MJ News for 09/19/2014


Jul 25, 2008
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(Illinois) Suburbs squeeze medical pot firms for cash donations

Those who want in on Illinois' fledgling medical marijuana industry are wooing local communities to let them operate within their borders — in some cases promising donations to local organizations or a cut of the profits.

Monday is the deadline for businesses to apply for state licenses, and among the many provisions for potential operators is that they have local approval for a place to grow or sell medical cannabis and can point to "community benefits."

Competition for approved sites has gotten so intense that some municipalities are requiring that businesses pay them a cut of their revenues if they want local support.

In Elk Grove Village, no fewer than nine competing businesses have entered into preliminary agreements with the municipality. Should any win state approval to operate, the businesses each have agreed to donate up to $75,000 to local nonprofit groups and to fork over up to 5 percent of their gross sales to the village.

Elsewhere in the Chicago area, developers are offering special contributions to get local support — inverting the more typical practice of local governments offering incentives to lure businesses to town. One suburb is even creating its own charitable foundation to collect and spend the cash infusion.

In a state with a long, often corrupt tradition of pay-to-play, the arrangements have raised some concern among business owners and watchdogs groups. The payments are not prohibited, as long as they're not enriching elected officials directly, regulators say. But they must be disclosed for consideration when the state reviews business applications and awards licenses.

"I think it's fair," Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said. "No one has balked at it, so obviously they know it's fair, too, because of what we have to offer."

Elk Grove Village purports to have the largest business park in the nation, with close access to highways, rail and O'Hare International Airport, as well as wealthy north and west suburbs.

Because the village straddles two counties and two state police districts, it could become home to two dispensaries and two cultivation warehouses.

And, Johnson said, it has a number of vacant buildings in its industrial district — the kind of out-of-the-way sites that many community members, namely parents, have made clear they prefer.

State regulators will ultimately dole out licenses for up to 21 cultivation centers and 60 dispensaries statewide. Patients who have a qualifying medical condition can be certified to buy marijuana, officials hope, by sometime next spring.

The communities willing to welcome the businesses stand to cash in through various means.

In the city of McHenry, which has endorsed a proposed cultivation center, officials are seeking 1.75 percent of net earnings in the first five years, then up to 3.5 percent in the following years. City officials also have requested that the business donate up to $10,000 a year for the McHenry Riverwalk and historic Petersen Farm.

In return, the city sent a letter of support for the project to the state Department of Agriculture, which will award cultivation center permits based on a scoring system that judges security, business plans and other factors. Applications also get credit for community benefits, which the local donations are meant to satisfy.

In East Dundee, officials have created a foundation to handle any money that might come from a cultivation center and dispensary proposed by Alternative Treatments LLC. Where the money would be channeled isn't yet defined but could include drug abuse prevention and treatment.

The village is proposing that the company make an annual donation of a percentage of sales, though the amount has to be negotiated.

Following a trend in economic development, village officials had considered such a foundation before, but now they have a proposed source of revenue, Village Administrator Robert Skurla said.

"We're not just saying you've got to pay a ransom. The law states you have to have a community investment," Skurla said. "We'll do that for you."

Sam Borek, an attorney for Alternative Treatments, would not be specific but said the company had offered a "very generous contribution" to East Dundee. He said he felt it was a reasonable accommodation and a smart move by municipalities that can get it. Like many medical marijuana entrepreneurs, Alternative Treatments has submitted proposals to several communities in hopes of finding the most profitable locations.

"A good location is part of the price of doing business," he said.

St. Louis residents Glenda White, 52, and daughter Tanisha Patterson, 26, leave after a tour last week of the office space for a proposed medical marijuana dispensary in University Park. (Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune)
Such payments are not uncommon in other states with medical marijuana, where businesses sometimes donate up to 10 percent of sales to their host communities, said Michael Mayes, CEO and president of the Quantum 9 cannabis consulting company in Chicago.

"In Connecticut you see incredibly lofty community benefit plans, because municipalities were (not) accepting of the program itself," Mayes said. "It depends on the municipality and public perception. The best plans I've seen say the money will help build a school or roads. They have a specific community benefit."

While he said Chicago is seen as the "gold mine" of the industry in Illinois, the city has been slow to act publicly.

Dispensaries can set up shop in many business and commercial districts — provided they are granted a special-use permit from the city Zoning Board of Appeals, appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

So far the city has received more than a dozen requests, and the first zoning applications could be heard by the zoning panel next month, officials said.

