Nevada marijuana legalization officially on 2016 ballot

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol turned in about 200,000 signatures on Nov. 12 to put its initiative on the 2016 state ballot. The group only needed a little less than 102,000 signatures, so many considered it a safe bet. The state has now made it official.

Secretary of State Ross Miller certified the signatures on Monday clearing the way to force the 2015 Legislature to consider the proposal or to put it up for a statewide vote, reports The Associated Press. The Coalition previously indicated its intention to have Nevada voters decide the issue when they choose a new president in two years. The strategy is being used in many states due to the predicted higher voter turn-out during a presidential election.

State Sen. Richard Segerblom and the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association‘s Joe Brezny submitted the petitions on behalf on the Coalition.

“The voters in Nevada clearly want a new approach to regulating marijuana,” Brezny said in a statement.

Marijuana advocates in states across the country are gearing up for the 2016 presidential election. Marijuana legalization became a popular issue during the 2014 mid-term elections and the success of initiatives in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia has emboldened activists and lawmakers, alike.

The number of states with promising marijuana efforts in the works has jumped into double digits following the mid-term election successes.

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Florida medical marijuana advocates, financier regroup for ’16

When marijuana supporters heard that Florida’s medical marijuana initiative failed on Nov. 4, they were disappointed. When they heard that the ballot measure failed with 58 percent of Floridians voting yes, many were just confused.

While 3.37 million votes did not provide the super-majority of 60 percent needed to amend Florida’s constitution, the setback has not dissuaded advocacy group United for Care and John Morgan from continuing the fight.

People United for Medical Marijuana, the medical marijuana campaign organized by United for Care, will continue to receive support from Morgan. The wealthy attorney financed over half of the campaign’s $7.4 million budget with a total of $4 million in cash and loans donated, according to the Herald-Tribune. The paper quotes Morgan crediting the loss with gaining more humility.

“I think with humility you can be much more reasoned, much more measured,” said Morgan, “and you can take failure and turn it into success.”

The Drug Free Florida Committee caused the extraordinarily-high cost by opposing medical marijuana in Florida, backed by the 12th richest person in America. Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands Casino, bankrolled Drug Free Florida’s $6.3 million campaign with $5.5 million of his own money.

Morgan says he will continue to push for medical marijuana in Florida for the 2016 election. United for Care announced on its website on Nov. 25 that a new petition will be coming soon to start the process earlier. Adelson and Drug Free Florida are expected to continue their opposition.

An allied group, Florida For Care, will be pushing for legislative changes expanding the state’s restrictive medical marijuana program during the 2015 session. The Florida Legislature passed a bill legalizing “CBD-only” marijuana extracts for special cases shortly before the election.

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Israeli marijuana breeders look to link strain to illness

In America, Charlotte’s Web is the most well-known medicinal cannabis strain without the high, thanks to a CNN special. In Israel — where medical marijuana is legally prescribed and dispensed at pharmacies — their non-psychoactive strain is called Avidekel. Both strains were bred to be very high in CBD, one of the non-psychoactive components of marijuana. Both bred very low in THC, which causes the classic high.

KanaboSeed wants to take it one step further with patented strains for different ailments.

One of Israel’s eight licensed growers, Seach Ltd., joined with an Israeli software developer in August to breed designer cannabis strains with specific traits, reports David Shamah for Times of Israel. The joint venture, KanaboSeed, just applied for its first two “registrations” — Israeli patents — for new marijuana strains. Hearings are held and public comment requested before the applications can be approved.

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Houston police chief calls Drug War ‘miserable failure’

“Most of us understand, we do believe, those of us that are law enforcement executives, that the war on drugs, the 1980 drug policies, was a miserable failure, there’s no doubt about that.” -Chief Charles McClelland

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland

Dean Becker hosts Cultural Baggage, a weekly half-hour interview show on the Drug Truth Network. His recent guests have included Marc Emery, Ethan Nadelmann and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, but he’s had trouble booking active high-level law enforcement officials to defend their drug policies on his show.

