On February 12th, Italy’s constitutional court struck down a 2006 law which categorized marijuana the same as heroin and cocaine and thus tripled the prison sentence of those caught with marijuana.
The court ruled that the law was “illegitimate,” without much other elaboration. The 2006 law was passed by the conservative government of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is now surrounded with personal controversies of his own. He has just gone on trial for corruption charges, he was stripped of his Senate seat last year for tax fraud conviction, and may also face trial for paying showgirls to lie about an affair with an underage prostitute.
Berlusconi’s personal issues aside, the 2006 drug law was an egregious use of government force: categorizing marijuana in with hard drugs and increasing the sentences from 2-6 to 6-20 years. Needless to say, locking a human being in a cage for simply owning a medicinal plant, which is arguably a human rights violation in and of itself, and tacking on years and years of jail time is just rubbing salt in the wounds of individual freedom.
The official data for the Italian prisons reveals that they are operating far beyond capacity, with 62,000 inmates living in facilities that were built to house only 48,000. The prisoners’ rights group Antigone claims that 40 percent of all inmates are serving their sentences for drug crimes. Italy has the most crowded jails of any nation in the EU.
In January 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy’s overcrowded prisons violate the basic rights of inmates. The court set a fine against the Italian government at 100,000 euros ($131,000 US) and ordered it to institute the change within a year.
Senator Carlo Giovanardi, one of the original writers of the law, said the ruling was “a devastating choice from a scientific viewpoint and in the message it sends to young people who some drugs are less dangerous than others.” Oddly, he is suggesting that black and white thinking is somehow superior to perceiving the world as different shades of gray. On the other side of the political aisle, Alessia Morani, an MP with the centrist Democratic Party, said “the ruling puts the final word on one of the absurd laws that parliament has ever passed in recent years.”
This is a rather small step, but still a step in the right direction as far as drug legislation goes. If you take a look at the trends around the world, drug legalization/decriminalization is spreading slowly but surely. One good sign is an open letter that was penned to president Obama, by seventeen congressmen, in which they asked the president to direct attorney general Eric Holder to reclassify marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. The letter was bipartisan, and they pointed to Obama’s own hypocritical views on the subject of drug classification.
“You said that you don’t believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol: a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less dangerous in terms of its impact on the individual consumer. This is true. Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substance Act at Schedule I, the strictest classification, along with heroin and LSD. This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs. This makes no sense. Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system.”
From a rational standpoint is hard to understand why such reasonable changes have taken so long to manifest, and why so many in power continue to argue against empiricism and science in favor of prohibition. Italy’s decision is a step in the right direction, but the journey is far from over.
Not a day goes by that a HIGH TIMES reader doesn’t ask me about how to obtain gainful employment in the marijuana industry. Knowing just how rapidly the wild west of weed is actually developing, my initial response is usually something to the effect of: Move out to Colorado and ask someone for a job. Marijuana is growing everyday… literally.
For some people, however, taking a leap into the unknown can be a frightening experience, not having any indication if there will be work available once they make the move can be a stressful affair. Well, I am pleased to report that not only are there a number of jobs currently waiting to be filled, but you can apply for them next week at the first ever Colorado cannabusiness job fair.
“CannaSearch,” which is being sponsored by O.penVAPE, is set to get underway next Thursday, showcasing 15 companies from Colorado’s budding marijuana trade who are looking to fill a variety of positions from accounting and customer service to trimmers and street team members.
"Companies will be looking for copywriters, graphic designers, tour guides, Web developers, and a ton of other mainstream jobs,” said O.penVAPE spokesperson Calisa Griffin. “We also have a few dispensaries coming out that will be looking for budtenders and trimmers so there should be something for every kind of applicant.”
For serious applicants who want to hang around all day and rub elbows with industry leaders, this is the ideal event to get your foot in the door. Major companies like Dixie Elixirs and The Hemp Connoisseur are expected to be in attendance, with each cannabusiness reportedly looking to fill at least three positions.
“CannaSearch” happens on Thursday, March 13, 2014, from 11am -- 7pm (MST) at the offices of O.penVAPE located at 1058 Delaware Street -- Denver, Colorado 80204. For addition information about this job fair, visit the Facebook event page.