In south suburban University Park, businesses owners said village officials have requested contributions to community groups, plus 0.5 percent of gross income. Local officials did not respond to requests for confirmation.

Tanisha Patterson, who is part of a medical marijuana investor group called The MedMen of Illinois, said its members are happy to make the contribution.

"Whatever a community is asking, we're definitely in support of that," Patterson said.

Investors are seeking any advantage to get their applications approved, including team members who qualify for minority and veteran ownership status. Patterson and her mother, Glenda White, who are African-American, are both part of The MedMen group, which is seeking multiple sites, including in University Park, for cultivation centers and dispensaries.

Patterson said the group also plans to partner with local schools to offer drug abuse education.

Other local governments are not seeking defined payments but are hoping to gain sales and property taxes and other income while generating jobs. Officials in Batavia, which runs its own electric utility, estimated the city could take in $300,000 annually in electricity bills from a proposed cultivation center, which would use large amounts of power to run grow lights.

"We haven't entered anything you'd call an inducement," City Administrator Bill McGrath said. "We don't have many other legal businesses saying, 'We'll pay you.' But we don't want to make it conditional (on payments). The citizens need to know we're looking at this straight up.

"I don't want to pass judgment on other municipalities," he added. "I don't want to use the term 'pay to play,' but (the concept) weirded me out."

He's not the only one concerned about the appearance of payments. At a public hearing last month in Chicago, Tanya Griffin, a managing member of TGS Illinois, which is proposing marijuana businesses, raised concerns about the issue with state regulators.

Bob Morgan, coordinator of the state medical marijuana program, stressed that the applications would be judged purely on merit, with the names of applicants deleted so judges won't know whom they are evaluating. But he suggested a hands-off approach to legal financial arrangements with local governments.

Abe Scarr, director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group, was not familiar with specifics of the proposals but sounded a general note of caution.

"It would raise some concerns anytime you have a private business giving money to an official or government body in return for what sounds like a political favor," he said. "You would think these things should be done on merit and their value to a community."


Jul 25, 2008
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Washington, D.C., Voters Strongly Support Marijuana Legalization

Washington, D.C., voters appear to be ready to legalize marijuana, according to a new poll that puts support at 65 percent.

The NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll's finding that district voters support legalization by amost a 2-1 margin “is the highest support ever for a marijuana legalization ballot initiative,” Adam Eidinger, chair of D.C. Cannabis Campaign, the group backing the legalization measure, said in a statement. “It vindicates the work of this campaign so far, but we still have more work to do turning out the vote come Election Day.”

On Nov. 4, D.C. voters will decide Initiative 71, which would legalize adult marijuana use, possession of up to two ounces, and home cultivation of up to six marijuana plants for personal use. The sale of marijuana would remain illegal. The D.C. Council is considering a separate bill that would allow the regulation and taxation of marijuana.

The new poll suggests D.C. will join Washington state and Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana. Just days before Washington state voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, Public Policy Polling found 53 percent support for the measure. The day before Colorado voters approved marijuana for recreational use by adults, PPP found 52 percent support.

“Voters are relating to the message that legalization will end D.C.’s rampant discrimination when it comes marijuana enforcement," said Dr. Malik Burnett, D.C. Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement.

According to the Washington Lawyers' Committee, arrest statistics from 2009 to 2011 revealed that nine out of 10 people arrested for drugs in Washington were black, though blacks make up just slightly more than half of the city's population. Yet government surveys show that blacks are no more likely than whites to use the drug.

A marijuana activist criticized The Washington Post for editorializing against legalization.

"At the very moment this Washington Post poll was in the field, the paper's own editorial board was circulating a 'Reefer Madness'-style, error-laden screed urging D.C. voters to reject legalization," Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell told The Huffington Post. A Sunday Post editorial urged D.C. voters to "reject the rush to marijuana."

"It looks like that didn't work," Angell said of the editorial. "No matter how hard prohibitionists try to spread scare stories about legalization, poll after poll confirms that this is a mainstream issue supported by a growing majority of the public."

Kevin Sabet, co-founder of anti-legalization group Project SAM, said he sees the poll numbers differently.

"I think it represents the fact that the 'Yes' side has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars raised outside the District on its messaging," Sabet said. "As voters hear more about why marijuana and marijuana businesses are not good for the District, I expect the gap to narrow."

