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Marijuana Industry News December 13, 2013

Uruguay flag

Uruguay Becomes First Nation to Legalize Marijuana…

The story has been developing for a long time but now it looks official. Uruguay will become the first nation to legalize recreational marijuana.  Uruguay, like many other countries in Central and South America, is attempting to rectify the growing problems related to failed marijuana policy, including the brutal cartel violence.  This week, Uruguay Senators voted 16-13 to legalize and regulate marijuana.  The idea has been championed by Uruguay President, Jose Mujica.  His wife, Senator Lucía Topolansky told Reuters “We begin a new experience in April. It involves a big cultural change that focuses on public health and the fight against drug trafficking.”  Residents, 18 and over, will be able to purchase up to 40 grams per month so long as they are properly registered.

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New York State Lawmakers Considering a Legal Marijuana Industry…

The marijuana conversation in New York has been front and center over the course of the past year in New York.  Unfortunately, most of the focus has been on “Stop and Frisk”, the NYPD’s ruthless strategy to work around a decriminalization law passed in the 1970s.  New York allows possession of up to 25g to be considered a civil citation, punishable by a ticket.  However, the law does not allow for the cannabis to be in plain sight in order to prevent public consumption.  The NYPD tells individuals to empty their pockets.  Refusing to do so is illegal while following the officer’s instructions puts the marijuana in plain sight, where the charges will escalate.  NY State Senator Liz Krueger wishes to put an end to the unjust practices that overwhelmingly target minority residents.  She recently introduced a bill that would create a legal recreational marijuana market similar to Colorado and Washington, complete with state oversight and tax revenues.  She recently said publicly that “There is marijuana usage and there has been forever and we have to stop wasting lives and wasting police power and our courts.”  It is not clear yet if the bill will have enough votes or support from Governor Cuomo to pass.

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Poll Shows California Support for Recreational Marijuana Law is Increasing…

While California residents have been pioneers in medical marijuana, having passed Proposition 215 (California Compassionate Use Act) in 1996, support for legalizing recreational use has taken far longer to grow.  A majority of residents, even up to a few years ago actually were against legalization.  Recently those numbers have been much more evenly split.  The newest polling on the issue shows a majority of California residents now outright support legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana.  A Field Poll found that 55% of California residents support legalizing.  Residents may get their chance to do more than answer survey questions as serious efforts are underway to bring the issue to the ballot for residents to vote on next year. Mark A.R. Kleiman is a Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.  He is considered an expert on  drug policy and recently said “Debating about whether to legalize now is pointless, because we’re going to.  The smart debate is about how we’ll do it.”


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Marijuana Industry News March 8, 2013

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Ex-DEA Officials Pressure White House to Go After New Recreational Marijuana States…

As we have previously reported at, federal authorities have remained relatively quiet on the issue of legal marijuana ever since the voters of Colorado and Washington state decided to legalize recreational use.  The issue is gaining national acceptance as a recent Reason/Rupe poll suggested that 72% of Americans do not think marijuana users should be arrested.  The poll also found that 68% of respondents do not feel growers should be arrested.  Fifty three percent of those included in the national poll said they felt marijuana should be regulated in a similar fashion to alcohol.  Even with swelling public support, former DEA officials are trying to convince the federal government to overpower Colorado and Washington.  The retired DEA members feel that if the feds do not act now, they may lose the issue forever.  Peter Bensinger, a former DEA administrator recently told the Associated  Press that “My fear is that the Justice Department will do what they are doing now: Do nothing and say nothing.  If they don’t act now, these laws will be fully implemented in a matter of months.”  In a country where consensus is becoming a rare phenomenon, these soaring levels of support may already have signaled the point of no return.  As we start to feel the impact of sequestration and lack of compromise, DEA officials may find it a tough sell to continue using tax dollars to go after marijuana users and growers.  Additionally, federal law is actually preventing billions in potential tax revenue that is desperately needed.