His most recent guest, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland (pictured right), gave one possible reason: They know the Drug War is a failure.

McClelland provided that answer in an interview with Becker recorded on Nov. 29. The interview aired Friday evening on Pacifica Radio. During the 29-minute discussion, the chief also talked about Houston’s pilot program to decriminalize marijuana, America’s dependence on drug cartels and rampant asset forfeiture abuse.

“You don’t give up any rights,” McClelland said.

The chief explained that Houston doesn’t run asset forfeiture for profit — he and Becker agreed some cities and states do. In his city, they follow due process requirements. The city considers asset forfeiture after a person is charged, tried and convicted, “but not before,” he said.

Marijuana decriminalization came to Houston on Oct. 6 — sort of — and the chief is proud of his role in making that happen. Some advocates have criticized the plan since it still requires arrest. First-time non-violent offenders, however, can do eight hours of community service or a drug course to avoid criminal charges. The pilot program ends after six months, but McClelland is hopeful that the results will help shape policy going forward.

McClelland compared drug cartels to oil-producing nations — perhaps inadvertently, though it’s unclear who that would offend more.

The Texas cop said the reason that both succeed is because of high demand in America. He told Becker that’s why they will do anything necessary to bring their product into to the country.

Cultural Baggage Host Dean Becker

The full audio version of the interview and transcript are available on DrugTruth.Net.

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Women Grow: The feminist movement within cannabis industry

Jazmin Hupp has a dream. She dreams of an industry where ownership more clearly reflects customer diversity. Previous attempts to steer more venture capitalism toward women in the tech industry disappointed, but now she’s looking to the marijuana industry.

Hupp co-founded Women Grow in Denver with fellow marijuana entrepreneur, Amy Dannemiller – known professionally as Jane West, owner of Edible Events Co. The group offers support to female entrepreneurs seeking access to the cannabis industry from people who have been there.

Women Grow Co-Founders, Jazmin Hupp & Jane West

“It’s my job,” Hupp said in a phone interview, “to try to convince an experienced woman or diverse candidate to pivot into the cannabis industry.” She said she does this at least once a day.

Dannemiller filed the paperwork creating a Limited Liability Company in May and by the organization’s launch in August, the group raised $60,000 in seed money. It received strong support from an already close-knit Colorado marijuana industry.

Established companies like Weedmaps (with whom shares an owner), Patient’s Choice dispensary chain and 3D Cannabis Center were among 20 founding members.

“We don’t have a playbook for what we’re doing nationally.” said Christie Lunsford of Walnut Associates, one of the founding members.

It’s about having access to some of the brightest minds in cannabis, Lunsford told in a phone interview. Lunsford said the group is about women entrepreneurs coming together. She previously worked with the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and was Media and Marketing Director for Dixie Elixirs, a marijuana infused product maker, for nearly two years. She describes Walnut Associates as a cannabis think tank.

Taylor West, NCIA’s deputy director, said joining the group was an easy decision since all of the founding members were also NCIA members. The trade association stands behind Women Grow.

“We’ve made it a priority to highlight the incredible women leading and shaping the future of cannabis,” West said in an email.

WomenGrow-6967Women Grow doubled its chapter numbers every month since August and they expect 60 by spring. Plans for the future include “Lobby Days” coordinated with the NCIA to speak directly with lawmakers about the industry’s needs.

The group took advantage of last month’s Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. Hupp compared it to a networking event on steroids and the group rented out the Presidential Suite at the Rio Hotel & Casino (pictured right) to socialize and connect. She took particular pleasure in connecting new entrepreneurs with the power players of the industry.

Hupp expressed her excitement about making over 2,000 new connections at the event. She believes the industry will be stronger, safer and more profitable with diverse candidates in leadership.

“If we don’t teach diverse candidates how to build those teams and how to raise that funding,” says Hupp. “then they will not be a part of this industry going forward.”

