Releaf Magazine

U.S. Government Will No Longer Fund DEA Intervention in Medical Marijuana States

By: Bailey Rahn

Late last week, the U.S. government passed a budget bill that halts allocation of federal funds to DEA efforts in states with medical marijuana and hemp production laws.

You heard it right: the DEA will no longer be able to investigate, raid, prosecute, or incarcerate those operating within their state’s medical marijuana laws.

Although the bill also prevents Washington, D.C. from using local funds to implement their recently passed recreational cannabis legalization measure, the gravity of this historic moment cannot be understated (and we're holding out hope that D.C.'s fight isn't over yet!). Thank you to all of you who contacted your state representatives to show your support for this motion! In September 2015 Congress will be voting again on the federal budget, so we urge you to stay proactive and continue to put pressure your representatives throughout the development of these bills.

Cheers to you, to legalization, and to a brighter future for marijuana patients across the United States.



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Congress Passes Historic Medical Marijuana Protections In Spending Bill

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Congress dealt a historic blow to the United States’ decades-long war on drugs Saturday with the passage of the federal spending bill, which contains protections for medical marijuana and industrial hemp operations in states where they are legal.

The spending bill includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state-legal medical cannabis programs. If the bill is signed into law, it will bring the federal government one step closer to ending raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as stopping arrests of individuals involved with pot businesses that are complying with state law.

“When the House first passed this measure back in May, we made headlines; today we made history,” Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), who in May introduced the medical marijuana protections amendment with co-sponsor Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), told The Huffington Post regarding the bill’s passage.

“The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws,” Farr added. “This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.”
VIA MMJ News Network

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State marijuana ballot initiative moves forward

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A group wanting to make weed legal in Mississippi could begin as early as next week to collect signatures to have an initiative on the November 2016 ballot seeking to legalize marijuana in the state.

A group wanting to make weed legal in Mississippi could begin as early as next week to collect signatures to have an initiative on the November 2016 ballot seeking to legalize marijuana in the state.

Mississippi for Cannabis filed a petition in late September with the secretary of state's satellite office in Hernando, said petition organizer Kelly Jacobs, a longtime Democratic Party official from Hernando. It was the initial step in the ballot process.

The final process before collecting signatures comes Tuesday when the Secretary of State runs a newspaper ad with language about the ballot initiative title and a summary . "State law requires the Secretary of State's office to publish the ballot title and summary in a newspaper of general circulation throughout Mississippi," Secretary of State spokeswoman Pamela Weaver said.

If the sponsor the ballot or another person is dissatisfied with the ballot title or summary drafted by the Attorney General's office, they have five days from publication to file an appeal in Hinds County Circuit Court. If they approve of the title and summary, they can begin collecting the signatures required to get the initiative on the ballot.

Petition organizers would have to collect the approximately 110,000 signatures needed to get the measure on the November 2016 ballot. Voters would then have to approve it for it to become law.

Jacobs said the ballot initiative proposal would legalize cannabis for adults to own as much as they wish, to use as they wish, just like alcohol or cigarettes.However, it would have to be kept from minors.

"We want to legalize marijuana and decriminalize it," Jacobs said. "It's an adult discussion we should be having."


VIA Clarion Ledger

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Attorney: Hooks shot in the back and head during raid

David Hooks was shot to death by Laurens County deputies on Sept. 24. (Photo: Submitted (13WMAZ))

David Hooks was shot in the back and head as he was lying face down on the floor during a drug raid by Laurens County deputies.

That's according to the lawyer representing his family.

It's been nearly four months since David Hooks was shot to death during a drug raid at his East Dublin home.

13WMAZ's Paula Rotondo spoke to his wife, Teresa Hooks and the family's lawyer, Mitchell Shook.

Hooks died Sept. 24 while deputies served a search warrant at his home.

They were looking for drugs, but didn't find any.

Shook, who is representing his family, says the raid was illegal and has asked the FBI to investigate.

He says officers were looking for drugs in the home, but didn't find any. Shook says the officers fired 17 shots inside the home and struck Hooks.

He says Hooks had four wounds, two of which he says are very problematic. Shook says that's according to the Laurens County EMS records. He says the same information is found in the medical records from Fairview Park Hospital.

"One was to the side of the head, the other, was in his back, the back of his left shoulder, based on the evidence we see, we believe that David Hooks was face down on the ground when he received those last two shots," says Shook.

Shook says they have not received the autopsy yet from the GBI.