The ballot measure builds on several recent moves to remove restrictions on marijuana in Washington. The District's first medical marijuana dispensary opened last year. Earlier this year, the D.C. Council decriminalized the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. The District legalized marijuana for medical use in 2010. Twenty-three states also have legalized medical marijuana.

Voters in three states will decide on new marijuana laws in November. Oregon and Alaska voters will cast ballots on the legalization of recreational marijuana, while voters in Florida will decide on a medical marijuana ballot measure.


Jul 25, 2008
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A Crucial Election Season for Legalizing Marijuana and Ending the Drug War

It may be an off-year election, but it's a big one for drug policy reform. In seven weeks, voters across the country will have a chance to accelerate the unprecedented momentum to legalize marijuana and end the wider drug war. In fact, there are more drug policy reform questions on the ballot this November than ever in American history. Voter initiatives -- primarily reforming or repealing marijuana laws -- appear on the ballots in seven states, at least 17 municipalities and one U.S. territory. To help you keep score at home, here's an overview, starting with the highest-profile measures.

Oregon: Passage of Measure 91 will make the Beaver State the third to legalize marijuana for adults outright. Like the historic laws adopted in Colorado and neighboring Washington two short years ago, this initiative would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older and create a statewide system to regulate production and sales. And similar to Colorado's law, Measure 91 would allow adults to cultivate small amounts of marijuana under controlled circumstances. In this entirely vote-by-mail election, the initiative has already been endorsed by the Pacific Northwest's largest daily paper and would likely boost efforts across its southern border to end marijuana prohibition in California two years from now.

Alaska: The other statewide marijuana legalization initiative, Measure 2, is closely modeled on Colorado's Amendment 64 and tracks many of the elements in Oregon's prospective law. Alaska was something of a marijuana reform pioneer as possession and cultivation of small amounts for personal use in a private residence has been protected under the Alaska Constitution since the 1970s. Alongside Oregon in 1998, Alaska was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana. With a deep-rooted respect for personal freedom, Alaska would become the first red state to legalize marijuana for adult use, no doubt raising eyebrows across the political spectrum.

Florida: Amendment 2 is the only statewide medical marijuana initiative on the ballot this year, and it's one to watch. Victory would make Florida, with its huge population and bell weather status in American politics, the very first southern state to adopt a medical marijuana law. With 23 other medical marijuana states and super-majority support nationally, passage of Amendment 2 would effectively settle any lingering questions on public acceptance of marijuana as medicine. It's going to be a challenge, though, since Florida law requires 60% to pass a voter initiative. While polls indicate enormous support, casino mogul Sheldon Adelsoncontributed a few million dollars to stop it as Amendment 2 is associated with Charlie Crist's comeback gubernatorial campaign. Adelson's intervention has created the first well-funded opposition to a statewide marijuana reform campaign ever.

California: On the heels of reforming its harshest-in-the-nation Three Strikes law in 2012, Californians are now poised to refine six low-level, nonviolent offenses, including simple drug possession, from felonies to misdemeanors. Proposition 47 would then dedicate the savings -- likely more than $1 billion a year -- to schools, victim services, and mental health treatment. With retroactive sentencing and expungement provisions, the impact of Prop 47 in California on wasteful corrections spending and individual lives would be profound and surely resonate across the country.

District of Columbia: Earlier this year, the D.C. Council adopted the nation's most far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law. In November, voters in the nation's capital will decide whether to go even further. Initiative 71 makes it legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess and cultivate small amounts of marijuana. While District law prevents the ballot initiative from addressing the sale of marijuana, the D.C. Council is considering a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana within the District. D.C. has the highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the U.S. with enormous racial disparities as police target African Americans for 91 percent of these arrests. Initiative 71 will be the first marijuana reform campaign fought primarily on the issue of the drug war's ongoing toxic impact on black communities.

Other races: Voters in municipal elections from the Northeast to Micronesia will weigh in November 4 on a range of marijuana focused issues.

· Guam: Voters could make this U.S. territory the first to adopt medical marijuana. Thebinding referendum would allow for dispensaries regulated by the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

· Maine: By a wide margin in 2013, Portlanders chose to eliminate criminal penalties for adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. In seven weeks, voters in York, South Portland, and Lewiston will tackle the same question.

