Italian law enforcement groups are throwing their weight behind a parliamentary bill to legalize cannabis in the country, building momentum for the effort to create Europe’s first fully legal adult-use market. Both the national anti-Mafia agency and the country’s police union have come out in favor of the proposal, which is set for further debate in the Italian parliament later this month.
If it passes, the bill would allow Italians to grow up to five cannabis plants, keep up to 15 grams of dried flower at home, and carry up to five grams with them. Cannabis would be sold in state-licensed stores, while non-commercial cannabis social clubs would allow up to 50 members to swap and share the cannabis they grow. The proposal has sparked an unprecedented public debate on the Italian peninsula, with various experts, politicians, and members of the law enforcement community taking an array of positions.
Italy’s bill has progressed further than any current legalization effort in Europe. A similar bill was introduced into parliament in Germany last year, but it has stagnated as lawmakers there focus instead on a bill to create a robust medical cannabis market.
The most recent endorsement for the Italian bill came last month from the largest and most influential police workers’ union, SIULP. The group’s general secretary, Felice Romano, expressed his support for the proposal in no uncertain terms.
“These are substances that today are used for therapeutic purposes, and cannabis is cultivated by the Italian army,” he said. “If cannabis were sold through a legal framework, it would be less dangerous and would not contain chemical pollutants and additives that do more damage than the active ingredients.”
Many Think Marijuana Causes Little to No Harm, Study Finds
ABC News - By. Catherine Thorbecke & Shailja Mehta - 9/5/2016
Marijuana use is going more mainstream, not only with more states allowing its use in some form -- including five more set to vote this November -- but also in the way Americans view the drug itself.
According to a new study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, substantially more people feel that using Marijuana causes little to no harm.
"Beginning in the 90s with medical marijuana laws, we have seen large amount of people using marijuana themselves and deciding themselves whether it was harmful to them," Roger A. Roffman, a professor emeritus at University of Washington, School of Social Work told ABC News.
"The idea that marijuana is harmless has been far too widely accepted by people," he said. "I want to see that pendulum switch back towards accuracy and for us to be more tuned in to what people need to make informed decisions."
This study looked back at 12 years of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, from 2002 to 2014, and found that more Americans reported they were using the drug and far fewer saw it as harmful.
The number of American adults who said they perceived smoking marijuana once or twice a week to be a great risk dropped from 50.4 percent to 33.3 percent, according to the study, reflecting a major shift in perception of harm.
Almost three times more adults said they felt there were absolutely no risks associated with using marijuana once or twice a week -- increasing from 5.6 percent of people seeing no harm to 15.1 percent seeing no risk.
Marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in the same category as heroin and LSD, and is classified as even more severe than Schedule II drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine.
The general change in risk perception began around 2006 to 2007, according to the research -- around the same time that legislation surrounding marijuana began to change. Four states have legalized recreational marijuana use since 2012 and many more legalized medical marijuana use.
"The drum is beating and has been now for a number of years to remove criminal penalties for possession and make it legal to be grown and sold to adults," Roffman added. "With that movement comes some claims that marijuana is not dangerous enough to justify there being severe criminal penalties. For many people who hear these claims the message translates to them that 'there is nothing to worry about.'"
He believes the way that advertising, especially political advertising, depicts marijuana can also have an affect the public perception of its use. As campaigns have pushed to legalize marijuana across the country, the ads have reinforced the idea that it's a less harmful drug.
"In Colorado, the whole campaign to legalize was that marijuana is not as harmful as alcohol," Roffman noted. He said it's possible that, as a result, many people could "come to the conclusion that if attitudes change and laws change maybe there is nothing to worry about."
The changing public perception doesn't always align with medical opinion.
"That was a controversy from the very beginning," Dr. Patrick Fehling, an addiction psychiatrist at the University of Colorado Hospital Center for Dependency Addiction and Rehabilitation told ABC News. "Marijuana became legalized before a lot of its effect were fully understood."
Research on the drug has been limited and is now expanding, in part thanks to legalization and the tax dollars selling it has raised. But, so far, much of the research is actually "indicating potential for harm" from marijuana use, according to Fehling.