Teresa Hooks, David's wife, remembers the night clearly.

She says, "Between 10:30 and 11, I turned the light off upstairs. I heard a car coming up the driveway really fast, and I looked up the upstairs window. I saw a black vehicle with no lights. I saw 6 to 8 men, coming around the side of my house, and I panicked. I came running downstairs, yelling for David to wake up. He was in the bedroom asleep, had been for about an hour and a half. When I got downstairs to the bottom of the stairs, he opened the door and he had a gun in his hand, and he said, 'Who is it?,' and I said I didn't know. He stepped back into the bedroom like he was going to grab his pants, but before he could do that, the door was busted down. He came around me, in the hall, into the den, and I was gonna come behind him, but before I could step into the den the shots were fired, and it was over."

She says, "Initially, I thought that I was going to die, I thought I was going to be shot, I thought a gang had broke in, and up until I heard the radios the dispatch radios, I had no idea."

Hooks says she sat outside in handcuffs for two hours after her husband was shot to death.

She says during that time, she had to watch her husband on a stretcher without a word from officers about what was going on.

Hooks says she appreciates all of the support from the community.


VIA Reddit

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Congress to block marijuana legalization in DC

The Republican-led US House is using a crucial spending bill in an effort to block legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington, DC, where a ballot initiative last month received nearly 70-percent support.

The Republican-led US House is using a crucial spending bill in an effort to block legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington, DC, where a ballot initiative last month received nearly 70-percent support.

The appropriations bill, which needs approval from Congress and the White House to avoid a government shutdown, was posted online late Tuesday with a section that says the legislation"prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District."

District of Columbia voters approved Initiative 71last month, legalizing possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana for personal use while still outlawing retail sales. The federal spending bill allows DC to continue with efforts to decriminalize some amounts of marijuana, but it bars the city from using funds to enact legalization.

Laws passed by the District of Columbia are subject to congressional approval under the Home Rule Act of 1973, which allows for a local government in the city but demands any legislation passed locally be reviewed by the US House.

Congress - which holds no voting representation for the 600,000-plus District residents - can also bust DC laws through budgeting requirements, as it is doing with marijuana legalization.

Some marijuana reformers, though, say the language of the bill may still allow for the legalization measure to proceed. The text of the bill says no funds"may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated"with drugs illegal under federal law, as marijuana still is despite the increasing number of states passing legalization laws.

"Some advocates I've spoken with aren't so sure"the appropriations legislation blocks DC’s legalization law, Marijuana Majority chairman Tom Angell told The Huffington Post."It all hinges on the definition of the word 'enact.'"

Angell said the point of confusion comes to whether Initiative 71 should be considered“enacted”on Election Day, or if“enacting”means the DC city council offering a proposal to Congress for review, which has not yet happened.

"I've heard good arguments on either side,and I think it's up in the air now, especially since press reports from earlier on Tuesday quoted unnamed congressional staffers as saying the bill would allow DC to move forward with legalization. Ultimately, it may take a court case to decide what 'enact' means,"Angell said.

A congressional source told HuffPost that the bill would allow Initiative 71 to go into effect, but it would prevent DC from passing further laws that would set up a system of regulation and retail sales of recreational marijuana — moves incoming DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has requested from the city council before the legalization measure goes into effect.

Congress has a long tradition of meddling with laws passed and actions taken by DC’s government and voters. Using local funding for abortions, a clean needle-exchange program and legalization of medical marijuana are among recent efforts in the city thwarted by conservative leaders in Congress. The city’s medical marijuana legalization bill was passed in 1998 but blocked by Congress until 2010.

Mason Tvert, of the advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project, said it was“disappointing that some members of Congress are actually fighting to ensure authorities have no control over marijuana."

Racial discrepancies in drug-crime sentencing and disproportionate numbers of black Americans caught up in the mass-incarceration era have been major impetuses for marijuana reform across the US, especially in a traditionally black-majority city like Washington, DC.

“In light of recent events in Ferguson and New York, it is particularly disturbing that Congress would choose to overturn the will of the voters in a majority black city,” said Dr. Malik Burnett, Policy Manager at Drug Policy Alliance and vice-chair of the DC Cannabis Campaign, which was instrumental in the passage of Initiative 71.

“DC voters chose to reform their marijuana laws, which have a direct impact on how communities of color interact with police. Congress is poised to undermine that.”

