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Hemp Industries Association Conference Coming to DC Next Week!

The 20th Annual Hemp Industries Association Conference will convene in Washington, DC this Sunday and Monday, Sunday and Monday, November 17-18, 2013, featuring expert speakers, a luncheon, hemp exhibits & sales, a silent auction, and an organized lobby day.

Visit http://thehia.org/2013conference.html for information or to register.

Chronicle AM -- November 11, 2013

Utah is getting organized for marijuana law reform, the NAACP is supporting a "states' rights" federal marijuana bill, attention turns to the drug war south of the border in Washington, and more. Let's get to it:

Marijuana Policy

NAACP Endorses Federal Respect States Marijuana Laws Act. The NAACP late last month formally endorsed the Respect States Marijuana Laws Act, House Resolution 1523. Introduced in April by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the measure would protect both medical and recreational marijuana use and distribution in states where it is legal. That the nation's largest African-American organization and one of the top civil rights organizations would support a "states' rights" measure, given the history with which states' rights is weighted when it comes to race relations, suggests that the NAACP fully understands how destructive the war on marijuana has been to African-American communities.

Beehive State Activists Form Utah Cannabis Coalition. A number of Utah-based marijuana reform groups have formed the Utah Cannabis Coalition to fight for marijuana legalization in all its forms. The groups include Hempower Utah, SLC Hemp, Utah Moms for Marijuana, Salt Lake City Moms for Marijuana, Legalize Utah, and UtahCARE - Cannabis Awareness, Respect and Education. The coalition will be working to win over legislators and holding a number of event this fall and winter.

Search and Seizure

Another New Mexico Nightmare Drug Search, This One Courtesy of the Feds. The New Mexico chapter of the ACLU is representing a woman who was subjected to a strip search, vaginal and anal probes, X-rays, and a CAT-scan, as well as being forced to defecate in front of observers after a drug dog alerted on her as she crossed the US-Mexico border. No drugs were found. This incident comes after two recent cases of Deming police subjecting unwitting motorists to similar treatment, but in this case, the abuse took place at the hands of federal officials and compliant medical personnel.


Prague Grow Shop Raids Spark Protest. The Czech marijuana activist groups Leglizace organized a protest in central Prague Saturday against recent mass police raids on shops that sell indoor gardening equipment often used to grow marijuana. Some 200 people gathered to whistle loudly as they carried signs with messages such as "Growing is No Crime." Police have charged at least 22 people with criminal offenses in the wake of the raids.

Mexican Drug War

Petition to End US Support for Mexican and Central American Drug Wars. A petition sponsored by the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy is calling on Congress and the Obama administration to carry out a "fact-based evaluation and seriously rethink the war on drugs" as applied to Mexico and Central America. "We call on you to end funding to the bloody war on drugs in Mexico and Central America, which has led to the death and disappearance of more than 100,000 Mexicans and the dangerous militarization of the region. Instead of continuing to waste billions of taxpayer dollars through the Merida Initiative and the Central American Regional Security Initiative, we urge you to join citizens and governments of the region in the search for more just, effective and humane alternatives to the drug war at home and abroad," the petition says. You can sign it at the link above, and it could use your help; the goal is 5,000 signatures this week, but it so far has fewer than 500.

Javier Sicilia and Caravan for Peace in Washington, DC, This Week. Mexican poet and drug peace leader Javier Sicilia and the Caravan for Peace (Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity) will be in Washington Tuesday and Wednesday. Sicilia and the group will brief the Organization of American States and Congress at separate events Tuesday and Wednesday. Click on the link for more details.

Chronicle AM -- November 8, 2013

State level marijuana legalization activists look ahead, Colorado announces hemp farming rules, Denver backs away from a backyard pot-smoking ban, and strife continues in Mexico. Let's get to it:

Marijuana Policy

Kansas Activists Announce Marijuana Legalization Billboard Campaign. The Kansas activist group Fire It Up Kansas has announced a billboard campaign to push for marijuana legalization. The first billboard is going up near the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, with more coming shortly. The group made headlines recently when it was denied a chance to participate in the adopt-a-highway program. Kansas has some of the toughest pot laws in the nation, with second time possession punishable by up to 3 ½ years in prison and a $100,000 fine (!).

