MJ News for 02/05/2015

7greeneyes

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http://gothamist.com/2015/02/04/nys_medical_marijuana.php





NY's Medical Marijuana Plan Is A Joke




New York’s upcoming medical marijuana program will look nothing like California's, where “green cards” may be issued for everything from insomnia to headaches. Instead, as advocates argued on Tuesday at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, the highly restrictive program will allow medical marijuana for only “a handful” of New Yorkers with certain conditions, and even they may have trouble accessing the state’s few dispensaries.

At the forum Tuesday, organizers with Compassionate Care NY and advocacy groups like VOCAL-NY, Boom! Health, and the Drug Policy Alliance argued that New York’s medical marijuana program will be far too small to make a big difference in residents’ lives: Preliminary regulations include only 10 diagnoses in the list of patients’ qualifying conditions, and allow for only five organizations to open four dispensary sites each, creating a total of just 20 medical marijuana dispensaries to serve the entire state and its population of 20 million.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who fought against the Compassionate Care Act and even threatened to veto it, has acted as a barrier to the more inclusive medical marijuana policy advocates would like. His resistance forced the Compassionate Care NY coalition to make the restrictive concessions they are now hoping the Department of Health commissioner may revise.

With a February 13th deadline for public input on regulations drafted to implement the Compassionate Care Act [PDF] approaching, advocates for legal medical marijuana access are hurrying to gather enough support to convince NY’s Department of Health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to broaden the scope of the state’s medical marijuana program, which should be functioning as early as January 2016.

One major concern is that smoking of the raw cannabis flower is not allowed—a provision so strict organizers said it occurs in only one of the 22 states that allow for medical marijuana. New York’s program also bans marijuana edibles, allowing for only oil “extracts” that may be vaporized, swallowed in a capsule, or absorbed in the mouth. Each organization may produce no more than five “brands” containing DoH-approved concentrations of cannabinoids like Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which activates marijuana’s psychoactive effect, and cannabidiol (CBD), which is considered to have more medical uses, like reduction of seizures in patients with life-threatening Dravet’s syndrome.

Gabriel Falsetta, a forum attendee with New York City’s Veterans for Peace chapter, said he is concerned the cap on strains will not allow for individualized treatment that may help target patients’ unique needs. “When you get the chemist together with the grower to break the plant down, they can actually target various diseases,” said Falsetta, who said his daughter suffers from neuroblastoma and has been forced to turn to illegally receiving medical marijuana from California.

Bill Gilson, President of NYC’s Veterans for Peace chapter and a stage-four prostate cancer patient, was worried that the list of conditions approved is too restrictive. “I am speaking for veterans who do not have coverage for PTSD as one of the eligible conditions,” said Gilson, who added that “twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day in the United States.”

Councilmember Mark Levine, a speaker at the forum, was also concerned that the bill was overly exclusive, and noted that he has a personal investment in seeing the list of approved conditions expanded. “I suffer from migraines,” Levine said, adding that he would like to try to treat his condition with medical marijuana—only “legally,” of course. Levine also introduced Resolution 418, asking the state legislature to expand the Compassionate Care Act, which he says “excludes many diseases for which there is medical consensus that marijuana can truly benefit patients.” The Compassionate Care Act requires DoH commissioner Howard Zucker to consider adding PTSD—as well as Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, and rheumatoid arthritis—to the list of qualifying conditions.

Like other speakers, Levine also noted that the bill and proposed regulations will ‘adversely impact low-income patients’ because “[T]he bill does not allow patients to smoke marijuana, which advocates agree is the cheapest and most efficient way to consume it.” Other speakers expressed concern that the bill’s failure to allow insurance coverage from medical marijuana—something that is not unique to New York state—will stifle access for residents with smaller economic means.

The small number of dispensaries, too, may require patients to incur travel expenses or lose wages for days off spent seeking their medication from a distant provider. Though a $50 fee to apply for a medical marijuana card will be waived for low-income New Yorkers, the DoH has yet to provide a standard to determine who qualifies for the fee-elimination.

There is also concern that the program will create a "two-tiered system" in which New Yorkers who have been criminalized by marijuana prohibition will be locked out from benefitting from the new market. To become a certified producer, applicants must prove they have "sufficient facilities" or a bond of $2 million, and pay a $10,000 application fee in addition to a $200,000 registration fee, which is refundable if the application is rejected.

"In a state with an estimated of 83% of voters in support of medicinal marijuana, we can do better," Levine said in a statement. "The time to act is now to make important yet simple fixes to the Compassionate Care Act, which would not only make it a better law but also help fulfill its ultimate goal of comforting people in pain at a time when they need it most."

New Yorkers seeking to add their input to pending DOH regulations can learn how to become involved here.
 