"There is a very big difference between recreational use and 'addictional' use," Fehling said. The "signs of addiction include tolerance and withdrawal, loss of control around your use, and consequences and problems in your life around your use."
"The use of medical marijuana is still highly controversial," he added, explaining that much of the research is still "anecdotal," based on what people self-report.
The number of American adults in the surveys who reported using marijuana increased from 10.4 percent to 13.3 percent over the 12-year period. The study, however, largely reflects self-reported data and may not account for how legalization has changed the way people report their marijuana use.
Research on marijuana use of any kind has proven difficult in the past because it remains illegal for recreational use in most states, which may hinder some people from openly admitting their true marijuana usage, if they feel they could face possible legal consequences.
As several recent studies have said, this study notes the need for more research on the drug's effects, how people are using it and that more education about the risks associated with marijuana are necessary.
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Boston.com - By. Adam Vaccaro - 9/6/2016
Deep-blue Massachusetts has a recent history of marijuana-friendly votes. In 2008, voters turned out in droves at the ballot box to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of pot. Four years later, advocates were rewarded with a landslide victory to legalize medical marijuana in the state.
The third act is set for November, when Massachusetts voters will be asked whether they want to legalize marijuana and permit retail sales in the near future. Supporters say the initiative would treat marijuana similarly to alcohol, replacing today’s vibrant illegal market with one overseen by the government and creating a new source of tax revenue for the state.
The last two votes have been widely seen as reason for confidence in the pro-pot campaign, coming in successive presidential elections, which traditionally have higher turnout of marijuana-friendly young voters. Successful pushes to legalize marijuana in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon since 2012 have also been encouraging.
But since the spring, things haven’t looked quite as hot for local pot advocates.
The most recent polling has suggested Massachusetts voters may be having second thoughts about full legalization ahead of the fall’s campaign. In May, one poll found a 46-43 percent advantage for the opposition. Another poll in July found a 10-point lead for the ‘no’ crowd.
“I was surprised by the last two polls,” said Steve Koczela, president at the MassINC Polling Group. “The trend did seem pretty clear.”
There are caveats, of course. Prior to the recent polls, data in Massachusetts and across the country indicated widespread support for legalization and seemed to suggest a layup at the ballot this year. As recently as April, a poll showed 57-35 percent support for passing the proposed law.
Koczela cautioned that ballot question polling is volatile and can swing wildly, especially before ads start airing and the campaigns really swing into gear.
And Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the pro-legalization Yes on 4 campaign, said both surveys may have under-sampled the young voters that his campaign is relying on. The May poll was also within the 4.4 percentage-point margin of error, meaning that it doesn’t even really show advocates to be trailing in the first place.
It does, however, portend a close race. Even to Borghesani, the dispute over Question 4 is not shaping up to be the kind of blowout advocates saw in 2008 and 2012.
“We know this race is going to be close,” he said. “We’re not taking anything for granted. We never have.”
And recent polling aside, those following the issues see a number of factors that could make the legalization, regulation, sale, and taxation of marijuana in liberal Massachusetts a harder sell than you might think.
Ballot question campaigns generally face an uphill battle because a vote for ‘yes’ means something has to change. If a voter isn’t certain about an issue, he or she may is more likely to default to ‘no.’ And despite Massachusetts’ reliably liberal voting record, the state also has a well-worn reputation for skepticism about change.
Opposition campaigns can be successful by zeroing in on specific language within the law, Koczela said.
“The thing that ‘no’ sides often do is add complexity,” Koczela said. He pointed to a 2012 initiative to legalize physician-assisted suicide, which saw a polling swing in 2012 before failing amid questions about specific provisions.
Indeed, that does seem to be the strategy of the opposition group – a bipartisan, politically potent campaign backed by officials including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Gov. Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
“What we are asking voters to do is not think of this as the concept of legalization, but think of and vote on a very specific proposal at a specific time,” Corey Welford, a spokesman for the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, said in a May podcast with CommonWealth magazine.
