MJ News for 02/23/2015


Jul 25, 2008
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Colorado politician introduces bills to legalize marijuana on federal level, tax it like alcohol

DENVER, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., introduced two bills on Friday that have to do with legalizing marijuana on a federal level.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., co-sponsored the bills. The first bill is called the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act; it would regulate marijuana under restrictions similar to those on alcohol.

The second bill, the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, would set up a federal excise tax on marijuana. The tax would initially be 10 percent of the sales price, and it would eventually rise to 25 percent. Medical marijuana would remain untaxed.

"Rather than be a medicinal substance, it would be a controlled substance like alcohol and tobacco so there's still a federal interest in enforcement," Polis told The Denver Post. "It's important as we head into a presidential election. We don't know if the next president will have the same hands-off approach that Barack Obama and Eric Holder eventually found their way towards."

Polis said legalizing and regulating marijuana "takes money away from criminals and cartels, grows our economy, and keeps marijuana out of the hands of children" in a statement.


Jul 25, 2008
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Medical Marijuana May Soon Be Marketed as Kosher

A certification agency is open to the possibility

Medical marijuana may soon come with a kosher seal of approval.

The Orthodox Union that offers kosher certification is in early discussions with parties interested in offering kosher medical marijuana products, according to the The Jewish Daily Forward.

In the past, the Orthodox Union has refused to certify cigarettes and e-cigarettes due to their clear health risks, but Rabbi Moshe Elefant, who leads kosher certification at the Orthodox Union, said it “would not have a problem” certifying medical marijuana since it has health benefits.

Since marijuana is a plant, it would appear that the certification would not be necessary. But in New York State, where medical marijuana will go on sale next year, cannabis could be distributed in other forms like edible substances and capsules, which would need a kosher seal. Many Orthodox rabbis are still strongly against its use.


Jul 25, 2008
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Holland's New Marijuana Laws Are Changing Old Amsterdam

The last time Derrick Bergman came to Amsterdam to buy cannabis, he did so behind a locked door with a long, thick curtain obscuring his activity from the canal-lined residential street outside, in the quiet Lastage neighborhood. The secretary of the Netherlands’s Union for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition, Bergman comes here to weekly gatherings of a two-month-old—and seriously clandestine—“cannabis social club” called the Tree of Life, because it’s the only place in town he can find one of his favorite strains: Super Silver Haze.

Since 1976, authorities across the Netherlands have chosen to openly ignore that cannabis use is illegal here, and they prosecute no one in possession of less than five grams of marijuana for personal use. The policy, called gedoogbeleid, is known as the “Dutch model,” and it’s why hundreds of “coffee shops” sprung up across Amsterdam and the Netherlands, luring marijuana connoisseurs from across the globe to one of the few places they could roll and smoke a joint without fear. But that’s no longer the case.

Cannabis with more than 15 percent of the THC that makes it intoxicating is now under consideration to be reclassified as one of the “hard drugs” that come with stiff penalties. The government has also forced coffee shops where marijuana is sold to choose between alcohol and pot, prompting many to choose the former. Amsterdam once played host to nearly 300 coffee shops, of more than 1,000 scattered across the country. There are now fewer than 200 in the city and only 617 nationwide. While it’s always been illegal to grow marijuana in the Netherlands, authorities passively allow coffee shops to sell weed, often pretending not to know where the shops’ cannabis comes from.

But no longer. New laws target even the smallest of marijuana growers in Holland. In the past, people could grow up to five plants without fear of retribution. In 2011, the government issued new police guidelines and declared anyone who grew with electric lights, prepared soil, “selected” seeds or ventilation would be considered “professional.” It’s a significant change, as professional growers risk major penalties, including eviction and blacklisting from the government-provided housing in which more than half of the country’s citizens reside.

