Marijuana News in MA and World
A national survey released Tuesday found that marijuana use among teens has declined over 2014 even though Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use this year. The news may come as a surprise to critics of marijuana legalization.
The Monitoring the Future study surveys 40,000 to 50,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade in schools nationwide and is conducted by the University of Michigan. The survey is now in its 40th year and polls the use of alcohol, legal and illegal drugs and cigarettes among teens.
Here are a few interesting marijuana figures from the study:
- Marijuana use by students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades declined slightly, from 26% in 2013 to 24% in 2014.
- One in 17 high school seniors, or 5.8%, say they use marijuana almost daily this year, down from 6.5% in 2013.
- Students in 10th and 12th grades reported that marijuana is less available than it once was.
Last week Terra Tech Corp., based in Irvine, California, won approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission to raise $6.8 million to build and operate medical marijuana operations in Nevada. This would make Terra Tech first publicly traded company that cultivates, distributes and sells marijuana.
“We were nervous, not knowing if they would run us around in circles or just say `No, find other sources of financing. In the end they kind of told us that, statutorily, they can’t tell us what to do in the space we’re in, their job is to make sure investors are aware of every risk.”
“I firmly believe this industry will be regulated like alcohol. If all goes well, I’m optimistic the federal government could end its prohibition in five to 10 years.” Peterson, Terra Tech’s CEO said in an interview.
There are other marijuana-related companies that are currently publicly traded such as Medical Marijuana Inc and Northsight Capital, as well as a number of others including WeedMaps Media Inc., PotBotics and GrowBox USA that are in various stages of IPO-planning. However there currently aren’t any public companies that grow marijuana. Terra Tech will be the first of its kind.
According to a report by ArcView Group, legal marijuana sales in the U.S. this year will total about $2.3 billion. By 2018, ArcView expects sales to exceed $10 billion.
New federal policy will allow Native American tribes interested in cultivating and selling marijuana to do so, as long as they maintain “robust and effective regulatory systems,” said the U.S. attorney for Colorado, John Walsh.
Tribes will need to avoid certain enforcement triggers that also apply to state-regulated marijuana markets, including a prohibition on sales to minors and the diversion of marijuana trafficking to states where marijuana remains illegal under local.
It is currently unclear how many tribes will take advantage of the new policy directive. Certain tribes are well-known for using their special legal status to host casinos and/or sell untaxed tobacco.
According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs there are 326 federally recognized Native American reservations. Many reservations are in states that don’t allow medical or recreational marijuana use, such as Oklahoma and the Dakotas. Many others are located near major East Coast cities.
“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” stated Timothy Purdon, U.S. attorney for North Dakota and chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues.
The Department of Justice said U.S. attorneys can review tribes’ marijuana policies on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors retain the ability to enforce federal law.
Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said Native American tribal leaders “will have a tremendous opportunity to improve public health and safety, as well as benefit economically” by legalizing marijuana use.
Tvert also stated that “Regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol would ensure the product is controlled, and it would bring significant revenue and new jobs to these communities…studies have consistently found above-average rates of alcohol abuse and related problems among Native American communities, so it would be incredibly beneficial to provide adults with a safer recreational alternative.”
State operated medical marijuana programs and legal hemp cultivation may have just got historic support from Congress. The proposed federal spending bill on Tuesday included amendments that prohibit the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state medical marijuana operations. In addition it blocks the Drug Enforcement Administration from using its funds to interfere with state-legal industrial hemp research. If it passes, the bill will protect programs in the states that have legalized marijuana and CBD oils for medical purposes as well as those operations that research industrial hemp.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who a introduced the amendment with co-sponsor Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), told Huffington Post:
“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree.
This is a victory for so many, including scores of our wounded veterans, who have found marijuana to be an important medicine for some of the ailments they suffer, such as PTSD, epilepsy and MS.”
“For the first time, Congress is letting states set their own medical marijuana and hemp policies, a huge step forward for sensible drug policy. States will continue to reform their marijuanaand Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.
To service the U.S. market, police agencies report some Mexican crime groups grow marijuana in public lands in the West.
As states in the US legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal use, Americans are buying less and less of it on the black market. This trend has caused wholesale prices in Mexico to drop, and have forced the cartels to find new sources of revenue. Once of these sources is smuggling high-quality American grown marijuana into Mexico for sale to high paying customers.
According to the DEA spokesman Lawrence Payne, Sinaloa operatives in the United States are reportedly buying high-potency American marijuana in Colorado and smuggling it back into Mexico.
“It makes sense,” Payne told NPR. “We know the cartels are already smuggling cash into Mexico. If you can buy some really high-quality weed here, why not smuggle it south, too, and sell it at a premium?”