Via High Times
- Massachusetts Releases List of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries - Officials in Massachusetts have released a list of medical marijuana dispensaries that will be the first legal purveyors of pot in the state.
- Lawmakers clash with DEA officials over reclassifying marijuana - U.S. lawmakers who support steady relaxation of state laws on marijuana sparred Tuesday with Obama administration officials who continue to label the drug in the same high-danger category as heroin.
- Delaware’s First Marijuana Dispensary - Delaware’s first medical marijuana dispensary will open in September according to the state’s Division of Public Health.
- RI Could Become First State to Legalize Pot Without Voter Approval - Governor Lincoln Chafee could become the first governor in America to legalize marijuana without putting the decision to the voters.
- “Let’s Make This Work”: The First Weed Commercial Is About to Hit American TV - The idea seems to be to encourage people to go the legal route, as opposed to breaking the law to obtain weed.
- For pot to go mainstream, “stoner” image will require a makeover - "Here is a brand-new industry being rolled out, and the way it was sold to us was that it would be sold only to adults," Carbone said. "It is up to the industry to show that they are not trying to market to those under 21."
Officials in Massachusetts have released a list of medical marijuana dispensaries that will be the first legal purveyors of pot in the state.
With the law designed to eventually allow at least one dispensary in each county, the application process devised by the state of Massachusetts was crafted to avoid the pitfalls other states have seen when legalizing medical marijuana. Rather than a “lottery” type system, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health chose winners based on the appropriateness of the proposed dispensary site, geography, local feedback and the ability of the applicant to meet the overall needs of patients while at the same time ensuring patient health.
The three-round application process saw 181 initial applicants, which had been whittled down to around 100 by last November, with 20 final applicants being awarded a license with the first announcement (other license winners will be released at a later date). Licensees will be required to pay a $50,000 annual registration fee.
- Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, Inc
- William Noyes Webster Foundation, Inc
- Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, Inc
- Brighton Health Advocates Inc. d/b/a/ Compassionate Care
- Alternative Therapies Group, Inc
- Healthy Pharms, Inc
- Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers, Inc.
- New England Treatment Access, Inc.
- Patriot Care Corp.
- Central Ave Compassionate Care, Inc.
- Garden Remedies, Inc
- The Greenway Wellness Foundation, Inc.
- New England Treatment Access, Inc.
- Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, Inc
- In Good Health, Inc
- Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, Inc
- Green Heart Holistic Health & Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
- Bay State Relief, Inc
- Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, Inc.
By Mark Miller
Delaware’s first medical marijuana dispensary will open in September according to the state’s Division of Public Health.
The Delaware Medical Marijuana Program was signed into law in 2011 but implementation was delayed because of concerns of federal intervention. However, in the wake of the US Department of Justice announcing last year they will not prosecute those adhering to state legal pot laws, Delaware’s public health department was able to move forward with the program.
The announcement was made as the state’s Joint Finance Committee was questioning the public health department about the $70,000 it received for operational costs tied to medical pot.
Public heath director Dr. Karyl Rattay explained that a vendor to operate Delaware’s pilot “compassion center” should be chosen by late April. Cultivation is slotted to begin in July followed by sales in September. Under state law, vendors can grow up to 150 plants at once and stock up to 1,500 ounces of medical marijuana.
To allay fears that medical pot could be diverted into the black market, state dispensaries will have 24/7 video surveillance and bar code tracking of all medicine sold. Additionally, compassion centers must operate as nonprofit, be subjected to random inspections and must report any missing cannabis within 24 hours.
While the Marijuana Policy Project expressed concerns that the initial dispensary will not be able to supply enough medicine to meet demand, presently there are only 55 registered pot patients in Delaware – though the health department expects those numbers to swell to several hundred once the pilot cannabis clinic opens for business.
Via High Times
by Victor Paul Alvarez
Governor Lincoln Chafee could become the first governor in America to legalize marijuana without putting the decision to the voters.
After attending a meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C., last week, Chafee discussed the possibility of "pot for potholes" – using marijuana sales revenue for infrastructure improvement – by passing a bill approved by state lawmakers.
At least one local expert thinks it’s a dangerous proposition.
