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Marijuana News in Arizona and World

Sheila Polk
In a pursuit to stop marijuana legalization in Arizona, a drug war task force has donated tens of thousands of dollars collected from the civil asset forfeiture program in order to fight marijuana legalization in Arizona via propaganda.

An investigative report has revealed that Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking (PANT), a law enforcement organization designed to catch drug offenders, recently provided a check for $50,000 to MATFORCE, a group combating substance abuse. This collaboration to fight marijuana legalization in Arizona with public funds took place shortly after the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) declared it was going to help create a ballot initiative in 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use in Arizona.

It also appears that additional public funding will probably be used to fight marijuana legalization in Arizona. Last week, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich released a decision in regards to a question posed by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk (pictured), who is a leading board member for both PANT and MATFORCE and the culprit behind the $50,000 donation that supposedly went towards educating the public on the alleged dangers of marijuana, which essentially asked whether public finances could be used to protest marijuana.

Brnovich wrote: “To the extent you use public resources to communicate, your efforts may lawfully continue… so long as they do not unambiguously urge the electorate to cast a vote for or against the [marijuana] measure.” Basically, Brnovich is allowing the use of public resources to fight the marijuana ballot measure.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a pro-marijuana organization in Arizona, argues that money generated from state and local taxes should not be utilized by public officials to fund propaganda tactics.

Legal experts, like attorney Angela Poliquin, believe that allowing the use of public resources to influence voter response spawns “political mischief,” a practice that is not only wrong, but also a detriment to the concept of democracy. In other words, governments should not be permitted to grease the wheels of organizations in an effort to control the opinion of the citizens for which they serve.

Anti-legalization groups should be held to the same financial trials and tribulations as everyone else when pushing an agenda, and public funds should be off-limits to those who either support or oppose a particular voter initiative. Governments should not be subliminally manipulating their citizens.

Presidential Candidates Marijuana 2016

The 2016 presidential field is continuing to take shape and some of the candidates have revealed their stance on marijuana legalization.

Below is a roundup of what some of the declared presidential candidates have said about marijuana.

Ben Carson (Republican)

A retired neurosurgeon who has never held elected office and is against marijuana and its legalization. His comments on marijuana include:
Told ABC News that marijuana legalization “should be completely off the table” and that he has “no problem with medical marijuana usage, and there are ways that it can be done that are very appropriate.”
“Marijuana is what’s known as a gateway drug. It tends to be a starter drug for people who move onto heavier duty drugs – sometimes legal, sometimes illegal – and I don’t think this is something that we really want for our society. You know, we’re gradually just removing all the barriers to hedonistic activity.”

Carly Fiorina (Republican)

The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who has never held elected office, opposes ending prohibition but supports the right of states to legalize marijuana without federal interference. Her comments on marijuana include:
“I respect Colorado’s right to do what they did. They are within their rights to legalize marijuana and they are conducting an experiment that I hope the rest of the nation is looking closely at. I believe in states’ rights. I would not, as president of the United States, enforce federal law in Colorado where Colorado voters have said they want to legalize marijuana.”
“I remember when I had cancer and my doctor said, ‘Do you have any interest in medicinal marijuana?’” She stated, “I did not.”

Mike Huckabee (Republican)

The former Arkansas governor and Baptist pastor is against legalization and said he would not stop the DEA from raiding and arresting patients and providers in states where medical marijuana is legal. His comments on marijuana include:
“I’m going to leave it up to the DEA whether they feel like there is a person who is being arrested because they are suffering from AIDS or because they really are doing something to significantly violate drug laws.”

Bernie Sanders (Democrat/Independent)

The U.S. senator and former House member from Vermont is running for the Democratic presidential nomination and co-sponsored the States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act, a bill to reschedule marijuana and provide greater protections for medical patients. His comments on marijuana include:
“I’m going to look at the issue [marijuana legalization]. It’s not that I support it or don’t support it. To me it is not one of the major issues facing this country. I’ll look at it.”
“We have been engaged in [the war on drugs] for decades now with a huge cost and the destruction of a whole lot of lives of people who were never involved in any violent activities.”

Hillary Clinton (Democrat)

Marijuana IconThe former first lady, secretary of state, and U.S. senator has openly stated that marijuana has medical value and that she wants to see states move forward with their own laws. Her comments on marijuana include:
“I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes.”
“I don’t think we’ve done enough research yet, although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and who have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances.”
“On recreational, you know, states are the laboratories of democracy. We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is.”

Ted Cruz (Republican)

The U.S. senator from Texas opposes any marijuana legalization because the substance is federally illegal. His comments on marijuana include:
 “The Obama administration’s approach to drug policy is to simply announce that across the country, it is gonna stop enforcing certain drug laws. I think most disturbingly, watching President Obama’s approach to drug laws is that he hasn’t tried to start a discussion, a dialogue about changing the laws. He simply decreed he’s not gonna enforce laws he doesn’t agree with.”