The result: Coffee shops are increasingly buying buds from criminal organizations willing to absorb the risk of prosecution by growing large amounts of cannabis in shipping containers buried underground, with little regard for quality or mold abatement. “It’s amazing how bad the quality has become,” says Bergman. “And the price is up. It’s what we’ve all predicted.”

That’s why Bergman traveled from his native Eindhoven to Amsterdam on a recent Monday, both to convene with other activists and to pick up five grams (the legal limit) of Super Silver Haze. Because the club is not-for-profit, its members can focus their efforts on finding and buying the best product and providing it to their members at much better prices than the coffee shops.

Modeled after a proliferation of similar establishments in Spain, the social clubs offer a new way to subvert the harsher laws. As in Holland, cannabis is illegal in Spain, but the government doesn’t prosecute anyone for personal consumption and there’s no implicit limit on the number of plants a person can grow, meaning the government doesn’t care if you grow one plant or 15. In fact, signs point to the government not caring at all. Barcelona is developing a reputation as “the new Amsterdam,” meaning the old Amsterdam is losing out on a significant source of revenue: drug tourists.

Inside an Amsterdam coffee shop called The Rookies, 22-year-old John Bell rolls a spliff of tobacco and a strain called Dutch Kashmir, which Bell can’t find in his native Liverpool. Bell has been to Amsterdam 11 times in the past three years, not because it’s hard to find weed in the U.K., but because the quality here is better. He wouldn’t visit the city at all if not for these coffee shops and Amsterdam’s quasi-legal cannabis, adding: “It’s too expensive to drink here, for a proper night out.”

Such drug tourists represent a major element of the city’s economy. The union of coffee shops in Maastricht commissioned research in 2008 that found foreign visitors to the city’s coffee shops spent money in other businesses there as well: €140 million (approximately $170 million) annually. It’s a significant number and one of the reasons government officials in Amsterdam have fought to keep the coffee shops from going out of business.

About a third of all visitors to Amsterdam step into one of its coffee shops at some point; nationally, the number is one in five. Banning such visitors would hit tourism revenues hard, chasing off travelers who tend to be well-behaved. “If you’re really a deadbeat hippie punk, a no-money kind of guy, how are you going to afford a ticket to Amsterdam?” Bergman says.

Cities such as Maastricht, on the other hand, have banned foreigners from coffee shops since 2005. The result, insists Bergman and other critics, is a proliferation of street dealers. People still come from neighboring countries to score marijuana, but now they stock up and head back home in a day, instead of spending any time in local hotels and restaurants.

How did Holland get here? Some trace the backlash to 9/11. The world’s global panic about terrorism in the wake of the attacks on New York City and Washington led to a surge in the power of conservative political parties in places as far away as the Netherlands. Ever since Holland’s People’s Party for Liberty and Democracy began to consolidate influence here, its leaders have pushed for zero tolerance drug laws. “Our last prime minister [Jan Peter Balkenende] believed in his heart that weed comes from Satan,” says Mila Jansen, a legendary figure in Amsterdam, who once invented a way to make hash in a washing machine.

Other factors influencing the government crackdown are pressure from outside nations, especially France, which has pushed the International Narcotics Control board to sanction Holland for violating international treaties on drug laws with its permissive pot policy. Ironic, argues Bergman, because the rate of marijuana use is twice as high in France as it is in the Netherlands, and Holland has one of the lowest number of drug-related deaths in Europe.

“Hard drugs are still illegal in Holland, but we also see that there are still many people who want to try drugs on occasion,” said the city’s mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, in a statement provided to Newsweek. “This is a reality we cannot ignore. And this is one of the key principles to our country’s drug policies: Drug use is first and foremost an issue of public health. By not focusing on the criminal aspects of drug use, as is the case in many other countries, we can be more effective when it comes to informing the public, testing drugs and prevention.”

Unfortunately, van der Laan’s federal counterparts don’t agree. They also don’t see that prohibition amounts to little more than, as they say here, “mopping with the tap on.”