Initiative 71 would allow adults in DC who are 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, grow up to six plants and provide marijuana to other adults 21 and older. Earlier this year, the city decriminalized possession of one ounce or less of marijuana.

Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have recreational marijuana laws that allow for regulation and taxation of pot sales, the latter two states having joined DC by passing a legalization law in November. As for medical marijuana, 23 states and Washington, DC have laws permitting it at the recommendation of a doctor.

Some forecasts predict that Washington and Colorado, the only two states with legalization laws currently in place, could make more than $800 million from marijuana sales in the next several years.

In a recent poll conducted by Third Way think-tank, 67 percent of voters said they want Congress to pass a law that carves out a“safe haven”for states that legalize recreational pot use. Under such a law,“legal” states would be protected from federal legislation, which still classifies recreational and medical marijuana as illegal.

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Americans Want States With Legal Marijuana Protected From Federal Prohibition

A majority of Americans want each state to decide its own marijuana laws and don't want federal interference with those that legalize cannabis.

A report released Monday by centrist think tank Third Way says 60 percent of American voters believe states should decide whether to legalize marijuana. And 67 percent of Americans want a new federal law that would make states that legalize medical or recreational marijuana "safe haven" from U.S. laws against cannabis, as long as the states have a strong regulatory framework.

Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana (although D.C.'s law still bans the sale of cannabis). Twenty-three states, as well as D.C., have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. But federal law continues to outlaw all uses of marijuana. The Obama administration issued guidance urging federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations. But guidance isn't law, and can be changed.

Third Way proposes a federal "waiver" system allowing a state to act outside of federal law on marijuana policy without fear of prosecution. Those states would have to show the federal government that a robust regulatory system was in place and be re-evaluated periodically.

"This 'waive but restrict' framework would provide consistency and protect public safety more effectively than either current law or the other policy proposals on the table," Third Way says in a report.

Federal laws against marijuana foster fear of prosecution by those compliant with their state laws, and put burdens on state-legal marijuana businesses, which often cannot open traditional bank accounts or participate in business tax and payroll services. Most banks refuse to work with marijuana businesses lest they be implicated as money launderers.

Some members of Congress have been working for years to reform U.S. marijuana laws. About a dozen bills were introduced in 2013 aimed at limiting the federal government's ability to interfere with states' legal marijuana programs. While Congress has failed to pass those bills, the House in May passed bipartisan measures aimed at limiting Drug Enforcement Administration crackdowns on state-legal medical marijuana shops, and at preventing the agency from interfering in states' legal industrial hemp programs.

"A supermajority of Americans believe that federal policymakers have a role to play in this discussion, and that they should act to provide a safe haven from federal law for states that have already legalized marijuana and are acting responsibly to strictly regulate it," " the Third Way report says.

The Third Way poll was conducted Aug. 21 to Aug. 24, interviewing 20 likely voters, and Sept. 25 to Oct. 29, surveying 856 registered voters.


VIA Huff Post

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Fired Cannabis Researcher Receives $2 Million Grant to Study PTSD and Marijuana


Last July spelled doom for Dr. Suzanne A. Sisley after the University of Arizona axed the professor and her study on how marijuana affects veterans with PTSD.

But this holiday brings a Redemption Song for Sisley, as has Colorado issued a “preliminary approval” for a $2 million grant that will allow Sisley and her team to continue her research where weed is legal. Sisley’s controversial firing by the University of Arizona may have highlighted the hypocrisy of state and university politics, but this recent news highlights Colorado’s continued evolution as a cannabis safe-haven.

What Arizona turned into a mockery, Colorado has turned into a feel-good story. After having her pet project nearly torn up, now, as Sisley tells AZ Central, Colorado’s weed-friendly folk have saved the day.

“That’s the beauty of this grant,” Sisley said in an e-mail. “The Colorado health department believed in the quality of this research regardless of whether I was aligned with an Arizona university or not.”

Oddly enough, the study won’t take place in Colorado. Sisley will have to split her time between Arizona and Maryland, as half of the 76-veteran study will focus on veterans in Arizona (at an undetermined location) while the other half will be studied at Johns Hopkins’ renowned medical school.

In order to keep the integrity of her study intact and aid local veterans, Sisley will continue to study those veterans she worked with while in Arizona. The article also speculates that Sisley will either receive appointment by Arizona State University or obtain an out-of-state “academic appointment.”