In short, the law would:
- Legalize marijuana use and possession by 2017 for those aged 21 and older;
- Establish a new state commission to oversee the industry;
- Allow for licensed retail stores to open by 2018;
- Impose a 3.75 percent excise on top of the state sales tax, plus additional municipal taxes;
- And permit individuals to grow up to 12 marijuana plants per household for personal use.
But there’s plenty of room for opponents to harp on specifics of the ballot initiative, which is 24 pages long.
The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts points to the fact that the law would allow for the sale of edible marijuana, arguing it could come in the form of candies, cookies, or beverages — and thus make pot more attractive to children. (Broader concerns about young people’s welfare have been a common theme of the campaign, though data out of Colorado has not shown a clear effect on teen usage.)
By way of a rebuttal, the pro-pot contingent says the law will allow a new regulatory body to ban edible products or packaging that is too child-friendly. The opposition retorts that if that was the intent of the law, it would be explicitly included in its text.
At that point, the debate reaches something of a stalemate — but it plays to the opposition’s advantage to be so deep in the weeds rather than talking about legalization as a broader concept.
Koczela thinks it’s possible the opposition also got a polling bounce from organized opposition from high-profile politicians. The two recent figures showing more support for the ‘no’ side came after the state’s political power players formally launched their campaign.
“The last two were done as the ‘no’ side kicked into gear,” Koczela said. “So that certainly may have something to do with it.”
Sure, the pro-pot campaign has collected a few city councilors, a Western Massachusetts mayor, 10 state legislators (most of whom occupy the progressive wing of the state’s Democratic party), and a former governor (Bill Weld, who is running for vice president on a pro-legalization ticket with the Libertarian party) in its corner. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a liberal leader of national prominence, has not endorsed legalization but said in a statement that she is “open to the idea” because of the lack of regulation in the current illegal market.
But the opposition has the clear numerical advantage in terms of elected officials. In addition to Baker, Walsh, DeLeo, and Healey, nearly 120 other state legislators have come out in opposition.
Borghesani, with the pro-pot campaign, notes that high-profile politicians – including the governor and the mayor of Boston – opposed the 2008 and 2012 votes, and came out on the losing end of routs. Koczela also suggested that if the polls did in fact respond to the formal unveiling of the opposition campaign, it may ultimately prove to have been a temporary shift, almost like the bounce presidential candidates get from party conventions.
Even Walsh, who plans to be active around the issue through the fall, has some doubts that he will have much of an effect on the outcome.
“I think campaigning’s important, but I think a lot of people will make their minds up for themselves,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think Marty Walsh or somebody else is going to sway them. … Do they want to create a marijuana industry in Massachusetts? Do they feel that Massachusetts needs a marijuana industry or not?”
Some marijuana reform advocates worry that, with several states trying to legalize this election year, fundraising could present another obstacle.
The Marijuana Policy Project, a national political organization that has long pushed reform initiatives, is also behind legalization campaigns in Arizona, California, Maine, and Nevada.
That’s in stark contrast with the last presidential election in 2012. Though two states legalized marijuana, only Colorado’s initiative was backed by MPP. With five state ballot questions – not to mention three other medical marijuana questions in other states – some activists are concerned that MPP could be stretched too thin this election cycle.
“There’s only so much resources and staff time in the movement,” said Tom Angell, who runs the advocacy group Marijuana Majority. “Only so much money that can go toward putting ads in the air.”
Mason Tvert, a spokesman for MPP, pish-poshed that particular worry.
“Regardless of what year it is, or how many initiatives there may be, we only pursue initiatives when it’s clear that there is clear public support for the proposal,” he said. “And we’re confident that we’re going to be able to run a strong campaign. So whether there are five other initiatives on a ballot or no others, it really comes down to whether there’s strong support for the law we’re proposing.”
But the local pro-legalization camp does admit that fundraising has its challenges this year. Borghesani said he doesn’t think the problem is the number of states on the ballot, but rather that Massachusetts’s own liberal reputation may cause potential donors to see legalization as inevitable and not in need of money.
In a recent national fundraising email, Troy Dayton, a MPP board member who also runs a pot industry investment network, cited both ideas when listing reasons why all of the campaigns across the country are “underfunded.”