7greeneyes

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...highs-and-lows-of-d-c-marijuana-legalization/





The highs and lows of D.C. marijuana legalization





When it comes to marijuana, D.C. knows disappointment. In 1998, District voters approved a referendum that would have legalized medical marijuana in the city, but Congress swiftly passed legislation preventing this law from ever going into effect. It took the city more than a decade to finally get its first medical marijuana dispensaries open for business.

Fast forward to the present, when the national climate for marijuana reform is decisively friendlier than it was in 1998, and Congress once again blocked a voter-approved referendum to loosen marijuana laws in the city. This time it was Initiative 71 — which would allow people over 21 to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana for personal use and grow up to six cannabis plants — that voters passed last November and Congress subsequently tried to quash in December. (The District was able, however, to successfully decriminalize the possession of marijuana in 2014.)

But last week, President Obama gave new life to the presumed (almost) dead legalization initiative in his massive budget proposal, giving D.C. residents a bit of hope that the law they voted for in November would go into effect sooner than later. But this is Washington, and, by now, residents know not to get their hopes up too high when it comes to marijuana reform.

Here’s a look back at the highs and subsequent, er, buzzkills of Initiative 71 over the last 18 months.

High: There were some hiccups along the way, but the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, the organization that spearheaded efforts to pass Initiative 71, submitted the necessary signatures in July to the District’s Board of Elections to land pot legalization on the upcoming November ballot.

Buzzkill: Anti-pot activists warned they would organize a grass-roots effort against fully legalized marijuana in the District.

High: That effort never materialized in a meaningful way. The voters spoke on Nov. 4 and said they wanted their legal weed. D.C. residents overwhelmingly passed Initiative 71 with more than 70 percent of the vote. On election night, marijuana advocates and proponents celebrated responsibly.

Buzzkill: In December, Republicans, who didn’t yet control the Senate, tacked on a provision to the House’s $1 trillion “cromnibus” spending bill that barred the District from using any of its funds to enact marijuana legalization. Congress is allowed to do this because the District is not a state and, under the Home Rule Charter, the federal legislative body can block any D.C. law it pleases. Lawmakers sometimes opt to squash D.C. laws through the appropriations process, which allows them to block legislation by telling D.C. how it can spend its money. The spending bill ultimately passed both chambers with the anti-marijuana provision intact.

The Democratic muscles in Congress, like then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, noted they were ideologically against Congress meddling with the law but said their hands were tied and did nothing to help the District. If they did want to take a stand against the provision, they risked a rejection of the entire spending bill, putting the country on the road to another government shutdown.

High: After Congress effectively voted to block the law, officials including the District’s nonvoting member of Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), said there was a potential loophole in the wording in the Congressional provision. Under the rider, the District could not use funds to “enact any law, rule, or regulation” to legalize or reduce penalties for recreational use of marijuana. But Norton argued that the law was enacted when residents voted in favor of it in November, and now the city just had to implement it.

Furthermore, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has since sent the legislation to Congress for approval, ignoring the whole tête-à-tête that just happened during the budget process and challenging Congress to block Initiative 71 in its entirety or let it stand.

Buzzkill: Even if Norton’s reading of the provision holds up and the law goes into effect, Initiative 71 only legalizes the possession of marijuana, not the selling of it. The D.C. Council had planned to introduce legislation that would regulate the sales of marijuana once the possession was legalized, but, even with the ambiguously worded rider, it would be hard for the city to muster a law regulating the sale of marijuana through Congress.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she is concerned that legalizing the possession of marijuana without any laws in place to regulate sales could lead to open-air drug markets.

High: Much of the national media still seems very confused about the Home Rule Charter and the city’s relationship with Congress, and in recent weeks, publications like the Economist and Buzzfeed have reported that recreational marijuana is fully legal in the nation’s capital.

Buzzkill: Don’t light up just yet. These reports are all false.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-ap...ploads/sites/2/2015/02/dcpot-text1.jpg&w=1484

The portion of President Obama’s proposed budget that deals with D.C. pot legalization.


High: Obama’s proposed $4 trillion budget, released this week, potentially removed Congress’ prohibition on D.C. marijuana. Congress’ bill said no “funds in this act” could be used to loosen marijuana related laws. Obama’s law said no “federal” funds in this act could be used, which advocates say undoes the funding restrictions imposed by Congress in its provision.

Buzzkill: Obama’s budget will have to pass through Republican-dominated committees in both chambers, and it wouldn’t be too hard for someone to strike this provision that, as it stands now, works in the District’s favor.

Stay tuned.
 

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http://fortune.com/2015/02/04/surgeon-general-medical-marijuana/





U.S. Surgeon General warms to medical marijuana




In an interview, the country’s top doctor said preliminary research shows “marijuana can be helpful.”

