Marijuana News in Arizona and World

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.”

Ecuador Marijuana

Ecuadorian lawmakers have proposed a historic piece of legislation that would decriminalize all illegal drugs.

Last month, Carlos Velasco, who manaages the Ecuador congressional Commission of the Right to Health, submitted the Organic Law on Comprehensive Drug Prevention bill that would end criminal penalties currently associated with the possession and use of illegal substances, while establishing a system that provides prevention and rehabilitation programs instead.

“Treating the drug phenomenon in a repressive way – as was done in the 1980s and 1990s when prison was the only destination for the drug consumer – is absurd,” noted Velasco.

If the law passes it would allow for the development of a Technical Secretariat of Drugs, which would set controls on more than 100 substances, regulating every aspect from importation to general use. Anyone wishing to take advantage of the system, whether it is consumer or dealer, would be required to register with the agency and adhere to the rules set forth.

Current Equadorian law punishes individuals caught growing or selling illegal drugs to up to 16 years in prison. Under the revised statute, violators would only be required to surrender their drugs and pay a fine.

DEA

A federal court had decided that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cannot be held liable in the event a sting operation goes amiss, resulting in monetary loss, property damage and loss of life to American citizens. U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal issued the verdict, which essentially strips the DEA of any responsibility if any of their dimwitted drug war plans wreaks havoc on civil society.

In one case, a judge determined that Craig Patty, the owner of a small trucking company, was not entitled to any reparations over a botched DEA sting operation that caused more than $100,000 in damages to one of only two trucks in his fleet, as well as the tragic death of his employee.

The ruling comes just weeks before the case was set to be heard in federal court, which some are arguing is a feeble attempt by the government to prevent this horrific debacle from causing any further embarrassment.

The DEA’s decision to proceed with such an operation is “entirely discretionary, and not mandated by any statute, rule, or policy,” according to the ruling. Whether and how to conduct such an undercover investigation and operation is necessarily discretionary in nature. Agents “did not try to give advance notice to Patty that the Task Force would be using his truck because of the operation’s covert nature, the risks of injury and potential for damage if something went wrong, and the uncertainty about whether other individuals (including Patty) could be trusted.”

The verdict shocked Patty’s attorneys, who said it translates into citizens not being able to sue the federal government. What’s more is that it suggests that government agencies have the right to use citizens’ personal property and put citizens in harms way in order to conduct drug war missions without first obtaining permission or without being held accountable.

Seniors Marijuana

A recent study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reveals that marijuana use has greatly increased among baby boomers in the past decade and is expected to continue to rise. The report showed that marijuana usage by baby boomers has doubled, and even quadrupled in some age blocks of individuals above 50 years of age.

The report also showed the combined medical and recreational marijuana industry is one of the fastest developing industries in the United States, partially because baby boomers’ marijuana use is expected to increase faster than any other demographic.

By the end of 2015, more than 110 million Americans over 50 are expected to be using marijuana, and that number could increase by seven percent in the following five years, according to a recent study by global research firm.

Many of these baby boomers are using marijuana for medical reasons such as relief from chronic pain, while others enjoy using marijuana recreationally, just like alcohol.

“I smoked for years before I had my kids then stopped, said a retired teacher and baby boomer. “Now they’re gone and I am free to do what I want again… And smoking pot is one of them.”

Puerto Rico Marijuana

Puerto Rico’s Governor signed an executive order that will immediately bring medical marijuana to thousands of patients in the U.S. territory.

Governor Alejandro García Padilla noted that several studies conducted in the United States have demonstrated the therapeutic value of marijuana and its derivatives, which led to the signing of Executive Order 2015-10. The island’s Secretary of Health can now authorize the medical use of substances derived from the cannabis plant.

“These studies support the use of the plant to relieve pain caused by multiple sclerosis, AIDS virus, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, migraine, Parkinson’s and other diseases that often do not respond to traditional treatments,” stated García Padilla.

Puerto Rico is the second U.S. territory to legalize marijuana for medical use. In November 2014, 56% of voters in Guam approved the Compassionate Cannabis Use Act, which will bring medical marijuana legalization to the island in late 2015.