“1. Marijuana has never been on 8 ballots at the same time so the total amount needed to be raised is more than has ever been raised for this issue,” he wrote. “2. The media has done a good job of leading people to believe legalization is inevitable when it is not. This creates a false sense of security for supporters.”
Additionally, pot advocates across the country have been growing frustrated with the businesses seeking to get in on the legal market that aren’t pitching in enough money.
“[A]ny business that budgets zero dollars for political change is being silly because marijuana is actually illegal,” Rob Kampia, MPP’s executive director, told VICE earlier this summer.
Yes on 4 hopes to raise $3 million ahead of November and has already booked some ad space, Borghesani said. The funding situation for the opposition is unclear, as the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts declined to name a fundraising target and has not publicly discussed its donors. Both sides must file campaign finance disclosures with the state in early September, which will provide the first insight into the race’s financial situation since last winter.
Sam Tracy, who works for the marijuana business consultancy 4Front Ventures, which has donated office space to the legalization campaign, has one other worry about national political dynamics and how they could affect the state’s pot race.
While past Massachusetts ballot questions have been aligned with presidential races, in part to take advantage of the heightened number of young voters, Tracy theorizes that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are each so disliked by young people that those voters may stay at home to the detriment of the legalization bid.
“Youth turnout [is] going to have to come down to getting people excited about this question specifically,” he said. “Youth is our strongest demographic.”
Koczela, the MassINC pollster, said the unpopularity of the major party candidates might “numb” turnout a bit, but doesn’t see it as a major challenge to the question’s viability.
“It’s certainly better than having it in a midterm,” he said.
In other words, even with sagging polls, there’s no time like the present for pro-pot forces. For that matter, there’d also likely be no other time soon if the effort falls short. The Massachusetts constitution bars ballot questions that are “substantially the same as any measure” that previously failed at the polls from appearing before voters again for six years.
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Growing pains: Oregon marijuana boom brings jobs — and complaints — for Josephine County
Grants Pass Daily Courier - By. Shaun Hall - 08/29/2016
GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Josephine County’s growing marijuana industry is experiencing growing pains.
The number of medical marijuana grow sites in the county has remained steady from a year ago, at about 2,500.
But growers who sell to retailers have been sprouting up — 38 new state-issued licenses have been granted this summer to people who plan to grow for the recreational market. More applications are pending.
Pivoting to take advantage of retailer preference for indoor-grown marijuana, these new operations are springing up in former pastures and fields across the county.
“This industry didn’t exist a year ago,” observed Dani Jurmann, standing outside a row of industrial-size greenhouses on Cedar Flat Road near Williams, where he and his family employ nearly 30 people growing marijuana for the recreational market. “The world has changed, and Oregon is at the forefront.”
There’s good and bad happening. The good includes jobs and investments. Jurmann pays employees $15 an hour to start, plus benefits. He employed contractors and suppliers to get the place up and running. He obtained land.
He also bought big greenhouse fans and framing lumber, and built a gravel road.
That’s where the bad comes in— some neighbors complain about noise from the fans, and the road had to be moved to avoid annoying a neighbor who complained about the new traffic.
Operating as Shadowbox Farms, Jurmann employs not only gardeners and trimmers, but a compliance officer and a foreman. The operation’s aim, besides providing 6 million servings of product a year, is to provide a living for his family and employees, in a career some might consider a dream job.
“We offer real jobs with a real future,” he said. “We’re supporting a lot of families here and that’s what’s important to us.”
It all comes with a price, of course. There’s the competition and the new neighbors, and a county planning department that has told him there’s a need for permits for those greenhouses.
In response, Jurmann has applied for the permits, said he’s willing to invest in new fans, and is planning to put up a line of closely packed trees to block sound and sight.
“We are working very hard to meet the needs of our neighbors,” says Jurmann’s wife, Angellina. “We are a mom and pop business. Our community reputation is really important to us.”
The fans are shut off by 8 p.m. nightly.
The whole operation is surrounded by an 8-foot-high chain-link fence. Dozens of cameras provide surveillance. A former stable has become an office, and there’s a room for young plants, in addition to a dozen or more new greenhouses topped with plastic and removable black covers, which give plants 12 hours of sunshine and 12 hours of shade. Every plant it tagged, so it can be tracked.
