With Legal Marijuana Taxes Set, All Eyes on Colorado and Washington
Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved a plan for taxing their state’s legal marijuana market earlier this month. And Washington state will start issuing licenses to retailers next month to sell recreational marijuana.
Washington and Colorado are set to provide a case study in the debate over legalization. That debate is expected to spread to other state legislatures next year – advocates have identified Rhode Island and Maine as potential targets – and also to foreign countries like Uruguay.
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Can Smoking Pot Be Considered a Form of Free Speech?
Activists lit up in protest of the War on Drugs—now they face severe charges.
The latest front in the battle for rationalized drug laws is in downtown Philadelphia, where an activist facing a federal trial for marijuana possession asserts that he was smoking as a constitutionally protected method of political expression.
“This site is preserved for the First Amendment,” Chris Goldstein said, pointing toward the glass and brick building near 6 th and Market Street that contains the Liberty Bell. “That’s why we’re here.”
Goldstein and one other defendant will plead their case in a December trial that could result in six months in prison and $1,000 in fines.
“They’re taking the full weight of the law against us, ostensibly for that single joint,” said Goldstein, standing on the federal park space that lies in the shadow of Independence Hall. It’s here, at the site where the country’s founding fathers signed the U.S. Constitution that gives all Americans the right to free speech, where he’s been leading monthly “Smoke Down Prohibition” protests in his role as co-chair of the Philadelphia NORML chapter.
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Is Britain Set for Its Very Own Cannabis Revolution?
The US war on cannabis is over and there's no turning back, says US cannabis author Doug Fine as he prepares to take the stage at South Bank University. Fine is in London for the one-night UK leg of his world tour, spreading news of the "green economic revolution" currently spreading through the US, which is seeing certain states decriminalising, taxing and profiting from the marijuana industry.
"My message is this," he says, smiling confidently, "if it can happen in the US, then it can happen here in the UK. There’s no stopping this train now."
Fine’s visit comes at a time when governments around the world are exploring new ways of approaching and exploiting cannabis. In early October, Uruguay's government announced that it would be the first country in the world to effectively nationalise the cannabis industry in a bid to undermine organised crime. In Europe last month, Romania legalised the use of cannabis derivatives for medicinal purposes and became the tenth country in Europe to recognise the legitimate medicinal uses of the drug, while Switzerland sanctioned possession for personal use.
Meanwhile, in Britain, the surprise appointment of Lib Dem MP Norman Baker – a former advocate of cannabis reform – to the role of Home Office drugs tsar further buoyed hopes among UK cannabis campaigners that the green rush was lapping at Britain's shores.
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Cannabis Prohibition is a Kitty Corrupting Reptile: Cat on Drugs Run Collared at Moldova Jail, Among Others
Guards at a prison in the Moldovan village of Pruncul have pounced on a cat being used to traffick bags of cannabis, tied around its neck.
Suspicions were raised after the small grey and white creature was spotted regularly nipping in and out of the jail through a hole in a fence.
Its oversize decorative collar turned out to contain drugs and investigations are under way to sniff out its trainer.
Video of the cat being searched was posted by the justice ministry.
Seemingly a trend, a cat was recently used to smuggle mobile phones into a Russian jail.
Guards caught it climbing a fence at the jail in Syktyvkar in June, the Moscow Times reported at the time, adding a photo of the creature being held by the scruff of its neck, the phones and chargers taped to its body.
It was just one of several attempts discovered in recent years, with cats at other jails being used to deliver heroin, the paper noted.
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ACNA Position Statement on Concurrent Cannabis and Opiate Use
– by Ed Julia Glick
Introduction: The American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) supports the monitored and controlled use of cannabis in conjunction with opiate administration for patients (either human or animal) who are suffering from severe pain, intractable pain, severe neuropathy or pain associated with terminal illness.
Additionally, any patient on long-term opiate therapy should be evaluated for cannabis therapy to lessen the risk of adverse events associated with opiates. This position is justified by the evidence base of use patterns, the in-vitro research demonstrating the interaction of endocannabinoid receptors with opiate receptors, the potential severity of adverse events associated with long-term opiate use and the ethical responsibility of health care practitioners to advocate on behalf of their patients.