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy expressed optimism about the medical benefits of marijuana use in a Wednesday television interview.

Speaking on CBS This Morning, Murthy said there is some promising research about medical uses of the drug, which is legal in some states but still banned on the federal level. “We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, that marijuana can be helpful,” Murthy told CBS. “I think that we have to use that data to drive policymaking.”

Murthy added that more research is needed “to see what the science tells us about the efficacy of marijuana,” but he said more data should be on the way thanks to the growing list of states passing laws to legalize medical marijuana.

The Surgeon General’s statements follow what seems to be growing acceptance in the federal government of medical marijuana. In December, Congress passed a spending measure that included a provision to effectively end the federal ban on medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

At the moment, 23 states allow the use of medical marijuana, despite the fact that federal laws still classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug — the most dangerous level, which also includes heroin and ecstasy. Four states have passed laws legalizing recreational pot along with Washington, D.C.

At a Senate confirmation hearing last year, some politicians asked Murthy to clarify his stance on marijuana legalization. The physician said at the time that, much like other drugs, he would not recommend that anyone use marijuana. “I don’t think it’s a good habit to use marijuana,” he said.

Still, there is some precedent of U.S. Surgeon Generals showing open minds when it comes to medical marijuana’s potential benefits. Regina Benjamin, who served in the post from 2009 to 2013, acknowledged that the drug could have medicinal uses. But she felt more research was necessary. Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, who occupied the job in the early 1990’s, said in 2010 that she supported legalization and added that marijuana is not addictive.
 

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http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/b...r-for-its-own-bank-waits-on-the-fed.html?_r=0





The First Bank of Bud





It was zero degrees in Denver on a late December morning, and the ice-covered streets were mostly empty. Mark Mason, wearing a full-length black coat, green wool hat and sunglasses, sat in a white Buick LaCrosse, eyeing the squat building across the street. It was the local branch of the Federal Reserve Bank.

“Behind that gate, that’s where the armored cars come in,” he said, pointing to a parking lot. “They’ve got a bunch of money in the basement — a bunch.”

For some months, Mr. Mason, 54, has been thinking about the bank and how, he said, “to break in.” Not to take money, but to leave it. Mr. Mason and a group of other entrepreneurs in Colorado want to start the first-ever financial institution established specifically to serve the pot industry. To do that, they need to make deposits in a Federal Reserve account, and the agency hasn’t let them. Such humdrum administrative decisions are made all the time by federal banking officials, but this one raises big political and legal issues between the federal government and the state of Colorado over the legalization of marijuana.

Mr. Mason and his business partners have already received a license from the state of Colorado for their Fourth Corner Credit Union. They have leased a building in downtown Denver, put up a Facebook page and generated predictable jokes on late-night TV. Jimmy Fallon: “If you think the line is slow at your bank ...”

Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2009 and recreational marijuana use became legal a year ago. But marijuana businesses have had limited, if any, access to banking services. The federal government considers marijuana illegal and so traditional banks, fearing prosecution for aiding and abetting illegal drug dealers, have shut down pot-business accounts and declined to give loans. Some banks have ferreted out pot entrepreneurs by sniffing their bills, leading to a countermove: bills sprayed with air freshener.

Without a bank account, pot businesses deal in cash, lots of it, held in safes, handed out in clipped bundles on payday, carried in brown paper bags and cardboard boxes to the tax office and the utility company, ferried around the state by armored vehicles and armed guards. And without access to essential banking services — from credit cards to electronic transfers to loans — those businesses pay a huge premium. The reality in Colorado is that it is legal to grow pot but extremely hard to grow a pot business.

The Fourth Corner partners saw a need and a business opportunity. State accreditation in hand, the partners took a step this November that typically goes off without a hitch: they applied to the Federal Reserve Bank for a “master account.” This is the account they would use to deposit funds and transfer them electronically with other banks — the lifeblood of commerce.

Mr. Mason could not find a case of a state accredited financial institution being denied a master account. Usually, approval comes in days, he noted. But it has been nearly three months since the application was filed and there has been no answer, just a letter in early January saying the request was under review. Mr. Mason said the application was on the desk of a specialist in bank risk, a guy named Ryan Harwell in Kansas City, the Fed’s Midwest regional office that oversees the Denver branch.

While the Federal Reserve declined to comment — as a matter of policy, its officials don’t comment on pending applications — Mr. Mason suggested a reason the Fed may be wary of granting the account.

“This legitimizes the marijuana industry to the extent it’s never been legitimized before,” he said. If Fourth Corner gets approval, businesses would have a place to deposit and to borrow. Other institutions might well follow, and the federal government “would become complicit, and the walls start tumbling down.”

At the same time, Mr. Mason argued that the Federal Reserve Bank was not only within its rights to approve the credit union but was obliged to do so.