Massachusetts Activists Look to 2016 Marijuana Legalization Initiative. A group has formed to try to put marijuana legalization on the 2016 Massachusetts ballot. Bay State Repeal, composed of veteran activists, said it had filed paperwork this week to get the process rolling. The group will test-drive different versions of legalization with non-binding referendum questions next year in selected House and Senate districts, a strategy that has worked well for Bay State activists for more than the last decade.

Maine Marijuana Legalization Advocates Eyeing 2014, 2016. In the wake of the successful personal marijuana legalization initiative in Portland, Maine's largest city, advocates are aiming for legalization statewide, either through the legislative process next year, or, if the legislature balks, through the initiative process in 2016.

Columbia, Missouri, Councilwoman Wants Reduced Penalties for Marijuana Grows. Columbia Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe has asked city staff to draft an ordinance reducing penalties for those caught growing small numbers of pot plants for personal use. Under the ordinance, people caught growing six or fewer plants would face a misdemeanor charge with a maximum $250 penalty. State law considers any marijuana cultivation a felony. Hoppe acted after a proposal from Missouri Civil Liberties Union head Dan Viets, a long-time drug policy reformer and Benton Berigan, head of the University of Missouri NORML chapter.

No Backyard Pot Smoking Ban in Denver. The Denver City Council has scrapped its misbegotten effort to ban backyard pot smoking. Instead, the latest draft ordinance only bans smoking on the front porches of private property visible to the public. The latest proposal also decreases criminal penalties for the display and sale of marijuana in public parks to a $100 fine and 24 hours of community service.

Medical Marijuana

Michigan Medical Marijuana Bill Moving. A bill that would allow "pharmaceutical grade" marijuana to be sold in dispensaries advanced this week, passing the Senate Government Operations Committee on a 3-0 vote. The measure, Senate Bill 660, seeks "to provide for the licensure and regulation of facilities to grow and test pharmaceutical-grade pot, and allow those facilities to sell the drug to pharmacies to dispense." Patients who registered under the bill could acquire two ounces of pharmacy medical marijuana each month, but would lose the ability to grow their own.

Industrial Hemp

Colorado Announces Hemp Production Rules. The Colorado Department of Agriculture Wednesday announced proposed rules for industrial hemp production, which was legalized in the state last year by Amendment 64. Under the proposed rules, farmers would pay annual fees of at least $200 and submit to inspections to ensure they're growing hemp, not marijuana. Hemp production remains illegal under federal law, but at least one Colorado farmer has already grown and harvested a crop without federal government interference.


Mexican "Self Defense" Groups Agree to Back Off Front Confrontations with Drug Cartel. Earlier this week, leaders of two "self defense" groups in Michoacan state said they would pull back from confrontations with the Knights Templar drug trafficking organization after the Mexican government promised to crack down on the cartel. The groups had marched in the cartel stronghold of Apatzingan late last month, sparking confrontations that left at least five people dead and hundreds of thousands without electricity. Since then, the federal government has sent troops into the key Michoacan port of Lazaro Cardenas, and vigilante leaders are waiting for the government to do the same in Apatzingan.

Second 2014 California Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed

And then there were two. Proponents of a second 2014 marijuana legalization initiative filed the measure with the California secretary of state's office last Friday. An earlier 2014 legalization initiative has already entered the signature-gathering phase.

The measure filed last Friday, the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014, would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana possession, cultivation, and sales. It would also allow adults to grow up to 100 square feet of marijuana each -- provided they have the permission of the property owner and the grow is fenced.

The measure explicitly protects the rights of medical marijuana users, stating that it "shall not affect the individual and group medical rights and protection afforded" under Proposition 215 and subsequent legislation.

It would create a California Cannabis Commission with enumerated powers to regulate and control commercial marijuana cultivation and sales. Commission members could not include people currently holding state or local elected office or people who have been involved with a marijuana business in the past two years. The commission must include an attorney, an accountant, a member of law enforcement, a small business owner, and a member of the public at large.

The initiative touts itself as the first "open source" California legalization initiative and was largely drafted through an online consultative process by veteran activists. It must now have its title and ballot summary approved by the state attorney general's office, which has 60 days to do so, and if approved, signature-gathering can then commence.

Under California initiative law, measures approved for signature-gathering then have 150 days to collect signatures. This year, they need 504,000 valid voter signatures to make the ballot.

