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Marijuana News in MA and World

NY Marijuana Legalization
New York state Senator Liz Krueger just revealed plans to introduce the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in January which could very well lead to New York legalizing and taxing marijuana for adults as soon as 2015.

If the senator’s bill passes, it would allow retail marijuana stores to open under the supervision of the State Liquor Authority. Adults 21 years and older would in turn be allowed to possess two ounces of marijuana for personal use as well as to grow up to six plants in their home.

New York has been in the medical marijuana news recently for becoming the 23rd state in the US to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Krueger says that, “The real motivation for this bill comes from the fact that we have spent decades attempting to do prohibition and a war on drugs that has actually done nothing and is particularly ruining the lives of young people of color and having them go into the criminal justice system and come out with the kind of citations that limit their access to financial aid for college and exposes them to a criminal justice system that, frankly, I do not believe they should have been exposed to in the first place, for simply using a drug that is proved to be less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. It is a win-win to decriminalize marijuana and regulate it and tax it.”

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Marijuana Legalized States
This November, residents in a few states will be voting on whether to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, similar to Colorado and Washington. Voters in Alaska, D.C., Florida, and Oregon will decide the fate of recreational marijuana in their state.

Marijuana legalization is expected to pass into law in all these states. This is because of the many economic and health benefits that - Colorado and Washington have proven - come from the new industry. For instance, marijuana legalization generates millions in tax revenue and creates new jobs. As well, marijuana helps people find natural relief from many health ailments.

Arizona, Nevada and a possibly few other states plan to have marijuana legalization initiatives on their ballots in November 2016.

23 states and the District of Columbia currently have medical marijuana laws implemented. 11 more states have low-level THC medical marijuana laws. Most states that allow medical marijuana tax it through a general sales tax, just as over-the-counter medications are typically taxed.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), is a group that lobbies to end the prohibition of marijuana. They have campaigns to legalize marijuana with ballot initiatives in a number of states, including Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. They are also helping with legislation efforts in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

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Colorado Retail Marijuana
Colorado has reported that sales of recreational marijuana for the month of July have surpassed medical marijuana sales, marking the first time this has happened in the 9 months since recreational marijuana was legalized.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, customers bought $29.7 million worth of recreational marijuana, while medical marijuana sales came in at $28.9 million. Since retail sales first began, dispensaries have sold roughly $145 million of marijuana. When combined with medical marijuana sales, the state of Colorado has sold a staggering $350 million worth of marijuana since January 2014.

Over 55% of residents support Colorado’s recreational marijuana movement.

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Oregon Marijuana
A US congressman from Oregon has asked that the White House look into potential finance law violations due to allegations that money to fund the upcoming Oregon marijuana “education tour” about the dangers of legalizing marijuana might have been donated by the federal government.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer referred to the tour as a “smokescreen” put on by anti-marijuana activists on a federal level to deter Oregon residents from voting for legalization. Oregon will join Alaska and the District of Columbia this November to vote on whether or not to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.

Blumenauer wrote in his letter to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy that, “the bias of the speakers selected, the overall one-sided focus of the events and the proximity between these events and the upcoming election are cause for concern.”

Although Oregon fell short of recreational legalization a couple of years ago when Colorado and Washington became the first states to allow it, they are now favored to pass the law come November.

Gobal Commission Drug Policy
A new report published this week by former world leaders states that drug use should be decriminalized and governments should look into the idea of broad scale legalization.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy’s ideas are also shared by some of the leaders of the countries that have been most affected by the illegal drug market.  They argue, that not only is the war on drugs pointless, it is also the main reason for the crime and violence it was originally set up to prevent.

Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general says, “The facts speak for themselves. We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works, rather than policies that criminalize drug use while failing to provide access to effective prevention or treatment. This has led not only to overcrowded jails, but also to severe health and social problems.”

A report in 2011 came to a similar conclusion, and even went so far as to suggest some recommendations for the policy currently in place. They feel that drug use and possession in regards to laws that disproportionately affect certain groups or minorities should be decriminalized. The report also suggests that experimental legalization, like in Colorado and Washington, should be done on a much larger scale in other countries. They believe that marijuana is a good place to start, but that it should not be limited there.