“It would be extremely shortsighted and irresponsible to debate legalizing marijuana simply to raise tax revenue,” said Gary Sasse, former director of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, a former director of the Rhode Island Department of Administration and the state Department of Revenue, and now director of the Bryant Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University.
“Coloradans legalized pot and their governor noted that going out and getting tax revenue is absolutely the wrong reason to even think about legalizing recreational marijuana. He is correct. Marijuana can put young people at risk. Let's see what happens in Colorado before jumping into the pool.”
Legalization through bill vs. ballot box
Chafee agrees on the timetable. Although Rhode Island lawmakers are now contemplating the possibility of legalizing by bill instead of ballot box, Chafee wants to see how legalization works in Colorado before making a decision.
Last month, a bill that calls for the legalization of marijuana to be regulated and taxed like liquor sales was introduced. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Josh Miller, D-Cranston, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and Edith H. Ajello, D-Providence, chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee.
“I would like to see a referendum but I did co-sign the legislation,” said District 65 Representative Gregg Amore (D).
“The War on Drugs has been an utter failure by every measure. The idea that marijuana use will significantly increase based on legalization does not ring true with me. I think we have a better opportunity to regulate and control if we legalize. A national legalization would dry up the black market as it did with alcohol.”
Amore is also a teacher at East Providence High School, which adds perspective to his position.
"My students will tell you that they can get pot a lot easier than they can get booze.”
Chafee has said the potential revenue is enticing for all governors. With his seat up for grabs in the upcoming election, the decision could fall into the hands of the next governor.
"It's great to see Governor Chafee expressing openness to legalizing and regulating marijuana,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalization group. Angell, a Rhode Island native, graduated from URI in 2004.
“Prohibition does virtually nothing to reduce use, and it causes a number of problems such as allowing violent drug cartels and gangs to make billions of dollars in tax-free profits in the black market. Bringing the marijuana trade aboveground, where it can be taxed, will benefit users and nonusers alike."
Regarding tax revenue from marijuana sales, Angell referred to recent projections from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, “which shows that marijuana taxes there are absolutely going to benefit schools and public health programs to the tune of tens of millions of dollars,” Angell said.
Substantial boost in revenue projected
Colorado's retail marijuana shops opened in January. Though he opposed marijuana legalization, Hickenlooper released an aggressively optimistic new proposal last week regarding the revenue the legal marijuana industry could bring in for the state. Hickenlooper's budget office expects the recreational and medical marijuana industries will pump nearly $134 million in tax and fee revenue into state coffers in the fiscal year beginning in July. The proposal estimates sales in all marijuana stores to approach $1 billion for that fiscal year. Recreational pot shop sales are estimated to account for more than $600 million of that — a more than 50 percent increase over a previous projection.
Of course, projections aren’t always accurate.
"It is important to note that these amounts are estimates based on a number of assumptions of the new industry," according to the proposal. "We anticipate that these projections will change monthly as more data is collected and actual revenue could fall short of these projections."
The tallies – the first estimates since recreational marijuana sales began in stores Jan. 1 – are significantly higher than previous projections, which expected recreational marijuana stores to do $395 million in sales in the fiscal year beginning in July.
Washington State is right behind Colorado, with retail sales of marijuana slated to start this spring. Financial experts there predict marijuana revenue could bring in $190 million in taxes over a four-year period.
But what of the ethical ramifications of legalizing a substance that is still controversial, despite its growing acceptance in American culture? The comparisons to cigarettes, alcohol and casino gambling revenue are obvious. Could this be called another “sin tax?”
“Legalizing ‘pot for potholes’ is a dead end street. While it's tempting to think that this avenue will make up for lost gambling revenue, the fact is that those who sell pot through the black market will continue to do so with more pure forms,” said former Rhode Island Attorney General Arlene Violet.
“It will soon become a market for the ‘kid stuff’ – which is legalized versus what you get as the ‘real stuff’ with a better high. We are only creating more candidates for stronger "highs".
Legalizing pot for the sake of revenue may be short-sighted and dangerous, according to critics. But most agree that the issue is twofold: How much money will the state bring in versus the potential damage caused by the proliferation of legal drugs.