Peter Conti-Brown, a banking expert at the Stanford Law School, agreed that the credit union application set up a quandary, one that, as policy questions go, is “delicious” and “awesome.” Yes, in theory, he said, the Fed could approve this credit union. But the implications are unclear, and potentially staggering, he said, given that this pen stroke by Mr. Harwell could let the cannabis industry blossom. And then what happens to the federal government’s power over pot?

“I can almost see his green shaded visor and glasses,” said Mr. Conti-Brown, imagining Mr. Harwell in Kansas City. “All of a sudden on the desk of this midlevel bureaucrat comes an extraordinary question of federal policy and constitutional law.”

A Crack in the Door?

The possible future home of the Fourth Corner Credit Union is seven blocks from the Federal Reserve’s Denver branch in a ranch style, 2,100-square-foot building that once housed an office of the Colorado Business Bank. It has four teller windows, one of them drive-through, a convenient side alley for armored cars to pick up the cash to take it to the Fed, and a collection of neighbors that, as Mr. Mason likes to say, represents “the whole universe” — the United States Mint, the state courthouse and the Diamond Cabaret strip club.

Mr. Mason only recently moved to Denver. He rents a condo with his wife downtown, but his permanent home is in Charleston, S.C., where he practices law. He grew interested the whole bank-for-pot idea after getting a call from his son, Alex. A recent college graduate with a degree in criminal justice, the younger Mr. Mason was living in Denver and told his father that friends in the marijuana industry were struggling to find banks to take their money. Mr. Mason stayed up all night, inspired, writing a 20-page position paper on banking law, and then started making local contacts, first with high-powered Denver lawyers. He said he was captivated by the “opportunity to work on one of the great political, social and constitutional issues of the day,” one that made his day job “pale by comparison.”

On the same freezing day that he cased the Fed, Mr. Mason gave a tour of the credit union to one of the credit union’s founding board members, Kristi Kelly, owner of Good Meds, which grows and sells medical marijuana. Since 2009, when the state started regulating medical marijuana, Ms. Kelly has had 23 bank accounts canceled.

Now Ms. Kelly relies on what she calls the “Bank of Kristi” — the proceeds of Good Meds are kept in a safe and delivered to the tax man, employees, lenders, trade associations and utilities in whatever is discreet and handy, paper bags included.

Touring the credit union, she seemed gleeful. “This is great!” she gushed. “I can’t believe how perfect this is.” She paused, looking over at an imposing safe with two dial locks on the front. “Is that a bulletproof lock safe? I’ve written about that in state applications, but I’ve never seen it!”

Mr. Mason and a lawyer named Martin Kenney, who specializes in fraud law, have put $600,000 into the management company that organized the credit union, Mr. Mason said. They have recruited nine credit union board members including a local urology surgeon and a Denver city councilman. A local lawyer, Douglas Friednash, who provided the group legal counsel, on Feb. 2 took the post of chief of staff to Gov. John Hickenlooper.

There are 1,200 licensed marijuana businesses in the state, and the credit union expects to get a “significant share,” but it cannot sign anyone up until it opens its doors. Its chief obstacle is not financial, but legal. The Controlled Substances Act defines marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, along with the likes of heroin. It says that these drugs, so easily carried across state lines, can only be controlled through federal oversight. But in 2012, Colorado voters legalized the sale of recreational marijuana by state-licensed businesses, and the state Constitution was amended at the beginning of 2014. Twenty-two other states and the District of Columbia allow some form of legal marijuana. So does federal or state law prevail?

In a 2005 California case, the Supreme Court sided with the federal government. Makers and users of medical marijuana had sought an injunction to prevent federal law enforcement from interfering with their California trade. But the court ruled that federal law prevailed because the business of marijuana in one state could impact supply and demand across state lines.

To banks, the pre-eminence of federal law has been a powerful deterrent to allowing pot businesses to set up accounts. In fact, Don Childears, chief executive of the Colorado Bankers Association, said his reading of the federal law was that “the very receipt of a deposit is the definition of money laundering.” His train of logic: Marijuana is illegal at the federal level; banks that take money from illegal drug operations are guilty of money laundering; therefore, the banks that take pot money face serious criminal and civil liability.

On Feb. 14, 2014, the Departments of Justice and the Treasury introduced a wrinkle. They each sent out guidelines that seemed to crack open the door for banks to engage with marijuana businesses. The Justice guidelines, known as the “Cole Memo,” didn’t foreclose the possibility that banks taking marijuana money could be prosecuted for financial crimes, but directed prosecutors to go after significant cases, which it defined using eight priorities. For example, a bank that provided services to a marijuana business that distributed to minors or sold in states where the drug was illegal or used gun violence might be subject to prosecution, but when such aggravating factors were absent, prosecution “may not be appropriate,” the guidelines said.