Now, activists like Bergman are trying to convince Holland to consider the American model—the legalization and regulation of all components of marijuana cultivation and sale. Citing Oregon’s law, which allows residents to grow as many as four plants, Bergman says: “I’m sort of jealous.”

That’s because America seems to be learning from Holland’s mistakes. Holland’s passive-aggressive policy doesn’t stop illicit activity or drug tourism or make anyone safer, say activists: It actually has the reverse effect. Quasi-legalization leaves too many entry points for criminals to line their own pockets from the drug trade. State by state, the U.S. is legalizing pot with initiatives that clearly spell out who is allowed to manufacture, distribute and consume it. That’s the key to a successful policy, and it’s one Dutch activists are now working to implement in their own country, before things swing too far the other way.


Jul 25, 2008
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When Pot Goes From Illegal To Recreational, Schools Face A Dilemma

Like many schools across Colorado, Arapahoe Ridge High School in Boulder has seen an increase in overall drug incidents since recreational marijuana became legal.

While public schools aren't required to report marijuana incidents separately from other drugs such as cocaine, evidence compiled by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News suggests more students are using marijuana.

"Especially since we use the phrase 'recreational marijuana,' " says Odette Edbrooke, health education coordinator for the Boulder Valley School District. "Recreational implies it's fun, and it's something you do in your spare time."

And as with other Colorado schools, Arapahoe Ridge is grappling with how best to discuss the health consequences of pot use. Edbrooke says the state's changing attitudes about marijuana send students a mixed message.

"When it's legal for your parents to smoke it or grow it, that changes the conversation," Edbrooke says.

This year the Boulder Valley School District is bringing in a neuroscientist to talk to health classes about the impacts of marijuana on brain development.

The Colorado Department of Education has not changed its statewide health curriculum guidelines since voters legalized marijuana. Up to this point, it has used money from marijuana taxes to put out a series of public service announcements on pot's negative effects.

Albert Amaya, 16, says no education campaign, either in school or on TV, could change his opinion. Amaya is a sophomore at Miami Yoder high school, east of Colorado Springs.

"I feel like, in comparison with things like alcohol and cigarettes, marijuana has far fewer long-term side effects," he says. "I saw one of the smoking commercials, and this guy couldn't start a barbecue because he was high. That's taking it to the extreme, I think. I don't think that just because you're high, that you can't function."

Senior Mercedes Wisenbaugh says what she learns in school isn't as effective as what she experiences in her own life.

"I've seen my family members, I see how lazy they get, I see how unmotivated they get," Wisenbaugh says. "I see how they're not tuned in to reality. They're in a different fog than everybody that does not smoke marijuana."

The Colorado Department of Public Health is developing a science-based marijuana education program that takes a more holistic approach, says Mike Van Dyke, section chief for environmental epidemiology and toxicology.

"Marijuana is unique, because ... this is a substance where you have a large community of people that really claim that it has a lot of health benefits," says Van Dyke. "You don't see that with tobacco."

"The messaging that probably I give my son, and that I would like the school to pick up on: I would like them to be given better coping skills," says Carol Gibbs, mother of four.

Gibbs says she's most concerned about the loss of drive among pot users. She wants her 16-year-old son to learn the best ways to deal with the stress of adolescence.

Colorado recently awarded grants, using marijuana tax revenue, to help school districts hire nurses, psychologists, counselors and social workers — addressing some of the concerns of parents like Gibbs.

"When things get tough, I want these kids to have more options than relaxing with a joint, or getting lost in their electronic devices," Gibbs says.


Jul 25, 2008
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(Colorado) Fort Collins schools won't get marijuana money

When Colorado residents legalized the retail sale of marijuana in 2013, some supported the measure because a portion of tax revenue was destined to boost school funding.

However, Poudre School District will not receive a dime of that money. Fort Collins-area parents who see critical needs in the district's 50 schools, including a lack of air conditioning in some schools, are angry.