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Dispatch From Denver: What’s Next in the Fight for Pot Legalization?
At the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Colorado, activists from all over the world celebrated recent wins and made plans for the future.
Denver—Halfway through the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in late October, I found myself sitting on a bus among delegates from Japan, Russia and Canada. We had been invited to a “mobile workshop,” involving visits to two of the city’s marijuana businesses. One year after Colorado passed Amendment 64, a historic ballot measure legalizing marijuana, my Japanese and Russian companions painted grim pictures of their countries’ prospects for improving cannabis policies. The Canadian, on the other hand, was confident that her country will fully legalize as early as 2015—if Justin Trudeau’s opposition Liberal Party wins the next election, as many predict.
As we drove, our tour guide outlined current Colorado law: You can now legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana. You can also grow up to six plants—in an enclosed, locked space—for personal use. Licensed marijuana businesses can now cultivate, manufacture products and sell—to registered medical marijuana patients only for now, but to all other users aged 21 and up from January 1. Public consumption remains prohibited: “If you wanna blaze, it’s your choice, but be aware you might get arrested,” came the advice at the start of an anti-drug war rally up Denver’s 16th Street Mall the previous day.
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Legalized pot pushing prejudice down, profits up?
SEATTLE — Last year, the Rev. Carl Livingston riled some Black ministers when he backed the campaign in Washington State to legalize and tax marijuana use among adults — a measure similar to legislation pending in the Pennsylvania State Senate.
Livingston, a political science professor, didn’t back that ballot measure for legalization because of his acceptance of pot, the substance some pastors call the ‘Devil’s Weed.’
Livingston backed Initiative 502 because of his long opposition to drug war racism that produces disproportionate arrests and imprisonment of Blacks — despite statistics consistently documenting more whites being involved with drugs.
“Marijuana is a big piece of African Americans in prison. I oppose the mass incarceration of Blacks,” Livingston said, listing negative impacts from drug arrests and convictions like denials of employment and student loans for college.
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Anal Probes And The Drug War: A Look At The Ethical And Legal Issues
Last week, news wires, blogs and pundits lit up with the horrifying story of David Eckert, a New Mexico man who last January was subjected to a series of invasive and degrading drug search procedures after a traffic stop. The procedures, which included x-rays, digital anal penetration, enemas and a colonoscopy, were all performed without Eckert's consent.
Eckert was pulled over by Deming, New Mexico Officer Bobby Orosco for making a rolling stop at a stop sign as he was leaving a Walmart parking lot. According to a subsequent search warrant, Orosco thought Eckert appeared nervous. A drug dog was called in, which alerted the officer to Eckert's seat. The officer then claims he received a tip from another, unnamed officer that Eckert had previously hidden drugs in his anus. (Eckert apparently has a prior record.)
Based on all of this, the police officers were able to get both Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty and a local judge to sign off on all the humiliation that followed. (According to the original report, the hospital then sent him a bill for the "services," and has since threatened to send a collection agency after him).
Days later, a second resident of New Mexico came forward with similar allegations. Timothy Young says that after a traffic stop in October 2012, he too was subjected to x-rays and a digital anal exam without his consent. New Mexico news station KBO-TV was first to report both incidents, which were performed by physicians at the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City, New Mexico. In both cases, doctors and police failed to find any illegal drugs.
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How the Feds Took Down the Silk Road Drug Wonderland
The dramatic takedown of the Silk Road drug market and the arrest of its alleged owner on drug trafficking and murder-for-hire charges last month began in part with an offhand tip to Department of Homeland Security investigators in Maryland in mid-2011.
The informant told DHS investigators in Baltimore about an online drug bazaar where international sales of illicit drugs and other contraband were conducted with impunity and with the ease of buying cocktail stirrers or underwear on Amazon.
“You guys are in law enforcement. You might want to look at this,” the informant told DHS investigators, according to federal law enforcement officials familiar with the case who asked not to be identified.
The informant directed investigators to the site, accessible only through the Tor anonymizing network, and explained how transactions for the sale of heroin, cocaine and LSD went down using the digital currency Bitcoin.
