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Marijuana News in Arizona and World

AZ Marijuana Legalization
A marijuana advocacy group attempting to make marijuana legal for adults in Arizona in 2016 has filed the necessary paperwork with state elections officials granting them permission to raise money to campaign for the initiative.

The Marijuana Policy Project of Arizona initiative will be based off of Colorado’s voter-approved recreational marijuana program that taxes and regulates marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older.

Andrew Myers, who is helping with the initiative, said the group will form a “diverse coalition” to assist with drafting the initiative’s language. He also stated that marijuana advocates are closely watching Colorado’s recreational marijuana program to determine what should and shouldn’t be replicated in Arizona. Colorado’s marijuana program allows a limited number of medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries to operate and has heavy oversight to regulate the industry.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which advocates to legalize and regulate marijuana, said it will pursue legalizing marijuana in Arizona in 2016 because such initiatives are more successful during presidential elections, which is when more voters visit the polls.

Over 50,000 Arizonans already have medical marijuana cards which allow them to legally purchase and use medical marijuana. Many more people are expected to become cardholders as more dispensaries open every month making access to medicine much more convenient.

As seen in Colorado and Washington, the legalization of marijuana can generate new marijuana jobs, tax revenue for public programs, social and health benefits, and more.

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Marijuana Legalization Signs

It may be an off-year election, but it’s a big one for drug policy reform. In seven weeks, voters across the country will have a chance to accelerate the unprecedented momentum to legalize marijuana and end the wider drug war. In fact, there are more drug policy reform questions on the ballot this November than ever in American history. Voter initiatives — primarily reforming or repealing marijuana laws — appear on the ballots in seven states, at least 17 municipalities and one U.S. territory. To help you keep score at home, here’s an overview, starting with the highest-profile measures.

Oregon: Passage of Measure 91 will make the Beaver State the third to legalize marijuana for adults outright. Like the historic laws adopted in Colorado and neighboring Washington two short years ago, this initiative would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older and create a statewide system to regulate production and sales. And similar to Colorado’s law, Measure 91 would allow adults to cultivate small amounts of marijuana under controlled circumstances. In this entirely vote-by-mail election, the initiative has already been endorsed by the Pacific Northwest’s largest daily paper and would likely boost efforts across its southern border to end marijuana prohibition in California two years from now.

Alaska: The other statewide marijuana legalization initiative, Measure 2, is closely modeled on Colorado’s Amendment 64 and tracks many of the elements in Oregon’s prospective law. Alaska was something of a marijuana reform pioneer as possession and cultivation of small amounts for personal use in a private residence has been protected under the Alaska Constitution since the 1970s. Alongside Oregon in 1998, Alaska was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana. With a deep-rooted respect for personal freedom, Alaska would become the first red state to legalize marijuana for adult use, no doubt raising eyebrows across the political spectrum.

Florida: Amendment 2 is the only statewide medical marijuana initiative on the ballot this year, and it’s one to watch. Victory would make Florida, with its huge population and bell weather status in American politics, the very first southern state to adopt a medical marijuana law. With 23 other medical marijuana states and super-majority support nationally, passage of Amendment 2 would effectively settle any lingering questions on public acceptance of marijuana as medicine. It’s going to be a challenge, though, since Florida law requires 60% to pass a voter initiative. While polls indicate enormous support, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson contributed a few million dollars to stop it as Amendment 2 is associated with Charlie Crist’s comeback gubernatorial campaign. Adelson’s intervention has created the first well-funded opposition to a statewide marijuana reform campaign ever.

California: On the heels of reforming its harshest-in-the-nation Three Strikes law in 2012, Californians are now poised to refine six low-level, nonviolent offenses, including simple drug possession, from felonies to misdemeanors. Proposition 47 would then dedicate the savings — likely more than $1 billion a year — to schools, victim services, and mental health treatment. With retroactive sentencing and expungement provisions, the impact of Prop 47 in California on wasteful corrections spending and individual lives would be profound and surely resonate across the country.

District of Columbia: Earlier this year, the D.C. Council adopted the nation’s most far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law. In November, voters in the nation’s capital will decide whether to go even further. Initiative 71 makes it legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess and cultivate small amounts of marijuana. While District law prevents the ballot initiative from addressing the sale of marijuana, the D.C. Council is considering a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana within the District. D.C. has the highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the U.S. with enormous racial disparities as police target African Americans for 91 percent of these arrests. Initiative 71 will be the first marijuana reform campaign fought primarily on the issue of the drug war’s ongoing toxic impact on black communities.

Other races: Voters in municipal elections from the Northeast to Micronesia will weigh in November 4 on a range of marijuana focused issues.

Guam: Voters could make this U.S. territory the first to adopt medical marijuana. The binding referendum would allow for dispensaries regulated by the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

Maine: By a wide margin in 2013, Portlanders chose to eliminate criminal penalties for adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. In seven weeks, voters in York, South Portland, and Lewiston will tackle the same question.