So the important study regarding PTSD and cannabis lives on and should thrive with its new backing. Sisley now has the funds and incredible resources (Johns Hopkins) by her side, and it sounds like the goal will become a blessing for those suffering from PTSD all over the world. [AZ Central]

Vandrey, of Johns Hopkins University, said the study will evaluate four types of smoked marijuana give to veterans with PTSD. He said the study will vary the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, that veterans receive, with the goal of evaluating harm or benefit. All participating veterans will get marijuana, with the group receiving lower doses of THC serving as a placebo.

Many medical marijuana patients throughout America and beyond suffer from PTSD. Certain strains can aggravate their symptoms while others alleviate. Ideally, this study will find out exactly which strains and doses of cannabis can best benefit those suffering from the disorder.

We can all look forward to these results to help progress cannabis’ medical value and wish Sisley and her supporters the best of luck!



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The marijuana industry is following the trail blazed by Big Tobacco

By Samuel T. Wilkinson

Samuel Wilkinson is a resident physician at the Yale School of Medicine.

Last month, people voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Oregon, Alaska and the District. As the movement toward marijuana legalization continues, lawmakers and policy experts are looking to the experiments in Colorado and Washington for guidance. We should not overlook, however, valuable lessons from our experience with another legal drug: tobacco.

In the late 19th century, the landscape of tobacco consumption was very different than it is today. Tobacco use was much less prevalent, and cigarettes accounted for a tiny portion of consumption. Yet by the mid-20th century almost half of U.S. adults smoked, with major consequences for public health. Despite important health policy achievements since, cigarette smoking remains a major contributor to the top causes of death in the United States, including cardiovascular and lung diseases, as well as cancer.

This drastic rise in the prevalence of smoking can be attributed to a number of successful business strategies. Hand-rolling of cigarettes, a technique that limited production potential, was supplanted by machine manufacturing. Changes in the chemical composition and curing process of cigarettes made them more flavorful as well as more addictive. Aggressive marketing techniques sought to build a larger consumer base. Advertisements often featured doctors in an effort to quell public fear over smoking-related health concerns; other campaigns targeted children or adolescents, who represented potential lifetime customers. Finally, the industry created powerful lobbying groups to protect their profits from regulations aimed at curbing consumption.

Alarmingly, marijuana businesses are now mimicking many of Big Tobacco’s successful strategies. New methods of consuming marijuana (such as vaporization) are said to represent a healthier way to get high — though little research supports this claim — encouraging individuals to consume more marijuana in one sitting. The percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (the euphoria-inducing compound associated with many adverse health effects) in marijuana is much higher than it was a few decades ago. Just as tobacco companies featured doctors in advertisement campaigns, marijuana advocates have appealed to medical authority by successfully lobbying in many places for the approval of “medical marijuana” for a plethora of conditions, even when little or no scientific evidence supports its use. While it is laudable that Colorado has placed restrictions on marijuana advertising, it is also disturbing that the marijuana industry quickly mounted powerful legal efforts to challenge these restrictions in court.

The formula for success in profiting from a legal drug is simple and has been clearly outlined by Big Tobacco: Identify a product with addictive potential, aggressively market it to as large an audience as possible, develop technical innovations to allow for and promote increased consumption, and deny or minimize potential costs to human health. The marijuana industry is poised to copy this formula, with dire consequences.

Important lessons can also be drawn from the Netherlands , where marijuana has been decriminalized since 1976. Following decriminalization, the Dutch government strictly enforced guidelines prohibiting advertising and transactions above a certain quantity (to discourage mass production and distribution). For about a decade, marijuana consumption rates remained stable. However, in the mid-1980s, waning enforcement of these guidelines coincided with a drastic increase in both the commercialization of marijuana and rates of consumption. The overriding lesson from the Netherlands is that it was commercialization, not decriminalization itself, that led to sharp increases in use.

If we are intent on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, lessons from the tobacco industry and the Dutch marijuana experiment suggest that we do so in a way that does not pit corporate incentives against the interests of public health. Similar to efforts in Uruguay, production and distribution should be done solely by the government so as to ensure that there is no corporate incentive to entice more people to consume marijuana in larger quantities. Advertisements in all media venues should be banned, or as stringently regulated as allowed by law.

While the health effects of marijuana are generally not as severe as those of cigarette smoking, the consequences — including addiction, psychosis and impaired cognitive abilities — are nonetheless real. Notably, these effects are most pronounced in children and adolescents. Claims that marijuana legalization will make it easier to prevent use by minors are not backed by scientific or historical evidence. The most prevalent drugs consumed by teenagers are those that are legal: alcohol and tobacco. This should give us pause to consider the optimal way to legalize marijuana — and indeed whether other states should consider legalization at all.