But that wasn’t all Silk Road was selling — there were stolen credit and debit card numbers, fake IDs, counterfeit currencies, hacking tools and login credentials for hacked accounts.
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Experts: Maine, Michigan votes another 'green light' for marijuana
– by Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
(CNN) -- Marijuana is moving on "greased tracks" toward legalization,
according to the advocacy group that's been riding the train for more than
The reason is a stark shift in public opinion, said Allen St. Pierre,
executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana
On Tuesday, Portland, Maine, followed Washington and Colorado's lead
and legalized recreational use of the
while the Michigan cities of Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale resoundingly
voted to let people older than 21 possess an ounce of the green stuff on
The municipal votes may seem like small potatoes, but St. Pierre said that
2013 isn't just an off-year for elections, it's an "off-off-year."
"I absolutely pinch myself every single day, affirming that these changes
are happening and they appear long-lasting," he said.
( Read More >> )
The DEA, an 'Utter Failure' by Obama's Own Admission, Will Stay Open No Matter What
by Jacob Sullum - Oct. 1, 2013
Last March Mother Jones, which usually inveighs against the war on drugs, discovered its inner prohibitionist, warning that "More Cocaine Could Soon Be on Our Streets, Thanks to the Sequester." Its "48 Ways a Government Shutdown Will Screw You Over," by contrast, does not include compromising the government's ability to insert itself between you and the psychoactive substances you want—possibly because the Drug Enforcement Administration will remain on the job no matter what happens. According to the Justice Department's currentcontingency plan, 87 percent of the DEA's staff will be exempt from furloughs because "DEA investigations need to continue uninterrupted so that cases are not compromised and the health and safety of the American public is not placed at risk."
For those who question the connection between DEA investigations and the health and safety of the American public, a fortuitously timed BMJ study provides new ammunition. Looking at data on drug price, purity, and seizures from seven different sources since 1990, a team of Canadian and American researchers finds little evidence that the work of agencies like the DEA has anything to do with the availability of arbitrarily proscribed intoxicants, let alone health and safety:
In the United States, cannabis seizures have increased by 465 per cent between 1990 and 2009. Despite this, the average inflation- and potency-adjusted prices of cannabis decreased by 86 per cent over the same period, and the average potency of the drug increased by 161 per cent. In addition, the average inflation- and purity-adjusted prices of heroin and cocaine decreased by 81 per cent and 80 per cent respectively, whereas average purity increased by 60 per cent and 11 per cent.
This occurred despite the fact that seizures of these drugs in major production regions outside of the U.S. generally increased. Similar trends were observed in Europe, where during the same period the average inflation-adjusted price of opiates and cocaine decreased by 74 per cent and 51 per cent respectively....
With few exceptions and despite increasing investments in enforcement-based supply reduction efforts aimed at disrupting global drug supply, illegal drug prices have generally decreased while drug purity has generally increased since 1990.
These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing.
In other words, drug warriors are falling abysmally short of their own avowed goals, leaving aside any moral compunctions about using force to stop people from altering their consciousness in ways you don't like.
This is Barack Obama's idea of essential government services—or, as he used to call it, "an utter failure."
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Obama Throwing Medical Marijuana Patients Into Federal Prison at Alarming Rate
The number of sick patients
being locked up by the Obama
deplorable,” said Kris
Hermes, spokesperson for
Americans for Safe Access,
the country’s leading
medical marijuana advocacy
enforcement is an
unacceptable means of
addressing medical marijuana
as a public health issue,”
continued Hermes. “The Obama
Administration is lying to
the American people when it
says it’s not targeting
individual patients and
these cases are clear
evidence of that.” Montana
patient cultivator Richard
Flor died in August while
serving out a 5-year prison
Five cultivators claiming to
be in compliance with
Michigan’s medical marijuana
law were sentenced in
Two of the
cultivators — Jaycob
Montague and Jeremy Duval —
are already serving their
prison terms of 18 months
and 5 years, respectively,
and two others — John
Marcinkewciz and Shelley
Waldron — are scheduled to
surrender to federal
authorities on January 8th
and 10th, respectively.