The constitutional amendment to legalize retail pot sales promised the first $40 million collected from a 15 percent excise tax on unprocessed retail marijuana would be used to help Colorado's 178 public school districts.

The tax goes into the public school capital construction assistance fund and is transferred to the state's Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, competitive grant program. Funding awarded through the program established in 2008 can be used for construction of new schools, renovation of existing public school facilities or addressing critical public health and safety issues.

PSD has no immediate plans to apply for the grants, said budget manager Dave Montoya.

"Typically BEST is funding districts that have highly critical needs and are struggling to fund those needs within the district," he said. "Right now we are not pursuing the BEST program and wouldn't get any direct revenue from pot sales."

In the last calendar year, $11.3 million in excise taxes flowed into the capital construction assistance fund. That money is paired with other revenue sources to fund the BEST program.

Some PSD parents say the district is being short-sighted in not applying for a piece of the pot money.

Samara Geist, the mother of a fifth-grader at non air-conditioned Bauder Elementary School in Fort Collins, said sweltering classroom temperatures in August are a public health and safety issue that could be solved with a little help from the marijuana excise tax.

Of PSD's 50 schools, nine are air conditioned and 20 have been retrofitted with tempered air systems that can cool temperatures by about 10 degrees. These systems improve conditions, several principals have said, but don't have a big impact when temperatures reach the 90s.

Previous estimates are that it would cost between $40 million and $50 million to install air conditioning in all PSD schools. That price tag was deemed too steep at the time. PSD has launched a $200,000 study of the feasibility of installing air conditioning in all its schools, knowing that associated costs have likely gone up since that 2007 estimate.

Teachers are tempted to prop doors open to create more air flow during warm days, Geist said. But in this era of school shootings, classroom doors are supposed to be closed and locked.

"It's a safety issue when I see the doors propped open because it's so hot," Geist said.

The district will push back the start of the school year starting this August to avoid starting class during the hottest part of the summer, but it is not enough, she said.

Geist voted to legalize retail marijuana sales, partially because some of the money would go to schools.

"Why not get that revenue? It makes the kids safer and (pot) is not a hidden taboo thing anymore," she said.

Her son will attend Blevins Middle School, which also lacks air conditioning, next year, "Really, we're doing so well that we're not going to apply for the money? That doesn't make any sense."

Montoya said it is highly unlikely Poudre School District would get a BEST grant, especially if it were for air conditioning.

"It's unlikely we would qualify because we can issue bonds" to renovate and build schools and address critical needs, he said. "We have proven we can do that. We don't have the large health and safety issues that other districts have, and when you start chipping away at that and given how much money is flowing in to BEST, it's unlikely we would get anything."

Heavy competition for BEST dollars

Last year, in the 2014-15 grant cycle, the BEST program received $76 million in requests for $16.5 million in available funds, according to Scott Newell, director of the office of capital construction at the Colorado Department of Education. Of the requests, the program funded 26 projects in 20 districts.

This year, with the pot excise tax trending toward $16 million, Newell said his department will recommend awarding about $50 million in grants.

Typically, the BEST program gets about three times the number of requests than it can grant, he said.

Funding available during the 2014-15 grant period didn't include taxes paid on recreational pot sales because they didn't begin until Jan. 1, 2014. No grants have been awarded yet for 2015.

Applications are due in May and will be reviewed by the BEST board. Recommendations are reviewed and approved by the state board in June, Newell said.

The additional marijuana revenue is timely for the BEST program, which reached a statutory cap last year on grants it could issue through bonds, Newell said, "That left us with just cash (grants) so we did a lot of smaller projects."

Poudre School District has applied for BEST funds in the past, Newell said, "but typically larger school districts like PSD or those along the I-25 corridor look to local bond elections" to fund capital improvements.

PSD received $580,000 in BEST funds in 2010-2011 to help replace fire alarms at multiple facilities, money that was matched through a $16 million mill levy override and $120 million bond issue approved by voters in 2010.

