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law

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The anti-marijuana legalization group Project SAM has documented information on the sales of marijuana to minors by licensed establishments in Washington State. In a tweet showing a pie chart of marijuana violations, Project SAM noted “>125 for selling pot to a minor,” labeling Washington’s legalization of marijuana a “failed experiment.”

Marijuana Laws Vs Alcohol Laws

Project SAM is careful not to mention that these 126 violations aren’t per month or per year. They are actually all the sales to underage buyers Washington has cited since compliance checks began in May 2015.

In other words—underage sale violations occurred 5.25 times per month, on average. Meanwhile, Washington has also conducted compliance checks on the licensed retailers of alcohol.

In the time span of May 2015 to Dec 2016, there have been 892 incidents of booze sales to minors. That works out to around 44.6 underaged alcohol sales violation per month, on average.

This data set showing the overall marijuana compliance rate since May 2015 to be nearly 92 percent seems to escape SAM’s attention. (The overall alcohol compliance rate from May 2015 to Dec 2016 was a little over 83 percent.) Washington State’s marijuana data dashboard is also providing much more information than Project SAM is promoting.

For instance, SAM doesn’t seem to be interested in noting the data showing the state collected over $250 million in taxes from marijuana sales in fiscal year 2017. An investigative reporter sat with Brian E. Smith, the communications director for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, who confirmed the reporter’s math.

He informed the reporter that the monthly compliance rate for alcohol retailers in the state falls around 75 percent to 85 percent—meaning there is between a one-in-four and a one-in-seven chance that an alcohol licensee will sell to a minor. The monthly compliance rate for marijuana retailers, he told me, is consistently at or above 90 percent—or a less than one-in-10 chance that a pot shop will sell to a minor.

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A group of lawmakers is yet again making another attempt to legalize marijuana on a federal level. Representative Thomas Garret sponsored the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which loosens the marijuana restriction and leaves it up to the state to make laws about recreational and medical marijuana.

States that have already legalized marijuana such as Colorado and California still violate federal law, making the ground work more confusing for establishing marijuana laws in the united states.

Eleven other sponsors introduced the bill back in February, however, they had very little effect on Capitol Hill. Garrett is in great hope that he will gain support even though President Trump has a firm stance to enhance federal laws on marijuana regulation. Garrett says that there are “redeeming medical uses for cannabis,” however, he does not always feel that way.

“The first time I heard the term ‘medicinal marijuana’ 25 or 30 years ago, I probably chuckled,” Garrett said on Wednesday.

He later started prosecuting marijuana users in Virginia.
Garrett stated: “My background on this issue is shaped by my own experiences as a criminal prosecutor, where in fact, I did enforce the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia as they relate to marijuana, and some would say, did so quite vigorously.”

Gradually, he became sick of “creating criminals out of people who otherwise follow the law.” As a result, he started to suggest legalizing marijuana.

Garrett said: “If there’s anything I cannot tolerate as a citizen and as a prosecutor, it is the unequal application of justice.”
Representative Tulsi Gabbard has the same concerns regarding current marijuana laws.

“Every 42 seconds someone is arrested for the use or possession of marijuana, turning every-day Americans into criminals, tearing families apart,” Gabbard said, “The question before us is not whether you think marijuana use is good or bad, or how you feel about this issue, but whether we should be turning people into criminals.”

The president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Kevin Sabet, who opposes legalizing marijuana, chided the “Cheech and Chong ideology.”

He said: “The marijuana industry is the next Big Tobacco of our time, and history will not look kindly upon those who enabled lobbyists and special interest groups to gain a foothold in putting profit ahead of public health and safety,”

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Congress is repeating history by yet again blocking the Justice Department from spending any money that interferes with state medical marijuana laws.

In their recently revealed budget bill, lawmakers included a section, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, that allows states to carry on with crafting their own medical marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention. The bill, which funds the government through the end of September, is expected to pass this week.

Here’s the full text of the marijuana provision:

None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

It’s not uncommon to find this tucked into a budget bill; legislators have been renewing the medical marijuana provision in every consecutive budget since it initially passed back in 2014. However what it reveals is that Congress is not interested in stepping up federal oversight of state marijuana laws under the Trump administration, even as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions implies that he wants to crackdown on marijuana laws.

