MJ News for 01/07/2014


Jul 25, 2008
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Uruguay's Year In Marijuana: 3 Successes, 3 Burning Questions

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — It's been just over a year since Uruguay's President Jose Mujica signed a law creating the world's first nationalized market for the cultivation, sale and consumption of marijuana.

The implementation of this historic law was part of a landmark year for cannabis. Recreational pot stores opened in Colorado and Washington State, while three other US states voted to approve sweeping pro-marijuana legislation. And back in South America, a middle-age housewife in Chile received possibly the region's first legal medical marijuana prescription.

But along with the successes of Uruguay's weed experiment are some notable hold-ups.

For starters, a year into the new paradigm, it's still impossible to buy marijuana legally here. To date, the government still hasn't chosen the companies that will grow its cannabis. A new president, taking office in March, who formerly has been skeptical of marijuana use will inherit much of the hard work of implementing the law.

We've broken Uruguay's year in weed into three notable successes and three remaining questions about how the pot experiment will continue to evolve in the coming months.

SUCCESS 1: Growing and trading in pot is now legal

Smoking pot has actually been legal in Uruguay for decades. But until last year it was illegal to grow or buy it here, creating a weird legal situation where consumption was permitted but you couldn't legally purchase anything to consume.

That all changed in 2014. Under Uruguay's new law, cannabis users here can either grow weed at home or can join a cannabis "club," paying fees to be part of a collective that grows and harvests pot. As a result, legal cannabis cultivation is thriving here.

In December, Julio Calzada, the head of the National Drug Commission (whom GlobalPostinterviewed back in September) announced that the government had registered 1,200 cannabis growers, and about 500 clubs, progress he said that was "encouraging."

Uruguay even held its first ever cannabis exposition last month, an event that primarily catered to budding growers and that reportedly attracted some 6,000 attendees.

SUCCESS 2: Uruguay has shaken up the regional debate on weed

As we outlined when Uruguay first passed its landmark law in 2013, the main point of the new policy was to attempt to begin to shift the paradigm on drug enforcement away from the US-led war on drugs that leaders in Uruguay, particularly Mujica, saw as a dismal failure.

Marijuana legalization was aimed at undercutting drug cartels and therefore reducing crime. Mujica has described the law as an "experiment" for the rest of the world.

And there are signals that other countries, especially in the region, are taking note.

Eight Latin American countries are either very or somewhat likely to loosen their drug policies in the near future, according to analysis by nonprofit research and reporting group InSight Crime. The list includes Argentina, which is mulling legalization, and Brazil, which is debating the issue.

SUCCESS 3: The price of illegal pot is coming down

As GlobalPost reported back in May, the price of street marijuana here has been in decline since the new law passed. That's largely because local growers have stepped in to meet demand — albeit sometimes illegally — and because pot users can now grow their own weed with impunity.

As such, Uruguay is meeting one of its primary goals: hitting drug cartels where it hurts. This mirrors the impacts of drug legalization elsewhere, notably the United States.

Texas Public Radio reported in December that legal weed in the US appeared to be undercutting marijuana growers in the Mexican state of Sinaloa that supply the US black market. Here's an extract:

"Two years ago, the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness, in a study titled 'If Our Neighbors Legalize,' predicted the drug cartels would see their cannabis profits plummet 22 to 30 percent if the United States continued to decriminalize marijuana.

At one time, virtually all the weed smoked in the States, from Acapulco Gold to Colombian Red, came from south of the border.Not anymore.

'We're still seeing marijuana. But it's almost all the homegrown stuff here from the States and from Canada. It's just not the compressed marijuana from Mexico that we see,' says Lt. David Socha, of the Austin Police Department narcotics section."

QUESTION 1: Will the government get its act together and sell some pot?

This is the big one.

More than a year after Mujica signed the new law, it is still impossible to buy weed legally in Uruguay, a situation that's becoming a bit of an embarrassment to the Uruguayan government.

Mujica and Calzada have put a brave face on their government's slow efforts. Mujica told reporters last July that government sales of cannabis must not be rushed. But the fact remains that the vast majority of Uruguayan pot smokers still have to buy their cannabis illegally.

Back in August, the Uruguayan government announced that 20 companies had bid for the rights to supply the country's pharmacies with pot. The government's national drug commission was due to whittle those 20 down to about five. But we're still waiting for news about who's been chosen, and estimates for when weed might actually become available for sale range from next month to some time in mid-2015.