Michigan: In the last two years, residents of seven cities have voted to remove local penalties for adult possession of small amounts of marijuana in a private residence. As of now, a whopping 11 other cities (with apparently more to come) will have the chance to follow suit this year.

New Mexico: Last month, the City of Santa Fe became the first in the state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. On the ballot in November, voters in Bernalillo (Albuquerque) and Santa Fe Counties will decide if their county should affirm decriminalization efforts.

Public opinion has shifted dramatically over the last decade in favor of reforming marijuana laws and dismantling the egregious excesses of the drug war. And elected officials have begun to take notice. The U.S. House has voted five times in recent months to let states set their own marijuana policies while Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker have introduced similar bi-partisan legislation in the U.S. Senate in addition to a cluster of other long-overdue criminal justice reforms. When the dust settles on November 5, the momentum for change in this country will only have accelerated.

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WA Marijuana Dispensary
It has been two months since the first recreational marijuana dispensaries opened their doors in Washington, and sales are skyrocketing, which has lead to an increase in tax revenue for the state.

According to Washington’s State Liquor Control Board, $12.1 million of legal recreational marijuana has been purchased since July 8, the opening day for licensed business. Total sales more than doubled in August to $6.9 million, up from $3.2 million in July. Monthly tax revenue increased from around $805,000 to $1.75 million.

September sales are on pace to be around $7.1 million, which would translate into $1.8 million in tax revenue.

The rapid sales growth is due to more dispensaries opening across the state. There were only 24 approved retail dispensaries in July when retail sales began, but that number has since increased to more than 50 dispensaries. More dispensaries are coming as officials grant additional licenses to some of the thousands of applicants.

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AZ Dispensary Marijuana
Republicans in the House of Representatives have passed legislation this week which addresses the right-wing media’s attempts to demean pro-marijuana programs through accusations that low-income Americans are using their government benefits in order to purchase marijuana.

There are currently two bills making their way through the Republican-heavy House which connects government assistance for low-income families with the legal purchase of marijuana. The Preserving Welfare For Needs Not Weed Act, which made its way to the House yesterday, hopes to stop the use of individuals using government granted cash cards provided by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in order to purchase marijuana from dispensaries. The No Welfare for Weed Act is a similar bill that was introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), but instead hopes to ban the purchase of marijuana with food stamps (SNAP benefits).

These bills come as no surprise following the recent efforts by Fox News to blame impoverished Americans for using money from the government to purchase recreational marijuana. According to the National Review Online, “welfare beneficiaries withdrew thousands of dollars in public assistance cash from ATMs at weed shops” just after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.

These are accusations that the conservatives have continued to push on the public. Republican Dave Reichert claimed, “We are seeing new abuses of these benefits. In these states, a person can walk into one of the newly opened pot shops and use their welfare benefit card to pay for pot…this isn’t an idle concern. Reports examining welfare transactions in Colorado revealed over $5,000 in welfare benefits were accessed in stores selling marijuana in the first month such stores were open.”

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families blog has so far been unable to prove that any of this money has actually been used to purchase marijuana because many of the shops where the money was withdrawn sell products other than marijuana. Furthermore, many welfare recipients use marijuana as their medicine, so revoking their right to use their welfare money on marijuana is the same as stopping them from buying prescription drugs or herbal remedies.

Currently, Arizona’s medical marijuana program provides a 50% discount to SNAP recipients for their medical marijuana card and many Arizona dispensaries also provide SNAP discounts.

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NY Marijuana Legalization
New York state Senator Liz Krueger just revealed plans to introduce the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in January which could very well lead to New York legalizing and taxing marijuana for adults as soon as 2015.

If the senator’s bill passes, it would allow retail marijuana stores to open under the supervision of the State Liquor Authority. Adults 21 years and older would in turn be allowed to possess two ounces of marijuana for personal use as well as to grow up to six plants in their home.

New York has been in the medical marijuana news recently for becoming the 23rd state in the US to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Krueger says that, “The real motivation for this bill comes from the fact that we have spent decades attempting to do prohibition and a war on drugs that has actually done nothing and is particularly ruining the lives of young people of color and having them go into the criminal justice system and come out with the kind of citations that limit their access to financial aid for college and exposes them to a criminal justice system that, frankly, I do not believe they should have been exposed to in the first place, for simply using a drug that is proved to be less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. It is a win-win to decriminalize marijuana and regulate it and tax it.”

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Marijuana Legalization States
This November, residents in a few states will be voting on whether to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, similar to Colorado and Washington. Voters in Alaska, D.C., Florida, and Oregon will decide the fate of recreational marijuana in their state.

Marijuana legalization is expected to pass into law in all these states. This is because of the many economic and health benefits that – Colorado and Washington have proven – come from the new industry. For instance, marijuana legalization generates millions in tax revenue and creates new jobs. As well, marijuana helps people find natural relief from many health ailments.