He issued an ominous warning back in February to states with legalized marijuana. “States, they can pass the laws they choose,” Sessions said at a Justice Department press briefing.

“I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

He has also said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and that cannabis is only “slightly less awful” than heroin. Last year, heroin was responsible for nearly 13,000 fatalities. Still, top this day no one has ever died from overdosing in marijuana.

Jeffrey Zucker, president of the cannabis business strategy firm Green Lion Partners, praised lawmakers for sticking with the status quo.

“Medical cannabis patients in the U.S. can rest easy knowing they won’t have to return to the black market to acquire their medicine,” Zucker stated. “Operators can relax a bit knowing their hard work isn’t for naught and their employees’ jobs are safe.”

In theory, Sessions could still take action against states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Eight states and the District of Columbia have laws like this, and they are not shielded by the language in the budget bill.

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Federal law enforcement officials and Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department were investigating pending marijuana-related court cases in Colorado while the Attorney General was reminding America of how much he dislikes the idea of legalizing marijuana.

This recent news came from IBT’s David Sirota, who obtained an email exchange between one of Sessions’ people and Colorado officials. The one-page email is brief and is only an information request, but it is one of the first concrete signs of federal interest in state-level marijuana under the Trump era. Which means it is guaranteed to make marijuana industry types worried about a job-killing federal crackdown a little more nervous.

Through email, a Denver-based DEA agent asked a Colorado state prosecutor, “Are you able to provide me the state docket numbers for the following cases? Some of our intel people are trying to track down info regarding some of DEA’s better marijuana investigations for the new administration. Hopefully it will lead to some positive changes.”

As IBT noted, the exchange came about two weeks after White House press secretary Sean Spicer first raised the specter of “greater enforcement” around legal marijuana on February 23. The next several weeks were full of public sabre-rattling from Sessions, who sought counsel from the attorney general of nearby Oklahoma before comparing marijuana unfavorably to heroin.

The cases referenced by the DEA are ongoing prosecutions. These are situations in which the state of Colorado, where marijuana is legal, has identified illegal activity pertaining to marijuana. We don’t know what cases the DEA agent is asking about (Sirota and IBT do not say), but we suspect it stems from one of the many multi-agency raids from last year.

The DEA was a partner agency on at least a few of them, but all of them targeted illegal farming and interstate marijuana trafficking. Twenty more sites were raided by DEA agents working with local law enforcement in mid-March, 10 days after the email, but a DEA spokesman told the AP at the time that those raids were in the works for “months” and did not have anything to do with a Trump-era directive

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Private Medical Marijuana labs are restricted from testing properties on the plant for one year, according to Ohio’s new law. During that time, public universities would test medical cannabis produced within the state to make sure it is safe for consumers. The problem is that no other state tests medical marijuana like this. That’s because many university officials are wary of losing money from a federal government that still labels cannabis as among the most dangerous, illegal drugs, at the same level as heroin.

Rob Ryan, executive director of the Ohio Patient Network and a Blue Ash councilman stated, “If there is no testing, then there is no program. We are very concerned.” Even if Ohio’s universities want to test medical cannabis, the cost is $2,000 for an application fee and an $18,000 fee to operate a testing lab. Those numbers could change before the rules are finalized by September. Buying testing equipment, cameras, and other tools would cost at least $1 million, depending on what the university already had in place, said Jeffrey Raber, CEO of The Werc Shop, which tests cannabis in California, Oregon, and Washington. And to buy equipment or finance lab work, professors often rely on grants, many of which come from government entities.

Other concerns include whether universities would have the capacity to handle all medical cannabis grown in Ohio or whether they can safely secure the plant to prevent theft. “There are too many unknowns to rely exclusively on learning institutions,” said Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, which pursued a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio in 2016 but dropped the idea after lawmakers passed their plan. “Private labs are in better positions to respond.” It is unclear whether any in-state, public universities are interested in laboratory testing. At this point, officials at University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, Cleveland State University, and Kent State University are not planning to provide laboratory testing of medical cannabis, spokespeople told The Enquirer. That could change, but universities in other states have avoided medical cannabis.