· Michigan: In the last two years, residents of seven cities have voted to remove local penalties for adult possession of small amounts of marijuana in a private residence. As of now, a whopping 11 other cities (with apparently more to come) will have the chance to follow suit this year.

. New Mexico: Last month, the City of Santa Fe became the first in the state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. On the ballot in November, voters in Bernalillo (Albuquerque) and Santa Fe Counties will decide if their county should affirm decriminalization efforts.

Public opinion has shifted dramatically over the last decade in favor of reforming marijuana laws and dismantling the egregious excesses of the drug war. And elected officials have begun to take notice. The U.S. House has voted five times in recent months to let states set their own marijuana policies while Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker have introduced similar bi-partisan legislation in the U.S. Senate in addition to a cluster of other long-overdue criminal justice reforms. When the dust settles on November 5, the momentum for change in this country will only have accelerated.


Jul 25, 2008
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Marijuana Money Is Still A Pot Of Trouble For Banks

During a visit to the Dixie Elixirs & Edibles plant in Denver last summer, I saw the machines the company uses to produce cannabis concentrates, the kitchen where it makes marijuana-infused chocolates, and the bottling line for its THC-spiked sodas. Toward the end of the tour, I had a semi-serious question for the company’s CEO, Tripp Keber: “Where do you keep your piles of money?”

Keber laughed but quickly turned serious. “We actually have strong banking relationships,” he said. “We don’t talk about them. Asking someone about their banking is like asking them what they wear to bed at night. It’s an intensely personal question, even within the industry.” You can begin to understand why banking is such a touchy subject for the newly legal cannabusinesses in Colorado and Washington (as well as growers and dispensaries in the 21 states that allow medical but not recreational use of marijuana) if you consider the federal laws a financial institution violates when it does business with a state-licensed company like Keber’s.

“By providing [a] loan and placing the proceeds in [a] checking account, the institution would be conspiring to distribute marijuana,” writes University of Alabama law professor Julie Andersen Hill in a paper she presented at a conference on marijuana and federalism last week. “By facilitating customers’ credit card payments, the institution would be aiding and abetting the distribution of marijuana. And by knowingly accepting deposits consisting of revenue from the sale of marijuana, the institution may be acting as an accessory after the fact.”

That is not the end of the possible charges. “A financial institution that knowingly processes transactions for marijuana-related businesses commits the crime of money laundering,” Hill notes. Failure to meet the detailed monitoring and reporting requirements of the humorously named Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), which requires financial institutions to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, also can be treated as a felony.

Bank employees, officers, and directors can be prosecuted for these crimes, some of which may, depending on the amount of marijuana involved, trigger five- or 10-year mandatory minimum sentences. BSA violations are punishable by up to 10 years in prison when combined with other federal offenses. Money laundering can get you up to 20 years, and life is the maximum for participating in a marijuana conspiracy. In addition to the daunting threat of criminal penalties, financial institutions that deal with cannabusinesses have to worry about offending federal regulators with the power to impose millions of dollars in fines or sentence a bank to death by revoking its deposit insurance.

It is little wonder, then, that financial institutions are wary of cannabusinesses, or that the growers, manufacturers, and retailers who are lucky enough to obtain banking services do not want to talk about how they managed to do that. The lack of banking services, which Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, calls “the most urgent issue facing the legal cannabis industry today,” makes it difficult for marijuana entrepreneurs to raise capital and forces most of them to deal exclusively in cash, which creates administrative, logistical, and security headaches.

A recent tax dispute illustrates the complications. When a business pays federal taxes withheld from employees’ paychecks (along with the employer’s share of payroll taxes), the Internal Revenue Service insists that it be done electronically, which requires a bank account. Otherwise the IRS imposes a 10 percent penalty. In a U.S. Tax Court petition filed last June, Allgreens, a Denver dispensary that pays its taxes in cash, argued that it should not have to pay the penalty because it lacks a bank account due to circumstances beyond its control. The IRS disagreed, suggesting several indirect methods Allgreens could use to make electronic payments. But as Allgreens’ lawyer pointed out, those tricky maneuvers probably qualify as money laundering. In effect, the IRS fined Allgreens for refusing to commit a felony.

The IRS may have no sympathy for Allgreens, but tax collectors should worry about the opportunities for evasion that a cash-only business offers. The marijuana industry’s lack of access to banks is also a problem for regulators and the police. “You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places,” Attorney General Eric Holder explained during an appearance at the University of Virginia in January. “They want to be able to use the banking system. There’s a public safety component to this. Substantial amounts of cash, just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective.”

