Obama Nudges The Ball Forward on Marijuana

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In an interview with the New Yorker released on Sunday, President Obama made perhaps the strongest endorsement by any sitting president on relaxed marijuana laws. Pushed by interviewer David Remnick, Obama acknowledged that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol in its effect on consumers. He also noted the obvious racial and economic disparities in enforcement of marijuana laws. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said. “And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.”

A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year’s day in Northglenn, Colorado, in this December 31, 2013 file photo. The District of Columbia will take a step closer toward decriminalizing marijuana on January 15, 2014 with a move that will make smoking a joint in the U.S. capital a violation comparable to a parking ticket.

In fact, the president backhandedly came close to endorsing outright legalization of the drug for recreational purposes, by offering a modified endorsement of new laws in Colorado and Washington that do exactly that:

Accordingly, he said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”

Obama circled back around and noted the new laws in both states could be “a challenge” because of the potential for legalization of other, harder types of drugs. He also noted he has advised his daughters not to smoke marijuana. So it wasn’t an outright endorsement.

But the moment was still significant in several ways. In context of the United States’ long-running and highly problematic war on drugs, it is quite notable to have a president come out and say that marijuana isn’t nearly as harmful as it is often made out to be and to back serious changes in the legal regime governing the drug.

Obama is correct about the racial disparities at work here: The American Civil Liberties Union issued a report last year finding that African Americans are four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana, despite similar rates of use.

The White House’s record is somewhat checkered on this issue. On the one hand, early in Obama’s time in office, his administration stepped up federal crackdowns on marijuana producers sanctioned by state law, a move that was highly criticized by reformers. However, Attorney General Eric Holder recently took steps to relax federal prosecution of marijuana offenses and said the Justice Department won’t challenge new state laws on marijuana. Obama’s comments may reflect a real evolution in his approach to drug policy, and one that may have long-lasting effects.

But there is, of course, also a political angle here. Whether he meant to or not, Obama was positioning himself and his party on the correct side of an issue that many Democrats feel could reap serious political rewards in the coming months and years.

For example, in Florida, strategists on both sides of the gubernatorial race there believe a statewide referendum to legalize some marijuana use could tilt the contest to Democrats. Republicans have filed a legal challenge to keep it off the ballot, because they openly admit it may bring young people and minorities — traditional Democratic voters — to the polls in unusually high numbers. “It’s an issue that the Democrats can use to pump up the youth vote,” Alex Patton, a Republican political consultant told Bloomberg Businessweek. “The politics of it are dangerous for the GOP.”

And Florida isn’t the only place marijuana will be on the ballot this year. At least four other states will put the issue before voters, and people outside those areas are no doubt following the evolving debate closely.

Polls have shown recent spikes in support for legalized marijuana. Gallup found 58 percent of Americans favor legalization, and other surveys show majorities also share Obama’s view that the drug is not physically or mentally harmful. I have no idea if Obama’s remarks were a calculated move, but his party’s prospects this fall seem likely to improve as a result.

Source: Washington Post (DC)
Author: George Zornick
Published: January 20, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Washington Post Company
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

Marijuana Case Filings Plummet in Colorado

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Charges for all manner of marijuana crimes plummeted in the months after Colorado voters legalized limited possession of cannabis for people over 21.

According to a Denver Post analysis of data provided by the Colorado Judicial Branch, the number of cases filed in state court alleging at least one marijuana offense plunged 77 percent between 2012 and 2013. The decline is most notable for charges of petty marijuana possession, which dropped from an average of 714 per month during the first nine months of 2012 to 133 per month during the same period in 2013 — a decline of 81 percent.

That may have been expected — after all, people over 21 can now legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana. But The Post’s analysis shows state prosecutors also pursued far fewer cases for marijuana crimes that remain illegal in Colorado.

For instance, charges for possessing more than 12 ounces of marijuana dropped by 73 percent, and cases alleging possession with intent to distribute fewer than 5 pounds of marijuana dipped by 70 percent. Even charges for public consumption of marijuana fell statewide, by 17 percent, although Denver police have increased their number of citations issued for public consumption.