QUESTION 2: Will Uruguay's pharmacies agree to sell pot?

Once the first harvest is ready, the plan is for Uruguay's government marijuana to be sold in private pharmacies. This is a huge bone of contention, and members of the Uruguayan Association of Chemistry and Pharmacy have threated to resign en masse if they're forced to sell weed. Just how the government will require pharmacies to sell its cannabis is one of the big unanswered questions of this whole experiment.

Incoming President Tabare Vazquez, who takes office in March, has previously expressed skepticism about requiring pharmacies to sell weed. During his election campaign, Vazquez said pharmacies could face violent reprisals from drug traffickers if they openly sell cannabis.

Though he has since said he fully supports the cannabis law, it's unclear whether Vazquez, who is a medical doctor, will require pharmacies to sell pot.

QUESTION 3: Can cannabis cultivation be an economic success?

The Uruguayan government has reportedly claimed it will sell weed for $1 a gram — the price officials say is needed to compete with the black market.

That's really cheap by both international and local standards. In US terms, $1 a gram would equate to about $3.50 for an eighth of an ounce of pot. The cheapest eighth of an ounce currently listed online by The Clinic, a dispensary chain in Denver, Colorado, costs about $41.

Marijuana market experts around the world have told GlobalPost it's "basically impossible" to charge that in an economically feasible way. The government still has yet to prove how it can be done — barring a hefty pot subsidy.

There are all sorts of economic obstacles to growing weed at a profit in Uruguay. Unlike places like Sinaloa or Jamaica, which have warm, subtropical climates, Uruguay has cold, wet winters that would stymie outdoor cultivation. That means growers will have to use greenhouses and indoor growing lamps, which will be subject to the country's sky-high electricity prices.

Ultimately, 2015 is crunch time for the government to cultivate pot. We'll learn if it can be done.


Jul 25, 2008
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New reports give conflicting takes on Colorado marijuana legalization

The number of people being charged for marijuana possession in Colorado has cratered, while the number of people cited for using marijuana in public has skyrocketed.

Those are two of the conflicting takeaways from duel ing reports out this week by groups on opposing sides on marijuana. And it shows how the legalization of marijuana use and sales in states such as Colorado, far from settling the nationwide debate over pot, has instead given both sides more to fight about.

The reports come from two groups: the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance and the anti-legalization Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Both reports look at the impact of legalization in Colorado, one year into recreational marijuana sales.

The Drug Policy Alliance paper reports that citations for marijuana possession in Colorado have dropped from 9,011 in 2010 to a projected 1,464 in 2014, per Colorado judicial data. The Smart Approaches to Marijuana report, meanwhile, notes that citations for public marijuana use in Denver jumped from 184 in 2013 to 668 in 2014. Despite legalization, possession of more than an ounce of marijuana by nonmedical marijuana patients and public use of marijuana remain illegal.

Most of the data in the reports are familiar in the debate over legalization's impacts. The Drug Policy Alliance report notes the tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue that Colorado has collected and points to a statewide decrease in traffic fatalities. The Smart Approaches to Marijuana report cites an increase in accidental marijuana ingestions by kids and a reported increase in marijuana use by Coloradans in 2012 and 2013.

Art Way, with the Drug Policy Alliance, said Colorado showed in 2014 that marijuana legalization can be managed successfully.

"The doomsday vision of those who look to maintain prohibition has not come to fruition," he said.

Kevin Sabet, with Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said Colorado needs to do a better job of tracking legalization's consequences.

"We have 100 kinds of marijuana gummy bears out there but no way to find out what the costs of such a policy are," he said in a statement.


Jul 25, 2008
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(Washington) Medical Pot Patients urge Tacoma council to keep marijuana shops open

Until recently, Sonia Leyva was on pharmaceutical pain killers for the lingering effects of a car crash that ended her career as a 911 dispatcher.

A self-described “marijuana refugee,” she moved to this state a year ago from Massachusetts, to care for her mother and because Washington had medical marijuana stores.

She said she comes to Tacoma because she feels as ifthe staff at the dispensaries are more knowledgeable than in Sammamish where she lives.

“I travel to your city to spend my money,” Leyva told the Tacoma City Council on Tuesday. “It is saving my life and my mother’s.”