Arizona, Nevada and a possibly few other states plan to have marijuana legalization initiatives on their ballots in November 2016.

23 states and the District of Columbia currently have medical marijuana laws implemented. 11 more states have low-level THC medical marijuana laws. Most states that allow medical marijuana tax it through a general sales tax, just as over-the-counter medications are typically taxed.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), is a group that lobbies to end the prohibition of marijuana. They have campaigns to legalize marijuana with ballot initiatives in a number of states, including Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. They are also helping with legislation efforts in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

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Colorado Retail Marijuana

Colorado has reported that sales of recreational marijuana for the month of July have surpassed medical marijuana sales, marking the first time this has happened in the 9 months since recreational marijuana was legalized.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, customers bought $29.7 million worth of recreational marijuana, while medical marijuana sales came in at $28.9 million. Since retail sales first began, dispensaries have sold roughly $145 million of marijuana.  When combined with medical marijuana sales, the state of Colorado has sold a staggering $350 million worth of marijuana since January 2014.

Over 55% of residents support Colorado’s recreational marijuana movement.

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Oregon Marijuana
A US congressman from Oregon has asked that the White House look into potential finance law violations due to allegations that money to fund the upcoming Oregon marijuana “education tour” about the dangers of legalizing marijuana might have been donated by the federal government.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer referred to the tour as a “smokescreen” put on by anti-marijuana activists on a federal level to deter Oregon residents from voting for legalization. Oregon will join Alaska and the District of Columbia this November to vote on whether or not to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.

Blumenauer wrote in his letter to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy that, “the bias of the speakers selected, the overall one-sided focus of the events and the proximity between these events and the upcoming election are cause for concern.”

Although Oregon fell short of recreational legalization a couple of years ago when Colorado and Washington became the first states to allow it, they are now favored to pass the law come November.

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Gobal Commission Drug Policy
A new report published this week by former world leaders states that drug use should be decriminalized and governments should look into the idea of broad scale legalization.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy’s ideas are also shared by some of the leaders of the countries that have been most affected by the illegal drug market.  They argue, that not only is the war on drugs pointless, it is also the main reason for the crime and violence it was originally set up to prevent.

Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general says, “The facts speak for themselves. We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works, rather than policies that criminalize drug use while failing to provide access to effective prevention or treatment. This has led not only to overcrowded jails, but also to severe health and social problems.”

A report in 2011 came to a similar conclusion, and even went so far as to suggest some recommendations for the policy currently in place. They feel that drug use and possession in regards to laws that disproportionately affect certain groups or minorities should be decriminalized. The report also suggests that experimental legalization, like in Colorado and Washington, should be done on a much larger scale in other countries. They believe that marijuana is a good place to start, but that it should not be limited there.

They go on to suggest that low level, non-violent drug dealers should not be sent to jail, but instead disciplined in a different and more humane way.  The spokeswoman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Cameron Hardesty, seems to agree on this point. She says, “We agree that we should use science-based approaches, rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug offenders, and ensure access to pain medications. Our goals are not so dissimilar from the goals of the Global Commission. However, we disagree that legalization of drugs will make people healthier and communities safer.”

It will be great to see other states in the US following the example set by Colorado and Washington in the upcoming elections in regards to the recreational use of marijuana, as well as to see how Uruguay’s model of nationwide marijuana legalization works out. One thing is for certain – the current policy has to change.

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Painkillers Marijuana
While the majority of Americans are coming around to the idea that marijuana can be valuable, whether it be for recreational or medical purposes, the opposition is looking to a team of researchers in hopes that they can scare and influence policymakers into continuing to believe that marijuana is a dangerous substance.  They claim the lack of testing that has been done on marijuana makes it a risky alternative to modern medicine.

It appears a great number of these researchers are receiving compensation by some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry to remain anti-marijuana.  The main reason being that marijuana could easily take the place of some of these companies’ highest grossing drugs.

Many credible doctors who have spoken publicly about the “dangers” associated with marijuana use are getting paid by large-scale pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma, creator of the painkiller, OcyContin.

People in the marijuana field feel that some of these doctors’ financial arrangements with big pharmaceutical companies should be considered a conflict of interest.  Studies done on marijuana in association with pain relief have shown that it is a viable replacement for addictive opiates which mimic the effects of heroin.  What they fail to mention, however, is that prescription painkillers are responsible for roughly 16,000 overdose deaths annually, while no one in recorded history has ever overdosed from marijuana use.

Nation magazine ran a story in July which stated that many of the largest anti-marijuana advocacy groups rely on funding from painkiller manufacturing companies such as Purdue Pharma.  While these companies fill the general public’s heads with skewed opinions, they take away from one of the biggest problems facing the US, which is the over-prescribing of painkillers.

Meanwhile these companies pump more and more painkillers into the hands of the unsuspecting American public every single day because the media often tells them that opioids are a safer alternative to using the all-natural remedy, marijuana.

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