The Hererite perennial California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, which would also legalize marijuana in the state, has already entered the signature-gathering phase and has until February to come up with sufficient signatures.

The conventional wisdom among initiative experts and marijuana reform backers is that the huge number of signatures required to make the ballot in California necessitates paid signature gatherers and a budget of at least a million dollars. And that's just to make the ballot. Actually winning an election would likely cost several million dollars more.

The conventional wisdom is also calling for California to hold off until the 2016 presidential year, when expected higher turnout is believed to boost prospects for victory. But some Californians clearly aren't waiting. The question is whether this will turn out to be a repeat of 2012, when multiple legalization initiatives sought to make the ballot, but, lacking funds and unity, none did.

Sacramento, CA
United States

Hemp in the Time of New Federal Marijuana Policy [FEATURE]

It's not just medical and legal marijuana states that watched the Justice Department's announcement of its response to marijuana law reforms in the states with interest. Nine states have laws regulating the production of industrial hemp, and ten more have asked Congress to remove barriers to industrial hemp production.

Rep. Massie, Comm. Comer & Rep. Polis (Vote Hemp via youtube)
Hemp is also moving in the Congress. An amendment to the Farm Bill cosponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Jared Polis (D-CO) passed the House on a vote of 225-200 in July and will now go to a joint House-Senate conference committee. And the Industrial Hemp Farming Act (House Resolution 525 and Senate Bill 359) is pending in both chambers.

At a Tuesday Capitol Hill briefing organized by the industry group Vote Hemp (video embedded below), state and federal elected officials said they thought the Justice Department's policy directive on marijuana opened the door not just to regulated medical and legal marijuana, but also to industrial hemp production. Some states intend to move forward, they said.

"That Department of Justice ruling pertained to cannabis," said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner John Comer, "and hemp has always been banned because it's in the cannabis family. The Department of Justice ruling pertained to states with a regulatory framework for cannabis, and we feel that includes hemp as well. Our legislation set up a regulatory framework."

The legislation Comer is referring to is Kentucky Senate Bill 50, the Bluegrass State's industrial hemp bill, which passed the legislature with bipartisan support, gained endorsements by both of the state's Republican US senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and became law without the governor's signature in April. It establishes an Industrial Hemp Commission and sets up procedures for licensing farming and processing.

"We have a hemp commission meeting Thursday, and we are going to request that Rand Paul send a letter to the DEA telling them we intend to get going next year unless the Department of Justice tells us otherwise," Comer said. "We are taking a very proactive stance in Kentucky. We've been trying to replace tobacco, and hemp is an option not only for our farmers, but it could also create manufacturing jobs in our rural communities."

The commission did meet Thursday, and it voted unanimously to move forward with industrial hemp production, aiming at producing hemp next year.

"That's our first goal, to get the crop established. Then, once companies and industries see that we have a crop here established and growing, we believe industries will start coming here looking for it instead of importing it from other countries," said Brian Furnish, chairman of the Industrial Hemp Commission, after the Thursday vote.

According to Vote Hemp, Kentucky isn't the only state planning on moving forward with hemp next year. Vermont just released its Hemp Registration Form that allows farmers to apply for hemp permits and the Colorado Department of Agriculture is developing regulations to license hemp farmers in 2014. North Dakota has issued permits for several years now.

Imported hemp is now a $500 million a year industry, Vote Hemp's Eric Steenstra said.

Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY), who also played an important role in passing the Kentucky bill and who is a cosponsor of the House hemp bill, said he was encouraged by the Justice Department policy directive, but that it was not enough.

"We need more than a Justice Department ruling," he told the press conference. "As a farmer and entrepreneur, I want some certainty. I want a legislative remedy for this, and that's why I continue to push hard for our bill, which would exclude hemp from definition as a controlled substance."

Vote Hemp's Eric Steenstra
But while the House hemp bill now has 47 cosponsors, it still has a long row to hoe. The hemp amendment to the Farm Bill, which would allow hemp production for university research purposes, has already passed the House and awaits action in conference committee.

"If you can attach an amendment to a spending bill, then you can get action," said Massie. "I have to give credit to Rep. Polis for doing this. This is a farm issue, not a drug issue. And while there was debate over whether it was wise to even have a vote, it passed. People decided spontaneously to vote for it as an amendment."