The override and bond issue added about $130 per year to the tax bill on a $275,000 home within the district, officials said. The money was used for technology, to increase safety and security in buildings and to provide for needed upgrades, maintenance and repairs for schools.

Air conditioning might not be considered a public health or safety issue in a school, and as such might not qualify for a BEST grant, Newell said.

"Unless there was an old mechanical system and it was not heating the building and stuff like that," he said. "Those things we fund all the time."

Parent Marci MacCormick said PSD is right to eschew BEST money. Her daughter went to Werner Elementary last year and attends Mountain Sage Community School, a district charter school, this year.

"Isn't PSD one of the most affluent districts in the state?" she asked. "I think it's honorable of them to bow out rather than taking the money out from under districts that really do have pressing public health and safety needs."

Median household income for a Larimer County family of four was $75,800 in 2013, higher than both the state and national averages, according to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Schools like Werner that don't have air conditioning are uncomfortable, MacCormick said, "but for three days?"

A growing business

Excise tax paid on marijuana is trending toward $16 million in 2015 and Newell said that figure will likely increase as more municipalities allow recreational pot shops in their communities.

"It's hard to say how much it will grow ... but right now looking at monthly deposits from the Department of Revenue it is trending toward $16 million," he said.

Recreational marijuana sales became legal on Jan. 1, 2014, but no shops appeared in Fort Collins until mid-June after the city lifted a temporary ban on retail shops in March. Organic Alternatives, 346 E. Mountain Ave., was the first to open its doors in mid-June after getting the necessary city licenses.

Colorado has issued seven licenses for retail marijuana shops in the Fort Collins area, including two in unincorporated Larimer County.

Larimer County commissioners have said they will allow only two licenses for each aspect of recreational marijuana regulated by the state: cultivation, retail sales, infused product manufacturing and testing. With the two recreational licenses already claimed, no other recreational marijuana stores will be allowed in unincorporated Larimer County.

At the end of last year, 28 Colorado counties allowed retail cannabis shops.

Fort Collins won't release tax revenue generated by its retail pot shops because there are still too few stores to mask revenue from each. Larimer County didn't break out its revenue until July when more than four shops were open in the county. From August through December, the county collected about $582,000 in taxes on retail marijuana sales.

Easy come, easy go

Today, the statewide revenue picture from retail and medical marijuana industries remains cloudy.

In the first full year of retail sales, the state collected $44 million in tax revenue, less than the projected $70 million but enough to trigger potential taxpayer refunds under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR. The 1992 state constitutional amendment requires Colorado to repay taxpayers when the state collects more than the limit in a formula based on inflation and population growth.

The estimated refund stands at about $59 million, said Sen. Pat Steadman, a Democrat and member of the Joint Budget Committee.

Steadman plans to introduce a bill in late March or early April, after the next revenue projections are available, that would ask voters to allow the state to retain the tax revenue. If the measure gets by the House and Senate, it could go to voters in November, Steadman said in a telephone interview.

If voters support retention, Steadman said he would ask to transfer $49 million to the BEST program on top of what it has already received.

No matter which way a vote goes, Steadman said money paid into the BEST program would remain in the program. If the money has to be returned to taxpayers, he said, the state's general fund would have to make up for what was in the BEST program.

The $16 million estimate for excise tax collections is "well short of $40 million. That's the number people saw on the ballot and we haven't hit that number," Steadman said. "Here's an opportunity. It would be easy to transfer the money to the BEST program. The additional money would be put to good use."

But even if there's more money in the BEST program, it likely won't filter into PSD.

Coloradoan research assistant Geneva Mueller and Associated Press contributed to this report.

