Arkansas will join Florida in voting on medical marijuana in November, California's Prop 64 legalization initiative just got another $1.25 million from Sean Parker, a major investigative report finds that police field drug tests are shoddy, unreliable, and are sending innocent people to jail and prison, and more.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Alaska Governor Signs Bill for National Criminal Background Checks on People Seeking Marijuana Business Licenses. Gov. Bill Walker (R) has signed into law Senate Bill 165, which will allow state regulators to send fingerprints acquired as part of the application process for marijuana business licenses to the state Department of Public Safety and FBI. Until now, regulators have been issuing licenses based on the applicant's sworn certification he does not hae a disqualifying criminal history.
Sean Parker Kicks in Another $1.25 Million for California Prop 64 Legalization Initiative. Former Facebook president and tech sector billionaire Sean Parker has just doubled his contribution to the Prop 64 campaign. Parker donated $1.25 million, bringing his total contributions so far to $2.5 million.
Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act Qualifies for November Ballot. Arkansans for Compassionate Care (ACC) has collected enough valid voter signatures to qualify its medical marijuana initiative for the November ballot, Secretary of State Mack Martin confirmed Tuesday. A second initiative, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, has yet to qualify for the ballot, and ACC is calling on its organizers to end their campaign and join forces.
California: San Bernardino Initiative to Allow Dispensaries Will Go to Voters. The city council voted Tuesday night to put a dispensary regulatory system before the voters in November, even though a majority disapproves of it. Their hand was forced by a petition campaign that gathered more than 6,000 voter signatures. A second, competing proposal may also make the ballot.
California: Long Beach to Vote on Allowing Dispensaries. City Clerk Maria de la Luz Garcia announced Tuesday that an initiative to allow dispensaries has qualified for the November ballot. A city council member may try to add another ballot measure that would allow dispensaries, but with more restrictions.
Roadside Drug Tests Are Sending Innocent People to Jail. In a major investigative piece, Pro Publica and the New York Times Magazine have collaborated to examine the pervasive use of cheap drug field tests by law enforcement and have found that the test generate huge numbers of false positives, resulting in innocent people being jailed and wrongfully convicted of drug charges. Faced with possible prison sentences, many pleaded guilty to lesser charges despite being innocent of any crime.
Uruguay Marijuana Consumer Licensing System About to Get Underway. This month, Uruguay will begin signing up pot smokers to buy marijuana from state-licensed pharmacies in the world's first scheme for state-licensed production and sale of the herb. The first crop is being harvested and should be available for sale by mid-August.
This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.
Before too long, when you sit down to enjoy your 2014 vintage Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, you'll be able to pair your wine with a nice South Mendocino County Sour Diesel or maybe a Mendocino Covelo/Dos Rios OG Kush for a sip and smoke that hits all the high notes.
[image:1 align:right]That's right, pot farmers in one of California's Emerald Triangle marijuana-growing counties are about to follow their brethren in the wine industry by seeking to capitalize on its reputation as a pioneer and still cutting-edge presence in American cannabis cultivation. As with Bordeaux in France or the Napa Valley nearby, the Mendocino Appellations Project wants the county's marijuana brand protected and promoted by designating denominations of origin that reflect both the county provenance and the distinct pot-growing microclimates that Mendo offers.
The first-of-its-kind project is riding a tide of local optimism not only about the future -- legalization is set to be on the ballot in California this year -- but also the present, now that the state legislature has belatedly passed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA). Twenty years after voters first approved medical marijuana, the act will finally bring some clarity to an endeavor that has operated with many grey areas. It defines marijuana cultivation as an agricultural activity, creates state licensing requirements, and also makes it a crime to label or sell medical marijuana as grown in a county if it actually isn't.
These rules are similar to the ones that protect the state's wine regions, whose global reputations for fine wines are jealously guarded. But unlike wine, which is regulated by the federal government, California's pot's regulation defaults to the state under federal marijuana prohibition.
"You have a product coming out of prohibition, essentially. Marijuana growers are caught in a very difficult situation. It's a bit of a 'catch-22'. Even though it's legal at the state level, it's not legal at the federal level. They can't operate in the normal way by creating bank accounts and the like. Appellations will help show the legitimacy of what they are doing," wine legal expert Richard Mendelson told The North Bay Business Journal
Mendelson has played a key role in the development of Napa County's wine appellations for more than 30 years, and he's now lending his expertise to the Mendocino Appellation Project.