While the Senate has not passed a similar provision, Massie said he was hopeful that it would make it through conference committee.

"There is no equivalent in the Senate, there is no companion amendment, but we do have [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell, who is all for it," he said. "I'm hopeful it will survive, and we'll continue to work on the standalone hemp bill."

"It was important to get the House language in the Farm Bill," said Polis. "Not only does it allow universities to do research that is needed, but it also symbolically moves forward with embracing the potential for industrial hemp production."

Polis said he was cheered by the Justice Department's policy directive when it came to hemp.

"They listed eight enforcement priorities, and industrial hemp isn't even on the enforcement radar," the Boulder congressman said. "We see no federal interest in going after states or hemp producers. The risk is minimal. But minimal isn't good enough for some folks, and that's why we want to continue to gather support for the Industrial Hemp Farming Act. You don't want to have to depend on a federal prosecutor or the attorney general not getting up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning."

Industrial hemp may be an afterthought for Justice Department policy setters, but the recent guidance has emboldened hemp advocates to push forward faster than ever. Getting hemp research approved in the Farm Bill would be a good first step; passing the Industrial Hemp Act would be even better. But it doesn't look like some states are going to wait for Congress to act.

Washington, DC
United States

Ohio Initiative Campaign for Medical Marijuana is Underway [FEATURE]

Medical marijuana backers in the Buckeye State hope the third time is the charm. After twice failing to move initiative efforts in the past couple of years, activists have unveiled a third campaign, this one aimed at putting the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment (OCRA) on the ballot for the November 2014 elections.

Willie Nelson endorses the OCRA in Cincinnati, July 19 (Cincinnati Teapot Party)
Medical marijuana has broad popular support in Ohio -- a March Columbus Dispatch poll had support at 63% -- and a victory in Ohio would plant medical marijuana firmly in the Midwest. So far in the region, only Michigan has a medical marijuana law, although Illinois could be a medical marijuana state by the time you read these words--a bill there awaits the governor's signature.

Proponents have a tough path to follow. To qualify for the ballot, they need to gather some 385,000 valid voter signatures in the next 11 months, including at least 5% of voters from each of half of the state's 88 counties. Those are the kind of signature requirements that typically require paid signature-gathering campaigns. Ohio Rights, the people behind the OCRA, are looking for big-name funding, but right now, their campaign is relying on a network of volunteers.

"For now, it's an all-volunteer effort," said campaign spokesperson Mary Jane Borden (no relation to StoptheDrugWar.org executive director David Borden), who in addition to campaigning for marijuana reform at home is also a past editor of that valuable compendium of drug policy information, Drug War Facts. "We will definitely be approaching big donors, but we would like to match them dollar-for-dollar in smaller contributions, like Obama, who collected hundreds of millions in small donations."

The campaign will in part pitch itself to donors as a jobs campaign, Borden said.

"Not only will the OCRA create an ethical industry and lots of jobs once it passes," she said, "but getting the amendment on the ballot itself can be a jobs creator if we get the funding. Doing a campaign like that creates jobs, and that's an important message in Ohio."

In the meantime, it's volunteer time, and that's off to a good start, said Borden. "It's been a real whirlwind and very gratifying," she said. "We went through all this work to craft the initiative, and this army of people comes out to us. It's happening almost organically. We have county captains in 40 counties now, and multiple captains in the larger counties."

The OCRA bases itself on rights enumerated in the Ohio constitution, particularly Article I, Section I, which says that Ohioans are "by nature, free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and seeking and obtaining happiness and safety."

"We thought the rights approach was the best approach," said Borden. "We saw that a lot of these laws passed in other states didn't really go to the rights. You might avoid jail for possession, but you forfeit your rights. People are losing jobs, losing custody of their children, losing housing. There is no effective right to use."

The language of the initiative itself reflects that approach. Eligible residents not only have the right to use medical marijuana, but to do so "free of discrimination and interference from the state of Ohio" as well as the right to privacy and confidentiality, the right not to get busted for impaired driving based solely on the presence of marijuana metabolites, and the right to grow their own.

The initiative would legalize, license, tax, and regulate medical marijuana; create an open-ended list of qualifying diseases and conditions; create an Ohio Commission of Cannabis Control to oversee medical marijuana; and allow for industrial hemp production to boot.

