but to search for alternative solutions, and leave behind the punitive, security-based approach Washington has imposed on the world since the early 1970s.

November 7, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Times editorial praises spread of push for marijuana legalization

The New York Times has this lengthy and astute editorial headlined "The Push for Legal Marijuana Spreads." Here is how it starts and ends:

Support for making marijuana legal is increasing around the world, and that is a good thing.  Earlier this week, the Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing the drug by giving four plaintiffs the right to grow cannabis for personal use.

In Canada, the newly sworn in prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he intends to change the law so people can use the drug recreationally; medicinal use is already legal in that country.  And in the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, recently introduced a bill that would let states decide if they want to make the drug legal without worrying about violating federal law.

Laws banning the growing, distribution and possession of marijuana have caused tremendous damage to society, with billions spent on imprisoning people for violating pointlessly harsh laws.  Yet research shows that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, and can be used to treat medical conditions like chronic pain....

What’s needed now is responsible leadership from President Obama and Congress. They ought to seriously consider the kind of legislation Mr. Sanders has proposed.  His bill would remove marijuana, or “marihuana” as it is called in federal law, from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which is meant for drugs that have a high potential for abuse and no medical use.

This change would allow states to decide if they want to make the drug legal and how to regulate it without being limited by federal law.  Mr. Sanders’s bill would also make it illegal to transport the drug across state lines.  If Congress is unwilling to act, Mr. Obama should move on his own by ordering the attorney general to request a study by the secretary of health and human services, which would be needed if the administration is to remove the drug from Schedule I on its own.

A growing group of activists, judges and lawmakers is showing the world a path to more sensible drug policies. Mr. Obama and Congress should join them.

November 7, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Serious money for serious people to study marijuana reform seriously

Global-logoI am very pleased to see via this press release that a notable institution has just recently receive a notable grant to work on modern marijuana reform issues.  Here are the details:

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law, in collaboration with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), has received a $250,000 grant from the Open Philanthropy Project to help develop guidelines on how states, countries, and other jurisdictions that opt to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational purposes can create regulatory frameworks, consistent with the goals of legalization, that will work effectively to protect and promote the public health.

“Now is an opportune time to develop regulatory approaches and guidelines that can prevent unnecessary public health harms from the legalization of medical or recreational cannabis while maximizing the potential public health benefits,” says the project’s lead investigator, Oscar Cabrera, Abogado (JD equivalent), LL.M., executive director of the O’Neill Institute.  “With new ballot questions and legislation pending, it is especially important, now, to avoid elements that will unnecessarily create health risks or fail to secure potential benefits and likely be harder to fix after they are in place.”

Cabrera says the purpose of the project is not to advocate for or against legalizing cannabis, but rather to inform deliberations over the design and implementation of the laws and regulations governing legalized cannabis products with guidance from relevant experts in public health policy and law, both in the United States and abroad.

The Open Philanthropy Project is a collaboration between the philanthropic foundation Good Ventures and the nonprofit GiveWell in which they aim to identify outstanding giving opportunities, make grants, follow the results and publish their findings.  The project between the O’Neill Institute and WOLA complements this mission.

“Whether or not one agrees with cannabis legalization, it is already happening in several U.S. states and in the country of Uruguay, and appears likely to spread to more jurisdictions,” explains John Walsh, Senior Associate at WOLA, a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the Americas.  “Different jurisdictions are likely to make different choices about exactly how to legalize, but it is crucial to engage the public health community in identifying strategies that can minimize possible public health harms and maximize public health gains.”

In addition to looking at available research and the experience of those jurisdictions that have already legalized cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, the organizations’ leaders say they will also draw from the public health community’s considerable experience relating to the regulation of other products, such as tobacco, alcohol and both over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

“It makes good sense to assess what lessons from tobacco and alcohol control — both positive and negative — should be taken into account when designing regulations for legalized cannabis,” Cabrera adds.  “But until now, public health officials largely have been on the sidelines of this issue.”

The O’Neill-WOLA collaboration brings the public health aspects of cannabis legalization to the forefront and seeks to generate more participation in the issue from public health experts and organizations.  WOLA has a long history in the field of drug policy reform with a particular focus on human rights protections.  The O’Neill Institute brings great expertise and stature in the field of public health law and policy.  Both organizations have broad access to scholars, practitioners, activists, and government officials.

November 5, 2015 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pueblo County voters in Colorado approve local marijuana tax to fund college scholarship

Images (4)This local story from Colorado, which is headlined "New in Colorado: College scholarships funded by weed" (and amazingly does not make any jokes about higher education), discusses an interesting local tax initiativ that looks to reinvestment marijuana revenues to a very sound cause.  Here are the details:

A Colorado county that boasts the world's largest outdoor marijuana farm and has been actively courting the new pot industry has approved the world s first marijuana-funded college scholarship.

Pueblo County voters approved the pot tax by a 20-point margin Tuesday.  The 5 percent excise tax on marijuana growers is expected to raise about $3.5 million a year by 2020, with the money available for any high school senior in the county who attends one of two public colleges in the county.

The scholarship awards will depend on how many students apply, but county planners are projecting about 400 students a year will get scholarships of about $1,000 each per year.  The awards are the world's first scholarships funded entirely by pot taxes.  "It's a landmark vote," said Brian Vicente, a Denver-based marijuana attorney who wrote Colorado's 2012 legalization measure.  "This is the first time you have marijuana tax money being used directly for scholarships, and that's pretty remarkable."  Pueblo's booming pot industry didn't oppose the measure, which brings their tax rate from 15 percent to 20 percent, phased in over five year....

Scholarship backers insist the fund isn't any different than the scholarships already funded by alcohol companies.  "Adding a scholarship that comes from an industry we are fostering is a logical method to address several of our community issues, including an unemployment rate that lags the statewide average," said Chris Markuson, Pueblo's economic development director.

Through aggressive recruitment efforts and financial incentives, the southern Colorado county has attracted a booming industry of marijuana growers fleeing higher costs in the Denver area....

Pueblo also has taken the unusual step of putting marijuana growers on equal footing with traditional farmers when it comes to water rights — something it's able to do because its water supply in the Arkansas River Basin is controlled locally, not by the federal government.   "We are aggressive, trying to build the Silicon Valley of the marijuana industry," Markuson said.

Just last week Pueblo officials announced an $8 million incentives package to lure pot growers to convert a defunct Boeing rocket plant into a production facility for hemp oil that will eventually employ 163 people.  Pueblo County now accounts for about 3 percent of Colorado's recreational marijuana sales, but about 20 percent of the state's recreational pot production.  The county has about 65 commercial pot growers, including the 36-acre Los Suenos farm, which is believed to be the world's largest pot cultivation site.

The two colleges eligible for scholarship spending — Pueblo Community College and Colorado State University-Pueblo — did not immediately return calls about the new weed scholarships.

Sal Pace, a county commissioner who pushed the scholarship ballot measure, called the pot industry a natural source of funds.  "For years we ve been floating the idea of a special funding source in Pueblo to help kids afford college," Pace said.  "This seemed like a natural fit."

November 5, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)