"Appellations can be really powerful because they can be a means to protect everything from the intellectual property, to the labor force, to the culture and history. They can be very rich vehicles for promotion, protection, and rural development," he added.
"Mendocino is the Napa Valley of cannabis. It is by far the most conducive place for outdoor cultivation," said project founder Justin Calvino. "Mendocino is a growing culture you won't find anywhere else."
Calvino began the project last year with a topographical map of the county, then proceeded to listen to growers and others in the industry. After surveying local farmers last fall, he created the appellation map, with 11 different micro-regions based on ecological factors, such as watershed and microclimate.
The proposed appellations are: Spyrock-Bell Springs, Covelo-Dos Rios, Long Valley-Branscomb-Leggett, Willits, Comptche, Ukiah Valley, North Mendocino Coast, South Mendocino Coast, Anderson Valley South Mendocino, Potter Valley, and Mountainhouse South Mendocino County.
[image:2 align:left]"I like the way he's gone about it, because he's factored in not just the natural elements, he's gone out and spoken to growers, asking the old-timers what they think, and is making revisions. He's being true to the history. This is a template for the future, creating a dossier of physical and human, historical factors -- I applaud him for that," Mendelson said.
There are issues yet to be resolved, including whether to brand the name "Mendocino" or focus on smaller areas, the setting of environmental standards, and the thorny philosophical question of whether marijuana grown indoors can lay claim to terroir, a wine term that means the specific environmental conditions, especially soil and climate, that give a wine its unique characteristics. Can a crop grown with hydroponics in a controlled indoor environment have a terroir?
In any case, the adoption of appellations should be good for consumers and good for the industry.
"This is what makes wine so much fun for consumers, to experiment and to be able to go from the larger country and regional levels all the way down to the specific vineyard designation, and see, as a consumer if you can spot those differences and understand the effect of terroir on the final product," Mendelson said.
"Tourism is big. We want people to come out and visit our tasting rooms. We want the debate and the talk about our appellations, and which one does it better than another," he said.
Calvino also sits on the board of the California Growers' Association and has been asked to lead a group working on developing appellations statewide. He said he is looking a neighboring Humboldt County next.
This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.
For the first time, a major US political party has embraced a strongly reformist platform plank on marijuana. Members of a panel of the Democratic National Committee Platform Drafting Committee approved the language last weekend.
[image:1 align:left]It's not as forthright as the position sought by committee members appointed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who wanted language calling for the complete removal of marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act, but it is still a major step forward for a major political party.
Sanders supporters, led by environmentalist Bill McKibben, proposed a plank that read: "We will refocus our drug policy by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and allowing states to set their own policies."
But that language was quickly tabled, and after discussion among panel members, the panel unanimously adopted the following language:
"We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research to be done on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for African-Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites despite similar usage rates."
The language is not yet set in stone -- it still has to be approved by the full Platform Drafting Committee later this week and by the Democratic convention, set for July 25-28 -- but given that it reflects the stance of presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, it's unlikely to change much between now and then.
The national Democratic Party is reflecting broader pot-reform currents in the party. According to an analysis by Marijuana.com, 12 state Democratic Party platforms, including California's, are now calling for marijuana law reform, and Democratic lawmakers in the Congress are beginning to step up and support similar moves in Congress.
The Greens and the Libertarians have had good marijuana and drug policy platforms for years, but now, finally, a party that can actually win national elections is stepping up to the plate, if it a bit timidly.
This was a quiet week on the medical marijuana front, but a couple of important changes happened on July 1.
On Tuesday, a new report said dispensaries will generate millions for the state. The Aloha State finally got around to allowing dispensaries to operate this year, and now a report from the Hawaii Dispensary Alliance says they could generate between $12 million and $38 million in revenues in their first year in operation. That figure could grow to as much as $80 million by 2018, the group said, citing an anticipated increase in patient numbers.
As of last Friday, chronic pain patients qualify for medical marijuana. As of July 1, intractable chronic pain that can't be controlled with existing treatments is approved for medical marijuana use. The state Department of Health added intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions effective today, the one-year anniversary of the beginning of medical marijuana availability in the state.
