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Marijuana News in Arizona and World

DEA Marijuana

This summer may be a big moment in the national conversation about marijuana. With a decision coming by July 1, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency could partially legalize medical marijuana, and the federal government could usher in a new era with a comprehensive and multi-structural approach to pot policy.  Just don’t expect to fill a marijuana brownie prescription at your local drug store any time soon.

Marijuana has been a Schedule I narcotic since 1970.  That means, in the eyes of the federal government, marijuana has no medicinal value and is highly addictive.  It is illegal under federal law to grow, possess or sell it.  To put this in perspective, cocaine is a Schedule II narcotic — legally available under highly restrictive circumstances.  The DEA’s options are to keep marijuana as Schedule I or to reschedule or de-schedule it. De-scheduling would allow use for non-medical, recreational purposes like alcohol.  Rescheduling would allow use like a regular prescription issued by a physician and filled by a pharmacy under a DEA license, like Codeine. If this happened, marijuana prescriptions would almost certainly be allowed only in traditional medicinal forms, such as pills and extract drops and perhaps topical lotions and nebulizers.  It’s unlikely that the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration would allow prescriptions for smokable marijuana or pot brownies and other edibles.

Although legal under state law in more than half the states, marijuana is still illegal federally, and federal law trumps. Since 2009, the federal government has followed a policy of non-enforcement.  In short, the federal government is not enforcing federal marijuana laws, as long as anyone involved is in compliance with state marijuana laws.  It is akin to the non-enforcement of traffic laws, for speeding a few miles per hour over the limit.

If the DEA keeps marijuana on Schedule I, the federal government risks continued suffering by those with true medical ailments and continued lack of scientific study.  The DEA would be wildly out of step with rapidly changing public opinion.  If the DEA de-schedules marijuana, big tobacco companies could take over, and the fears of many anti-marijuana advocates would be realized.

Rescheduling marijuana for medical/prescription use, but shutting down the state recreational side, would result in unintended negative consequences. Because prescriptions are not taxed, state and local jurisdictions would lose millions of dollars in tax revenues. Colorado collected nearly $135 million in medical and recreational marijuana taxes and license fees in 2015 on a combined medical and recreational market of nearly $1 billion. With a prescription-only industry, states would lose their current marijuana-related jobs to existing pill-manufacturing companies.

With rescheduling to a prescription-only federal system, the residual state systems will continue to grow.  More states will legalize medical and recreational marijuana, and only a small piece of the consumer market would be siphoned off by the marijuana prescriptions allowed through rescheduling.  Therefore, the federal government will need a comprehensive approach to a new dual-system era.

All relevant goals and concerns can be addressed with a three-part approach:

1.Reschedule marijuana from Schedule I (completely illegal) to Schedule III (legal for medical purposes, allowed only by prescription). This would only address a small percentage of the current market, as most marijuana in Colorado and other legal states is consumed by smoking, vaping and edibles. Rescheduling would legalize marijuana testing and patient studies for universities.

2.Continue the federal non-enforcement policy for recreational marijuana. Rescheduling for medical purposes would align with the federal government’s current stance towards state-legal recreational structures. Under a dual system, the recreational market would increase rapidly with customer demand for non-prescription smokable marijuana and edibles. Jurisdictions with excise taxes on recreational marijuana would bring in additional revenues for regulation based on federal enforcement priorities.

3.Create a coalition of states to adopt uniform, comprehensive regulation and enforcement for recreational marijuana to address public safety concerns. A coalition of states could create model laws and regulations to create uniformity in packaging, labeling, portion size, marijuana oil extraction safety standards, pesticide use, testing, etc., as well as joint enforcement. The federal government could add its support for public safety and consumer protection by: 1) amending banking laws to allow marijuana businesses to have checking accounts and receive loans, and reduce the crime associated with cash-only businesses; 2) allowing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to award patents and trademarks; and 3) amending the IRS Code to allow marijuana businesses to take standard business deductions.

These reasonable steps address both public safety and public opinion with a reality-based approach to marijuana regulation.  This is regulation that works for the people.

This is an op-ed authored by Tom Downey and originally published by The Denver Post.

Tom Downey is a regulatory attorney in the Colorado law firm Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe.  He is the past director of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe, PC.