While marijuana prosecutions against people over 21 declined, so did prosecutions against people under 21, for whom all marijuana possession remains illegal except for medical marijuana patients.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said he thinks the drop in cases may be due to police not wanting to parse the complexities of the state’s marijuana law.

“I think they’ve kind of thrown their arms up in the air,” he said.


Complete Article: http://drugsense.org/url/PJao1kLb

Source: Denver Post (CO)
Author: John Ingold, The Denver Post
Published: January 12, 2014
Copyright: 2014 The Denver Post
Website: http://www.denverpost.com/

Banks Say No To Marijuana Money, Legal or Not

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In his second-floor office above a hair salon in north Seattle, Ryan Kunkel is seated on a couch placing $1,000 bricks of cash — dozens of them — in a rumpled brown paper bag. When he finishes, he stashes the money in the trunk of his BMW and sets off on an adrenalized drive downtown, darting through traffic and nervously checking to see if anyone is following him.

Despite the air of criminality, there is nothing illicit in what Mr. Kunkel is doing. He co-owns five legal medical marijuana dispensaries, and on this day he is heading to the Washington State Department of Revenue to commit the ultimate in law-abiding acts: paying taxes. After about 25 minutes at the agency, Mr. Kunkel emerges with a receipt for $51,321.

“Carrying such large amounts of cash is a terrible risk that freaks me out a bit because there is the fear in my mind that the next car pulling up beside me could be the crew that hijacks us,” he said. “So, we have to play this never-ending shell game of different cars, different routes, different dates and different times.”

Legal marijuana merchants like Mr. Kunkel — mainly medical marijuana dispensaries but also, starting this year, shops that sell recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington — are grappling with a pressing predicament: Their businesses are conducted almost entirely in cash because it is exceedingly difficult for them to open and maintain bank accounts, and thus accept credit cards.

The problem underscores the patchwork nature of federal and state laws that have evolved fitfully as states have legalized some form of marijuana commerce. Though 20 states and the District of Columbia allow either medical or recreational marijuana use — with more likely to follow suit — the drug remains illegal under federal law. The Controlled Substances Act, enacted in 1970 classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the most dangerous category, which also includes heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

As a result, banks, including state-chartered ones, are reluctant to provide traditional services to marijuana businesses. They fear that federal regulators and law enforcement authorities might punish them, with measures like large fines, for violating prohibitions on money-laundering, among other federal laws and regulations.

“Banking is the most urgent issue facing the legal cannabis industry today,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association in Washington, D.C. Saying legal marijuana sales in the United States could reach $3 billion this year, Mr. Smith added: “So much money floating around outside the banking system is not safe, and it is not in anyone’s interest. Federal law needs to be harmonized with state laws.”

The limitations have created unique burdens for legal marijuana business owners. They pay employees with envelopes of cash. They haul Chipotle and Nordstrom bags containing thousands of dollars in $10 and $20 bills to supermarkets to buy money orders. When they are able to open bank accounts — often under false pretenses — many have taken to storing money in Tupperware containers filled with air fresheners to mask the smell of marijuana.

The all-cash nature of the business has also created huge security concerns for business owners. Many have installed panic buttons for workers in the event of a robbery and have set up a constellation of security cameras at their facilities beyond what is required, as well as floor sensors to detect break-ins. In Colorado, Blue Line Protection Group was formed a few months ago, specializing in protecting dispensaries and facilities that grow marijuana, and in providing transportation security. The firm largely uses military veterans who have Special Operations experience.

Marijuana business owners have devised strategies to avoid the suspicions of bankers. A number of legal operations have opened accounts by establishing holding companies with names that obscure the nature of their business. Some owners simply use personal bank accounts. Others have relied on local bank managers willing to take chances and bring them on as clients, or even offer tips on how to choose nondescript company names.