As Hill explains, however, the solution offered by Holder and other federal officials—guidelines that are more intimidating than reassuring—is woefully inadequate. Hill convincingly argues that cleaning up the marijuana money mess will require congressional action coupled with regulatory restraint.

A few weeks after Holder expressed concern about all that undeposited cannabis cash, the Justice Department released a memo saying that the eight “federal law enforcement priorities” guiding prosecution of marijuana offenses in states with legal cannabusinesses would also guide prosecution of financial crimes. But the promise of prosecutorial restraint seemed to hinge on the ability of banks and credit unions to make sure their customers not only comply with state law but do not implicate any of the eight priorities, which include sales to minors, interstate smuggling, sales of other drugs, “use of firearms,” and “adverse public health consequences.”

Furthermore, the promise was not really a promise at all. “If a financial institution or individual offers services to a marijuana-related business whose activities do not implicate any of the eight priority factors,” wrote Deputy Attorney General James Cole, “prosecution for these offenses may not be appropriate.” Then again, it might be. “Nothing herein,” Cole warned, “precludes investigation or prosecution, even in the absence of any one of the factors listed above, in particular circumstances where investigation and prosecution otherwise serves an important federal interest.” And whatever the policy laid out in the memo, Hill notes, “actual enforcement practices could change anytime—with or without warning.”

The Justice Department memo was accompanied by guidance from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) that was even less reassuring, although it ostensibly aimed to “enhance the availability of financial services for, and the financial transparency of, marijuana-related businesses.” FinCEN explained that the BSA requires banks to file “suspicious activity reports” (SARs) on any marijuana businesses they serve. But it announced a new distinction: SARs on cannabusinesses that comply with state law and do not implicate any of the eight federal enforcement priorities would be labeled “marijuana limited,” while SARs on other cannabusinesses would be labeled “marijuana priority.” If a bank decided to sever relations with a suspicious customer, that would trigger a “marijuana termination” SAR. The implication was that regulators might not get around to the “marijuana limited” cases.

But as with the Justice Department memo, there were no promises. Worse, FinCEN told banks to be on the lookout for “red flags” that might differentiate “marijuana priority” cases from “marijuana limited” cases. FinCEN’s list of warning signs, which it said was not exhaustive, included “international or interstate activity,” an inability to “demonstrate the legitimate source of significant outside investments,” signs that the customer is “using a state-licensed marijuana-related business as a front or pretext to launder money derived from other criminal activity,” and “negative information, such as a criminal record, involvement in the illegal purchase or sale of drugs, violence, or other potential connections to illicit activity.”

Don Childears, president of the Colorado Bankers Association (CBA), summed up the memos’ message this way: “Serve these customers at your own risk.” The CBA complained that the guidance from FinCEN and the Justice Department “reiterates reasons for prosecution and is simply a modified reporting system for banks to use,” a system that “imposes a heavy burden on them to know and control their customers’ activities, and those of their [customers’] customers.”

John Davis, who operates two medical marijuana dispensaries in Seattle, says the memos “were a positive statement” but do not make much of a difference in practice. “The DOJ says, ‘If you do this, you’re violating this law, this law, and this law,’” Davis says. “And FinCEN says, ‘On your filings, you are to admit to those crimes.’ So the banks, very conservative institutions, are looking at this and saying, ‘Nope. This doesn’t give us any assurances. This says that we can be arrested.’”

In a speech last month, Hill notes, FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery claimed “the guidance is having the intended effect.” Calvery reported that FinCEN had received 502 “marijuana limited” SARs from “105 individual financial institutions.” From this Calvery concluded that FinCEN’s guidance “is facilitating access to financial services, while ensuring that this activity is transparent and the funds are going into regulated financial institutions responsible for implementing appropriate safeguards.”

That interpretation seems rather rosy. As Hill points out, “There are more than 502 state-licensed marijuana businesses in Colorado alone,” and “the 105 institutions that have filed ‘Marijuana Priority’ reports are a small drop in the bucket when considering the larger banking industry,” which includes “more than 13,000 banks and credit unions.” Furthermore, FinCEN also had received more than 475 “marijuana termination” reports, which “suggests financial institutions may actually be choosing to end relationships with state-legal marijuana businesses.”