The difference between relying on pain medication and using medical marijuana, she said, is profound: “If you could imagine walking around your entire life with a mask on and being able to breathe for the first time.”

On Tuesday, Leyva and nearly 100 others urged the City Council to keep medical marijuana available rather than shutting down so-called dispensaries, as it promised to do in December.

Terminal cancer patients, disabled veterans and others with chronic pain and illnesses made their way through the standing-room-only crowd to the lectern. Many said medical marijuana saved their lives and they don’t want to resort to buying it from a drug dealer.

Mayor Marilyn Strickland listened intently to speakers and took notes. The council intends to forward many comments to state legislators, who Strickland said have a responsibility to create clear regulations that cities can enforce and that business owners and patients can follow.

But nothing people said Tuesday will alter the city’s direction, Strickland said before Tuesday’s hearing, which was scheduled in the wake of the council’s decision to close the shops.

“I think we need to hear from people who have a legitimate need. It will re-emphasize the need for the state Legislature to act,” she said. “We shouldn’t have a patchwork of regulations.”

Afterward, she said “this reinforces that there are patients with legitimate needs.”

City staff have been instructed to send letters to all unlicensed marijuana shops in the city ordering them to cease operations. The council will meet later this month to decide when to send the letters to businesses.

The city previously had taken a grudgingly permissive stance toward medical marijuana shops. But now that the recreational marijuana market authorized by Initiative 502 is up and running, council members say it’s time for the Legislature to similarly regulate the medical marijuana industry.

Last month, city staff estimated that about 56 unlicensed medical pot shops are operating within the city limits. On Tuesday, the mayor said the city now knows of least 60 and has received complaints on 80 locations.

“The operations that are now open and operating in the city of Tacoma without a state license are illegal — under state law, local law and federal law,” said City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli to a crowd of nearly 150 people, with more waiting in the hallway or in other waiting rooms for their turn to speak.

But several medical cannabis patients said they felt betrayed by I-502, because it now appears medical marijuana will become less available.

“If I had any idea passing 502 would undermine my access to safe, effective medicine, I never would have voted for it,” said Cara Zemanek.

Some business owners also complained that they tried to follow the rules, any rules, but the city often refused to issue business licenses and permits.

Alex Cooley, a vice president for Solstice Grown, a medical cannabis production facility in Seattle, said the Legislature has “failed to act year after year after year.”

Business operators have “been there begging for regulation of our industry and begging for guidelines, begging for a way to provide for the sick and the dying,” Cooley said. “There are people attempting to follow the rules that do not exist.”


Jul 25, 2008
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How You Can Help End Cannabis Prohibition in Pennsylvania

A lot of people ask what can they do to help us end the prohibition of cannabis and hemp in Pennsylvania.

That’s a great question.

First off, let’s review where we are at this precise moment in time.

1. Tom Wolf was just elected to be the next Governor of Pennsylvania. He was elected on November 4th but he will take office on January 20, 2015. Until that date, the governor is still Tom Corbett.

Tom Wolf supports immediate passage of medical cannabis and he supports statewide decriminalization. He is willing to look at Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and D.C. as they go through their experiments with legalization with an open mind.

Although Tom Wolf is on our side, he CAN NOT do it by himself. If there is not a tremendous grass roots push we can not win. That means each and every one of us has to do our part. We can’t kick back now and wait for Wolf to do it. WE have to do it. That means a multi-pronged approach that directly addresses our legislators and educates the public and gains the support of multiple powerful institutions, community groups and other key influencers of thought and policy.

2. Medical Cannabis. – We fought hard for a year. The first medical cannabis bill ever introduced to Pa. was in 1979! After a 30 year lull another medical cannabis bill was introduced in 2009. Hearings were held on that bill in December of 09 and 2010 but the times just were not right. The bill never made it out of committee. Medical cannabis bills were introduced in the 2011-2012 session but died.

During that time period of 2009-2012 there was not a large medical cannabis “movement” in the state. Although there was a lot of latent support and some noticeable public support it simply did not get enough traction. Philly NORML worked hard on trying to gain support but most of the state was silent.

In November of 2013 there was a large rally for the announcement of new legislation. By this time, a real movement had begun and was picking up a lot of steam, thanks to the Momma Bears joining the fight, Campaign For Compassion and the outstanding work of groups like Philly NORML, The Panic Hour, Pennsylvania Hempland Security, Pittsburgh NORML, and Keystone Cannabis Coalition.