It's already picking up some big-name supporters. On July 19, famed country singer (and pot aficionado) Willie Nelson came to Cincinnati for a concert, and before the show, he formally endorsed the OCRA. The Cincinnati chapter of Nelson's Teapot Party and Happy Hemptress Lynne Wilson set up a meeting and invited Ohio Rights activists, and Nelson came on board.

"Willie is a member of the choir, of course, but he's a big name, too," said Borden. "We're very excited to have him on board."

And now, the campaign is starting to generate some opposition. On Wednesday, a group of medical professionals held a press conference in Columbus to speak out against the initiative. The star speaker for the opposition was Dr. Andrea Barthwell, who served in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush.

"Doctors have something that is FDA approved, reliable and tested to treat every illness people claim will be better, or reduced suffering, when using marijuana," said Barthwell.

Ohio Rights takes the opposition attention in stride.

"It's the usual suspects," said Borden. "The treatment industry is scared to death it will lose clients. And they did their press conference with very little notice, because they're scared we'll be down there counter-demonstrating."

The campaign now has until next July 2 to hand in signatures. If it can meet that challenge, Ohio voters will be voting on medical marijuana in November 2014.

For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

United States

Chronicle Book Review: Too High to Fail

Doug Fine, Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution (2012, Gotham Books, 319 pp., $28.00 HB)

[Ed: This review was based on the hardcover edition of "Too High to Fail." The paperback edition of Too High Fail has now been published as well. According to the author it includes a a postscript that reflects "more unbelievable happenings in Mendocino County and worldwide through the beginning of this year."]

Marijuana and marijuana policy are big news these days -- they are exciting times, indeed! -- and that's reflected in what has now become a deluge of books on the topic. We've probably reviewed a dozen or more pot books in the last year alone, and here's another one. While, given the torrent of titles, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand out in the crowd, New York Times bestselling author Doug Fine's Too High to Fail is exceptional.

Fine writes with verve and passion, making it clear from the outset that he views marijuana prohibition as not only useless, but harmful -- not only to any sense of justice and morality, not only to the millions of people arrested and punished in myriad ways for the crime of possessing or trading in a hugely useful and versatile plant, but also to the country's efforts to claw its way back from the precipice of the Great Recession.

With that out of the way, in early 2011, Fine heads off for Mendocino County, California, ground zero in the new marijuana economy. A couple of hours north of San Francisco on US 101, Mendocino is part of the state's famous marijuana-growing Emerald Triangle, and is, to a mind-blogging extent, dependent on the pot economy. In fact, if not for pot, Mendocino would probably wither up and blow away. The logging industry is history, and the legal agricultural economy is a fraction of the size of the pot economy. (The county's largest legitimate ag crop, wine grapes, pulled in about $75 million in one recent year, at the same time the pot harvest was estimated at $8.1 billion, or about a hundred times as much).

The pot economy is normalized in Mendocino County. Marijuana dollars pay for everything from the new pickup trucks flying off dealers' lots every fall to the capital necessary to open boutique businesses that dot one-horse towns like Willits and Ukiah to the salaries of Mendocino County sheriff's deputies (at least for a couple of years; see below). County officials know what the local economy runs on, and so does the sheriff, which is why the county instituted its zip-tie program for growers willing to register as medical marijuana providers. Farmers paid thousands of dollars into county coffers for those zip-ties, which would let state and local law enforcement know that these were legal grows, not outlaw ones.

If California, where medical marijuana is legal is Fine's "bubble," Mendocino County, with its casual acceptance of the pot economy is the bubble squared, and growers operating within the guidelines of the zip-tie program, complete with inspections by law enforcement are inside the bubble cubed. This is where Fine situates himself, as he uses the journey of a single plant from cloning to delivery to a patient as the hook for his narrative of his hazy Mendo days.

Fine's sympathetic portraits of the folks involved, from Sheriff Tom Allman, who told him he wouldn't get "up off my ass" to arrest a guy with a pound of pot in the sheriff's parking lot and who created the zip-tie program, to Deputy Randy Johnson, who performed the unique job of zip-tie program compliance sergeant, to novice Mendo outdoor (but experienced East Bay indoor) grower Tom Balogh, who grew the clone Fine tracked, to Northstone Organics head Matt Cohen, who was determined to run a farmer-to-patient collective in scrupulous compliance with state laws, help put a human face on Mendocino's marijuana culture and some of its intricacies.