Waldron will be imprisoned
for 18 months and
Marcinkewciz for 5 years.
The fifth cultivator, Jerry
Duval (Jeremy’s father), was
sentenced to 10 years, but
has not yet been given a
( Read More >> )
Rand Paul Upsets Marijuana Activists by Saying the Drug Is 'Not Healthy'
by Steven Nelson -
July 11, 2013
Ahead of his Thursday visit to Nevada, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., reiterated his personal opposition to marijuana use. Pro-pot activists say Paul is spreading misinformation about the drug.
"I personally think that marijuana use is not healthy," Paul told the Las Vegas Sun in an interview published Wednesday. "People that use it chronically have a loss of IQ and a loss of ambition, but at the same time states have the right to make these decisions."
Marijuana activists tell U.S. News that Paul's claims about ambition, health and IQ are wrong.
"It's unfortunate, but Senator Paul is basing his opinion about marijuana on "Reefer Madness"-fueled fear-mongering instead of sound science," said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a group that lobbies in favor of medical marijuana. "Contrary to Senator Paul's unscientific assessment... there are more than 200 peer-reviewed studies that clearly show marijuana's medical efficacy."
Hermes speculated that "Paul and others' lack of education is the primary cause of our federal marijuana policy, based more on emotion and moral indignation rather than public health and medical science."
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre told U.S. News Paul's approach to the issue is "either pandering, or some really smart coalition-building" in favor of drug policy reform.
St. Pierre disagrees with Paul's claim that marijuana is broadly harmful to health, pointing to a study published by the Annals of the American Thoracic Society in June by UCLA medical school professor Donald Tashkin. That study found light or moderate marijuana use isn't associated with a higher risk for lung cancer.
"Even with long-term heavy amounts [of marijuana] there is little effect on long-term cognitive functions," St. Pierre added.
"It was unfortunate, because Mr. Rand on the one hand is very critical of the drug war, but he wants to buffer his support by declaring, 'I don't smoke marijuana, I don't want my son to smoke marijuana, I don't want my dog to smoke marijuana,'" St. Pierre said. "He's carving out this fascinating position here."
Mason Tvert, communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told U.S. News Paul likely based his IQ claim "on a study that has been thoroughly debunked based on flawed methodology." That study's findings, published in July 2012 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were disputed by scientists who said the findings could be explained entirely by socioeconomic factors.
"As for loss of ambition, he himself used marijuana," Tvert claimed. A 2010 article in GQ magazine alleged Paul used pot while a student at Baylor University. "Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society," he said. "Marijuana is far less toxic and less addictive than alcohol, and unlike alcohol, it does not contribute to violent and reckless behavior."
This isn't the first time Paul, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, has tried to please both sides of the drug policy debate. Highlighting the perceived sloth and listlessness of heavy marijuana users seems to have become a key talking point for the senator.
"I don't really believe in prison sentences for these minor, non-violent drug offenses," Paul said in a June 4 discussion with the Hoover Institution, "but I'm not willing to go all the way to say it is a good idea either. I think people who use marijuana all the time lose IQ points, I think they lose their drive to show up for work."
During an April 10 event at Howard University, Paul said, "I think that if you use it too much you will lose IQ points, I think if you use it too much you won't show up for class, I think you'll eat too many Doritos." He added: "I will do everything I can to keep non-violent criminals out of jail."
In May, Paul told the Washington Post, "I'm not advocating everyone go out and run around with no clothes on and smoke pot. ... I'm not a libertarian. I'm a libertarian Republican. I'm a constitutional conservative."
Paul is often thought of as one of the most marijuana-friendly politicians, but his approach to advocating drug policy reform is notably more nuanced than the fiery denunciation of drug prohibition that was a libertarian crowd-pleaser during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
( Read More >> )
Inside The Company Making Sure Your Pot Is Strong (And Safe)
by Ariel Schwartz
07 / 11 two thousand and thirteen
As legalized marijuana becomes more prevalent, it’s becoming more important to hold it to the same quality and safety standards that we use for anything else we put in our bodies. Take a trip inside medical cannabis testing company CW Analytical, which tests weed for potency and contamination.