Under the Treasury guidelines, banks are urged to file “suspicious activity reports” when a new pot business opens or closes an account or when such businesses exhibit activities that violate the Cole guidelines. Treasury characterized the efforts in part as a way to get money into the banking system, where it — and its actors — could be more easily tracked. In sum, the guidance was advertised by many as a “green light” to banks.

Mr. Childears of the Colorado Bankers Association doesn’t see it that way. “They were a yellow light at best,” he said of the guidelines. In fact, he argued, “They raised the liability for the banks.” The costs of filing suspicious activity reports, he said, are considerable and raise all kinds of questions. For example, he asked, what if such a report actually becomes an admission that the bank is participating in an illegal enterprise?

Plus, Mr. Childears said, the guidelines are not law. In other words, they don’t preclude a federal prosecutor or state attorney general from going after a bank. In fact, two state attorneys general, from Nebraska and Oklahoma, sued the state of Colorado in December, asking that the Colorado law that legalized pot be struck down because it violates federal law and “creates a dangerous gap in the federal drug control program.”

Most banks are wary of stepping into this mire, Mr. Childears said, estimating that perhaps 5 percent of Colorado’s marijuana businesses use a financial institution (other estimates have put the figure higher, but still below half the pot business in the state).

Enter the credit union, which state officials see as critical, partly to solve crime and safety risks they see created by all-cash businesses. “It is the first very public marker that this is a place to be banked,” said Andrew Freedman, director of marijuana coordination for Colorado. The credit union, he predicted, will see a surge of business “in a quick amount of time.”

What happens with its application goes to the very fate of the new marijuana industry, argued Chris Myklebust, commissioner of Colorado’s division of financial services. If the feds don’t grant the application and really open up banking, Mr. Myklebust said, they create a life-threatening chokehold on the businesses, cutting off their ability to profit and survive.

“Without banking,” he said, “the industry is not sustainable in the long run.”

The Cost of Not Banking

Dylan Donaldson, 30, knows the hidden costs of a bank-challenged business. He has nine 1,000-pound safes bolted to the floor in the back of Karing Kind, the dispensary he owns in North Boulder. At any given time, they hold $80,000 to $100,000 in cash.

The safes didn’t help, though, when audacious thieves busted through the wall of an adjoining business in the middle of the night in June and took $250,000 in marijuana plants.

Now he pays $100,000 a year for armed guards provided by Iron Protection Group, a business owned and operated by vets from Iraq and Afghanistan, who watch the place at night. They also deliver money to the tax office and vendors, from makers of THC concentrate to suppliers of computer paper. At present, the business has no bank account, having lost more than a dozen, Mr. Donaldson said.

Another big cost for Mr. Donaldson: loans. He wanted to buy the land beneath his dispensary, but couldn’t get a bank loan. The best he could do was a 17 percent interest-only loan from four local businessmen.

And then there’s his father, who owns the building, and leases it to his son for above-market rates. The younger Mr. Donaldson said this was frustrating but fair, given that the nature of the enterprise requires his dad to take on risk.

These are not the only ways that the clash between the federal government and the state costs marijuana businesses. For instance, federal tax rules prevent cannabis businesses from writing off expenses under a law meant to keep illegal drug cartels from exploiting tax advantages. Mr. Donaldson estimates that the taxes and other expenses mean he pays 30 percent to 35 percent more in costs than a non-pot business of the same size. Between the taxes, security costs and above-market debt service, there is nothing left from his revenues to expand the business, he said.

On Dec. 31, Mr. Donaldson watched a steady stream of customers pour in to stock up for New Year’s Eve — bud for smoking, THC baked into candy bars, stirred into drinks, frozen into ice cream. But rising competition and the extra costs mean profits don’t come easily. “December was our worst month all year,” he said.

At the same time, he is skeptical a credit union is the solution. Maybe he’d put a little money into it, he said, but what if the credit union fails or gets hit by the feds, its own doors kicked down? He would be worse off. Besides, he said: “I think it’ll be challenging for them to get approved.”

A week later, on Jan. 7, the credit union organizers got a letter from Esther George, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The letter stated that issuance of a master account was “within the Reserve Bank’s discretion” and required the Fed to identify the risks “posed by such a financial institution.” The potential risks she referred to might explain how the application wound up on the desk of Mr. Harwell, who is a risk specialist.

Earlier, Mr. Mason had sat in on several conference calls with Mr. Harwell and said he was told by the risk specialist that the decision was “above my pay grade,” but declined to specify in whose pay grade it was. (Mr. Harwell did not return emails but forwarded them to a spokesman, who declined to comment about the application.)