Rand Paul (Republican)

Marijuana IconThe U.S. senator from Kentucky is one of the only current candidate who has actually worked to reform marijuana laws. For instance, he is an original sponsor of a bill that would effectively end the federal war on medical marijuana, but opposes marijuana legalization.
 “I’m not really promoting legalization, but I am promoting making the penalties much less severe and not putting people in jail for 10, 20, 30 years.”
 On marijuana legalization: “I would let states choose. And I don’t know what’ll happen, whether it’s going to end up being good or bad. But I would let the states choose because I believe in federalism and states’ rights.”
 On marijuana in general: “Even though it may not kill you I don’t think it’s good for you. It’s not good for studies, it’s not good for showing up for work” and “people who use marijuana all the time lose IQ points.”

Marco Rubio (Republican)

The U.S. senator and former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives opposes legalization and decriminalization. His comments on marijuana include:
 “We live in a country that already has problems with substance abuse. We already see the impact that alcoholism is having on families, on drunk driving, on all sorts of things. And now we’re gonna add one more substance that people can use?”
 “When something is legal, implicitly what you’re saying, ‘it can’t be all that bad. Cuz if it’s legal it can’t be bad for you.’ The bottom line is I believe that adding yet another mind-altering substance to something that’s legal is not good for the country.”
 “Marijuana is illegal under federal law. That should be enforced. I understand that states have decided to legalize possession under state law, and the trafficking, the sale of these products. I mean, that’s a federal crime.”

Marijuana Least Harmful Drug DEA

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s latest annual National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) report, in which state and local law enforcement agencies assess the greatest drug threats, marijuana was ranked last among all other drugs.

In 2014, methamphetamine was ranked the greatest threat, closely followed by heroin and trailed by controlled prescription drugs. In both 2013 and 2014, these three drugs combined were ranked the greatest threat by over 80% of reporting law enforcement agencies, while marijuana was placed at only 7% for both years.

In the West Central United States, which includes marijuana legalization pioneer Colorado, methamphetamine was ranked the highest threat by 61% of reporting agencies, marijuana at just 4%. In the Pacific region, which includes the medical and recreational legalized marijuana state of Washington, the same pattern is present with meth at 67% and marijuana at 9%.

Chuck Rosenberg

President Obama has selected Chuck Rosenberg, a senior F.B.I. official and former United States attorney, as the interim director of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Former DEA director Michele Leonhart announced her retirement last month amidst accusations that DEA agents in Colombia had participated in sex parties with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels and for repeatedly clashing with the Obama administration on its more tolerant approach towards states that have legalized marijuana for recreational and/or medicinal use.

“The new DEA chief has a tough job ahead,” said the director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Let’s hope he’s in line with the political consensus in favor of scaling back mass incarceration and the worst harms of the drug war.”

“Drug prohibition, like alcohol Prohibition, breeds crime, corruption, and violence – and creates a situation where law enforcement officers must risk their lives in a fight that can’t be won,” said executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s time to reform not just the DEA but broader U.S. and global drug policy. The optimal drug policy would reduce the role of criminalization and the criminal justice system in drug control to the greatest extent possible, while protecting public safety and health.”

In 2014, Congress passed a spending limitation amendment prohibiting the DEA from undermining state marijuana laws. It was signed into law by President Obama, but expires later this year. The U.S. House also approved two amendments prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp laws.

USA Marijuana

When a state passes a law making marijuana a legal substance, the federal government should not have the authority to prosecute citizens or businesses associated with state-legalized marijuana programs. This is the rallying cry of a recent piece of legislation that flew through Capitol Hill on bipartisan wings and aims to stop the federal government from prosecuting citizens and businesses in states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational use.

The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015 bill was introduced to Congress recently and seeks to provide immunity against federal prosecution for individuals and businesses abiding state marijuana laws.

Unlike the CARERS Act, which is a bid to legalize medical marijuana nationwide, this latest piece of legislation would extend the same protection for the medical marijuana industry as for the recreational side, which would allow states the ability to legalize marijuana for any purpose without concerns over violating federal statutes.

“The American people, through the 35 states that have liberalized laws banning either medical marijuana, marijuana in general, or cannabinoid oils, have made it clear that federal enforcers should stay out of their personal lives,” said Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, who introduced the bill. “It’s time for restraint of the federal government’s over-aggressive weed warriors.”

“Unlike other bills that address only some aspects of the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws,” said a representative with the Marijuana Policy Project. “This bill resolves the issue entirely by letting states determine their own policies. It’s the strongest federal legislation introduced to date, and it’s the bill most likely to pass in a Republican-controlled Congress. Nearly every GOP presidential contender has said marijuana policy should be a state issue, not a federal one, essentially endorsing this bill.”

Harvest of Tempe

The U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that just 17.6% of citizens with disabilities are employed. This low employment rate forces citizens to depend on public assistance programs – such as Social Security, SNAP, and AHCCCS – costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year.

