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Marijuana News in Arizona and World

Marijuana Native Americans

New federal policy will allow Native American tribes interested in cultivating and selling marijuana to do so, as long as they maintain “robust and effective regulatory systems,” said the U.S. attorney for Colorado, John Walsh.

Tribes will need to avoid certain enforcement triggers that also apply to state-regulated marijuana markets, including a prohibition on sales to minors and the diversion of marijuana trafficking to states where marijuana remains illegal under local law.

It is currently unclear how many tribes will take advantage of the new policy directive. Certain tribes are well-known for using their special legal status to host casinos and/or sell untaxed tobacco.

According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs there are 326 federally recognized Native American reservations. Many reservations are in states that don’t allow medical or recreational marijuana use, such as Oklahoma and the Dakotas. Many others are located near major East Coast cities.

“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” stated Timothy Purdon, U.S. attorney for North Dakota and chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues.

The Department of Justice said U.S. attorneys can review tribes’ marijuana policies on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors retain the ability to enforce federal law.

Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said Native American tribal leaders “will have a tremendous opportunity to improve public health and safety, as well as benefit economically” by legalizing marijuana use. Tvert also stated that “Regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol would ensure the product is controlled, and it would bring significant revenue and new jobs to these communities…studies have consistently found above-average rates of alcohol abuse and related problems among Native American communities, so it would be incredibly beneficial to provide adults with a safer recreational alternative.”


Congress Marijuana Federal Spending Bill 2014

State operated medical marijuana programs and legal hemp cultivation may have just got historic support from Congress. The proposed federal spending bill on Tuesday included amendments that prohibit the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state medical marijuana operations. In addition it blocks the Drug Enforcement Administration from using its funds to interfere with state-legal industrial hemp research. If it passes, the bill will protect programs in the states that have legalized marijuana and CBD oils for medical purposes as well as those operations that research industrial hemp.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who a introduced the amendment with co-sponsor Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), told Huffington Post:

“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree. This is a victory for so many, including scores of our wounded veterans, who have found marijuana to be an important medicine for some of the ailments they suffer, such as PTSD, epilepsy and MS.”

Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance stated: “For the first time, Congress is letting states set their own medical marijuana and hemp policies, a huge step forward for sensible drug policy. States will continue to reform their marijuana laws and Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed.”

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Legalize Marijuana USA

The marijuana movement is quickly expanding throughout the United States. Many states are discussing and/or implementing plans to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Here are the nine states most likely to legalize marijuana next:

Arizona: Efforts by local groups and major non-profits are expected to help get a recreational marijuana legalization law, similar to Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws, onto the November 2016 ballot.

New Mexico: Support for marijuana decriminalization has been strong and the issue of a regulated and taxed marijuana market is expected to go before state lawmakers in 2015.

California: Already has a medical marijuana program and will likely legalize marijuana for recreational purposes in 2016 with the help of marijuana advocating non-profits.

New York: The governor signed the Compassionate Care Act earlier this year and New York City has officially decriminalized marijuana (less than 25 grams). Recreational marijuana could be coming soon.

Florida: Amendment 2 missed by two percent in the 2014 general election, but the marijuana movement is expected to come back strong.

Maine: Measures to decriminalize marijuana were successful in recent years and supporters think the state could be the next to legalize for recreational use.

Massachusetts: Supporters are drafting an initiative just in case lawmakers do not make an effort to legalize marijuana in 2016.

Michigan: With decriminalization efforts successful, some believe the state could be the first Midwestern state to establish a recreational marijuana market.

Minnesota: The state has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the nation, but many supporters predict changes will be introduced soon.

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Marc Victor

Despite the existence of voter supported medical marijuana laws in Arizona, the current trends towards national legalization and the total failure of the foolish “drug war” controversy about the legalization of marijuana remains. Indeed, criminal prosecutions involving marijuana remain as aggressive as ever. Horrible injustice regarding marijuana possession, sales, production and transportation remains alive and well in Arizona’s courts.

