Federal agencies are beginning to work on the banking problem for medical marijuana businesses, the District of Columbia is looking at why its program is so tiny, and New Mexico can't keep up with medical marijuana demand. And there's much more, too. Let's get to it:
On Tuesday, a US Treasury official said the department is discussing banking for medical marijuana businesses with the Justice Department. Access to banking services has been a major roadblock for marijuana businesses, but the Obama administration has signaled it is willing to try to reach a workable solution to the problem.
Last Friday, a judge ruled that the state's medical marijuana law did not limit the health care rights by preventing those living less than 25 miles away from a dispensary from growing their own medicine. Judge Katherine Cooper throw out the challenge from two men, but she said they may be able to try again by arguing that the 25-mile rule amounts to a violation of their rights under constitutional provisions guaranteeing everyone equal protection of the law. She said, though, they have yet to make a case for that claim.
Last Thursday, the city of Los Angeles filed suit to block a Mar Vista dispensary from opening. The suit claims the business would violate voter-approved rules for marijuana dispensaries because its proximity to a residential neighborhood and seeks penalties of up to $2,500 a day for anyone involved in operating a dispensary at that location.
On Monday, the city of Jurapa Valley said it had filed lawsuits against five dispensaries. The suits seek to force the dispensaries to close. The Riverside County community wants to shut down all dispensaries within its jurisdiction. The lawsuits follow sternly-worded letters sent out in September 2011 and again last summer warning dispensary operators of possible actions against them.
On Tuesday, Santa Cruz County supervisors grappled with cultivation rules for medical marijuana grows. The supervisors had already set new rules for dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county and are preparing to vote December 10 on cultivation rules. The proposed rules would limit personal grows to 100 square feet, but allow up to 3,000 square feet in rural areas.
Also on Tuesday, the Richmond city council agreed to allow a dispensary to relocate to East Richmond. The Green Remedy Collective needed to move because its landlord is facing foreclosure, but wanted to move to a location zoned general use, which violates the city's guidelines. The city waived the zoning requirement.
Also on Tuesday, the Whittier city council voted to ban dispensaries. The ban passed 4-1 after several community and religious leaders spoke against allowing the outlets, claiming they have harmful effects on families and adolescents. The action was prompted by the approaching date for the expiration of the city's moratorium on issuing permits for medical marijuana dispensaries. The council imposed a 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in January 2012; it has renewed the moratorium twice. The current moratorium is set to expire January 24, 2014, and it cannot be renewed.
Last Friday, the city of Santa Ana sent warning letters to all dispensaries in the city saying they must close by the end of the month or face $1,000 a day fines and misdemeanor criminal charges. The city has a dispensary ban in place, but activists there have managed to place a referendum on the November 2014 ballot that would allow dispensaries to operate.
District of Columbia
On Tuesday, news came that Mayor Gray has convened a Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee to assess current policies. The move comes amidst complaints that strict restrictions on eligibility for the District's medical marijuana program are preventing patients from taking advantage of it. An Intergovernmental Operations Subcommittee will monitor the effectiveness of the current medical marijuana program, and a Scientific Subcommittee will review applicable scientific research. Both subcommittees will review the practices of other states. Only 59 patients are enrolled in the program in the District and only 39 doctors are currently licensed to recommend medical marijuana.
On Tuesday, the Brookline town meeting cleared the way for a dispensary to open there. The meeting passed three warrant articles designed to set up a licensing framework for medical marijuana businesses. Dispensaries must be at least 500 feet from a school.
On Wednesday, the Reno city council approved a moratorium on dispensary business license applications. Las Vegas passed a similar temporary moratorium in September. Reno officials said they were waiting for the state to set final dispensary regulations before the 2013 medical marijuana law goes into effect on April 1.
On Monday, the state's third dispensary began accepting patient registrations. Garden State Dispensary (formerly known as Compassionate Care Center of America) is opening in Woodbridge, although when that will actually happen is not yet certain. Some 1,500 patients and caregivers have registered with the state program, which has gotten off to an excruciatingly slow start.