Colorado public school capital construction transfer fund

Money collected from a 15 percent excise tax on unprocessed retail marijuana goes to the Colorado public school capital construction transfer fund to be routed to the Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, competitive grant program. Here's a look at funds the transfer program received in 2014 through retail marijuana sales:

•January: $0

•February: $195,286

•March: $339,531

•April: $609,887

•May: $732,406

•June: $1,135,718

•July: $963,551

•August: $1,399,496

•September: $1,458,036

•October: $1,454,528

•November: $1,711,909

•December: $1,350,061

•Total: $11,350,409

Source: State of Colorado

Retail marijuana cash fund sales tax

Colorado began releasing sales tax figures generated by the sale of retail marijuana in Larimer County in August 2014, when more than three facilities were open in the county. Here's a look at tax revenue generated during the rest of the year from Colorado's 2.9 percent sales tax and a special 10 percent tax on retail marijuana:






















Source: State of Colorado

What readers are saying

The Coloradoan asked readers on Facebook what they thought about PSD not applying for BEST grants. More than 80 responded. Here's what some had to say:

"These kids need AC in schools. Does it really matter where the money comes from? ... PSD needs to get on it for our kids. It's tax money." — Johanna Lengyel

"As long as we're cash positive and we're not choosing to forgo the funding for philosophical reasons, I'm OK with it." — Ken Langwell

"Take the money and get our schools air conditioning. A legal plant gave riches to the community so that we can repair and upgrade." — Jason Weber

"I voted yes for our community schools to receive money from the tax revenue. PSD needs to apply for the program." — June Mia Macon

"Instead of just putting all the money back into the schools, like we were all told, they are making them apply for grants? ... Every public school, straight across the board, in Colorado should get an equal amount. No one should need to apply for this money." — Shannon Elizabeth

A Colorado 'sin tax' that failed to meet expectations

Colorado voters in 2008 approved a state constitutional amendment to allow expanded gaming in Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek, with up to 40 percent of related proceeds going to state and local taxing entities.

While proponents of the measure said expanded gaming would provide Colorado community colleges $30 million or more in added revenue per year, those projections never materialized. Here's a look at what Colorado community, junior and local district colleges received from 2010 to 2013:

•2010: $6,185,713

•2011: $6,954,952

•2012: $6,707,757

•2103: $6,460,388

Front Range Community College received $3,821,455 between 2011 and 2013 to distribute between its four campuses.

Source: State of Colorado

BEST grant award summary by fiscal year




FY 2009-10


FY 2010-11*


FY 2011-12


FY 2012-13


FY 2013-14


*includes PSD

Source: BEST Annual Report submitted to Senate and House education and finance committees and Capital Development Committee in February. The fiscal year noted is the grant cycle for projects approved in the previous fiscal year.


Jul 25, 2008
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Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say

Compared to other recreational drugs -- including alcohol -- marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

Those are the topline findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly-used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.

And all the way at the bottom of the list? Weed -- roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Marijuana is also the only drug studied that posed low mortality risk to its users.

These findings reinforce drug safety rankings developed 10 years ago under a slightly different methodology. So in that respect, the study is more of a reaffirmation of previous findings than anything else. But given the current national and international debates over the legal status of marijuana and the risks associated with its use, the study arrives at a good time.

It's important to note here that "safer than alcohol" doesn't mean "safe, full stop." Indeed, one of the more troubling lines of thought I see in some quarters of the marijuana legalization movement is that because marijuana is "natural," or because it can be used as (non-FDA approved) "medicine," it is therefore "safe."

But of course, rattlesnake venom is natural too, and nobody would call that safe. And prescription painkillers are both medicinal and responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year.

There are any number of risks associated with marijuana use. Most of these risks involve mental health issues, and most increase the earlier you start using and the more frequently you use.

That said, there are risks associated with literally anything you put in your body. Eat too much sugar and you're on the fast track to tooth-rot and diabetes. Take in too much salt and you're looking at increased odds of a stroke. Psychoactive substances, like marijuana and alcohol, aren't at all unique for having risks associated with them.