But the financial institutions eventually shut down many of these accounts after managers conclude the businesses are too much of a risk. It is not unusual for a legitimate marijuana business to go through a half-dozen bank accounts in a few years. While they are active, however, these accounts may have informal restrictions placed on them — some self-imposed — so they do not draw the scrutiny of bankers who may file suspicious-activity reports or would be required to report deposits over $10,000 in cash. The account holders may make only small deposits, and only at night and at certain branches. Mr. Kunkel of Seattle has such an account.

At the largest credit union in Washington State, BECU, about 20 accounts have been shut down in the last three years after it was discovered they were for businesses in the legal marijuana trade, Todd Pietzsch, a spokesman for the credit union, said.

Kristi Kelly, 36, who owns two dispensaries and several marijuana growing operations in the Denver area, said six bank accounts of hers had been canceled in the last 18 months. “Opening the account is not necessarily the problem,” she said. “Our cash deposit levels flag a bank’s compliance division.”

Ms. Kelly, who had just paid $10,000 in cash to the City of Denver for licensing and application fees to expand her business, said that several times a week she carried around tens of thousands of dollars in a bag. “I never felt as illegitimate as the day I had to buy a cash counter,” she said, adding that she spends three hours or so a day just managing the cash from her business’s multiple locations.

A.T.M.s are common in marijuana outlets, but the business owners often have to use their own cash in the machines in case law enforcement authorities conduct a raid and seize the money.

Those marijuana operations that do have bank accounts or use the personal ones of their owners can use a cashless A.T.M. service in which a debit card is swiped at a dispensary and the money is transferred into the recipient’s account.

“It is operating over the A.T.M. network and not the credit card network,” said Lance Ott, whose company, Guardian Data Systems, provides this service. “The A.T.M. networks are not as regulated. This is the loophole.”

Since legal marijuana operations, for the most part, cannot get bank loans, these small businesses have to rely on short-term loans from individuals, usually with higher interest rates.

To help, High Times magazine is starting a private equity fund to invest in marijuana businesses. But many investors may feel uneasy about marijuana businesses that do not have bank accounts. And without bank references, entrepreneurs say, it is much tougher to get lines of credit from vendors.

Leaders in the marijuana trade point out that giving accounts to businesses would allow for more transparency and meticulous regulation and would help ensure that jurisdictions receive the taxes they are entitled to.

Marijuana entrepreneurs and banks both would like clear guidelines from the government on how financial institutions can serve the industry. On Friday, six members of Colorado’s congressional delegation sent a letter to the Treasury and the Justice Department requesting that they “expedite” that guidance.

In August, the Justice Department issued a memo indicating that it would not crack down on legal marijuana as long as eight regulatory requirements were met, like preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises and preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors. The memo did not address banking.

The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network hopes to circulate recommendations by the end of this month to officials at the Treasury and the Justice Department for their opinions, an official briefed on the situation said. There is no timetable for formal guidelines.

Richard Riese, senior vice president for regulatory compliance at the American Bankers Association, said banks wanted clear and comprehensive guidelines on how to do business with the legal marijuana industry.

Mr. Riese said, for instance, that banks would want to know that they were not “aiding and abetting” a criminal enterprise if they provided services to marijuana businesses. “Banks will need a lot of detail from regulators to get the satisfaction and comfort they are looking for,” he said.

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

Source: New York Times (NY)
Author: Serge F. Kovaleskijan
Published: January 11, 2014
Copyright: 2014 The New York Times Company
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/

Marijuana Sales Exceed $5 Million In First Week

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Colorado marijuana dispensaries made huge sales in the first week of legal recreational marijuana. Owners of the 37 new dispensaries around the state reported first week retail sales to The Huffington Post that, when added together, were roughly $5 million. That’s a lot of green for Colorado’s legal weed.

Colorado, the first state to allow retail recreational marijuana sales to adults age 21 and older, has projected nearly $600 million in combined wholesale and retail marijuana sales annually. The state, which expects to collect nearly $70 million in tax revenue from pot sales this year, won’t have its first official glimpse at sales figures until Feb. 20, when businesses are required to file January tax reports, according to Julie Postlethwait of the state Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Denver’s 9News was first to report statewide retail sales on New Year’s Day, the first day legal pot shops were allowed to operate, exceeded $1 million. Interest dropped in the days that followed, according to shop owners, but many reported customers still waiting in lines out the door.