Fine also shines at explicating the various currents and tensions that run through the community, whether it's the veteran "Redneck Hippies" unhappy with the new generation of young, bling-slinging profiteers or county commissioners not exactly happy with Mendo's free-wheeling grow scene, but who recognize that it can't be wished away and should instead be regulated for the benefit of the county and its citizens. Or the travails of newcomer Balogh, who must contend with skeptical neighbors and prove to the community that he's not just another hit-and-run wannabe "sensimillionaire."

But while Fine spent a season deep inside the bubble, he also found that it could be punctured. He details his own experience being pulled over by sheriff's deputies in neighboring Sonoma County to the south who profiled him for his facial hair and muddied, big-tired pick-up, as well as the misadventures of two Northstone Organics deliverymen also pulled over and busted by Sonoma narcs and, gallingly, prosecuted by Sonoma County district attorneys. The drive from Mendo south through Sonoma and on to the Bay Area was called "running the gauntlet," as law enforcers on the hunt for busts and assets to seize preyed on the US 101 traffic less like highway patrolmen than highwaymen.

(As a resident of medical marijuana-friendly Sonoma County, such behavior by my elected officials and their minions offends my sensibilities. I'll be attending a Summer Solstice event this coming week to celebrate the formation of a political action committee whose goal is help enlighten our public servants, or replace them if they appear too thick-headed to get it.)

But Fine, Northstone Organics, and the entire Mendocino County effort to craft a tightly-regulated, county-benefiting medical marijuana program encountered an even more dramatic bursting of the bubble when federal prosecutors renewed their war on medical marijuana in the fall of 2011. Mendonesians had largely ignored the raids on dispensaries going on elsewhere in the state as the war ramped up, but they couldn't ignore the crew of DEA agents who rousted Cohen at gunpoint and chopped down Northstone's 99 plants, depriving more than 1,700 patients of their medicine, and effectively putting an end to the innovative zip-tie program.

With Too High to Fail, Fine show us how marijuana can be regulated and integrated into the community. And he dares to dream of a future where the cannabis plant, with all its manifold uses, can be integrated into, and indeed, become a boon for, the American economy. He also shows us the obstacles in the way.

The story of Mendocino's (and America's) marijuana adventure didn't stop in the fall of 2011. Since then, even as the first two states legalized marijuana outright at the ballot box, the federal offensive against medical marijuana in California has continued. Mendocino County had to fend off an overreaching federal subpoena of all records related to its medical marijuana program, Northstone has been knocked out of business, and an innovative program that served the interests of the community and the local economy has been stopped in its tracks.

In the new paperback edition, Fine returns to Mendocino and adds a 6,000 postscript on all the exciting developments since 2011, including legalization in Colorado and Washington, the seismic shifts in public opinion in favor of legalization, and the continuing trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the county's growers and the public officials attempting to come to grips with it all.

Although Fine looks bravely and boldly toward a cannabized future, we aren't there yet. But Too High to Fail chronicles what it could look like based on the Mendo experience, and provides a valuable and entertaining read along the way.

Good, Bad Drug Measures Die Along with Farm Bill

The Farm Bill (House Bill 1947) died in the House Thursday morning as Democrats rebelled against deep cuts to food stamps. The vote to kill it came after the House had approved separate amendments that would have allowed for limited hemp production, but also would have allowed states to require drug tests for food stamp applicants.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) saw his hemp amendment pass the House, only to die along with the farm bill. (wikimedia.org)
In an historic first, the House passed an amendment offered by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Thomas Massie (R-KY) that would allow hemp to be grown for research purposes. The amendment passed 225-200, despite a last-minute lobbying blitz against it from the DEA, complete with a DEA talking points memo obtained by the Huffington Post.

Still, despite the DEA's concerns that allowing limited hemp production for research would make law enforcement's job more difficult, a majority of lawmakers weren't buying, and amendment sponsors and hemp advocates pronounced themselves well-pleased.

