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Marijuana News in MA and World

Warren Buffett Marijuana
Warren Buffett, the man who made billions from soda and candy, is now shifting his keen investment eye onto the marijuana industry.

Cubic Designs Incorporated, a subsidiary of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is a business which optimizes warehouse floor space. They recently delivered roughly 1,000 fliers to marijuana dispensaries over the last month hoping to catch the attention of cultivators looking to maximize their grow space. The fliers read in large lettering: “Double your growing space” and “Grow your profits.”

Shannon Salcrecht, Cubic Designs Inc.’s marketing coordinator, realized the potential business opportunity after being contacted by a number of marijuana growers looking for information. Retail cultivation space has become sparse in places like Denver and Seattle, where growers are hoping to maximize their yield which in turn has caused landlords to raise the rent.

The hardest part for Cubic Designs has been trying to locate the actual growers since they don’t intentionally advertise their names or whereabouts. Salcrecht said, “The one thing with this industry that’s kind of tough is that it’s somewhat still secretive.”

Buffett amassed his fortune through acquiring large stakes in companies like Coca-Cola and Dairy Queen when the time was right. It only makes sense that he would get in on the thriving legal marijuana industry as it begins to develop.

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Marijuana Political Donations

US marijuana industry businesses are now profitable enough to become major political donors that support marijuana-friendly candidates and ballot questions.

Congress members who once politely returned the marijuana industry businesses’ contribution checks are now keeping them. Some new marijuana business political activities include fancy fundraisers at Four Seasons hotels and art auctions hosted at law firms.

“We’re developing an industry here from the ground up. If we don’t contribute politically and get out there with the candidates, we can’t help shape what happens,” said Patrick McManamon, of Cannasure Insurance Services, which provides insurance coverage to marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries.

Medical marijuana businesses have been giving contributions to candidates since the late 90s, but with the start of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the industry and its political clout are expanding quickly.

Marijuana is currently legal for medical or recreational use in 23 states and Washington, D.C. New marijuana measures will be on November ballots in Alaska, Florida, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. Many contributions are being funneled at those upcoming campaigns and the candidates that support them.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is one of the largest marijuana advocacy contributors and is expected to donate around$150,000 to federal candidates in 2014, up from $110,000 in 2013. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Drug Policy Alliance also contribute directly to federal candidates. And tax-exempt marijuana industry groups such as the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) can contribute an unlimited amount of untraceable money.

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MA Dispensary
Matt Allen is the man responsible for Massachusetts’ new medical marijuana law, and he claims he is all done holding his tongue.

Nearly two years after voters passed the medical marijuana ballot question, Allen noticed, Massachusetts isn’t even close to having a medical marijuana program implemented.

The medical marijuana law envisioned up to 35 non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries, at least one in each county, ready to begin growing by the end of 2013. Nearly nine months into 2014, only 11 medical marijuana dispensaries have been provisionally certified. The administration estimates that the first dispensary won’t make it through the final review process and start operating until early 2015.

Even the state’s online regulatory program to let authorities and dispensaries verify that patients are eligible for medical marijuana isn’t set up yet. And every time Allen tries to add some urgency to the process, the message he always receives is: Be patient.

“There is so much the administration could have done to move things forward,” said Allen. “At this point, with the lack of movement, I think it is politics. The perception is that it would be more convenient for them to slow walk this until the governor gets out of office.”

Health and Human Services spokesman Alec Loftus claims otherwise: “We want to take our time and get this right.”

Either way, it appears it will be a few more months till dispensaries are allowed to begin growing marijuana, and then after another few months they can begin selling the marijuana they grew.

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Eric Holder Marijuana
As Attorney General Eric Holder prepares to resign from his post, he appears to be more open than ever towards the rescheduling of marijuana as a less dangerous, more beneficial substance.

In an interview, Holder stated, “I think it’s certainly a question we need to ask ourselves, whether or not marijuana is as serious of a drug as heroin. Especially given what we’ve seen recently with regard to heroin — the progression of people from using opioids to heroin use, the spread and the destruction that heroin has perpetrated all around our country. And to see by contrast, what the impact is of marijuana use. Now, it can be destructive if used in certain ways, but the question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that we need to ask ourselves and use science as the basis for making that determination.”

Holder also stated that the Obama administration would be “more than glad” to work with Congress to re-examine how marijuana is scheduled. In April he said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about how the historic marijuana legalization movements in Colorado and Washington were working out.

The Obama administration, along with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and a few U.S. attorneys, raided hundreds of marijuana dispensaries that were compliant with state laws. But it was Holder, in 2013, who announced that the Department of Justice would let Colorado and Washington implement their new marijuana legalization laws.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, as is LSD and heroin. According to the DEA, Schedule I substances have a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.” Yet science has clearly indicated otherwise by proving that marijuana does help provide relief from a multitude of health ailments.

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Teen Marijuana Use
Although marijuana legalization is quickly gaining momentum in the United States, statistics from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reveal that teens between the ages of 12 and 17 are using less marijuana than they were a decade ago.

According to the statistics, teen alcohol and tobacco consumption has declined as well. This might signify a healthy lifestyle shift by our society.

The survey also noted that teenagers are finding it more challenging to get a hold of marijuana than a decade ago. This can lead to the conclusion that the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use has made marijuana less available to teens. It’s also likely that the legal and regulated marijuana industries, whether medicinal or recreational, are diminishing the marijuana black market leading to less marijuana being distributed on city streets.

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WA Marijuana Dispensary
It has been two months since the first recreational marijuana dispensaries opened their doors in Washington, and sales are skyrocketing, which has lead to an increase in tax revenue for the state.

According to Washington’s State Liquor Control Board, $12.1 million of legal recreational marijuana has been purchased since July 8, the opening day for licensed business. Total sales more than doubled in August to $6.9 million, up from $3.2 million in July. Monthly tax revenue increased from around $805,000 to $1.75 million.

September sales are on pace to be around $7.1 million, which would translate into $1.8 million in tax revenue.

The rapid sales growth is due to more dispensaries opening across the state. There were only 24 approved retail dispensaries in July when retail sales began, but that number has since increased to more than 50 dispensaries. More dispensaries are coming as officials grant additional licenses to some of the thousands of applicants.

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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.