On Saturday, a survey of medical marijuana producers and patients found that demand is outstripping supply. New Mexico producers have had to turn away thousands of patients in recent months and ration supplies to others, the report found. The number of licensed producers has dropped from a high of 25 to 23, while the number of active patients certified to buy medical cannabis hit 10,289 as of the end of last month, according to state officials, increasing by 1,200 from earlier this year.
Last Friday, the Tualatin city council voted to ban dispensaries. The town follows the lead of Medford, but both localities may be in conflict with Oregon's new dispensary law, which leaves regulation up to the state, not localities.
On Monday, medical marijuana supporters rallied at the state capitol in support of pending legislation that would allow for the use of medical marijuana by patients, including children. Senate Bill 1182, sponsored by Sens. Daylin Leach (D) and Mike Folmer (R) is the first bipartisan medical marijuana legislation in the state.
On Wednesday, the first details of a new medical marijuana bill emerged. An interim meeting of the Joint Health Committee heard from counsel Charles Roskovensky that the bill he is drafting for them would allow people with certain illnesses like cancer and glaucoma to possess up to six ounces of marijuana. If the bill becomes law, registered patients would be able to purchase medical marijuana at five 'compassion centers' throughout the state that would be chosen through a competitive bid process, he said. Registered patients would also be allowed to have a limited number of 12 marijuana plants. But Roskovensky said the bill wasn't yet in final form, and he solicited suggestions from lawmakers.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]
A Maryland gubernatorial candidate and a Maine legislator both call for marijuana legalization, politicians are in trouble for drugs, and marijuana law reforms appear to be advancing internationally, except in one Australian state. That's just for starters. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Maryland Gubernatorial Candidate Proposes Marijuana Legalization. Heather Mizeur, a Democratic candidate for Maryland governor, Tuesday released a plan to tax, regulate, and legalize marijuana. Under her proposal, marijuana taxes would generate $157 million a year and would go to pay for early childhood education. Click the link for more details.
Maine Legislator Unveils Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) Tuesday announced she was introducing a new bill to legalize marijuana. The bill, LR 2329, would legalize the possession of small amounts of pot by adults over 21 and impose a 10% sales tax and 15% excise tax on marijuana sales. Russell said the recent vote by Portland residents in favor of legalization sent a clear message to lawmakers.
California Marijuana Legalization Effort Extends Deadline for Input, Amendments. Backers of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014, the nation's first "open-sourced" legalization initiative, have extended their timeline for further comments on the measure. Backers are holding a series of meetings throughout the state before turning in final amendments to state officials in the first week of December. This initiative is sponsored by Americans for Policy Reform. Another measure, the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, is already in the signature-gathering phase. Neither has the backing of deep-pocketed donors, who seem to be waiting for 2016 instead.
AMA Passes Resolution Against Marijuana Legalization. Delegates at the American Medical Association's 2013 Interim Meeting Tuesday passed a resolution opposing marijuana legalization. "Our AMA believes that (1) cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern; (2) sale and possession should not be legalized," the resolution says. Note, however, that there is some confusion over the "and possession" language. The draft document cited by the anti-legalization group Project SAM, which touted the resolution's passage in a press release, appears to have the words "and possession" struck through, suggesting that they had been deleted from the resolution and that the AMA might support decriminalization. Project SAM was unable to provide clarification Wednesday, but promised to get back to the Chronicle.
Washington State Defelonization Bill to be Rolled Out Tomorrow. The activist group Sensible Washington is holding a press conference Thursday to formally introduce a legislative proposal to defelonize the possession of personal use amounts of illegal drugs. Speakers will include bill sponsors Representatives Sherry Appleton (23rd Disrict), Joe Fitzgibbon (34th District), Jessyn Farrell (46th District), Luis Moscoso (1st District) and Jim Moeller (49th District), as well as former corrections official and speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Matt McCally.