There is also the issue of deposit insurance, which a financial institution needs in order to operate. The Fourth Corner Credit Union has applied to the National Credit Union Administration, a federal regulator that provides insurance for the vast majority of the nation’s 2,500 or so state-chartered credit unions. If it isn’t approved, the fledgling credit union plans to apply for private insurance with Lloyd’s of London.

As for the Federal Reserve, Mr. Conti-Brown of Stanford said the granting of a master account by the Federal Reserve had usually been routine. “It’s been so prosaic,” he said.

On one level, this application is no less routine. But there is another level on which the granting of a master account to the credit union can fairly be seen as undercutting the authority of the federal government to easily regulate marijuana through the traditional banking system.

Right now, traditional banks would rather not risk prosecution — or regulatory trouble — to get a few million dollars from marijuana businesses. And so to keep the industry on a low throttle, the federal government need only threaten tighter enforcement, and already skittish banks might get out entirely. In this way, restricting banking limits the size of the industry without directly challenging the states that have legalized it.

With the credit union, Mr. Conti-Brown of Stanford said, “The dam breaks.” The credit union is not looking to marijuana businesses for “small deposits,” he said. “It’s their raison d’être.”

If the federal government goes after such an institution, Mr. Mason argued further, it will no longer be just a banking issue. “If they come after me, it represents an attack on the industry itself,” he said, and, by extension, the voters who approved it. “They’re attacking the will of the people,” he said.
 

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http://www.marketwatch.com/story/co...-may-mean-money-back-for-residents-2015-02-04





Colorado’s marijuana bonanza may help trigger tax refund





Colorado may have to refund a large chunk of taxes back to its citizens, thanks in part to a rush of marijuana-related income that was originally slated to help fund education.

The turn of events is a result of Colorado’s infant legal-marijuana laws coming up against what is known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, as the Associated Press said in a recent report.

TABOR is a 1992 state constitutional amendment requiring Colorado to issue tax refunds whenever the it collects more tax money than is permitted under a formula tied to inflation and population growth.

Since Colorado’s economy has been growing faster than expected — and tax receipts are strong, helped by the marijuana sales — preliminary estimates suggest a total of $30.5 million, or about $7.63 per adult Coloradan, could be slated for refund, the AP said, citing a projection from the governor’s budget writers.

This, however, is meeting with objections from some quarters, as a measure passed in 2013, the year after legalization, contained a 15% excise tax on marijuana specifically earmarked to fund education.

“The problem is that the state is now obligated to spend money on schools, but now also obligated to give some back to voters,” said Tim Hoover of the Colorado Fiscal Institute, an organization which analyzes the impact of taxes in the state.

“The state is going to be forced to refund that money unless voters say otherwise,” Hoover said.

And while it’s total tax revenue, not just the marijuana portion, that would trigger a refund, the report said a third marijuana-related ballot measure in as many years could be needed to exempt pot taxes from the TABOR requirements.

The report said both Republicans and Democrats are working together toward a solution, which would likely await final tax estimates due in March.

While Colorado’s marijuana tax windfalls have fallen short of predictions in the first year of sales, there are signs Colorado’s great experiment will pay off in the long run.

http://ei.marketwatch.com//Multimed...jpg?uuid=b2c826bc-ac96-11e4-b763-a4b4ff8188c0

Across the nation, legal marijuana profits grew 74% last year to $2.7 billion, according to a report from Arcview Market Research, a cannabis-industry research and investment firm. This is up from $1.5 billion in 2013.

The Arcview report called legal marijuana the fastest-growing industry in the U.S. and forecast $11 billion of sales by 2019. That would make legal marijuana more profitable than several other U.S. cash crops such as rice, cotton, sorghum and hay, though still below receipts for corn and soybeans.
 

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http://bgr.com/2015/02/04/seattle-medical-marijuana-vending-machines/





(Washington) First marijuana vending machines go live in Seattle





Every stoner’s dream is coming true… well, as long as they have a license to use medical marijuana, that is. USA Today reports that a company called ZaZZZ has brought its pot vending machines to Seattle Caregivers, which is a medical marijuana dispensary.

Because the machines will be housed within the dispensary, interested buyers will be required to show their medical marijuana ID before entering, which means random people off the street can’t just walk in and buy a joint.

The vending machines will be climate controlled and will offer a “wide range of medicinal and recreational marijuana flowers, pot-infused edibles and merchandise,” so it sounds like you’ll be able to buy pot brownies or cookies if you don’t feel like smoking it.

It’s been interesting to watch the marijuana economy in Washington grow and evolve over the past couple of years since the drug was legalized in the state. Recent reports have indicated that growers in the state now actually face a huge glut of marijuana that they’re having a hard time selling, which is something we didn’t think we’d ever see.