Dr. Robert Martin, the co-founder of medical cannabis testing company CW Analytical, is a 30-year veteran of the food industry. In the 1990s, he was part of the Kraft Foods team that helped create the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which gave the FDA the right to require nutrition labeling on most foods. After his stint at Kraft, Martin worked as director of research and development at Dreyer’s Ice Cream. He knows more than most people the value of quality assurance and labeling. So after retiring in 2002, Martin moved onto another industry that he believed was in dire need of some quality assurance: marijuana.
Martin spent the first part of his retirement working as a consultant. Then he noticed that some of his friends were starting to get sick with late-stage cancers as they aged. "My friends were coming to me and asking me questions about marijuana. The reason they were asking me is because I’ve used marijuana a lot through my career and life and I don’t take any pains in telling anyone that, really," he says.
When his friends started asking about safety, Martin visited dispensaries in California (CW Analytical is based in Oakland and has an outpost in San Francisco), talked to people in the industry, and ultimately found that few people were paying attention to quality assurance. "Most people were concerned with, how strong is it? There weren’t that many labs, and the ones that were operating were focused on cannabinoids [a measure of potency]. I thought there was a big need for a new dispensary and a new lab."
Martin’s dispensary never got off the ground, but the lab did. Founded in 2009 by Martin and an environmental chemist named John Oram, CW Analytical is one of a select group of labs focusing on marijuana safety in addition to potency. The six-person team focuses on microbiological safety (bacterial testing, mold tests, E.coli test, etc.), truth in labeling, tamper evidency, and dosage--with a heavy focus on microbiological safety.
Why test marijuana?
We expect our food to be free of contamination. When something happens--a salmonella outbreak or an E.coli scare--there are recalls. Food gets taken off the shelves, and news outlets frantically report the story. Martin strongly believes that marijuana users should have those same protections (perhaps minus the outraged news stories, which wouldn’t help the already fragile industry). He cites California’s Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Law of 2008 as evidence: "You have a right as a consumer to know what you’re ingesting in terms of caloric impact, in terms of allergenic impact. I mean, these are very serious things we’re talking about," he says.
The unfortunate truth is that even legal, regulated marijuana has a contamination problem--not surprising considering that most California dispensaries aren’t required to test their goods for safety (some cities, including Oakland and Richmond, do require testing).
When Martin first opened his lab, he assumed that pesticides were going to be the main contamination issue. It’s a logical assumption. As with fruits and vegetables, growers sometimes spray pesticides on their cannabis. He didn’t think microbiological safety would be a problem, mainly because of substances on the surface of the plant--called terpenoids--that tend to be anti-bacterial. He was wrong.
In the food industry, approximately 80% of all contamination involves handling issues, according to Martin. He believes that’s true in the marijuana industry as well, where most contamination is the result of poor handling, poor hygiene, improper storage, and lack of cleaning instruments. "Essentially, we’ve changed our opinion. Now we look at a flower of marijuana like a little sticky gooey sponge and if you roll that through dirt, it’ll pick up that dirt," he says.
CW Analytical has a poster up on its office wall featuring some of the unsettling facts: 12% of cannabis flowers contain high levels of molds or other fungi. 70% of bubble hash contains high levels of bacteria. Most of this contamination isn’t severe enough to hurt marijuana users, but some of it could be. "Someone’s going to get real sick if they haven’t already," says Martin.
Who Goes To A Marijuana Testing Lab?
With so many data points on contamination floating around, you might think that dispensaries and growers would be jumping at the chance to prove that their marijuana is clean. They’re not. "As it is right now, only about 15% of people are testing," says Martin. CW Analytics’ quandary is figuring out how to spread the message about quality assurance without damaging the industry. It shouldn’t, of course--contamination is not inherent to marijuana any more than it’s inherent to food. There just isn’t as much oversight as in the food sector.