Teen Marijuana Use Rates

Controversy is stemming around teens and their ability to obtain marijuana when states legalize recreational use. Colorado has been conducting surveys on this issue consistently over the last several years.

In 2009, a survey completed by 17,000 high school and middle school students showed that 25-percent had used marijuana within the previous 30 days.  The same study, conducted again in 2015, showed a 4-percent decline in teen marijuana usage, according to The Washington Post. Less than 40-percent of Colorado teens from across the state say that they have used marijuana within the last year. Surveys conducted on national scales show that less teens are using marijuana regardless of its legality.

An excerpt from The Colorado Health Department in a recent press release said, “The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally.”

Marijuana Policy Project Representative Mason Tvert said, “These statistics clearly debunk the theory that making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use. Levels of teen use in Colorado have not increased since it ended marijuana prohibition, and they are lower than the national average. Elected officials and voters in states that are considering similar proposals should be wary of claims that it will hurt teens.”



AZ Marijuana Ballot Initiative

Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego announced today that he is endorsing the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, an initiative poised for the November ballot.

The proposed initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana, establish a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol, and enact a 15 percent tax on retail marijuana sales. A majority of the tax revenue would be directed to Arizona schools and public education programs.

“Forcing sales of this plant into the underground market has resulted in billions of dollars flowing into the hands of drug cartels and other criminals,” said Rep. Gallego. “We will be far better off if we shift the production and sale of marijuana to taxpaying Arizona businesses that are subject to strict regulations. It will also allow the state to direct law enforcement resources toward reducing violence and other more serious crimes.”

Gallego, a Democrat who represents Arizona’s 7th congressional district (comprising of central and south Phoenix as well as western Maricopa County communities), announced his endorsement at a news conference on the House Lawn of the Arizona State Capitol. He was joined by leaders of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) in Arizona, a group that is supporting the initiative.

“I am proud to support this initiative, as it represents a far more sensible approach to marijuana for our state,” mentioned Gallego. “It will make Arizona communities safer, while also generating some much-needed tax revenue for our schools.”

The campaign is wrapping up its petition drive in support of the initiative and will be submitting its signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office prior to the July 7 deadline.

Marijuana Banks

A new measure has been approved by the U.S. Senate Committee that would allow banking institutions to offer financial services to marijuana businesses. State-legalized marijuana businesses will soon be able to operate as a traditional business with a traditional banking system. Thus far, banking services have not been available to a majority of marijuana businesses due to marijuana’s illegal federal status.

Senator Jeff Merkley is the author of the amendment, Marijuana Policy Project reports. The amendment prevents the spending of funds that prohibit and penalize banks/financial institutions that provide banking services to state-legal marijuana-related businesses. Given that most banking institutions fear federal penalties and prosecution, very few have even attempted to work with marijuana-related businesses.

Marijuana Policy Project’s federal policies director, Robert Capecchi said, “More than half of the U.S. population lives in jurisdictions where marijuana is legal for adult or medical use. Millions of marijuana consumers are relying on licensed and regulated businesses to provide them with safe and legal access to marijuana.”

Capecchi continued by saying, “Current federal policy all but ensures marijuana businesses operate on a cash-only basis, which raises safety concerns for their employees and the surrounding communities. This measure should ease the financial institutions’ concerns about opening accounts for those state-legal businesses.”

There are still more steps before the amendment becomes law. A full Senate approval must come first. Following that, the House must include proper language in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. The final step is a Presidential signature.

Microsoft Marijuana Software Dispensary

Since marijuana is still illegal federally, most major corporations have kept far away from the industry. But Microsoft is breaking barriers by creating software to help dispensaries track their marijuana from seed to sale. The software will help dispensaries inventory their products while operating under the regulations set by states marijuana industries.

More states are legalizing marijuana in some form, which is a large portion of the reason that Microsoft has decided to jump in on the industry. In November, at least 5 states will have recreational marijuana legalization initiatives on their ballots, NY Times reports.

Microsoft representative Kimberly Nelson said, “We do think there will be significant growth. As the industry is regulated, there will be more transactions, and we believe there will be more sophisticated requirements and tools down the road.”