What is unique is how these substances are treated under the law, and particularly the way in which alcohol and nicotine essentially get a free pass under the Controlled Substances Act, the cornerstone of the nation's drug policy. This study's authors note that legislative classifications of psychoactive drugs often "lack a scientific basis," and their findings are confirmation of this fact.

Given the relative risks associated with marijuana and alcohol, the authors recommend "risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs." And they say that when it comes to marijuana, the low amounts of risk associated with the drug "suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach."

In other words, individuals and organizations up in arms over marijuana legalization could have a greater impact on the health and well-being of this country by shifting their attention to alcohol and cigarettes. It takes extraordinary chutzpah to rail against the dangers of marijuana use by day and then go home to unwind with a glass of far more lethal stuff in the evening.


Jul 25, 2008
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Governments, law enforcement prepare for Alaska's new marijuana law

FAIRBANKS — Marijuana becomes legal in two days, but where it will be allowed to be used remains a bit hazy.

Public consumption of pot remains prohibited, but local leaders continue to debate the definition of public place.

And uncertainty about pending state legislation on marijuana has left the Alaska State Troopers no clear direction about how to enforce it.

In the Interior, most of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and beyond falls under trooper jurisdiction.

Troopers spokesman Tim Despain said the agency has a plan for how marijuana enforcement will work starting Tuesday. But with different marijuana bills still before the Alaska Legislature and an emergency meeting of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board set to begin at 7 a.m. Tuesday in Anchorage, there are too many unknowns to go into specifics about trooper enforcement of the new law, he said.

“All of these things, which have yet to occur, do not allow us to provide a specific answer as to what law enforcement’s response will be on Feb. 24,” Despain said.

Possessing an ounce of marijuana outside of the home by a person 21 or older will be legal under the law approved by voters in November. Consuming marijuana in public remains illegal and is punishable by a $100 fine. The law also allows people older than 21 to have six marijuana plants and to trade pot. Regulations enacting provisions of the new law pertaining to the setting up and licensing of marijuana retail establishments are required to be in place later this year.

The ABC Board is providing information about the new law, including a question and answer section, on its website at http://commerce.state.ak.us.

“Although I cannot speak specifically as to directions being given Alaska State Troopers, I can speak generally as to law enforcement,” ABC Board Executive Director Cynthia Franklin said in an email response to questions.

Franklin said “anyone buying, selling or possessing more than one ounce of marijuana outside of their home on or after Feb. 24 will be subject to current legal penalties.”

The word “public” when it comes to “public place” has become a point of much discussion among Alaska’s state and local leaders.

Public place is defined in Alaska criminal statutes as “a place to which the public or a substantial group of persons has access.” The statute lists about a dozen examples, including schools, parks, highways, bus stops, businesses and apartment building lobbies and hallways.

Franklin said she expects the ABC Board will discuss the definition for public place at its Tuesday morning meeting.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly will take up the definition next week, as will the Fairbanks City Council.

North Pole already has established a new marijuana ordinance, which allows marijuana use on private property, indoors or outdoors, so long as it’s not a nuisance. Nuisance wasn’t defined, but Police Chief Steve Dutra said he knows it when he sees it.

The Fairbanks City Council is taking up a similar ordinance on Monday. The measure by Councilman David Pruhs would permit marijuana use anywhere on private property and does not have a nuisance clause. If approved, the measure would guide the response of the Fairbanks Police Department.

Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins is looking to be more restrictive, prohibiting marijuana use in public view. His ordinance goes before the assembly on Thursday.

Under Hopkins’ measure, marijuana consumption would be prohibited “in any outdoor location where the consumption of marijuana is clearly observable” from a public place. The measure would forbid marijuana use on lakes and rivers in the borough.

The borough has no police powers, though borough employees carry out some code enforcement. An example is animal control.