"Well, it certainly would help make up the gambling revenue decline RI is headed for because of the new betting operations that will be opening in RI, said former Providence Journal political columnist M. Charles Bakst. "Personally, I'm not sure legalizing non-medical marijuana would be a good thing on the merits, though I could be convinced. And if it indeed is a smart thing to do for society, the justice system etc, the revenue would be a nice bonus. But I'm with those who say look at the issue itself first, don't rush into it just to make a buck. It's terrible that RI became so addicted to the revenues from slots, which I believe prey upon people's weaknesses and turns them into robots mindlessly handing over their money."
Dan Kennedy, Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism at Northeastern University, is on the same side.
“Personally, I think casinos are a terrible idea and that legalizing marijuana is a good idea. In general, though, if you're legalizing activities that are harmful to society for the sole purpose of raising tax revenues, you're headed down a dangerous road,” he said.
It was the first thing bought and sold on the Internet. Bill Murray likes it. Veterans like it. Your grandma maybe likes-slash-needs it. Carl Sagan really (really) liked it. Hell, we even took a trip to Colorado to learn about the so-called "green rush" cropping up around it. And now both medicinal and recreational cannabis are legal, taxed economies in parts of the US, there's bound to be television commercials highlighting it.
That time has come. The first weed commercial is slated to air on major networks, including A&E, Fox, CNN, Comedy Central, Food Network, and the History Channel. The minute-long spot is for MarijuanaDoctors, a company that connects medical marijuana patients with local doctors. The company does not “promote the casual or recreational use of marijuana or any other prescription medication,” though, according to their website.
The ad is airing in New Jersey, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2010. "Securing the airtime for our commercial on a major network was extremely difficult and at the same time, extremely satisfying," Jason Draizin, the founder and CEO of MarijuanaDoctors, said in a press release.
It's only slightly hokey. The ad compares buying weed from your run-of-the-mill dealer to buying sushi from a street dealer ("I got that sashimi"), which is clearly the most obvious correlation you could draw (black market tuna, anyone?). The idea seems to be to encourage people to go the legal route, as opposed to breaking the law to obtain weed.
At any rate, New Jersey is a prime test market to air the commercial. You can currently get a medical marijuana card in New Jersey for “cancer, glaucoma, positive HIV/AIDS status, or the treatment of these conditions; a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms; and other medical conditions that may administratively be added by the department," according to this state senate report.
But the Garden State has been talking about completely legalizing weed for a while now. State senator Nick Scutari recently said—wait for it—it's “high time” the state addresses the issue. If New Jersey does legalize weed, it would of course become the third state to do so, along with Colorado and Washington.
Which is all to say we’ve come a long way, now that pot is making its way onto the television in commercial form. Just in time for your nightly couch lock.
Via Motherboard Vice
By Tom McGhee
CNN, BBC, Fox News, Bloomberg TV, High Times and other big media picked up on the ads he placed in small local newspapers, pushing his four-restaurant group into the national spotlight.
"Timing is everything. It was just after the legalization of recreational, so it was the hot topic of the day," he said. "People are curious."
But the public's curiosity alone may not be enough to recast the marketing image of pot consumers as connoisseurs rather than loopy stoners who can't be trusted to imbibe with the same moderation that most drinkers exhibit, advertising pros say.
It's tough to get around the reality that although the recreational sale and use of marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington state, the drug remains illegal at the federal level.
And there is a certain tension around the fact that while pot businesses may want to attract a wider range of consumers, they can't afford to offend their existing customer base, said Stephanie Brooks, an adjunct professor who teaches digital marketing at the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business.
"They have a core market attracted to the stoner lifestyle that they don't want to alienate," she said.
But large potential players — companies with the capital to mount sophisticated ad campaigns that could boost the drug's mainstream acceptance — will be watching Colorado to see how the industry takes shape, said Greg Wagner, a lecturer in the marketing department at Daniels College of Business.
"We are the test market now," he said.
If recreational marijuana sale and use becomes legal nationally, or in a large number of states, deep-pocketed companies — think tobacco and liquor — could enter the market and bring with them upscale advertising campaigns that chip away at the stoner image shaped during 70 years of prohibition, Wagner said.
"The magic of advertising is we can say whatever we want, and it is all about creating that positive image," he said. "Hip, cool, rather than lethargic stoner."