Microsoft will be entering the marijuana industry with software only. The software giant is working with Kind, a Los Angeles startup company. Kind built the software that Microsoft will be marketing. This is a major step in the marijuana industry, as the tech giant tiptoes into this controversial industry.

Founder of Kind, David Dineberg says, “Every business that works in the cannabis space, we all clamor for legitimacy. I would like to think that this is the first of many dominoes to fall.”

The Azure Government software is the only software program related to the marijuana industry. The cloud program is expected to be easy to use and secure.

Kind and Microsoft have applied with Puerto Rico to provide this software to its marijuana businesses. Additional applications with individual states are expected to begin soon.

Marijuana Sales

The marijuana sales at dispensaries on April 20th, 2015, and on April 20th, 2016, show a substantial increase in sales volume. The “marijuana holiday” is more accepted now than it used to be because much of the negative stigma surrounding marijuana has subsided. 4/20 is becoming a mainstream event for many Americans.

In comparison to 2015, marijuana sales in Washington State doubled to $5.5 million on 4/20/16, Market Watch reported. Sales in Colorado have steadily grown each year since marijuana became legal for adult use. The previous single day record in Colorado was $6.1 million in sales on September 16, 2015, which was a tax-break holiday. The new record was set on April 20, 2016, for $7.3 million.

Colorado’s total sales for the month of April in 2016 totaled $117 million. On 4/20 in Washington, the sale of concentrates rose 250-percent.

Statistics show that hourly sales in Washington state on April 20th increased by 140-percent in comparison to typical daily sales. It was also shown that the 4pm hour produced the most sales.

New statistics from recent polls conducted by Quinnipiac University, show that 90-percent of Americans support medical marijuana. The same poll shows that 54-percent also support recreational legalization.


Marijuana Jobs

The legalized marijuana industry in the United States is booming. In 2015, legal sales reached $5.7 billion, up from $4.6 billion in 2014. And demand is expected to continue through 2016 as the industry is projected to grow to $7.1 billion.

All this growth means that jobs are in high demand, and the best place to find jobs in the legal U.S. marijuana industry is at, the marijuana industry’s leading job listing site. The website just released a list of the 8 most popular marijuana industry jobs in the U.S., and a list of the 5 most popular auxiliary marijuana industry jobs in the U.S.

“Many employers in the legalized marijuana industry don’t require previous work experience at a marijuana company, so almost anyone 18 or older with a high school degree can obtain a job in the industry,” a spokesperson for stated.

The 8 most popular marijuana jobs in the U.S.:

  1. Budtenders – assist dispensary customers with purchasing marijuana
  2. Sales Reps – sell products (vapes, technology, edibles, etc.) to dispensaries
  3. Extraction Technicians – make marijuana concentrates
  4. Edibles Makers – make marijuana-infused foods and drinks
  5. Dispensary Security – patrol dispensaries for illegal activity
  6. Marijuana Growers – cultivate marijuana for dispensaries
  7. Trimmers – trim and package marijuana flowers for dispensaries
  8. Dispensary Managers – manage all or various aspects of dispensaries

The 5 most popular auxiliary jobs in the U.S. marijuana industry:

  1. Consultants (cultivation, business management, etc.)
  2. Lawyers
  3. Accountants
  4. Marketing
  5. Web Developers/Designers

Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Arizona

A group of Arizona parents that formed a coalition to support the initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona is launching a pro-marijuana Father’s Day billboard in Phoenix.

Parents for Responsible Regulation (PRR) is a group of concerned parents that was created for the purpose of highlighting the benefits of regulating marijuana to protect teenagers. Their Father’s Day-themed billboard launches on Thursday, June 16. Upon launching, a news conference will be held in front of the billboard in downtown Phoenix (two blocks south of Chase Field on the southwest corner of 7th St. and Lincoln St.) at 10 a.m. MST.

Marijuana Billboard Arizona

“Our current system of marijuana prohibition has failed to keep marijuana out of the hands of teens. It forces marijuana sales into the underground market, where customers are never asked for ID and often exposed to other illegal products. In a regulated system, checks for proof of age would be mandatory and strictly enforced. I would do everything in my power to protect my children, and that’s why I am speaking out in support of regulating marijuana like alcohol,” mentioned PRR co-chair Sonia Martinez, an attorney and mother of two children, ages 9 and 10.