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Marijuana industry embraces Black Friday

Colorado marijuana users can give thanks for themed products, discounted eighths and two-for-one marijuana-infused edibles this Thanksgiving as medical and retail marijuana businesses make their way into the mainstream. In America, that means holiday deals.

Patients Choice Green Friday

There’s much being written about the first Black Friday where anyone over 21 can take advantage, but “Green Friday” isn’t new to Colorado medical marijuana.

“This is our fifth year now.” says Brooke Gehring by phone. Gehring is the owner of Patient’s Choice of Colorado, a medical dispensary chain.

Patient’s Choice shares two locations in Denver with Live Green Cannabis, Gehring’s retail marijuana store. In Colorado, where MMJ business owners were given first crack at recreational licenses, marijuana can be sold for both medical and retail as long as they are separate operations. Gehring expects several hundred additional shoppers across her four locations, including a Patient’s Choice in Lakewood and a Live Green in Edgewater.

Dank Colorado

While Gehring’s businesses advertise deals through common industry methods like social media and text subscriptions, one marijuana company changed the face of The Denver Post, literally.

Visitors to the Post‘s main webpage Wednesday night found their news surrounded on all sides by festive “Danksgiving” deal offerings from Dank Colorado, a Denver company serving medical and retail.

Gehring says she doesn’t expect lines around the block, but best not to take chances. Many stores, including hers, will be opening early tomorrow to accommodate Black Friday shoppers.

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Marijuana Policy Project plotting legalization strategies in New England

Americans look west for signs of what marijuana policy reform will be like. Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon boast legal cannabis and coalitions in California, Nevada and Arizona are working on promising ballot measures campaigns. The next big victories, however, may come from the country’s Northeast.

While the world watched Colorado and Washington, New England’s six states made more progress on marijuana policy reform since 2011 than any region in the country. Advocates from the Marijuana Policy Project played an important role in these changes.

Over the next two years, MPP tells the group will be leading the charge for the next stage of policy reform in New England: legalization.

“There’s been a lot of groundwork done in the Northeast,” said Deputy Director of State Policies Bob Capecchi in a phone interview. “I think that’s going to start bearing some fruit here.”

The groundwork started with Maine’s decriminalization of marijuana 38 years ago. Lawmakers expanded the policy in 2009, but Maine has treated possession of less than 35 grams as a civil violation since the 1970s.

Between 1975 and 1981, eleven U.S. states passed decriminalization bills. Maine joined as the third state to pass in 1975 with the policy going into effect the following year. Federal pressure from the Reagan Administration and its “Just Say No” campaign put an end to decriminalization efforts.

It took Maine voters 23 years to make history again in 1999 as the first Northeastern state to adopt medical marijuana, only three years after California passed its own groundbreaking law. The legislature passed a decriminalization bill nearly a quarter century before, but medical marijuana took a ballot initiative.

The millennial decade saw few Northeastern reforms. Lawmakers created medical marijuana programs in Vermont in 2004 and Rhode Island in 2006. The most promising development came from Massachusetts, which started a trend of ballot initiatives that may end with legalization two years from now.

After Massachusetts voted to decriminalize marijuana while electing Obama in 2008, they used 2012 to both re-elect the president and approve medical marijuana. While state regulators wrestle with a medical dispensary system, advocates look to a planned 2016 ballot initiative to legalize the plant.

The region hit a tipping point when Connecticut lawmakers decriminalized marijuana possession in 2011. Rhode Island and Vermont quickly followed as the fourth and fifth Northeastern states to decriminalize in 2012 and 2013. Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire adopted medical marijuana during the same period.

MPP plans to use the region’s momentum toward marijuana acceptance to push for a tax and regulate strategy to legalization. New England Political Director Matt Simon broke down the situation for

“Massachusetts and Maine are initiative states.” Simon said during a phone interview. “That makes them obvious targets.” He believes they can win through the ballot process. Vermont and Rhode Island, on the other hand, need to legalize marijuana through lawmakers, but Simon isn’t worried. “We’ve been lobbying in those states for years and we know the legislatures.”