It’s a going concern and yet a work still in progress.
This week, the new road was put in. Last week, post holes had been dug for a new fence, outside Jurmann’s nearby home, where his four children are being raised. A couple dogs that looked anything but vicious lounged in the sun. The place bustled with workers.
“You couldn’t build something like this in six months without making a mess,” says Jurmann, a grower for the last decade who persuaded fellow family members to pool their money and give it a try.
He’s convinced his crop is superior to marijuana grown outdoors, where rain and wind and dust can take their toll, including how the product looks — an important consideration for retailers.
He predicts a glut of marijuana grown outdoors, which could cause prices for those products to drop, and affect the ability of outdoor growers to make a go of it.
“There’s only going to be the biggest and strongest that survive,” he said.
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Study: Medical marijuana changes how employees use sick time
The Washington Post - By. Christopher Ingraham - 08/29/2016
"Fact #1: Legalizing marijuana is bad for the workplace."
That's the stark warning from the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace, a nonprofit that works to combat drug use among American employees.
"The impact of employee marijuana use is seen in the workplace in lower productivity, increased workplace accidents and injuries, increased absenteeism, and lower morale," the institute writes. "This can and does seriously impact the bottom line."
Does it really, though?
New research published in the journal Health Economics suggests that the argument is overstated. Darin F. Ullman, an economist who recently received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, wanted to know what effect, if any, the enactment of medical marijuana laws has had on employee absentee rates.
A fair amount of research has been done on the aggregate impact of illicit marijuana use on workplace productivity. Generally speaking, the most recent research — gathered and summarized in this 2014 paper — indicates that most marijuana use has little effect on workplace productivity, although chronic or heavy pot use can be a problem.
On net, the evidence is mixed. "It is simply uncertain as to whether there are negative labor market consequences of drug use in general, and cannabis use in particular," the 2014 paper concludes.
But there hasn't been a lot of research into the impact of licitmarijuana use — particularly medical marijuana use — on the workplace. So Ullman decided to look into what happened to employee sick-day use in states that legalized medical marijuana, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey (CPS).
On the one hand, you might expect broader access to marijuana to result in more workers calling in sick, because they're too stoned to work or because they just don't feel like showing up on a given day. On the other hand, if medical pot is successfully treating conditions that would otherwise render somebody unable to work, you might expect sick days to decrease.
So Ullman examined before-and-after sick-day data from 24 states that had medical marijuana laws at the time of his study. On average, he found that "respondents were 8% less likely to report being absent from work due to health issues after medical marijuana laws" were passed. The CPS numbers also suggest that states with fewer restrictions on the use of medical marijuana, such as on the number of conditions it could be recommended for, had more of a decrease in sick-day use than states with stricter regulations.
Now, if you read much about this type of research, you're probably expecting a Big Important Caveat to appear here, and you're right: Ullman's study can say that sick-day use decreased after the passage of medical marijuana laws. But it can't say medical marijuana caused that decrease. There are any number of factors that could have accounted for a drop in absenteeism in the states Ullman studied — better access to health care, better workplace wellness programs, improved employee health overall, etc. The decline in absenteeism could be driven more by any of those factors than by whatever happened to the state's marijuana laws.
However, Ullman notes that the effect of the laws was stronger for middle-aged workers and for males, the groups most likely to hold medical marijuana cards. That, combined with the stronger effect of the laws in the more lax states, does suggest that the laws themselves could be a driver of the reduced absenteeism seen in the data.
Ullman notes that there are any number of plausible reasons this could be the case. If self-treating with medical marijuana lets "individuals experience relief from disabling symptoms, absence from work could decline." Beyond that, other studies have shown that alcohol consumption declines after the passage of medical marijuana laws. Heavy drinking is a big driver of absenteeism, so if medical marijuana cuts back on boozing, it would have the net effect of reducing absenteeism, as well.
"The results of this paper therefore suggest that [medical marijuana laws] would decrease costs for employers as it has reduced self-reported absence from work due to illness/medical issues," Ullman concludes.