It is easy to see why banks remain wary of marijuana money. Notwithstanding the Justice Department’s memo, Hill notes, “Any bank or credit union providing services could face criminal prosecution at any time.” FinCEN’s guidance, even if it is interpreted as creating a safe harbor, “seems to set the bar for financial institution compliance quite high.” In any case, Hill writes, “the Department of Justice and FinCEN are only two of the many federal authorities with regulatory oversight of financial institutions.” Banks and credit unions also have to worry about how the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the National Credit Union Administration will view their willingness to serve state-legal businesses that routinely commit federal felonies.

An obvious solution is to make those businesses legal by carving out an exception to the federal ban on marijuana, as the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, introduced last year by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), would do. The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act, introduced last year by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), takes a narrower approach, shielding banks that serve state-legal marijuana businesses from criminal prosecution, regulatory penalties, and loss of deposit insurance.

Even if Congress approves such legislation, Hill warns, regulators might still discourage banks from serving cannabusinesses by imposing unreasonable “due diligence” standards aimed at detecting activities, such as selling marijuana to minors or supplying the interstate market, that remain illegal. “If the compliance bar is so high that any customer misstep can result in federal criminal or civil liability for the financial institution, then marijuana banking will not occur,” Hill writes. “If Congress opens the door for marijuana banking, federal financial regulators should ensure their efforts do not practically prevent banks from servicing the marijuana industry.”

In the meantime, state-licensed marijuana merchants can try to access banking services by disguising the nature of their business. But as Hill points out, such subterfuge can be prosecuted as money laundering. Then again, what’s one more felony?


Jul 25, 2008
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Stoners on the job: Nearly 10% of Americans went to work high

Showing up to work high? You're not alone.

A new report has found nearly 1 in 10 Americans are showing up to work high on marijuana. Mashable.com conducted the survey in partnership with SurveyMonkey, and found 9.7 percent of Americans fessed up to smoking cannabis before showing up to the office.

The data analyzed the marijuana and prescription drug habits of 534 Americans. What's more, nearly 81 percent said they scored their cannabis illegally, according to the survey.

Cannabis and the workplace seem quite linked lately. Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel recently chimed in on marijuana and work. While criticizing Twitter during an appearance on CNBC Wednesday, Thiel said Twitter is a "… horribly mismanaged company—probably a lot of pot smoking going on there."

Blurred lines for employers

According to separate data from Employers, a small-business insurance company, 10 percent of small businesses reported that employees showed up in 2013 under the influence of at least one controlled substance, with marijuana coming in at 5.1 percent.

Marijuana sales overall are taking off as recreational use of cannabis is legal in Colorado and Washington state, and pot can be purchased for medicinal use in 23 states and Washington, D.C.

So what's an employer to do?

Companies have different strategies and opinions on testing. But the vast majority of U.S. employers aren't required to test for drugs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, many state and local governments have statutes that "limit or prohibit workplace testing, unless required by state or Federal regulations for certain jobs."

Private employers, for the most part, can test for a wide variety of substances, according to the Labor Department.

Smaller businesses, meanwhile, with limited resources to test employees are in the early stages of figuring out next steps. Even in places like Colorado where recreational cannabis use is legal, employers are trying to strike a balance between respecting the law and establishing clear workplace rules.

Christopher Myers, co-founder of BodeTree, a 15-employee start-up based in Denver, says he has yet to create a policy strictly for marijuana use in the workplace.

As an online service that helps small businesses manage and understand their finances, BodeTree has to comply with financial institutions' policies for protecting client data. Myers said there's a zero tolerance policy when it comes to substance use on the job.

"It's an interesting balance, because we need a policy that is compliant with federal and state law," he said. "And we are respectful of those laws. But we don't want someone showing up to work drunk, on Vicodin or high on marijuana."

For now, Myers isn't performing spot testing for marijuana consumption on employees.

"The testing technology in Denver will detect if you have been using marijuana in the past 30 days," he said. "From a policy point of view, no one knows how to handle it."

More drug testing?

Curtis Graves, staff attorney at Mountain States Employers Council in Colorado, says there has been somewhat of a spike in employer drug testing since pot was legalized in 2013, but this is a nationwide trend.

"In Colorado, there was interest in having new drug policies, and adding language to existing policies so that workers know regardless of legalization, they can't use on or off duty at work," Graves said.

If workers test positive in Colorado, while on duty at work, they can be terminated for cause, Graves said.