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New Jersey Lawmakers Seeking to Keep Medical Marijuana Patients on Organ Transplant List…

Many lawmakers around the United States have long snickered at medical marijuana.  The easy and quick analysis is that it MUST be front a for those looking to circumvent the law.  However, for many this is the most serious issue they have ever encountered in their life.  As millions worldwide have improved their quality of life with medical marijuana use, naïve talking point politicians have been slow to research the issue.  One major problem for elderly medical marijuana patients is that they typically taken off organ recipient lists.  This places them in a difficult situation.  How does one value the long term (needed organ transplant) over the short term (immediate daily pain relieved by cannabis)?  New Jersey is attempting to fix this before it becomes a major issue in the Garden State.  Earlier this week, New Jersey’s Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee passed S-1220.  The panel stated that S-1220 “would provide that a registered, qualifying patient’s authorized use of medical marijuana would be considered equivalent to using other prescribed medication rather than an illicit substance and therefore would not disqualify the person from needed medical care, such as an organ transplant.”  It took New Jersey several years to cut through their bureaucratic red tape and institute a medical marijuana program passed under previous Governor, Jim Corzine.  However, it is reassuring to see that they are taking a compassionate approach with this issue.  In a press release by the bill’s co-sponsors, lawmakers said that removing patients from the organ recipient list because of medical marijuana use is a practice that is “unconscionable as the patients have followed their doctors’ orders and have taken a legal medication to reduce the pain and suffering associated with their illness. Transplant centers should not be able to discriminate against people for using this prescription pain killer.”


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Michigan Judge Rules that Medical Marijuana Patients Cannot be Denied Unemployment Benefits…

The story above highlighted a victory for patients in New Jersey.  We also have good news to report for those patients in Michigan.  Last August, a Michigan court ruled that the Michigan Marijuana Act of 2008 “does not offer any employment protection to card holders” and “does not regulate private employment.”  In September the decision was upheld when former Walmart employee, Joseph Casias, was let go for marijuana use even as he was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor.  He was also denied benefits after being let go.  This week, Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette ruled that medical marijuana patients can receive unemployment benefits after termination of employment.  Medical marijuana has had a wild ride in Michigan over the course of the past several years since it was legalized in 2008. Even as Michigan lawmakers and state Attorney General, Bill Schuette, try to fight against medical marijuana, residents have made it clear they support a patient’s right to use medical cannabis.  Michigan has some of the most progressive medical marijuana laws and is one of the only states that allows for minors to receive legal marijuana for certain qualifying conditions.


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Attorney General Eric Holder Pressured by Ex-DEA Officials To Oppose State Marijuana Laws

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After years of foreign wars, the Patriot Act, and an unpopular healthcare mandate, voters are weary of big government proposals.  Politicians on both sides of the aisle are quick to point out that they want to reduce the size and scale of government, even if their actions betray this sentiment.  The idea of letting states decide many issues has gained traction, with one major exception.  Marijuana.

Approximately 75% of Americans support a physician’s right to prescribe medical marijuana.  Even more interestingly, is that now over half of the country supports legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana even for recreational use.  Three states, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon will have residents in their states voting to enact such plans.  Of course we all know the people simply passing the law may not end the ongoing feud between federal and state authorities.  The problem the White House faces is that they have tried to make the case that they will not use any federal resources to circumvent state law.  This leaves them with trying to apply federal law only when a dispensary is in violation of state law, as confusing as that sounds.

This approach is being challenged by 9 former heads of the DEA.  Attorney General Eric Holder has not publicly indicated how the federal government would handle a situation where states operate legal marijuana sales.  His silence has drawn the ire of those who feel the federal government needs to take a more definitive stand and send out a message that federal law trumps state law.  Holder has spoken out on previous legalization initiatives.  He indicated that he would enforce federal law in California in 2010 if residents voted to legalize marijuana.  In the letter, obtained by news outlet Reuters, the group said that “To continue to remain silent conveys to the American public and the global community a tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives.”

Of course taking a stand against laws voted on and enacted by the people offers its own set of “dangerous initiatives”.  No administration wants to be known as the White House crushed state laws and the will of the people.  The old system has failed and while many of us understand that federal authorities have to carry out the law, there is a chance of overreaching here.  A war between residents and the federal government on this issue could be one of the highest profile examples of the government ignoring the will of the people.  Even those who do not support marijuana legalization may be outraged at such large scale intervention.  With most Americans feeling the war on drugs is a failure, spending more money and resources to keep the antiquated approach alive could be a disaster as small government fans, fiscal hawks, civil rights groups, and medical supporters could all find themselves coming together over the issue.

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