"Industrial hemp is an important agricultural commodity, not a drug," said Rep. Polis. "My bipartisan, common-sense amendment would allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes in states where industrial hemp growth and cultivation is already legal. Many states, including Colorado, have demonstrated that they are fully capable of regulating industrial hemp. The federal government should clarify that states should have the ability to regulate academic and agriculture research of industrial hemp without fear of federal interference. Hemp is not marijuana, and at the very least, we should allow our universities -- the greatest in the world -- to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural commodity."

"Industrial hemp is used for hundreds of products including paper, clothing, rope, and can be converted into renewable bio-fuels more efficiently than corn or switch grass," said Rep. Massie. "It's our goal that the research this amendment enables would further broadcast the economic benefits of the sustainable and job-creating crop." 

"Because of outdated federal drug laws, our farmers can't grow industrial hemp and take advantage of a more than $300 million dollar market. We rely solely on imports to sustain consumer demand. It makes no sense," said Blumenauer. "Our fear of industrial hemp is misplaced -- it is not a drug. By allowing colleges and universities to cultivate hemp for research, Congress sends a signal that we are ready to examine hemp in a different and more appropriate context."

Nineteen states have passed pro-industrial hemp legislation. The following nine states have removed barriers to its production: Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

 "Vote Hemp applauds this new bipartisan amendment and we are mobilizing all the support we can. This brilliant initiative would allow colleges and universities the opportunity to grow and cultivate hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp. "It would only apply to states where industrial hemp growth and cultivation is already legal in order for those states to showcase just how much industrial hemp could benefit the environment and economy in those regions," continues Steenstra.

"Federal law has denied American farmers the opportunity to cultivate industrial hemp and reap the economic rewards from this versatile crop for far too long," said Grant Smith, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance. "Congress should lift the prohibition on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp as soon as possible. Allowing academic research is an important first step towards returning industrial hemp cultivation to American farms."

Drug reformers' and hemp advocates' elation over passage of the hemp amendment was short-lived however, as the Farm Bill went down to defeat for reasons not having anything to do with hemp. But the upside to the bill's defeat was that it also killed a successful Republican-backed amendment that would have allowed states to drug test people applying for food stamps, now known officially as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

"If adopted, this amendment would join a list of good-government reforms contained in the farm bill to save taxpayer money and ensure integrity and accountability within our nutrition system," said its sponsor, Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), who added that it would ensure that food stamps go only to needy families and children.

But House Democrats were infuriated by the amendment. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), said there was no evidence people on food stamps were any more likely to use drugs than anyone else and that the measure was meant only to embarrass and humiliate people on food stamps.

 "It costs a lot of public money just to humiliate people," she said. "It'll cost $75 for one of these drug tests, and for what purpose? Just to criminalize and humiliate poor people."

"This is about demeaning poor people," added Rep. James McGovern (D-MA). "And we've been doing this time and time again on this House floor."

The food stamp drug testing amendment was just part of an overall House Republican assault on the food stamp program that would have cut it by more than $20 billion. It was that attack on food stamps that led Democrats to walk away from the bill. [Ed: Perhaps not just over the cuts -- a National Journal article reports the drug testing amendment cost it votes too.]

Washington, DC
United States

Action Alerts: Farm Bill Hemp and Drug Testing, Mayors Marijuana Resolution

We sent out two action alerts on our email list yesterday. If you've not a subscriber, you can sign up here. (The page says "user account," for participating non-anonymously on our comment boards, but it also gets you subscribed to our list. Subscribing gets you action alerts as well as the email editions of the Chronicle.

As of the time of this writing, both alerts seem to still be current.

[Update: The Hudson SNAP drug testing amendment has passed the House, and the Farm Bill of which it's a part is expected to pass. Efforts to block it now move to the conference committee.]

[And another update: The hemp amendment PASSED! The full House of Representatives!]

I'm pasting them both below. One is about two amendments (one good, one bad) to the federal "Farm Bill" that are likely to be voted on by the House of Representatives sometime today. We have a Chronicle story online here. The other is an alert we sent out for the group Marijuana Majority that asks mayors to support a resolution at the US Conference of Mayors meeting calling on Congress and the administration to respect state marijuana law reforms. The mayors meeting is happening this week, so the resolution will also get voted on anytime. Both alerts target your own elected officials, e.g. the congressmen and mayors for whom you may have voted (US only). Here they are (farm bill first, mayors below):




Dear reformer,

I'm sorry for the double email today, but a lot is happening. We've just gotten word that there are two amendments coming to the floor of the US House of Representatives, possibly as soon as tonight and almost certainly this week. We really want one of the amendments to pass; we really don't want the other to pass. So we're asking you to CALL YOUR U.S. REPRESENTATIVE'S OFFICE ON THE PHONE AS SOON AS YOU GET THIS MESSAGE. Info for doing so is below.