New Hampshire remains the lone holdout for New England decriminalization after five legislative attempts in six years. Lawmakers in the state’s House introduced and passed bills each time, but the Senate refused to consider them.

Still, Simon is optimistic about New Hampshire decriminalizing simple possession in 2015 and full legalization not long after.

“Probably going to take a different governor,” Simon said. “Fortunately, our governor is going to run for another office in 2016.” He added, referring to speculation that prohibitionist Gov. Maggie Hassan plans to run for a U.S. Senate seat.

The only New England state not included in MPP’s push is Connecticut, so we asked the logical question: What’s different there?
“Connecticut’s just a little bit further behind in its legislature and it doesn’t have a ballot initiative process,” Simon replied. He says they would love to see legalization there, but are not optimistic in the near future.

Jared Moffat, MPP Rhode Island Political Director, explained the difference between lobbying politicians instead of convincing voters.
“We’ve taken a different track,” Moffat said. “Making sure our legislators hear our arguments and hear the facts.”

State lawmakers introduced marijuana legalization in Rhode Island each year since 2011, so the information isn’t new to lawmakers, Moffat said. He hopes to see a tax and regulate bill pass next year.

With Maine’s history of policy reform, including voters passing legalization in the city of Portland, the state seems ready for the next step.

“We are currently drafting the initiative and are seeking input from the public on how they think marijuana should be regulated,” MPP Maine Political Director David Boyer told by email.

Boyer says that the measure they propose will tax and regulate like alcohol, but allow for home cultivation. It would give priority to people who are part of the state’s medical marijuana industry.

MPP faces pressure from two sides in Maine where some legalization advocates fear the corporatization of marijuana. One group has already announced its opposition to MPP and proposed its own measure.

The Marijuana Policy Project is not the only organization working on New England legalization. They formed and joined with local groups in most states. Still, the infusion of professional lobbying and national exposure that MPP can provide may just be the key.

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High Times In Washington: Marijuana taxes exceed forecast

Washington’s retail cannabis industry had a bumpy launch in July. New businesses launched to much fanfare, but faced statewide product shortages and rules prohibiting imports. A new report, however, suggests the fledgling industry is soaring.

Washington’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council issued their November forecast Wednesday. The report says tax receipts from the state’s marijuana industry will be more than 67 percent higher through 2015 than previously estimated. It also predicts nearly $700 million in tax revenue from cannabis businesses in the first four-and-a-half years of legalization.

New businesses entering the state’s marijuana industry — producers, processors and retailers — factored into the revised projections. According to the November report, the number of cannabis establishments increased from 42 in July, when sales began, to 171 by the end of October.

The council released a report in September estimating $25.5 million in tax revenue for the current term ending in 2015. The figure includes marijuana excise tax and license fees, state sales tax and business taxes paid by marijuana producers, processors and retailers. The new report estimates $42.7 million in revenue by the end of next year, a $17.2 million increase from two months ago.

The report measures time in two-year budget periods; 2013-15, 2015-17 and 2017-19. Projections for each period were revised up.

Washington’s projected tax revenue through 2019 now stands at a cool $694.2 million.

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Show-Me Cannabis: Skip medical phase, enact legalization

Citizens or lawmakers enacted medical marijuana programs in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska long before voters legalized the plant for adult use. Many prominent targets for legalization in the next election cycle, such as California, Nevada, Arizona, Maine and Vermont, also allow medical marijuana.

In a move that may be seen more often in coming years, pro-pot advocates in Missouri want to skip the medical marijuana phase and go straight to legalization. (Editor’s note: Missouri passed a medical marijuana law in 2014, but it is limited to CBD and only for intractable epilepsy.)

Show-Me Cannabis, a Missouri marijuana activist group, filed the petition last week to put a legalization initiative on the 2016 ballot. To earn a place on the ballot, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has to provide his approval, then petition backers can launch a drive to collect 165,000 signatures from registered voters. The group’s director thinks they can do it and he’s not alone.