“Every day that we’ve been in business since Jan. 1 has been better than my best day of business ever,” Andy Williams, owner of Denver’s Medicine Man dispensary, told The Huffington Post.

Owners of larger shops told HuffPost they sold from 50 pounds to 60 pounds of marijuana in the first week. Smaller shops sold 20 pounds to 30 pounds, proprietors said.

Under state law, Colorado residents may legally buy up to one ounce of marijuana in a transaction. Tourists can purchase up to one-fourth ounce.

But the initial rush to buy legal weed was so great that many shops imposed caps on the amount each customer could buy, or raised prices to curb demand and stave off a possible shortage. So far, none of the retailers reported supply problems.

Prices also were boosted by the state’s 25 percent tax on retail purchases, including a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax. Voters approved the levy in November. Local taxes can add more to what customers pay.

Shop owners said their sales were biggest the first day. Each day since, sales have been roughly half the New Year’s Day volume, the business owners said.

One-eighth of an ounce of marijuana was selling for an average of $65 around the first of the year, according to Marijuana.com.

Despite the surging sales, Joaquin Ortega, co-owner of Denver Kush Club dispensary, was quick to note to HuffPost that federal laws against marijuana sales and possession present obstacles to Colorado’s legal retailers. The Justice Department has said it won’t challenge legalization laws in Washington state and Colorado as long as the states prevent out-of-state distribution, sales to minors and drugged driving, among other conditions.

Still, the federal prohibition means banks won’t accept marijuana businesses for traditional bank accounts, and retailers said they can’t take advantage of traditional business tax writeoffs. 

“People think we all became millionaires,” Ortega said. “But as a business owner, I can’t write anything off for the last three years.”

Banks have said they fear they could be implicated as money launderers if they offer traditional banking services to the pot businesses.

Marijuana businesses often cannot accept credit cards, leaving them to conduct transactions in cash. They say that’s a burden for taxes and payroll, and a safety risk.

Monday night, Denver City Council urged banking regulators to grant Colorado marijuana businesses access to the federal banking system, so they can use the same banking services as other businesses.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) is seeking reformed access to banking for marijuana businesses with his Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act (H.R. 2652), which would create protections for banks that offer services to state-sanctioned marijuana-related businesses.

“The banking legislation sponsored by Congressman Ed Perlmutter is a common sense approach to bring financial legitimacy to the legal marijuana industry,” Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks told HuffPost. “It’s ludicrous and unsustainable to force large neighborhood businesses to operate entirely with cash. Congress needs to act, and act now.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the Department of Justice is also drafting legal guidance on how banks can work with marijuana businesses in states like Colorado and Washington, which both legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over.

Dispensaries in Washington state are expected to open later in 2014.

Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Matt Ferner
Published: January 8, 2014
Copyright: 2014 HuffingtonPost.com, LLC
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Marijuana Should Be Legal, 55 Percent Say

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In a dramatic switch from recent decades, a clear majority of Americans say smoking marijuana on a recreational basis should be legal. In fact, a new CNN-ORC International poll indicates that the moral stigma attached with smoking the drug has plummeted, too, and now fewer find fault with the activity in terms of seeing it as a sign of subpar values.

Specifically: Fully 55 percent of survey respondents said marijuana should be legal. Only 44 percent said it should remain illegal.

CNN said Americans have been slowly but steadily embracing the idea of legalized marijuana for the last 25 years. In 1987, about 16 percent supported legalizing the drug. In 1996, that statistic was 26 percent; in 2002, it was 34 percent, and just a couple years ago, it was 43 percent.

But this is the first time a clear majority found sense in legalizing the drug.

Still, there are several key demographic differences, CNN said.

“There are big differences on age, region, party ID and gender, with senior citizens, Republicans and Southerners the only major demographic groups who still oppose the legal use of pot,” said CNN polling director Keating Holland.

