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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prove that any of this money has actually been used to purchase marijuana because many of the shops where the money was withdrawn sell products other than marijuana.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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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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NFL Marijuana Drug Policy

It appears the NFL will finally be looking towards changing their antiquated and overly severe drug policy.  The NFLPA (NFL Players Association) will soon vote on some proposed changes to the NFL’s current policy.

If the changes are accepted, there would be an increased threshold for any player that tests positive for marijuana.  Nate Jackson, a New York Times contributor, who was also a former NFL tight end, says that he medicated with marijuana for the majority of his career and feels that the way Cleveland Browns star wide receiver Josh Gordon was treated is unfair.

Jackson goes on to say, “Gordon has marijuana in his system.  He broke the rules.  I understand that.  But this is a rule that absurdly equates marijuana with opiates, steroids, and PCP.  The NFL’s threshold for disciplinary action for marijuana is 10 times higher than the one used by the International Olympic Committee.”

This is a long time coming for the NFL to take a look at the way they handle marijuana across the league.  Morgan Fox of the marijuana policy project sums it up best by saying, “The NFL’s harsh marijuana penalties do nothing to promote the health and safety of the players.”

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Maine Marijuana

Three cities in Maine will be voting this coming November on adopting a program that would allow adults age 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

Law enforcement and local governments have shown strong opposition to this movement, but the initiatives in each city are still gaining momentum.

Lewiston, Maine’s second largest city, was the first to place the initiative on its ballot. They were able to gather many more signatures than needed to get the initiative on the ballot.

The city of South Portland faced unanimous opposition in regards to the initiative, but still managed to turn in more than enough signatures from local supporters.

York, the third city pushing for the legalization of small amounts of marijuana, was also able to gather enough signatures to get the initiative on their town’s ballot despite facing great opposition as well.

Activists in Maine are hoping that this will push their state in a pro-marijuana direction, and that Maine voters will be able to vote for legalized recreational marijuana by 2016.

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Marijuana Research
The federal government has decided to increase their marijuana supply for research purposes.  The DEA announced last week that they will increase their marijuana production quota from a meager 21 kilograms to a whopping 650 kilograms in order to meet demand.

A farm at the University of Mississippi in Oxford is federally permitted to grow a set amount of marijuana to be used in clinical trials.  All protocol must first be approved by the DEA, FDA, and the US National Institute on Drug Abuse before administering marijuana to human test subjects.

Marijuana advocates have been quick to point out that in the past the majority of the research being done by the federal government on marijuana has been designed to point out all the potential harms rather than the many therapeutic benefits.

A spokesman for the research said, “The additional supply of cannabis to be manufactured in 2014 is designed to meet the current and anticipated research efforts involving marijuana.  This projection of increased demand is due in part to the recent increased interest in the possible therapeutic uses of marijuana.”

There are currently eight trials being done on marijuana’s effects on humans, but only two are devoted to researching the plant’s benefits.

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Hemp Clothing
A new hemp clothing company based out of Denver is enticing customers with an added gift of free marijuana with the purchase of their clothing.

Hemp House clothing announced that along with the clothing customers order they will also deliver an eighth of marijuana to the customers that are 21 years of age or older and that live in the Denver area. Upon delivery buyers will have to show a photo ID proving their age.

Anyone who does not live within the Denver metro area has been promised via the Hemp House website that they will not be excluded from the promotion. Instead they will be given “something special” in place of the eighth of marijuana.

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