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The stark difference in how doctors and the government view marijuana
The Washington Post - By. Christopher Ingraham - 8/29/16
Nathaniel P. Morris is a resident physician at Stanford Hospital specializing in mental health. He recently penned a strongly worded op-ed for ScientificAmerican.com on the differences between how some in the medical community view marijuana and how the federal government regulates it.
"The federal government's scheduling of marijuana bears little relationship to actual patient care," he wrote in the essay published last week. "The notion that marijuana is more dangerous or prone to abuse than alcohol (not scheduled), cocaine (Schedule II), methamphetamine (Schedule II), or prescription opioids (Schedules II, III, and IV) doesn't reflect what we see in clinical medicine."
Here's Morris' money quote:
For most health care providers, marijuana is an afterthought.
We don't see cannabis overdoses. We don't order scans for cannabis-related brain abscesses. We don't treat cannabis-induced heart attacks. In medicine, marijuana use is often seen on par with tobacco or caffeine consumption — something we counsel patients about stopping or limiting, but nothing urgent to treat or immediately life-threatening.
He contrasts that with the terrible effects of alcohol he sees in the emergency room every day, like car crash victims and drunk patients choking on their own vomit. Morris points out that excessive drinking causes 88,000 deaths per year, according to the CDC.
[Every minute, someone gets arrested for marijuana possession in the U.S.]
The medical and research communities have known for some time that marijuana is one of the more benign substances you can put in your body relative to other illicit drugs. A recent longitudinal study found that chronic, long-term marijuana use is about as bad for your physical health as not flossing. Compared to alcohol, it'svirtually impossible to overdose on marijuana alone. On a per-user basis, marijuana sends fewer people to the emergency room than alcohol or other drugs.
The scientific consensus was best captured in a 2010 study in the Lancet, which polled several dozen researchers working in addiction and drug policy. The researchers rated commonly used recreational drugs according to the harm they pose to individuals who use them, as well as the harm they pose to society as a whole. Here's what their results looked like:
DEA Wins the Battle but Is Losing the War on Marijuana
Alternet - Gabrielle Gurley - 08/24/2016
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s refusal to decontrol marijuana has raised the hackles of doctors, patient advocacy groups, cannabis entrepreneurs, and potheads almost everywhere. Under the agency’s recent directive, marijuana remains an illegal, controlled substance like heroin and LSD that has no medical value. But unlike most federal regulations, the DEA move will have little to no effect on state-level marijuana politics.
Since Colorado and Washington state green-lighted recreational marijuana in 2012, the DEA has gotten swamped by a tidal wave of legalization campaigns across the country for recreational and medical marijuana. Most states have moved fast, first, to allow doctors and patients who suffer from diseases like cancer and conditions like chronic pain to be able to use marijuana without the omnipresent threat of arrest and prosecution. But states, especially ones that already have medical marijuana, have also picked up the pace toward complete legalization for a simpler reason: beaucoup tax dollars.
To date, 26 states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana. There are a plethora of ballot initiatives on tap for voters to weigh in on this November. Initiatives in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada would legalize possession of specific amounts of marijuana and cultivation of a certain number of plants. (The Massachusetts question also proposes to tax the substance like alcohol.) Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota will consider legalizing or expanding access to medical marijuana. Several other states are awaiting the outcomes of conflicts over access to the ballot for marijuana initiatives.
Taxpayers may nix other tax increases, but they embrace sin taxes on marijuana. Though marijuana sales in states new to the industry can be slow going, recreational marijuana tax revenues can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Colorado has made an airtight case for marijuana revenues. The state takes in a 2.9 percent retail and medical marijuana sales tax, but more importantly, it takes in a 10 percent retail marijuana special sales tax and a 15 percent marijuana excise tax, as well as application and license fees for both retail and medical marijuana. In June, Colorado took in nearly $16.8 million in taxes and other fees compared to nearly $10.8 million in 2015, a whopping 55 percent increase.