For example: Two-thirds of those between the ages of 18 and 34 said pot should be legal. Only 64 percent between the ages of 34 and 49 felt similarly, CNN reported.

The findings show a major shift in American culture since the days of President Nixon, who declared drugs “public enemy Number One,” and 65 percent in the country agreed that marijuana use was a serious problem.

“Attitudes toward the effects of marijuana and whether it is morally wrong to smoke pot have changed dramatically over time,” Mr. Holland said. “That also means that marijuana use is just not all that important to Americans any longer.”

Source: Washington Times (DC)
Author: Cheryl K. Chumley, The Washington Times
Published: January 7, 2014
Copyright: 2014 The Washington Times, LLC
Website: http://www.washtimes.com/
Contact: [email protected]

Feds Call Out CO in Releasing Study on Teen MJ Use

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Federal drug abuse officials called out Colorado by name Wednesday in releasing a new national survey of illicit drug use among teenagers, saying marijuana legalization efforts are clearly changing youth attitudes in a dangerous way.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy noted many teens report getting their marijuana from others with medical marijuana access. Past-month pot use by high schoolers jumped over five years, and perceived risk by teens is plummeting, said the annual report of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Colorado, Washington and other states heading toward legalization are conducting a “large social experiment (that) portends a very difficult time” for drug-abuse control, said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Legalization advocates, meanwhile, cited other statistics in the report showing the recent national trend in high school use of pot is flat.

The most recent three years of the survey show little change in self-reported use in the annual tally.

In 12th-graders, for example, use in the past month was 22.7 percent of respondents, little changed from 22.9 percent in 2012 or 22.6 percent in 2011. A similar flat trend held among 10th- and eighth-graders in those years.

The federal officials cited changes from 2008 to 2013 to make their point: Past-month use by 12th-graders nationally rose from 19.4 percent to 22.7 percent; among 10th-graders, use went from 13.8 percent to 18 percent.


Complete Article: http://drugsense.org/url/S6C3cpEd

Source: Denver Post (CO)
Author: Michael Booth, The Denver Post
Published: December 18, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Denver Post
Website: http://www.denverpost.com/
Contact: [email protected]

Drive-Thru Windows Allowed for Naperville Clinics

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Medical marijuana dispensaries looking to open in Naperville will be allowed to do so in some retail areas and can have drive-thru windows. The Naperville City Council approved regulations for the dispensaries and cultivation centers before the drug officially becomes legal for medical purposes Jan. 1.

Cities are not allowed to prohibit such facilities entirely, but they can impose more stringent zoning regulations than the state, which has rules about their proximity to homes and schools.

Naperville council members agreed to limit cultivation facilities to industrial areas and require owners to go through a hearing process.

Dispensing facilities will be able to open in industrial areas without a hearing. They also will be allowed in some retail areas outside downtown, but a hearing will be needed. The city also has added a provision keeping such facilities at least 250 feet from residential areas.

The council debated whether to limit the amount of retail sales a dispensary could have.

“These facilities, what they sell other than medical marijuana oftentimes are health-related, natural, organic types of products … and I just don’t know that … we want to be in the business of restricting it,” Councilman Steve Chirico said.

Others said they feared drawing people who weren’t using marijuana legally. However, after a city attorney said the state law only allows the marijuana and accessories for using it to be sold to qualifying patients and their caregivers, councilmen agreed to drop the retail sales restriction.

Some council members also previously expressed concerns about allowing drive-thru facilities at dispensaries, but ultimately they decided to allow them.

“There’s people that will have certain issues that will make it difficult for them to get out and walk in,” Councilman Paul Hinterlong said.

The City Council voted 8-0 on the new rules. Councilman Joe McElroy was absent.

Just how many medical marijuana facilities will attempt to open in Naperville remains to be seen. State law allows no more than 22 cultivation centers and 60 dispensing centers statewide.

Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Author: Melissa Jenco, Chicago Tribune Reporter
Published: December 20, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC
Website: http://www.chicagotribune.com/

Colorado’s Crazy Marijuana Tax

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Taxing what you can’t measure is nonsense. But Colorado voters were poised Tuesday to do just that, by taxing wholesale marijuana sales at 15 percent — when no wholesaler exists. That’s right: Most Colorado adult-use marijuana sales must go directly from producer to consumer with no wholesaling allowed, and no wholesale price as a measure for the wholesale tax! That’s because Colorado law, at least at first, requires vertical integration of marijuana businesses.

Vertical integration? Here’s an example: A wine company owns land, vines and a winery, and sells to consumers only at its own outlet store. Substitute “marijuana grow area” for land and vines, “marijuana production facility” for winery and “marijuana retailer” for outlet store, and you understand the Colorado model. Colorado law will require that at least 70 percent of marijuana sales follow that model, with the supply chain integrated vertically (from top to bottom) — and with no wholesaler.

So how do you apply a wholesale level tax when no wholesaler exists? With great difficulty. Colorado regulatory authorities are struggling for answers.

Basing a tax on a fictitious price means no one will ever know the correct tax. Taxpayers will spend time and money trying to beat the system, and government will spend time and money in self-defense. Government and business are likely to grow irritated with one another as they argue about unanswerable questions.

Our dysfunctional international income tax system should have taught us that taxing what we can’t measure is crazy. Multinational corporations like Google, Amazon and Starbucks pay little tax anywhere as they transfer assets among subsidiaries. What do they charge themselves for those assets? (How much does the right hand charge the left hand?) Current transfer pricing rules allow multinational corporations to construct artificial prices for sales between related parties, sales that almost never occur in the marketplace. “Fabled tax wizards” working for multinationals come up with a “tax return position” — the company’s view of how much tax it should pay. (Not much, and often zero.) Why make the same mistake — opening the door to artificial pricing — in taxing marijuana?

Back to Colorado’s tax mess, and its warnings: Vertical integration (the no-wholesalers rule), imposed by the Legislature in 2013, could coexist easily with a tax based on weight or potency. That is, to tax marijuana at so many cents per gram, you never need to know the price. But a price-based, wholesale level tax was locked into place by Colorado’s 2012 initiative (which did not require, forbid or address vertical integration at all). Colorado’s wholesale, price-based tax would be administrable without vertical integration, because without it, real, separate wholesalers want to receive high prices, and their real, separate customers want to pay low prices. With that tension, there’s a real, bargained-for market price to base taxes on.

Meanwhile, Washington State’s law taxes newly-legal marijuana at wholesale, too, but Washington avoids Colorado’s problem by forbidding vertical integration — so related-party sales can’t happen. That is, wholesalers are separate from retailers, so the wholesaler will get an arm’s length, fair market value price from the retailer. That means the Washington State price-based wholesale tax will be related to reality. No fuss, no muss.

We are just at the beginning of figuring out how to regulate and tax marijuana. Other states thinking about legalization need to study the primitive example of Colorado’s tax, and avoid the pitfall. The obvious answer is to forget price and adopt a surer tax base like weight or potency, following Federal precedents for alcohol and tobacco. Or, if states want a price-based tax for some reason, they can delay measuring it until there’s an actual arm’s length sale to an unrelated party. But here’s the clear lesson for future legalizing states: If you require or allow vertical integration, a wholesale tax on prices — when there is no actual sale — is crazy. It’s the kind of tax whose only fans will be tax professionals, billing by the hour.

Pat Oglesby: Lawyer; Former Congressional Tax Staffer.

Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Pat Oglesby
Published: November 7, 2013
Copyright: 2013 HuffingtonPost.com, LLC
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Oregon Group Works on Rules for Industrial Hemp

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Oregon farmers could put in a crop of industrial hemp next spring if a panel of experts can satisfy federal officials with a set of tightly drawn rules. The committee of agricultural experts and state policy officials has been selected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and will come together in December, the Oregonian reported .

The committee hopes to set up a program that will meet what the federal government calls a “robust” standard, said Jim Cramer, a market and certification official in the department. He said the goal is to do so in time for planting.

Oregon is one of seven states with laws permitting industrial hemp — a strain of marijuana with only a trace of the plant’s psychoactive chemical.