At any rate, we’re pretty sure it won’t be too long before some engineering student tries to set one of these up on their college campuses. It would, after all, fit in perfectly right next to vending machines that sell potato chips and candy…
 

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http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2015/02/04/cannabis-oil-bill-introduced-ohio-house/22874503/





Cannabis-oil bill introduced in Ohio House





State Rep. Wes Retherford acknowledges that he is not the likeliest person to propose legalizing a form of cannabis. But after reconnecting with a Marine Corps buddy with a sick child, the second-term Hamilton Republican experienced a change of heart.

"I'm still not for full-blown medical marijuana. I'm not for recreational marijuana. I don't want kids getting stoned or anything like that," Retherford said Wednesday. "But I see the cannabis oil has been shown to have some medicinal effect when other drugs haven't done their jobs. It's something worth having a conversation about."

Retherford and eight other members of the state House introduced a bill this week that would legalize the prescription of cannabis oil to treat children with seizure disorders. Ten states now allow the use of the oil for children only.

The oil is made from a strain of the cannabis plant packed with cannabidiol, which works on the central nervous system to calm seizures, although the drug's action is not well understood. That particular strain is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, which causes the cannabis high.

Retherford said Wednesday he became interested in the potential of cannabidiol oil when he got reacquainted with Adam Benton. The two men had enlisted in the Marine Corps together, then lost touch. Last year, The Enquirer published a story about Benton, his wife Heather and their young daughter Addyson, who suffers from myoclonic epilepsy and experiences seizures that could be fatal if not controlled. Most traditional prescription treatments come with drastic side effects such as liver failure.

Adam Benton has become a legal resident of Colorado, where cannabis is legal, so that he can obtain the cannabidiol oil for Addyson.

Retherford's bill would also allow for research at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and other children's hospitals in Ohio into the effectiveness of the cannabidiol oil.

Retherford opposes a broad medical-marijuana program like those in 23 states and the District of Columbia. But his position on therapeutic oil has evolved. "Obviously, with my relationship with that family, it kind of helped guide it along. I've kind of changed a little bit on it."

"I've spent more time reading about it, checking into it," he said. "I decided that we at least should have some sort of bill drafted that would give this oil the opportunity for research and development through the various university and children's hospitals."

An organization called ResponsibleOhio is seeking to legalize cannabis in Ohio with tight regulation and a 15 percent tax on sales.
 

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http://www.dailybulletin.com/health...marijuana-event-season-in-southern-california





High Times Cannabis Cup kicks off medical marijuana event season in Southern California





The High Times Cannabis Cup is back, kicking off this year’s season of medical marijuana-themed events at the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino.

But even with five other marijuana-centric events planned at the San Bernardino center, plus a marijuana-themed 5K walk later this year, San Bernardino resident William Cioci, president of the Brownie Mary Democratic Club of San Bernardino County, said that the Cannabis Cup has special significance.

“It’s a good one to start with,” said the 44-year-old medical-marijuana user. “It’s a big name (High Times) that brings the most attention. It usually brings in the largest crowd.”

The Cannabis Cup presented by High Times, a New York-based monthly magazine devoted to cannabis and the legalization of the drug, also travels to Denver, San Francisco, Portland and Clio, Mich., but starts its tour in Southern California. The two-day event starts at noon on Feb. 7 and Feb. 8.

Its third time in San Bernardino, the event boasts another year of great musical headliners with Florida hip-hop artist Rick Ross and L.A.’s own B-Real of Cypress Hill.

Ross, scheduled to perform Feb. 7, is known for hits like 2006’s “Hustlin’” and 2010’s “Aston Martin Music” featuring Drake and Chrisette Michele. He is slated to wrap up the event’s first night, with B-Real set to open up the concert with a solo set at 9 p.m. The Cypress Hill frontman has been a longtime marijuana advocate and was honored with the High Times Stoner of the Year award at last year’s Cannibus Cup for his work supporting the drug’s legalization efforts nationwide.

This year, High Times editor-in-chief Dan Skye said there is slated to be 400 vendors at the local Cannabis Cup that he expects will attract a crowd of at least 20,000.

“It’s a great networking opportunity for people in the (medical marijuana) industry or for people just entering it,” Skye said, adding that there’s a panel titled “How to Get a Top Pot Job in the Cannabis Industry” presented by Weedhire, a career website specifically for employment within the legal cannabis industry.

A medical card is not needed to enter the expo, but attendees must be age 18 and older. A doctor’s recommendation or California medical card is also needed to consume cannabis on site, though Skye added there would be an area on site for people to get medical recommendations.

“It’s always a great crowd, wonderful weather and lots of space. There’s never any kind of lawlessness at any of the Cannabis Cups. It’s one of the most peaceful crowds anyone can encounter,” Skye said.