Both amendments are being offered to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 1947). The good one, Amdt. #37 by Reps. Polis (D-CO), Blumenauer (D-OR) and Massie (R-KY), would allow industrial hemp growing for research or other academic purposes in states that allow it. One state that passed a hemp bill recently is California.

The bad one is Amdt. #22 by Reps. Hudson (R-NC), LaMalfa (R-CA) and Yoho (R-FL), which would allow states to require drug testing of all new applicants to the federal SNAP food assistance program. States that have tried this (before it being struck down on constitutional grounds) have found it cost far more than it saved, partly because welfare recipients don't use drugs at higher rates than the general population, as surveys have found. And of course when a low-income parent loses access to food stamps, the entire family is harmed.

Please call your US Representative's office as soon as you get this message, asking for a "Yes" vote on Amdt. #37 (hemp) and a "No" vote on Amdt. #22 (drug testing of food assistance applicants), both to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act. You can reach your Rep (or find out who your Rep is) through the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Or, you can look up information about your Rep, including the direct phone number for the office, in our online legislative center.




Dear StoptheDrugWar.org supporter:

Later this week, the US Conference of Mayors will vote on a historic resolution calling on Congress and the President to respect state marijuana laws. StoptheDrugWar.org is working with the group Marijuana Majority and others to encourage mayors to support the resolution.

Please visit http://marijuanamajority.com/mayors/?source=drcnet to send an email to the mayor or your town or city supporting this important resolution. When you're done, click on the "call your mayor" link to call your mayor's office on the phone and for talking points to use when you do, and use the share links to let others know about it too. The text of the resolution, and list of mayors already supporting it, are online here.

Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Gear Up in Three States

The race to be the next state to legalize marijuana at the ballot box is on. Activists in three states -- Alaska, Arizona, and Oregon -- have taken initial steps to get the issue before the voters during the 2014 general election.

In Alaska, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell last Friday certified a ballot initiative application that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults. Backed by the Marijuana Policy Project, the initiative would also set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. Adults could grow up to six marijuana plants for their personal use.

Proponents will have one year to gather 30,169 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. But they have to wait a week or so for the state elections division to begin printing the petition booklets.

Alaska already allows for adults to possess small amounts of marijuana in their homes under the state Supreme Court's interpretation of the state constitution's privacy provisions.

In Arizona, Safer Arizona is sponsoring an initiative to amend the state constitution to allow for legal, taxed, and regulated marijuana use and commerce. The group filed the measure last week with the secretary of state. It now must gather 259,213 valid voter signatures by July 3, 2014 to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.

Organizers there said it would be a grassroots campaign relying on volunteers. The conventional wisdom for initiatives in high signature-count states is that they require paid signature-gathering efforts to succeed at a rough cost of a dollar or more per signature obtained.

Arizona voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 2010, but that initiative squeaked through with barely more than 50% of the vote.

In Oregon, Paul Stanford, the controversial proponent of last year's failed marijuana legalization campaign, is back with two more measures, and other activists could file yet a third. Stanford's Oregon Marijuana Tax Act initiative largely echoes the language of last year's underfunded initiative, which picked up 47% of the popular vote, but reworks a contentious provision relating to a commission to regulate marijuana and hemp commerce. Stanford's second initiative would simply legalize the possession and production of pot by adults 21 and over with a proviso that the state could impose regulations.

Stanford's move has inspired other Oregon activists organized as New Approach Oregon to say that they will likely have a better alternative initiative. "Something will be on the ballot," the group's Anthony Johnson told The Oregonian. "Either it's going to be a responsible measure or something not as well-vetted."

Stanford said he will conduct polling on the various measures before moving forward.

If legislators can't get around to legalizing marijuana, activists in initiative states want to let the voters do it for them. That's three states aiming at 2014 so far, and we're still a year and half out from election day.

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