VIA Washington Post

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New Challenge to Federal Marijuana Ban Could Provide Relief to Thousands of Vets

by Gregory Krieg

A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers have drafted a powerful new challenge to the federal government's ban on marijuana.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), along with 10 of their colleagues, are co-sponsoring a bill that would give doctors the option to recommend medical marijuana to war veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans Affairs physicians are currently barred from offering any opinion on the potential effects of the drug to their patients.

The Veterans Equal Access Act would allow VA doctors to give recommendations and, in any of the 23 states that have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the discretion to fill out the appropriate legal forms. It's estimated that as many as 1 in 5 Iraq and Afghanistan war vets suffer from PTSD or depression.

"Post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are just as damaging and harmful as any injuries that are visible from the outside," Blumenauer said, according to the Huffington Post. "Sometimes even more so because of the devastating effect they can have on a veteran's family. We should be allowing these wounded warriors access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana, not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows."

The results of a clinical study published in May showed that patients experienced "an average of 75 percent reduction in all three areas of PTSD symptoms while using cannabis." This is tied to what doctors call "memory extinction," the normal "process by which our brain replaces older memories with new experiences."

Researchers, including renowned Israeli scientist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, now believe that "marijuana could help patients reduce their association between stimuli (perhaps loud noises or stress) and the traumatic situations in their past," as reported by Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.

"Conscience dictates that we not coldly ignore these desperate men and women, and that we remove government from its paternalistic stance between patient and doctor," said Rohrabacher, a California Republican who, along with Blumenauer, is also pushing for Congress to consider scrapping all federal prohibition laws.

While those efforts are unlikely to gain much traction on Capitol Hill, where legislators remain overwhelmingly opposed to mass legalization or decriminalization, this new bill demands a serious review by congressional leaders. Twenty-two American veterans commit suicide every day. If a trained physician believes that marijuana could save or aid a single one, then leaders from both parties should, with President Barack Obama's support, move to change the law now — or be forced the carry the shame of their inaction.



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Colo. hits pot sellers with fines, closure orders

DENVER — State marijuana enforcers have levied tens of thousands of dollars in fines and even banned several people from selling legal pot for a decade, records obtained by KUSA-TV and USA TODAY show.

Legal marijuana growers and sellers are subject to strict regulations if they want to keep their state licenses, and surprise inspections by Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division have caught dozens of store owners breaking the rules. In some cases, stores were ordered to shut down and had their marijuana destroyed.

Some of the violations found by the state are mundane: the wrong kind of door locks or poorly positioned security cameras. Others were much more significant. In several cases, state inspectors — who are sworn law enforcement officers — found unlicensed — and therefore illegal — grow operations. At other stores, they found workers selling marijuana that had never been entered into the state's mandatory tracking system.

In the wake of an audit finding lax oversight of medical marijuana companies, Colorado's Marijuana Enforcement Division has beefed up its full-time staff to 55.

"Twenty-nine of those employees are sworn police officers who do investigative work out in the field," said Lewis Koski, who heads the division. "Largely their work is focused on conducting inspections."

In Denver, they ordered the owners of several interconnected marijuana stores to stay out of the industry for 10 years, and ordered the couple to pay a $30,000 fine to settle allegations they violated the rules. And they also yanked the licenses of Luis and Gerardo Uribe, brothers whose medical marijuana stores were raided by federal officers last fall and accused of running a massive money-laundering operation. In their reports, state inspectors said the Uribes' medical marijuana stores were selling pot outside of normal business hours, weren't properly tracking who they sold it to, and had more marijuana than they could legally account for.

In Pueblo, state inspectors summarily suspended the license of a store for failing to track its sales, having uncalibrated scales, building illegal greenhouses (and showing them on Facebook) and failing to disclose what kinds of chemicals were used to help grow the marijuana.

KUSA-TV and USA TODAY obtained the records as part of a broader investigation into how the state is using the vast amounts of data it's collecting about Colorado's legal marijuana market.

State marijuana enforcers say their work has focused on keeping marijuana off the black market, and keeping profits out of the hands of known criminals and international drug cartels. In one case, the state forced the co-owner of a Boulder marijuana store to sell his share to his partner because he hadn't been paying his taxes.



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