In Maryland, for example, only universities with academic medical programs were permitted to dole out cannabis. But none were interested so legislators reworked the program. University of Illinois’ Chicago campus announced in 2015 that they would start testing medical marijuana but shortly after, officials changed their minds. Kerry Francis, Ohio Department of Commerce spokeswoman stated, “We can’t speculate as to which universities will apply.” The Ohio Department of Commerce has not yet set a deadline for applications.

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A new proposal before legislators in Salem is arranged to protect people who purchase cannabis in Oregon. It’s considered emergency legislation, which means that if passed, it would immediately take effect. This proposal comes after comments from the federal government about pushing back on the six states that have legalized cannabis. Back on February 24, 2017, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, “I do believe you will see greater enforcement of it.”

When asked about medical cannabis, Spicer stated, “that is very different than recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into.” Currently, when you buy marijuana in Oregon, the business records your identification information to ensure you’re not purchasing more than the legal amount per day. The CEO of Cannabliss & Co. in Portland, Matt Price, says the need for minimal identification information is to ensure buyers are staying within the legal limit.

Price stated, “If I have to purge the system and come up with some crazy way to track individuals it would be easy for people to abuse those powers.” Senate Bill 863 does two things. First, cannabis dispensaries or retailers wouldn’t be able to keep anyone’s information for more than four days. Second, it would make it illegal for the retailer or dispensary to give anyone’s information to anyone else. On the bottom of the bill’s summary it states the emergency act is “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”

Price stated, “There is a lot of fear in a new administration I think these guys are going to be a little more stringent but I don’t think they are going to be messing with any licensed legal state business.” Senator Floyd Prozanski is one of the key supporters of the bill he says the goal is to ensure voters got what they were expecting when they passed Measure 91. He says the hope would be to get the marijuana industry to be more like the alcohol industry, meaning marijuana stores check age but don’t keep consumers’ personal information.

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A document that put the DEA under attack for advertising misinformation about cannabis’ health effects has vanished from the agency’s website. An almost 45-page publication on the various consequences of marijuana use, “The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse,” no longer was available on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s website. Last year, the document was at the center of a legal petition by Americans for Safe Access claiming the DEA’s publishing of “scientifically inaccurate information about the health effects of medical cannabis” directly influenced “the action, and inaction, of Congress.”

In December, the medical marijuana advocacy organization alleged that the DEA website’s inclusion of 25 inaccurate statements about cannabis violated the Data Quality Act, also known as the Information Quality Act, which is meant to ensure the quality, objectivity, utility and integrity of data that government agencies provide to the public. Some of those statements, that cannabis plays an important role in psychosis; cannabis smoking causes tumors of the head, neck, and lung; and marijuana is a forerunner to illicit substance use and heroin addiction, have been contradicted by the DEA’s own statements in its August 2016 Denial of Petition to Initiate Proceedings to Reschedule Marijuana, according to ASA.

Agencies have 60 days to respond to requests to correct information, ASA said in its statement. The group recently celebrated the document’s absence as a victory. Steph Sherer, ASA executive director, said in a statement, “The DEA’s removal of these popular myths about cannabis from their website could mean the end of the Washington gridlock. This is a victory for medical cannabis patients across the nation, who rely on cannabis to treat serious illnesses.” In its statement, ASA said “the fight is not over,” claiming that the DEA’s website continues to include misleading or false statements about marijuana.

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Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California recently submitted a piece of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives targeted at preventing the federal government from enforcing states that have legalized cannabis for recreational or medical use. The proposal, which is entitled the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017,” would provide the marijuana community with immunity from federal punishment as long as they obey state law.

Although the bill (H.R. 975) would not force Congress to end prohibition in a manner that would allow marijuana to be taxed and regulated nationwide similar to alcohol, it would amend the Controlled Substances Act in such a way that state legalization could carry on without the risk of federal interference. That means as long as cannabis consumers and their respective marketplaces adhere to the laws outlined by the state, this proposal would ensure Sessions and the DEA have no power to conduct raids or any other pesky shakedown tactics. However, for those states that still consider cannabis an illegal substance, no changes will happen.

Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement, “This is commonsense legislation that is long overdue. It is time to end marijuana prohibition at the federal level and give states the authority to determine their own policies. Federal tax dollars should not be wasted on arresting and prosecuting people who are following their state and local laws.” Similar legislation has been introduced over the past couple of years, but those bills never even received a hearing. There is hope that with all of the controversy surrounding Sessions and the potential dismantling of the legal cannabis trade that Congress will get serious about listening to the issue of national marijuana reform in the 2017 session.

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According to a National Academies report released this month, more and more Americans are using cannabis both for recreational and medical purposes, however, scientists still don’t know very much about the drug’s effects on human physiology. Part of this knowledge gap owes to the fact that marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug under the US Controlled Substances Act. In the eyes of the federal government, cannabis is a dangerous drug that “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” However, researchers in Canada are not far ahead of their United States counterparts, even though marijuana has since 2001 been functionally legal for medical use at the federal level there.

Mark Ware, a McGill University pain management physician who has researched the safety and efficacy of cannabinoids for the past 18 years stated, “I wish I could say that [legalizing medical marijuana] had led to more research. I think there’s certainly a willingness to be able to document real world use of cannabis under a legal framework.” Ware added that while there are several public registries that track the legal use of marijuana among Canadians, experimental evidence on the effects of that use are lacking. He said, “The clinical trials, I think for most people that’s an expensive undertaking. There are still questions around who owns the intellectual property, who’s going to sponsor the trials, those remain barriers even in a legal framework as to the cost of that kind of research and the drug development piece of it.”

Michael Bostwick, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has also published extensively on the therapeutic effects of marijuana. He agreed that although federal illegality is a primary obstacle to studying cannabis in the United States, there are other factors that make understanding the basic science behind the drug’s potential therapeutic effects a daunting prospect. “I’m not sure that the research can catch up with the social use, meaning this: that, at least within the current [US Food and Drug Administration] approaches to medication, which is how every other medication in our country is approved, there is no precedent and no model for, first, smoking a substance and, second, using a substance that is not pure but contains many, many different compounds in varying amounts.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved three drugs for human use that contain active ingredients present in or similar to those in botanical cannabis. These are Syndros and Marinol, which contain a synthetic version of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana), and Cesamet, which contains a synthetic cannabinoid that has a chemical structure similar to THC.

Ware suggested that instead of seeking to study smoked cannabis, researchers should shift to studying the therapeutic potential of extracts or derivatives of the plant or otherwise conduct research on alternative ingestion mechanisms, such as vaporization. He states, “There’s obviously a lot of non-scientific development in the recreational market in some of these areas, with edibles and vaping, and all that sort of thing, but I think if we can align some of that with therapeutic delivery systems, we could get away from the smoking. I think that’s a positive direction, more of those studies showing that it mimics the smoked route but it’s clearly less dangerous than smoking.”

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The battle between the DEA and the Hemp Industries Association was brought back to life after the change last week. Marijuana advocates believe that since hemp isn’t called out under the Controlled Substance Act, it’s legal. The HIA stated, “Cannabidiol is not listed on the federal schedule of controlled substances.” The DEA believes it is since it comes from the same plant.

Executive Director of the Cannabis Business Alliance, Mark Malone states, “This is a huge step backwards for cannabis prohibition and especially for patients who live in states without established medical cannabis laws.”

Manufacturers of CBD products are battling back. Dr. Titus said, “The ninth circuit court of appeals has conclusively held that hemp products such as those marketed by the company [Medical Marijuana] which are derived from the part of the cannabis plant, which is exempt from the controlled substances act is legal for import from Europe.” Dr. Titus believes the products are legal.

Courts ruled that hemp was not a schedule one drug and that the DEA had no right to control it. It also said that hemp was legal to import and sell in the United States. The DEA said it came up with the new internal drug code for extracts of cannabis as a more accurate way to track scientific research on it. Baer stated, “Creating an internal record keeping system allows us to distinguish the extracts from other parts of the cannabis plant and ultimately makes our work more efficient.”

The CBD producers believe the DEA is overstepping the line. New laws cannot be created by the DEA, they can only crack down on laws that already exist created by Congress. Consequently, by making an administrative change they can then include a product that hadn’t been incorporated before.

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