Politicians in Drug Trouble
Congressman Busted for Cocaine Possession. US Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL), the congressman arrested last month for cocaine possession, pleaded guilty today and was sentenced to a year of supervised probation. [Ed: An article on ThinkProgress.org suggests Radel may have decent views on drug policy, but there isn't really enough information to know for sure. An update to the article pointed out that he voted for legislation that would allow states to subject food stamp recipients to drug tests. However, that vote actually was for a larger piece of recurring legislation, the Farm Bill, of which the drug testing provision was a small part. The drug testing provision was passed as an amendment sponsored by another Republican legislator, on a voice vote, meaning there is no record as to what Radel's position was on it, or if he had one. -DB]
Toronto's Crack-Smoking Mayor is Foe of Drug Reform, Harm Reduction. Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who has belatedly admitted to smoking crack "in a drunken stupor," is a long-time foe of both drug law reform and harm reduction. Ford has consistently supported the criminalization of drug users and scoffed at programs such as clean needles for drug users as "absolutely ridiculous." He's always appealed to law-and-order voters and praises gang and drug sweeps aimed at poor, marginalized groups. He was a loud and vocal opponent of the 2005 Toronto Drug Strategy, which included a proposal that the city support federal marijuana decriminalization. This after he was caught six years earlier with a joint in his pocket when he was busted for drunk driving in Miami. Whether Ford's recent misadventures will prompt (force?) him to change his attitudes remains to be seen. [Ed: Whether it will ever matter again what Ford's views are also remains to be seen.]
Dutch Liberals to File Bill for Regulated Marijuana Production. Holland's D66 Liberal party, the second most popular in the country, is drawing up legislation to regulate marijuana cultivation. The measure would address the country's "back door problem," where cannabis cafes are allowed to sell small amounts of marijuana, but cannot legally acquire it. The move comes as pressure is mounting on the conservative coalition government to resolve the issue. Two-thirds of the country's largest municipalities support such a move. The Justice Minister, who opposes legalizing cultivation, has said he will update parliament on the situation by year's end.
Pot Legalization in US Driving Down BC Bud Prices. Marijuana activists in British Columbia say the marijuana legalization votes in Colorado and especially Washington are driving down the prices of the province's trademark BC Bud. Dana Larsen, who runs a Vancouver dispensary and is trying to push a referendum to decriminalize in the province, said his prices had dropped 20%, while Jodie Emery, wife of imprisoned "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery, said pound prices had dropped from $2,000 to $1,000.
Marijuana Decriminalization Clamor Grows in Bermuda. The Bermudan government has already signaled it is willing to discuss the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, and now the opposition is making similar noises. The government said in its Throne Speech that it is working on the possibility of decriminalization, and the opposition People's Labor Party Shadow Finance Minister David Burt has replied, saying his party wants the removal of criminal penalties for possession of small amounts, options for the medical use of marijuana on the island, and the regulation of the sale and use of the drug.
South Australia Ready to March Resolutely Backward on Pot Policy. Parliamentarians in South Australia are preparing to amend the state's marijuana laws for the worse. The changes would reduce the amount of marijuana punishable only by a fine from 100 grams to 25 grams, and carrying more than 25 grams would be a criminal offense. The measure would also double the fine, from $150 to $300. There are also plans afoot to increase the penalties for marijuana cultivation.
Uruguay is blowing off the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) as it prepares to become the first country to legalize marijuana commerce, and the INCB is "concerned." The South American nation failed to send a delegation to Vienna to listen to the INCB complain about its plans.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]"The INCB has noted with concern that the Government of Uruguay was unable to send a delegation to the just concluded INCB session to discuss the status of the country's compliance with the international drug control conventions," the global anti-drug bureaucrats complained.
The INCB is also "very concerned that the draft legislation currently being considered in Uruguay would, if adopted, legalize production, sale and consumption of cannabis for recreational purposes."
"This would be in contravention of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which has been adopted by 186 countries, including Uruguay," said INCB President Raymond Yans. "Cannabis is controlled due to its dependence-producing potential, and the current development in Uruguay, if pursued, would have serious repercussions for public health, particularly for youth, and would be in violation of the United Nations international drug control treaties."