Hemp’s historic use has been for rope. These days it is put to hundreds of uses: clothing and mulch from the fiber, for instance, and foods such as hemp milk and cooking oil from the seeds, as well as creams, soap and lotions.

Oregon officials have held off implementing the state’s 2009 law, saying they would wait until the federal government reclassified marijuana from a substance prone to abuse and lacking medicinal value.

That has not happened, but an opinion issued in late August explained the federal government’s decision against challenging recreational marijuana laws in Washington and Colorado. The memo set priorities on marijuana and said a “robust” system for enforcing state marijuana laws is less likely to threaten federal priorities.

Cramer said his department sought written confirmation from the federal government that it would not oppose an industrial hemp program in Oregon, but it hasn’t gotten a formal response.

“What we want is for the federal government to say these are robust,” he said of the rules the group is drafting.

He said the committee is researching industrial hemp rules in Colorado, North Dakota and Canada. He said Oregon’s rules will cover fees, hemp processing and testing that ensures the level of the plant’s psychoactive chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol, is less than 0.3 percent.

Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Published: November 6, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Register-Guard
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.registerguard.com/

Portland Voters Approve Marijuana Legalization

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Portland became the first city on the East Coast to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, on Tuesday.

Portland voters approved a citizens referendum that legalized the recreational use of marijuana in city limits by a vote of 9,921 to 4,823, according to unofficial results released by the city clerk Tuesday night.

“Most Portlanders, like most Americans, are fed up with our nation’s failed marijuana prohibition laws,” said David Boyer, the Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement.  “We applaud Portland voters for adopting a smarter marijuana policy, and we look forward to working with city officials to ensure it is implemented.” The ordinance will allow adults, who are at least 21 years old, to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and requisite paraphernalia for recreational use.  While people can use marijuana on their personal property, the language bars them from using it on any public infrastructure, including sidewalks, parks and roadways; but landlords and building owners can opt to bar smoking on their property.

The ordinance will be enacted 30 days after the election results are certified by the city clerk, according to the city code, and cannot be repealed for five years unless it’s done by citizen petition.

The Citizens for a Safer Portland Coalition, which was comprised of the Portland Green Independent Committee, the Marijuana Policy Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, led the legalization effort and gained the support of the Libertarian Party of Maine, the Marijuana Caregivers of Maine and a group of local legislators.  “This sends a clear message that Mainers are ready to have a conversation about a statewide tax and regulation structure,” said Diane Russell, D-Portland, who championed legalization legislation on the state level that ultimately went down to defeat.

“A lot of volunteers spent a lot of time to get this on the ballot,” she added.  “This is what happens when grassroots people get together and change the world they live in,” Russell said.

A Gallup poll released last month showed that 58 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization with 39 percent opposed, according to the survey results, and a similar poll done in 2012 showed 48 percent supported legalization with 50 percent opposed.

Question One faced scant opposition, though one resident purchased signs that advocated for citizens to reject the legalization effort, and 21 Reasons, a nonprofit, voiced displeasure with a series of ads placed on buses and bus stops and claimed they promoted drug use, especially by young people.

Russell said she will continue pursuing legislation for a statewide regulatory framework, noting a “real mandate for change” based on Tuesday’s vote.

“It’s going to take a Legislative Council vote to do it,” she said, referring to the legislative body that sets priorities for the session in Augusta.

The Portland citizens initiative, which launched in March, came on the heels of Russell’s bill in the Maine Legislature that aimed to create a taxation and regulatory structure around the legalization of marijuana.  Russell’s bill would have left it up to Maine voters to make the final decision on marijuana legalization through a state-wide referendum.

The bill lacked the support of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  “Now that marijuana is legal for adults in Maine’s largest city, there is an even greater need for comprehensive reform at the state level,” Boyer said.  “By regulating marijuana like alcohol, we could take sales out of the hands of drug cartels in the underground market and put them behind the counters of licensed, tax-paying businesses.  It’s time to move beyond prohibition and adopt a more sensible approach.”

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