“We still have a long road ahead of us,” says Show-Me Cannabis Executive Director John Payne. “But we can feel the wind at our backs.”

Other marijuana advocacy groups, a newly-elected state representative and the editorial board of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch agree that the time is right for Missouri legalization.

Trish Bertrand serves as president for the Springfield, Mo. chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). She hasn’t forgotten that legalization attempts in 2012 and 2014 failed to gather enough signatures, but she thinks 2016 will be different.

“I really think it will pass here,” Bertrand said.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board published an article on November 13 making its case for legalization. The newspaper pointed to civil rights issues as a significant factor. They reference a 2013 ACLU report showing that blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana in Missouri. The numbers get worse when you look at St. Louis.

“The disparity in the city of St. Louis in that study was a whopping 18 to 1,” according to the editorial.

Missouri Representative-elect Shamed Dogan attended the Fall Cannabis Reform Conference on Saturday. Show-Me Cannabis organized the event in downtown St. Louis and Dogan explained his thinking on the issue.

“It is a state versus federal thing,” Dogan said. He argues that just because marijuana is prohibited by federal law doesn’t mean Missouri can’t have its own laws.

Will a full legalization proposal make it onto Missouri’s 2016 ballot? Only time will tell.

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Vermont holds public hearing on legalizing marijuana

“Vermonters know that prohibition isn’t working.” Laura Subin testified. “Marijuana is easy to get and widely used.”

As director for the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, Subin opposes prohibition. She spoke Wednesday during a public forum on taxing and regulating the plant. The hearing signals a major step for marijuana policy change in Vermont.

Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding (right) and Rand Senior Policy Researcher Beau Kilmer hosted the forum requesting questions and comments from Vermonters on taxing and regulating marijuana. They heard testimony from both sides via the Vermont Interactive Technologies system, a way for the public to interact by video from nine locations throughout the state.


Kilmer, the lead researcher on the project, spent the beginning of the public forum explaining his role. He made it clear that the study will not pass judgment on legalization as policy. Instead, it will address all the benefits and concerns surrounding legalization allowing Vermonters to make an informed decision.

When Vermont lawmakers voted to expand the state’s medical marijuana program in April, they could see legalization coming. They knew advocates would move on the issue, but they lacked reliable information. Kilmer’s report aims to fix that problem.

While ballot initiatives were necessary in states like Colorado and Alaska, Vermont’s lawmakers may act before advocates can field one.

“We feel like the Legislature is ahead of the curve.” Matt Simon told in a recent phone interview. Simon serves as New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project. The advocacy group had key roles during legalization efforts in Colorado in 2012 and Alaska this year.

Vermont Legalization Poll

MPP commissioned a poll by the Castleton Polling Institute in May that showed majority support for taxing and regulating marijuana among Vermont voters. With 57 percent in favor and only 34 percent opposed, the group plans to use this momentum to pass laws creating a regulated and taxed system next year.

The Green Mountain State boasts progressive marijuana policy, but most of that is recent. Lawmakers took meaningful strides by creating a medical marijuana program in 2004. Unfortunately, they saddled it with a limit of 1,000 patients and little access to medicine.

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a medical marijuana reform bill in April. The change removed the patient cap and created rules for a statewide dispensary system. Other changes included allowing naturopaths to certify patients, allowing dispensaries to deliver and ordering two marijuana studies.

The first study concerns adding PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions. The second is on the impacts of taxing and regulating marijuana for adults. Vermont awarded a contract to the Rand Corporation as an independent researching organization to answer the latter question.

The state adopted marijuana decriminalization in 2013. The old punishment was a criminal misdemeanor, up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Offenders now pay a $200 fine if they are over 21. If they are under 21, they can enter a diversion program.

Subin spoke as an activist, domestic violence expert and mother of three young children. She spoke of prohibition as a lifestyle choice that people should respect. She told in an email why she fights.

“The impact of prohibition on human and civil rights is the heart of why I care so deeply about this issue.” Subin wrote.

The research report from Rand is due by January 15, 2015.

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