From my vantage-point as a criminal defense attorney for over twenty years, it seems to me prosecutors have become more aggressive in criminal marijuana prosecutions and plea offers have become even more harsh and immoral. I suspect the reason for this increase in harshness towards marijuana users is part of an intentional effort to make it appear as if marijuana crimes are on the rise in preparation for the inevitable battle over recreational use of marijuana in Arizona. Don’t be fooled!

In this unjust and overly harsh climate for marijuana users, heightened awareness of the existing laws is critical. Medical marijuana users sometimes forget that an Arizona medical marijuana card does not protect the cardholder from a criminal prosecution for driving while impaired to the slightest degree as a result of marijuana use. Indeed, under current Arizona law, the mere existence of marijuana or the active metabolite of marijuana in a user’s blood will support a DUI conviction; even for a legal, cardholding medical marijuana user. Said another way, the existence of a valid medical marijuana card does not protect a user from a DUI even without any showing of impairment.

In addition to DUI laws, which remain applicable to legal medical marijuana users, there are also several other potential traps and yet unresolved issues of which medical marijuana users need to be aware. Users who are legally authorized to cultivate are routinely prosecuted for having more than 2.5oz of marijuana in their possession despite the fact that twelve legal marijuana plants will almost certainly produce an amount far in excess of 2.5oz. As well, lots of unresolved legal issues surround medical marijuana users and gun possession laws.

Portions of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act have already been determined in court to be vague and unreasonably difficult to understand for the ordinary person. Whether anyone can “sell” marijuana or receive reimbursement for marijuana remains an unclear and unresolved question. Even technical violations of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act can invalidate all legal protections and pave the way for a criminal prosecution.

Despite the fact, there are many issues still unresolved for medical marijuana users. Undercover officers have been dispatched in force to lure legal marijuana users into violating some unclear or even technical aspect of the Act so as to allow criminal prosecution. The fact that a legal medical marijuana user was intending in good faith to follow the law is generally irrelevant in a criminal prosecution.

All people are always required to follow all laws, regardless of their erroneous but good faith views about complying with the law. We all know ignorance of the law is no excuse. Medical marijuana users are well advised to proceed with extreme caution and avoid pushing the limits of the yet unresolved edges of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

Marc J. Victor is an Arizona State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law who has practiced Criminal law for over 20 years.

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Smuggling Marijuana Into Mexico

To service the U.S. market, police agencies report some Mexican crime groups grow marijuana on public lands in the western US.

As states in the US legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal use, Americans are buying less and less of it on the black market. This trend has caused wholesale prices in Mexico to drop, and have forced the cartels to find new sources of revenue. One of these sources is smuggling high-quality, American-grown marijuana into Mexico for sale to high paying customers.

According to the DEA spokesman Lawrence Payne, Sinaloa operatives in the United States are reportedly buying high-potency American marijuana in Colorado and smuggling it back into Mexico.

“It makes sense,” Payne told NPR. “We know the cartels are already smuggling cash into Mexico. If you can buy some really high-quality weed here, why not smuggle it south, too, and sell it at a premium?”

“The Sinaloa cartel has demonstrated in many instances that it can adapt. I think it’s in a process of redefinition toward marijuana,” Javier Valdez, a respected journalist and author who writes books on the narcoculture in Sinaloa, told NPR.

Valdez told NPR that he’s heard through the grapevine that marijuana planting has dropped 30 percent in the mountains of Sinaloa.

“I believe that now, because of the changes they’re having to make because of marijuana legalization in the U.S., the cartel is pushing more cocaine, meth and heroin. They’re diversifying,” Valdez says.

Minnesota Medical Marijuana

Two companies have been chosen to be responsible for growing the medical cannabis, processing it into pill or liquid form and distributing the medications through a network of eight distribution sites. The Minnesota Department of Health announced LeafLine Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions as the two registered manufacturers. Each manufacturer will have 4 distribution sites.

LeafLine Labs’ manufacturing facility will be in Cottage Grove. It will open dispensary on July 1, 2015 in Eagan and then open other locations in St. Cloud, Hibbing and St. Paul on or before July 1, 2016.

