Marijuana News in Arizona and World
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona, a group attempting to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use via a 2016 ballot initiative, created a Halloween-themed billboard which highlights the relative safety of marijuana in comparison to alcohol.
“Marijuana is illegal thanks to decades of anti-marijuana propaganda and fear mongering,” said J.P. Holyoak, the campaign’s chairman. “Once people find out it is actually safer than alcohol, they tend to agree it should not be a crime for adults to use it responsibly.
According to researchers at the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is significantly less likely to be addictive and is much less harmful than alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attribute more than 2,000 U.S. deaths per year to alcohol poisoning, whereas there are zero confirmed marijuana poisoning deaths throughout history.
“Over the next 12 months, our opponents are going to do everything they can to scare Arizonans into keeping marijuana illegal,” stated Holyoak. “We just want voters to remember that we’re talking about a substance that is proven to be less harmful than alcohol.”
“Nobody is saying marijuana is harmless, but the scientific and medical communities are saying it is less harmful than alcohol,” mentioned Holyoak. “It’s time to put the ‘Reefer Madness’ in the past. Our marijuana laws should be based on facts instead of fear.”
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Senator Rand Paul was recently interviewed about his – consistently pro-marijuana – stance on medical and recreational marijuana legalization by High Times.
When Paul was asked how far he thinks marijuana decriminalization should extend he answered by saying: “States should be allowed to do what they want to do and the federal government should not intervene.”
Paul hopes to see marijuana’s Schedule I classification be drastically reduced. Paul stated, “I would probably go a little farther on the scheduling than rescheduling cannabis to Schedule II. I would probably take it even lower than that. But I think that change has to come about incrementally. Colorado’s experiment and Washington’s experiment – I think you’re going to see other states follow that route. We’re going to go little steps at a time. But if you do believe in states’ rights, you do have the ability to adapt a little bit at a time. As people see it working in various states, then maybe that will encourage other states. ”
“I’m very much an opponent of the War on Drugs,” stated Paul, who also believes in fundamental constitutional rights when he mentioned that “if you are going to classify something as right or wrong, or make something criminal or not criminal, it should be done at the state level – not at the federal level.
Paul is one of the only presidential candidates that is openly pro-marijuana. Meanwhile, a majority of the US population now accepts the concept of legalizing marijuana for medical use, which has led to a handful of presidential candidates now claiming they are for medical marijuana legalization (at a state level).
Recreational marijuana sales were very impressive in Oregon’s first week of legal recreational marijuana sales, bringing in approximately $11 million.
The Oregon Retail Cannabis Association (ORCA) has estimated that almost $4 million of recreational marijuana was sold on October 1 alone.
“We’re seeing about 500 people a day,” said a dispensary owner in Portland.
In comparison, Oregon is off to an amazing start; Colorado sold $5 million in its first week while Washington state took two months to sell its first $2 million.
Recreational sales are bringing out all ages of consumers. An Oregonian stated that “They’re telling me that customers lining up are in many cases 50 to 65 and haven’t purchased marijuana in decades, but they’re just happy to have the opportunity to do so.”
The largest medical marijuana dispensary in Nevada has opened. Nevada Wellness Center is located in Las Vegas at 3200 S Valley View Blvd., which is only a mile from the Vegas strip.
Nevada Wellness Center is so large it has an interactive learning center that “is a place where patients can sit and learn about the most current medical marijuana strains within the marketplace,” noted a dispensary spokesperson. It will offer reading materials and “about cannabis history and its therapeutic advantages.”
One of the dispensary owners believes that Nevada and the US’s marijuana industry will continue to flourish, but that “You have to walk before you can run and right now we’re learning to walk.”
Nevada Wellness Center is the third dispensary to open in the Las Vegas area.
Nine of the ten largest cities in Wisconsin have established local ordinances decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.
The fines range from just $50 (in Milwaukee) up to $1,000 (in Green Bay). Most citywide ordinances do not enforce criminal sanctions unless the quantity of marijuana possessed exceeds 25 grams.
One of the ordinances imposes a maximum fine of only $100 for anyone found in the possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana. Another amended local law makes possession of up to five grams of marijuana punishable by no more than a $100 fine.
These cities have greatly reduced penalties for marijuana possession in Wisconsin. The current state law classifies the possession of any amount of marijuana as a criminal misdemeanor that is punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Consecutive offenses are classified as felonies punishable by over three years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
Many cities throughout the U.S., such as Miami Beach, are starting to decriminalize marijuana possession.