The lab tries to make testing as cheap as possible without bankrupting itself; dispensaries already deal with enough roadblocks that pricey lab testing could scare them away. "We have these three things we try to follow: affordability, speed, and accuracy," says Martin. "We changed our business plan at CW to involve our vendors, to make sure we get good discounts on our supplies, to involve our team on efficiency, and to work every minute we can to become efficient." That is, he points out, why there’s nobody in the lab on the morning of my visit. Samples don’t begin arriving until 1 PM.
Even so, the lab’s customer base is unstable. If you live in Northern California, it’s hard to ignore the nearly constant stream of news reports about landlords being pressured to kick out dispensaries, either because they’re too close to parks and schools, or simply because the local U.S. Attorney decides she doesn’t like them.
Martin explains: "Clients get nervous sometimes and they just quit doing business. That just happens. Last month, we had a regular client just disappear and we wondered what happened. We found out later that he was nervous and couldn’t take the stress and anxiety of the federal pressure any longer. And that’s a shame. He really cared about what he was doing, and he was a good producer."
Dispensaries that work with CW Analytical bring in samples of their marijuana for testing, and if they get unsatisfactory results, often decline to work with the grower that provided the tainted sample. It’s great for patients who go to these diligent dispensaries--but growers will sometimes just go to other dispensaries that don’t require testing. On the flip side, CW Analytical is more than willing to help growers figure out what they can be doing differently. The growers just need to care enough to change, and without mandatory testing, many don’t.
Inside the Lab
Walking into the CW Analytical lab, you’d never know that all the vials, beakers and drawers are filled with marijuana. The lab, which looks pretty standard from an outsider’s point of view, doesn’t smell at all. As Martin walked me through the space, I got to see exactly how samples are put through the wringer.
Every new sample makes a stop at the intake area, where lab workers fill out chain of custody form so that if law enforcement comes in, they at least have some evidence to show that they are legally in possession of the marijuana. All sorts of products come through--edibles, flowers, hash, concentrates--and everything is treated differently. Over the years, the lab has come up with various standards for how to prepare the items.
Each item gets a unique sample ID number, and each number is held in a virtual database. Once the items have been processed, clients can log onto the CW Analytical website and look at their results. There are no standards for contamination in cannabis, so the company uses food industry standards.
Once the samples make it past the intake area, they’re separated and tested. "Depending on what it is, it gets treated differently. It gets put into methanol usually for cannabinoid testing, acetone for pesticides, so whatever the chemists do to it here they set it up in different ways," explains Martin.
Martin takes me over to the area set up for cannabinoid preparation, where there are shakers and sonication baths to break up the plant material so that it releases cannabinoids into a solution. A moisture analyzer reveals how much moisture the samples have been exposed to--something that goes into the cannabinoid calculation, since the chemists measure based on dry weight.
The chemists are set up for microbiology testing as well. Each sample is put into a little buffer, and all of the resulting liquid is shot onto a petri film. All of the films are kept at body temperature, and every two days Martin and his colleagues check for bacteria. Martin shows me some of the samples that been heating up; there are only small dots of bacteria growing on the films. "There’s lots that’s clean today," he notes.
For fungal testing, little fungal plates are placed in an old oven-like USDA incubator. The samples are kept at ambient temperature (the fungi grow at a higher rate that way).
Yet another area contains the machines used to analyze cannabinoids and pesticides. Samples are analyzed for cannabinoids with agas chromatograph machine with flame ionization detector (FID) that separates them out by molecular weight. Eventually, the molecules are burned and measured against a standard to calculate cannabinoid contents.
A gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) machine tests for pesticides by breaking samples down into molecules and throwing them against an electron plate. The plate shatters the molecules so that the machine can look at the fragments. "The computer gives probabilities of what we’re looking at. You’ve got to look at the data and you’ve got to have a chemist there to interpret the data," explains Martin.
In short: it takes a lot of work to get the data that dispensaries are looking for, and it’s not cheap (still, the lab can process hundreds of samples each day). "We’re fighting everyday to keep the costs down for [our clients]," says Martin.
For whatever reason, San Francisco has been slow to catch on to testing. Martin is hopeful that will change. And while Washington and Colorado--the two states where voters last year opted to make marijuana fully legalized--haven’t announced any quality assurance standards, CW Analytical was invited along with other California labs to discuss possible regulations with the Washington Liquor Control Board. California is leading the way in cannabis testing; the Association of California Cannabis Laboratories (ACCL) has eight members listed on its website, including The Werc Shop in Los Angeles and Steep Hill Halent Laboratories, also located in Oakland.