In 2014, Colorado recreational marijuana businesses tallied nearly $700 million in sales, while the state took in $76 million in taxes. Last year was even better: Colorado took in $135 million in fee and tax revenues on nearly $1 billion in sales. The good citizens of the Centennial State even rejected a $66 million tax refund plan; instead, the monies stayed in state coffers and went to school construction, law enforcement and substance-abuse programs, and other budget line items.
Future recreational marijuana revenues are a major selling point in the states that have marijuana ballot questions.Nevada would slap marijuana sales with a 15 percent excise tax on top of the state’s 10 percent sales tax; projected tax annual revenues are nearly $465 million.
Overall, the DEA directive will have little impact on the booming industry. Meanwhile, a recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision may make medical marijuana dispensary owners breathe a little easier. The court ruled last week that the U.S. Department of Justice cannot prosecute people who comply with their state laws on medical medical marijuana sales.
The DEA decision did relax regulations on using marijuana plants in medical research (a sticking point that has long frustrated the medical community), which will allow scientists to cultivate plants in DEA-approved facilities. Medical marijuana use may be flourishing but doctors and other medical professionals have had to forge ahead without the rigorous research and clinical protocols that usually accompany new drug regimes, which can take years.
Currently, there is only one DEA-approved medical research facility in the country at the University of Mississippi. But researchers have a long list of issues with accessing the Ole Miss cannabis, including finding that the university cannot offer enough varieties of the plant which complicates testing. Some researchers have even complained that the university’s marijuana was inferior and did not compare favorably to products that can obtained in states were marijuana is legal. (Nor are they convinced that the DEA plans to make life easier for researchers to set up their own facilities.)
There are also more dollars for states in the economic development opportunities to be had in research and development. After Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich signed medical marijuana legislation into law in June, officials in Johnstown, a small town north of Columbus, gave the go-ahead for more marijuana businesses to set up shop.
The community already has one marijuana business (a manufacturer of equipment that uses a carbon dioxide separation process to separate oils from marijuana and other types of plants.) now headquartered at a nearly empty office park. The owner of that firm, Apeks Supercritical, has visions of a $500 million medical marijuana research and development campus. Johnstown may even corner the the R&D market since other Ohio communities are not keen on marijuana dispensaries. (At the other end of spectrum, even behemoths like Microsoft want in.)
State officials can work around Uncle Sam since many Americans have come to believe that pot has important medical benefits and is not as dangerous as a drug like heroin. That means that the DEA is now confronted with a paradox: There is new and entirely appropriate alarm about the opiate abuse crisis nationwide. However, the agency has obliterated the old canard that marijuana was a “gateway” drug to hard drugs. It makes no sense for the DEA, other federal agencies, and state and local law enforcement to continue enforcing existing restrictions on pot as they grapple with a far more serious opioid epidemic.
States are the laboratories of democracy, so it is no surprise that the federal government has failed to keep up with regulating the pot industry. But this November, the feds could fall even further behind. As more states legalize marijuana, the DEA will have think hard about how the agency continues to prosecute its war on a drug that is a medical and fiscal lifesaver in most of the 50 states. To his great credit President Obama has made headway on Cuba normalization, relief for Dreamer kids, and entente with Iran. But this issue continues to demand more federal law enforcement attention than it should. Perhaps his successor will finally leash the DEA and get real on marijuana.
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If California Legalizes Marijuana, It Would Be a $6 Billion Industry, Report Says
TIME - By. Justin Worland - 08/25/16
The question is on the ballot in November
Legalizing recreational marijuana in California could create a $6.46-billion market for legal use of the drug by 2020, according to a new report.
The projection, from the Arcview Market Research, comes in advance of a November vote on legalization in the state. Legal marijuana sales would be expected to hit $1.6 in the first year of legalization.
The move would make the state the “epicenter” of marijuana in the U.S., John Kagia of the analytics firm New Frontier told the Orange County Register. Both Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana sales, but California sales would dwarf those in other states.
Polling suggests that a small majority of Californians support legalization. A similar measure failed in the state in 2010.
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ATTN: - Keith Stroup - 08/19/16
I am old enough to remember when Nevada was the only state where gambling was legal. In 1931, during the Great Depression, the state legislature had legalized casino gambling as a way to stimulate their economy, create new jobs, and entice more people to the state.