During the Democratic presidential debate last night in Las Vegas, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took a pro-marijuana stance when asked if he’d vote in favor of a local Nevada ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana use in 2016.
“I would vote yes because I am seeing in this country too many lives being destroyed for nonviolent offenses,” said Sanders. “We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, and yet we are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to somewhat agree with marijuana being used for medicinal purposes, but won’t even answer questions regarding recreational marijuana. Last night during the debate when she asked if she was ready to take a position on the legalization of recreational marijuana use for adults, she replied, “No.”
Anderson Cooper, the Democratic presidential debate’s moderator, even joked about marijuana as a segue just before a commercial break, stating that, “Some of the candidates have tried marijuana, as has probably everybody in this room.”
Lurking over marijuana legalization in the U.S. is a concealed conflict between marijuana and a competing vice industry: alcohol.
The alcohol industry fears that legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use will drastically diminish their enormous profits as an expanding number of states – Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and others – look to join the four states – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington – and D.C. that have already legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 or older.
But contrary to many predictions, alcohol sales are up in Colorado since recreational marijuana legalization began in early 2014.
Since legalization “we’ve just seen phenomenal growth,” said Justin Martz, who runs a liquor store in downtown Denver. In regards to legalization, Martz noted that “if anything it’s kind of helped us. A high tide lifts all boats.”
The Fort Collins, Colorado craft brewery New Belgium agree that scaremongers in the alcohol industry were wrong about marijuana legalization’s impact on the alcohol industry. A New Belgium employee stated that the two can be mutually beneficial in boosting overall sales: “There’s definitely some crossover in the two communities of beer drinkers and herb enjoyers. But I don’t think people are doubling down in one category or the other.” New Belgium noted that they’ve seen “no demonstrable impact at all in terms of sales.”
Many in Colorado’s alcohol industry credit marijuana with helping boost tourism in Colorado, which in turn increases alcohol sales at bars and restaurants. Tourism set record highs in Colorado in 2014, the first year of recreational marijuana legalization.
California is one step closer to legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use.
The California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (ReformCA) has officially filed its draft marijuana legalization initiative with state officials. The Control, Regulate and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016 would allow adults 21 and over to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana. The Act would also create two new state agencies: the Office of Cannabis Regulatory Affairs and the California Cannabis Commission.
“We engaged in extensive discussions with thousands of stakeholders across California, including community leaders, activists, elected officials, city and county employees and locals… we believe this effort has the most statewide input and consensus, and thus the greatest likelihood of succeeding on the 2016 ballot,” said ReformCA.
A few other legalization initiatives have already been filed with the state, and some are approved for signature gathering, but there is little evidence that any of them have the funding or manpower needed to succeed.
It will take more than 350,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for California’s November 2016 elections.
The pro-marijuana group, ResponsibleOhio, is trying to get a measure onto the ballot that will expunge records of criminal convictions for previous marijuana offenses that would no longer be illegal.
The measure is known as The Fresh Start Act and needs about 92,000 valid signatures to force Ohio lawmakers to either act or let voters decide on the initiative in the November 2016 general election. The group says it has collected over 235,000 signatures of registered Ohio voters.
“Our communities have been devastated, as you would expect when you remove millions of young men of color and export them from inner cities to prisons,” Rev. D.L. Perryman. “You have an effect on the children and the women who are left behind, on their schooling, their mental health, and their behavior… this Fresh Start is the first step in rebuilding that community.”
Early this year, ResponsibleOhio successfully managed to get an Ohio medical and recreational marijuana legalization measure onto the November ballot.
New data reveals that fewer high school students are using marijuana than in the past, even though more and more pro-marijuana laws are being implemented and marijuana as a medical and recreational substance is becoming more accepted in the U.S.
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s report reveals that marijuana use among American high school students is lower today than it was 15 years ago. They found that only 40% of teens in 2013 admitted trying marijuana, a decrease from 47% in 1999.
“People have been very quick to say that marijuana use is going up and up and up in this country, particularly now that marijuana has become more normalized,” said the lead researcher. “What we are seeing is that since 1999, three years after medical marijuana was first approved, the rates of marijuana use have actually fallen. But we will be watching those states where recreational marijuana use has been legalized to see if that leads to increased use among teens.”
The researchers will closely be watching the recreational marijuana states – Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Washington and the District of Columbia – in order to get data on youth usage rates in states that have legalized marijuana.