Quality Connections (QC) is a non-profit organization that provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities. QC has recently partnered with Harvest of Tempe dispensary to develop Arizona’s newest rehabilitation partnership. The collaboration will employ many disabled persons in Harvest’s northern Arizona production facility. This opportunity will provide the individuals with the ability to withdraw from government aid. As a result, the QC and Harvest partnership will create economic growth and a sense of identity for a populace that can fall behind both financially and socially.

“The people we serve have proven to be the most loyal, capable, driven employees available in Arizona’s labor force,” stated the CEO of QC. “It’s exciting to provide these individuals the opportunity to be self-sufficient and work in this new industry.”

Hawaii Marijuana Dispensary

The Hawaii Legislature has approved a plan to develop a system of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state. The news comes 15 years after Hawaii legalized medical marijuana.

The development will provide relief to Hawaii’s 13,000 medical marijuana patients who have been forced to grow their own marijuana or buy it on the black market.

“This is a victory for children who can’t be taken care of any other way,” stated Teri Heede, who has multiple sclerosis and grows her own marijuana in Honolulu.

The House and Senate passed the bill Thursday sending it to Gov. David Ige. Ige hasn’t promised to sign the bill, but he has said his staff worked closely with lawmakers to craft the final draft of the legislation.

Under the proposal, dispensaries could begin operating as soon as July 2016. The bill allows dispensaries to open on all the major Hawaiian islands, including three on Oahu, two each on Maui and Hawaii’s Big Island and one on Kauai.

Applications for dispensary licenses would become available in January. Each dispensary license would cover up to two retail dispensing locations and two production centers, with each production center cultivating no more than 3,000 plants.

Marijuana Industry Business Conference

A recently released marijuana industry report revealed that for every $1 of legally sold marijuana an additional $2.60 of economic value enters the U.S. economy, and that doesn’t include consumer media or paraphernalia that exists regardless of marijuana laws. Instead, it encompasses businesses dependent on marijuana legalization, such as: cultivators, edibles makers, testing labs and companies that sell specialty goods and/or services to dispensaries.

23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and among them, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have also legalized recreational marijuana. The marijuana industry as a whole is projected to rake in $11 billion in gross national product for 2015, and growing to $23-$29 billion by 2019. In medical dispensary sales alone, marijuana sales are projected to grow to $8 billion in 2019.

A few up-and-coming states mentioned to have huge opportunities for business development in the marijuana industry are: Arizona, which has a large population of seniors seeking healthy alternatives for prescription drugs; Massachusetts, which has been delayed in implementing it’s medical marijuana program but is projected to exceed $50 million once implemented; Illinois, which also has delays but is expected to soon become a thriving marijuana market.

Despite regulatory delays, the U.S.’s marijuana industry is growing and the projected revenues in 2015 for recreational sales in Colorado and Washington are between $800 million and $1 billion, surpassing M&M’s national sales. If adult use were legalized nationwide, the report projects annual revenues between $40 billion and $45 billion, surpassing wine and e-cigarettes.

Marijuana legalization is creating jobs as well, with 40,000 to 60,000 jobs being added nationwide in the marijuana and related industries (i.e., security services, testing labs, edibles makers, etc.). If marijuana were legalized nationwide it would add over 250,000 jobs in the U.S., many of them above minimum wage, the report claims.

View the report here

Alcohol Gateway Drug

The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 60% of marijuana users went on to try other drugs, which appears to justify the “marijuana is a gateway drug” theory, except when you learn that 88% of drug users used alcohol before any other drug.

Treatment4Addiction analyzed the government study which revealed that alcohol is more of a catalyst for trying new drugs, therefore dismissing marijuana as the wrongly-accused “gateway drug.”

Miriam Boeri, a sociology professor at Bentley University does not believe one type of drug use leads to another. In an article, she pointed out that poverty, mental illness and peer group pressure are all much stronger predictors of drug use.

Scientist Denise Kandel of Columbia University, who coined the term “gateway drug,” recently told NPR that she just published a new paper on the topic and it shows that nicotine is biologically the most potent gateway of all. When rodents were primed with nicotine, then given cocaine, they liked the cocaine much more.

Marijuana DEA

Finn Selander, a former Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent, who spent six years as the DEA’s Marijuana Coordinator in Miami and New Mexico, is now speaking out in favor of legislation that would create a full-fledged recreational marijuana program in Arizona.

Now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Selander said that he’s seen too many lives ruined by strict marijuana laws and those laws need to change.

“As an agent, I was doing my job,” Selander stated. “I was enforcing the law. It was definitely hard at times… I would see injustice in a number of cases.”

The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act initiative Selander is supporting is set to to appear on Arizona’s 2016 ballots and “proposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use for those over the age of 21, creating a network of shops licensed to sell and distribute it and taxing it 15% on top of the regular sales tax.”