As of last Fiday, the medical marijuana system has been folded into the state's adult sales system. As of July 1, medical marijuana and recreational marijuana sales are combined, and only shops that have sought a special license can advise patients on medical marijuana. All medical marijuana dispensaries that are not licensed under the new scheme were to shut down by midnight June 30. Only patients registered with the state will be able to avoid paying sales tax on their weed purchases.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]
It's a two-fer for Bay State legalizers today, the feds move to ease the opioid problem, Italy's top anti-Mafia and anti-terrorism prosecutor comes out for marijuana legalization, and more.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Massachusetts Legalization Initiative Turns in Final Batch of Signatures. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Tuesday handed in some 25,000 signatures to comply with a final signature gathering requirement before its legalization initiative can appear on the November ballot. Proponents only need 10,971 valid voter signatures for the measure to qualify for the ballot. The campaign already successfully completed a larger signature gathering campaign in the spring, but had to do a second round under state law after the legislature refused to act on the initiative petition.
Massachusetts Supreme Court Okays Legalization Initiative for Ballot… With Changes. The state's Supreme Judicial Court Wednesday ruled that the legalization initiative from the Massachusetts Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol can appear on the November ballot. But the court also massaged the language of the title -- changing it from "Marijuana Legalization" to "Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana" -- and the summary language that will appear on the ballot. The new summary reads as follows: "A YES VOTE would allow persons 21 and older to possess, use, and transfer marijuana and products containing marijuana concentrate (including edible products) and to cultivate marijuana, all in limited amounts, and would provide for the regulation and taxation of commercial sale of marijuana and marijuana products." (Changes highlighted in bold).
Heroin and Prescription Opioids
Feds Raise Patient Limits for Buprenorphine Docs. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has nearly tripled the number of opioid-addicted patients who can be prescribed buprenorphine by a single doctor. Under old rules, doctors were limited to treating 100 patients; now, the cap has been set at 275. The drug is used to help wean people off heroin and prescription opioids.
Italy's Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Says Legalize "Soft Drugs." As the Italian parliament prepares to take up marijuana legalization later this month, the country's top anti-Mafia and anti-terrorism prosecutor, Franco Roberti, has endorsed the proposal, calling for the legalization of "soft drugs" as a means of redirecting police resources and weakening the finances of terrorist groups. Under prohibition, he said, "cannabis production is one of the main financing sources of terrorists. If we want to give a blow to the Mafia and the Taliban, we must remove this extraordinary financing channel from illegality."
Bolivia's Coca Crop is Under Control, UN Says. Bolivia has brought the number of acres under coca cultivation down to 50,500, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported Tuesday. Since farmers are allowed to plant 50,000 acres to supply the country's traditional and industrial coca market, that means that only 1% of production is destined for the illicit market. Cocaine continues to be exported through Bolivia, the agency said, but it coming from Peru.
The California marijuana legalization initiative now has an official ballot number, the Arizona marijuana legalization initiative has lots of money, Chris Christie vetoes funding for needle exchange expansion in New Jersey, and more.
[image:1 align:right]Marijuana Policy
Arizona Legalization Campaign Flush With Cash. The Arizona Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol handed in 100,000 more signatures than needed to qualify its initiative for the ballot last week, and it looks to have the money to campaign for it through November. Campaign finance reports filed last Friday show that the campaign has raised more than $2.2 million, with most of it coming from the Marijuana Policy Project. Anti-legalization forces operating as Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, have raised about $690,000, less than a third as much as the legalization forces.
California's Legalization Initiative Will be Proposition 64 on the November Ballot. After some weekend confusion thanks to conflicting reports from the Secretary of State's office, the matter is settled: The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) initiative will appear on the ballot as Proposition 64.
Even in Conservative San Diego County, Legalization Has Majority Support. A new San Diego Union-Tribune poll has support for marijuana legalization at 56% in the county, home to military bases and retirees. Two-thirds (67%) of Democrats supported legalization, but only 38% of Republicans did.
Dispensaries Will Generate Millions for Hawaii, New Report Says. The Aloha State finally got around to allowing dispensaries to operate this year, and now a report from the Hawaii Dispensary Alliance says they could generate between $12 million and $38 million in revenues in their first year in operation. That figure could grow to as much as $80 million by 2018, the group said, citing an anticipated increase in patient numbers.
New Jersey Governor Uses Line Item Veto to Kill Needle Exchange Expansion. Gov. Chris Christie (R) resorted to the line item veto to eliminate funding for the expansion of needle exchange programs. Lawmakers in both houses had approved the expansion, but Christie cut the funding for it that was contained in the budget bill sent to him last week. Advocates still hope Christie will sign the needle exchange expansion bill, but how it would be funded remains an open question.