PRR co-chair Ryan Tracy, owner of C4 Labs and father of two children, ages 3 and 6, said, “The growing and selling of marijuana are currently being relegated to criminal enterprises, oftentimes including cartels and gangs. In an illegal market, suppliers cannot count on law enforcement officials to step in when business-related disputes occur, so they resort to violence. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials are spending time arresting and prosecuting adults for simple marijuana possession that would be better spent addressing more serious crimes.”

APS Marijuana

With the deadline to submit signatures for the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana for the Arizona November election fast approaching, a $10,000 donation made to an Arizona anti-marijuana group has caused a bit of a stir. Worst of all, the donation came from Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, the parent company of Arizona’s utility company, Arizona Public Service (APS). Therefore, in one capacity or another, every Arizonan involuntarily and unknowingly made a slight donation to an anti-marijuana group in Arizona.

A statement was released this week from APS saying that, “No customer money went toward the contribution.” But the fact of the matter is that the money that the company receives is from ratepayers and shareholders. The donation itself raises eyebrows as it goes against Pinnacle West Capital Corporation’s own policy, Phoenix New Times reports.

Pinnacle West is permitted to make a profit under the monopoly status it holds. The company can do as it wishes with those profits. The Arizona Attorney General has threatened to order a utility requesting the corporation’s accounting books. Accusations of the donation being based upon the personal views of corporation heads and that the funds spent have been done so with a specific political agenda.

Local attorney Tom Ryan said, “They are taking our money and using it for private speech purposes. There’s no benefit to us. They’re helping out some buddies who are helping them out. That’s all.”

Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns says, “Simply put, dollars that APS has received from ratepayers in order to recover the costs of providing utility service should not be used for political speech. Unfortunately, I have thus far seen no evidence that such funds are not being spent on political speech.”

Oakland-based energy program manager, Amelia Timbers, commented that the contribution is a direct violation of Pinnacle West’s own policy. She claims that the move “potentially alienates customers, stakeholders, and shareholders that do not share the same controversial political views of the company’s management.” Timbers also went on to say that the contribution was “the clearest example yet that [Pinnacle West’s] political spending reflects its executive management’s personal agendas rather than valid business purposes.”

Quoted from the Pinnacle West spokesman Jim McDonald himself, “Our concern emanates from the employment-law language in the proposal, especially considering the public-safety aspects involved in supplying reliable electric service to APS customers. The initiative simply does not support the kind of workplace required to operate the electric grid, make repairs to the system after a monsoon storm, or operate the nation’s largest nuclear power plant. No customer money went toward the contribution.”


Marijuana Hotels

Although marijuana is both medically and recreationally legal in Colorado, finding somewhere legal to use it is still an issue because of Colorado’s laws stating that marijuana can only be used on private property. So Deborah Button decided to open a business that would offer tourists a place to legally use marijuana while in Colorado.

Button is the owner of a bed and breakfast establishment, CNET reports. The B&B has five rentable rooms and four bathrooms. Not only is marijuana use permitted on the premises, but Button also grows marijuana for her guests.

Marijuana-friendly hotels are often booked far in advance in Colorado. This is a major reason why bed and breakfasts are opening as well as why many private homeowners have opened up their spare rooms and/or entire homes as rentals for visitors. The extra income helps the local economy and still offers tourists a safe place to consume marijuana without judgment.

“We have bongs, vape pens, vapes — all the [marijuana] accouterments that you could dream of. Sometimes, we’ll [put] out 50 rolled joints. It’s like a candy shop in the house,” said Button. “That’s a big draw for visitors. They like to watch the cannabis grow. We have plants at every stage – clones, teenagers, we got ‘em all. They usually tell me, ‘I want to see the babies!’”

This is not the only marijuana-friendly rental option in Colorado for tourists. There are well over a dozen options for marijuana-friendly hotel-like accommodations. Some allow marijuana use in any form and some restrict use to vaping or edible options only.

A Boulder penthouse owner, Vivienne Palmer, rents her space to marijuana-friendly tourists. She says, “I make the rules for what you can do in my house very clear. My biggest concerns are fire danger… No joints, no bongs, anything that you have to hold a flame to, including candles and incense.”