Uruguay's marijuana legalization bill, backed by President Jose Mujica, has already passed the lower house of parliament and is set for a vote soon in the upper house. Since the governing party has majorities in both houses, passage is seen as extremely likely.
The INCB complained earlier this year when the bill passed the lower house, but that has not deterred Uruguay from moving forward. Neither will this latest volley from Geneva, but the INCB refuses to give up.
"The INCB looks forward to Uruguay resuming its dialogue with the Board at the earliest possible opportunity, prior to further consideration of the draft legislation in the country," Yans said hopefully.
Hmmm, on the same day the DEA warns that "marijuana availability seems to be on the increase," hundreds of people apply for licenses to sell pot in Washington state. Times are changing, and somebody needs to let the DEA know. And there's more news, too. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Hundreds Apply for Pot Business Licenses in Washington State. Monday was the first day budding ganjapreneurs could apply for licenses to open marijuana cultivation, processing, and retail facilities, and interest was intense. By 2:00pm Monday, 299 applications had been submitted. The state envisions up to 334 marijuana retail shops opening next year; it is unclear how many production and processing facilities will be licensed, although regulators have said they want to limit cultivation to two million square feet statewide. Applications are being accepted through December 17.
Arkansas Attorney General Rejects Another Marijuana Initiative. The Arkansas attorney general's office Monday rejected the proposed language of an initiative that would repeal the state's marijuana laws. The initiative isn't clear about what it seeks to achieve, the office said. The attorney general's office has been busy with initiatives this year; it has already approved two separate medical marijuana initiatives, and the author of this one can come back with new language if she wishes.
DEA Releases 2013 National Drug Threat Assessment. The DEA Monday released the annual drug threat assessment, which includes looks at drug use and trafficking trends. The report identifies the illicit use of controlled prescription drugs as "the nation's fastest growing drug problem," warns that heroin use and supply is up, as is methamphetamine, but that cocaine use and supply is down. Also, "marijuana availability seems to be increasing," and synthetic drugs "have emerged as a serious problem in the United States."
New Yorkers to Map Out City Drug Policies on Saturday. New York City residents just elected a self-described progressive -- Bill de Blasio -- as mayor. Now, they will have a chance to let him know what direction they want the city to take on drug policy. As part of Talking Transition, "an open conversation about the future of New York City," hundreds of people are expected to attend a Saturday forum on "Ending the New Jim Crow: Mapping the Future of Drug Policy in New York City," then break into small groups to make recommendations on issues ranging from racially-biased marijuana arrests, lack of effective drug treatment, and overdose prevention strategies. Click on the main link for more details.
Ohio Attorney General Declares War on Heroin. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine Monday announced he had created a new heroin unit within his office to fight back against what he called "an epidemic" of heroin use. The move comes as heroin overdose deaths have doubled in recent years, from 292 in 2010 to 606 last year. DeWine said his office will spend an additional $1 million a year on increased assistance to law enforcement, community outreach workers, and lab technicians. The rise in heroin use in Ohio comes after Gov. John Kasich cracked down on pain clinics in 2011, leaving illicit heroin as the last resort for people strung out on opioids.
China to Turn "Re-Education" Labor Camps into Drug Treatment Centers. At its recent Third Plenary meeting, the Chinese Communist Party announced it was abolishing its controversial "re-education" labor camps. Now, it turns out that the camps won't be closing, but will instead be converted into drug treatment and rehabilitation centers. "The new rehab centers will provide compulsory drug rehabilitation treatment for addicts, and help them find self-confidence again," one official explained. There are 1.8 million "officially registered" addicts in China, but the number of actual addicts could run as high as 12 million.
Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy Meets in Vancouver This Weekend. Canadian SSDP is holding its annual national conference this weekend in Vancouver. In addition to panels and speeches, there will be tours of Insite, Vancouver's supervised injection facility, a Downtown Eastside Walking Tour, and rides on the Sensible BC bus. For more details, click the link.