Minnesota Medical Solutions’ manufacturing facility is located in Otsego and should be functional this week. They will open four distribution facilities in July in Rochester, Maple Grove, Minneapolis and Moorhead.

The companies were chosen after a review process that examined their operational track records, financial stability, business plans and other factors.

Postal Workers Arrested in Marijuana Bust

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that Federal agents arrested 8 U.S. Postal Service workers in Bethpage, New York in connection with an alleged mail theft and marijuana distribution conspiracy.

Agents seized about 129 pounds of marijuana in 12 different packages. The workers, who range in age from 25 to 43, allegedly stole packages suspected of containing marijuana from the processing line instead of reporting the suspicious packages and re-labeling them to send to new addresses.

The eight workers are each charged with theft of mail and conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute.

Marijuana Fights Alzheimer’s

The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a study in September that “strongly suggest that THC could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.”

They found that the main active ingredient in marijuana “directly interacts” with a protein that is linked to Alzheimer’s symptoms, “thereby inhibiting aggression”. THC was also effective at lowering other key Alzheimer’s Disease markers and that “no toxicity” was observed from the THC. In addition, they found that THC “enhances” the function of the cell’s mitochondria. Other research in the same journal that month indicates THC boosts the body’s natural anti-Alzheimer’s fighting mechanism: the endocannabinoid system.

“THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function,” stated study lead author Chuanhai Cao, PhD and a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and the USF College of Pharmacy.

“Decreased levels of amyloid beta means less aggregation, which may protect against the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Since THC is a natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor, THC or its analogs may help us develop an effective treatment in the future.”

Over five million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s and it is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the nation.

Arizona Legal Marijuana Taxes

According to an analysis by the Arizona State Legislature, the state could generate an additional $48 million in revenue each year by legalizing and taxing marijuana. It shows that Arizona could enjoy a large boost in revenue for schools, health care and other services simply by taxing people who already use marijuana.

The report, which was produced by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee in September wasn’t made public, but the New Times was able to obtain a copy of it.

The report only takes into consideration the increase of potential taxes, but doesn’t account for the large amount of money that would be saved annually in Arizona by halting arrests, criminal prosecution and jailing of marijuana users. According to the New Times, “Phoenix police alone arrest about five people a day for possession of marijuana, with no other crimes alleged.”

The report was conducted in response to a bill proposed earlier this year that would have made marijuana legal for adults over 21 years old. It would have also made it legal to sell recreation marijuana in retail stores with a $50-per-ounce tax.

The bill died in April, but a similar measure may come back around in January. Regardless, Arizona voters are likely to see a legalization initiative on the ballot in 2016 coordinated by the Marijuana Policy Project.

Marijuana Plants Federal Government Report

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a comprehensive report last week examining a wholesale excise tax on the production and sale of cannabis-related products by the federal government.

The report was one of the most comprehensive policy and fiscal reviews to date of how marijuana can and should be regulated and taxed. The CRS considered enforcement, restrictions, labeling, measurement, discouraging youth use, choosing the base to tax (i.e., weight, potency and price), special tax rates, home production and medical cannabis.

In the CRS’ analysis, they predict that cannabis prices are likely to fall to as low $5-$18 ounce, from the $200 – $350 prices per ounce in dispensaries today. Their economic modeling was based on a $40 billion annual cannabis market in the United States and they estimated the federal government could generate as much as $7 billion in federal excise taxes.

NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre commenting on the new CRS paper:

“This CRS report on the prospects of the federal government taxing and regulating cannabis is another clear indication of the political saliency and fiscal appeal of ending cannabis prohibition at the state, and increasingly at the federal level (replacing the nearly eighty-year old failed federal policy with tax-n-regulate policies that are similar to alcohol and tobacco products).

With fours states and the District of Columbia since 2012 opting for legalizing cannabis, dozens of members of Congress from both major political parties—from states with legalization and those that pine for it—are getting serious about making sure the federal government does not lose out on hundreds of millions annually in tax revenue from the ever-growing cannabis industry in the United States.”