There is a real opportunity for these states to set an example--to make it so obvious that quality assurance testing is necessary that no one would dare neglect to do it. Mandatory testing could ultimately make the entire industry seem more legitimate. "The industry doesn’t help itself," says Martin. "We put terrible faces out in public and people believe there are a lot of stoners running everything, and that’s not really the case anymore."
( Read More >> )
How America Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Marijuana
by Christopher Matthews | Time.com -
May 28, 2013
For nearly a century, the United States has been one of the fiercest advocates and practitioners of marijuana prohibition in the world. At the height of the America’s anti-pot fervor in the 1950s and ’60s, one could even receive life imprisonment for simple possession of the drug.
But the puritanical fervor that once dominated the national discussion surrounding cannabis has been conspicuously absent of late. Earlier this month, the Colorado State legislature, by order of a November referendum, passed bills to implement the legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana use. Washington State voters also approved legalization by referendum on election day. And these events have recently been followed by more good news for supporters of cannabis law reform. The Organization for American States recently suggested that marijuana legalization could be a way to cut down on drug-violence in the western hemisphere.
Perhaps most important, the movement has finally found a voice on Capitol Hill, as representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis submitted legislation earlier this year that would end federal prohibition of the drug, and allow states to tax and regulate it as they see fit. As Bill Keller put it recently in the New York Times, “Today the most interesting and important question is no longer whether marijuana will be legalized — eventually, bit by bit, it will be — but how.”
Indeed, the feeling that the further liberalization of marijuana laws is inevitable is backed up by the polling trends. According to Gallup, as recently as 2005, two-thirds of Americans opposed legalization of marijuana. Now 48% percent of the population supports it. And a similar poll from Pew puts the number even higher – at 52%. But what exactly explains this sudden change in American attitudes towards pot?
( Learn More >> )
Medical Marijuana: Big Pharma’s Campaign to Eliminate State-Sanctioned Cannabis Competitors?
Can a New Loophole Help Medical Marijuana Sellers Avoid High Taxes?
- by Clarence Walker
Global Research, May 20, 2013
As Colorado, California and Washington including 16 other states enjoy freedom under state law to operate legal medical marijuana-cannabis businesses the owners are often faced with arrests and constant harrasment by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Though some states have legalized the sale of marijuana for medical purposes, the practice remains a felony crime under federal law.
Even if marijuana operators avoid arrests the almighty Feds inflict more damage by imposing astronomical “high taxes” on a state-sanctioned marijuana-cannabis, taxes as high as 75-80 percent. Some dealers, unable to pay employees and overhead, combined with the burden of extra high taxes, must shut down, thus preventing sick patients, preferring cannabis treatment, from getting the care they desperately need.
Cannabis dealers argue that “high taxes” imposed upon their businesses is the Feds political goal: to run them out of business and the bigger picture is to eliminate competition against the giant pharmaceutial industry which makes billions selling drugs to treat illnesses at a higher cost.
But evidence has proved that a person can purchase cannabis from a state legalized operator and receive effective treatment at a much lower cost.
With billions of dollars in the bank, the pharmaceutial companies pay millions for anti-marijuana lobbying efforts to sway Congress not to legalize marijuana under federal law. The smoking gun in this drama has raised the curtain on the pharmaceutial inustry now marketing an FDA approved cannabis medicine to undercut the growing market dominated by the states.
As the battle over taxation take center stage, a tax expert insists there is a loophole under 501(c)(4), that if used properly, the technique may eliminate excessive tax burdens, threatening to ruin the medical cannabis businesses.
“If these state-legal businesses were treated as any other legal business, these industries could realize its’ full potential to create many, many more living wages, like retail, manufacturing and agriculture jobs that cannot be outsourced,” says Betty Aldworth, a deputy director with National Cannabis Industry Association. “An industry that can provide thousands of jobs is being held back by these crazy tax rates.”