A bill to protect the guns rights of legal marijuana users has been filed, hempsters hit the halls of Congress, a new medical marijuana bill is filed in Pennsylvania, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Polis Files Federal Bill to Protect Gun Rights of Legal Marijuana Users. US Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) last Thursday filed House Resolution 3483 to override a 2011 ruling by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms that medical marijuana patients cannot legally buy or own guns. The bill's summary says its purpose is "to amend title 18, United States Code, to provide exceptions from the firearm prohibitions otherwise applicable in relation to marijuana if its possession is lawful under State law."
Washington State Now Taking Applications for Pot Business Licenses. Beginning today, Washington state is taking applications for licenses to grow, process, and sell legal marijuana. The licensing application period lasts 30 days. Under rules drafted by the Liquor Control Board, the state will license up to 2 million square feet statewide for marijuana production and up to 334 retail outlets.
Near Majority for Marijuana Legalization in Wisconsin. A Marquette University Law School poll has Wisconsin hovering on the cusp of majority support for legalization. The late October poll had support for legalization at 49.7%, with 44.9% opposed, 4.7% not sure, and 0.8% who refused to answer.
No Decriminalization in Puerto Rico This Year. Marijuana decriminalization won't happen this year in Puerto Rico. The legislative session has ended without the lower house taking up a decriminalization bill passed earlier by the Senate. Recent polls showing little support for decriminalization and even medical marijuana helped dampen things, but decrim bill sponsor Sen. Miguel Periera said he will reintroduce it in the new session in January.
Americans for Safe Access Forms Virginia Chapter. The national medical marijuana advocacy group is coming to the Old Dominion. The state chapter, Safe Access Virginia, will lobby elected officials to pass a comprehensive Virginia Medical Cannabis Act. The group had its inaugural meeting Saturday in Richmond.
Oregon Committee Reviewing Dispensary Rules Meets Today. The committee charged with drafting rules for medical marijuana dispensaries is meeting in Salem today. It will consider an opinion from the Oregon Legislative Counsel that says regulating dispensaries is the job of the state, not localities. Some localities have already moved to ban dispensaries.
Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced. State Sens. Daylin Leach (D) and Mike Folmer (R) introduced a limited medical marijuana bill Monday. While the text is not yet available, Leach's remarks suggest that it seeks to allow medical marijuana with a high CBD content that could be used by children suffering from epilepsy.
Hemp Lobbyists go to Washington, DC. Led by David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, several dozen supporters of industrial hemp were on Capitol Hill Monday urging Congress to lift the federal ban on domestic hemp production. "It's time to grow hemp," Bronner said. "I mean, it's been a long and ridiculous situation."
Ireland Stops Anti-Drug Aid to Death Penalty States; Britain Pressed to Do Same. Last Friday, Ireland announced it was stopping "funding to UNODC's Illicit Trafficking and Border Management program because of human rights concerns related to the use of the death penalty in Iran." The British justice reform nonprofit Reprieve is now pressing the UK government to do the same. "Britain is rapidly becoming isolated as the only country which thinks supporting the death penalty machines of Iran and Pakistan is acceptable. Hundreds of people have been sentenced to death in these countries in the last few years for non-violent drug offenses -- helped by millions of pounds of British taxpayers' money. Britain could end this problem tomorrow by putting in place conditions on the aid that it cannot be used to support the death penalty -- why are ministers refusing to do so?"
More Mass Graves in Mexico. Investigators in western Mexico have dug up 19 bodies from a series of eight mass graves after being led to them by corrupt police officers who had been working for drug cartels. More bodies may be coming. They are believed to be victims of turf wars between the Knights Templar and New Generation Jalisco drug trafficking organizations. The corrupt cops were arrested after two federal police were abducted in Michoacan. The missing federal cops are not among the bodies found so far. Meanwhile, in Guerrero, five more bodies were pulled from a mass grave.