For now, the nascent industry is counting on open consumers to influence advertisers to put some polish on the marketing, said Wanda James, a managing partner at Cannabis Global Initiative, a nonprofit consulting firm that advocates for legalization.
"The people I get high with are lawyers, business owners."
"The people I get high with are lawyers, business owners," said James, who also owns Jezebel's Southern Bistro and Bar in Denver. "Advertisers realize that there are people like me with disposable incomes."
Hapa Sushi's pairing menus may have been humorous, but they captured a certain truth, said Jonathan Schoenberg, executive creative director of TDA Advertising & Design, the Boulder-based ad firm that created the campaign.
In spite of a down-market image, many consumers think about marijuana in the same way they do fine wine, carefully selecting pot strains for their taste, aroma and other characteristics, he said.
Most current pot-advertising campaigns promote the products of mostly small businesses and concentrate on price, available strains and, sometimes, their strength.
They often offer new customers a small amount of free weed, said Kristy Wingfield, owner of Graphik Creative in Denver, which designs advertising for some retailers.
"As a nonsmoker, it is interesting to be working on the ads," she said. "Free is what is needed to get people in the door."
The ads are a far cry from the glitzy, good-times image conveyed by marketing for other so-called "vice" products, like beer and liquor.
"When we market vice products, the message usually centers around celebration or good times, or relaxing, taking the edge off the daily grind," Brooks said.
For example, beer advertising doesn't present the guy who downs a few beers while watching television at home — even though most suds are consumed there.
"They project a much cooler, sexier image," Wagner said. "I'm in a bar with my buddies; there are lots of good-looking girls."
Colorado's rules allow recreational marijuana businesses to advertise only in adult-oriented publications that can demonstrate that no more than 30 percent of the readership is expected to be under the age of 21.
Still, there are many who worry that legalization — and related marketing — will lure more adolescents to use a drug that studies show is harmful to the developing brain.
Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed spending $45 million from the state's projected weed-related sales-tax windfall on youth marijuana-use prevention campaigns over the next 18 months.
However, the marijuana industry also has a responsibility to reinforce the message, said Gina Carbone, a founder of not-for-profit Smart Colorado, which lobbies for regulations on the business.
"Here is a brand-new industry being rolled out, and the way it was sold to us was that it would be sold only to adults," Carbone said. "It is up to the industry to show that they are not trying to market to those under 21."
Pot retailers will have to avoid the tobacco industry's mistakes, said Eric Anderson, a principal at the public-relations firm SE2.
"Tobacco was accused historically of intentionally marketing to kids to create the users of tomorrow," Anderson said.
He said the alcohol industry has avoided tobacco's advertising abuses, focusing squarely on adults, but so far, there is no indication that marijuana will follow that example.
"If you look at pot advertising, I don't see those clear signals to parents and teens that this is a bad choice," Anderson said. "In my opinion, the marijuana industry needs to decide if they are going to follow the example of the tobacco industry, or from more responsible industries that understand that is not in their long-term benefit to market to kids."
Via The Denver Post
On Wednesday Alaska Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell officially signed off on the marijuana ballot initiative after meeting with the Division of Elections.
This year on August 17 Alaskans will be voting on whether or not to legalize marijuana. On Wednesday Alaska Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell officially signed off on the ballot initiative after meeting with the Division of Elections.
If voters approve the seven pages long initiative in the upcoming August election, Alaskans aged 21 or over will be able to buy up to an ounce of pot anywhere, unless banned by the property owner. A state government controlled body would oversee the cultivation, distribution and advertising and make sure the marijuana doesn’t end up with juveniles or the black market. Marijuana would be taxed at 50$ an ounce.
Polling indicates the initiative is likely to succeed. A PPP survey from this month put support at 55 percent in favor to 39 percent against.
Employers would be able to ban smoking or possession at the job and prevent employees from working while high. Local governments can decide to outlaw cultivation and sales, but not possession. Driving while high would remain illegal.
Between 1975 and 1990 marijuana was actually legal in Alaska, until it was again made illegal in 1990. In 1998 however, Alaska became the 6th state to allow marijuana to be used for medical reasons. In 2014, it may just become the 3rd state to legalize marijuana after Colorado and Washington already did earlier.
Via The Stoned Society