For decades Nevada had a monopoly on casino gambling — that, along with legalizing “no fault” divorces, and later legalizing prostitution — when most states did not offer those options. These factors combined to give Nevada a reputation as a maverick state where people could visit to engage in naughty behavior without legal consequences. “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.”
The state is expected to legalize the recreational use of marijuana via voter initiative (Question 2) this November, which will further enhance that reputation.
Other states obviously knew that legal gambling was an alternative that might provide an economic boost to their states as well, but the prevailing morality at the time was far too negative towards gambling for elected officials in other states to pursue. It was a time when the religious communities had successfully convinced most Americans that a life of virtue, not vices, was the path to happiness.
But social mores change over time, and as gambling began to be seen as a legitimate form of entertainment, instead of a moral sin, the tax revenue and economic benefits from legal gambling were more attractive. In 1977, by voter initiative, New Jersey legalized casino gambling in Atlantic City, offering an east coast version of Nevada, where gambling hedonists could legally do what they could not yet do in their own states.
And gradually the barriers banning legal gambling began to crumble nationwide, leading to a situation today in which every state has some form of legal gambling, such as state-run lotteries, albeit with strange limitations in some states (e.g., in Missouri it is illegal to gamble on land, but perfectly legal to have casinos on riverboats on the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers, although the boats never leave the shore).
Which leads to the question of why behavior thought by many to be inappropriate (or even morally offensive), can nonetheless sometimes be legalized? Or put another way, when is conduct with the tinge of sinfulness out-weighted by the potential for economic benefits to the states?
I raise that question because of the increasingly profitable side of legal marijuana in the states that have elected to regulate and tax marijuana. As the latest revenue data make clear, legalizing marijuana has been an enormous benefit for the few states that have taken that step, and that fact will be more and more difficult for neighboring states to ignore over the coming years. As we saw with gambling, once the economic benefits of legal marijuana are obvious, the moral opposition will fade and the economic arguments will prevail.
The Latest Data from Colorado and Washington.
In Colorado, the first state to get their legal retail outlets up and running on January 1, 2014, the gross sales of marijuana, and the tax revenue to the state, have continued to rise each year. For 2015, licensed marijuana stores in the state totaled an astounding $996,184,788 – just shy of $1 billion dollars, up from $669 million in sales in 2014.
Colorado collected more than $135 million in taxes and fees last year (including $35 million dedicated to school construction), up from $76 million in 2014 (when $13.3 million was raised for schools).
In Washington state, marijuana retail sales reached $322,823,639 in 2015, up from only $30,783,880 in 2014, when retail outlets were open for only a portion of the year. That 2015 sales figure has already been eclipsed in the first seven months of 2016.
The state retail tax revenue for fiscal year 2016 from recreational marijuana sales totaled $30,017,823, while state retail sales taxes from the sale of medical marijuana totaled $5,236,536. Local retail sales tax totaled $11,228,861 from recreational sales, and local retail tax totaled $2,084,323 for medical sales.
These, as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump might say, are “yugee” numbers, and they are continuing to increase each year, making them more and more difficult to ignore by other states.
Which brings me to my main point. At a time when several national polls confirm that between 55 and 61 percent of the entire country now favor full legalization, it is difficult to argue that marijuana smoking is, any longer, considered immoral behavior. Sure, there are pockets of fundamental moralists to whom anything pleasurable will always be suspect behavior, including sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. But this puritanical perspective is finding less and less support each year, and when balanced with the economic windfall that results when a state legalizes marijuana, it simply cannot prevail.
Today a majority of Americans under 65 support marijuana legalization, particularly younger adults: 71 percent of adults under 35 think marijuana use should be legal, a jump of 10 points since last year. The demographics are clear and unstoppable, as younger voters replace those over 65.
Just as all states now have some form of legal gambling, within a few short years, all states will offer some form of legal marijuana. It’s the smart thing to do; it’s the right thing to do; and it’s inevitable in a democracy, when most people want it.
Keith Stroup is a Washington, D.C. public-interest attorney who founded NORML in 1970.
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