They go on to suggest that low level, non-violent drug dealers should not be sent to jail, but instead disciplined in a different and more humane way.  The spokeswoman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Cameron Hardesty, seems to agree on this point. She says, “We agree that we should use science-based approaches, rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug offenders, and ensure access to pain medications. Our goals are not so dissimilar from the goals of the Global Commission. However, we disagree that legalization of drugs will make people healthier and communities safer.”

It will be great to see other states in the US following the example set by Colorado and Washington in the upcoming elections in regards to the recreational use of marijuana, as well as to see how Uruguay’s model of nationwide marijuana legalization works out. One thing is for certain - the current policy has to change.

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Painkillers Marijuana
While the majority of Americans are coming around to the idea that marijuana can be valuable, whether it be for recreational or medical purposes, the opposition is looking to a team of researchers in hopes that they can scare and influence policymakers into continuing to believe that marijuana is a dangerous substance.  They claim the lack of testing that has been done on marijuana makes it a risky alternative to modern medicine.

It appears a great number of these researchers are receiving compensation by some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry to remain anti-marijuana.  The main reason being that marijuana could easily take the place of some of these companies’ highest grossing drugs.

Many credible doctors who have spoken publicly about the “dangers” associated with marijuana use are getting paid by large-scale pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma, creator of the painkiller, OcyContin.

People in the marijuana field feel that some of these doctors’ financial arrangements with big pharmaceutical companies should be considered a conflict of interest.  Studies done on marijuana in association with pain relief have shown that it is a viable replacement for addictive opiates which mimic the effects of heroin.  What they fail to mention, however, is that prescription painkillers are responsible for roughly 16,000 overdose deaths annually, while no one in recorded history has ever overdosed from marijuana use.

Nation magazine ran a story in July which stated that many of the largest anti-marijuana advocacy groups rely on funding from painkiller manufacturing companies such as Purdue Pharma.  While these companies fill the general public’s heads with skewed opinions, they take away from one of the biggest problems facing the US, which is the over-prescribing of painkillers.

Meanwhile these companies pump more and more painkillers into the hands of the unsuspecting American public every single day because the media often tells them that opioids are a safer alternative to using the all-natural remedy, marijuana.

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

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

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

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

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Berkeley Dispensaries

The Berkeley City Council in California has decided that medical marijuana dispensaries should give a break to patients who can’t afford to buy their marijuana at dispensaries.

The City Council unanimously voted on a measure that will force medical marijuana dispensaries to donate 2% of their inventory to state-approved medical marijuana patients who pull in less than $32,000 annually.

The program just passed and is expected to be underway by mid-2015.

Low income residents in need of medical marijuana are extremely pleased that this measure passed allowing them to get the relief they so desperately need, but struggle to afford.

California has allowed medical marijuana in the state for over 20 years and many California dispensaries have voluntarily provided medical marijuana to patients in need.

The Berkeley Patients group is a dispensary that has been giving marijuana to its patients for over 10 years. They believe that no one should be turned away based solely on their income.

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Marijuana School
A leading marijuana school is going from the classroom (sometimes held at Colorado University in Denver) to interactive online classes for the masses.

THC University has transformed all of its curriculum online as engaging interactive classes, making THC University the first massive open online courses (MOOC) school in the marijuana industry.

MOOC schools have lesson plans, quizzes, and get students to interact in classes which helps exercise the brain and increase memorization. MOOC schools also offer large amounts of free, or low cost, education when compared to other schools with all the benefits of being able to ask instructors questions and interact with students in an online community.

“We built the courses using the most modern education techniques to increase brain function, engagement and memory. We used the most advanced software to build our courses. We didn’t just make a Powerpoint presentation or make a bunch of YouTube videos like many other online cannabis schools. We knew why MOOC schools were successful, and we believe the cannabis community would benefit from this,” stated Matt Jones, President of THC University.

THC University provides marijuana education that can help people find a job in the marijuana industry at places such as dispensaries, doctor offices, edible makers, and elsewhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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