For now, Myers of BodeTree says he hasn't had any issues with on-site marijuana usage, and hasn't decided yet if he will be changing his policy.

"We are keenly observing the landscape right now—it will be an interesting couple of years across the country, if you look state-by-state, the momentum is toward legalization right now. It's inevitable, so just like with any human resources issue or company policy, it's never cut and dry," Myers says. "It will take employers time to figure out the right path."


Jul 25, 2008
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Marijuana money boosts Washington’s budget

OLYMPIA – Washington tax coffers could get a $25 million boost by next July and nearly $200 million by mid-2017 from legal marijuana, state economists estimate. But much of that money is spoken for and won’t help the general fund.

The estimates for taxes and fees the state can expect from recreational marijuana, the first such available, are contained in overall economic and revenue forecasts released Thursday afternoon. In general, the state’s budget outlook is changed slightly for the better from the June forecast, economist Steve Lerch said.

The marijuana money won’t be much help to the state’s general fund budget, which pays for most salaries and programs outside of roads and construction. More than half the taxes and fees collected from pot are required to go to specific programs spelled out in Initiative 502, the ballot measure that made recreational use of the drug legal for adults.

The state Liquor Control Board, which regulates legal marijuana sales, said some $14 million worth of marijuana had been sold between July 8, when the first stores opened, and last Monday, the last day for which sales are available. Lerch said the state expects sales to increase as more stores open, but “whether those (projection) numbers are high or low, we don’t have any way to know.”

David Schumacher, the director of the Office of Financial Management, said marijuana revenue isn’t the path out of any budget problems.

“In the face of a budget problem approaching $2 billion or $3 billion, it’s not very much money.”

The state’s overall economic trends are for slow, modest growth in jobs, personal income and construction, leading to slow increases in some tax sources. Washington should finish its two-year budget cycle June 30 having collected about $33.3 billion in revenue for general fund expenses and have about $36 billion for those items in 2015-17.

The Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee may spend much of next year’s budget session debating whether that extra $2.7 billion is enough to preclude tax increases as the state faces court mandates on issues such as public schools and mental health care. A brief preview of that debate surfaced at the Forecast Council meeting, as Sen. Andy Hill, Republican chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said he didn’t think the Legislature should raise taxes to meet a court mandate to improve schools by 2018.

“We prioritize education and we see what we do about the rest,” said Hill, of Redmond. “Basic education is the first responsibility, and that’s where we’ll be starting first.”

Schumacher said most of the $2.7 billion will be eaten up by the increased costs of salaries and existing programs, with little left over for new education programs. Those “will likely require more revenue,” he said.

Other legislators jumped in by email, with Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, the Senate Republican leader, writing he hoped the extra money meant “House and Senate Democrats will join the Senate majority and prioritize education first while protecting Washington’s hard-working taxpayers.”

Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, countered that all extra expected tax revenue has been factored into budgets for the next four years. And that’s before considering increases for court orders to improve schools, foster care systems and mental health facilities, or for colleges “and the crazy fire year we had.”


Jul 25, 2008
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Medicinal cannabis: Tasmania not able to go it alone in trialling treatment, inquiry told

Tasmania alone could not conduct a meaningful medicinal cannabis trial, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.

On its second day of hearings, the state's parliamentary inquiry into medicinal cannabis heard from Royal Hobart Hospital oncologist Ray Lowenthal.

Dr Lowenthal said the costs of trialling any drug could run into hundreds of millions of dollars and that such undertakings typically required the participation of hundreds of patients.

With health and safety in mind, Dr Lowenthal said he could not see why cannabis should be treated differently to any other new drug.

"If you're going to test it, it has to be done thoroughly and according to recognised complex scientific methodology," he said.

"There's no way in the world that, in my opinion, you could do a thorough, meaningful trial of a drug such as cannabis in Tasmania alone."

He suggested Tasmania could take part in a broader trial, for example cooperating with New South Wales if that state proceeds with a trial.

Nurses flag legal difficulties

Earlier, nurses told the inquiry they welcomed a rigorous trial while poppy farmers argued the economic potential of the crop was highly exaggerated.

On Thursday, the inquiry heard testimony from Nicole Cowles, who said respite carers could not give medicinal cannabis to her daughter to control her seizures because the drug was illegal.

The Nursing Federation's Neroli Ellis described the difficulty health workers find themselves in.