How is this number game legally possible? Thanks to a 1982 provisional tax code known as 280E, a federal law created as result of a drug dealer’s successful atempt to reclaim his yacht, weapons and even the illegal bribes he paid off as business expenses. 280E prohibit individuals involved with selling narcotics from deducting expenses expenses if federal income taxes are filed. Legal marijuana sellers have vigorously tried to avoid the draconian 280E law by arguing their businesses were charities promoting health benefits and should be exempt from income tax under section 501(c)(3).
IRS lawyers bullishly oppose 501(c)(3) status given to state sanctioned marijuana sellers by issuing a counter-point argument that because of a rule called the “public policy doctrine”. This doctrine disqualify dispensaries as a charity because the Feds say these kind of businesses exist for illegal purposes under federal law.
Professor Benjamin Leff, a tax law expert at American University Washington College of Law, thinks he has a clever solution to free legit marijuana dealers from the Feds insane tax laws.
“I don’t know if anyone has applied or not but marijuana sellers should run their business as a social welfare organization under 501(c)(4).”
To qualify under this statute, Leff said, “A social welfare organization must have as its primary purpose the promotion of the common good and general welfare of the people in neighborhoods or communities.”
Leff wrote a compelling report on the practice that was hosted at a Harvard University seminar titled: Tax Planning For Marijuana Dealers.
( Learn More >> )
7 Reasons why ending marijuana prohibition would help society
Cannabis, which is the scientific term for marijuana, is a flowering plant which has been used as medicine and for recreational purposes for thousands of years and likely longer.
Patients get their medicine.
Cannabis has been shown to have a myriad of positive effects when it comes to medical use.
Less people in jail.
The fewer people we have in jail, the less money has to be spent on housing, feeding and securing inmates.
More productive people in the economy.
Since people aren’t sitting in jail or spending their time dealing with the judicial system or being held back by a criminal record, they are free to be more productive economically.
People who genuinely need help will go to rehab instead.
There’s always going to be people out there who are addicts and no matter what they are addicted to, it ruins their lives and makes the people around them miserable.
Reduce income for unsavory drug dealers.
Through prohibition we force cannabis to be sold on the black market.
Reduce violence associated with prohibition.
As we saw with the prohibition of alcohol, it caused turf wars and much violence which took a lot of innocent lives and turned areas into war zones.
Hemp gets legalized too.
Hemp is similar to cannabis, the primary difference being that it has such a low THC content, that it is impossible to get “high” from consuming it.
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Fighting Drug Addiction With Marijuana
For decades, Colombia has been searching for ways to treat people who are addicted to basuco, the nation's version of crack cocaine.
Now, the country's capital, Bogota, is considering a new approach: transition users to marijuana.
"The first thing you do is to start to reduce the dose. After that, you begin to change the way that it's administered: if you were injecting heroin, you move to smoking heroin; after smoking heroin, you move to combining it with cannabis; after that, you're staying with the cannabis," he said. "What you're looking for is for the person to reach a point where they can stabilize the consumption and that the consumption doesn't prevent them from being functional."
Is anyone in the U.S. trying this kind of approach to hard drugs?
No, according to Amanda Reiman, a policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that favors alternatives to current drug laws.
"Unfortunately, universities rely on grants from the federal government for research, so most of what they do is what the feds want done," she said in an email. "As you can probably guess, the feds are not too interested in beneficial uses for marijuana, and even less interested in how to help people who are addicted to substances, so most of the research in this area occurs outside the U.S. or through private funding."
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President's Pot Comments Prompt Call for Policy
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - President Barack Obama says he won't go after pot users in Colorado and Washington, two states that just legalized the drug for recreational use. But advocates argue the president said the same thing about medical marijuana - and yet U.S. attorneys continue to force the closure of dispensaries across the U.S.
Welcome to the confusing and often conflicting policy on pot in the U.S., where medical marijuana is legal in many states, but it is increasingly difficult to grow, distribute or sell it.
And at the federal level, at least officially, it is still an illegal drug everywhere.
Obama's statement Friday provided little clarity in a world where marijuana is inching ever so carefully toward legitimacy.
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