Hopkins told assembly members at a work session Fairbanks school district officials are “really aware” of the new marijuana laws and that he is trying to help discourage marijuana use among youths.

Karl Kassel, presiding officer of the assembly, said he’s not sure the mayor’s proposal is in the spirit of the new state law, which was characterized to the voters as aiming to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Alcohol consumption is not regulated on private property.

Kassel said he doesn’t like the idea of regulating an act allowed under state law and that would occur on private property.

“Our personal freedoms and what we do on our private property, that isn’t really affecting other individuals,” he said.

Assemblyman Christopher Quist asked if the intent of Hopkins’ ordinance is to protect young people, then why are other substances allowed to be consumed in public view?

“You can smoke a cigarette on your front lawn,” Quist said. “I think in most people’s minds, their lawn, be it the front of the house or the back of the house, is not a public place.”

Assemblywoman Diane Hutchison pointed out some actions that might occur on a person’s front yard are unlawful.

“Can somebody in their private yard right now go around nude if people can see them?” she asked during the work session.

No, said assistant borough attorney Jill Dolan, a former prosecutor; that would be the crime of indecent exposure.

Hopkins’ proposal outlines no penalties or enforcement mechanism. Police and troopers enforce other borough laws such as curfews.

It’s unclear whose marijuana law would prevail with multiple governments making their own rules. That issue may need to be sorted out by the Legislature, Dolan said.

Assemblyman Guy Sattley lamented the different marijuana rules being set up by various governments.

“It would save a lot of headaches if the state and the borough and the city all had the same rules,” he said.


Jul 25, 2008
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From Wall Street to moms, business of marijuana attracting diverse set of entrepreneurs

SYOSETT, Long Island (PIX11)– Rachel Jones, 24, is a stay-at-home mother from Syosset, Long Island who quit her six-figure job and started her own business hoping to ride the marijuana wave.

“I see myself as an entrepreneur,” Jones said.

Her business experiment Juana Box launches in just a few weeks, shipping boxes of smoking accessories– glass pipes, rolling papers, vaping pens– across the nation.

However, the one key ingredient missing is marijuana.

This new mom currently markets tobacco use only to those over 19, but she’s poised to blow her business, partnering with marijuana growers and dispensaries, anticipating recreational pot will soon be sold in New York and across the U.S.

“In a few years this could be a factory and I could be hiring other stay-at-home mothers,” Jones said.

From one woman entrepreneurs to well-funded multi-million dollar businesses, marijuana is no longer just a pipe dream. From growers to CEO’s, this business, estimated to be at $46 billion by 2016, is expected to grow 700 percent over the next five years.

Michael James left a Wall Street career to be the CFO of Terra Tech, which owns this 10 acre organic greenhouse in Belvedere, N.J. and has cannabis licenses, labs and facilities from California to Nevada to Florida and more.

“Most profitable herb you’re selling?” James asks. “Probably basil.”

“Most profitable herb you could be selling?” James said. “Cannabis.”

His business at Terra Tech is currently valued at 60 million dollars is betting the farm on marijuana.

“You look in here across this fragrant field of basil and you see three plants of marijuana,” Jones said. “And that’s a whole greenhouse of green.”

Growing edible herbs, this highly automated hothouse is poised to convert to a pot house in 48 hours if the company can win a grow license in New Jersey. They’re also applying for a license in New York State, where Gov. Cuomo just made medical marijuana legal this past July.

James thinks their big business model a winner over smaller dispensaries that have already failed in the Garden State.

Bethanny Frankel of Real Housewives fame, plans to use her Skinny girl cocktail fame to launch a Skinny Girl marijuana– guaranteed not to give you munchies. Even Wall Street wants in.

“We’ve seen overall industry do 15 to 45 billion dollars,” Jones said. “We’d like to have as big a market share as we can.”

Leslie Bocksor started a hedge fund company dedicated to pot. He expects it will soon cap out and he’ll need to open another and says business opportunities are mind-blowing.