Nurses could be charged or deregistered if they administer medicinal cannabis to patients.

"Even though, as patient advocates, we know it's in their best interests [to have the drug] and that's the hardest thing to be torn between," she said.

Poppy growers backed the State Government's cautious approach.

The Poppy Growers Association's Glynn Williams told the committee the market for medicinal cannabis in Tasmania was too small and it would never be a broadacre crop.

"There has been the absolutely false impression given to the public that this is going to be a boon crop for Tasmanian farmers because nothing could be further from the truth," he said.

Poppy growers want a careful assessment of any potential cannabis growing.

"If there was a botched open-ended trial, then that could attract rebuke," Mr Williams said.

Other farmers were worried about the impact on the push in Tasmania to grow industrial hemp.

Earlier, a southern Tasmanian hydroponics business said growing medicinal cannabis would be as simple as producing tomatoes and capsicums hydroponically.

Drug council backs medicinal trial

Tasmania's Alcohol, Tobacco and Drugs Council backed growing trials but said its support should not be interpreted as a green light to growing "pot" at home.

CEO Jann Smith stressed that if Tasmania proceeded with a trial, the public needed to be made aware of "the role of medicinal cannabis, the difference between medical and recreational use of cannabis and the potential harm from abuse of cannabis."

Ms Smith said the issue at stake was to provide an appropriate medical treatment for acute sufferers who had few, if any, alternatives.

She told the inquiry it was important to "go down the path of introducing a medical cannabis trial".

In a climate where discussions about drugs were often based on personal beliefs and moral arguments, she hoped Tasmanians would seize the initiative.

"We are hopeful that the Tasmanian Government and our community will have the courage to actually demonstrate leadership in health and drug related policy in this area," she said.

"We think it does take courage and leadership."

The inquiry resumes on Monday.


Jul 25, 2008
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Hundreds of people expected at Washington’s first cannabis job fair

SEATTLE — Two to three hundred people have registered to attend Friday’s cannabis summit, which includes a job fair for people interested in the cannabis industry.

Stan Wagner, the CEO of Cannabusiness Accelerator, is organizing the day-long event at the Silver Cloud Hotel in Capitol Hill, starting with a panel of experts to talk about best practices in the business.

After the career fair, the day will end with a networking mixer, open to the public, which begins at 4:20 p.m.

Seven companies will be featured at the job fair, including two general contractors, a software company, a security company and a managing consultant firm.

“You’d be surprised. It’s not just about dispensaries and growth facilities. It’s actually about security; it’s about managers; it’s about marketing opportunities; it’s about social media,” Wagner said.

Some of these jobs don’t involve touching marijuana at all. The general contractors, for example, have drug-free workplace policies. But they are designing and building facilities for grow operations.

The founder and CEO of CannaGuard, Noah Stokes, said he’s hiring project managers and people who can grow his business of surveillance cameras and alarm systems. The security is tailored to what’s legally required for dispensaries and grow operations in the state of Washington.

"The liquor control board’s standpoint is, we want to see all four corners of everywhere, in a room that there is marijuana present. So we do one camera, as opposed to three, four or five,” Stokes said.

His fish-eye camera and another 20-megapixel camera can cover far more area than cameras in typical surveillance systems.

Still, the Washington retail pot business has gotten off to a slow start. Only one retail pot shop, Cannabis City, is currently open in Seattle.

The “mayor” of Cannabis City, James Lathrop, said while not many retail stores are open, there will at least be a need for seasonal workers as a large crop becomes available in October.

“If we’re looking at these farmers coming online in October, I do think there’s an opportunity where they’re going to need trimmers, they’re going to need packagers,” Lathrop said.

Although Lathrop does not need to hire from the job fair, he said the conference is a good idea.

One attendee, Ashley Kingsley, is a marketing executive who flew to Seattle for this conference from Denver.

Kingsley said she’s here to learn about the pot industry in Washington, and meet potential clients.

In seeing the slow start of the retail business in Washington, Kingsley said, “I think people need to see that it is moving. When it goes, as it did in Denver, it’s going to go fast.”


Well-Known Member
Aug 25, 2014
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Thanks for all the research! Love reading that the people are coming around and the government is starting to listen.

On your first article, I had to chuckle a bit. Anyone growing within an hour's drive of any major city had better be growing in a bank vault.
Can you imagine the average life expectancy of a pot shop employee in Chicago?

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