In October, San Bernardino Police Department Lt. Rich Lawhead said most events at the NOS center, including marijuana-themed ones, did not create a policing issue other than car burglaries, which are typical of all large events at the venue. Lawhead added that police will respond to any incidents at these events when they’re requested and that marijuana consumption in public is “still technically illegal.”

Each day, panels focusing on topics like cannabis cultivation, the emerging edibles industry and cannabis use for enhanced creativity are planned to spur dialogue about the counterculture. There will also be a panel on how to end marijuana prohibition presented by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Women’s Alliance featuring moderator Madeline Martinez, a retired peace officer of the State of California Department of Corrections.

“My goal always is to empower women,” said Martinez, who is the first Latina and Native American to sit on the NORML board. “My goal is to get them to feel empowered and stop being victims of the drug war. I want to be the change they see, then to be the change they want.”
 

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http://kfor.com/2015/02/03/bill-might-legalize-medical-cannabis-oil-in-oklahoma/





Bill might legalize medical cannabis oil in Oklahoma





OKLAHOMA CITY,Okla. — A medicine linked to marijuana could soon be legal in the Sooner State.

The lawmaker says this is not a bill to legalize marijuana. The author of Katie’s Law says many people want to associate it with a step towards legalizing marijuana, but he makes it clear that it is anything but that.

Instead, it’s a medicine, a hope for his family that could mean the difference between life and death.

“I wish that she could be healed,” Steven Dodson says about his 10-year-old sister Katie, who suffers from Dravet syndrome, a pediatric type of epilepsy.

“Then all the sudden at 6 months of age, she had a seizure that lasted almost 2 hours and it almost killed her,” Kelli Dodson, Katie’s mother remembers. She describes having a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Video shows a 2007 seizure Katie had. It’s one of 12 she has can get daily without her medication.

“She has been on over 20 medications in her life, she’s had brain surgery a couple of times, nothing has worked,” Kelli Dodson said.

Her current medications impair her speech and basic skills, and warn of side-effects like sudden death.

“It makes her different, and I would just like her to have other friends and to be able to play at the speed that other kids could play at and to be able to run around,” Steven says.

A new bill HB 2154, authored by Katie’s uncle State Rep. Jon Echols, would offer a small glimmer of hope.

“Katie’s Law is a bill that would allow children with severe epilepsy to take an oil, CBD with below .3 THC,” Echols says.

You may know it as cannabis oil, a derivative from the marijuana plant.

“What this oil is, it’s very high in the CBD content and very low in the THC content,” Echols said.

The THC content of marijuana is what gives users the feeling of being ‘high.’

“I wish I could tell you this is going to save my niece. I don’t know if it is, I don’t know if it’s not, but I know it’s helped a lot of kids and I know it could help children here in Oklahoma. The only thing that kills this bill is people not willing to look at what it really is. This is not a medical marijuana bill,” Echols says.

“This is just really our last hope that she can have a better quality of life,” Jason Dodson says.

The bill passed the House committee Tuesday morning; it is now headed to the House floor to be voted on.

The bill has received support from the Oklahoma Medical Association and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
 

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http://thefreethoughtproject.com/correct...ical-marijuana/





Two Law Enforcement Officers Testify In Court About Healing Power Of Medical Marijuana






Grand Rapids, Michigan – Two Kent County corrections officers testified in court last month that medical marijuana radically changed their lives for the better.

The two officers stand accused of illegally possessing marijuana butter. They were arrested with two other officers who received distribution charges. Todd VanDoorne and Mike Frederick both have medical marijuana cards, but the state’s medical marijuana laws explicitly forbid concentrated extracts such as the marijuana butter.

VanDoorne testified that he has neck pain and had to get a surgery in 2010 where vertebrae were fused together. Since the operation, he was prescribed pharmaceutical pain killers, but like many people, he did not like the side effects and found marijuana to be a safer and more healthy alternative.

“The medical marijuana was excellent, completely different from the narcotics. I could still do things, still carry on daily chores. It gave me my life back. It was a good thing,” VanDoorne testified.

Frederick also testified, saying that he suffers from diabetes and neuropathy, both of which are helped greatly by the use of medical marijuana.

The other officers involved in the case plead guilty, Brian Tennant was sentenced to five years of probation and a $10,000 fine in December on a distribution charge. Another officer, Timothy Bernhardt also pleaded guilty but committed suicide this past November.

Frederick and VanDoorne are claiming that they were unaware of the laws against cannabis butter, and both officers say that they felt they were operating within the law.

After a lengthy trial, a judge denied the pair’s medical marijuana defense and formally charged them with possession of cannabis butter.

According to Mlive, both VanDoorne and Frederick were fired from their jobs, but still remain free on bond. No trial date has been set in their case, and they will remain free until then.

John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work he is also the owner of a successful music promotion company. In 2013, he became one of the organizers of the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.
 

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