Over this last year we whipped up so much political support for medical cannabis that not only did we have two hearings attended by hundreds of supporters and not only got the bill voted unanimously out of committee but actually PASSED SB 1182 IN THE STATE SENATE!!!

It was a tremendous victory but it was not enough. It needed to pass the House of Representatives and there simply was not enough time. All legislation must be passed during two year legislative cycles. The most recent one started in the beginning of 2013 and ended at the end of 2014. Anything not passed by now is dead. The time clock has run out and the ship has sailed. BUT, a new ship is waiting in the docks and we are fitting it with new rope and hempen sails to catch the wind of our momentum and propel the cause across the finish line.

It’s almost a good thing that SB 1182 failed. By the time the state senate got through with it, it was so watered down and weak that we wanted it to fail… sort of… There were still pros and cons to both victory or defeat.

The next medical cannabis bill has already been announced and received a number. It is called SB 3. Everybody must remember, SB 3. That is where the battle is and that is where the battle must be won.

Because of all of our advances in the past year, our hearings, the rallies and extensive media coverage, astronomical support in poll after poll, resolutions of support from Lancaster and Harrisburg City Councils, and the times rapidly moving ahead all around us, decriminalization in Philadelphia, etc. etc. we have a sincere shot at finally passing a medical cannabis bill in Pennsylvania and Tom Wolf will sign it into law.

Daylin Leach thinks that we may have it passed by the end of March. Is that overoptimistic? Maybe. If so, it will happen by the end of summer. If not by then, maybe by fall but that would be the absolute latest. That means we are from 4-9 months away from FINALLY achieving VICTORY!

Sounds good but it WILL NOT HAPPEN UNLESS EVERYBODY MAKES AN EFFORT TO HELP EDUCATE THE PUBLIC AND PERSUADE OUR LEGISLATORS. Keep in mind, this battle is coming, not some time in the distant future but it is right around the corner! Now is the time to get ready for the final push.

We have two weeks before Wolf takes office. Use that time to study up on the issue. In these two weeks, now would be a time to write well written letters to the editor of your local newspapers. Get to know who your state senator is and who your state representative is. Learn who is taking office later this month in your district. Learn everything about them. Learn their names, their faces, their political stances, ideologies and philosophical leanings. Use that information to guide your approach in dealing with them.

When the rallies start and the hearings are announced make sure that your physical body is there. We will need to demonstrate rock solid support and strength in numbers.

3. Industrial Hemp. – In the next legislative cycle an industrial hemp bill will be introduced. The bill has been promised to be announced in January. It will then be assigned to a committee and will wait hearings on the subject. We do not know when it will be up for consideration but the goal is to build a coalition of support so that when hearings are held we can ensure that our bill will be passed.

We have no hope that the bill will be passed in time to get seeds in the ground by the coming spring but we MUST pass this bill in time to get seeds into the ground by spring of 2016. Pennsylvania has a long history with hemp and the potential here is enormous. Although we will start off two years on behind states like Colorado and Kentucky, in time we have the potential to become one of the leading hemp producers in the world.

What to do in the meantime – Study up on hemp as much as you can so that you can speak and write on the subject intelligently. Help us to educate the public and our lawmakers. When the bill is announced and given a number then we will push that bill with all of our might. Keystone Cannabis Coalition is making this bill our TOP priority. We are the ones who got the bill introduced and we are working on draft legislation right now. We will keep you updated as we progress on this project.

4. Decriminalization. – Tom Wolf supports decriminalization. Philadelphia has decriminalized possession of cannabis. You can have up to an ounce and if you are caught with it it’s just a $25 fine.

Medical cannabis has consistently polled over 80% support with most recent polls hovering in the 84-85% range. Even still there is a lot of resistance amongst the legislators and we still do not have it done. We can expect that there will be even greater resistance to decriminalization and more of a pushback. Still, we DO have majority support for decrim in Pa. and with Wolf at the top of the ticket it means that if we DO get a bill to his desk it will not be in vain and he WILL sign it.

KCC will be working with Lancaster NORML and whatever community groups want to get involved and we are going to continue the dialogue with Lancaster City Council to get them to adopt a resolution of support for statewide decriminalization. We believe that we will have success and Council WILL pass a resolution.