“The Sinaloa cartel has demonstrated in many instances that it can adapt. I think it’s in a process of redefinition toward marijuana,” Javier Valdez, a respected journalist and author who writes books on the narcoculture in Sinaloa, told NPR.
Valdez told NPR that he’s heard through the grapevine that marijuana planting has dropped 30 percent in the mountains of Sinaloa.
“I believe that now, because of the changes they’re having to make because of marijuana legalization in the U.S., the cartel is pushing more cocaine, meth and heroin. They’re diversifying,” Valdez says.
Two companies have been chosen to be responsible for growing the medical cannabis, processing it into pill or liquid form and distributing the medications through a network of eight distribution sites. The Minnesota Department of Health announced LeafLine Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions as the two registered manufacturers. Each manufacturer will have 4 distribution sites.
LeafLine Labs’ manufacturing facility will be in Cottage Grove. It will openon July 1, 2015 in Eagan and then open other locations in St. Cloud, Hibbing and St. Paul on or before July 1, 2016.
Minnesota Medical Solutions’ manufacturing facility is located in Otsego and should be functional this week. They will open four distribution facilities in July in Rochester, Maple Grove, Minneapolis and Moorhead.
The companies were chosen after a review process that examined their operational track records, financial stability, business plans and other factors.
The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that Federal agents arrested 8 U.S. Postal Service workers in Bethpage, New York in connection with an alleged mail theft and marijuana distribution conspiracy.
Agents seized about 129 pounds of marijuana in 12 different packages. The workers, who range in age from 25 to 43, allegedly stole packages suspected of containing marijuana from the processing line instead of reporting the suspicious packages and re-labeling them to send to new addresses.
The eight workers are each charged with theft of mail and conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute.
The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a study in September that “strongly suggest that THC could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.”
They found that the main active ingredient in marijuana “directly interacts” with a protein that is linked to Alzheimer’s symptoms, “thereby inhibiting aggression”. THC was also effective at lowering other key Alzheimer’s Disease markers and that “no toxicity” was observed from the THC. In addition, they found that THC “enhances” the function of the cell’s mitochondria. Other research in the same journal that month indicates THC boosts the body’s natural anti-Alzheimer’s fighting mechanism: the endocannabinoid system.
“THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function,” stated study lead author Chuanhai Cao, PhD and a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and the USF College of Pharmacy.
“Decreased levels of amyloid beta means less aggregation, which may protect against the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Since THC is a natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor, THC or its analogs may help us develop an effective treatment in the future.”
Over five million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s and it is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the nation.
The report, which was produced by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee in September wasn’t made public, but the New Times was able to obtain a copy of it.
The report only takes into consideration the increase of potential taxes, but doesn’t account for the large amount of money that would be saved annually in Arizona by halting arrests, criminal prosecution and jailing of marijuana users. According to the New Times, “police alone arrest about five people a day for possession of marijuana, with no other crimes alleged.”
The report was conducted in response to a bill proposed earlier this year that would have made marijuana legal for adults over 21 years old. It would have also made it legal to sell recreation marijuana in retail stores with a $50-per-ounce tax.
The bill died in April, but a similar measure may come back around in January. Regardless, Arizona voters are likely to see a legalization initiative on the ballot in 2016 coordinated by the Marijuana Policy Project.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a comprehensive report last week examining a wholesale excise tax on the production and sale of cannabis-related products by the federal government.
The report was one of the most comprehensive policy and fiscal reviews to date of how marijuana can and should be regulated and taxed. The CRS considered enforcement, restrictions, labeling, measurement, discouraging youth use, choosing the base to tax (i.e., weight, potency and price), special tax rates, home production and medical cannabis.
In the CRS’ analysis, they predict that cannabis prices are likely to fall to as low $5-$18 ounce, from the $200 – $350 prices per ounce intoday. Their economic modeling was based on a $40 billion annual cannabis market in the United States and they estimated the federal government could generate as much as $7 billion in federal excise taxes.
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre commenting on the new CRS paper:
“This CRS report on the prospects of the federal government taxing and regulating cannabis is another clear indication of the political saliency and fiscal appeal of ending cannabis prohibition at the state, and increasingly at the federal level (replacing the nearly eighty-year old failed federal policy with tax-n-regulate policies that are similar to alcohol and tobacco products).
With fours states and the District of Columbia since 2012 opting for legalizing cannabis, dozens of members of Congress from both major political parties—from states with legalization and those that pine for it—are getting serious about making sure the federal government does not lose out on hundreds of millions annually in tax revenue from the ever-growing cannabis industry in the United States.”