KCC will also work with the Mayor of Reading and Reading City Council to get a decriminalization law similar to Philadelphia, or, if not possible then we will get a resolution of support for statewide decriminalization. We are also working with some others who will be approaching Wilkes Barre City Council on the subject of decriminalization. We know of others who are working with Harrisburg City Council and we want to put together a team in York as well.

We believe that by working on laws or resolutions of support in many of our cities across the state it will accelerate the speed with which we can get statewide decriminalization.

There is a good chance that in the next legislative cycle there will be multiple decrim bills introduced. We plan on supporting all of them on principle, supporting and pushing the one we like the best and then getting behind whichever one gains the most traction and has the best shot at winning. Once Wolf takes office it could take us as long as a year or a year and a half to get statewide decrim. We have a real opportunity but it will not happen unless there is a statewide effort and mass showing of support and even then there will be resistance. We can do it though.

5. Full Legalization. – Full legalization is the way to go and that is where we are heading. There will be at least one bill introduced by Leach in the state senate for full legalization and there may be others in the House. We support these measures as well but recognize that Pennsylvania is not there yet. During the next two years we have a real shot at medical cannabis, industrial hemp and statewide decriminalization. However I feel the best we can hope for is to keep the issue of full legalization alive and make it a part of the mature political discussion and debate in the state.

It may be too early for Pa. to fully legalize cannabis when they still won’t even let the farmers grow hemp or let cancer patients use cannabis for medicine. That’s a big leap to make in two years. However, it is NOT too early to talk about it. In fact, if we don’t push for it NOW and talk about it and build this movement then we can not win 4 years from now either. These things take time and we are building the movement necessary that will fight that battle with vigor when that battle takes place. Everything we do between now and then is leading up to that battle for justice.

If we get medical cannabis passed by next summer then by summer of 2016 there will already be thousands benefitting from medical cannabis in the state. At that same time, if our legislation has been passed there will be hemp growing also in the soil of Pa. AND, hopefully statewide decriminalization has just gone into effect.

The two year legislative cycle will begin in January of 2015 and end at the end of 2016. Do you know what also will happen at the end of 2016? California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts and Arizona will legalize cannabis and a new president will take be elected. There may be 8 more states in all that have full legalization which will bring the total number to 12 states plus D.C. We will be sitting here in Pennsylvania by that time with a functional medical cannabis program, dispensaries, decriminalization and our first hemp harvest under our belts.


That legislative cycle will begin in early 2017 and end at the end of 2018. A bill for full legalization will be introduced here and by then the movement here will have grown by THOUSANDS of people! That is our target for full legalization. It will be in that window of time and opportunity. That is the time when we expect a complete victory and full legalization.

Tom Corbett is the last prohibitionist governor in Pennsylvania. Tom Wolf will go down in history as the man who signed all major cannabis reform legislation into law. He will do this when we have done the required work necessary to help him get there.

So there is a mild lull right now, but there are battles coming up. Get ready. Get prepared. Pick up you swords and fly!

Take some time to think and reflect. Meditate. What are your strengths and weaknesses? We do not necessarily hand out assignments to everybody. There are times when we call for group action and then we all do it together. We will let you know when those times are. There is also a call for a million individual actions that only you know that you can do. Some people can do art, others music. Some are skilled with words and can write well. Others know how to rally and organize. Some are great speakers. Look for openings, find where YOU belong in the scheme of things. Use your talents in the service to this noble and just cause.

Also, please donate what you can to Keystone Cannabis Coalition so that we can continue on with this important work. Our funds are desperately low and we need to raise at least $6,000 over the next few months to carry out our big push for hemp and all the other work we will be doing. Even small donations will help us.

Stay in touch with this group and you will stay up to date with everything that is going on in Pennsylvania. We will be leading the way with our ideas. When others have projects they are working on we will support them and work along with them. When others lead in a good direction we will follow strongly. We do not intend to rest until we have achieved ultimate victory. We intend to bring back cannabis and hemp to Pennsylvania and hasten the day when the national prohibition of cannabis and hemp falls.


If you are a Pennsylvania resident and would like to stay updated with our ongoing efforts here in the Keystone State, please join our Keystone Cannabis Coalition group on Facebook.

Join the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and other reform groups at the Pennsylvania Hemp Conference on Saturday, January 10, in Harrisburg. Click here for more information.

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